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Banshee

‘Fall is no time for long hair’, Riah couldn’t help but think as she tried to reclaim fly-away strands from the constantly grabby fingers of the wing. Her long black kinky waves were already near unmanageable, and the strong river winds weren’t helping. They tried to snag at her hair and scarf and seep through her cloths to bring goose bumps to the surface of her pale flesh. The only warm thing about her was her feet, protected by her nearly perpetually present leather boots.

Riah passed many people along her way, many turning their heads to see her again, but she most kept her eyes strait ahead. The proud walk was merely a mask for a vulnerable young woman behind the hazel eyes. No one seemed to realize just how fast she rushed home after work during the fall, they only liked to watch her leave in her wild wind fashion, and trying to make sure she had everything she needed before she left the bakery. Who would ever believe that Miss Moriah O’Brion was terrified of a fairytale? The whistling of the wind through the leaves tore Riah away from her the present and deep into her memories. She went back to the night she couldn’t forget, where she lost her childhood and was introduced to a world of fear. She could still hear her old Irish grandmother, her Móraí, telling her the story that haunted her to this day….

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*The elderly woman sat on the edge of the little girl’s bed, smoothing out the quilt with her scarred a work roughened hands. Even in her golden years, her hair was the family raven black with only gray around her temples. Her little granddaughter had the trademark. She was growing up so fast. It was time for a special story

“Many, many generations ago, a woman of the O’Brion clan tempted fate. Kathrin was her name. She was fool headed and proud, never once believing the stories about the ghosts and demons that lurked in the woods around her families land. She would walk through the woods at night, singing songs, taunting the spirits. Her mother, Selene, her name was, begged her not to, as did her father, but Kathrin only continues, pushing away their worries.” A shadow seemed to pass over Móraí’s face “that is, until the Banshee entered the woods”

The name of the creature itself sent chills down Riah’s spine. “What are Banshees?” she asked in a soft voice, her grandmother’s lilt leaking into her and making her own accent seem thicker.

Móraí’s expression was grave. “They are the spirits of women who have suffered a heart break so great, a pain beyond understanding, is causes their hearts to stop beating. They can look like anything, as normal as you and I, but they are deadlier than any other spirit. Their cries are beyond that of Puck and can cause men to go mad or die of fright. The Banshee’s cry stayed with them until their death.” Her granddaughter’s huge eyes were her signal to continue her story.

“The rumors in the town were that a Banshee was killing any man who dared wander into the forest at night. Kathrin heard these rumors and was curious beyond measure. She knew she had to go into the woods and see this for herself. Of all nights to go out, she chose Samhail.”

Móraí looked out the window at the moon, seeming to get caught in its glow “Her mother begged her to wait for another day, any other day, but Kathrin refused. Selene tried to hand her a small cross on the way out the door, but Kathrin pushed it away, saying she didn’t need charms to protect her from a silly Banshee. She walked tall and proud into the darkness while her poor mother stood in the door, muttering prayers that God would clean her daughter of her foolishness.” She seemed to lose herself for a moment but came back quickly.

“At Midnight, Selene, still sat by the door, praying and clutching the cross, heard the most horrible sound on earth. It was as if a thousand souls were shrieking in agony from the pits of hell, only put in competition by a thousand more wailing for the lost.”

Little Riah was as still as stone, taken back to night by her grandmother’s words, trying to ignore the ice up her spine. The rustling of the leaves and branches in the night’s gales set the scene perfectly, and would have terrified any other seven year old

“What became of Kathrin?” she asked her voice barely over a whisper.

Móraí sighed “the next morning, when she hadn’t returned, her father went out searching for her. He found her lying deep inside the woods, as still as her gravestone and hair as white as snow.”

Riah’s jaw dropped. “The Banshee got to her?” Móraí nodded softly.

“The day after her funeral, Selene was getting ready to go to bed when she heard a knock at the door. The time was almost midnight, and no one was aloud out past dark until the Banshee was exorcized, but it was not courteous to not check on who it was. Her husband was in the other room. He came running when he heard his wife cry out, and found her on the floor in front of the open door, the same as her daughter” her voice dropped to a deadly whisper “He knew not where the sound came from, but a whisper in his ear said ‘Ravens to doves, darkness to light, so let it be on this hallowed night. Nothing will stop me, you’re women are cursed, so let it be, let them see the worst’…”*


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Riah had laughed at her Grandmother’s story; never once letting on it chilled her to the bone and put her in constant fear that one day the banshee would come after her. She was no longer able to enjoy Halloween. Even telling people at the bakery, “Fair Samhail!” with a smile was a mask for her terror. Her giggles at their confused expressions were part of her costume.

