Rob and I
Maeve's tale of her and Rob continued from Her Story on the author page.
Yet still Rob’s mood continued, changing little from day to day but we had been seeing each other for months now and over this time he had become more morose, sullen. I don’t think that anyone else would have noticed for the gradual change was almost imperceptible. I noticed.
His studies became more intense, the new novel he was working on was taking a toll on him of some sort. I could see it in little ways; his eyes focusing on a distant point as we spoke. I had the feeling that he was zoning out, listening to the voices in his head rather than what I was saying. When I challenged him on the subject he was able to tell me exactly what I had been speaking about but then I knew him.
He had told me in the past how he had worked in a sales business where most of the work was carried out on the telephone. One of the great tricks you learn over the years, he told me, is how to do your sales call whilst listening to the calls of all others around you, what they were saying and the pitch they were making. It is just a knack picked up over time. So, I suspect that what was happening was exactly as I feared, he was listening to me but listening to the voices in his head at the same time.
I asked him about the book he was working on and asked to read some of it but he became very hesitant and unwilling to show it to me. “oh, come on Rob, let me read some of it, just the start even as I want to see what it is about”.
“I can tell you about it”, he said “but it is not ready to be read at this time, I am still in the midst of writing it and anyway it is not the type of thing that you would enjoy, it is a story about the darker side of the Fae. This book is not about the capricious nature of the faerie but those of the Fae that have darker natures, those most alien to we humans”.
“But Rob you leave stuff scattered about on the table and each time I have been here I have looked at some of it and so I have an idea of the story already, why are you unwilling to show it to me?
Rob just laughed, “I am not unwilling to let you read it, I am just worried that in its present form you would think it poor and amateurish. I am happy to tell you about it and when it is in a better form I will be happy to let you read it, I intend to sell it to the general public after all. People who may love or hate the book on a whim, of course I will let you read it before then. I just don’t like people reading my stuff until I think it is ready, or at least approaching ready, to be read. Ask me any question you like about it and I will answer to the best of my ability and I will let you read it in a few months when it is more, well, together”.
“Ok, then tell me what the book is about” Rob Laughed, well I have told you already that it is about the darker aspects of the Fae, it is not about dryads and river sprites this time, it is about their darker and more dangerous incarnations. The faerie an odd people, I think that since they left this world and with all of eternity at their fingertips that they have become ever odder, some remaining as they were, others devoting themselves to dangerous pursuit’s.
I think that when they left this land to hide from their enemies the Fae, who were just people after all, people that knew more about the nature of the land and it’s fruits and pleasures as no other invading race has since then Including those that we were birthed from, they were changed from the earth worshipping people that they had been and became obsessed in their immortality with all things mortal and that included death and the afterlife.
Some of them started studying death and the afterlife and what it was to be mortal and grew obsessed with it. So along with the sprites and Mermaids, the satyrs and Kelpies who though capricious and tricksy, much like Loki of Norse legend, were mainly harmless as long as you did not disturb them. Those others grew and changed and became creatures of darkness; they became Barrow Weight’s that haunted the places of the dead, Dark elves that existed upon the pain of mortals and shadow creatures that fed upon and possessed the living through sex or proximity.
The old Latin Names are succubae and Incubus told of these creatures but in my studies”. Here Rob grew very animated, “you must have noticed all the old books lying around” I nodded but said nothing not wishing to interrupt his flow as it may guide me. “I have found evidence of a new creature, one that inhabits the souls of the dead searching to have its old life, long gone, back and for it to live again.
"I am unable at this time to find a name for this creature other than the old ghostly term of “Wraith” but I believe some of them live, or have died here in Kilmartin Glen, there is no better place in the world for research of this kind. It is told that they sit beneath cairns in the Scot's and Irish hills just waiting to be found and when found they may live again.
I am sorry, I have gone on too long and must have bored the pants off of you but you know what I am like in the middle of a tale and I like this one, I feel that it is good and perhaps it is time to take a little risk and stop writing of the nice and good Faerie and to delve into darker territory, perhaps even write a horror story for once rather than my usual, rather twee, little romances.
