Sunday

deep down

It wasn't until he was twelve he found out that the other person did actually exist. He had spent many hours until that moment questioning whether or not it was schizophrenia he suffered. The news which was prbably meant to horrify him only acted as a glorious validation; he knew he was not alone.

As a baby he was always very unsettled he had been told. Prone to fits that lasted many hours and were always violent in nature. He would scream and twitch and vomit until the doctors agreed that in his early years he would be better off medicated. As the mind of the infant grew at the awe inspiring rate they are wont to the doctors became concerned that his development would be hampered. Much to the despair of his parents the doctors took the decision to try to wean him from his drugs. Initially this experiment was less than successful and the fits came back as strongly as when they started. His quite frankly traumatised parents took this as indication the medication would just have to say. A conclusion they came to quite happily as he was their first child and felt that he wasn't really what they were expecting. It would be fair to say they were thoroughly disappointed in their offspring and each had secretly, without informing the other, looked into sterilisation lest they be tempted to make the same mistake again.

The will of the medicine men, however, would not be bent and they were determined that the boy not go through life doped up to the eyeballs. Their approaches to the parents about withdrawing the medication did not go at all well and they abandoned this tactic when the parents began to threaten to switch doctors. The medical staff that had known the child since before his birth were terribly unwilling to desert the boy now. They feared that another set of professionals may be tempted to acquiesce to the parents desires so they employed subterfuge. A decision that came with a certain amount of guilt at the time which developed into a large amount of guilt many years down the line. In the defence of their actions however, they considered that they were truly doing their best for the boy.

They told a lie which didn't ever sit right with them. They told the parents that the drugs which kept their troublesome child passive had been proven through recent testing to be dangerous to the health of small children. They told the parents they would like to try another drug, a safer drug, that would have the same affect.

The boys mother and father suffered a crisis of conscience at the news. Truth be told they were terribly pleased with the current state of the child, they had a delightful nanny come nurse who dealt with the difficult parts of caring for a boy with no control of anything, they had it very easy. They definitely didn't want to rock the boat and going on previous experience they thought they would rather run the health risk to their boy than suffer his awful fits. However, they were a fiercely proud couple keen to keep up appearances so agreed to the switch if only so society wouldn't judge them for being uncaring parents.

The doctors changed the medication to a much milder form of drug. Initially at relatively high concentrations but eventually they lowered the dosing by the smallest percent every month to see what effect it would have on the boy. Despite his disadvantages the child wasn't stupid. He had a firm grip on language but up until this point had been too medicated to utilize it himself. With no immediate adverse reactions from the reduction in medication the doctors became bold. By the time the boy was five years old his dosage had been halved and he spoke his first word. This was a fair shock to his parents who had totally reconciled themselves to having a child who would be, for all intents and purposes, retarded. His first word was “we”.

At the time his parents mistook it for expressing a desire for a toilet function but as the boys language developed it was noted he never used the word “I”. Ever.

By the time the doctors had the boy on nothing more than a placebo he was walking and talking and behaving like any seven year old boy would. Well, nearly. He was still cared for at home and had never been to school. Wary, his parents had tried as hard as they could to keep him separate from other children lest his unfortunate fits return. The doctors and his nanny were concerned over this so had both made attempts to integrate him, very marginally, with other children. Whenever the boy was placed in those social situations he always chose to sit, mostly quietly, by himself. His parents were desperate for something to be wrong with him so they could retain their distance from the child they hardly knew, and hardly wanted to know. Even the nanny couldn't see why she was still employed to be his minder and carer. He could have gone to a school, his parents could have looked after him and they were fearing that societal pressure might force this situation upon them when they discovered his habit of talking to himself.

His mother, a willowy severe looking creature with unnatural blonde hair and a naturally pinched face, was passing by his room one evening and heard voices. At first she assumed he was talking with the nanny and was halfway down the hall when she remembered the nanny was cooking dinner downstairs. She crept back to the bedroom door and looked through the keyhole to spy on her son. It was an uncomfortable position for our detached woman to be in, spying seemed so low an act and try as she might she could not deal with looking at her own child for too long. She saw him sat in his rocking chair, staring with wide eyes to his left, talking in fast and hushed tones words she couldn't quite make out. Her view of the room was fairly good but she did not see anyone else in there. She knew she heard two voices though so patiently she waited and watched. As the boy drew quiet his head jerked to the right and his eyes narrowed and in equally fast and hushed tones he replied to himself in a different voice. She recoiled in shock but recognising the potential of having a crazy son she stayed. The conversation went on some time and she strained to hear, but only caught the odd word, “we will”, “we are, “we can”...

When her husband came to find her and saw her kneeling before the bedroom door he was more than a little confused. “Angeline” he blurted in tones that can only be described as stern. Not so much for the spying I might add but more because he didn't approve of seeing his wife in such an unsightly position. He shocked her and before she realised it she let out a might squeal and fell backwards from the door. She looked to him and he looked to her and then they both looked to the bedroom door behind which there was a bang, followed by a scurrying noise. The door flung open and their child looked at them with accusations in his eyes.

His mother who was terrified of this little boy and convinced he was crazy thought quickly and spoke just as fast:

“Hello, er, darling, I didn't hear Daddy behind me and he frightened me and I tripped. Silly Mummy yes? I'm OK though so don't worry, you can go back to, er, playing”

“I was reading a book.”

“Well reading then, your dinner will be ready soon. We'll see you at the table OK, run along....”

The child returned to his room and his perplexed father was dragged downstairs by his extremely flustered and excited mother. She explained what she had seen, initially he didn't quite understand but when she highlighted that if their son was in fact mentally disturbed the meds might return and the nanny could stay his joy was obvious. They had an extremely enjoyable dinner and that night in bed vowed to do see the doctors first thing in the morning.

The reaction of the doctors though was less than satisfactory. Boys have imaginary friends. Nothing to worry about at all. No need to bring him in. The doctors suspected the parents were exaggerating the problem and the parents, not being at all stupid, knew this. They decided that they would have to take their own proof. At this point they were desperate and took a course of action they weren't especially proud of but truly felt it to be essential.

They arranged a play date with the disabled child of a woman they knew but didn't like very much. There was no point inflicting their odd offspring onto someone respectable. This made the nanny suspicious as it was the first attempt the parents had made to integrate their child, but being a generally sweet sort she hoped this marked a changing of their attitude. While nanny and child were gone the parents, whose attitude had not changed one iota, installed cameras in their only child's room.

Three weeks later, after the spectacular failure of the play date the nanny was told that they would be going to see the doctor again about their boy. She didn't really understand why because his behaviour hadn't changed at all. Sure, so at the play date he completely ignored the other child and was never asked back, so he was a loner, a little isolated, he wasn't a bad kid. The nanny prepared the child for the doctors visit but the parents said that he wouldn't be required. They went their way and suspicious, she followed.

The parents had amassed the footage they required and paid a film student a significant sum of money to edit the footage appropriately and to keep his mouth shut. When they showed the scenes of the boy talking to himself and the fury he worked himself up to, concocting plans with himself, telling himself that he was all that mattered, they agreed there may be a problem. Arrangements were made for psychological testing and a low dosage sedative offered as an interim solution.

Once the victorious parents had departed the offices the Nanny went in to see what was going on. The doctors had zero qualms about sharing this information with her as they had come to think of her as the boys family anyway. The Nanny was disturbed by the news of a potential mental illness but had to agree that the complete solitude the boy craved wasn't exactly right. She wasn't entirely happy about the meds and as she knew she would be the one who gave them to the boy she vowed to hold off until the testing had been done. A mistake she regretted for the rest of her days.

