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 Eleven

We follow the dancer’s steps as the music plays. Step by weary step, on we go. 

A ghost of a smile lingers on her lips while she looks away. Her eyes are faded, unfocused, but her movements are precise, untiring. Step after step, on through the night.

Light upon his feet, he moves sinuously across the room with a cold fury. His eyes burn with hate and anger for the dancer, his back unbowed and his fists clenched. Still, step by step he goes, following the cues.

The musicians have no eyes. They stand stiffly and play, on and on, no expression crossing their faces. When one song ceases they begin with the next without pause, fingers moving nimbly across their instruments. They can hear the footsteps upon the floor and they can hear the dancer calling out the steps and the songs.

On and on he goes and we all follow, step by step. On his face is a white mask with a painted, vicious smile. His laughter cuts through the music, a false and terrible note. He never ceases, clapping his hands, announcing the next song and calling the steps. There is no need, for we will follow.

He moves among us, watching our steps, and nodding approval. Exhausted though we are, we summon the strength to go on. Step by step, just another and then another. Will it never end? He pauses before us, one by one, staring at us from behind his mask. His eyes are empty. There is nothing there but fire and blood. And so, step by weary step, on we go.

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 Ten

I awaken to snow and cold. The sky is grey, hunched over the city, pressing down. Snowflakes drift down, damp and cold. The roads and sidewalks are wet, the grass covered in a thin layer of snow. The bare trees have a lines of white running along their branches like veins made visible by an isotope.

There are few people out walking today, the weather chasing them to their cars. Everyone I pass by walks with a hunch to their shoulders, as though bracing themselves against an expected blow. The sidewalks are slippery in a few spots where the snow has managed to collect creating a layer of slush. The few trees with green leaves remaining seem to have turned yellow overnight.

Last night I had a cup of hot chocolate. It is now the season for hot chocolate, scotch and dark beer. Today I will make soup or stew, something that once it is in your stomach radiates heat, warming the whole body as it nourishes.

We will have to seek out the comforts of home in the coming months, to fortify ourselves to brave the cold, as we struggle through the winter to keep the dread lord from our 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 Two Hundred and Nine

The weather has changed in the last days after a glorious month of autumn. Yesterday and today were overcast and grim, with a sharp chill to the air. Rain came on and off, mixed in with a few snow flakes, a promise of what awaits us. This morning it was below freezing when we arose and went out, the first time that has been true since spring, which is rare in these parts. The days to come promise more of the same. Cloudy, with only hints of sunshine, and miserable, with rain and snow and cold.

The first few times when the cold returns and you can see your breath before you as you walk in the morning it is invigorating. The chill in the air seems to fortify, filling every corner of your lungs. It is only as the cold marches on, day after interminable day, the darkness growing grimmer and grimmer, that it becomes too much to bear. And, of course, the cold now is nothing like what is to come. It is pleasant enough to walk with just a light jacket. Later there will be parkas, toques and gloves, all the accoutrements of winter to ward off the bitter chill.

There is something about the autumn and the spring that appeals to me. The sudden shifts in weather. Beautiful one hour and fierce the next. You can experience all the seasons in the space of a day or two, or even a few hours, and you never know what will greet you when you wake in the morning. There is no certainty to it, just as there is no certainty to so much of our lives.

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 and Eight

I awake early, unable to return to sleep, even as my love slumbers beside me. It has been happening more and more of late. In years past I could sleep until nine or ten in the morning if I let myself, longer if I was really tired. The last few years I’ve been unable to sleep much past nine, while in the last months eight has been the latest I can manage. Worse, in the last few weeks I’ve found myself waking at six or seven, even on weekends, and being unable to return to sleep.

Is it another consequence of the grippe reborn stalking our waking hours and our sleeping nights, a presence in our thoughts whether we acknowledge him or not? Or is it just a sign that I am getting old? Why not both.

When it became clear there was going to be no return to sleep I let my thoughts drift over the day ahead of me. There was a bit of stiffness in my neck from how I had slept and it seemed to gradually work its way into my head until there was a dull throb there. I paid it little mind. Headaches are rare for me and they pass easily.

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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 Two Hundred and Seven

It is Thanksgiving in the Lost Quarter, for the harvest festival is celebrated earlier here in these northern climes than it is in other regions. The harvest is long finished in these parts and we have journeyed south to have dinner with my parents and sister. A small gathering, this year as all years, for we are not the sort to bring cousins and uncles, all the flotsam and jetsam of families together.

This seems an apt time to cast my eyes back on the last two hundred odd days since the grippe reborn came to these parts. So often now we are driven to look ahead, squinting against the sun on the horizon, looking for signs of coming storms and seeing only the vast, seemingly unchanging, plains of our future under the quarantine protocols. It is easy to focus on the negative in such circumstances, but today I shall consider the positives, such as they are, to this strange moment we are trapped in.

First, to this point, I and those I love have remained untouched by the dread lord. The future offers no guarantees, but I will take what has been given and count myself among the fortunate. My love and I have also avoided the economic devastation that has followed in his wake. Both of us have jobs that are as secure as one can hope for at this time.

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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 Two Hundred and Three

Two hundred days under the quarantine protocols. Two hundred days of the grippe reborn on our streets, in our homes, in our lives.

