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Water Horse

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2th March 1898
To my darling wife Maggie,

Well, I’m arriving safely and settling into the new job down in Connacht. If all goes well, we’ll be having more than enough money to pay our debt. The local Lord seems a tight-fisted old miser, probably charges his own children for candlelight at dinner, but the two blokes working with me both seem right enough.

After being settled in at the steam pumping station, we get to having a good look at this watery bog. Don’t know if it has an official name on any map, I’m getting an idea it drains out of the River Moy. It’s about as big as our town square back home, so that ain’t saying much, but it is deep. Got a spongy peat up top; I’ve half a mind to cut it up for fuel but it’s so waterlogged it’s hardly worth the effort. Dark green, brown and black it is, edged with reeds and fallen tree stumps. It’s got the fog rolling off it all day and night, so it’s a good thing we’re inside where it’s warm. I’m smelling it now as I write, and I tell you it’s like something crawled into the water and died. As for the men with me, Lachlan doesn’t smell much better, so I doubt he notices the stink much. Young bloke, from the farms down south. Seems a strange contradiction of a fellow; he’s constantly talking, singing and muttering like a man possessed, but he’s never having much to say for himself. As for old Daniel, he’s one of them northsiders from Dublin. Keeps to himself but I reckon he’s gotten in the wrong end of the law more than once.

And as for me, my love? Your husband is looking forward to a nice, easy job for the next month or so, chopping wood for the fire and tending to the steam pump. Beautiful machine, so it is. Takes up most of the building that we’re stationed in. Big brick firebox at the bottom with the kettle above, feeding the steam into a tall metal cylinder that houses the piston. The piston is attached to a great wooden arm; sticks out of the building’s roof and waves at us while we work. Goes up and down like a fiddler’s elbow it does, steam leaking out of the roof of the little brick and timber building – the other end of it is attached to a chains and an enormous bucket sunk into the swamp. Down it goes, squelch into the watery mud. Then a whoosh of steam and up it rises, tipping the bucket out so the water gushes away. It’ll take weeks to drain the bog completely, but until then all me and the boys are doing is watching the engine, chopping firewood and staying out of trouble. We’re having a devil of a time when the machinery clogs up though; if we leave it for more than a few hours, the bog will probably fill right back up. The little Lord says our role is to empty out the bog so that some work crews can build a proper headcut, which’ll be draining the whole area for new farmland.

Dan is fine, he’s got a few books and a little diary he’s writing in. Lachlan seems a bit put out, seeing as he’s the only one of us who can’t read or write, so when he’s free he’s either carving little figures with that belt knife of his or he’s off to the pub in town. He was after coming back the other night, muttering like he always does, tells us the old nans in the pub were warning him against the bog. Reckoned the local Lord is making a mistake, and the bog is left alone for a reason. He’s telling us stories of pixies and spectres. Typical superstitious southerners, right? He’s giving us a laugh though.

I’ll be leaving this letter here, my darling. The mist is rolling in again so I’m off to bed. Give my love to our girls, tell them that Da will be home as soon as he can.

I’m missing you every minute,
Eamon

19 March 1898
To my dear Maggie.

We’re suffering a tragedy.

It’s been getting colder and colder as me and boys are draining the bog. It’s an eerie feeling; outside it’s almost completely silent. The fog is a dark thick soup, clinging as a tax collector and cold as the nuns who taught me to read. Inside the pumping station you got good solid brick, a fire, shining metal pistons working with mechanical precision. The thump of the pump arm rising and falling has gotten right into my head. Gotten in all our heads, really.

Dan has been getting quieter and quieter. Barely said a word to us after we’re having our dinner. Been avoiding going into town and all that, instead just been giving it out to us whenever we make a mistake with the machine. Acting a right little Lord himself, that one. As for Lachlan, he’s turned fey. We’re getting the bog down by about three feet, got a black muddy ring round the edges now, but Lachlan is getting more and more twitchy, not eating his meals, kneeling by the bed praying, and through it all, this constant muttering and whispering in that high-pitched southern voice of his.

It all started when he’s out chopping wood for the boiler and sees hoofprints on the pathway by the door. He’s screaming, hopping about mad as a hare, he’s saying that we’ve disturbed the each-uisce, the water horse of the bog, and it’s coming for us. And all the while Dan and I are telling him, Lachlan, we’re saying, ain’t no such thing as these goblins and pixies the old folk in town are filling your head with.

But that night, Maggie, that very same night, he’s waking up screaming that a black horse is coming to take him away, to drag him into the bottom of the swamp unless we all stop pumping. Dan is there, he’s got a face like a thundercloud and he’s saying that Lachlan’s in for a beating unless he pulls himself together, and that he has no time for fanciful southern nonsense. God help me, I’m tired and overworked and I join in with Dan giving Lachlan a bit of stick. Hoofprints were just some stray stock, we says. Or perhaps the little Lord of the Manor checking that we’re all still at work and not out drinking – like that farmer I used to work for up past Shannon, remember him, love?

