(This story by Justin Dixon is the winner of our 2016 Life In A Kilt “Kilt of Horrors” Halloween stories podcast.
People always say that writing down your experiences can help you to understand them. At least that’s what they say. Here’s hoping that there’s some truth to this.
I had saved up and planned this trip for a while. For my fortieth birthday, I was going to visit my roots in Scotland. I had done my research, and found that though my surname had no clan of its own, we were a sept of the Clan Keith. They have been a large part of Scotland’s history, serving as Earl Marshals since they had served Macolm II by slaying the Danish general Camus.
I was all set to travel. Flight planned, rentals arranged, and kilt packed. I was going to travel through the great old country in “classic” style. Everything was set.
I decided that I was going to start a little further south, by stopping off at StoneHenge first. The great standing stones were even more breathtaking in person. The cool air coming from the plains was refreshing. But the chill that I felt running down my spine was not from the weather. I had a feeling that someone or something was staring at me.
The feeling stayed with me for the whole trip across the border. As I drove north into Scotland I couldn’t help thinking back to my Stonehendge stop. I tried to figure out just what it was that had me on edge. My mind was so caught up with this situation, that I had taken my mind off the road.
I came back to the present with a sudden shock, as a horse and rider came bolting over a hedge by the side of the road. The horse was of a pale white with dark spots scattered over its body. And the rider was wearing some old period clothing. The only true detail that I could make out was that he had a great kilt on, with the full regalia of weapons, from the dirk and targe, down to a basket hilted sword flopping along his hip. I didn’t have the time to recognize his tartan, as I was about to make road pizza of him and his horse. But as I slammed on brakes and turned to see if I had caused any troubles for him, I found myself alone on the road.
With this latest development, I was really looking forward to the inn and a tall pint of local ale. I pulled into the town, and found my way easily to the inn where I had booked my week long stay. After settling into my room, I went down stairs to enjoy the pint I had in mind. The pub was crowded with what seemed to be a regular crowd. I could hear music coming from one side of the room, nearly being drowned out by the ruckus laughter and story telling of some of the older men.
I was polishing off my second glass when someone came up beside me at the bar and asked if I was familiar with the area. I told them that I, an American, and had just arrived in the town myself. As we talked, I found out that the person was taking a similar trip through Scotland as I was. We decided that it would be easier if we both made our respective journeys together. So we decided to meet outside the pub in the morning.
As the sun began to break over the horizon, I found myself waiting outside alone. As the decided time came and went, I finally chose to leave my new found friend to whatever devices they had found themselves with. The rain was beating a slow rhythm on the roof of my car as I headed off to the town of Stonehaven. I was heading visit the old castle ruins of Dunnottar Castle.
As I started to walk the remains of the castle I started hearing my name from behind me. My acquaintance from the previous night had found their way up to Stonehaven after I had left. It seems that they had overslept due to the night’s frivolity, but they seemed no worse for the wear. We started to delve deeper into the ruins, studying all the little crevices of the relics, that I had failed to notice that the sun was slowly edging closer to western horizon.
I started to notice that not only was the light starting to fade, but the air was getting unseasonably cold. It was then that I felt the same eerily dark eyes on me as I felt at Stonehendge. It seemed that a fog was finding its way into the castles deeper reaches. As I turned to tell my companion that it was past time to leave, I was confronted with the same Scot that I had seen on the road the evening before. It was then that I noticed the skin on the man was nearly transparent, and hanging loosely from around his face. He was standing in the way of the only exit from the room I was in.
As he crept closer to me, I realized that he seemed familiar. This was the same person that I had spoken with at the pub. The same man that had left me waiting that morning. As these realizations flew through my mind, I also was frantically trying to find a way out of my current predicament. The man drew closer until the breath of the crypt filled my nostrils. He reached out his hand and motioned that I should follow him.
“Brother! Do you not know of whose home you now tread? Was it not a fortnight ago, that we roamed these halls, boasting of the game we had hunted? Does your blood not sing with the memories of these walls, of the Glory of the clan? Come and join us again Brother!”
