« Has the bus come yet? he asked with a slight Scottish accent.
If it had already arrived, why would I be waiting here in the cold? »
I looked up, waiting for him to answer, but he didn’t. He was tall, well-built, and I’ll admit he was quite good-looking. I assumed he’d leave quickly, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry. He just smirked, presumably wishing to continue our little chat. But I didn’t have time to converse with a stranger. I hadn’t come to Scotland as a tourist: I was here for business. As a detective, it was my job to investigate about the infamous mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. Unfortunately for me, this guy seemed really bored: he pushed my backpack off the bench and sat down a few inches from me. I rolled my eyes, not able to conceal my lack of excitement about chatting with someone I didn’t even know a minute ago.
« What do you want ? » I sighed, with a hint of annoyance.
Nothing! Just keep on reading whatever it is in your hands. Don’t let me bother you. »
I shook my head and tried to get back to the article about some missing persons who had dared to approach the lake. But the stranger wouldn’t keep his eyes off me. It was really disturbing, especially since I barely knew him. I closed the newspaper and put it in my bag, prepared to leave. The bus wouldn’t come soon, so I figured it’d be easier to take a cab.
« Where are you going? » The guy hurried to catch up with me, and followed me all the way back to the hotel, without a word.
« Can’t you just leave me alone?! » I shouted at him when we arrived. He took a step back, and got out of the inn’s hall. He seemed sad like a lost puppy, which made me regret being so rude. After all, he was just searching for company. I followed him outside, but he was practically running, which made it hard for me to get him to stop.
« Hey, stranger! Wait up! » He turned around and I guess he wasn’t glad to see me. I said I was sorry over a million times, but it didn’t seem to be enough for him. In order to show him I didn’t mean to make him feel bad, I invited him to spend the rest of the day with me. He hesitated for a while, then nodded and smiled at me.
« What are you planning to do? Because I know a lot of great places to see in the Highlands.
Actually, I need to find out what’s behind the Nessie mystery. Would you show me around? I know I wasn’t very nice to you at first, so why don’t we get a fresh start? I’m Mary. And you are…?
Michael O’Connor, but you can call me Mike. Nice to meet you, Mary! he stretched out his hand and I shook it. Why don’t we have a drink today, and we’ll go to the lake tomorrow? »
I agreed without hesitating, since I obviously owed him.
The next morning, I phoned Mike as soon as I was up. We had agreed to leave before dawn and head directly to the Loch Ness. The sky was slightly overcast, but my new trip-companion told me not to worry. I met him next to a fountain that was notorious for casting spells on whoever drank from its water. A few minutes late, he arrived in a second-hand yellow Citroën. Even though his car didn’t seem appropriate for an adventure in the wild nature of Scotland, I failed to mention it and got in the front seat without complaining. In some extraordinarily odd kind of way, the loner that I am felt happy not to go through this on her own. I guess the nature was so scary that even someone as fearless as I am couldn’t bare being alone in the forest. Even in November, the hills were covered by grass as green as jade. Mike had been riding for a long time, when all of sudden, he braked. « This good old car can’t get us any further. Starting here, we’ll have to go on by foot» he announced. I wasn't enchanted, but I tried to look on the bright side and enjoy my day. We walked in the forest for hours. The ground was thick with fallen branches, and all the animals had started hibernating. When we finally got to the lake - in one piece! - the sky was beginning to get darker, and the weather cooler. I asked Mike if he was sure it wasn’t too risky, but the closest think I got to an answer was « If you really want to do this, at least you’ve got to do it right! » I didn’t get him at first, but then I figured he was probably telling me not to be scared of taking risks.
We went to rent a small ship from an old man sitting on the riverside. He was looking at the horizon, probably bored because of the lack of tourists. As soon as he saw us coming towards him, he started shouting: «Stay where you are and do not approach the loch. Run before it’s too late!» I’ll admit that when I saw him so terrified, I thought for a minute about giving up. What if these people were right? What if anyone who gets next to Nessie really ends up dead? And worse… What if I was the next in line?
However, I figured if I didn’t find out what was going on, these villagers would live forever in the fear. I had to uncover the Loch Ness mystery, once and for all. I grabbed Mike’s hand and got closer to the salesman. « I don’t care what’s the price I have to pay. I’m going out there to find out what’s behind the monster’s legend. I’d like to rent a boat, if you please. » The old man hugged me and wished me good luck, then showed me a lot of different small ships. I let Michael decide which one we should use, and he had set his sights on the blue one, for which he gave the salesman 30 pounds. After helping me climb aboard, he took control of the boat and drove across the lake. For the first thirty minutes, everything was going accordingly to plan. But as we were exploring the scene of the crime, where dozens of tourists had disappeared every summer for ten years now, the wind started blowing stronger. I began to panic, for I had a strange sensation of insecurity. Once again, I asked Mike whether we had a way out, or whether we were trapped in the middle of the most dangerous lake in Europe.
« The weather lady said they are expecting a thunderstorm. But don’t worry, it won’t be the first time when it’s raining cats and dogs » he laughed. I didn’t get why it was so hilarious that we might die, and I hoped I’d quickly be back to shore. But my friend was right: only a minute after, it began to bucket down. Somehow, I managed not to be mad at Michael for taking me sailing under the rain. I was too alarmed to be angry.
