From Fife, Kirsty studied English Literature and History at Edinburgh University, and stayed for an MSc in Creative Writing. She won the Sloan Prize in 2020.

A fan of Scottish history and folklore and all things uncanny, she has had work published in Gutter magazine, Tether’s End and Scottish Book Trust’s Blether. She currently works as a sub-editor for The People’s Friend, as well as working on her own writing-related blog What The Scot.

Find Kirsty on:

Twitter: @kirsty_souter

Instagram: @jotterthoughts

Her Scottish language blog: What the Scot

Scotland has an awesome history of ghost stories, and that’s always been something I’ve always enjoyed playing with in my work. I think ghosts are a good vehicle to talk about other subjects that are more difficult to approach directly. I also wanted to write something with a distinctly rural NE Fife flair, which isn’t an area I’d seen represented in Scots literature often. After learning about a local churchyard wall collapsing after a storm, the peculiar ideas I’d had all sort of knitted together.

Whit Wis Stolen Fae The Big Man

Naeb’dy lives in the Kirkton o Baldrie unless they’re deid, ur awa tae die in the next couple decades.
   That’s whit Granny said when she bought her wee hoosie up ahind the kirk. There wus nae tellin her. Even though there’s a wee primary, an a wee cooncil estate snuck in roond the corner past the auld village hall.
   We aw ken that, wi Granny, it’s no really aboot kennin facts. Ruther, its ey’weys a case uv the auld bag goin wi whitever she’s ‘feelin in her banes’.
   Naeb’dy this far doon the country goes aboot crying them banes, I say, naw. They’re bones. But she just tells me they’re hers an she’ll cry em whit she wants.
   When we first went fer the hoose viewin, she pu’d intae the drive an turnt tae me sayin she got a feelin it wus the wan. Even when she got intae the hallway an seen aw the damp spots, an the rickety flair, an the flock paper that hudnae been aff the wa since the siventies – aw she did wus flap her haunds an say her ‘banes’ felt it wus a good choice. I warned her I wus goin awa back tae Edinburgh an she’d huv tae get Mum tae pop doon if she needied help tae dae it up.
   She telt me tae wind ma neck in, an that she’d dae it herself – she wisnae deid yet.
   That wus when she dropped her wee nugget uv wisdom aboot the locals.
   I suppose, if ye’re a wee bitty a pessimist, she mightna be sae far wrang. The wee neebourhood ahind the kirk is like a wee retirement community. It’s the sorty place the auldies all stand aroond in their baffies, yakkin awa ower their gairden fences.
The kirk sits a wey in ahind the main road, the middle uv a wee labyrinth uv steep, twisty lanes that make ye certain that the Romans didnae bother their arse tae come any farrer north than the Antonine Wall. It sits up on a rise, like a wee throne. A squat, grey hing it is – auld anaw. I’m telt the yew trees in the kirkyard micht be medieval. The wee minister micht weel be anaw, Granny says. But it’s hard tae trust Granny when tryin tae get a read oan someb’dy’s age – she hurself bein in her late siventies an still boppin aboot like a wee coiled wire.
   She did aw the work in the hoose hersel, in the end.
   That wus a couple ey years back, mind. Noo, she’s expungin her excess energy oan trips awa tae Mallorca an the like. Comes back like a wee wizened gingernut wi several hundred blurry photaes o the Spanish seagulls – which look an awfy lot like any uv the twats hingin roond the coast at hame.
   When it comes tae arrangin fer a hoosesitter, I usually end up bein the lucky git. Nae excuses, nae drawin straws aboot it. This time wus nae different.
‘Dinnae be a besom. Yer aff on yer holidays anyw’y,’ Mum argued.
   ‘I’m signed off. It’s no the same.’
   ‘Aye, weel – ye said ye were thinkin o a wee break awa, did ye no?’
   ‘A week an a half back hame in sunny Fife wisnae quite whit I hud…’
   ‘I awready telt yer nan that ye’d dae it, so. . .’
   An at that point, there wus just nae point in protestin.