He stood before me, I was on the couch sitting in front of the candle filled, stone fireplace. I had my legs drawn up for comfort upon the wide base of the sofa. The cushions beneath me were hard, compacted from years of being sat upon. It was a sofa bed by design and the mattress, once comfortable, had become like a sack of compressed oats. Rob had tried "fluffing" it up, which helped for a week or so but then it resumed the, stale biscuit, hardness that it had before. I could almost feel the metal bars that made up the frame through the hard tack mattress. Rob had the couch looking good with throws over the back and base of the couch but no matter how much you spent on a throw they did not make an uncomfortable couch more comfortable simply a little better looking. I was thinking this as I looked up at him, standing there before the glowing fireplace and candles. The very odd thing was his framing against the stark grey stone wall behind him and the candle light, which I have found rather forgiving in my old age, made him look much younger, he almost looked like he had a full head of hair again. his hair had been receding badly when I first met him and had continued its slow decline but on this night it looked full, It must have been the angle that from which I was looking at him.
Rob looked, and I could tell, felt, rather deflated after his long exposition regarding his new book but to me it was all great news. He was not going off the rails but simply working on a new book that he wanted to be good and enjoyable and perhaps move him into a new genre. What could be wrong with that?
During our many talks Rob had mentioned more than once that he was wishing to write something a little different and more original than his normal Faerie tales. Something darker and deeper, perhaps more fantastical but certainly something different and now he was doing exactly that. I was happy, very happy. Almost ecstatic in fact to know that this was the thing concerning him. It was not worries about me or our relationship but simply those of writing another book. If I had known then what I know now I would have been worried, frightened and perhaps horrified but at the time I was simply relieved.
On another day Rob explained that his research had taken an interesting turn and that he was sure that there were creatures, Wraith’s, shadows, whatever you wish to call them for he had never found a name for them, living (if indeed they can be called “living” perhaps "existing" is a better word) in the area and he intended to track one down even if it meant entering every burial mound and crypt in the area.
“Rob, No”, I exclaimed, surprised with myself, my sudden fear for his safety. I obviously felt as deeply for him as I had imagined when I thought about him but this was the first time that I felt it so deeply, so eviscerating, I felt as though my world may end if he were to be taken from me.
Despite my obvious distress, he laughed for a second and then knelt before me to give me a hug and some comfort. “I found myself crying as he held me, weeping for my life should he be taken from it.
“I am sorry that I laughed, I was surprised that you would imagine it such a big deal after all you do not believe in faeries or ghosts or goblin’s. Why then would you worry. The equivalent would be me worrying that god would strike me dead after my many blasphemies but it has not happened, have you ever seen me flinching, expecting it, even when I have been horribly irreligious.
I even like going to churches as you know. Though I am still waiting for a deep, mysterious, voice to thunder “YOU DARE ENTER THIS PLACE” just as the church doors blow open ushering in a forest worth of spinning autumn leaves. The candles all gutter and then go out as many white doves erupt from behind the alter seeking the sky and to get away from me. Of course. The many images of Christ would then start weeping bloody tears and that happens only before the church starts shaking and the granite flagstones on the floor start splintering, the stained-glass windows shatter and a jagged crack appears in the floor leading up the central aisle to stop at my feet. Then you notice that this jagged knife like break in the flagstones is glowing red and misshapen hands are reaching up from that glow clawing at my feet with their long and sharpened nails. A peal of thunder sounds and lightning splits the sky as the church bells begin to toll. Again, the voice thunders, YOU DARE. Strangely, he continued more quietly and with less drama, it has not happened yet and you know I go to churches all the time, I love the places. I do not think that you have not met any of the Fae, I suspect that you have met many of them but that you do not know that you have, remember that on the whole they are secretive creatures, you probably would not believe that you had met one even if you had”.
"But Rob, you believe, and I know that you are smart” I hesitated having so much more to say of my fears for his sanity and well-being but I was able to stop myself and simply said quietly as I again began to cry “and I worry about you”.
“There is nothing at all to be worried about, Maeve, I know the faerie and much of their lore, I have talked to some about these creatures, they have told me their tales of the “Wraiths “and I have told them my tales the vast majority of which are invented as you know. Simple fictions but the Fae appreciate a storyteller and so are good to me, I have items I use when dealing with the Faerie and I will use them all as I go looking for the wraith. I have fancies and tricks, talismans and baubles, wards and protections and I am assured that many of these will work. I have tried some out on the lesser creatures and they have kept me safe. I will be fine, I just wish to know more for my book”.
“But Rob if all you tell me is true of the fairy’s then how can you be sure that your “Protections” will work. I see you smiling, thinking, that I now believe you, I do not, you are a storyteller used to weaving tales to amaze and make people wonder and I imagine that is what you are doing now, creating a different world, one in which the creatures you have mentioned would exist and perhaps even flourish but do I believe you, I do not”.
