Moisture clung to the windshield as an eerie blanket of fog enveloped the car, forcing Abby’s sister to bring the vehicle to a crawl. Abby stared into the murky night, releasing a long sigh. We’ll never get back to the cottage at this rate. “Why did Dad have to take such a late train? He knows you don’t like driving home through the Highlands at night,” Abby groaned.
“Quit complaining, Abby. You’re just upset because he’s always traveling up north. You know his obsession with old books; nothing will keep him from adding to his collection.” Sage pulled the car to the side of the road. “We’ll have to stop here for a while. I can’t see anything through this fog… we don’t want to run into any stray sheep.”
Abby flipped the radio on, scanning the few stations that tuned in. Talk radio, bagpipes, and something unrecognizably dreary. Abby turned the radio off and resumed staring into the fog. Sage began one of her usual, annoying rants about how Abby should quit acting so depressed. “Just because we aren’t in the States anymore doesn’t mean your life is over. Wait and see. You’ll make new friends once you start school again.” Sage winked. “Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet a cute Scottish lad.”
Blah, blah, blah, she’s worse than Dad. Abby zoned out her sister’s sermon, concentrating on the fog. The thick soup swirled around the lights from the car, allowing no entry or escape. A ghostly feeling washed over Abby. She eyed her sister, wondering if Sage felt uneasy as well. Sage continued rambling on about how great life would be in Kinloch-Rannoch, oblivious to the form materializing from the fog.
Suddenly, every hair on Abby’s body stood on end. Something green, glowing, and shaggy stepped into the path of the headlights. It walked on four legs like a dog, but it was the size of a tiger. Its unkempt fur looked like wiry wool. Powerful muscles propelled its smooth stride toward the driver’s side door.
Abby looked frantically to her sister. “Sage.” No response. “Sage.” What’s the matter with her! This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening! Abby shook Sage’s shoulders, realizing that her sister seemed to be in a trance. In desperation, Abby pounded on the horn. At that moment, the creature locked eyes with Abby as if it hadn’t yet noticed her.
Abby drew a deep breath. Close your eyes. If you can’t see it, it can’t see you. Yeah, right, who am I kidding? I’m not five. Abby froze in her seat, following the creature’s movements with her eyes. What is it? It looks like a giant wolfhound on steroids or something, but I’ve never heard of a green dog, let alone one with glowing, green ooze all over it!
The beast rounded the car, stopping inches from Abby’s door, hot breath snorting from its nostrils, condensing on the window. Bit by bit, Abby turned her head toward the window and willed the quivering of her lip to stop. The creature let out a low, menacing growl. Abby whimpered, “Pl, please don’t hurt us.”
As if in reply, a calm, tingling sensation wrapped itself around Abby’s mind. It was like something, or someone, was inside her head, searching her thoughts for something unknown. Uh…
A gruff, deliberate voice entered her mind: The Red King must set me free.
“Wha, what?” Abby choked in a whisper.
The beast blinked, entering her mind once again. The Red King must set me free.
Abby sat transfixed, hypnotized by the creature’s piercing gaze. She wanted to scream or cry or close her eyes, but she couldn’t look away. After a few moments, the creature raised its head, turned with a snort, and strode back toward the road.
Disappearing into the thick fog, it paused for one purposeful glance back at Abby.
The Red King must set me free.
Then it was gone.
Abby stared in disbelief out the window. Did that really just happen?
Sage flicked her eyes, turned to her sister, and scrunched her face in surprise. “Abby, why in the world do you look so pale? And why are your hands trembling?”
Abby clasped her hands together and looked in the rear view mirror. Shocked by the loss of color in her face, it took Abby a moment to realize just how scared she must have been. Abby mumbled, “Well, I, uh…well, you’d be pasty white too if that thing had been inches from your face!”
Sage frowned. “Abby, what on earth are you talking about?”
Abby snorted, “Uh, the giant, grimy, green dog-thing that came out of the fog like a phantom. Are you saying you did not see that?!”
“Abby, your mind must be playing tricks on you. There was no green ‘dog-thing’.”
“Yes there was! It said something about the Red King freeing him.”
“It talked to you?” Sage paused and rolled her eyes. “Abby, dogs don’t talk.”
“Well, it didn’t exactly talk…it was more like it was inside my head.”
“Abby, I don’t understand where all this is coming from, but there was no dog.”
“Abby, when we get to the cottage why don’t you take a long, hot bath and clear your mind.”
“There’s nothing to clear. I know what I saw!”
“Abby, end–of–discussion. I don’t want to hear about it again.”
Abby crossed her arms, “If Mom were alive, she’d believe me.”
“Abby, look at me.” Sage paused, softening her voice. “Mom would probably have told you to take a hot bath too.” Abby stared into the clearing fog, pretending not to feel her sister’s touch on her shoulder.
“Abby, I don’t know what’s going on with you tonight, but I know you really miss your friends in Nebraska and our old house.” Sage sighed and fingered the gem nestled in the curve of her throat. “Listen, Abby,” she continued, “I’m certain that if Mom would have had the chance to know you, she’d want you to have this.”
Brushing aside the sole blond ringlet amidst her chestnut curls, Sage disconnected the clasp of her necklace. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and intended to give it to you in September for your birthday, but I think you should have it now.”
Abby glanced suspiciously at her sister. “Why would you want to give up your amulet?”
“When mom first gave me this, she said it would banish my bad dreams forever.” Sage flashed a playful smile at Abby. “Maybe it will take care of your phantom, monster-dog.”
Abby began to protest but thought better of it. Feeling the smooth cut of golden crystal, she placed the treasured ornament around her neck. “Thanks Sage, I promise to take good care of it.” Abby leaned back in her seat, sighing softly. The mysterious fog had rolled out, revealing the star-filled night.
Shifting into drive, Sage drove toward their cottage. Abby stared out the window as the still, dark waters of Loch Rannoch flowed by. Trying to reassure herself that she wasn’t crazy, she replayed the scene over and over in her head. She knew what she had seen.
Sage may not believe me, but I bet old Mrs. MacTavish will!