Steve Alten The Loch

ISBN 13: 9780976165927

The Loch

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9780976165927: The Loch
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Loch Ness holds secrets, ancient and deadly. Does a monster inhabit its depths, or is it just myth? Why, after thousands of reported sightings and dozens of expeditions, is there still no hard evidence? Marine biologist Zachery Wallace knows, but the shock of his near-drowning as a child on Loch Ness have buried all memories of the incident. Now, a near-death experience suffered while on expedition in the Sargasso Sea has caused these long-forgotten memories to re-surface. Haunted by vivid night terrors, stricken by a sudden fear of the water, Zach finds he can no longer function as a scientist. Unable to cope, his career all but over, he stumbles down a path of self-destruction...until he receives contact from his estranged father...a man he has not seen since his parents' divorced and he left Scotland as a boy.

Angus Wallace, a wily Highlander who never worked an honest day in his life, is on trial for murdering his business partner. Only Zachary can prove his innocence - if he is innocent, but to do so means confronting the nightmare that nearly killed him seventeen years earlier.

Incorporating the latest research and "new evidence," that leads to real answers concerning the monster's identity, best-selling author Steve Alten weaves a tale of horror about the most publicized and controversial creature ever to exist.

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About the Author:

A native of Philadelphia, Steve Alten holds a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University, a masters in sports medicine from the University of Delaware, and a doctorate in sports administration from Temple University. He is the New York Times bestselling author of MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror and Domain.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

 

Sargasso Sea, Atlantic Ocean 887 miles due east of Miami Beach

 

The Sargasso Sea is a two- million- square- mile expanse of warm water, adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. An oasis of calm that borders no coastline, the sea is littered with sargassum, a thick seaweed that once fooled Christopher Columbus into believing he was close to land.

 

The Sargasso is constantly moving, its location determined by the North Equatorial and Gulf Stream currents, as well as those of the Antilles, Canary, and Caribbean. These interlocking forces stabilize the sea like the eye of a great hurricane, while causing its waters to rotate clockwise. As a result, things that enter the Sargasso are gradually drawn toward its center like a giant shower drain, where they eventually sink to the bottom, or, in the case of oil, form thick tar balls and float. There is a great deal of oil in the Sargasso, and with each new spill the problem grows worse, affecting all the sea creatures that inhabit the region.

 

The Sargasso marks the beginning of my tale and its end, and perhaps that is fitting, for all things birthed in this mysterious body of water eventually return here to die, or so I have learned.

 

If each of us has his or her own Sargasso, then mine was the Highlands of Scotland. I was born in the village of Drumnadrochit, seven months and twenty- five years ago, give or take a few days. My mother, Andrea, was American, a quiet soul who came to the United Kingdom on holiday and stayed nine years in a bad marriage. My father, Angus Wallace, the cause of its termination, was a brute of a man, possessing jet- black hair and the piercing blue eyes of the Gael, the wile of a Scot, and the temperament of a Viking. An only child, I took my father’s looks and, thankfully, my mother’s disposition.

 

Angus’s claim to fame was that his paternal ancestors were descendants of the great William Wallace himself, a name I doubt most non- Britons would have recognized until Mel Gibson portrayed him in the movie Braveheart. As a child, I often asked Angus to prove we were kin of the great Sir William Wallace, but he’d merely tap his chest and say, "Listen, runt, some things ye jist feel. When ye become a real man, ye’ll ken whit I mean."

 

I grew to calling my father Angus and he called me his "runt"and neither was meant as an endearing term. Born with a mild case of hypotonia, my muscles were too weak to allow for normal development, and it would be two years (to my father’s embarrassment) before I had the strength to walk. By the time I was five I could run like a deer, but being smaller than my burly, big- boned Highland peers, I was always picked on. Weekly contests between hamlets on the football pitch (rugby field) were nightmares. Being fleet of foot meant I had to carry the ball, and I’d often find myself in a scrum beneath boys twice my size. While I lay bleeding and broken on the battlefield, my inebriated father would prance about the sidelines, howling with the rest of his drunken cronies, wondering why the gods had cursed him with such a runt for a son.

 

According to the child- rearing philosophy of Angus Wallace, tough love was always best in raising a boy. Life was hard, and so childhood had to be hard, or the seedling would rot before it grew. It was the way Angus’s father had raised him, and his father’s father before that. And if the seedling was a runt, then the soil had to be tilled twice as hard.

 

But the line between tough love and abuse is often blurred by alcohol, and it was when Angus was inebriated that I feared him most.

 

His final lesson of my childhood left a lasting impression.

