Gollup the Woods: Twin Power by Kevin Leigh by Kevin Leigh - Read Online

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Gollup the Woods - Kevin Leigh

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days.

Part One - Glendalough

Duplicate kids

more than a handful,

growing so fast,

exhausted, both arms full.

Playing as youngsters,

brake, bolt and run,

parents so shocked,

their freedom undone.

They loved us, they held us,

put Band-Aids on our gash,

but then a drunk driver,

took them from us in a crash.

As tweeners we stagger,

in a life full of pain,

we emerge bonded,

too lost to complain.

Family hugs go unfelt

turned off and in shock,

ignore our surroundings

become a unit, a rock.

Time has not curved,

our feeling of loss,

we find our peace,

near a Celtic high cross.

1 Sensation

Maneuvering a tour bus down the tiny single-lane road felt like landing an airplane on a side street, things just sort of hang out all over. Any Irish bus driver can tell you a story or two of a wheel that slipped over the edge of a cliff before teetering back to safety at the last minute — all to the gasps of the passengers. Strangely though, twins Seamus and Josie felt completely safe, even as the rest of the passengers groaned when the rear end of the tour bus arced out over another guardrail-free ravine. The twins were by far the poorest kids on the tour bus, sitting in the back by the bathroom, hiding from the mocking eyes of the rich kids.

Seamus, who was blessed with natural dimples and an upturned smile, giggled, exclaiming, This is awesome. If the other kids weren’t so snooty, he would have raised his hands in the air like he did on a roller coaster. As it was, the other passengers gripped their armrests so tightly that their knuckles turned white.

Josie barely heard him. Her eyes were fixed on the road ahead, anticipating the view around the next turn. The rocky hills of Wicklow — peppered with raging green grass and moss and the occasional splash of white as wild sheep jumped from rock to rock — took her breath away. She was in awe of the beauty of Ireland, and this was only their second day here.

The bus turned around one more bend, then shuddered as it slowed approaching the hill down to the Visitor Centre in the valley of Glendalough. Look at that, Seamus! said Josie, pointing enthusiastically.

Cool, it’s the stone tower you told me about, he answered playfully, crushing her against the bus window.

It’s got to be the oldest thing I have ever seen, said Josie as her face pressed against the window, her excited breath immediately fogging up the glass. My history teacher said it was built over a thousand years ago. She beamed. Hey, it’s official: this is my first millennium building. Since the death of her parents, she didn’t often display this much happiness, but now her cheeks dimpled, and the corners of her eyes wrinkled like a newborn baby’s first smile. In spite of the 70-degree weather, Josie wore a fuzzy green hoodie, which she used now to wipe the condensation away. What she revealed was the beautiful landscape of Celtic gravestones pocked with deep green moss as well as the famous stone tower. Except for the Visitor Centre and hotel, everything here seemed ancient, as if the whole countryside was stuck in a time warp.

My legs fell asleep 20 minutes ago, Seamus said as he unbuckled his safety belt and leaned over Josie to get a closer look. He was older than Josie by only thirteen minutes, but he considered himself her big brother and protector, especially at school.

A shrieking voice came from the front of the bus. How many times do I have to tell you to sit down? It was their homeroom teacher and field trip chaperon, Miss Plunket. You know the rules, Seamus, the bus must come to a complete stop before you can stand up. She held up the laminated rules with a hand tightly wrapped in rubber bands.

Miss Plunket was prone to mini nervous breakdowns, and this resulted in some comical moments. The twins hypothesized that the more rubber bands Miss Plunket had on her wrist, the closer she was to the brink of madness. They were convinced that Miss Plunket would have another "little freaky deaky" before the day was over, based on the volume of bands she wore now, and given that her current responsibility included corralling 30 highly dependent kids, who were miles from home — all amped up on Irish tea.

The other kids on the bus barely looked up as she slapped her hand on rule number 3: Please sit while the bus is in motion. They all busily played video games or texted their friends back in the States on their iPhones, each with the Euro package already connected, ticking away messages at their parents’ expense. They seemed annoyed at being forced to go on this trip and be away from their friends back home. One kid had blurted out at the hotel last night, This trip is boring! All we are visiting is graveyards. Which was true, thought Josie, but they were awesome thousand-year-old graveyards.

