It was while sloshing home through the flood waters that Mac heard the news.
Apparently, following an all-night session in the Dáil Éireann the government had ‘temporarily loaned’ control of the country to Crowley-Baird Inc. Mac raced back to his rooms in time for the televised address.
‘We are just not equipped as a country,’ continued the Taoiseach, ‘to confront the tasks that now face us as a nation without specialist support.’ The Taoiseach paused.
‘But let me assure you all,’ he said firmly, ‘this is only a temporary measure. I know we all know the price of freedom and its being lost.’
Unsurprisingly, everyone was convinced, everyone that was apart from Mac.
Slowly, warily, Mac and the Rock Star lowered their weapons.
Inteachán moved to one side, allowing her to keep a close eye on the man in the wheelchair. Mac pulled a chair close and sat down.
‘So,’ sneered the Rock Star, ‘this is cosy. The three of us sitting here waiting for the world to end.’
‘But why do you want it to end?’ asked Inteachán. ‘It looks like the world has been pretty good to you.’
The Rock Star smiled but Mac interrupted before he could answer.
‘He doesn’t want anything,’ boomed the elderly academic. ‘He doesn’t even know what he is doing.’
Mac looked around the room.
‘As if these scribbles were really part of the plan.’
The city at night is a dark and dangerous place. Revelers and ruffians vie for space. People die in dirty alleys while others walk past and laugh.
Inteachán could handle the city. She knew where to walk and when. Day. Night. It was all the same to her.
Inteachán turned right onto Charles Street Great. St Margaret’s Avenue was just up ahead. She stopped.
A large fox was rooting through a plastic bag full of rubbish.
The city was full of foxes and Inteachán knew she was perfectly safe.
Suddenly the fox stopped what it was doing and Inteachán saw it wince. Shaking its head from side to side the fox began to howl.
Inteachán crouched into the shadows and as she did so she could feel a pressure building in her ears.
‘I have another job, Inteachán,’ Mac smiled. ‘The usual terms and conditions apply.’
‘Thrilled, as always,’ replied Inteachán. And she was. This is what she did best.
‘In a barrow there is a horn,’ continued Mac. ‘Please fetch it for me.’
‘With pleasure, Mac,’ smiled Inteachán.
‘Head to Knocknarea and find the cairn of Queen Mebh.’ Mac laughed. ‘Enormous great thing, you can’t miss it.’
Inteachán laughed too. She loved fetching things for inclusion in Mac’s almanac.
‘There is a secret chamber that everyone has forgotten about. But not us.’
‘No,’ replied Inteachán, ‘not us.’
Mac cleared his throat, opened his Miscellanea and started reading.
‘Fomhóire means ‘from the sea’ and is the name given to the divine powers, or gods of night, death and cold. The Fomhóire were misshapen and were believed to have the heads of goats and bulls. They also were believed to have only one leg and one arm each, and these grew out of the middle of their chests. The Fomhóire were the ancestors of the evil faeries and, according to legend, of all misshapen persons. The giants and leprechauns are also said to belong to the Fomhóire.’
Mac stopped reading. He turned to Inteachán.
‘Every civilisation has its own names for spirits and faeries and demons and balrogs and wights. Here we have always tended to use the word ‘Fomhóire.’’
‘We have always known them this way but I now know them as another – the NotBeSpeak.’
‘But what are they?’ asked Inteachán. ‘I don’t understand.’
Mac smiled again.
‘How could you?’ he said kindly. ‘They are Everything and Nothing at once. All and Nought together.’
‘Every infection needs a host,’ said Mac, ‘and the NotBeSpeak need the biggest host of all; the world.’
‘How do we stop them?’ asked Inteachán.
‘How do you stop them,’ Mac corrected her. ‘I am old and my days of fighting inter-dimensional demons intent upon cataclysm are long gone.’
‘How do I stop them?’
‘They can only be stopped by preventing them from taking their final form.’
Mac smiled sadly.
‘If we know what final form they wish to take then that is how we can stop them.’
‘But, I am only now beginning to understand what form their final form will take.’
It was growing dark outside. Inteachán pulled the curtains over the window. In the orange glow of the lamp Mac looked even more ancient than normal. Inteachán sat down on the small footstool in front of the fire.
‘What are the What-Be-Speak?’ she asked.
‘Not ‘What,” Mac replied, ‘but Why.’
He looked into the distance.
‘I have spent my whole adult life searching for an answer to that question. I am no closer to the answer now than I was when I started.’
He blew his nose vigorously.
‘In fact, I’m probably further away today than I have ever been.’