I would understand if your sympathy lay solely with the boy but in all honesty it shouldn't. Whilst it's not exactly his fault what followed, he did nothing to prevent it and believe me; he was more than capable.

The psychological profile and interview with the child was recorded on video as were all such interviews in the offices of the high priced doctor. The parents were present as this was not a responsibility they could shirk, but the nanny waited outside ready to take over again as soon as their duty was done. It began very simply with some exercises looking at photographs and drawings. He was asked to draw comparisons. He played a word game. He was asked to talk about himself and jotted down in the psychologists notebook, highlighted by a red box, was “Never refers to self as I, always we.”

As the tests drew to an end the boy became more and more suspicious and his parents looked more and more triumphant. The psychologist gave the boy some complicated building blocks to put together while he spoke with the parents. His conclusion was that the child may be suffering from multiple personality issues and it would take many hours of therapy and medication to make this other, malicious, personality disappear completely.

What followed next was disturbing to all who have seen the tapes. The boy, who had been listening in as all young boys do, looked up and howled. Grabbing the structure he had just composed out of his blocks he flew at the psychologist and repeatedly smashed it into his head until he was dead. The parents, transfixed by this gruesome sight, only realised what was happening when the boys attention turned to them. He grabbed the letter opener from the desk of the late psychologist and buried it into his mothers chest before withdrawing it and attacking his father.

When all was quiet and still the boy left the room and told the nanny he would like to go home.

The police picked the child up when the bodies were discovered and he went with them quietly. Since his request to leave the offices he had not spoken a word, a habit that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He was judged mentally unfit and sent into care where he was separated from other people all the time. In the early days his former nanny would try to visit him, determined that he wasn't a bad boy, but he would spit and snarl until she went away and then eventually the visits stopped all together. He liked it better that way, to be alone and not alone.

Twice a day a carer would silently take plates and bring him food and meds. Once a month the doctor would come look at him. None of these things ever took more than half an hour. He could have happily gone without them tough. A year into his incarceration he gained a new carer after his old one had died in a car accident. The doctor brought the stern and large woman into the cell and pointed to the boy and warned her to be wary of him.

“But Doctor, he's tiny, he looks harmless”

“He killed both of his parents and a doctor when he was eleven years old Nurse, he's not harmless at all. Be careful, don't linger too long he doesn't like the company. Don't attempt to engage him in conversation because he will not talk. Drop the food, take the plates then leave. He's attacked people who have tried to engage him. With this one it's best to just let him be OK?”

“How did such a young boy get into such a state?”

“It started before he was born, his mother was pregnant with twins but only had this one, the other was smaller and weaker and became absorbed is what the records show. There's probably parts of it in there, pushing on his brain, causing pressure. I suppose technically he killed before he was even born absorbing his twin like that. Just keep away as much as you can Nurse.”

And that is how he knew the other person really did exist and that they both were happy, in their cell, all alone by themselves.

Saturday

stream of consciousness five

I must give her, her dues though. I always liked her and she lasted longer than some of the others did. When this all first started we congregated together, there were many of us. Twenty and now there are five. Since we lost her though we haven’t lost anyone else. I remember a little. The first of our group to go was the cousin of one of those I hold dear who we have also lost now. A fifteen year old boy who I had never met before and whose name I didn’t have time to learn. Dominic, Damien, David.. I can’t remember. I know he was fifteen because the day I met him it was his birthday. In the old times he looks like he would have been in the popular group at school, tall for his age with a cutting edge haircut and very trendy shoes. I remember the shoes, I tried to guess how much they would have cost, probably more than I would ever have paid for shoes. In these new times though he looked just like what he was, a frightened child who shook and wept and was still. All he said for the first few hours was

It’s my birthday today.
I’m fifteen years old.

I felt sorry for him, part of me considered as one of the few women I should probably do the maternal bit to make him feel better but it’s unnatural to me. As sorry for him as I felt I didn’t feel that molly coddling the poor boy would do him any real favours. What would be best was if he snapped out of it. Got on with things. Do what you have to do to survive. It’s a cold way of thinking maybe but it’s this exact characteristic the five of us had from the start. The girlfriend, the one we lost, she hugged the boy for a while but I do not consider there was any real warmth in these actions. I’m not saying that she was a bad person who didn’t want to make him feel better. There isn’t one of us who doesn’t dearly wish we could have held him and told him he would be alright. But it would have been a hollow gesture without meaning or sincere feeling and if you were to ask me to do this would be a far colder thing. I dearly hoped he would realize what he had to do but he never did. He ran away the day after the first day. I thought I saw him on one of our forages once. I thought I saw what was left of him. I didn’t tell anyone else. I don’t know if anyone else saw. We have no time to mourn.

Tuesday

she changed it all

She wasn’t a bad girl, not at all. She wasn’t wicked or evil or any of those things. She had no sociopathic leanings or a desire to be cruel. Even as a little girl her teachers and family alike recognised that she didn’t have a malicious bone in her body.

Which is why it makes this discovery all so difficult to understand.

Interviews after the event, with people who had met her or people who had been her friends, all gave the impression that she was a perfectly normal young woman. The overall impression gathered was that she was quiet and attentive. Charming and reassuring. Good to confide in and an excellent listener. Her responses were always reasonable and well thought out. She very rarely entered into conflict and never displayed aggression. She had a healthy level of curiosity and seemed to be very intelligent.

Which is why this whole business is so unsettling really.

Her history reveals maybe a little insight into how such a situation could have developed. As is liable to happen when things like this occur book companies and newspapers were desperate to cash in. They pleaded with her for interviews. They offered substantial amounts of money for the exclusive story; her point of view. She politely declined. Her family were also approached. They say that everybody has a price and whilst the media couldn’t reach the price of her or her close family some of her cousins were bought fairly cheap. Initially cheap but, for what the papers got, far too much money was spent on these snippets of misinformation. Spying some ready money these distant relatives were happy enough to concoct stories of ritualistic animal abuse as a child and perverse leanings which were completely untrue. The extent of the lies were later revealed under some close scrutiny and a trial for libel in which the papers lost more than they had offered her in the first place.

Researchers came out baffled when a book profile was suggested. Like the newspaper people they approached her with offers of large sums of money and like she did with the newspaper people she politely declined. Those people who made the visit to see her went with many preconceptions. It’s hard not to when you hear so much reported about an individual. They all left feeling a little disconcerted, preconceptions shattered and a significant level of doubt. Like those who investigated her, those who knew her, those who were related to her and like everyone she’d ever met they just didn’t think she was capable of that which they knew she had done.

Background checks showed very little in the way of deviant behaviour. The people wanted an explanation just to help them understand what makes a person end up like this. The people were largely disappointed. She grew up just outside an average sized city in an average sized house. Both her parents remained together and she had one sister who she got along with very well. There were no disturbing uncles or bad babysitters or forceful boyfriends. There was no difficulty at school, she got good grades and seemed very happy. She wasn’t a social outcast and had a happy childhood and a small but good group of friends who she always remained in contact with. She went to college and performed very well and got a place at university studying medicine. She had volunteered at her local hospital since she was 15 with the intention of applying for medicine later on and was by all accounts very pleased.

