Notes on the Grippe

Day Nine Hundred Eighty Seven

From high above the Quarter appears a gleaming wintry tundra, unbroken but for the river valleys and creek coulees, dark fingers that extend across the land, digging deep. Only from this vantage point does the true emptiness of the Quarter become apparent. A few clustered houses here and there marking towns and in between them vast spaces of white. Even the cities seemed dwarfed by all that land. In other places I have ventured to, cities bump up against other cities, towns litter every byway. One cannot go more than a minute without seeing some evidence of human habitation.

The Quarter, on the other hand, can feel like you have entered a post-apocalyptic world. All the signifiers of our existence are there: the road you are driving upon, the fences strung with wire marking the borders of territories, and the electric lines that must lead to some house, and yet none is visible. Even the cattle that should fill the pastures are not apparent, hidden far from the road by some watering hole. The occasional car appearing in the distance shakes you from your reverie, reminding you that you are not alone in this place. An uncomfortable feeling, as though you have been exposed just by being here, implicated by having come to this lost place.

Notes on the Grippe

Day Nine Hundred Forty

The days go on, the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn still present but forgotten by most of us as we go about our lives. Everyone is planning on travelling or has just come back. School has returned as it was before, work as well, families are gathering for holidays. When I go into the office, head to a shop or take a bus there are fewer and fewer people wearing masks. Yet every now and again the Dread Lord still manages to intrude  upon our eventful lives. Two weeks ago my love and I got the latest dose against the Grippe Reborn’s newest disguise and every week news comes of someone else who has been touched by the Dread Lord. Some suffer more than others, but all have been able to return to their lives without much concern.

That is why it was so bizarre to watch the leadership contest for the governing party of these parts, who had forced out their old leader, in part, over his failures during the pandemic. Those who opposed the quarantine restrictions are still exercised about them, still furious at being told to get their inoculations and being denied the ability to travel. They want blood and they shall get it, for their choice of leader is now in charge. She has declared that she will remove all those who were in charge of the health system, calling them failures, though they were only implementing the policies put in place by the government she now leads. At a time when the system is still strained by lack of people and resources, throwing it into more turmoil seems foolish, but that will not stop her.

It is disheartening to be governed by a populist who spouts conspiracy theories that it appears she actually believes. She talks of throwing off the shackles of the Greater Dominion, of sovereignty, though not independence. That will come once the empty threats she makes to the federal government bring us nothing in return. How much damage can she do before the next election in seven months time? And is it possible she could be victorious? A depressing thought indeed.

At least we are lucky enough to experience another glorious autumn. For a second year in a row the days have been warm and pleasant, the leaves slowly changing their colours from green to gold. Every time I venture outside I marvel at how beautiful everything looks. It is hard not to feel at peace looking upon such beauty, the steady changing of the seasons. These are the things that make up our lives as much as the turmoil and clamour we bring to them.

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 Eight Hundred Eighty Four

On and on, these endless hot days of a languorous summer. I cannot remember so many days with the temperature over thirty. And there has been no rain for at least a month, not even the thunderstorms that typically accompany the heat. The other day the sky clouded over, the humidity rising, and a few halfhearted drops fell as we were walking, not even reaching the ground. It is parched again, the grass scorched brown and the leaves of the trees wilting.

The sameness of the days has been oddly tiring. It feels churlish to complain about hot days in the summer when soon enough we will be complaining about cold days in the winter, but it hasn’t stopped me. After awhile it all begins to feel ominous. All my life I’ve heard warnings of the coming changes to the climate and how it will impact everyone. They were easy to discount – there were always more pressing matters to be concerned with – but now it is impossible to deny something is happening. The weather is markedly different than it was in my youth in these parts.

We are always slow to recognize what is happening and the change has been so gradual it has been easy to choose not to notice. I still feel the same as I always have, or so I think, and yet hours spent at my desk at work now trouble far more than they used to. There is aches and stiffness, aggravated nerves throbbing. It used to be I could ignore such things, go for a walk, and they would resolve themselves. Lately I have been busy at work and continued to ignore the warning signs, assuming they would just go away. At first they did, but then they returned and were far worse than before. Now I am going to physio for treatment, doing stretches and strengthening exercises, frantically trying to force my body back to normal.

I have had these issues with my nerves getting aggravated on and off since the Grippe Reborn arrived in these parts. A symptom of a more sedentary life spent largely at home, or just a fact of getting older? All the above most likely. What has become sadly clear is that the normal I am striving to return to isn’t going to happen. This is the normal and is something I will have to watch and deal with from now on. I’m no longer the person I was and there is no returning to that. There is only living in the world as it is and working to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.

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 Eight Hundred Seventy

Midsummer. I begin to notice that the evenings are not quite so long as they have been. A blessing in some ways on hot days, allowing more time for the house to cool off before heat arrives again. Languid and lazy and lying about, that was my last week. After months of feeling as though we had to fit in as much of what we had missed these past two years with the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn as possible, we finally allowed ourselves the pleasure of nothing. No festivals to attend, no friends and family to visit, no activities. All of it made for perfect summer days.

