FOOFER AND THE Pooka had just walked a little further in the mist when they noticed a light shining at the end of the path. Faint as the light was, it seemed to penetrate the dense mist and act as a beacon, beckoning the Pooka and Foofer forward.
"What's going on?" Foofer asked nervously.
"It's the Banshee," the Pooka whispered, sounding a bit nervous himself. "She's decided to show herself to us."
"What the heck is a Banshee?" Foofer whispered back. At that moment, for all that he mistrusted and loathed the Pooka, he felt closer to him than ever before. He knew the Pooka was malicious and contrary, but Foofer felt a kinship with him for an instant because he seemed as scared as Foofer was.
"A Banshee is an Irish she-ghost," the Pooka spoke softly, but keeping his slit-eyes on the path up ahead as it grew brighter. "She is also known as the bean-sidhe - woman of the fairy. She terrifies most of all because she is known as the Messenger of Death. She will come to forewarn family members that someone that is their kin is about to die. Her wailing call for the dead is horrible and soul-wrenching to hear. The Banshee appears as a young woman; or a stately old lady, or a wrinkled old hag. She normally wears a gray, hooded cloak, or the white grave robe and veil of the dead. Most often, she appears as a washer woman, and she can be seen washing the bloodstained clothes of the one who is about to die. As a washer woman, she is called bean-nighe."
Foofer was still nervous about the approaching light. "Is that her coming in the light?"
The Pooka shrugged. "I'm not sure, but in all likelihood it is."
The light in the mist came closer and closer, and Foofer found himself stepping closer to the Pooka. He told himself this was to shield the Pooka, but he knew better. Foofer was scared of this light approaching. Not because it was scarier than the Dullahan, but because it was of the unknown.
"Before I forget," Foofer spoke up. "I'd like to let you know these have been very interesting lessons you have given me, Pooka. But I don't see how this one is going to benefit me at all."
"Steady on, young snapper," the Pooka said softly in Foofer's ear. "The Banshee is not after you, trust me. She does not come after dogs or Pooka's, for that matter. Just stay still, and maybe she will pass us by."
"So you're sure it's a Banshee coming?"
"As sure as I can be," the Pooka said sharply.
The lightened image was swirling to them in the foggy mist. As it came closer Foofer saw that it was indeed a woman, and she was dressed in a light-gray hooded cloak just like the Pooka had told him, with a white dress and veil. She seemed to be floating in the air toward them, almost rising above the mist itself. As she came over them, Foofer thought he could see her looking down at him. And as she passed over them completely, Foofer could hear the low moaning and wailing clearly. The Banshee was keening, calling for the dead.
"Show-off," the Pooka muttered as he watched the Banshee fade into the dense fog.
"What did you say?" Foofer asked.
"Nothing," the Pooka said quickly. "We had better keep moving now. I have to get you home to Mummy." The Pooka said the last word - Mummy - in a slightly mocking tone. This angered Foofer a bit, so he turned toward the Pooka to give him a piece of his mind. But as he did, a great wind blew along the path. It cleared out the cold mist Foofer was so tired of, and at the same time it heaved twigs and rocks and leaves into the air. The wind became fierce, and Foofer felt it raising the tips of his ears into the air.
"Time to go home, young snapper," the Pooka shouted above the windy din. "You have been in this world over-long. The fairies have decided you need to go, so it is time. Hurry now, and follow me."
The Pooka took off running - and this was quite a sight to see, a stubby little Pooka running along a dirt path - but Foofer followed him. With his long legs and light speed, Foofer overtook the Pooka in no time and was soon way ahead of him. Foofer was running so fast he didn't notice the sun rising and the air clearing. But he could hear the Pooka at his heels, and this spurred Foofer on even faster.
He was going home, and he couldn't wait to see his Mummy.
FOOFER, THE POOKA & ST. PATRICK ©2002-2017 Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.
"Foofer, the Pooka & St. Patrick" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Foofer, the Pooka & St. Patrick" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.