The tall boy held the small boy’s tiny hand as they watched the distant estate burn from atop the hill crest, flames licking the night sky like a dozen incandescent tongues.
“Don’t worry,” the tall one said. “You’re never going back. I promise.”
He gripped the child’s hand gently, taking care to avoid the bruises and welts on his palm, which continued up his arm and onto his little body.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, holding back tears as he hugged the sobbing boy. “I’m so sorry I let Mum and Dad do that to you. It won’t happen again.”
“—the house. We try again tomorrow.”
Cyril Therren sat up in his bed and rubbed his tired eyes after hearing the broken, fragmented sentence in his head. A voice. Female. Unfamiliar. Must have been his imagination. A dream, maybe.
The bedroom slowly started to appear into focus. The open bathroom door, the family photos on the wall, the dark purple bedsheets and locked clothes cabinet opposite. Cyril yawned, his long sleep having done little to ease his fatigue, and stood. His toes touched the thick, woolly carpet, a pleasant feeling which helped his dulled senses kick back into gear. Cyril reached behind him onto his bedside table and felt along the top for his glasses. He found them and put them on over his wrinkled, dark brown eyes.
A shower would be nice. Later. Coffee was the only thing on Cyril’s mind right now. Nothing else mattered.
Lisa must already be up. Cyril could hear the kettle from here, rattling and hissing in the kitchen downstairs. It sounded like an alarm clock rattling around in his head.
Liam Terrance was very mature for a boy of six years old, so he had been told. His parents brought him up well, despite their less than usual professions. Clive and Evelyn Terrance were widely known in many circles as some of, if not the best people to talk to when it came to high-tech weapons and security systems. The couple’s ground-breaking work had kept their family in the black for close to twenty years now, as well as providing thousands of jobs around the world and ensuring their employees and their families lived their lives in safety and security.
The Terrance family home was a regal, eye-catching three storey building which rested upon the crest of a large mountainous estate. A twisting brick driveway led up to the property through the rough terrain, where it ended at an undercover parking area where no less than three cars sat parked at any given time. Two for work, one for everyday use. Top of the line was an understatement. You couldn’t just walk into any old dealership and buy these specific cars. They had been specially made to Clive and Evelyn’s stringent specifications, with all three containing dozens of features and mechanisms which wouldn’t make their way to general consumer vehicles for many years.
Despite his parents’ unprecedented fame and success in military and security cliques, young Liam remained more or less oblivious to the exact details of their jobs. All he knew was they had a lot of money and were respected by a lot of people for the work they did. He also knew what they did kept bad people from doing bad things to good people. For that, he loved them unconditionally. He didn’t like bad people very much, or bad things. Neither did Clive or Evelyn.
They had talked with Liam about their work once, and only once. He remembered it well. It would stick with the boy for the rest of his life.
This short story was originally written for my 2015 horror anthology, Random Number Hotline, but I scrapped it in favor of another story.
My legs shook as I stood before the front porch of the Carner family house. I still questioned my reasons for volunteering for this grisly mission in the first place. Perhaps I felt obliged to undertake the task because of my past with the family. I knew them better than anyone else in town ever did.
Maybe it was because nobody else on my street were exactly keen on volunteering to murder a family of four. It was understandable. There was something terrible happening. Some kind of disease, or virus, or…something. Nobody knew for sure what it was exactly, or where it had come from, but from what we had heard about it on the news before the stations went down, we were all living on borrowed time.
It hadn’t arrived in our town yet, as far as we knew. We had an agreement, those who hadn’t decided to run for the airports, harbors or bus depots. There was no point in running. Where would we go? So we stayed here, and tried to hold down the fort and survive for as long as we could. If anyone showed any signs of the sickness, we were to put them down, right then and there without hesitation. Since there was a lack of firearms and people trained in their use left in town, we had to find alternatives.