Part 1: Triona vs. The Thousand-eyed Cowchild

piggy.pngRachel gazed upwards at the ornate door. It was varnished a dark brown, lined with black iron rivets. She was eye-level with the post slot. Too short to reach the lion-faced brass knocker, or the plastic the doorbell. She settled with rapping the lower half of the door with as much force as she could muster. She waited for an answer as the October winds threatened to relieve her of her pink plastic pig mask and ruffled her black bin bag tunic. No moon shone tonight. It sometimes briefly manifested as a white streak amongst the swirling clouds. Rachel was pig-ignorant of this though, as her view from inside her mask was limited to two slits beneath the pig’s eyes.

 

After an aeon, the door creaked open. A witch with foiley hair and green paint-streaked hand wrapped around a wine glass cackled by way of greeting.”Triggerrtreeeeat!” Rachel sang, voice muffled behind her snout. “And who’s that under there?”, the witch slurred. The question irritated Rachel, who just wanted chocolate. Nevertheless she tilted her porcine visor upwards, revealing her chubby face to the witch for inspection. “Rachel Driscoll, aren’t you the cutest little pig in Gleantír!”, she squeaked, squeezing her cheek. This did nothing for her irritation. Or her want for chocolate.

 

As the witch withdrew her hand, Rachel lowered the mask. “Triggerrtreeeeeat!”, she snorted again, proffering her hollow plastic pumpkin to the witch with outstretched arms. The witch had magicked the contents of her wine glass into the phantom zone of her mouth in the split second Rachel’s eyes were off her. “Trick!”, the witch spat gleefully. Rachel stood in confused silence, pumpkin still upheld to the uncaring sorceress. A few droplets of red wine dripped down her plastic visage. The witch sighed. “You said `trick or treat`, Rachel. So if you want your treat, you have to do a trick for me.” Rachel felt a key turn inside her head. “Oh, I thought it was one word.”

 

She fell into silence again, ruminating on this new development. She was under the impression that the point of tonight was free chocolate, not some kind of tit for tat exchange, where she actually had to do something for the chocolate other than ask. What was this witch asking of her? For Rachel to play a trick on her? To perform a magic trick? A party trick? What tricks did she even know? She felt like it was something she was supposed to know, so she didn’t ask. “I’ll be back with a trick.” the pig said, turning suddenly back to the graveled driveway and trotting crunchily off into the night.

 

Triona smiled at the child as she ran off, remembering her trick-or-treating days. Not that they were particularly happy memories, but Rachel seemed like a happy child. She poured herself another glass of wine, and returned to the horror film Dermot had fallen asleep in front of in the sitting room, and drank her glass of wine. She poured herself another glass of wine.

 

Rachel’s other stops that night were much more straightforward. They yielded mini Twixes, mini knock-off Twixes, a slice of brack wrapped up in baking paper, chocolate eggs, some lolly pops, loose Malteasers, stupid peanuts, bagged jellies, loose jellies, biscuits (custard creams, bourbons, chocolate digestives and a Wagon Wheel – though her friend Siobhan insisted these were not biscuits), Mars bars, mini knock-off Mars bars, apples, marshmallows, chocolate mice, gummy teeth, Cadbury’s Roses apparently leftover from the previous Christmas. One ill-prepared household had given her a pack of cream crackers.

 

She ambled down the country roads from house to house, picking sweets from her near-overflowing pumpkin. Once or twice she walked by a group of her neighbours making the same rounds she was, in groups of two or three. No one questioned the lone pig wandering the roads outside of Gleantír – not on All Hallow’s Eve. Not when souls walked the earth.

 

The question of the trick danced in her mind like flame. Rachel was a completionist, and ending the night not in possession of the candies, that were rightfully hers, was not an option. She came to the next house – that of her friend, Siobhan O’Dea. Her knocks on the plastic door with the frosted glass window went unanswered. Unusual. Rachel heard the crackle of a bonfire in the O’Dea’s backyard. She went to investigate, and saw it; a beacon for the lost. The souls who wandered the earth. The silhouettes of the O’Dea clan stood around it, apparently entranced by the dancing red licks.

 

Siobhan O’Dea – the smallest of the silhouettes – alone turned to face Rachel. She was wearing a plastic cow mask.

 

“Siobhan, what’s the craic girl?”

