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The Kelpie

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Statement of Robert Grigsby, taken in February of 1984

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When I was eleven I was watering my aunt's garden. This is my earliest memory that is definitely real -- by which I only mean, someone other than me remembers it happening the same way. My aunt yelled at me to shut off the water, that everything was turning to mud. I was stood holding the hose and letting it fill the rows between her cabbages and runner beans. "You'll drown them," she said, and her words nourished as they washed over me. There was something in those words that I needed like the plants needed watering -- I felt stronger for hearing the anger in her voice, the accusation.

I knew she was my aunt, that she'd been caring for me, that I lived here with her and my uncle. That she was my father's sister. Only, all the records show she's my mother. That I'm an only child.

It was when I was ten years old that, as I remember things, I first encountered the kelpie. I had two younger siblings and their -- our -- parents, who all drowned, and no one but me remembers them. Probably I should have seen a psychiatrist, but my family didn't put faith in that kind of doctor. Suspicious of any kind of doctor, really.

To get on with life, I learned not to talk about my real family. Studied, did A levels, worked my way through university as a builder's mate, and with degree and certificate in hand I found myself hired by a major building insurance fund. Entry level position, lots of legwork, opportunity to advance...

The experience I came in to tell you about happened maybe three months into the job. Implausible on paper: I wasn't sure how the prospective customer thought they'd have a chance for over a hundred thousand pounds of building insurance on some house out in the swamps? Wasn't even on a street. The photos didn't look like much. Lighting had been carefully arranged, I could tell, and even in its best light, the house was shambolic.

I don't remember what I was thinking of the situation at the time. Definitely didn't occur to me that it was going to be that monster again. Don't think I believed in the kelpie, not really; I thought maybe my memory was putting a story over some reality that had been too harsh for a child. Part of me has always believed in it -- but most of me thought there was no way.

It was me, Anthea, and Cedric, the three new hires, went out to the swamp together. Anthea was too pretty to be as nice as she was. You'd think blokes would take advantage, but something about her must have stopped them, because she never lost that innocence. Smart, too, with numbers at least-- that kind of smart, not the everyday kind. Cedric was not as nice as Anthea, not as smart either, but he came from the kind of money and class that would set him up for success anyway. Two of them and me, fresh out of the courses, ready to take on the world.

Our boss had told me privately before we left that I should start looking for other work. Said he didn't think the management was going to keep all three of us on, and I was the obvious one to let go, he said.

Told myself he'd said that to spur me to prove my worth to the firm. So there I was, pushing the other two when they hesitated to drive onto the muddy tracks that were supposed to lead to the property we were meant to inspect. Couldn't see any buildings up ahead; the fog made visibility limited enough that we didn't think that too odd.

Cedric was driving. "Don't be scared of a little mud," I told him. "Don't want Anthea to think you're such a coward, do you?" Only I didn't use the word coward. Some worse insult, I can't remember my exact words, something unprofessional I wouldn't say again. Especially not now that they're both gone.

It worked, anyway; he drove until the tires stuck fast in the sucking ground. I got out and waved the measuring rod about, brandishing a piece of surveyor's gear like it was a machete.

We walked through that swamp, fog thicker with every step, until it began to get dark, and that was when we spotted the lights. "There it is at last," Anthea said, her voice filled with a sense of relief. She took a step in that direction, and her foot sank deeper into the ground than it had before. The court shoe was sucked down right off her foot. It was no great shock, moreso that she'd managed to keep those fancy scraps of leather and carved wood on her feet in the muck as far as she had. But she wasn't going to make it further on foot, and back to the ride out of the place seemed just as unlikely.

Which was when we noticed the sound of hoofbeats. Seemed peculiar that we heard that, with the ground so soft. The horse's head loomed out of the fog toward us, and there was a man's voice, deep and resonant. I didn't see a man.

I don't think there was one. It was the kelpie speaking, or making us think we heard speech. His horse's mouth didn't move any with the words. Would've been creepy if it had. Not that it wasn't creepy, but, that would've made it hard to set aside. Which we all did do. We were young, sure, but we were professionals, faking it if necessary in the belief that if we pretended hard enough it'd start to feel real.

"Hop on, I'll give you a ride," the voice said.

Anthea went first. Barefoot she hopped onto the back of what she must have believed was an ordinary horse. I lost sight of her, which seemed strange, even as I could still see the horse's head.

"Plenty more room for the two of you," he said. It said. It wanted all three of us, I know this.

"If you're sure. I mean, I can still walk. Anthea's the one who lost her shoe," Cedric said. He put his hand on the creature's neck, then vaulted up onto its back. I could see his hand then, on the side of the neck, as if he was patting it reassuringly -- but he wasn't patting, his hand simply rested there. Unmoving.

"I'll walk," I said.

"Don't slow us down like that," Cedric argued.

"You can sit behind me," Anthea said. "I don't mind."

The front leg of the thing -- it reached for me. That's the only way I can put it. I knew I didn't want to get on, so I put out my hand, I think to push it away.

I hadn't touched the one I saw when I was ten. I'd been afraid of horses. I'd backed away, watching from the shore.

The moment my hand touched the creature, it stuck. It wasn't horse flesh, nothing like. It was stickier than the sucking mud, it was growing around my hand, as though I was already part of it.

At that moment I wished the iron in my hand really had been a machete. I would've cut my hand clear off and -- got away again. A second time.

As it was, I was ready to bash my hand off with what I did have. It wasn't panic, it was a strange cold feeling, knowledge undeniable. Not doing it would've been worse, no matter what unimaginable pain I would have caused myself. And the kelpie knew that. It took advantage, knowing that. "Your hand is already mine," it said, and the voice was nothing like human anymore. Nothing like. "Give it freely and I will abandon claim to the rest of you."

"Yes," I sobbed in relief. "Take my hand and let me go."

Like nothing at all, I was free.

Back at the company, no one thought anything of my returning alone. I was the only new hire, they thought. I'd gone out to the swamp alone, returned the same way. Boss said I was lucky they didn't fill the other two open positions; means I'm practically guaranteed promotion to the next level, the one that's likely to be permanent.

The hand was still attached, too. Here, look at it. You can't tell this isn't my hand, can you? I didn't think so. Shake it. Go on, nothing will happen to you. I don't think anything will, anyway.

No, I can't feel that. No, I haven't been to a doctor. Nothing a doctor could do. That hand's the kelpie's, not mine anymore. I make do without.

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Handwritten note on typed statement is signed "C. P., archival research assistant, April 1984" and refers to attached photocopies of official documents: Grigsby's story checks out in that records (see) show he is an only child and that no one named Anthea or Cedric was hired by his employer for an entry level position in the same year as his employment with them began. There is also a denial of insurance on a building in the location he specified visiting, stated as "due to unsoundness."

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Addendum by Martin Blackwood, December 2016: Attempted to contact Grigsby for follow up in anticipation of this being recorded; was unable to find record of his existence. Records cited by "C. P." in 1984 show "Emma Grigsby Kimble" and "Edward Kimble" as his parents; no recorded information as to why he went by his mother's maiden name. I was able to locate birth and other records for Emma Grigsby, but none of her marriage nor children. She died in 2010, aged 75.

More worryingly, Archive records show no archival research assistant with the initials C. P. working here in 1984. Going to bury this one, I think. I'd hate to disappear like that.