Susceptible Otherworld

Don Shook

© Copyright 2021 by Don Shook

Photo of a plane taking off.

Annie’s call had not sounded desperate, just serious. “I’m leaving the country and I may not return.”

Startled, Don could only manage a weak, “What? When?”

“No. Today. In a hour. I’m at the airport. Please, meet me here. I must say goodbye in person.”

That had been forty-five minutes ago. A frantic rush-hour drive through Dallas traffic had been precarious enough but now, fighting his way through the American Airlines crowd, seemed even more perilous and impossible. Was everyone in the city leaving for Los Angeles?

“Don! Don, over here! Here I am!” The familiar voice sounded across the concourse and, between a throng of last-minute travelers, he saw the stately, raven-haired beauty motioning to him by the Departure Gate.

“Annie,” he said, finally reaching her and returning her hug. “What’s this all about? You’re seriously leaving for good?”

“Don, I’m so sorry. I was going to tell you last night on the way home. But then, everything happened and…well.”

“But what, where are you going and why? You’re not really serious? What are we doing at this damn airport?”

“Listen, there isn’t much time. My plane’s about to leave. Here it is in a nutshell.”

The nutshell was: Three months before, Annie had met and begun dating a very rich older man. He owned an island in the Pacific and wanted Annie to move there with him. She had said “yes”.

“Don, it all happened so quickly. I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d try to stop me.”

“You’re damned right. Three months? You barely know this guy.”

“I know. Isn’t it wonderful! Our own island. Running in the sand everyday could cure my flat feet!”

“You’re doing this for flat feet?”

“No, I…” Before she could finish, the final boarding call blared over the speaker system. “Oooophs! Gotta’ go!”

“But…” Before he could finish, she kissed him on the cheek.

“I’ll never forget you. You’ll always be my best friend. I love you.” She started off. He reached out for her, but she kept going, not looking back.

“Annie,” Don shouted, “call me…write!”

“I will, Don, I will. I’ll write about last night!” She yelled above the crowd, disappearing in the glut of humanity hurrying to make the flight.

The medium-built, 5’10” forty-year-old stood stunned. Was he going nuts? Driving back to his apartment, he felt eviscerated. A great loneliness overcame him as he walked inside. Although Annie had never lived with him and had actually spent very little time there, Don always felt her presence in his place. She seemed to always be with him, and that had been a great comfort, a pacifier. The prospect of never seeing her again, of not talking to her almost daily on the phone, of not even knowing what damn island she was on was almost too much for him to bear. He flung himself across his bed and cried, overwrought by self-pity. He knew that getting over this was going to take some time. Six weeks later her letter arrived:

“…and though I’m happy here, I do miss you so. There’s a large empty hole in my life. Sorry about the abrupt departure but, after the play, I knew my place was with Ralph. I called that night because of the presence that had joined us in the car… the scream we heard. After dropping you off at your apartment, I sensed it was still with you. Later, I awoke feeling you were in danger. But when I called and heard your voice I knew it was okay. Stay alert, my Dear. There’s a Banshee watching you. I love you…

Your Best Friend,


Don flipped the letter down on his desk. He had read it a dozen times before finally consulting the reference book “Irish Mythology and Folklore”. Turning to a page he had earmarked in a chapter entitled “Banshee” he read aloud: “Legend has it that, for the five great Gaelic families – the O’Gradys, the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, and the Kavanaghs, the lament would come from a spirit woman. Although the spirit could be benevolent, watching over as a protector, she could also be a…messenger from the Otherworld, an omen of death.”

“Otherworld”, where had he heard that expression before? Don stared straight ahead, looking at, but not focusing on, the rows of books on the enormous bookshelf across the room. How many times had he read that passage? How many times had he tried to relate it to that night at Pecan Plantation?

"I want to be friends forever!" Annie had cried.

"So do I." Don wailed, frustrated beyond reason.

"Then we must stop!"


"Because sex ruins friendships. It gets in the way of honesty."

Damn, he couldn't argue with that. It got in the way of everything. Despite its obvious advantages, when beautiful sex reared its ugly head most human principles including priority, propriety, honesty, and reasonability took wide detours. A constant axiom was that "sex came first regardless of good sense or consequence." Following such logic and her lead, he put things in perspective, stifled his primal urges, and sacrificed fulfillment of desire for an enduring friendship and, consequently, they had a marvelous time doing things together as friends. Occasionally this included treks into the unexpected...

One such foray began on a brisk, October night, strange from the moment they arrived at the entrance gate to Pecan Plantation Country Club near Granbury, Texas.

