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Bullets of Peace
‘Isn’t she marvellous?’
‘A work of art...’
‘Are you ready?’
‘Yes. Nice and gently, now. Ease her out.’
Cassidy inhaled deeply, as if strengthening her power of resistance, and gently pushed her lover away.
‘Malachy: we must keep moving. We haven’t time for...for this!’
Malachy persisted, his lips empowered as if by an uncontrollable thrust of passion. Cassidy succumbed to the warmth of his hands as they caressed her body; the smoothness of his lips, the longing inside of her heart.
Malachy eventually collapsed beside her onto the short damp grass, breathing heavily. Cassidy fingered the thickly overgrown locks of Malachy’s hair, said calmly, ‘We’re fugitives, Mal. We’ve practically signed our death warrants, running away from that place.’
Malachy slowly revolved his head to face her, and locked her gaze with his delicate sea blue eyes. He pushed a single, calloused forefinger forward, and placed it upon Cassidy’s lips. The words he then uttered brimmed with such strength of pure emotion it chilled Cassidy to the bone.
‘We took a gamble, Cass. We’ll pay a price for our escapism: whether it be death or freedom. If we must die, then we shall face our fate with dignity.’
‘What shall we name her?’ asked Siobhan passively.
‘I thought we agreed she was to be known as “bog-girl”,’ replied Dale, meticulously shelling away layers of thick dirt with his finest, gentlest brush.
‘But don’t you think that’s a bit impersonal? After all, “bog-girl” is only a title. She deserves a real name. Don’t forget, she was once a living, breathing human.’
‘Well, I’m rubbish with names.’ Dale commented, shrugging. ‘You choose one.’
‘What about “Heather”?’ Siobhan suggested. Her tone indicated that she had been mulling the name over for some time. ‘It seems appropriate,’ she remarked, explaining: ‘the Pete bog is surrounded by Heather.’
‘Alright then,’ Dale replied, smiling amusedly. ‘Heather it is.’
Cassidy spoke slowly, carefully, asked: ‘What are we going to call it?’
‘You know...the baby.’
Malachy let out a small bark of laughter.
“What was that for?” cried Cassidy indignantly.
‘I don’t know...’ Malachy replied with grin. ‘You’re just always so...prepared...’
Cassidy heard him shift, and then felt his cool palm as - gently - he placed it upon her flat stomach. A tingling euphoria throbbed through her veins. She flashed-back to the moment she and Mal had met: the instant connection; the lust, the desire they felt for one-another.
‘If it’s a boy,’ he mused placidly, ‘what about “Kian”, after my father?’
‘May he rest in peace,’ Cassidy murmured. Her eyes downcast, she added softy: ‘I think it’s a lovely name. What if our child is a baby girl?’
‘You choose,’ Malachy replied. He moved a little closer to Cassidy, tenderly smothered her neck with kisses.
Cassidy lifted her eyes, and scanned the dewy landscape around her intently for inspiration. She gazed as the chilling breeze wisped clusters of Heather this way and that. Heather. Cassidy considered the prospect of naming her child after the wild flower. It’s a pretty name, she concluded, but it seems too coarse and heavy for a little baby. She continued to stare. The colour of the petals: they’re such a pretty pink...
Then suddenly it came to her. She turned to Malachy, and stared into his eyes. They were sleepy, soft, and sensual all at once. Cass blushed. She was carrying his child, and yet she was still hot under his gaze.
Tentatively, she asked: ‘What about “Rosa”?’
‘When do you think “Heather” lived?’ Dale asked, carefully tubing swabs.
‘Judging by her shoulder-puffed knit dress and fingerless gloves,’ Siobhan replied, chuckling, ‘I’d say the mid-eighties.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Dale. He added: ‘That would make sense. The nineteen-eighties were one of the worst decades when it came to the IRA movement. The bullet holes to her torso lead me to the same conclusion.’
‘So you think that Heather was a victim of the IRA?’ Siobhan asked. She trusted Dale when it came to his voice on particular periods in history. She preferred the archaeological side of her job, whereas historical details were her partners’ forte.
‘Most certainly: bullets were the IRA’s trademark. They were unnecessarily ruthless with their victims.’
Siobhan stared at the lengthily poised body, perfectly preserved down to the indentations of her dimples. She was so young. Pity stirred within Siobhan, and her eyes moistened.
Cassidy gasped for air. Her lungs felt as though they were on fire as she pushed forward, her calves throbbing and her veins shooting with adrenaline. Hailstones pelted, attacked her from above.
