Treyson kissed his wife Sara near the JFK security checkpoint. He ignored the bright lights and the noise of would be travelers that filled the airport concourse as he touched her belly. Even through her blue silk blouse, he could feel the tight roundness of their expectant son. He looked into her dark green eyes, yearning, wanting her to go with him. He even considered begging again, but knew her answer would be no. Her doctor had cautioned against it.
He pulled her close, whispering in her ear, “I love you.” He felt a tear escape down his cheek, but her smile and her hand wiped it quickly away. He didn’t deserve this woman, nor her sacrifice for him. “I will miss you,” he said.
“I know you will, Mac-Alister,” she answered, her eyes dancing playfully.
He hesitated, looking at her with a smile. “Are you going to tease me forever?”
They’d found out his grandfather’s parents had changed MacAlister to McAlister before coming to America while looking through his things after the funeral. He still liked the “Mc” better than the “Mac”.
Looking up at him with a smile, she said, “Don’t forget. If you find that mysterious sword your grandfather spoke about, you better send me a picture right away.”
“I will,” he promised. For a brief moment, he reflected on the thought of his grandfather’s first telling of the story of how he’d found a sword in an abandoned castle ruin. How he’d hidden it in a cave near his home because his parents would be mad if he was caught playing in the old castle. The stories had made him from youth yearn to see Scotland and his grandfather’s home. Treyson had never really taken the sword thing seriously, until the day his grandfather was lying on the hospice bed, knowing his death was near. He pulled Treyson close and spoke in his ear. “You must go to Scotland and retrieve that sword, then find and talk with the lady of the lake. She told me that the world would need the sword to survive the cataclysmic event that is about to happen. The rightful heir needs to be in possession of the sword when it occurs. You will soon be that heir. Be quick about it, Treyson. I fear this planet has but a few months.” He died moments later. He remembered Sara’s wide eyes, for she too had heard his grandfather’s last words and the urgency of them. He wasn’t sure what he had meant by the planet has but a few months, maybe it was delirium at death’s door. They bought tickets the next day.
They moved closer to the airport security gate, holding hands. Ignoring the world of people around them, he gave her one long, last kiss, then reluctantly let her go, but not before she slipped a small stuffed animal into his hand. “Keep him with you at all times. He will bring you safely back to me.” For a moment he hesitated, looking at the fuzzy, brown nosed, tan bear.
“Maybe I should cancel the trip.” The guilt of leaving her this far into the pregnancy was bearing down on his heart.
She nudged him forward. “We’ve had this conversation before, you know the tickets were not refundable and we already lost the cost of mine. I believe your grandfather. There was something in his eyes when he spoke, and I know you saw it too. Maybe it is a fool’s errand, but anyway, I will be alright. I have a good doctor and I am a registered nurse, remember,” she said with a smile. “You’ll be back in a week. Now, honey, you have to go, that plane won’t wait forever.”
She was right, and he knew it. “The trip won’t be the same without you,” he spoke while turning toward the gate. With a travel bag in one hand and the stuffed bear in the other, he sauntered through the security check. He removed his shoes and put them with his bag in the tray all the while, eyeing Sara.
“Don’t forget to call me,” he heard her voice call out when he stepped past the gate. Turning to look at her, he gave her a thumbs up while mouthing “I love you.”
Walking down the ramp and leaving her sight was hard, but the urgency of his grandfather’s message gave him strength to continue. He still felt like an ass for going.
Sitting on a bench facing the window, awaiting his turn to board the plane, he stared at the morning sky while squeezing the stuffed bear. He was thinking about his wife driving home alone when he caught sight of a bright light streaking across the sky.
“Look, a UFO,” he heard a woman shout.
“A shooting star,” he heard another voice speak.
“Can we make a wish?” a little boy asked.
Treyson watched the fiery object until the call to board came across the speaker. He hoped it was a sign of luck for his flight.
The flight left New York’s JFK, arriving in Amsterdam eight hours later. Besides dinner and a couple drinks, he slept most of the flight, hoping to be well rested so he could get an early start to his itinerary. In Amsterdam, he had a two hour lay-over where he had to change planes. Not wanting to be bored, he purchased the morning newspaper which caught his eye with a picture of the fiery object streaking across the sky. He would have plenty of time to read the article before his connecting flight. First, he wanted to talk with his wife, who didn’t answer when he called. Looking at his watch and thinking about the time in the states, he realized she was probably still at work. Hopefully, she would call him back when she got time.
