I’ve decided to shake the dust off some old stories and pieces of stories I’ve written and give them a fresh airing. What I hope to get out of this are useful comments, whether complimentary or not, that I can use to get better at the craft of writing. Feel free to critique and to criticize what you see here. I’ll begin with something I wrote a couple of years ago and put up on Amazon’s, and Barnes and Noble’s self-publishing platform. So this one is a complete work, though I’ve not touched it in quite some time.

banshee

 

THE BANSHEE OF THE RANNOCH MOOR

by Dean P. Turnbloom

 

I believe it was the Bard himself who wrote, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” and I am here to tell you it’s a fact. The story I’m about to tell is true, I swear it by all that is holy, and all that is unholy for that matter, for this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. Be warned, for if you hear the cry of the Banshee…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 Here, sit down, let me start from the beginning, so you can judge for yourself. I may not tell it well, but then who’s to say what’s worth the telling, eh? Sit. It’ll only take a little while. There, that’s better.

It happened quite a spell ago, not before the time I was born, you understand, but perhaps a good span of time before you. Anyway, I heard the story direct from one who would know it, you can be sure of that, and a more honest person you’d never want to meet. Wouldn’t tell a lie to save his soul, he wouldn’t. I can vouch for that.

Anyway, the way he tells it, Lonnie and Rachel McAnderson lived out on the Rannoch Moor, not far from Loch Rannoch. Rachel McAnderson was fair and beautiful, while her husband was coarse of manner and ill-tempered. In fact, it was said that he was a brute of a husband and Rachel grew most unhappy with her lot, so much so that she began spending more and more time at the little country church of St. Elban’s.

What started out as an earnest desire to find peace in her soul grew quickly into an affair of the heart between her and the church’s pastor, Reverend McBride. Rachel found the Reverend to be a sympathetic ear to her woes and the Reverend, who at first sought only to comfort the poor woman, soon fell in love with her, so beautiful and gentle were her ways.

Rachel, who’d married Lonnie McAnderson at an early age, had never known anyone as kind and loving as the Reverend, and it wasn’t long before she returned his love in kind. Rachel attended services religiously, if you’ll pardon the pun, in an effort to spend more time with the Reverend. She volunteered for any affair that would get her out of her house and to the Lord’s, collecting clothes for the poor, cleaning the church and rectory, providing religious instruction to the children. She was always the first to arrive and the last to leave and gained a reputation as a godly woman of the church.

She’d have gained a reputation of a very different sort, mind you, had the wags at that church seen what went on after she and the Reverend were alone. Once left to their own devices, the Rachel and the Reverend enjoyed each other’s company in a most unholy way, if you don’t mind me saying so. They made love right there in the church, God forgive them. And although the Reverend had long been a missionary, that wasn’t the only position he assumed, if you catch my drift. They frolicked together in the most diverse and varied fashion from one end of the church to the other. Not even the choir loft was safe from their doings. It was on those long buggy rides to and from the church that Rachel hatched a plan to set her free of her uncaring husband and let her fly to her lover’s arms for once and for all.

You see, old Lonnie was of a superstitious bent. Ne’er has he spilt a grain of salt that he didn’t chuck a pinch over his left shoulder, right into the eye of old Scratch himself. Rachel was very much aware of Lonnie’s superstitious nature and determined to make use of it.

Returning from church one rainy evening and entering the house, Rachel dropped her umbrella on the floor, just as Lonnie looked up from his paper. His eyes grew as large as saucers, for you see dropping an umbrella on the floor is a sure sign that there will soon be a death in the home.

“God, woman, take care with that umbrella,” he bellowed at Rachel.

“Lonnie, it’s only an old wives’ tale. If you are so superstitious as to believe that, I would have thought you’d have gotten rid of that broken clock on the wall there. Isn’t that a sign of bad luck?”

“Ah, well it might be, but that clock has been in the family for generations. I’d no sooner take it down than I’d sell this house!”

Rachel knew the umbrella hitting the floor had unnerved Lonnie, as he sat there fidgeting for a few minutes before unceremoniously announcing he was going up to bed. She remained downstairs for a time, until the sound of Lonnie’s snoring assured her it was safe to go to bed without having to perform any wifely duties—duties she now did willingly and often for the Reverend.

After she’d gone to bed, the house was dark only fifteen minutes when there was an eerie, wailing sound coming from out on the moor. Rachel heard it, but lie still as a board. When Lonnie heard it, though, he sat bolt upright in the bed.

“What is it, Lonnie,” Rachel asked.

“You hear that?” he asked, and just as he did the cry came again. It started out low, almost like the howl of a tomcat on the prowl, but grew louder as the pitch grew higher and then broke off into a terrifying laughter. “The banshee!” Lonnie proclaimed.

“Banshee?” asked Rachel. “What is a banshee?”