She shot a brief glance at Malachy, who ran beside her, his wet hair clinging to his forehead in tendrils. He pushed forward with every ounce of energy he could muster, yet his feet dragged heavily, kicking up thick peat. Cassidy could tell that he was tiring. She was, too. They were weak: both hadn’t eaten a proper meal in weeks. They’d being living off raw, unsubstantial potatoes. It was enough to keep alive, yet hardy adequate to energise.
Her eyes snapped back. She continued running. Cassidy thought about surrender. She could drop to her knees, hold up her palms, be hauled through the dirt, and slung into the back of a van. She could live. But what would life be without Malachy? He certainly wouldn’t give up. He’d rather die a martyr. She had a choice: live without him, or die beside him. She knew which once she would choose.
A slope lay before Cassidy, just a few yards away. If she could make it to the top, she had a fighting chance. She summoned all her stamina, pummelled her body, and thrust herself with a climaxing burst of adrenaline. Somehow, she made it. She felt like howling, yelling, rejoicing.
Cassidy stared around. Her heart began to sink. Malachy: Where was Malachy? Her eyes searched desperately below. She felt her body going into a state of shock. Cassidy shook it off. She scrambled down the slope without a moments’ thought to the consequences. Her dress with sopping wet and caked with mud. Suddenly she saw him. He was a distant stick on the dark wasteland plain.
I’ve left him behind.
Cassidy could make out the frantic movements of his limbs as he lunged himself forward. She knew that they were catching him up, though she couldn’t yet see them. She tried to move her legs, to cry out his name, to spur him on. But she couldn’t. Instead, her knees gave way. She watched hopelessly from the soggy filth beneath her as the rain plummeted to the earth, chilled her bones.
Then she heard it.
They smashed thunderously through the air. Malachy suddenly disappeared from view.
He’d gone down in a hail of bullets.
‘We’ll have to carry out a thorough examination when we arrive back at the pathology institution. In these spring temperatures, Heathers’ body will soon disintegrate.’
Siobhan shuddered at the thought. Dale sealed the vault, wiped his hands on his jeans, and began to filling out release papers.
Siobhan stared at the storage cylinder before her. It mimicked the temperature of the Peat Bog which had incarcerated Heather for over thirty years. Siobhan’s stomach twisted into knots when she thought of their taking Heather from the place of her final rest. Somehow, it didn’t seem right.
She had handled many a body over the five years she had spent in the field. Never had Siobhan felt so deep a connection to a preserved figurine of disintegrated muscle and tissue. It almost scared her: the fact that she had bonded with a carcass. She wanted so desperately to understand Heather, to question her, to find out what had happened to her. But it was simply not possible.
Heather deserved a name, a story. However, she would become an item, known as something like ‘Body #447.’ She would be stored behind a sealed glass cabinet whilst Tourists and museum-goers would awe at her very being, each creating the happenings of her life to suit them.
‘It’s so sad,’ Siobhan murmured.
‘What?’ Dale asked, peering at her from under his long-lashed eyes.
‘Nothing,’ said Siobhan with a forced smile, ‘nothing.’
He’d done it for her. He’d sacrificed his own life so that she and their baby had a chance to escape. What if she didn’t want to live?
Clambering over that slope spelt out a new beginning. It meant freedom, life. If she could make it once again, to the top and over, she could survive. Her baby would live.
She pulled her skeletal frame from the ground, and, as if empowered by some unexplainable surge, she began to walk. Cassidy felt closer to God than she ever had done in her life.
It was imminent. Death rippled through her bones, reminded her of what had to be.
She did not struggle for the hill. She began in the opposite direction, toward to the stick-men and the crumpled carcass propped against the bleak backdrop of the plain.
Cassidy felt weighted, water-logged. Her drenched mass of curls wrenched at her scalp, pained her head. She paced rapidly, the four beings – one fallen, the others standing – becoming taller and taller, larger and larger.
She was a good nineteen yards away when they saw her coming. Cassidy’s ears immediately flickered as soon as she heard the muffled cries emanating from their crude mouths and the thick clack of their guns preparing to shoot.
‘DO NOT MOVE OR WE WILL SHOOT!’ Blared the united throng of coarse voices. The ground beneath Cassidy seemingly shuddered. It was afraid. But she was not. Her legs were pillars of strength.
She continued walking. They repeated their warning. She was only now ten yards away from the body of her lover: from her dear, sweet Malachy. Cassidy stopped, but only for a moment. She stared down the barrel of the gun, awaited the bullet which would enter her body, make her bleed beautiful, glistening scarlet. For a split second - the second that hung in air, frozen – the men and Cassidy were at a stalemate.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it was all over. You see, Cassidy had pushed off on her heel, springing her lithe form from the peat-ground, into a sprint. You see, in a flash of lightning, twenty-four bullets thundered into her torso.