Chapter Thirty-Three

The safest place to hide, I decide as I sprint, is somewhere I know the soldiers have already been. I double back on myself and head down the road which runs parallel with Calder Grove before cutting across a couple more streets and finally reaching Marsh Way. This is the area where I saw the soldiers patrolling when I watched from the top-floor window this morning.

The road is empty. There's no sign of the military presence I saw here earlier. I stand in the shadows under a tree at the end of the street and look up and down. There's no sign of any kind of presence at all. Everything is completely still. Nothing's moving here now. Nothing except me.

I notice that the front door of one of the houses on the other side of the road has just opened slightly. I run towards it and push my way inside. I meet the owner of the house dragging a bag of rubbish down the hall, about to throw it out. He looks up and I know immediately that he's not like me. I have to kill him.

'Who the hell are you...?' he starts to say. I throw myself at him, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and pushing him further back into the house. I keep moving, feeling strong and in control but not knowing where I'm going or what I'm doing. We trip into a filthy kitchen and I slam him against a wall cupboard. His body rocks back with the impact. He struggles and tries to fight me off but I know I can kill him. I have strength, speed and surprise on my side. I put my hand over his face, grip tight and smash his head back against the cupboard door. He's still fighting. I pull his head forward and smash it back again, harder this time. And again. Once more and still harder, so hard now that I feel something crack - not sure if it's the door or his skull. Again and he stops fighting. Again and he slumps down. Again and it's done.

I drag the body across the floor and leave it lying out of the way in the corner of the kitchen. Then I close and lock the door and finally stop to catch my breath and plan my next move.

I've never felt like this before. Part of me still feels devastated and empty because of what's happened to me today. Part of me suddenly feels stronger and more alive than I ever have before. The way I killed the owner of this house was so out of character and yet it felt right and it felt good. I feel like I could take on a hundred thousand of them if I have to.

I am a Hater.

Sat here in one of the bedrooms of this untidy and squalid little house I've finally managed to fully accept that I am a Hater. The title seems so wrong now but I can understand why it was originally given. To those on the outside - those who haven't felt what I'm feeling now - our actions could easily be misinterpreted as being driven by hate. But they're not. Everything I have done today has been in self-defence. I have killed to prevent myself from being killed. Those people, those 'normal' people, are the ones who create the hate. I can't explain it. I can see it in their eyes and I can almost taste it in the air around them. It's like a sixth sense, an instinct. I sensed it coming off Harry and that was why I killed him. It was the same with the man downstairs and it'll be the same with the next one I meet. I'll keep going and I'll keep killing for as long as I have to.

And now I finally begin to see where this is going. At last I'm starting to understand why this whole crisis has seemed so endless and directionless from the outset. It's us against them. There's not going to be a drawn match or a ceasefire or any political negotiations to resolve this. There won't be an end to this fighting until one side has prevailed and the enemy lies dead at their feet.

It's kill or be killed.

Hate or be hated.

The light is beginning to fade and I'm ready to move. I've waited until now hoping I'll gain a little cover and protection from the darkness. I take some food from the kitchen (there's hardly anything worth salvaging) and am ready to head back out into the open.

In the short time I've spent in this house my mood and emotions have been swinging and changing constantly. Half of me feels excited and alive because of what I have become. Part of me feels free and unrestrained for the first time in as long as I can remember and I'm relieved to have finally walked away from the parts of my life I detested. I feel physically strong, determined and full of energy and yet all of this counts for nothing in the moments that I find myself thinking about the past. Lizzie and I would have been together for ten years next year. We've brought our children up together and, although we've had our moments, we've always been close. All of that has gone now and it hurts. I may be a Hater, but I still feel pain. I wish that Liz, Edward and Josh could have changed too. I have to stop thinking about them. I'm struggling to make sense of my emotions. I still love them but at the same time I know that if I had to I'd kill them in an instant.

As I walk through the house something catches my eye.

In the living room, on a small round table next to a dirty, threadbare and obviously well-used armchair, is a booklet. A government-produced booklet. It looks clean and new and yet it's strangely familiar. I pick it up and start to leaf through its pages. I remember receiving something similar through the door a few months back when there was some terrorist threat or other. The booklet is pretty generic, telling the public what action to take in the event of an emergency. It covers bomb threats and natural disasters, that kind of thing. It tells people to stay in their homes and tune in to the radio or TV for updates. It's also got information about administering basic first aid, what supplies to maintain and emergency contact details. At the back are several pages full of propaganda and rubbish - how the country is prepared for all eventualities and how the emergency services will spring into action at the drop of a hat, that kind of garbage. There are some loose pages that have been added to the guide, and when I look at them I realise that this booklet was most probably given to the owner of this house by the military after their visit / inspection / clean-up operation today. The absence of any real facts is unsurprising and it immediately smells like more political bullshit. Still, it's interesting to read what they're finally telling the rest of the population about people like me.

The pages talk about what's happened to us as being an illness. It implies that this is some kind of infection or disease that causes a form of dementia but it skirts around the issue and doesn't use such direct language or present any hard facts. It says that a small proportion of the population - they suggest no more than one in a hundred people - are susceptible to 'the condition'. It talks about symptoms, saying that people who are affected will become delirious and will, at random, attack people violently and irrationally. Fucking idiots. There's nothing random or irrational about what I've done today.

What bothers me most of all is what I read on the final extra page. The booklet explains how affected people are being rounded up and taken away and 'treated'. It doesn't take a genius to work out that's the reason for the trucks and the soldiers working their way through town. So what does this so-called treatment involve? From what I've seen it's limited to a bullet in the back of the head.

I'm wasting my time. I don't want to read any more. I shove the booklet into my bag and, after checking the street outside is empty, I leave the house and its dead owner behind. I'll make my way across town to Liz's sister's house and bring Ellis home.

I feel strong. Superior to all of the people who haven't changed. I'm glad that I'm the one in a hundred. I'd rather be like this than like them.

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