What will you be doing Monday evening?

Watching TV? Chatting on your mobile? Or trying to save your daughter’s life?

If you even believe in aliens where would you expect the greatest danger to arise if they landed on earth? I wonder if your expectation or imagination would be closer to the truth than mine was.

I choose to begin my story at the place where my daughter and I found our refuge. When we arrived here the streets were ominously, silently occupied by small, disparate groups. In that heavy atmosphere the people who’d arrived with us began seeking shelter from the teeming rain. Men pushed their families to the front, banging on doors and requesting shelter. By the time we could even try that those ahead of us were being turned away.

I pulled Evie to one side and with a guiding arm moved her away from the others, checking we were not being followed. ‘Let’s try the side streets.’

‘There could be gangs,’ she stammered. ‘Or even some of them.’

I glanced around at the growing mood of frustration, and excitement. ‘We can’t stay here. We should get moving before everyone else decides to do the same.’

My reasoning was self-evident so Evie allowed me to steer her down a dark alley, past some houses with lamplight in the windows and on to a road with fewer pedestrians than the high street.

The first house we studied had the shadows of people moving inside with a few more amongst trees and shrubs in the garden. They could be anyone so we moved on to the next place. There we had the door slammed in our faces. For us it was fifth time lucky. And not a moment too soon. We seemed to have attracted the attention of three teenage boys kicking at puddles, thrashing branches they’d torn from trees, whooping and punching at each other.

I hurried Evie into the open door and cried out with relief to see the solid Yale lock fall into place as I closed the door softly, avoiding taking the boys’ attention off one another. I then dragged Evie around the ground floor with me, fearful of having crashed into somebody else’s place as well as of anyone getting in through windows or a back door.

Once we had all windows and doors locked upstairs as well as down and in doing so established we were the only occupants, Evie and I stood huddled together and dripping wet in the spacious lobby. I thanked the Lord we’d found no bodies in the house, shamelessly burying the knowledge that at least one had been taken away on a flatback vehicle by the ghouls in their red uniforms.

The evening light was fading and through teeth chattering from fear as much as the cold we discussed whether or not we’d dare turn even one lamp on.

The moment of near relief was shattered by a bang on the door that had both of us jumping and stifling squeals as our hearts pounded and stomachs turned.

‘Don’t let anyone in,’ Evie hissed in my ear, as feral and self-protective as those who’d driven us away from their sanctuaries.

Picturing a vulnerable mother and child on the other side I was about to give a person a chance when more banging and clamouring all around the outside of the house started abruptly, terrifying us. I somehow stopped my taut nerves from snapping whilst assuring Evie they couldn’t get in here.

‘What if they break the windows?’ she breathed.

‘No. This double-glazing is like Grandma’s. They can’t break it. They’ll move on.’

‘It’s those boys.’

Yes it was. I recognised the voices. My mind sped through our arrival, noting every window and door had been properly locked.

What I didn’t think of was to check the loft. That is, I saw the hatch to the loft and assumed it was the same as my mother’s simply because there were similarities between the two houses. Stupid! Because that’s how they eventually got in.

It had gone quiet outside and we were clinging less tightly together. I was saying, ‘I think they’ve gone,’ when we heard a thud on the landing above us. That was followed by creaking floorboards.

My mind as well as my reflexes, had grown diamond-sharp. I grabbed Evie’s hand, dragging her to the front door. Above all we could not allow ourselves to get trapped in there.

Fumbling with the handle and the lock did not prevent me wrenching the door open in seconds. Neither did we stop dead at the sight of one of the kids standing there, in our faces.

I tugged at Evie, preparing to push past the boy, but he punched me. My hands flew to my face where blood was spurting from my noise and stars flashed before the pain registered. I was shocked rigid by that casual violence.

I was horrified anew to realise there was a boy inside pulling Evie back into the house. The one who’d hit me pushed me in after them before I could think of calling for help. The two of them thumped, kicked, shoved and dragged us across to the kitchen where the third was calling to them.

I always thought I’d fight back. Previous to this I’d have expected to defend my daughter with everything I had by drawing on the supernatural strength all mothers are known to possess. But I could hardly move. I had my hand clamped over my exploding nose and the other around Evie and all I could see was dim shadows.

It was my daughter who led me to a side wall, away from the cupboards and fridge the boys were raiding. I guessed they hadn’t eaten since they’d joined a convoy just like the one that brought us here.

I croaked towards their blurred forms, ‘You only had to ask. I’d have given you food.’

