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The Highlands of Scotland continue to be a source of fascination for those who are not used to such remote areas, with the fanciful imagery of old still being widely believed - even if they no longer hold truth.
With these images come the associated legends of magic and mystery that helped shape the identity of the nation but have long since given way to more rational thought and practices - this has not stopped some of these legends continuing into the modern era, mostly to draw in tourists: such as the famous Loch Ness Monster.
A less known creature of Scottish legend is the Each-uisge, which people in the past believed to be the most dangerous of all the fantastical beasts and monsters that roamed the land - a vicious man-eater by nature and closely related to another monster known as the Kelpie the Each-uisge was envisioned as a monstrous horse that would lure the unwary to their doom, drowning them in lochs or streams before mutilating their bodies, leaving only their liver intact, which would float to the surface.
The Each-uisge was considered to be worse than your average monster, for it was one of the fairy folk, intelligent and often dangerous spirits of the wild that could plague mankind with all manner of mischief - the Each-uisge manifested its supernatural powers via shape-shifting or making its skin akin to glue, trapping a victim who dared to ride upon it and leading them to their death.
Like all fairy folk it was considered midway between a pagan being of nature and a spirit of the dead, with the advent of Christianity many superstitions were formed on how to deal with the Each-uisge and its already horrific nature was further demonized as the Church began to turn people against the fairy folk, denouncing them not just as spirits of the dead but rather as servants of Satan himself.
In the 21st century the belief in the Each-uisge died with the coming of science and even in the remote regions of Scotland the coming of technology and reason saw the tales of the Each-uisge resigned to fairy tales and tourist attractions.
That brings us to the tale of Edward, a twenty-seven year old man who had a keen interest in folklore from around the world, considered eccentric by his friends and family alike he often spent a great deal of time and effort exploring remote areas of the world in search of cryptids and other "impossible" beasts.
In five years of searching however Edward had never truly experienced anything he could consider paranormal, thus as he set off into the Scottish Highlands in search of the mythical "water-horse" he was not expecting much - though he still held onto a small hope within him that someday he would witness something truly remarkable.
Armed with little more than a camera, a map and a hired van Edward drove past scenery that could rival any fantasy book in its beauty and isolation - although roads showed that humans were making their mark even in the Highlands the land itself was still very much wild and untamed.
Edward didn't take long to find a stretch of water he had been told about by a local in a town he had stopped by in his travels, although he was fairly certain the man was either drunk or slightly mocking he decided that it was the best lead he had.. his attempts to get answers from others met with either strange looks or questioning of his sanity, even here people had long stopped believing in "fairy tales".
Unable to take his van across the wilderness he pulled over to the side of a road and headed to the stretch of water, noticing how mist had already began to form, this was not an unusual occurrence in the Highlands however and he didn't give it much thought as he continued on his way.
The ground beneath Edward's feet gradually got more and more soft as he found himself walking in marsh, becoming slightly concerned as he found himself sinking and pausing - beginning to doubt if continuing further was safe, yet the stretch of water seemed so very close and Edward decided to cautiously continue onward.
By the time Edward had arrived at the edge of the water the ground was so soft he had to move slow and steady to avoid getting stuck, the mist was now thick and cold - to the point Edward realized that he could no longer see the van or the road, at this point common sense began to overtake his curiosity and he decided to start heading back, not wishing to risk further danger in such unpredictable circumstances.
Yet as Edward turned to go he found himself staring at a vision that made his heart race and eyes widen in shock, his skin turning as pale as chalk as he struggled to keep himself from crying out in sheer panic - a tall figure stood a few feet from him in the mist, bipedal but far from human, arms long enough to scrape against the ground and a horrific head resembling a rotting horse with a flowing wet mane covered in seaweed.
The stench of rancid meat and foul water assaulted Edward as the creature stood in silence, the mist doing little to hide the gaping wounds that formed in its skeletal chest - revealing a malformed yet fully-beating heart and what appeared to be small crabs and shellfish moving around inside wounds that had long been drained of blood, like a withered corpse that had been left at sea.
Edward trembled as the figure finally began to move, revealing large cloven hooves that sunk deep into the marsh as the creature headed slowly towards him - its head bobbing up and down as if unable to fully support itself, steaming breath emerging from a wicked mouth that spread to reveal misshapen teeth so rotten that many had already began to splinter and crack, a long tongue as black as tar rolled out as if tasting the air.
It was at this point Edward realized a disturbing truth, the creature was blind, its eyes milky white as it paused every now and then to "taste" the air - large, torn ears swiveling around atop its head as it dragged its arms behind it with every heavy step it took.
Unable to take it any longer Edward tried to run but found himself slipping in the marsh, desperately getting to his feet he continued the pattern of stumbling - his panic making him scramble on all fours in order to try and escape the beast that stood before him... Yet as he struggled he found the mist closing in and he closed his eyes, feeling as if his sanity was breaking as he tried to convince himself it was all a nightmare... even as the smell of death grew closer...
Three days later a local family reported an abandoned van by the corner of the road near a remote section of Highlands, after an investigation the owner of the van was found drowned in a nearby stretch of water: the cause of death remained a mystery though it was believed the man must of slipped somehow and knocked his head on a rock, a wound on his skull seeming to indicate such.
With no signs of foul play the death was considered a tragic accident and authorities closed off the area, though no one would ever know the truth about the late Edward, who learned too late that there are still some things that should be left alone.