We shouldn’t be pushing Lachlan so hard.

That night, it’s like he’s having a fit. He’s weeping, he’s crying, saying the beast is getting closer, how he sees it dragging itself up out of the bog and slowly coming for him. Dan is roaring at him something fierce, giving him a right smack across the face, saying to me that we should tie Lachlan up.

Then it happens.

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The Chronicles Of El Dorado

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After finalizing his divorce following the death of their 2-year-old daughter, nothing in life seems to make sense. He had shutout the world blaming everyone and everything. The only place he now found solace was in spending long hours driving around and exploring new places whenever he wasn’t working. He was angry with life, destiny, fate and anything that had an influence over his existence that he couldn’t control.

Today wasn’t suppose to be any different from the other days that he had spent driving for long hours at the outskirt of town and sometimes hiking except that for the first time in two years, he was lost without a map because the best part of his routine drive and hiking was the thrill of discovering new places with the element of surprise still intact. The presence of a map or a GPS only took away the thrilling part of his trips. Sometimes he spent the nights in a motel before heading back home. He had been so absorbed in his trance of daydreaming that he had not paid attention to the routes he had been travelling in the last few hours after grabbing his backpack and deciding to go for a hike in the forest. Currently his situation was further complicated because he had no juice on his mobile phone whose battery was already dead. He checked his wristwatch and to his disgust it wasn’t working. He was sure he had been walking for some few hours in the forest and his quartz wristwatch had stopped at 5:13pm but he knew it was not yet dusk because a chainsaw was still audible from a distance. He kept his eyes fixed on the two-lane road that snaked up into some trees as he deliberated on what to do next. It wasn’t long before he made his decision after hearing the howling of a wolf from a distance. He took the right lane and hurried through the forest circumventing trees as his heartbeat accelerated with the thought of having a run-in with a pack of wolves on his mind even though he had no idea where he was going. The irony was that today he had no one to blame but himself.

He lost track of time as he jogged without a destination but with hope of finding a route that could lead him out of the forest. The forest was slowly becoming dark as night gradually approached. He could no longer hear the sound of the chainsaw and the only sound audible to his ears was that of his heartbeats and the constant howling of the wolves.

The collision was sudden and unexpected and he fell to the ground. Without wasting a minute he picked himself up but froze when he saw the double barrel of a shotgun pointed at him. Earlier he thought he had run into a tree. Slowly he put his hands up in surrender. She asked him who he was in an authoritative tone. He told her he was a hiker who had lost his way in the forest and he meant her no harm. At first she seems reluctant to put down the weapon but she slowly lowered the shotgun. He asked her what she was doing alone in the forest but she ignored him as she dusted herself.

The good looking woman before him was dark in complexion and tall with an athletic body, oval face, hooded eyes, turn-up nose and full lips. She was wearing a blue insulated down coat on a black jeans and a black knee high boots. She was also putting on blue gloves and head warmer which revealed strands of brunette hair. He guessed she was in her early to mid thirties. She had an air of confidence and authority and, she held the weapon in her hand with great ease and expertise. She was also carrying a backpack and she looked like a hiker.

She asked him his name and he told her his name was David Finch and, he was a writer who had gotten lost after driving for hours before deciding to take a hike in the forest. She didn’t trust him because she still had her finger wrapped around the trigger of the shotgun as she kept her eyes trained on him. She asked him why he didn’t have a map with him like most hikers. David told her he didn’t know he was hiking without a map until he got lost and couldn’t find his map in his backpack and the absence of network coverage on his mobile device further complicated matters for him. She told him her name was Sarah Jones and she lived some miles away from the forest at the outskirt of town. David told Sarah he was happy to meet her and he would appreciate it if she could help him find a way out of the forest or to the nearest motel to spend the night. Sarah sighed and looked at him exhaustedly before she told him she was also lost. David was left baffled as he asked her how could she had ended up getting lost since it appears it wasn’t her first time in the forest. Sarah told him she never went hiking with a map because she was familiar with the forest and she never brought a mobile device along with her because she knew there was no network coverage in the forest except you had a satellite phone which she didn’t. David couldn’t believe his luck was that bad as he sighed frustratingly and looked up at the approaching dusk. Sarah sensing he was worried told him to relax and that this was the first time she was getting lost in this forest but if she wasn’t home by midnight her dog Iraq who was familiar with the forest was likely to come looking for her though the only reason he hadn’t accompanied her was because he wasn’t feeling too well.

Sarah could feel David’s tense at the thought of spending the night in the forest but it was nothing new to her because she had once spent nine months in a forest feeding on anything edible the forest could provide. David Finch was a tall Caucasian man with a skinny body, oblong face, protruding eyes and long nose. He was putting on a brown fleece jacket on a grey insulated vest and, a blue jean, brown gloves and chukka boots. The strands of grey on his hair told Sarah she was staring at a man probably in his mid or late forties.

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