She and her brother stood out like dandelions on a putting green among the varsity class of Brierbrook Private School. They didn’t have a single piece of designer Abercrombie & Fitch or Aeropostale clothing between them. They definitely could not afford a smart phone, not even one of those old flip-phones you can get on eBay for 99 cents. But possessions were the last things on Josie’s mind at that moment; they were in Ireland. Freakin’ Ireland.

Ahem. Miss Plunket cleared her throat; it sounded like a cat coughing up a fur-ball but no one bothered to look up. Even the two chaperon parents sitting in front were ignoring her. They looked like they were busy lusting over each other, all snuggled up like lovers — which was awkward since they were the parents of two different kids. It was just another day in the life of the dysfunctional families from Brierbrook Private School.

We are so lucky, Seamus whispered to his sister as he sat back down for the tenth time. They fist-bumped, clinking the worn Claddagh rings their parents had left them, then took a quick look around to make sure no one had seen the corny gesture. They didn’t need to worry; the other kids were looking at their phones, ear buds firmly in place. The only time they looked up was to take a picture to send to their friends on Facebook, usually of themselves and not including any of the scenery around them. Here they were in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, so green, so historic and so interesting, and all they could think about was how much they missed their video games back home.

On the flight to Dublin, Josie and Seamus had been the only kids traveling in coach seats. All back of the bus, their Uncle Vince had joked, making light of the fact that they were traveling on the cheap. They had no complaints, though. For them it was a trip of a lifetime, totally unexpected considering Uncle Vince, who had been their guardian since the accident, was only the janitor at Brierbrook. Sitting in the back of the tour bus, they felt like rock stars on tour, and now, to top things off, they were arriving at Glendalough.

Josie, a bit of a history freak, had read everything she could on the history of Glendalough and had fallen in love with the area immediately. A few months back she’d discovered that there was a St. Kevin’s Church and a St. Mary’s Church a few hundred feet apart — coincidentally sharing the names of her deceased parents. As Josie looked out the window at the ancient structures that she’d known only from pictures up until that moment, memories of her parents flooded into her mind, and she lowered her eyes, crying quietly. If mom and dad could see me now, she thought, all grown up and in Glendalough with a bus full of kids miserable in their own wealth. She knew her father would have had something funny to say; he always had. In her mind Josie pulled up the image of her parents, fixed there from the moment she kissed them goodbye the night of their death. Over the years, the image warped into a surreal 3D avatar, photoshopped by her love with the colors enhanced, her mom with eyes smiling tan and beautiful. Her dad looking back at her with loving eyes as white-blue as her own. Josie closed her eyes and studied the laugh lines on her mother’s face, the intelligence in her father’s eyes and the love radiating from both of them. Josie missed her mom and dad every day, but somehow on this trip the memories were stronger and the pain in her heart heavier. Josie pulled her mind back to the moment, the wonderful moment she worked so hard to enjoy.

There she goes crying again, Ruby Rose said loudly to her friend in the seat in front of the twins. I am so sick of her trying to get attention!

Ruby, shut your mouth. You just wish you had tear ducts, said Seamus, pointing his finger.

Mr. Eagan. You had better be telling Miss Rose she’s #1, Miss Plunket said from the front of the bus. There will be no more finger pointing, am I clear? A couple of kids snickered but they quieted down when she glared at them.

Ruby just scowled at Seamus, trying to stare him down. I’m going to have to do something about Ruby, he thought. To say Ruby was trouble was an understatement; she was like a summer wasp, so annoying and buzzing just out of reach.

Seamus looked over at his twin sister and put his arm around her. She continued to cry, oblivious to the dispute with Ruby, face flushed and cheeks shiny.

"C’mon, Josie, we’re here to have fun. Dad would be pissed if she saw you wasting even a moment crying. You’re in Ireland. You’re in bloody Ireland," he declared in a cheerful Irish accent, producing the faint edge of a smile on his sister’s face.