She went to university and met a young man, the letters home to her parents from her early university days tell of courting and happy times. Her tutors were interviewed and always said she was a bright girl who didn’t struggle with the work load and never missed a lecture. She worked part time in an old peoples home to supplement her student grant and her colleagues have since reported her to be hard working and considerate. In the middle of her second year, and much has been made of this, she suffered a very bad illness.

It started with a cold which wouldn’t shift. It has been said that she was looking tired for several months, from the start of term, it was assumed she was just working too hard. She had been to see her doctor and they pronounced her fine if a little anaemic. Before Christmas break she was taken into accident and emergency by her young man because she had a terrible temperature, headache and was pretty incoherent. After running their tests the hospital confirmed that she was suffering a pretty bad case of meningitis and she was placed into an isolation ward where she stayed for three months whilst she recovered. When she was finally allowed out of hospital she still needed a long time for rest and recuperation. The university were sympathetic and were happy for her to repeat the year that she had missed and offered her a special grant to help support her throughout her subsequent years on the course. An offer she took up and started afresh the next semester healthy and well. The head of the department has said they awarded the grant because they truly believed she was a talented young woman and would one day make an excellent doctor. It seemed a shame to allow this unfortunate illness to become a barrier for this and there were concerns she was doing too much work and too little play. A medical degree with a part time job as well would be a strain for any individual.

This illness did not affect her subsequent grades which were consistently good and it has been said her attitude was the same. If anything she was more cheery having met a new group of people and having a larger set of friends now. She was more social and had more time to study now the financial pressure was taken off her. The rest of her time at medical school went without note and she graduated with a respectable degree.

Surgery was her chosen field and when she went out to her first position as a graduate her story began to get interesting. It was a large hospital with a large surgical department and she was to work directly under a consultant surgeon Mister Phillip Burton. Mister Phillip Burton had been a doctor for thirty years and was not one to suffer fools gladly. He was also not the type who was happy about women doctors let alone women surgeons. In his thirty years of doctoring he had only just gotten used to the idea of male nurses, female doctors was still far too much for him to get his head around. So he did not know what to make of this bright enthusiastic young girl. She seemed, to him, to be mocking him and all he stood for. Their relationship started badly and never really improved. Initially he tried ignoring her presence completely, there were a plethora of moronic registrars and house officers who were of the correct sex he could converse with. When, after six months of this stony front, she refused to transfer he changed his tactic to incorporate what a modern lawyer would probably call bullying but to Phillip Burtons mind was just setting the situation straight. He’d order her to file case notes and make him cups of tea. Womanly duties he considered. If she dared enter his theatre prior, during or post surgery he would ensure she was given a menial non medical job to do. Be it helping him on with his scrubs, filing of paperwork or cleaning. She did all these things he asked and never grumbled once. Only after a year of work with Mr Burton and no so much as a stitch to her theatre record did she register a complaint.

The hospital took Phillip Burton to task and lectured him about the cost of surgical staff. About how important it was to develop these young minds. About how in this day and age it just wasn’t on to discriminate against people just because they happened to be women. He was ordered to give the girl some theatre time and treat her as he would any of the male staff.

Mister Phillip Burton did not much like this.

During her first surgery where she was allowed to the table Dr Burton made her step down five times for allegedly contaminating the sterile field. The scrub nurse for that day has gone on the record saying that she saw no contamination and that the situation was all of Dr Burtons making. It was another week before she was allowed back to surgery during which Dr Burton tutted and swore at every move she made. The following week doctor Burton intentionally forgot her name and spent the entire day referring to her as girl. For the next three weeks he refused to let her see case notes or theatre lists so when she arrived she was completely unprepared for what the day might hold. Her colleagues said she coped extremely well considering but Dr. Burton didn’t really see it this way and was often heard labelling her as an incompetent goon. For the next few months Dr Burton would allow her to the able as instructed but he took great pleasure in concocting various ways of making her life miserable by doing so. His wife (now ex wife) has gone on record as saying “It was all the bastard talked about for months – he had a real sadistic streak.

In May about a year and a half into her employment at this hospital she was on a private ward with Dr Burton checking on the previous weeks patients. In room seven – the Oxford suite, resided a patient who was extremely wealthy although no one really knew what for. Dr Burton liked the private patients and liked the money he got from them so tended to be far more attentive to their whims and desires. He was always happy to answer their questions and it has been said that the attention he lavished on the more wealthy patients was a not so subtle way of ingratiating himself into a higher social arena. It never really worked out for him though, even his wife (although the ex should be emphasised again) would describe him as a loathsome creature.

In room seven whilst Dr Burton was schmoozing as hard as he could and ignoring her completely whilst she tried, in vain, to run the check up she was obliged to do she knocked a kidney dish containing various bottled samples to the floor. The incident was a minor one really and the kidney dish had been badly balanced by an over-tired nurse in the first place. There was no damage to the samples and no real harm done. The old metal kidney dishes having long been replaced by cardboard disposable ones it wasn’t even especially noisy. She knelt down to retrieve that which had been dropped and while she was down and vulnerable the not so good doctor in the words of a passing orderly “totally flipped his lid”.

There is a fairly good account of what followed. Dr Burtons words were loud and commanded attention. Patients and staff alike gathered at the door of the Oxford suite and watched slack jawed and wide eyed as he tore into the shocked young doctor on her knees. Whilst the duration of the verbal onslaught that follows is up for debate (estimates run from five to fifteen minutes) the level of insult directed at the girl are not. Dr Burton did not hold back, with arms and spittle flying, he imaginatively called her all names he could think of. If she tried to interrupt or apologise he would talk over her louder. If she tried to stand up to face the doctor he actually started throwing pens at her. He seemed entirely oblivious to the patient he had so recently been buttering up or the crowd he was drawing. It has been said he looked like he was enjoying himself.

As previously noted the duration of this attack is unknown and in some respects is irrelevant, no one doubts the ferocity, the effect was still the same. When he had run out of things to say he placed his hands on his hips and glared at the girl defying her to say something. Reports state her eyes were glassy and she looked on the verge of tears. Everyone who has been asked agreed the following things happened. She lowered her head and sighed, there were tears dropping onto her theatre blues trousers but no one saw her actually cry, she gripped tightly in one hand a screw top bottle containing a sample and when she spoke it was calmly without excessive volume. She unscrewed the lid from the top of the bottle, threw a full tub of bright yellow urine into the doctors face and calmly said: “You, sir, are a god-damned bully”.

The crowd cheered.

Dr Burton looked like he didn’t believe what was happening and when he registered that the fluid dripping down his face was actually urine he scrabbled around looking for something to throw at her, settling on a clipboard. He then made as if to slap her while she was down. Onlookers have gone on record saying they truly believe the doctor would have physically assaulted the girl had the patient not intervened. As the doctor raised his arm and swung towards the girls face the wealthy patient recovering from surgery in room seven grabbed the doctors wrist and ordered him out. Initially the doctor made no movement but the wealthy patient (who cannot be named for legal reasons) raised his voice and ordered the doctor “Out of my room now, I pay you well enough you will do as you’re told. You will leave, you will close the door behind you and you and those other vultures will piss off”.

What happened next no one knows. She’s not talking to anyone and wealth patient, lets call him Mr X, can’t. We know she was in the room for an hour. Several members of the hospital management team tried to interrupt them at several points and were politely but firmly told to “bugger off”. When she finally left the room it was to quit her job without notice. There were objections to this but when it was pointed out that if they insisted on making her work her notice there would be legal action the hospital had little choice but to acquiesce. She went straight back to room seven where Mr X had been busy discharging himself and they both left. That was the last the hospital saw of either of them.

