Clipart of a smiling paint palette and brush
this month's resident:

The 43rd recipient of the Creatives Grant is Pádraig Ó Meiscill. Pádraig is a writer from Belfast. You can read more of his work on his substack, but below is an short piece from a work in progress.

Eden (from a work in progress) – Pádraig Ó Meiscill

When was it they decided to do this thing?

It was at some point after they danced among the plastic carrier bags and surgical gloves and mussel shells in the lough, after they’d watched a seagull eat a tampon, maybe between their second and third joint as they dried off, probably after they’d taken the magic-mushroom-chocolate and had whacked open two cans of porter.

But don’t be getting the wrong idea, this wasn’t the twisted scheme of drug fiends. The joints were wee tiny things, just enough to take the edge off. The amount of mushroom – ground-up Liberty Caps picked from below a wind turbine where a healing well used to be – in the chocolate was next to nothing, barely enough to give you that faint feeling of static running up your back, nowhere near enough for the black-and-white Big Bang leftovers to eat you all up, and they only nibbled at the bar, cutting the corners of the chunks off with the edges of their front teeth (both of them had chipped front teeth, one on the left, the other on the right); and they’d barely supped the yellow fizzing froth from off the top of the cans of porter when the idea began to percolate from their brain down into their throats, became noise, formed words, then sentences, then question marks. Angie led the way while Bill behaved all studious.

‘What do you call them? Data capture centres? What sort of name is that?’

‘A perfect one, kiddo. They capture all our ideas, our fantasies, our fetishes, our wants and then they mix them with water, our water, and out of that grow ads that they sell back to us.’ ‘That’s fucked up. Can’t be allowed to stand. Like, we’re running out of water, aren’t we?’

‘Not here, we’re not. But yeah, in general, the stuff that’s good enough to drink is going. We can’t make new water, what we have is the stuff that’s always been with us, was here before us. We can only try to clean what we’ve already mucked up.’

‘And they’re doing this here? Stealing our data and our water and mixing them up together? ‘They want to.’

They talked about water while drying off in the street outside Angie’s house – Angie with a towel around her shoulders, dabbing at the faint outline of her ribs with the hard end of it; Bill with a silk scarf around his neck, fingering the dark spot at its middle with one hand while drying his feet with a towel in the other.

Angie lived in a street that used to peel with noise – bang, fight, laugh, scheme, snore – the house used to peel like that too. Two sets of cousins had lived in the same street, it felt like they had their own circus ring, but now the days here were silent except for the rain. Then, and it hadn’t stopped raining at all this past year, she would sit and listen to the noise the big out-of-control tumorous drops made as they bounced off the corrugated plastic roofing – yellow stained like an old smoker’s fingers, like Bill’s fingers – that covered the patch of back yard, the gloop coming from the buckets plonked under the sagging about-to-give-in ceiling in the backroom, the pitter and splatter off the asphalt in the street. Her Da was on the west coast of Scotland, living in a caravan in Port Patrick right where the cold waves could come up to his shrivelled balls in the morning time when he waded in to wash his knees and greet the day; her three brothers were… they were around; her Ma used to talk to dead people but was now one of the dead herself and Angie still hadn’t heard a word from her.

Mercifully, the rain was only allowed the day time on its own. At night, Mark two doors down opened up shop, selling horse tranquilisers and skunk and acid, and taxis would come and go from there and the three newly opened Air BnBs towards the avenue. Nearly every night, one or two of Mark’s customers would get their houses mixed up and arrive at hers. There was one ballock naked in the street the other night, she hadn’t a clue where he’d walked from like that, or where he fled to after she’d stuck her long cooking fork through the letter box to stop him calling desperately for his doctor through it.

Now, for the few hours of light that were left, it would be silent but for the two of them.

‘It all comes down to water kiddo. The oceans are starting to boil. Sharks are losing their shit, getting angry because they don’t know what’s happening to them.’