She was about to say something in response when the bus lurched to a stop, rocking back and forth on its springs. Then the bus driver popped up out of his seat and grabbed the microphone from Miss Plunket’s rubber-banded hand before she could open her mouth to speak. His deep Irish brogue made it seem like he was always telling a joke, the way all of his sentences ended on a high tone. His accent was so thick that it took Josie a few seconds to process his words, like a movie out of sync.

You’re in for a real treat! This is Glendalough, pronounced ‘Glean Da Looge’ in Irish. It is said that the Irish may have saved civilization as you know it, and Glendalough is where it all happened. He pronounced the words, as you know it, like as e no i.

Miss Plunket rudely cut him off. She shrieked without the microphone, her voice sounding like the steel on steel of a train braking. That’s wonderful, that’s really wonderful, she said in a patronizing tone. Alright, everyone, let’s make sure we all stay together as we get off the bus.

The bus driver, seeming unfazed, continued. There are many legends of strange happenings around here, so don’t touch anything, because you never know where it will take ya. He looked over at Miss Plunket and smiled as if he knew she would cut him off again, and, sure enough, she did.

Alright, gather your belongings if you don’t want anything stolen! This is Ireland after all, home of the pickpocket, she said, looking the driver up and down in weakly disguised hostility, then she abruptly turned, and stepped off the bus with all the grace of an ostrich.

Where it will take ya? Josie thought. That was a strange way to say don’t touch.

2 Conflict

The twins were making their way slowly towards the exit when Seamus noticed that one of the kids was fast asleep in his seat. Josie knew the kid from homeroom; his name was JP Banks, the school quarterback and very cute.

Josie, always careful of their precarious social situation, could not believe that her brother was stepping into the seat next to JP to wake him. He called out before Josie could stop him.

Dude, wake up. We’re here. When JP did not move, Seamus put his hand on his shoulder as if to shake him, but JP’s hand shot out and grabbed Seamus by the shirt, pulling him close with unnatural strength.

Don’t touch me, Eagan. Don’t you ever touch me. He released Seamus with a shove, sending him headlong into his sister and knocking them both into the seat across the aisle.

The driver appeared next to them, though Josie could have sworn he was up front just moments ago. Now, now, he said, his Irish accent hard to understand. There is no room for gobshites on my bus.

JP stood looking embarrassed, wiping sleep from his eyes. Realizing what he had done he reached out a hand to help Josie up. She slapped his outstretched hand away. The moment was so awkward that he pulled his hand back quickly, grabbed his backpack and tried to push past the bus driver, who was standing in his way with his arms folded.

Excuse me, sir, JP snarled, but the bus driver did not budge.

Say you’re sorry, lad, said the bus driver.

JP rose up to his full height and puffed out his chest. The driver stood there with a hint of a smile on his face. Although he was much shorter than JP, he appeared far more formidable.

Looking back for a second at Josie, JP muttered, Sorry.

Satisfied, the driver let him pass. JP stormed off the bus without looking back and met up with his friends outside, as Miss Plunket unsuccessfully tried to stop them from running off in every direction.

The driver helped Seamus untangle from his sister, and they both stood up, ready to leave.

Wait up a minute, the driver said conspiratorially. May I ask, what that gobshite called you?

Seamus looked confused.

I said, what did he call you? the driver asked Seamus. This time the words sounded unnaturally loud for a whisper, like it was thundering around in Seamus’s head.

Eagan? said Seamus meekly.

Josie stepped forward, her small body seeming insignificant in the situation. Why do you ask? she said, pushing Seamus behind her, something she did when he was in trouble. And what the heck’s a gobshite? she asked, taking a step closer to the driver. He was a lanky man, and she was a petite five-foot-two girl. To Seamus, it seemed like an angry Chihuahua standing up to a mild-mannered greyhound. Josie noticed for the first time how colorfully the driver was dressed. His clothes were handmade; she knew because she’d had to stitch up a few hand-me-downs over the years. He wore a tweed vest with gold stitching and a suede sport coat with an Irish-knot patterned tie. His shoes impressed her the most; they were made of several different cuts of leather. Her guess was lambskin or something more exotic. What is a bus driver doing in thousands of dollars’ worth of handmade clothes?

