It was the afternoon of Halloween, 2016. The day had been spent slowly traveling from Cork on our way to Castlemaine, stopping at anything that grabbed our interest. We descended from the highlands into a valley choked with the acrid smoke of peat fires, giving the hills an otherworldly purple glow. These fires have been burnt on October 31st for centuries, now as tradition but originally with a different intent.
The ancient origins of this holiday began in Ireland. Called Samhain at the time, it was the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. However, this day was also marked as the day the border between the other world and the human world were at their weakest, allowing free travel between realms for fairies, banshees, shape-shifters and the dead. Massive fires were built to ward off these spirits and attract departed family members from returning home.
I had spent the last several weeks telling Christine of the spooky goings-on of pagan Ireland, setting her up for a night of chills. Halloween was traditionally the only night of the year I could convince her to watch a scary movie with me. This year was different, this year we got to experience the land where so many of these tales were born.
We slowly ascended the long driveway (pictured) to the house we’d rented, about an hour before sunset. It was very rural, set apart from the nearest residence by hundreds of feet without a single commercial building in sight. The house was unlocked, the key on the kitchen counter. It only took a few minutes to freshen up and prepare for dinner and then it was back to a pub we had passed a couple kilometers back.
I had shepard’s pie and a pint of Tom Crean’s lager. Christine had a glass of pinot grigio and the first nacho disaster of our trip, a plate of chips and cheese microwaved to oblivion with a scoop of cold, canned salsa dropped on top. We laughed about this, promising each other we’d make ourselves a snack of cheese, crackers, and charcuterie when we got back to the house.
We had packed costumes. She was Black Widow and I was Iron Man. We returned to the house and changed but decided at the last minute to call the local bar to make sure they held the Halloween party promised by our host. They did, but it was the previous Saturday. We were all dressed up with no where to go. This was perfect. It had been a long day. Both of us were happy to pull a movie from the house’s collection and curl up on the couch together with the promised snacks and some brown bread, of course. She ate that with every meal while we were on our trip.
The movie ended. We were tired and decided to spend the rest of the night together in bed.
I lay there, holding Christine, slipping into sleep. And then
Tap Tap Tap
The sounds were coming from the walls. They were coming from the windows.
I got up and checked the locks. I tried to look out the windows.
Tap Tap Tap
It was so dark outside I couldn’t see anything so I lifted the window. Could it be the wind?
Nothing moved outside.
Tap Tap Tap
I shined a light around to see where the noise was coming from. Nothing.
Finally I crawled back into bed. I held her closer.
Me: Are you awake?
Me: Where are these noises coming from?
And then I fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke to a beautiful day. The sun was shining through a few clouds. Cold, but perfect.
I made breakfast and coffee and brought them to her in bed.
Christine: Hey. You are such a jerk. I stayed up for hours listening to that noise last night. I hate you.
We kissed. We ate. We left the house and had the best day of our lives. It was our perfect day. She fell in love with Ireland. ‘My heart belongs in Dingle’ she would say anytime we thought about where we wanted to spend out last days together.
That night, same house, not a single sound.