The woman flicked on the radio, and radio one flooded the kitchen at a deafening volume; she deftly turned it down with one hand, and popped the cereal packet open with the other. Her toddler and husband were not yet up, but, as she reminded herself, it"s Sunday. She decided to give them another ten minutes and get breakfast ready first. Co-co pops, muesli and juice poured into the correct receptacles, she walked up the stairs to wake them.

The smell in the front bedroom was nauseating, but the woman seemed not to notice as she brushed her hair back into a pony tail. There wasn"t a lot left, the hairbrush had almost vanished and resembled fairground candy floss, a huge bundle of long, dirty blonde strands, crusted here and there with dried blood. In the process of pulling it back, she opened a sore, and the clear plasma ran down the back of her neck, staining her Sunday frock.
Her makeup was spilt over the dressing table, her husband had used nearly all of the foundation trying to cover the fissures around his eyes and nose, they had frightened Lucy, and especially on that day, he hadn"t wanted her to be afraid.
She shook her husband, smiling, 'wake up Jim, breakfast!'
Twenty minutes later she was still shaking him, clouds of small black flies filled the room, the duvet cover rancid with body fluid. The smile was fixated, and her eyes distant. (the flies crawled into the corners of them and lapped at the fluid) She pulled the body out of the bed and began to drag it out of the bedroom, still murmuring to herself. Jim had been dead for nearly a month, and had not eaten for the last two weeks of his life. Always a small man he now weighed little over six stone, but Marie was so weak she fell down the last three steps of the stair and sat there for a moment sobbing hysterically before shakily standing upright and continuing to move him into the kitchen.
Jim sat down at the table, and glanced disapprovingly at the radio, Marie turned it off remembering that he couldn"t stand television or music when he was still half asleep and dropped the newspaper on the table next to his glass of juice. He hardly saw their daughter, commuting into London took up a lot of his time, Marie felt guilty now, at the time she had been desperate that her child should be raised in a quieter more open place than she had been; but the same job that had allowed them to afford their lovely cottage also ensured that he was always too tired to enjoy it. Marie spent every weekend trying to atone for that, and this weekend would be no different. She ruffled her fingers through his hair on her way up to get Lucy.
Rubbing the loose strands of hair off of her hands and onto the filthy apron (an action she repeated compulsively, leaving smears of red as she lifted her nails further from the skin), She staggered back up to her daughter"s room, leaning against the banister and wheezing painfully as she went.
It suddenly occurred to Marie that she has been so busy preparing food that she had not yet brushed her teeth, she elbowed the bathroom door open and noted that there was still plenty of toilet paper and a clean towel.
And threw up in the sink, then grabbed the toothbrush and turning on the tap held it under the imaginary stream of water. Opening her mouth, and causing bleeding in the corners of her cracked and dry mouth, she began to scrub, when she spat, she spat out pus and a tooth.
Her daughter looked angelic as only sleeping children can, thinking that Jim might like a few moments of peace before the three year old commenced her usual rampage Marie lay down on the mattress next to her, she felt so tired, but, he would be upstairs in a while to shower, and that would wake her.
Marie pulled the now pliable remains into her arms, and humming softly closed her eyes. Five minutes later all was quiet, Jim didn"t take his shower, and so there was nothing to wake Marie.
Later a motley group of youths walked into the house through the open patio doors, they had taken what they had needed from the abandoned houses off of the M25, and despoiled the corpses they had found in some. They laughed at the man propped upright in the kitchen, and threw the radio through a window. They found Marie and the remains of the child in the pink and still spotless bedroom, teddies lined the shelves, the sheets, recently changed, were still crisp and white. The woman was obviously only recently dead, her face, despite the lesions, serene and peaceful, her arm protectively around the little one. The room still smelt of fabric conditioner and Yardley perfume, the open window…

'It's summer, Lucy will overheat without fresh air'

….ensured the smell of decay had not lingered there.

After standing a moment in silence, they left. The oldest boy pulled the patio doors shut behind them. They found a can of petrol in the shed, and poured it over the kindling and piles of newspaper they stuffed into the corners of every room, and under the child"s bed, quietly, as if worried they might wake them. The man was brought upstairs (they were long since hardened to the smell) and the cover lifted so he could be laid gently down, next to them. Having dropped a match onto each pile they ran, and stood outside, wordlessly, watching the fire take, and uncontrolled, consume the building.
The next day one of them would take all of Maries sleeping tablets and drink the bottle of vodka they had taken from the dining room. One of the group had poured some of it into an empty glass on the kitchen table, and was still suffering terrible stomach cramps.
Unbeknown to him that had been jims final gesture of love, the child had died quickly in his arms and he with her, even after she had stopped breathing he had carried on singing to her,

'Bedtime song!'

Tears streaming down his face until finally they stopped running and him with them. If Marie had not been so far gone in the delusion her mind had created to protect her from the horror, she would have drunk hers as well. Despite his pleas to drink,

'You must be thirsty love'

She had wanted to empty the still dirty washing from the useless machine.

The only other item taken from the house had been a small cuddly toy; it had reminded the girl of the one she had brought for her own daughter.