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 One Hundred Sixty Eight
There are magpies cackling from the trees clustered around the slough, leering down at passersby. Those are few and far between, but anytime one appears – be it coyote, antelope or human – the magpies feel compelled to pronounce their disdain.
There are two passersby just now, youth following the trail down to the spring. It is nestled in amongst the cottonwood trees and hummocks, flowing enough to fill a low slough in springtime. It is fall now and the ground is dry, except around the spring. They crouch where the water gurgles from the earth, a steady, cool flow arising from somewhere beneath them, and fill their canteens. They linger for a time in the shade of the trees, drinking the water and filling the canteens again. It has been a long day and they have far to go. The magpies chatter at them, but soon enough grow bored as they get no reaction.
As they set off the sun is already in the west, though it remains high above. They walk for the few hours of light that remain, eating the sandwiches Hazel Wheeler made for them earlier and drinking their water. The morning and the days before they had spent at the Wheeler place helping with the threshing and harvest. After lunch they’d declined the offer of another night in the loft, saying they would make their way home, though it would mean a night out on the land.
When the dusk begins to grow heavy they elect to stop, taking shelter in an old grain bin, the only trace of a farmstead that once was there. The house and all the rest were sold and moved a few years ago. Only the bin, a broken thing with no roof remains. They decide it is as good a place as any to pass the night. The floor will keep them off the ground and the walls are still solid enough to keep out the wind.
The grass is tall around the bin and they cut some of it to lay on the floorboards to make a sort of bed. They lie down, looking up at the darkening sky and watching as the milky way appears above, talking of nothing at all until they both drift off to sleep.