 

“Rachel.”

 

“Nothing much, just trick-or-treating. Want some chocolate?”

 

She extended the pumpkin – whose swell had reduced to three quarters full during her walk over to the O’Deas. Siobhan took a handful from inside with little regard for what she picked up. She didn’t even lift her mask up to eat. She took a bite from the pile – nuts, gummy teeth, knock off mini Mars bars (still wrapped), foil wrapped chocolate mice. Rachel knew Siobhan to be a picky eater. This made it odd that she was chewing on nutshells and tinfoil underneath her cow mask.

 

“Come look into the flames with us, Rachel.”

 

Rachel stood next to Siobhan and her family as they gazed into the bonfire. None of them regarded her. She felt a tight grip in her stomach – they all had animal masks on. Sheep. Dog. Goat. They all stared unwaveringly into the whirling fire. They all looked… dirty. Like they had been fighting in mud. She wished her parents would dress up for Halloween like this. The O’Deas commitment was admirable – it was almost like this was real.

 

“Siobhan, do you know any tricks?”

 

“Why so?”

 

“Well I was at the lady who lives next to my house trick-or-treating. She wants me to do a trick before I get a treat. And I don’t know any tricks… but I really want the treat.”

 

Siobhan’s cow face slowly turned to meet Rachel’s pig face. Her eyes shone madly between the slits in the mask, giving the impression of a four-eyed cow. Rachel supposed she must look the same, a four-eyed pig.

 

“How badly do you want the treat, Rachel?”

 

She wasn’t sure she liked that question; it was at the same time an accusation and an invitation.

 

“Fairly badly. Someone told me she actually made caramel apples.”

 

Siobhan’s eyes did not look like Siobhan’s eyes. They were burning like gorse fire. Shimmering like broken green glass. As grey as Atlantic waves breaking on a cold cliff. Spongy like wild mushrooms. Red as a car-flattened rat.

 

“What would you do for these caramel apples?”

 

Despite the pumpkin in her hand, despite her full belly, despite the dinner she had before leaving the house, Rachel really, really, really wanted that caramel apple.

 

“Anything, I ‘spose.”

She felt something then; the clench in her stomach. She could feel the clench move past her stomach. Move beyond her stomach, but still clenching it. Not her body, but her… her… she didn’t know what. It was clutching around her but it felt like she was a dog, and someone was pulling her lead. That she was a pig, and her farmer was slapping her back with a bit of plastic tube to get her into a pen. She could almost hear a dog barking at her, screaming to get in. She smelled the muck of the pen, of the other pigs. She became fear. A pink squealing hungry mass. Livestock.

 

From the outside she was a silhouette like all the others, standing solemnly around the bonfire.

 

******************

Triona poured herself another glass of wine. The film was almost over; the invincible murder was chasing the unlikely protagonist around with a machete. Sometimes Triona wished for excitement like that. To actually feel like your life is in danger. Maybe if her life was threatened she might regain her joie de vivre. She poured herself another glass of wine.

 

Country life was shit, Tiona thought. Everything was too far away. Everyone knew everything about you. Everyone talked about each other – including you. Regardless of whether you had no interest in them, or their thoughts and theories about your life. Your husband’s family always called around to check up – to gather intel. There was a smell of cow shit half the time. And being on the coast, there was always glassy sharp winds. Triona missed city life. She missed the bustle, the hustle. The bump and grind. The music. The… happening. She poured herself another glass of-

 

KNOCKKNOCKKNOCK!

A police knock. What happened? Who died? Triona emptied her glass. She her ran to the ornate door that she hated and swung it open. “Yes?”, she half-screamed. Before her was not a cop, but a cow no taller than the pig who had been there earlier that night. A cow covered in mud.

 

“Trick or treat!”, the cow enunciated, in a voice far beyond its size. Shaking, Triona asked, “Wh-who’s that under… there?” The cow did not lift it’s mask. The cow said, plainly, “Siobhan O’Dea.” A pang of relief shot through Triona. “Siobhan! You frightened the life out of me! How is your mother?! She was supposed to call over for a slice of brack!” and to distract me from another night of drunken sleepy Dermot.  “She is dead.”

