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.

At the time the dread lord’s powers manifested themselves in terrible sores that blistered and oozed, leaving terrible scars. Most commonly these were found on the hands and arms, but they could appear anywhere. People covered themselves as a result, wearing gloves and masks, caps and pants and shirts that covered every inch of their flesh, for it was said that touch alone could cause the sores to spread from one person to the next.

The grippe king wore a mask too, for it was the law at the time in the dominions, and he said the authorities had beaten him in every town and city he had visited for his refusal to wear one. He made this one allowance to their law, covering his face, but his hands he left bare. His arms as well, when the weather was warm.

After a time he began to attract more followers, and it began to be said that not only could the dread lord not touch him, his touch could ward off the sores of that malady. His followers, who had suffered from the grippe’s powers, begged to be embraced by him and their numbers continued to grow. The authorities grew worried for they knew the claims to be impossible, and yet even some of them began to wonder if it might be true. Here may be a way to thwart the dread lord, they said,  we should at least test his claims.

And so the authorities came before the grippe king where he sat among his followers. They demanded that he demonstrate beyond doubt that he had suffered from the dread lord’s magic. His followers, fervent in their belief, shouted their agreement. Show them, they cried.

The clamour was such that the crowd was soon whipped into a frenzy, people on both sides shouting and demanding. The grippe king saw he had no choice but to reveal himself. He stripped naked before them, turning about so they could see every nook and cranny of his person. Not a pustule could be seen. His followers cheered thunderously and the authorities muttered to themselves. Did this mean what it appeared?

Your mask. One lone voice in the crowd spoke, quieting everyone. You have not removed your mask. The hush grew deeper as everyone looked around trying to find the speaker. Later many would claim to have been the one to ask the question, but in the moment no one could be identified.

The grippe king looked defeated by the question, his posture deflating. He looked about as though for a way to escape, while his followers looked on eagerly, certain still. They began to stamp their feet insistently. The grippe king nodded at last to quiet them and undid the straps, pulling off the mask.

There was no sound from the crowd as they looked upon the scars on his face. Silently they all drifted away, leaving him alone.

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