“Why then worry about my search for the wraith, spirit, shadow, because if you do not believe then they can cause no harm, imagine that I am simply wandering around ancient burial sites, mounds and crypts looking at old artefacts, if you are right then I am not at risk. If you are wrong? Rob drew himself up to his full height and made his voice dark and hoarse then “The Faeries are coming to get you”. He laughed.
I was annoyed, I felt that Rob was pouring this ridicule upon me simply because of my worry for him.
He could obviously see that I was annoyed and so again knelt before me to try and comfort me but I was just pissed off by this time. I thought his levity and casting off of my concerns as a slight to me.
I was to learn on the following night that he had undertaken a pilgrimage to some of the better known crypts in the area searching for signs of the wraith or shadow he had mentioned.
“It was to no avail” he told me, and yes he really did speak in this way having a flair for the dramatic that I suppose all story tellers must have, he also had a way of using antiquated words, words that you knew or thought that you knew but were rarely used anymore. “I trudged from barrow to crypt, cairn to grave and I found no sign nor felt any presence of any sort of any creature, except perhaps mice and insects, of which I suspect there were quite a few, of wraiths, shadows or any of the darker creatures of Faerie I saw no sign. It was only when I had given up my search that I was to have any luck at all”.
Rob’s story, up to this point had really only been telling me about his day but as I heard the last bit my heart started racing, “You found one? I asked.
“No”, Rob continued, “I never found hide nor hair of any one of them, anyway, as I said, it was getting dark and I would not wish to face one in their environment in the dark. I have some protections and know what to say and do, I think, but best not to be silly so it is a broad daylight only adventure. His eyes shut for a short while as though he was trying to gather his thoughts and put them in order. "As I was on my way home, however, I was just reaching the high pass, he pointed out towards the hills. Just where the big stream is, high up in the glen, near to the cairn I had been looking at, when I heard the cry of a moonchild.
Do you know of moonchildren? He asked me. When I had shaken my head, he went on to explain. “I am not surprised that you have not heard of them as they are quiet creatures that bother neither their own kind or ours.
They tend to be small and rather thin creatures with big eyes and pointed ears. They are all female or perhaps they just look female, I do not know which is the case, I have certainly only happened upon females and I have met a few of them now.
“What!, you met one, I exclaimed, A faerie?, now you are being silly”
Rob just smiled, “I know you don’t believe but I can assure you that they are out there in their many glorious species and over the years now I have met many of them of various kinds. I told you of meeting the stromkarl just the other week and you did not seem so surprised, what has got you so worked up this time? Or where you just not listening to me then I told you of meeting him down at the river.
“I did hear you talk of him and was paying attention but I assumed it was just an ancient name for a small musician, you use old terms all the time. I did not realise that meant you think that you met a fairy. Is this part of some elaborate storytelling scheme, make believe as then people will buy more books? That I can understand but if you are telling me that you met a fairy. That you have met several faeries then it is time for you to go to the doctors and ask for some counselling”. He had me in tears again, again worried for his mental wellbeing worried that there was something wrong with his brain, worried for his sanity.
“Ah dinn’ae worry he replied in a soft voice, many people think that I am mad and perhaps I am but not the, befuddled in the head, mad that you think I am. Of course, I have met faeries, many people have. Possibly you have and have not known that you have done so, sometimes people know that they have met one of the fae and other times they do not but have met them still.
Most of the Fae look like us with only subtle differences, it is hardest to tell the Elves as they come in many different guises but look little different from us. Nymphs, Water sprites and dryads look like any other young women though their apparel may differ. Satyrs like young men but all are exceedingly handsome. Giants look just like us but are exceptionally tall. Dwarves the same except small. I really cannot understand that you find it had to believe that an ancient race of mankind cannot still exist whilst you believe in a deity that you cannot see, that no one has ever seen, created galaxies, sun’s and the world, In seven days; no less, populated it with millions of different species including more than one intelligent upright hominid and still had a day off for tea and a movie.
I suppose that your answer may be that the bible tells you the truth of that and of course the bible does say that it tells the truth. Yet there are with a few variations here and there a couple of dozen different bibles, those that Include the Apocrypha, those that paint the Jews in a less jaundiced light. Some are developed for easy reading and some use archaism’s that are now difficult to understand. Actually, there are more than I originally assumed, perhaps thirty or even forty.
