Operation Loch Ness by C.R. Berry

August 14th 2164

No, please no.

The synthesiser toppled over the edge of the refreshment trolley. The secretary lunged to catch it, but gravity beat him and the machine met the floor with a crack.

Mark two synthesisers were known for being temperamental (and cheap), so he suspected he’d broken it. Picking it up, he placed a cup in the dispenser to test it: “Coffee, white.”

The synthesiser acknowledged his request with a beep and liquid flowed into the cup. He removed it, looked at the contents, smelled it. “Fan-bloody-tastic.” The device had given him hot cherryade—the coffee files were corrupted.

He was already ten minutes late getting refreshments to the board meeting, forgetting that the CEO, Lynette Priestly, had asked for non-synthesised veneef.  Veneef, the meat from a dow—a genetically engineered deer/cow hybrid—was a delicacy. It was also notoriously difficult for synthesisers to get the taste right. Making thirteen veneef sandwiches the old-fashioned way took fifteen minutes instead of two, and now, absently picking the refreshment trolley with the dodgy wheel, he was in for a nasty scolding from Miss Priestly—great.

He returned to the kitchen to grab another synthesiser and transfer everything—sandwiches, biscuits and cream slices—to a different trolley. Then he began his journey to the boardroom again.

“Finally,” said Miss Priestly as he entered. “How long does it take to bring a synthesiser and some sandwiches?”

Embarrassment tingled all over his face. “My apologies, ma’am.”

“That better be non-synthesised veneef. I’ll know if it’s not.”

“It is, ma’am.”

“Good. I will speak to you about this matter later.”

He couldn’t wait.

Miss Priestly continued addressing the directors: “I understand your concerns, Yolande, but our scientists assure me that smart houses can still work even though the internet has collapsed…”

The secretary finished laying out the refreshments on the conference table. Hot drinks ordered and pre-programmed before the meeting, he initiated the auto-sequence, rotated cups through the dispenser and distributed the drinks. Not having much faith in synthesisers, he gave the first coffee a whiff to check it wasn’t cherryade.

As he started out of the room with the trolley, he felt dizzy and doubled over, clutching the frame of the trolley to stop from falling. The directors’ voices were a thick rumble, just indistinct noise like he was underwater.

He took a deep breath, shut his eyes. The dizziness subsided gradually and he straightened, opening his eyes again.

The board of directors, mid-conversation a second ago, were pin-drop silent. Perhaps they’d all felt that…

He turned round. “Huh?”

The only person in the boardroom was him. The refreshments were still laid out on the table, and untouched cups of tea and coffee marked empty chairs.

They couldn’t have left the room. The secretary was standing in front of the only door.

He walked over to the window and stared out across the Loch Ness cityscape.

Everything appeared normal, at first. Shuttles zipped through the airways. The Skytrain passed overhead. In the walkways below, people went about their business. Most people, anyway. The secretary noticed a few looking disoriented. One man had stopped outside the Royal Bank of Scotland—Loch Ness’s tallest skyscraper—and was clutching his forehead. A woman in front of the Loch Ness Memorial—a scale model of what Loch Ness used to look like before it was drained and became a city—was glancing around as though she’d lost someone.

The secretary sat down at the empty conference table, tucked into a veneef sandwich and called reception to tell them what had happened.

The next day, thirty-seven people in Central Loch Ness were reported missing.

February 21st 2097

“Loch Ness used to be the largest lake in Scotland by volume, and contained more fresh water than all the lakes in Wales and England combined,” explained the tour guide to a throng of tourists, gathered at the centre of what used to be the watery depths of Loch Ness.

The group had taken shuttles to the bottom of the dried up, empty loch, over a hundred metres below what would’ve been the surface. Surrounding them now were steep, rocky, vegetation-flecked inclines, capped by the green hills and sprawling forests that had overlooked Loch Ness, virtually unchanged, for thousands of years.

“Many of you probably want to know why Loch Ness is now dried up,” said the tour guide. “Well, the truth of what happened still eludes us, but a number of conspiracy theories have sprung up to fill the gaps, which I’ll tell you about later. All that’s generally and publicly known is that something very strange happened to the water in Loch Ness more than twenty years ago. Nobody knows why or how, but the water became highly toxic, highly poisonous. A number of swimmers suffered fits and blood clots, and all of the resident fish species died or suffered bizarre mutations. Since Loch Ness was one of the primary water supplies for Inverness, whatever was in the water managed to get past the treatment process and kill a lot of people in the city before anyone realised what was going on.”

