A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #18.3

by syaffolee

A census taker travels the length and breadth of the British Isles to survey the land’s supernatural inhabitants.

(I’ve decided to do a series of short vignettes inspired by the December 2012 prompts from the International Story a Day Group. Mostly to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This is based on the December 18 prompt “The Walrus and the Carpenter, Continued”.)

* * *

“I had no idea that Scotland had a sumo wrestling champion,” said Jack as he stared at the cabinet in the front room of the boat rental shop. Plaques, ribbons, and trophies filled the cabinet almost to bursting. But upon closer inspection, he noticed that all the awards were from competitions held several decades earlier.

A middle-aged woman working nearby, taking measurements of the room, looked up at his comment and said in an amused tone, “Most people don’t. Probably because Ramsay W. Jones was the only sumo wrestler from Scotland at the time. And he isn’t really one to brag.” The woman was thin and red-haired although both of those attributes were mostly disguised by a large green coat and a knitted gray cap. She had introduced herself as Megan, the carpenter for hire, when Jack and the others had arrived on the shores of Loch Ness looking for a boat.

“Well, I don’t really have any trouble envisioning Mr. Jones as a sumo wrestler.”

The owner of the Boat Shoppe, Ramsay W. Jones, was a very large man with a shiny bald head and a grizzled mustache. The majority of his bulk was covered by a dark blue fisherman’s sweater and gray slacks. If one didn’t know any better, he could have very well been just another owner of a small business. But Jack’s fairy godfather, Rutherford, had explained that Mr. Jones was actually a mursu. The census taker, Aileen had further elaborated that a mursu was a particular type of selkie who changed into a walrus. And with Mr. Jones’ human appearance, Jack could very well believe it.

At the moment, the census taker and her assistant stood at the counter on the far side of the room negotiating a rental with Mr. Jones. Rutherford was slouched in a cheap plastic chair, probably napping, with his cowboy hat tilted over to cover his face. His goose familiar, Hank, sat in the crook of his arm eying everything with interest.

“It’s a bit late for a boat trip out on the loch, isn’t it?” said Megan. “It’s almost supper time.”

Jack shrugged. “The others are looking for someone who apparently doesn’t like being visited during the day time. They’ve told me that he lives out on the loch on an old artificial island.”

“A crannog?” The carpenter sounded astonished when she heard the news. “No one lives out in the loch that I know of. There are, of course, a couple of reconstructed crannogs on the loch, but I don’t think they’re finished yet according to the historians and architects working on them.”

“Perhaps it’s one of those historians living out there,” Jack suggested. “Historians do tend to be a little strange what with living in the past all the time and all.”

She shook her head. “I wouldn’t know about any of that. But visitors have come here requesting things far stranger than just renting a boat for a trip across the loch.”

“Oh? What strange things?”

The carpenter gave Jack a look indicating that she thought it was rather obvious. “Come on. This is Loch Ness. Home of the great Nessie.”

Jack frowned. “The Loch Ness Monster? I’ve seen a lot of weird things today, but are you telling me that the Loch Ness Monster is real?”

“I’ve never seen Nessie,” said Megan as she snapped her tape measure closed and shoved it into one of the pockets in her jacket. She took out a pad of paper to jot down some measurements. “But plenty of visitors have claimed to have seen or documented the existence of Nessie.”

“Then it’s a hoax. Or at the very least a myth.” The fact, once he said it aloud, actually made Jake feel a bit better about everything. His world was normally very organized and in its place. Magical and monstrous things were purely in the imagination. The morning and the subsequent hours had been turned completely upside down by the arrival of his fairy godfather, so anything that sounded rational to his ears was something to clutch at, like a safety blanket. He missed normalcy.

Megan gave him an odd smile. “Well, Nessie may very well be a myth. But you will have to be careful, nonetheless, if you’re going out on the loch.”

“Why is that?”

“I’m just a carpenter, but I’ve been out on the loch with some of my brothers to go fishing in previous years. And I’ve heard it too from others who have been on the loch at peculiar times. There’s something very odd about the waters. They say the waters of Loch Ness have a mind of its own. People have seen gases erupt from the waves. Strange reflections from the light. Standing waves. And it is with great risk if you go out there alone. Because you might not come back.”

“That sounds like a scary story parents tell their children so they don’t misbehave. Surely there’s a scientific explanation for all of that.”

“All the scientists say that it’s probably due to the fact that the loch lies on top of a fault line. So you can believe what you like.” She finally glanced over to the counter and nodded towards that direction so that he could follow her gaze. “Looks like your friends have finished negotiating with Ramsay Jones. If you’re going out on the loch tonight, don’t forget your life jacket.”

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