Category: Short Story
Genre: Horror short story
Approximately 23 printed pages (or about 19 minutes to read).
When the Banshee returns, the cycle of murders start again. Young Sean Collins sets out to find and destroy the menace, but will he succeed when his friends and family turn against him?
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At night, the Banshee cry
Good men go out to die.
In dirt we lie.
— Chorus of Children’s Game
Every able bodied man joined the village elders in the tavern to discuss the Banshee. I stayed near the entrance, anxious to listen, but not wanting to attract attention.
Campbell, the eldest elder and sometimes barber, saw me. He was old and wrinkled and skinny and so tall his neck had a permanent stoop from ducking through doorways. Campbell had been in charge as long as anybody could remember.
He approached me and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Sean Collins, you a wee bit young for the tavern.”
“Aye,” I said, trying not to shudder. “I’ll be fourteen in a fortnight.”
Campbell raised his walking stick, a tall, thin, gnarled piece of ironwood, a reflection of the old man himself. He pointed to the door with it. “Out. This is no time for youth.”
I pulled away from him and leaned against the tavern’s log wall. “So you are goan after the Banshee?”
Campbell’s eyebrows slashed a “v” over his wrinkled face. He gestured at the door with his stick again.
“I have a right,” I said. “Family right.”
He craned his long neck downward so his face were but inches from mine. “Do not make me tell you again, Sean Collins.”
I trudged through the tavern door. Not fair. I weren’t there for ale; I only wanted to hear the men’s plans. I had more right to be there than most the village. Last night the Banshee killed my uncle and when I was four, it killed my dad.
Outside, I looked around, trying to figure a way to eavesdrop. The tavern’s side window.
Campbell stood in the tavern’s doorway, neck hunched down, watching me.
I ignored him and headed along the cobblestone path toward my house. I passed the tavern, the sheriff’s office, and the barbershop before looking back. Campbell no longer watched me. I ducked around the barbershop, going behind the buildings and back to the tavern. I crouched low beneath the tavern’s side window. It was open.
Campbell was speaking. “Nay, we can’t send more than two men into the woods at night. Remember ten years ago?”
“If we scare the demon off, so much the better.” I recognized the voice, Shamus Brennan. The Banshee got his son ten years ago, the night before it got my dad.
“We goan to scare her every night?” Campbell asked.
“If we have to.”
“Aye, but the one night we miss, the one night we grow confident, she will compound our sorrows tenfold. Nay, we must attack in small numbers.”
The crowed murmured and grew silent. I waited.
Campbell thwacked my head with his walking stick. The instant before it connected I looked up and it hit my forehead with a loud “dnckk” sound. Even though I crouched on one knee, I fell to the ground.
Campbell laughed, a surprisingly deep laugh came from his thin frame. “Young Collins. You are as much a mule as your father was.”
I scrambled away from the window, away from his stick. My forehead throbbed.
“Run away, Sean Collins,” Campbell said. “I catch you again I won’t be so gentle.”
I hotfooted it away, back down the cobblestone path, past the sheriff’s office, past the barbershop. Then I stopped. I wasn’t going to let crusty, old Campbell stop me. I owed it to my dad and my uncle to find out the plan against the Banshee and help.
I went behind the buildings again and stopped at the tavern. The window was still open but I couldn’t hear from behind the tavern. If I went round the corner, Campbell might see me. I looked around, trying to figure out how to listen in. A tree grew close to the tavern’s back side.
Nobody in the village had my skill at climbing trees. Most our trees were tall lodge poles, trunks not more than two feet across. They went up thirty, forty feet before any branches. The trees were perfect for buildings, but hard to climb unless you had the knack. By looping your belt around the tree and holding onto each end, you could climb by digging your boots into the trunk and pulling yourself up. Some people put spikes on their boots but I didn’t need spikes. My friends and I once had a contest to see who could climb upside-down. I won, making it almost thirty feet.
I removed my belt and used it to climb twenty feet up the tree, level with the roof’s peak. I couldn’t quite reach the rooftop, so I leapt, landing as softly as I could on the bark shingles. I flattened myself on the roof and listened if anyone had heard me. Undetected, I crept along the roof to above the window. I lay down, head close to the edge, and listened.
“Who will join Doyle tonight?” Campbell asked.
“I’ll go,” said Shamus Brennan.
“Let’s meet back here at nightfall.”
The meeting was breaking up. I moved away from the window and rolled off the side, grabbing the eave with my fingertips. I dangled for a second before letting go and falling five feet to the ground.