His audience was silent and captivated, lips apart in horror. In part it was probably down to his delivery—he loved mysteries, particularly unnerving ones, so always told them with the enthusiasm of a man telling a ghost story round a campfire.

“Of course, whatever happened to the water twenty years ago is only one short chapter of a much longer story. For centuries Loch Ness has been plagued by ghosts, unexplained disappearances and monster sightings…”

“You mean the Loch Ness Monster?” said one of the tourists, a Liverpudlian woman. “People don’t still believe in that, do they?”

He grinned. “Funny you mention that. There haven’t been any Loch Ness Monster sightings for a very long time. But as you know, developers are in the process of turning this vast, empty space into a new city. Foundations for skyscrapers are being laid at the northern end of Loch Ness as we speak, and rumour has it that construction workers have excavated the remains of a creature that could be the Loch Ness Monster…”

Muffled gasps and murmurs billowed through the group.

“But ssshhh.” He winked. “I didn’t tell you that. Nothing’s been made pub—”

A wave of dizziness cut his sentence short. The tourists, the ground, the surrounding cliffs, the sky were all absorbed inside a dense, white fog. Pins and needles biting through his limbs, he felt himself leaning, about to fall.

The fog lifted, the pins and needles scattered and blood rushed back to his head. He straightened and noticed that his audience looked disoriented and were clutching their heads. Some were doubled over, others on their knees. Slowly they came to, lowering their hands and standing.

It wasn’t just him. All of them felt that.

“Oh my God,” said one of the tourists, a Japanese woman, standing close to the tour guide. Staring at something on the ground, she stepped away.

“Look!” a man behind her said, eyes on the ground in a different spot.

The tourists dispersed, watching their footing as they went. The tour guide looked down and saw exactly what it was they were avoiding stepping on.

Fish.

Live fish, scattered everywhere. The tour guide turned on the spot, looking around. All over the ground for more than a thousand metres were different species of fish, flapping, shaking and jumping. All of them in unison made it look like the ground itself was rippling. The winter sun bounced off their scales as if they were encrusted with jewels. But it wasn’t jewels. Studying the fish closest to his feet, he saw that they were wet. Beads of water leapt off those juddering the most violently.

What the hell?

It was like all the fish had been teleported from a body of water to the dried up loch, even though teleportation hadn’t been properly developed yet.

How was this possible?

“Where did they come from?” “What’s going on?” “H-how did this happen?” A few of the exclamations he discerned from the jangle of disturbed voices.

“We should do something—they’re dying!” a man shouted as the rippling ground began to soften and slow.

But there was nothing they could do, only watch the fish suffocate. If it hadn’t been dry for two weeks, there might’ve been the odd deep puddle in the uneven floor of the loch to save a few, but the ground was as dry as desert sand.

So they watched and, moments later, all the fish were dead.

September 19th 1971

“I’m opening an investigation into Loch Ness and I want you two running it,” said Detective Chief Inspector Mark Kerry, head of Division 6, a top-secret plain clothes division of the Metropolitan Police responsible for investigating strange phenomena.

Sitting across from DCI Kerry in his office, Detective Sergeant Claire Garrison, the first and only female police officer to work for Division 6, sighed heavily. “Sir, isn’t there anything more pressing for us to do than search for the Loch Ness Monster?”

“Sergeant, you’re not going to be searching for the Loch Ness Monster—not specifically anyway. You’re going to be searching for a man, an amateur Loch Ness Monster hunter called Robert Doyle, who went missing up there. According to his wife, he disappeared right in front of her eyes. She was on the shore to greet him after he’d been out in his boat. He’d just finished mooring his boat and come ashore, when she suddenly experienced a wave of dizziness and nearly fainted. When she gathered herself, Doyle was gone.”

“So presumably he left the area while she wasn’t looking,” said Detective Constable Gavin Enright, Claire’s deputy.

