Edvard Munch, Harpy

Aldous and the Banshees – A Short Story By Jack Eidt


Check out this excerpt from a mythological-inspired short story how about how the night sirens came alive when Aldous moved to a new apartment in a rough neighborhood, told with inspirations from both the Brothers Grimm and Native American styles with a nod to the Greek mythological sirens of Odysseus.. Written by Jack Eidt, called “Aldous and the Banshees.” It was published in Space Sirens Volume 9 from the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Buy the book with an incredible line-up of authors on Amazon.

The Siren, Odilon Redon
The Siren Clothed In Barbs, Emerged From the Waves (1883) by Odilon Redon. Original from the National Gallery of Art. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Jack Eidt: Aldous Plans His Escape from the Sirens

Aldous had nowhere else to go, so a family friend named Ms. Sterope offered him a place to land. She lived at the bend of a street adjacent to a raucous ten-lane freeway in a Valley neighborhood. “Don’t sweat the freeway noise, Aldous,” Ms. Sterope exclaimed with a wink as she welcomed him to the property. Her dark hair was pinned up in many different circumnavigation rings graced with shiny chopsticks. “We got oh so many birdies living in the trees on the property. They can out-sing even the loudest engine. You will positively fall in love with those singing birds!”

This was just a temporary stop until he could get back on his feet. Aldous’s previous small bungalow rental, set among proliferating succulents shaded by fan palms and Chinese elms, all blowing in the offshore breeze with a walk to a hipster coffee shop and lots of new multi-story condos, was sold out from under him. However, the landlord claimed he would personally move in, and Aldous believed the ruse and got absolutely nothing for being gentrified out into the street. Moreover, Aldous had a job writing copy and doing running commentary for some podcasts for a flying-low media company that disappeared under cover of night, with nothing but a “Thanks!” email from the 28-year-old trust-funder co-founder who closed the website down and buried the 102 episodes talking New Media Lifestyle into the dustbin of the internet archive. He had been largely paid off-the-books, which had all the convenience of walk-around-cash every other Friday, until the day he had to walk with an empty wallet and couldn’t even afford a Macadamia-Milk Americano at the local brew joint. He filed for unemployment, but the job and company had been disappeared from the files, so there was nothing for him. So much for a social safety net for those living the New Media Lifestyle. Resumes were out in the never-say-die spirit of the freelancer.

The orange tabby cat who guarded Ms. Sterope’s freeway-grunge-covered-once-white house gave him a scowl but then looked away, pretending she had never seen him. He pushed through the rotting-wood-not-white-picket fence gate nevertheless, and said, “Hey Cat. I see you.”

Edvard Munch, Harpy
Harpy (1894) by Edvard Munch. Original from The Art Institute of Chicago. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

He heard birds, but really, the deafening shush and drone of internal combustion engines passing by at what seemed supersonic speeds made everything around the little back house shudder. “Maybe at night it will be quieter,” he said out loud.

Cat remained in negation mode. A squirrel holding on to a nearby sickly jacaranda tree chattered at him. Nary a positive welcome would he receive here in his new digs.

“Oh, and then there is Toño, your roommate,” Ms. Sterope added as she handed him the key. “He’s barely around. Sells hot dogs out on the streets.” Did she mention the roommate before? He could not remember.

“Hot dogs?”

“You like hot dogs? He gets them from a supplier who works with the grocery stores. They are the ones expired, past their sell-by dates. I am sure no one complains if you understand preservatives.”

“Hmm. Toño. Okay…”

“Nice fellow.” Ms. Sterope looked down at him with a twinkle in her brown eyes, like this was all some sort of game to fill this surreal backhouse. “Good roommate. He’s never here. Everyone wants street hot dogs these days, I guess.”

Aldous had to wonder what he was getting into. “What are all these bags piled up in the backyard wall along the freeway?” As he asked this, he could barely breathe nor hear. A whirlwind of noxious air swirled about, trucks and campers and sport-utility vehicles all-at-once rounded the bend, headed for who knows where.

“What?” she asked, seeming bored with Aldous. He had already proffered the check for rent, so her work was done.

“These bags? Why don’t you—or Toño—throw them away?” He noticed a collection of discarded electronics and other odd trash were piled in every open corner, next to the packed-full white garbage bags.

“Plastic bottle recycling. He is waiting for the price per bottle at the recycling center to increase.”

“That is ridiculous.”

She smiled the smile that assured him he was in trouble. “Toño is a paying tenant. He has rights. He is your roommate. He sees playing the market in plastic bottle recycling as an investment in his future. Who are we to give him investment advice?”

Aldous had enough of this discussion. He will move out next month.


STORY: The Fortunate One – A Short Story by Jack Eidt

Tree Spirits
Plaque with Tree Spirits by Tiffany Company, Marc Louis Emmanuel Solon and Mintons Ltd
Original public domain image from Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In Comes the Darkness of the Night

That night, the roommate Toño did not appear from the frontlines of hot dog cartage. It was a lonely first evening for Aldous, but he focused his mind on what journalistic pieces he might compose when one of these outlets decided to bring him on.

Massive commercial passenger jets converged overhead, shaking the foundations as they shuddered their way into landing at the nearby airport. The smell of jet propulsion 5, or whatever type of fuel it burned, seemed to have been dropped from the heavens, seeping into the house through the cracks in the windows. Then came the freight trains that would stop for no one, the howling of relentless whistles, chugging diesel engines churning black smoke, and again the quaking of everything not rooted into rock.