Her friends and family discovered that this incident had occurred only years later. At the time she told them that she had left her hospital job and was going to become a home carer. This was a great surprise to them all as they knew how passionate she was about surgery, about being a doctor even, this was, in their minds, several steps backwards. She reassured them best she could that she was extremely happy with this decision and that in fact financially she would be better off than she was currently. This seemed to placate some of her loved ones worried but some were still worried that this would not stretch her enough.

She was having none of it.

Her young man was concerned but after six months of regular hours, a steady income and a happy girlfriend he was in no real position to complain. He saw her more than he did when she was working at the hospital and she seemed far more content in her work. She would come home exhilarated and happy and it thrilled him to see her like this. They moved in together nine months into her new work situation. After eighteen months he had worked up the courage to propose and has gone as far as buying a ring. But before he had chance she was arrested and the whole story became public.

She had never spoken to him about work, or to any of her friends and family. As far as any of them knew she was working as a home carer for a very wealthy man who would rather have a doctor than a nurse around. Her actual job description, which was never recorded on paper, was something far more sinister.

The police tapes from the initial interviews after her arrest have been leaked a long time ago now. She never denied anything because she never understood why she would have to. The famous scene where the young officer became overcome with nausea and vomited into the corner of the interview room is now legend. The way she came over to try to nurse him and he vomited even more violently at her touch struck a strange chord in each of our hearts. She was obviously caring. She was obviously considerate. She was so obviously an intelligent girl so why couldn't she see why everyone else found her actions so loathsome?

The arrest came after one of her “patients” suffered a change of heart and made an official complaint. The manor in which she worked had a recorded staff of 75 and rising. It was also, it turned out, her duty to tend to the staff as well as the wealth benefactor. The staff were profiled afterwards and each had something in common besides their eventual fate. These were desperately alone people. There were no friends and family, in most case they were orphans. Many homeless runaways from tragic lives had been employed by our wealthy Mr X. all employees lived in an annexe of the manor and none of them, since the day of their employment until the day of the arrest, had ever left the grounds.

And for very good reason.

The complaint came from the now extremely rich and currently in hiding Annabelle Brixton. Despite the fact that she bought this situation to the attention of the world she has never received much of a sympathetic ear. Well, of course initially, when it was her word against everyone else's she did. But as the story unfolded and her fame rose despite her technically being the victim public opinion was generally very negative towards Ms. Brixton.

In the beginning there was Ms. Brixton, in the dead of night entering a police station somewhere in Sussex (not disclosed for legal reasons). How she got there is not known to this day. There are rumours that Ms. Brixton was actually a journalist with an ex boyfriend who had gone to live in the manor. These rumours are unconfirmed at this time. Ms Brixton walked into a police station wearing a cowl and cape and announced that she would like to make a complaint. When asked the nature of her complaint she threw off her cape to reveal her perfectly functioning second set of arms.

In the dead of the night Mr X's manor was raided and 75 staff members with varying degrees of physical abnormality were bundled into buses and taken away. On hearing the disturbance and viewing the goings on, on the CCTV both Mr X and his partner, one Mr. G. Bullard who had been working as a butler but was later disclosed to be his lover, opened up the safe in their room, locked the door and took a large barbiturate overdose. The police took thirty minutes to break down the great door to the bedroom by which time both Mr X and Mr Bullard were quite dead.

Inside the safe were a number of scientific papers, a number of hand written consent forms- 76 all told, a legally binding will and a video tape. At the same time of the raid our girl had a knock on the door and was duly arrested. It is reported she accepted the grounds of her arrest without complaint or question while her partner went “positively mental” and was restrained by the police.

The scientific papers contained within the safe detailed surgical procedure for transference of entire limbs from one individual to another which retained full function. There were some papers detailing how to reattach hands that had been severed and even one on donor genitalia which would still lead to normal procreation even in the case of sex change operations. The consent forms were written by the staff members recording their willingness to undergo the procedures that occurred at the manor. There was no set formula to the consent forms. No indication that they were forced to copy any existing document or any indication of confusion to what they were agreeing to. The will left all the worldly belongings of Mr X and Mr Bullard to our girl. The videotape, ah the videotape, that was a confession.

Mr X gained his wealth by donation. He too was a doctor who had left the medical profession to work solely for an independently wealthy man, who again can not be named for legal reasons so we refer to him as Mr A, who had gained his money through inheritance from his father who was a big noise in industry. Both Mr X and his benefactor had something in common and this was their sexual orientation although there is no indication that the relationship between the two was anything more than business. For Mr A it was not a simple case of homosexuality he was one of the poor individuals who suffered the fate of being born into the wrong gendered body. More than that it can be argued he was born into the wrong time as modern day sex change operations are no rare occurrence. Mr X was one of the pioneers in sex change surgery but it was his biggest regret that in the lifetime of Mr A it could not be perfected and Mr A passed away in the body he was not born to inhabit. He promised Mr A that he would endeavour to ensure this problem would not be a problem for any future generations. In addition to this whilst working for Mr A, Mr X had lost his left leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident. An affliction which caused great distress to Mr X and although he had the best prosthesis money could buy it was just not the same. This is where the manor came in.

When he took his staff on he explained to them what his aims were and detailed the research involved. For many years those who were dying and had no one would find out about the manor and come to live out their last days in a completely secure and happy environment and were more than willing to donate whatever they had to Mr X for this. He had taken the surgical techniques so far but his own ailing health and disability meant he needed to take on someone to continue his research. In the video he outlines his hospital check up and the time he met a newly qualified doctor being abused by her senior in the public glare. He said he knew as soon as he saw the urine hit the old man's face that he had found his replacement. So he hired her.

The video now becomes extremely moving for the select few who have seen it. Mr X's eyes well up and he openly weeps at the talents of his newest recruit. It was she who first perfected the whole functioning limb transfer. As has later been verified Mr X died standing on two feet, as it were, the surgery a complete success. It was she also who made the breakthrough of gender realignment and within the manor there was one couple who through such a swap had managed to produce a normal healthy baby girl.

In the video Mr X takes full responsibility and pleads that for the sake of science and scientific progress the girl not be punished.

There was also a letter in the safe that hasn't been recorded on public record. It was a letter of apology to the girl and an explanation of his suicide. He knew he wouldn't be able to deal with it so Mr X and Mr Bullard made a pact which they ultimately stuck to. He told the girl that all his money was now hers and suggest she bribe an official and have him posthumously blamed for the whole thing. She refused to do this and instead accepted whatever fate befell her.

The scientific community was revolutionised by the papers that were provided in the safe. Her works made a difference to people across the world. To this day she receives letters of thanks from transgender couples who have concieved, from accident victims who can walk and write again. Donor cards have been amended to include limbs and wombs. The world has changed thanks to one woman but was this enough to save her?

Of all the staff members that were taken from the manor that night there were a variety of physical anomalies. There were women with six arms and men with four legs. There were women with four ovaries, there were even people who had arms for legs and legs for arms. Of all the people she had modified only one person made any complaint and that was Ms. Brixton. What amazed the rest of the world was how happy the modified were. They continued to live in the manor after the trial was over and records have shown that all of them were content.

