People enjoyed the little ghost stories I retold during my retreat. Here’s another that freaked the hell out of me.
Mythology is sometimes focussed on the split between two worlds or opposites, and what happens at the boundary where they meet. The worlds of the living and the dead. Dark and light. Known and unknown.
Andy’s was this straight up and down man, a practical man. He’s also a keen fly-fisher. He and his friend made off to this out-of-the-way lake where they say you could get a decent catch. I don’t know if you’ve been fly-fishing but the idea is that you find a really quiet spot, wade in a ways and just flick your line, hoping the fish feel safe enough to venture out and grab your lure. Anyway, Andy and his mate get to the lake and his friend heads off down this end of the lake and Andy picks a spot around the bend, the idea being that you don’t scare off the fish if you’re alone.
So Andy’s there, flicking his line for hours on end. He hasn’t heard from his friend, but that’s the idea. It’s approaching twilight – the boundary between day and night. Andy’s standing about ten feet in from the shore – the boundary between earth and water. He’s just fishing away when he notices that there’s a preternatural quiet. No birds, no sounds of water, nothing. He turns around and down the shore this calf walks down to the shoreline and starts drinking. He flicks his line and thinks, “Wait up, that’s no calf.” He looks again and it’s this sleek, black-haired thing, about shoulder-high with long legs and a long neck. It looks up at him and he sees its shining red eyes. It starts to move towards him. He freaks, drops his fishing line and runs up the nearest tree. He’s at the top, looking down. This thing walks up to the base of the tree and looks up. It bares a big mouth of sharp teeth, but it’s not growling at him. It’s smiling. Its eyes… there’s a sentience there that you don’t get from an ordinary animal. Andy’s shitting himself but stays up the tree. This thing hangs around the base of the tree, almost taunting him before eventually moving off. It’s dark now and Andy drops from the tree and runs back to his mate. Andy’s got none of his gear and is shaking, white as the moon. His mate asks, “What’s happened?” Andy tells him the story. His mate is impressed and asks him, “Did you say anything? Did it say anything?” Andy freezes and replies, “No.” His mate says, matter-of-factly, “Ah good. That was probably a Púca. Okay, let’s pack up and get outta here.”