 

Triona’s heart lept from her chest. “Oh God, Siobhan! Come inside, what happened?” Siobhan stepped over the threshold. “She fell ill. She died.”, she said flat as a spirit level, voice muffled by her cow mask. Triona was shattered – Maggie’s daughter was in shock… Maggie was dead, but she owed it to her to look after her – laughter – laughing cow of a child. The data collected by her senses was not totting up correctly in Trionas head. Maggie O’Deas daughter had just informed her of her death, and was laughing – no, chuckling – about it. A deep, deep chuckle – too deep to come from a girl, never mind one of Siobhan’s stature.

 

Triona ducked down to her level. “Siobhan, listen – Siobhan, stop laughing! Siobhan – tell me about your-” Siobhan’s chuckles had grown to deep inhalations, as if she was fighting for air and screaming at the top of her lungs – “Siobhan! Stop! Take off that mask!” She grasped the bovine countenance at its chin and yanked. The mask would not budge. Was it glued on? She pulled again. Harder. She felt a rip – oh Christ, she felt a rip, and Cow face was removed from Siobhan. Below, red. And the eyes, the multifaceted eyes of several hues and moods at once looked at her intently. A bloody face without cheeks and a thousand eyes rolled into two stared at her, and its lipless mouth was mooooooooooing, low guttural moos that cut at her to her core. Beyond her core.

 

She wanted to scream. She fell back, pissed slightly, and wheezed. “TRICK!”, the ex-cow Siobhan, the screaming bloody ten year old mooed, “TRICK, TRICK, TRICK, TRIIIIICK!” A pig poked its head out from next to the door and waved. “Can I have my candy apple, now?“ The pig let out an agonizingly long ooooiiiiinnnnnnnk!

 

Triona gasped, gaped. She had no idea what was going on. Was this some intricate joke? Had little Rachel really the wherewithal to take a ‘trick’ this far? Triona would have settled for knock and dolly. She supposed that the liquid latex setup Siobhan had was pretty cool – she was so uncool herself, it must be a pretty common practical joke these days to say that your mother had died.

 

“Th-th-th-at was a ver-ry good trick girls! I’ll go aaaand get your tr-tr-treat!” Triona stood shakily, her foiley wig falling to the floor, her green paint-streaked hands staining the freshly painted baby blue wall, barely noticing that she had wet herself. She averted her eyes from the pair of children and went to the kitchen, where the caramel apples were chilling in the fridge.

 

Breathing in and out, putting one foot in front of the other and not falling over at the same time felt like someone had thrown a violin to her and told her to play – having had studied once long ago. She made a inharmonious draw across the strings and wobbled her way to the kitchen. Once there, she poured herself another glass of wine.

 

She finished her glass of wine and opened the fridge. Inside there was a plate of caramel apples, glistening by the flickering door light. Inside the apples she heard screams. She slammed the fridge shut, slammed her eyes shut and put her back to the door. She could still hear the wailing, as if the trees that bore the fruit were planted in a graveyard. The energy of past aeons sang – no, cried – from the chocolate covered granny smiths.

 

Triona needed more wine. She opened her eyes. Jumped – because outside there was a man-sized sheep. One hand against the glass of her sliding door. Breath making clouds on the outside of the glass. Other hand holding a blade. Triona emptied the rest of her bladder.

 

She was beyond screaming now. She was as a rabbit; fleet and fearful. Adrenaline flooded her system, sobering her up almost instantly. She went to the cutlery drawer and found a large rolling pin. “Dermot!”, she called. As she ran from the kitchen, she could see a dog had joined the sheep in its vigil.

 

The sitting room door was closed. The front door was open. The children were gone. Triona wasn’t sure what to make of this – until she heard giggling, squealing and mooing from inside the sitting room. She closed the front door. Grasping the sitting room door handle, she pushed it open to no avail. She drew her rolling pin back and struck the frosted glass, shattering it. Inside the sitting room, the cow and pig sat over Dermot.

 

The cow had it’s face back on, eyes burning with the same white hot, freezing cold blackness. The pig’s eyes were dimmer – but it held a meat cleaver and it was chopping at Dermot’s leg. Chopping and peeling his legflesh away with dull, wet thumps. She was trying to get at his bones. “We’re making a fire”, the pig squealed, the dull inferno of its eyes meeting Triona’s. She was now frozen, adrenaline or not.