The one I came to know was called Ali.B sprayed crisps, ‘Do I look like a fucking beggar?’

‘We can’t turn on each…’

He kicked me in the head.

I was shocked rigid. I hadn’t been struck since a girl at school slapped me for talking to a boy she liked when we were seven.

I didn’t pass out completely but instead drifted. Evie helped me to lower to the floor. We shuffled on our rumps until we could lean on the wall. When I began to rally a little I tried to speak as calmly as I could muster to what after all were only boys, little older than my daughter.

The voice I actually produced was broken and nasal, ‘You have what you want. We’ll leave.’

I think they heard me well enough but there was no reaction because the one they called D.Mac had discovered a bottle of champagne in the fridge. He had no idea of the value of it other than it was something he’d never have had access to in his old life.

As he struggled with the wire and the cork he mumbled what I think was a response to my offer, ‘Don’t be fucking stupid. We’re gonna party.’

He choked on the champagne he tried drinking straight from the bottle and was too slow to prevent the third one, Jo.Ro grabbing the bottle and snapping, ‘Prat!’ as he poured a large helping into a beer glass.

The other two thought that was hilarious.

Evie felt to know more about boys than I did. If I’d known what she was about to say I’d have found a way of keeping her silent.

‘I’ll party with you.’

They laughed at her.

‘I know what you want. I’ll do it as long as you let my Mum go.’

‘Idiot,’ Jo.Ro growled as he swigged the sparkling wine.

D.Mac chuckled as he enjoyed her shock when he explained what I already had figured out. ‘The whole point of a party is that we bugger you against your will.’

‘Every which way,’ D.Mac added, drooling wine.

Ali.B was distracted though. He’d discovered the freezer. ‘Hey! Chips!’

It was getting dark. Jo.Ro tried the lights.

‘No oven, dope,’ he drawled as he strolled over to us, pushed his hand into my little girl’s damp and clinging blouse and squeezed her small breast viciously. She screamed in pain and humiliation while I shouted at him to leave her alone. The boy ripped his hand away to slap each of us across the face, silencing and stilling us.

Thankfully, they lost interest in the ‘party’ when they began poking around the room firstly getting excited by the wads of twenty pound notes tucked into a dresser drawer and then by other valuables. At Jo.Ro’s instruction they began assembling their stash on the neat little dining table.

With their attention off us I lost a little of the helpless dread. A particularly appropriate phrase entered my head: I felt ‘spaced out’ rather than scared. Like I had at the beginning.

On that day my eight year-old son Jimmy was still, as usual, in bed eating his breakfast while the three of us had ours at the kitchen table. One of us always took breakfast to him, to give him time to come round. To conserve his energy for washing and dressing. Though his cerebral palsy was mild it was tiring and could be very painful.

I felt my body jerk at the next recollection: an echo of what was happening in this stranger’s house. Except these were ordinary, if violent, boys. There’d been nothing ordinary about the intruders at our country smallholding.

At first it seemed like a joke. A university students’ or Young Farmers’ prank. The two of them sauntered through our open doorway as though they owned the place. They wore scarlet, skin-tight jumpsuits, had golden tans with a faint sheen to the skin like girls out on the town apply, no hair and striking green eyes: an effect I thought they’d achieved with contact lenses. The male had an orange stud in his forehead. I was momentarily drawn to trying to understand how that could possibly have been fixed in because it was embedded, not simply stuck on. In any case, my mind soon shifted back to the immediate issue.

Both of them held what appeared to be weapons. Each held in their right hand a rod that had some kind of business end. In the left they held something resembling a plastic rifle.

No doubt I gaped in stupefaction. I heard Evie laugh.

Eventually Morgan said, ‘Yes?’

Evie’s glittering eyes slid across to her father with a high level of respect for coolness. I’m fairly sure I gasped. I don’t know what I’d expected of him but something more like , ‘Push off!’ or ‘You’re trespassing!’ would have been more appropriate. At that stage.

Their reaction was to exchange remarks in a foreign language and peculiar voices. I was trying to think what their cause might be as I peered around for cameras or a mate with an iPhone.

It was when they both held up the rods for our inspection that I exchanged suspicious glances with my husband. There was a definite threat of some kind that neither of us could define. We had never suffered a race hate crime but we had discussed the possibility. Morgan’s loved, familiar, dark face told me to play along. He knew I’d want to thump them if that was their game.

