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 One Hundred Ninety

I awoke to the wind groaning and rattling through the trees and buildings. It came in gusts that made the trees bend and creak so loudly I couldn’t help but wonder if their branches might go. The sound of it was incredible, like some monster come alive to terrify the citizenry.

I walked with my love to her tower, buffeted by that wind through the darkness. There was no hint of the sun on the horizon, the eastern sky heavy with dark clouds. The wind sought us out as we walked, finding its way through alleys, around corners, exploding out to catch us where we least expected it. The trees whose leaves have been turning have been undressed by the wind and the ground is littered with the remnants of summer. Their newly bare branches, up thrust to the sky, look strange without their adornments.

In the Lost Quarter the wind is its own entity. One always reads of the wind auguring something, bringing a storm or ill news. Here in these parts it simply exists. Its purpose is what it does and that is bluster and blow and scour the plains, seeking out every last strand of grass, every millimetre of existence.

It did so for most of the morning, though even as I returned home it was slackening. Now as I write this it is calm outside, the sun bright and the sky clear. The wind has wandered elsewhere, taking off across the whole of prairie, claiming it as its own.

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 One Hundred Eighty Nine

They say one million people have perished from the grippe reborn since he regained his powers. The city we live in now has over a million people, so it is as if the inhabitants of this place were simply wiped off the map. Imagine empty, silent streets, with cars parked and still, gathering dust. Homes and buildings with darkened windows, corridors undisturbed by footsteps. The detritus of so many lives gradually falling into a kind of chaos.

One of my coworkers recently returned to our offices to pick something up and said it was disturbing. Papers had slipped from the boards where they had been pinned or fallen off desks. No one, except perhaps the cleaning staff had been inside in six months, and even they could not have been there with any regularity. Things had simply drifted into a kind of minor chaos with the passage of time and the workings of entropy. If we do not return for another six months or more, what will we find when we do?

Of course, a solitary city hasn’t been blasted out of existence by the dread lord. His power is much more insidious. One here, a few there, a dozen elsewhere. How many of us have not met someone who suffered from his malady, let alone someone who perished? It is easy to dismiss this all as so much drama, to insist that all our protocols and defences are unnecessary, an overreaction.

Many do and their voices are loud and angry. Most of us though go about our days warily, knowing the grippe reborn is here and will not be vanishing with the snap of our fingers. How do you mourn a thousand, let alone a million?

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 One Hundred Eighty Eight

My love and I, blessed with a day of idleness, decide to walk along the river. It is something we have not done in the last weeks with her return to work in the towers and the gradual resumption of some of the regulars of life in these parts. There have been other things to occupy our time, but we have both missed those sojourns.

They were some of the good things that have come about as a result of grippe’s return to these parts, something that we said we would continue beyond this cruel time. We have not done well in that regard, slipping back into something of the patterns of life that existed prior to the dread lord’s arrival. It is why I do not quite believe this shall change everything irrevocably as some do. Some things will, no doubt, but perhaps not those we think. The effects will be disparate but deep, showing up only when we look back on things decades from now. Much of what seems of absolute importance now, will no doubt be shown to be completely inconsequential.

It is a glorious day for a walk. The smoke has utterly vanished from the sky, which is back to its glorious and bright blue, a few wisp’s of white passing by. The leaves of the trees by the river are beginning to turn a golden yellow, though some still cling to a fading green. The paths along the river are quieter than before, the people walking along them seeming more subdued, everyone out to capture these moments of the passing seasons, knowing this may be the last chance for a day like this for a long while.

Certainly my love and I feel it as we walk. We sit upon the river bank and muse about why we didn’t make the effort to venture here more often given how much we enjoy it. The usual minor regrets of life at not taking the time for simpler pleasures. As we sit and talk, ducks paddle and play in the shallows, calling out to each other. These are surely their last days along the river too. Soon enough they will go south, a monumental, almost inconceivable journey. But they will return too. They will find these shallows again.

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 One Hundred Eighty Seven

The morning begins with sunshine, but as the day goes on smoke descends, growing heavier. I can smell it on the air, though only a hint here and there. The sun glimmers somewhere behind all that smog, an ember, distant and almost abstract, no longer a star. Driving down roads everything is in shadows that don’t change, though it feels that they must either deepen or dissolve. Yet they remain as the day goes on, never relinquishing their hold.

As with so many things this year the fires and their smoke have overstayed their welcome, casting a pall upon our lives. It is almost too easy a metaphor to apply to everything that is happening.

The grippe reborn has a way of increasing our tendency toward solipsism. It is not just that following the quarantine protocols forces us inward, drawing us away from the normal day to day interactions with strangers we might otherwise have, though that is certainly a piece of it. The dread lord’s powers are universal, touching everyone, everywhere, but the effects are very much local and personal. What is strange is that every piece of news from elsewhere is taken as proof of the success of our approach or as a clear demonstration of our utter failure to act properly.

We are intimately aware of our contexts, but oblivious of others and how they may or may not apply. Yet we have no qualms with extrapolating from any story or study or rumour and applying it to what is happening here without any sense of what is comparable between the two situations. It is a fundamental demonstration that we do not care about these other people and places, except insofar as they support our argument, whatever it may be. Let the grippe touch them, let it stay far from our own doors.

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 One Hundred Eighty Six

The sun has returned, the haze dissipating from the sky, though a film of it still remains high above, granting everything a sepia glow.

The changing of seasons is more and more evident. With each passing week the sun rises later and sets earlier. My love and I walk to work in the gloaming dawn now. A few short weeks ago the sun was already above the horizon by the time we set out. I now have to close my blinds in the mid-afternoon to keep the sun from my eyes.

