Be still my beating heart

I woke in the middle of the night, cursing the Embassy of Ireland in Budapest. I wasn’t having a nightmare or anything – which I’d half expected, after watching a couple of the four films shown during the annual Irish Short Film Night – but the heart was thumping in me.

Low Tide is a chilling horror film by Ian Hunt Duffy (who was long-listed for the Academy Awards in 2015 for Love is a Sting) where dad (Steve Wall) takes his son Jack (Luke Lally) out fishing. Seems calm enough. But they’re not long on the water when things start to happen. I felt for the kid. I did. For a while. I’m not a massive fan of horror movies but whatever was under that water and the effect it had on that child put the heart crossways in me.

Helen Flanagan’s The Trap didn’t go far in stilling my still-beating heart. Filmed over five days in Wicklow, it features husband and wife Alan (Paul Reid) and Jen (Brónagh Taggart) as grieving parents struggling to come to terms with their loss. Alan is convinced that something sinister is mauling and stealing his sheep. I’m not made for these sorts of films, no matter how short.

Nodlag Houlihan’s Reality Baby provided a welcome break from the horror. The short documentary follows a bunch of teenage girls from Wicklow as they take charge of their reality babies – life-like dolls that cry and do everything babies do. It was poignant and at times even funny and very well done. ‘Twas lovely to see the girls’ new-found appreciation for their mothers. And I was highly amused by the make-up.

Suzie Keegan’s Bending Glass was my favourite. Paddy Dignam has made a career out of bending glass. Now 80, he sees the streets of Ireland as a gallery of his work. A fascinating look at what goes into these iconic signs.

So why was I cursing the Embassy? I’d half-expected nightmares after the first two shorts – I really am a wuss. But I fell asleep easily only to be woken in the early hours of the morning by a loud noise. I thought I might have been dreaming until I heard it again. And again. Too loud for a mouse, I thought. Too heavy for a rat. The heart was thumping in me. Stills from Low Tide and The Trap merged to create a monster of stellar proportions. I woke himself. His sense of place is better than mine. He swears he wasn’t bothered but I know those films played on his mind, too. But whatever it was, it was in the attic, not in the bedroom. Cue deep sigh.

I watched the ceiling waiting for it to cave in under the weight of what was racing back and forth. It sounded like a couple of cats on steroids but heavier. Cats are light on their feet. This, whatever it was, was a plodder. And it had feet. Four of them at least. Not a bat. Not a bird. Nor even bats and birds. This wasn’t the quiet of the night making everything sound louder. This thing was thumping. Back and forth. Back and forth. Fast as anything. Down the side of the house by the north wall and back again. The bloody thing was doing laps.

I’ll go check what it is, says he.

No bloody way, says I.

I’d visions of him being bitten by a rabid something just in from sea after killing some sheep. And if he was bitten, I’d have to take him to the hospital. And it’d probably be crammed with COVID patients. And that could well be the end of him. I wasn’t ready for that.

After a few more turns, the thing got tired and stopped. It took a while for my heart to stop pounding. I had to remind myself that I was a grown woman with a driver’s licence and a credit card. Somewhere I even had some make-up. I was a grown-up.

The next day, with all doors to the outside world wide open (despite the freezing temperatures) to give the thing a clear path if it decided to escape, he opened the attic door. Nothing stirred. No noises. No tracks. No obvious damage to anything stored there.

It’s been a couple of nights now and no more noises. But after some consultation, I’ve decided that I could well have been woken by a party of pine martens. I can’t for the life of me figure out how they got into the attic, but I’m hoping they’ve moved on to someplace else. Billed as nature’s most adorable assassin, I’d be willing to live and let live and have them visit on occasion. But I’d rather they didn’t move in permanently. Those few minutes took years off my life.

PS – Cursing aside, it was great to see the Embassy move the Short Film Night online. I missed the post-show vino, though… had I had that, I’m sure I’d have slept through the pine marten party.

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4 Responses

  1. Having experienced a loft takeover by racoons, I sympathise. Had to check out the quotation, and was surprised to learn that it’s not Shakespeare, but most commonly attributed to Gilbert and Sullivan.

  2. Aliens, Father Christmas, Polar bear……….? Whatever it was it was clearly nocturnal so maybe when you went up there in daylight it was probably asleep. Can’t get the word ‘Wus’ out of my mind……..maybe a lot of wine drunk while watching the films…….:-)

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