“Apparently not. His wife says she only looked down for a moment, and could see a great distance all around her. If he’d walked or even run off, she would’ve seen him. That makes it a case for Division 6.”

“Do you suspect an abduction, sir?” Claire asked.

Gavin snickered next to her.

“There’s no evidence of an alien presence at Loch Ness, but I’m keeping an open mind. As I’m sure you are, DC Enright.” DCI Kerry cocked a disapproving eyebrow at Gavin.

“Always, sir,” murmured Gavin with flagrant sarcasm. He was the sceptic of the pair. While he seemed to enjoy the variation that Division 6 provided, he wasn’t that open-minded, abhorred science fiction, and was eternally dubious in his approach to the paranormal phenomena that he and Claire investigated.

“What do you mean, we’re ‘not specifically’ searching for the Loch Ness Monster?” Claire asked.

“Well, Doyle disappeared right next to the lake. So, while I’m not discounting aliens or dimensional shifting”—Claire could almost sense Gavin rolling his eyes—“I’m also not discounting the possibility that he was dragged into the water by… by something.”

“So you believe in the Loch Ness Monster, sir?” said Gavin.

“I’m not sure what I believe. Like I say, I’m keeping an open mind. What I do know is that there is something strange about that lake. Numerous expeditions and sonar studies of Loch Ness have been carried out since the monster sightings started, and they’ve all yielded unusual results. Large moving objects. Strange sounds and echoes that can’t be explained. Something’s going on. Whether there’s some kind of creature in Loch Ness—or something else entirely—I think it’s high time Division 6 did an investigation.”

“What are your orders?” asked Claire.

“Have you ever been scuba diving?”

Claire’s heart sank. No, she hadn’t. And since she wasn’t the biggest fan of water, it wasn’t something on her bucket list.

It took a week for Claire and Gavin to find what they were looking for. Piloted by a small, specialist crew, the Goodspeed, the Division 6 submarine, happened upon a large, metallic structure sitting at the bottom of Loch Ness, two miles north of the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

It was unlit, box-like, with pipes, levers, cylinders, turrets and hatches. An underwater bunker of some sort. Not marked on any maps and not known to Division 6.

“So what are you thinking now?” Claire asked Gavin as they got into their scuba gear.

“I think we’ve found an underwater bunker,” Gavin replied flatly.

“A secret underwater bunker. What if whoever’s down there has teleportation or dimensional shifting capability?”

“Both are impossible.”

“Says who?”

“The laws of physics.”

Claire huffed.

They proceeded to the Goodspeed’s lock-out chamber and prepared to enter the water. As their colleagues flooded the chamber, that’s when anxiety hit. The water thrashed and frothed about their ankles, rose up their calves, past their knees, thighs, stomachs, up to their necks… Even though Claire was receiving air from the gas cylinder on her back, she felt an instinctive urge to suck in a deep breath as the water rose over her head.

She and Gavin had undergone an intensive scuba diving course, as Gavin hadn’t been diving before either. He was fine, though. A right water baby. To be fair, she was a lot more confident by the time the training was over, but that didn’t quell the flutter of nerves now. She could swim, but after an incident where she nearly drowned as a teenager, she’d avoided water wherever possible since. In the end, it was her scuba mask, gas canister and unremitting curiosity about what awaited them that helped drive her into the water.

Once the chamber was completely flooded, the hatch opened and she and Gavin kicked themselves through into the murky depths of Loch Ness. The odd flush of freezing water penetrated her wetsuit as she swam, stinging her skin. Frustratingly, as soon as her body heat had warmed the trapped water, fresh water snuck in.

Ankles tiring, she swam towards the bunker, Gavin close behind. She realised as they neared it that it was a much larger structure than she’d originally thought.

How could they not know about this? She would have been surprised if it was a secret government installation—Division 6 was supposed to have knowledge of those.

She and Gavin swam beneath the structure, which was mounted on thick metal struts that burrowed into the lake bed. For a few minutes they swam beneath its impenetrable base, looking for an entry point. Then Claire saw lights. A moon pool. Relief swept over her—they’d be out of the water soon. She gestured to Gavin, signalling her intention to ascend to the surface, and they both swam up.

They met a warped blur of multiple black shapes as they emerged. As the water poured off their scuba masks, the blur sharpened into a ring of men and women in unusual black uniforms, standing around the edge of the moon pool and pointing guns at their heads.