These words echo through my mind even now. That was two years ago for me. When the apparition had finished his speech, it was the last thing I remembered before waking up in the same room that I had first realized what it was. As the memory of the previous day flooded back to me, I ran. I couldn’t tell you how I had found my way back into Stonehaven. Especially with as much as it had seemed to change overnight. When I found the police station, the constable in charge sat me into a room alone while he handled tracking down some of my information. When he came back to check on me, he was accompanied by a pair of large men in white suits.
It seems that when I left on my trip in 1956, I had been presumed dead after seven year as with no trace. They tell me that I must have fabricated a new reality when something tragic happened to me. That I must be someone else. Because no one of my age could have possibly been alive for decades without aging.
The only problem with their logic is, they cannot find who I was before.
© Justin Dixon. All rights reserved.
(A story by Rick Baldwin for the 2016 Life In A Kilt Podcast “Kilt of Horrors” episode.)
For as long as I can remember, the name “Fergus MacDuff” has been a part of my consciousness. When I was a child, my parents used the name as a threat or motivation for correction. “If you don’t clean your plate, Fergus MacDuff will get you.” “Clean your room or Fergus MacDuff will find you in the night.” As kids, we imagined Fergus MacDuff lived under our beds, his long, dirty fingers grasping for our ankles every time we went to turn in for the night. Most of the time we would run to our beds and take a long dive onto the safety of the mattress, relieved we avoided another murderous grasping attempt by old Fergus MacDuff.
The reality was that Fergus MacDuff didn’t live under our beds but rather in an old shack a block from the abandon gas station a quarter of a mile from our house. Or at least that’s what all the kids at school said. We were all very aware of the dilapidated Fergus MacDuff house that sat it the middle of the overgrown plot of land we had to pass when we walked down to the ball field. People would tell stories about seeing Fergus MacDuff standing in the shadows of his porch, watching all of us kids playing across the street. Some people said they saw him clutching a butcher knife. Ginny Blair said she saw him holding a chain saw. Troy Bolin claimed he once crept up the weedy pathway to Fergus MacDuff’s door, only to find him sitting on his porch pulling feathers off of a bloody chicken. No matter the variety of stories, one detail was always consistent. Everyone claimed they saw old Fergus MacDuff wearing a dress. Why that old man would wear a dress, I couldn’t imagine and I don’t know why but that was the thing about him the creeped me out the most.
In sixth grade my best friend was Dewey Milk. Yes, that was his real name and no, you couldn’t come up with a new name joke that Dewey hadn’t heard a million times before. For three or four years Dewey Milk and I were inseparable. We always pretended we were Mulder and Scully, only in our fantasy world, I was Mulder and Dewey always wanted to be Agent Scully. He would always say it was because of his red hair but I knew he had more personal reasons. Dewey Milk and I would travel the neighborhood investigating all rumors of paranormal activity. It was usually just blowing the lid off of crazy tales we heard around town like Mrs. Stallings’ possessed cat or the space alien someone said the Berrier’s were hiding in their dairy barn. We never really found anything, of course, but we thought we were making some sort of difference in the safety of the neighborhood and it was all just innocent fun. Innocent, that is, until one day when Dewey Milk suggested we climb the back fence of the abandon gas station, crawl through the weeds and get our own view of Fergus MacDuff.
Sometimes in life you do things that you would normally find so terrifying, you just have to shut your mind off and do it. Like pulling off an old band-aid. Don’t think about it, just do it. That’s how I felt about Dewey Milk’s suggestion. I said “yes” without thinking much about it and I told him we should do it immediately since it was starting to get dark and I knew in a few more minutes my mom would be calling me in for dinner. But, really, I wanted to get moving before I talked myself out of it.
We quickly scaled the gas station fence and soon found ourselves on our stomachs in five foot weeds. The sky was that deep indigo glow which happens right before everything goes completely black dark. Dewey Milk was right next to me and I was sure he would be able to hear the thumping of my heart if it wasn’t for the pulsing screams of the cicadas. We laid there for what seemed like two hours. I wasn’t exactly sure what we were looking for as we stared at the silhouette of the old shack.
