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.

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 Thirty Seven

Today in the Lost Quarter, as across all the Greater Dominions, we remember those who perished fighting in our nation’s wars. The Great Wars of the last century that consumed the whole world with fire, but also all the conflicts that our soldiers have taken part in, whether as peacekeepers or combatants. Not all of these have been glorious conflicts to be sure. Lately most have had questionable  motives, as we joined battles that were not our own in service to the desires of the grand old empire to the south.

That does not lessen the loss of each of these lives. They were all young men and women with untold futures ahead of them. What they might have done, what they might have become is lost to us and we are poorer because of it.

It is hard on this day of remembrance not to consider the thousands in the dominions, and the hundreds of thousands across the world, who have been silenced by the grippe reborn. The dread lord has stolen their futures from us. There are those, including our leaders here in the western dominion, who like pointing out that it is largely just the elderly who are perishing in an attempt to downplay the risk for the rest of us. That is a cruel thing. As though their lives are somehow worth less because they have only a little time left anyway.

None of us knows the time we have. Who are we to judge its worth, or the worth of any life? We cannot. For so many now we can only try to remember.

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 Thirty Six

The storm came in from the west, wild and torrential. The wind bent trees into strange shapes, shattering branches and uprooting them, while rain filled the rivers and soaked the countryside. There was flooding in places and some of the hills gave way, mud washing out everything in its path.

It battered the town for the better part of two days, seeming to linger in place while the winds restlessly howled desperate to move on, to seek out new places to bring their torments. The populace stayed huddled in their homes, watching with despair as shingles were pulled from roofs, sheds and barns were torn asunder. Even concrete walls gave way under the force of the storm.

In the nicer part of town there was a school campus, renowned in those parts, where everyone who could afford it sent their children to be educated. It was an ancient school, having been founded by a religious order who were among the first of Those Who Came to arrive on those shores to evangelize among Those Who Went Away. The campus had many buildings, some as old as a century, constructed from brick and concrete. All of them suffered terrible damage from the storm.

One building on campus was untouched by the wind, showing no apparent harm when the storm finally abated. It was a small building, no longer in use, an historical artifact. In fact, it was the first building put up by those evangelizers and where they brought the children of Those Who Went Away to receive the word of their god.

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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 Thirty Five

Somewhere in the western regions of the Lost Quarter there is a ferry crossing that takes travellers from the main roads to an empty, almost desolate grassland. There the plains have been undisturbed and ranchers and their cattle still hold sway over vast expanses of arid land. It rains infrequently and the grass is sparse and tough, pockmarked with prickly pear cactus and buckbrush.

There are bridges across the river, both to the west and east, but both would take someone hours out of their way in order to get across and the roads lead away. A ferry was established early in the last century, which exists to this day, though the vessel has been somewhat updated. It is small – only one vehicle can fit upon its narrow deck – and moves sluggishly across the current to the opposite shore. A local family operates it and if you happen to arrive outside hours you will be stranded, for they have other business to see to.

When you cross to the other side, you find yourself in a land of high hills. There are no trees and little water, just the vast prairie as it must have looked like when Those Who Went Away wandered these parts before their cruel exile. Now there are only cattle, the odd human, rattlesnakes, and fencelines strung with barbed wire to mark changing territories.

I was there once, many years ago, guided by a local woman who lived there for many years, a family friend. Her father had once owned a great ranch in the foothills of the western mountains, part of which he promised to her. But she fell in love with one of her father’s ranch hands, which made him furious. When they refused to part he banished them both and they made their way to this lonely spot in the Quarter. They made a life there for themselves and had a family, and saw no more of hers. When, many years later, her father died he left some money to her in his will, though not any of his vast estates. They refused it, tearing up the cheque, wanting no part of that fortune at all.

She still lives in these parts, though not on the ranch I visited long ago, age having forced her into town.  Some of their children still tend to the ranch. The ranch hand stayed with her as long as he could, but this summer the grippe reborn took him 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 Thirty Two

The election in the grand old empire is over at last. Except the counting still continues and the outcome remains in doubt, with the uncertainty of all that promising to creep into the coming days. The president fulminates about conspiracies to deny him a return to power, declaring victory and announcing that any other outcome is corrupt. He would know, I suppose, being a singularly corrupt figure.

