Things Don’t Stay The Same


Early Buddhism dealt with the problem of impermanence in a very rationale manner. This concept is known as anicca in Buddhism, according to which, impermanence is an undeniable and inescapable fact of human existence from which nothing that belongs to this earth is ever free. 

Buddhism declares that there are five processes on which no human being has control and which none can ever change. These five processes are namely, the process of growing old, of not falling sick, of dying, of decay of things that are perishable and of the passing away of that which is liable to pass. Buddhism however suggests that escape from these is possible and it’s through Nirvana.

Hinduism also believes in the impermanent nature of life. But it deals with this problem differently. According to Hinduism, impermanence can be overcome by locating and uniting with the center of permanence that exists within oneself. This center is the Soul or the self that is immortal, permanent and ever stable. 

According to Hinduism, Atman is the fundamental truth that exists in every being, while at the microcosmic level it is Brahman who is the fundamental and supreme truth of all existence. He who realizes Atman verily becomes Brahman and attains immortality.

The Buddha differed radically with this most fundamental concept of Hinduism and in line with his preaching the early Buddhists did not believe in the existence of a permanent and fixed reality which could be referred to as either God or soul. According to them what was apparent and verifiable about our existence was the continuous change it undergoes.

Thus early Buddhism declares that in this world there is nothing that is fixed and permanent. Every thing is subject to change and alteration. “Decay is inherent in all component things,” declared the Buddha and his followers accepted that existence was a flux, and a continuous becoming.

According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining  together to give the impression of one continuous flow. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment.

Take for example the life of an individual. It is a fallacy to believe that a person would remain the same person during his entire life time. He changes every moment. He actually lives and dies but for a moment, or lives and dies moment by moment, as each moment leads to the next. A person is what he is in the context of the time in which he exists. It is an illusion to believe that the person you have seen just now is the same as the person you are just now seeing or the person whom you are seeing now will be the same as the person you will see after a few moments. 

Even from a scientific point of view this is true. We know cell divisions take place in each living being continuously. Old cells in our bodies die and yield place continuously to the new ones that are forming. Like the waves in a sea, every moment, many thoughts arise and die in each individual . Psychologically and physically he is never the same all the time. Technically speaking, no individual is ever composed of the same amount of energy. Mental stuff and cellular material all the time. He is subject to change and the change is a continuous movement.

Impermanence and change are thus the undeniable truths of our existence. What is real is the existing moment, the present that is a product of the past, or a result of the previous causes and actions. Because of ignorance, an ordinary mind conceives them all to be part of one continuous reality. But in truth they are not.

The various stages in the life of a man, the childhood, the adulthood, the old age are not the same at any given time. The child is not the same when he grows up and becomes a young man, nor when the latter turns into an old man. The seed is not the tree, though it produces the tree, and the fruit is also not the tree, though it is produced by the tree.SThe concept of impermanence and continuous becoming is central to early Buddhist teachings. It is by becoming aware of it, by observing it and by understanding it, one can find a suitable remedy for the sorrow of human life and achieve liberation from the process of anicca or impermanence.

from – http://www.hinduwebsite.com

The Piper 27

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At first there had been disbelief, then tears followed by the inevitable sense of betrayal.

Had it not been enough that she had been subjected to ridicule, had her life turned upside down and been dispossessed of her belief in love? No, obviously some god, a god of snide remarks and practical jokes thought it fit to visit one more assault upon her attempts to live a normal life.

Michael hated her, that was obvious from his diary. She had a vague memory of him starting it just after his father’s death. Had equally dim memories of him slinking off to his room to compose his fetid little thoughts and now she remembered each of the very sly looks he thought she had not seen him give her.

She had sat there in the coming light of the early morning reading his ramblings, digesting every morsel of malcontent, and wondered how she could ever have given birth to such a thing. And then, when she felt the dark curtains start to draw together, she had retreated to the garden once again, the garden that belonged to their first marital home and she had let the morning sun rise  sweep across the grass, bringing its solace and…

And then she had felt the thing kick within her.

It was the baby, the child that would be Michael, the one who harboured only hatred in his heart. And she realised that this was not the morning, that the sun was not rising in the east, but was setting in the west, and the shadows were chasing away the light, bringing cold and loneliness. And the thing inside her was kicking, screaming, ranting like a creature of the moon, harnessed and strapped, furious for its release.

