The mournful wailing froze Conn O’Neill’s blood, as it always did. People said the sound the stuka dive-bombers made came from sirens the Germans fitted to their planes. Well, maybe. But Conn, fighting for Allied forces in northern France, knew there was more to it.
He’d been seven when he first heard that howl echoing through the air, stilling the birds in the trees into silence. The cry of the bean sí. The banshee. When he returned home that day, his mother’s eyes were red and his brother, Finbar, lay under a white shroud, the waters of the lough filling his lungs.
It was partly to escape the stifling pagan darkness of the old country that Conn left Ireland as a young man, and ended up fighting in a war that wasn’t his war. It was good to put the clutch of that history behind him. But some things followed you however far you ran. Or maybe you brought some things with you. When the stukas screamed from the sky, he had to resist the urge to flee. Say what you like, the terrible sound meant death for someone. The banshees were busy in time of war, and when they came for you there was no escape.
The stuka wailed as it dived now, louder and louder. He waited for the explosion that meant he was safe, his life bought once again at the cost of other soldiers’ lives. Instead there was only the keening howl, nearer each moment.
A vision of a shape beneath a shroud came to him as the shriek filled the whole world. Conn O’Neill finally stood and ran. Ran even though he knew there was no escape from the bean sí when it came for you. Some things followed you how ever far you travelled.
The bomb shattered the ground around him and for a moment, the briefest moment, he was flying.
Simon Kewin was born and raised on the misty Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea, but he now lives in the English countryside with his wife and their daughters. He is the author of over a hundred published short stories and his works have appeared in Analog, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex and many more. His cyberpunk novel The Genehunter and his Cloven Land fantasy trilogy were recently published and his clockpunky novel Engn is to be published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2018. Find him at simonkewin.co.uk.
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