Pied Piper Rewritten Series (V): Visitors

But on this winter evening, in their humble cottage, after fumbling through history and sharing a kiss that neither hoped would be the last, they paused.

They were survivors, and yet they still could not let go of the burden that their kind had created for themselves. Grandfather had burned his laboratory notes about Muridea research, so that nobody would ever have to create such a monster again. Grandmother disposed of the piano, quietly and with tears, for music was very intimate to her. These were several hard decisions that they made, but they made them together and they made them considering the future. Both of these attributes seemed to justify it as a right decision.

Nobody knew what became of the children after. Nobody knew what happened to DNA of the Muridea either. Traces of everything that had happened were removed. Eventually, the burned land relearned how to sprout grass, and the river could supply them with nutrients once again.

Grandmother looked up from the album that she and Grandfather shared in their arms.

There was the shadow of a person on the snow. It was too upright to be someone of their age. Yet it was impossible that anybody younger should exist. Hesitant, and quite frightened, the couple took to the door. Grandfather hauled an old weapon, that he had used to keep uninvited Muridea at bay. Grandmother shivered timidly as she hobbled towards the door.

Grandmother was not a person given to drama and hysteria, yet the shock of what she saw made her reel. A young girl, of about sixteen or seventeen waited at the door. She was wearing a full coat that was buttoned up to protect her from the cold, and the snowflakes was settling in on her mousy hair.

She flashed a bright smile that reflected the snow. It was unreal. It was beyond unreal. Surely at her age, she was prone to seeing delusions. Nobody like that could even be after all that had happened. The girl moved her mouth, clearly she was trying to explain something vocally, which Grandmother did not hear. Grandfather dropped the weapon he was holding in sheer shock. Grandmother felt the vibrations of the heavy bulky device crash to the floor via her feet.

Could it be? Could the children have returned? Had they truly survived everything to live to see this beautiful day?

Very shyly, the girl patted Grandmother’s hand, as though understanding their confusion. As a patriotic and respectful gesture she tried to embrace Grandmother, as though she was long-lost family. Though Grandfather and Grandmother had no children, the very fact that someone had reached out to them and considered them close enough to be family and wished to meet them made their hearts happy enough. It was the kind of happiness that hadn’t filled them since the silence began.

Grandfather’s eyes were watering again due to some combination of extreme emotion and age and cold weather. Grandmother clasped the figure before her very tightly. This was real. She was beholding the next generation. They were so overcome with emotion, as they had never felt in so long that they had abandoned all suspicion.

Indeed it was a such a simple thing that made them happy, and like most simple ideas, it was genius. Pure genius.

While locked in that fragile filial embrace, neither Grandmother nor Grandfather noticed as the girl fidgeted with a furry, rat-like hand under her coat and turned on the invisible ear piece she had. They could not have heard what she said, but this is what she said.

“Search successful. We have located two healthy pure human specimens for gene distillation. Purification process can be initiated.”

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (IV): Sounds

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.

Grandfather and Grandmother clutched each other in worry, terror and joy all intermingled. The high frequencies were inducing strange behavior, but they were enchanting as well.

It was also the last sound they would ever hear.

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.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (III): Mutant

Almost a decade after the war began, the enemy state was brought to its knees. Two nations were now begging at the same level. The air strikes and the weapons fire had reduced considerably, but so had everything else. The Muridea were now returning back to their homes, spawning a population where they heavily outnumbered their creators. Due to their lethal scavenging abilities, they refused to discriminate what kind of humans they attacked.

But more so, as they bred frighteningly fast and frighteningly large litters, their genetic diversity varied. They grew stronger, wilder and more “natural”. With every progressive step towards natural reproduction, the creatures began to lose most of the original conditioning they had been designed with. Except the resilience.

Grandfather himself had been attacked a few times. All he remembered during those struggles that those beasts were approximately twice his size, much stronger than he had anticipated. The precise memory of encounters were fading now, but all he remembered was terror, blood, fur and fangs. They had invaded the lower levels of the laboratory, and they chewed through the walls and protecting foundations of the structure with as much ease as they had converted enemy architecture to a few twisted, partially saliva-coated segments of metal.

Grandmother would wait everyday, scoffing at Grandfather when he was late, but secretly relieved that he didn’t come back with half his face shredded beyond recognition. Everyday, she invested her time in trying to fortify their home with whatever limited salvage components she could find. She would sigh and say it was stupid how one country, in an effort to create an army, created an almost infinite problem that neither could solve.

