Living in a Small-Town World

The train arrived on time, depositing me on the station platform at just the right time. British Rail could keep to some timescales then.

I was here, right where I intended to be. I hadn’t been in my home town in two years … and it was just the same as I remember. The street that led to the station was a familiar one; I used to commute to work, so walked this route five days a week. Looking at it again now, memories flooded back. In just a few minutes, when the clocks struck midnight, the new day would be an important anniversary. It would be two years to the day that my family died.

I was at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. A few other passengers emerged from the train station at the top of the hill, with three options to turn – straight ahead, left or right.

But not backwards, I thought. I don’t like going back.

My mother, father, sister, and two brothers, had all died in front of me, two years ago. It had changed my life forever.

I began walking, almost on auto-pilot. A memory came back to me in that moment, a meeting I’d had with a counsellor. I hadn’t wanted to see her, but after so much death, I had been made to go.

“You’re never the same after so much death,” she had said, “especially if it’s people you care for. You can never feel truly safe again.”

Before long, I was walking through the high street, taking in the sights that were so familiar to me and yet so alien now as well.

I’ve only been gone two years! I raged. Things shouldn’t have changed so much.

Posters and banners for a brand new food festival were everywhere, and I counted a dozen shops that had changed their names, colours, or both.

My hands clenched in frustration as I continued walking. I wasn’t sure why I felt so annoyed at all the changes, but I was; despite promising I’d never look back, now that I was, I was seething that things were so different.

In the distance, I saw the park where I’d had my first kiss, when I was 13 – They’ve only gone and changed the bloody swings – and just up ahead was the fish and chip shop where my dad and I had gone every Saturday to collect dinner.

I stopped in my tracks, as my eyes fell on a point in the middle of the road. Despite the darkness, I could see where part of the tarmac had been painted over, leaving it darker than the rest.

They had to, I thought, to get rid of the blood.

I hadn’t been any more than eight years old, and I’d been out with my dad. A dog – A Labrador cross – had broken off its lead and tried to run across the road. He’d swerved the first car, but wasn’t agile enough to evade the second. Everything seemed to slow down as I watched the dog fly a few feet down the road and land hard on the tarmac. I remember looking at the corpse with a certain amount of clinical detachment. There were other kids on the pavement, and they were all screaming and sobbing. I could never work out why they were all so horrified.

I was fascinated. The blood and weird angles of the dog’s body didn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t know it was meant to bother me; I was just fascinated that a creature’s life could end in a heartbeat, over something that wasn’t its fault.

It was then I realised something. My dad hadn’t covered my eyes like the other parents had covered their children’s eyes. I look up at him and saw the fascination in his eyes that I’d felt in mine. He realised I was watching, and looked away from the scene in front of him.

I felt suddenly angry. Why are you pretending? I wanted to ask him. What’s wrong with feeling like this? Surely it’s not wrong to be fascinated by death?

I realised the truth; the rest of our family was different. My father and I were the only two who felt this way – fascinated by death – and my father had been beaten down over the years.

I won’t let that happen to me, I thought. I want to understand this.

I wasn’t found out until I was 17. My dad discovered my stash, hidden in the alleyway behind our house. He never went there; he’d always said he thought it was disgusting, with all its filth and bugs. But I think he’d been forbidden to go down there by my mother, to make sure he didn’t feel any temptation. I liked it. It was private and quiet, perfect for my experiments to test the limits of pain.

One day, however, he came searching for me and found me in the alley, experimenting on a neighbour’s cat that I had been able to trap two days before. It was alive, and I was so absorbed that it wasn’t until I’d heard my father’s cry did I even realise I was no longer alone.

He went crazy. Not angry crazy, but proper crazy. Actually mental. It was as if the sight of what I was doing, giving into my base nature, was offensive to him. He was jealous, I realised later. He was jealous that I was able to do what he’d never been allowed to.

Before I could react, he turned away and stormed back through our back gate into the garden. I was surprised. Had I actually got away with it? Surely it wasn’t that easy? I abandoned my experiment and followed my father into the back garden. He was stood on the grass, not moving – except for his hands, which were closing into fists and then opening again – and looking at my mother, who was visible through the kitchen window as she prepared the dinner.

He must have been stood there for two or three minutes. I didn’t move a muscle. I wanted to see what he was going to do next – and see whether his dark desires or some vestige of his conscience would win out. His desires won.

Yes, I could have stopped him. But I didn’t. It was just another experiment. I had always wanted to experiment on humans, but never had the nerve, so this was the perfect opportunity to observe humanity in all its glory.

There was blood – lots of blood. I have never felt more proud of my father than at that moment. He had finally given into his passions and torn into fellow human beings, and done it with passion.

And to his own family, I thought. That’s what I call dedication.

But I knew, even when I watched my father rip apart our family, that he wouldn’t be able to live. He had suppressed his own desires for far too long, and now he was beyond any form of control. He had lost his composure and any desire to perform studies; he just wanted to savage humanity. So I killed him.

The memory that paperweight slamming down on his head, just after he killed my little sister, will stay with me forever. It was the day I was finally set free. I was liberated by what he had done. He had freed me from any lingering family ties, and the distrusting glances I caught from them every now and then, as if they suspected – but couldn’t prove – the sort of person I was.

It was believed that my father killed himself, when the police investigators arrived, after he had killed everyone except me. I did nothing to correct their impression. I’m not stupid.

I didn’t go to the funeral. What would be the point? My siblings were strangers to me, my mother didn’t understand me and my father had suppressed his true nature. I had nothing to stay for. So I left – and the next two years were … eventful, to say the least.

But now I was back, to where it had all begun, and the memories had come flooding back. I had travelled a lot, seen so much – and experimented and killed mercilessly, because I was a rare breed of person that was free enough to do that.

Overall, I’m glad I’ve come back. I understand now. It’s fine to be like this. It’s okay to be like this, and I’m ready to go to the next level. It’s time to feast.

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