Claire Jaggard


Don’t Be Scared

This story was published in the Winter 2023 edition of Superpresent Mag, broadcast on BBC Upload in January 2023, and published again in the June 2024 edition of All Your Stories magazine.

I eat binoculars.

I know I shouldn’t, but they’re just too deliciously crunchy to resist.

Besides, the tourists bring me new pairs so regularly that I’m sure they mean them to be treats.

Sometimes we play a little game. They start by brandishing the delicate morsels as if the main purpose of binoculars were to help admire the scenery. They drape the chewy straps around their necks, lift the soft rubbery ends to their eyes, fiddle with the tangy metallic rings and gaze through the glassy lozenges.

Eventually – it always happens – they put the binoculars down beside them and pretend they’ve forgotten all about them. I know it’s a ruse, and while I reach out to hook in my prize, they avert their eyes.

I like to watch the tourists lingering on the shore, greedily drinking in their surroundings while I savour the binoculars, piece by tasty piece. They sweep excited arms across the backdrop of heather clad hills, point up towards the buzzards drawing lazy circles between the clouds and crane their necks down the length of the loch to see where the old ruined castle teeters on the edge of the promontory.

Showing my gratitude for their gifts is tricky; doing so can cause the tourists to leave in a hurry, and I don’t want to scare them. Subtlety is the key. I don’t raise my head above water more than once a decade or so. Whenever I do, there’s a flurry of excitement, a flash of cameras and then they rush away. More often, I simply send a ripple towards my benefactors. I have so much water to play with, it doesn’t take much to streak a satisfying wake across the mirror.

They always notice. I see them pause and look around, pretending to explain away the ripple. It must be the way the wind is swirling, they say, or maybe a small bore set up by the tide. I smile to myself. No, it’s just me.

At the end of one long hot summer, the day the rain came, I was gifted a particularly succulent pair of binoculars. These had been hung for decades and their leather casing was worn to softness and infused with a trace of tobacco. The couple who brought them looked happy and relaxed, as if they were enjoying their tour of the Highlands and each other’s company. They must have made a special excursion to present their offering to me. So delighted were they to have found the loch and so mesmerised by its mysterious beauty, that snatching the binoculars from under their noses was child’s play.

I was particularly proud of the ripple I sent as thanks. It rose as if from nowhere and raced across the smooth expanse right to their feet, causing them to jump back on the shingle and laugh in surprise. I saw wry smiles exchanged, shoulders shrugged, heads tilted. I hoped they understood my meaning.

The heavens chose that moment to open. The couple grimaced at the sky as raindrops began to pucker the loch’s surface and they ran away, back up the steep steps towards the road.

It is a naughty habit, but since I discovered binoculars taste so much nicer than people, there’s no reason to be scared.