'When alone, find another time to live' - Gabe Parkin (Year 10)
I sit in my room, counting down the minutes until I have to cook dinner for the few people who are important to me. I fidget with the pen in my hand, thinking of what wonders could come running out of the end, but today I am feeling completely devoid of imagination. My school has done very well in removing the writing potential from my head.
I spend my free time writing, as I always do. It's the only thing that keeps me sane in what can be likened to a slave’s life, interrupted by school. The blissful concentration does very well to take my mind off the guilt of leaving my parents at home together. Leaving a crippled person at home with her paranoid delusion-ridden husband is generally frowned upon, even though I am educating myself and working to keep them alive and fed.
I don’t talk to many people, and when I do, my South Belfast accent is normally made fun of. I try to blend in, but it's hard to in a school as Protestant and as conservative as mine, where names like Duncan White are frowned upon for their nationality. Catholics are the bottom of the pot at a school like mine, mostly because of what happened in the Irish War of Independence when the founder of the school was shot or stabbed, something “almost deadly”. I never asked and most others don't either.
So as I sit here, writing a book (which has been approved by a publisher for when it is finished) about my grandmother, who was a hero of the Irish Independence war, I am struck by a stupendous sense of irony. For the first time in what seems like months, like an egg that has been split on the side of a saucepan, my face is cracked by a smile.
The small band of six IRA activists pounded down the dark streets of Dublin, the smothering silence disturbed only by the sound of feet hitting stone and a murmur of those who were woken by the sudden intrusion onto their quiet street. A light burned against the black sky, despite the fact that sunrise was seven hours away. A body slammed against a door, exhausted by the sprint and unable to knock. Blood oozed down from a broken elbow, shattered by an English baton. The door swung open and the body fell into the waiting arms of another, unable to support the weight of his own tired and bloody body. His friends hurried into the room, ashen faced but also giddy with excitement. The mission had been a success. There was stunned silence for a moment. The sound of a match striking a matchbox rung across the room, then flickering lamplight bathed the faces of the activists in sullen twilight.
“Well?” said one of the original occupants of the room, his thin and whiskery face tight with expectation. The wounded comrade was placed on a cot, sitting in the corner and his arm was being bandaged by a slight, irritable man called Marcus Browning.
“I’d bloody well say it was a success,” Browning muttered, cleaning the wound “I saw the light from up on the roof, if that isn't a proper fire, I'll be damned.”
“That's just Marcus’s way of saying well done,” smiled a round, friendly lady named Alison. “The fire will burn bright and long, A beacon of hope in the darkness of British rule.” Alison had a way with words; she managed to turn everything poetic.
“Yeah, I think the British soldiers we encountered will be thinking otherwise.” This came from a hooded figure, standing at the back of the room, who pulled off her mask to reveal herself as Kelly White. This headstrong, quick-tongued girl was barely over the age of 20, but had the maturity and leadership of someone three times her age. She carried a Mauser pistol in one hand and with the other she clenched her fist, adrenaline still coursing through her body.
Marcus paled “You encountered the British?” he stammered out.
“Yeah, I don't think they’ll remember it though,” remarked Alison with a cheeky grin. “Knowing young Kelly's reputation here.”
Marcus flinched so hard that the wounded man screamed out in pain, making everyone in the room jump.
“You attacked British soldiers?! This was supposed to be a quick, clean arson that will leave the customs house burning to the ground! Nobody was supposed to get hurt!” Marcus yelled, spit flying from his bearded mouth and landing on anyone who strayed too close. “Who were they? Did anyone get killed? This will have horrible repercussions… Why did you do it!?” He babbled, fear showing in the whites of his eyes and the cracking of his teeth.
The thin, whiskery man (Kelly believed his name was Aaron) padded forward, trying to calm Marcus down. Kelly calmly strode past Aaron, towards the hysterical man, lifted him up with her unburdened hand and threw him onto the ground with a flick of her body. She pinned him to the ground, her knee in his back and her pistol pointing at the back of his head.
Alison, Aaron, the other masked figures and the man in the cot (“His name was Anthony Peirce, and he will likely have one arm for the rest of his life because of your stupid orders” Kelly thought as she flicked off the safety of her gun) all started in surprise and took steps towards Marcus and Kelly, then thought better of it and retreated to watch with wary eyes.
