Of all the nights in the year, Darkness wears her sheerest veil on this night. As the seams slowly split the diaphanous fabric, the Dead can come
through – or we can go to meet with them...
A pot of water began to bubble on the stove, the kindling began to take light, but Aine did not feel rested. After a hard day at the hospital, she had
been keen to come home and close the curtains, block out the dusk and forget about her work. Lock herself away in her quiet home, where her nearest
neighbour was half a mile away, and leave the cruelties and iniquities of our frantic world behind her for a full weekend.
For over an hour now she had thought she heard footsteps outside. Sometimes stopping, sometimes starting, but only ever a hint of a sound. The dogs
from McAllister’s farm, her closest neighbour, had been barking furiously when she had driven past on her way home from work. The dogs were usually
asleep by 6, having worked hard all day, but she had thought little of it at the time.
Again a crunch of gravel, this time outside the kitchen window. The little pot on the stove quickened its pace as the water inside began to dance and
someone there’ thought Aine, and reached for a kitchen knife. Dropping it again, she looked at herself in the mirror above the
‘What is wrong with you, girl?’ she chided herself. ‘You would take a knife to a visitor?’
A slow knock on the wooden front door startled her, and despite herself, she gasped. Telling herself to calm down, and to stop being ridiculous, she
headed out into the hall.
‘It’ll be McAllister’s boys, looking for apples and sweeties’ she realised aloud – and not without relief.
She opened the door with a smile, expecting false faces and costumes but surprised to see instead two women. A tall, slim woman in a long, green coat
and a shorter, older woman in grey. Behind them, she noticed a solitary magpie sitting on the rim of a metal bucket. It watched her with its onyx eye,
then flew off into the murk. She watched it vanish in the gloom, without a sound.
‘Hello’, said Aine, trying hard to keep the surprise from showing on her face. The night had fallen quickly, and the fog had come down from the
hills where it spent its days aloft.
‘Hello’, replied the woman in green. ‘I hope you don’t mind us disturbing you this evening. Our car is very low on petrol – very low – and
we hoped that we might buy some from you.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Aine. ‘Of course, that’s not a problem. I’ve got some cans in the byre. I can give you enough to get you into town, but
I’m afraid I’ve been lazy and I haven’t stocked up for winter yet.’
‘We only need a little’, said the lady in the coat.
‘Yes, of course, ‘ said Aine. ‘Where is your car? I didn’t hear you drive up.’
‘Nearby’, replied the lady in the coat.
In the awkward silence that followed, Aine began to feel the cold from the fog seeping into her clothes, its damp tendrils caressing her face, and
reaching up, up along her spine.
‘Come in,’ she said brightly. ‘This fog is getting quite bad – are you sure you want to drive in this weather?’
‘It makes no difference to us’ said the older woman, and smiled.
She was beautiful once, thought Aine, but now she just looks...wicked. Maybe beautiful woman do become wicked when their looks are gone.
Aware that she was staring as she mulled over this point, Aine drew her eyes away and smiled shyly. ‘Please, come in. The fire should be going by
now, you can wait by it while I go for the petrol.’
‘You are inviting us in?’ asked the younger woman.
‘Well....yes?’ replied Aine, confused by this strange question.
Neither of the visitors spoke, but they followed Aine through the narrow hall and into the kitchen, where they both sat by the fire.
‘I’m boiling water for tea. Would you like some?’
The strangers glanced at each other.
‘Yes’, replied the old woman.
‘No,’ replied the younger woman.
‘Are you sure?’ Aine asked the woman in the green coat. ‘It’s no trouble.’
‘No, thank you. I can’t drink tea.’
Aine reached for a cup from the rack, and then watched helplessly as it slipped from her fingers and smashed on the flagstone floor. The old woman in
grey stooped from her chair, and handed the larger pieces to Aine. The flames reflected in the broken glaze and for a moment she held a burning
kaleidoscope, burning in another realm but feeling as cold as silver on her palm in this one.
‘Thank you,’ said Aine.
‘Don’t thank me,’ replied the old woman cryptically.
As she began to sweep the smaller fragments up into her dustpan, she wished they would leave. She felt nervous around them, and decided to forget
about the tea and go straight for their petrol. The sooner they had it, the sooner they could go.
The pot boiled furiously on the stove.
edit on 3-10-2015 by beansidhe because: sp