Ah. They saw us coming.

Claire removed her mouthpiece, lifted her mask and announced breathlessly, “My name is DS Garrison of the Metropolitan Police. This is my partner, DC Enright.”

Apparently no one was interested. Claire and Gavin were dragged from the water, ushered into a small chamber and searched with metal detectors. Division 6 detectives were allowed to carry handguns. These were swiftly found, tucked into pouches in their wetsuits, by the two men who were digging Claire and Gavin out of their scuba gear.

They were told to wait and the door to the chamber was shut. A man and a woman stood guard outside and ten minutes later, a moustached man in his 50s, wearing large, round spectacles and a white lab coat, entered the chamber. The two guards entered behind him, guns poised.

The man frowned, lips and eyebrows twitching with what appeared to be both worry and infuriation. “I want to know exactly who you are and who told you to come here.”

Claire stayed cool-headed. “As I told your associates, I’m DS Garrison of the Metropolitan Police and this is DC Enright.”

“You are lying. The Metropolitan Police does not know about this facility. Who sent you?”

“Look. You’re well on the way to being arrested for obstructing, threatening and falsely imprisoning police officers. So I highly suggest that you stop asking questions, release us immediately and start answering some of mine. Telling me your name would be a good start.”

“This facility is beyond your jurisdiction.”

“I don’t think so, mate,” Gavin chimed in. “We’re from a special branch of the Metropolitan Police. This is exactly our jurisdiction.”

“Incorrect.”

“Alright,” said Claire. “Seems we have a stalemate here. You’re not going to answer our questions. We’re not going to answer yours. So why don’t you explain what you plan to do with us.”

The man answered by turning and gesturing to the two guards. At once the guards lunged towards Claire and Gavin.

His answer was pretty clear.

Claire faced Gavin and nodded. As the male guard stooped to grab her, her arm shot up, grabbing him first and yanking him towards her, at which point she socked him in the throat with an open hand, knocking him back. Gavin headbutted the female guard as she tried to grab him, causing her to hurtle backwards. Both guards stunned, the female clutching her head and looking dizzy, the male coughing and spluttering, Claire and Gavin had time to jump to their feet. As both guards started raising their guns, Gavin punched the gun from the female guard’s hand and pushed her to the floor of the chamber, and Claire executed a high kick to the male guard’s chest, hurling him against the wall, knocking the gun from his hand.

Seizing both guns, Claire and Gavin exited the chamber, pointing them at the man in the lab coat, who’d moved away from the melee and was stood outside. He raised his hands immediately. Other black-uniformed guards crept forwards into the area around the moon pool, guns raised.

“Come any closer and I’ll lodge a bullet in your boss’s head,” Claire warned them, her voice rebounding in a tinny hum off the metal walls and floor of the bunker.

“Stay back!” shouted the man in the lab coat to the guards.

The guards shrank back.

“Now,” said Claire, “let’s try this again. You name?”

“Doctor Harper. Doctor Alan Harper.”

“And who do you work for, Dr Harper?”

“The people.”

“No, I don’t want patriotic bullshit. Who do you represent?”

“That—that’s classified.”

“Dr Harper, I have a gun to your head. Nothing’s classified anymore.”

“Detective, this operation is bigger than me.”

“What operation? What are you doing down here?”

“Experiments.”

“What kind of experiments?”

He paused, then sighed, “I’m sorry. That’s as much as I can tell you. Shoot me if you want. You’ll hold up our progress, but you won’t stop us.”

A voice crackled out of a small walkie-talkie half-sticking out of the chest pocket of his lab coat, “Dr Harper, temporal stability levels are dropping.”

Dr Harper’s right hand plunged to grab the device, probably to switch it onto mute—too late. He rolled his eyes and blew a sigh, chastising himself.

“Temporal stability levels?” said Claire. “Time travel?”

Harper said nothing.

“Well, Doctor, please.” She gestured towards one of the many doors off the moon pool chamber. “Lead the way.”

“What?”

“Clearly one of your associates needs you. Let’s all go.”

Harper didn’t move.