That’s when Ziggy bounded in, barking and growling like he had rabies. He didn’t hesitate over the alien confrontation but leapt, snarling at the woman gesticulating instructions, clearly wanting us to stand. It was then that we discovered the purpose of what turned out to be high-tech rods. The man stepped to the side, poked our dog with the end of it and the poor thing fell soundlessly to the floor. I couldn’t see him breathing.

Evie and I made to move. To go to Ziggy. But Morgan clamped a hand on each of us. I literally felt a shiver down my spine when I saw fear in my husband’s eyes.

As I was in the process of recalling that woman peeling off to search my home I became aware of movement around me, in this stranger’s house. I watched from a bent head, through clouded eyes, as the lads came to the end of trying out foods they’d never had before. They’d left cartons, plates, wasted food, spilt drinks and so on, all over the work tops, around the sink and on the hob. They were laughing, play punching and cheering when another one found something they thought could be worth money.

I released a tiny bit more of the tension as they left the room one at a time, and returned with more valuables. That reminded me of the red-clad woman’s search of my home. I could hear her movements followed by scuffling, and Jimmy’s voice. Possibly because my son didn’t sound scared I swallowed the impulse to call reassurance to him and instead followed Morgan’s urging to obey the man. We shuffled towards the door, all, I guess, trying to think of a way out of this.

He was ready for any possible resistance. He was behind Morgan before we hardly had our footing, holding the rod close to my husband’s back. There was no misreading the threat in that golden face, nor in Morgan’s question for me: should he try fighting? I gave a light shake of my head. I could think of a dozen awful results of that in an instant.

As we were leaving the house I could hear my vulnerable son protesting about the speed at which he was being forced down the stairs.

We were lined up on our front parking area when the woman brought Jimmy out and pulled him towards the man. Naturally we all moved to help him as he did the awkward hopping that stopped him tumbling over. And again we stopped when the stranger prodded Morgan and myself with the rod.

Jimmy was more indignant than afraid when the man began running his hand down my boy’s bad leg, took a long look at his floppy foot and then, not roughly, lifted his face to examine slack lips and escaping saliva. Jimmy’s speech wasn’t clear to strangers but I understood what he said: Bog off! Creep! Morgan expressed the same sentiment in far more colourful language, while I begged.

It happened in less than a second. The end of the rod touched Jimmy’s side, sending him down to the gravel. This time it was all three of us holding one another back but with otherwise different reactions. I screamed for my son to hear me and respond, Evie howled in fear and Morgan bellowed threats. As I cried out my horror I searched in vain, eyes only, seeing no sign of breathing. Just as it had been with Ziggy.

The tears that began then and were never far away had begun trickling down my cheeks.

Jo.Ro was congratulating D.Mac for the pile of silver candlesticks when he noticed my emotion.

‘Aw, don’t cry. We’ll get around to you. There’s hours of fun to come.’

D.Mac guffawed appreciation of the outstanding wit as he went about his business.

I could still see my son’s body on the stony ground in the early morning sunlight. Morgan recovered some kind of control first but the steps that were intended to take him over to our son were diverted. The man grabbed my husband by the shoulder, at the same time jabbing the rod in his back and shoved him towards the driveway. The woman indicated, again with the sparse incomprehensible speech and threats with the rod, that Evie and I must follow. Morgan and I resisted in our own ways until the woman got our attention. She had hold of Evie, who was crying bitterly, and held the rock to her neck.

It was obvious they could cope more easily getting only the two of us down our mud track. So what could we do? What could we do? We left our darling son without a farewell in order to save the life of our daughter. And I for one was too deep in grief to even hate them.

That unfamiliar fear of ignorance and pain growing afresh within me, along with a faint realisation of what was going on in this dead person’s home brought me back to the present. The daughter we’d kept alive was being threatened all over again.

They were sitting at the table, taking a break from the strenuous activity of sorting through their loot by discussing lewd teenage plans of what they could do to us.

Jo.Ro finished that prediction looking directly into my eyes, saying, ‘We’ll stay here til it’s over.’

He had no concept of the scale of this invasion. ‘Over!’

He grinned at me. ‘Yeh. No one’s going to care what we do in here before the army comes. By then you won’t be in any state to tell them fuck all.’

As they laughed at the perceived ‘clever’ one’s tone and promise, he motioned for them to carry on sorting. He decided they should only take the small, expensive things they could carry and they were all straining the limits of their knowledge to understand the value of the many rare items. They were also fighting greed. One or two of the most precious things were very large and heavy.

