From The Deep Water

One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is – flight of fancy.

My sister and I had a flight of fancy many years ago when we were children. It is a moment that has stayed with us into our adult lives.

Loch Ness lies in the far North of Scotland. It is a cold, dark, magical place where many people claimed to have seen Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

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It was 1976. I was 11, my sister, Shelley, was 9. We were visiting Aunt Aggie in Inverness. She lived near the Loch and since we were little had been telling us of the monster that lurked in the depths. We had been visiting her for years but had been unsuccessful in sighting the monster. It was beginning to frustrate us. So like all children who imagined themselves as monster-hunters we decided to spend every waking moment engaged in spotting Nessie.

‘She comes out at night,’ the locals said. ‘She dances ‘neath the moonlight.’ ‘She likes to breathe the sweet night air after being stuck in the murky waters of the deep.’

‘That’s it,’ Shelley said. ‘That’s why we haven’t seen her. We need to come out at night.’

The scene that followed could have come straight from an Enid Blyton Famous Five novel. Truth be told, we both thought we were characters in a novel or actors in a film. Shelley has always had an eye for detail and stashed what she called our necessities under our beds – torches, raincoats, wellington boots, a blanket, a flask of sweet, milky tea, slices of cake left over from dinner to tantalise the monster and draw her to the surface, and Uncle Jimmy’s camera. His Nikon, his pride and joy.

I was nervous about taking the camera, especially if we dropped it in the Loch – it was rumoured to be the deepest body of water in the world – there was no way we would be able to recover it if we dropped it; but Shelley was adamant that if we saw the monster we would need photographic evidence. So the camera stayed with the rest of our necessities.

Shelley has always been able to waken up at whatever time she needs to. She would have made a fantastic spy. She wakened up at midnight on the dot. We grabbed our supplies, eased out of the back door and headed for the Loch.

Although it was spring, it was bitterly cold. The darkness was so thick I felt a little squeeze of fear playing at my heart. It was completely still and silent, the low, settled way the air is just before a storm breaks. All I could hear was our boots crunching dully on twigs and Shelley’s excited breathing.

The Loch was blanketed in mist. The water was jet black. A lone bird flew across the expanse of it like a messenger from the underworld. My teeth were chattering with cold and a growing sense of fright.

Shelley shoved a steaming mug of tea at me and told me to throw some of the cake in the water.

‘Then we wait,’ she said, raising one eyebrow like the good guys do in the movies when they’re about to prove a point. She had been practising raising that eyebrow. I had seen her do it in front of the mirror. She often accompanied the raised eyebrow with a smirk. It was her new look.

I threw the cake out as far as I could. I didn’t want the monster coming too close to shore, but the cake crumbled in the wind, floating like dust on the surface of the water.

We wrapped ourselves in the blanket, sipped our tea, and waited. Ten minutes passed. Twenty. Nothing happened.

Rings formed on the surface like someone was skimming stones. Shelley grabbed me on the fleshy part just above my elbow, spilling her tea. ‘It’s coming,’ she whispered. Her eyes were wide with anticipation. We waited, holding our breath, but nothing happened.

Half an hour passed. An hour. We fell into a half-sleep, fleeting, exhausting. We heard the sound water makes when a boat is sliding through it, the slight lap an oar makes as it cuts through the water. And suddenly we were awake, craning our necks, clutching at each other, saying ‘Look. Look. Look’ over and over again to confirm what we saw.

Nessie. Right out in the middle of the Loch. Her long neck stretched out from the water, preening herself in the moonlight. ‘It’s her,’ Shelley cried,’ I knew it.’ She scrambled for the camera, looking away for a moment, and when she looked back Nessie was gone.

We got to our feet in disbelief. ‘Come back,’ Shelley shouted. ‘We need proof.’ But the water was still as the smooth surface of a stone.

Shelley was disappointed. ‘All that work for nothing,’ she said.

‘We saw her,’ I said. ‘That’s enough.’

Were we awake or were we dreaming? Did we really see Nessie in all her prehistoric splendour or was it just a childish flight of fancy? I suppose we’ll never really know for sure but one thing is for certain – we’ll never forget the night we went hunting for monsters on the Loch.

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20 thoughts on “From The Deep Water

  1. “Shelley has always had an eye for detail and stashed what she called our necessities under our beds – torches, raincoats, wellington boots, a blanket, a flask of sweet, milky tea, slices of cake left over from dinner…”

    Cor Blimey, Selma, it sounds like you and your sister had a smashing adventure. What. But what about the macaroons, lashings of ham,and the scones with cream and Aunty’s home-made strawberry jam?

    “She scrambled for the camera, looking away for a moment, and when she looked back Nessie was gone.”

    She probably swam into some underground smugglers’ cave.

    An entertaining tale, told well. Timmy gives it three woofs.

    Woof! Woof! Woof!

    David.

