It was the rain I missed most. Growing up in Ireland you certainly got used to the soft days, the showers, the heavy downpours and torrential rain. I remember one summer; I must have been ten or eleven. It rained every single day for the entire summer holiday, then the first day of term; bright sunshine.
Sitting in the room watching raindrops fall down the window, like an ever changing waterfall, I remember that. The wind, there was always wind, would drive the rain against the window panes. The panes themselves would shudder and moan. They were the old type, two halves and a sash cord to raise them up or down, only one fixing in the middle. Designed to last, designed before house burglary became an occupation for so many, but they did like to groan.
The house was, I remember, fond of talking. Floorboards creaked as you stood on them, doors whined as you opened and then exhaled when closed. Tiles on the roof thought they were in a rock band, pounding rhythms with the rain, thrashing out da-dum,da-dum, da-dum. Presses and cupboards held their own secrets; moths, insects and spiders all vying to be top-dog of whatever press they were in.
Up the creaky stairs and along the corridor was the bathroom. For a young curious lad the bathroom held the most appeal. In the twilight, silverfish roamed the tiled floor, woodlice snuck out of the skirting board and made a dash for the underbelly, the dark side of the bath. Once I counted four different kinds of mould and fungi growing in the damp humid conditions, black mould on the walls, a turquoise growth in the corner of the bath. Under the sink was a platform, hewn from fresh timber for the ‘smallies’ in the house but it had aged and in the clammy dank darkness of the bathroom and had grown orange and yellow curly foils of fungi. My brother, the daft one, wanted to eat them but then he would eat anything; charcoal, turf, the dog’s dinner. He was always so hungry and so painfully thin.
He was the first of our family to die in the 2014 emergency. He had always been sickly and couldn’t cope without medicine. Slowly getting weaker and paler, more ghost than human, his skin translucent. The veins and arteries throbbed slower and slower. There was nothing we could do to stop his death, living in a big old house ten miles from the nearest neighbour, no transportation; we sat with him as he took his final breath.
Dad and I dug a grave for him in the orchard, it was raining and the raindrops were making puddles as fast as we shovelled. Mam wrapped him in curtains and carried him out to the hole that would become his home. It was very sad. Within a year I was the only one left, in the wind, in the rain, in the house that talked. It got less sad, or maybe I was becoming numb to human suffering, maybe that is why I am so good at my job.
I left the house in a misty rain, August 2015, I didn’t lock the door, I wouldn’t be back and there were still a few people living around, in sheds, in ditches, in hedgerows. Let them have a roof that drums and floors that grumble, let them count the fungi. I was done with it, I was done with Ireland. There were no cars visible anymore, when oil stopped coming to our shores people just put their cars away, buses and trains stopped too so you could walk down the middle of the road and no one would run over you, you could walk all the way to Dublin on the railway tracks with no machine ploughing into you.
Walking with no real plan but to get to Cork and then to wherever I could I am amazed that I landed this new role. I sit in the desert, camouflaged and shoot people. It is a lonely occupation, I can go for days without seeing a soul and then, bang, bang, bang three are dead. The bodies get covered in sand just like the raindrops at home helped bury my family.
I miss my old life; I miss the speaking house, the howling North wind. When I allow myself I miss my family, my brothers and sisters, my mam and dad, all interred in the orchard under the watchful eye of the venting house. I wonder if anyone moved in, I will never go back, this is my life now, each week I get a fresh supply of food, drink and bullets, I want for nothing. Looking out of my peephole with nothing but blue sky and shining sun, I can’t help but miss most of all sitting in my room watching the raindrops cascade down the shuddering windows.