The story from the morning drifted back. At the bottom of our dirt driveway we found the Threff’s tractor and trailer waiting on the road. Bill was in the driver’s seat while Ann perched on the trailer with Sandy and Pat, a young couple they’d been allowing to camp on the old meadow. Another red-clad stranger stood in the passenger footwell, threatening Bill with his rod, while a fourth stood in the road at the rear of the trailer pointing the rifle-shaped weapon at the passengers. It didn’t look quite so plasticky then.

Gestured orders from our attackers had us climbing up to the trailer. I looked away from Ann miserably when I realised she wanted to know where Jimmy was. Her visible shock had me reeling and falling into Morgan’s arms.

When the tractor started moving our pedestrian abductors kept pace, the couple flanking us and the other following behind. It was then that I began weeping. The reality of leaving my son, of his death, was seeping through the shock.

We slotted into a slow-moving convoy of farm vehicles, vans, cars and lorries when we joined another country lane. It was escorted by more of the invaders in red uniforms. Other individuals of their kind variously walked alongside, perched at the back of open-top sports cars, stood up through open sunroofs and clung to the sides of tractors and open vehicle doorways while we, the captives, rode in relative physical comfort.

We’d been trundling along at a leisurely walking pace for almost an hour, mostly too stunned to hardly look at one another never mind speak when we started to witness the wider scale of this attack. More people had been pushed into our trailer and more vehicles joined us. The wailing and lamenting of newcomers turned to near silence when, as we came to the outskirts of a village, we realised that more of the strangers were collecting bodies.

I wasn’t the only one to cry out when my breath returned and I saw them emerging to throw the bodies onto the bed of hovering flatback vehicles, piling them high. Most were human corpses but they’d also taken the remains of large pets and even a goat.

There were a few amongst us whose reaction was to lash out furiously, leaping from the vehicles to attack by hand. Loved-ones tried to pull them back but a number were killed and dispassionately loaded up with the others taken from their homes. They had only to raise those rifle-like weapons and glare to silence our clamouring.

As we passed Mrs. Rimmer’s corner shop, a place I’d called in often, I recognised her body being taken out, along with those of her family and the pet dog. My mind would not allow me to imagine Jimmy and Ziggy being handled in that manner. Instead it homed in on the man whispering next to me.

‘Wholesale slaughter. Even Dewey’s horse is dead. Whatever it was it didn’t reach out to the farms though.’

Morgan and I drew closer, squashing Evie between us, as her sobbing was renewed and grew more desperate when one of those awful, miserably macabre vehicles segwayed into our convoy. A mile or so outside the village it peeled away to go cross-country towards something I simply did not believe I was seeing. It was matte black, shaped like a teardrop on its side and ten-times the size of a jumbo jet. There was an enormous pile of what looked like ash next to it.

Morgan said, ‘Don’t look.’

‘But I think…’

‘Don’t think!’

The man who’d whispered the fate of Dewey’s horse seemed more robust than most of us. He’d had more experience with them too.

‘No. We have to think. We have to face it. We have to take some chances. Mostly they only use the rod and that doesn’t kill…’

I swung around to him, ‘What!’

‘The rod only stuns. If we…’

I cut him off, pulling at Morgan’s arm, ‘Jimmy!’

My husband didn’t hesitate, ‘I’ll get back to him. Somehow.’

The whispering man caught onto our dilemma. ‘I’ll go with you. Your wife and daughter will be safer here. They want us alive otherwise we’d be on our way to that pile.’

Morgan didn’t have to speak to shut him up.

To this day I have no idea who he was, other than an exceptionally brave man. He guided Morgan in edging, unnoticed to the side of the trailer, and made him wait for their best opportunity. That came as we were winding through a forest road. I’d been watching them closely and even I had no idea they were about to go over the side and sprint for the deep-set trees.

I don’t actually know for certain if my husband got away. I choose to believe that he did. I do know that the other man did not. He was taken down by a bolt from the rifle-shaped weapon I knew by then to be the one that kills. It laid him low in the undergrowth. I didn’t see Morgan fall and the strangers didn’t go after him.

There were one or two other attempts at escape during that dreadful, day-long journey, including Pat and Sandy. They didn’t survive either. Out in the country the bodies of those that tried and failed were left where they fell but by then I’d seen enough clearing up of even farm animals by the swarms of what I was then thinking of, rightly or wrongly, as aliens, that I knew they also would be turned to dust. In any case, it kept the rest of us quietly under control.

