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.

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.