There is no end in sight. We knew that of course, but that knowledge is sitting differently now as the reality of these endless plague ridden days becomes apparent. Two hundred days and how many more to come?

In the Eastern Dominions cases have been rising precipitously causing panic and consternation, accusations of failure on the part of their leaders. Here in the west the dread lord has reasserted himself as well, though not to the same degree. Yet we still feel trepidation that all our efforts thus far may still be for naught if we cannot somehow hold the line. And all the while those of us in the Greater Dominions look at the grand old empire to the south with the fear that that may be what awaits us.

There is a sort of hysteria to the way people speak of the dread lord now, brought on by an exhaustion, of having to worry about this for months now. Of wondering if what you are doing is keeping you and everyone safe. Scolding others for not doing the right thing.

For a time the protocols and measures were easy to follow, especially when the results were clear. We were holding the dread lord at bay, perhaps even driving him from the Quarter. Now it is plain that he isn’t going anywhere, that we shall have to maintain our vigilance, no matter how sick and tired we are of hearing of all of this. No matter how much we long to venture outside our homes without giving a thought to protocols and measures, masks and distancing and hand washing, and the dread lord.

The night is long and the road is winding and we have far to go.

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 and Three

On our recent mountain sojourn I had an encounter with a bear. With autumn here the creatures descend the mountains from their summer habitats in search of berries and other food to gorge upon before they hibernate for the winter, so it is not uncommon to come across one. It is still unsettling.

The chalet we were staying at is about at third of the way up a mountain. A few dwellings line the winding road to it, creating a small community. Beyond there is forest, far up the mountain. The bears stay to the forest for the most part, thought certainly there were warnings posted in our cabin and elsewhere noting the possibility we might encounter one.

After breakfast I wandered outside in my bathrobe and swimwear for a dip in the hot tub. The tub was on a patio extending nearly the length of the building, which is set into the mountain, so the road to it is both above and behind, as is the forest. I didn’t glance up until I reached the tub and I saw, seated on the large rocks that act as a sort of retaining wall, a bear.

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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 Two Hundred and Two

I woke to darkness and the sound of what might have been a gunshot. I stayed still, eyes open, staring at nothing while I listened intently for something more to follow. Shouts and cries. Sirens in the distance. But there was only silence. I tried to return to sleep but could not, still waiting, expectant, for something that didn’t come.

Today was the first day in nearly two weeks that my love and I walked together to work. It was still dark when we crawled out of bed, not even a hint of the sunrise present on the horizon, and the dark followed me on my lone journey home. It shall only grow from here until December, steadily shrinking the days until it begins to feel as though the morrow will bring no sun at all. The change happens quickly now, or at least it seems to, the darkness accelerating, more noticeable every morning we rise.

There were thin dark clouds in the sky above as we walked, emitting a few drops of rain, as if in warning of a deluge. Yet none appeared on the sidewalk before us and the ones that struck us were barely noticeable. The rain fell, but the dry wind evaporated the drops before they could reach us. It has been a month at least since there was any rain and it seemed as though the clouds were desperate to provide it. Wait though I did none came and the wind carried the clouds away.

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 and One

We returned from our seclusion in the west to strange days. The grand old empire to the south seems to be descending into the grip of some terrible madness. Their leader, already a madman, has been touched by the grippe reborn. This after months of denial of the dread lord’s powers and a refusal to enact even the most basic of precautions for himself and his citizens.

To read about the place is to find it both unrecognizable and deeply familiar at the same time. Already the leader was fulminating and preparing the way to discredit the coming elections, which he seems likely to lose, and cling to power using the institutions he commands and has broken. The likelihood of him succeeding was perhaps low before, and may be shrinking more and more now that he is ill.

But the fact he was willing to attempt it, and likely still will regardless of what takes place between now and the election, and that his allies are willing to go along with him to ensure they can maintain their power, shows how far the empire has fallen. Its institutions, which it has long trumpeted as exemplary, have been shown to be pathetic and broken. One is tempted, sitting here in the Greater Dominions to say such things couldn’t happen here, that our institutions are stronger, but they are run by people and can be broken too. It can all so easily fall apart.

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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 Two Hundred

We in the Lost Quarter have been blessed with a wondrous autumn, which we are so rarely granted. This past week has seen temperatures in the low twenties, the sun bright and the sky clear, with only the slightest of breezes to disturb the falling leaves. Many still cling to their branches, a pure gold in colour.

My love and I spent the last week at ease, away from our work, a last respite before winter. We headed west into the mountains to spend a few nights at a chalet. There we lounged about reading and looking out upon the mountain scenery, only stirring from our chairs to venture into the hot tub.

Before we journeyed west I picked all my tomatoes, a bountiful harvest. Most were still green, but they will ripen soon enough and then I shall have more on my hands than I know what to do with. There will salsa and tomato sauce. I also harvested some of my herbs – rosemary, parsley, thyme and oregano – cutting and tying them in bundles that I suspended in a paper bag to dry.

Soon enough the other herbs, and the tomato plants and peppers (which produced one measly fruit this year) will die off and I will have to deal with their remnants. Already the magpies are picking at the remains of my love’s flowers, searching for bits and pieces to add to their nests for winter. Then the garden will be done for the year and there will only be waiting for spring to come to begin again.