The dugs were happy tae see me when I let masel in. The twa fluffy creeturs ran roond me, booncin aff ma shins, an barkin at each other. They’re a couple wee yappy things, but biddable enuff wi a bitty persuasion.
   On the hall table, next tae the phone, Granny’d left a note.
   Hello, sweetie – I’ve left Dodger’s food on the kitchen counter, an Dahlia’s is in the fridge! Their walkies treats are in the cupboard. I’ve left you some meals in the freezer – defrost them before you heat them. Dinnae get chlamydia from eating frozen in the middle! Any problems, Marie next door should know. Granny x
         P.S. I usually leave the neighbours come an go, make sure you lock the door if you don’t want them visiting!
   Ma eyes boggled.
   Salmonella, she meant.
Of course, I wisnae aboot tae go get the clap, either. Ye’d huv yer work cut oot tae find prospects in Baldrie – no that I’d gien that much thocht.
   Nah, I wus plannin a sedate couple uv weeks: walkin the dugs, pilferin as many cakes as I could fae the neebors, an mebbe goin a wee hike up the nearby Law (if I could be arsed). I wus also bankin that I’d get a wee bitty work done fae home – since ma boss’d telt me I wus welcome tae dae some if I wus up fer it. Figured it wid be sumthin tae distract me fae the fact I wus holed up in this wee time capsule o clanky plumbin, an nippy wee scudders comin through the wooden flair.

Oan the first night, I first got the sense that hings wurnae aboot tae go sae swimmingly.
   Aifter unpackin masel, settlin the dugs, an lockin the front door, I settled intae Granny’s stiff electric recliner, an stairtet flickin through the terrestrial channels oan her auld telly. Aifter twa roonds uv watchin rich English twats tryin tae buy hoosies in the Lake District an spoutin shite like ‘Baaaarbara an I were just hoping that they’d have more mid-century beams in the maaaster baaathroom’, I stairted tae find masel wonderin hoo emb’dy’s oot here in twinty-ninteen wi’oot a smart telly or streamin options. I’d tae find somethin mair interestin tae dae.
   Aw the sockets in Granny’s hoose were a still the originals, an I wus mair than sure that if I hud too many hings attached tae them, Granny’d no huv a hoose tae come hame tae – jist a wee pile uv reekin ash. I pu’d the chair’s cable fae the wa, an plugged in ma laptop. It didnae instil me wi muckle confidence when a skiff uv wee sparks craickled an popped. Wee Dahlia aboot hit the ceilin.
   Still, I wus feart that it micht actually be mair dangerous tae gang an unplug it again. Gingerly, I sat back down in the auld recliner, an whapped open ma auld HP – ignorin the aeroplane take-aff noise it made bootin up.
   Immediately, I realised the hale ‘workin fae hame’ shite I’d bin pedalling as somethin I could dae if I so felt, wid be mair o a cross-country exercise.
   Granny didnae hae a smart telly, an I could’ey lived wi that. Granny hud an auld hoose that gurgled an whinged (an smelt a bit like pissy wee lap dugs), an I could even huv lived wi that.
   But Granny didnae huv WiFi.


      Wi’oot actual breakin an entering intae hooses, there isnae much o a WiFi signal tae be fund in the Kirkton o Baldrie. I went in aw the wee shoppies tae check. Hooever, jist as I wus trudgin hame, the three wee bars oan ma phone lit up.
   I felt a wee flicker uv nerves in ma chist as I looked up an made eye contact wi the kirk. Strange, uv aw the places tae mak the loup tae the current century. I eased through the gates wi a wee sly look aboot. Nae a livin sowel. Nice.
   The wa felt prickly against ma bair skin. The sun wisnae hittin me directly, nestled as I wus in the oxter o the kirk was, but it didnae stop me fae feelin the heat. Wus the sorty sticky heat that gets yer shirt slick tae yer skin – a real ‘muithy’ day, Granny’d cry it. I settled in, an got ma HP oot ma bag.
   Gettin ontae the kirk WiFi wisnae muchy a challenge. It wus a private network, but yon auldies dinnae mind security an awfy lot when hinkin oan passwords. Baldriechurch01. Cry me Mr Robot.
   ‘Ye must be Meg, Jeannie’s lass.’
   A soft voice burst through ma concentration. The laptop clattered fae ma lap, an I whapped ma napper aff the stones ahind me.
   ‘Aiyah! Shitey, bastard, ya cu–’ The words died oan ma tongue, as I looked up intae a wrinkled face, shrivelling ahind a dog collar. ‘Uh, I mean, it’s Kate, Meg’s ma ma.’
   ‘Ach, Kate! Uv course!’ he gied me a wee smile. His eyes crinkled so’s ye could barely see em fer skin. ‘Yer nan said ye micht be bidin.’
   ‘Aye,’ I mumbled, ‘She’s in Madrid fer the next wee–’
   ‘I see ye’ve found yersel a wee pew oot here?’ the minister asked.
   I felt a rush uv heat tae ma face.
   ‘Ye ken ye’re ey’weys welcome tae sit inside, lass,’ he added.
   ‘I jist. . . I wus, ye ken. . . It’s braw weather, so’s. . .’ I scrambled tae mak like I wisnae jist there tae pilfer internet fae the Big Man.
   ‘I widnae want tae bet on that,’ his forehead hud a lifey its ain, ‘it’s awa tae rain.’
   I looked up at the empty sky an frowned. ‘Awa an shite!’
   ‘Mark ma words,’ he chuckled, ‘I’m aff in. Bide here as lang as ye like.’
   The wee minister tapped the side o his bunce. ‘Ye need tae heed these auld banes, lassie.’
   ‘Dinnae be daft,’ I shook ma heid, ‘naeb’dy cries em banes.’
   He hirpled awa up the path, an I gied the sky another guid look ower. There wisnae a chance. Right?

