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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Bluebells, Monsters and Ghosts!

"There shall I visit the place of my birth.
They’ll give me a welcome, the warmest on earth.
So loving and kind, full of music and mirth,
The sweet sounding language of home.

There shall I gaze on the mountains again,
On the fields, and the hills, and the birds in the glen.
With people of courage beyond human ken!
In the haunts of the deer I will roam.

Hail to the mountains with summits of blue,
To the glens with their meadows of sunshine and dew.
To the women and men ever constant and true,
Ever ready to welcome me home!
Oh soon I shall see them, the mist covered mountains of home!"
(An ancient Gaelic tune)

Oh, how I love that song. I have sung it often to my children. It is a fond memory of my childhood. I shall never forget the day my father taught it to me. That day I learned a new song. It was also one of the most frightening days of my life.

The mist of early morning swirled above the dark water of Loch Ness, like a vaporous specter, yearning to transcend into the depths of hell. A white-tailed deer nibbled voraciously on a branch of mustard yellow gorse, ripping at the delicate flowers and tender leaves with its strong, sinewy jaw. It lifted its head, frightened by the sound of a woodpecker tapping on a nearby rowan tree. Asparagus green ferns and decaying bracken, thick and matted, carpeted the dew-covered ground under the deer’s hooves. As I stood silent among the ruins of Castle Urquhart, I watched the display of nature unfold as the sun rose higher in the sky. An eagle soared above me, squawking, as if to say to me, "I see it too."

"One, two, three on Margo," I heard from behind the castle wall. I jumped up from where I was hiding, crouched behind a fragrant blue spruce, disturbing the scene of tranquility around me. The deer darted off into a grove of rowan trees and disappeared.

I climbed over broken pieces of stone and ran over to my oldest brother, Jim. "I caught you," he gloated. Standing next to him was one of my other brothers, Crawford. Luckily for me he’d been caught first. Within a few minutes my younger brother and sister, Brian and Tina, were caught. We decided to play another game of hide and seek.

This time Crawford had to find us.

I scampered down the hill towards the loch, searching for the perfect hiding spot. I was careful not to step in the mucky quagmire near the loch’s shore. I hid behind a rhododendron bush. It was thick with leaves and the scent of its salmon-pink flowers filled the air. I could see my mum and dad off in the distance, standing next to the car, talking with some other people, who were strangers to me. From the road where they stood was a steep, rocky path, meandering down to the castle ruins. I squatted, being sure to be very quiet. I didn’t want to be caught. I could see my brother off in the distance, trying to find us. I knew it would be a long time before he spotted me, so, being somewhat bored with all the waiting, I twisted my hunched body and started to look around.

The loch was just a few feet behind me. It must have been very deep as I couldn’t see the bottom. I noticed some bubbles of air coming up to the surface. They burst with little pops as they hit the cold Highland air. I wondered where they were coming from. The bubbles soon came more frequently and more fierce. Soon the water seemed to boil, like a witches’ cauldron brewing on an open fire. Now, instead of little pops, the loch churned and rumbled.

Suddenly, to my horror, a set of huge saffron yellow jaws, gaping and filled with razor sharp, pyramidal teeth, appeared out of the water. Its mouth was filled with slimy, deep brown mud and chestnut colored reeds that had been torn up from the bottom of the caliginous loch. Its lifeless eyes appeared. I saw its elongated brontosaurus-like neck looming from the depths below. Terrified, I let out a scream like no other human being has ever emitted. I ran out from behind the rhododendron bush and up the hill to the abandoned, crumbling castle. I threw myself down on the dew-covered ground and crawled under a thick slab of stone, shaking and shivering with fright.

"A monster! A monster!" I cried out as tears of fear ran down my face.

As I lay there, I could hear the hungry monster moving out of the water. I could hear its cavernous stomach growling, the squeaking of its raspy breath, and a jostling noise as the ground shook with each Godzilla-like step that it took. I knew it was looking for me for its next meal. I watched in terror as I saw its gargantuan shadow bearing down on me.

Becoming more frightened with each passing moment, I buried my face in my cerise woolen sweater-covered arms, hoping it would pass me by. I lay waiting for the inevitable.

