Archive for banshees

Friday Fiction: The Wailing

Posted in Original Fiction with tags , on April 30, 2010 by gobbets

Here’s the next installment of the Banshee story…

The bunch of flowers arrived on our doorstep the day of the funeral. The old ones always sent flowers, or chocolates, or made little oatcakes. Sometimes surviving family did the sending, sometimes the ‘thank-you’ tokens were organised as part of the ‘arrangements’. I couldn’t for the life of me see what they were thankful for.

Not everyone sent gifts though. Younger people often didn’t even realise what had happened, or put no faith in the ‘silly local superstition”. Lucky them. I wished the calling in my blood could fade away like the old beliefs – a silly folktale that no longer served any purpose. But it didn’t work like that.

“Sabine! Come and put these in some water!”

I had long since learned it did no good to mope about and refuse the gifts. Mum would just make sure they ended up in my room, and do her best to make me feel like I was somehow offending the dead. Like they cared anymore.

The flowers were purple irises. Pretty. I set them on my desk and tried to ignore them and finish my biology homework. It wasn’t difficult; I was naturally good at biology. Must have something to do with the full-colour, no-gory-detail-spared visions of how people were going to die.

I had my first vision when I was 13. I was washing the dog out in the yard and started to feel a kind of pressure in my head, not a headache exactly, that came afterwards, this was more like someone blowing up a balloon in my skull.  Then I could just see it – the artery closing, the heart struggling to pump the blood out, but filling up instead. And then my view changed and I saw Mrs McNaulty from down the road gasp and clutch her chest. It was all over in a few seconds. I ran inside terrified. Mum tried to comfort me but she was obviously pleased. Not that she was happy Mrs McNaulty was going to have a heart attack, but the genes were only passed on to girls, and usually to only one girl per banshee family, per generation. Mum’s sister had been a ‘wailer’ but she’d only had sons. I got the impression that mum had always been a bit jealous of her sister’s ‘gift’ and was proud her daughter would be next. Lucky me.

I’d gone to stay with Aunty Cora for a few weeks afterwards to learn how it all worked. She took me out to Mrs McMaulty’s house that night and sat with me until the time came.  She held my hand when the scream tore out of my throat, and gave me icecream when I could barely speak the next day. Aunty Cora tried very hard to make me feel like I was special, like I’d been chosen to take over the family business. I just wish we owned a fish and chip shop instead.

I cried when I heard Mrs McNaulty had passed away. Exactly one week after Aunty Cora and I had sat below her window and I wailed for the first time. It always happened a week after the vision but I guess it just wasn’t really ‘real’ to me until I saw the ambulance in her driveway. I’d taken to walking past her house every day on the way home from school, and every day I saw her in her garden or sitting on the verandah I’d thought that it was all just a silly mistake. She’d smile at me and nod her head, like we had some kind of secret. Then she was gone, and a packet of oatcakes arrived with a thank-you card.

Mum and Aunty Cora called it ‘the gift’. I called it ‘the curse’. Banshees see death, but they can’t stop it. What’s the point of an early-warning system if you can’t change anything? If the person is just going to die anyway? I asked Aunty Cora and she said that a Banshee’s job is to allow people to make their peace with the world before they pass on, to tie up loose ends, or set anything right that needed fixing.

“But that only works if they know that they’ve been warned!” I’d argued.

“Surely the old stories are going to die out, once all the old people have passed on, and none of the young ones will even know what the wail means, so what’s the point?”

Aunty Cora had just smiled. “You’d be surprised how many folks around here still believe in the old ways.”

That much was unfortunately true. I’d caught my best friend Molly tying a lock of her hair in a knot and slipping it into Bryon’s school bag last week. When I confronted her she just grinned and said, “well grandma said it worked on grandpa – it’s worth a shot!”

I don’t know why they even bother teaching science at our school.


Friday Fiction: New (Untitled) Banshee story

Posted in Original Fiction with tags on April 16, 2010 by gobbets

I’m working on something new – a story about a teenage banshee. Thought I’d give you all a look at the first installment. It’s untitled as yet – so send your best Banshee-themed puns!


The yellow eyes glared at me accusingly. I huddled down further into the dirt below the windowsill, but it was no use. The eyes kept staring – a wordless protest at my intrusion into their territory. My foot was falling asleep. I tried to wiggle it gently, without disturbing the plants that hemmed me in, but stealth is really not my thing and my shoe crunched down on a small pile of dead leaves, sending a crackling chorus out into the night. The eyes blinked in disdain, and crept away. Obviously I was ruining the evening hunt.

But the eyes were back again a few minutes later. Evidently a 16 year old girl hiding in a garden in the dead of night while the old man inside watched television was more interesting than chasing already tail-less lizards. Believe me, given the choice I’d pick lizards all the way. I was cold, bored and had a pile of unfinished homework. Yep, give me lizards or homework any day.

The eyes moved closer, and now I could see the outline of two little triangle-shaped ears flattened against the cat’s head. It seemed more agitated now, sniffing the air, sniffing at me. I tried to shoo it away without making too much noise but it simply dodged out of reach, and I fell sideways, off balance, my hand coming down heavily on the ground beside me, right on top of a stick that split in two with a sharp ‘snap’.

I started to rub my palm, mumbling something unrepeatable to the cat who stood off to the side, wide eyes mocking. Too caught up with my unwanted companion, I didn’t realise until the last moment that the time had come.

The clock inside the house struck 2:00am and my chest seethed with a sudden, burning pain. My tormentor forgotten, I clenched my teeth against the coming tide, trying to hold it down, to stop it from spilling upwards, but it was no use: the pain moved up my throat, wave after wave of boiling air, and I gave in like I always do.

Eyes streaming in pain and embarrassment, I opened my mouth and wailed.

The cat hissed and fled into the night.

Monday Monster Profile: Banshees

Posted in Monday Monster Profile with tags on March 22, 2010 by gobbets

I think it’s a bit unfair to call banshees a ‘monster’ – they don’t hurt anyone and are just doing their jobs… Nevertheless they are a supernatural critter and are the focus of this week’s Profile:

What are they?

Banshees, originating in Ireland and Scotland, are either spirits or fairy women who are prophets of death. Their name derives from the conjunction of ‘bean’ (woman) and ‘sidhe’ (fairy). They are known for turning up in the dead of night and keening or screeching at the homes of people who are about to die. It has been said that banshees can become attached to certain Celtic families (those whose surnames begin with O or Mac/Mc). There have been suggestions that banshees ‘feed’ on the grief of families, but this is not part of the traditional folklore.

What do they look like?

Ahh. Well there’s the problem. Often they appear in the guise of an ‘old hag’. But they have also been known to take the shape of a beautiful young woman, or various animals, particularly crows. Their cry is said to resemble that of a mixture between a human and a night bird (like an owl) or a hollow wind. You tend to identify a banshee by their actions and call rather than their appearance.

What should I do if a banshee starts screaming outside my house?

I’d suggest putting your affairs in order. Usually the person for whom the banshee cries will be dead within a week. You can try and be very careful – but the banshee is simply giving you pre-warning of your fate, she is not responsible for it.

I want to know more!

Banshees are not terribly common in popular fiction (but I’m working on a YA banshee novel – so stay tuned!). You can find one in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Reaper Man’, they turn up occasionally in games and RPGs, and a good non-fiction text is: Patricia Lysaght (1986). The banshee: The Irish death-messenger. Boulder, Colorado: Roberts Rinehart.

Does your family have a banshee? Would you like one? Share your thoughts!