The Storm

In the tallest pine tree Alasdair sat contented. The height of the summer, shade was sought after and could be found nestled amongst the boughs with fallen cones and loose, crumbled dirt. As a geographical oddity this dappled setting felt all the more special to Alasdair: the island was stuck like a sentry 20 miles north of the mainland, constantly facing off against the turbulent north sea, yet once in a while there came a sunny day. This was something almost mythic in the clutches of a sea famous for oil and death. How big he felt when he thought about his location. Perched high in a tree; on a wind-swept isle; surrounded by whipping waves and with no other land in sight. He nearly laughed but the deep black, bilious clouds he could just see fermenting on the horizon stole his mood like a cold-snap in spring. ‘They clouds look fearsome,’ he thought out loud ‘there’ll be nae ferry fur at least a week judgin’ by they clouds’.

For more than a fortnight the sky had seemed as distant as the moon, but now it looked for all the world like a metal mirror in need of a polish. As the cloud banks grew darker the illusion could have been completed if only the clouds could swell and break and fall from the sky to smash him from his perch. Chilled, blood and bone, by the air bouncing off the sea, he couldn’t help but sit and awe at the sudden onslaught. He knew he had to get down to safety but something held him there. Something in the largest waves demanded that he not move. That he keep watching. That he stamp on his mind this terrible sight. There was nothing radically different about these waves to any other, except that these were larger. They demanded his whole self simply by being. The whole storm played out like a king’s parade and he clung to his rolling branches with feverous strength. The wind moulded his cheeks into a smile and then a scream as he was flung from the tree by one great gust.


Sore leg. Sore head. Drookit clothes.


Speaking to himself he said, ‘so tell us wee yin , why’re ye so dirty?’
‘wus jus’ climbin’ a tree, ken?’
He giggles
‘grow up man! Need tae get hame afore a catch my death’
He giggles again.
‘how did ye get so dirty jus’ climbin’ a tree? You’re black as the ace o’ spades!’
‘I fell aff’
‘Ye fell aff? You’re a thick sonofabitch’
‘Eh, no, see. No. No, I wus pushed, ken’
‘Oh aye, who pushed ye then? Jack frost?’
‘Eh, no. Eh, aye. It wus the wind what pushed me.’
He giggles some more. He likes talking to him self. He always knows what to say. He calls himself Alasdair. But he calls him Ally. Wee Ally. Wee Ally knows the score, he knows what’s up. He doesn’t say it though cause wee Ally only talks to Alasdair and Alasdair doesn’t think people want to know what wee Ally thinks. So Alasdair never lets wee Ally speak to anyone. Ever.

Wee Ally thinks that maybe there is a god. Maybe he’s in the wind or in the sea. Or maybe he’s in the bible or one of the other holy books (wee Ally doesn’t know the names of any other ones, not unless you count the old testament and wee Ally doesn’t). Wee Ally thinks that some people are ****s. Mostly rich people he has met but never women. Alasdair makes especially sure that the rich people don’t get to speak to wee Ally cause Alasdair thought that wee Ally might be right and if the rich people heard what wee Ally had to say, what else could they do but agree?
‘So, what you’re saying is, I’m a ****?’
‘aye, I’m afraid that’s it, sir’
‘oh well I see, sorry to trouble you’.
And then he’d jump off a bridge and Alasdair would have to phone the police. No, it was best wee Ally didn’t speak to anyone. Still, they have each other and that’s fine. Except when wee Ally does stupid things like letting go of trees when they’re really high up. Wee Ally, not having a body, doesn’t seem to place a great deal of value on Alasdair’s. Wee ally is a small man in some ways but, not without some rancour, he advised that they get back to the cottage before Alasdair caught hypothermia then died.

Though often torn by indecision, in this instance, they both agreed that it was a good idea. Alasdair agreed because he didn’t want to catch hypothermia then die, and the other because it was his advice and so must be worth following.

The cottage’s rustic exterior belies a starkly modern interior. The kitchen, into which he steps through back door, is all cold metal and swooping lines. On a sharp corner of one of the worktops he often scrapes his stomach. There is an angry welt there from this repeated clumsiness. It’s always just on the verge of healing when he grazes him self yet again. In the past he has tried to move it, but the worktop is built into the floor and he has not the tools to reshape it. Mostly he simply tries to ignore it, it’s easier than being careful.

There is one thing in this deceptive cottage, however, that’s much softer. He finds it one day whilst rooting in the attic for an old copy of Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde that has caught his eye previously: a dusty cardboard box. All smooth, dry edges that move pleasantly under his callused hands as he opens it. In this box he finds a sheaf of letters in open envelopes, all tied up with a poppy orange bow. They are addressed to no one and handling them leaves his fingers clorty.

‘Open them’
‘Open they letters’
‘They’re obviously important tae someb‘dy, and private, they wouldnae still be around if they werney’
‘Fine, ah’ll dae it’

Wee Ally gracefully flips the package over, slides his thumb underneath the ribbon and snaps it in one clean movement. The bow floats from package to floor and he rips open the first envelope with his pinky finger (he insinuates his finger into one corner of the envelope then moves his finger sharply across to the other side, leaving a jagged wound out of which the letter falls). Framed for a moment in the stoor on the boards, he considers leaving it. A large part of him wants to respect who’s ever privacy he’s already invaded. Then the moment passes and he grabs up the paper. It leaves a light indent where it has briefly lain that is soon stirred up and destroyed as he slams the hatch on the attic.

Eastfield House
Muckle Green Holm

22nd February 1966

Subscriptions Manager
National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic Society
PO Box 7

Dear Sir or Madam,

Subscription No. TTM/1556

I am writing to inform you of my decision to cancel my
subscription to National Geographic Magazine after the March
1966 issue. This is due to the increase in subscription
renewal rates announced in your February issue.
I have issued instructions to my bank to cancel my direct
debit arrangement accordingly.

Yours faithfully,

Eilidh Graham

'bloody auld wimin, they're aw' the same. National geographic? I ask ye!
'aye, cannae argue wi' that'

None of the letters have addresses on the envelope, but this seems very odd considering the obvious utility of the first. He wonders if she simply left the cottage and the letter became irrelevant. The next had no address on the envelope or on the letter its self.
On vacation from modding = don't pm me with your pish

Eastfield House
Muckle Green Holm

22nd February 1966

Dear Correspondent,

It has been some time since I read your letter and an even longer span since I have been able to formulate a response. What you say simply cannot be true. Every part of me screams that what you have told me is a fabrication and yet I still feel compelled to respond. Perhaps I simply wish to exorcise the thoughts you have planted in me before they can take root, or perhaps I’m less of a reasonable woman than I thought. Whilst it is true that I have always held various, what my scientific sons would call, superstitious beliefs I do not believe it is this that terrifies me so. I suspect that any right thinking man or woman in my position would act and feel exactly the same way. I only wish my sons were here to comfort me now. They are not. They are far away in London and New York respectively. As far as one can get from this tiny, contrary Orkney Island and loneliness ways on my mind.

On the subject of your letter I must now unburden my mind. When you wrote to tell me that she was alive and on this Island my first and, at the time, only reaction was scorn. Fearing some prank I simply ignored the letter and let it gather dust in the kitchen. This was until around one week ago. Awakened, as I often am, by a late night thirst I gathered up my dressing gown and went down to the kitchen to draw a glass of water. This little isle has no means of generating power and my house is, quite primitively, lit with gas light and candle. Passing softly down the corridor in my white nightdress with a soft, yellow glow flickering and fluctuating around me, I felt something of the ethereal about my self. I could not see but a few feet in front of my self and so proceeded with caution. As my candle passed each window in turn they simply reflected me floating past; an indistinct ghostly visage. Then there were a pair of eyes and a mouth. Gaping. Staring. Turning the corner into the kitchen I saw someone looking in through the glass pane in my front door. I quietly ignored this, though I was shaking so hard it must have been visible, and continued on into the kitchen, poured my drink and returned to bed without further incident. I was not to sleep, I simply shook. For I knew those eyes, that ghastly mouth. I knew them. I think that at any other time I would have reacted in some more substantial way’; my simple defence seems to have been that I was my self convinced I was dreaming. That face at the window terrifies me even more now than it did then. Great wide eyes that looked straight into mine, drawing my gaze always. Wild hair and sallow skin gave it the look of a banshee pulled from myth. Surely this all added to the dreamlike quality of my encounter. Am I getting ahead of my self? Was I indeed dreaming?

Yours faithfully,

Eilidh Graham.

Not finished. Obviously the character Alasdair with wee Ally is going to re-occur, but it's going to centre around the story that unfolds in the letters and the two different characters (in alasdair's) appraisal of them. I'd like to hear people's thoughts about where they think it's going, what they think of it so far and general criticism also. I'm sketchy about the relevance of the first two paragraphs and i'll either try to bring that out more or just scrap them as it goes on. Crit for crit and all that.

Also, if anyone has trouble with the dialect (someone has mentioned this before) i'll write out a standard version of it. I'm not sure yet how important the dialect is to me.
On vacation from modding = don't pm me with your pish
Oh sweet Jesus, could you make it any damn longer!?

Anyway, I loved it. The character is beautifully sculpted out of the Irish soil, and the country side is so real and believable. You describe everything so beautifully without being boring. I had some favourite lines:
"For more than a fortnight the sky had seemed as distant as the moon, but now it looked for all the world like a metal mirror in need of a polish"
"And then he’d jump off a bridge and Alasdair would have to phone the police"
There are others, but they stood out for me. I'd love tos ee this character continued, it really is beautiful. "please, sir, can I have some more?"
I hated using Alaisdar a second time in the first paragraph, seemed over the top considering we hadn't been introduced to any other characters yet.

Very interesting story, i love that you are developing a character that has a second personality AND knows it. It could lead to a lot of interesting places. The letters didn't capture my attention as much. Sure, there was some build up in the second one, but I'm infinitely more interested in Alaisdar and wee ally than I am in the letters. Could just be because you spent more time on the first part, *Shrug*. Hope you keep going though, I'd love to read more.