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  2. DAVID – ha ha ha. Those books made the food sound so good didn’t they? I always wanted to go a trek with the Famous Five and the Secret Seven just so I could eat the grub. I’d almost forgotten about Timmy. And the smugglers – OMG – it was always about a smuggler, wasn’t it? They don’t write ’em like they used to!

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  3. I love the way you’ve got across that kiddies will unquestioningly accept that there IS a monster!

    (And, some not-so-young kiddies too! I was on the ‘Jacobite’ cruise a couple of years back, and two of the passengers demanded a refund because they didn’t see Nessie.)

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  4. What an amazingly charming story. It horrifies the parent in my that you snuck out, but makes the child in my shine with the secret. The child is the purer part. I understand why it has remained for you.

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  5. TRAVELRAT – and so they should have. What’s the point of a cruise without Nessie? LOL.

    CRAFTY GREEN – she is a shy wee thing, but irresistible nonetheless.

    MELEAH – I can’t believe we did it. Anything could have happened. The things I used to get up to. LOL.

    JASON – it horrifies me as a parent too. If my son did something like that I would be so cross with him. The child is the purer part, for sure. Sometimes I yearn to hold on to that part of myself!

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  6. now those are the memories that make a childhood.. bravo on your willingness to go and do it.. many girls your age would never have had the gumption… i love this story,, and if you saw it… i believe….

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  7. As a kid, I was a complete horror freak! I mean, I believed every one of them. Bela, Peter, Vincent and Lon… they were real monsters in my eyes! I bought Fangoria magazines with my lunch money and rented all the Italian B-movie betamax (remember those) tapes.

    Hey, don’t be surprised if I believed you saw, Nessie. Trust me, you did!!! πŸ˜€

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  8. Oh how fun! I love this story Selma! Glad to see I’m not the only one with a vivid imagination. πŸ˜€

    I have started a new blog – the old ones I’ll be keeping up but this one is for me to be able to speak my mind – just in case you’re interested. So you might see my slices of life flop from one blog to another. Just a heads up. πŸ™‚ The link I’m leaving takes you to the new one.

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  9. What a wonderful tale Selma. i’ve been missing your writing while I took a break.

    When I was a wee tacker I used to love Enid Blytons Famous Five books. I would save all my pocket money and beg and plead for someone to take me to the book store as soon as I had enough. I’d start reading the moment we got in the car and wouldn’t put it down until I was finished.

    My siblings and I were always re-enacting scenes from these books and all the smuggler stories were my favourites. Thanks for bringing back some good memories πŸ™‚

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  10. Oh, how interesting! When I read about the Lochness Monster when I was a child, I was so totally fascinated and wondered whether it was real. Good childhood memory!

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  11. What a wonderful childhood memory. You and your sister were very courageous. I doubt very seriously I would have ever gone on such an adventure – even now!

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  12. I love those childhood memories! The ones filled with wonder and magic. I choose to believe that you did see Nessie. …but she was for your eyes only. She planned it that way. πŸ˜‰

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  13. PAISLEY – I’d love to do the same thing now, as an adult, to see if anything appeared. I would probably be terrified if it did. My sister and I were crazy kids!

    CHRIS – a man after my own heart. I thought I was the only person in the world to watch those horrors. Did you also like the Hammer House of Horror ones with Vincent Price? They were fantastic. Oh and I remember beta all right. Our very first VCR back in the ’70s would only play beta but we thought we were so high tech!

    ANTHONY – NO WAY! Well, I would certainly love to be considered a great mind like yourself. It is always nice to be on the same wavelength as someone you admire. I must come over and read your post!

    TEXASBLU – I will definitely be there. Thanks for the link!

    GYPSY – As well as the famous Five I also loved the Malory Towers stories (the ones about the boarding school). I wanted to go to that boarding school so badly. I had such a great time reading those books – they were such a significant part of my childhood. Glad you’re back. I missed you!

    AUTUMN – I suppose we’ll never know for sure if it’s real. I’d love to be the one who proved it existed. Maybe on my next trip to Scotland I’ll go monster hunting!

    CRICKET – I think we were just over-excited and very curious. I couldn’t have done it without Shelley. She has always been the daring one!

    EPIPHANY = oh, I think so too. We still debate it. It’s nice to believe that we did see her and that there is a little bit of magic in the world!

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  14. I believe you too. I stayed in Aviemore for a week, and visited Inverness and Loch Ness (and also Skye and Oban).

    Oh, and I devoured any Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on as a child. My mother was so worried that she went and had a chat with my teacher about the fact that I wouldn’t read anything other than Enid Blyton. My teacher’s response: “At least she’s reading. Don’t worry about it.” (By age 16 I was reading Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy…)

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  15. DAOINE – I was a huge Enid Blyton fan too. She just had that special something, didn’t she? The Russians at 16? You are a true intellectual. Or maybe a revolutionary……

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