“I think I see him,” Dewey Milk said in a low whisper that still scared the shit out of me.
“Where?” I asked. I couldn’t see anything but black.
“Right there in the middle,” Dewey Milk said. “See, it’s a window. You can see a little orange glow coming from it.”
I stared at the scraggly black building for a few moments. I had been looking at the remaining light from the sky but when I let my eyes adjust to the blackness of the old shack, I too could see a glow coming from what looked like a window. It was the first time I really thought about what were were doing and at that moment I realized I didn’t want to do it.
“We gotta go back, Dewey,” I said. “My mom’s gonna bust my ass.”
“It’s too late, Mulder” Dewey said. “We’re in this too deep.”
Dewey Milk was right. We were engaged. It was too late to abort the mission. And before I could agree with him I heard a whimper come from him and then a low, gurgling choking sound. And before I could ask if he was okay, I felt cold, leathery fingers grab the shirt at t he back of my neck and pull tight. I couldn’t tell what was happening but I could feel my entire body being lifted from the ground. I looked over at Dewey and could barely see his face as he looked behind me. I knew from the panic on his face, the bony fingers that had me in their grasp belonged to none other than Fergus McDuff.
The next few minutes moved super fast. I don’t remember moving from the cover of the weeds to inside the old shack but in the blink of an eye, there we were sitting in front of a small, soot-covered fireplace in what I assumed was the living room of Fergus McDuff. It was difficult to really determine where we were though. In every inch of the house was piled boxes and books and paper and trash and mounds and mounds of shit. How anyone could live in that environment, I don’t know. It smelled like old water, old food and dead animals. No telling how many bodies of mice, rats, possums, raccoons, and who knows what else were rotting under the piles of garbage. It was sometimes difficult to tell if we were indoors or out doors. I guess I’m still not sure. I looked at Dewey Milk sitting next to me and noticed he too was scanning the contents of the room while at the same time trying to figure out if there might be some miracle way of darting out of the room.
I could see the silhouette of Fergus MacDuff sitting in a chair in the dark. I could hear the clunking of metal which I eventually recognized as the sound of a spoon in a can. Was Fergus MacDuff eating while holding us prisoner? After a few minutes an empty can of corned beef hash flung out of the darkness and hit me on the bottom of my shoe. I heard a hacking cough in the middle of the blackness, the crinkling of paper and chewing noises. Dewey Milk reached over and touched me on the knee and pointed at the fireplace. On the mantle I could see twenty or thirty little handmade dolls lined up in a raw. They were crudely made but each one had it’s own distinctive look. Skinny dolls, fat dolls, boys with glasses, girls with braces, one doll in a wheelchair, just a lot of different dolls. I looked at Dewey Milk and he shrugged. I knew what he was thinking. What would this creepy old man be doing with all of these dolls? I was thinking something else. Why did Fergus MacDuff bring us here and what was he going to do with us?
