by Donna Moore © 2004

(Why The Hell Isn’t This Called Chapter One?)

If I was going to become a serial killer, I needed to learn more about the job.
      I’d bought a copy of Serial Killing For Dummies on eBay from a Seller called RitualSlasher. He was selling his entire book collection because he was ‘going away for at least 25 years.’ I’d thanked him for the book and told him I hoped he had a lovely time on his vacation.
      I couldn’t help thinking that one day, I too might be able to give up serial killing and enjoy my dried, cured and well-preserved memories.
      The book wasn’t in the ‘excellent’ advertised condition. Rusty brown stains were dotted throughout, and there was a pervasive coppery smell. But what annoyed me most was a leathery object bookmarking the chapter entitled: ‘Collecting Tokens From Your Victims And How To Store Them So They Don’t Rot.’ I couldn’t work out if the bookmark had started life as a rasher of bacon, or an ear.
      Putting both my irritation and the bookmark to one side, I opened the book at the first chapter, ‘Your Childhood: It Was Really, Really Bad’. All I could remember of my own childhood were endless lazy summer days when my parents and two older sisters would spoil me rotten with toys, picnics, ice-cream, trips to the park, holidays at the seaside. I ran wild in our huge garden, climbed trees, caught tadpoles in the nearby river, and made a den in the woods where I crocheted tea-cosies for the village fete and pressed my collection of woodland flowers—typical boy stuff.
      No, I’d repressed the darker side of my hideous childhood for too long and I wasn’t prepared to allow those horrific events to remain buried deep in my warped psyche a minute longer. Perhaps my evil parents had brainwashed me. If I was to have any sort of future as a serial killer, I needed to find out the truth. Right now.
       I reached for the phone.
       “Hello, Mum.”
       “Darling, how are you?”
       “I’m trying to remember my traumatic childhood, bitch. Can you give me some pointers?”
       “You had a lovely childhood, dear. You were a very good little boy.”
       “Come clean now, Mum. Tell me about the bedwetting, the arson, how I used to torture cats and rabbits and my pet guinea pig. I bet I was sent to a reformatory when I was eight.”
       “Oh no, dear. You were in Mrs Povey’s class at St David’s Primary School For Dear Little Boys. Don’t you remember the school Christmas Pageant? Everyone said they’d never seen such an angelic looking Angel Gabriel.”
       “Ah! Ritualistic Satanic abuse. That was your bag, was it?”
       “Sweetheart, have you been drinking?”
       I pounced on that one. “Oh yes, and talking about drinking, Mother, you and Father were raving alcoholics, weren’t you? I can almost remember. You destroyed my childhood with your drunken rages and alcohol-fuelled fights.”
       “But, darling, you know Daddy only drinks that lovely Elderflower wine he makes in the shed, and I have my single glass of dry sherry at New Year.”
       Hmmm. I could see it was going to be hard to prise the truth out of Mumsie. “What about pets? You never let me have any pets did you? What was it—did you come across me ripping the legs off a spider?”
       “Sweetheart, you had a dear little bunny when you were six and when it died you were so distraught your father and I agreed we would spare you that pain again. That’s why we didn’t have any pets afterwards. Don’t you remember the ceremony we had for Flopsy? You read out a lovely poem you’d written.”
       “But how did Flopsy die, Mother? I killed him, didn’t I? Killed him in a particularly nasty way involving scalpels and an iron, isn’t that right?”
       “He died of old age, darling. He had a good long life and died peacefully in his sleep with a smile on his little whiskery face.”
       “Aha! That’s exactly what you said about Grandad. I knew there was something odd about his death. Stop lying to me, Mother. Tell me about the fires. Did I set fire to the school? Did you find a stockpile of matches and petrol in my bedroom? Was I unnaturally drawn to firemen?”
       “You did get your Camping Badge when you were in the Boy Scouts. I think that to get the badge you had to make a fire by rubbing two sticks of wood together. Although . . .”
       This was it! She was finally going to reveal the terrible, evil deed of my childhood that would give me the key to unlock the padlock on the door through which serial killers entered a world of pain and blood. Yep, this would make me a proper serial killer. “What, Mum?”
       “Well, now you come to mention it, I do remember your Scout Leader telling me there was a nasty scene the day you took your Badge.”
       “What was it, mother? Did I threaten my little pals with a burning branch? Did I douse all the tents with my secret stash of petrol? Did I tell everyone they were going to burn in the fires of Hell, and that I was the Devil’s satanic Zippo.”
       “No, dear. You nearly failed that badge because you were afraid of the fire and wanted to come home to Mummy.”
       I put the phone down. It was pretty obvious that the evil she-devil who called herself my mother was keeping something from me. I had no doubts that my background fully qualified me as first-class serial killer material. And if anyone ever asked me for my qualifications, well, I could just make up some shit.
       I was nearly there. I just needed to work on a signature. A poem written in my victims’ blood left behind at the scene of each of my heinous crimes? Or orchid petals scattered around the freshly slaughtered body? Could I see myself carving the words of a Barry Manilow song on a pale, still chest—with a corkscrew? Did I even know the words to a Barry Manilow song? Or would that be too cruel, in any case?
       I looked down at the hand on the table in front of me. I picked it up by the thumb, dropped it into the ice-filled picnic box, and forced the lid shut. How much more of a signature did I need?