“Dr Harper, I could kill you now and trigger a messy shootout. But even if my partner and I didn’t survive, we have a team that knows we’re here. If they don’t hear from us, they’ll come after us. So it’s in everyone’s interests that you cooperate.”

Harper sighed. “I’ll take you to the lab. But I’m not saying another word.”

“I think you will, Doctor.”

Claire and Gavin followed Dr Harper through one of the doors off the moon pool chamber, down a narrow corridor, into a larger room. There were monitors, machines, control panels, all kinds of unidentifiable contraptions. Lab workers in white coats stood at countertops with beakers, pipettes and liquid-filled Erlenmeyer flasks, looking through devices resembling microscopes, and operating the machines. At the centre of the lab was an enormous tank, connected to various pipes and columns, filled with a profuse red gas that swirled, roiled and pulsed as if it was alive.

“Sir—w-what’s going on?” cried one of the lab workers.

“Nobody move,” Harper ordered. “We have some guests.”

“We’re from the police,” Claire announced. “This facility is now under our control. If your liberty is important to you, I suggest you—”

She stopped and jerked her head towards the fast, clanking footsteps. One of the lab workers had decided to be a hero and was charging at Gavin. Harper spun round and shrieked, “NO!” as the lab worker went for Gavin’s gun.

The lab worker tried to wrestle the gun from Gavin’s hand. In the struggle, one of them hit the trigger.

The bullet tore across the lab, hitting a control panel just next to the huge tank of swirling red gas.

Dr Harper clamped his hands to the sides of his head. Claire’s gaze shifted to the tank, the control panel sparking and hissing. A moment later, a black gas began filtering into the tank from one of the connected pumps, rolling into the red.

“Oh… shit!” screamed Harper.

Shooting the control panel had done something to the tank’s settings—clearly the release of the black gas wasn’t supposed to happen. The red gas was starting to react—it swirled and roiled quicker, then flickered and flashed, then dazzling bursts of light made everyone squint and shield their eyes.

“Dr Harper!” Claire hollered. “What is—?”

She couldn’t finish—something big, bright, white and hot was coming straight for face.

I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.

When Claire came to, her left cheek was squished against damp, shingly mud. She lifted her neck and opened her eyes to a kaleidoscopic blur. Adjusting, they revealed a gently sloping bank, lapped by soft waters, crowned by grassy hills and lush Alder trees stretching towards a cloudless sky. Whatever had just happened, Claire had—by some miracle—washed ashore and was alive.

Stiffly, she rolled over and sat up, every muscle twinging. Her boots were missing. Must’ve come off in the water. And something had happened to her wetsuit. The arms and legs extended past her hands and feet by half a metre, and the waist and back were hanging off her. It felt like it had expanded to twice its size.

Weird.

She pulled up the stretched sleeves and legs to free her hands and feet, and glanced around. Further down the bank was a person in a lab coat, half-submerged in the lake, water lapping at his or her thighs. A little further on was a person sprawled face-down on the bank, motionless, in a wetsuit much like her own.

Gavin!

She launched to her feet and ran clumsily over to her partner, weighed down by her damp, oversized wetsuit.

Wait, that couldn’t be him.

The man’s hair was white and thinning, not like Gavin’s thick, healthy brown locks. Yet his wetsuit was identical to Gavin’s.

Claire lowered to her knees and placed her hand on the man’s shoulder in an effort to rouse him. He didn’t budge. She grasped his upper arms and lifted as gently as she could, rolling him onto his back.

She gasped. No.

It was Gavin. But his face was wrinkled, drawn in places, drooping in others, his lips thin, his eyes framed by white, wildly unkempt eyebrows and flaccid sacks bulging beneath them, his white, thin hair receding.

It was Gavin, alright, but he looked forty years older than he was.

“Gavin! Can you hear me?” she cried, feeling for a pulse.

Nothing.

When she spoke, though, her attention was drawn to something else. Her hand shot up to her throat and she repeated, “Gavin.”

Her voice had changed. It was several notes higher than it should’ve been.

As she lowered her hand, she noticed that as well.

What the—?

When she’d freed her hands and feet from the stretched sleeves and legs of her wetsuit, she hadn’t paid attention to what they actually looked like. At the time, her head was still spinning.