At any rate it seems as though the aftermath of the election will linger on for some time, even after the counting is finally complete. There will be legal challenges and endless rhetoric. Perhaps violence, though there has been none yet and hopefully they will be spared that. All we can be assured is that it will continue to suck oxygen from the room, taking up what precious mental space we have to deal with all of this. Add it to the pile of all the things we are forced to consider at all times during the unrelenting cavalcade of events of this year.

No one in the empire seems to have any awareness of how infuriating it is that the state of the world, and so many lives within it, are shaped by their arcane rules and frankly bizarre politics. Any nation, including our dominions, is governed by laws that make no sense, yet continue to persist and fosters a political culture that is incomprehensible to outsiders, but no other nation has such an outsize impact upon the world. As the last four years have demonstrated, if they elect a fool, it is not only they who will be led into madness.

Our politics in the Greater Dominions are often, accurately, described as boring. There are rarely great stakes and few major differences between the various contesting parties. This certainly leads to issues – we are far too accepting of the failures of our leaders for one thing – but overall it is a good thing. It is a mark of stability and the result a general consensus, among the populace and its leaders as to the direction the Dominions need to go. There are differences, heated and loudly argued as anywhere, but in the larger picture there is much agreement.

That no longer seems the case in the grand old empire. They stand opposed, utterly despising their opposites and what they seek to do, while forced to exist in the same nation. It seems unlikely to end well in the long run.

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 Thirty One

Last week I felt exhausted by all of this. By the grippe reborn’s steady march and by our continuing failure to hold him at bay. By the knowledge – or rather the reminder – that none of this will be over any time soon. The numbers continue to climb in these parts, and though our defences still hold, cracks are beginning to show in the walls. We know that in a few weeks, or a month, we may be overwhelmed.

I was tired by my work and correspondences. Tired of the meals my love and I prepared. Tired of the habits of my days, which I have leaned upon to get me through these trying times. Bored of the books I was reading, the shows I was watching and the music I was listening to. It just seemed to be more of this, all the same, through day after endless day.

There are days when it is hard to see past all this to a time when things might be different. That time will come, but it will not be soon, certainly not as soon as experts and leaders were saying only a few months ago. It seems they were hoping as much as we all were. Or they were afraid that we could not handle the truth of what lies ahead. The reality of the work that is before us has put the lie to that hope.

Having grown up in the Lost Quarter where, as the old joke goes, you can watch your dog run away for days, I dislike forests, the trees crowding out the sky granting no view of the horizon. We are in the deepest, wildest parts of a forest now, with no paths to lead us out and no way to know for sure if we are going in the right direction. I long for days when I can stand upon a hill and watch the sky stretch on past the horizon, past everything.

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 Thirty

Our beautiful late autumn continues, the snow of two weeks ago a distant memory. The sun seems brighter than it has in weeks, the sunrises and sunsets filled with breathtaking colour. My love and I went for a long walk down to the river and across to some neighbourhoods we have not visited in some time. The pathways along the river were filled with people on similar excursions. It was heartening to see.

We had one of our annual fall traditions on the weekend, the cursed time change. I have yet to meet anyone who likes them. It is hard to discern a purpose to it, especially in our northern climes where it shifts our daylight hours from the evening to the early morning when only a few are actually up. By December that will matter little, for we will be down to eight hours of daylight, a standard workday. In fact the hours so closely match the workday that it is hard not to feel cheated. You arrived to work in darkness and left in darkness. I shall be at home this winter, which will pose its own challenges.

Farmers often get blamed for these shifts in time, which is a laughable story whose origins I cannot begin to imagine. Having grown up among farmers and ranchers I know how little heed is paid to the clock. Work is done during daylight hours, regardless of the time ascribed to it, because that is when you can see to do it. There is no schedule to keep, no need to put in hours if there isn’t work to be done, though there is always work to be done.

There are exceptions of course. Cows will birth at any hour they see fit and so must be checked day and night to see if any help is needed. Crops and hay can be too dry to combine or bale during the day so people will go out early in the morning or late at night when there is a bit of dew on them to make it easier.

