MORE SHORT STORY FUN

MORE SHORT STORY FUN

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Our short story competition is now open. Below is another example of an excellent short story. Have a sneaky read of this during your lunch break.

Then put pen to paper and write your own short story. It must be no more than 800 words long and be about Ireland in some way. Entries to editor@oldmooresalmanac.com

MIRIAM AND THE CAILLEACH DUBH

Miriam sat gazing through a dusted window and yellowed curtains at a thrashing crystal sea. She’d neglected the house-work since her children had grown up, grown independent of her care and moved abroad to work and to ‘find themselves’. She had a husband, by definition, but he was about as lively and as present as the tethered arm chair in which he he sat.

She put her mug down and found herself wandering outside. The tall grass by the sea was beckoning her forward and she absently followed the crisp Irish breeze which led her to a curious patch of pumpkins.

“Pumpkins!” she mumbled to her self. “What on earth…”

She found herself drawn to the isolated patch and ran her fingertips over the smooth orange surface. She stuck her nails in sharply, and began scooping out lumps of the pumpkin and vivaciously breathing in it’s sweet scent. Miriam collected a handful of seeds and placed them in her apron pocket and proceeded down to the shore.

The next morning Miriam awoke with a headache. The rain pelted at her bedroom window and wrapping her anorak around her she hurried off outside into the wild coastal morning to collect briquettes from the shed. Something else had caught her eye. Giant pumpkins lined the shore; pumpkins of an array of sizes, plump and shiny, surrounded her cottage. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief. Surely she was going mad! All of a sudden a figure appeared on the horizon. A dark shadow grew closer and closer to Miriam. As it did, the image took the form of a woman. Haggard and with weathered leathery skin, the woman in black glided closer to her, her long black shawl barely tipping the sand beneath her.

The woman spoke to Miriam from under her hood.

“You stole seeds from the Cailleach Dubh. Seeds no human hand were to touch.” Miriam was frozen to the core, still not quite believing what she was seeing in front of her.

“As a penalty,” the woman in black continued, raising a long bony finger up to Miriam “Your husband shall be transformed into a dog and you into a cat, and ye shall live out the remainder of ye’r days fighting until one of ye meets your death.”

Miriam gasped in horror but was swept up in a torrent of sand, her limbs and bones contorting wildly until she was thrown down on all fours, whiskers and all. She ran to find her husband who surly enough, was cowering by his armchair, with shaggy tail between his legs. The two stared at each other in mutual understanding but a wild hate was brewing in their veins for one another. They knew if they were to fix this mess they must push past their animal instincts. The two fought every day, slipping deeper into their feral roles, but a glimmer of their true selves remained, like a light in each of them. They fought over food; Miriam caught fish, her husband ate it, leaving hardly enough for her. Miriam’s husband barked loudly at night to ward off predators and this kept her awake, and cranky. She thought his overt heroism to be foolish and unnecessary.

They both agreed on one thing however; they had to end this curse before it was too late.

Days passed and then weeks. The season changed and with it came spring. The pair had learned to hunt together, taking advantage of her husband’s nose and Miriam’s claws. They both guarded the house at night, keeping close together for heat and in the mornings they explored the vast Irish coast line leaping and bounding with joy in the salty sea air, never again catching sight of the mysterious pumpkins.

It was strange. The two, once they had tamed their animal selves and remembered their human selves in all that they did, and learned to work together as a team, had become content in their roles. They no longer lived in fear of the Cailleach Dubh’s curse and had learned to live happily together as cat and dog; complete opposites.

One morning, Miriam awoke. She had a headache and rain was once again beating off her window. She took a breath and jolted as she looked down at herself and her husbands two arms, hands legs and feet. She touched her face; no fur, no whiskers The curse was gone. She shook her husband and exclaimed in joy!

He replied chuckling, “What a silly dream, my darling Miriam”.

With a shake of her head Miriam lay back down, cuddling her husband tightly.

But then she heard a sharp tap on the floor. She turned her head slowly and looked down… A pumpkin seed!

Lauren Smith is studying media production at Ballyfermot College, and does community radio work. She is fascinated by Celtic traditions, spooky things, myths and the mystical side of the Irish culture.

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