The last few months have felt like a frenetic race to make up for lost time. Travels to distant shores that were not permitted under quarantine, but also just getting together with friends and family. Events, like the rodeo or music festivals, that previously we might attend or not depending on our mood and availability, now felt important to go to. We now understood there were no guarantees they would be offered every year. No guarantees that things would go on as they have.

It has proven exhausting though. I am no longer used to being out amongst people all the time. I am more aware of the energy it takes to do so. The things that I used to occupy my time during the last two years have fallen away. I have spent less time baking bread and tending to my garden. I planted late and until the heat of this last week it has looked thoroughly unimpressive.

The Grippe Reborn remains and yet this summer has an air of finality about it. Quarantine strictures everywhere have been dismantled and people returned to their old lives more or less. Every week I hear of someone who has been touched by the Dread Lord, but the trepidation that used to accompany such pronouncements is gone. Most everyone seems to have accepted that there is risk in encountering the Grippe Reborn, but that we are all likely to do so eventually, and they are willing to live with that. Even those I know who have been the most cautious have in the past weeks have become much less so. I think that will only continue, regardless of what guise the Dread Lord adopts in the coming months. He will remain, part of the fabric of our days, but only a part, never the whole of our thoughts.

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 Eight Hundred Forty Nine

They came upon the town as dusk settled, the summer sun having finally vanished over the horizon. Their windshield and the front of the truck were spattered with grasshoppers, the sides streaked with mud and dust from many trips down chewed up gravel roads after the recent rains. The streets were quiet off the highway, everyone settled in for the night or at the hotel bar on main street, with its false fronts and appearance of history. Everything here was recent, in point of fact, having been built in the last fifty years. Yet, even the newest buildings looked as though they had stairs that creaked and were in need of a coat of paint.

It could have been any town in these parts. It was any town, with streets wide enough to run a military parade down them, but no crowd in sight. They drove down the side streets and residential areas and there were a few homes for a sale and a few that looked forgotten. All the yards were tidy, as they would be, though a few had vehicles that looked unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon in the back alley. Seemingly everyone had an RV and a truck parked somewhere, so much so that the houses that didn’t could almost be assumed to be empty, their inhabitants out at the reservoir or further afield.

They talked about how things had changed since they’d last been through after another long drive across the prairies. The thing was, it hadn’t, not in any substantive way. The shops on main street might have different names and signs but in the twilight gloom they looked much the same. There were a few new houses on the southern edge of town, ostentatiously large, as though their inhabitants thought the town was too small to contain them. Everything else felt smaller than they remembered, desiccated despite the rain. It felt like everyone was trying to hold time still, with the result that they had shrunk and folded in on themselves, turning away from the brightness of their headlights. Except for the roads, which were wide, open and empty, stretching out into the growing darkness.  

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 Eight Hundred Twenty Eight

A rainy June in these parts, so welcome after the drought and heat of last year. For three days we had a torrential, almost tropical rain that combined with the snow melt in the mountains to threaten flooding. Nine years ago there was a massive flood at just this time of year after similar rains. It swallowed much of downtown and whole blocks in neighbourhoods along the river. The damage was incredible. With that event still fresh in the minds of so many there was a flurry of preparations as soon as the storms were forecast. In the years since the great flood there has also been considerable mitigation efforts, building up banks and establishing berms and the like. All of this seems to have paid off for there was little in the way of flooding.

The two rivers that pass through the city are still high and muddy, their currents swelling and rushing. More rain is forecast in the next few days and there is still snow in the mountains with our late spring so we are not out of danger just yet. As I write this it is another cloudy and humid day – I cannot remember so many overcast days in these parts – that promises rain. Soon the farmers will be complaining there has been too much.

Lately I have found myself thinking how fortunate we are to live in these parts. The news has been so unrelentingly grim here and everywhere that it has been easy to focus only on the faults in our lives. To be sure there are still many things I would change, which has true of everyone, everywhere for all time. What surprises me is how often I find myself marvelling at something that a few months ago I would have taken no notice of. These are the same views and streets that were all that was available to us for two straight years. But now that we have gone elsewhere and seen how others live and come back I am seeing it all in a new light.

It helps as well that the people have returned to the streets this summer. Everyone is out and everyone wants to be out, to go places and do things. There is an energy that has been absent. Even in those times in the last two years when restrictions were limited and people were free to go about their lives, we all did so under a shadow. That shadow seems absent now even with the Dread Lord still present. We have faced him and know we shall not be defeated.

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 Eight Hundred Fourteen

Last week my love and I journeyed to the capital of these Dominions, by reputation a sleepy town filled with government workers. It is also the place where protesters occupied the streets outside the parliament a few short months ago spouting conspiracy theories and demanding an end to inoculation requirements. I was there for work but still managed to see much of the area that was taken over during that cold winter interlude. Now the streets seemed barely recognizable, crowded with tourists and people just going about their days.