She had closed the diary, snapped shut the pages as if she was cutting off all that had happened. She had then hidden it, somewhere very safe where nobody could see or ever find it. That was when she heard the sound from the steps and knew who it was. If she had something to strike him with, she would have clasped it and used it as a weapon. Instead she forced a smile upon her lips, an expression that would not show her deep disgust of him and his plans.

Most of this, she told to Anne, the woman whom she had initially distrusted. It had come out in a flood. One minute she was making tea for the others in the office, they had been chatting their normal weekday talk, then a cup had smashed. Recalling the incident, Laura had used the passive tense as if the cup had accidentally broken. In reality, Laura had thrown the thing against the wall of the office, had thrown another, and was attempting for a hat trick when Anne had restrained her.

Anne the older woman, who was elegant and slim, had held her, pinioned her arms together quietly and without the others noticing.

They had all been sitting there in stunned silence, the cups not having only broken themselves but having also snapped that thread of sanity that connected the morning’s proceedings.

Laura had been in tears, she had brought forth a cacophony of curses and had screeched with the frustration of a life that had been blighted by something more than bad luck. Laura, ‘the lunatic’ as she knew she would henceforth be known, was led into the adjoining office which had been, thankfully, empty.

And it was there that she unleashed the anguish that had formed into the black reservoir of resentment that lay at her centre.

Anne had listened, allowing the tide of Laura’s emotions to abate. She finally placed an arm around the younger woman and pulled her close. Laura fell into its comforting embrace and continued to weep, the slow, deep, heavy shudders dredged up from the very core of her being.

The smell of the older woman’s perfume, a clean distant aroma, took her back to a childhood, one that had not been without its pain and tragedy, and one that she had locked away in a place where nobody could visit. Now she was back there and the heaving of her soul seemed to cleanse the guilt.

“You need somebody to talk to,” Anne said. “Somebody who knows how to help you through this. If you don’t mind, I can find somebody. He’s a consultant here and he is a specialist in this type of thing. I could get him to speak with you, if you would like.”

In this condition, Laura would have agreed to consult with Lucifer if he could get rid of the blackness. She had been stripped of anything that resembled dignity.

The older woman gave her one last hug, a final crumb of comfort, before rising and moving to the door.

“I think he is still in his office. I’ll be just a few minutes.”

Then she was gone.

Laura sat in the sterile surroundings, the various desks before her all had their own personal monitors which were standing unemployed, their screens blank in the fading daylight. She felt as if her own plug had been pulled and lay in this sensation which provided her with some solace. She would not go to the garden, she would be fine here.

“Mrs Andrews?” The rich voice came from around the doorway. “Are you still here Mrs Andrews?”

Laura shifted quickly bringing herself back. She made a movement of her hand towards her hair, straightening it where she had cradled against the other woman. She sat upright and wiped away the last traces of her recently fallen tears. The voice, deeply rich and resonant of professional concern, made her think of her old headmaster’s voice. It was not that it had any tonal characteristics in common with that other voice, but that there was some undisguised authority within it; when it spoke, she knew that people listened.

“Ah, Mrs Andrews. Is it good for us to speak?”

Yes it was good. She needed to speak. She needed somebody to open up her dark places and let the light in. So, she sat and talked. She let the good doctor use his professional skills, his lock-picking, his smooth-talking talents upon her until she did feel better.

“So, are you feeling better, Mrs Andrews?”

Yes, she was feeling better. She was feeling much, much better yet she could not remember a thing they had spoken about.

“And remember to take two tablets a day. It will make you think better. Clear the confusion so to speak.”

How she got home, how she had remembered to pick Pete up, how she had driven Brian was a mystery. However, if life could be this simple, she would accept it any day of the week. There was somebody waiting for them when they returned.

Pete saw the man first and found it difficult not to show his happiness.

 

The Piper 25

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It had been at the hospital, Fairfields. Fairfields was where it had all begun.

Laura could remember, she could remember it as if it had happened moments ago. There had been the panicked search for Michael who had disappeared from the car and could not be found. She remembered the deathly chill that had rushed upon her and the fear that it brought. For an instant, she believed that he would be lost… forever and that increased her efforts.

