The Ragged Frenchman | Short Story


I’m delighted to have another short story published in Literally Stories. ‘The Ragged Frenchman’ was written last Christmas and involved a little bit of historical research. As such, it really was a labour of love and I was pleased with how it turned out.

One of the most evocative chapters of history is Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812. A few critically misjudged decisions by Bonaparte saw the French army depart Moscow too late in the year and retreating along the same route that they had used to thrust deep into Russia. Consequently, the land had been stripped bare of resources. Harried by marauding Cossacks and dogged by rapidly dropping temperatures, army discipline disintegrated and men became feral with cold and hunger. Horses were set upon for meat after stumbling on the wintry ground, and officers wandered off from their men to end their misery rather than march on.

Hopefully I’ve managed to capture some of the chaos and desperation of the retreat, along with a healthy dollop of the supernatural.

Read ‘The Ragged Frenchman’ here.


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 a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order.

Bar Creep | Short Story

The girl had been pleasant enough, but only just enough. She had returned Stewie’s attempts at conversation with disinterest, doubtless cataloguing his harmless chatter as just another sleazy old man’s attempt to chat up a student.

Stewie had patter; he had stories that would make the girl and her friends’ university pranks seem small time, but the teenager’s body language spoke louder than her clipped words. Stewie returned to the warm dregs of his pint as the girl took a call on her mobile. Jackie, the barmaid, was in the back, slapping the top of the CCTV monitor in an attempt to force it into showing a picture before the night’s rush began. As he watched her increasingly violent efforts, it occurred to Stewie to wonder what the pictures would show.

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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. Continue reading “The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story”

The Soil of Verdun | Short Story

We children used to watch Mr. Mason from our bedroom window. Our house overlooked his garden, and it was there that the old man could be found come sun or shower, dawn or dusk. Mr. Mason’s garden was as fine an example of composted soil as could be seen anywhere in England, I’ll be bound. So it should have been. The soil was worked relentlessly with pitchfork and spade, a churned mass of aerated, loamy mulch. Once he had worked his way from one wooden fence to the other, Mr. Mason would simply take a sip from the canteen in his trouser pocket and begin working his way back again. Penelope, my sister, said he was mad.

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