The Offical Monster
Exhibition was in Drumnadrochit, several miles southwest of Inverness. The guide doing
the presentation offered them walls filled with blurred photographs and written
eyewitness accounts as proof of the monster's existence. The multimedia program was more
interesting, and dropped delicious hints that investigating scientists were on the edge
of making an announcement as to Nessie's species and location. They showed the audience
films taken by spotters, who had accidentally caught sight of the mysterious denizen of
the Loch. After glancing at the displays, which held far less scientific theory than they
had hoped, Keith and Holl made their way through the turnstile to the book and gift shop.
"Now here's something that
looks like home," Holl said, spreading his arms out to the walls of books.
"Are you going to have trouble
living on the farm, since it's exposed and all?" Keith asked. "I mean after living
underground in a library, anything is going to feel less solid."
"No, but the walls are awfully
bare without books. We're budgeting to start our own collection of books. The
Conservatives insist that we get a good grounding of textbooks, to keep up our education.
The Progressives want literature, with an emphasis on science fiction. It's still in
Exhibition hall was a pond, in which a twenty-foot concrete dinosaur model was posed
swimming. "It's a plesiosaur, all right," Holl agreed. "But is that really what's in the
"No one really knows,"
Keith said, thoughtfully. "But I might come back some day and try to find out."
The tour's next stop was the ruin
of Urquhart Castle, a fabulous ruin on the west side of the Loch. Keith slapped a new
roll of film into his camera, and crawled all over the stones taking pictures. Holl
followed him more sedately, stopping to inspect the layout and read the small signs
describing what used to lie in each part of the castle.
"Keith, let me take one picture of
you," Holl suggested, when Keith stopped to reload. "That way, you'll have at least one
piece of proof you were here along with your camera, instead of it having a nice vacation
on its own."
Keith said. "Let's go back up the road so you can get most of the castle into the frame
with me." Together, they trotted over the rise and up toward the road.
They gazed appreciatively around
them at the scenery outside of the castle grounds. In the thick grass on the roadside,
small blossoms of pink and yellow grew abundantly. Urquhart Castle was downhill from the
road, so they had to walk some distance from the grounds to where they could see it
"I have to have you
take a picture so it looks like I'm holding the castle on the palm of my hand, or my
father'll be disappointed," Keith explained. "It's an old family tradition."
"Ah," Holl acknowledged, amused.
"How about seeming to pick it up between your thumb and forefinger? It's already a ruin.
You can do it no more damage."
"Ha, ha," Keith said. He posed,
and Holl snapped the picture.
"How are you feeling now? It's only been about three days since you got out of
bed again. I haven't given up on trying to find your flowers for you," Keith said,
enough," Holl replied. "I'd prefer that you didn't go charging up fairy mounds and the
"Well, if I see
one, I'll go up it myself, with you out at a safe distance," Keith insisted, "in case
there's something mean that just doesn't like other magical folk. I guess I'm immune to
whatever hit you in the first site, so you point, and I'll fetch. Okay?"
"Okay. So where's your monster?"
Holl asked, teasingly, gesturing with a sweep of his arm. "Now that we have seen the
amazingly overpainted model, we know what to look for."
"I've got the bait right here,"
Keith said, pulling half of a cheese sandwich out of his pocket and unwrapping it. "Just
you wait. Here, Nessie, Nessie, Nessie," he called, hurling a corner of it out over the
loch. A seagull came out of midair and snagged the scrap of food. "Whoops. Took my bait.
I'll have to try again."
grinned sheepishly. "Oh, you can't be serious, Keith Doyle."
"Never more than half," Keith
assured him, unquenchably, breaking off a piece of the sandwich and giving it to Holl.
"But wouldn't they be amazed if it worked?"
"You'll never die of hypertension,
that's certain," Holl said. "Your frivolity is quite an act. You give an amazing
imitation of grasshopper, Keith Doyle, but I have always suspected you of being mostly
They threw crumbs into
the loch for a while, in no hurry to go back to the castle and rejoin the tour.
"I wish I could drive a car over
here," Keith said wistfully, watching the spare traffic race past the lay-by in which
they were standing. "If we're going to have a lot of time to kill, I want to get out and
see some more of the countryside. It's beautiful here."