A handful of straggling protesters remained in front of the parliament buildings. They waved flags, some of which I did not even recognize, and tried to sell merchandise to passersby. From what I could see they were entirely given over to conspiracies about the World Economic Forum, Q and all the rest that seem to be proliferating in the wake of the seismic changes that came about with the arrival of the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn. We shall be living in the aftermath of the devastation he brought about for a long while.

The capital was a lovely place to spend a few days. We toured the parliament buildings and wandered along the canal and the river. The days were warm and humid, the trees and flowers lush. It felt like summer and quite different from these parts where everything is still far behind because of the late snows.

We returned in time to attend a street festival down the road from where we live. Throngs of people were out to look at the wares for sale and eat sausages and pierogis. It felt like summer truly, as it has not these last two years. I dread to say it feels normal, for I’ve lost all sense of what that even would be now, but it does truly feel like a return of something we had lost.

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 Seven Hundred Ninety Three

A late spring in these parts. There were flurries again yesterday and the week before, though no snow stuck to the ground. January had warmer days than we have had in May. When my love and I walk to her office in the mornings it is still brisk though the sun is up and bright. This week I have noticed the trees are largely in leaf. Even those that had been reluctant to bud are now showing glimpses of foliage. We are now at the Victoria Day long weekend in May, which traditionally means horrible weather in these parts, after which it is safe to plant your garden without any risk of frost.

Life has otherwise largely drifted back to normal after our bout with the Grippe Reborn. My love has returned to her tower for work. After more than two years away this week I did the same, which felt both momentous and oddly familiar at the same time. It has meant that we are no longer able to walk together in the morning and while we both will still work from home sometimes, there are no guarantees we will do so together. This feels like the end of an era in our struggle with the Grippe Reborn. He remains and will continue to cause havoc, but not so much that governments will need to enact sweeping quarantine restrictions. We will muddle along and hope for the best, trusting that our inoculations will keep the worst of his powers at bay.

It is a measure of the Dread Lord’s power that neither of us was terribly ill and yet it has taken us nearly a month to fully return to normal. My cough has finally subsided and I feel as though I have my usual energy. My love is still coughing and sometimes suffers from brief shortness of breath, like an asthma attack which she had as a child. Hopefully both subside soon as her body heals itself.   For the next few months we should have good protection against his powers until he is able to adopt a new guise that allows him to slip through his defences. It may be our fate to do battle with the Dread Lord again and again, year after year. How many times will we be afflicted? Will it just be a cold or will it be something worse? There is no way of knowing truly, so we just go about our days not letting thoughts of that shadow our minds.

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 Seven Hundred Seventy Nine

Today is the day both my love and I are finally released from the Grippe Reborn and our isolation. Though I have been freed for a few days now, my love has been under quarantine and still suffering some ill effects from the Dread Lord. Because she was a close contact of me when I first began to show symptoms she has been in isolation for two weeks, while I only had to remain locked away for ten days. For the most part I have stayed inside these last days, still reluctant to venture out, only leaving the house for my morning run.

As with me, my love’s symptoms lingered on past their welcome, much to her frustration. Up until yesterday she was still congested and coughing, her voice a little hoarse. This morning she is well though and full of energy, no doubt in part because of her promised release. We both have work today but once that is done we will be heading out to walk about the city whose streets we have been absent from for nearly a month.

It is wonderful to be past both the trials of the Dread Lord and the strange dislocations of quarantine. Time moved strangely and now it feels as if we are about to rejoin the turning of the world again. We can go about with ease, for a few months at least, knowing the Dread Lord is unlikely to be able to slip past our defences again.

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 Seven Hundred Seventy Six

I awoke on Saturday and the Grippe Reborn was still within me, my nose stuffed and a persistent cough setting my chest heaving. It filled me with a kind of despair. Would this damned thing never let me go? I spent the morning grumpy and annoyed, while my love felt more hopeful. The worst of her battle with the Dread Lord had passed and she felt well on the road to recovery.

I chatted with some family and friends about our trials with the Dread Lord and then had noodles for lunch. It was like a cloud lifted from me. The congestion dissipated and I had an energy I hadn’t had since the Dread Lord descended upon me. I felt well and when I tested myself that evening I was negative. The next day, my tenth since I became aware of the Dread Lord’s touch, I felt like myself, though the cough was still in my chest.

My love is upon a similar journey, the Grippe Reborn lingering and malingering. It is only now that he has truly left that I can see that even though I felt fine last week, I was not myself. I have more energy now and am not tired at the end of a day’s work. My love will join me soon I think – she seems to be improving more quickly than I did. For now, we both spend our days and evenings sipping herbal tea to ease the irritation in our throat.

Last night I finally ventured outside, my isolation officially at an end. Neither of us felt like cooking so I went to procure us some dinner. It had just stopped raining when I stepped out, the world smelling of springtime and new beginnings. The sun was barely peeking through the clouds, reflecting brightly off the damp pavement. It felt disorienting to be out in the world again. The familiar streets, which for two years I had walked upon almost every day, were new to me again after almost a month away. I went into a shawarma place and chatted with the proprietors while they prepared our dinner, feeling as though I had come back to the world after a long time away.