Leaves skittered across the ground like land sailors. Her boots clicked on the pavement. Life seemed so normal. Why on earth couldn’t she relax? The bright colors in the trees would have cheered up any normal person, but being an O’Brion woman, Riah was only wound tighter and tighter with each grisly-face pumpkin she passed. She outwardly sighed in relief when she reached her simple suburban bungalow.
Stepping into the house, the first thing that would have caught anyone’s attention was the number of candles around the room. Their spicy-sweet scents and warm welcoming colors were a contrast to the dark furnishings. Moriah’s friends teased her about being an old Irish Wiccan. She simply liked the contrast and the romance of it: Darkness and light. It was almost ironic. Almost immediately after setting down her bag and unwrapping herself, Riah set to work lighting each candle almost ceremonially. A black feline leaped down from her perch on the bookcase, coming to greet her owner.
“Hey, Zara,” Riah crooned, scratching the cat behind her ears. Zara purred happily at the feeling. Her green eyes glimmered in the low light of the candles and the single lamp Riah had turned on. A suitable cat for an “old Irish Wiccan.”
Riah made sure her porch light was off before she settled down for the night. She curled up in her recliner with a thick hardback and Zara napping on the arm rest. The sound of children and rattling candy buckets out side was a precursor for the night to come. Normally, Riah would have sat outside with Zara on her lap, watching the children, praying for their safety. There was something different about tonight though. Her boss said she was too young to spend holidays alone. He didn’t know that there was no one to spend the holiday with, nor would there ever be.
The hours melted together and the day grew dark quickly, creating an air of mystery within the house. Zara had moved to her owner’s lap yet Moriah was still within the pages of her book. Every time she started to drift off to sleep, she’d pinch herself. She would see the midnight hour through. Occasionally she would touch the sterling silver cross around her neck and say a quiet prayer.
The chime of the half hour made Riah jump and Zara lift her head. The sound of children and parents and rattling candy wrappers had long stopped. Both pet and owner looked up at the clock and went still. Half passed eleven. Each tick of the second hand echoed in the dark room. The wind outside seemed to have picked up and the leaves and branches rattled and groaned outside her windows. A flicker of movement caught Moriah’s eye and slowed she turned to look. On of the candles was no longer dancing with light but leaking a smoky snake towards the ceiling. Riah watched in terror as each candle blew out with each passing minute. By a quarter till, half of the living room was dark. Clutching at her cross, Moriah muttered prayers and exorcism chants under her breath. Zara didn’t make a sound, only sat in Riah’s lap, her large emerald eyes transfixed on the clock, watching the time tick away. Five minutes left and only the one corner of the room was lit. The wind seemed to be getting louder, turning into a monstrous gale, as if the spirits of the dead were going for a midnight flight. A whisper seemed to fill the room.
‘Ravens to doves, darkness to light…’

“No… No it can’t be...” the young O’Brion whispered, but the whisper continued, only three candles left. Riah tried to cover her ears, but the haunting sound got only louder. The smoke from the candles seemed to grow thicker and swirl faster. Some kind of shape was forming.
‘So let it be on this hallowed night…’
Two candles left. Zara had yet to even hiss; only looking curiously at the arms and torso forming in the smoke, as if it was something familiar to her. Moriah was trembling. She thought she’d had a few more years left. Why now? Why this year? Why on earth did that face look so familiar?
‘Nothing will stop me, you’re women are cursed…’
One candle remained a single light in the darkness. It seemed so hopeful, it’s little flame. For a moment, time stood still. There was no sound, no whispers or winds. For a moment, Riah relaxed. She glanced at her little light of hope and ice ran threw her veins. Only a few inches from the candle was the face of the legend. The softly smiling face was the reason she’d lived in terror of death. Kathrin whispered the last line of the curse, the sound of her voice so chilling it brought every hair on Moriah’s arm to end and froze her to the sight, feeling as if her own life was about to be blown out
‘ So let it be, let them see my worst…happy birthday Moriah O’Brion’
And she blew out the candle.




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