“The kids all moved to Britain or the States, maybe even Australia, I guess.”
“But don’t you find it sad that a house that was once lived in and loved by the people who lived in it would be abandoned?”
“Aren’t we trespassing?”
“How can we be trespassing if it’s so obvious that no one cares about this place any longer? The roof has caved in, look!”
But what if it is another shadow spirit house? She doesn’t want to ask, Brenna would just laugh and tell her to take a chill pill or worse, go see a doctor about her anxiety. She can’t stand ridicule, not so soon after the last time. Brenna is always so fearless and confident. Brenna always knows best. Brenna always gets what she wants. Just because Brenna hadn’t seen them, didn’t mean they hadn’t been there, hadn’t been real.
“It’s getting dark, Brenna. Can’t we just come back here tomorrow morning during daylight and have a closer look then? We’ll be able to see so much better.” She’s trying her best to steady the tremor in her voice.
“Don’t be silly, where would be the fun in that?”
Brenna shakes her raven black hair and beckons her to follow. Flashing her teeth in a wide grin. Is it the last flicker of the sun in the descending dusk which is making them look so big and yellow? Scathach knows entering forlorn abandoned houses is a bad idea. She shudders and throws a glance back over her shoulder.
“Come on, Sca! Don’t tell me you’re still convinced that you have a shadow following you everywhere. Everyone throws shadows depending on where they are in relation to the source of light – shadows appear and disappear, they’re not alive. Not independently of us anyway. Here, hold the torch if it makes you feel safer.”
It was Brenna’s idea to take some of the personal belongings they found in the last abandoned house which they had entered with them. Brenna is wearing two of the three rosaries they discovered there around her neck, thrilled at how they are complementing her gothic look.
It was the third one, the shorter rosary, a rusty iron ring with ten bone beads strung to it and at the end of it all a wooden cross with a rooster engraved, which Brenna had declared useless and hideous. Scathach knew better though and had held it out to the shadow spirits when they threatened to close in on them. It had stunned them long enough for her to coax Brenna away from the broken mirror in which she had admired her new gothic adornments, and get her out of the place to safety.
Tockety tock tockety tock tockety tock tock, there is no doubt now that her shadow is right behind her. Filling her head with the sound of the bodhran she plays whenever there is danger lurking nearby. She skips after Brenna.
“Don’t go in, Brenna!”
Tockety TOCK tockety TOCK tockety TOCK TOCK. Louder and louder. Yet Brenna doesn’t seem to hear the crescendo of the bodhran nor Scathach’s warning.
Weather and neglect have combined and withered away half of the wooden cottage door, turned it into a gaping black opening through which Brenna disappears before her eyes.
The right half of the door, it had to be the right half. The right side is always the dark side. That’s why she’s slipped the ring over her left thumb and is clutching the beads and rooster in her left hand.
The bodhran goes quiet. Clever shadow. She knows that shadows get trapped inside when the opening is on the left side. From inside the opening is on the left, the bright side. She flashes her shadow a nervous smile over her left shoulder and follows Brenna inside.
“Thanks for the pint. What’s your name?”
“Lovely name, goes well with your dark curls. You know that it means little raven, I’m sure. I’m Oscar. My session friends here call me Sca. I’ll join you and your friends for a chat after we finish this round of jigs and reels, if you’re still around then.”
She knows they’re going to slag her about flirting with the bodhran player, but she doesn’t mind and goes back to join them. Sca’s bodhran skills are mesmerizing and he looks so different to everyone else in this place. Spiky raven black hair, black shirt, black leather pants, a large cross with rosary beads wound around it tattooed on his right forearm, and what looks like a rusty old ring on his right thumb. He likes her name and her dark curls. Good. She smiles and sits back down next to Cathal.
“You only just moved here,“ he says, “so you likely don’t know that this guy is a murder suspect.”
“You’re having me on, Cathal, will you go away. If he’s a suspect, then why isn’t he locked up for questioning?”
“Because there’s no proof, yet. They had to let him go. That was six months ago, the case is still unsolved.”
“It was all over the papers at the time, they didn’t name him of course for legal reasons, but I had a fling with one of the guards at the time and he told me. The missing girls, two girls that had gone missing on their way home from school. Sisters they were. A couple of local teenage boys who were up to no good and decided to check out an abandoned cottage, just off the L5247 a few miles from here, found them a week later. It was too late for the older sister, she was dead, murdered, but the younger one was still alive.”
“Would the younger sister not have been able to tell the police what happened, what the killer looked like?”
“Well, that’s the thing. She lost her mind, and I mean totally lost it. She doesn’t even remember her own name. They asked her and she said it was Scathach, which is bollocks, she’s called Niamh, and she’s been talking all sorts of nonsense like that her shadow was playing the bodhran, but her sister didn’t hear it or wouldn’t listen and then the shadow spirits got her and turned the rosaries against her. The murdered girl’s name was Brenna, and she was strangled. With rosaries.”
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2016