“Are you daft, woman? The banshee wails only when there’s soon to be a death.”

“Lonnie, surely you don’t believe that?” asked Rachel, surprised by her husband’s obvious trepidation.

“You’d believe it too, if you’d heard it before,” Lonnie replied, turning to face her in the darkness. “The banshee cried for a week like that before my father died.”

“It did? I…you never told me that before,” said Rachel, a tinge of sympathy softening her.

For the next three nights, at just about the same time of the evening when the house was dark, the mournful sound of the banshee could be heard wailing on the moor. Each night, old Lonnie sat bolt upright in his bed when he heard it, sweat dripping from his brow. On the fourth evening, a Friday, Lonnie could take it no longer. This evening, before retiring, Lonnie loaded his hunting rifle and left it by the umbrella rack just inside the front door.

When Rachel returned from her charity work at the church that night, Lonnie appeared particularly agitated. He barely spoke to Rachel before he trundled off to bed. Later, when she went to bed, she knew by not hearing him snore that he was lying there awake.

“Lonnie,” she said, “are you all right?”

“It ends tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know if a banshee can be frightened away by God or gun, but tonight I’m going to find out. And if it’s me she’s after, by God she’ll have me!”

Just as he uttered those words, the wailing began. It appeared closer to the house than previously.

Lonnie, fully clothed and with his boots on, leapt out of bed, “Stay here, Rachel. One way or the other, I end this tonight!” With those words Lonnie raced down the stairs. He grabbed his rifle and bolted out the door just as the clock announced midnight.

Rachel barely had time to react. She followed him down the stairs, barefoot. By the time she reached the bottom, all she could see was the open door swinging on its hinges. The broken clock stood silent again, but its chimes were soon answered by gunshots. Once. Twice. Three times the rifle reported. Frightened and unnerved, she flew out the front door in the direction of the gunfire.

To this point I know the events occurred just as I’ve said, because they happened in my own presence, or most of them did. Of the rest I was later apprised by Lonnie himself. You see, I was there. The reverend had hired me to make the banshee cry on the moor by old Lonnie’s house. As choirmaster, I possessed quite a vocal range, and since I already knew of the Reverend’s dalliance with Rachel McAnderson—I sometimes sleep in the choir loft when I’ve had a bit too much to drink and from there I witnessed their unsaintly communion on more than one occasion—he thought engaging my services might silence my tongue as it were.

So there you have the sad tale of the Banshee of Rannoch Moor. Up to this point I can verify the veracity of what you’ve heard. What comes next is a wee bit stranger.

As I said, the events up to here occurred in my presence, but once old Lonnie fired his rifle, and I heard the pellet whiz past my ear, I ran as fast as the moor allowed back toward the church’s sanctuary. As I turned to run, I saw the light from Lonnie’s parlor break the darkness as Rachel burst through the door. Then I was gone. I heard Lonnie fire twice more in rapid succession as the distance between us grew. The rest of the story came from Lonnie’s own lips.

Rachel ran some distance from the house before she heard Lonnie’s voice call out, “Hallo!” She turned towards him and as she approached, she saw Lonnie bent down, between where she stood and the house, hovering over a shapeless form.

“Don’t come any closer, Rachel,” he warned.

“What…what is it, Lonnie?”

“It’s the Reverend McBride. I think he’s dead.”

“My God! Lonnie…you shot him?”

“Are you crazy, woman? Of course not. I was shooting at the banshee over yonder and I heard him call out. He must have lost his footing and fell. His head struck a rock.”

“But…” Rachel began, then she heard it—the low sound rising into a hideous laughter. Turning, she saw the form of a woman in a flowing gown, silhouetted against the moonlit sky. She stepped toward the figure. Suddenly terrified, she turned to run toward the house. But her bare feet were no match for the rocky path and just as she came upon where Lonnie still squatted, before she’d taken a dozen steps, she tripped. Her head struck the same stone as her lover killing her instantly, dying more or less in the Reverend’s arms.

That’s the way Lonnie tells it.

I know, some might think he killed them both, or if they believe the Reverend’s death was an accident, then he killed Rachel for carrying on with the Reverend.

But Lonnie never knew. I never told him. Too afraid I was. So he had no reason to kill anyone, save that banshee. You see, I pretended to be the banshee and I couldn’t tell Lonnie about the Reverend and his wife without telling him about my part. So, I kept quiet.

But that’s not the only reason I believe old Lonnie’s story of what happened once I was gone. You see, as I approached the church, I turned around to look back over the moor, half afraid old Lonnie had given chase. He was nowhere in sight, but on a small hill between the church and Lonnie’s I saw a silhouette. At first I thought it must have been Rachel, but then from across the moor I heard that God-awful sound of the devil’s own wicked laughter, just as Lonnie described.

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