The Death of Nessie (By Joe DiMino, who retains all rights)
I am a simple man. Simple, because I choose to be! Just give
me basic things, uncomplicated: like a day of fishing, followed
by "Catch of the Day" frying in a skillet over an open
fire. And while many individuals prefer parlor-games, when the
thought of escape enters my mind, I seek the outdoors. But even
when away from it all, I am far from peace within my heart. Many
questions about life, in particular, the apparent undeserved suffering
of some individuals, continue to trouble me. So when I had the
chance to leave the States, and travel to a rural community in
a foreign country, it seemed only natural to me when I was drawn
to the homeland of my ancestors, the "Goidels" (a branch
of the Celts). The ancient Goedels were a complex race; who, like
myself, though deeply concerned with the problems of the world,
sought solutions while quietly listening and celebrating the voices
and pictures of nature.
Sunlight poured over the hills and swaying wheat in tranquil folds of valley. Standing atop one of the higher points of vantage, I pleasantly circled, my scan running up and over graceful folds of countryside. Imparted was an illusion of motion--sort of like being in a rowboat, with a cold can of beer in hand and a favorite sweetheart snuggling close to a grateful shoulder. Although it was my first trip to Scotland, even back at the airport, when first descending from the plane my footsteps echoed a comfortable familiarity. I'm certain others have had similar experiences...like entering a room possessed with familiar vibrations. Yet that is impossible, never have been physically in the remotest vicinity. Still, the drapes and carpeting are the same...as they were then...whenever it was? Puzzled as I was Scotland and I seemed old friends--if not lovers. And as I later strolled the glorious countryside approaching Loch Ness, my destination, that same easiness continued.
Instead of the mysterious atmosphere one might expect, seeing how the lake was rumored to be inhabited by some ancient or mythical creature, all was serene. The black waters appeared to me more emerald green, thriving with game. I saw several bass break the surface while I was still some distance away. At the shoreline, while searching the shallow pools I found the waters teaming with spearing and other bait-fish. Though this all seemed contrary to the scarcity rumored about lake, I remember vividly, as I dozed off that evening, snug away in my sleeping bag, a shell toss from shore: "Tomorrow promises a fishing experience to be savored! Yes!" I euphorically growled as an addict might after smoking a particularly potent blend. "Indeed, tomorrow promises, a forty year old bachelor who has sunk his hook the world over, a cherished fishing experience; a rare symphony of bait, prey, and sportsman...never to be forgotten."
I was awake at dawn--needing no alarm--the sun and my internal clock stretching in unison.
Shortly, I was anchored a good distance from shore...and within my first hour of venture had bagged four, plump, bass. If any of my readers are fisherman, you already know that, pound for pound bass are formidable fish to challenge--a ten pound bass pulling better than a forty pound tuna. But the brilliant sunshine that had greeted the day was short lived. Soon intruded a slithering fog; clouds of confusion saturated with a red hue the likes of which I had never before encountered. My tiny craft was quickly surrounded, the foul mass seeming to compete for the very air I was breathing. A suffocating deluge, that left me gasping! Prior to my trip, having read up on Scottish superstition flashed through my mind a Kelpei (mythical Scottish Demon) whose flying cousin had passed over and dropped an enormous veil of perplexity. One moment I was bathing in glorious sunshine, thinking myself the closest yet to Heaven. Then, with little warning, I could hardly see my own groping hands searching for the oars. I began to feverishly row in the direction I guessed shore to lie. The thought had come to me--where I was, in my flimsy, inflatable craft--with visibility as poor as it was the possibility of my being scuttled by a larger vessel increased with the passing of each bewildering second. Then I heard it! At first not certain of what I was hearing? Oh, it was speech All right...good old American! And quite intelligible--but the voice had a quality far from anything human that could be compared. A certain metal, or synthetic twang to it...and tortured, as if hot coals were being poured down the throat of some poor captive--the human utterances we are all so accustomed to are quickly replaced by spastic convulsions. However, absent was the telltale delirium one would also expect under such insufferable circumstances.
"Help! Over here!" the voice grated again--with an excess of pain apparent.
At first I rowed toward the voice, then a dark blotch in the dreary entanglement. Enormous it was! And like nothing I had ever seen.
I hastened to close distance between myself and it--whatever it could be? And several moments later pulled my dinghy up onto the boggy shore.
I'll explain only briefly what I was confronted by, but will take special care with detail, wanting you, the reader, to be just as awestruck as I was:
The thing's head resembled that of a tiger--much larger though--yet absent was 'The look of the Beast." Instead, there gleamed a remarkable keenness, not at all different from the shrewd glint common to the calculating glare of a businessman. As for the torso, it had the appearance and texture of an elephant, excepting legs. While proceeding from the posterior was a thirty-foot serpent that slithered in great "S" spirals through the wine colored air illuminating the creature, eerily free from fog.
