|Lorna McMahon is from Dublin. She did her undergraduate in UCD where she graduated with a BA in English and History. She works in a supermarket and dreams of escaping. She is currently pursuing and MA in Creative Writing at UCD. She’ll probably never leave.|
By Lorna McMahon
Siobhan wiped the sweat from her brow. She reminded herself to dust more often, as her body contorted to reach the space behind the radiator. No one would be able to see it but she was convinced that it was possible to smell filth. She couldn’t have her friends come over from all over the world, only to find her living in a dump. Dusting just isn’t something anyone does without reason to. I will dust once a week. She decided adding it to the list of things that she should do but probably never would, other components including yoga and kale. Siobhan joined a gym once, only to find that she preferred the vending machine and the hot tub to the actual exercise.
Siobhan had been worrying about the party all week. It was her chance to show her friends that she had succeeded too. It had been a year since graduation and everyone had gone their separate ways. When the ‘get the boat to vote’ campaign hit, her group got in touch and decided to all go back to Ireland and hang out after the referendum. Everyone knew this was a big deal to both Lizzie and Jack. It wouldn’t be right to miss it.
She should feel accomplished to be able to live on her own at 23. Most people her age couldn’t. She has a home, a goldfish and a Netflix account. That should be considered success in her book. She fluffed a couple of her decorative pillows and paced around her small apartment for the umpteenth time. She debated whether her scented candles were atmospheric or overpowering. She decided to light them her friends had been travelling, they might smell..
As the only member of the group that stayed back in Ireland the task fell on Siobhan’s shoulders. She couldn’t pretend she wasn’t resentful. She had spent the year following their travelling stories and pictures across all platforms of social media. Swimming with dolphins, washing elephants in rivers, visiting tiger sanctuaries, feeding kangaroos. And there was Siobhan. Nine-to-five desk job. The most fascinating animal she’d seen in the past year was her elderly neighbour’s tabby. Mr Whiskers was great and all, but he was no koala.
The doorbell rang and snapped Siobhan out of dusting the lampshade. She had a quick peep out of the frosted pane and opened the door. She was immediately leapt on. “Shiv, it’s been so long. How the hell are ya?” A male voice boomed. Siobhan was surprised at the accent. It was a lot less Irish than it was a year ago.
“Hey Jamie. I’m grand, yourself?” She took in his ‘look’. A distinctly unwashed headband, faded khaki cargo shorts and a tribal tattoo on his forearm. Just short of wearing a bindi.
“I am so good Shiv, Asia was amazing I feel like I’m a whole new person. It’s this spiritual plane, I couldn’t possibly explain.” She realised he had tried to make his accent neutral to appear more cultured. He actually just sounded as though he watched too much nickelodeon as a child. That forced American tinge made her skin crawl. Maybe it was just easier for others to understand him when he ditched his Cork accent. When Siobhan first met him, she was barely able to understand it herself.
“Sounds good. Did you vote?” Siobhan changed the subject quickly. He’d ask her what she was up to and to be honest she didn’t think tubs of Ben and Jerry’s and Desperate Housewives reruns were appropriate answers.
“’Course. It’s so exciting, finally some change. Ireland is so behind every other country. You would never find oppression like that in Asia.” He said Asia as though it was one country. A country that he knew like the back of his hand. Siobhan doubted his sincerity. He had probably stayed one month in each area and convinced himself that he was absorbing the culture in his four star hotel. She lead him into the sitting room and sat him carefully in the leather armchair. Leather was easier to wipe clean.
“I dunno, the entirety of Asia is pretty big, north Korea and China aren’t known for tolerance.”
“Yeah but like, I didn’t go there.” He laughed, as if it should have been obvious. As if Siobhan was silly not to have known that when Jamie said Asia, China was obviously not a destination. Silly me. She felt that this snub was a sign of things to come.. She should not have agreed to this night. She could have told them she was busy. Washing her hair. Or something. What do young people even do on a week night? She realised she hadn’t acknowledged his last statement.
The doorbell chimed saving Siobhan from more awkward conversation. She excused herself to answer the door. Once the door was shut behind her, she leant against the sitting room wall and exhaled heavily. Lizzie, Jack and Tommy were chatting on her doorstep. She could see them through the glass panes. Siobhan pasted on a grin and wrenched the door open. She accepted the hugs and squeals and herded them all in to the sitting room.
“Wine anyone?” Siobhan liked to refer to wine as social lubricant. It was the cure to any awkward situation.
“Oh I don’t drink wine anymore Shiv, it’s bad for your chi.” Jamie’s obnoxious voice rang out above every else’s.
I’ll show you what’s bad for your chi alright. Siobhan turned to the others to roll her eyes and was surprised when she saw Lizzie and Tommy nod solemnly in agreement. Pod People.