“Listen you cowardly maggot,” Kelly whispered in Browning's ears. “We followed your orders, I believe they were: Get that damn building out of my city. Well we did, and we paid the price. Anthony won't be going on another mission, he’s going back to his home in Killarney in the morning. It wasn’t his fault that we encountered those three British guards on an evening stroll while we were lighting the fire. It's not his fault that they rushed forwards and attacked him, and it's sure as hell not his fault that they ended up dead. It’s nobody's fault. I'm not normally this serious, normally I like to have a bit of the craic myself, but if there is one thing I cannot abide is a fool. You, Marcus Browning, are a fool. Why was it you did not come on this mission with us?”
“You know damn well why!” Marcus said, his voice muffled by the hardwood floor in his mouth.
“No Marcus, we don't, care to enlighten us?” This came from Aaron, his voice cracking with fear and for once actually adding humour into his vocal range.
“He says he has a back injury, I don't believe a word of it!”
“He hasn't been fighting for years, the very first conflict he was in he was injured, seems a little convenient doesn't it?”
“If we throw him to the British’s dogs even they will turn their noses up at him!”
The room hummed with agreement, Marcus turned pale and started beating at the floor softly with his feet. A classic sign of a man who knows his game is up.
Then, out of nowhere, came a banging on the door.
“Open up you Irish filth!” came a voice from beyond it, a heavy british accent present in his smooth voice.
The whole house seemed to freeze, and then, taking advantage of the distraction, Marcus hurled Kelly off him. “Nobody try any crap like that again, or I may just unlock the door… Seeing as I haven't actually been in any criminal activities you may find that I will have it easy in the court of law.” Marcus said smoothly, walking over to the door and lifting up his shirt, exposing a key on his belt. He then reached down towards his shoe and, quick as a flash, whipped out a small, one shot pistol, hidden in his black, leather boots. He pointed it at Kelly, who was also taking out her pistol. Then in a blur of movement both were pointing their guns at each other.
“Well, if it doesn't seem that the cowardly mouse packs a sharp tooth… or is it his own poison pill?” prompted Kelly, trying to ignore in the dryness of her throat. Marcus's eyes narrowed, clearly this idea had occurred to him before. “I didn't want this, we are fighting the same enemy!” he yelled back at Kelly.
The banging at the door intensified, then stopped. “Alright you pot of gold, anarchist assholes, we will be waiting outside. If we can't shoot you out, we will wait for you to starve!” came the cry from outside, then the sound of high quality boots clip-clopping away, punctuated with the laughter of British constabulary.
“Yes, we are,” said Kelly quietly. “But for different reasons.” Everyone in the room was holding their breath. Suddenly Marcus’s eyes were filled with tears as he raised his tiny pistol. “I’ll be the one to tell my wife that I am sorry for being a coward.”
Two almost simultaneous gunshots were heard by the British soldiers who were setting up their watch in the building across the road. Two hours later, a body was thrown from the attic window of the IRA safehouse, landing on top of a poor British guard out for a ration trip.When the British performed a medical analysis on both the body, and the head of the unlucky guard, they noticed something strange about the wounds the body had received. He had two bullet holes in his head, one right between the eyes and the other under his jaw, where the neck meets the chin. Marcus’s wife had passed away 3 weeks before, a result of the fever that was sweeping through the country, brought on by the stench of war and the infection of invasion. The IRA had long since vacated their safehouse, sneaking out in the dead of night, when the poor British guard who had been knocked on the head had fallen asleep at his post.
The new leader of the IRA troop that the British Constabulary had sadly misplaced was a tall, quick tongued young girl called Kelly White.
I look up from my old social studies book, a smile spinning across my face.
“So much for writers block, right?” I whisper to myself, revelling in the fact that I had just managed to start an entirely new chapter, create an entirely new event in history.
Of course, things had not transpired exactly how I’d written them, but I did try and stick pretty close to the truth. I owe my grandma, Kelly White, the silent hero of the IRA, that much at least. She was the only person I looked up to in my family, and possibly in the whole world (Hugh Jackman aside, of course). Then, a thought crosses my mind. That thought beccomes a realisation, which quickly turns to panic. I charge through my door, and downstairs to where my mother and father wait for a dinner that hasn't even been started yet.
The End (For now)...