After about forty five minutes sitting on the dirt floor in front of the fireplace I had had enough. “Can we go home,” I asked. My mom and dad are going to worried and they’re going to start looking for me.” I waited for a response from the dark and heard only a guttural noise which I couldn’t make out to be Fergus MacDuff clearing his throat or laughing at me. “Ginny!” Dewey Milk whispered. “Ginny?” I whispered back. Dewey Milk pointed at one of the dolls on the mantle. It was a doll with curly brown hair and big wire glasses, almost as big as her entire face. He was right. The doll looked like Ginny Blair. In fact, I suddenly recognized another doll. The one with braces has to be Carol Thornton. And there was Ray Beale. Johnny Brooks was there, Renee Kincaid and the wheelchair doll was definitely Kimmy Morgan. Dewey and I looked at each other with wide eyes. We both recognized our entire class there on top of Fergus MacDuff’s fireplace. I could feel tears pooling in my eyes. I was terrified and I wanted to get out of that creepy house. I scanned the room for an exit opportunity. I was hard to see anything through the piles of trash but I noticed an open door in the room across from the living room. That was my chance. I caught Dewey Milk’s eyes and subtly ran a pointed finger across the floor toward the open door. I counted in my mind, ready to dash toward freedom. Five… four… three… two… one…
Suddenly a large pile of trash moved in front of me and blocked the open door. No. It wasn’t a pile of trash after all. It was Fergus MacDuff. The glow from the fire let me see Fergus for the first time. He was like a mountain. His hair and beard looked like the weeds we hid in out side his house. His face was wrinkled and looked like it was made of an old horse saddle. A wet stream of tobacco juice ran down the corner of his mouth. He reached over my head and for the first time I noticed the dress everyone talked about was an old kilt like the one I saw in a book about Scotland at the school library. Only, this one looked like it hadn’t been washed in 100 years. I looked up at Fergus MacDuff as he grasped for a doll on the mantle. Holding his arm at a 90 degree angle he danced the doll over his arm and made squeaky noises. The doll was chubby with bright red curly hair. I immediately recognized it as the doll version of Dewey Milk. Fergus MacDuff cackled with a phlegmy laugh. He was obviously highly entertained at his puppet show. He slowly handed the doll to Dewey Milk but when Dewey reached out to take it, Fergus MacDuff quickly tossed it into the fire where it instantly ignited into a ball of flame. Again, Fergus MacDuff laughed with an even bigger cackle of phlegm.
I scanned the fireplace for my doll. I knew I was the next star of Fergus MacDuff’s show. I was a lanky girl with a short, bob hair style and tomboy clothes. But none of the dolls looked anything close to me. It didn’t make sense to me. Why would everyone else in our class be there on his fireplace mantle in doll form but not me? I turned to look at Fergus MacDuff and he started down at me like he knew what I was thinking. His bony fingers moved down between his legs. He fondled around on the old leather pouch on the front of his kilt until he opened it. He reached inside and pulled out a crushed, misshapen doll. He ran his fingers over the doll a bit until it smoothed out some and then he handed the doll to me. He started laughing the biggest laugh yet and turned and walked into the dark part of his house and closed a door. Dewey Milk and I immediately ran to the door and kept running as fast as we could toward my house, the laughter of Fergus MacDuff fading into a soft echo behind us.
When morning came I found myself questioning whether my experience with Fergus MacDuff the night before was real or a dream. I wanted to ask Dewey Milk, but his mom said he went with his grandparents to a church function. My dad was sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. I asked him what he knew about Fergus MacDuff. “Fergus MacDuff?” He asked, surprised. “Well, honey, I think you’re old enough to know the truth about Fergus MacDuff. There’s no real Fergus MacDuff. I mean, there was a Fergus MacDuff. A long time ago. He was a custodian at the school you go to but somebody said he was inappropriately… well, having communications with some of the kids. He was fired and he just went away by himself. Everyone started using his name as a kind of boogie man, you know? “Last one to the porch will be killed by Fergus MacDuff!” It started out as something funny but I guess it just became silly. Your mom and I always did it in a joking way. I don’t know, maybe it went too far. Anyway old Fergus MacDuff died ten years before you were born so there’s no way he’s ever going to get you.”
I never talked to my parents about the night Dewey Milk and I spent in Fergus MacDuff’s creepy living room. It was a secret Dewey and I locked away in our own minds. We never even discussed it ourselves. Even though we were so close, eventually we drifted apart. Dewey’s parents moved to Montana and we wrote each other letters for a year but that stopped eventually. There was no email or Facebook then so it was easy to just gradually lose touch. The last time I heard from Dewey Milk was five years ago after my husband Alan and our son Daniel drown in a boat accident while on a fishing trip. Dewey heard about it from his sister and he called me to tell me how sorry he was. We both cried together on the phone and promised we would soon get together again. But we never did. Then I heard last week that Dewey Milk was on a business trip in Los Angeles and along with twenty two other people, was killed in a hotel fire. I was devastated. But I was also haunted by that night when Fergus MacDuff tossed Dewey’s doll into the fire place. I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe that had something to do with Dewey’s death. And it made me wonder the whereabouts of the doll Fergus gave to me. I hadn’t seen it in thirty years or so. Last I can remember, I put it in a cigar box my dad once gave me and I stored it in my attic.
