There ends the story of how Oonagh Kirk saved the township on the shores of Loch Iascaigh; a lot of falsehood and nonsense.

I can’t say I made up every word, but the documents in the vaults of Ó Néill and McLoughlin’s solicitors are so disordered that, in some cases, identities can’t be verified from one record to the next.

For example, on the day before Oonagh’s wedding a woman was accused of raising from the dead a man killed by a plough. However, she is not listed by name, so I have no way to tell whether the accused is Oonagh herself. But we do know Ailill Byrnes’ face was marked by scars consistent with death by agricultural accident. I put two and two together and presented my result as fact. Par for the course for any journalist.

with trial 2.jpg

Moreover, court documents refer to the deceased child as Ultan Byrnes. But a wedding certificate dated twenty-one years later records the marriage of an Ultan Byrnes to one Ethne Ó Baoill—granddaughter of master brithem, whose testimony was so useful in convicting the Eske Witch.

Whether or not he was murdered by his own mother, Ultan Byrnes was certainly not the earthly host for the second coming of Áillen Mac Midgna, and Oonagh Kirk was not a witch, nor a hero. Maybe she was a murderer. One thing is for certain, and that is she and Ailill Byrnes both died in great suffering.

This tale has been a thought experiment and a lesson.


It’s a scary world out there, and as a great rationalist—or great spiritualist, depending on how you present the facts—once said, “No ghosts need apply.” Our monsters are with us in the streets, in our workplaces, our TVs or, worst of all, they’re rising up from within us, making us question everything we think we know.

The subject of communications studies has never been as important as it is now. We need to arm ourselves with the clarity of thought to navigate realities we have entrusted others to construct for us. Sometimes it’s helpful to step out of a news article and consider that these are real people’s lives, and that life is a messy, contradictory, illogical thing that can never be captured in black and white.

But we can beat these monsters if we properly evaluate them, unpick what we consume, communicate with honesty and transparency. It’s not a fail-safe method for slaying the deathless god with his fiery breath, but it’s all we’ve got right now.

black cat art.jpeg

The electric lanterns in our garden are alight now. They make the lawn seem gloomier, working against the fading sunlight. Dusk’s purple-gold haze will fade soon, and the lights picking out the leaves will make the garden look like a painting on black felt.

Satan is here, right on cue. His slate eyes glint like burning pinpoints against the gloom, a bulky shadow against the bushes lining the brook. He has finally made it across the bridge.

I may go out to him, try to tempt him in. As Hallowe’en unfurls its leathery wings across the sky, the company of a wise black cat might come in useful.

See you in class. Happy Halloween, and blessings.

Regina and Will Phoenix-Burns… and Satan



Tragic Composer Killed by University Professor Wife

November 1st, 2018, Laurelhurst, Portland OR

Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau attended a fire in Laurelhurst last night. Firefighters struggled for two hours to contain the blaze. Portland Police Bureau later identified the bodies of internationally regarded composer and harpist William Burns, and his wife, a media studies tutor at University of Portland.

Family friend Mason Collins said, “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt Will. He was a loving husband, a pillar of the community, as well as being a respected musician, of course. She was also an amazing woman. God knows what could have caused her to do this. There was no note, so I guess it’ll always be a mystery.”

The couple’s deaths seem to be the result of a murder-suicide perpetrated by Burns’ wife. The Portland Dispatch has obtained an exclusive copy of the couple’s autopsy reports, which reveal Regina Burns was carrying her husband’s child.

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About The Author


Robert Tamplin is a writer and editor. His short fiction has been published by Eunoia Review. He lives on the Kent coast with his partner.

If you would like to check out more of Robert’s work, you can find him on Twitter @robtamplin and his blog.

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