By James Herbert

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Give it up, he silently chastised, you can't blame everything on the stroke. Some things in life just happen naturally, and with no dire consequences. A peculiar whistling-ringing in his ears was nothing to get stressed about. It would pass. How many times in his life had he thought he'd developed tinnitus before, only for it to disappear again in less than a minute? Then a strange thought occurred and he had no idea where it had sprung from: maybe this noise was something that connected with the subconscious before it reached the conscious; maybe it was only a vibration that gave off a peculiar sound.

Well, other days he seems to sink as far as a person can go without actually dying. Even in these advanced times nothing much can be done for a diseased heart and I'm afraid the trauma of a transplant would kill him off more quickly in his present weak condition. Sod's law, it seems. He's not strong enough to withstand the op, but without it his health will never improve. Perhaps if they'd caught it sooner things might be different. As you know, the old boy has never been in what you might call mint condition, so we failed to notice the change in him right away.

What the hell was wrong with him? He was supposed to be a grown-up now, not some snivelling kid afraid of creepy-crawlies. No other such creatures, insects or beasts, had unduly disturbed him as a child - not even the occasional rat that might find its way into the house - but there had always been something about spiders that had turned his legs to jelly and sent his heart racing. His mother had often patiently explained that every creature had its part to play in nature, none of less value than the next, but the young Thom had never been truly convinced.

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