One thing you all need to remember is that at the time this story takes place I was a much younger man.
In the late 1980's my then friends and I would travel each summer to the beautiful Wicklow Hills just outside of Dublin, where we lived, for a week of walking. Certain parts of the hills are still quite remote. On this occasion we were staying at the youth hostel in the valley. A small two level white-washed brick house with no running water (apart from the russet waters of the tumbling river) and no electricity. The hostel is to this day the only complete structure in the glen.
The glen itself has a history going back to the 1500's when it was the stronghold of Gabhail Raghnal branch of the clan O'Byrne. In 1580 it was the site of the battle of Glenmalure when 800 English soldiers were cut down by Irish rebels. None of this did my friends or I know at the time.
Like all rural areas of the world where one is away from the lights of progress and civilisation, night in the valley were - and I'm sure still are - very dark, with a late hours filled with stars and little else. Or so we believed.
There were seven of us on this particular trip. Ian, Lenny, JP, Des, Will, Adrien and me. It was our final stop before we headed home. We had already spent a few days at another hostel and Ian, Des and I had made our way to Glenmalure by treking over the 3000 foot Lugnaquilla, while the others had taken the safe and sensible route by road. Maybe it was the difficulty of hiking over the boggy, misty highlands that added to our experience that night. Maybe not.
After we arrived late in the evening of our first day in the glen and decided to explore the area. To this day only one road leads in and out of the valley and all along its length sandy gravel crunches underfoot. We were messing about, joking about geek things and had split into two groups. The road group and the mountain group. Ian, Des and I made up the mountain group and we walked a good 15 metres behind the others. We were trying to freak them out. Shouting that we could see people in the thick woods to the right of the road, throwing pebbles at the others etc when we suddenly heard footsteps behind us. At first we figured it was just somebody else from the hostel, likewise out for a walk in the country air. So we cooled off on the foolishness.
The person behind us was walking fast and would soon overtake us.
And they did. Well the footsteps did but we didn't see anybody go with them and we also noticed that there were the footsteps of more than one person, but all walking in time so as to sound like only one. As the sound of the footfall passed me and my group we all froze. A chill breeze travelled with the sound, odd and out of place in the humid summer night. I remember how the hair on my neck stood bolt upright. None of us looked at eachother - I remember that quite strongly - we all stared at our friends as they continued to walk and talk ahead of us, with the footsteps about to catch them up.
I know it was only seconds, maybe five maybe ten, but time stretched! Then Ian in a half giggle, half moan said 'F*#k this!' and turned and ran. Des and I followed very quickly. Running back to the hostel I risked a look back over my shoulder at my friends only to see them looking back at us, confused at our odd behaviour while behind them I saw three vague blueish outlines, human shaped, walking steadily away down the road.
Though I didn't experience it, Ian swears that when he looked back too and also saw the three figures that he also heard things. He heard the figures singing in time like soldiers do on a march and from the woods he claims he heard taunts which sounded like they were in gaelic, although not the gaelic we all learned in school. I asked him what he thinks was being said 'I have no idea,' he replied 'but the voices in the woods, the gaelic voices were sinister. The voices on the road, were frightend. Very, very scared.'
They sure were.