Authors: Terri Reid
Irish Mist - Sean's Story
Mary O'Reilly [9.50]
What would you do to win a game of hide and seek? After all, as the oldest child in the family, Sean O'Reilly had a reputation to uphold. Besides, the things his grandmother said about the woods beyond her fence line were just fairy tales. Stories to frighten children into doing what's right. Or were they?
Irish Mist – Sean’s Story
(A Mary O’Reilly Short Story)
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Irish Mist – Sean’s Story - (A Mary O’Reilly Short Story)
Copyright © 2013 by Terri Reid
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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Note from the author:
As I was working on Book Ten in the Mary O’Reilly Series and was looking forward to the books in the future, I realized I needed to share a little back story with you, my wonderful readers.
You might remember when Bradley spent the night at Sean’s apartment in the book, “Natural Reaction” and spoke about the scars on his arms. Those scars and how he received them are going to be opening up a whole new world to Sean and some of the other characters in these books.
If you’re just finding this story, I would suggest you start your journey with “Loose Ends” and read the rest of the books – through Book Nine (Twisted Paths) in order to understand and come to know this family. However, this story can stand alone.
I hope you enjoy Sean’s adventure!
(20 years ago)
“Eleven, twelve, thirteen…”
Sean could hear his sister’s voice clearly as he loped across the pasture towards the stone fence that marked the edge of his grandmother’s property. When she reached twenty Mary would open her eyes, turn around and start hunting for her brothers. And, even though Mary was the youngest, she was the most competitive of the O’Reilly family. Sean grinned as he pictured his eight year-old sister searching for him. She would never give up, but she was not going to find him this time.
He took a deep breath of air.
The air smells different in Ireland
, he thought,
like it has something extra added to it. Maybe magic.
He grinned at his own flight of fancy. Now he was sounding like his grandmother; magic and the fey.
You must show respect for the little people
, she’d said. Sean snickered to himself. If she lived in Chicago, his mother would probably have to put her in a home if someone heard her talking like that. But, for some reason, the people who lived in Ireland actually believed in stuff like that. He rolled his eyes. Yeah, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
A few more steps and he finally reached the stone wall. He marveled at how all those different sizes and shapes actually worked together to create a wall that was hundreds of years old. He placed his foot in a depression and grabbed the wide top of the fence, pulling himself on top. He looked back for a moment; Mary was nearly done with the counting. He could see his younger twin brothers hiding near the cottage. Arthur was behind the well and Tommy was in the shed. Shaking his head, he grimaced.
If he could see them from where he was, Mary would find them in a minute.
He shrugged, he was sure they were still spooked. They were ten years old, and believed the stories his grandmother had shared the night before. Beware of the forest, she had warned, there are things that go on in there that no human can explain. Scaredy-cats, they wouldn’t go very far from the cottage, Grandma sure pulled one over on them.
He rolled over the top and jumped down. His feet hit the soft loam on the other side and it felt squishy, like he was walking on carpet. He hurried away from the fence. They were never going to find him. He would win the game so well it would be epic. They would talk about it for years.
The air was cooler on this side, like the sun didn’t shine quite as brightly. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Mary in the distance heading towards the shed. Grinning, he nodded his head. Yeah, they’d be caught in a few seconds. Losers.
Turning from the fence, he followed the narrow path that led into the woods. Once he stepped onto the path and turned towards the thick trees and dense foliage, his heartbeat quickened.
Strange things happened in those woods
. He could hear his grandmother voice the warning as if she were standing right behind him. Pausing for a moment, he weighed his options. He didn’t really need to go into the woods, he reasoned. Hopping the fence was enough.
“Sean, you’re next,” Mary yelled, “you left your trail in the grass.”
He spun around and looked over the fence. Sure enough, there was a distinct line in the grass where he’d walked and Mary was running across the pasture towards him. She’d be sure to climb over the fence. Mary wasn’t afraid of anything.
He glanced back over his shoulder; the woods didn’t seem all that scary. Not as scary as losing to Mary. He was just letting his imagination run away with him. And, really, it wouldn’t be an epic win if he didn’t hide in the woods. Mustering up his courage, he took a quick breath, ran down the path and burst into the gloomy shades of the forest.
He stopped a few feet in to let his eyes adjust to the loss of light. The tree canopy blocked out most of the afternoon sun and the dense foliage seemed to muffle any sounds. He listened and realized he could no longer hear Mary’s voice. Grinning, he turned back towards the pasture and teased, “Which is worse, the scary forest or Mary’s voice?
Mary’s voice is the winner!”
Laughing at his own, self-proclaimed, brilliant sense of humor, he turned back to the forest and his laughter stopped. The forest was still all around him. No birds chirping. No bugs humming. No wind blowing through the trees. A thin, nearly indiscernible mist floated over the ground and seemed to motion to him. The forest was waiting…for him.