Her scrutiny did not go unnoticed. The driver took his time observing how she was dressed. Simple clothes, no designer labels, her shoes were slightly too small for her feet. She shifted her weight uncomfortably, slightly embarrassed under his scrutiny, then he peered into her eyes as if he recognized her in some way. Then he shifted his eyes back to Seamus with a questioning look on his face.

Well? said Seamus, faking an Irish accent. "Tell us, sir, what is a gobshite?"

The driver’s eyes narrowed. Are you tell’n me, you are Eagans? In his Irish accent it sounded like Eoghans.

That is our name, Josie answered. Seamus and Josie Eagan. Why? Is there a problem? Are we in some sort of trouble? You know, Seamus was just trying to wake JP up.

The driver looked into Josie’s white-blue eyes and for the first time smiled. Where’s me manners? he said, stepping back. I’m Jimmy Dempsey, and you are definitely not gobshites.

Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dempsey, said Josie with staged formality, affecting a slight curtsy. Again, why was our name so interesting to you? She leaned over to gather up her bag.

Ah well, I have not heard that name for a very long time. And you’re twins, are ya? Jimmy asked, leaning in for the answer.

Yes, we were born a few minutes apart, said Josie, forgetting that she just met this man.

Jimmy looked back and forth between them as if making up his mind in some way, then turned and strode towards the front of the bus with surprisingly long strides.

Josie and Seamus shrugged. That was weird, said Seamus as he followed his sister towards the door.

Outside Miss Plunket blew a coach’s whistle, trying to get the attention of the distracted teenagers. The two chaperon parents were no help; they looked back guiltily as they headed towards the trail to the upper lake.

Josie paused in the doorway of the bus. All the noise seemed to fade away as she looked up at the pale blue sky with streaking clouds that looked like fingers with red and depths of amber at their edges. She allowed her eyes to drop slowly down to the mountains that surrounded her in their dark greens and shades of gray as the mist of the morning began to clear. Then her eyes settled on the top of the stone tower barely visible above the trees and the Visitor Centre. It seemed to be the center of the beautiful scenery, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in New York. Except this was not a city. It was the most scenic and historic place on Earth, in her view.

3 Tourist

Glendalough was not at all the peaceful and tranquil village Josie had imagined. The noise of bus engines, the smell of diesel fuel and the tourists mulling about in their Kiss me, I’m Irish t-shirts made for a very busy place. People were everywhere, but then again, at least 10 buses had just arrived.

Tourist trap, Seamus called out with a smirk.

Near the entrance to the Visitor Centre, Irish dancers wearing full woolen dresses and wigs were sweating as they danced their hearts out while none of the tourists seemed to pay attention. Miss Plunket had her back to the dancers and was still trying to corral her students. She’d forgotten to take attendance when they exited the bus, so it was a free-for-all, and the kids knew it.

Let’s skip the guided tour, said Josie. Besides, Miss Plunket knows nothing about Irish history.

You can be my guide, Seamus suggested, shoving his sister forward, almost knocking her over. She shoved him back playfully but then Seamus put his finger to his lips as they passed in front of Jimmy Dempsey the driver. He was sitting on a stone wall with a thermos of tea in his hand. The Irish loved their tea, and Jimmy obviously was no exception. He smiled back at them as he arranged a complete china set on a tartan tablecloth. Josie mouthed the words thank you as they skirted around the back of the Visitor Centre and headed towards the path leading up to the churches and the inner rings of the historic city.

They sprinted across a wooden bridge and then the rear parking lot of the Glendalough Hotel, towards the stone archway that would take them into the historic site.

A Japanese tour guide with a yellow flag guided a group of older Japanese ladies who scurried rather than walked in line behind her. Seamus and Josie joined the group, laughing and acting as if the twins understood what they were saying.

Inside the walls the stone path fanned out toward the various buildings. The twins took the path toward the ruins of an old cathedral. It seemed deserted at the moment because the tour guides brought their flocks to the stone tower first. The closer they got to the cathedral, the quieter it became until the only sounds came from birds and the crunching of tiny stones under their feet.

This is more like it, Josie whispered to herself.

I wonder how long it will take for Miss Plunket to notice we are gone, Seamus said.

