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The Plague

They weave a slow andante as in sleep. Scaled yellow, swampy black, plague-spotted white; with blue and lidless eyes at a watch, they keep a treachery of silence, infinite.
– Arthur Symons

There was no other way to describe this. Perilous, hopeless, just a pit of darkness, there was no cure. That much I knew. So here I rode, through the masses of dead bodies, seeing through two eye holes lidden with glass, to cover me. It was like a thin sheet of blankets, a thin sheet of protective covering, protecting me against this harsh and stale air. Familiar faces I knew, and one, that killed me on the inside. My name is Mercy Reese, and this is my story.

It’s very unusual to hear a woman becoming a doctor, in fact, it was so rare, everyone stared at me, as I trailed behind Mr. Actuarius in the streets of Constantinople. To be specific Joannes Zacharias Actuarius. He’s a very infamous doctor, although he looked stunningly different from anyone else you’ve seen. Very sharp and a crisp figure, slim and lean. Sandy blonde hair and pale skin adorned with bright blue eyes, he looked like a perfect gentleman. He drew everyone’s attention straight to him, he was the “shining star” of the scene, every single time.


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Then there was me, haphazardly trailing behind him, his shadow, always working behind the scenes. I had boringly brown hair and eyes, a pale skin, that almost had an unhealthy sheen, and a slender, pear shaped figure. Just unhealthy and perfectly normal. In fact too normal. Documents, documents, documents, everywhere, I was his secretary more or less, frantically keeping up with his fast paced life.

Currently, we were going back to his office, doing more paperwork, poking around bodies, performing autopsies, of course without cutting into their bodies, but simply checking them. They had died from blood loss. It seems a thief ravaged their body, quite badly too. At this point though, there’s nothing you can do about it.

“Mercy!” Hearing a rushed voice I’d spin around on my heels, Mr. Actuarius’s piercing eyes following me as I replied back, and made my way over towards the kind woman. Ms. Smith, she was a bigger woman, she reminded me of a plump peach. Soft and round features, kind, yet small brown eyes, a bit darker skin, with curly, bouncy black hair. Still, she was in no condition to be up and running, so I furrowed my brows and ran over to her, as she gave a weary smile.

“Ms. Smith! Go lie down, you shouldn’t be up!” I’d try to usher her into her own house as the rounded woman would laugh, geez, she was burning up…

“Mercy hun, you worry way too much. I’ll be fine I swear, you needn’t worry. I just wanted to say hello! It’s rare that I see you around town without your nose shoved in a file of reports.” She was right though, I had ended up doing that a lot. Always following my mentor, nose deep into my own records, documents, and research. Then, I would give off a sheepish laugh, rubbing the back of my neck with a soft smile as Ms. Smith beamed at me. Then she’d begin to get into a coughing fit as I furrowed my eyebrows ushering her inside. I could remember faintly hearing Mr. Actuarius’s footsteps behind me.

Once she was finally in bed and asleep, after we had told her to lie down and get plenty of rest, because she had a common fever, we decided to finally head back and to get back to our work.

“You really do have a connection, or at the least, a touch with the people here, don’t you?” His voice, it surprised me, well, not as much as his words did. He spoke in a deep voice, maybe a bit scratched, but that was because he didn’t talk very much to anyone… except for me.

“I-I mean I guess? I just end up looking out for everyone, and apparently, I’m just so approachable, that I can be talked to I guess? I mean I really don’t know.” I’d go on and ramble as I stared down at the stones, my face starting to flush as I further embarrassed myself.


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He would just smile as he pats me on the back, as I continued to almost stumble and fall over myself like I seemed to do no matter what anyway… then all of a sudden, both Mr. Actuarius and I stopped in our tracks. A blood-curdling speech had just impaled our thoughts and into our work. We had to stop and help them. Although unknowingly we had stepped into the beginning of hell.