I decided to dig out that cigar box and take a look at that creepy old doll. I went into the attic and moved piles of boxes and other stored items. For a second it reminded me of the piles of junk in Fergus MacDuff’s living room. I found an old box of toys and mementos from my elementary school days and I pulled off the tape. It was mostly dusty plush toys, softball shirts and gloves and sports cards. I cleared away the layers of memories until I finally located the wood cigar box. I remember wrapping the box with rubber bands, ribbons and strings which I pulled and cut off. I opened the box expecting to see the crude, straw doll, but I was horrified. My god, the doll was not there. But what was there were two dolls I’d never in my life seen before. A doll that looked exactly like my husband Alan and a smaller doll which… Oh, my god, how could that be? Who put these other dolls in this old box? And where… where was the old doll… of me…?
© Rick Baldwin. All rights reserved.
(A story by Rick Baldwin for the 2016 Life In A Kilt Podcast “Kilt of Horrors” episode.)
I come from a very rural part of East Tennessee. It ain’t exactly what you’d call the “sticks” ’cause there is a large city about 20 minutes away but you could still get lost on the winding country roads surrounding the house I grew up in and it would take someone familiar with the area to help you get out and back on your way to civilization.
Behind my house was a steep incline and at the bottom of that incline was an old sawmill run by Elmer Nicely. The train tracks ran right along side Elmer’s sawmill and when a train would come through about once an hour all the windows in our house would tremble for about 10 minutes. Elmer also slaughtered hogs at his place so it was awfully nice when the train came by and masked the horrible squeals we’d sometimes hear from his small wood slaughterhouse.
There was a one-lane gravel road that cut between our house and the sawmill. I’d see cars pass through there at all hours of the day and night but when I was a kid I’d never been far down that old road. It just looked scary down there to me. The trees and kudzu was overgrown and the road looked like a path into a dark tunnel of leaves, vines, sticks and dust. I knew some people lived down that gravel road but I didn’t know anyone personally. They were mostly reclusive country people who liked to keep to themselves and I wasn’t one to go messing with them.
When I got older my parents would let me walk down the old gravel road by myself. I remember the first time I went down past the sawmill, past the slaughterhouse, and found where the old road bent to the left and crossed the railroad track. At that point I couldn’t recognize any surroundings. It was like I was in some small backwood village. There were old, broken down, rusted trailers that people still lived in, nestled back in the brush. There were so many old houses I’d never seen before and they looked like they’d been pieced together with scrap wood and plastic and cardboard. There was an old creek that ran behind the houses I had no idea existed. Every other house it seemed had an old, mangy dog tied up to a tree or a rotting dog house. Something about the whole atmosphere made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.
Just past the shacks there was an old cornfield overgrown with weeds and brush. Hanging on a wood post was a pitiful looking scarecrow with only one arm raised. Like he was trying to hitchhike his way out of that place. For some unknown reason, the scarecrow’s owner had dressed it in a burlap kilt with an old piece of corn cob stuck on it as a kilt pin. Next to the corn field, sitting way back off the road was a decrepit, white, three-story wood house. All of the windows on the house were broken out and you would need a machete to get to the front door, but it was still a pretty impressive house among the dilapidated shacks. The old house looked like it had been quite something in its time and it made me want to do some research on it to find out its history.
The next day, after seeing the old house, I was telling some of my school friends about it. One of my friends said, “That’s the old Lockhart house.” Then he said with a smile, “I’ve heard it’s haunted.” Neither of us believed in ghosts or haunted houses but we’d both seen how creepy the place looked. I wanted to find out more information about it but I wasn’t sure where to go for it. I’d seen some of the Lockharts at the school and I knew they couldn’t live in that house. Or could they?
