The Piper 56

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The streets of the city were quieter than they had ever been.

The good, the bad and the ugly were mostly indoors awaiting the arrival of the dawn. Some sat in silence, others slept a disturbing sleep whilst a significant few were fixed, enraptured by their computer screens. On this night, there was only one destination that was filling the search engines, NuNation.

Tonight was the film-feast made real.

Liam Flowers walked through the silent city in deep satisfaction. He was on the verge of success and sensed the relief of a short life spent in enforced failure now changed utterly. Tomorrow would bring about the beginning of the end of this life tand the start of the new one. He had been shown the new world in which he ruled and hd been told that his enemies would be punished. The old, and those young who stood by them, would meet a traitor’s fate.

One little thing was missing; the Andrews boy.

Michael Andrews had not been delivered to him; the fatted calf was missing.

Soon the rats would come and their invasion would sweep the streets. Tomorrow was to be the night when it would all take place. There would be fire and sacrifice and then would come the cleansing.

“Liam,” a voice rose from the darkness.

Flowers turned and saw the outline of Podrall. He was walking towards him, his head hidden beneath his hood. There was something wrong.

“I’m sorry, but we could not find him. He’s gone. I think that he just got out before we got there. I’ve…”

Podrall had been given the simple task of picking up the character known as Nick. He had been spotted with the family and had been traced back to a house he shared with other ‘retards’.

Simple job – not done!

Flowers had a feeling that Nick was not what he first appeared to be.

“You’ve cocked up. You have made the worst mistake of your life.”

“But…”

“He’ll want your blood for this. He blames you for the mistakes. What should I do?”

For the first time in a while, Flowers sounded human. He had a quality to his voice that spoke of empathy. He had gone out on a limb to save this boy, but things had changed.

“If you want to live, you must run. Don’t stay in the city or they will find you. Tomorrow is the new dawn and everyone who is not with us will not be for much longer. Leave the city and hide.”

“But…”

“Or don’t and die.”

The confused eyes of his loyal soldier searched for some reprieve and found nothing. He saw his fate closing in around him before his survivor’s instinct kicked in. Not looking at Flowers, he turned and broke into a deep stride. He had no other thoughts than to get out of the city.

Nothing moved around him as he ran. His footfalls echoed in the empty streets into the unnatural night’s calm. He had that familiar feeling of a thousand eyes watching him from the shadows and he was afraid.

Without the protection of Flowers, Podrall was naked. He was a boy again without a gang to lead. He was alone and isolated. He was a victim waiting to happen. However, Podrall’s adventures had taught him much and he believed he had enough about him to get out of this.

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On a night like this, he could do anything.

 

 

The Importance Of Night

For the morning

Read After Burnout

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Almost twenty-minutes past three and I am sittng here in the darkness, without my glasses, whilst my wife and daughters sleep upstairs.

I woke thinking.

Now someway into my veritable older years, though the boy inside me queries this, I have those nocturnal meanderings that lead to a gnawingly inward frustration.

It’s over two-years since I finally wobbled beyond wise words. My ‘burnout’ was a forest fire that destroyed everything that I had come to depend upon in my daily existence and spiritual certainty. Even then, I still had a belief in the whole business of God.

I was a character in some cosmic saga and my lines were being written in a sympathetic ‘it will all work out in the final chapters’ manner. It was a nice thought, but it was a thought that gently drowned me into inactivity. Why should I bother to make the hard decisions when…

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The Importance Of Night

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Almost twenty-minutes past three and I am sittng here in the darkness, without my glasses, whilst my wife and daughters sleep upstairs.

I woke thinking.

Now someway into my veritable older years, though the boy inside me queries this, I have those nocturnal meanderings that lead to a gnawingly inward frustration.

It’s over two-years since I finally wobbled beyond wise words. My ‘burnout’ was a forest fire that destroyed everything that I had come to depend upon in my daily existence and spiritual certainty. Even then, I still had a belief in the whole business of God.

I was a character in some cosmic saga and my lines were being written in a sympathetic ‘it will all work out in the final chapters’ manner. It was a nice thought, but it was a thought that gently drowned me into inactivity. Why should I bother to make the hard decisions when they had possibly already been made for me?

It takes many deaths before we awaken to the possibility of our own.   

