What Ho, Wee Readers, well it’s certainly been a while now, hasn’t it? I know, I know. I did put up a small post last month crowing about the social media platform I just joined; but as far as long haul, involved posts go this is the first in a while.
Don’t worry, I promise, it was worth the wait.
Now I’m sure you all remember my good friend Ailish Sinclair – the fellow writing lassie I first interviewed here, when she published her first book back in 2019. And then again here, when she published her second book.
And if you don’t remember those posts, you should certainly remember her books:
Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!
Available where all good books can be found.
But plugging aside, the point is Ailish and I are good friends, and I admire her greatly as a writer – I wouldn’t have interviewed her, not once but twice, if I didn’t. So you see I am not stalking her, because I don’t need to stalk her. I know this is a strange thing to focus on, but I feel this is an important fact to establish before we start our story. Despite what any authorities may try to tell you, I was not stalking her.
Right now that that’s settled, sit back and enjoy as I recount the strange tale of “The 8 strange things I saw while I was definitely not stalking Ailish Sinclair”.
Look the whole thing sort of spiralled out of control. When I saw her in that shop a week ago I never intended to follow her at all, let alone well…well I suppose if I’m to explain myself, I should really start at the beginning.
And the beginning, I have to say, is really quite mundane. You see I didn’t start out that day knowing I’d see her at all. In fact, all I’d intended to do that day was go for my weekly food shop. So, there I was doing my own shopping, minding my own business, thank you so very much. And who do you think I suddenly saw in the next isle over – that’s right, Ailish Sinclair. After having told me she was out of the country that week.
I thought about going up to her. Saying hello, you know normal not creepy stuff.
But I stopped in shock when I saw what was in her trolley…
Bars and Bars of Chocolate.
Big Bars, small bars – a whole trolley full of bars of Chocolate.
No judgement or anything.
That’s weird, right?
I mean that is seriously…not normal.
But whatever, not judging.
But I decided not to go up to her; she seemed annoyed – almost bothered by something. Maybe nervous, she does have a new book recently out. Sisters at the Edge of the World, available at Amazon now.
It’s her first self-published title.
Maybe that was it.
Whatever the case, I finished my own shopping, and decided to put the weird occurrence behind me.
7. Crazy Driving
As I was loading my shopping into my car, I saw Ailish Sinclair again. Just by chance you understand.
She was shoving her bags and bags of Chocolate into her own boot, nibbling on one of the smaller ones as she did so. And she looked so upset, my heart went out to her. I almost went over too, but she suddenly darted into her car – her massive, massive car and skidded out of that car park like she was suddenly on fire.
Or maybe she’d seen a ghost.
It couldn’t be me, could it?
Nah, I’m a nice person. Why would anyone run away from me? In fact, I’m such a nice person that in my concern, I hopped in my own car and went after her.
I followed her calmly down the highway, keeping back just enough so that she probably couldn’t see me in her rear windows – but not so far back that I couldn’t still watch as she…well it’s kind of hard to explain.
It was technically driving I suppose – she was moving her car down the highway. But I was certain that it was no form of driving that would have passed a driving test, of any kind.
To say the whole thing looked erratic at best was like saying a hurricane was just a bit of wind.
Back and forth she skittered across the road, from one lane to the next, as if she couldn’t make up her mind which way she wanted to go. And then with a skidding shriek she suddenly made her choice and shot down a side road.
I followed at a more sedate pace – which meant that from the safe advantage of several car widths away, I could see her shooting down that road. It wasn’t a particularly narrow road, as side country roads go, but because her car is just that big she took up the whole god damn thing.
Thank Goodness we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way, otherwise this wild driving would be significantly less funny and more, well tragic. And I have to tell you Wee Reader, I don’t feel like writing one of those today.
For the next, oh let’s say an hour and a half we drove like that, her metres in front of me taking up the entire width of the road, and me just following like any decent person would when they see a friend, or at least someone they know, start driving like a maniac. We drove like that so long I was lulled into compliancy, so I didn’t really notice where we were driving …that is until we passed the sign.
Welcome to Brodie Castle.
6. Staring at Castles
Followed her up the drive.
Parked behind a tree so she wouldn’t see me, and waited for her to get out of her own car.
Nothing creepy there, I was just concerned is all – besides I like a good castle myself and Brodie is certainly one of the best ones in my oppion.
Maybe I wouldn’t even mind going on one of those guided tours, they’re informative and I haven’t been on one in a while.
I just had to make sure Ailish was okay first. And I’d only know that, when she let go of her steering wheel and got out of the car.
