"Wednesday 21st June 2089" Diana wrote the date down in her history book, subsequently chewing the end of her flaking pencil as she stared blankly at the whiteboard. It was her eighth lesson of the day; history. Sleeping last night had been quite a difficulty due to her younger siblings' cacophony. As a result, she was suffering the consequences; her brain refused to focus on the essential work which she needed to complete. Staring at her history book, barely registering the words printed on the page, her mind wandered away from the lesson and into her daydreams, her world of what she was quite sure was a complete fantasy. The words began to float upon the page.
'It was the year 2021, when the government was loosing the ability to control the country. Revolutions and riots wreaked havoc in England; the national services were running out of money fast. Law courts no longer existed, as by then, most of them had been torn down by rioters and anarchists. The average number of murders per day had risen tenfold. This led to murder suspects, whether they were guilty or not, no longer having easy access to a free trial; they were simply imprisoned by a corrupt society…'
Scarlet sat up in her bed, adjusting to reality, attempting to shake the remnants of her horrifying dream from her mind. 'First thing's first.' She thought, 'the ability to see clearly would help.' She reached out with her left hand in order to find her glasses, which she knew were on her bedroom cabinet next to her bed. Yet her fingers touched thin air. She looked to her side and squinted in the darkness.
"Huh?" she exclaimed as she realised that she was not in her room. The telltale luminescence of her radio on standby mode was not to be seen. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she became conscious of the fact that she was not in her bedroom; she was in fact lying in the entrance to her bathroom. Looking down at what she was sitting on, she realised that, her 'bed' was in fact a pile of towels. "Not again…" she whispered to herself. Being a twenty year old sleepwalker who lived with her two very argumentative parents was not the easiest of positions in life. She scratched her strangely itchy arm and shivered; it was surprisingly cold for a night in June. As she scratched harder she felt something strange flake off her arm and lodge itself under her fingernails. Glancing at her arm, she noticed a large dark-coloured mark streaked across her arm, beginning at her hand, and ending near her elbow. The darkness was hindering her ability to see in colour, so she had little idea as to what it was. She looked up and saw yet more of these mysterious marks on the pile of towels that she was laying upon. Perplexed, she moved her hand in order to stand up; the light switch was directly above her, all she needed was to reach it. A cold, stinging liquid met her fingers; she automatically drew her hand away and stared at her fingers. The liquid was dark in colour and quite viscous; she turned her head to the right in order to see where this liquid had come from. Mere words would have difficultly expressing what terror and shock she experienced once she turned her head…
'Families were often poor and had difficulty living in harmony due to the everyday hardships they had to endure. Food was ever-increasingly expensive, and getting to a supermarket was difficult and dangerous. Various parties attempted to gain control of the country, and although they did not immediately succeed, it would only be a few years before signs of hope would appear…'
Diana rested her head on her elbow as she continued to copy the notes that the teacher was typing on the computer, yet she could not concentrate on the board; the information was still taking a very long time to register in her mind.
"Listen to me Dad, listen! I didn't do it! I woke up, and she, and, and she, she was there, on, on the ground, you be-, you believe me, don't you?" shouted Scarlet as she was forced down the stairs by a couple of policemen. Her father did not reply. He knelt on the ground, dumbstruck, staring with catatonic eyes at his deceased wife.
"We can't stay here forever; there's been another murder in Stockwell; we must take your wife to the morgue," muttered an officer remorselessly. Scarlet's father did not reply. "Fair enough," mumbled the officer. He made a sign, and two other officers entered the room. The father left the room with an air of being very distressed, and entered his bedroom. Once he knew that he was alone, a small smile crept up upon his face.
"Scarlet… Scarlet McKay, yes," mused a woman in uniform as she read a barely legible piece of paper. "Today's date…" she took out a battered pen from her trouser pocket, "Wednesday, 21st of June, 2021. Ok…" Scarlet stood in front of the woman; she was rather red in the face, having shouted throughout the journey to the police station in order to fight her innocence.
"I didn't kill my mother!" protested Scarlet, "don't you understand? I did not do it!"