Even if she notices, she won’t come looking. I think she would be glad to be rid of us, just like the rest of the school, said Josie.

We could just disappear here in Ireland; that wouldn’t be so bad, said Seamus, kicking some of the fine gravel with the toe of his hand-me-down sneaker.

I would love to live here. The history, the sights. First I would learn Gaelic and then I would hike the historic trails…

Slow down, Sissy, I was just kidding about the disappearing thing, what would Uncle Vince do without us?

I’m not kidding. I would be at home here in Ireland. Right at home, she said, skipping along until she arrived at the front of the roofless historic cathedral.

Again she stopped and took in the moment. Off to her left she found St. Kevin’s Church with its own small tower attached at one end, probably built as a bell tower to call in the townsfolk for prayer. Now, the moment of truth, she thought. Her eyes darted around, looking for the ruins of St. Mary’s, the main reason she was so interested in Glendalough. Her eyes bounced from outcropping to Celtic cross to stone wall, and, finally, there it was, outside the inner fence, covered in wild growth, dilapidated and sad. At one time, it had been a holy gathering place, but now it was not even visited by the average tourist. She closed her eyes.

After a moment Seamus whispered in her ear, still speaking with an accent. Do you feel them yet? Are they really here? Would she be able to feel them? Josie thought.

Before the accident, she’d been able to feel them around her. Maybe it was a twin thing with her brother, because she always knew his mood, but with her dad especially she had experienced a bond of feeling, like an emotional umbilical cord. When her dad was sad, she knew. When someone told her dad a joke, Josie smiled along with him — even when they were miles apart. When the drunk driver killed her mom and dad, Josie woke up out of bed with such a start that their cat, who slept at the foot of her bed, jumped straight up in the air and almost hit the ceiling fan, squealing so loud it woke the house.

No, not yet, Josie replied, letting her shoulders drop. She had not felt her parents in her heart for quite some time.

You will, said Seamus. You know their souls are here. They have to be. Seamus’ voice trailed off.

Josie’s heart thumped in her chest. She’d hoped that Glendalough would bring them back to her, but as with so many other disappointments that made up the twins’ life, she felt nothing. She began to cry again, tears running freely down her face.

Their souls are here, young Eagans, Jimmy, the well-dressed bus driver, intoned, stepping up behind them. He must have been following them and listening to their whole exchange.

Embarrassed, Josie wiped her face quickly in her hoodie and turned to face him.

You don’t know what you’re talking about, she said.

Ah, but I do, Miss Eagan, I do. I know more about family connections — what you call telepathy — than the Seers of Knogue, he said as he walked past, leaving them standing there in shock.

They walked inside the old dilapidated church, where they found Jimmy again, this time sitting on the remains of the church wall, a large oak framing his tall body. He had a beautiful wool blanket wrapped around his legs, cup of tea in hand, and was listening intently to their conversation.

Wow, you are quick, said Josie, squinting at the colorful man.

He simply took a sip of his tea, looked at them, then delicately set his cup down. Long before this tree took root, and before that church was built, this place held a different significance. The words flowed from his mouth like music, and for some reason they had no trouble understanding him now. It was as if he was talking directly to the hearing centers of their brains.

Before the second lake formed here at Glendalough, before the Stone Tower, before the Black Obelisk and definitely before the Burial Mounds of Moore or the Tears of Souls, this place was the center of my universe. He trailed off, picked up his cup, and setting aside his blanket he jumped down and walked out of the church.

What Black Obelisk and what Tear of Souls? I haven’t read anything about such things, said Josie, hurrying after him. And I didn’t know there’s a burial mound here.

Modern man has no record of such things; their memories have been lost in time. Only the Thirteen have awareness of any of this, and even their memories are fading, said Jimmy, walking past the ruin and into the graveyard beyond.

Should we follow him? Seamus whispered to Josie.

Darn right, we are following him! This is some interesting info; even if he might be making it up, it’s a great story, said Josie as she tried to keep up with Jimmy’s long strides. Who are the Thirteen? she called after him as the distance between them seemed to elongate. Then he turned behind a building, and when she reached the corner, he was nowhere to be seen.