After a few minutes, I felt brave enough to have a peek. I didn’t hear the monster’s stomach growling anymore and the ground wasn’t shaking with its footsteps. It must be gone! I couldn’t see it anywhere! I dragged myself out from under the slab. I thought if I climbed up high into the castle I could see where the monster had gone.

Forgetting about the game of hide and seek, I made my way cautiously back to the castle, climbing over time worn stones and trampling through patches of amethyst purple thistle. I went up the carved stone stairway and stood at one of the vacant windows, gazing at the panoramic view in front of me. I could see my mum and dad, still talking to the strangers. I saw my brothers and sister, running around on the grass. I could see the grove of quivering rowan trees, heavily laden with brilliant, orange-red berries, where earlier, the deer had disappeared. I wondered if it was still in there, hiding from the monster. Had it been eaten?

That’s when I saw it; the monster was still there. Its bright yellow body was moving along the road. It still had reeds dangling out of its mouth. It was even more enormous that I had first thought. I felt relief fill my body, as the monster was going in the other direction, away from Castle Urquhart. I watched it intently until it disappeared over a hill.

Feeling the sweat of terror begin to ebb, I slunk down onto the cold stone floor of the upper level of the castle. I took a few breaths of relief, knowing the beast was gone. It was then that I noticed something moving off to my right. I turned and looked. It was a big brown spider crawling about in its web. I hated spiders. It had eight long, spindly legs that were hairy and grotesque. As I was watching it spinning its web, I heard a noise coming from an empty room just a few feet away from me. I jerked my pigtailed head around, looking frantically from side to side. What was that? I heard it again. It couldn’t be another monster, could it? Again I heard it, this time it made a howling sound, like a lone wolf calling for its mate. I knew I was in big trouble. There was a monster outside the castle and now inside was a ghost!

A ghost? I jumped up, bolted down the stairs and flew over every slab of stone in my way. I clambered up the rocky path to my mum and dad. I was sobbing and screaming, "A ghost! A ghost!"

I ran right into my dad’s soothing arms. He picked me up. I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck, squeezing him like a boa constrictor killing its prey. After I’d calmed down and knew I was safe, now that I was with my parents, I began to tell them about the monster coming out of the Loch Ness. "Oh, you saw Nessie?" my dad chuckled.

I knew nothing about Nessie. My dad told me not to worry about it. Just then the monster came over the hill. "There it is!" I cried out with alarm. I pointed to the huge yellow monster with the chasmal mouth and sharp teeth, as it moved, groaning and gurgling towards us. All of the adults began to laugh. My mum explained to me that it wasn’t a monster. It was an underwater crane that had been dredging the bottom of the loch. Feeling somewhat satisfied with her explanation, I watched as the monster came closer. I saw that she was right. It was just a machine. I began to laugh, feeling rather foolish, then I remembered the ghost.

"What about the ghost?" I asked.

My dad, seeing that I needed to see things for myself, took me by the hand and we walked down the path to the castle. My brothers and sister had long stopped playing their game of hide and seek and were off skimming stones on the shimmering surface of the loch. Dad took me into the castle and had me show him where I’d seen the ghost. I had to explain that I hadn’t seen it, just heard it. We walked up the chiseled stairs and came to the window. I showed him the spider’s web with the big brown spider in it.

"Oooooooo," went the ghost.

"There it is, Dad! It’s the ghost!" I cried, moving behind him for protection. He listened carefully for a few moments. He told me it wasn’t really a ghost, but was the wind howling through the dark shadowy halls and empty rooms of the castle.

Seeing that I was still frightened, he asked me to sit down next to him on the clammy cold floor. He wanted me to be calm. "I want to teach you this song," he said, comfortingly. I sat and listened as my father sang the most beautiful song in the world to me, "The Mist Covered Mountains of Home". I was no longer afraid.

Later that day, as we drove around the loch on our way home, I looked out the rain-dotted window as we passed the hills, thickly covered with purple heather bells. I saw fields of little bluebells as blue as the sky above, springing up along the banks of a peaty burn. The whole way home I hummed that song and memorized the words. I turned and looked back at the loch. I saw the ‘monster’ and laughed at myself for being so silly.

Still……… I have never been sure about the ghost.

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