How many books of Faerie tales are there? A thousand, ten thousand, a million? I have no idea but there are many more books of Faerie tales than there are bibles.
Faerie Tales existed before “Christ” was born, some were written many thousands of years before he was a twinkle in your sky god’s eye. Many god’s existed before your personal Jesus, I suspect that many more will exist after, your crucified redeemer. Yet there have always been faerie tales and I suspect that they also will still exist long after the name Jesus of Nazareth has vanished”.
Rob Paused, allowing me, finally to assert myself after his long diatribe.
“you don’t know any of that to be true and anyway where do you get off disrespecting my beliefs and faith, I don’t like it Rob and I hate that you have done that”. Rob just smiled, Smug, git.
“Maeve, Sorry, I do not mean to disrespect your faith. Even as a non-believer I have a great deal of respect for the church as it stands now. But you just called me a blithering idiot and madman for what I said that was far more reasonable.
Your church preaches inclusion of other beliefs and thought systems (these days) yet your first view or my thought or belief system, was that it was simple madness. You do not think as I do, you do not believe what I believe therefore you are alien to me and need to be cured, possibly by electro shock therapy of your “Different” thoughts. You almost said, if you do not think as I do then you have to be cured. I am neither mad nor delusional.
I would not disrespect your belief’s” and so…..
I cut into his ever-lengthening diatribe, in my anger, “but you just did, you just trod all over my beliefs” I was angry now and growing angrier but I think that he was just too smart to be beaten or knew how to manipulate me too well. He Continued. “I never trod upon your beliefs, I simply stated how unlikely they were to be true much as you stated about mine. I never said nor suggested that your god does not exist, you are aware that I have stated publicly, often enough, that I have no answers, only questions. You are as likely to be right with your beliefs as I am. I mean that.”
His words helped a little but I was still annoyed. “you say that Fairy’s exist but that God may not. How is that different, you are just being obnoxious now Rob”
“I know that the Faerie exist because I have seen them with my own eyes, witnessed them, talked with them but I do not know about your god because I have never met or talked with him” yet there is a point that you have missed in this argument.
You worship your god and pray to him and believe he has power over everything. I do not worship the Fae, often I do not even like them.
I do not think that they have the ability to grant prayers or even hear them. There is little that they can change upon this Earth, but they have enchantments and a knowledge of nature that we do not have. They are not gods, just a tribe of men changed and adapted over many centuries into what they have become”. Standing, Rob, flopped back into the chair by the fireplace. He did not like to sit next to me when we were speaking as he would develop a crick in his neck and so preferred sitting, facing towards me. I could see that he was annoyed now and rather upset with my belligerent position. I still did not believe him but could see the sense of his position. I decided to throw him a bone, “Your meeting with the Moonchild, you never told me of it”.
“I told you of leaving that last cairn and walking down by the stream which is deep and fast these days. All this rain has filled the rills and Streams with water cascading from the mountain’s down towards the river over there” He pointed down towards the main road to Lochgilphead, beside which a river ran, a fast-flowing stream filled with small Brown trout that had a tendency to take the fly with little effort, other than quiet and concealment from the fly fisherman.
I was walking from the top of the hill where the cairn lay, back to here through the last true forest in the area and heard the cry of a moon-child. Moon-children like most of the Faerie do not enter “The forests of men”.
I have never figured out what they mean by “The Forests of Men” originally, I imagined that they disliked the “forestry commission” forests that consist of lines of fir trees on parade. I wondered later if their aversion and the forests of men were the high-rise buildings and flats that we have created. Here, however, there was little sign of civilization, the odd whitewashed or pebble dashed cottage, the odd farm occupying a flat spot between the rising massif of the Kintyre peninsula and the sea and the odd ancient hill-fort or cairn. I still have no idea of what they mean when they say “The Forests of Men”
I found her soon afterwards, the blood of butchered squirrel streaking her face and fingers. She was little different from all those of her race, Small, quiet and elusive. Beautiful in her childish, elvish ways and habits yet probably hundreds of years old.
She leapt to her feet as I quietly approached the dale where she had taken her rest and meal and after a while, with gentle and soft-spoken words I was able to quiet her so I could talk with her. Most of the Faerie are pleasant, though easily startled and surprised. Their hearing and eyesight is enhanced beyond our imaginings their, sense of smell and touch different and stronger than ours but like any child of the forest they can be caught unawares by a stealthy walker though it rarely happens.
