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 Fifty Three

My love and I saw Venus, bright in the dark morning sky, as we walked through nearly empty streets to her tower. There was less traffic today than there has been in some time. Last night the government enacted their latest quarantine restrictions and asked that those who could work from home do so. Yet my love’s company has declared their work essential and insisted everyone attend at their offices, so we still have our morning walks. A mixed blessing to be sure.

One hopes for the best from these latest strictures even though I have doubts they will do much to slow the tide of the grippe reborn. He has swamped these parts with his minions, so many now that our trackers cannot trace them all. We have lost control and the only way to regain our footing and get back to solid ground seems to be protocols similar to those we had in the spring. What we have will no doubt limit the dread lord’s powers, but his forces are now so great that his malign influence will remain substantial regardless.   

The regulations themselves raise questions about the government’s priorities. Schools will close and move online for a few weeks both before and after the winter break, while our pleasure palaces – casinos and restaurants and bars – are allowed to remain open. No further funds will be given to schools to better protect children and teachers. There was much said about the noble efforts of health care workers, but no additional funding or policies to address their rising workloads.

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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 Fifty Two

The days continue sunny and warm, above freezing for a few hours each afternoon. The snow from the clipper storm remains in places, the ground having frozen enough that it will take a truly warm day to melt it entirely. A reminder that winter is here even if it doesn’t quite feel it yet.

Last night word came that our elected leaders here in this Western Dominion are meeting to determine their response to latest incursions by the grippe reborn. An announcement was to come this morning, but it has since been delayed to the end of the day. And so we wait to see what they have determined. Restlessly it seems, people flooding grocery stores and pharmacies as though expecting we will be forbidden to leave our homes.

It seems clear that things cannot continue as they have, though our leaders’ natural inclination is that they should. They do not want further restrictions, having convinced themselves that the economy and the quarantine protocols stand in opposition. We must choose one or the other, but life is rarely so simple.

The holidays loom – Christmas one month away – and no government wants to be the one to cancel that. Yet by refusing to consider more moderate restrictions earlier on, our leaders may have done just that. So we wait to see what is to come.

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 Fifty One

The spread of the grippe reborn continues unabated in these parts, every day bringing alarming news of his growing forces. Most alarming of all is the complete absence of our elected leaders to deal with the matter. The premier of this Western Dominion hasn’t been seen in ten days, since he had to isolate himself after coming into contact with one of the dread lord’s forces. Through the spring and summer he has always been visible at government announcements, even if only virtually, so his disappearance these last days is notable. It is odd, to say the least, that in this moment of growing crisis he has chosen to absent himself utterly.

It has been obvious for some time that the measures that have been put in place since cases began to rise in the fall were ineffective at countering the dread lord’s incursions, but our leaders have refused to act. Elsewhere in the Greater Dominions it has been much the same story. We were all told that the severe quarantine protocols put in place in the spring were necessary to buy time to plan for what was to come in the fall, when the weather would begin forcing people indoors and the grippe reborn’s ability to move amongst us would increase.

In the southern hemisphere we saw other governments make the same mistakes through their fall and winter, lose control of the situation, and have to return to severe lockdowns. Europe has been a month ahead of us since the beginning of the dread lord’s rise and what has happened there has generally followed here. Most countries there have been forced to return to their spring restrictions to counteract the growing spread.

It has been obvious since the end of September the trajectory we are on, yet little has been done to stem the tide. Even when it became clear that the growth was exponential the government declined to respond. Personal responsibility was the mandate, so that the failure could be pushed upon the afflicted and not upon the government. It was the failure of those who fell to the dread lord, not the failure of those with the power to address the systemic issues leading to the rise in cases.

Now that they have no choice but to act it seems our leaders finally will. What they will do is unclear but it can only be seen as an unmitigated failure to allow us to come to this state, where the dread lord can venture everywhere in the dominion and we cannot even track his comings and goings. If we do not know where he has gone we cannot hope to stop him and it has become clear in the last week that the health system can no longer keep pace.

We have always been a step behind the dread lord, forever reacting to our failures to contain him, acting too late to thwart him entirely. Better late than never though. Still I look longingly at eastern domains where they have managed to stem the tide without resorting to the harsh measures we have here and wonder why we cannot have done the same.  