So, was it enough to save her? Well, no. It couldn't go unpunished but punishment was hard to prescribe. The trial went on for four long years without bail and popular opinion varied as to what would be fitting. Life in prison was suggested and dismissed. She hadn't actually killed anyone and with only one complainant it was deemed too harsh. Ms. Brixton applied for compensation and received a healthy sum before refusing to participate in any more legal proceedings and buggering off with her new found wealth to another country. Her second set of arms removed and no harm done. The public had no sympathy for Ms Brixton and while she may have received hundreds of thousands initially for book sales and newspaper stories they soon turned on her. It was suggested our girl serve a lesser prison sentence. This was agreed to be acceptable and four years was decided upon. Four years which was incidentally the length of the trial which she had spent in a minimum security prison anyway so they considered it served.

Then there was the question of her medical licence. The prosecution argued that she should never practice medicine again but the scientific community who were suffering a sort of ecstasy buzz from her research caused an outcry at the suggestion. It seemed, they suggested, sheer waste to allow a brilliant mind to just rot. Think of the benefits...

So, it was decided that she could not practise medicine on the general public any more but was allowed to continue with some highly regulated research. The manor was turned into a research facility and the findings and practises were kept public and submitted to an ethical and regulatory board. After it was all over she lead a fairly private life choosing, like the other inhabitants of the manor, to stay within the grounds for most of the time. She married her young man and had a family of her own. She would allow anyone in to tour her facilities but would rarely answer the questions they wanted answering.

There has never been an accurate account of the events surrounding these discovery's or the motivations of my mother. Until now, that is.

Sunday

the children of field orange are trying to kill me

I live in a village with a static population. The village is called Field Orange and if we had one of those friendly welcome signs on the outskirts it would quite accurately read;

Welcome to Field Orange
Population 100

Accurate because the village is indeed called Field Orange and the population is always one hundred exactly. It never changes and has been like this as long as we can remember. That’s not to say that we don’t die because we do. At the time of one birth there is a death and with every death Field Orange receives a newborn. Population one hundred, that’s Field Orange.

The accuracy is furthered because of Field Oranges situation. This small village I call home is located amid a sea of orange fields. We grow poppies, orange poppies and they surround us as far as the eye can see. I’ve read a history of Field Orange and some years ago an errant farmer decided to experiment with the horizon. Initially he began with Red poppies but they would not take. He tried yellow poppies to the same effect. He tried carrots and broad beans, he tried cabbages and violets. He tried carnations and roses but nothing would grow except the beautiful orange poppies. Eventually this farmer was run out of town for what was assumed to be lunatic behaviour. This occurred coincidentally at the exact same time of my birth.

Everyone in Field Orange is a farmer, we all go out to the fields to gather poppies and we have no schools. We have no hospitals or stores. The women do not stay at home to clean and cook. Every morning at 6am we go to the fields to collect the poppies. At lunch time we take whatever food we want from the communal barn and in the afternoon we go back to gathering the poppies. That’s not to say we are backwards because we are not. We are educated as our children are educated and sometimes one of us goes away to university and another is born. It’s rare though, we all like it in Field Orange. At 7am a truck comes to take the children twenty miles away to the nearest school. The truck also takes a list of what we, the village and its occupants, want. Sometimes it’s food or new boots. The other day I asked for a book and an oil lamp for reading at night. At 5pm the truck comes back and unloads our supplies and the children and we load up the poppies and wave goodbye until tomorrow. We don’t gather poppies of an evening and we never gather poppies of a weekend. It is a simple but happy life we lead here in Field Orange.

Well I was happy but the last three days have made me distinctly paranoid. Remember I told you I ordered an oil lamp for my room? I like to read; I like detective novels the best and often try to read after dark time by the pale light of the moon. It can be a bit of a strain. In the big houses we all sleep in a dormitory but if we want to we can to use out-house to sleep in. Not many of us do, but new couples and snorers and other antisocial night time people will use the out houses. I thought if I had a lamp I could read in one of them without disturbing any of the other residents of field orange.

So three days ago my lamp arrives and I’m pretty excited. I’ve just got a new novel “Murder in a Sea of Corn”, which sounds very exotic to me, so I decide to make use of these outside facilities. My oil lamp is little and brass with a tapering glass top that looks crimped along the edges. It was a very pretty little lamp and I hope it didn’t cost them a lot of money (a concept I vaguely remember from my school days). It came with a strong smelling bottle of purple oil for burning and six spare wicks. I borrowed a pack of matches from Benny (who is trying to quit smoking) and took my book and my blanket out to the farthest shed in our little village perimeter. I settled happily amongst the hay on the floor. My lamp I lit and had hung from a nail on a beam just to the left of where I lay. I opened my book and became oblivious to everything else around me. I often find total absorption in books, the earth could tear in two and swallow people whole and I’d only notice when the book was torn from my hand, I swear it.

Which is why it took me a little while to register that the barn was on fire. The smell of burning hair combined with the pain on my head was invasive enough to drag me from my book world. I slapped out the embers on my hair, grabbed my book and fled. It didn’t take long for the fire to take hold. Those from the dormitories had come out and stood staring alongside me at this burning building. When we got a grip a chain gang was set up from the water pump to the barn as buckets of water were passed along and thrown at the fire. There was little hope of saving the out house but it would be a disaster for field orange if the fire spread. It might have been a disaster if I had died as far as I know no one is ready for a newborn but saying that, field orange always finds a way, field orange population 100.

We were up nearly all the rest of the night dousing the fire, there was no real harm done and no one was mad at me, I felt very guilty. The men with the vans came in the morning and told us not to worry about picking poppies that day. The children could have a day off school too. They would come back the next day when we were all rested. Everyone went back for some sleep. Everyone except me that is. When the barn had cooled I went to see the place of my shame. I thought I must have hung the lamp badly and it had fallen. I also wanted to avoid everyone for a while. Guilt is a terrible, terrible, thing. The barn was in a pretty bad state, it was amazing that it was still standing really, my blanket and the hay were little more than dust now. The walls and ceiling were black and the smell was pretty awful. My hair wasn’t too badly burned, I would ask Molly to cut it some time; she was handy with a pair of scissors.

I saw the remains of my lamp on the floor and the guilt welled up inside me and threatened to burst out of my eyes. I felt like crying, I was choked up and tired. It was such a pretty lamp and it had been such a nice idea and I messed it all up. I went to see if there was anything redeemable from my lamp. Maybe the brass was ok and I could get a new glass bulb for it. As I neared I knelt down because completely out of place and a source of confusion for me was the large round rock that sat in the middle of the shattered glass of what was my lamp. I don’t know how long I was knelt there looking at it before the next attempt on my life. I figured this out afterwards, that it was a deliberate act, but at the time all there was, was pain and a lack of consciousness.

Molly found me a few hours later, there was matted blood at the back of my head and cuts on my face and arms from where I landed on the glass, there was a rock very similar to the one amidst the glass lying right next to my head. I think it was thrown at me. I gripped it hard and refused to let go.

The others think maybe the out house roof was instable and something had fallen. They think I shouldn’t have gone there and it was my own fault. I think they are wrong.

My wounds were tended to and I was made to rest. Everyone went and feasted and I lay feeling sorry for myself and confused as to why someone would try to do this. My head hurt and my eyes weren’t focusing so well so I couldn’t even finish my book. The detective had just dismissed the character who everyone thought had done the foul deed and was about to draw a shocking conclusion. I was desperate to know who did it. It turned out I was also desperate for sleep.

