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 Three Hundred Twenty One

He came to the central places of the Lost Quarter from overseas, a northern country, so he was thought to be well-suited to living in the new world being created there after the banishment of Those Who Went Away. By the time he arrived there was already a rail line and a growing town. There were roads, of a sort, mostly wagon trails, but they served their purpose.

He was one of hundreds who arrived in that era, coming to try their luck on the land. It was assumed that he had been a farmer in his home country, but he never said one way or the other. He spoke little of his past, of what he had left behind to come make himself anew. Not entirely, for his accent immediately identified him, as everyone’s accents did in those days. There were plenty of others from other nations overseas and as many more from the Eastern Dominions.

The first years were hard, of course, and he was alone. He broke the tall grasses the bison herds and Those Who Went Away had once traversed, breaking for all time that link with the past on that piece of soil. A quarter section, north of town, with the promise of another if he could last five years. He lived in a sod shack those first years, as so many of them did, a rather grim habitation, but it kept the cold and wind out.

After a good crop in his third year he had enough money to buy lumber for a small house, which he built with the help of his neighbours. They all enjoyed his company. Those whose quarters were farther north would stop by at his place on their way into town. His closest neighbours would come by on those long summer evenings and they would play cards and talk while the sun set.

The crops were all good in those first years and he quickly made decent money, using some of it to buy a few cattle. The calves he would sell in the fall, keeping one to feed himself over the winter. After five years the government signed over the second quarter and he made plans to buy some larger equipment to make the work easier.

One fall he was in town after selling his calves, having stopped off at the hotel for a drink with a few locals before heading home. His friends asked about how the sale had gone and he told them he had made a tidy profit, well-pleased with himself. He was home before sundown, though the air had already begun to turn cold.

The next day one of the neighbours spotted smoke in the air coming from near his place. He raced over with his son, fearing that a field or some grass had caught fire and it would be spreading fast, for it had been a dry couple of weeks. When they arrived they saw the small house had been burnt to the ground, though miraculously the flames hadn’t spread, and they worked furiously to stamp out any dying embers. There was no sign of the man who had lived there within the burnt ruins. The horse he used to ride into town was still tied up in the shed out back. The police were called in and they conducted a perfunctory investigation when they finally arrived several days later. He was declared officially dead after a time, and as he had no will or known heirs, the land was given back to the government. Some years later someone else came to the Quarter to try their luck on it again.

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