This story was published in 'Soft Whispers' anthology titled "Un-luck of the Irish" on March 17, 2010
My family lived on the hill behind the O'Riley farm (if you can call it that--a few acres of inferior soil that was barely fit to grow potatoes in). We sort of looked out for their clan and my Da helped them when he could.
He also helped himself to the attentions of Margaret O'Riley, the youngest girl. Their tryst caused quite a stir, for it wasn't often that our two races pitched woo.
And so...I entered the scene.
My name is Larry. I’m a leprechaun.
Well, half-leprechaun, really. My uncle Morvay called me the "little green hybrid."
There's a legend, nasty as badly-brewed poteen that a witch put a hex on the O'Riley family. An upstart of a young woman tried to curse the witch. So, the witch cursed her.
She wrote it in goat's blood, on the side of the girl's hovel, and the words have never worn away.
"The blood remains upon this wall
That ye might be a curse to all
Since you cursed me, with thy foul tongue
Let then on all thine flesh be hung
The power of death in all thine speech
Wheresoever ye tongues may reach."
The O'Riley's tried many times to remove it, even with fire, but to no avail.
So the wall was avoided. When additions to the house were made, they were constructed around the wall.
It was said that the old witch refuses to die, but remains ever close, watching her curse in action.
I first saw evidence of the curse when I was a wee lad. Uncle Pat, came to our house drunk after a night of carousing, and became angry when Da refused to let him in.
"May the devil take ye, elfin bugger!" He pounded on the door. "And may ye shrivel up and die!"
"Yer witch-curse won't do for me!" Da yelled. "It's a man's curse and on'y on a man will it do!"
Da was right.
Pat's curse rebounded. The next day, they found him in a ditch less than a mile from his house. It was difficult identifying him, though, desiccated as he was.
Afterwards, I began to wonder. Would the curse manifest itself in me since I was only half O'Riley? Would my leprechaun blood protect me and keep me from making terrible oaths? Was being a "little green hybrid" a good thing?
I wanted to know.
About that time my Aunt Esmerelda moved in with us. God, she was old. Positively prehistoric!
She crept up on me behind the house while I was trying to hex a snail.
"Do ye love the curse so much that ye seek to destroy innocent creatures with it?" she snapped. I spun around, shocked by her sudden appearance.
"What, then?" Her dark, brooding eyes flared.
"I wanted to see if the curse skipped me, because I'm half..."
"Leprechaun?" she asked. I nodded. "Would ye be happy if it did?"
I nodded again, "And relieved."
She smiled; a hideous, toothless grin that split her face like an old scar. "If ye don't want the curse, mind yer tongue. Don't say words in anger. Or even in jest."
"Have you ever been affected by the curse, Aunty?"
"Only once," she said.
I decided to try an innocent curse on a person. Not entirely innocent, because a curse by its very nature is bad.
For the target, I picked my mum. I watched her by the cook fire and thought: "Itch." Then: "Scratch," "Feel an itch," "May your skin prickle with the sudden urge to scratch yourself and then subside," and all other variations of "itch" and "scratch" that I could think of. Nothing happened. I felt relieved. When I turned around I saw Aunt Esmerelda in the corner, watching me. My face flushed hot and I fled the room, wondering if she knew what I'd been trying to do. But she couldn't read my mind. Could she?
Some years later, Da passed and Mum was forced to turn the tenant farm over to her brother, Peter. She decided to immigrate to America, and I was going with her. So was Aunt Esmerelda.
The voyage was dull, cramped, and cold. The Atlantic winds howled, but the ship rolled smoothly along the waves. There were other leprechauns on the vessel, though none of the non-Irish humans could see them because leprechauns have the gift of invisibility-at-will.
I took up with an Irish lad named Devon and together we sneaked onto the first-class decks and peered out at the waves.
"We're gonna make good time in this tailwind," Devon said.
"Aye. If we don't get hammered by the sea and go down to the deeps."
Devon shook his head. "Nah. T'is the best ship ever built, don't ye know?"
"Bollocks! If she's a ship, she can go down and she probably will," I laughed.
A sudden strong headwind whipped around as the breeze changed directions and a chill prickled the back of my neck. We turned to head back below to lower class and I saw her.
Aunt Esmerelda, reclining in a lounge chair, was watching me scornfully with her hard, black eyes.
