It was late November. I wanted to get away from the city. One hour drive from Glasgow to the small Perthshire village – even with the Friday traffic. I arrived just as the snow started. The Golden Lion served weary travellers for centuries. Between pouring pints, a busy barmaid took my details, swiped my credit card and handed me my room key.
“It’s mad in here this time on Friday!” She smiled apologetically.
I took in the red-faced locals, the welcoming fire in the hearth, sepia images on the wall telling tales of past times.
“Thanks!” I said taking the key.
The room was small but clean with an en-suite shower and bathroom. I shaved showered, dressed and returned to the bar.
It was noisier as Friday-night alcohol kicked in; arguments about football, farming and politics. An ignored TV blared. Bored youths played a jingling slot machine.
I ordered burger and chips and a beer and sat down with “Islands in the Stream”.
Several pints later my eyes were closing, the pages blurred.
I decided on a night-cap from the wide selection of malts displayed behind the bar and chose an Edraour.
“Join me?” I said to the barmaid.
“Thanks, but my husband is outside waiting to take me home!”
“No bother,” I said, “Goodnight”.
“Good-night!” She smiled again.
The room was cosy and warm while outside the snow fell in large flakes, smothering the street. I closed the curtains and flopped onto the bed as the winter wind whistled and rattled the window frames. I finished the whisky and put the empty glass on the bedside table then tuned off the light.
I woke in a sweat, the silence of the countryside unnerving me. I got up, dressed, went downstairs and outside. It was bitterly cold. The snow crunched underfoot as I trudged along the deserted main street. Past the old church, the graveyard with angled, ancient tombstones then across the park where, in 1830, the Earl planted twenty-one trees. One for every year his daughter lived before dying of cholera. The moon highlighted the silhouette of the castle where ghosts might walk on windswept ramparts. I reached the old railway track, now a black tarmac walkway. I switched on my torch and turned east.
Suddenly, there was a light heading towards me. Then, the sound of a engine whistle before the light veered to one side and faded. I ran, floundering through the snow, towards the apparition and as I approached I saw an old locomotive lying on its side. Clouds of steam hissed into the night air. Wooden carriages smashed together, windows shattered, rapidly spreading fire spreading engulfing everything. Bodies lay on the tracks; survivors silently screaming ran though me. A child floated past me and dropped a small stuffed woollen toy. Then all was dark. I was falling, spiralling into a black void.
When I opened my eyes I was in my room, fully clothed on the bed. There, on the floor, was the woollen toy. I leaped up and rushed downstairs to the empty bar. I approached the first framed image on the wall. The front page of the Perthshire Herald from 1897; the headline shouted:
“Local people including many children die in inferno!”
Underneath, was a faded picture of the burnt wreckage of a train crash.
“Are you alright?” said a waitress, “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”
Author Bio: Don Gordon is a musician, History Graduate and aspiring writer. He has written articles for The Herald, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday. He won a poetry prize at university and has had work published in Mono, Paragraph Planet and other places. He has featured on a number of albums over the years. You can find him online at bandoliertales.com.