Erica’s mother looked like a broken doll stretched out on the wood of the living room floor. “I can’t see…” Her words were filled with pain and her face for once seemed strangely dark, as if a storm cloud had passed between her spirit and her eyes.
“Mother?” Erica was timid in the doorway, trembling at the sight. Her mother did not move, gripping her hair in her right hand and with her left hand now covering her eyes. Erica waited, tears running down her face and racing from the end of her nose toward the floor. Finally, Erica left and returned to bed, wrapping her blankets about her and watching the moonless sky as it creeped around her curtains, invading her room.
The next morning, Erica woke up to the smells of frog-in-the-hole frying. Her mother was in the kitchen, singing a lullaby that Erica remembered from when she was very young.
Hush my child, for I am here
Even when the dark is near
Even when the world is fear
Hush my child, I’m always here
“I can’t see,” the banshee said a third time, and began to cry. She cried loudly, gasping for breath between each sob. Mark watched in astonishment as her nose began to run and she wiped it quickly without interrupting her rhythmic sobbing. Erica seemed to be crying as well, he realized. Except that she sat completely still, looking far past him as a drop of water trickled from the far corner of her eye. It was a bit too much really, sitting on a roof with two whining girls. After all, he was missing his last class and chemistry was really the only subject he liked to attend. The possibility of an explosion always kept up his interest.
Suddenly the banshee took a bigger breath.
“No wait!!” Mark shouted. It was too late. Mark fell to the ground, clutching his ears, as the banshee’s wail rose and circled like a terrible vulture. The noise pounded through his skull. Even Erica was moving now, backing away quickly and trying to cover her ears with the textbooks she was holding.
“Stop shouting!” Mark screamed.
“I’m not shouting,” the banshee snapped, breaking off her cries. “I’m wailing! How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Well I couldn’t exactly think with all that noise,” Mark mumbled.
“And that’s what we need to do. We need to think,” Erica said. “The three of us.”
The three of them sat in a circle. Suddenly the silence was interrupted as the chimney behind the banshee’s back seemed to wheeze and cough out dark soot from the top. The soot dropped down like rain, pouring over their clothes and hair.
“But that chimney hasn’t been used for years!” Mark exclaimed, trying to brush off the soot. Soon he was smeared in black, his face resembling a frenzied zebra.
Erica and the banshee were staring at bits of the ash.
“It’s definitely shaped like a coffin,” the banshee said.
“We don’t have much time,” Erica agreed. “Will you help us… sorry, I don’t know your name.”
The banshee was silent for a minute. “I’ve never been asked for help,” she said softly. “Or for my name.”