 

The cow’s sonorous, muffled moo came: “We need bones for the bonfire, Triona. This will be our treat. We do not want the candy apples; the spirits within are ancient. Dermot’s spirit is fresh. So is yours.”

Dermot was dead. Triona could see that. He had puncture marks on his torso. His blood was everywhere. Triona was as full of screams as her caramel apples. Only hers were not escaping. Dermot was dead. She wanted wine. The pig was laughing. Oinking. Hitting his leg. It found the grain. The meat cleaver was separating his flesh from his bone in long strips now. The cow was droning on and on. Triona heard a smash from the kitchen. Triona heard a smash from the kitchen. Jesus Christ. Triona heard a smash in the kitchen. The rest of the farm was coming. She heard the wail of strings in her ears.

 

She said nothing. She raised her rolling pin up. Smashed it down on the pig’s head. She raised her rolling pin up. Smashed it down on the pig’s head. She felt a crack. It dropped the cleaver. It fell in a heap. Mask cracked. She could see the child inside. She swung her rolling pin to left. She glanced the cow’s mask. It fell to the ground. The faceless child’s face was exposed again. Dermot was dead. She wanted a glass of wine. The cowchild opened it’s mouth to say something. Triona forced the rolling pin into it. She heard teeth crack. The child went limp and fell backwards. Behind her she heard footsteps on broken glass. The sheep and the dog. The sheep had one foot over the door.

 

She picked up the cleaver. She had to grip harder. Because of Dermot’s blood. Dermot’s blood. Dermot who was dead. She stole a look at his lifeless face. She turned to face the sheep, swinging hard down with the cleaver. She lodged it in his skull. It dropped it’s knife. It fell. It bleated. It died. A woof. The dog. Snarling bitch. It jumped for Triona. “Bones”, it barked.

 

It knocked her to the ground. She pushed at it. It wrapped its hands around Triona’s neck. Triona’s neck that Dermot would never kiss again. Triona coughed. She had dropped her rolling pin. She put her hands up the mask of the dog. She found the eye slits. She pushed her fingers in. Teeth. She felt teeth. She screamed. They bit down. Hard. Hard. Sharp. Sharp teeth. Blood poured from the eye slits. Poured all over Triona’s face. Triona’s blood.  She felt the tips of her thumbs leave her hand. She drew back her right hand. Made a fist. Punch. Punch. Punch. PUNCH.

 

She dented the cheap plastic dog mask. She punched again. She was running out of breath. Being strangled hurt. Surprisingly. The mask was broken around the eye slit. Her thumb-tip slid out. It landed on her face. She could see the dog’s eye. Their real eye. No teeth. Could she afford to lose another finger? Yes. She drew her fist back. Extended her index. Punched. Drove her finger into the dog’s eye with a pop. No teeth. The dog’s grip went limp. It drew its head back. Her finger slid out from it’s eye socket. She inhaled. Deeply. Dermot was dead. She needed a glass of wine. The dog fell to the floor. Whimpering.

 

She fought against her body. Ordered it to stand up. The strings swelled. She saw the sheep’s blade on the ground. She moved to it. Picked it up. She exited the sitting room. She needed to call the police. An ambulance. She needed her phone. Hurried up the stairs. Opened the door of their room. Inside. A goat. A great, big muddy goat, And a pile of bones. A massive pile of bones and wood. A smell of petrol. The goat bleated. She could feel his smile from under his mask. He produced a lighter. He bleated again. A woosh of air. A flash. The bonfire blazed to life. The room filled with smoke. The goat caught fire. Bleating.

 

Triona cursed loudly. Her house. Her fucking expensive house. Her husband. Her fucking dead husband.  She danced down the stairs.The stairs decided to keep going. And going. Triona kept dancing. The floor never got any closer. Behind her was the smell and crackle of the bonfire. Ahead of her lay broken glass and blood. She misstepped and tumbled. A fumbling drag of the bow across the violin. An unharmonic screech.

 

She tumbled down the stairs. Periodically she cracked her head off a step. She lost consciousness.

 

******************

 

She woke up at the foot of the stairs. Head a pounding mess. Smoke billowing from the bedroom above her. She didn’t have much time. She had to get to the neighbors. She had to call for help. She put her thumbless hands beneath her body and pushed. The adrenaline had stopped flowing. All that was coursing through her veins as replacement was hurt. THUD! IN THE SITTING ROOM! THEY ARE STILL ALIVE!