 

It happened a week before my ninth birthday. Angus, sporting a whisky buzz, led me to the banks of Aldourie Castle, a three- century- old chateau that loomed over the misty black waters of Loch Ness. "Now pay attention, runt, for it’s time I telt ye o’ the Wallace curse. My faither, yer grandfaither, Logan Wallace, he died in these very waters when I wis aboot yer age. An awfy gale hit the Glen, an’ his boat flipped. Everyone says he drooned, but I ken better, see. ’Twis the monster that got him, an’ ye best be warned, for—"

 

"Monster? Are ye talkin’ aboot Nessie?"I asked, pie- eyed.

 

"Nessie? Nessie’s folklore. I’m speakin’ o’ a curse wrought by nature, a curse that’s haunted the Wallace men since the passin’ o’ Robert the Bruce."

 

"I dinnae understand."

 

Growing angry, he dragged me awkwardly to the edge of Aldourie Pier. "Look doon, laddie. Look doon intae the Loch an’ tell me whit ye see?"

 

I leaned out carefully over the edge, my heart pattering in my bony chest. "I dinnae see anythin’, the water’s too black."

 

"Aye, but if yer eyes could penetrate the depths, ye’d see intae the dragon’s lair. The de’il lurks doon there, but it can sense oor presence, it can smell the fear in oor blood. By day the Loch’s ours, for the beast prefers the depths, but God help ye at night when she rises tae feed."

 

"If the monster’s real, then I’ll rig a lure an’ bring her up."

 

"Is that so? An’ who be ye? Wiser men have tried an’ failed, an’ looked foolish in their efforts, whilst a bigger price wis paid by those drowned who ventured out oot night."

 

"Ye’re jist tryin’ tae scare me. I’m no’ feart o’ a myth."

 

"Tough words. Very well, runt, show me how brave ye are. Dive in. Go on, laddie, go for a swim and let her get a good whiff o’ ye."

 

He pushed me toward the edge and I gagged at his breath, but held tight to his belt buckle.

 

"Jist as I thought."

 

Frightened, I pried myself loose and ran from the pier, the tears streaming down my cheeks.

 

"Ye think I’m hard on ye, laddie? Well, life’s hard, an’ I’m nothin’ compared tae that monster. Ye best pay attention, for the curse skips every other generation, which means ye’re marked. That dragon lurks in the shadow o’ yer soul, and one day ye’ll cross paths. Then what will ye dae? Will ye stand and fight like a warrior, like brave Sir William an’ his kin, or will ye cower an’ run, lettin’ the dragon haunt ye for the rest o’ yer days?"

 

Leaning out over the starboard rail, I searched for my reflection in the Sargasso’s glassy surface.

 

Seventeen years had passed since my father’s "dragon"lecture, seventeen long years since my mother had divorced him and moved us to New York. In that time I had lost my accent and learned that my father was right, that I was indeed haunted by a dragon, only his name was Angus Wallace.

 

Arriving in a foreign land is never easy for a boy, and the physical and psychological baggage I carried from my childhood left me fodder for the bullies of my new school. At least in Drumnadrochit I had allies like my pal, True MacDonald, but here I was all alone, a fish out of water, and there were many a dark day that I seriously considered ending my life.

 

And then I met Mr. Tkalec.

 

Joe Tkalec was our middle school’s science teacher, a kind Croatian man with rectangular glasses, a quick wit, and a love for poetry. Seeing that the "Scottish weirdo"was being picked on unmercifully, Mr. Tkalec took me under his wing, allowing me special classroom privileges like caring for his lab animals, small deeds that helped nurture my self- image. After school, I’d ride my bike over to Mr. Tkalec’s home, which contained a vast collection of books.

 

"Zachary, the human mind is the instrument that determines how far we’ll go in life. There’s only one way to develop the mind and that’s to read. My library’s yours, select any book and take it home, but return only after you’ve finished it."

 

The first volume I chose was the oldest book in his collection, The Origins of an Evolutionist, my eyes drawn by the author’s name, Alfred Russel Wallace.

 

Born in 1823, Alfred Wallace was a brilliant British evolutionist, geographer, anthropologist, and theorist, often referred to as Charles Darwin’s right- hand man, though their ideas were not always in step. In his biography, Alfred mentioned that he too was a direct descendant of William Wallace, making us kin, and that he also suffered childhood scars brought about by an overbearing father.

 

The thought of being related to Alfred Wallace instantly changed the way I perceived myself, and his words regarding adaptation and survival put wind in my fallen sails.

 

"...we have here an acting cause to account for that balance so often observed in Nature&...

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