We could barely see where we were heading, for fog had taken over the place and enwrapped . At some point, we even had to stop the ship and wait for the rain to stop. The lake was completely covered with long white patches of foam. From times to times, the waves were so high that water poured into the hull. We couldn’t stay on the deck much longer, and hurried to shelter in the cabin. From where I was standing, I could see the underwater world through the porthole. I was frightened. There was no issue. I was stuck here forever. I was feeling hopeless, when all of sudden, a strange creature swam in front of me. It looked like a giant snake, only it lived underwater. The sight of this enormous animal sent shivers down my spine. Fear took over my body. I was petrified. Helpless, I called Michael, but he wouldn’t answer. I went to search for him: he couldn’t have gone far. But the cabin was empty, and so was the hull. I looked up: lightning pierced the sky, followed by the roaring of thunder. The fog having hidden the moon, it was one of the darkest nights. I heard a familiar voice screaming. Mike, God knows how, had fallen off the boat and was hanging on to a life buoy to keep himself out of the freezing water. I ran towards him and did all my best to drag him out of this terrible situation. But as soon as I hauled him aboard, I heard an unusual crashing noise. « The Nessie!!! » I shouted. My trip-companion glanced at me as if I was hallucinating, but then he turned around to see I was right. Indeed, the Loch Ness Monster was standing right in front of us, ready to take care of his next victims. I turned my phone on and recorded a video of myself saying good-bye to the ones I love. I clicked on the « Share » button and sent it to all my contacts. You can never be too cautious…The monster hit the ship quite hard, and it started swaying from wave to wave. The deck was now overwhelmed with water. Within minutes, the engines were dead, the boat was on its way down, and my day of hell was just starting. Until now, I thought I wasn’t going through all this alone. I kept thinking I had a friend who could help me up if I were to fall. But luck wasn’t on my side, and the whole universe was against me that day. Unfortunately, it turned out that Michael O’Connor wasn’t even the guy’s real name. He had made it up in order to make me trust him.
« Why are you doing this? What did I ever do to you? I just got to the Highlands! » I cried of pain as he was trying to push me off-board. I was so desperate and lost…
You didn’t have to meddle in others’ business! Stop trying to nose out every secret!
It’s my job to ferret out mysteries. Why would you even care?
Couldn’t you just stay out of my way? I thought you were smarter than that. You didn’t even think for a second that I could be the villain. Now see where your curiosity has gotten you! Have you got any last prayers? Because you’re never going to see the light of the day again. »
At that precise moment, I understood that he was behind the Loch Ness mystery. Obviously he used it to attract tourists, but I couldn’t imagine what he did with all the victims. Apparently I would figure out very soon, because I was next in line. I begged for his forgiveness - even though I had did nothing wrong - and I promised that if he released me, his secret would be safe with me. But nothing could change his mind. He was determined to kill me, for some unknown reason. Maybe he was scared that if I escaped from him, the world would know he’s an impostor.
I decided to let go. I stopped fighting back, for I knew there was no issue.
Without looking back, I jumped in the shivery water with both feet. As I was going down the lake, almost touching the bottom, I kept thinking about this poor guy that was desperate he had to kill people. Oddly, while I was the one drowning, I pitied him. I couldn’t imagine myself making up a whole legend and creating a false monster, even if push came to shove. Did he really need the money so bad? Or was he just doing it for fun? I was missing air, and I knew I couldn’t survive much longer. I closed my eyes, trying to forget about everything. About Mike, about the Nessie, about my family that I’d never see again… I couldn’t breathe anymore, when I felt something taking hold of me. At first I was afraid, I was petrified, thinking about all the scary creatures living underwater. But when my head was dragged out of water, I opened my eyes and realized I had been rescued. A young man wearing an orange life vest was holding me and swimming in the same time. I hanged on to him until I was finally taken to safety. I slumped on the deck, hyperventilating. I didn’t even have the energy to wonder who could’ve possibly found me in the Loch Ness. Nevertheless, as soon as I was mindful again, the first thing I asked the captain was how did he know I had been lost underwater.
He didn’t say anything. He simply reached out for his pocket, in which he found a small piece of paper. He gave it to me, then reassured me I’d soon be taken to my hotel room. After thanking him and catching my breath, I read the paper that had my name on it:
« Dear ‘Stranger’,
I could say I’m sorry over a million times, but I will never be able to make up for what I did. I literally created a monster! In case you’re wondering - which you obviously are - I used technology to built the fake Nessie. I owe you an apology, so here’s the deal: I sent someone to rescue you, and now I’m going to disappear forever. Please, don’t try to come and find me, but I understand completely if you want to tell the villagers the truth. I hope you’ll be alright.
whose name is NOT Michael O’Connor. »
A few days later, I was back on my feet, already doing an interview about my terrible ordeal.
« Did you uncover the Loch Ness Monster mystery, ma’am? one journalist asked me.
Yes, indeed. The people of the Highlands shall rest assured they are now safe and sound.
And how can you be so sure? Did you kill the monster? Did you arrest whoever was behind it?
I’ll tell you how I know there is no danger on the population…
There was no monster at all. »