(continued from Amelia)
When Amelia had been fourteen, Mr Davies had somehow persuaded the-powers-that-be that it would be a good idea to take class 4b to an abattoir.
He’d been a raging vegetarian and had no qualms exposing the children to the blood-splattered, gore-daubed rooms where pigs were routinely bound – squealing madly, eyes wild with terror, only to be silenced forever by the quick stroke of a sharp knife.
Amelia had not been able to sleep for days afterwards and had not eaten sausages or bacon since.
The silence as she opened her eyes in that sunny living room where her babies had been gurgling happily a few seconds before had the same smell – so thick with the tang of metal that she could almost taste it.
Eyes darting madly from wall to ceiling to floor she saw the same patterns as when she had been fourteen. Raising her hands before her, she saw the same colours. Her arms. Her legs. Her clothes. All smeared and splattered with blood.
And the knife in her hand was darkly crusted with gore.
She flung it from her as if it were on fire and tried to stand, to haul herself bodily from the chair; but her foot caught on something and she slipped back. Horror struck she tried again, kicking the object aside so that she could get purchase.
As she saw the mangled little forms lying so silently at her feet, she began to scream, clutching at her hair desperately. And then everything went from red to black.
Amelia jerked as she woke, mind still immersed in blood and fear. The sun was in her eyes and she could see nothing at first. But then she heard them.
Her children. Her babies were crying. Screaming for her attention – maybe hungry, maybe needing to be changed, maybe even frightened by the wild look in their mother’s eyes.
Amelia pulled herself from the chair in a single motion and fell to her knees before them. Thanking God or soothing their hearts – it didn’t matter which. Her heart was full of joy.
Later that afternoon, Amelia lifted her babies from the cot one by one and gave them the freedom of the floor. She relaxed back into the armchair. Muhammad would be home in a few minutes and after a day like that, she was looking forward to his touch.
She closed her eyes briefly as the warm smell of cooked food mingled with the sound of children burbling contentedly at her feet. Her eyes remained closed – just for a moment. A single heartbeat.
When Muhammad arrived home thirteen minutes later, Amelia was still in the armchair. She turned towards him as he entered the room. She smiled as she saw his nostrils twitch at the heavy scent in the air, his eyes widen at the red splashes on the walls and floor, his mouth open wide in anguish at the tiny forms lying so still at his wife’s feet.
Amelia pulled herself to her feet as he took a step towards her, putting down the knife as she did so.
“Don’t worry, my love – I’ll be awake in a moment. It’ll be alright – you’ll see.”