The wind had been picking up around her, chasing her and mocking her. There had been something about Michael, always something that was not quite right. She had been catching the reflection of his face in the rear-view mirror and his eyes had stared back, empty of care, void of recognition. At that time, for those long seconds, she harboured an inexplicable trepidation, then it had passed. Michael was there again smiling at her. When he then went missing, physically this time, there had been the worrying moment when something close to relief had flooded her senses. The echoes of that time, she heard even now.

Yes, I see you do,the thing that spoke with her son’s voice uttered.

Laura brought her eyes up to his, fought to control her gaze, and saw the dark intensity that she had seen in the rear-view mirror. Its outline, the unruly black hair, the line of his cheeks and chin, the nose, slightly upturned, all were those of her child. Beyond that, however, the similarity did not exist.

Michael’s face was a pastiche of his features, slung together with the indifference of a child. If there had been a Picasso for this world, then he would have produced this. This thing in front of her wore leather for skin and it stood many feet higher than Michael. The voice was his, the memories were his, but the rest belonged to some other creature. She was being tricked.

Mother, don’t abandon me like you abandoned my father.

Stung, Laura discovered her anger.

“I didn’t abandon your father. He abandoned me.”

Father loved you as I love you. Please don’t let history repeat itself. I need your arms around me.

And it moved towards her in a pathetic parody of an infant approaching its mother, arms outstretched, pleading, demanding affection. And for a long, long while, its mother contemplated embracing it. That was until the stench of decay summoned her attention. This thing, this thing of another world, had covered the few yards between them and was within touching distance. Laura was shocked to discover that her own arms were outstretched, an invitation she now rescinded.

To her left, across the water, a warning was being sounded. It was the male swan, who had returned, and now it was crying its shrill alarm in an attempt to reach her. Its call surmounted the barriers between species and urged her to run towards the lake. Only the waters would save her from the beast that was crafted from leather and the confused memories of a mother beginning to fall into their own dark places.

Headlong she ran and headlong she dived into the waters. The breath of the beast returned to that rattle which had announced its arrival. Its claws, for she knew that was what it would have, raked the air behind her. They would tear through her skin like blades through paper, but she reached the lake and dived, dived deep. Before she surfaced, she knew that it would be standing there upon the shore, watching her through the eyes of her son.

Only traces of her dream remained as she woke the next morning. As usual, Pete had climbed into her bed throughout the night and was sleeping soundly. Nothing moved in the house but, beyond it, she could hear the sounds of the morning emerging. There was the distant rumble of a train, a car’s engine being ignited and a smattering of birdsong. She stilled herself and listened for any other sounds that might be detected; there were none.

Laura slid her body out of bed feeling aches that had not been there the night before. Perhaps she was coming down with something, perhaps a cold or the dreaded flu. Her neck was stiff suggesting recent exercise and her legs housed a dull throb that reminded her of the running she had once done. The obligatory moan was stifled as she raised herself to her feet. Pete turned slightly but remained asleep.

Putting on her dressing gown, his mother left the room ignoring her usual detour to the bathroom. Instead, she headed for the area beneath the attic steps. She stood beneath the opening, gazed beyond and was caught in a moment’s indecision. Listening again to confirm that nobody else was awake, she climbed the steps.

The attic waited in a miasma of light and dark. Laura was drawn towards the box she had found the flute thing in. She bent over and peered into its contents finding that which she was looking for without knowing what it would be. It was a diary, Michael’s diary, and it was hiding beneath everything else.

Something told her that she had always known about Michael and his documenting of things, the difficult times, the times of pain. When she had been lost in grief and anger, the eldest son had been watching and writing; everything. She now understood that there was something about her son that was not what it would appear and the thought carried with it a cold hand of repulsion.

Laura Andrews, mother of three loving boys, groped deeply into the box that would reveal the extent of Michael’s disloyalty. Michael, her most sensible of sons, who had hidden his true thoughts and feelings. Michael, the rotten apple, rotten to the core. And she sat there, in the dissipating gloom, reading the words that appeared before her.

Below her, Michael was waking and wondering what his mother was doing in the attic.

Pete lay still, his eyes wide open.

He was listening to the thoughts of his mother whilst Christopher continued what appeared to be a peaceful sleep.