 

Triona limped towards the large ornate door. Where a puddle of her piss lay. Where a puddle of blood from Siobhan’s face lay. A hollowed out plastic pumpkin lay with its chocolate cargo that had splayed onto the floor. Triona could not think. She could barely walk. Her head felt like it was trying to pull itself inside out. Both ears pushing towards each other. Her brain fit to corn pop. Triona placed her hand upon the door handle and pulled towards herself.

 

There was nothing outside. No doorstep. No driveway.  No Gleantír. No planet. No stars. No colour. Not even black.

There was only a sound. A constant mantra. A screaming whisper in the nothing. The heartbeat of everything. The bassline of existence. It was pleasure and pain. Life and death. Milk and a 1997 Nissan Skyline and the M83 Galaxy and a 3rd Century Chinese rice farmer named Xiang. He waved at her as if to say hello. Triona cried. For her. For Dermot. Her thumbs. The children. The other people she had to kill. She asked the Hum for forgiveness. The Hum forgave her.

The thousand-eyed cowchild stepped through the broken glass of the sitting room door. She carried a bone. It had been snapped in half. It eyed Triona who was crying rivers through time. “Welcome to the other side of the fire.” Forever ended. Triona turned to face the toothless mess of a mouth she had created. “Kill me. Do whatever you want to do. I just want this to be over.” She turned out her four-fingered palms and submitted to the approach of the cowchild. The cow did not see the puddle of piss. It slipped. It’s tiny shoes skeeted as the former child tried to regain balance. Its foot found purchase on a sweet wrapped in bright foil. It was not enough to stop it tripping over Triona’s outstretched arms. The cow tripped through the door and the cow fell into nothing. Triona looked over the edge of the house. She could hear a faint moo as it fell into the nothing. The moo joined the chorus of the universal whisper. Triona needed a glass of wine.

 

She stood up. Emboldened. If this was a psychotic break she regreted not having one years ago. She limped to the kitchen. Noting along the way that the fire continued upstairs. She made short work of the bottle in the fridge. The voices in the caramel apples had ceased. She and her house were nowhere now. It wasn’t Halloween in nowhere. The spirits no longer danced freely among the living. Maybe because she was no longer living.

 

Back to the sitting room. Dermot lay dismembered. The pig, the dog and the sheep lay amongst him too.  She could fee Dermot through the hum. He was still in the room. Just beyond the room. But there. His spirit was tied to the very strings that held the matter in the room together. It glowed with his love and laziness. Her heart felt light. She could almost hear him calling for her. Louder though was the crackling of the fire in their bedroom.

 

The fire. The fire would killer her if hunger didn’t first. Triona scaled the stairs again. Her head still trying to invert itself. In the room, the stinking corpse of the goat man was cooking in the flames. Nothing else was catching fire. Nothing in the room was damaged. Even the ceiling above the flame was unstained. She stared into the fire. “Welcome to the other side of the fire”, the cowchild had said. The fire had taken her house here. To nowhere. To nothing. Perhaps it could bring her back to somewhere. To something. She beamed at the fire. Intent in her head. Home.

 

She felt something then. The twist in her brain. She could feel the twist move past her brain. Move beyond her brain, but still twisting it. Not her head, but her… her… she didn’t know what. It was clutching around her but it felt like she was a shepherd, like a leader of animals. Like she could see the strings of the universe. And pull them as necessary. That she was a witch. Through her fingers coursed power. She could feel a presence beyond the flames. Muted now, as they were nowhere.

 

Beyond the flames she could feel somewhere. And in that somewhere was the presence that had sent the animal children. That had killed Dermot. The pig. The sheep. The dog. The goat. The cowchild. They shared a father. Triona the Witch couldn’t discern it’s name. It’s nature was clear though. It was evil. It would have to die. For what it had done to her. To the people of Gleantír.

 

She gazed  at the dancing flames. Their rippling licks. She could see a path. She summoned her will. She drew strength from the universal hum. The house began to shake. Twist. Contort. The room closed in on Triona, pushing her into the flames. Through the flames. Beyond them. White hotness engulfed her until it didn’t. She was pushed from the flames as the house returned to its shape with a shake. There was something outside the window. Sunlight. A blue sky.  Beats nothing.

