Brianna's Ghost Story

John Newstead

Brigit Larson hated Ireland.

Okay, that wasn't fair. She was sure that it was a perfectly wonderful place, but she didn't want to be there. It was Halloween. More importantly it was her birthday and she didn't want to be any place but home for either one.

Brianna was from Hamilton, a city in Ontario, Canada, but her parents decided they wanted to have a vacation in the land her mother's parents had come from, so they rented a cottage and set about visiting all the places she had heard about when she was little. It meant nothing to Brianna. She was bored; more than that she was angry.

She didnít know if they trick or treated in Ireland. She had brought her costume with her. It was a fairy princess with a sparkly body, butterfly wings, a mask and a wand. Her mother had said it was perfect for her because she was her princess. Brianna didnít feel like a princess now. She had determined she would wear her costume on Halloween night and be perfectly miserable!

Then she found out that children in Ireland trick or treated just like they did in Canada. She was so happy! She went out with her costume and her pail and went door to door until she had been to every cottage. It took ten minutes. She ate all her candy in five minutes. Being miserable was looking good again. She hadnít even seen another trick or treater. She took off her mask and wings as she stood outside the last unoccupied cottage at the resort. And she was getting a headache.

"Hi!" said a voice from behind her.

Brianna spun to see another little girl, also in costume. It was a very good costume. She was dressed up like someone from many years ago. Before television. Maybe even from before cars! Whoever she was she had an accent like the Irish sheíd met and seemed as glad to see another kid as she was.

"Hi!" she said back, "Who are you?"

"I am Brigit. And you?"

"Iím Brianna."

"Well Brianna, youíre not from around here, are you?"

"No. Iím from Canada."

"Canada? Is that far from here?"

"Across the ocean."

"Oh, ay! I know where you mean. You seem upset. Do you not like this evening?"

"Halloween? No, I love Halloween. Better than Christmas even. But this is the worst Halloween Iíve ever had." Brianna sighed and started to cry.

"Oh donít you cry Brianna. You see I also love Halloween. Did you know that Halloween started here in Ireland?"

"No, I didnít. How did it start?"

"Oh it started long ago. Only the people who celebrated it didnít call it Halloween. To them it was Samhain. It was the end of the harvest. All the food was in and it was time to celebrate. There was food and sweets and a chance to say thanks for the food that would let them survive the winter months ahead."

"Oh, it was like Thanksgiving!" Brianna jumped in.

"Ay! It was very much like that, but very much more as well. Every year at Samhain the people would light a huge bonfire. They would put out the fires they kept in their homes and light them again from the bonfire. This was important for them. The hearth fire in their homes was everything to them. It provided them with light and heat and cooked their food. In the dark cold months of winter to come it was life for them. The bonfire as the source of that fire made it more special for them."

"Iím sorry Brigit, but that doesnít sound very much like Halloween."

"Be patient Brianna. There is more to Samhain than that. It took place each year on October 31st. This day was considered the border between summer and winter. It was the day on which the light was conquered by the dark; heat by the cold and life by death. As such, it was a special and fearful day. On this day of transition, the boundaries between worlds would grow thin. They believed that on this day, the wee folk could cross into our world to cause trouble. Folk not unlike them that inspired your costume. They also believed that on this day, even the dead could return as ghosts!

"Now tell me something Brianna. While you were moving door to door asking for candy, did you notice anything youíve not seen on Halloween before?"

Brianna thought for a moment. Then she remembered that an older Irish couple had a plate of cakes and cookies outside their door. When she had asked if she could take some, she was told no, that they were not for the likes of her. When she mentioned this to Briget she became elated.

"Ay! Just so. They are for the wee folk."

"Oh. Do they like cake and cookies?"

"Ay. They do."

"Why feed them?"

"Why indeed? Faeries and leprechauns are not the sweet and kind critters you think they are. They are mean creatures who love to cause trouble. It is said that they have caused people to get sick, lose money or food or even die. It was hoped that gifts of sweets would convince them to not curse them, or even to bring them good luck."

"Oh!" Brianna shouted excitedly, "Trick or treating! Give us a treat or you get a nasty trick!"

"Nasty, ay! And children in costume are like the wee folk."

"Costumes! Why do we were costumes?"

"To pretend to be the wee folk."

"To get the candy meant for the wee folk?" Brianna asked.

"Thatís part of it. Also, you donít want to get caught out at night while the wee folk are about. Dress like one of them and they may ignore you. What else did you notice while you were out?"

Brianna thought some more.

"There werenít pumpkins like back home."

"Ay! Pumpkins are not from here. They come from where you come from. Here people carved faces into turnips."

"Why did they do that?"

"There were many reasons. There was an old story of a dead man who wanders the world with a glowing carved turnip who could only be seen at Samhain. But I think it was thought that an evil glowing face would scare away the wee folk. So you might carry one with you when out at night or put one outside or in the window of your home to protect yourself."

Suddenly there was a loud noise from out in the dark and the girls looked around.

"The wee folk!" Brianna shouted.

"Silence," Brigit whispered as she drew them back into the shadow of the empty dark cottage they were standing next to. There was a shadow moving past, but there was nothing casting it! The headache Brianna had forgotten she had came back and got worse.

"Theyíre real!" Brianna gulped.

"Ay!" Brigit agreed.

"I need to get home!" Brianna said fearfully.

"Put your mask and wings back on. Iíll get you back to your parents."

"Okay," Brianna said and put back on her costume.

The two girls set out into the darkness. Brianna noticed more of the mysterious shadows moving about. Brigit led them slowly back door to door.

"We must act as though we are one of them."

For what seemed like hours they moved through the darkness with her parentsí cottage seeming no closer. Brianna could swear she felt the shadows brush against her as they passed. She had never been so scared.

Finally she saw the lights of her parentís cottage and without thinking she whimpered out loud. Around them, the shadows stopped moving and it seemed as if everything went silent, still Ö and cold!

"Run!" Brigit shouted, and Brianna did.

Her heart pounding loudly in her ears Brianna ran. The harder she ran the further away the cottage seemed. She could not see her pursuers, but she felt them closing on her. She had never been so scared.

"Youíve got to get through the door. They cannot cross the threshold. Get in and youíll be safe."

She ran. It was getting hard to breath. She felt a hand touch her shoulder.

Brigit reached the door ahead of her and opened it. Brianna ran through and collapsed to the floor breathing hard.

She looked up at Brigit and noticed that she had not followed her in.

"Brigit! You canít stay out there. Theyíll get you. You can stay here until you can go home."

"Oh Brianna, you donít understand," Brigit said as she stepped away from the door, fading as she went, "I am home. Thank you for making this such a special Samhain for me." Then she was gone.

"Brianna. What is wrong dear?" her mother called.

"Nothing mom. I was just talking to another girl I met."

"Oh, thatís nice. Iím glad youíre meeting friends. Will you two play tomorrow?"

"No mom. I think Brigit is going home tonight." She paused a moment, then asked, "Mom, do we have any candy left?"

"Yes dear. All of it. I think you were the only trick or treater out here tonight."

"Can I have it?"

"I donít see why not. Just donít eat it all tonight."

"Thank you mom. I wonít."

Her mother smiled as she left the front hall leaving behind a small bowl of chocolate bars. As soon as she was out of sight Brianna opened the door and placed the bowl outside the door then closed the door to the darkness beyond.

"Happy Halloween Brigit!"

Her headache? It was gone.