McLeod’s Maidens by Beatrice Bowlby

I know rain and punching waves. The salt swells, only letting up when the skies do. The brackish water of the loch demands that my withering rock disintegrate down to the depths of Bracadale. My unforgiving edge plummets down to kiss the loch’s freezing water. I resemble a child’s nightmare, an adult’s worst fear, and a story’s favorite killing device. Boats stare up at me while dodging the rocks below the water’s surface, for I am the cliff they seek and regret seeking. Large rock pinnacles tower beside me. The Maidens are my only witnesses. They refuse to hypnotize the waves and rain to halt, but rather stay true to only one man. McLeod’s hex engulfs each Maiden, beckoning her to endure each storm and rise after the storm has passed.

I am the edge, the final point of Idrigill jutting out into the sea. I am her most valiant warrior and her strongest shield. I protect her from the piercing glares of the Maidens and the salt storms they inflict upon her. The Maidens pester the human hikers with their forbidden beauty. They are dangerous mounds of rock, soaring up to meet the clouds to inhale the air of the Cuillin Mountains. These Maidens enchant the passerby; they convince the tourists to step closer and closer to my edge until they take one step too far. A drop unlike any other, seconds worth of airtime, and a rocky end. One would hope the Maidens might catch them before coming bone to bone with a low-tide-exposed-causeway, but the rocks simply turn away and plead for a storm to wash away the body, allowing the waves to do their dirty work. The Maidens rule the loch and the islands that appear to be floating on its glassy surface, leaving the mainland to McLeod.

About forty years ago, there was an old man, weather-beaten and rough. His eyes were as grey as the Maidens’ rock, but they had seen more, they knew too much and had been too far. He didn’t come to appreciate my gigantic backside, but rather trekked to meet the fair ladies who stood in a line just past me.

His face wrinkled, showing his years, as he photographed Bracadale’s hidden treasures. One could tell he was an experienced adventurer, but the Maidens insisted he surrender to the sea. They requested the wind and called for the tide. I watched him sway in the breeze, and I begged him to take a step back, but as much as I wanted to protect him, I wished him to reach out and forgive me. Staring down to where the water met my base, he placed his camera on a rock shelf a foot below my peak. His heavy body was too in love with the Maidens to notice that I was the one holding him up, saving him from the abyss that awaited his arrival. His possessed body kept reaching farther and farther over my edge, like the Maidens were dragging him towards them one blissful tug at a time. One would assume a shriek would escape his lips, but as though the Maidens had put him at peace, his plummet did not make a sound. His camera fell almost as soon as he did; the winds were furious.

About twenty years ago, a woman wore a shiny rock on her left hand. Like the lady’s ring, the Maidens were glossy from the daily sun. I felt the silver band rub against my back as she bent down towards me. Her fiancé stood back from my precipice, fearing that perhaps the wind would pick up and he would lose his footing. She was more intrepid with her actions, and I invited her to come closer, to touch her angelic facial features to my verge. Her blonde tendrils curled at her shoulders as her limbs dangled in the breeze. She was too close to the edge. The Maidens muttered to her in hushed voices, pleading with her to join their sisterhood. The lady removed her diamond and placed it on a rock shelf a foot below my peak. Her eyes begged to unite with her sisters when she gazed at her fiancé. He understood and gave her a reassuring shove, just enough to send her sprawling toward the Maidens. She never made it to them, but one could not hear her connect with the ground. Her ring was picked up by a cormorant soon after, and I never felt the silver band again. The Maidens were breathing too loudly for anyone to hear anything. Her fiancé sat with me for a while after that. He kept apologizing and crying; I forgave him. He did not forgive me. The malicious Maidens waved goodbye to him as he stumbled away from my ledge. He never returned to see me, and I did not forgive him for that.

About a month ago, a young lady, only seventeen, came to speak with me. The girl’s hair cascaded down her back. Her locks were darker than the night that was upon her, and the Maidens reflected that darkness. She kept repeating that she wanted to leave everything behind. I promised to lull her to sleep, listening to waves crash and the Maidens moan. Instead of falling in love with me, she fell in love with the Maidens’ words. In the darkness, she slipped from my grassy surface and began to fall. She reached out for me, and I hesitated before catching her. She had not wanted me. A bleeding palm smeared onto my face as she gripped the rock shelf a foot below my peak. Although she assured herself that she would not let go, her blood caused her to slip. I did not catch her. A haunting scream diffused into the clean air. Her blood stained my rock.

I could continue blaming the Maidens for bewitching people to do the unspeakable, but at nightfall, the fair Maidens’ shadows fall across my own rock, and I know I am the one that kills.