Folklore Friday: Sluagh Sidhe

All the mirrors were covered in white sheets and all the clocks had been stopped. This was a time of death. Fionn Landsley filed through the bedroom doors, heard bowed, to pay his respect to the dead. If truth be told however, Fionn had never had much respect for Aiden Gossower while he was alive. He shuffled towards the deathbed only out of a sense of duty. Aiden Gosswer had not been a good man, he was neither compassionate nor kind. Aiden was the ringleader of a street gang of which Fionn had just recently become a part, and all members had to see off their fallen leader.
Not remarkably, Aiden had died in a knife fight down some shady alley in the middle of the night. Those closer to him had brought him back to headquarters to be laid to rest. As Fionn approached Aiden's lifeless body, laid out under a white sheet with coins on his eyes, the Flowers of the Forest, a traditional Irish ballad, spun from a CD player in the corner. Fionn wasn't sure the former gang leader deserved it.
Candles were lit around the body, providing the only source of light in the entire house. They had been burning for some time, and many flames began to sputter in pools of their own wax as their wicks grew ever shorter. Fionn was alone in the room with the dead man. He leaned over Aiden's body, touching two fingers to his lips and then to his left shoulder as was the common salute of his gang. And then, because he was alone, Fionn told Aiden the real reason he was there.

"You killed my brother you son of a bitch," Fionn said under his breath, "If you were alive I'd have gotten you back by now. Since someone else got there first, I'll have to think of another way to avenge him."
Fionn turned to go, and suddenly the candles all around the room were extinguished in a smokey wind. An otherworldly laughter started up around the edges of the room, growing in volume until it sounded as though someone was standing right behind him.
"You think you can threaten me?" a familiar voice hissed "Neither heaven nor hell will take me lad. I am the mighty Sluagh Sidhe, the 'restless dead,' and I will haunt this Emerald Isle for a year and a day!" 
The voice vanished as soon as it had come. Fionn was not easily frightened, but he left the death room hurriedly with his heart beating against his ribs. He felt the weight of a curse settling in on him. He wondered just what he'd gotten himself in to, insulting the dead Aiden Gosswer.

A few hours later, Fionn was required to help the rest of the gang members dig a grave for Aiden, and to say the final rights over him as they put him in the ground. The members were not welcome in most churchyards live or dead, so they traipsed deep into the Ballyboley Forest to begin the work. Several boys carried Aiden's body into the trees while several others, Fionn included, began the laborious task of clearing out a grave amidst the stones and tree roots of the forest floor. All the while, Fionn felt a pair of eyes on his back, but whenever he turned to look there was no one to meet his gaze.

"Let's get this over with shall we then?" said Niall Fletcher, a strapping lad who was no less nervous under the trees. They lowered the body into the grave and had just managed to put a good layer of dirt over it when the sound of footsteps could be heard through the forest. Twigs snapped and foliage rustled, creating such a din that there was no doubt in any of the boy's minds that whatever was coming was big, and it was coming fast. Fionn contemplated his circumstances for a moment before dropping his shovel and taking off into the night. Many of the other boys followed suit, and the beast followed in the darkness, gaining ground all the while. Fionn ran faster and surer than many of the other boys, and he soon found that he had outrun them all. Panting, he peered through the gloom. He was quite alone. The sounds of the other boys and the pursuing beast had faded away. Fionn wished desperately for the light of the moon, but it was a black night and he was utterly lost.

"You knew it would come to this," someone said right over Fionn's shoulder. He whirled around, fists raised. It was the same voice he had heard back in the room with Aiden's body.
"You were a fool to think you could best me," the voice said, coming from over Finn's shoulder once more.
"Show yourself!" Fionn bellowed his challenge to the silent forest. "Or are ye a coward then?"
Something cold and clammy seized Fionn's wrist. He glanced down and cried out, it was a pale hand...a corpse's hand. He looked up into Aiden's face then. One of the coins was still in place, wedged into the sickly skin above and below the left eye. The other had fallen, to reveal a blank eye, slightly rolled back in its place. Aiden's lips were smiling stiffly. His hair was matted down on one side with blood from where he had split his skull when the attacking gang had rolled his body off a wall after it had succumb to the knife wounds.  He was dressed in the winding white sheet they had buried him in.

"Hello Fionn," Aiden spoke without opening his mouth, "let's go on a little trip together, just you and I."
A cold wind started around them. Fionn felt himself growing weaker, and Aiden's other hand grabbed his shoulder, brittle nails digging into his flesh. Suddenly, Fionn was floating above himself. He watched his body collapse to the ground and as he continued to rise into the air, the hideous specter of Aiden Gosswer rose with him, his grip fast about Fionn's wrist, dragging him towards some darker fate.

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