The orphanage wasn’t all that bad. It was a lovely old brick building set in beautiful gardens and there were heaps of rooms to investigate as well as a big dusty attic full of toys that the old man had left behind.
But the house was in the bad end of town. Decades before the old house had been turned into an orphanage Brights Bridge was the place to live if you had money. Big houses and tree-lined streets and a new park with a fountain in a courtyard off the Knights Road were what attracted rich folk to Brights Bridge.
As time passed and apartments became fashionable, the rich people moved out of the area and ‘problem’ people moved in. Because the houses were so big they were turned into institutions halfway houses for alcoholics and psychiatric patients, hostels for ex-convicts and recovering drug-users, flats for welfare cases and no-hopers.
The orphanage was founded by Philip Mitchell, an orphan himself who had the good luck of being adopted into an extremely well to do family. Philip promised that he would do all he could to help the homeless and parentless children on the streets and he left his estate to the Philip Mitchell Foundation for Homeless Children when the area was still a good place to be.
KC liked being with so many other kids. He had been orphaned as a baby and his own parents had no contact with their families as they had eloped at a young age and had moved halfway across the country. As a result, KC had no memories of life outside the walls of the PM (as the orphanage was known) and no comprehension of what a family was.
He had his routine there at the PM and was well looked after and did well at the local school where he was very popular with his classmates and known as the school joker. KC’s favourite time of year was Christmas. He loved getting all wrapped up and going to sing carols to the old people in the area and Christmas Eve was always magical. There was a big tree put up in the hallway of the PM and the residents and staff would stand around it and sing all their favourite carols before going outside for the traditional illuminations of the Christmas outdoor lights. These lights were strung on the roof and verandas of the house and in the trees surrounding it.
Once the lights were twinkling the group would go back inside for a feast followed by presents by the fire. It was at this time that KC felt like he belonged to something special and he would gaze at the painting of Philip Mitchell that hung over the massive old fireplace and thank the old man for all that he had done.
Just after Christmas that year KC noticed a change in the world as there were more children coming into the orphanage and by Easter there were not enough beds to go round.
Walking back and forth to school it was obvious that there weren’t as many adults in the streets and the hostel next door was left abandoned. It was taken over as an annex to the orphanage and soon its beds were also full of kids whose parents had been taken by the Virus. It was all that the staff could do to keep the kids fed and clothed and it wasn’t long before the staff members themselves started to dwindle as the Virus took hold and spread its ugly fingers through the orphanage.
Some of the older kids got sick too and KC formed part of a burial team that had to deal with the bodies that were starting to stink up the neighbourhood as the hospitals closed and the sick were left to die where they fell.
Groups of local street kids started to try to get into the PM and get what food they could. KC had to hide his treasured pictures of his parents away as more personal items got stolen or trashed by the groups of thugs that were doing the rounds in the city that had lost it’s adults and with them all authority and order.
The PM was vandalised one night by a group of kids that called themselves the Locos and a fire was started in the basement. KC managed to make sure that the little kids got out safely then went back inside to try to get to his best friend Trayson who was lying in bed with a broken foot.
As KC got to the magnificent staircase the fire took hold and the stairs crumbled before his eyes. KC had to leap back and as he was dragged out of the hallway kicking and screaming by another of the residents he caught sight of the painting of PM himself, that dignified and compassionate old man who had gone to his grave knowing that he had left something good behind him. A better life for the kids that had no chance, no hope, no love. The flames licked at the painting and soon it was gone, as was the dream of the old man.
KC shook himself away and fled into the night, running from the screams and the horror, trying to outrun the images he had of Trayson who must have perished in the flames that night, alone and scared as KC tried in vain to get to him.
KC ran until he could run no more and collapsed on the damp grass, breathless with tears streaming down his face.
He was alone in the world once more and he vowed to himself that he would be a survivor and do all he could to keep the dream aliveŠwhatever that dream might be.