There were only some people, a special few, although how that was determined was unknown, who saw the links between people. It was generally accepted that they were there, between everyone, linking brothers, sisters, parents, lovers.
But there was only a small portion of the population who could see these links, understand what they meant, and perhaps even change them. (The idea that links could be altered by those who saw them was highly disputed.)
These few people were the ones that could feel their bonds being altered. They would know when someone close to them died. They could feel the pain of that tie being severed. No one else could, even though it did happen. The theory was 'out of sight, out of mind'. Oddly enough though, the pain wasn't felt by everyone who saw them. Scientists explained this away by saying that people who didn't feel the pain were only claiming to see them.
John had a different theory. That it depended on the bond. The type, the colour, the thickness, the length, how long it had been between two people.
He never told anyone this, because he'd never told anyone that he could see them.
He wanted one thing in his life to himself, one secret.
John watched a man die in Afghanistan, watched as all his ties were cut, and he mourned for his wife back home in London. She could see the ties, and he knew that at that moment, she was watching her red tie unravel. With no other end for it to cling to, it would blow about in the wind. John knew that she would know exactly what happened. John knew that she would go and scoop up their baby girl, little Avery, only six months old, and sob as one of the few ties she had was severed.
John also lost a silver tie that day. Silver was for doctor patient relationships. Incredibly useful, but extremely painful. John knew some doctors who could see them, and they found that after a while, they couldn't work any more. The pain of having that connection cut became unbearable.
John tolerated the pain well. It was a reminder of what he lost. No human life should pass from the world without someone feeling pain.
John knew it was somewhat illogical, but he felt like he should be that person. The bearer of hardships, the feeler of deaths.