Which, she did, after about twenty minutes.
She got out of her car, and she stood there in front of that castle and stared at it.
Just stood there, still as a ramrod, and stared up at that castle.
And she did that for the next three hours.
Perhaps even longer than that, for I set my car in reverse, turned and drove away when it started to get dark.
Look I’m all for helping, but I think this is just a bit beyond my capabilities.
I mean, I’ve never seen a writer that took what they said on their bio so seriously.
5. Swimming in the Ocean
Thoroughly creeped out, I decided to go to the beach to clear my head.
You know get a bit of blue mind going.
Clear my thoughts.
Maybe I shouldn’t have left her there, just staring at that castle – but come on, that was weird.
Maybe I should have just gone up to her and asked what she was doing but to be completely honest Wee reader, I was afraid to. Afraid of what she might tell me, or maybe I was just afraid of what she might accuse me of.
I’m not a stalker.
It didn’t take me long to find a beach
We’re in the north of Scotland, there’s at least one all the way up the coast.
So it had only taken me about ten minutes to drive away from that castle, and reach that beach.
I tell you this now, because it’s highly relevant to what I say next.
You see when I stepped up to the blue water and gazed out onto its shinning surface, I realised that there was someone already standing on the beach.
I think you can guess who by this point in the post.
That’s right, it was Ailish Sinclair
She’d beaten me to the beach.
The woman who I’d left staring at a castle, had beaten me to a beach that was a ten minute drive away.
And the strangest thing of all Wee Reader, I couldn’t see any sign of her car.
She’d apparently beaten me here without a car.
And if you can believe it Wee Reader, that wasn’t even the strangest thing about the whole situation.
Oh no, that happened when I turned back from trying to catch a glimpse of her car.
Turned back round to the sound of a splash.
She’d jumped into the sea Wee readers, with all her clothes on.
For a moment I could see her there, her arms caught for a brief moment in that over head stroke people get so good at when they’re learning to swim.
And then another splash, and something like a flick of a tail, the flick of a mermaid’s tail and she was gone
Okay…what the fuck?
4. No one lives here – this is a wild Forest
Look…I ran then, I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit it.
I mean wouldn’t you do the same thing?
She had a freaking mermaid tail.
I mean I knew she loved them, but like…whatever I saw then, that was a bit excessive.
Okay maybe I was a little ashamed of myself.
I mean I see one, okay a couple of weird things while I was certainly not stalking my good friend Ailish Sinclair, and all I can do is run away?
I mean I’m not crazy, I certainly saw something. But I’m still not one hundred percent sure what I did see.
All I know is something odd was happening with Ailish.
And so racked with guilt, I drove to her house the next day. I found it on the internet, I’m not a stalker I’m just a very concerned friend. Although I have to say, I thought I’d gone up the wrong road. Because this place…no one could live here, it was in the middle of the freaking woods.
Seriously the track was broken, and pot-holey but I didn’t find one house at the end it.
Sure I found something that looked a little like a garden, but only because it had a lawn of cut grass and a giant pink bench.
There was no house, not anymore.
It was almost as if someone was hiding it from me.
So I left the garden, abandoning my car behind a hedge of wild rhododendrons.
And made my way further into the woods, hoping to find some sort of life there.
I didn’t find any life, but I found a lot of flowers.
Got lost for hours trying to find that house, but to be honest I think all I found was myself deeper in a pine plantation than any sane person should go.
I think the house may have been somewhere in the garden, but there was no finding it now.
I was lost.
Lost my car.
Lost my way.
Possibly even lost my mind.
And that dear reader is when I heard it.
The roar, no the growl, no the scream, of a wild animal.
Oh Christ, I thought to myself, I’m going to die.
All because I was not stalking Ailish Sinclair.
3. Bears…wait no foxes
Look, that noise I heard – it was a growl, I was 99% sure of that. Or at least it was a noise I had never really heard before.
It was a bear.
I was certain of it.
Because Ailish Sinclair loves bears and after what I’d seen her do at the beach, and the castle for that matter, I would have believed her capable of anything.
Certainly releasing a bear…a wild bear back into the forests of Scotland. Sure, why not? Good promotion for her newest book, Sisters at the Edge of the World.
I swear I’m not crazy – I heard a bear growl at me then.
Bears are all over her books – you should see what they get up to in newest one.
I’m not crazy.
I swear I heard a bear.
I just didn’t see one.
And the thing that jumped out of the bush by my feet…wasn’t a bear.
It was a fox.
