The banshee’s wail called the Dullahan from slumber. The large chest took a deep waking breath; he could feel the moon high in the darkened sky. It was time once again to ride. He walked out to the barn hidden deep in the black forest. The nightmares that would pull him through the night stamped impatient to run.
No ordinary horses were these. Their coats shone black as oil, red eyes shaped like almonds, they were evil souls cursed to live eternity as demon spirits in his service. He fastened them in their harnesses and led the beasts to the coach.
His half-rotted flesh began to work the straps and buckles.The nightmares screamed into the night anxious to be on their way. Hooves dug at the earth impatient and sparked flame. He stroked the beast’s neck, he felt it too, the call of the dying.
The Dullahan climbed aboard and took the reins. The nightmares reared and screamed as they took to the unseen road.
The living did not see him but felt the cold chill down their backs as he passed. The night became darker, thicker with dread as he road toward his destination. His arm drew back to crack his bone whip, the spine snapped and spurred the beasts into a full run.
Men woke and cried out with terrifying dreams, women wept in their sleep. Death was coming.
The dark coachman pulled the beasts to a stop, their destination before them. He stepped down to earth once more and it trembled beneath his boot.
The slowing beats of his soon to be passenger’s heart pulsed in the Dullahan’s veins. He was the harbinger, nothing could stand in his way. The gate opened at his approach. The front door on the modest cottage swung inward.
The dying man cried out for mercy as the candles snuffed leaving him and his wife in darkness. A loud scrape echoed in the room as the dresser moved aside, pulled by an invisible force. The locks he was so sure were strong enough to hold tumbled and turned, the final door opened with a creak of bone on bone.
The dying screamed as he watched the dark creature walk toward him. The barrel-sized chest took deep breaths, beneath the cloak’s hood there was nothing but darkness. The wife looked into it and felt the emptiness there, as though she stared into the pits of hell itself. She covered her own mouth to hold back her horror. Least his attention be drawn her way.
The Dullahan reached into the dying man’s chest with its black hand and tore out his soul. The man’s corpse gave one last breath in life. The spirit struggled in the grip of death as he was escorted out to the black coach. The coach’s door opened beckoning the soul to enter and be taken to his fate.
The wife cried out as her husband’s essence stepped inside. The dark coachmen growled low, her skin turned to gooseflesh, her hair stood on end. The Dullahan turned toward her, she screamed and begged him to not to take her.
The coachman dowsed the wife with the blood of the dead. A mark, she would live this night and maybe the next, but at the banshee’s next cry he would come for her first.
He mounted the coach and cracked his bone whip. Cóiste Bodhar and its headless coachmen rode into the darkest part of night to carry their passenger to judgement.