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 Four Hundred Ninety Eight
The smoke persists, day and night, ebbing and flowing in the sky above. Hour by hour it changes. As I write this the sky is hazy and grey, the sun a foreign red, but the air feels sweet and cool on the ground. A few days ago the sky was much the same but the air below was much heavier with particles that made it hard to breath. Other days you can see the smoke lingering in the air, wisps of it floating amongst the buildings of the city, casting everything in a shadowed, apocalyptic light. A perfect accompaniment for these apocalyptic times.
The fires burn over the mountains to the west, and to the north and east as well. We are surrounded and the days are hot, with no rain to come, so there is nothing to quell the flames. Many of those fires will still be burning until the snow comes. Some may even manage to smoulder through the winter and start up again in the spring if there isn’t enough snow. And so, we will be living in a smoke filled world for the rest of the summer at least. Even a day like today, when the smell of smoke isn’t evident and the air is fresh, the haze in the sky persists. I cannot remember the last day where we had a truly blue sky of the sort the Quarter always offers. Those endless, breathtaking vistas have been stolen from us and we are left with a smaller world to inhabit.
This is one of the hottest summers I can remember, just day after day of heat. One benefit of the constant haze is that it prevents it from getting too warm, so instead of low to mid thirties, we’ve simply had high twenties. With no rain and so much heat the crops have burnt up everywhere. There is hardly enough grown to bother cutting for feed for the cattle. And everywhere the pastures are being exhausted, while the hay fields won’t produce enough to feed the cattle over the winter. It all spells disaster. My parents, although they claim to be retired, still run cattle in pastures in the Quarter. They will have to sell them early because there isn’t enough feed to keep them for the rest of the summer and fall, let alone through the winter.
With the dry, hot weather, swarms of grasshoppers have arrived to eat what little of the crops there is. I remember those hordes of grasshoppers from the dry years of my youth. You would walk through a field, each step sending up dozens of the creatures, the hum of their wings portending a kind of doom. Pestilence, drought, locusts and fire. We can only hope we manage to avoid famine.
Movies and books about pandemics and other disasters give the sense of a sudden shift, the ground giving way and then everything collapsing with society broken into a thousand pieces that can never be put together. That feels foolish now, impossible to believe any longer. Instead we have these slow moving apocalypses, where we can see things going wrong but the change is slow enough that we can find a way to get used to it. The disaster ebbs and flows. Some days the air is sweet, even if the sky is hazy, others the smoke swallows everything.