‘Am I supposed to ask “Are sharks not always angry?” now so you can give me some shit you stole about them really being very chilled?’

Bill’s eyes narrowed as he looked up from his small bare feet at Angie, ‘No.’

‘Aye, alright then…’

‘Angie, Angie, always so contrary… Listen, there’s a part of Africa, the Sahel they call it, just below the Sahara, where they have none left. No water. Then, when the fuckers come up towards us looking for some, they drown in the Mediterranean. Here, we’re throwing it over big computers to keep them cool.’

Angie looked at her phone while taking the smallest nibble off the chocolate bar, a stray flake filling in for the part of her front tooth that was missing. Tucking her phone into her trainer beside her ankle, she arched her head back over the kitchen chair she was lounging on to look at the stinking clouds above, her hands joined meditatively at her belly button.

“Where’d you go Bill? Before they came for you.” “Went for a dander kiddo.”

“Billy boy, Billy boy, always so coy,” Angie kept her eyes on the darkening sky, “We don’t have a water shortage here. Aren’t going to have one. And data? Fuck, what they gonna sell me with that?” “Why you want to do it then?”“Bored. Plus there must be better things to mix water with.”

They’d run into the water at Eden, a hamlet on the road to the boat to Scotland, between Belfast and Larne, not far outside Carrickfergus, stuck in the shadow of the derelict power station on one side and the Norman castle on the other. They clambered over the rock formations and the rusting pipe that ran from the stones below the railway line into the lough. They’d emerged from below too as the boat from Cairnryan was making its lazy way in.

Bill had taken them there when Angie had got the aches. Everywhere hurt again, so he said ‘I’m going to take you to the Garden of Eden’, and they got into his van and drove out of Belfast along the shore. The Garden of Eden was a cul-de-sac, a cauterised road with a couple of houses and a window cleaner’s ladder left lying by the kerb, and Angie was disgusted, ‘What the fuck you take me here for?’ ‘Wait,’ was all Bill said as he parked on the corner of the cul-de-sac. They got out and walked up the main road, not another pedestrian in sight, and took a left down Lockharts Lane, rutted and mucky. They passed a house or two where they waited for an XL Bully dog to fly from the drive, but never did, and a former house with just the chimney stack and fire place left standing, on down through a cloud of smoke where an old woman was burning sticks and envelopes and beads and some type of meat out her back… ‘You looking for somewhere?’ she asked of them. ‘Heading to the lough, sis. What’s cooking?’ ‘Venison. My son gets me it. He’s a hunter. Doesn’t taste right if it’s not cooked out in the open air with bills for kindling.’ ‘A woman after my own heart. Where’s he hunt the deer?’ ‘Secret. Be ready soon if you’re coming back this way.’ ‘Fucking wonder woman. We’re going in for a dip first. I’ll see if I can pick you up something on our way back. Wouldn’t be coming empty handed to dinner.’

Tasty capitalist kindling in her hands, the old woman watched them round the bend onto the Old Turn and hit the stink of the waste water plant. They kept going onto Boneybefore, past the faery tree, stopping to finger the multicoloured strings and rings and bracelets hanging off it, and down into the tunnel below the railway track. The water ran by both sides of them. Up and out they emerged onto the strand, where the boat from Cainryan was taking its sweet time coming in and a plane overhead was making its descent into the city airport. On the other side, the frames of the new theme park were emerging from out of the shallow water.

Bill wasted no time in stripping down to nothing but a pair of old football shorts and his silk scarf. ‘Come on kiddo…’

‘You’re mad. Too sore.’

‘Suit yourself.’

She watched his small wiry frame fade towards the water while kicking at rotting wood. She looked at the red frame of the rising roller coaster on the other side of the lough and the rain falling and thought, ‘fuck it’. She stripped off, bent to fill both fists with strips of fresh seaweed and ran for the water.

You can read more of Pádraig’s work on his substack.