Prologue: Rock Bottom (or near enough)
The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the house empty. A luxuriant array of weeds carpeted both garden and pathway, an unwashed car gracing the drive on a careless angle. Once white paint flaked off the drainpipe which snaked up the side of the house, parallel to windows with permanently drawn blinds, the glass smeared with years of grime. And yet, at the break of dawn once or twice a week, a figure emerged, got into the car and disappeared.
A fly on the wall brave enough to venture inside the house in the figures absence, would most certainly not have emerged unaffected. Boxes and bundles crowded the hallway, which led to a small kitchen, the putrid smell of decay suffocating. An overflowing bin bag sat on the kitchen counter, surrounded by hard red beads, their textured surface dull and pitted. Here and there a few cracks had appeared, out of which wriggled small white maggots.
The rest of downstairs was little different; the house had clearly not been cleaned for months. Upstairs the bathroom resembled a crime scene. Old blood crusted the sink, layered by fresh bright red streaks. A foil wrapper sat on the window-ledge, the glint of the bevelled edge of a scalpel just visible. Unwashed clothes littered the floor.
Yet in all the chaos, some items were immaculate. A cat litter tray sat in the corner of the bedroom, the hard plastic clean, the contents fresh and neatly raked. A water fountain bubbled away in the corner, it’s stainless surface scrubbed neat as a new pin, as were the food bowls which sat on the other side of the room, three tasty varieties on offer, all full to the brim with premium quality food.
What sort of person would live in a house like this? A little patience revealed all. Finally, at the end of a long day in the office, the stooped figure returned. A woman in her early forties, she looked unremarkable, save for the suit jacket she wore in the heat of the evening, essential for covering the scars which criss-crossed her entire body. After greeting and feeding two small cats, she sat on the grubby sofa and burst into tears of relief. Her ordeal was over for one more day. By some miracle she had survived. Exhausted, too despondent to eat, she curled up into a ball and cried herself to sleep. This was rock bottom. If she did not do something to change her situation, she would die.