Excluding himself from performing in the scheduled show, Don had sent the actors ahead in his van to set up and prepare for the night's production by his Actors Company theater troupe. He had asked Annie to drive the sixty-odd miles to the club with him and she suggested they take her car. This seemed an excellent idea since the van was his only means of transportation. The drive was casual and relaxed, on a day that was amazingly similar to most other sun-splashed, early fall North Texas days. Once they arrived, things began to change.

The club ballroom, where the show was to be held, was three miles from the manned security gate entrance. Once through the gate, a twisting asphalt road wound through a huge pecan grove whose rows of trees stretched for a hundred yards on either side before yielding to thick entanglements of lush wilderness. The road finally terminated at the club, a majestic white, plantation style building whose second-floor veranda encircled the entire structure some ten to twelve feet above gigantic support-pillars on the front. Behind, and below a manicured steep bank, lay the glistening Brazos River.

The couple had spoken very little on the way down. He, at the wheel, and she, sitting quietly to his right, both enjoyed a silent bond of truly connected friends. They felt no necessity for constant chatter, comfortable in a tacit understanding that could erupt anytime into spontaneous dialogue. As they cleared the security gate and passed over a narrow bridge spanning a bend in the river, Annie suddenly sat forward.

"What's that?" she asked, looking down at the sparkling water.

“The Brazos.”

"I thought the Brazos was a large river."

"It is, downstream. That's just an extension. I think it’s called an oxbow or yazoo.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, it pretty much circles the entire place before meandering through Central Texas and on toward the Gulf. It feeds Lake Whitney a few miles downstream."

She continued to stare out the window. "And those trees ... so many, and they all look alike."

"Annie, sweetheart this place is called Pecan Plantation. Pecan trees?"

"I knew that." she lied.

"Sure you did." He smiled and laughed. "And I knew your car was six years old and on its last leg."

"Cars run on wheels not legs, mister." She smiled and returned his laugh, countering the juvenile tenor of her remark. They rode silently for a few minutes, the car windows open, inviting the pungent aroma of the pecan trees. She turned to him. "Do you feel it?"

"Feel what?"

"Like something's not quite right."

"Hunger pangs?"

"No. I'm serious. I mean like we're being watched, eyes peering from behind the trees…”

"It's getting dark. Lightning bugs."

"No, no. I don't see anything. I just feel that something strange is going on. Like something is going to happen."

"A good show I hope." He shifted uneasily in his seat.

"No ... something else. Like the sword of Damocles."

"The sword of what?"

"Some imminent danger. Something not of this world."

He grinned and shook his head. "There you go again, you and your preoccupation with the metaphysical."

Her eyes dimmed as a faint suggestion of a smile spread across her pretty face and, in the fading light, she seemed surreal ... herself not of this world.

"I know," she said. "Just me being silly." She reached across and touched his hand. He started to respond, but hesitated as she abruptly brightened.! “There it is!"

Looming ahead, the club appeared almost ominous, silhouetted against the dying light of an orange sun settling on the horizon. He felt as though they were driving into a Matisse and, at that moment, he understood what she had been feeling. Arriving at the club, they parked the car, got out, and started across the paved parking area.

"My, God." uttered Annie, grabbing his arm. "Look!" She nodded in the direction of the river, which lay between the building and the sunset.

They stopped. There was a moment's silence before Don said, "It's either Valhalla or the Aurora Borealis." Both were completely awestruck by the sight before them.

Behind the club, rising up from the far side of the riverbed, fifty-foot chalk-rock cliffs stretched toward the twilight, reflecting shimmering waters sweeping across a pulsating sky. Flickering particles waltzed across the white cliffs and faded into an encroaching darkness which seemed to swallow the sun. Scarcely breathing, Annie and Don stood transfixed, mesmerized by the visual display. Then, in a hairsbreadth, night fell and the only remaining light was that of the entrance to the club, stark and harshly artificial.

"I told you." murmured Annie, as they walked up the entrance steps.

"Told me what?"

"Something's going on."

"Come on, Annie ... a gorgeous sunset, that's all."

Her lips parted in a half-smile. "You think so?"

"Of course. Now let's enjoy the evening."

This they did with a delicious meal and a show that clicked. Don laughed heartily with the rest of the audience as if viewing it for the first time. Yet, from the perspective of someone who had cast, rehearsed, and produced, he kept detecting small discrepancies, deviations from the way he had directed it; a line read with a slightly skewed inflection, a stage-cross somewhat out of sync and, most disturbing of all, a feeling of detachment from the sequence of events on and around the stage, almost as though he and Annie were reading about the evening in a book or participating in simultaneous dreams.