By now you may have guessed. Our voyage abruptly ended in the wee hours of the morn, amid screaming and ice-cold, watery death. But I don't look that old, you say? Trust me, I am. The blasted leprechaun blood in my veins has kept me youthful beyond endurance. Or maybe it is that final curse. I’ll get to that later.
Mum died that night. And Devon. And countless, innocent others.
Esmerelda and I escaped on a lifeboat with as many of the Irish, human and leprechaun, that we could find. Some survivors would later complain that they saw boats adrift with few people in them. They probably couldn't see the leprechauns.
I sat shivering in the boat with my head bowed. Sometimes, I would look at Esmerelda. She bored holes into me with her black, knowing eyes and grinned in that awful way.
Once we were aboard the Carpathia and counted among the living, I found the wireless op and sent a message to Peter, breaking the news about Mum and asking questions that I hoped wouldn't make him think I'd gone mad.
We were living in a New York tenement when his return message reached me weeks later. He wrote of his sorrow at mum's death and confirmed my fears. I wasn't the first to suspect what I then knew to be true.
Now that I've told this much, do you believe it? You haven't even heard the worst.
I burned the wire from Uncle Peter and tried to wipe all references from my mind so she wouldn't discover my treachery.
After thinking long and hard, I discovered how to end the curse. It was a way as horrible as the curse itself, but it was the only way the carnage could finally be brought to an end. So, I lit a candle one day after Esmerelda had gone shopping, and made the first of many horrible utterances.
A few weeks later, word reached us that Uncle Peter and his wife had died of consumption and that many others in the O'Riley family were also stricken and were not long for the world. Esmerelda frowned when I read these letters to her, but said nothing.
As for myself, I volunteered to help in the hospitals, caring for those suffering from tuberculosis and other dread diseases, like dysentery and influenza.
Eventually, I received news that the last of my O'Riley kin had died in Ireland. The home was to be razed to plant corn.
"Good luck," I said, putting down the letter. I meant it both about the razing and the corn. I hoped that both would be possible soon.
"What are ye on about?" Esmerelda muttered. We were sitting at the kitchen table.
"Nothing," I said. I coughed and put my hand to my mouth. A drop of blood appeared on my palm. I gazed at it and smiled.
"I'm the last," I said. Esmerelda didn't say anything."What happens to you when I die?" I asked her.
"I'll die too," she replied. "At last." She smiled her toothless, evil grin.
"Why the devil are you smiling then, witch?!"
"Because I'm cursed, too. Cursed to watch my own evil." She laid her hand on my arm.
"Of them all, you're the only one had the guts to end it."
I flinched, twisted out of her grasp. "I had to curse my own family to do it!"
"Yes. And I'm sorry for it."
I looked up at her in surprise. "You're sorry?"
"When the obituaries started coming, I knew what you were doing. I could've saved you the trouble, but I didn't."
"What do you mean?"
"I removed the curse after the shipwreck. Those miserable souls; dying, screaming. It haunted me. I long for death now, and I'll die soon. But you don't have to." As she said this, she placed her bony hands over my chest, murmuring words in the old tongue. I felt the pain in my lungs disappear. My head began to spin and everything went black.
When I came to, she was gone.
"You expect me to believe that crap?" the youth said. He ran his greedy hands along my 32 inch HDTV.
"You said you'd buy it for two, if I told you my story."
"It's B.S.! You 'aint no half-breed leprechaun and you didn't sink the freaking Titanic. I'll give ya fifty bucks."
I was down on my luck and soon to be evicted from my apartment if I didn't come up with some rent, which was why I was having the yard sale in the first place.
I reluctantly accepted the fifty and helped the punk load the TV into the backseat of his convertible.
"Nice car," I said, making small talk. "Is it new?"
"Yeah..." He got into the drivers' seat. "It's a little green hybrid, just like you." He roared with laughter and slammed the door. "See ya around, Larry Leprechaun!"
He drove away.
I watched the car speed down the street. "And may the road rise up to meet your greedy head."
I started to turn away, then grimaced as I heard the distant clamor of screeching tires, shattering glass and fiberglass.
The dawning horror overtook me that the curse, and its progenitor, still live. Remembering her final curse, I grew cold with terror.
Somewhere she is watching...grinning. Forever, unless...
I hurried to my apartment and took my sharpest knife with a trembling hand.
I grasped my tongue between my fingers...