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 Fifty

A clipper storm blew in last night dropping temperature precipitously and bringing snow with it. After a week of mild weather the abrupt change was something of a shock, although we had warnings of it as the temperature began to drop yesterday afternoon.

The appearance of winter can hardly be a shock as we move into late November, though one always hopes for another day or week that it can be held at bay. We may get it as well, for clipper storms, as the name implies, move fast across the prairies, often visiting the worst of the cold and snow upon the eastern dominions.

This morning as I walked through the darkness on snow covered sidewalks it felt like the depths of winter. The cold was deeper than it has been and with the darkness, I had the sense of season settling in to stay. I was bundled against the elements: toques and gloves and a heavy jacket. My warm breath clouded the air in front of me.

Slowly but surely as I walked on the cold found its way in. I felt it on my cheeks first, that familiar sting that is easily ignored. Then it worked its way through my gloves so that tips of my fingers ached from it. I had to flex and clench them to work the blood through them. My legs were next for I only wore pants, not realizing how cold it actually was. It took some time though, for their constant effort of propelling me forward kept them warm.

By then I was home and the cold did not go any deeper into me. It lingered for a time in my fingers and on my cheeks even after I had undressed. Only after I was sipping on a warm cup of coffee did it absent itself entirely.

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 Forty Nine

There is a village in the central parts of the Lost Quarter, not far from where I grew up, a desolate place with only a few houses and a lonely community hall. Once it was the most important town in the area, a hub on the rail line, with elevators, a church, a school, a lumber yard, a laundry and other stores. The hotel was a hive of activity, even in temperance days when the saloon could serve no alcohol. A fire changed all that, from which the town never recovered, with much that burned never being rebuilt.

The hotel still stands, but it is a dilapidated place now drifting into ruin. In the Lost Quarter buildings are rarely torn down it seems. People prefer to let the weather and the wind do the work for them, as it inevitably does. The hotel – at least the saloon portion – operated continuously, more or less, up until a few years ago when the place was essentially abandoned. In my time in the area they had strippers in regularly, to which a few locals would congregate, as well as kids from across the provincial border where the drinking age was higher.   

The same cannot be said of so many other buildings which have been torn. The church was already gone when I was young – I can remember playing in the remnants of its foundation – while the grain elevators were torn down when I was in high school. The local school was converted to an abattoir for a time, but it now stands empty and is moving to the same fate as the hotel. There was a post office, built in the shape of a tipi, like the ones Those Who Went Away used when they inhabited this land before their exile. It was closed and the building donated to a museum of a nearby town.

The village sits on a busy highway and for a time when I was a child there was a gas station and general store alongside it. My family knew the proprietor and would often stop by when we came into town to pick up the mail. He had a dog, Buffy, who always accompanied him while he was working. I looked forward to nothing more than a trip to see Buffy and can remember running around in the grass near the highway playing games with her.

The proprietor closed the place, retiring to another town, a few years later. No one was willing to take it over, so it was torn down and the land remediated. Driving by now there is no trace of any building and I cannot identify the places where Buffy and I used to run and play.

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 Forty Six

A skiff of snow covers the roads and paths, while fog creeps around every corner filling up the darkness with a ghostly white. We walk in this shrouded empty world, no one visible except a few distant cars, their headlights distorted.

A figure emerges from the fog, a woman, hunched over and moving with an odd, lurching gait. There is something in her expression – anger or fear, it is unclear – that is disturbing. Her eyes downcast, she moves past us hurriedly vanishing again into the fog.

Further on we hear a low rumble of an engine idling. It sounds like a tank approaching, its treads grinding into the ground, but it is just a pickup parked at the corner of the street. The lights are on, but the cab is empty, waiting for someone.

The fog thickens through the morning, so that even as a little light steals in the shroud remains heavy upon the city. It moves in clouds, thicker here and there, strange entities commuting through the city. Snow comes and goes, heavy with moisture, almost rain.

