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  • Writer's pictureGareth Williams

Angus Book Fest and a new short story without a title

I'm just back from a weekend at Angus BookFest: Celebrating Literature and Culture where I took part in their Local Myths, Legends and Folklore evening. I was a bit of a ringer coming from the west coast to perform in Montrose but nobody seemed to mind! I read an edited version of an article I wrote for The Historical Times Magazine on the Myths and Legends of Skye in the first half of the evening.

After the break, I shared a myth set on Skye which I wrote specially for Angus Book Fest. I thought I would share it with all of you here (any suggestions for a title would be welcome):

The Northern Lights flicker and pulse, shifting hues like an iridescent curtain between purple and green, pink and yellow. The curtain between this world and the other is so thin where they manifest, light spills through. More than that, beings can cross over, pushing through the curtain to live among us. But, just like the Northern Lights, most of the time, they are invisible, at least to most of us.

A few of us are born with the sight. As children we tell tales to our parents and receive indulgent smiles. If we persist, we are hushed, frowned at, even shunned. We soon learn to keep our own counsel. Most of us choose to look away, to blink, to shade our eyes and focus on family and friends, mundane things, our daily lives. As we grow older, we see less and less until, one day, it is as if we never saw glimpses of the other world. We must have dreamed it all.

We find a boy or girl who tugs at our heart and we are lost again but this time everyone understands. Bonds of love bind us, human connections weave us, the warp and weft of our lives – births and birthdays, loves and losses, hopes and disappointments until the cloth is complete and we are no more.

Thus, what we knew to be true as children is lost to the world long before we die. That is how it is for almost everyone. But there have ever been those, albeit few in number, who do not seek the comfort of the pack, who do not fear ridicule, who relish the gift beyond the value of all else.

I thought I was one. But I have a partner and a daughter now. I find myself biting my tongue, rubbing my eyes, stroking the soft cheek of my child. There is magic and wonder in this world. Powerful magic that conjures first words, first steps, first day at school.

So, I am just like all the rest, after all, denying what my innocent self knew to be true. But before I turn my back on the other world, I have decided to leave a record. No doubt, should it survive long enough, it will be filed away with all the other myths and legends that the modern world scoffs at while plundering for entertainment. No matter, I shall have preserved a glimpse of the truth, and a splinter of self-respect.

Sconser on the Isle of Skye is my home. A little village of some thirty houses, most clustered around a loop road facing the ferry dock. An ordinary place, a little place, windy and wet. Red hills at its back and a sea loch shore ahead.

Dragons roost in the grey rock of the quarry that looms above the golf course where, by the light of the moon, elves wield drivers and wedges with quarrelsome beauty. A troll lives beneath the bridge and aurochs step over the cattle grid to feed on the flanks of the hills. Dwarves work deep beneath the hills between Loch Sligachan and Loch Ainort, mining seams of precious ores yet to be discovered by man.

Sea kelpies frolic in the narrows between Raasay and Sconser, raiding fish farms and lobster pots, tearing nets and stalking the rocky shore as sure-footed horses, sirens tempting those with the sight to mount them and be borne away, to death or that other realm no one knows.

Goblins with green fingers stalk from garden to garden, weeding and thinning, sowing and blighting as they see fit. Capricious creatures who bless a gardener one year and curse the same soil the next.

When your dog barks at nothing, know the truth. Canine ears are sharp but they have another sense, a sixth sense that tingles at the passage of creatures from that other world. Day and night they are among us, living parallel lives just beyond the reach of our everyday senses.

The inexplicably lost ring. The odd tracks in fresh-turned earth. The mudslide on a stable hill. The unexpected blonde child. The runaway who never came home. Sour milk. A surprise bloom. Flattened grass. A crack in the wall. A leak that stops seeping. Puppies with wrong-coloured eyes. The just-serviced engine that refuses to start. Treasure in the loft.

We see what we want to see.

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