Friday, 26 November 2010

The Great Passive Danger

The soothsayers - and those who pay them to talk their addled drivel - have been at it again. They've recently announced that hundreds of thousands of people are dying as a result of passive drinking.

For the sake of those who don't quite understand this, I'll explain. The imbibing of alcoholic refreshments is a pastime that has been part of human life since the dawn of time; even the ancient Egyptians brewed ale as they built the Pyramids and flogged their slaves. Even squirrels, sheep and rabbits like to nibble at the occasional fermented apple and get a bit jolly; it makes life more enjoyable - well, at least until the morning after. I laughed myself silly when I saw a hung-over goat with his horns stuck in a tree trunk after a drunken session the other day. Cats like myself don't bother with such things; we just like to get stoned on catmint. Mmmmm - I'll hold that thought...

The problem is that once people have had a sip or two of ale or mead, their breath starts to exude alcoholic fumes. I can always tell when Caedmon has partaken of a cheeky mead or two; when he gets home he lavishes me with more than the customary attention, and tends to be a little more uninhibited and noisy in his conversation, and the fumes fill the room. I haven't told the Abbess Hilda about this. She would be most displeased.

So, what's so sinister about alcohol fumes, you might ask? If the soothsayers and their sources are correct, these vapours have a deleterious effect on those who share the same atmosphere as the drinkers. Since alcohol is a toxin which is lethal and severely addictive, people are taking ill and dying. They're dropping like flies. On the streets. Every day. The gravediggers are having to work overtime, and the priests are being run ragged because of the relentless number of last rites they have to administer - and the subsequent funeral masses they have to take.

I wandered through Streonaeshalch earlier, and I must say I haven't stumbled across a human corpse yet. I'd have expected to have seen heaps of them by now - if the soothsayers' accounts are to be taken at face value.

I went to see Leo to ask his opinion about it. Leo is a new friend I met while I was wandering around the home of one of the wealthy nobles a few weeks ago. He's a cat - but he's enormous, and he has a shaggy mane. He's kept in an enormous cage, and his owner feeds him sides of raw meat. Lucky thing. He's a nice fellow, but his breath smells positively awful. And I don't get too close - even though we're in the same branch of the animal kingdom; he can get rather enthusiastic with his huge paws and teeth.

When I told him what I heard, he said it was news to him. But if I could help him get out of his cage, he'd happily go to town and take a look; if there were any dead bodies, he would gladly help clear them up. I really believe that he would as well.

I thought better of Leo's suggestion, however. I feel sorry for him because unlike me, he isn't free to roam as he pleases, but somehow, I don't think it would be a good idea to let him loose - except perhaps in the house of Beeby See and the other soothsayers who talk such guff. I'll have a think about that...

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