“I can’t believe you’re dragging me to another old rock.”
I shot my older brother a glare; I was really starting to regret offering to bring him along on this trip. “It’s not an old rock. It’s a church. A kirk.” I would have said more, but I needed to concentrate. This driving on the wrong side of the road business was for the birds.
“Kirk,” he repeated, rolling the word around in his mouth. “And, what are ‘kirks’ made of?”
I scowled at him, almost went into a ditch, and jerked the car back onto the road. “Chris, do you have to be such a jerk all the time?”
“Rina, do you have to be such a bad driver?”
“Stop drinking all that complimentary Scotch, and you can do the driving.”
He had a point there. Nearly every place we’d visited in Scotland either had few samples of the local whisky laid out for us, or a proprietor with a handy flask. Add this to all the pubs we’d visited in
and my liver was starting to ache. Britain
“Besides,” Chris continued, “if I was driving, you wouldn’t get to drag me to every known fairy sighting.”
.” My brother is a
literature professor, with a doctorate in Shakespeare. He’d wandered the halls
of the old castle, randomly quoting the Scottish play. Beyond Lady Macbeth’s
demons, his feet were firmly grounded in
reality. By contrast, I’d always been fascinated by stories about magic and
fairies. I’d jumped at the chance to do some of my geology grad work in the Stirling , so I could
tour the locations I’d read and imagined about since childhood. UK
“At least real people lived there,” he smirked as we pulled into the car park. “What kind of ghosts are in this kirk again?”
“No ghosts.” I pulled up the emergency brake, and jammed my water bottle into my daypack. “There was a reverend here in the seventeenth century who communed with fairies and elves.” Chris gave me a look over the roof of the car, raising a single eyebrow. That had always irritated me, since I’d never been able to do that. “He wrote a book telling everyone their secrets, and the fairies imprisoned him in a tree.”
“Anyone can write a book,” Chris grumbled. “I’ve written several.”
I bit my lip; Chris had just enough midgrade liquor in him to be itching for a fight, and anything I said about his crumbling career would just add fuel to the fire. After a few moments of silence, Chris wandered over to the Plexiglas encased signage, carefully positioned to catch a tourist's eye.
“Did you get a pamphlet about this place?” he called over his shoulder.
“Yeah.” I rooted around in my daypack, and pulled out the wad of information supplied by Spiritual Sites of the
, the tour
group I’d contacted. I was so glad I’d opted for the cheaper, self-guided
package. I’d hate for any hapless tour guide to be saddled with by brother’s
foul attitude for six days, seven nights. UK
I pulled out a slightly rumpled pamphlet and handed it over. Chris opened it, scanning the paragraph’s with an English professor’s ease. “This guy wasn’t taken by fairies!” Chris said. “He had a stroke while he was walking around the hill.”
“You know where the term stroke comes from?” Without waiting for his smart-ass reply, I continued, “It was thought that a fairy had stroked your cheek. That’s why only one side was paralyzed.”
“Thank god for modern medicine,” Chris muttered. We reached the remains of the kirk, and headed toward the graveyard. Chris might think I was a loon, but he admitted that gravestones were cool. “Look, he’s buried right here. Case closed.”
I walked over to where Chris was standing, and read the inscription. After a suitable moment of silence, I mentioned that we should climb the fairy hill.
“We’re here, so we might as well,” I said when he whined. “Besides, the walk will burn off some of that booze.” He grumbled, but followed anyway.
The tree at the top of the fairy hill was, in a word, magnificent. It was old and stately, like a Scottish version of Yggsdrasil, and prayers, printed on colored bits of cloth, were tied to the branches. More offerings surrounded the roots, and shiny coins were pounded into the bark.
“Some walk,” I grumbled, digging in my pack for my water bottle. The water was warm, but it was better than nothing.
“So, he’s in here, huh?” Chris leaned close to the trunk, and picked at a coin. “Why hasn’t anyone tried to chop it down, set the poor guy loose?”
I shrugged. “To keep from angering the fairies?”
Chris barked a derisive laugh. “Yeah. Or, they don’t want to kill this golden goose of a tourist trap.” I glanced around;
Disneyland, this was not. “This stuff
is all so lame, Rina. I don’t know what you see in all these bedtime stories.”
I fingered one of the cloth prayers. “They remind us of where we came from, where we’re going. They’re comforting.”
Another bark. I think Chris had had more whisky than he’d let on. “Comforting? That’s your explanation for this crap—that it’s comforting?”
“Of course,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. The booze would wear off soon enough. I hoped. “Why would people keep doing all of this-” I gestured at the tree, all of the flapping bits of cloth prayers and offerings “-if no one ever got anything out of it?”
Chris looked from me to the tree. “If all this goddamn magic shit is real, why is my life over?” he ground out. “You think I didn’t pray for an answer? A solution? You know what I got? Nothing. Because there’s nothing to get.”
He turned and stalked down the hill, over toward where we’d left the car. I watched him until he disappeared around a curve, then I turned back to the tree.
“Don’t worry,” I said, patting the rough bark. “I believe in you, Reverend Kirk. I know what really happened. And, I’d rescue you if I could.”