I've asked Stephanie to send this email to all my current postgraduates. A rather interesting opportunity has come along. Yesterday I received a letter (yes, a letter, pen and paper!) from a woman in Scotland, inviting me to go and investigate some strange sightings in her village. I've attached a typed version of the letter below, for your perusal.
I'm inviting you to join me on a trip to the Outer Hebrides. The university is willing to fund the trip for myself and four students, so it's first-come first-served, I'm afraid. You'll need to be able to leave on Friday (I know it's short notice), and we'll be away for at least a week, maybe longer.
So, if anyone wants to come along and look for the "monster of Kirkdale", let me know! It should be interesting, and fun!
P.S. For those of you with classes to teach, don't worry; I'll arrange with Stephanie to get someone to cover for you while you're away.
Dear Dr Armstrong,
My name is Elin O'Riordan. I am the schoolteacher in the village of Kirkdale, on the Isle of Sumerway in the Outer Hebrides. I doubt you will have heard of our island, and I'm certain you will never have heard of Kirkdale, but I hope this letter will change that.
First, a little history. Kirkdale was apparently founded by the Vikings, although some local historians insist on a pre-Viking existence. Once or twice archaeologists have tried to find evidence of pre-Medieval settlement here, but as far as I know nothing has been turned up. As you can probably guess from its name, the village became a religious outpost once the Vikings had left, although I think that the version of Christianity practised here would have been unrecognisable to those closer to Rome's authority. Even today the kirk follows its own code, and those locals who wish to observe more orthodox religious practises do so in private. But that is not why I am writing to you.
As you can tell from my name, I am not originally from Sumerway. I was born in Ireland, and studied comparative mythology at the University of Dublin, but I fell in love with the island when I visited it as a student, and after some failed attempts to find more central employment I decided to move out here. Luckily for me, the old schoolmistress at the Kirkdale School had passed away a few months prior to my application, and I got the job without difficulty. I have now been here for three years.
As I said, my degree is in comparative mythology, and of course I encountered your works while I was writing my thesis. In particular, your book on Cryptozoological Mythologies moved me greatly. I can't say that, at the time, I agreed with everything you had to say, but recent events have changed that.
Something strange is happening here in Kirkdale. It has always been a superstitious place, but until recently the mutterings about strange beasts and otherworldly beings were limited to the older members of the population. All that has changed. I myself have seen things that I cannot explain.
Three nights ago I was awakened by a knocking at the door. It must have been very loud to wake me, since I am a sound sleeper, but as soon as I opened my eyes it stopped. I was sure that I wasn't dreaming it, so I went to check the door. (Although I live alone, this was not as rash an action as you might think: Kirkdale is exceedingly safe, even for a single young woman at night.) There was nothing there, but I heard a scrabbling up on the shingled roof, so I looked up. Lit by the moonlight was a ... creature. I could not see it well, but it looked like a misformed human, with unusually long arms and legs, and skin the colour of ash. It seemed to be naked, and it scrambled up the roof like a frog, arms and legs splayed. At the peak it squatted and turned, tilting its head down. I'm sure it was looking at me, but in the dark I couldn't see its eyes or face. Then it darted down the far side of the roof. I rushed through the house to the back windows, but by the time I got there the noise had stopped, and there was nothing to see.
As you can imagine, I have not slept well the past two nights. I am not alone in that – a number of people I know have complained of being awoken by strange noises, and half the village is going about with grey shadows under their eyes.
And so I'm writing to you, inviting you to come to Kirkdale. I don't know how many of these letters you get, and I'm sure most of them are from cranks, but please don't throw me into that category. I am not a superstitious person, and I've read your research, and ... I know I'm sounding desperate, but I am.