A few weeks later I was discussing the house again with school friends when I heard someone laughing at me. It was Chris Mullins. Chris was was a muscular, good-looking guy with more than a little Native American blood in him. He was one of the stars of the football team and a pretty nice guy and one of the few jocks who would actually spend any amount of time talking to someone like me. “That’s a great make-out place,” he said. “Get you a girl down there, she gets all scared, you tell her you’ll protect her… she’ll do pretty much anything you want.” Personally, I don’t think Chris Mullins ever needed a scary house to get a girl to do whatever he wanted but it was a nice tip anyway. “I’m taking Jenny Quarles down there Friday after the game,” he said. “The only scary thing she needs to worry about is in my pants!” he said. We all laughed.
The football game that Friday night was on the night before Halloween and it was against one of our biggest rivals from the next county over. We won the game easily and the celebrations went on way into the night. But I decided to head on home a bit early. It was dark and blustery outside. There was a full moon’s light that would appear and disappear behind fast moving dark clouds. I thought about what Chris Mullins said about taking Jenny Quarles to the old Lockhart house. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought maybe I could just drive right by the place and look over and see if I could see them there. I wondered if he really had the guts to go there or if he was just all talk. So I decided I’d drive past the Lockhart house and then circle around and come back home.
I hit the old gravel road right about the time I heard a train horn sounding in the distance. By the time I got to the part where the road curved around and crossed the track, the train was coming fast so I sat and waited for it to pass. When it was gone I listened to the silence for a few seconds. There’s nothing like the deep, dead silence of the country after a train passes through. I drove on past the trailers and shacks and up to the corn field when I noticed something very strange. That old scarecrow was gone. I could see his weathered old post still standing there in the field but the scarecrow was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it had fallen down I thought. Or maybe Chris was using it as part of his plan to get Jenny all scared and clingy. Up ahead I could see a car parked off the road in front of the house. But no one was in it. I drove past it slow and looked inside and the front and back seats were empty. Surely Chris Mullins wasn’t brave enough to take her inside the house. Or stupid enough. I pulled my car off over to the side of the road and turned off the engine and the lights. I rolled down the window to see if I could hear any voices. The air smelled like dead leaves and dirt and dogs and old engine oil. The light from the moon was starting to spend more time behind the clouds leaving everything in a deep indigo darkness.
If you’ve never heard the death scream of a hog at midnight it’ll send shivers over every inch of your body. And it’s worse when you’re far away from anything you recognize. It’s even more terrifying when you realize that the scream you just heard wasn’t a hog at all but its human and it’s coming right toward you. Jenny Quarles tried to open the passenger door while she screamed but it was locked. She jumped onto the hood of my car and pounded on the windshield like she intended to go right through it. It took me several seconds to recognize it was her and when I did I jumped out of the car. In one leap she jumped on me and her legs gave out from under her, all the while she still screaming. I tried to calm her down best I could and ask her what was going on. She couldn’t speak but she grabbed my hand and pointed toward the Lockhart house. She could only say “Chris” and pull me toward the house.
A small path had been trampled into the weeds and brush in front of the house and Jenny pulled me along the path. It was all happening too quick to think about it but now days I can’t even believe I went into all that jungle. We tripped and stumbled our way to to the side of the old house where there was a clearing under some tall, twisted trees. Jenny pointed to one of the trees and again let out a shrill scream. On the dirt, under the tree, was a scattering of straw covered in blood. Hanging from one of the trees was Chris Mullins. His throat cut from earlobe to earlobe. Stuck right in the middle of his neck, was a corn cob kilt pin.
I grabbed Jenny’s arm and ran back toward the car as faster than I’d ever run before. It was a good thing Jenny was a small girl because when we hit that tangled path of vines, I drug her along behind me even after she tripped and fell several times. We got into the car and sped off to my house where we called the police and Jenny’s parents.