“It’s like so toxic for your inner self.” Lizzie stated. Siobhan finally got a good look at her. She was sunburned under a layer of cigarette-butt-orange fake tan. Her hands were several shades darker than the rest of her arms. Her hair was streaked with blonde highlights. “That’s what everyone says in L.A. you have to take your body seriously. The girls all look so amazing.” Siobhan turned away.
“I haven’t drank in months, it’s hard to find a bar when you’re like volunteering. Which I was. In Africa. With the poor.” Tommy blurted out, not to be outdone.
“The Aussies could drink all of us under the table.” Jack made the universal gesture for pint.
“Right well, I’m having a drink. Or seven. Ye may go dry if yis please.” Siobhan ushered everyone into the sitting room to join Jamie. She had dimmed the lights and lit the candles in the end. Now that she saw it again she was worried it might look like she was trying too hard. It hadn’t been this difficult to spend time with everyone before.
Everyone either found a space on the couch or the floor. Siobhan flinched as they sat on her decoration cushions. They never mentioned the possibility of people actually sitting on them on the RTE Morning show. A debate broke out over who had been in contact with the most dangerous animal.
“Jack there’s no way you’ve faced the biggest beast. You already admitted you never came across spiders and snakes. You were in Australia, what, were the koalas cranky?” Jamie grinned cockily.
“Listen, maybe not koalas but kangaroos are a lot more dangerous than you think.” Siobhan handed Jack his pint and went to sit beside Lizzie.
“Give over.” Liz brushed him off. Siobhan had a closer look at Lizzie’s face. She had been one of the more beautiful girls in their course. Red hair, green eyes. Now her hair was straw blonde and straw textured. The tops of her cheeks, red from sunburn. She had clearly forgotten about her Irish complexion, the freckles that had dotted every patch of her skin. Maybe she thought they’d eventually join up and form a natural tan. Siobhan squinted. Is she wearing blue contact lenses?
“No seriously.” Jack scoffed between swigs. “My flatmate had a friend who was really into rugby. One night they were travelling home from a match when they hit a roo.” The Australian accent dipped in and out of Jack’s voice. Siobhan wondered if he thought it made him sound cool. It didn’t.
“Now at this point they were all shit-faced and they thought it would be a great idea to dress the dead roo up in a jersey and pose with it.” He raise his eyebrow and cocked his head as if to say ‘As you do.’ As if dressing up dead kangaroos were completely normal session banter. Siobhan shook her head.
“Anyway, the roo wasn’t dead at all, it was stunned. It jumped back to life and started kicking. One of the team mates was disembowelled with a single kick.” Jack mimicked the kick at Lizzie, she pretended to fall off the couch, onto Siobhan’s good carpet. Siobhan started ringing her hands.
Jack slammed his pint down triumphantly.
“Bullshit.” It slipped out of Siobhan’s mouth before she realised it.
“Oh really Shiv? Go on, tell us about the excitements of Ireland, then.” Liz raised an eyebrow mockingly.
Siobhan bristled. “Well I don’t know about animals but we’ve had a problem with a serial killer.”
“You do in me hole”
“No seriously. My sister’s friend saw him. She was supposed to go on a date with this guy. He was only into one thing so he drove her up the mountains so they could be alone. He started shifting her and things were getting out of control when they heard this scraping noise on the side of the car. Julie, the girl, got nervous so she stopped kissing him and turned on the radio to calm down. He resumed sticking his tongue down her throat” Siobhan felt everyone’s eyes one her. They were finally paying her attention. She took a breath and went on.
“Pretty soon the mood was broken when the music suddenly stopped mid-song. After a moment of silence an announcer’s voice came on, warning in an ominous tone that there had been a string of murders and that the suspect was last seen fleeing up the Dublin mountains.” Siobhan looked around she still say disbelief on their faces. “Urging anyone who notices a man wearing a stainless steel hook in place of his missing right hand should immediately report his whereabouts to the police.” Siobhan looked around her. Her friend’s had lost their cocky expressions.
“Julie became frightened and asked to be taken home. Yer man, was way too keen on her to let that happen, he locked the doors instead, told Julie they would be safe, and started trying to kiss her again. She freaked out and pushed him away, insisting that they leave. The fella lost his temper, telling her she was being silly. He got out of the car and slammed the door behind him. Julie was too afraid to leave the car so she just sat there waiting for him. An hour passed and there was no sign of him.” Siobhan paused for effect.
“Julie mustered up the courage and eventually got out of the car to look for him, he took the keys to his car with him. She called out to him and could only hear a faint whine. She called the gardaí got back in the car and locked the door. They arrived with a search team and they found him. Dead. With a stab wound through his chest. Forensics later determined it had been caused by a hook.”