A normal army could be asked to stay off duty. If they were machines, they could be deactivated once their services were complete. A rampant population of one of the most persistent pests humanity had encountered, the Muridea did not come with any such convenient reset button. More so, during their creation, nobody had ever thought their idea would triumph, so they did not ever see the need to create a method to end this.

It was strange how in effort to antagonize each other, the two nations managed to find peace over a universal problem, namely pest control. It was a temporary peace, a desperate effort to look beyond the border of the national boundary and the river and ask each other what they could do about the Muridea.

More so, as the Muridea mutated, their organic bodily liquids seemed to carry the capacity to cause mutations of those in contact with it as well. People started bursting out in fangs and rodent teeth and an irrepressible thirst for blood. The Muridea were adding to their own numbers. No more was it a battle of one nation against another, but of human against an organic weapon.

One person knew the answer. She went by the name of Piper. She was genius, and like all genius, dangerous. She had discovered a weakness in the Muridea. They intuitively communicated via auditory signals. Therefore, if a human being were to affect a sudden high frequency audio pulse, they could momentarily destabilize the Muridea. Of unknown identity, or qualifications, she walked with the power to control the fate of two nations.

She was young, too.

She promised to end the Muridea for something very small in return, a sustainable human gene pool. She explained that the land she came from had suffered stunted growth from war fallout. The aftermath had left them all sterile. So, she offered to make the Muridea sterile and use a sonic pulse to kill them, in promise of something that would help her people enjoy families again. It was a pulse that would suspend any mammal’s reproductive capacities indefinitely, and if conveyed at a high, irregular frequency, could frustrate the aural nerves to the extent that the Muridea would die.

Desperation. So much desperation for a convenient solution without ever wondering how such a debt could be repaid or what the consequences of such an action could be. But then again, shortsightedness had always been their greatest problem.

Again, unsure of fate, two nations decided to agree to let the river that marked their boundaries as the graveyard for the Muridea. They would provide whatever human gene samples that the Piper wanted, if he could end the plague of the Muridea.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (II): Army

Grandfather remembered how the war began when he was very young. It was so long ago, that people still needed names to be differentiated from each other. Grandfather forgot what he used to be called, but he remembered from his childhood fantasies that he had wanted to be named after a hero, so that all would glorify his name.

Grandfather remembered waiting behind the laboratories glass windows. Of all the structures around, it was odd how a scientific warehouse was more heavily fortified than even the political structures, which were the first points of attack. As he emerged from the bubble of security, it struck him that nobody else seemed to be as uncomfortable about the sound of weapons fire than he was.

Lately, he had taken to walking to the premise. It was way too dangerous for the public transport to operate. Recent attacks had left them with rising death tolls every day. The sky bled in the morning, and in the evening, and with the air strikes, the wounds lasted during the day as well. But he was behind a laboratory’s closed door, sheltered, defended and protected, until the time he stepped out and the cries of the mourning, the whines of overwrought engines and the sharp punctuation of the weapons fire reminded him of where he was.

Everyday, the news covered another debacle of politics. Existing societal systems were failing. Rebellion and anarchy seemed to be the only route to survival. The economy plunged. Goods were looted. Yet everyday, the radiation from the attacks seemed to reduce the number of beggars on the street. Death, desperation and the enemy were persistent. They could not be stopped. They would not be stopped.

Yet, even in this dreary mess, he had reason to be happy. It was a small secret, folded up in the deepest corners of his heart before any of the plunderers found it. But it was also embodied by his lovely new bride who waited for him to come back home, anxious and worried. Despite all the misery and gore around them, they derived some small happiness in the mere fact of being together.

Perhaps it was cruel how their concern didn’t seem to bother any of the others on the streets who could have been anyone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter. But perhaps shortsightedness had always been one of Grandfather’s problems. It was a problem that extended not just to him, but to his entire civilization as well.

When the funding for the laboratory and its security stopped, Grandfather helped several refugees into the warehouses and tried to keep them alive with the limited rations. Many died. Some survived. Like the very same desperation and enemy that drove these people to his shelter, Grandfather persevered and sent a few alive ones back out into the world as well. His benefactors glorified his name, the one which he himself would forget. But back then, he was a hero.