More birds, night singers, coalesced in his dark backyard but for the headlight beams that projected over the sound/light wall, machines zooming a slight curve. What else has Ms. Sterope said of the birds? A longtime friend of his mother, she mastered herbal decoctions and infusions, a medium between us and the others that hung about in the shadows of destiny. Then there was the story told by his mother that Ms. Sterope had transformed her former husband into a beast. The narrative progressed that she had a taste for human flesh, and once her beast-husband heard of this, he escaped into the hills. Aldous had interpreted these meanderings as the conceptual gossip-chat of two long-divorced women who have had enough of the bestial ways of the men in their lives. His own father had escaped to overseeing Sunday meetings in a Church of Christ near Nampa, Idaho, and was rumored to run with the wolves during the week. One assumed on Saturdays he would shower and shave. He had not called Aldous in fifteen years.

Did Ms. Sterope have magic powers of some kind? Who knew? But she did say to him that the backyard birds had the power of enchantment. “It is good you are single, because after you come into the realm of the birds, they will warble you into a world where a wife or children will never again welcome you back.”

“What kind of birds are these?”

She talked in parables and had no direct answer. She did add, “Yes, Toño.” The roommate. “Since he moved in here. He is enchanted. He wants nothing more than selling hot dogs and collecting plastic bottles.”

Now, Aldous did not see Toño’s fate as something that would apply to him. He could resist any temptation. This is why he never married because he appreciated independence. But maybe he had a little fascination with Ms. Sterope’s birds.

Ferdinand and Ariel
Ferdinand and Ariel from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’
Original public domain image from Yale Center for British Art

And now he heard the first night calls over the din of the passing traffic. He imagined they were nymphs alighting in all corners of the plastic-bottle-stuffed white bags littering the backyard. The wind tunnel lifted their long brown hair and gauzy dresses as they played out a sort of danse macabre. Their song was more of a dirge, high notes with undertones of engines shifting gears and mufflers popping. He considered they might be banshees, heralding in the death of someone, something.

He had the impulse to go out and see what these women (birds) (banshees) were doing in his backyard. But then maybe he should inspect what this guy Toño was about. The cramped kitchen and dank sitting room seemed unused and unlived in. Toño’s room door was not locked, so Aldous figured he could just peek in

Well, opening the door of the bedroom was maybe more than he bargained for. No lights or switches. And the weirder thing was the walls had no wood paneling or drywall like the rest of the house. Only cement block. Unpainted. The bed was stacked against the wall, so no sleeping there either. This was more of a crypt. He flicked the flashlight to inspect the place. The only sign of inhabitance were a few votive candles, and an incense tray full of ash.

Okay, Toño must be permanently gone, which is the real reason he does not cash out and recycle his plastic bottles. And Ms. Sterope must be some sort of sorceress.

The banshees crooned and yelled outside his window, calling him into the toxic wind tumult tornado. Then he heard something otherworldly that shook him to his bones. He heard a woman singing along with the banshees. He ran to the window to look. He knew the song.

God bless America.

Land that I love.

Stand beside her,

And guide her,

Through the night with the light from above.


Of course, it could have been an unhoused woman who lived along the wall to the freeway. But he did not believe that. Maybe it was Ms. Sterope herself, expressing her love of the land. He did not believe that either. What he knew was that he had made a mistake. He had to escape this place. Now.

When he turned around in the darkness, a cement block that protruded from the wall banged him in the forehead. He fell back. He saw the light from above, stars. Maybe it was police helicopters shining spotlights into the backyard looking for a woman singing that horrible song. He fell.

The dust on the floor was maybe an inch thick and hadn’t been walked on or swept for weeks or months. He wiggled around on it. He felt his head and was relieved to find he was not bleeding. Did he black out? For how long? He felt dizzy, maybe a concussion, and he knew he needed to be careful, or he might go to sleep forever in this crypt. The banshees continued to call for him.

He pulled himself up, brushing off the dust, and wanted ice for his aching forehead. He had to get the swelling down so he wouldn’t have to go to the hospital. He limped out of that forsaken room to the kitchen and found ice in the freezer, but nothing else. Not even frozen hot dogs. Not a good sign.

He heard it again like a warning of mutually assured destruction:

From the mountains

To the prairies

To the oceans

White with foam

God bless America.

My home sweet home.


This house, those nymphs, the backyard crooner, they all wanted him dead. He was certain if he stepped into the backyard, they would take him away like they did Toño. He would never be heard from again.

Spring Scattering Stars, Edwin Blashfield
Spring Scattering Stars (1927) by Edwin Blashfield. Original public domain image. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Where was that cat? He cracked open the front door looking toward Ms. Sterope’s house, and called out, “Cat!”

Cat was right there, scowling at him. Sort of the same look proffered when he arrived earlier. Cat told him in cat language that she tried to warn him, and he ignored her, and it was too late. “You have to walk out of here.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Aldous. “I’m driving out of here.”

Cat scowled again.

He grabbed his keys, ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel plying his aching head. He pushed through the door and out the gate toward the street. Sure enough, the front passenger window of his car had been shattered. The entire dashboard had been yanked off. Maybe the thieves were looking for a starter?

Santa Barbara Literary Journal“What the fuck?” Yeah, this was not a good neighborhood, but who would bother with his useless twenty-year-old Toyota?

…to read the rest of “Aldous and the Banshees” by Jack Eidt please purchase Volume 7 on Amazon.

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  1. Pingback: The Fortunate One - A Short Story by Jack Eidt - WilderUtopia

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