I think the fifties decade is the one that begins to place the Grim Reaper before us on an ever more frequent basis. People die. It’s not just people we vaguely know or celebrities we have grown up with. No, those now dying are our friends and our family. At this point, life stops being endless, ceases to be something that will happen tomorrow, and starts becoming a little urgent.

We have just returned from holiday in the past week and yesterday I was talking to my wife and commented on how full ‘holiday days’ are compared to non ‘holiday days’.

We were camping in France and we based our stay around the beautiful Lake Annecy. Our camping was a mixture of hard and soft camping with ten days being spent in mobile homes whilst the other eight was real camping in tents. We had our bikes (five people in my immediate clan) and the car was full to bursting with everything that we were to need and lots of things that we had forgotten that we would need. But we were on holiday and that meant that the days were ours and needed the respect that they deserved. So, instead of just letting them drift by, we filled them full of ourselves. Cycling, walking, talking, cooking, meeting, talking some more, seeing, site-seeing, BEING! We did it all.

Like most of our best holidays, the weeks were book-ended by potentially disastrous events. The car broke down, badly, and or final dash for the ferry saw us driving through the most torrential of storms which demanded my wife and daughters’ abject fear and my 1000 percent concentration. We survived both. When we got home we were well and truly knackered, but we had done it; we had filled the days of our holidays with meaning. We ‘did’ rather than procrastinate. It made sense. Back home the doing seems to get pushed to one side for that great big empty balloon of a thing called ‘everyday life’. And that is what we genrally do (or don’t).

Have you ever been to a funeral and said to yourself, “This is too important to waste”, then gone straight back to wasting it the next day and the day after that and the one after that…infinitum? It’s the holiday thing. We have a brief epiphany, a break from the everyday, a glimpse of what could be, then the blinds come down and we are back in the darkness of the mundane.

The thing with the mundane, the everyday, the normal world, is that it’s not taxing. It may be ultimately a stealth-tax but we don’t immediately feel it. We are not left exhausted by our attempts to seize the day and don’t feel the need to stuff all of our energies into a few weeks that will come to an end.  Unlike life, holidays are finite. And that is ‘rub’. Life does end. It’s a holiday that starts with a breakdown and finishes with a dramatic storm that threatens to derail everybody’s safe passage.

So after those fine words, I am still confused as to what my true holiday should contain.  

I have a decision to make in the next few days.

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I can’t put it off. The clock is ticking. 

 

 

Books Mature Inside Some Of Us

Author Kazuo Ishiguro, suggests many novelists peak in their youth and once said: “There’s something very misleading about the literary culture that looks at writers in their 30s and calls them ‘budding’ or ‘promising,’ when in fact they’re peaking.”

Contrarily, a recent study from Blinkbox revealed that most authors do in fact get their big break in middle-age and, with 12 per cent of us harbouring plans to write a book in retirement, some argue that perhaps we should be spending more time celebrating, nurturing, and encouraging older talents.

“Writing is obviously a solitary exercise,” says Tim Finch, who was 51 when his debut novel, The House of Journalists, was published. “If it’s something you turn to in middle age, you often don’t have many or any contacts in the literary world.”

Finch, along with around 60 other novelists, is a member of The Prime Writers – a network of men and women whose debut novels were published when they were over the age of 40. One of the few networks of its kind, The Prime Writers’ catalogue ranges from memoirs to historical fiction, using a “vast reservoir of life experience” to inform their writing. The group aims to inspire other writers, and spur “people in their ‘prime’ to realise it is certainly not too late to write that novel and get it published.”

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The Piper 55

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If Laura Andrews was going to make that final leap into madness, it would be now.

She sat holding the note studying its contents.

“Who the hell is Dr William Melrose?” she asked Nick directly.

“It’s a long story.”

“Isn’t everything these days? You may as well get it started because we haven’t got long,” she shot back.

“Dr William Melrose was a doctor at Fairfields…”

“Was? Did he get fired for not hitting his target for lobotomising children or something?”

“No, he died.”

Laura let out an exasperated laugh.

“Died?” she repeated. “So you’re telling me that my son, my youngest son is now with some dead doctor at some hospital somewhere? Why does this not surprise me?”

“I think it’s like everything else, Mum,” Chris put in. “I never believed in any of this, even when the bad things started to happen. I thought it was just a load of rubbish.”

He looked at his brother. “I accepted you, Michael. Well, you’ve always been a little strange from the start, but everything else, all this stuff about you, Nick? There’s only so much you can take. But I saw Dad and that changed it all for me. There’s nothing much more that will surprise me. If only he hadn’t died.”