It was several months before Jenny Quarles was able to fully relay the events of that night to anyone. She and Chris Mullins had left the school after the football game and drove to a convenience store where Chris’ brother was the manager and would sell them some beer. Chris told Jenny he wanted to take her to his house and then he drove to the old Lockhart house, jokingly telling her it was where he lived. They parked the car, sat on the hood and drank a couple of beers under the moonlight. After they made out for awhile, Chris suggested they walk up to the house. Well Jenny didn’t think that was such a good idea so Chris made a bet with her. Jenny had to agree that she would go up to the house if Chris could hit the old scarecrow with all four of their empty beer bottles. Even in the darkness Chris proved to be quite the athlete as each bottle landed squarely on target, the last one almost taking off the old scarecrow’s head. Jenny reluctantly went up to the dark old house with Chris and after they got up under the trees Chris began trying to scare her by pretending to run into the old weedy cornfield and then running back out. At one point he didn’t come back out and Jenny thought he may have snuck back to the car just to spook her. She wandered her way back to the car through the maze of the thicket and, not finding Chris, she sat on the hood of the car and drank another beer. When the light of the train cut through the blackness, she once again made her way to the side of the house and it was at that point she found Chris Mullins hanging from a tree.
On Halloween night, few people let their kids go out Trick or Treating and no one was in a Halloween party mood. Everyone was terrified there was a murderer on the loose so people stayed home and locked their doors. It was the first time in 18 years I’d seen my parents turn the locks on their own doors. Around 9 o’clock Halloween night one of my friends called to tell me that several guys from the football team had plans to drive to the old Lockhart house around midnight and burn it down. So a little bit after 12, I drove down the gravel road and I could see the sky glowing orange far in front of me. I crossed the railroad tracks and I could smell the smoke and I could see flames flickering high into the sky. I passed by the shack houses and rusty trailers and I could see the old wood Lockhart house was fully engulfed in flames. There were no cars and people to be seen anywhere around. And to my surprise, there, silhouetted against the bright orange light of the fire, hung that old scarecrow; kilt around its waist, arm stretched out and head held high.
© Rick Baldwin. All rights reserved.
(A story by Cheri Brown for the 2016 Life In A Kilt Podcast “Kilt of Horrors” episode.)
Lily-Rose Wither always hated her name.
She felt like she should have been named “spinach” or “lettuce”. With a last name like “Wither”, why would you choose the name of a flower? At least wilted spinach made a good salad. A wilted or “Withered” flower was only good for compost… Sometimes Lily felt like she was only good for compost.
Until Lily was 18, that is. She decided, at her age of consent, she would get a tattoo. She had a friend draw a lily and a rose, intertwined. It WAS an obvious choice, but she thought it was better than getting her boyfriend’s name tattooed somewhere on her body. She was a least adult enough to know he wouldn’t be in her life forever. But he was better than the compost heap for now.
Lily walked into the tattoo parlor feeling confident. Ok, maybe a little scared, but only because she didn’t know anyone else with a tattoo. She had no first-hand knowledge of the experience. No one to tell her if it would hurt, or be worth it… When she walked in, she was mostly ignored. The people behind the counter didn’t even register that someone had walked in. They were too busy gossiping about a party the night before. They couldn’t have been much older than Lily, but they were already painted and pierced in a way that the upper class would find offensive.
There were a few patrons there as well. They all looked at Lily at the exact moment she felt she could no longer back out. She made her way to the counter and asked to speak to someone about some “body art”. She had heard it put that way before and wanted to sound “experienced”. A very disinterested young man rolled his eyes and told her he would be back in a minute, then disappeared through a door to who knows where.
When he returned, he was accompanied by an older woman. At least in her fifties, which to Lily seemed ancient. But the woman seemed kind and Lily was glad to not be talking to a man of that age. It would feel too much like talking to Grampa.
The woman introduced herself as Vera. Vera was black haired and of light complexion. She was finely, if not a little too prolifically, thought Lily, painted. Painted from fingertip to shoulder with the most wonderful faces. Faces of unnamed people. People Vera may no longer know the names of, if she ever really had. Lily examined them, a little too closely, for some time, before she finally spoke up.
“Hi. … I’m Lilly. I had a friend draw something for me. Do you think I can get it …. Um…. Tattooed on me?”
Vera said, “Well, I should hope so. I also hope it’s well drawn. I really don’t like putting poorly drawn art on pretty young ladies.” She smiled a wide and comforting smile, making Lily feel at ease and a lot more willing to permanently transform her very own skin.
