It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring days when Grandfather and Grandmother were brought out of hiding into open space for the first time. The Piper, with her youthful joy and fervor, was using a simple tool that she held in her hand and pumped her breath. It emitted a strange hypnotic pulse that washed out over the people and the waves expanded as they spread over the people and the desolate landscape.
The Muridea keeled over, squealing in pain. One by one. The hundreds in a wave, then thousands and then millions. All that emerged from the sound, heard it in its glory and then died. Perhaps it was a happy death. The first of its kind the world had ever seen.
Shortly after, the sounds died as well.
But it was still that time, when Grandfather and Grandmother could go outside and walk in the remains of a park. They could walk, in the safety of being in their own environment, sure that no Muridea would sprout forth from the earth and then attack them. The air did not smell of blood and decay and death. It smelled of exhaustion.
For the first time ever, within their ears and within their minds, there was peace.
The river water could not be used any more, as it contained the corpses of several Muridea, which would take years to decay. It was only when all of Grandfather’s hair had turned white, that he would find the water clear. There was still the occasional Muridea skull that would float by, but those were years later.
Yet, despite the crushing, crumbling and much-needed silence, people rejoiced. They shouted their quiet joy, and celebration came to the lands for the first time in many years. Indeed, it was better to be deaf permanently than to live in constant fear of dying. Initially, there were panic reports of just one person going deaf. But then, as widespread reports flooded medical centers, two entire nations couldn’t hear anything.
Most accepted their silent designation with grace. They were a war generation, too tired with gore to argue with the unintended side effects. They were the ones who counted the number of fresh Muridea dying in the river, everyday. They had not yet lost their capacity to adopt to their new disabilities.
Grandmother and Grandfather learned newer ways to communicate. Visually, via gestures or written/expressed media. It probably helped their cause that their administration had also gone deaf and so adapted the infrastructure to suit their needs. The two countries which had once been bustling metropolises, then ravaged war grounds were just ghost towns of mute people. Even the agencies that could create sound were slowly silenced as nobody could hear them anymore. Audio technology stopped selling. People discarded any communications gear they had. Verbal language had no meaning any more.
But there were others who did not accept this so quietly. Some registered their protest, saying that the Piper had cheated them all, and so should be denied the right to a proper payment. When the Piper asked to be paid, they offered the remaining debris of whatever genetic evidence was left of the Muridea, saying that it was viable human DNA. They did not hear the Piper’s protests. Or see or feel them. They chose not to.
It was a collective decision, formed by the nascent union of both warring factions. As such, some historians maintained that it was one of the best decisions in history as it proved that the entire war had been quite unnecessary. But others maintained that it was one of the worst, for what was to follow.
Grandfather remembered shaking his tired head at the large posters that screamed of injustice to the Piper. Indeed, it seemed as though shortsightedness wasn’t the only fault with the people. Ingratitude existed as well. After so many struggles, wasn’t it good that they accepted the silence as is. After a decade of hearing the howls of the dead and the screeches of scavengers, wasn’t the silence truly a boon in disguise?
Grandmother worried that by handing over the remnant of Muridea DNA, they were inviting the Piper to re-create the invasion again. After all, if he needed the genetic resources to create families, he probably had the genetic resources to re-create their species and plague them again.
As events unfolded, the Piper had other ideas to equate the transaction.
The few children of both these nations were still able to hear very very faintly. This was due to their capacity to pick up frequencies that the adult hearing failed to after a while of being exposed to harsher sounds of the world. Still young, and capable of growing into healthy reproductive adults, the Piper secretly came by and whisked them away.
It was so simple, so non-glorious, so evident what was happening and yet nobody could do anything to stop it. Children were easily enchanted by a person who seemed to be in their own age group, and who could make sound. Lured away from home by the promise of something greater, bigger and more beautiful that the war-stricken land could ever hope to provide, they left in a quiet exodus.
Nobody heard them leave.
Parents tried to stop the children from leaving, when the attempts at abduction were more visible and blatant and yet so subtle. But their protesting actions fell on deaf ears, and numbed minds. There was the joy of company too. To be with each other, to be together, siblings, friends, adolescent lovers and the like fled from the authority of home, skipping over the Muridea remains, ignoring the charred world that they had formerly called home. For what kind of home gave it’s children nothing but explicit instructions to prevent going outside? What kind of a generation raised another in terror of their own creation? Their kind.
Despite the fact that Grandfather and Grandmother had no children of their own, they empathized with families that were now reduced to adults. It wasn’t that they missed the sounds of the children’s laughter, as they couldn’t hear any. But the very presence of someone young and dependent had given the war generation something better to strive for. Except now that there were to be no heirs, what was the purpose of their existence?
Among all the killers that had ruled the land, sadness and despair joined their elite ranks. Mourning, grieving wounded families were added to the death tolls. Every day their numbers rose, and their world’s shrunk and so did the people. And all that was left was hate. Hate for the War, the Muridea, the Piper and everything that had happened.
Yet, human nature was resilient. Several families tried again. But the Piper’s wide-scale treatment left them sterile.
Some begged the Piper that her revenge was too harsh for a land which had experienced sorrow. Indeed there were opinions which claimed that another campaign be initiated to get the children back. But then the Piper conveyed, and finally, when she conveyed, nobody could refute her argument.
She had helped a people get rid of a problem they had created. And it was only fair that he ask for something in return. The Muridea were formidable to defeat. Harsh methods usually have harsh reactions. She had explained these to the authorities when she had first entered the land. They had agreed.
Besides, she was promising the children a brighter, better future than they could ever hope to have in a land that was eager to jump into battle, had literally nothing to offer to a childhood of any form and was littered with death.
Even the protests fell silent at that.
Despite the apparent unfairness of the situation, Grandmother tacitly agreed with the Piper. It was better that they flee before the previous generation’s hate and debris weigh down on their shoulders. Grandfather, who empathized more deeply with the families, still felt that it was rather cruel. After all, they could have cleaned themselves up in hope that the next generation would enjoy the productive fruits of their labor. But with nobody to inherit, there was no reason for posterity.
Fate settled on the people and they resigned themselves to their doomed lives. They comforted themselves years later saying that at least their children were together and so they were all right.
It was a similar feeling that Grandmother and Grandfather shared. Friends became solitary, nephews and nieces disappeared, yet they still had each other. As long as they had each other, there was no pain too big to overcome.