There was silence in the room.

“I too have been seeing loved ones who are now gone.”

Mr Hunter, who had been sitting quietly summing up the situation, now had the eyes of everyone upon him.

“Well seeing is probably not the right word. I’ve been getting phone calls from my son, my dead son.”

He hesitated as this confession was an admission of guilt. I too am a lunatic! 

“Until very recently, I would have described myself as a very sane man. Okay, over three decades in teaching doesn’t always go with that, but sane in comparison with other people; people who were sound of mind. Now, I’m not so sure.”

“What does your son say?” asked Laura quietly.

Graham turned his full attention to the mother who was caught in the eye of this maelstrom.

“He has been warning me about the Piper. He has been warning me from beyond the grave.”

“Does that mean that…” she swallowed hard, but fixed upon Nick once more, “Does that mean that Peter is dead?”

“No. He is alive somewhere. I believe that this note tells us that he is in the care of this doctor.”

“The dead doctor?”

“Yes, but such things don’t matter so much anymore. We are living in times foretold in Revelations. The dead will come back on both sides of the divide. They will stand for the Piper or with ourselves. Peter is safe for the time being. If we don’t act quickly though, that time being will be time gone.”

“What can we do?” Laura asked.

“We can get to them when and where they least expect it. Tomorrow at the school,” answered the teacher.

“It already is tomorrow,” Michael said, looking at his watch for confirmation.

“In that case, you should all try to get some sleep,” added Nick. “As I have a feeling that we’ll need all our energies to deal with whatever will be thrown at us. Just a few hours and I’ll stand sentinel.”

Nobody took too much convincing of the logic behind this as suddenly the realisation of their efforts to date settled upon them and reaffirmed their weariness. All, apart from Nick, were soon away into separate sleeps that were mercifully not blighted by what had gone before.

The sentinel stood his guard.

 

For once, sleep was kind.

At 3.45 am, the sentinel carefully roused his companions. Without speaking, each woke to the understanding that today would be as no other they had ever experienced.

Michael was already making tea by the time the others had pulled themselves from the comfort of their last few short hours. Chris woke to a painful throbbing in his right arm and remembered that it was broken. For all of that, he had slept without pain. Laura had spent the night in ‘her garden’ and could still feel the last of the sun’s rays upon her skin. She saw Chris wince a little as he tried to elevate himself to a seating position and was stung by guilt.

“Christopher, are you all right?”

“Just hurts a bit, but not much.”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“Mum, of course you didn’t mean to. Just an accident. It’s nothing.”

When Michael returned with the mugs of steaming tea, everybody was up and ready to plan for what they must do.

Their plan was simple: find out what Flowers had planned and stop it.

It was decided that Mr Hunter and Michael should be the ones to go into the school. Chris, with his recent dealings with the Piper, could well be on their radar. It would be too dangerous for him to be seen. Michael, on the other hand, had evaded them before and he believed that he could do so again. He and Mr Hunter would be responsible for reconnoitring the area and feeding back any possible signs of what the others had planned. They knew that the Piper would have devised something spectacular, but they did not yet know the full extent of the drama that awaited them.

Laura, Chris and Nick would stay at the house for what was left of the night and would then make their way to the school. “Just in case you run into trouble,” Laura said.

Mr Hunter (“I think you ought to start calling me Graham now”) had said that he knew ways in and out of the school that nobody else was possibly aware of. Laura had blessed the venture without revealing the true extent of her maternal reluctance. There was something more at stake than just her own family’s well being.

“Why Mike?” she had asked almost as an afterthought.

Nick replied for him, “He is the one the Piper fears the most and so he should.”

“But won’t that put him in more danger?”

“Yes, but if Michael doesn’t act now, the Piper will seek him out. Like me, he is a threat that needs to be disposed of.”

Laura rose and went towards her eldest son. She placed her arms around him and embraced him tightly. Then she held his face between the palms of her hands.

“Whatever I said back then, I did not mean.”

Tears were beginning to make their passages down her cheeks.

“I love you. I love you with all my heart and I don’t know how I will live if something were to happen to another of my sons.”

“Mum, there’s nothing that I can say that will help you, but I do believe that someday this will be over and we’ll be together again. We’ll find Pete. I love you too. I even love that useless brother over there.”

