The Monster of Draždiak

The next morning she shared the shop’s duties with the establishment’s owner, Judita, with whom she also shared her news. Judita was around a year younger than Eulalia, though many if not most would have her pegged at a decade older. Unflatteringly bespectacled and conservatively hairstyled, she appeared swathed in clothes inherited from her late mother. A little haughty and brusque, she was fair according to her self-image, and her trademark was impeccable organisation and order, clearly a reaction to chaotic adversity life had thus far thrown her way.

Judita listened, with rationed patience, with a straight face, and let Eulalia tell her about her experience of the evening before. Whatever it was she felt about what she was told, whatever her opinion was about Eulalia’s credibility as a witness, she kept as much to herself as social graces permitted. What she did remark on was the story, what had become a modern urban myth, that an enormous fish was indeed resident in the lake, that there had been the occasional sightings, the odd photo, even one customarily grainy video. But interest in such a modern legend was relatively slim in this part of the world. The legacy of communism had left an atheistic attitude to matters of the unknown, from the paranormal to cryptozoology. There was no Loch Ness in Slovakia, this was pretty much as close as it came. Some years back there had been a film clip of a fisherman’s line snagging what was said to have been a shark in the Vltava in Prague. The reaction in general was one of scoffing, and there had been no scientific argument for the presence of a shark in such a body of water. And thus it was there was only the vaguest interest in the monster of Drazdiak, a throwaway tidbit of fun non-news, as dismissible as it was unimportant.

After Judita went home mid-afternoon, Eulalia used the shop’s computer to Google news clips about the fabled fish. The hits were scant indeed, but something at least was there to be found in cyberspace. It made her feel fractionally better and less isolated that she had seen what she had seen. She desperately wanted to tell others of her news, though quite whom she really did not know. Her list of friends in the physical world was as short as the one in the literary world was long.

And then, during a long lull between customers, an idea occurred to her. Googling the number, she contacted Jednotka, speaking to someone on the news desk. They listened politely for a beat, their tone of voice revealing little emotion, and enquired if Eulalia had any photographic or film recording of the event. When she told them no, she knew the lead would be all but severed. With a wry thanks and goodbye, the operator told her she might want to contact Novy Cas in a manner that left her little doubt it would be as equally useless to them without evidence as it was to Jednotka. Nevertheless she contacted Novy Cas. And was told exactly what she had expected to hear as a reaction.

So, that was that. She had seen something amazing, spectacular, otherworldly even, and had no-one to share it with, no evidence of it having taken place, and no way of reporting it. She would be as likely to appear mad as anything else if she told it to strangers, and were those strangers to become aware of her intermittent times spent in ‘hospital’ (as it had been euphemistically referred to), well…

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