I talked with her for a while and asked her of the creatures that resided near to her lair. She was a moonchild and knew nothing of the world beyond the borders of her home and forest. Moonchildren were quiet and secretive and so may not see “The Big Picture” but they would notice different smells in the forest, the appearance of new creatures or beings, they would smell the scent of a new darkness. It was then that I found where to look for my daemon.
Moonchildren do not stray far from their lair, holt, burrow, whatever you wish to call it but they still need to range far enough to collect food. Omnivorous creatures, they feast upon Rats and Squirrels and fish as often as they do upon nuts and berries.
She told me of ; “a new thing, a different thing” that resided near the borders of the old forest. “It is a thing of darkness” she explained “a thing I do not know and one that frightens me”. “I have heard it cry and scrape at its stones but it has not moved in a long time, it has not entered my forest or roamed the land. I had almost forgotten its presence” she continued “until you asked”. The Moonchild, normally placid creatures, hissed at me before running off into the forest. It is the first time that I have seen a moonchild even approaching angry and it disquieted me. I walked back deep in thought but I now know where to find my shadow.
Of Forests and Shadows.
“I know where the shadow lies” Rob continued, “she, the moonchild, did not tell me much but she told me enough. I have walked the greater part of these hills and forests and so I am pretty sure that I know where the creature lies”.
“But Rob, surely you cannot, from such little information, know where the creature lies. There must be many places around here that an unknown cairn or barrow may sit and you cannot know them all”, you are not Sherlock Holmes after all”. Rob laughed, his face crinkling his eyes growing brighter and more intense in the candle light, sparkling as though filled with knowledge that moved for us all to see as each flame guttered.
The little lights and sparkles in his eyes looked like traceries each leading to another thought and each a pathway to a different thought but I suspect it was just the way Rob thought and the candle light.
“You are right of course” he said still holding his smile, still with the lights sparkling in his eyes. “Moonchildren are remarkably vague and know little of the lands around them. If something cataclysmic was to happen only a few miles from their stream or river and only a few more from the forest that they inhabit they would know little of it other than a feeling. They are creatures of emotion; quiet and secretive as I told you. They are slow to anger but despite their narrow frame can, like the foxes they adore, be vicious when cornered. There was little that she told me that I had not already suspected. I was looking in the wrong places. I had as you know searched many of the Glens in the area looking for the “Shadow” but had found nothing. The moon child told me little more than I already knew but enough that I had a fair idea of where the creature lay”.
“Sorry Rob but I just do not get it? How could you figure out something from so little information, I am going to say again are you “Sherlock Holmes” or something like that. I still could not understand why but I was beginning to believe him, coherent arguments, I suppose but then I also imagined that like any other human being I just wished to hear what happened to know how the story ended. You already know that the ending was terrible for me. I have no real Idea of what Rob thinks or imagines anymore. He could be blissfully happy or terminally depressed, he is no longer within my sphere of being and so I know nothing of him other than a tale from my younger daughter one night.
She woke as a cold draft entered our small house. She put on her dressing gown and slippers, all of which were pink and embroidered with the face and trademark “Barbie” and she wandered along the hallway looking for her mother. She opened the bedroom door, she told me, and saw a man standing over me who looked around upon her entrance and smiled, holding one finger vertically at his lips while he smiled at her. She saw him bend to kiss my lips and leave a package on the bed. When I questioned her later she called him “the happy man”. She told me that after the kiss he had walked over to her very quietly and had knelt before her and, brushing her tousled brown hair aside, kissed her forehead. “all he said, she swore” was, “don’t tell your mum” but he was a smart fellow and must have known that she would tell me.
Even now, as that little girl he kissed on forehead sends her daughter to secondary School he will know that. It may just be me and my hope for a love that transcends boundaries and is eternal or it may just be my little girl’s dreams that chimed with me, I have no idea nor do I think that I ever will but I hope that the faerie exist and that Rob exists still.
I shall tell you now of the words said at our last meeting but it is not the last that you will hear from me for I have more to tell.
“I know exactly where to look” Rob said, “Tomorrow I will go there and confront this shadow, I will find out about it, it is about time that I wrote a horror tale.”
“But how can you know? I asked, she, the moonchild I mean told you so little”
“you are right, she told me little but I know many of the creatures of faerie and moonchildren are one. I should perhaps have said, moonchild’s are one as they are almost always alone. Anyway, I may not be “Sherlock Holmes” but I do know forests. How often have I have spoken to you about, or told you of, the forests of Scotland?