He nearly took a step backwards. He nearly turned and ran. He nearly let Mary catch him. Until he heard the scream and he knew he had to go forward.
Was it an innate sense of duty, being the next in line of the four generations of O’Reilly’s who had served as officers of the law? Was it merely an instinctual reaction as the oldest brother of three siblings, when you heard a child scream you followed? Or were there other forces, forces Sean didn’t understand, that pushed him through the dense forest and towards the sound of distress?
She’d only screamed once, but somehow that scream created an internal compass in Sean and he ran steadily, knowing he was going in the right direction. The leaves of the trees and the branches of the bushes slapped against his face and arms. The roots of the trees and the rocks on the ground caught at him, trying to trip him up at every turn, but he ran ahead, avoiding their traps. Sweat began to trickle down his forehead and bloom on the front and back of his t-shirt. He wiped his forearm across his face and continued on.
He slowed, instinctively, as he neared his destination knowing he needed to have the element of surprise on his side. Placing his feet carefully, one in front of the other, slowly against the ground, so leaves didn’t rustle and twigs did not snap, he moved forward to the edge of the grove. He could hear movement, but the foliage in front of him blocked his vision. Reaching forward, he grabbed hold of the blanket of leaves and pushed them aside.
It must be an ancient bear, he thought, as he stared at the back of the huge beast. The hide was shiny in spots, like the fur had worn away, but in other areas tufts of brown, black and silver hair grew thick and long, like a lion’s mane. It was standing upright and the thick muscles in its back confirmed its power.
He moved past the shelter of the trees, stepped into the clearing and saw her. She was probably his age, only her build was far more slender and she was taller, several inches taller than he. Some of her long red hair, which fell down to her waist, was now caught in the branches of a low-hanging tree and as she twisted and turned, trying to escape, the beast came closer.
Looking around for a weapon, he knelt and picked up a large stone. He stepped forward quickly, thinking only of the girl and his need to help. His foot came down on a small twig. “SNAP!”
It shouldn’t have sounded so loud. It shouldn’t have echoed through the forest. It shouldn’t have turned all of the attention towards him. But it did.
The beast turned slowly and Sean froze for a moment. He had never seen anything like it. It was a creature that hid in the darkest corners of your nightmares. Its head had the girth of a bull, with a boar-like snout with glistening sabre teeth and yellow reptilian eyes that zeroed in on Sean. He whipped the stone through the air, aiming for its eyes, but the stone merely bounced off and he thought he actually heard the creature chuckle.
Panicked, he scanned wildly around and finally saw the large tree limb on the ground. He dove, but the creature, surprisingly agile on its feet, followed. Sean grabbed hold of the limb at the same time the creature, with its talon-like fingernails grabbed hold of Sean’s other arm.
Sean screamed as he felt his flesh being scraped away from his arm. Twisting he swung the branch against the creatures head. Over and over he pounded away as the beast shook him. For a moment he thought he might win. The limb was large enough to knock the creature’s head to the side with each new blow. Sean felt a strange surge of endorphins and he gritted his teeth and put all of his power into the strike.
This time, the creature lost its footing and stumbled sideways. Sean cried with triumph and was ready to strike again when he felt a pinch on his arm. He turned and watched in horror to see one of the talons open and a narrow translucent bone-like needle burying itself into his arm. He struggled to pull it away, but the hold was too great. Striking blindly with the tree limb in his other hand, he watched the creature’s bone darken as black liquid ran through its hollow core and flowed into his arm.
“No!” he screamed and tried once again to pull away, but the instant the poison was in his system, he felt the numbing begin.
“Help,” he whispered, as the forest began to blur before his eyes.
Mary reached the end of the trail in the grass and looked around.
Where did he go?
She searched the fence line for traces of a foot print, but there was nothing. She looked over the fence at the woods beyond and sighed. It was just like Sean. Just because someone said not to do something, he had to do it. Their grandmother had warned them to stay away from the woods. Of course Mary didn’t believe the stories about little people, but she did believe there could be wild animals in there or vagrants who might have less than reputable ideas on their minds.
Oh, well, there’s nothing else I can do
, she thought as she stuck her foot in the same toehold Sean had used,
I’ve got to go after him.
Climbing up and over the fence was accomplished quickly and she soon found Sean’s trail leading straight into the woods. “Sean,” she called tentatively. “Are you in there?”
Moving further down the path, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and stopped. Did she hear a sound from in the woods? Was there something hiding behind the tree next to the path? “Sean, I’m going to tell da you went into the woods,” she called, stomping her foot uselessly in the soft dirt. “You come out here right now!”
She waited for a moment and then shook her head angrily. She was not going to lose this game. She was not going to let Sean tell everyone she was a scaredy-cat. She marched forward and entered the forest, her heart pounding against her chest. “Sean,” she found her voice was suddenly dry and only come out as a soft croak. “Sean, are you in here?”