The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story

You’d be fair surprised at how cold the Edinburgh afterlife can be.

I’ve tried to fit in, I really have. I’ve attempted to carve out a wee niche for masel’ in the black basalt towering above Princes Street. Somewhere I can begin to build a reputation. Somewhere I can gee the wee wans a jump and make the old yins proper frit. It’s not been easy, though. As a recent arrival to the other side, I’m not carrying the same gravitas that some of the more established ghosts cling tae.

Take Bloody Mackenzie in Grefriars Kirkyard for example. That curly-haired dandy has a backstory that ah’d just die for. Witch-burner, mass murderer, and with a mausoleum that wouldnae look out of place in a Dickens novel, Mackenzie’s tomb was disturbed when two weans broke in on a dare. Ever since, the old bastard has been scratchin’ tourists and makin’ folk uneasy in their droves. What a life it must be to have a murderous past to fall back upon!

Further up the Royal Mile there’s Mary King’s Close, of course. I cannae really compete with a story of three-hundred plague-ridden Scots walled up and left to die now, can I? I can barely imagine the suffering, the moaning, or the pain in those squalid tenements, and thanks to they apparitions beneath the streets I don’t have to – they never stop wailing about their travails, some three-hundred years past now. There’s wee Annie, left to die by her fleeing family and tugging on tourists’ legs. There’s the woman in black, shuffling just out of sight of visitors in the darkness of the close. This is prime real estate for spirits, with not so much as a shadowed nook free for haunting. Everywhere you turn there’s some apparition hoverin’ above the slick cobbles.

Poltergeist 1

Nor is there is gap in the kitsch ghost scene for me. Ah’ve only to go back doon the hill to the kirkyard again to where Greyfriars Bobby sits atop his master’s grave to get ma fill of cutesy-pie, spectral puppy love. They flock to see him, the visitors, as if fourteen years guarding the grave of your master before dying atop him is summat to be proud of rather than quite a severe attachment disorder. Needless to say, he’s a territorial little sod and disnae have much time for newcomers. That’s when you know it’s time to move on – when some flea-ridden terrier pipes up and tells you to move off his patch.

I cannae compete with this stuffy Edinburgh crowd, which is why ah’ve decided to relocate somewhere a wee bit more provincial, ken? A nice wee graveyard where I can disconcert folk by playing with the shadows of yew trees and by whistling through the gaps in the gravestones.

The Poltergeist of Penicuik it’ll huv to be.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Wikipedia*

Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order

29 thoughts on “The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story

  1. Oh, I’d love to visit Mary king close – what a setting for a ghost story! I lived the voice here, Matthew. I have a writer friend who writes with a lot of Scots dialect words and this didn’t feel overdone, felt very real. Love the catalogue of snooty ghosts that won’t give your ghosty elbow room. I like the thought of them all competing for custom – great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It works though. My writer friend Maureen Cullen uses a lot of dialect words and though it’s hard for a Sassenach to understand some of them, I still get the gist. We missed the close when we visited years ago – a great omission. I’m sure if love it 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Though I’m no expert, the dialect seemed thoroughly consistent to me—no easy task while simultaneously spinning your tales. Loved your take
    on poor Greyfriars Bobby, the “territorial little sod” with “severe attachment disorder.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore this piece!!! And this ghost, such a cosy fellow with such a good Scottish brogue, I’d share a few cups of coffee or tea with him any day just for the joy of hearing his burr, hopefully he’s got a nice grassy graveyard with a few blossom trees to hang about in. BTW I think I flew over his grave yesterday (for real, in a plane, haha, on my way back home from Canada to Europe). Great work here Matthew, looks like you see ghosts with a fair bit of clarity ;))

    Liked by 1 person

      1. “I think there is something about a Scottish accent which lends itself to the afterlife” – haha I love this phrase. Ok, so, we still don’t have your accent quite sussed. ;)) But getting closer… 🧐🤓 I did of course think of you while passing over. The planes have these neat TV things where you can examine the geography of the flight path, very cool. I couldn’t quite see you though. :))

        Liked by 1 person

  4. a great piece of writing, Matthew, and with echoes of the current virus and its quarantining. I loved the dialect. Ever since Hamish Macbeth and Trainspotting, which I taught myself to read, I love the Scotch dialect. IT makes for authenticity. I alos loved the black humour of this piece. A great read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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