We knew it was a bad idea to isolate ourselves so much when it was so near her time but it had been years since our last holiday and besides, her doctors assured us that we were at least three weeks away from the birth.

It wasn’t planned—not at all. We’d settled for a couple of weeks rest and I’d booked a three month sabbatical from the office, hoping to get some work done on the house. Then we won the competition. One week anywhere in Britain of our choosing as long as we took the holiday in the next month. One day we were in our flat in London, surrounded by half finished building work, noise, dust and general aggravation, the next we were all alone on the west coast of Scotland, in a cottage by the shore on Jura—just us, the seals and the view over the sea to Argyll.

I wasn’t sure at first. I wanted to be near a hospital, just in case of emergencies, but she insisted. It would be our last holiday alone for a while, she was fit and healthy and she wanted to do it.

The nearest house was five miles south—the nearest doctor twice that distance. To the north and west there was only the rugged hills and the deer. We didn’t even have a boat. At least there was a road—a single track lane with passing places. It had recently been resurfaced and we had been provided with a new Range Rover for the duration. I was confident that we could reach the doctors’ house in less than twenty minutes in event of an emergency. That was quicker than I could have managed it in London. And we had warned the doctor we were coming. I had talked myself round to the idea and I wasn’t worried. I should have been.

We arrived late—Jura is not the easiest place to get to. It involved a flight to Glasgow and a short hop over to Islay. The Range Rover was waiting at Islay airport, which is more a glorified field than an airstrip. After that it is a fifteen mile trip to the Port Askaig ferry, a small ramshackle affair which can take four cars on a calm day across the half mile of treacherous waters towards the stunning mountains of Jura.

Once on the island it was a single track road all the way. There is only one road—twenty miles of it—with Craighouse, the only town, half way along but we were going right to the far end.

We stopped in the one and only hotel for a meal but we were too late to pick up any other provisions—that would have to wait till the morning.

It was dark when we arrived and Sandra was too tired to do anything other than fall into bed and sleep. As for me, I was restless. I never believed that I would miss the bustle of London’s streets, but the lack of noise here had me on edge.

The only sound was the gentle lapping of the sea on the rocks only ten yards from the cottage’s front door. Occasionally there would be the forlorn cry of a gull or the croaking of a crow but apart from that it was silent and dark and strangely disquieting.

I paced the floors, studying the titles of the books on the long shelves round the walls, listening to the radio, drinking whisky and trying to pretend that I didn’t miss the television.

It was very late by the time I snuggled into bed, taking advantage of the radiating heat from my pregnant wife beside me. I believe I slept soundly, I don’t remember any dreams and nothing disturbed me during the night.

She woke me the next morning with a whisper.

“Get up. Hurry. You’ve got to see this.”

I was still groggy when I raised my head to see her leaving the room. I got out of bed, wincing at the cold seeping through the floorboards, and joined her at the window in the front room.

“Look”, she said, “Isn’t it wonderful?”

It was very early morning—the sun was just coming up over the hills of Argyll, spreading a pink glow across the wispy clouds.

The sea was being slightly ruffled by a small breeze and, there in the foreground, just at the edge of the small lawn in front of the house, sat three otters, obviously a mother and two smaller young. As we watched, they trotted along the shore, then slipped into the water.

We crept out, still naked, and watched them cavorting among the huge fronds of seaweed until I slipped on the wet grass and the sudden movement caused them to dive, resurfacing again much farther out. Sandra came over and squeezed me, her full belly pressing its heat against my flesh.

“Thanks for bringing us here, John. I love it.” We kissed and I marveled again at how hot and alive and heavy with life she had become. It was only as we turned back to the house that I noticed the mound.

It had been too dark the night before to see any details of the surrounding area but now I could see that the cottage was built on a small raised piece of land between two arms of a river. We had come across a small bridge last night but in the dark I had failed to notice it.

Behind the cottage, just where the rivers split, there was a huge stone cairn, standing eight to ten feet high and topped off with a cross which looked to be the same height again as the cairn and made of solid iron. Around the cairn there was a wrought iron fence with spiked railings jutting up towards the sky.

“Why would they put something like that out here?” she asked me “I thought that cairns were usually built on top of hills?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s for someone who died either here or at sea near here. We can ask in town if you like?” I turned towards her, noticing the goose pimples which had been raised on her arms.

“Get yourself inside and put some clothes on; we don’t want you to catch a chill. Anyway, by the time we get going and get to the town the shop will be open.”

