The Water Breathes
It’s so dark. Am I dead? No… I’m in a cave of some sort. The smell… There’s no air. What — How did I get here? I remember the water. Water darker than a starless night's sky. I can’t get up. I’m bleeding.
My call is answered with echoes. A drop of water hits the cold stone floor.
I try my best to sit up. My arms strain to lift the dead weight that is my body. Immediately a sharp pain runs up from my gut, just above my left hip. I fall back to the ground and grab my side, praying for the pain to stop.
A low groan resonates from the end of the cavern. It’s a guttural sound; it oscillates, almost as if the noise is moving through a wet membrane. Whatever is making the noise is big, very big.
A few seconds of silence pass. Another groan. This time the sound is followed by the unmistakable noise of something large scraping against the cavern floor. Scrape, then two thuds, scrape, then two thuds. Something is dragging itself towards me.
It’s her. I awoke, as on most days, to the sound of my efficiently irritating cellphone alarm. The difference this day was that it wasn’t the South African sun shining through the split in my curtains, it was the Scottish sunrise.
It had always been my dream to go to Scotland. I don’t know what it was, but the country had this pull. I needed to see it. Ever since I first heard of Nessie, the famous monster of Loch Ness, I knew I had to visit the site of one of cryptozoology’s most famous legends.
It’s been two weeks since I was lucky enough to win our company raffle, the prize being a first-class trip to Switzerland. With no wish to ever visit the Swiss and their mountains, I asked the organisers if I could perhaps change the destination. After some negotiation - and a ticket downgrade - we made a deal. I would fly from Cape Town to Dubai for a “short” 18-hour stop, catch a second flight to London and then take two trains and a bus to the land of green. It would all be worth it… I managed to get a room in a quaintly boring bed and breakfast only a street away from the shores of the River Ness. Hardly a minute had passed after checking in that I threw my luggage onto the pre-war single bed and made my way to the loch.
I had always dreamed of being here, and now I was. The sound of the water softly running onto the shore sounded just like I had imagined it would. Small boats were traversing the loch, no doubt packed with tourists like myself, hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie. The weather was perfectly Scottish, the sun’s presence strongly implied, though not overly stated. Soft drizzle created small drops of moisture on my windbreaker. The air was cold, fresh. The feeling of giddiness running through my bones forced me to act like I had never before. I waved to strangers, a stupid grin plastered on my face with no sign of relinquishing its hold on my cheeks. 06:38, Monday.
“Is everything ready for tonight?” a husky voice asked through the phone.
“Yes, boss,” replied Sean, sheepishly. “The boys are ready to collect the package. “I’ve arranged for a driver to be ready at the pickup point at 10pm.”
“You better be sure, Sean,” the boss remarked. “I lost two good men pulling off this job, and I’ll be damned if I let you fuck this up any further. How sure are you that we’re in the clear?”
“We’re clear, sir. The gear has been hidden for three weeks. My mole informed me that the Yard has diverted all their resources to a kidnapping case.”
“Phone me when it’s done.”
“Yes, s — ” before Sean could finish his sentence, the line went dead.
God, please let this go off without a hitch… 09:45, Monday
I started my day with a brisk walk around some of the shoreline, ‘casing out the joint,’ as a gangster from a black and white movie might say. I needed to get a sense of where I could setup some of the cameras I had brought with. They were motion-sensing cameras that I had ‘borrowed’ from the office. My job as an armed responder for a private security firm didn’t have many benefits, but access to world-class surveillance equipment was a decent one.
After a few hours, I had found a few prime Nessie-spotting locations. A few pieces of sticky tape and wire later and my camera traps were up and ready to capture the pictures of the century.
How am I going to spend my money? I really hope the fame doesn’t go to my head… 19:00, three hours until the pickup
Sean looked at his watch for what felt like the millionth time. "Why did I pick such a late time to do the pickup?" Sean muttered to himself. "It's fucking Scotland, it's dark enough already." 21:27
I was taking a strategic snooze when my computer started beeping. One of the cameras had captured something! With my pants now on — in record time, I might add — I was out of the B&B door.
I was shaking the entire trip to the Loch. Could it be? Could I have captured something worthwhile? A part of me knew that it probably wasn’t Nessie, maybe a seal decided to rear its head and destroy my dreams, or a catfish wanted to tarnish my childhood. These thoughts, however true they might be, couldn’t keep my excitement at bay.
I looked at my watch. Almost 10pm. "Speed up, driver!” 22:15
“OK, boys,” Sean said. “We’re here.”
Sean and his crew parked on the south side of the loch, just off General Wade’s Military Road.
“Where’s the money? I just see a bunch of feckin’ water,” Doyle piped up from the back of the van.
“It’s in the loch,” Sean hastily replied as he lit another cigarette.
“How are we gonna get it?” Doyle asked. “I didn’t bring my diving suit…”
“We won’t have to dive for it, you idiot," Sean replied. "I had a flotation device attached to the bag and rigged it to go off at 10pm. We just need to — What’s that guy doing over there?” I ran to my first camera - my hands nervously jittering. I hastily pulled the camera from the bush it was taped to.
Could this be the shot that I’ve been dreaming of?
I looked out to the loch. Could the creature that set my camera off still be in the vicinity? It was dark, but the moon provided just enough light for me to see the soft undulations of the water; everything was clear. Except… There was a small mass floating about 40 metres from the shore. I watched it without breathing. Was this Nessie? Was she… watching me? I stood and watched a little longer. The mass didn’t move besides the odd bob as the current moved. Was this an animal at all?
