Who Hears Our Cries in Forgotten Tongues?

The wind shrieks across the barren hilltops, scraping moss from our cairns, and carrying our wild laments across neighbouring bluffs. Nothing remains of our race except these humps of grey stone that surface like whales cresting waves of foaming grass. Few visit. Wearing crackling material that defies rain they are deaf to the story of our people. They never linger.

Until today.

She lags behind the group, and our cunning people recognise the patterns of intuition that flare from her mind. Her far-seeing eyes track our movements as we creep close.

Let me see, she imparts. Fearless, she perches upon tumbled rock and opens her mind to the images that leap like salmon across the weir of time.


Together we walk upon straw-strewn floor, and nudge the sleeping hounds from the hearth so we can cut slices from the spitted boar. Songs echo in the hall as slaves carry mead to our chief and his warband, who display the heads of our enemies with pride. The hag speaks of our ancestors who watch from their lofty tombs until prepared to return in the round bellies of our children’s children.

The runner arrives, panting. He is revived to warn of invaders who have traversed the ninth wave to set foot upon our noble isle. Men and women grab spears and bronze swords, and speed in eager packs through the thick forests to the beaches and to battle.

The sands sink with the blood of our warriors.

The invaders swarm across the land and slaughter our people. Their hard eyes glitter under iron helmets, and they know no mercy for the aged poet, or the mewling child. We cannot withstand their new magic; spells fail upon the lips of our wise folk.

Our passenger in time turns away, but we cannot stem the memories that rush from the severed veins of our grief.

Chilled by biting wind, we make our stand on our most sacred site, and face the army of our foes: pitiless, cruel, unending. None survive to welcome our souls back from the grey hinterland bordering life.

We are doomed to watch the conquerors teem across the hills, carve their names in foreign words upon our monuments, and claim our legacy. We remain in legend as the phantoms of the hills who wove lies and died easily.

Between eyeblinks, more invasions occur. The conquerors become servants. From our high fortresses we witness the death of the forests, and its creatures, as buildings multiply in the soft vales and fragrant meadows. Dark snaking paths mark this dominion, and we abide in the unforgiving reaches to avoid the madness of their belching towns.

We are alone, forgotten, and unheard.

Until now.


“I will craft a tale of memory.” She leaves, her mind gravid with the souls of our people.

Tonight, we dance under a moonless sky, and howl the delivery of our lives into a new race.

Maura McHugh
Published in Flash Me Magazine, October 2004.
Published in The Boughs Withered (When I Told Them My Dreams), NewCon Press 2019.