Chapter 1

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Chapter One

Once upon a time... 

All the best stories begin with 'Once upon a time...'

Once upon a time, Jack climbed a beanstalk and encountered a giant and a magical goose.   Once upon a time, three little piggies ran away from the Big Bad Wolf, whom they wouldn't let in by the hair on their chinnie-chin-chins.  Cinders did go to the ball.  Snow White did live happily ever after.

Once upon a time, my parents died.

It doesn't quite have the same fairytale sound, does it?  Though the monsters, beasts and creatures of the night rampage through tales from the Brothers Grimm and Disney, they're all, in the end, vanquished.  The handsome prince or the downtrodden girl almost always gets their Snow White happy ending.

My parents died.  There was no prince or girl or witch or dwarf to save the day.  No knight in armour, shining or otherwise. They died.  As simple and as clean as that.

I saw it happen.  Right in front of me.  It was in the Purge last year.  They broke in and shot them both, my father in the stomach so he'd live long enough to watch them shoot my mother in the head.  Then, they left him.  The trail of blood from where he initially fell to my mother's body where he finally died took an age to dry.  It remained liquid, sticky like strawberry syrup, for such a long time I thought it might never congeal.

It didn't taste like syrup, strawberry or any kind.  Curiosity battled with sense in a heated war which caused me to frown and sweat a little.  I dipped my finger in.  I couldn't help it.  Don't worry, I didn't wonder what it was like to be a vampire, nor did I feel the urge to dine on the bodies of my parents.  I could have – I could see inside my father's stomach.  I could have reached in and pulled out a tasty morsel.  It was wet.  It looked like I'd thrown up in there and bits of puke had peppered the area around the hole.  I hadn't.  I'd thrown up in the corner at the bottom of the stairs.  I didn't think the puke could have quite reached this far.  I sucked the tip of my index finger.  It tasted like I was sucking on a penny.

I think I cried.  I would have, wouldn't I?  If your parents are shot in front of you, you'd cry, right?  I'd vomited, so I obviously felt something, so I'm sure I cried.  I didn't remember.  I only remembered that streak of blood across the floor as if Mum had been cleaning it and had accidentally stuck the mop in a tin of red paint rather than the bleach, fabric conditioner and water concoction she used to clean the laminate with.  And the cavity in her head.  And the way Dad was lying across her, his hand touching her cheek, his guts touching her arm.

I sat there, with them, for a long time.  The sun was almost up, the Purge almost ended.  I slept.  I slept forever.

England had resisted the Purge for almost a decade.  We were too good.  Too decent.  Too up ourselves, according to my father.  The Americans, with their Hollywood mentalities and guns you could practically buy in the corner newsagent, had it right.  Go crazy.  Get it out your system.  Have a blast and then you won't feel the desire to hurt anyone or steal anything for the rest of the year.  Why would you?  You could do a lot in twelve hours.  Murder.  Steal.  Rape.


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