the dimming of the light (Part 16)
a hard, tough routine had settled on our little commune of five dwellings a habitual practice of patrolling the nine or ten acres of my land which we all shared and protected harvesting the fire wood and drinking the water from the spring
the crude filtering followed by boiling it had produced no discernable ill effects and we were surviving well on trout, carp and pike from the lake very well considering most of our neighbours were probably eating their dogs and other pets already
we were very concerned about the welfare of the five cats we owned between us The well-being or our cats was taking up more and more of our thoughts as we settled into a routine where we survived without potentially fatal hardship cold, hungry, smelly and uncomfortable
but not seemingly in danger if we avoided others and were prepared to defend our territory ruthlessly
but we wondered, should we not be depending on them to hunt their own food and feed themselves risking that they would wander further from home and therefore expose them selves to being harmed, killed
and eaten Maybe we should be sharing our resources with them in order to maintain their loyalty - feed in them with more than just a few leftover fish bones
We also suspected that, if it were not already occurring - cannibalism of the recent dead would be occurring particularly in towns and cities
even freshly dead babies
we were only another species of animal after all
Rationally there were plenty of animals in the fields around bullocks, sheep, even pigs and although mid-winter, many of them could survive without supplementary feeding by humans and could be slaughtered much more easily than having to hunt wild things
so how many were supporting the local villages - relieving them of more revolting options.
At the same time at the same instant Alice and I realised we being selfish in our thoughts. In our obsession with our own survival - and may be that of our pets. We had not bothered what our companions and friends in our little commune were feeling.
Sharon and Chris both had family, parents, and siblings. Nieces and nephews not like us - devoid of any close family members
and we realised how insensitive we were being in not considering their feelings
I had killed one of the small Muntjac deer, which either live or were common visitors to my property I had shot it at short range - about ten yards with a broad head hunting arrow, one of many I had collected illegally for years, but never before used in anger
the quite tame, diminutive Muntjac had driven away roebuck and fallow by their more aggressive nature despite the other's size disadvantage.
The Colonel had helped me gut and butcher the animal and it had provided welcome fresh meat for the five of us
Alice had spit roast it above the old brick barbecue and we had had, what for us was a feast
Both Chris and the Colonel helped me patrol the half-mile boundary of my land and we had taken the precaution of carrying a weapon at all times - in my case a twenty-bore shotgun, which I also loaned to Chris - whilst the Colonel had his own twelve-bore
Now we hardly saw any of our 'neighbours' and had little idea of whether they were dead or alive but our general impression taken from brief glimpses of figures in the area beyond the brook and the road that ran along the far side of it
was that less than half the village population remained
Whether as a result or fewer people or illness, weakness brought about by the lack of food there just did not appear the number of folk we expected - but we were not about to explore the reasons
we had consciously become recluses with no close contact with anyone outside our small group it seemed prudent not just because we suspected groups or gangs up to no good
but such was our fear of disease or interference. In a way - despite the lack of anything civilised our 'lot' was not at all bad - considering how we imagined other fared
Depending on the wind direction - a strange smell sometimes drifted across. We could not identify it totally, but the colonel decreed it the waft of dead bodies lying unburied that he recalled from his military career
we regarded it as a warning
Our life was settling into a somewhat uneventful routine, maintaining the fire in our house in which all five of us now live, catching fish so as to preserve the tinned food supplies we had remaining, hunting with my air rifle for rabbits, squirrels and birds of which there were plenty
the deficiencies of hygiene our personal lack of washing facilities and the general need to wear several layers of clothes in order to keep warm - all were so routine we ceased to be aware of them
The worst problem was the lack of light nothing other than the glow of the wood burner in the house now that all our torch batteries had expired.
but we were surprisingly becoming used to this primitive life-style
the things we feared most were close contact with others the fear of accident, disease, or being harmed. How otherwise could we survive without succumbing to apathy or loneliness?
I could only guess
(To be continued)
Peter Hunter 2012
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