'Nevermore' (detail) by Dan Henk

‘Nevermore’ (detail) by Dan Henk

We are made up of the ghosts of moments, I believe. We clutch them to us and steal parts of them to make ourselves more whole. Each action is made up of thousands of others already gone; the result of a hundred different moments converging to create a new one, cresting on a wave of tiny hauntings. My own ghosts are not malicious ones, but neither are they kindly. They behave exactly how they did in life. Some are unimportant – the ghost of a shower once taken in a 3-star hotel room, a brief conversation about nothing, the honking of a car horn as I sat too slow at the lights – but some lurk with intensity; the ghost of a relationship, an idea, a single moment.

When I was very young, my grand-aunt would tell us old stories, of Badhbh, the crow-goddess, omen of chaos and death; of Queen Medb and her pride and the battle for the Tain; the De Danann, that ancient and kingly race; of Fionn MacCumhaill and his lost son Oisin, and all those others that float blearily from the past up to the surface of the present, remembered only in the words and songs of those who care to listen. We would sit around her as she rocked on her knees and addressed her words to the sky, because she had no fondness for children and preferred to imagine that we weren’t there. We had no fondness for her either; her dark clothes and dark words had no place in our Technicolor world of cartoons and penny-sweets and pin-striped leggings, but we listened all the same. On kinder days, I think that we found some intrinsic pity in us, young as we were, for a lonely old woman; a square peg in a world that was rapidly becoming circular, and softer.

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Sheila Armstrong grew up in the west of Ireland and now lives in Dublin. She is 25 years old and works as a freelance editor. She has been shortlisted for several awards and has been published in various journals. She is currently writing her first collection of short stories.

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