 

The Piper 24

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In the first moments of consciousness, Mr Hunter stared blindly into the pitch black. He reached for the bedside lamp and his fingers fumbled for the switch. Finally, its harsh light swept across the bedroom and completed the brutality of his awakening.

He had been lifted from waters whose dark undertow had threatened to take him away.

As he listened to the fearful screaming, the images he had viewed stormed back across his memory. Then the cacophony turned to the familiar ring of his telephone. He raised his body, still coated in the dampness of fear, and climbed out of bed. His legs felt like they had run a hundred marathons. And the thought occured to his irony that soemtimes  delivering messages can be fatal.

The phone continued to ring, sounding impatient.

Whoever the caller was, they were determined to get through. He looked at the clock in the hallway and it told him that it was three in the morning. A pattern was beginning to develop. His head was banging from a deeply rooted pain that resounded like a metronomic explosions.

“Hello,” his annoyance was evident, but there was no reply.

“Hello, who is it?”

Eventually, a faint voice emerged as if it was arriving from a great distance.

“Dad?”

A bolt of pain shot out of the darkness; nausea and anger were its companions.

“Whoever you are, this is not funny. You bastard, how dare you?”

“I haven’t got long,” the voice crackled with static. It was a voice he remembered, its timbre instantly recognisable. “It is The Piper you are searching for. It is The Piper.”

The volley of static returned as the teacher continued to listen. Tears had formed in the corners of his eyes and were welling up, ready to roll. His throat was hard, his Adam’s apple the size of a cricket ball, choked his windpipe. He could not speak. He tried, but all that came was an ineffectual squeak.

The static continued yet within it there were more voices, much weaker than the one who had addressed him. They were calling out, a multitude of names. Some were moaning in agony, their pitiful cries now evident, whilst some were cursing those who had led them there. Many were pleading for help, an animalistic yearning for the agony to be ended.

“It was not your fault. It was The Piper. He knows what you are and he will find you. Promise me that you will not be found. Promise…”

The static increased to open the flood of anguish; and then it snapped shut.

Cradling the handset next to his ear, Graham Hunter listened to the dead connection.

Tears washed his face, lightening exploded in his temples, and his bones housed the arthritic aches of a very, very old man.

 

 

Changed utterly, the words sang their way through the air like swans in flight.

However, waking from the depths of sleep, Laura knew that these were not the birds of the poem, linked for life, these were fleeing. Their wings beat the night air in urgent escape. Something had disturbed their sleep, some dark thing that slunk along, some rough beast intent on their destruction. The swans were of the lake and were now rising higher into the night, their reflections fading like hope.

Laura lay tightly in a foetal position. The noise of the beast, its footsteps circling in an ever-widening search, was getting louder and closer. She held her breath, straining not to make a sound. Even nearer, she could hear the breathing of the thing that was tumbling through the undergrowth towards her. Its savage rattle, so much like that of a snake, swept along the ground.

If she were to stay, it would find her and she dreaded to even think of the consequences. If she moved, it would hear her and race towards its prey. She had no wings to help her flee. She was caught in the soft molars of indecision, each moment counting towards its own consequence. She tightened the position as if its imaginary womb could protect her. If she were to die, then it would be with her eyes closed.

Mum,it was the voice of Michael and her spirits soared.

She lifted her face from the crook of her arm and let her eyes follow her son’s tones back to its source. Dismay fell upon her like carrion when she realised that it was emanating from the area in which the beast had previously been cutting its noisy advance. Now, the thing was quiet. There was no breathing, no deathly rattle, and Laura knew why. It had heard her son.

As the stark reality dropped its bombshell, she rose to her feet screaming.

“Michael run! Run, it’s waiting for you, it’s hiding, it’s…” and then the words she had so desperately ripped from the depth of her maternal courage – stopped, trapped in a throat that had dried with an outrage of disbelief. The thing standing in the footprint of her son’s voice was smiling at her.

It was her son, Michael.

Mother, you always knew I was a little, let’s say, different didn’t you?

 

 

 

Back To The End Of The World

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We had a conversation this morning. It was one of those not quite awake conversations that happens on Saturday morning when there is no work to put a stop to them. 

