Children shall I tell you the story of Maggie and the tiniest banshee? Well gather round and don’t interrupt.
A very long time ago, long, long before our kind had enslaved the last of the brownies and domesticated all the wulvers, there lived a large family in the little lighthouse on Muckle Flugga.
Domesticated? Made into pets dear. Sit back down please.
Theirs was a very large family, seven daughters with two sickly grandparents, and they all lived together in their cramped little lighthouse. And the daughters, who should have been helping out with chores and assisting in day to day operations, instead spent their days squabbling with each other horribly. That is, all but the youngest, Maggie, who was born with a ghost eye in the middle of her forehead.
Yes Erskina, exactly like yours. Sit down.
And that is why she alone was able to see the family of banshees living in the shadows in the lighthouse cellar. A family of two sickly grandparents and seven granddaughters—a haint family mirroring the flesh-and-bloods upstairs.
Erskina! Put. The barbed. Wire. Away. Don’t make me say it again.
Maggie and the tiniest of the banshees became fast friends. While her older sisters were raiding the icebox, playing horrid tricks on one another and scattering their messes everywhere, Maggie and her banshee friend would sit in the top of the lighthouse for hours, staring out to sea. There the tiniest banshee would tell Maggie stories about—
You think that’s funny? Look at me. Erskina. I asked you a question. Do you think it’s funny? Setting fire to Caitrin’s hair like that? Kenzie, take your sister out to the hand pump and help her put the flames out. And it was just starting to grow back. As for you Erskina, go sit in The Chair. Now. I mean it. Until I say so. Don’t you—don’t you dare look at me that way. Wipe that grin off your face.
The two of them would sit in the lighthouse tower as Maggie listened to the banshee tell of shipwrecks she had caused, of how she kept the drowning sailors company by singing to them as they sank to the ocean floor, how she led them past the Stoor Worm caves to the undersea city of—
(Snapping fingers.) Children, over here. Ignore her. You know the rule. When someone’s in The Chair they are dead to us. We do not make eye contact, we do not talk to them, we do not acknowledge them in any way. Eyes on me.
So, alright. Anyway. One day Maggie told the tiniest banshee that she wanted to move into the cellar with the rest of her phantom family. After all, Maggie was picked on mercilessly by her older sisters, and as for her grandparents, they were so ancient and ill they sputtered and gagged all day long. So the tiniest banshee took Maggie by the hand and down into the cellar to introduce her to her to the haints. If you truly wish to join our family, they told her, you need to shed your skin, just like a snake. Which is exactly what Maggie did. She took off her skin and handed it to the banshee grandparents, who folded it neatly and stashed it away in a dresser drawer. They held up a mirror so Maggie could see her new body. So pleased was she at her shimmering form, her transparent, watery hair, and the way her ghost eye now beamed like a smoldering cataract, that she ran upstairs to show her old flesh and blood sisters. But when they saw her they howled in shock, and threw—
Erskina—Erskina, stop it, put—I mean it. You will drop that cleaver right this instant. And enough with the giggling, no one finds you amusing. Oh no you—(rising, back to wall)—don’t you dare—don’t you—okay that’s it, you are in such big—Erskina that’s hurting me. This is inappropriate. My frock, you’ve ruined—oh Erskina, not again… (collapses).
(Erskina, turning to the others): And when her crappy snotty sisters saw Maggie they all ran outside and flung themselves into the sea, every one of them, including the old grandmaw and grandpaw too who were both prackly skeletons and shoulda been bled and skinned long ago. Then Maggie and the banshees moved upstairs into the lighthouse and they all ate real human food for dinner, not handfuls of mice droppings, and they wore real human clothes, not drippy rags of rotted seaweed. And they all slept in comfy human beds not cold sewer pipes, and they lived happily ever after, enough already, the end. Now get off your chairs you sheep and help me zip Auntie back into her duffer bag, we’ve got work to do.