December 24, 2010

The Hidden People, Part 2

Read "The Hidden People, Part 1" here.

Nick quickly hustled his father inside the house and called it a night. Nick spent a restless night puzzling over the weird scene. “I almost convinced myself that it wasn’t real,” Nick remembers. In the morning, Nick didn’t want to tell his father what he had seen or what he thought he had seen, but after a silent breakfast, the old man looked Nick in the eyes and said: “So, you saw the Leprechauns, too?”

Pat told his son that he awoke on the porch just before Nick had dropped the flashlight and in the scattered shadows he saw the six dim shapes march across the yard. Pat had heard the old legends from his mother for many years and knew a bit more about it than Nick. He saw them as visitors from the old country, a band of the Hidden People delivering their mischief and misery to the house. And Pat saw something else, too. In the brief moment between Nick dropping the flashlight and the figures vanishing, Pat saw the lead figure look up and show its face. “Like a piece of old bark or an ancient, twisted root,” Nick tells me, “with eyes like pale gold coins.”

Now Nick was even more unsure of what to do. Nick could deal with a raccoon problem but not with this. Nick wasn’t sure what to believe, but Pat talked some sense into him. He told him about some of the stories Nick’s grandmother knew and Nick remembered some, too. There were lots of stories of the Hidden People – the Leprechauns – that Nick and his father could tell, but none that directly spoke to their predicament. In many legends, however, the Hidden People would demand a tribute or a bribe from humans to end their mischief.

To that end, Nick and his father gathered some fruit and bread and meat and placed it all in a basket to leave on the front porch as an offering to their nighttime visitors. “And I threw in a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey for good measure,” Nick recalls. That night, they tried to get some sleep, hoping that their bribe would earn them some well-deserved rest. It was not to be, however, as both Nick and Pat awoke in the middle of the night to a raucous commotion on the porch. “I don’t know what was happening out there, but it sounded like a barroom brawl,” Nick says. Too afraid to open the door, Nick strained to see through the window at the goings-on, but it was too dark to make anything out.

In the morning, Nick and Pat saw that the basket and its contents were scattered over the porch. It seemed that the food was not eaten and the offering was refused. “We never found the Jameson’s, though,” says Nick. Nick grabbed a broom and began to clean up the porch. As he did he was struck by the cherished memory of his grandmother dong the same on many mornings and finishing up the job by ringing her little bronze bell. When Pat returned to the porch with more cleaning supplies, Nick asked his father about the reason behind the sweeping and the ringing.

“He couldn’t remember ever hearing an explanation for that one,” Nick says. “But there was an old story about a Leprechaun and a bell.” The legend that Pat recalled concerned some newlyweds and the home their relatives had built for them. It turned out that the house was sited over a road, but not a road that just anybody could see. This was a fairy road and troops of the Hidden People used it on their mysterious nighttime forays. The poor newlyweds were harassed from dusk to dawn by the inconvenienced spirits until a travelling friar told them to leave their door open just a crack and ring a bell three times at sunset. The couple did as they were told and soon the trouble stopped.

Nick thought his grandmother must have been ringing her bell for the Hidden People, too, although she did it in the morning. Nick doubted that anything like a fairy road could be found in Massachusetts. Still though, there was something to the story, so Nick and Pat went to his grandmother’s room to look for the little bronze bell. They found it locked away in a keepsake box that only Pat had the key for. That evening Nick stepped onto the porch and held the bell in front of him. He saw it reflect the setting sun as he gave the bell a gentle ring. In the gathering shadows at the far edge of the fields, Nick heard a soft rustle and thought he could see a sudden flash of gold light.

That night, Nick and Pat didn’t even try to sleep. They waited in the living room drinking coffee and talking quietly. Near midnight the knocking began again, although lightly at first. It seemed to emanate from somewhere under the house. Nick could hear a far away whistle and then the strange tapping sounds started coming from every part of the house. Nick could even hear footsteps coming from inside the walls. Seeing the worry in his father’s eyes, Nick snatched the little bronze bell from the coffee table on front of him. “I started screaming at whatever was making the noise,” Nick recalls. “I told them to get out of my house.”

Nick stomped out onto the porch and vigorously rang the little bell. The noises in the house began to subside and, in his frustration, Nick pitched the bell into the yard. As he did, the noises suddenly ceased. Astonished, Pat raced to the porch and watched with Nick as silent shadows began to swarm the little bronze bell as it lay on the ground. The shadows seemed to grow solid and coarse, and the little bell was soon swallowed up. Nick and Pat thought they could hear unearthly whispers in some extinct tongue as the shadows melted back into darkness.

As long as Nick and his father rang the bell now and then, they were never bothered by the Hidden People again. Eventually they got the old family farm back into shape and Nick’s new clinic thrived. And whenever someone came to Nick’s new clinic with a sick dog or news that a new calf was born or just to sit and visit, the little bronze bell attached to the front door would sound a clear and trusted ring.

As Nick packed away his grandmother’s belongings, he came across some old children’s books about Irish legends, books that it seemed his grandmother had brought with her to America many years ago. Some of these stories were familiar to him from the time he had spent hearing his grandmother tell them, but one particular story was not. It concerned a legend about the origins of Ireland’s Hidden People, suggesting that beings like Leprechauns were not a magical race at all, but were actually spirits of the dead – ghosts. And not just any kind of ghost, but the ghosts of ancient Irish monks who took it upon themselves to preserve the writings of the ancient world while Europe fell into darkness. These monks pursued their quest to protect an ancient legacy even into death, and they focused their supernatural devotion on certain ritual objects like lovingly illustrated manuscripts to show the true path, pastoral staves to lead their flocks and little bronze bells to call the faithful home.

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  1. Hmm. Interesting. It reminds me a bit of this story my cousin told me about how she was sleeping on the couch at her house and woke up and saw three black shadow figures sitting on the couch opposite of her. I'm not sure if I believe her as she tends to let her imagination run wild. But if what she saw was real I wonder if they're somehow one and the same. The shadows she said she saw however were supposedly seven feet tall. Maybe both residences were on these alleged ley lines, hey?

    BTW, you got an interesting idea for a blog. I look forward to keeping up on it.

  2. Always remember that Bigfoot casts a shadow, too. Glad you like the stories.


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