"What the Devil!" was the first thing it heard me mutter?
"I say, English!" it was quick to respond. And, mind you, how confounded I was to hear such plain discourse from...from...whatever it was.
"Come closer," it squinted, "so I can see you."
I summoned up courage and bravely ventured a bit forward. And then collected enough courage to reply, "American. I'm American!" and more than a smidgen of national pride was apparent by my robust but shaky voice.
"Damn!" the creature bellowed, startling me. "I'm forever mixing up the two." Its voice sincerely apologetic, putting me at ease. "You see, I've had to learn my twenty-seven languages, sometimes under the least conducive of atmospheres. You know, between the splashing of oars...chatter of gulls...and splatter of wind."
"Twenty...how many?" I replied, awestruck.
"Or is it thirty-seven? Let me see...there's the Romance Languages: Ah--Cherchez La Femme! Not to less appreciate the Italians--those robust tenors! Amore dripping from every sweet tone! Yes--and those tantalizing aromas filling the air, exquisite seducers from over-stuffed picnic baskets! Ah! And the English Writers--Keats enigmatic poem, 'Beauty is truth--truth beauty, that is all.' And then there is Shakespeare--can there be anything greater? By far the preference of lovers! And I've swooned with so many...countless thousands of times. Though I do hate to eavesdrop--but my anatomy, of course, made it imperative that I kept out of sight. So I was forced to educate myself, and take my entertainment as well over the torrent of an ill tuned motor struggling with the tide. Why just imagine me slinking onto a college campus...I can see it all too nervously clear." At which time I noticed a wide gash, hideously deep, across the top of its leathery back.
"You're hurt!" I exclaimed, instinctively approaching...surprised at my own lack of fear. In fact, in me arose a fondness, a sense of human affinity that I haven't the slightest explanation for.
"Those blasted speed boats!" it moaned. Cough, cough. And came another groan. "Unintentional
I'm sure--but that does seem to be the way of you humans...doesn't it?"
"Us humans!" I replied, oddly disturbed by the association.
"Of course...you're absolutely right...does neither of us any good to 'throw stones' or 'cry over spilled milk,' expressions I've so often heard."
I thought the cliche' brave ones--for what was flowing from the wound in its back at an alarming rate was something far more precious to life than milk.
My voice filled with urgency, "Please, tell me how to help you!"
"No--no: earlier I had thought...perhaps...but now I realize, it just wouldn't work." The pain was now a dominant wavering in its voice. "I couldn't bear that--to become a sideshow...a freak to be ogled at by processions of chattering morons! An oddity, to be taunted daily by cruel, insensitive children! No--I think I prefer the bottom of the sea--a fate I have avoided for the past five thousand years.
"Five..." I echoed, not certain I had heard correctly.
"To the day," glancing at the wound on its back with an embarrassed smirk. "At my age, one should think, I would have been more careful."
"But surely, there must be something I can do!" I offered help with the compassion one generally reserves for a best friend at his death-bed.
"I did hear the boat coming." The first signs of delirium were now present in its fading voice. "Perhaps...I no longer care. Tired...so tired." It continued to rattle on feverishly: "Seen so much...so many wars. Needless suffering! Good men, eyes glaring, as if to say: 'How can this be happening to me?' Endless streams of blood! In primitive loin...armor...khaki...all the same! All the same! Dying, with an expression of complete bewilderment! Well...it doesn't matter now, does it? Still, if it wasn't for that Palfry!"
"Palfry?" I asked.
"A seaweed that can be chewed for its spirits. I suppose, it could be compared to a good bottle of port, but not quite as dry. Always been my weakness.
With quakes of faintness...firm in its intention, it began to pull itself, foot by agonizing foot toward the water's edge. I recall, never having felt so helpless.
"Surely it doesn't have to end like this!" I protested.
"Perhaps there is just one thing you can do for me...or answer, rather."
"Anything! Anything!" I hurried my words, sensing the end near.
"Just tell me why?"
"Why?" I repeated.
"Rather, what? What's it been all for? You...me...the rest of the world...and the endless suffering?"
"All for?" I pondered. Then it spoke one last time before submerging:
"I mean," (cough, cough) "You would think, after all these years I could have figured it out. I'm talking about life! You know...when its all over...and you look back...you really haven't changed the world a whole lot. Not really in a way that matters! Oh--I guess you could blow it up...but not really change it." And it was gone in a whirlpool of churning bubbles.