The first droplets uv rain were gentle wee spats, hissin as they hit the warm stones. I wus oan ma feet like a shot, snappin ma laptop closed, an scuffin ma elbow in ma haste tae get tae ma feet. Shovin it aw back in ma bag, I burst fae the graveyard.
   The gate clanged behind me, bouncin open as I lit oot fer Granny’s.

I hairdly managed tae mak it through Granny’s gate when the hievans truly decidied they were awa tae open. Watter stairted bouncin aff the ground, chitterin aff the gutter an pingin aff the tappy ma heid. Wi the dexterity o Indiana Jones skiting unner a temple door, wi a bloody great rock up his airse, I rocketed up the wee path. Swearin as I drapt the keys, scramblin tae scoop em up an get em intae the lock.
   I wus drookit when I slammed the door ahind me.
   Pity I didnae realise at that moment that hings could ey’weys get worse.
   I pu’d ma laptop fae ma bag, an it hud the same sorty feel aboot it as an auld quilt comin oot the washer. Shiny, cold, an definitely wet.
   ‘Shite, bastard, shite, shite, shite!’
   The thing wus buggered. Nae question. Nae response when I prodded the ‘on’ button – nae even a wee rumble. Wus it water? Or hud I dunted it wrappin up?
   I didnae ken whit tae dae. If it wus damp oan in its middle, I certainly wisnae aboot tae fyang it ontae Granny’s dodgy sockets an leave the gaff lookin like a proposal fae Henry VIII. Dodger an Dahlia boonced aroun me like it wus aw top banter, yippin an bitin at each other coorsly as I went tae the kitchen an stairted ranshacklin the place, tae see if the auld besom’d left me any rice.
   It wus a lost cause. Aw I could dae wus leave the damn thing tae dry fer a couple days, an cross aw my fingers fer the best. But I didnae huv awfy high hopes. I left it open oan the chest o drawers in ma room – ooty reach uv the tripe hounds. I sighed.
   I could feel the numb bleakness I’d bin tryin hard tae stomp doon as it bubbled in ma chist. I wus takin sick pay, I wisnae workin . . . hoo wus I gonnae afford a new laptop if it wis bollocksed?

The rain wus fair thuddin aff the roof lang intae the evenin. Dodger an Dahlia widnae sit still fer a second, up an down the settee like a hoors drawers. The wind wus pickin up, blawin in sae strong that it whippt at the windaes an moaned doon the chimney flue. Even English twats tryin tae buy renovated barns werenae enuff tae disguise it.
   Ma airms itched wi cauld, breakin intae goosepimples as I heard the first wee rumble uv thunder in the mirk. The sky seemed tae fall quicker an darker than ye’d expect fer the middle uv the summer. I sighed, upskittlin the dugs agin, an tried tae coax a wee fire intae life. It struggled agin the damp logs, barely releasin any heat. I sighed.
   Wi’oot a laptop, nae WiFi, an wi nothin but shite oan the telly, I jist couldna be arsed. It hud barely goan eight when I cried it a night an went tae ma bed.