Several minutes later, Vera was prepping Lily’s skin for the procedure. “Tattooing is an art, as well as a responsibility’” explained Vera. “We always take the best precautions to avoid infection and to make the experience a pleasant one.” She smiled wide and openly, making Lily feel very comfortable.
After the experience, painful as it was, Lily was thrilled with the results. The tattoo was clear, concise and exactly what she wanted. Lily felt very free…. Adult…. Invigorated. But she didn’t know what to do with those feelings. She hugged Vera, told her she hoped very much to stay in touch, and left; excited to show off her new “body art”.
In the three years that passed, Lily became not only more accepting of her name, but very happy that she had a fun way to make people guess it. “Let me show you a picture”… was all she had to say when someone asked her name. A lot happens in three years and Lily felt much less like wilted compost and much more like a beautiful, confidant young lady… albeit a rather rowdy one.
Lily enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new things every chance she got. One of her favorite things was to follow the Scottish punk bands around her region. She liked the men in their kilts and she liked the other women that liked men in their kilts.
One night, she ran into an old friend, Beth, at a pub where a kilted punk band was playing near her childhood home. The girls were excited to see each other and decided to drive up to the neighborhood they had grown up in.
It was still pretty early and when they passed the tattoo parlor, all the lights were on inside. Lilly had the great idea of getting new tattoos to commemorate their renewed friendship. When they walked in, however, the place felt very dirty. It was much different than Lily remembered. As distant as the people seemed back then, the place itself had been very cozy… As had Vera.
Lily asked to speak to the woman who had given her the only tattoo she had. “No one called Vera works here. No one named Vera has ever worked here.” As she left, Lily hoped she had just had the name wrong, but really didn’t think it was possible.
Lily and Beth decided to head back to the bar but on the way there, Lily’s car started to act funny. Sputtering and stalling out. Once it finally died, they began walking, not wanting to stay on the side of the road in the dark. Especially with nothing to drink. They were capable young ladies and they would get back to the bar or back to town one way or another.
After a good 20 minutes of walking along the dark 2 lane highway, a car slowed and finally stopped in front of them. Beth was cautious, but Lily Rose knew they would be ok if they just kept their gumption up. They jogged up to the old four-door and saw it was driven by an older lady. The lady was in her 70’s at least. She was very kind and offered the girls a ride. “How about I get you two home?”
Beth’s response was “How about you just get us to a phone and we go from there?”
They were back in town within minutes, but the tattoo parlor was the only place on the street with lights still on. They parked and the girls followed the elderly lady in, thinking they would make a phone call and be on their way. When they walked in, the place had transformed once again, into a grotesque place of horror and disgust.
The girls were instantly considered fodder for the taking by the repugnant men and women who were in attendance. The girls were groped and grabbed at. Their clothes were ripped, their skin scratched. As they turned to run, the elderly woman blocked their path. “You’re here now and safe from the rot of the compost. Why not stay?”
Beth managed to get free and flee through the door, but Lily was held fast. The elderly woman was much stronger than she appeared. She and Lily struggled as the rest of the room descended upon them.
Lily felt as though she were being assaulted at every angle, touched by people she couldn’t even see, her skin was on fire. She started to understand that she was being tattooed on every inch of her bare skin. She began to see the tattoos appear faster than possible. They were all tattoos of flowers. Lilies, poppies, petunias, snapdragons, azaleas, and roses….
The last image in Lily’s life was that of an arm. An arm tattooing the skin on her neck. The tattoo was painful and bloody. The arm in control of the tattoo gun was covered in faces. One of them was Lily’s…
© Cheri Brown. All Rights Reserved.
It’s our first “Kilt of Horrors” Halloween story episode! Four stories from Life In A Kilt Podcast guaranteed to send chills down your spine and tingles up your kilt. Congratulations to Justin Dixon for winning “Best Submission” for his story titled Trip of a Lifetime. Other stories featured in the podcast are Lily-Rose by Cheri Brown and The Old Lockhart House and Fergus MacDuff by Rick Baldwin. We hope these stories enhance your kilted Halloween. Don’t forget to share them with your friends!
We’ll be posting the stories here on the Life In A Kilt Podcast website so check them out if you’d like to read along.