Against the odds, Helena and Rudy buy a small 70s brick house in Sunshine West. They are happy about the dizzying array of ethnic food available in take-away form and that it is still within Zone 1 of the public transport network.The house is solid, functional and out-of-date in an orange-and-brown kind of way. Neighbours keep asking about their renovation plans. They don’t have any.
A few months after they move into the new house, they notice a leak. At first it’s just the odd drip when the rain is very heavy. Hardly noticeable at all. But as the months go on, it becomes worse – a fierce spatter on the laundry lino, even when it’s just drizzling outside. At least it’s not above the carpet, Rudy says. It is an unusually wet year.
They consider crawling onto the roof, slick with rain, to take a look, but Helena’s uncle died after slipping off a house. She says, Maybe, then No, then Definitely not. Besides, they don’t have a ladder.
They call a man they find on Google. He has some positive reviews and only one negative one, which says he smelt bad. Helena sniffs hard when he arrives, pretending she has hay fever. He smells fine, like she expects a man who fixes other people’s houses with only his body and some tools to smell. He climbs onto the roof with a container of silicon, the shape of the nozzle reminds Helena of turkey basters, of oral medicine syringes. I’ve squirted mountains of it round your roof screws, he yells out from above them, That’ll do it.
When the man from Google leaves, Helena goes outside and finds herself in shadow. There is a mountain range of silicon on top of the roof. Oh Geez! she says. That’s going to change the weather patterns! There’s going to be even more rain now!
Shit! That’s going to be distracting, says Rudy. Helena looks at him blankly. What Rudy means but doesn’t say, is that now every time he goes to do something in the house – like clean the dishes or fold the washing – he will be wishing he was walking in the mountains.
Helena is right. Rainfall increases. The eco-zone around their house changes from dry temperate to wet temperate and the plants in the garden begin to adapt. Leaves that used to be sclerophyllous, lose their hard oily external layer and become softer and greener – they expand in width and offer more shade – cooling the air and trapping moisture.
Things start to change inside the house as well. Perversely, more water is dripping through the ceiling. A stalactite is growing in their laundry. Rudy says, Fuck Fuck Fuck, every times he bangs his head on it.
Helena keeps finding translucent creatures with no eyes under the kitchen sink. Every time it happens she makes a noise that Rudy calls her pregnant cow call, a suppressed scream/guffaw with a low resonance. After she makes the noise, she batters the blind creatures with the broom until they’re still.
Swathes of moss and ferns grow on the sides of the house, over the doors and the windows and it becomes increasingly difficult to get in and out. Despite his original plans for extensive explorations, Rudy spends hardly any time walking in the rooftop mountains. Mostly he spends his time trying to plug up leaks, using ineffective equipment like old chewing gum and home-made play-doh. Helena has a field notebook that she fills up with descriptions of the weather: Morning fog followed by rain. Around 11am the clouds lifted and there was a moment of piercing sunlight, before a storm rolled in. Rudy has bruised his head again.
The neighbours complain in person about the leaf litter, until they can’t get to the door anymore. Then they take to leaving little post-it notes on the larger leaves of ferns where the fence used to be. The run-off from the snowmelt is rotting our stumps. PLEASE REDIRECT SNOWMELT. A rockfall crushed my garden gnome. PLEASE REPLACE. The cool mountain wind is killing my award-winning succulent collection. PLEASE STOP WIND.
Rudy cooks a sausage he found buried in the freezer ice. The vegetation has been growing ever tighter around the doors and they haven’t been able to get out for days. Rudy has started going shirtless, wearing just a pair of holey old jocks, though the air is damp and cool. Helena lies with her head on Rudy’s lap. He strokes her hair with one hand, holding the half-eaten sausage wrapped in white bread, with the other. Startled out of her growing lethargy, Helena notices Jack has become translucent, I can see the sausage! she shouts, reaching for the broom to swat him like the other translucent things. Then stops herself, seeing Rudy’s still opaque face hovering above his torso. She lays down again to watch the sausage’s progress as it moves through Rudy’s belly. Digestion is a fascinating process, she tells him. She can tell where the walls of his stomach are because they move the sausage around. It’s called peristalsis, she says unprompted. The pieces of sausage become smaller as the hydrochloric acid and pepsin dissolve them down. When the pyloric sphincter opens and the sausage and acid mix moves into the small intestine, she soon loses interest. All those twists and turns make her dizzy.
We have moved the couch into the only dry section of the house, Helena writes in her notebook, the middle of the kitchen. Rudy likes it here because there are lots of clear cockroaches for him to catch. We are down to boiling up the dried chickpeas from the jar right at the back of the cupboard, crushed up with the roaches they make a not unpleasant hummus. The weather has been uniformly damp and chill, though it’s difficult to see what kind of cloud cover there is further above, our eyesight seems to be failing. We are hoping for a heavy snowfall as it might kill off some of the vegetation growing around the doors. Then there is no more dry paper.
Emma Yearwood is a Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing student at the University of Melbourne. She lives on the south-west coast of Victoria and is interested in the ways that geography and identity intertwine. She tweets awkwardly from @emmagrace_why.