“The specific manner in which the tumour had affected her brain meant that Petunia could not read. She did not want to watch television and she only intermittently wanted to talk; and when she did, Mary tended not to be there. So she spent the day in a state of pure being, a state closer to infancy than any she had experienced since. There were moments when she was afraid, and moments when she felt actual panic, teror, at the thought of dying. At other times when she thought of her death she felt a generalised sense of loss, strangely non-specific: not about the things she would no longer experience, because so many of these things had already faded. Her sense of taste and smell had gone funny, so coffee and tea and bacon and flowers were no longer themselves; or if they were themselves, the sense-impressions were no longer accurately recorded by her brain; they were lost in synaptic translation. But it wasn’t anything specific she felt she was losing: it wasn’t that she was losing this day, this light, this breeze, this spring. It was a general sense of loss connected to nothing and everything. She was simply losing, losing it all.”

John Lanchester, Capital