Saturday, August 10, 2013

The First Keening (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake, over at her blog My Backdoor Ministry. Click here to read and share more great fiction! Don't forget to leave a comment. 

A/N: I have the oddest threads of mythology and mythological creatures running through my head right now, so I apologize in advance if there's more myth than typical fantasy in this week's Friday Fiction. I just haven't been able to get Keera and Melissa out of my head. Thanks for reading!


“How is she?” Mrs. O’Leary was halfway out of her chair as her older sister descended the stairs.

“How long has she been out?” Melissa waved her away, taking a seat by perching on the sofa’s arm. “She’s fast asleep. Don’t wake her unless the house is on fire. Did you find the humidifier, Stan?”

Mr. O’Leary emerged from the kitchen with a grey plastic machine tucked under one arm. “Found it and filled it.”

found on google images. I own nothing. 
“Go plug it in, I’ll wait ‘till you’re back.” Melissa accepted a cup milk tea, wrapping her long fingers around the fat ceramic mug. Her brother-in-law hurried up the stairs.

Several minutes later, he returned, a crease in his brow. “She’s so still.”

“After effects of the first keening.” Melissa offered a grim smile. “Have you figured out who it might be?”

Mrs. O’Leary hesitated. “It could be one of three people. There’s Aunt Maggie, Uncle Lester and Grandma Molly.”

“How bad off?”

“Aunty M had a stroke, Uncle Les is recovering from bad case of the flu on top of his fractured ribs and punctured lung. Grandma Molly—well, I haven’t heard from anyone lately, but she was admitted for a broken hip. I don’t think that she would-”

“And you didn’t feel any inclinations?”

“No,” Mr. O’Leary sighed. “I think that’s where we figured out something was wrong with Keera.”

“When did she start?”

“This morning, but she’s been moping about all week. I thought it was something at school. You know how kids are in high school.”

“I thought she graduated.”

“She was—I mean, is. She’s a dual-enrollment student. I thought the courseload was probably too heavy.”

“And friends? Does she have any?”

“Now that you mention it,” Mrs. O’Leary exchanged a glance with her husband. “I don’t think she has. I certainly haven’t seen nor met any of her new ones and the old ones don’t come around any more.”

“Since she was mopey or from way before that?”

“Couple of months back.” Mr. O’Leary counted on his hands. “She started getting quieter then.”

“Ah,” Melissa hummed. “I see.”

Silence filled the cozy sitting room, broken by the occasional crackle in the fireplace or the chink of a spoon on ceramic.

“Can you help her?” Mrs. O’Leary twisted her fingers in the hem of her oversized cardigan. “Please?”

“I’ve already come all this way,” Melissa smiled over the top of her half-empty mug. “And I helped you when your inheritance came in, didn’t I?”

Mrs. O’Leary ducked her head. “You did. I remember. That’s why I called you and not Mum.”

Melissa chuckled. “Keera will be fine. I hope you both are ready for what that means.”

The warmth of the moment faded almost at once. Somber expressions were reflected all around as the realization dawned.

“Hey. It’s alright.” Melissa pulled herself together, extending her hands. “Here, come on. Circle up. Family that prays together, stays together, after all, right?”

Faint smiles touched the faces of her younger sister and brother-in-law as they drew nearer and they all joined hands. They took turns, heads bowed, saying a prayer for the youngest member of their little family, seeking comfort and asking for guidance.

A group hug followed the private moment and Melissa finally sighed and stepped back. “You knew it would happen,” she reminded them. Eighteen is the oldest you can manage to hold it off.”

“I know, but I still hoped,” Mrs. O’Leary began. She stopped.

“It’s not a curse.” Melissa reminded her, quietly. “Don’t think of it as a curse.”

“It’s hard to see it as anything else.”

“Jean.”  

“I-I should probably make some calls.” Mrs. O’Leary turned away, retreating to the kitchen.

Her husband watched her leave, worry showing on his face.

“Has she been like that since Keera changed?”

Mr. O’Leary frowned. “Maybe. More of less.”

Melissa made a sound in her throat and folded her arms. “That’s not good. I wish you’d called me earlier.”

“Is it that bad?”

“A first keening is always tricky, especially if she’s not sensitive to family. You said she’s been pulling away, shifting back, withdrawing?”

“Yes. But she’s always been a good kid. Quiet, but good.”

“Good is fine. Quiet, not necessarily so.” Melissa sighed. “If you have a sleeping bag or something, I’ll bunk in the same room. Sleep on the floor. It should help her rest easier. Jean might want to do the same.”

Mr. O’Leary nodded, slowly. “We have camping gear in the laundry room.” He paused. “Was Jean’s own this—bad?”

“Worse.” Melissa drained her cup and handed it over. “Which reminds me. They’ll both need you, so make sure you’re available.” She rolled her neck to the side, hearing it crack. “I have the feeling you’re not particularly fond of your family members.”

His face hardened. “They’re not particularly fond of Jean.” He said, evenly.

“Fair enough.” Melissa allowed. “Just be there for her. She’s likely been holding back the emotional and mental backlash without even realizing it. Mum did the same for her when she was coming into it, because she hadn’t realized that was what was happening with me the few years before. It made it easier on Jean, but a headache for me when Mum turned out to be her first keening.”

Mr. O’Leary winced. “She never talks about it.”

“She wouldn’t want to and I don’t like to.” Melissa tugged her ponytail loose and began to run her fingers through pitch black tresses. “But you don’t have to worry about history repeating there. If there’s ill in the family, they’re always called first.” She tipped her head forward. “Leave the sleeping bag outside of her room. Knock once and then run, if you can. Don’t stay there. I might be tempted. It’s been a while.”

“A while?”

“Too depressing for a bit, so I went backpacking through the Alps for stress relief.” Melissa snorted. “It was very relaxing. Nothing really dies up there, you know? Not people, anyway. The sorts of people that I’m related to, I mean.”

He grimaced. “I see.”

“We’re protective of our young,” Melissa explained. “And you may have noticed that there are no male banshees. So if you’re there longer than you should, I might see you as a threat.”

Something shattered in the kitchen and a squeak of surprise drew their attention.

“Jean?” Mr. O’Leary bolted for the kitchen.

Melissa followed at a more sedate pace, hovering just in the doorway as she watched the couple embrace. “None of the three?”

“All of the three.” Mrs. O’Leary swallowed, tears streaming down her face. She stood amidst shards of what had been the teapot and matching teacups. “My baby girl-!”

“Tea and bed.” Melissa shook her head. “More tea, then bed.” She corrected. “Don’t step on those. Clean it up tomorrow.” She threw at look at Stan. “Get her to calm down. I’ll check on Keera.”

As she turned away from the doorway, black hair began to turn silvery-white and her immaculate outfit grew shabbier. Soft white light glowed from her form as her features sharpened and her face turned gaunt. Gnarled, knobby fingers gripped the wooden railing and Melissa O’Leary, Head Banshee of the O’Leary clan, glided up the stairs to guard the bedroom of her niece. 

(c) Sara Harricharan

4 comments:

Yvonne Blake said...

Interesting - and definitely not enough to get the whole picture.

Catrina Bradley said...

Very cool story! You had me wondering what was going on with these ladies, and now I'd love to read more!

Kristina said...

This is a great concept for a story. If it were an excerpt from a book, I would definitely want to read the rest of it! Your characters are so real and personable. I always myself relating to them and wanting to know what happens next! Lovely writing as always, my dear!

Hoomi said...

Interesting,.. I think I need to go do some research on banshees now, since I'm not very familiar with the mythology surrounding them. :)