Banshee: A Tale of Grief
Written by Aaren Herron
“In the womb I heard you die, for no one lives when a banshee cries.”
~ C.E. Murphy
The alarm sounded. Noah woke with a cold gasp of life; he was covered in sweat and his chest pounded with the booming rush of adrenalin. His eyes darted towards the alarm. 7:00 AM; Monday; August 23. He threw his blanket off and hopped out of bed, nearly tripping over the basketball that was left lying on the floor amidst the rubble of toys, comic books, and dirty clothes. Shirt after shirt failed the sniff test until he stumbled upon an unworn pitch-black Undertaker shirt with lighting clouding around a tombstone marked REST IN PEACE. The jeans from yesterday will do fine, his mom always said to wear a nice pair more than once before the wash or it’ll ruin them. Deep under his pile of old notebooks from the previous 7 years of school lies the missing shoe of his most beloved pair of Chucks. Today would not be the day that he finds it; normal tennis shoes would have to do. A quick dash into the bathroom allowed Noah the chance to clean the grime off his teeth from the night before.
7:10 AM. As Noah left his room he entered the upstairs hallway. His room was closest to the staircase on the right, situated directly across from the soon-to-be nursery for the family’s expected baby. At the end of the hall, about ten feet from his room, was a single door leading to the master bedroom his parents slept in. The door was closed and the light was on. His parents have already woken up and Noah could hear his father getting ready. The hallway was lined from wall to wall with baby pictures on the right and artworks from his earliest days in school on the left. The pictures of Noah’s youth all aligned perfectly in sequence from the master bedroom down to Noah’s; as if to say, “look at our baby boy! He’s growing!” Which never failed to embarrass him every time his friends came over. That wasn’t nearly as bad as the house’s rough brown carpets that never seemed to lose a stain. They act like a magnet for any and all bits of trappings in the nearest vicinity, and in most cases the cranberry juice Noah regularly sneaks into his room. No matter how hard his father went at it with stain remover and carpet cleaner, the carpet never truly let it go. Noah started downstairs and turned left into the living room; a large open floor space that is ultimately taken over by three massive identical brown couches that surround a coffee table marked with rings that tell its age through each iteration of the Coke can. There are two night stands on either side of the center couch, both with coasters no one ever uses and lamps with only one: add glare to the tv from all angles. A TV that was supposed to be mounted to the wall in the master bedroom, but made for a “better family living space” on top of the fireplace.
Just past the living room lies an archway painted a bright ivory leading directly to the kitchen. It’s a lovely kitchen with an island in the middle, granite countertops, and cabinets and drawers made of fresh maple closing in from all sides. Just to the right of the entrance is a lovely silver fridge with a proud A+, A, B+, A+, A smacked right on the left door. The kitchen leads to a back door with a modest dog-door attached feeding directly out to a fenced in backyard.
Standing in the kitchen reading the newspaper is Noah’s mother looking up in pure joy to see her baby boy for the morning up and ready for school. As Noah enters the kitchen she rushes towards him, planting a kiss on his forehead. He struggled to avoid but she was always faster than him before breakfast, which she just so happened to have already prepared.
Noah’s father comes marching down the stairs and, as if she smelt him, the family dog comes bursting through the dog door and nearly tackles him. She was a beautiful German shepherd named Daisy. Her coat of fur was painted with liquid gold and her personality calibrated to perfection. “The whole family must eat together, don’t you think?” Even the dog took that one to heart. Noah’s father went to the cabinet to grab some kibble for Daisy and a plate of breakfast for himself. As he passed Noah he scuffled with his hair a little and let him know he loves him.
7:15 AM. Noah finished his breakfast quickly. He made sure to give both his parents a hug, and a squeamish kiss for his mother, before grabbing his backpack from the foot of the staircase next to the front door and headed outside. They had a rather small front porch with a staircase of three leading towards a wide driveway with about ten feet of grass on either side and a streaking-white picket fence to surround it all. A big wheel was turned upside down next to a broken sprinkler head and a deflated football was lodged in between the left-side fence from a potato gun experiment gone wrong. Noah reached the end of his driveway and turned left. His house was just three away from the end of the street and the school bus made its stop right across that corner. He could see his buddies already standing there waiting for the bus. Noah ran to make sure he didn’t miss anything.