It remains through the morning, as immovable as any mountain. Yet come the afternoon it is gone, within an hour almost every trace of it burned off by the bright sun. There is a moment before it vanishes, when it still holds a kind of sway upon the city, stalking the streets, but the sun is already cutting through its mantle, casting everything in an ethereal, fragile glow. It lasts only a few minutes and then the fog slips away into the air as silent as its arrival.

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 Forty Five

Such a strange time this November in our ongoing struggle with the grippe reborn. His forces have never been stronger in these parts. Every afternoon brings word that more and more have been brought to his side, nearly a thousand a day, sometimes more. And each day also brings word of more who have fallen.

People whisper in hushed tones about the last time the dread lord seized the world, how he first made his presence known in the spring, seeming to vanish in the summer months, only to reappear with even greater strength in the fall and winter. It seems we are living something of the same story now. Perhaps we are better prepared though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment.

In the midst of all this death and destruction we receive word that our salvation may only be a few short months away. By springtime inoculations may have passed all protocols and be ready to distribute to those on the front lines of the struggle. June and July may bring it to everyone in these parts. Seven months. Never has seven months seemed so long and yet so short a 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 Forty Four

Exhausted last night after a day of work and chores, yet I couldn’t sleep. My neck was sore, in such a way as to make any position in bed uncomfortable. The origins of that ailment are unknown to me. I am of an age now that I can wake up with aches and have no idea of how they came to be there. It is a strange thing, the body betraying the mind’s sense of it.

It was a night of betrayals, for as I tossed and turned, I had a sense of losing control. My heart raced and I had to breathe deeply to calm it. In the midst of all this the ache in my neck migrated to the back of my head and became a dull throb. It seemed to wander about my skull, going from one side to the other. I tried more breathing exercises, painkillers and a sleep mask.

I don’t recall falling asleep, but eventually I did. A still, dreamless sleep filled with darkness. I awoke early, feeling as though I had barely slept at all, the pulsing throb still present at the back of my head. It took more painkillers, breathing and stretching, and most of the morning, for it to finally leave me. Even when the pain left I could still feel where it had been, like an imprint on drying concrete, the shape of my thoughts contoured to its presence.

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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 Forty Three

Snow fell overnight, blanketing the city, and it falls still as my love and I walk to her work. The city is quiet this dark morning; even the crows are timid in their jawing, as though they don’t want to disturb the stillness the snow has brought. The cars on the road and the people walking move slowly, tentatively, unsure what lies beneath the snow.

Back inside where it is warm I sit and watch the light slowly come into the world. The sky is grey – a blanket above and a blanket below, with the snow flakes moving between them. The sounds of the city, of our home, seem more muted today. I barely hear any traffic, only the heat turning on and off. There is a deep sense of solitude, that if I closed my eyes the world would vanish beneath the snow.

Perhaps it will by day’s end. The snow continues, steady and undiminished. Tiny flakes that settle one upon the other building some vast architecture.

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 Forty Two

A warm November day, a rare thing this late in the month. My love and I decide to take the air after our work is done. We walk west along the streets into the setting sun, avoiding our usual routes that take us by the river. Instead we return to the neighbourhood where we both lived some years ago.

In fact, it is the neighbourhood we were both living in when we first met and started dating. We stood again at the corner across from my apartment where my love tried and failed to avoid my parents, visiting from the Lost Quarter, and I as we returned from supper one summer evening not long after we had started dating. And we followed the path between our two apartments, only a half dozen blocks separating us, that we both traversed so often those first months before we decided to save some steps and move in together.

 It is a welcome distraction from all our current worries to let our feet return us to those days. On our walk home we take a different route down a busy street filled with restaurants, cafes and bars. My love points out ones recently opened that she would like to try. An Eritrean place, fish and chips, and Jamaican. There are a disturbing number of darkened windows and for lease signs on buildings. The economy was struggling before the grippe reborn arrived and the dread lord’s arrival has clearly made things worse.

A small bit of good news is the sight of a white bearded man leaning on crutches. Even at that distance and in the growing darkness he is immediately recognizable. He has a new jacket and toque, and his beard was recently trimmed, but otherwise he appears unchanged. It is a welcome sight to know that he is still with us despite all the hardships of this year. He has seen worse, I suspect, and come through and the thought of another winter, even a winter in the shadow of the dread lord, will not daunt him.