The O’Keefe Ruins (a short story)

This is another short story from my collection of homework assignments for my study abroad strip to Ireland in July ’13. I’d never written a ghost story before and the parameters on the story were very tight. Despite all that I think its a fun little piece.

The O’Keefe Ruins

Some people swore that the O’Keefe ruins were haunted. Flannigan at the pub said it was an old Celtic lord who thirsted for revenge. O’Connor swore he’d seen a lady in white floating in the cow fields nearby it. Depending on who you asked, the story was always different.

Me though, I didn’t believe any of it, not even for a moment. On the narrow, winding roads in the countryside, when one drove past the ruins of the O’Keefe castle, it was nothing more than a sight tourists stopped to photograph.

But one day in Flannigan’s, I spotted a shadowy man nursing a pint at the end of the bar. I hadn’t seen him before, and as he sat alone I thought I’d say hello.

“The name is Jack Murphy, sir. How are ye?”

His eyes darted wildly. He grunted and shrugged. “Would be better, had I not seen what I did at O’Keefe’s.”

“O’Keefes, ah?” I echoed. Another loon if there ever was one. “And what did ye see?”

“A little lass, neigh taller than one of my own, calling out to me from within the ruins.”

It took all I had not to roll my eyes and return to my own spot at the bar. A child though, I hadn’t heard that one before. “And why were ye there?”

He sighed and motioned the bartender for another pint. “I was there for my cattle; they’d wandered through a break in the wall and O’Keefe’s only a moment’s walk away.”

There was something about this man that was different than the other ghost story tellers. He didn’t tell the story for attention. He seemed to want me to leave. This only made me more curious.

“And the lass, man? What did she want?”

The wearied gentleman shrugged. “I couldn’t tell ye. I saw her, all dark and odd, calling my name at the entrance of the ruins and I…I don’t remember after that.”

We fell into a silence. He settled his tab and left without saying goodbye. It was the most convincing tale I’d heard yet, and though I didn’t believe it was a ghost, what if the lass actually was lost? The cattle herder might’ve been drunk and left her alone in the ruins.

I had to go see for myself. Just to be sure, that is.

Down the winding roads I went, the sun having set long ago, my headlights cutting through the foggy darkness as best as they could. I arrived at the iron gate to the ruins and parked, going on foot from there.

The castle loomed in the distance. My heart hammered in my chest. I strained to hear the lass’s voice and heard nothing but my own blood pumping and the wind rustling through the grass.

And there she was, standing exactly where the man said. It wasn’t a lass, not in the sense of the word I know. Her body was stretched thin, legs turned to wisps of smoke as she waved her hand at me.

“Jack Murphy,” she whispered, “Come join us.”

My legs turned to stone. I couldn’t move. Then, moving behind the crumbling walls of the ruins, I saw figures. One man in particular, caught my eye. The man from the bar that I’d see not an hour before. Only he wasn’t a man, he was a ghost.

I swallowed my fear and spun on my heel, running back to my car without looking back, knowing the stories all may be different, but one thing was true; the O’Keefe ruins were haunted.

Nothing was the same again after that.

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About Eloise J. Knapp

Eloise J. Knapp is an author and designer living in the Pacific Northwest.
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