When we eventually got to the shop it was ten o’clock—there had just been too many things to see on the drive down.

The shop held only basic foods—eggs, bacon, cheese, nothing too fancy—but Sandra had got over her cravings for exotica and we would be able to stock up with most of our needs for the week.

Sandra was the focus of much of the talk and was in danger of excessive mothering from some of the women we met—we turned down several offers of a warmer room closer to town and the shop owner took our list from us, promising that she would make it up and we could collect it later.

Luckily, the hotel served late breakfast. The pace of life on the island moved slowly and you could run breakfast into lunch into evening meal into supper without leaving the hotel grounds. We managed to escape at one in the afternoon, weighed down by bacon and sausages and swilling with coffee.

It was only when we stopped by the shop to pick up our supplies that I remembered the cairn.

The shop keeper tried to hide her movement but I caught it—the sign against the evil eye, two pronged fingers stabbing at me as she spoke. “You don’t have to worry about that, sir. It’s only an old memorial. Some say there used to be a plaque fixed to it but no one can remember what it’s there for.”

I noticed that the rest of the customers in the shop had fallen silent. I supposed that the cairn was the focus for some old superstition. That didn’t bother me, but I wasn’t about to tell Sandra. Unlike me, she held a fascination for the supernatural. Anything that went bump in the night or was out of the ordinary—she fell for it.

I could never understand the fascination with scaring yourself half to death but I knew that if she found out that there was something weird about the cairn she would not stop until she had winkled out the story. In the car on the way to the cottage I told her it was a war memorial and then let the subject drop. She didn’t ask any questions.

We finally got back in late afternoon having made numerous stops to marvel at the stunning variety of life around us. Sandra made a big show of hand-washing our traveling clothes and hanging them from a clothes line at the back of the house.

The rest of the day passed lazily as we sat on the lawn, drinking long drinks, watching the scenery and making happy plans for our future. We took our food out onto the grassy area, sitting on an old rug and throwing occasional morsels to an inquisitive squirrel. I think that evening was the closest to heaven I have ever been.

Doctor Reid arrived around six o’clock and spent ten minutes reassuring himself that Sandra was not about to go into labour in the near future. He was gracious and gentlemanly and I could see that Sandra was charmed. Something in my chest loosened as a knot of worry melted away .

I walked him back to his car while Sandra cleared up the remains of our picnic. We made small talk about the weather and our prospects for the coming week, and he had got into his car before I said what was really on my mind. I don’t know what made me do it, what made me think that he was the man to ask, but before I knew it the sentence was out.

“Do you know anything about the monument out the back?”

He gave me a little sideways look over the top of his glasses and it was several seconds before he replied.

“And why should you let that thing bother you. Mr Wilson?”

Before I could reply, he continued. “If you really want to know the story, you’ll find a version in a book on your shelves. A Tourist’s History of Jura. I believe you’ll find it educational. But make sure you don’t tell your wife—it’s not a tale for the faint hearted.” At that he wound up the window and drove off, leaving me with an unexplained chill in my spine. I shook it off and went back to help my wife.

We were finally forced indoors by a chill wind which brought the clouds down the hills as the sun disappeared and a fine grey mist spread over the sea.

Sandra busied herself with some knitting—baby clothes naturally, and I managed to locate the book which the doctor had mentioned.

It didn’t take me long to find the appropriate section and I was amused to see that the chapter had been written by a certain Doctor Reid of Craighouse, Jura.

There was a block of description of the cottage and the surrounding area before it got to the interesting bit.

The mound behind the house is of some antiquity. A local legend associates it with the little people who seem to be all prevalent in this area, and one of the race in particular. In 1598, the battle of Trai-Guinard took place on Islay, the neighbouring island. The battle was going badly for Sir James MacDonald when he was approached by a dwarfish creature who proclaimed himself capable of swinging the battle in return for certain favours.

To cut a long story short (and in these parts stories can grow exceedingly long), Sir James, despite some qualms, agreed. An hour later, the battle was his and his enemy, Sir Lachlan, lay dead of no apparent injury. Sir James retired to his house near Craighouse and that night, Wee Robbie was made a freeman of the estate.

And now we come to the meat of the story. The townspeople did not take kindly to the creature in their midst, but he was under the protection of the Laird and they were powerless. Until that is, the children started to disappear.

Tales are still whispered around the fires of the scene that met the eyes of the men who had the courage to enter the dwelling of the dwarf. Hideous dismembered corpses lay strewn in all corners and a cauldron was bubbling in the grate, a foul brew of body parts which could be seen rising in the stew before falling back once more into the stinking mess.