Now she realised. Her hands and feet were tiny. Or at least much smaller than they were before. Her fingers and toes were shorter, the nails stubbier, the skin softer.

She rose to her feet and sprang for the water. Stepping into the fringe of the lake, she leaned over and stared—in open-mouthed dismay—at her rippling reflection.

No longer was a thirty-six-year-old woman staring back at her. Staring back instead was a child. A child who couldn’t have been more than seven.

July 22nd 1933

George and Elaine Spicer were driving home to London, returning from a holiday in the Scottish Highlands, when it happened.

At half three on Lakeshore Road, the road that ran along the eastern side of Loch Ness, George was struck by a wave of dizziness. He slouched over the steering wheel, lightheaded, vision blotted with white. He glanced over at his wife, barely saw her through the white but just made out that she had her head in her hands, evidently hit by the same feeling.

He needed to stop. He pressed his foot on the brake. The car slowed to thirty.

But the dizziness subsided as he raised his head, and the road shivered back into view. He lifted his foot from the brake.

“I—are we—are we about to see…?” he murmured.

He noticed his watch as he clutched the steering wheel. All three hands were moving faster than normal time, and speeding up. He watched—they slowed again, almost back to normal, then turned anti-clockwise and spun so fast he couldn’t see them.

“Look at my watch,” he said, showing Elaine.

Her disillusioned expression had re-formed, the one she’d worn ever since they left Golspie in the Highlands. She glanced at George’s watch and her own. “Mine’s the same.” First words she’d spoken since they got in the car.

“Darling, please…” George started, but something up ahead crept into his periphery, yanking his attention back to the road. “Shit!

He slammed his foot on the brake. He and Elaine lurched forwards as the car skidded to a stop. Eyes on the road, both of them were silent. They just stared, awestruck.

Crossing the road ahead of them was a huge, extraordinary-looking creature. Wider than the road, with a small head, long, thin, undulating neck and thick, bulbous body. It looked rhinoceros-grey, with an appendage waving up and down in front of its body—the end of a long tail swung round to its far side? Difficult to tell. It slogged across the road with seal-like movements. They couldn’t see any legs, but there was a dip in the road where the creature was crossing, possibly obscuring them.

“Darling, do you see what I’m seeing?” said George.

“I see it. And please stop calling me ‘darling’.”

Their eyes followed the creature as it plodded into the undergrowth on the roadside, heading for the waters of Loch Ness. Moments later, it was out of sight.

George looked at his watch again, now ticking normally.

He waited some minutes, hoping the creature would come back so he could make a more definitive determination of what it was.

Although he already knew what it was. He and Elaine got the full story yesterday morning, while they were still at their hotel in Golspie.

It was while they were packing to go home. A 70-something woman with silvery, shoulder-length hair, wearing a smart, dark green skirt suit, turned up at their hotel room, out of the blue.

“Are you George Spicer?” the woman asked in a gravelly, aged voice, holding up a Metropolitan Police badge, as George opened the door.

“Yes…” replied George.

“Sir, do you mind if I speak to you and your wife for a moment?”

“Er—okay. What about?”

“Perhaps I could come in?”

Reluctant, George let the policewoman in. Elaine paused what she was doing—folding and packing George’s jumpers. Taking his hand, she sat down with him on the small couch by the window. The policewoman sat in the armchair opposite.

Elaine was quick to ask, “Are we in some kind of trouble?”

“Not at all, ma’am. My name is DS Claire Garrison. I’ve come to speak to you about tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Yes. Tomorrow, when you’re on your way home, you’re going to see something. Something that will change the world forever. I’m here to stop you from seeing it.”

“I’m sorry—what?” said George.

“I can’t tell you much more. It would defeat the object of what I’m trying to do. But I need you to take an alternative route back to London. Do not under any circumstances drive along Lakeshore Road between Dores and Foyers. Find another way home.”

“DS Garrison, we have a very long journey back to London tomorrow. I’m not going to add to it. Lakeshore Road is the most direct route.”

“Sir, you have to trust me.”

“I’ve only just met you. Unless you tell me what’s going on, I have no intention of doing as you ask.”

“George, she’s from the police!” said Elaine.

“I know that, darling. But I know my rights. She can’t just turn up at our hotel room and start barking orders. Unless you’re going to arrest me for something, DS Garrison, I suggest you leave.”