Occasionally they would reach across the table and touch each other’s hand, as though feeling for reassurance; or offer a sharp glance, indicating a need for compliance with their mutual evaluation of parallel feelings. All these things were very subtle, slightly suggestive, and yet very, very real. Something was going on.

After the final curtain, several of the club members invited the group to the bar for drinks. It was a common practice that the actors enjoyed immensely, provided there was no mammoth drive to make afterwards. It was also good PR for subsequent shows. The members of the audience enjoyed rubbing elbows with the "stars" and the "stars" enjoyed the members' liquor and temporary adoration.

Halfway through the second round, the conversation shifted from accolades to aspects of the metaphysical. A local astrologer and psychic named Sybil was among the guests and she, along with psychic-oriented Annie, steered the group into dialogue that progressively became tantamount to a séance. Don expected at any moment to be conversing with his ancestors, “from whatever tree they occupied”, he quipped. Soon, however, the other guests left and Don and Annie were alone at a table watching Sybil demonstrate an amusing aspect of her craft.

“See, I told you.” Don said smugly.

“Sssshhhh…,” Annie scolded.

Sybil, seated across from Don, continued to stare intently at a half-filled wine glass in the middle of the table. The fifty-year old wore heavy mascara and an oversized muumuu, whose bright-flowered pattern embarrassed the purple scarf around her head. “Patience, you must have patience.” She chanted, hypnotically. Don shot Annie a supercilious glance. She glared back. Without warning, the glass slid two inches across the hardwood surface, coming to an abrupt halt, sloshing wine against the rim. Annie shrieked. Sybil smiled broadly. Don’s grin became a grimace.

“That’s amazing!” Annie exclaimed, brown eyes flashing.

Sybil caught Don’s eyes. “Now are you convinced?”

“Convinced?” Don snorted. “That was a trick.”

“Don, don’t be a bad sport.” Annie said, touching his arm.

“I’m no sport. Telekinesis is an illusion.”

“An illusion?” Sybil responded. “You saw the glass move?”

“Yes, oh yes!” Annie quickly replied.

Don leaned forward. “I saw it seem to move. Even if it did…”

“You’re such a skeptic, Mr.” Sybil interrupted. “Have you never before had contact with the Otherworld?”

“Only at a brothel in Laredo.”

“Don!” Annie scolded.

Ignoring his attempt at humor, Sybil continued, “Well, perhaps whatever spirit moved you then still lingers on this night.” She smiled at Annie.

Rubbing Don’s arm, Annie said, “I’ve always felt Don had a certain spirituality.”

Stifling a chuckle, Don started to speak. Sybil beat him to it.

“Yes, yes,’ she said, fixing on him. “I sense that.”

“Whoa, you two. Can I get in on this? That spirituality you sense is pure poppycock. I’m a little too pragmatic to…”

“Don’t confuse practicality with a lack of connection. Besides, you have little control over it.”


“The spirit world existed long before your most distant ancestors’ evolutionary trek from cave to high-rise. Somewhere along the way it was infused into your DNA. To deny it is as useless as denying your sex.”

“I never deny sex.” Don chuckled, grinning at Annie.

“Therein a problem lies, perhaps.” Sybil continued, smiling slightly.

Fashioning a clever retort, Don started to speak when Ken Simms, one of the actors approached with Betty Bright, pretty young actress, on his arm. “Hey, man? What’ja think of the show? We were great, huh?”

“A little disjointed.” Don replied, “But you got through it.”

“Yeah? Thanks for nuthin’. Hey, we’re packed and ready for the road.”

“Sure. Be careful. If you lose us, leave my keys the usual place.”

“Right on. See ya.” Kevin flashed his pearly whites, whirled Betty around and strode out.

“And go easy on the brew!” Don yelled, knowing he was whistling in the wind.

“She’ pretty.” Annie remarked. “And a good actress. Where’d you find her?”

Where do I find them all?” Don answered, spreading his arms, palms up. “Well,” he continued, rising, “Miss Sybil, that was our cue. It’s time we took our leave. It’s been fascinating.”

Sybil smiled as Annie rose and stood beside Don. “Oh, yes. It was wonderful. But Don is right, we really have to go.”

But first, I’m going to show Sybil here some real psychokinesis.” Don added.

“Oh?” Sybil replied, looking amused.