I slept for some time but it was not a continual sleep. I was woken at one point by an immense pressure on my face and I had difficulty breathing. I was being smothered and I couldn’t fight back. A noise at the end of the dormitory caused the pressure to suddenly be taken off and the perpetrator fled. I was disorientated and tried to stand and to focus on who would do this but all I could make out was a small receding shape.

The noise was Molly, she had come to bring me some tonic to help me sleep and to change the bandage on my head. I told her of the smothering and she told me it was night terrors like I was imagining it. She didn’t understand but acquiesced when I begged her to make someone stay with me. Benny came and stayed with me while I slept because he’s trying to quit smoking and you can’t smoke in the dormitories.

It was early evening when I came to again, the start of dusk is my favourite time, and I decided to go for a walk. Benny had nodded off in the armchair next to my bed and I didn’t want to wake him. My head felt a lot better so with the last of the light I thought I would take my book and find somewhere to finish it. I took my rock too. There was still some blood from my head on it.

It was warm outside and I walked past the tables of people sitting and talking and still eating from the massive cook off they had held this afternoon. Nearly losing my life three times had somewhat quelled my appetite. I’m not afraid to die you understand but I want it to be when it is the right time. Not because some unknown force has decided it so. The most peaceful place in field orange of an evening is in the orange fields. All buzz and business during the day but empty and quiet at night. I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed so I went to find a spot to sit and read for a while. There was some bare ground where I had been picking yesterday so I went there. A circle cleared of poppies about six foot in diameter. I lay amidst the orange flowers and read the detectives summation. How he had removed all possibilities except one and the conclusion however improbable it may seem was definitely correct. He was about to name names I was so close when the shower of stones began. My first reaction was to look up to see who was doing this but I looked too high. The pain was immense as rock after stone after pebble crashed into my skin. I adjusted my sight and circled around me smaller than the poppy stalks they stood amongst with nasty grins and catapults and rocks in hands were the children. I cry out for them to stop and hear a shrill giggle from my left. A dark haired girl no older than 15 turns her back to me and finally I understand. Strapped to her back in tattered blankets looking fragile and beautiful is a newborn. Field Orange population 100 and she has broken the rules.

The rocks keep coming and I am almost numb from them now. I think my head is bleeding again and I am sure the bruises are bad. With the last bit of strength I have I lie on my stomach and write it in the dirt with the rock in my hand – the children of field orange are trying to kill me.

Thursday

grab rail

A long time ago the world was very different my child and in the town where I lived the highlight of the month was the opening of the grab rail. It was right at the end of the dusty main road fenced off to the public most days by tall wooden gates which were locked by a large and ugly padlock. Nowadays such a thing would probably have you young folks trying to pick locks or climb fences to just get in. It was an intriguing thing and I could understand such a temptation I suppose but it never honestly crossed my mind or the mind of any of the other town folks. On that one day the people from town as far as twenty or thirty miles away would journey over. I know that doesn’t sound like far to you, little one, but back then it was practically the other side of the world. So powerful was the draw of the grab rail.

The surrounding fence was a curious thing too now that I think about it, 10 foot tall and not like the fences you will know. It must have taken ages to build and cost a lot of money too because we were far from any forests. The wood had to be specially imported, my Grandfather told me, from the wagons that came through from time to time. The structure was about twenty foot square and once as a kid I, like all my peers did at one point, counted each tall pole of wood. The fence was comprised you see of tall tree trunks that had been stripped and pointed and driven into the ground. There were two hundred and eighty four tree trunks. I know you see because I counted them.

The day of the grab rail was always the last Saturday on every month, come rain or shine. On the Friday before the day of the grab rail day the women and children would take the day off and make decorations for the fence. In the summer there would be garlands of colourful paper flowers covering every inch of the fence. We’d make them more than twice as long as the height of the thing so they would be decorated inside too. In the autumn the garlands would be dried flowers, berries and bunches of tied up herbs. I liked the autumn most I think as the herbs always smelled wonderful. I was determined when my day came I would go to the grab rail in the autumn. I hoped desperately that it would turn out that way. The winter would be holly and ivy and winter berries and in the spring we would hurl and position many coloured ribbons. No one except the mayor was allowed into the grab rail fence before grab day and his role, well, it was pivotal.

Every grab rail day the townsfolk and the visitors from afar would gather outside as early as six in the morning waiting for the mayor to turn up. He wasn’t ever duty bound to arrive before 10am but the anticipation was just too much for some people. It was an event. I was often there ahead of time myself.

The mayor would wear his ceremonial robes and descend from his offices carrying a red velvet bag with a red velvet ribbon laying out and over the top for each name inside. The route for the mayor was always the same and was always decorated in the same theme as the grab rail pen. If the weather was fine there would be burning scented oils to fill the air also. Around his neck on another red velvet ribbon he wore the key to the padlock. When he reached the edge of the crowd, always a respectful six foot away from the pen, he would drop to his knees and kiss the key causing cheers of jubilation from the crowds.
When he was a younger man he’d leap back up before approaching the ornate barrel placed at the gate of the pen. Did I tell you about the barrel? Never mind now, I’ll come to it when it matters. Don’t interrupt me child I’ll forget my place. Now, yes, he used to leap up but our mayor lived to 107 so after a time he had to be helped up and after an bit more time he had to be helped down and up. In his later years he was confined to a wheelchair and the ritual of the grab bar had become outdated so he was no longer required to exert himself or even carry that key. He always did though, right up until his last breath. I have heard rumours that moments before his death as his remaining family gathered round he pulled that key from his neck and swallowed it. Died by choking on it the silly sentimental old fool; so important once was the grab rail.

The barrel outside the gate of the grab rail was placed there the evening before the day itself. It was a small little thing on a carved wooden pedestal. I’ve been told it was made by a man who was extremely happy with his grab rail day, a blacksmith who married a wealthy land owner’s very beautiful daughter, he made the barrel and the elaborate floral decoration on the outside to replace the unceremonious bucket that he’d had to put his name in. I got to admit, it was a beautiful bucket, I couldn’t imagine grab rail day without it.

Up until the Mayors appearance the men would get their names put on special slips that were folded and placed inside the barrel. I suppose a more cunning man would put his name in several times but I don’t think that ever happened. These were fairly innocent times. It might have though, it was never checked, the names were all burned on the end of day bonfire along with the decorations and everything else.

So anyway, yes, the mayor would kiss the key and make his way to the barrel where he would pause and make his silly little speeches. Always for the sole purpose of dragging out the agony of the expectant men and women gathered. He would give thanks for every inane thing that had happened over the last month and then describe the joyousness of the day with as many drawn out flourishing descriptives as he could manage. As a child I used to giggle as he went on and on, watching the distressed fanning of the women and the beads of sweat forming on the brows of the men. I wasn’t laughing when it was my turn though; I finally understood the power that mayor had over us. The bugger, I liked him though, don’t look at me like that I only said bugger and you know he was a bugger. Ok, I promise, no more curse words.

Bloody women...

Names would go into the barrel and the mayor would plunge his hand in and pull out a slip of paper for every ribbon that spilled out of his red velvet bag. He’d call each one out loudly and clearly and upon hearing their names the men would go and stand next to him. Some months it was only one or two men because there were only one or two ribbons. The record was twenty three men on one month. That was a great day I was only six but I remember it being very exciting. Once all the men were gathered the mayor would take his key and unlock the great big ugly padlock. I often wondered why they didn’t get a nicer padlock really but then I suppose folk are fond of tradition and it would have been weird without the thing.