 

******************

 

Triona danced down the stairs once more. She managed not to trip this time. Trotting past the mortuary that was her living room. Past the puddle of piss and the puddle of blood and the pile of Halloween chocolate. She threw the door orpen once more. The house was floating 30 feet above the ground. Not even above where her house should be. But above a plain on grass with some tree cover. What was this place?

 

She saw over the crest of a hill a rising pillar of smoke. By simply thinking about the house moving towards it, the house did so. At a slow clip it glided over the landscape below. It looked like Ireland. It could even have been pre-Ireland. No roads. No fields. Only land and trees. Occasionally an animal darting under a bush at the sight of a floating house.

 

Over the crest of the hill, the landscape opened up into a great coastal plain. The high mountains around horizon were the Slieve Mish mountains, she knew. Closer still was Stack’s Mountain, bereft of the wind turbines that she had campaigned against. Gleantír village was nowhere to be seen. The air rushing into the house through the door was cleaner. She inhaled in great gulps. Even the sky was bluer – apart from the stack of smoke billowing from a point in a grassy clearing. She commanded her domicile downwards, and pulled up within sight of the source. A bonfire.

 

Around it danced a group of humans. They were chanting. On their faces they wore crude masks. Animal masks. The Witch felt sick to her stomach. The evil was older than she had anticipated. But then again, having heard the universal hum she knew everything was far older than she had anticipated. She could see the energy of the fire pulsing red in the hearts of the dancers. The fire itself was not evil. Nor were the dancers. The evil had simply used the fire as a conduit through which to interact with this plane. Perhaps she could do the same? Even though this was her land, it was not her time. Perhaps it would be prudent to leave a little a footprint as possible.

 

She willed the house to invisibility. It was obscured from the view of the dancers. As was she. She leapt from the door of the house, landing lightly on the grass. The dancers sang in a distant tongue. A sort of pre-Gaelic. Tattered brown rags wrapped their bodies. Sinewy limbs glistened with sweat as they danced. The masks were imperfect renderings of wolves, bulls and fish, made from wood, plant matter and mud. There was little tune to their singing or rhythm to their dance. They were like smellier Hare Krishnas.

 

Triona the Witch stepped toward the fire. She remained unnoticed by locals. Staring into the flames once more, she began to melt into the ground as it absorbed her energy. Her aura scattered among the area touched by the bonfire’s heat. She could feel the air. The air could feel her. She could feel the dancers. The dancers could feel her. They kept dancing, regardless.

 

Her presence was changing the flame’s aura from red to a blue-red. There was no trace of the evil among the revelers. She was left with few clues from their or their ancestors memories on how she might return to their own time. She could hear their prayers. They prayed for the death of the leader of the clan from the next fort over. They would offer their devotion for years to come if the fire would grant them these things.

 

Triona the Witch hiding in flames felt ill at ease with such a request. She had just murdered four people, after all. Or had it happened a century ago? She was no longer certain of how fast or slow time was passing. Every moment could be a second or a century. Regardless, these people were praying, beseeching the bonfire – and by extension, her – to kill. They were offering eternal devotion. Even the tiny bit of devotion they were offering here was energising. Like the feeling from a strong cup of coffee. Like a warm stew on a freezing day. Like a light orgasm. She liked it. She wanted more.

 

Triona stepped from the fire. The dancers paused. One ripped his wolf mask off, to reveal a young man with a scar from his left brow to his right cheek. His face was frozen in terror and love. He dropped to his knees and his companions followed. They chanted praise to Triona the Witch who had a degree in digital marketing and she felt a rose blossom inside her.

 

******************

In the dead room, the former living room of Triona’s house, Dermot’s spirit bounced around listlessly. He had been murdered. And it had hurt. And he never got to say goodby to Triona. The last time he saw her she looked scared and wounded.  He too was scared. He now knew there was an afterlife. And there was a real possibility that he would have to spend it’s entirety floating around his messy sitting room. He screamed but he couldn’t hear himself. Had someone been standing in the sitting room, they would have heard the door creak. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t see outside the sitting room. He saw her murder the animal people quite brutally. He was glad he had paid for the krav maga classes back when they lived in the city. He was at a loss to describe his feelings on the situation in which she found them necessary to use.

