Jerry E. Airth offers “Promise to Nessie” as the next spolight contributor to A Darke Phantastique. It begins as follows:
A heart-seizing cry rose from the lake, a wild, lost, lingering cry, born of desperation and fear and a great desire to be understood, to be private, to be free, to escape. It was a tearing at the fi re-blasted valley, a daring, haunting wail.
I zoomed my camcorder lens down on the water.
Something huge, sinuous, plunged over the chained trees of a logboom, shattering the gray water, and disappeared.
“Come back!” I shouted. A mute tangle of land and water twisted to the horizon where two mountains notched the sky. “Please?” I begged.
He says about the story:
The lake was in a valley, high in the mountains of British Columbia—a valley totally shorn of trees. Slopes of blackened stumps flanked the switchback road down to the lake where a fire-sin ed cabin and a long boathouse awaited us.
I learned a forest fire had swept the valley at least a decade earlier. The scorched evergreen trees, stark and black, were cut down by loggers and dragged into the lake. The cold waters of the lake, like Loch Ness, were dark with the particles of bark. The bottom of the deep lake was strewn with the skeletons of trees, sometimes seen in shifting sunlight.
I fished off a square of floating, chained logs all day. Caught nothing, except a certainty: I would never forget that valley and lake.
That thought became the home of Nessie, a creature bonded at birth to a lonely man. Wilton was modeled from a man I met years later in San Francisco. His wife had been my wife’s college roommate.
Wilton was a stocky man who loved snakes and lizards; he had a five-foot python named Tinkerbell in the first floor bathroom of his split-level house, and eighteen-inch monitor lizards in his upstairs bathtub. His front room contained an aquarium as long as the wall. When I slept in that room, I faced that glassed-in world. In my dreams, golden-brown monitor jaws savaged goldfish all night.
The dreams, the lake, and this man became the foundation of my story.
Jerry E. Airth has had pieces in Arizona Highways, theWriter, Nevada magazine, Range magazine, Tucson Lifestyles magazine, and the newspapers Tucson Citizen and Territorial. A longtime member of the Society of Southwestern Authors in Tucson, he has placed high in several Internet short-story contests. For the last ten years he has been poetry editor of Calliope (the Mensa-sponsored magazine for writers). Along the way, he spent seventeen years in teaching—at every level from kindergarten to junior college, plus twenty-two years in aerospace industry quality control. Now he lives in Picture Rocks, Arizona, just beyond the boundary of Saguaro National Park West. After his story “Night Food” in the The Devil’s Coattails was published, he became inspired by Ray Bradbury’s example and wrote a story a day for 287 days, mostly science fiction and cross-genre. In addition, he completed a
cross-genre novel, Geronimo’s Well. He aims to make the Southwest desert come alive in his stories.
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