'The police were heavily under funded and there were few rules left governing what actions must be taken when a murder had been committed. Questioning was short and not consistent due to the miniscule budget and the widespread anarchy taking up the police's time. Forensic scientists, examiners, investigators and pathologists were something of the past. Victims of murder were simply held in a morgue until someone claiming to know the victim arranged a burial or a cremation. Otherwise, a cremation was carried out as standard practise…'
Diana glanced at the clock. A quarter to four. 'Only fifteen minutes left…' she thought, feeling glad that soon she would be freed from the last lesson of a Friday.
"You killed your mother at one o'clock this morning, or maybe one thirty, one cannot be sure –" the tired officer began.
"I didn't murder my mother!" shouted Scarlet, who was at breaking point. She knew she was innocent; she couldn't allow herself to end up in a state prison for an indefinite period of time.
"You were covered in blood and a knife was not so far from your hand. Your dead mother was lying right next to you. From what I can see you killed your mother. It's good enough for evidence; it has my word upon it."
"I don't have time for this."
'The many state prisons were overflowing with criminals, or suspected criminals; and the conditions inside were abysmal. Rooms built to carry two people often carried four or five people, and the place was only cleaned when some of the inmates themselves decided to make the effort…'
The bell rang. That resonating, repetitive sound was music to Diana's ears. She slowly gathered her books, having exhausted her hand's muscles from writing, or attempting to write for the majority of the last two lessons.
"Girls," began the teacher, "on Wednesday, we will be studying the reform in 2024. For your homework, I would like you to read…"
Scarlet sat in the corner of the small cell, not wanting to talk to her fellow inmates. She knew that there was no point protesting. She had precious few rights left, and she wasn't sure if the prison officers had any knowledge of her rights.
"Scarlet McKay!" she stood up and stared at the police officer who had opened her door. "You have a visitor. I'm going to take you to the visitor's room." Scarlet followed the officer, knowing with dread, that it would be her father, who was the last person she wanted to see. She gulped as she walked into the visitor's room and saw her father sitting in an empty chair in a room full of prisoners and their visitors. The police officer indicated her seat opposite her father and commanded her to sit down.
"You know that I didn't do it." She spoke loudly, trying to speak above the clamour.
"I know you didn't." he smirked.
"Your mum and I never got along well. Now that I say that, I realise what an underestimation it is. Her spending habits, her constant whingeing, her nagging; she never listened to thing I had to say. And you did not make things any easier. You two were tearing me apart. Now that's an underestimation for you."
"Yes I did indeed. It was not difficult framing you, seeing as you are a heavy sleeper and a sleepwalker in one. Oh dear. If I stay for longer, I may late for work. Have a good day darling." He got up, took his jacket and vacated the room.
Diana arrived home with great pleasure; it was Friday evening and she had only two medium-length homeworks that required completion by Monday. Her siblings had calmed down and were sitting at the dining room table, eating a packet of biscuits.
"What have I told you? If mum sees you eating all of these," she snatched the almost-empty biscuit packet from her younger brother's small hands, "then you'll be in a lot of trouble." Her mother entered the room. She was tempted to inform her mother on her siblings' actions, but she decided that it would be better to let it be, and so, she put the biscuits away in the cupboard. A stack of papers lay on the table next to an old filing cabinet. She peered at them curiously, catching sight of what looked like a family tree. "Mum?" she began. Her mother turned towards her, smiling contentedly, "what's this?" she indicated the family tree.
"It's my family tree, dating back to around… 1929." Diana examined the tree in interest while her siblings began to bicker in the background. She followed the connection between her mother and her mother, through to her grandmother, who had numerous sisters; this lead to several daughters with some rather interesting names. However, a certain name caught her eye.
"Mum?" she said in a very shocked voice, "who, who is Scarlet McKay? It says here, that, uh, that, she's your grandmother's… sister? Is, is that correct?"
"Yes," replied Diana's mother in a bitter tone, "She killed my grandmother's sister in 2021, who was her mother, and died in prison of natural causes. Her father then continued to live a suspiciously prosperous life. She claimed that she was asleep when the murder was carried out."