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 Two Hundred Twenty Five

Water drips in the darkness, steady drops from the corner of the building where the snow is melting. In the distance a siren starts up, moaning away, so far that she cannot tell where it is coming from. It goes on and on, not drawing any closer, but not ceasing either. Like the thoughts in her head, they just stay there, refusing to leave her alone. All that doubt and fear.

She tries again, walking quickly and ignoring the slush on her boots, hoping that she doesn’t hit an icy patch somewhere. There is a body lying under some playground equipment in the park she darts through. She has an urge to stop and go look at it, to see if the person needs help, but forces herself to keep moving. After the last night there is only one reason for there to be bodies anywhere.

There are apartment towers to her right and she tries to walk in their shadow, hoping it might be safer there from any watching eyes, but knowing it won’t make any difference if anyone actually is watching. She risks crossing the street, looking back and forth to make sure the way is clear before doing so, and stops under the awning of a boarded up shop to gather her breath.

There is a shout of anger from somewhere in the darkness nearby. It is cut off abruptly – strangled – and a deeper, watchful silence follows. She is overwhelmed by fear, looking in the shadows for what might be there, unable to leave where she is huddled but knowing she cannot stay there. Nowhere on the streets is safe now. Any of them – the partisans or the regulars – will just assume she is an enemy and shoot her on sight.

It starts to rain, a steady and dismal mist. The towers around her are now wreathed in the clouds at their peaks. The siren is still there, not coming any closer. The partisans were chased out of this part of town last night, but maybe elsewhere they still have redoubts where they are trying to hold back the coming tide.

It seems a hopeless cause to her – the regulars had tanks in the street last night – but everything seems futile now. She almost admires their bravery, or foolhardiness, standing in face of all that, knowing what the outcome must be. But doing it anyway, fighting to last for something already lost. She is just a bystander in all this, as most everyone here is, trying to get through to see another day. Trying not to get stranded out on the streets for a long and terrible night.

Steeling herself, she leaves the safety of the awning and starts down the street, avoiding the few streetlights that haven’t been shot out. Keeping to the shadows alongside the buildings. The squelch of her boots on the pavement sounds very loud. As loud as her breathing. As loud as her heartbeat.

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