"It is," Holl agreed, taking a
deep breath of the fragrant air. "I wish I could show some of the others more of the
world. They wouldn't be so fearful of going out into it once in a while."
Keith made a noise that sounded
sympathetic and derisive at the same time. "It could be 99 percent wonderful, and they'd
hate it because of one percent of things that would be off kilter."
"You've shown more than one
percent of going wrong, and they still accept you," Holl pointed out.
"By the way, I hope you notice
I've been good, not trying out you-know-what in front of other people," Keith said
"And for which I'm
grateful. Such behavior deserves reward, is that your thought?" Holl asked shrewdly.
"Never mind. It's all right with me. Since Enoch isn't here to continue your education,
I'll give you the next lesson. I've wanted a quiet moment to listen for home. You may as
well learn something about that."
"What do you mean?" Keith asked
eagerly, sitting down on a low boulder at the edge of the road and pulling his knees up.
He glanced around. Behind him, it was almost a sheer drop to the Loch. He scooted
forward, keeping as much of the rock between him and the precipice as he could. Holl sat
on a rock next to him.
"Concentrate and sit quietly, and think in the direction that the Folk are,"
Holl instructed him, closing his own eyes. "Send your knowledge toward them. See them."
"With your third eye?" Keith
inquired, screwing his eyes shut. "No, you innocent," Holl said, rapping him on the head
with his knuckles. "With your heart. Think of the ones dearest to you to make the best
"Well, you're my best
friend and the one I know best. Hmm. I don't think I can use the Master as a focus. I
think he'd disapprove."
sure you're right," Holl agreed. "How about Maura? You know her well."
Keith thought for a second,
looking uneasy. He cracked one eye and peered at his friend. "Maybe not. I wouldn't be
able to concentrate on her with you here."
"Well, it's like horning in on
your date," he explained lamely. "I may flirt, but I don't poach."
Holl snorted. "You're amazing,
Keith Doyle. I wish everyone had your scruples. How about Dola? She's fond of you."
"Okay. I'll give it a try." Keith
concentrated, letting his body relax. He knew that thousands of miles to the southwest,
sort of along the axis of the Great Glen, across the ocean in America, lay the village.
He thought for a moment that he could see an infinitesimal golden spark on the horizon
that felt right, in the correct direction. "I think I've got -- what did you call it, a
link? But there's something like radio interference in the way. I'm not sensing anybody
particular. Of course, I haven't got tons of magical energy to use."
"All you need is practice, widdy,
not tons." Holl closed his eyes again and let his muscles go slack. After a few minutes,
he sighed. "You're right," he said, disappointed. "We're so far away I can't touch them
properly. There's too much of the world between us. Something's in the way."
"Ireland," said Keith wisely.
"Ireland's that way, too." They sat for a moment, quietly concentrating....
....He heard voices,
and leaned over the edge of the bank. A couple of men were sitting on the footpath below
them, fishing in the loch. Their creels sat beside them, as did a nearly empty bottle of
Scotch and a couple of lunchboxes.
"Hey, Holl, how'd you like to help
me with magic practice?"
looked out across the vast expanse of water, and returned a questioning gaze to Keith.
"What, a finding? A calling?"
"Nope," Keith replied, with glee. He parted the tall grass with a quiet hand,
and showed Holl the two men quietly fishing. "A forming. On the surface of the water. I
don't have enough oomph to do it myself."
"It wouldn't last long," Holl
warned, skeptically, but his own eyes were twinkling. He was getting caught up in the
idea in spite of himself. "It's flowing fairly fast."
"That's okay," Keith assured him.
"It doesn't have to last."
"You're a bad influence, my boy."
"Aw, let down your hair a little,"
Keith returned, innocently. "You're just doing your part for Scottish tourism."
"Ah, there's no harm in it, I
suppose." Holl thrust his arm forward. "Lay your arm next to mine, and lend me your
strength. Concentrate. There, that's the way. You're not half bad at it, for a beginner."
With his other hand outstretched toward the water, Holl drew on the air a half loop, a
whole loop, and another, and another, and finished off with a sharp little gesture like
said Keith, admiringly, staring at the loch below "I want to be just like you when I grow
"You're never going to
grow up, Keith Doyle," Holl retorted, but he chuckled, too. "It is good, isn't it?"
"Look!" cried a voice below them,
highly excited. "There's Nessie!"