The Piper 30

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Their mother had disappeared to the upstairs. She had slipped out of the room and not returned. Chris went to check upon her and found the sleeping form of his mother totally unresponsive to anything he said.

She was so deep in sleep that even a slight nudge of her arm did not wake her. He returned to the others to tell them. Each had some concern, but each realised that a perfectly rational explanation could be the cause. Exhaustion.

At last, Michael turned towards Nick and asked, “Nick, why are you here and where do you come from?”

Nick sat and considered his response. The boy had asked him questions he found it almost impossible to answer. Since blinking awake several weeks earlier, he had no conception of any history, of any of his history. He was a page that had no writing upon it, or, if it had had, it had been erased. All he knew was from his dreams, and his passenger. The youngest boy had glimpsed him when they had first met and that had worried Nick, but the youngest harboured no harm. He was like his father.

What had drawn Nick to this lounge, to this small, yet now incomplete nucleus, was within him. How could he tell them about that? If they were what he had thought them to be, then they would eventually understand. The problem was that eventually was not now going to happen.

“Let me show you. Is that all right with you, Peter?”

Pete nodded in a way that was beyond his years. Again Michael and Chris were lost.

“It’s okay, he’s a good man,” Pete explained. “We have to hold hands like this.”

And Pete held out a hand to both of his brothers. They automatically clasped his and waited until Nick completed the circle. For the first few seconds, Michael and Chris were reminded of the roller coaster ride they had taken with their father once, in a different life, in France.

The connection was instant. The panorama was a montage of images speeding past. Michael held on tightly, squeezing the hands he was joined to. He recognised the tiny one belonging to Pete, it was warm with a strength he would not have thought his younger brother possessed, but the one belonging to Nick was completely different. It was like holding wood or bone. Michael felt the urge to open his eyes, but resisted. He heard a voice tell him to keep the connection going.

You must not break the connection at any time.

The voice was a collection of many he had heard before. If he picked at the threads, he would be able to identify them all. He thought he could hear his father’s tones and then he saw him.

It was the night of the crash and the road had become silent, apart from the gushing sound of petrol pouring from his father’s upturned car. The image then became his father’s face, a massive gash spilling blood. Closer still and he could see, even feel, the last breaths being taken, and then the eyes opened.

You must not break the connection at any time.

He was now in darkness and could hear the sound of water dripping. It was cold and damp. As he reached out, his hands met stone, hard and unyielding. A slap of feet ran towards him and the a torch swyed with the movement. Transfixed, Michael watched as the light became stronger and brighter until it was upon him.

The carrier of the light was a small boy, wearing pyjamas and nothing on his feet.  The boy rushed past him and Michael understood the panic for now there were many other sounds fast approaching from where the boy had come. These, however, did not belong to anything human or anything else that could be described as animal. This was the sound that ran with an army of rats, rats that were not real, rats that followed only one master. Rats that were hunting the boy. The sound of a hunter’s horn shattered the night.

He was in daylight, a fading daylight whose cerulean sky hung agelessly above him. The boy was now different. He was changed. This one was about ten years of age, his dark hair forming natural curls at the nape, his skin tanned from the climate.

From somewhere in the hills behind him came the sound of a horn, its threat obvious. The boy was running on legs that were at the end of their exertions and Michael understood, without any further prompting, that the boy was being hunted.

The horn again and the faint barking of dogs made the boy’s head turn. Michael saw his youngest brother, or someone who was his doppelgänger grown older, disappear into a clutch of trees.

The signs of a hunt were too obvious to ignore.

 

 

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