What the hell?
I waded into the loch, immediately regretting it as the ice-cold water rushed into my shoes. “What am I doing?” I whispered to myself. After standing still for a minute or two I goaded myself into taking a few more steps; I was already wet in any case. The water rose up my legs as I took each step towards the floating mass, looking more and more like a bag of some sorts. The water was now as high as my chest. Almost there. I took one more large step and reached for the bag. With it firmly in my grasp, I turned for shore. It was heavy. What’s in this thing? Camera equipment? Clothes? Please God don’t let this be a body…
I reached the shore not a moment too soon. No longer aided by the water, I couldn’t lift the bag which now felt like it weighed about 200 kilograms. I heaved until I could drag it a few metres away from the water’s edge. I collapsed to my knees alongside it. I wasn’t going to wait to find out what I had just expended all this effort to bring out of the loch. I reached for the zipper, struggling to grip it at first; my hands were freezing. I shook them to get some blood flow back. I reached again for the zipper. Gripping it as tightly as I could, I started to pull it towards me, opening the bag.
Money! Lots of it. There must have been hundreds of thousands of pounds in front of me. The £100 notes were bank-marked and wrapped in batches of £10 000.
I looked up from the bag to see three men dressed in black approaching me from the street.
“Planning on taking our money, ey?” said the man in the centre.
“No… I was just-”
“Just what?” the man said. “Counting it for us?”
The man gestured to his partner on the right.
“All right you,” the second man said as he drew a gun from under his jacket. “Stand up and walk to the water.”
“I swear, I won’t tell anyone. Please!” I begged the man. “I’m just a tourist. I’m here to-”
The man hit me with the butt of his pistol. I felt my cheek bone crack as the metal thrashed into my face. I fell to the ground.
Is this how it ends?
“Get up,” said the second man as he grabbed me under my arm and lifted me to my feet.
He pushed me towards the water. I stumbled, disorientated. I was once again standing in the shallows of the loch, this time with a gun aimed at my back.
Doyle looked behind him to face Sean.
Sean looked at him and said, “Do it.” I didn’t feel the bullet go through me. I just remember the loud bang and my legs buckling as I fell towards the water. My body crashed into the loch, I didn’t feel the cold of the water. My body started to sink. The darkness of the water surrounded me.
I’m going to die in Loch Ness.
I suddenly felt something pull me upwards, gripping the back of my shirt. This was something strong. It pulled me through the water as if I were weightless. I felt the water rush past my face as I began to black out. As I lay bleeding on the cavern floor of her lair, I came face to face with Nessie.
This however, was not the Nessie I grew up fantasising about. The famous image of a plesiosaur-like animal was not what was looking back at me. She was of the loch, an amorphous being made of the water. Her body was transparent at the limbs, growing murkier at her chest. Her form was in a constant state of change, a large horse would morph into a winged creature, then into a serpent, then a horned humanoid...
She moved towards me as I lay dying on the floor of the underwater cavern.
“Those men hurt you,” she said, in a language I had never heard, but understood clearly.
“I… I’m dying,” I whispered with the last breath I had.
She moved closer until I felt her body engulf mine. What was cold began to feel warm again. The pain disappeared and I felt life return to me.
“What… How did you do that?” I asked.
“I have served my time as guardian,” was her reply. “I have given you life, a life which bounds you to the Ness. It is your turn now.”
My body began to shake uncontrollably. I looked down to see that my legs were beginning to mirror the look of the monster’s. What was flesh was turning to the murky water of the loch. The water moved up towards my chest. My heart stopped beating and my breath became a gurgling of water rushing up through my throat and out my mouth. Sean had the gas pedal of his van pushed to the floor. Somebody must have heard the gunshot. "Look at all this cash, boys," Doyle's voice bellowed from the back of the van. "As soon as we get back to the hideout, it's a plane ticket to Tahiti and a bottle of whiskey for me!" Sean was racing along General Wade's Military Road - a difficult road to drive at speed. We're almost clear. I just need to get to the motorway and - Sean's thoughts were cut short when he saw something just ahead... A naked woman crawling out of the loch! 12:00, Tuesday "This is Wendy Wright, reporting live from the edge of Loch Ness where there has been a major development in the recent case of bank robberies around Scotland. Police were made aware of a traffic collision in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Upon investigation, over two million pounds were recovered from the wreck. Nothing has been confirmed, but police on the scene believe that this is the money stolen from the Bank of Scotland nearly three weeks ago. Four bodies have been identified, one being confirmed as Sean Hitchfield - wanted for robbery and assault and battery. Tragically, the fourth body is that of a young woman who appears to have been hit by the vehicle. Her body was found unclothed. Stay tuned to STV News for what is sure to be an interesting development." I watched the commotion from the water's edge, disguised as a creature far too small for any onlooker to notice. Such a lot of noise, disturbing the water, for something so insignificant. All that matters is the peace of the water. I leave the scene, retreating to centre of the water. As I dive deeper, I feel the water become me - no longer rushing past, but enveloping.
I am the loch. Thank you so much for taking the time to read one of my writings. Please consider sharing by clicking one of the social icons below. You can also subscribe for access to an exclusive community of readers just like you! Until then, keep reading!
One man's encounter on the edge of Loch Ness. A series of events leading to a calamitous end and new beginning.