Genre: horror / suspense
In ancient times, survival was never a given, and one’s death could be slow, torturous, and extremely brutal. Not everyone had someone to wail for them, and so the race of Béan Sidhe took it upon themselves to be the voice of pain and sorrow for those who couldn’t be heard. They all lived their lives as normal women, but at the moment of their deaths, they were given the opportunity to serve a higher purpose. This is the story of one such banshee.
Where You Can Find It
- in the DARK WAS THE NIGHT collection, October 2020
As many of my stories do, this one came out of nowhere and began with a sentence that appeared in my mind: “Death did not leave alone.” It evolved from there. I spent many hours researching the history and geography of Ireland for this tale, and I loved every minute of it.
Death did not leave alone. The daughter was standing at the hearth, slicing roots into the stew, contemplating the fact that the harvest had lasted, and she acknowledged her own gratitude thereof.
The crude carving the father had made of the harvest woman stood upon the mantle. Many years prior, the father had placed it there and, throughout the dark seasons, he had made offerings of wheat and meat to it.
The blood stew—a mixture of mutton, carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions—looked almost black as it began to boil. Its earthy aroma blossomed, and sheep fat rose to the surface, swirling in patterns. Its twining lured the daughter into a trance. Oily spirals flowed in and out of one another with no beginning and no end. In the patterns, the daughter saw meaning, and dread birthed in her belly. Something terrible was about to happen.
The daughter leaned close and focused on interpreting the omens. Among them, she saw a rambling landscape from a crow’s eye view. Then, the signs shifted and curled into the face of a crone, then they changed again.
Deaf, the daughter did not hear him approach.
A hand wrapped around her upper arm and jerked her around.
Disoriented and disturbed by her visions, the daughter raised her arms to protect herself. The blade in her hand, forgotten, cut upward.
It seemed, at first, as if there were no harm done. It was only the father, irritated at having to cross the room to get the daughter’s attention. Because she’d been standing on the hearth, she hadn’t felt the vibrations when he’d banged his staff against the floor.
But then, the father faltered. He had his hand to his neck. His mouth moved, forming shapes, now tight, now wide. Blood leaked through the father’s fingers, and his eyes held fear. He clutched at the daughter.
She helped him to his fur-covered bed, where he lay gasping like a fish pulled from the stream. The father’s blood flowed from the wound without cease. It soaked into his bed furs and straw. It filled the small hut with its groundwater aroma. He grew pale and still, but he didn’t take his eyes off the daughter.
Choked by fear, the daughter remembered the old sow, slaughtered at first snow. It had given her that same, wild-eyed look.
Year written: 2017
Year first published: 2020