“Many, many times, you have told me (often I was not really listening, when he told me of forests and geology and the old peoples of the world, I am an ordinary girl” and so sometimes I would zone out during the pontifications) I remember some of it” I finished, somewhat lamely.
“Forests grow in a similar way wither you are in the tropics or here in the West Highlands of Scotland. The Trees need water and they need sunlight, they need soil and nutrients”. He explained to me again as though to a dull child how the forests came to cover the world.
“So, rivers, streams, rivulets, Burn’s, tarn’s, Lochs, Mere’s and the many other words that are used for water is the source of a forest. Try and grow a tree in the desert, loads of sunshine but it will die from lack of water. At the centre of a forest, wood, copse whatever naming word you wish to use, there is always a water source, there is no variance for this, it is simply a fact, plants of most species need water source to survive. Trees are plants of a larger sort and so need more water.
Hence the rain forest and places like Scotland and Canada being filled with trees where there is both water galore and sunshine. The earliest trees fill the basins near the streams, and they seed into the fertile soil created by their leaves mulching and changing in autumn and winter into compost and so on for hundreds of years until you have a forest. The Moonchild told me where the creature lay, without knowing itself and inadvertently guiding me to it. It has to lie in a cairn or barrow. A crypt, I suppose, is possible but they are so much easier to discover and people like me have been searching this place for many years. I suspect That the moonchild has guided me perfectly.
Maeve Goes Mental.
“Rob, do not go, there is no need, you can write your book without confronting the darkness. There is no need to see it, just stay with me and leave the foul thing alone and set to its own purposes. I have no idea what you are thinking of here, I have no idea whether you have gone crazy and I should be calling an asylum who have strait-jackets and restraints or if the faerie exists and you intend to confront one of the darkest, most dangerous of that foul breed in its lair? I shook my head from side to side trying to clear the fog of thoughts that swirled between his perceived madness and possible lucidity. I do not know what to think.
I meant every word I said, I knew not whither he was psychotic or imagining a new story to bring to life, I wondered if all writers grew so enamoured of their own tales that they began to live them, or if they actually believed all the things they told. Faeries?
“Do not worry” he said, with a smile “my bait is still in the water, I have not yet “gone Fishing” My attic is not yet filled with bats, my picnic is not short a sandwich, and, if I am lucky I will meet the wraith tomorrow.
That was when I lost It. “for fuck sake Rob, are you stupid or are you so caught up in your writing that you are trying to drag me down into your madness” He had the audacity to look hurt and surprised. “Why would you enter the burial mound of a creature that could destroy you easily for the sake of a silly book. Why would you take so many chances? You have me now, you are no longer alone. He was quiet for a while, his smile gone, his levity departed. “I have to know, I always have to know”.
Rob set out the next morning for the cairn he had imagined. He kissed me as he left the bed the feel and roughness of his chapped, dry lips played upon mine but I was not fully awake and so I continued to sleep as he quietly dressed, washed, had a cup of coffee and left the cottage. I was only aware of these things when I woke fully. His clothes were gone from the chair he left them piled upon, near the bed, there were drips of water on the floor of the bathroom and the residue of steam upon the mirror. There was an empty coffee cup resting unwashed beside the sink. Rob was an early riser, being a bit of an insomniac and it was not unusual for me to depart to bed before him in the evening and rise to find him up and around or gone as he was that day.
If I had known that it was to be the last time that I would ever see him then I would have stayed awake all night and would somehow have forced him not to go in the morning but of course everything is clear with hindsight. As it was I went back through to the room had a shower, dressed and had a coffee myself as though my world was not about to change completely. I pottered around and then went off to work as I would on any other day. I was not even really worried about him despite what I said the night before. I really did not believe in all the rubbish that he had told me about shadows, were beasts and banshee’s it was simply his imagination and his way of writing a book. After all I had heard of character actors who lived as the person that they were playing whilst in the part. He lived the characters ideas and thoughts whilst writing his book. The characters belied in the unknown and impossible and so he did.
It was a busy day in the pub and so I never thought anything more about it until I was on the bus to Kilmartin. It was late, the pub had been busier than usual for a weeknight and so I was on the last bus of the evening, grateful that I had not had to tend the bar as it was open until midnight and I would have had to go back to my flat as the last bus to Kilmartin village was at nine thirty but I had been waiting tables and we stopped serving food at nine and so I had made the bus. Rob and I were not living together as such. No decision had been made wither we should move in together, there was no agreement or anything like that rather we had just moved onto a situation where I still had my flat and Rob his cottage. If we were doing anything in the town he stayed at my place and if not, we were at his cottage in Kilmartin.
