When I was young, my brother and I used to make fun of the hag who called herself the banshee of the McCraes. We’d stand in her path as she made her way into town, and we’d wail, and ask, “Like this?”
She would say, “No, not like this. When it happens, you’ll know. You’ll hear it from the other side of town.” And sometimes she’d add, “How dare you speak to me like that? I’m the banshee of your clan.” And sometimes, “I used to be very beautiful.”
And sometimes we’d throw rocks at her, because she was no banshee, just a ghoul.
It was very cold the winter my brother died. We buried him a day after the breathing attack, far worse than any he’d had before. As we lowered the casket into the ground, a hooded crow with golden eyes watched from a tree. It flew away once the last shovelful of soil fell, black dirt sprinkled with white snow, and I followed it to the rocks on the hill and watched the wings grow into arms, the feathers into bony fingers, the beak into the hag’s crooked nose.
“He’s dead,” I said. “You didn’t wail. You’re just a ghoul.”
She picked a piece of wet bread from the frozen ground and chewed on it. “Just wait,” she said. “You’ll hear it from the other side of town.”
Two days later a wail cut through the air, running in every hollow, echoing in every vessel. That night I dreamed of bloody scratches in hard wood and a boy’s frightened breathing.
Louis Rakovich writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Goldfish Grimm, Spark: A Creative Anthology, Bad Dream Entertainment, Firewords Quarterly and Phobos Magazine, among others. He grew up in Jerusalem, Israel, and currently lives in New York City, where he is working on his first novel. You can find more stories by him at louisrakovich.com.
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