Siobhan exhaled and looked around the room. Everyone was silent and staring. Liz’s hand shook as she put her water down. “Shiv, you shouldn’t scare people like that.”
“It’s the truth guys, google it.”
“That’s enough. I don’t believe in some murdering . . . pirate.” Jamie interjected.
Siobhan took out her iphone and looked up the news story. She showed it to the group and they all paled at the information.
Siobhan got up and left the room to grab more wine, she needed it.
Jack felt embarrassed for being afraid. He puffed out his chest and asked Jamie about Asia. Relying on the bullshit that would follow. He was right in his assumption. Pretty soon Jack was regaling them with cocky tales of meditation with Tibetan monks.
There was a scratch against the window pane. Lizzie inched closer to Tommy. They didn’t feel so safe anymore. “It’s alright lads, I have been in more dangerous conditions. When I was volunteering. In Africa.” He made a brave face but his hands shook. Siobhan’s story had unnerved them all.
The scratch happened again.
“Jamie go out and check.” Lizzie volunteered him. She had just reached VIP in her Hollywood gym membership and she wasn’t going to risk it by dying. J-Lo worked out there.
“Siobhan?” She called to the kitchen. She had pitied Siobhan for not travelling like everyone else had, but she was the least perturbed by the scratches. She heard footsteps trump down the stairs and she sighed in relief. “Sorry, I ran upstairs to check on something.” Siobhan seemed out of breath, her eyes were wide and she was smiling.
“It could be Mr. Whiskers. You should meet him. He’s a common domestic short hair. Very exotic.” The wine had let the bitterness creep into her voice. Siobhan has holding something behind her back. Her friends assumed it was the wine bottle.
“Tell us about Julie and the guy? Did you know him?”
“Oh I did yeah. Mark is his name. Was his name. Julie was a few years ahead of us in college. Actually she worked at the same place I do. She quit after the incident.”
Siobhan looked around, Tommy nodded as if to say ‘go on’. Now they’re interested.
“I never liked Julie, she thought she was better than me. She had travelled you see. She was always saying ‘Shiv you have to actually see the world to appreciate it.’ The stuck up wagon. I thought it’d be fun to work with my sister’s mate, bit of solidarity you know? Couldn’t stand her. She’d beat me to every deadline and the editors loved her ‘worldly experience’. That can get annoying you know? As if my experience is invalid because I didn’t feck off to Tumbuktu after college. What ever happened to responsibility?” She looked around her and noticed her friends. Their expressions had changed. They looked nervous. Siobhan’s blatant resentment had been kept under the surface until now.
“And Mark. Well. Mark was my boyfriend. We had been seeing each other for four months, two weeks and four days. Mark would sometimes visit me on my lunchbreak. He started arriving before my break started, you know I actually asked Julie to go ahead and mind him until I got off? I might as well have made the bed he cheated on me in. Not that they used a bed. Cars. So classy. I found out the night he died. I went to his place to surprise him. Our four month, two week, four day anniversary. Obviously he should have been home to meet me, because that’s such a big milestone.”
Her friends nodded quickly, none of them were make eye contact. Siobhan took it as respect.
“So I get to his house, and I let myself in. Easy lock to pick, he likes to make me work for it, it’s a little game we play. I get in and he’s not there. I search his whole flat. Nothing. Then I find his phone. The dope left it behind. These texts. Texts and texts, all to Julie. He even talked about me. He said I was clingy. Me? Ridiculous. She led him on, the little tramp. Found out their plan and I followed them.”
“And you changed your mind and went home right? After the police report came on the radio?”
“Did I say they was a police report, silly me, I meant I left voicemails. Detailing what I would do when I found them. On a different phone using a stranger’s name. Obviously it spooked her. She’s such a fragile little boyfriend stealer.”
“The forensic team were wrong though, it wasn’t a hook. I used, it was a crow bar.” She whipped her arm out triumphantly. The rusty crow bar still had dried blood on it.
“I’m calling the police.” Lizzie’s voice had transformed back to her Dublin accent.
“No, you’re not, see now you’re witnesses.”
When the Gardaí arrived at the scene they found four bodies with puncture wounds in their chests. Siobhan was found in hysterics in the closet. She had just managed to make the emergency call. She was comforted and wrapped in a blanket as she gave her statement. She had just been through a shock it only made sense that she couldn’t make out any specific details about the killer. The Gardaí all agreed that she did the best she could in the circumstances and that she was very lucky to be alive.
When the emergency services had left hours later,Siobhan walked about her apartment, taking in the sight of the gore. Her couch, her walls and her carpet all stained rusty brown. Blood was so difficult to get out of fabric. It figures her friends would be just as inconvenient in death as they were in life.
“Serves them right.”