Evie brought me back to our new plight when she whispered, ‘Mum!’ I refocused on the boys with clearer sight than before, vaguely feeling relieved to know I wasn’t concussed after all.

Their loot was sorted into piles like a Venn diagram. It seems that despite their efforts they’d picked up something from their school lessons. Or maybe it was untested intelligence motivated by raw greed. They’d started on the hard liquor and they were talking about us. Particularly Evie. My daughter was terrified to be faced with the imminent result of that attention. As much as I’d once tried to police her internet use I realised that, at only fourteen, they knew more ways they could rape and ruin her than I could imagine.

Suddenly, amidst the rude banter, filthy jokes and raucous laughter Jo.Ro dashed across to grab hold of Evie. I fought to hold onto her, frantically trying to think of some new distraction. I screamed and howled, punched and bit and in spite of the legendary superhuman strength I was supposed to have for my child I could do no more when he released his grip on my daughter in order to kick me in the back, ribs and head. Through a pink haze of blood I saw him dragging my little girl across the floor. And through swelling ears I heard Evie crying out for me, and for her daddy. The other two boys were laughing and choking on whiskey.

Any hope remaining, died.

I could hear my baby crying out for me at some distance, in some place beyond the thick fog in my head. I simply couldn’t rally. Instead, of all things, or perhaps because of my impotence, I drifted into semi-conscious memories. My story resumed at the point when our slow convoy arrived at an alien scene in rural England. We stared blindly for a while before looking to one another, shaking heads uncomprehendingly.

The amber wall closed in a whole village. I could see a church spire and the roofs of a few tall buildings within that baleful boundary. Around the outside of the wall the ground had been reduced to a band of gravel and sand.

Our convoy veered away some hundred metres before meeting that barrier, following the strangers at a tangent to it. We came to another area roughly cleared of trees and with mangled allotments. A half row of bungalows remained eerily intact. We watched in confusion as smooth green walls seemed to grow up from the ground, forming a huge rectangle. In the surrounding area other vehicles already were parked, tightly packed.

The convoy was stopped. We were ordered off and poked, prodded and commanded in language we couldn’t understand until we were all kneeling on the local playing field while our drivers took their vehicles to park with those already there. Only one person tried to run. She was killed in a place where I could picture children once playing football.

When the drivers were marched back to us the strangers had us stand and join them in the slow, relentless pace habitually maintained by our captors, back across the land we’d driven over to the amber wall. They remained outside whilst holding weapons on us, clearly demanding we should enter through the opening now appearing there.

I’m sure most, like me, felt relieved to leave them behind even when the wall closed, trapping us in here. It was when I looked around for Bill and Ann, unable to spot them, that I felt fearful of my own kind. I realised instantly that we’d lost one level of protection when we lost our guards.

The atmosphere of a village emptied of its inhabitants hung heavy, not least because we all knew what had happened to the one-time residents. My fellow travellers in their small family and friends groups were quickly disappearing down the streets, looking for safety no doubt. So I grabbed Evie’s hand and did the same. I wandered if anyone else we came across on that long trek ended up in as horrific a situation as we had.

Alternate ending 1

I could see dawn breaking through the patio doors of the lounge, when I finally came round. My first reaction was to try to get to my feet, to find Evie.

Two hands held me down. ‘You must keep still. You have a concussion.’ He was firm but kind. ‘Your companion is safe.’

‘My daughter.’ My feeble, croaking voice caught in strained emotion as I struggled against the hands until a deeper and considerably less soothing male voice told me what I needed to know.

‘Alex here’s a doctor. Your daughter’s all patched up and sedated. The bastards who did this to you went on the rampage and got killed by the Tendanny. Which saved me a job. And you’ll be OK, so keep bloody still.’

Alex, the doctor, took over with more compassion, ‘Caroline and I can manage here. Maybe you could check the streets again, Stanzi.’

‘Yeh,’ he met my eyes flashing black fury that I knew was aimed at my torturers and I had no sympathy for any like them that he might root out. In fact, had I the strength, I’d have urged him on for some kind of vicarious revenge.

Alternate ending 2

It was when the other two boys staggered out of the room, swigging booze, laughing and bumping into each other as well as the doorway, that I realised this was my one and only chance. Earlier horrors had served me well. Evie would be terrified and she’d certainly be hurt. But the latter would be far less severe than if I went scrambling after them in a panic.

