by Annie Shnapp
It was a Dutch tourist in a camper van parked overnight by the Bowling Hut up by Auchencheyne who first saw it. Nico Hekkens had come over from Amsterdam for a week’s cycling in Dumfriesshire, supported by his long-suffering girlfriend, Annelise, who had kindly consented to drive the van and meet up with him each evening, occasionally consoling herself with an appreciation of his athletic but muddy rear view as she followed him down a single track road, wipers going nineteen to the dozen. Personally, she would have preferred to spend her spring break in Paris, but that’s love for you.
On this particular evening, Nico had retired early to bed with aching legs. He was woken some time after midnight by a snorting, thumping noise approaching the camper van and moved the curtain aside, fully expecting to see a wandering bull.
But what Nico saw caused him to leap into the drivers seat and drive off as fast as he could, towards the sleeping village of Moniaive and through it and on far into the night. Annelise woke up near Thornhill. “What’s the matter, Nico?” she murmured sleepily. “Where are we going?”
“Anywhere away from that place,” twittered Nico, “they’ve got a monster!”
The second person to see it was a housewife driving home late one night on the lonely road to Dalwhat. She caught a glimpse of something massive, grey and lurching in her rear view mirror, but when she looked back, it had gone.
No-one believed her in the pub the next night. “Havers, lass!” said the social worker, “You must be under some stress, have another pint!”
It was when the woman who ran the Youth Club saw the beast from her bedroom window one clear night in May that people started to take it seriously. She wasn’t a person to be seeing things that weren’t there, everybody agreed.
“What exactly did you see?” asked the postmistress, over a glass of white wine in the Craigdarroch Arms.
“I don’t know what it was,” said the shaken woman. “But it’s big, it’s grey and it’s got rows and rows of sharp white teeth.”
“None of Davies’ tups are missing,” said a farmers wife, “I wonder what it can be?”
“Whatever it is,” said the postmistress, “we’ve got to catch it, we can’t have a monster in Moniaive.”
And so a plan was hatched to seek out the monster of Moniaive. Patrols were organised to tour the quiet back roads where the beast had been seen and people asked to keep their eyes open for anything strange. Time passed, but there were no further sightings. By the end of May, Moniaive mothers were finding it easier to settle their children at night and the patrols were stood down.
Everyone was quite relieved, apart from one or two members of Moniaive Action Project who felt that it was rather a pity there was no monster – look what Nessie had done for Scottish tourism. They could just imagine the ranks of postcards and tee shirts on the shelves of the Post Office.
It was late on a drizzly Saturday night in early June when the monster reappeared. The Craigdarroch Arms was extra busy, with a ceilidh going full pelt in the back room. The piper had just laid down his pipes and was reaching thirstily for his beer when the doors to the bar flew open and the windmill farmer rushed in, his eyes out like organ stops.
“The monster’s coming towards the village!” he gasped, “I just saw it on the back road by the bridge!”
Instantly the bar emptied as the bold men of Moniaive raced up Chapel Street, grabbing tools and bottles as they went, ready to do battle. They ran up the hill and round the corner to the back road and then stopped to consider what to do next.
“Maybe we should get into groups and corner it,” said the tree surgeon. But in the end it was felt there was safety in numbers and they decided to stick together. They tiptoed down the rain-slicked road towards the bridge and ducked down behind it.
“Can you see anything?” whispered the football coach, peeping over the bridge with the rest of them.
“Wheesht!” hissed the potter, “I just heard something!”
They all heard it then, the thumping, snorting sound, coming towards them. Then the clouds moved away from the moon and what the men of Moniaive then saw caused their hearts to thud wildly in their chests.
There, on the road in the distance, towered a great, grey shape, unlike any creature they had seen before. They could see row upon row of sharp white teeth glistening in its immense mouth.
“Mummy!” whimpered the odd-job-man.
But Moniaive folk are tough and brave. With a yell the men leapt to their feet and charged down the back road towards the beast.
As they approached, they noticed that the beast, far from turning to attack, appeared to be trying to run away. Spurred on by this, the Moniaive mob reached the creature and pelted it with stones and bottles.
It’s skin was tough and it seemed to be very unsteady on its feet. It also swore a lot as the men of Moniaive beat it mercilessly to the ground.
Gasping for breath, they looked down at the thing at their feet. It seemed to be made of canvas. The legs were made of wood and the teeth were painted on with white gloss. Under the canvas there was a bit of a commotion going on.
Then, as the menfolk of Moniaive stood and stared, their weapons raised, three heads popped out from under the canvas.
“Cha McNeill! Brian Thomson! Jimmy Mensdorf! What the hell are you boys playing at?” gasped the tree surgeon, as amazed as the rest.
“It’s for the Gala!” said Brian, sheepishly.
“We thought we’d do ‘Jaws’ for the Float Competition,” said Jimmy. “The rest of the Fishing Club were going to harpoon us from the boat on the float.”
“We have to win this year,” said Cha, “If we get beat by the Playgroup again I just won’t be able to show my face!”