And a line of her adorable cubs.
I know… I know I heard something in those woods.
Something, that didn’t sound natural. Maybe it wasn’t a bear, but it wasn’t something that belonged in this world either.
And as I stood there, waiting for the large line of fox cubs to finish crossing that forest path, I thought back to all I had seen, to all I had witnessed while I had been innocently not stalking someone. I couldn’t stop the thin sliver of fear crawling up my spine.
I can’t even understand it, after all, nothing I’d seen had been threatening, just weird….and really, who I am I to judge someone for being weird.
And that dear reader is when I heard the voice.
2. Wild Singing
At first, I didn’t know what I was hearing. It sounded a bit like a bird song, but then bird songs don’t have words to them.
I can’t begin to tell you, word for word the song I heard then – for as I turned and followed it up that hilled forest path, the thing kept fading in and out. Not as if the singer kept stopping and starting, but as if their voice and the notes they sang kept getting mixed up with the noises of nature. One second I was listening to a clear line of how much the singer loved nature, and the next it was just the twittering of little birds.
It was almost like, instead of her voice fading in and out, it was the singer herself.
Which is mad right?
I mean, people don’t do that.
Surely, I was just dehydrated from all the not stalking I’d been doing.
Yeah that was it.
And surely once I’d reached the top of the hill, all would be answered. And for the first time in weeks Ailish and I would be able to sit down and have a real conversation about all this madness.
1. Magic and Witch Stones
It had been sunny when I’d first started up that hill, one of the sunniest days in an already sunny year. I’d been sweating. But I have to say, Wee Reader, it wasn’t like that when I reached the top of the hill.
A thick fog coated everything, trees, rocks, creatures, the sky – it was so thick it almost hid the sun itself. And the song that I’d followed up here, well that had melted into the sound of a cloud over head. Yet still I marched on.
Because I knew where this path lead.
And do you know why?
Because I’ve been here before.
And if you follow Ailish Sinclair’s blog – which you should, check it out here – you should know where we are too.
It’s called the Witch Stone – though I don’t believe it’s actually marking anything to do with witches. Well… historical witches anyway.
Look I’m not saying that Ailish Sinclair is a witch, she’s never said she is. And despite some of the odd things I’ve heard and seen over the course of this little adventure of mine, I’ve seen no evidence of that. At least I don’t think so.
And yet as I clear the top of the small flat hill the stone sits on, I can’t help but notice that this whole place looks like it’s the site of some kind of ritual.
The whole place is covered in the petals of flowers, none the sort that grow here naturally. The stone itself is wearing a crown of the strange flowers 🌸. The air feels smoky as if someone’s lit a fire 🔥 but there’s no smoke, or in fact any sign of a fire at all. And at the centre of the place sits a blue and purple cloth, made of a kind of scratchy, shimmery fabric that feels strange in my fingers when I try and pick it up.
I can still hear the song, but it’s more in the distance now as if it was never really here at all. And as I stand there, holding that strange cloth I can almost swear that I can see Ailish. Just over there by the Witch Stone, I can see her walk towards the stone, and then she’s gone. It’s almost….and I admit that this is really gonna sound crazy. But it’s almost like she’s just walked into the stone.
And I think to myself…. why would she do that?
Why would she step into a stone, standing or otherwise?
I mean maybe she’s using the witch stone as a means to travel to a distance point in the past, probably to the battle of Mons Graupius – that’s where her latest book is set anyways – but it could be anywhere. Anytime. Maybe to Culloden, or back even farther to the trials of the Aberdeen witches, maybe even to a place not yet written about.
It would explain why all her historical fiction is so eerily accurate.
Heavy research, my arse.
She’s using Time Travel Magic!
Which is what we in the buiz call… cheating.
I must be going mad surely, a time traveling author who writes historical fiction about the times she travels back to.
I mean it’s not even a reference to a book she’s written.
What do you think, a crazy reality, or just a mad story? If you’ve enjoyed this strange little trip of mine, don’t forget to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads and TikTok. Also why not subscribe to the Wee Mailing List by October 14th to find out exactly what happened on that hill top from Ailish herself. Also if you’re concerned that she basically vanishes into thin air at the end of my story, why not pop on over to her blog and give it a wee follow. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads , LinkedIn , Facebook ,Kofi, and TikTok as well. Why not subscribe to her newsletter while you’re at it. And remember, Ailish Sinclair’s latest book ‘Sister’s at the Edge of the World‘ is available now on Amazon. Why not buy a copy, maybe she’ll come out of the stone if you do 😁