The men would line beside the mayor and he would shake each hand and wish them luck and unlock that big ugly padlock. He would go inside and close the door behind him. There was silence after he had entered. I always held my breath and I’m pretty sure everyone else did the same. We knew what happened, what must happen, he would tie each identical ribbon to the grab rail, at the other end a tiny red pouch would contain the name of the women eligible to be wed from the surrounding areas. All women became eligible on the date of their 19th birthday. A great big register with all the names and dates of the females born for miles around was kept in the register in the mayoral office. Women could opt out of course but I think that was a rare occurrence. We never knew who had their name in exactly, we guessed sometimes, it was always uncertain. The men when they decided they were ready put their names into the barrel and if they were lucky got their names pulled out of it and went to pick a wife. It was the luck of the draw which may seem backwards to you little one but it was actually pretty fair. I don’t remember anyone being terribly unhappy with the way things went for them.

After the mayor had tied the ribbons to the grab rail he would open up the great gate on the pen and let the chosen men folk in to pick a ribbon. It was never a scrabble it was always a very calm and ordered. I wondered how they knew which ribbon to go to, how it was the right one for them, it always worked out.

The men would come back to the gates with their bag in hand looking as nervous as they had when they went in. The mayor directed them in turn do draw the paper from the bag and clearly announce the name of their bride to be. With each name there were cheers and general well wishing as the blushing young woman would go to her very-soon-to-be-husbands side.

The rest of the day was taken with weddings and celebrations. There was feasting and dancing late into the night. It was always a great day.

What? Yes I’m getting to that. Of course I did. Let me talk will you? Damned children. I first put my name into the bucket when I was 19 years old. There was a girl I’d always had a soft spot for who had turned 19 that month and I figured I wouldn’t mind being married to her. Pretty curly hair and big eyes. It wasn’t my month though and she married a butcher. Plus it was the summer. I’d never imagined I’d have any luck in the summer. I waited another two months before putting my name in again. It was October and the weather was mild, the decorations smelt great and I was nervous this time. A sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach I was convinced I was going to throw up all over everyone. Anyway, I had absolutely no idea who had their name in or how many there would be. When the mayor came out he had five red ribbons hanging over the velvet bag. When he dropped to his knees to kiss the key my heart leapt. When he plunged his hand into the barrel I was convinced I was going to pass out. I’ll admit to you now that when he called my name I jumped up and squealed. I stood alongside the other men shifting from side to side nervously. The mayor said something to me and winked but I have less idea now than I did then of what he said. I don’t know how I walked into the grab rail pen. My legs moved independently of my brain. I remember thinking how worthwhile the decorations were because they looked so beautiful. And there it was, such a simple thing really, a single pole of wood spanning the entire width of the pen. Hanging neatly and equidistant (the mayor had done a good job) where the five velvet bags. We looked around at each other, nervous laughter and looks, each of us too frightened to make the first move. Then in unison (and I have spoken to each of the men who were there that day, none of us knew how we timed it like this) we each went and stood in front of the bag that was ours. I can’t tell you how I knew but I knew, second from the left – that bag was mine.

It was over in minutes, it was always over in minutes, but it felt like days stood there holding our bags looking round at each other. For a brief moment the nerves had subsided as we had made our decisions but as soon as we had our bags in hand the nerves kicked in again. Had we chosen wisely? Would we like our brides to be? Outside the pen the mayor directed us all to read aloud the names of our chosen women. I was fourth (as this was the position of the bag – my bag) and my mouth went as dry as a – what? I wasn’t going to say that I was going to say desert, of course I wouldn’t say that in front of the kids. What? Oh, that time, well I was a little inebriated then. Now? No, no, now I’ve only had a couple. Anyway, I’m reaching the climax of our story will you shush!

My mouth went dry, little ones, and my head was swimming as I opened the bag and pulled out that little slip of paper that would change the entire future of my life. I croaked out the name and a gasp erupted from the crown as the prettiest girl I had ever seen made her way to my side. And that, children, is how I met your grandmother.

Saturday

stream of consciousness - chapter four

I don’t know what the others are thinking or even if they are. If I want to I can remember a little. The women died first. I do not know why but this is how it went. The women first followed by the children. I assume because there was no one to look after the children any more. We saw the occasional woman up until five days ago, dragged around by groups of wild crazy eyed men. They’d share her. They shared her in the streets. By the time the women started to go all shame had gone too. All pride all shame, all things that make us human, us poor once beautiful creatures. The women didn’t seem to care that they were shared in public like this. If they could even think anymore I expect their main concern was the torn out teeth and nails that stopped them from tearing the others apart.

I am, you see, pretty unusual in these respects. I didn’t take to the madness and I didn’t die and the men have left me alone. Except for that one time but those that I hold dearest saved me. They saved me with their impassivity. The men expected a struggle I think. They expected me to kick and scream and the men to fight them to stop them taking me away. But I didn’t struggle and they didn’t interfere and the men left me alone.

Sometimes there are still children but anything that made them childlike died alongside their mothers. They are as mad and as dangerous as everyone else now. I don’t know why we are unaffected. No, no, unaffected is the wrong word because disaffection is what we suffer from now. But the madness that has engulfed the others who are living through the end of all things has left us alone. I don’t know if we are the only ones who remain like this. I don’t know if our disaffection is itself a symbol of a madness but as long as I’m not trying to eat my friends and am still sane enough to wear clothes I think disaffection is ok by me.

I think also that it frightens the others; they give us a wide berth. It’s like those people who went to Halloween parties in their day to day claiming themselves as serial killers because “they look just like you and me”. It’s an awful cliché but they might have been on to something. The quietly normal is always more disconcerting than the outright bizarre. I asked one of the lost people many days ago why they left us alone, he was bleeding from his bare chest and his eyes were wide and wild. I asked him why he didn’t come for me like the others and he just screamed and ran away. I would have liked an answer. It would have been nice to know.

I wasn’t the only woman. The girlfriend of one of those I hold dearest was with us until a week ago but she couldn’t hold it together. She was a tall girl; she looked strong with her hair pulled into a fierce ponytail and a face set with determination. We found her by the front door one morning, scratching at the ancient oak with fingers that had most of the once long and manicured nails pulled out. I don’t know if it was the scratching at the door or the scratches she inflicted on her bare arms and legs that made her lose the nails. We tried to talk her round but she never spoke a word after this. Just a low guttural moan that wouldn’t stop and eyes which were red from crying this was all we got from her. We locked her in the small bedroom for a day but the wailing was too much for our nerves. The one I hold dear who loved her took her out early the following morning. He led her down the stairs and into the car. He came back an hour later without her. His eyes looked sore but we didn’t say anything. What can you say? All of us have suffered a loss, we know how acute the pain is at first. I was glad for the quiet though. I hope he killed her. For her sake you understand.
I worry this makes me a bad person.
I mopped up the blood at the foot of the stairs.
I fear the lost ones can smell it.