His eyes blurred momentarily with tears thinking of his wife, but he wanted to smile so he wiped his eyes and picked up the paper. The article was straight forward, telling the time the asteroid with an odd trajectory entered Earth’s atmosphere, what continents it passed over, and where it crashed. According to the paper, an eyewitness saw what looked like a small fiery missile, come from the sky and hit the waters of the Dead Sea. The witness said he hit the ground expecting an explosion, but there was nothing more than a little plop. He thought it seemed odd, that someone would target the Dead Sea, of all places.
A flight attendant called for the boarding of his flight, so he put the paper down on the seat and got in line. He was ready to get on with his journey to Inverness Scotland.
Upon his arrival, he remembered that his wife had taken advantage of the airport’s concierge service and had the luggage delivered to the already booked hotel room. She had also booked a car rental, though he personally wanted to use the tram, or taxis services. She’d argued that sometimes that would be inconvenient, he’d argued that he wasn’t sure he could learn to drive on the wrong side of the road. Like always, she had won the disagreement, so he walked to the car rental area of the airport.
After finishing the paperwork and handing Treyson his keys, the female rental associate asked, “Is this your first time in Scotland?”
He replied, “Yes.”
She continued, probably because it was a common tourist attraction, “Are you planning to see Loch Ness? It’s not too far from here.”
“Eventually, the chance to see Nessie would be cool, but the first place I want to visit is the village my grandfather grew up in,” he said, all smiles.
“Oh, so you may have relatives from here,” she paused slightly, not giving him time to answer. “What village would that be?”
“It’s called Nadamph. Have you heard of it?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s a small village situated about an hour and a half north by car. It’s pretty this time of the year… when it’s not raining” she said, while pulling out a folded map and opening it up. She showed Treyson the route he would need to take, marking it for him. She folded it back up and handed it to him. “There are a few caves around there to explore if you like that sort of thing.”
“Thanks a lot,” he said as he turned to go look for his rental.
“No problem,” she said, but added, “Be careful not to get lost, it’s pretty rural up there.”
He laughed. “Knowing me, I’m sure too,” he said as he walked through the door.
The car was a red compact. “Vauxhall,” he said out loud as he read the emblem on the car’s hatch.
“Never heard of it,” he whispered as he opened the door. He was glad he didn’t have to take his luggage, it would have been a little cramped. He drove to the hotel using the map his wife had downloaded from the internet, finding it easy, even with the light fog that had settled in the area. His eyebrows crinkled together when he saw the single-story hotel. It reminded him more of a motel from home than a hotel. She had booked his room for the whole seven days, though he would be spending a few days at his grandfather’s village. Where he hoped to meet some family and find the sword. With the sun just barely over the horizon when he checked in, he decided to take a shower and get some breakfast before setting out on the long drive.
He packed his duffel bag with enough clothes to last him a few days. He then put the rest of the luggage under the bed along with the stuffed bear, not wanting to lose it. Sara, he thought, would be hurt. Before leaving, he stopped at the front desk requesting for no maid service while he was gone, and he would let them know when they could resume cleaning.
There was a pub near the hotel named the Culdan Mhor, which he decided to check out. He had always wanted to visit an authentic Scottish pub. The entrance gave way to a duskiness created by the low light chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There was an old-world look to the inside with the carved wooden tables and chairs, and three dart boards mounted on the far wall. The aroma of ale hung heavily in the air as if it was used to clean the floors. Two couples were sitting at a table in the corner watching news on a television hung on the wall. Two burly men sat at the bar, talking. The place had the air of friendliness to it, making him smile. He decided to sit at the bar. “What can I get you,” a male voice with what sounded to be an Irish accent came from a small, dimly lit kitchen behind low swinging doors.
“Do you have a menu?” Treyson asked.
A muffled laugh was returned with, “Ya be not from around here, are ya?”
Before Treyson could answer the voice called out, “Fergus, get him a menu.”
One of the brawny men who had black bushy hair and a thick mustache reached over behind the bar and pulled out a small placard and slid it to him. The only food items on the menu-bread, chicken, potatoes, and thick gravy, but there were about fifty different kinds of ale named.
“What ya be havin’?” the voice called out again.
“How about some bacon gravy with bread and some black coffee?” Treyson asked while staring down at the menu.
“Ya be askin’ or tellin’?” spoke the voice, now up close.
Treyson looked up. A freckled, red headed man, shoulders barely above the bar, stood before him, wearing a green tee-shirt and a grin etched to his face. A pot of gold came to Treyson’s mind, but he said instead, “I be orderin’,” in his version of Irish. Both men setting at the bar laughed heartily.
“You should come back tonight, its comedy night at the Mhor,” he said with a laugh. “My name is Sean Culdan, owner of this fine establishment,” he extended his hand as he spoke. Now without the Irish accent that for some reason made Treyson laugh.