 

Below him, lay the bodies of a child and two adults. Both had cheap plastic halloween outfits on. What had possessed them to do this? And why were their souls not exited into the room like his did? Would he even see them or feel them if they had? He felt lost. He wished someone would explain the situation to him. St. Peter, a ghost, a demon… whoever. He soon realised that death was much like life in terms of receiving outside support. If no one chooses to help you, you’re on your own.

 

He turned his awareness to the corpse of the child in the pig mask. Triona had caved in her skull after the child had murdered and begun dismembering him. He felt a well of pity for her. Rachel Driscoll deserved better. It was obvious to him now that what happened was of a supernatural quality. Not that these were situations he experienced much (or at all) in living life, but somehow he knew. Rachel’s actions were not her own. She – or any of the people who attacked their house – could be blamed for what happened. Someone had forced their hands, suppressing their souls in favour of their own malign desires.

 

Soul suppression… Dermot lingered on the concept. If whatever had taken control of their bodies had done so by pushing their souls down to make room for itself, perhaps that was why their spirits had not exited their bodies as his had. If their spirits were still in there, perhaps Dermot could…

 

Dermot forced his awareness into the shell that was the dog. Under the dog mask was Maggie O’Dea. He recognised the warmth of her character instantly as he pushed beyond her physical form into her meta-core. Dermot suddenly found that he understood a great deal about metaphysics. Or rather, he remembered many things that he had forgotten. He knew now that Descartes was right; minds were made of something immaterial.

 

Dermot stood at the back door of Maggie O’Dea’s house. He tapped on the frosted glass. The call came that it was open. He stepped into Maggie’s meta-core – the infinitely small, infinitely large unit of space that was “hers”, that existed separately from her body, separate from physical space. A universe that contained the universe which contained itself, infinitely repeating. Maggie’s meta-core resembled her kitchen in rural Ireland. Family photos, devotional pictures of Jesus, a large Welsh dresser containing the good plates, the decorative plates and the regular plates.

 

Maggie O’Dea, formerly possessed now dead, was sitting down sipping on a cup of tea. Lonely but content.

 

She looked up from her cup with a smile.

 

Dermot, ‘tis yourself!

 

How are we keeping now, Mags?

 

Well Dermot I’m not doing too well now if I must be honest – I think I may have died. Have a seat there now and I’ll get you a cup.

 

Dermot sat as Maggie stood to prepare tea.

 

Yes, she continued, I think that Triona killed me alright. I think I deserved it though. I remember deserving it. I think I bit her thumbs off with my eyes.

 

I’m afraid you did die – and so did I.

 

She placed a cup of tea with a drop of milk and half a teaspoon of sugar – just how he liked it – one the table in front of him. An array of biscuits were laid on a plate and proffered to him. Dermot took a chocolate bourbon and doused it in his tea before biting the soggy end off. These were the benefits of rural familiarity.

 

Ha, well thank God you did – I would be awfully lonely on my own. A shur Jesus, we should’ve been saying our prayers all along. Maybe I could’ve skipped the purgatory.

 

You might be right Maggie. Here, would you like to join me to the next level?

 

Oh Dermot!! Are you taking me to Heaven? Will I see Siobhan and Jack again?

 

I don’t know Maggie, I’ll have to dive into their bodies to see if I can find them inside. But we’re not going to heaven, we’re just going to my sitting room, where we all died.

 

Jesus, trading the kitchen for the sitting room. I’d nearly swear I was under house arrest. Do you know when we’re going to heaven?

 

If we are I’m afraid I didn’t hear about it, Maggie. I’m not even sure what to think about religion at this stage. When I died, nothing happened. One moment I was getting hacked at with a cleaver by little Rachel Driscoll and I blacked out. Next thing I knew I was floating around the sitting room looking at all of our corpses. No lights, no St. Peter, no nothing.

 

Well now isn’t that a kick in the teeth.

 

Death often is.

 

Tis’ true for you, Mr. Dempsey.

 

They finished their tea. They nodded and smiled at one another. Maggie didn’t know this would be the last time she would set foot in her kitchen, even if only a metamemetic rendering of it. Dermot Dempsey placed his hand upon Maggie’s shoulder. There was a flash of light and the kitchen ceased to exist.

 

******************

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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Part 1: Triona vs. The Thousand-eyed Cowchild

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