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. I knew that there was some honesty coming. “I like your blog, but it’s not going to support us. It’s not that tunnel that you are looking for.”

In the last twenty months or so, the writing has been coming thick and fast. It’s as if all my old injuries and wounds have set about healing themselves, all at once. It’s a Doctor Who thing; complete regeneration and a new-build exterior. I have been careful not to become all nice and good about the world, as a born-againer would likely be. The world still exists in its pre-breakdown mode, shit and getting shittier, so no amount of glossy- over by an inner ‘positive-mindset-self’ is likely to change it. But what I am doing is expurgating myself of the false beliefs about my life and its values.

“I wish you would rewrite The Piper. I loved that book. It is as real to me as yesterday.”

The Piper was my first novel, an imperfect issue that came kicking into life just less than a decade ago; on the eve of my father’s death. The book was my way of showing that I wasn’t a dreamer, that I had real talent. So, I chose a book about the coming apocalypse, set in a school, led by an imaginary Piper who was based on Pan, an Anti-Christ type boy, an animated corpse that had turned to leather and the holy trinity in the form of three brothers. What type of dreamer would dream that up? Anyway, my father escaped having to read it as a result of him dying. And I escaped any redemption.

“I want to rewrite it. It’s just finding the time.” But I knew that I was lying.

I have a friend who didn’t want to upset me when he told me that he thought my writing now was much better than the writing of The Piper. That was my baby he was talking about. It may not have been perfect, but it was mine. It’s a thing that is rarely done, offer an honest critique about the appearance of another person’s baby.

“Your kid is as ugly as a mule’s arse! If you don’t mind me saying.”

That’s why I have kept it in darkness. My ugly mule-arse baby sits on my bookshelf, lonely and wanting to be loved.

“I love it,” my wife said. “I love it.”

Now I am being asked to become Victor Frankenstein. My little imperfect issue needs a face-lift. It needs rewriting for a modern world. It needs to be accepted.

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Liam Flowers, come forth.

 

The Piper 21

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He knew that the advice he had given the two boys would be listened to.

They were good boys who had been unlucky to land in St Agnes.

Since their arrival though, the world that was the school had changed, changed utterly. Indeed, his own world had changed beyond any rational understanding. His evenings had been given over to his research, an endless task that had consumed his hours and thoughts.

The Black Death had also changed the world.

It had, in one fell swoop, unseated an acceptance of the eternal and had replaced it with an understanding of the life’s indifferent cruelty. The popular philosophy of ‘living for the now’, something he had always thought of as being a very twentieth century invention, had actually been created in those times when existence was not guaranteed. Death was an invisible caller, one who slipped into homes without invitation. Death, the unwanted guest at all their tables, would never disappoint. If there was a meaning to life, it was to be found in death.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, he found himself thinking about his son, his dead son.

Death had come for him and it had come early. That was not the way it was supposed to have been. He was supposed to have grown up, completed university, taken on a worthy profession, gotten married, had children and provided his father with the reason for living. Instead, death had had come along and feasted. It was called a drug overdose, even though he had no knowledge of his son ever taking drugs. Case closed.

Graham Hunter found himself thinking back to the evening when he had become lost in his quest for the NuNation site.  News of the site had filtered through the whispered conversations of the students at the school. It was a secret that wanted to be known, and needed to be seen. It was a dare, a deadly temptation, a place from which there was no going back. Under the noses of the entire teaching staff, the students helped to spread the word; like contagion.

A chill ran along his spine as he remembered the complete abandonment that had overtaken his senses when he visited the site. He remembered the screaming that had not been screaming. He remembered the voice that was not speaking at the other end.

What happened that night though had been no incarnation of his id. His search history took him from innocent sounding sites, games and the like, towards others that had not been so innocent. Handheld camera phones displayed a dreadful wealth of images: gang beatings, casual assaults, hit and run bag-snatches, after-school fights. Each one threw up options that satiated the the need to travel into the murkier world of the web.

He had, against his deepest beliefs, visited some terrorist-related pages that documented the martyrs as they exploded themselves in market places and bus stations. Other sites were showing true-life footage of executions and dismemberments. He watched, with a growing sense of horror, those broadcasts that had kept him from his bed and understood why now his sleep was broken by the shattered recollections of his visits. Perhaps this was his punishment for overstepping the mark. He had wandered, albeit with the best of intentions, into a world of evil and madness. He had stopped and dallied, had viewed and reviewed. He had, without knowing why, rattled the gates of Hell and had been invited in.

