The Banshee

I was getting dark early, but I was still doing my eight o´clock run around the lake. The lake was peaceful, the surface unbroken and still. No wave, no animal, no leave on its surface. The only things I heard where my steps on the gravel walk, the gnashing of the pebble stones I pushed aside, my breath coming in sharp snaps, the light swooshing of wind near my ear. The exhaustion hit me during my second lap around the lake, so I slowed down a bit, adjusting my strides to my remaining power. I was panting now and felt the cold air on my sweaty skin. I was listening to my breathing, trying to calm it down to be able to finish the lap and start the last one, when I heard a distant sound that distracted me from my intensive focus. I spun around, stopping in track, standing, listening attentively, but the faint sound had stopped. Something irritated me about the sound, but I couldn´t place it. I refocused on my breathing, trying to gather the last remains of my strength to finish the last lap as I heard the sound again. I seemed to be closer than before, because now I could make out a whimper and crying. I stopped again, looking around me, but I couldn´t see a single soul. I was just wondering about my vivid imagination, when I saw her. She was sitting on one of the great stones at the lakeside; a hunched figure with black long hair. Her shoulders were tense, quivering under her constant crying.

“Are you alright?” I called over to her, but she didn´t even turn around.

My body suddenly wanted to run into the other direction, away from the woman, to the house.  Yet my helpfulness kicked in and I wiped away the fear I felt and walked over to her.

“I´m sorry?” I said, stopping a few feet away from the stone she was sitting on. “Are you alright?”

She didn´t turn around, but continued crying as if she hadn´t heard me. Her crying made the hair on my arms stand up and I suddenly shivered. She was scary in her absolute loneliness, her distance, her terrible crying.

“Can I call someone? Is there anything I can do?”

No answer.

“Do you live around here? I could walk you home.”

“Home”, she said and I was so frightened by her voice that I backed away from her. Her voice was a shrill sound, a shrieking going through bones and freezing your heart mid-beat. It was echoing through my body and I feared it would never leave again. I felt cold coming from her as she turned around to stare at me from blood-red eyes. Tears had dried on her face, but new tears started to run over her cheeks as she looked at me.

“Go home”, she said and the shrill voice echoed through me again.

“Why?” I asked, frozen in place and unable to leave.

She looked at me. While tears ran down her face, she remained absolutely calm and quiet. Her whole appearance was too much to take in. She scared me to death. The piercing glance had me shiver; I couldn´t breathe. It felt as if an iron cold fist was clutched around my neck, as if an invisible force was holding me in place, forcing me to hear her out.

“He´s dying”, she said, suddenly fading away.

“Who is?” I yelled at her, but she was already half-gone, dissolved into white fog.

In a feeble attempt to get her to stay, I jumped forward and tried to grab her by the arm, but I only got hold of thin air. She had gone.

With lively pictures of banshees rushing through my head, stories I had heard when I was a little child, sitting near the fire-place at my grandparent´s, I ran back to the main house.

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