Written by Lilith
“They came through the rain”, the saying went, but in truth it was no ordinary rain that heralded their arrival. The clouds would roll in, the heavens would open, and the downpour would not stop for weeks on end. The villagers kept to their homes, packing sandbags around their doorsteps for when the banks of the river inevitably burst, and nobody dared trying to travel in or out of Kettlebridge. The shrine, a circular stone building in the centre of town, became a safe haven for those whose homes were damaged by the ongoing storms, the old priestesses offering soup and blankets to those in need. And then at last, when the people could take no more of the onslaught from the sky, when fires guttered in their hearths and they could no longer remember what warmth felt like… Then the creatures came.
They looked human. An old man, stooped and withered, skeletal fingers wrapped tight around the silver top of his walking stick; a young woman barely any more than a child, crouching in the mud; and a boy with wide grey eyes who smiled at everything. All the villagers knew what they looked like. They’d seen the creatures from afar, peering through gaps in shutters or flimsy curtains, watching as they walked into the centre of town… but nobody who got close to them ever told the tale.
The rain men had visited twice before in Niamh’s life. The first time she was too young to remember clearly, but she knew she had spent the time in the shrine, wrapped in an old rug and saying prayers with one of the priestesses, a large woman who laughed often, but did not smile at all when the rains came.
The second time, she had been twelve summers old. Her mother had locked all the doors and they had sat together by the window, staring out into the growing darkness. Outside on the street, three figures had appeared, one short, one tall, one hunched, silhouetted in the dismal sunset. They walked, crawled, shuffled towards the window, and there the boy with the wide grey eyes smiled at Niamh’s mother like she was an old friend of his. The rain had plastered his hair to his skin. Niamh stared at him through the dirty glass. Behind him, the girl crouched, wet mud slick on her hands and bare feet. She beckoned towards Niamh’s mother, her head slanted curiously to one side. The old man made no move, but stood in the street with his walking cane tucked into the crook of his arm.
Niamh’s mother stood up, her eyes locked on the old man. Thunder rolled in the distance as she nodded distantly.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” she murmured, and before Niamh could make a single move towards her she had slipped out of the front door, locking it behind her. Lightning flashed, and they were all gone, rain men and mother alike, their footprints in the mud the only evidence that they had ever been there at all.
The rain stopped two days later, and on the third day, Niamh’s mother arrived back to the village. Her skin was icy cold, and there were bruises across her throat, but she was alive, and Niamh was overjoyed. She was too young to know what it was that the rain men took – what they always took.
Her mother never spoke again.
Niamh is a recurring character in many of Lilith’s works, all available on the Inkwell. Check out “The Slaying of the Morfrang” for her first ever appearance, written over 2 years ago!