June is short in Ireland. A time to take joy in it and dance and sing and from her bounty draw her rosy worth. And sometimes to weep.
It was a normal day in County Donegal. Or, more to the point, what the normal world would have called a normal day. People rose, went to work, ate lunch, and counted the hours until the daily rush home.
Patrick McCnaimhan was a free spirit. He didn’t attend school on that day, having decided that school was just not for him. Especially on this day. He was more of a hands-on type of person. Not that he was stupid, because he wasn’t. It was just that he had a different sort of intelligence, not the kind which was demanded by the educational system. He was descended from an agricultural background. That made everything different to his way of thinking There were strange things that happened out here. Strange, eerie things. Growing up in Ireland he, of course, heard his share of folk tales told to him by his dear mother. Tales warning him not to disobey his parents or else the Sluagh would get him. He grew up listening fervently to these folk legends, myths, and threats. That’s what they were to him back then–just tales and fables–just stories. The most famous of Ireland’s folk tales, of course was the “Banshee.”
It was a day like any other for his younger sister and him. On that late afternoon they were out playing in the fields. The winds of Ireland were sweeping across the barley creating waves across the land, rippling in gold and yellow. The sun was starting to retreat back over the horizon illuminating the sky in fluorescent hues of brilliant purple, orange, and pink. As usual they were playing hide and seek in the tall grasses. Patrick, being the older brother, opted to be the seeker. He always loved her laughing smile when he found her. On the edge of the field were the woods where few ever ventured. Even when the sun cast its celestial vibrancy upon the woods, they somehow managed to remain dark and foreboding. In the midst of the game he noticed something on the rise of the field just before it dipped down again. It was at first an indistinct form. It was just kind of floating there. Assuming it was merely an early evening mist, he dismissed it without thought.
Through the barley, the gray indefinite form managed to keep poking at his peripheral vision. Patrick continued searching for his sister, thinking the grayish form was only the wind blowing through the mist. He noted some movement in the barley some yards away, so he crouched down and waded through the crops hoping the sound of the wind would mask his movements from his sister. He was waiting for the sound of the wind when he heard something quite different. Like a sort of wailing, a very faint and mournful crying in the distance. Patrick stopped and listened intently. The sound of the wailing merged with the whistling of the wind blowing through the trees of the woods, almost like a sound from the grave. He crouched there, listening for thirty . . . maybe forty seconds. Suddenly his sister jumped from her hiding and ran closer to the woods, startling him from his reverie.
The mist blew nearer still and was now in sight, just floating there. It began to frighten him. He could swear it was following him. He shouted to his sister that the game was over, his gaze fixed upon the unnatural mist which seemed so ominous. He hoped his sister had heard him and realized that he was serious. Patrick McCnaimhan looked to where the mist was . . . or where it used to be. it seemed to move across the field in a zig-zag pattern towards him. He froze with shock not knowing what to do and all he could do was watch the mist come closer and closer. The wailing became louder and louder like a monstrous lamentation on a late October evening.
After what seemed like an eternity the eerie mist was close enough for him to better be able to distinguish its true form. It was no longer a mist. It was some sort of gray robe, the bottom of it tattered and torn, ragged and stained as if with ancient gore. Patrick stood there agape. Frozen in terror, he watched it coming toward him, the dark figure floating across the barley field. The shrill crooning became even louder and his heart began to pound, trying to escape his chest. Sweat flooded off him and all he could do was watch this thing coming closer and closer.
It stopped several yards away and the wailing stopped. The only sound now was his heartbeat in his ears, like some primal drums of war reverberating in his head. The robe rose from the ground and emitted a blood-curdling shriek. A piercing, deafening scream. He held his hands to his ears and felt blood trickling between his fingers. A hooded entity filled the robes. It stood tall and gaunt, long white hair flowing out of the dark hood, and wearing a green dress under the robe. It turned to him, and looked right into his soul. Patrick felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his chest. Clutching himself in agony, he writhed on the ground. It let out another deafening, screaming wail and he noticed through his tears that it was a woman. Pale and hollow with eyes fiery red from weeping, it pointed at him with her long skeletal fingers and then it pointed in the direction of the woods. It then looked directly back into his eyes, and as quickly as it came, it disappeared into the woods.
Patrick McCnaimhan lay there on the hard, cold ground, panting, sweating, and looking at the bloodstains on his hands from his injured ears. Laying there in anguish and fear he realized what he had seen. The bringer of bad news and death. The Bean Sidhe. The Banshee. It hadn’t been coming for him, it came as the harbinger of Death! He had to get back to their house. He stumbled to his feet from the earth where he lay and eventually staggered home.
His sister wasn’t there. They found her body days later in the woods. It was his much beloved sister that the keening song of the Banshee had come for.