He nodded towards Christopher and got a nod of acceptance in return.

“Take care of my son, Mr Hunter.”

“It’s Graham to you, dear lady.”

“Take care of my son please, Graham.”

“I will, Mrs Andrews. I promise.”

“Thank you. It’s Laura.”

“I will ensure that I return your son in Grade A condition.”

“A Star, if you please.”

“A Star it will be.”

Michael and his history teacher left the relative security of the Andrews family, setting off into a night that would form the frontier of their world’s remaining sanity.

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Beyond that, only monsters roamed.

 

The Piper 54

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The key was turning in the lock and the group watched the downward movement of the handle.

Laura had armed herself with her largest pan, Michael and Nick held knives. If they were to be found, they would fight. The Piper had reminded them of things they had not thought they knew. They were aware that this had happened before, that they had stood side by side in grim determination not to give in. In the unlit kitchen, they could have been anybody from any time. They were the hunted who had reached the end of their run. This would be the time they would stand and fight.

The door was unlocked and was moving silently on its arc. Two figures were entering. The defenders tensed themselves for combat. Laura was the first to move. She pushed all of her anger into a swing that was intended to take the head off whatever had set their sights on them. This was for both her missing boys.

In fact, this was for everyone who had been taken.

Chris saw the object coming towards him at the last moment. He ducked, raising his arms for protection, managing to avoid the intended death blow by a fraction. Instead, his left wrist took the impact with an immediate bolt of pain registering damage. Whoever was attacking him did not stop at this. With its target down, it moved around him searching for another opportunity to strike home. The pain in his arm was intense; the thing on him was intent.

Chris managed to look up and saw with relief that Mr Hunter was now in the fray attempting to hold the flailing arms. As with Chris, the attacker was proving to be formidable. Blows started raining down on him too. Nevertheless, the teacher stuck to his task even though he was registering others in the room. Shadows were now moving towards them and with the boy down it would only be a matter of time.

With his eyes adjusted to the light, Michael recognised the prone form of his brother. His mother, to his alarm, was beginning her assault on what she thought was a diabolical intruder. Michael rushed forward and tried to stop her. To his amazement, she seemed to be too strong for him.

Like Michael, Nick reacted late. Nevertheless, when things fell together, he moved to prevent the imminent tragedy. Michael was trying to hold his mother and was losing the battle. Laura’s body was filled with depthless rage. Nick moved in. With Michael’s arms around her, she still managed to continue her assault on the one protecting the other on the floor. By the way he was lying; the one on the floor was injured. Whoever he was, he was not the threat that Laura thought him to be. Moving into the space between her and her directed anger, Nick was able to grab the heavy pan by the handle stopping it reaching its target. Laura’s eyes flashed at him again with the same fury he had seen earlier.

“Mum, stop. It’s Chris. It’s Chris.”

Her eyes blinked and the wrath was no more. The violence of the previous seconds hung in the air before dissipating. The tableau remained for moments longer with each of its parts breathing deeply.

“Mum, it’s me Chris.”

Laura dropped to her knees and embraced the injured son. Tears fell upon him as she soothed his brow.

“Chris,” she uttered through sobs, “I didn’t know. I thought it was them. I thought it was them.”

She buried her head into the curve of his neck and hugged him tightly. His arm exploded with pain and he cried out.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s my arm. I think you might have broken it.”

Indeed she had.

The teacher stood by bewildered. He was bleeding from a few places around his head where the pan had glanced him with a scything blow. He recognised Michael’s voice and had now placed the other pieces of the jigsaw together. The thing that had attacked him was none other than the boy’s mother. She had fought with a venom that was incredible. Now that he saw her, she was only a mother, a slight figure that would not cause anybody any intentional harm. Then he saw Nick and a distant memory nipped the edge of his consciousness.

They lifted Chris to his feet and assisted him into the lounge. Nick took the keys and locked the kitchen door before following. With the next door closed behind them, it was safe to turn on the light. They sat looking at each other, Laura holding the arm that she had broken.

“We need to fix that soon or it will cause him agony,” Nick said.

“We’ve got a big first aid kit in the attic,” suggested Michael. “I remember putting it up there when we moved in. Silly place to keep it I suppose. I’ll bring it down.”