Today it is fifteen degrees out first thing in the morning, almost unheard of for November. Sunrise was glorious, colouring the clouds in the sky with reds and pinks. Sunset has been as breathtaking, even if it feels like it is far too early. During the day the angle of the sun is low, so that it glares directly in ones eyes when you are about. The clouds are white and vivid in the sky, seeming to stretch on along the horizon as far as these endless plains.

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 Twenty Nine

Last night I dreamed the dread lord grippe reborn visited me in my chambers. He stole inside, a shadow in the darkness, and loomed over me. I awakened to his presence and watched, helpless to do anything, as he extended his hand to touch me. His icy fingers scorched my flesh, burrowing deep within, his face expressionless, his eyes filled with a blackness deeper than the dark.

I felt no fear, only a sort of exhilaration at his touch. He grasped my heart and pulled it from my body, feasting upon it like some ancient god, to the very last drop of blood. I wept with joy to see it, offering myself to him body and soul, begging him to fill that emptiness he had carved within me.

In return he gave me some small part of his dreadful power, in a charm I wore about my neck, so that I might go out and bring others under his shadow. Together we would swear our fealty to his undying power.

I rose from bed after he was gone, eager to carry out his work. Try though I might I had none of his terrible charisma. No matter how much I exhorted, shouted and forced myself upon my fellows, they passed me by without a glance. It was as though I was invisible.

I slumped to the ground, dejected and scorned, wondering why the dread lord had forsaken me. As I sat there weeping my bitter tears someone noticed me and came over to offer me their hand. I seized it and did not let 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 Twenty Eight

Was it only a week ago that snow covered over everything and it seemed we had settled in to an early winter? The cold was bitter, not as harsh as the deeps of winter, but startling coming on the heels of the warm days of early October.

It is warm again, though the character of that warmth has changed. It feels more autumnal now, there is nothing of the summer left in it. The mornings and evenings are crisp and you need to be out in the middle of the day to actually feel any of the warmth, where before it would stretch through the afternoon until darkness fell.

The sun is back, after so many uncharacteristically gloomy days, which improves my mood immeasurably. With the coming long nights of winter having sunny days seems more important than ever. If we are only going to have eight hours of daylight, as will soon be the case, let them be bright. Let them feel like actual days and not some purgatory stranded halfway between those opposing poles.

That purgatory and the darkness makes it seem to easy to just stay at home indoors and go into a kind of hibernation. But that comfort can so easily come to seem a prison without some sense of contact with greater world.

I think of all the people in these parts who journey south to warmer climes for the winter. Some do so for just a week or two, while others are gone for the greater part of it. Now that is denied them, as so much travel is denied to all of us. Our worlds have shrunk and dwindled, withered on the vine. Who knows if anything like what we had before will be restored.

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 Twenty Five

Water drips in the darkness, steady drops from the corner of the building where the snow is melting. In the distance a siren starts up, moaning away, so far that she cannot tell where it is coming from. It goes on and on, not drawing any closer, but not ceasing either. Like the thoughts in her head, they just stay there, refusing to leave her alone. All that doubt and fear.

She tries again, walking quickly and ignoring the slush on her boots, hoping that she doesn’t hit an icy patch somewhere. There is a body lying under some playground equipment in the park she darts through. She has an urge to stop and go look at it, to see if the person needs help, but forces herself to keep moving. After the last night there is only one reason for there to be bodies anywhere.

There are apartment towers to her right and she tries to walk in their shadow, hoping it might be safer there from any watching eyes, but knowing it won’t make any difference if anyone actually is watching. She risks crossing the street, looking back and forth to make sure the way is clear before doing so, and stops under the awning of a boarded up shop to gather her breath.

There is a shout of anger from somewhere in the darkness nearby. It is cut off abruptly – strangled – and a deeper, watchful silence follows. She is overwhelmed by fear, looking in the shadows for what might be there, unable to leave where she is huddled but knowing she cannot stay there. Nowhere on the streets is safe now. Any of them – the partisans or the regulars – will just assume she is an enemy and shoot her on sight.

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