And yet none had the courage to end the creature’s life. They interred him in the tomb, a chambered cairn for long dead kings, and they fixed him there with the cross and the iron.

It is said that sometimes, in the dead of night, the tortured screams of the Dubh-sith, the black elf, can be heard ringing from his prison, and that at such times it is wise to lock the doors and huddle around the warm hearths of home.

I could see why the Doctor didn’t want me to pass the tale on to Sandra—one thing she didn’t need was lurid fantasies of a child molester in the back yard. When she asked me what I was reading I passed it off as some local colour and changed the subject.

For the rest of the evening I tried to read about the wildlife of the island, but I couldn’t get the vision out of my head the seething pot of offal and the things which floated in it.

The next time I looked up Sandra was smiling at me and it wasn’t long before we adjourned to the bedroom and made tender careful love as the darkness closed in around us.

Later, just as I fell asleep, I could hear that the wind was rising, whistling through the chimney breasts and causing the trees to rustle and crack.


I woke early and squeezed myself away from Sandra, taking care not to wake her. After boiling some water in the kettle I ventured out to see what the weather was like but the first thing I noticed was the effect of the wind. The washing was gone from the line, torn off the rope during the night. I found a shirt in the left hand stream, a pair of underpants halfway up a tree and I could see Sandra’s blouse hanging from one arm of the cross on the cairn.

I retrieved everything else I could see before moving to the mound of stones. I stepped over the railing, just missing doing myself an injury on the spikes and clambered up the rocks, dislodging a few in the process and giving myself several bruises on my knees.

The blouse was wrapped around the rusted spar and, by straining and stretching I could just about reach it. Catching hold of the blouse I pulled, just as my footing gave way. I fell, pulling the blouse with me and felt the material tear before something solid and heavy hit me on the head forcing me down onto the rocks, rolling dislodged stones until I was brought up against the railings.

I heard a loud creaking and looked up to see the cross, now with a spar missing, swaying from side to side in the breeze. When I looked down I found the missing piece, lying by my side with Sandra’s blouse still wrapped around it. I left it there as I hauled myself over the railings and hobbled back to the house.

That was it for the rest of the day. I was dazed, bleeding from a head wound and bruised over much of my body. Sandra wanted to fetch the doctor but I talked her out of it. I didn’t want anybody to know that I had defaced the cross, not yet anyway, not until I had the chance to try to repair some of the damage.

I spent the day in bed, most of the time with Sandra beside me, nursing my wounds and wondering what the islanders’ reaction would be.

As darkness filled the room, Sandra fell asleep but I lay awake, listening to the creaking of the cross, the rasping of iron against stone as it swayed back and forth in the wind.

At some point I must have fallen asleep. I was awakened by a cold draft, hitting me just on the back of the neck. I rolled over, hoping to snuggle against my wife’s warm body, but I met only more empty space. It took several seconds for me to realise that she wasn’t in the bed.

Moonlight was streaming in through the window, enough for me to make out her pale figure and the cross which bobbed and swayed hypnotically in front of her. I was out of the room and through onto the grass before I realised that we were both still naked.

I went back to fetch some clothes, pulling on a long jumper for myself and picking up an overcoat for her. When I got back to the door she was gone.

In the moonlight I could just make out the footprints in the grass and I followed them up to the cairn. I called out her name, twice, but there was no response.

As I got closer, I could see that the cairn had collapsed in on itself on the left hand side. A dark passage led downwards, down into the earth, and there was a dank salty smell wafting up into the night.

I looked around again but there was no sign of her anywhere. The only assumption I could make was that she was down there somewhere—down there in the earth. She had gone walkabout at night before, sometimes getting as far as the front door in our flat in London, but this was the first time that she had actually left the house.

I was worried - of course I was, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of anything other than the personal danger to her should she stumble in the dark. I wasn’t thinking in terms of monsters or dwarves. Not yet anyway.

I called her name again, louder this time, but all I heard was the echo of my voice coming back to me. I entered the passage but after only two or three yards it became as black as a pit of hell. It was no good—I needed some source of light.

Precious minutes were wasted before I located a flashlight and clouds had covered the moon when I finally went back outside. I called out, not really expecting a response, and none came. I put the overcoat on over the top of the jumper and with some trepidation I went down into the dark.

