Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Ninety Six

There are few towns in the Lost Quarter now and those that remain are shrinking from what was their zenith. When Those Who Came first arrived, after Those Who Left were banished from both land and memory, they quickly set about building villages to serve the burgeoning homesteads of the settlers. These hugged the rail lines that soon crisscrossed the Quarter, as they did the rest of the Dominions. The towns were named after the first arrivals in the area, the first sentries in the conquest of the territory, or after supposedly great men in distant lands, all now forgotten by and large.

There is one south of the Glover’s Lake and the Old Place, typical of many such villages that sprang up in those years. In the first decades after its establishment it blossomed, becoming one of the main stopping points on the rail line. There was a grand hotel, churches, banks, blacksmith shops, and other industry springing up by the day, all with an unstoppable momentum, until a fire burned half the town one fall. Many left following that disaster and much was never rebuilt. When the seasons turned to drought and the Quarter fell into the depths of a decade long depression, even more abandoned the area.

Now there is little left of that former glory. The foundations of a church sit in one corner, overgrown with grass and weeds. The community hall is not far away, still vibrant looking with fresh paint. The field around it has cut grass, flowers in pots, and other signs of care, as do the few houses where people still live. The rest have been given over to ruin or are slowly fading that way. There are ball diamonds on the east end of the town where once the great athletes of the Quarter held contests. Their fences are rotting and the fields have turned all to grass which a local farmer cuts for hay.

The railroad marks the southern border of the town. The line still exists, though trains no longer pass along it. The grain elevators which once towered alongside it have been torn down. Once the road leading to them was lined with trucks filled with the fall harvest, the drivers standing in the ditch waiting their turn and talking about the weather and local happenings.

Near where the rail line and where the elevators once stood, on the corner at the end of the main street, is the old grand hotel. It is white, though its stucco is stained and in desperate need of replacement. One can sense the rot by looking at it, and it becomes even more apparent once you enter, a lingering stench of decay and mildew pervades the place. Some years it is opened and others not. The rooms are not let anymore, but the bar is, if the proprietor is up or you yell loud enough to wake him.

He will come downstairs and let you in. There is beer on offer, perhaps a rye and coke, cigarettes in the machine. The chairs are rejects from the community hall, the tables old and wobbly, incomprehensible messages carved into them. There is a mural on one wall, a representation of the town at its pinnacle. A stage has been build in front of it, obscuring part of the painting, and a pole set up, a remnant from a time when burlesque dancers would tour the far reaches of the Quarter.

To sit in there and have a drink is to think of the past and glories that faded just as they came to bloom like a prairie crocus in spring.

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