“Sir, it’s imperative that you do not drive down that road tomorrow.”

“Why? What is it you’re so determined that we do not see?”

DS Garrison gave a sharp, irritated sigh. “If I tell you, it will be so you understand and appreciate the importance of what I am doing, and why it is so vital that you cooperate with me.”

“We’re all ears.”

“Fine. Tomorrow, while you and your wife are driving along Lakeshore Road, you are going to see a dinosaur.”

George sniggered. “A—a what?”

“A dinosaur. A plesiosaur, to be exact. A water-dwelling dinosaur.”

“Er, I’m no dinosaur expert. But I do know they all became extinct millions of years ago.”

“That’s correct. I believe the creature will fall through time from the Cretaceous period to now.”

George frowned. “Time travel? Are you serious?”

DS Garrison was straight-faced. “Completely.”

“So how will it fall through time?”

“In 1971, thirty-eight years from now, a group of people will be conducting time travel experiments in a covert underwater facility at the bottom of Loch Ness. Something will go wrong and the facility will be destroyed in an explosion. But it will not be a normal explosion. When matter explodes, it creates a shockwave that propagates to the surrounding area, like ripples on water. This will be a temporal explosion. It will create a shockwave that propagates in time rather than space.”

“In English, please.”

She sighed again. “The explosion of the facility will cause a disturbance in time in the Loch Ness vicinity. As a result, things will become displaced. All across time, living things will be pulled from one time into another. From the future to the past. From the past to the future. That is how the dinosaur will end up here. Because that is how I ended up here.”

“You?”

“Yes. I was pulled back in time to 1863.”

“Wait a minute. 1863? That’s seventy years ago. How old were you when you—as you say—went back in time?”

“Thirty-six.”

“Thirty-six. Right. So you’re asking me to believe that you’re”—he did a fast sum in his head—“106 years old!”

“It’s complicated. Suffice it to say, being at the heart of the explosion did something to me.”

“Fried your brain?”

“Mr Spicer, I’m telling you the truth. It’s vital that you take on board what I’m saying because you are the cause of all this.”

“What? How?”

“When you drive down Lakeshore Road tomorrow, you and your wife will be the first ones to see the creature. You will then go to the press and provide the first legitimate sighting of what will thereafter be known as the Loch Ness Monster. Your story will spark worldwide interest in finding the creature—from researchers, scientists and amateur monster hunters. Loch Ness Monster societies will form. Countless expeditions and sonar studies will be conducted. Documentaries will be made for the television.”

“For the what?” said Elaine.

“Never mind that. The point is, because of your story, the Loch Ness Monster will become the most famous example of cryptozoology in the world. And ultimately it will lead a man called Robert Doyle to conduct his own search for the monster. He will mysteriously disappear—probably pulled into another time frame like I was. But his disappearance will lead me and my partner to the underwater facility where the explosion happens.”

“So you are the cause of it.”

“I can’t get back to 1971. And I certainly won’t live to see it. I can’t do anything to stop the explosion directly. Trying to stop the chain of causation that leads to the explosion is the only play I have left.”

“The problem is, DS Garrison, the monster isn’t a cryptid. It’s real. That means others will see it.”

“Perhaps. But if I’m able to avert the first major sighting, I believe that everything— all of time—will change as a result. The butterfly effect.”

“The butterfly what?” said Elaine.

George knew what she meant. “Hardly an exact science.”

“No. No, it’s not. But it’s all I’ve got. I’ve been stranded here for the last seventy years. Seventy long, miserable years. I left a daughter in 1971. A daughter who hasn’t even been born yet, and won’t be in my lifetime. Those bastards at the facility ruined my life. If there’s a chance I can reverse what they’ve done, get my life back, I’m going to take it. Please. Mr and Mrs Spicer, I’ve told you all this so you’ll understand why it’s so important that you do not drive down Lakeshore Road tomorrow, and that you do not tell your story of the Loch Ness Monster to the press.”

“We do understand, DS Garrison,” said Elaine. “Well, alright, I don’t really have the faintest idea what you’ve been saying”—she laughed—“but it’s fine. George and I will find another route home.”

“What if I refuse?” said George.

