No-one suspected him of his first murder. Why would they? – he was only twelve years old.
“Thaddeus! THADDEUS!” bellowed his father.
Thaddeus. Thaddeus. How he hated the name – even before he could speak he hated it. He had vowed, as soon as he discovered he could change his name, that he would at the earliest possible opportunity. At first he just hated the sound of it but as he grew older it began to represent everything he hated. His father had insisted on the name Thaddeus despite his mother’s dislike of it. He hated his father. It also for some reason reminded him of the cruel monastic existence he was forced to suffer in his father’s house. He hated his father’s house. It also seemed to symbolise the self-righteous, white-supremacist and puritanical nature of his father’s obsession – religion. He hated religion with a passion that drove him insane.
“Thaddeus! Come here boy!”
His father whacked him round the head and Thaddeus accidentally bit his tongue. It stung like hell but he stopped the tears welling up in his eyes – refusing to let his father think he’d caused him pain.
“Look, Jacob,” his father said. “Look how the insolent brat glares at me. Harbouring devilish thoughts without a doubt.”
“Don’t be too hard on him,” said Jacob. “He’s only a boy.”
“Precisely – only a BOY! That’s why his disrespect offends me so, God save his Soul.”
Thaddeus didn’t hate Jacob – Jacob had saved him from his father’s unpredictable wrath on several occasions – but he did hate his son, Elias. Thaddeus’s father, of course, adored Elias. He was a year younger than Thaddeus and compared to him he was, in his father’s words, ‘something of an angel’ – even down to the mop of blond curls which fell loosely down to his narrow shoulders.
“Elias is everything,” his father said one day to Thaddeus, “that you are not, wretched Sinner.”
The day that changed Thaddeus’s life was, ironically, a Sunday – a scorching hot day in November 2042, a day typical of the devastating new weather patterns sweeping across the North American continent. Jacob had driven the two families back from church in his battered hover-estate. Thaddeus’s father didn’t drive. ‘Machines of the Devil’ he would announce, though Thaddeus suspected it was more to do with his meanness and laziness than principle. Typically, his father’s wanton hypocrisy allowed him to drive in Devil’s Machines owned and driven by others. Thaddeus, his mother Isabella, his father, Jacob and his wife Rebecca, their daughter Mary and their son Elias sat around the farmhouse kitchen table.
“Nothing like a good old-fashioned Southern roast on the Sabbath,” roared Thaddeus’s father into the brooding uncomfortable silence.
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Rebecca, a garrulous gossip who felt stifled in the claustrophobic humid kitchen. “More chicken Thaddeus?”
“Thank you Aunt Rebecca,” said Thaddeus, blushing slightly. “I’d love some.”
The boy liked to believe that Jacob and Rebecca suffered the weekly Sunday lunch ritual to relieve him from the continual abuse his father served him with most other meals. It was a pity they would be so traumatised by what he’d planned that afternoon, but there was no going back now.
After he’d been clipped round the ear, Thaddeus waited for the trigger of his plan to materialise. His father hit him again and glared at him ferociously.
“Here it comes,” thought the boy. “At last.”
“Why don’t you two boys go off and play. Get some exercise – do what boys of your age do – off with you both.”
It was the signal Thaddeus had been waiting for all week. Elias on the other hand looked sheepish, even frightened. He remembered vividly how he’d accidentally humiliated Thaddeus the previous Sunday. They’d both been swimming together in the river, both of them naked, their clothes an untidy pile at the water’s edge. Thaddeus had ducked Elias playfully under the cool green water. He had loved Elias then – he was probably the only real friend he cared about. Elias swallowed too much water and half-laughing, half spluttering, he stumbled onto the river bank. Unfortunately, unable to see properly with water in his eyes, he fell into the pile of clothes. A leg of Thaddeus’s trousers wrapped itself around his ankle and, fearing a snake, Elias kicked out violently. Thaddeus’s trousers and pants flew into the river, bobbed up and down for a few yards as they sailed downstream – then sank.
Thaddeus screamed. “You IDIOT Elias!”
Thaddeus rose out of the water in a fury. Elias panicked, scooped up his clothes and shoes and ran, naked, into the woods. Thaddeus stormed onto the bank, pulled on his t-shirt and carrying his sandals, walked home. When he arrived at the farmhouse, pulling down on his t-shirt to cover himself, his father stood in the doorway, his arm around the now fully-clothed Elias. His father was roaring with laughter, pointing an accusing finger at Thaddeus.
“Trying to hide your shrivelled dick are you boy?” he shouted.
“Thaddeus, I’m sorry,” squealed Elias. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to …”
“You’re dead.” said Thaddeus.
He ran past them both up to his room, the cruel laughter of his father still ringing in his ears. No-one believed he really meant the threat – but he did.
Thaddeus now hated his best friend and promised terrible revenge.