The eldest son was reacting quickly to events with an unruffled approach. His clear head would be needed many times before this was over. As he walked towards the hallway, Chris gazed at him with a mixture of guilt and admiration. This was the brother he had traded for his day with his father. This was the one he had chosen to leave behind when the Piper had dropped into his dreams. This was Michael, his elder brother, who was so selfless in his actions, who never thought about himself before others. He was a brother who should never have been betrayed.

“Michael.”

“What, Chris?”

“It was me who sold you out. I’m sorry. I believed him. He said that we could have Dad back if you were gone. He said that you were the cause of all the badness that was happening. He said that you were not real.”

“That’s how the Piper works.”

They all turned to Nick who was seated in the armchair.

“He works on lies. He unties the bonds that connect us. He sows the seeds of hatred and distrust. You have come through a test today and you have done well. The Piper has not achieved what he needed to achieve and the repercussions will be devastating. There will be a huge sacrifice that will be the signal for the thing to begin. I don’t know what it will be, but its tremors will be felt around the world. This thing will break the dam of restraint and hell will follow. If we only knew what he had planned, we could try to stop him.”

“I think I know,” said the teacher. “I think they’re going to do something with the school.”

The school brought back memories for Michael that he wished to forget. They would have to revisit it and try to stop what was going to happen. He shuddered with the memory of the rats.

“Mum, I’ll need the torch.”

“It’s by the door. I left it there last night for some reason.” Laura thought of last night and it was a million years away.

Michael found the torch and started up the stairs. Once he reached the safety of the top flight, he switched it on. He was relieved that the battery was not dead. Above him was the attic entrance. He reached up and unclipped the catch that kept it secure. The door fell open and he pulled at the ladder that would allow him to enter the attic space.

He climbed carefully and watched as the torch’s beam cut through the dust. All the things that would not fit in this smaller house were stored here . A small window framed the moonlight as it cut a block into the dark. His torch picked out the fireplace at the back of the room that suggested that this had been more than a storage area in a previous time. His mother had intentions of moving that fireplace to the lounge to give the place character, but she hadn’t got around to it.

Michael found the first aid box and stifled a giggle at how big it was. He had always thought his mother was a little overanxious and had wondered if she had been expecting a war rather than the cuts and bruises that accompany childhood. He stopped in mid-thought and realised how useful this would now be.

He lifted the box and felt its weight. Carrying it towards the doorway, he looked back at the fireplace and noticed something protruding from its ancient grate. He put the box down and walked towards what had attracted his interest. Kneeling down, he saw that it was an envelope. Michael pulled it from its resting place and looked at it. Like the fireplace, it was old. Time had stained it with its passage. The paper was fragile so he handled it carefully. There was no address on its front. He placed the envelope on top of the box and descended the ladder.

In the lounge, the group waited. They had spoken only a little whilst awaiting Michael’s return. Nick had told them how he would put together a sling that would be able to keep the break supported. He told them that he would need to see someone who knew more about such things, but that they couldn’t trust themselves to a regular hospital. The Piper had his spies everywhere. As Nick put together the sling, Laura searched for the painkillers and handed two to Chris.

“This should help. Do you need water?”

Chris shook his head and then tried to swallow one. His mouth was completely dry and the tablet felt like a brick.

“I think I’ll need that water after all.”

Michael held out the envelope.

“I found this in the fireplace. It’s strange that we never saw it when we were putting stuff in the attic.”

Laura returned with the glass of water and Chris washed down the tablets. Michael opened the envelope and he gently pulled out a leaf of paper on which an elegant hand had written its message.

“To whom this may concern,” Michael read loud. “Peter, your youngest son is safe. He is with us at the hospital. I am afraid that he met with an accident and was in need of immediate medical attention. Do not worry for he is now recovering. He says that you need to come and find him post haste. The teacher is correct in his assumption that the school is the target and, therefore, you will need to halt their plans. I need not remind you that you are all in extreme peril. Act quickly and effectively. Save all you can, but remember to remain as a family. He has no power that can break this bond.

Peter asks for his mother not to worry. He loves her and his brothers more than time itself.

When they come for you, as they will, remember that your strength is your unity. Never give up on your quest to be reunited no matter what befalls you.

Take God’s care and trust in Nicholas,

Dr William Melrose.”

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The Piper 53

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He was no longer dreaming.

Petras and his father were moving quickly through the forest at the base of the mountain. They had not seen any of the other herdsmen which stung them with guilt. Perhaps they should have waited, his father thought. Perhaps they should have looked for the others. That, he knew, would have meant their deaths.