Don lifted the wine glass from the table. “Yes. Watch this disappear.” He lifted the glass to his lips and emptied the contents. All laughed as he escorted Annie out of the room. Two minutes later they had crossed the parking area and arrived at her car.

"My God, that was weird." Don mumbled, opening the door for Annie.

She smiled coolly. "Yes, but not entirely unexpected."


"Nothing. Aren't you supposed to follow them?" she asked, nodding toward the van.

"Yes," he answered, starting the engine, "but they seem to be well ahead of us already." He pulled out of the parking lot onto the road.

"Is that them?" she asked, pointing toward two startlingly bright red tail-lights some distance away.

He nodded. "Probably. They're drunk as skunks."

"I'm a little tipsy myself", she laughed, reaching over and stroking his thigh.

"So I noticed." He tensed as her touch sent a familiar surge to his groin. Was something else going on?

"It's a good thing you're driving. I'm not sure I could stay on the road. If I get too sleepy, can I lay my head in your lap?" She hadn't moved her hand.

His heart skipped three beats then pounded against an imagination constructing a vivid image of her head in his lap. It must be the wine.

"What?" Annie jumped, jerking around toward him.

"Nothing!" he snapped, immediately aware the fantasy had spilled over.

"What is going on?" she continued.

Instinctively he knew her question referenced the entire evening, the strangeness that had begun hours before culminating in his emotional vision.

So he only stared at her briefly before answering, "I don't know."

"Well, I think they've lost us."

He looked ahead to discover she was right. The tail-lights were nowhere to be seen. "How did that happen?"

"I don't know. You tell me." Was that an arched eyebrow? How psychic was she?

For several silent seconds they continued down the road hoping they were headed in the right direction. With the windows down, the tart fragrance of the pecan groves filtered through the car's interior. It was pleasant although, with the moon and stars hiding behind a thin overcast, it was pitch black. An extended hush settled over the light-headed occupants, punctuated only by the monotonous drone of tires on the narrow road. And so they crawled down the country lane, winding through the pecan groves, hoping they were moving toward the exit. Then the strangeness breathed life. The headlights failed.

"What the devil?" he exclaimed, immediately alert.

Annie sat up. "What's wrong with the lights?"

"I don't know. They just went out." Automatically, he began pulling on the light switch ... in and out, in and out. Just as automatically, his foot hit the brakes. Pulling to a stop, he asked, "Is your battery okay?"

"I guess. I don't know."

He continued to work the light switch. "Maybe it's a short." Assessment of car trouble was not his forte.

"A what?"

"A short, you know when ..." The lights came back on. "That's funny."

"Yeah.” Her voice quavered. “Ha, ha. Let's go!"

"But ..."

"Don't worry about it. Let's just go!"

"Sure." He urged the car forward. "Are you all right?"

She didn't answer, electing instead to stare straight ahead. The vehicle lurched forward, then gained speed. The lights continued to beam. He started to speak, decided against it, then fixed his eyes on the road. For a few moments they rode in silence. Then IT came.

To say the sound was alien is a simplification. But when it came, it shattered all sense of common dimension; pitched on the "E" string of a Stradivarius, abreast a center of beauty, overlaid with a bizarre keening, grotesquely conceived in the matrix of the unthinkable, hurled into the moving vehicle. Don’s throat contracted as the hair on the nape of his neck stood at attention.

Not flinching an inch, Annie whispered hoarsely, "Be still."

"What was ...?"

"I said, be still."

"Did you hear ...?"

"Yes, be still!" she repeated through clinched teeth.

"But what ...?" he started to turn his head.

Her cold, flat voice stopped him. "And don't look in the back seat."


"Don't look back there."

"But, it was... it was…what?"

Again, as if on cue, the cry rent the night air. An animal in distress, trapped or ensnared? It seemed to come from nowhere and from everywhere ... a ubiquitous, primitive ululation piercing the core of recall. Again, the lights began to fail. "What the ...?" Again he went for the switch. Struggling with the push-pull knob had no effect. The lights had a mind of their own, dimming and brightening at will, vacillating in irregular bursts of "off and on", "dark and light" madness.

"Just go!" screamed Annie.

He turned to her and saw a ghost etched against the night beyond the open window. A thought flashed through his convoluted mind. "Was she talking to him or to…?" Before he could complete the thought, the lights returned to full brightness and held there. He looked ahead and saw the glow of the red tail-lights at the security gate. Firm-footing the accelerator he surged forward, not slowing until they skidded to a stop behind the van.