Then the call came to create an army. For a nation that was living off dust and grass, littered with decaying corpses and the pungent aroma of perpetual smoke, an army had to be raised. But from what? They had no money to buy anything. They had no more people to create an army. When the call came, a cry of confusion sang louder than all the other screams of pain. For a land that was losing its dignity, people and resources, what could it make its army from?

The answer was so simple that it was pure genius. Though nobody remembered that genius could be dangerous. Only Grandfather and Grandmother, sitting huddled up in their lonely cottage decades later, would learn to mistrust genius.

Rats. The rodents that scavenged the streets, feeding off the uncovered dead,multiplying abnormally in an environment that seemed to support their existence better than humans, they infested the city. Yet, people were so preoccupied with war, that they didn’t notice them. Most considered them as their new form of meat. Others made them into fur. They were not an inconvenience any more. They were property.

More so, they were genetically malleable. A few embellishments to their existing helix, combined with the encouragement of the native tendency to forage and scavenge and you could create a perfect army. Their skills in multiplication surpassed any automated machine, and there were so many of them that they seemed to be the only resource left.

Ordinarily, it would have occurred to some noble soul that this was cruel. Testing and forcing an animal to mutate into something that was beyond its natural capacity involved torture at some level. But inflicting torture to one species after having suffered immeasurably for their own kind seemed only a natural, and weirdly normal, way of extending the feeling of brotherhood among the remaining life-forms.

Grandfather watched as science, inspired by hate and the human need of self-defense, began to morph harmless rodents into one of the most lethal forces known. No more were there any decaying bodies on the streets. The new species required complete, clean meals in order to sustain itself, and any dead carcass presented itself as a valid option. Directed, they burrowed in millions of tunnels to the enemy state. Driven to a mad frenzy, they effortlessly crossed physical and geographical boundaries with great speed and tenacity.

They were known as the Muridea and they were formidable. Their accelerated multiplication began to displace the enemy population and give them a taste of what they had caused. They chewed through metal alloys, bone and seemed to have a lasting resistance to any form of extermination methods.

And thus began, what is colloquially called, the Era of Monsters. Though Grandfather did not know if only the Muridea should have earned that title.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (I): Silence

It was a cold, dreary winter. Grandfather rode the bicycle the best he could for his age, and hobbled to a stop. He did not hear the wind howl. He did not hear the ice crack as the wheels crunched through them. In his clouded, foggy mind, he watched the world shrivel. He couldn’t even hear the sound of his own blood pumping through his ears.

But the world was not always so silent. Grandfather had experienced a winter when he could hear the old architecture of the house groan, the wind tear past and the nagging of Grandmother. He could remember how the fireplace was alive and crackling. It was only the memory of sound he could hear now.

He limped uncertainly back to the cottage, the sleet making the path slippery and cold. His fingers were numb already from holding the handles for too long. He fumbled to put his hood up as the rain slowly turned to snow. Steadily, patiently, he reached the window. He did not hear his bones creak as he raised his arms, trying to make a gesture that would attract Grandmother’s attention from the kitchen window.

In his younger days, Grandfather was a much more active and agile man, and so could manage to do this efficiently. Grandmother, an expert at multi-tasking, would need to watch his frantic waving in order to open the door to him. This was because she could hear only silence as well.

However, as the years passed, she was afraid that her failing eyes would miss him. So, she stayed to watching the snow blanket the earth, earnestly moving her lips in some prayer that Grandfather would come back alive from the storm. She did not know if any sound escaped them.

They hadn’t spoken to each other in years, because there was nothing to be heard. It was hard accepting this mute exile. But both knew that they were one of the last people alive, to have survived the Invasion.

Grandmother opened the door and clutched Grandfather with as much joy as her fragile fingers could convey. When the Silence came, eyes had become the primary organs of communication. Now that they were failing too, the mere experience of human touch was enough to reassure each other that everything was alright. They were still together. For another day.

Grandmother pointed at the fireplace. It blazed as brightly as ever, making Grandfather’s eyes water somewhat, both with forgotten memories and the intensity of the fire. He grasped Grandmother’s hand as some token of gratitude. Grandmother denied it, as if to imply that in being together and being alive, there was gratitude enough.

As Grandfather sipped the prepared warm drink that Grandmother handed to him, she nodded to a large volume open at the weak table. She brought it over and sat beside Grandfather. The book had stories. Many many stories which they had lived through together. But most importantly, they contained the stories of when they were familiar with sound.