Effectively we were a couple and were almost always together, we had spent only two or three nights apart in the last few months and that was simply because I did not know that I would be working late and could not get a bus and Rob had been drinking and so could not drive to my place. Even on those nights we had talked on the phone for ages. I had not brought up the idea of us moving in together and nor had he but I did think about it. Would I move in with him, if so where would my daughter sleep? Would he move in with me, my flat had only two bedrooms but was of a reasonable size and handy for the town centre and shops of Lochgilphead. Yet I knew that he loved his ramshackle old cottage as I had also grown to love it over the months we had been together. The questions were long and endless and without answer as I played them out in my mind. How would we get all his books and research into my flat, how would we get my daughter to move out here and also what would happen if I had to work late? Taxis were expensive and neither of us had a great deal of money.
I had started to run these thought’s through my head again as I had so many times before when the bus arrived at Kilmartin village. I thanked the driver and stepped off into the layby near the church. I still had a mile or more to walk and it was a moonless cloud covered night. Pitch black with a gusty wind blowing in from the North Atlantic. Lucky it’s not raining, I was thinking as the first spits of water touched my face. Ah well, I braced myself, put my hood up and got my torch out of my pocket and resolutely started walking out to the cottage. I had thought of calling Rob from the pub to come and meet me at the bus stop but being busy had not got around to it, so here I was, trudging through the wind, which seemed to be rising a notch with every step taken up a muddy path covered in puddles to see my boyfriend. Rob’s a lucky bugger, not many girls would do this for their boyfriend. I stopped dead in the road. There were no lights on in the cottage, no sign of life. This was very unusual even when Rob went out he left one of the lights on so he could find the door on his way back.
Perhaps he was not yet back? The first stirrings of worry jumped into my mind and using my torch for light I hurried to the cottage. Rob had many months ago now given me a key, too early I had thought at the time as he did not know me that well. Luckily, I was not the kind of person who would have appeared unbidden. Not that it mattered as he had a spare key under a plant pot at the door in case he forgot his. I entered to find the place cold and dark. The fire had burned down almost to ashes and was difficult to bring to life but luckily, I did not have to reset it.
I looked out the windows to see if I could see him coming but it was useless by this time as it was pitch black and all I could see apart from my own reflection was darkness. I was cold and soaked and so I went through to the bathroom, stripped and had a shower to warm me up expecting him to be home when I returned to the fire. He would be standing there, sipping a glass of wine, tousled, dishevelled and lighting candles but he was not. Nor did he return that night. I was worried now but it was not the first time that he had set out to see or do something and not return.
He was always well prepared for delays, in his ruck sack he carried a complete survival kit, medical emergency kit and a tiny tent as well as fishing equipment and snares. He always had water even though finding fresh water in Scotland is simply a case of opening one’s eyes. Once upon a walking trip to an ancient Dun that I cannot now recall the name of he did not come home until the following day but not only returned intact but with a bag containing twelve brown trout. He had stopped to fish on the way back looking for something for his supper but it had grown dark and so he built a fire. Set up for the night and waited for daylight. This kind of thing had happened a few times. The very first time, I was worried not only about him not coming home alive but also that he had stopped in a pub somewhere and met someone and that he was not “The one for me” that I thought he was. Perhaps he was a philanderer, a player but I really could not see that of him despite the fact that he was handsome in his own unusual way. When he arrived home, two days later, telling me a tale about getting lost in the old Caledonian forest I believed him. He dropped off a dirty rucksack in the porch, covered in mud as both his clothes and boots were. He started emptying it out, “Everything is soaking” he explained “I fell in a mere”. Standing in the glass porch he started to pull off his clothes. “Rob what are you doing? Everyone can see in. “I don’t care, there is no way that I am bringing this stuff inside the cottage, not until I have hosed it down. It was then that I smelled him. I suppose that I had not noticed at first due to my many worries for his safety and wellbeing but also about his fidelity, but the smell was horrendous. Rotting vegetation, shit and wood smoke came through the strongest but he just smelled terrible.
This put at least one of my worries to rest, no self-respecting woman would ever be with a fellow that smelled like that. He walked through to the shower naked and later returned his old self and showing me the blotches on his skin where he had burned off the leaches.