Who! Who whoo! Who who whooo!
   Ma eyes snappt open in the dark. The wind ootside howled fit tae burst. The rain hudnae let up, batterin the shingle roof. But it wus the faint cry of a houlet that hud got the skin creepin oan my airms. I felt aroon fer ma phone, but it wus blank as I pressed the screen on, off. The deid battery sign flashed. I huffed. I didnae hae a watch.
   The windae rattled. Who whooo! Hooo! I bit back a wee yelp.
   Jist the weather. Dinnae fash.
   Suddenly, a soft white light flickered on the windae.
   Ma wee hairt started pumpin in ma chist. Lightenin? Naw. It wus too saft tae be lightenin.
   Fae the corner uv ma eye, I spotted ma trusty auld HP.
   It wus lit up. No wi its usual start up, no even its error screen. Jist black an white static, like Granny’s auld box telly. I rubbed ma eyes.
   The light flickered, an went oot.
   I louped fae ma bed, my airms so pluky ye could use em fer sandpaper. I stumbled across ma suitcases, an the dugs, an battered the ‘ON’ button. Ma laptop didnae react. I finagled the cable intae the wall, an there wus nothin. Nae sparks, nae wee chargin light. Jist a faint hum.
   A faint hum that wisnae comin fae the laptop. Ma heart hammered in ma throat. Gingerly, shushin the dugs, I padded intae the corridor.
   The hummin became mair persistent. The hoose wisnae quite dairk, but I reached fer the hallwey light, an foun the switch flopped atween the settings uselessly.
   Go awa back tae yer bed, the sensible pairt o ma heid hollered. Dinnae be a wee prick.
I found ma haunds curlin intae wee fists, wishin I’d the foresight tae even pick up somethin I could’ve used tae gie a good blooterin.
   I could barely hear the soond uv the rain ootside, the hum wus sae thick, sae strong. It hummed in ma ears, makin wee wavy lines dance in the air in front of me. Ma teeth jangled.
   But, I could see the light wus comin fae the livin room. I wus like a wee moth, flutterin closer an closer; roondin the corner o the livin room, wonderin whit wus in there, glowin.
   I jist hud tae tak wan last step, across the threshold.

A flash uv light, arced across the room, knockin me tae the flair. Or wus it the noise? An eldritch skriech, that made ma teeth dirl in ma skull, an ma haunds clamp ower ma ears. Wi ma heid bangin, I took wan last glance upwards. In the fading light, I couldy swore I saw the ootline uv a figure starin doon at me, a smudge o concerned darkness whaur its face shoud’ve bin.


Ma hairt wus poundin in ma chest when I woke up, ma eyes rovin wildly aroun the room. I looked doon, findin maself still firmly sequestered in ma pit. I blinked, reachin for ma phone, only remembering its battery was deid as I pressed to turn it oan.
   It lit up. Six AM.
   I rubbed ma eyes. I couldnae hear anythin. Nae rattles, nae squeaks. Definitely nae hums. I looked tae see wee Dodger an Dahlia cooried at ma feet. I frowned.
   Granny’s dodgy wiring hud a lot tae answer fer.
   I yawned, an stretched. I leaned across to bat my laptop, finding it was still completely unresponsive.
   The dugs skittered as I moved, wheekin fae the bed, an runnin tae scrape at the door. I heaved ma feet ooty bed, feelin awfy stiff, an lumbered through tae let the dugs intae the gairden. I went tae unlock the door, but found that it was already loose, bouncin open wi’oot force.
   The rain hud stopped. In the light o the jist risen sun, it wus hard tae imagine the groanin an rumblin o the night before. Especially no any great crashes or skreichs rendin ye from yer sleep. I ca’d the dugs back intae the hoose.

I’d no been awake long when there wus a frantic knock on the front window. I frowned, an made ma wey tae the door.
   ‘Ye’ll nivver believe!’ Marie fae next door came fleein roond, still in her baffies, tae chap oan the door. ‘Ye’ve nivver seen anythin like!’
   ‘What are– ’ but she’d awready grabbed ma airm, an wus tuggin me awa – still in ma baffies.
   We hurried down the hill, wee Marie still hingin tae me as though fer dear life, an me wonderin what in the hell hud happened. That is, until we roonded the corner fae the wee cobbled street an ontae the road that went roon the kirk.
   The supportin wa that hud held up the kirkyard hud collapsed. The rain hud aw but washed the kirkyard awa doon the hill.
   Soil an stones hud skittered across the tarmac, blockin the road. Marie gasped, an I felt my stomach flip as I stared. Amongst the piecies of wall an tree roots that were strewn across the way, there wus somethin else.

A note on the dialect

This story is written to try an reflect the dialect of the East of Fife, a blend of East Neuk colliery country, fishwife, and sometimes a more mild ‘non’ accent. As a whole, it’s perhaps one of the little less distinctive than Scots accents, unlike Glaswegian or Dundonian, and not quite as broad an nasal as the accent on the West of Fife, which many Fife dialect guides note as the ‘Fife’ dialect. (Example: “Barry” isn’t really a common slang word in the East.) I’ve tried to capture a less sing-song Scots speaker, with tendency for a sharper ‘a’ sound, additional ‘ies’, such as pieces becoming “piecies”,  and a lot of running together of words, as it’s spoken, for example “bit o’” becoming “bitty”.