His actors were parked at the gate talking to a uniformed officer. Without a word or a second thought, he immediately scoured the back seat of the car. Annie remained mute and motionless. Seeing nothing, he flung the door open and ran to the back of the car where, after grappling a moment for the right key, he yanked the trunk open. Except for a worn spare and some dirty rags, it too was empty. Don was confused. What had he expected to find, to see? He closed the trunk and walked back around to the open window. "You heard it too, I know." Annie nodded.

"Hey, what's going on?" It was Kevin, leaning out of the van.

Don moved to him. "Did you guys hear something funny back there?"

Kevin cocked his head. "Funny?"

"Yeah, strange ... like some animal screaming, in trouble."

"No." Kevin chuckled, somewhat amused.

"You sure?"

"Only animals I heard screaming are in the van." He and the occupants of the oversized vehicle laughed.

"That's very humorous, but I'm serious." Don figured they were indeed as drunk as skunks.

"Hell, so were the girls, but I's just doin' my duty ... you know, service with a smile." Kevin laughed again, again joined by the others.

"But you're sure you didn't hear anything?"

"Sure I'm sure, man." he turned back to his companions. "Hey, any ya'll hear a hurt animal back there" There was unanimous negative response. "You okay?" Kevin continued. "You look white as a sheet!"

"I'm fine. We just heard something weird."

"Hey man,” grinned Kevin, "you just had too much bubbly."

"Yeah, maybe. Well anyway, think you can make it back to

Dallas on your own?"

"We made it out here didn't we?"

"Talk to you tomorrow."

"Right. Hey, the show was a corker, huh?"

"Yep. Even with all the blocking changes."

Kevin squinted and smiled questioningly, "Huh?"

Don grinned back. "It was a good show. Don’t speed." Kevin waved and sped away.

"You all right?" he asked Annie.

For the first time in some time, she looked at him, offering a wan smile. "Yes. Let's go."

He got in and pulled up to the security booth, glad to be bathed in light. The grizzled officer offered a friendly salute and began writing on a clipboard.

"Officer," Don asked, looking up at the sun-blotched face, "there wild animals around here?"

The officer blinked back. "Animals? Sure, deer, coyote, rabbits, maybe even be a few panthers back in the hills."

"Did you hear any of them, maybe ... like ... screaming a little while ago before we got here?"

The officer scratched his head as he shook it. "Screaming? No, no ... didn't hear no screaming. Wouldn't surprise me though. Why, you hear somethin' ?"

"We thought so."

"Well, probably some critter hung up on bobwar. I wouldn't worry none ‘bout it. Ya'll have a good night. Careful drivin' home." He waved them on and shut the window.

Fifty yards past the security hut, Don eased to a stop at the farm-to-market road leading back to the main highway. “What’s wrong?” Annie asked.

“That’s a funny question after what we experienced.”

She didn’t respond, but continued looking straight ahead. Don thought he saw her trembling, blanched white against the pitch-black window pane. Finally, yielding to her silence, he sighed, engaged the gear and pressed the accelerator pedal.

From out of nowhere, bright headlights and squealing tires filled the road. At the same time, the night air became a sounding board for an engine roar. Don slammed on the brakes, jolting the sedan to an abrupt halt. Not two feet in front of them the corvette zipped by, practically clipping the chrome bumper. “What the hell?” Don shouted, late in throwing his right arm in front of Annie.

Down the road, bright red tail lights shrunk behind a careening sports car weaving away from the stricken pair.

“Fool!” Don spat, pounding his head on the steering wheel. “Goddamn fool!”

Annie caught her breath and looked over at him. “You…you okay?” She asked.

Don looked up at her. “Yeah.” Sweat covered his forehead. “You?”

She nodded. “That was sooo close. What’s the matter with him?”

Don shook his head. They both looked down the road where the corvette’s lights had evaporated, the sound of shrieking tires echoing in the distance. “He wants to die.” Don said quietly. “I’d like to help the fool.”

Don’s sleep was troubled. The whole evening had been bizarre, unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Annie dropped him off at his apartment, he went inside and downed another glass of wine, then fell into bed. It was an hour before he finally drifted into a nebulous pre-sleep haze. Even then, visions of the night’s incidents kept rewinding until finally, at 2:30 am, he slept.

