It started with a string of twenty-five bombs detonated simultaneously across the UK and Scotland. Communication between cities broke down. The Royal Family abandoned us. The Prime Minister disappeared – either like a coward or like a hero, but as central London ripped itself apart we could only assume the latter. It was only too easy for the government to collapse and for the UK to drown in total and utter chaos. The only people who had any power in this whole fiasco were the people who planted the bombs in the first place. It was a coup, plain and simple, and one that most of the population wasn’t going to make out of alive.
He started popping up on TV broadcasts not long after a state of emergency was declared on behalf of us by Europe. His face was the only one we saw on television now: every channel, every single one, had been ordered off air. Not even Big Brother reruns to keep up morale. Damon Speer would yell out his ideals to anyone still alive to hear them. He was our ruler now. We would do what he said.
Every day I wondered just how this was allowed to happen. Twenty-five successful explosions, enough to derail a previously stable and democratic government – how did no-one know about Speer and his regime? Why were none of the explosions intercepted, halted? We had security services to stop this kind of thing. Were Speer and his game just too widespread to control?
The UK had turned into a country that I’d only ever seen on the news and in charity telethons. Twenty million managed to escape as refugees into wider Europe, but it wasn’t long before France shut its borders, Germany cried overpopulation, and all parts of Asia point blank refused to accept a single British citizen. Apparently we’d been too stingy in past crises. I couldn’t blame them.
Eventually Speer shut our borders, too. He didn’t want any more of us scurrying to safety abroad like sewer rats. After all, what was the point in ruling a non-existent population? He would decide who he wanted living in his kingdom. Any child under the age of sixteen was grabbed off the streets. Others were snatched for “testing” in his handmade laboratories in pockets of English countryside, surrounded by landmines and electrically-charged wire. Others were just killed, for no other reason than lacking purity. It was like we’d stepped into Hitler’s Berlin circa 1939. History we hadn’t learnt from.
I used to spend my weekends reading, raiding DVD boxsets, snogging my boyfriend. I’d accepted a place to study English at university. Now everyday was spent trying to survive, just, as electricity and food and oil ran out and streets became ghost towns. People were so desperate that cholera resurfaced in UK water systems – with no medication, because the NHS was as good as dead. Over three hundred years of industrialisation, all futile, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Well, that was until I met Path of Light.