A woman's voice, singing softly, rose up through the night outside our bedroom window and though I couldn’t make out the words, it was a tune I recognized, surfacing through the murkiness of my memory. Curious, I left the warm comfort of our bed and followed the melodic voice down the stairs, out the front door and all the way down to the lake with only the full moon to light my way. The path was unkempt and uncared for; branches scratched at my skin and tangled in my hair, but no matter how deep I went, the voice never grew closer, the words never clearer. When I finally reached the end of the path and broke through the trees, there she was, the singing woman, kneeling on the rocks at the shore washing small pieces of fabric in the dark water. Her black hair fell in curtains around her, concealing her face from me.
“Hello?” I called out to her, but she only continued to sing, her hands submerged beneath the water. “Hello?” I called out again and still no response. As I neared the edge of the water, I recognized the pieces of fabric in her hands as baby clothes - the very ones that I bought earlier that week for my baby. Even from where I stood, I could see that the tiny outfits were badly stained, and the soapy water dripping from them was not just dark, but red.
“What are you doing?” I asked, incredulous. “Where did you get those?” I put my hands out and grabbed the washing woman's shoulder. Finally acknowledging my presence, she turned towards me suddenly and I gasped, recoiling in horror and stumbling backwards before falling to the ground. I expected the face of the washing woman to be as beautiful as her voice, but instead it was twisted and grotesque. A monster. Before I was able to scream, the washing woman's grey, toothless jaw fell open wide, gaping as though not attached to the rest of her face, and she wailed three loud piercing cries.
The sound of my own screaming melted away the macabre scene and I woke up with my face buried deep into my pillow. Though the knowledge that I was safe in my own bed was clear, the sound of the mournful cries still rang loud in my ears.
“Hey, hey it was just a dream. It's okay,” Ben soothed as he tried to gather me into his arms.
“It’s the Bean-Nighe!” I cried sitting up in bed. I shoved Ben and the blankets away from me unable to handle the sensation of anything touching my already crawling skin.
“Jo, what’s going on? You're scaring me.” He put his hand into mine and held it hard, willing me to come out of it and back to him. I had nightmares almost every night and he was used to that, but they were never like this. He was always able to bring me out of it fairly quickly, if he needed to at all.
“I heard her scream,” I said, my voice dull and lifeless as if all the energy had drained from me.
“Heard who scream?” he asked.
“Honey, what’s a Ben-Neye?”
“The Banshee!” I screamed at him so loud that he flinched away from me. “She's coming for the baby. I saw her. She was washing our baby's clothes in the lake and they were -” I sobbed, tears flowing from my eyes, “-they were covered in blood.”
“Love, is this another one of the stories your Nan told you?”
I nodded. “The Banshee is the harbinger of death. She visits when there is to be a death in the family.”
“That's just an old story. It isn't true, Jo.”
I looked at him, dead in the eye, “How do you know?” When he didn't answer right away, I yelled again, “How do you know!?” and shoved him hard in the chest. He looked so hurt that I immediately regretted it, but the fear and the dark boiled together inside me and I couldn’t stop. “She came to me before my father died as well. I heard her in the night and the next day, he was dead! Something’s wrong, I know it is.” A sharp and piercing grief cut through me, folding me in half as I cried into my open hands.