Faerie Coffins

Arthur's Seat

Faerie Coffins
by Barbara Buckley Ristine

Ma says not to go to Arthur’s Seat. “The faeries will snatch ye—they come for bairns.” I believe her and I’m afraid to go, but Ian says there’s no such thing as faeries, and besides, wouldn’t we have heard if someone vanished?

On a damp raw morning, he pulls me to a crag where we look down on Edinburgh. Everything is so small from here—I could hold the Castle in my hand.

Ian hands me a dusty cloth bag tied shut with twine. Inside are his wooden toy soldiers, the ones Da made. I count them: seventeen. There used to be more, but they’ve fallen in rough and bloody skirmishes. I hold a soldier, his body worn smooth, his right arm missing. His wide-open eyes stare accusingly at me—he lost his arm in that fierce battle, when Ian’s Highlanders slaughtered my English soldiers.

Ian shows me the wooden boxes he made from the pine scraps in Da’s cobbler shop. They’re wee things, fitted with lids, just like baby Annie’s casket, the one they buried in the kirk yard last winter.

“We’ll give ’em a funeral, with mourners an’ all,” he says.

“They’ll need winding sheets before we bury ’em.” I can pinch some squares of muslin from Ma’s sewing basket. If you’re going to make a proper shroud, you should stitch your tears into the cloth, like Ma done when she sewed Annie’s, but I’ve no tears for these wooden men.

Ian points to a narrow gap in the rocks, an entrance to a wee cave. “We’ll bury ’em here, cover the hole with bits of slate so the resurrection men won’t find ’em. Then you and me can keep watch.”

Everyone knows the resurrection men come for the dead when they’re freshly buried. Our da spent three nights in the rain and wind watching over Annie’s grave—he said if they snatched her body, she couldn’t rise up on Judgment Day.

I wonder if he worried about the faeries taking her as well.

Barbara Buckley Ristine fell in love with history and stories as a child, but waited decades to become a writer. Her work has appeared in the 2020 National Flash Fiction Anthology, Milk Candy Review, The Westchester Review, and Mojave River Review, among others. She lives with her family in northern Nevada. Find her on Twitter @renobarb.

Photograph of Arthur’s Seat by David Monniaux (GFDL), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.