Write What You Know
Eleanor stepped out of the Writers' Museum into a damp, dark Edinburgh night. It had been a great gathering of the amateur mystery writers group; a night devoted to the use of props as triggers for stories and performance.
Next month, they’d be reading from their own work and, as Eleanor headed towards home, ideas were literally exploding like firecrackers inside her head.
"Write what you know", Mr. Rankin had said, "and scare the crap out of us!"
Eleanor had lived in Edinburgh all of her 24 years and was very familiar with the local folklore involving ghosts and scandals. Perhaps she’d pen a modern tale about the Tunnel Piper, or maybe set up a gruesome murder on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle involving the Headless Drummer.
She was so focused on her assignment that it was not until she stopped to adjust a shoelace that she heard them: footsteps. Ordinary enough in a town full of people heading home for the evening … but it sounded like they belonged to a single person and, whoever it was, appeared to be matching her pace step for step. It was unsettling.
Don't look back, she told herself. Just keep walking. Hold your head high and walk with purpose!
Abruptly, she turned right off The Royal Mile to the top of a long flight of steep stone steps leading down to a narrow alley. It was her usual short cut but perhaps, tonight, a foolish one. What limited light there was came from a single streetlamp casting eerie shadows and sending flashes of colour ricocheting off metal downspouts, windows and wet cobblestones.
Her knees grew weaker as she descended the forty stairs. She stopped briefly halfway hoping she had lost her pursuer … but the slap, slap of his constant footfalls continued. He was getting closer. The hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention—something that, until now, she'd only read about. Her heart was pounding so vigourously it was as if it were demanding to be released from its secure ribbed cage.
She stood still for a moment. In the ensuing silence, she heard his laboured breathing and felt a musty dampness pushing in on her accompanied by an odour reminiscent of freshly dug turnips or potatoes.
And then she heard something very different, a low moan like a lowing calf or a piper's chanter … followed by a tap on her shoulder so light it could have been an alighting moth but for the electric current it dispatched through her body.
She turned her head slightly and watched as light danced fleetingly across his face before his features fell back into the darkness.
"Yours!" he said, thrusting a black and gold dagger towards her abdomen. Cautiously, she glanced down fearing the worst. Ohhh …
"Yes," she sighed, reaching up to grab the molded plastic handle of the toy dagger. "I - I must have dropped it when I was leaving."
He melted seamlessly into the shadows and she was left alone with nothing but an earthy musk and the final note from his pipes hovering in the air around her.