Mighty Cleofgharran Rules the Night
by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
“Have you got long?” said Jonas, more than asked.
“No, not really,” said the man behind the desk as he tiredly watched Jonas.
“I’ll tell it to you from the beginning then. I was driving, you realize — of course I was, I had your car — anyway, I drove into the countryside, got a little bit lost there. But I had a map. I only needed to find some village that was actually on the map, and from there on I could find my way back to some main highway.
“There was nothing but hills and some trees there, as far as the eye could see. Farms and the occasional church. So I drove back and forth, following the signs, but never found the town the signs pointed to. I ended up in some unnamed hamlet just before dusk, and when I saw they had a B&B I decided to check in and worry about this tomorrow.
“I parked the car very near the door and went in. There were a couple of grey, tired-looking people at the bar, and the woman at the desk looked like she hadn’t had a night of sleep for a week. I checked in, freshened up a bit and went to the bar to have a chat with the locals”:
“Why is everybody so low?” I asked.
“What you mean?”
“You all look kinda grey and tired.”
“It’s Cleofgharran, he comes in the night.”
“He keeps you awake at night?”
“We wish it were that simple.”
“So, who is he?”
“‘Who’ Is not the word we’d use for him.”
“Not sure if I’m following you there...”
“That’s all right. You’ll find out.”
“He coming tonight then?”
“Every night. When we sleep, he comes.”
“And what does he do?”
The man shrugged.
I changed the subject. “So, what do you do around here?”
“We farm. We have cows, sheep, the regular livestock. I’m sure Connelly can get you work at his farm if the night goes well for you.”
“Uhm, I’m just passing through, but thanks.”
“You’ll be staying here, I think.”
“We haven’t had anyone leave for twenty years now, on account of Cleofgharran.”
“That guy again, say, you never told me who he is.”
“He comes in the night.”
“So you said. But how come there aren’t more people here? You said nobody left here, the place should be full, I mean, there has to be some traffic.”
“Cleofgharran sees to that.”
I scratched my head hearing this, and wondered why the man wouldn’t tell me who the guy was. I didn’t push him for it more, so we talked about the weather and had a pint. Then I went to bed.
I couldn’t sleep. It was oddly bright outside, as though it were still twilight. I looked at my watch and saw it was 2:12 a.m. I wasn’t expecting it to be so bright outside at that time, thought I was so far south. It was cold too — shivering. And the weird ambient silence... I didn’t know what to make of it. I could hear my own heartbeat, I could see the steam from my breath and I had this sensation... I was getting incredibly tired, yet I couldn’t sleep. That was weird.
As I was lying there, something occurred to me: this was a marshy area, the whole town was down in a kind of valley surrounded with green hills on all sides and a large marsh along it, pretty much in people’s back yard. So I thought maybe this place, the entire depression, fills with gas sometimes. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why the night glows like daylight. Maybe that’s why everybody looks a bit sick, sort of like the way I was feeling. And I thought to myself: I don’t want to sleep in some gas chamber. Bad for my health. And I was feeling quite ill. So I figured I’d get out of there.
So I packed. I got outside. The sky didn’t have the ghostly glow I was expecting according to my theory about the gas. It was just grey, as if it was just overcast and a bit late in the evening. In fact, everything around was a bit grey and faded-looking. That was a bit weird, I thought. I got in the car. I started it, and I backed out of the space.
The car wouldn’t go forward, for some reason. The engine was on, I checked. I had it in gear, and I pushed the accelerator pedal, but it just sat there. I revved the engine but to no avail.
Then a child’s voice spoke to me: “Where are you going?”
I looked around. I was pretty sure there was nobody in the car. Then a child’s face appeared by the left hand window. You know, passenger side. It was a round-faced little girl with ponytails. She looked a bit colourless in the light, but healthy. There was something odd about her from the start, but I couln’t tell at first.
“Where are you going?” she asked again, “are you leaving me?”
As I smiled at her, I noticed the car was moving. Like it was on rails and independent from the road. Then I felt it hover a bit.
When I looked at the girl again her face a was a bit larger. Not closer mind you, physically bigger, as if her head had expanded. And I could see her features better. She looked like she was high on something, her irises were expanded all the way and her eyes were bloodshot, but all I really noticed about them were the hollow pupils. Large hollow pupils. And the teeth... the teeth... like a fish.
Then the car moved backwards, and into the air, about a meter into the air I think, and I could hear the metal twist and creak. The girl smiled at me. It was an unnaturally large smile. She had such huge eyes and a big gaping mouth. And the car spun around, all creaking...
“You will stay with me,” said the girl in the most calm voice. Me, I didn’t think so, and I took off my seatbelt and went for the door to get out. But the door wouldn’t budge. I could see it was buckling in near the floor, like the whole car was being crushed somehow.
Then the glass began breaking and it rained all over me, and the girl’s head went into the car, but I kept it off with my foot.
It was just the head, attached to a neck that came from nowhere, ghostly-like. I think she bit me.
Then all went black.
The next I know I was lying on a hill near some place called “An Droim Mor.” I’m not sure how far away from where I was that is, but it had a proper road through it. I hitched a ride from there to here.”
The man behind the counter looked both annoyed and tired now. “So you’re saying you lost the car?”
“If you want to put it like that.”
“Did you report it to the Garda?”
“And that’s the story you gave them?”
Jonas sighed as he replied, “They wouldn’t believe me.”
He handed the rental car clerk the papers he got from the Garda, and five minutes later he was on the bus. They are insured for everything these days.
Copyright © 2012 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson