Updated: Jan 24, 2021
I wrote this short story for a writing competition back in 2019. The word limit was one thousand words, and there were three specific prompts I had to include:
Genre: Ghost story (though it is a historical ghost story)
Setting: a footbridge
“We’ll be walkin’ for five more weeks, if ye don’t pick up yer step,” Fergus warned.
“I’m goin’ as fast as these legs’ll carry me,” Annis spat.
“Tis almost midnight.”
Annis knew right well the time, she knew because of the moon’s placement in the sky; hearing such an utterance could not make her exhausted limbs move any faster. She carried the weight of fifty pelts encased in burlap on her back. Fergus carried double. They journeyed on the south side of the Isle of Lewis: the largest island in the Western Isles of Scotland. Their home, had been back on the northern tip of Lewis.
“We should have bought a horse. My feet are sorer than a donkey’s arse,” Annis moaned.
“A horse? With whit money?”
“Could have sold the silver vase,” she pointed out.
“Yer faither would have my head on a stake if I sold that vase.”
Annis bit her bottom lip; a means to stop her mouth from moving in dispute. Talks of
her father nagged at her stomach. She knew Fergus had been right; her father was on his sick bed and such news would surely send him to his grave. She’d never forgive herself if that happened. She regretted having left her father one week earlier for their journey to the Isle of Harris, but the money was promising. It was to be a four-week round trip, one they couldn’t have postponed any longer.
“We should be farther than we are,” grumbled Fergus.
“Pish." she shushed him. "I can see the Loch Langavat.” Their half way mark.
As they approached the Loch, the black waters reflected the light of the moon; it was full
on this night. Annis appreciated the extra light it cast on the foggy landscape. The air was cool, their breaths releasing condensation into the night. Annis wished she had warmer gloves. Though the fur scarf that rested around her neck kept the chilling air off her throat; for that she was grateful. They approached the silhouette of the old footbridge; it would enable them to cross the Loch.
“I’ll go first,” Fergus said.
She followed Fergus and watched as his feet stepped onto the footbridge. She mimicked his movement. The old wooden boards felt soft under her feet; rotting from exposure to the
elements. It’ll be fine. The Loch was deep, and she couldn’t swim even after years of her father’s teachings. She prayed they would make it to the end okay.
“Once we get to the Isle of Harris, we’ll have to cross The Clisham,” he told her. The Clisham
was the highest mountain in all of Harris’ mountainous landscape.
“I dinnea ken about that,” she admitted.
“Aye, we’ll be fine.”
The footbridge jerked back and forth as their bodies moved across its frame. The sway
caused Annis’ stomach to feel ill or perhaps, it wasn’t the sway at all. A figure stood up ahead, highlighted by the glow of the moon.
“I see someone,” she said.
“It’s nothin’ - nae a body’s out here,” he confirmed.
“A figure up ahead… I see it with my own two eyes,” she said spooked.
Her heart began to race, her husband’s eyes weren’t as good. A white figure moved slow and smooth as if it were on wheels.
It approached them, but why? Leave us alone. She thought.
“Whit is that?” she asked.
“A ghost,” Fergus concluded. The very word sent chills down her spine, though he said it as if he had been teasing. Knowing he likely couldn't see a thing, she scoffed.
There it stood, now a mere five feet in front of them. Fergus faltered.
“Ye can see it now?”
“Aye, I can,” his voice quivered.
“Whit should we do?” she asked.
“GO!” the white figure suddenly howled, as a gust of forceful wind blew toward Fergus and
Annis knocking them to their bottoms.
“The pelts!” Fergus shouted, adjusting his burlap sack.
Annis scrambled to ensure her own sack was still intact. "Their fine!"
The two jumped to their feet, with an effort to not turn their backs to the ghost.
Sitting by her boot, Annis saw a hat of sorts. Must have blown from the wind. She quickly
scooped up the hat and began walking backward, Fergus followed.
“Look,” she said breathless.
“How do ye ken?”
“Yer faither has one like it,” he said.
Annis examined the toupée as best she could in the light the moon offered, her hands shook as she turned it this way and that. Her eyes darted from the figure on the bridge to the hat in her hands. On the side there were initials sewn in a white string: ‘GDC’.
“Whit do ye make of that?” she held out the hat.
Distracted with the presence of the white figure, Fergus quickly glanced down, “That’s yer faithers initials.”
“Where's yer wit about ye? Tis not his,” she criticized while giving him an angered push for the nasty joke.
“Gillean Dougal Campbell. I saw it on his shelf,” Fergus said.
“No,” she denied.
“GO!” the figure howled again, and with it came the same gust of wind.
“Run!” Fergus bellowed.
She turned and ran as fast as she possibly could to the grass that awaited her just beyond
the footbridge. As soon as her feet grazed the solidity of the ground her body gave way and
collided with the earth. The hat left the confines of her fingertips. Fergus followed closely behind and landed in the same grass, huffing.
“It’s yer faithers hat, I’m sure of it."
“Ye’ve gone mad Fergus. I've never seen that hat before.”
His voice softened, “I swear it on my maither’s grave…”
“Whit are ye sayin’?” she begged for reason.
He sighed, “Forget it…”
A loud crack echoed off the trees and the footbridge collapsed, leaving the rotted pieces of wood cascading down into the depths of the black water; an open void where the bridge once sat.
Fergus’ body trembled, his breaths laboured. In the dim light Annis could see his face wet with tears as his hand clutched the edges of the toupée. He turned to look at her, his eyes glistened in the petty light, "Whit was that?" she breathed.
Without a word his gaze shifted to the Loch. Moments went by before Fergus finally spoke, his words barely audible, “He saved us.”