Anyway, I worried only a little as I knew what he was like, I knew him and I confidently expected him to come home at any time. I called the cottage from work the next day hoping that he would answer, he rarely answered the phone “in case it is my mother looking for a chat” he would say, “three hours from my life vanished in one phone call”
But when I arrived at the cottage the next night, thankfully the weather more clement and the walk more pleasant to find him still not home my worries began to increase and my trepidation multiply. Perhaps he found the Shadow or Wraith and it Ate him? I laughed at myself for thinking that one. Perhaps he has a broken leg and cannot make it back, rabbit burrows are everywhere and that is not unusual. Perhaps I should call the police and report him missing. Despite my worry I held myself back and did nothing except travel out to the cottage and wait for him. On the fourth evening without him I called the police. It was only the start of October but there were light snowfalls over the mountains of Scotland and I worried that he may freeze.
The police came and were helpful, they asked after him, they conducted searches but I could tell from their expressions that they thought he had mental problems and had run off with another woman. I have no idea why I thought him different and that he would not have done so but he was gone, vanished forever.
Six months had passed since that last day in October when Rob had marched off to see the cairn that would contain his shadow, his wraith or unnamed creature of the faerie realm when I felt a fleeting kiss on my lips, I thought imagined, as I slept on the night of the spring equinox. I awoke to find a sheave of papers on the bed bound with green ribbon that held two tales. The tales were written in charcoal and pencil and upon animal hide and scraps of paper. Cigarette packets opened out, sweet wrappers and the occasional lined sheet drawn from something someone else has thrown away. At first, I had no Idea what these things were and was worried that someone had got into my house and walked around without me noticing. I then noticed the hand writing, the long flowing script that he had reduced in size to suit the material’s he had written upon.
The tales were unusual, fantastical and different from anything that I have read before. I started reading them and trying to put them together, to make a coherent whole from a sheave of meandering thoughts and story telling’s. Six months later I received another two and knew that they were from my lost love, Rob. I knew that he lived still and was not lost to me but I have never seen him again or talked to him.
Except once, when I woke, late in the night as he kissed me. Leaving his tales upon my bed. He had not changed at all from the rough-edged vagabond that I am in love with. It was perhaps fifteen or sixteen years later and I was in bed with my, then, husband, a terrible man who beat me mercilessly but who slept deeply, thank god. I rose up to meet Rob’s kiss without thinking, staring into his eyes, not closing mine as I would often do whilst kissing, as I did not wish to forget the moment. He also did not close his eyes the limpid blue of them seeming to stare into my soul but within seconds he withdrew and disappeared into the shadows of the room, the shadows of the house, the shadows of the forest and the shadows of the night.
I have never seen him again nor do I expect that I ever shall. He lives now with the Faerie and in the other places, where I cannot get to him and he to me. It does not matter now as I grow old and he remains the same. He would not love the old woman that I have become, a grandmother, with lovely grandchildren but I show a sad and wrinkled visage to the world these days. Romance and love are now the domain of my girls and their girls in turn.
For a long time, I had no idea what happened out there at the cairn or mound, It all fermented in my mind and I found it difficult to understand why he would place such understanding above his love for me.
I have transcribed most of Raymond Walker’s books and hopefully have brought them to life, in them you can see what happened to him without me telling you. After all I do not know myself. There are clues held in each book or tale and I already have reached a conclusion. Perhaps you also shall, perhaps not, if you read the books and tales.
I hope that you have enjoyed this tale, the very first that I have told, and even then it is not so much a tale as a history, a setting out of events. I have tried to set out the tale in the correct order but cannot prove it's validity now, my mind grows more muddled as I age but I remember everything, I think, I just cannot say that I remember it in the right order. I have shoveled these words and pictures together to try and make a book that some may like.
I have chosen a cover that I like and an imagination of me with which I hope that many may be sympathetic. I am not truly a victim. I do not go down to the graveyard and lay my head upon his stone. He is still alive in some way that I do not understand after all.
Rob removed himself from me in the strangest of way's. I was never promised anything, we were not married and had only been together for a few months before his disappearance. I miss him and still love him, but have no claim upon him. I find it strange that me, a girlfriend, is tasked with generating his legacy. I really did not know him that well. I have no wonders to look forward to, no wild party nights, my greatest thrill these days is the new series of "Game of Thrones" and hoping that Deneryes Stormborn and John Snow get together. A very pretty girl and guy. Perhaps I have been reading so many of the fantasy tales that Raymond has delivered unto me that I have forgotten to live in any other way. I shall try.