3:20 PM. The bus dropped Noah and his friends off at the same spot exactly 8 hours later. The sidewalk was painted an amber hue with that afternoon’s showers. Puddles had begun to fill up all along the sidewalk, filling in cracks with pools of rain that were unable to flee. Noah hopped from puddle to puddle as he started home. Passing one house then the next, the puddles seemed to gradually grow larger as he gets closer. Splash! Sploosh! Explosions of water blasting everything in sight like an artillery barrage. Bigger and bigger they get, leading him directly to a puddle fit for trench warfare right in front of his driveway. Noah bent down to the ground as low as he could. Without even a thought, he launched himself into the air and came down with a thunderous impact as the puddle turned into a crater. Noah was soaking wet, and a smile began to stretch across his face as his heart swelled with joy; then he looked up.
3:24 PM. The front door was broken completely off all but one of the hinges. It was hanging just off the corner of the frame as if it was using the last of its strength trying to hold steadfast. Noah walked cautiously forward and slid his backpack onto his right shoulder. As he approached the front steps, he could see a massive boot print left just to the right of the door handle. Clutching the strap of his backpack in his left hand, he reached his arm and softly pushed on the door. It resisted and began to creak. Noah pushed even harder, and the door skipped across the floor as it slowly swung open.
The house was destroyed. Noah stared in shock, his face pale and jaw dropped. A lamp was lodged inside the TV while the other had been shattered against the wall. Pillows had been thrown and torn all throughout the living room, family portraits and game day photos thrown off walls and scattered about the floor. He saw a light flickering in the kitchen and walked forward, carefully stepping over broken glass and what he thought was red paint. As he got closer Noah began to see the gold of Daisy’s tail emerging from around the archway corner. He cleared the broken glass and bolted towards the kitchen until his horizon flipped and he landed flat on his back. The air exploded out of his lungs upon impact, his head whipping off the floor like a trampoline. His backpack had launched into the air and onto the countertop. Noah writhed in pain, first to the left then the right and it hurt so much he couldn’t open his eyes. Thirty seconds of pain go by as he lies on his left side clutching his head. Finally, he opens his eyes. He found daisy.
3:29 PM. Her coat had been tainted a dark red by a corruption growing from an empty hole in her neck. Noah looked right into her cold eyes that told him to stay and lost himself in fear and pain. He began shuffling himself away across the kitchen’s wood floor. He had slipped in a pool of Daisy’s blood, and it now began to drench his clothing as he swam through. He slowly stood up and rushed as quickly to the front door as possible, but a glance upstairs pulled him away. Torn and stained clothes had been left sprawling across the staircase leading upwards. He recognized his mother’s t-shirt then his father’s, a pair of pants then another, all speckled a red Rorschach. He reached the top of the staircase and could see the trail continuing on down to his parent’s bedroom. The door was cracked open, and a dim light emerged from within. Stepping over undershirts and underwear, Noah eventually reached the door. As he stood in front of the door a cold chill took over his body. He couldn’t move; couldn’t speak; couldn’t scream; he was paralyzed. He heard rustling and grinding from inside the room. All he wanted to do was to turn back, to run outside and scream for anyone’s help, but it was too late. He had lost all control and had no recourse.
As if it had a mind of its own, his hand reached out and pushed the bedroom door open. The horrors inside revealed themselves one by one, delicately taking apart his psyche. First there was a cold darkness surrounded by a hue of grey he felt his mind falling through. Slowly he saw her.
3:33 PM. His mother was lying distorted on the bed. The bedsheets were torn and bloodied; her body contorted beneath the shadows and a single beam of light hit her face. Noah looked into her eyes, and it felt as though she was looking right back at him, her eyes tenderly assuring it’ll be okay. The door opened more, and the light seemed to move right along with it. A Mountain planting both of its feet stood dead center in the room with its back turned to Noah. The floor seemed to bend at the force of its presence. It was standing in front of Noah’s father who was hanging by his wrists from the ceiling. The light began to illuminate his hands and Noah could see they were bound by a rope that had sawed divots into his wrists.
The mountain slid slowly to the side in a fluid motion, revealing more of Noah’s father. The beam of light slowly moved down his arms, illuminating his body with a dark glow. Noah looked into the gaping wounds in his father’s body and could only imagine a bear tearing viciously into its prey. The light centered on his father’s face. Noah looked directly into his eyes and his father seemed to return the glance, telling Noah to be strong. The Mountain began to slowly twist around at its base. Ever so slowly turning and dragging the beam of light along with it. Like a lighthouse illuminating the sea, the beam rotated throughout the room as the Mountain began to face Noah. Noah looked up to meet the eyes of this monstrosity, but the beam had found a new home. It showed bright and hard, blinding Noah until his vision turned completely white.
The alarm sounded. Noah woke with a cold gasp of life; he was covered in sweat and his chest pounded with the booming rush of adrenalin. His eyes darted towards the alarm. 7:00 AM; Monday; August 23.