The walls were built of large blocks of sandstone. I had visited several Neolithic tombs, in Carnac, in Orkney and on Salisbury Plain. This gave the same sense of age, of a time long past. What I hadn’t expected, what was completely different, was the overwhelming feeling that this place was in use. The walls ran damp and there was a salt tang in the air but there was no sign of moss or lichen on the walls—only the damp glistening stone.

I pressed on. By shining the light downwards I could see the barefoot prints which Sandra had made on her descent. I had no choice but to follow.

The path kept going down, deeper and deeper, and the air was getting colder and damper. I judged that I must be under the sea by now and the thought of all that water above added an extra worry line to my already furrowed brow. At least the passage hadn’t diverged. Not yet anyway.

I was so busy concentrating on the way ahead that I stumbled when my foot didn’t meet the expected step and the path leveled out.

I was in some sort of chamber. It was hexagonal in shape, about ten yards across and there was an entrance in every wall. My feet were wet. That was what I was thinking. It’s funny how your mind gives you something else to think about at times of stress.

The thing I was trying to ignore was lying on a slab in the centre of the room. The slab was a pale green marble of a kind I had never seen and she was lying on it with her knees raised in the air as if on an operating table.

Between her legs something moved—something grey and green and warty and hideous. It slithered and crawled and I could see that it was inside her, was copulating with her.

I think I went slightly mad then. I remember grasping the slimy body, almost dropping it as its small wizened face turned towards me, a face lined with age and infinitely deep in its evil. Even as I looked, the life went out of the eyes and the puny head bent in death, one last smile playing on its lips.

I remember dashing the body again and again against the wall but I don’t remember tearing it and mashing it. I must have done though for when I moved towards my wife I had the slimy remains of it all over my free hand and its juices coated my feet and ankles.

She was alive. I thanked God for that as I cradled her in my arms. She seemed to be in a stupor but when I stood her upright I found that she was able to walk.

I dragged her unyielding body along, grateful that she seemed to be capable of walking. I had one last look around the chamber before we headed for the stairs. The pieces of the creature I had dismembered were bubbling and frothing in a puddle of bloody ooze.

I fled.

After only twenty or so steps I felt her stiffen beside me and then she began to pull me back as she tried to go down once more.

I am not proud of my next action. I hit her, hard across the chin and she fell into my arms. I carried her up the stairs. Quite how I managed it without dropping the torch I am not too sure, and how long it took us I will never know.

Finally we emerged into the cold night air. I laid her on the grass beyond the railings and tried to tumble the rocks over the passage. I had just covered the entrance when the screaming began.

“The baby. Oh God…It’s coming. It’s coming.”

I don’t remember much of the next half hour, only fragments—driving like a maniac as she sobbed quietly behind me, the sudden light in the deer’s eyes just before the car hit it dead on, smashing the car’s headlights into a million tinkling fragments.

I remember the small twinkling lights in the black distance as I just managed to avoid the cliff edge and, finally, the iron gate on the path which I almost fell over as the doctor came towards me and I collapsed into a faint.

I have a vague memory of being put in an armchair and practically force fed whisky as my wife was carried upstairs and the doctor called for some help but my legs wouldn’t move and my arms were heavy and sleep called me back again.

I dreamed—hot lurid fantasies of violence and fire, of rape and bloodletting and of a cold black fury which carried all before it. I woke from screams into screams.

My legs pushed me out of the chair and towards the door long before my brain was fully awake and I was halfway up the stairs before I recognised the voice behind the screaming. I reached the door just as the screams stopped.

Early morning sunlight was streaming into the room, lighting a scene which will be forever etched into my memory.


The doctor is standing off to one side, his left hand covering his mouth, his right clutching his chest as if to keep his heart in.

An old woman is lying across the bed in a dead faint, her grey wisps of hair mingled with the blood from my wife’s legs.

My wife is lying there, throat muscles straining, mouth open in a long soundless scream which refuses to come, her gaze fixed on the shape writhing on the carpet, ignoring the blood flowing from her, ignoring the woman across her legs, all else immaterial to her pain at the sight of our child. And there on the floor lies our future, burning golden in the first rays of the sun, being cleansed in the purifying light of the new day, my son.

The last thing I see before darkness takes me away for a long time is the face, the small wizened features and the age old eyes, the red mouth which squeals at me as I bring my foot down, hard, and all the members of my family scream in unison.


# # #

Wee Robbie by William Meikle
originally published August 13, 2009



William Meikle is a Scottish writer, with seven novels published in the United States and over 150 short story credits in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Greece, India and Romania.

Big Pulp credits:
Wee Robbie


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