They’d left me alone. In the kitchen. Because they were too drunk to think clearly. I knew the crippling pains all through my body were warnings that I’d achieve nothing quickly or with any great force.

I rolled to my side, battled to get up to my hands and knees and finally stood, staggering and swaying. I waited for my head to throb a little less and my vision to clear a little more, whilst steadying myself with a hand on the wall. I hardly needed my sight to tell me where things were in this room. I shuffled stiffly across to the worktop and drew the biggest knife from the knife block.

I could hear Evie crying and begging. That almost spurred me into action too hasty for any hope of success. Then I heard their slurred goading, insults and threats. I could hear my daughter crashing into furniture, being pushed from one boy to another, as I flexed my fingers and wrist joint. I could hear her clothes being torn while I tested my balance and the strength in my legs. And I could hear Jo.Ro’s filthy language as I held myself upright close to the doorway, noting the location of each boy by his voice.

They were in the lounge with D.Mac close to the door. Ali.B sounded drunk and slumped, further away than the other two. He was probably over by the window. And the sound of Jo.Ro’s voice telling my daughter what he thought he was about to do to her as the sofa springs twanged when he threw her onto it, told me his position in the room.

I gave myself instructions. And I followed them to the letter. I punched the knife into D.Mac’s back and pulled it away as he fell. I had been right to use both hands for maximum impact as well as for reversing the action.

Controlled fury strengthened me when I saw Jo.Ro pulling up jeans over an erect penis as he punched my child’s bare backside out of his way in order to confront me. He shouldn’t have used time on the trousers, or have bothered to try frightening me with crude demonstrations of power. He seemed to expect me to somehow try stabbing his body because he stepped sideways with his fists out, while I slashed him across the face. I’d been aiming for both eyes. I only got one. The tough little bastard, shouting out his fury, held a hand to that whilst trying to grab me with the other. But he no longer had binocular vision and made poor spacial judgements. I sliced down the arm and hand reaching for me.

‘Fucking cow!’ he yelled, pulling that arm back and swinging feet to kick at my legs when he’d have been more successful sweeping my feet from under my pained and damaged body. That I gave him no reminder of. I would not allow myself to so much as wince in my agony.

His actions provided me with the opportunity to cut the blade through one thigh and then the shoulder. He was getting soaked in his own blood, swearing and shouting but Ali.B could not shake his senses out of their drunken stupor to come to his aid.

I took a swipe at the good hand over Jo.Ro’s bleeding eye, drew the blade heavily down the arm and then with him writhing and blinded by rage I jabbed the point of the knife blinding him physically too.

Evie scrunched up into the end of the sofa, afraid his flailing arms would find her as I made my way purposefully over to Ali.B, who was by then no threat to us. Hardly conscious, he held the gin bottle loosely in his fingers.

However, he was conscious and fully aware when he embarked on this caper, this lark, this whatever modern kids call assault, abuse, rape and murder. So I made my way over to where he’d slid down the wall and stabbed him. In and out, just like D.Mac but in the chest not the back.

By then Jo.Ro was feeling his way around, trying to locate Evie by her frightened little sounds, probably with a view to threatening her in some way in order to stop me. Occupied as he was, quiet as I was, he had no warning of the danger coming his way.

I left him bleeding from a deep wound in his gut. I’d heard that was a particularly lengthy and painful way to die.

 

Alternate ending 3

When I came round I was aware of pain in every part of my body. I opened my eyes to the dim dawn light. I have no idea how long it took me to move but I do know I spent all of that time desperately trying to make myself crawl to wherever Evie was.

Finally I managed to roll to my side. And in time, to sit up. I found myself still on the kitchen floor with my blouse ripped open, my bra cut apart and my jeans and pants gone. I was bleeding from what they’d done to me. All I could think is that that is what they’ve done to Evie.

Somehow I rose to my feet, staggered, fell, and rose again, fell again, and crawled and clawed my way through to the lounge where I found my darling daughter.

I scrambled over, pulling her battered and bleeding body into my arms, trying to weep quietly so as not to frighten her further, as though that were even possible.

At some point, I have no idea how much later, I responded to a woman’s voice. She must have been there for a while but she seemed to have done more than cover us both with blankets before pulling up a chair close to me.

She spoke with feeling. ‘I am so very sorry this has happened to you.’

I hardly glanced at her irrelevant presence and sympathy. I simply clung to my daughter’s destroyed body while invented images of her ordeal flashed and scrolled through my mind.

 

Which is your favourite ending? I would love to know.