After Silence Comes the Dirge | Laurence Davies

         English, Russian, Singaporean, American – does it matter who he is?  It matters simply that he owns twelve thousand sea-girt acres in Argyllshire, Scotland, a property held since time immemorial by the Bodach, Chieftain of Clan Bodach, in the name of every other Bodach, and now, in times memorial, snapped up by your man the global octopus.
	The din of journalists, the blare of politicians, the hems and haws of underlings from Legal and Accounting was growing far too loud. Failing utterly to comprehend a strategically-urgent yet, he was proud to say, creative reconfiguration of pension funds, they had flailed themselves into a howling frenzy, and now they wanted to flail him. His nerves jangled, his ears echoed with their impertinent, know-nothing gibes. “Get me some shooting,” he ordered the pseudonymous director of a twig on a branch of a blind trust who attended to such chores from an inconspicuous office in Vaduz. Though savvy about offshore holdings, the octopus had no idea he’d bought an island, let alone that he was now its laird.
  Flying his own helicopter, an air-conditioned double turbine with rupture-resistant fuel cells and pop-out floats, 1150 hours and going strong, he went to view his acres. They were guarded, he was pleased to see, by a moat of pale green, churning water. Besides abundant rough shooting, he found a gothic lodge, a tumbledown distillery, four or five holiday crofts for rent, a score of ruins hunched along the braes, grazing for three hundred tufty sheep, and several bone-white beaches pungent with desiccating wrack. The new laird liked the prospect of tranquillity so much that he exiled the sheep, levelled the distillery, boarded up the crofts, and carpeted the lodge with something costly, fine, and soft from London. Now for peace and quiet. The only sounds were of the birds, the throbbing surf, the short, sharp shock of guns proofed and balanced to perfection, and the clink of ice-cubes in his own reserve of antique whisky.
	Biding her time as always, one inhabitant remains. In English, which she does not have, the name for her is Fairy Woman. She runs on sand, or dew, or grass, or snow without a trace, and yet she stands broad-shouldered, six feet tall and sees in the dark with incandescent eyes. Sometimes her lips pull back to show her teeth, sharp and bright as well-honed dirks. As she sweeps across the island, her locks fan out behind her, pine boughs blazing in a gale. No gossamer for her; she wears the Bodach plaid. Indeed she is the Bodach Bansidh, doomed to lamentation till the seas go dry.
	Death is a hidden corrie where the disembodied souls go tumbling into mist and shadow. When in former times a Bodach wandered near the edge, she felt the sadness tear her ribs apart and maul her lungs. Unstoppably, the grieving burst from her. She grieved for souls about to fall, she grieved for mortals left behind, she grieved for herself who would never, ever reach the brink. Now (Ochone!) the final Bodach has gone tumbling down, and now (Ochone, ochone!) the Bodachs are become a murmur from across the coastal mountains.
	Only one man occupies their place, a seal of a man, sleek and well-blubbered, fond of golden rings. She watches him shoot birds as men and women here have done for centuries, some with less skill and all with humbler guns. Will she be keening for him when his time draws near – this laird of present times?  She can not tell until the moment. For now she mourns in silence all the Bodachs, all the sailed and dead. For now she mourns the desolation, hers and his.
          Then, in the last nights of October, a cloud descends upon the lodge. Grey in the moonlight, it moils about the upper windows, always thickening, always changing shape. Now it is a beehive, now a whirlpool, now a thunder head. Within the cloud, thousands of creatures flap imperfect wings, wings chewed off or never finished. They have found him out, and as they seek his window, they are trying not to fall. He cannnot see or hear them, but he’s not alone. 
	It is a spirit-host of cheated, dispossessed, and suffering people. And when she sights this biggest of all clans, she feels a wrenching at her ribs, her lungs. She mourns with these unsettled ones, for they should belong to him. How could he not be sorry for their loss? The man is far from dying in the body, but this very moment she must wail for him. As a thousand times before, she slows her ancient heart, filling her lungs against the dreadful, wringing pressure with salty, turf-sweet air. In and out, in and out, breath floods her body, her teeth flash in the midnight darkness, her eyes flare up. Squaring her shoulders, standing her ground, she keens, she grieves for him and all who should have been his charge. Wriggling in his sweat-soaked bed, he hears her rip the silence up.

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Laurence Davies was born in the  Irfon Valley of Wales and resides in Glen Ericht, Scotland. He is the editor of The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, a student of the moderns, of speculative  fiction, of the uncanny, a specialist in the literary and linguistic politics of the Celtic nations, a scholar and author of microfictions, such as his “Three Reliquaries,” which appeared in Contrary in the Spring of 2007. He serves as an honorary senior research fellow in the Department of English at  Glasgow University and a visiting professor of Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College.

Three Stories:
After Silence Comes the Dirge
Paying for It

From the Archive:
Three ReliquariesAppetite.htmlReliquaries.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0shapeimage_5_link_1shapeimage_5_link_2
 Three Stories by Laurence Davies commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | winter 2008  
Single Life #8 | Amy Groshek 
Parallel Conservatory | Clare Kirwan
Old & Strong  |  Robert Gibbons
Crow | Ramesh Avadhani
Driving Ninety | Mark Spencer
With Her Own Things | Kristiana Colón
Story of a Hall Porter | Edward Mc Whinney
The Halcyon Days of War | B.E. Hopkins
Three Stories | Laurence Davies

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