At 3:13 his eyes popped open and locked on the ceiling. Panic compelled him to run, but he couldn’t move…running was out of the question. A paralysis allowed only a sideways glance across the darkened bedroom. Vague, but discernable shapes of a dresser, a chair, a towel thrown over a doorknob all leapt back at him. Don knew he was not alone. Some alien presence shared the room. For a moment, there was dark silence…then the terrible scream began to build again…began pushing from recall to reality.

On the drive back, neither he nor Annie had spoken much and barely mentioned the incident. Briefly they had puzzled over the near-crash and the insanity of such drivers, but the scream, the unmentionable terror of the sound, remained embedded in transparent silence. Until now, as he lay there in bed, unable to move…only to hear and remember…sweat erupting from his pores, his mind racing toward…

The clarion shrillness of the telephone bell broke the spell, shattering the paralyzing fear and releasing him to sit up and yank the phone from its base. “Yes, hello!” He almost shouted into the receiver. He was answered by a long pause before a female voice responded.

“It’s me.” Annie said quietly.


“Are you alright?”

“Yes, but I thought…”

“I know. But it’s gone now, right?”

Don swallowed hard and looked around the room. Darkness had softened. It seemed almost bright. Imaginary or otherwise, all demons had vacated. “Yes.” He answered.


“Annie, I…”

“We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“But, Annie…” His words were truncated by a distinct click followed by the incessant buzz of the dial tone. Slowly, Don replaced the receiver and eased his head back onto the damp pillow. Breathing slowly, he let his eyes drift across dimpled patterns in a bland, darkened ceiling. In less than a minute, he was asleep. For the rest of the night he did not dream. Nor did the demons return.

And how many times, after reading Annie’s letter had he felt a sensation similar to the one he’d experienced on that ride past the pecan groves and later in his room? But, unlike that night, the chill running up his spine passed quickly; and he’d dismissed the possibility that what he felt was dangerously close to becoming an obsession.

Still, he couldn’t help dwelling on the “banshee”, that spirit woman of the dead, the one Annie had felt was with them in the car and then in his bedroom. The one she cautioned him about in her letter. The one he felt was always there, locked in a parallel universe…watching him, with him, always ready to cross over, to manifest herself as a reality with that terrible scream. Don shuddered and suddenly felt a tingling along the back of his neck…as, once again, he remembered the stories passed on to him when, as a boy, he’d been told the tales of “spirit woman”, the banshee, by his grandmother Helen O’Connor.

His mother’s mother, Helen seemed anything but a prophet of doom. In her early sixties, attractive, well-groomed and sophisticated, she seldom spoke to, or for that matter, paid any attention to Don and his two younger sisters. Usually, she simply appeared as though poured into a room like well-aged scotch, smooth and unobtrusive. But on some occasions, when Don least expected it and was out of earshot of anyone else, she would pull the youngster to one side and, her bright eyes gleaming like polished jade, regale his imagination with stories of ancient Irish legends. Always among them, and usually near the end, would be tales of the banshee. Tales of the curse, of the creature’s supernatural attachment to their family, fascinated and terrified the small boy.

His grandmother had told him not to worry…that he was of a lineage far removed from the “curse of the banshee”; and then proceeded to terrorize him with more tales of the horror this mythical creature wrought. The tales varied from those describing the banshee as a one-eyed wash woman soliciting curses on the unexpected, to frightening visions of a diaphanous spirit soaring through the air between physical dimensions of time to exact punishment on the descendants of the great Gaelic families…be they guilty or innocent of any transgression. But all Helen’s tales had one unifying theme, one overriding characteristic…the scream, the terrible wailing of impending doom…a scream that, akin to the mournful howling of the lycanthrope, foretold and celebrated death.

Don slammed the book shut and slid it across the desk. Forcefully shoving his chair aside, he stood up and moved across the room to the huge picture window. Looking out at the bright sunshine reflecting off the rows of vehicles in the apartment complex parking lot helped clear his mind. There was something about light that dispelled sinister thoughts, its warmth cooling his mental meanderings.

He walked out into the small garden area behind his apartment. It was a gorgeous day filled with warm sunlight and sparrows darting, chirping, twittering incessantly. In the distance, sounds of children playing cut through the muffled roar of traffic on the nearby freeway. From the overhead limb of a large oak, a fragile spider repelled to the ground and scurried away. Somewhere nearby, a dog yapped, as did a woman, no doubt at her badgered husband. So much was going on, so much happening. Yes, life abounded outside in the bright sunlight. In its glow there were no thoughts of spirits, or Otherworlds, or of unearthly screams that rode waves of the unimaginable in the dead of night…

Nearby, obscred by deepening shadows, she watched...and waited.

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