There was only one thing that they could do that would be of any use and that was to warn the village. They were not aware that they had been overtaken in their rush for home. The raiders were riding horses that made next to no noise as they galloped. Their hooves had been softened by cladding them in straw-filled cloth. They moved like a breeze through the trees and the father and son knew nothing of their passage.

“Father,” Petras said through clenched teeth. They had been running for miles and the boy could not bring himself to ask for a rest. His lungs were stinging and the pain in his muscles was now unbearable. His father had been running ahead and did not hear. He was intent on getting back to his wife. So when Petras fell, it took some time for him to notice.

“Father!” the boy shouted with all of his strength and, at this, his father stopped.

In all his haste, he had not considered his young son. He had been running at a pace that meant the boy could not keep up. When he turned, he saw how far behind his son had fallen and a shame fell across his face. He ran back to where Petras lay.

“Petras, Petras are you all right?”

Petras looked up through tear-stained eyes. He was aware of something that was wrong with his leg. When he had fallen, something had caught his standing foot. He had heard a loud crack and believed that it had been a branch that he had trodden on. His momentum had carried him forward and he had wheeled awkwardly in a sudden broken arc before falling face first into the forest pine needles.

Looking down at his son, he could see that the boy was not all right. His leg, just above the right ankle, had formed itself into an angle that was not natural. His father had treated countless goats that had done the same. Many of the herdsmen would have slaughtered the animals there and then. Their meat would have been covered with salt and taken back for later consumption. Unlike the others, Petras’ father had gained much insight into immediate treatment of such breaks. Many a goat had lived to graze another day because of this. Unfortunately, what he saw here disturbed him.

Petras had indeed trodden on a branch and it had broken under his feet. In doing so it had formed a rudimentary snare that had caught the boy’s foot precisely. As the body travelled forward, the foot remained and, when it fell, that foot was rooted to its trap. Such a quick movement brought about a massive force that was focussed on such a fragile bone. The boy was young and it would mend, but it would never be completely straight.

His father knelt down and stroked the boy’s face.

“It will be painful, but I will fix it.”

With that, he ran his hand through the boy’s hair realising his dilemma. His wife would be in danger very soon if he did not get back whilst his boy would possibly perish if he left him without treatment. In his bag, he carried those things that he would have to use in cases of emergency. He took out his length of leather strapping that was rolled into a ball and unwound it. Next, he pulled out two even sticks which he placed on the ground. Looking around, he searched the forest floor for something and immediately found what he was wanting. He placed his hand on a twig that was newly broken and still replete with sap. This he motioned towards his son.

“You will need to bite on this. Bite hard. Give all your pain and fear into this. It will take it.”

Petras bit upon it and his father immediately started his work. His hands felt along the bone and touched the exposed places where nerves screamed in outrage. The boy screamed too, but forced it into the stick. He bit harder that he had ever done before and sunk through so that he tasted the familiar pine. His father had had mapped the break and was preparing to set about pulling the lower bone downwards whilst twisting it so that it would fit back into its original place. It would have to be a quick operation if he was to spare his son an eternity of unbearable pain. With practised speed, he jolted on the loosely hanging ankle so that it was free of any obstruction. He felt his son’s body go rigid and could only imagine the agony he must be in. However, wasting no time, he twisted the lower bone and then slotted it into something that resembled the original. When he looked at his son’s face, he saw that he had passed into unconsciousness.

He placed the sticks at either side of the break and wrapped the leather tightly around the leg and splints. He was happy that the boy was not aware now of feeling and pulled the straps tightly so that movement would be restricted. The bones were back where God had intended them to be and they would not move against each other until the break was mended.

This done, his next decision was to find a place to hide him until he could return. He knew this forest like he knew his own face and lifted up the inert body with tenderness. He had, as a child played here and knew of a cave that was hidden to all but him. The cave was in an unexposed crevasse that was guarded by trees. Here, he was certain that he could ensure his son’s safety. No wild animals or hunters of Pan would ever find him.

The man set off with his wounded son and disappeared into the trees. At the same moment, the dogs, which were the scouts of the hunters, leapt upon a lone woman who was washing clothes in the river. They tore at her with the savage delight of demons, ripping out her throat so as to silence any warning that she may have given. On the bank above her, a dark horseman watched with even darker fascination.

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This was Pa An and he was the giver of death.