“George!” barked Elaine, pulling her hand from his. “Why would you do that?”

“Yes, sir,” said DS Garrison, frowning in confusion. “I must echo your wife’s question. Why would you refuse after everything I’ve just told you?”

“DS Garrison, it’s a simple question. What will you do if I refuse to do as you instruct? If I drive down Lakeshore Road tomorrow, see the monster, go to the press and let everything you’ve just described happen?”

“I-I—” George had caught her off-guard. “Well, I’m afraid I would have to compel you to cooperate.”

“Compel me… I thought as much.”

George had no choice. She wasn’t going to stop. He dove forwards, swiping the firearm that was strapped to his ankle, concealed beneath his trousers. He pointed the weapon at DS Garrison’s head and, before the old woman could react, pressed the trigger. The silenced gun made a small, sharp cough sound. Blood and fragments of bone erupted from the back of DS Garrison’s head as the bullet went straight through. She flopped onto the hotel room floor with a thud.

Safest thing to do.

Elaine shot to her feet, hands raised and shaking, screaming, “George! George, what have you dooone?!

“Darling, please. I’ll explain.”

“George… George, I—I –wha—wha—” Fraught sobs and a deep trembling broke her voice into pieces.

“Darling, sit down. Let me explain.”

Sitting down, Elaine crumbled into convulsive sobs. George placed his hand over hers, but she slapped it away. “Don’t touch me.”

“My darling, I had to do that,” he said softly. “That woman was trying to destroy a huge portion of history. She would’ve derailed millions of lives had I not stopped her. You heard what we were talking about.”

“Y-yes. Sh-she was trying to change things back. She was trying to stop the explosion,” Elaine replied through the sobs.

“My love, the timeline in which the explosion happens and influences thousands—no—millions of years of history is the timeline that we are living in. You and me. Our children, our friends. All that could’ve been lost. We might never have met in DS Garrison’s rewritten timeline. My colleagues were not going to let that happen.”

“Your colleagues?”

“Yes, darling. The people DS Garrison spoke about. The people at the facility. I am… I’m part of their organisation. And in the future, they will invent time travel, and it will be a momentous day. I have to do my part to make sure nothing interferes with that.”

“George… George, I don’t know you… I don’t know who you are.”

“You do, my love. I haven’t changed. I’m the same man. The man you love.”

She looked up and whispered with abrupt poise, “You’re a monster.”

George sighed sadly. He glanced at DS Garrison’s body. There was blood everywhere. He stood. “I have to make a call from the hotel phone. I need my colleagues to come and deal with this. Stay here. Do not leave the room.”

Elaine wiped her eyes and shot him a glare. “If I do, will you shoot me as well?” She wasn’t upset anymore. She was furious.

“Please. Let me just deal with this. Then we’ll talk.”

“Do what you have to do.”

 

You’re a monster. George couldn’t shake Elaine’s words. He wasn’t surprised she’d called him that. She’d watched him blow open an innocent woman’s skull. His only source of comfort right now was knowing he’d done the right thing and hoping, one day, that Elaine would see that.

“Are you okay?” said George.

Elaine was staring through the windscreen at the undergrowth, trampled flat just minutes ago by soon-to-be the world’s most famous dinosaur.

She whipped her gaze to him, now a sharp scowl. “Are you actually asking me that?”

Yeah, that was dumb. “I’m sorry. Shall I go?”

“Yes. Go.”

Elaine stared blankly ahead. George wished he knew what she was thinking. Alas, the silence between them returned and George continued along Lakeshore Road, resuming what was to be the longest drive of his life.

 

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C.R. Berry is a British author with a penchant for mystery and conspiracy and a big hard-on for time travel. His forthcoming novel, Million Eyes, is Doctor Who meets The Da Vinci Code meets 24.

Berry has been published in Phantaxis, Suspense Magazine, Storgy, Tigershark, Scribble and Metamorphose. He won second prize in the To Hull and Back Humorous Short Story Competition 2014, was shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest 2015, and was highly commended by Writers’ Forum in 2016.

You can follow C.R. Berry at crberryauthor.wordpress.com, or find him on Twitter and Facebook (@CRBerry1).

2 thoughts on “Operation Loch Ness by C.R. Berry

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