“Treyson McAlister,” Treyson said while shaking his hand. An elated feeling hit him suddenly. He was glad he’d stopped here.
“McAlister… I met a clan of McAlister’s up north when I was checking out a brewery. Where you from, Treyson?” he asked.
“America, but my grandfather was from Nadamph, I’m headed there today.”
“That’s it! Lots of McAlister’s up north and boy can they drink a lot of ale. Oh, and they like to fight, too,”
“I probably won’t fit in, I neither drink much nor fight. Can’t say I’ve ever been in a real fight,” Treyson said, now a little nervous about visiting the village.
Sean went back into the kitchen, cooked Treyson’s breakfast, and brought it in, laying it on the bar. “A bit of warning, she’s a little hot,” he said, as he started wiping the bar with a rag. After a few moments, he looked at Treyson, noticing his quietness, and said, “Don’t let it bother you, Scots are always glad to see family.”
Treyson ate the gravy bread, then washed it down with the coffee. The taste was amazing. “It was really good,” he said as he tried to pay, but Sean told him it was on the house and to stop back in before he flew home. He also told him to bring some stories from his trip north, “People around here like good tales.” They shook hands, then Treyson walked out the door. On his way to the rental, he called Sara, though it was early for her. After three rings she answered sounding tired. She made him feel good, assuring him everything was okay. She reminded him to call her when he reached his grandfather’s town.
Treyson smiled when he opened the map given to him by the rental associate. He let it lay unfolded on the passenger seat where he could see it. It came in handy, as she had also circled some interesting places to visit. Mainly some lakes or lochs in Scotland, and an old castle he knew of which Sara would like a picture.
The road out of Inverness took him passed the old castle, sitting upon a large cliff and over-looking a wide river. He stopped and took some of what he thought were really good pictures, which he sent to Sara. Next he stumbled upon a deep ravine that was marked with just a dot on the map. There was a wooden viewing platform that extended out over the gorge, allowing him to take amazing pictures. A large waterfall was in the distance adding to the beauty of the place. It made him wish that Sara was there with him. He promised himself that they would make a return trip after their son is born.
It took him longer than planned, almost two hours longer, most of which he spent looking at the narrow gorge and falls. The car rental associate was right. This place is rural, he thought, after not seeing another car or person for miles. It was giving him that all alone feeling when he came upon a large valley. Situated in the middle of a grassy, natural depression was the small town he had been looking for, finally.
A gray rocky ridge jutted up from the edge of the valley, circling most of the way around, giving it a horseshoe look. The narrow road took him close by the ridge. He noticed a small dark opening, causing him to slow to a stop on the side of the road. Wow, he thought, maybe the stories my grandfather told me were true. After his father died in a training mission over the Atlantic, his grandfather and grandmother helped in the raising of him and his little sister Jean. Grandfather would portray the tales of his home in such a way that he made them seem so real.
He got out and stared at the caves in the distance. His grandfather’s story about finding a sword in an old castle and hiding it in a cave seemed more genuine now. “This is where I’ll begin my hunt,” he mumbled as he got back in his car.
A large narrow lake met the village on its western edge and glistened back between two mountain peaks. The view was picture perfect, causing him to stop the car and take a picture with his phone. He sent it to Sara with the text, “Nadamph, our future home, LOL.” She replied after a few minutes, “It is beautiful. Build our house by the lake, LOL.” He laughed then said out loud, “She is such a kidder.” He texted back, “Done.” He drove toward the town, thinking of his wife, hoping she was okay, knowing she wouldn’t say anything to spoil his trip.
A big green sign welcomed him to the village and a smaller white sign pointed him toward the hotel. After dodging a big pothole, he noticed there was only one car in the parking lot, giving evidence, he hoped, for a vacancy. With a bag in one hand, he used the other to open the squeaky door. A sign of age, he thought. He stepped through the doorway to find a hallway covered with pictures of fishermen with their catch, names and dates scrawled on the bottoms. Some dating back thirty years, mostly, he figured, of tourists who had tried their hand at fishing in the lake. When he reached the reception area, he found it unmanned but a sign instructing those in need of service to go to the lounge.
He could hear what sounded like country music emanating from down the narrow, white painted hallway in which the arrow on the sign pointed. He stopped when he came to the lounge. It reminded him of an American establishment with a jukebox, a pool table and a bar. Three older men sat on stools, conversing with the tall, heavy, male bartender with a cowboy hat and ponytail. He had a hearty laugh and a beaming smile that made him seem very friendly. When he entered the room, the music stopped and all the older men turned, looking at him with dropped jaws.