Thursday

straight off the bus

It was a summery sort of day and the sun hung high in the sky all big and bright and yellow. The sky was nice too; it was blue like it only ever seems to be in movies. It was a perfect day. The windows on the bus were all open which was good because it let in a breeze. I am pretty sure it would have been really hot without that breeze and I liked the way it ruffled my hair. The bus was only about half full which was fine because it had my favourite people on it and for this perfect day as far as I was concerned that which made me happy was all that mattered. Eight of us, plus the driver, plus Jim and Annie, that makes eleven. Eleven people on the bus. I count it out with my fingers, tap one, tap two, tap three to eleven and then when I am done I do it again. I like to count, tap one, tap two, tap three and so on. Annie sees me counting and makes a little frown so I hide my hands beneath my bag and tap a little softer. I smile to Annie and Annie smiles back. I like it better when she smiles than when she frowns.

Secretly under my bag I keep counting to eleven but it starts to upset me as eleven really isn’t a good number. The more I think about it the more upset I get. Nothing divides into eleven, ten would be better because there is a zero. It is a good round nice number. Twelve would be ok too, two sixes or three fours or four threes even. What good is eleven? Eleven is no good that’s what. My head starts to hurt and I am breathing really fast I’m making little noises and all the time counting to eleven because I can’t stop even though I want to. Eleven is a bad number to count to.

I shout when Annie comes and puts her hand on my shoulder. I don’t shout a word because of all the elevens in my head it’s more like a noise, a noise like an animal would make, this upsets me enough to make me cry. Annie tells me to shush now and I sob incomprehensibly as I try to explain about the elevens. My crying starts to make one or two of my friends get upset too. Annie keeps telling me to shush and she takes both of my hands and I can’t count anymore. I see her nod to Jim and Jim starts searching inside one of the bags and I think I know what he is looking for so I try to calm down. Not counting stops the elevens which makes it a lot easier. I explain to Annie about the elevens and she says I should try to count something else. I told her my scarf that I was knitting was exactly eighty stitches across and was in my bag so maybe I would do that for a while. Jim leaves his bag alone now I have calmed down and I pick up the knitting and start but it’s no good. I am still counting elevens and I know my scarf will be ruined.

There is Georgie, she is number one and she had had her hair plaited for today. It looks a little tight and Georgie looks a little tired. Susan is number two, I upset Susan with my crying and Annie is consoling her now. Susan always wears a yellow and white checked pinafore I don’t know why. Bridgette is number three and she has very thick glasses on because her eyesight is very poor. Bridgette, who is number three, likes to read even though they have told her it makes her eyes worse. Bridgette is reading a very old copy of Wuthering Heights that her mother gave her. It is her favourite. Grace is number four and wears a new scarf around her head, it is orange and brown and silk and suits her very much. Grace has darker skin than the rest of us and once told me that autumn colours look best on her. Caroline is number five and you must never shorten her name. She doesn’t like it very much and starts to shout very loudly. Otherwise she is very nice. Joanne is number six and has a very interesting accent. I’m sure it is Spanish but she won’t tell anyone where she is from. Joanne has crazy black hair which she loves very much. Joanne’s biggest fear is that she will get Cancer and lose her hair; it keeps her up some nights. Number seven is Marie and Marie is not her real name her real name is Gertrude. Marie is her middle name but she is right to keep Marie. I think Gertrude is a terribly ugly name and Marie isn’t ugly enough to be a Gertrude.

Number eight is me and I am knitting elevens.

Number nine is Annie and I do like Annie even when she is stern sometimes. I know Annie is only ever stern because she has to be. I even like her although I think she is probably a lesbian and a very plain one at that. Number ten is Jim and Jim is very nice too. Half of the girls fancy him but I don’t very much. His hair is too greasy and I think his eyes are a little close together, plus, one opens a little bit less than the other and sometimes this upsets me. But Jim is very funny and very gentle. Everyone likes Jim and I think half the girls fancy him more because he is a nice person than anything.

Number eleven is the bus driver and I don’t know him but I hate him. It’s not personal really, he’s number eleven and the elevens are making my head hurt which isn’t fair because this was supposed to be a perfect day. Number eleven is the bus driver and he doesn’t have any hair, his scalp is shiny and his eyebrows are long. Number eleven is the bus driver and his blue shirt sleeves are rolled up and he has vulgar tattoos on his arms. Number eleven is the bus driver and I really, really, hate him.

There was supposed to be twenty. Annie and Jim, the bus driver, us eight and nine others but the other nine were bad and they lost all their rights. The other nine are always bad and if they had come with us they would have surely made trouble anyway. Maybe it would have been ok though because then there would be twenty and I can tap out five fours on my fingers very nicely indeed. The others aren’t going to ruin my day but the elevens might. My scarf has narrowed out now because I am knitting elevens.

We arrive at the farm park and the bus stops under the biggest tree I have ever seen. I ask Annie what type of tree it is and she tells me it is an oak. I tell her it must be at least a hundred and Annie laughs. It’s ok though because I don’t think she is laughing at me. We all get off the bus and Jim and Annie split us into two groups of four. I could tap out twos and fours but my head is full of elevens. We are them paired off and made to hold hands. In my group is Number two Susan who is holding hands with Number seven Marie. Then there is me, Number eight, and I am holding hands with Number four who is Grace. We are to go with Jim today. Jim buys us some special feed for the little animals and we laugh as their rough tongues tickle our hands. We then go to see the owls which I love. I like the feathers and I like the way their heads turn. Grace doesn’t like the owls so much but she hardly complains. I doubt the other group will get to come see the owls as Joanne is fiercely afraid of feathers. The owls nearly make me forget the elevens.

Lunchtime arrives faster than you would believe and we go to a pretty picnic area to have the lunches that we were allowed to make ourselves. I find my lunch box in my bag but my bottle of apple and blackcurrant squash isn’t there. I empty my bag, then put everything back in, then empty it again but it still isn’t there. Annie comes over to ask me if everything is ok and I tell her my squash is gone from my bag. I am a little upset about this. Annie tells me I probably left it on the bus. She points behind the picnic tables to the big tree where the bus is and says I can go look for it as long as I stay in sight.

This is important.
It shows she trusts me.

I gather up my big cloth bag and run over to the bus but as I am about to get on the loathsome horrible bus driver steps out. He grins at me and I see one of his teeth is gold and he offers me one of the cigarettes he has in his vile sweaty hand. I look down and shake my head and try to push past him to get on the bus. He laughs and I think he’s laughing at me so I run up the bus steps to my seat. My bottle is there and I hold it tightly while I try to breathe but the eleven is in my head and I’m breathing faster. I hold my bottle and look out the bus windows I can see the number eleven I can see the bus driver sat on the steps smoking his repulsive cigarette. I drop my bottle and the elevens threaten to come bursting out of my ears. Tap one, tap two, tap three.. I try to remember what Annie said about calming down and put my hands in my bag.

I am not really surprised at what I pull out.
Annie will be mad.

When my breathing is normal again I look to see if number eleven is still chimney stacking his gold tooth tinged smoke. He is and the white billows over his shiny head but he is nearly finished so I can get off the bus. I move down to the front with my hands in my bag and shuffle about until he is ready to move and let me by. His gold grin as I step past and the smell of nicotine and sweat don’t bother me as much as they usually would. Number eleven nods his head a little as I move past him and he turns to get back on the bus. I pull my knitting needle straight out the bag and push it hard into his temple. It sticks out like a strange horn. I used to be a doctor once I know where it needs to go. Number eleven looks surprised but he doesn’t have a lot of time to figure out what happened. Number eleven shudders as he falls down and he coughs up a bit of blood. Number eleven stops breathing. I can hear Annie and Jim shouting and running and that’s ok. Ten is a much nicer number than eleven. Tap one, tap two, tap three….