As I walked home this morning through the shadows of dawn, a fat crow flew by my head, settling upon a fence ahead of me. There it stayed, ducking its head and fluffing its wings until I passed. As I walked by it went still, staring at me eye to eye from the fence. There was no fear in that gaze, no curiosity either. Just something hard and hungry, issuing a challenge or a warning. Of what I don’t know.

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 One Hundred Eighty Three

It was not the last time the grippe came to these parts that the grippe king ruled for a time in the Quarter. He was from Denmark some said, or Scandinavia. His name, presuming he had one, has been lost to us, and only the moniker he was gifted with survives.

He was no king, though he ruled for a time in certain places. His was haphazard territory, gathering people to him on street corners and in parks. While others cowered from the dread lord, secluding themselves or fleeing cities and taking his pestilence with them, the grippe king declared that he had nothing to fear and neither did his followers. He had journeyed far and wide, through the greater dominions and Quarter itself and the dread lord had been unable to lay a hand upon him.

It was not just that he had avoided the grippe’s terrible hand, he told all who would listen, the dread lord could not touch him. Even if the king stood before that awful spectre he would not bow or quaver. To prove his claim he would embrace someone who suffered from the grippe’s malady, holding them tight. Releasing them, he would hold up his hands before his followers, lifting his head up so that his long hair fell back from his forehead.

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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 One Hundred Eighty Two

Another day with no sunrise, the sky an endless grey haze, dark now, but growing lighter. Walking outside the grit gathers in the corners of your eyes, so that by the time you return home you need to wash your face. Oddly there is no smell of smoke despite its evidence everywhere.

It is like having a ceiling above you everywhere this sky, one that feels lower and lower every time you glance up. The towers in downtown threaten to pierce this ceiling. You almost fear what would happen if the did.

Some years ago now I lived in the far western dominions in a great city upon the Pacific sea. There the winters were cruel, not because of the cold, but because the clouds would descend as soon as November came, if not sooner, and not let up until March or later. The rain that came with it would last for days, sometimes despairing weeks. Storm after drenching storm would come, broken only by an hour or two when the rain would cease, but clouds would remain.

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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 One Hundred Eighty One

We awaken to a hazy morning, smoke from distant southern fires reaching us again. The past weeks have been filled with images of smoke-filled Pacific skies in a land of sun. The smoke casts everything in an unreal, alien light, one I am very familiar with after our summers of forest fires. It gives the days an apocalyptic feel, that goes well with these apocalyptic times.

Of course many people declare that it is too simple to say that these fires are the result of our climate apocalypse. The drought that ravaged those Pacific regions these last years would have happened regardless of human activity, though our actions undoubtedly worsened it. And our fire management practices have exacerbated conditions in forests, trying to stop all fires and leaving a tinderbox that can only ignite an inferno, instead of allowing regular fires to burn in a way that can be better contained.

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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 One Hundred Eighty

It took some time for me to notice the blood. I walked half a block or more before it occurred to me to look closer at the dark blotches on the sidewalk. When I  first glanced at them I assumed they were the remains of chokecherries fallen from the bushes that lined the street.

Now, looking closer, I can see that the colour is all wrong for chokecherries. It is dull, faded red, tinged with the grey of the concrete, not a bruised and crushed purple. In some places it is darker, where a heavier drop fell. In others there are a series of spots close together, as if whoever was bleeding had paused for a moment. What for?

I follow the trail of the blood, as though it will provide an answer. It goes to the end of the block and then turns right. On my way home in fact. Up another half a block where it ceases in a large pool. The sidewalk is dark with it, darker than it is anywhere else. I look down on it with a twinge of fear that doesn’t override my fascination.

This was where it began, I decide. Some battle had ensued, or someone had chosen this spot – a sidewalk alongside a parking lot – to strike. The wound had bled badly, but the person had stayed there, hardly moving, for there are no spatters of blood beyond the stained circle on the concrete. Perhaps they had taken the time to staunch the bleeding, for the trail that flows from the pool is irregular, a blotch here, a blotch there.

I retrace my earlier path, turning left at the corner. The trail goes to the end of the block, far past where I first noticed it. There it ends, no stains on the sidewalk going left, no drops on the pavement in any direction, nor any on the three other corners standing opposite this one. Whoever it was, they came here and no further.

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 One Hundred Seventy Nine

Everyday it becomes more and more evident how long we will be faced with the grippe reborn’s malicious powers. Even after we have developed an effective defence against the dark lord’s predations, it will be many months to raise up those edifices across the world. Some places and peoples will be lucky and will do so quickly, others will be less fortunate and so the quarantine protocols and anguish will linger on for months.

So long as the dread lord has a foothold anywhere in the world, he is everywhere. The impact will be felt by all regardless of where we are. This is especially so because our first defences will, of necessity, be less than complete. There will be breaches in our walls that will have to be sandbagged and rebuilt. It is the work of years, not months.

I have been thinking little of the grippe reborn lately, not that his presence has diminished any in these parts. In fact, the numbers have been steady and rising in some cases. Children have returned to school, bringing an anguished relief to parents, who desperately want a return to some normalcy for them, but fear not enough has been done to thwart the dread lord. We shall find out in a few weeks what cost we will bear.

My own worry has diminished to a low ebb of late. Mostly this is because I have been preoccupied with my correspondences and have had little time for other considerations. As well, I have made a conscious decision to enjoy these last days of summer and the coming of fall. Winter, I fear, will be a grim and chilling time of isolation, one that I would rather not dwell on.

It is happier to consider each day as its own, with its own peculiar delights and horrors. It leaves me with a feeling of serenity, no matter what they might bring and how they present themselves to me. They have a fullness they did not before when I was forever casting my eyes forward to what was to come.