Man, that was weird, said Seamus, stating the obvious.

There is more to this Jimmy guy than we know. He is either a nut bag or a historian; either way, I mean to find out, said Josie as she headed back to the front of the cathedral.

4 Barg

They milled around Glendalough for a while, looking at the sights and sometimes joining a tour to listen to the stories the guides were telling. After a while they found themselves standing in front of St. Kevin’s Church. It was one of the most preserved and restored buildings in Glendalough with its stone roof and mini tower attached, similar to the main tower of the area.

At one time stone crosses and ancient rune stones had been inside, but those had been moved when the Visitor Centre was constructed. Now an iron gate blocked access to the church.

Josie walked up to the gate and gave it a good shake, hoping that it was left unlocked. Disappointed, she stepped back just as it started to drizzle. Seamus nonchalantly reached into his backpack, produced two clear plastic dollar-store ponchos and handed one to Josie with a smirk.

Gotta love Uncle Vince. He packed everything in here, said Seamus. I wish he was here. Their guardian, Uncle Vince, had been their life-saver after the accident. He took them into his home, got them into Brierbrook and even found a way to save the money for this trip for them. The twins loved him so much, even his quirks.

I would love to see inside St. Kevin’s, said Josie, staring back at the locked gate.

Let me get the key, said Jimmy from the path behind them, startling them for the third time.

Will you stop sneaking up behind us, said Josie.

If I wanted to sneak, you would never know I was here, said Jimmy. He walked towards one of the stone walls, pulled a small section of rock out and produced a hefty iron key.

Here we are, he said.

Are you allowed to open that? Seamus asked.

Do you want to go in or not? Either way, I’m going in, if nothing else to get out of the softness of the rain, said Jimmy, although his clothes seemed unaffected by the drizzle.

I would love to see the inside, Josie admitted as he opened the well-oiled iron gate.

They all stepped into the dim light of the stone church, eyes not yet acclimated to the darkness.

Kevin was very particular about the exact location of his church. It rests on a natural fulcrum of your planet, said Jimmy as he reached the far side of the stone building. Josie thought it was odd that he said your planet.

Touch nothing, you two, said Jimmy without looking back at them, and above all do not step on the runes.

They were glad to be out of the weather and shed their plastic rain gear. It was surprisingly quiet inside; you could not even hear the rain on the stone roof. St. Kevin’s had a unique roof design, unlike the wooden roofs of other churches. The tons of stone above her head made Josie suddenly anxious. Jimmy noticed her expression.

It has stood for twelve hundred years; it’s not coming down today, he said.

That’s reassuring, said Seamus, rubbing his eyes to try to get them to adjust more quickly to the darkness. Where is the light switch? he asked, looking by the door.

Jimmy laughed. There is no electricity, he said. They did not need it in 900 AD. He reached into his beautiful green sport coat and produced a golden Zippo lighter.

Seamus knew his Zippos, because his dad had owned one that he’d picked up in Afghanistan, of all places. His dad’s had had weird letters on it that Seamus thought might have been Russian.

Those are made near where we live, said Seamus as Jimmy started to flick the lighter. It gave off what seemed like a very bright flash of blue light, and suddenly the room was bathed in firelight. Seamus and Josie instinctively took a step back.

Wow, that was cool! How did you do that? asked Josie, because even though Jimmy had only placed the lighter next to the wall of the church, hundreds of tiny flames erupted from the wall in succession.

This one was given to me by Mr. Blaisdell himself, said Jimmy, ignoring Josie’s question. It was made in Niagara Falls, a place of awesome power and energy.

Yeah, and right around the corner from where we live. Okay, Jimmy, who is this Blaisdell character, and how did all the torches come on at once? Seamus asked.

He was a very close friend of mine and the inventor of this. He held up the lighter to the light. It was magnificent. It was made out of what looked like solid gold with Celtic knots wrapped around it in infinite detail of blue. They both moved in closer to look at the detail, but Jimmy snapped his fingers shut and put it away.

Seamus pulled off his backpack and rummaged around inside. Look at this one my dad left me. He pulled his father’s Zippo out from the pouch where other kids would