Now sitting before his monitor, a lonely figure in the darkness of the night, he trembled. What he had seen, the things that he had been party to, had left a stain upon his spirit. He had been lifted and bathed in the river known as Styx, the river that led to Heaven or to Hell. And the deadly sweetness still clung to him. He would have drowned beneath its cloying flow if he had not been dragged back by the screaming that was the phone.

“Work to be done,” he muttered to himself before pulling up the folder that contained his research and first drafts.

Just when mankind thinks it has beaten nature, a hand reaches out and pulls it back. The cracks in man’s armour become the gateways of invasion. This is what happened with the Black Death.

The fourteenth century saw the first cases of the Black Death. In the spring of 1348, a virulent strain of the plague landed on the shores of Italy unleashing a march of death that was unrelenting and unprecedented. In three short years, the disease had laid 25-50% of Europeans in their graves. Like the horsemen of the apocalypse, this plague rode in three. The most commonly known of the variants was bubonic plague which caused buboes and swellings that gave the tell-tale blackness which was to give its name to man’s scourge. This was the result of rat infestations, particularly the Black Rat, Rattus Rattus, which had made their way from Asia stowed away in cargo ships.

The teacher had thought long about mankind’s hatred for rats, how the very sight of them could cause revulsion and panic. This was being illustrated at the school where, since the summer holidays, there had been more and more rats’ nests discovered. The caretaker had been forced to call in a private company to hunt down the source of the infestation and remove it. Rats, as everybody had come to believe, were the harbingers of disease. When found, the only solution was the final one; eradication.

In the case of the Black Death, the bubonic variety, it had been the oriental rat flea which had migrated with its host towards a wider feeding ground. Yet, even the fleas could not be held wholly responsible as they too had been infected with what was the real cause of the pandemic.

A deadly bacterium, Yersina Pestis, had stowed away in its host in the same manner as the fleas had in theirs, and the rats had done within the cargo ships. It was a general piggy back to oblivion. At the end of a successful campaign, the humans died of the disease, the rats died of the disease, the fleas died once they had run out of hosts. Nevertheless, the rats got tagged as mankind’s eternal enemy. Unfortunately, Mr Hunter found it a little too difficult to feel sympathy for a creature which did, however, directly cause other diseases. A rat was a creature that throve upon the corrupt and the rotten. Its environment, the inner-city sewers left little room for other, kinder speculation.

Pneumonic plague gained a much lesser press yet was more deadly with its spread being limited only by the air. As an airborne infection, it decimated closely knit populations closing off the escapes before anybody knew of its existence. The life expectancy of its victims was one to two days.

The last strain of the plague was the one which relied upon a flea bite that allowed the bacteria to enter the bloodstream immediately, killing its victim in just a few short hours. This was the septicemic plague which was, indeed, a kiss of death.

It was the ferocity of the diseases that caused most panic as whole communities could become extinct virtually overnight. Many saw its visitation as divine retribution. Mankind was finally being punished for the crucifixion of an itinerant carpenter and teacher. God was not only great, but he was vengeful, collecting payment for a treachery that was hidden in the dreams of the unworthy.

Many, believing that the end of days was at hand, took to the remainder of their time on earth with an abandonment not seen since the fall of Rome. Drinking fuelled behaviour that would know no repercussions for the priests were dead or in hiding, and the same was true of any other authority. Even God Himself was probably no more, so there was no limit to the kinds of bestial behaviour that could be enjoyed.

Then finally, there were the pragmatists who followed lives midway between the two previous paths. Taking drink and food, as they saw fit and going about their business in a manner that still retained elements of normality. Yet these were definitely not normal times. For the most part, the poorer members of society suffered in silence. Receiving no care or attention, they remained in their houses, their deaths only detected through the cloying smell of their decaying bodies.  

He wondered whether the citizens of Messina, Sicily, way back in 1347 ever realised, as the black rats ran from the first ships, that what they were seeing was the beginning of the end, the apocalypse.

He wondered about the rats at school and an unnerving thought scuttered within his mind.

Could death still travel so far without being detected?