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Wisps – Claire Loader

Mist rises from the sodden earth and I wonder from what creatures it rises, think of the bodies that lie submerged within its belly, the stories of their demise. To kill a king you must mar him. Is that why he comes to me in my dreams, eyes like bottomless holes, why the worms find solace within their sockets? My sister likes to scare me with her tales from the bog, that it is not man who has filled its sunken pools with fettered bones, but the marshy earth itself that lures in unwary souls to feed from their bloated flesh.

Strange lights like gossamer upon the heather, I start seeing them in the daylight, in the corners of my daily tasks. Tendrils curling and snaking, they lift into the murky evening, hum above the glens. Sometimes I lie inside our lonely cottage, dream of their fingers slipping beneath the door, wrapping around my throat. My body still within its blankets, I rise slowly from the bed, lift the metal latch, bare feet soft upon the grass. I walk then towards their twisting strands, stand at the edge of their swirling dance, see them there like spirits – the careless traveller, the blinded king and sometimes I would see myself, my face bloated in the silvery haze, hair swimming with the night.

‘What are the lights, a Dhaidí, that sit above the bog?’

My father looks at me across the small table, holds my gaze with his, as if cupping me above the water. ‘Don’t listen to your sister, mo stór, they are not to be afraid of. ’Tis just the moon and its light, no more.’

I don’t tell him that I see the lights when the sky is black as pitch, when the moon has hidden her edges. That I sometimes wake within the darkness of the cottage, underwater, looking up.