A woman in her mid-forties laid there as she screeched, her eyes dilated to the ceiling. I remembered her, wasn’t, didn’t she just have a common fever? Mrs. Smith, she was a kind woman always looking out for everyone like a mother. She was the mother of this neighborhood. We had recently diagnosed her with a common fever. Although, here she was, screaming and retching blood, looking at us to help her. Black boils covered her neck, under her armpits, and on her mid thighs. My knees shook. What was this disease? I had studied after Mr. Actuarius for awhile now, and yet this problem had never been talked about. Just what is this?

Being the good humans that we were Mr. Actuarius rushed over by her side, and I stood by, shocked as I backed up into the wall, my eyes widening, as I ended up dropping my documents. No… this couldn’t be happening… I thought to myself as my mentor began to take his tools for examination out. I wanted to rub her back, she looked so sick, so done, she needed my help, but I was frozen, stuck there my knees, my body shaking. I couldn’t do anything, I was stuck there, barely holding the bile in my throat from erupting out of my mouth. Her eyes started to yellow, and so did her fingernails, it just got worse and worse with each passing moment, and we didn’t know what to do. Then it clicked, I turned to my mentor, whispering out in a passed hushed voice.

“It’s the plague, the one that has been killing all of China… the rumors are true.”

He just looked at me, and then got up, and addressed the situation. He kept me calm whenever I freaked out, he was the infamous Mr. Actuarius now, he had to keep his cool.

“We-we’ll be back, we need to go and check this out. I’m terribly sorry…” His voice shook a bit. I couldn’t even open my pale lips, I would have ended up throwing up, my stomach has never been strong to these things. My knees were jello, it took a deep breath to even steady myself and regain my posture, and then we rushed back to his station.

Once we had rushed inside, he opened a nearby cabinet and began to grab various things. Blood, blood blood, so we must have something right? Then I started to grab whatever I could think about in a frenzy and it seemed Joannes was doing the exact things. We grabbed things like cooked onions, rose hips, arsenic, clay, crushed violets, even crushed emeralds. Anything would help at the moment. We needed to help Mrs. Smith my neighborhood mother.

When we got back, she had only gotten worse, we tried everything we could think of, from trying to recover her. At the end of the day, it did nothing. And she only got worse. I couldn’t sleep that night knowing that Mrs. Smith was writhing in her own pain. My stomach twisted, how could I deal with this? I couldn’t break soon. I knew that much.


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This went on for days, people popping up sick and us trying to help, only to fail miserably. We didn’t understand it. The research was fruitless. Until it clicked. Finally. So I stood up, and rushed into his office, slamming the door open, my raggy brown hair messed up from its old tight bun.

“That’s it! Mr. Actuarius! Mr. Actuarius! I figured it out. It’s in the air! In all the cases that we’ve examined what have, they threw up? Blood! And what’s related to blood? Air! It’s in the air that’s causing this!”

He looked at me like I was a madman, and then his eyes lit up, he realized it. The issue was in the air, that’s it. So then it dropped on us, an uneasy silence. If it was in the air… then we were going to get it if we kept treating this patient. It was an unsettling silence. We both understood as we stared at each other. His lips were in a grim line as his sandy blonde hair was swept haphazardly behind him.

“We need to start developing protection then, actually, I might have some.” My eyes widened, and I felt them. What was he getting on about?

He leads me into a back room, and there was around three or four of these… suits. I didn’t know what to describe them as. It looked bird-like, and creepy, dark, and I honestly didn’t know what to think about it at this time. Joannes grasped one suit, the smallest of them. My mind was racing. Why were they here? Why were they in these dark pits? I gently grasped the suit. It was very waxy, and a thick material, I think he said something about canvas? I don’t know, my mind was completely numb. A sickening churn started to twist and knot my gut as my eyes grew wide. I was only half hearing what he was saying. What the hell is happening? My life is falling apart at every singular moment. Then he grabbed my shoulders and I snapped out of it.

“Mercy, are you even listening? If we don’t protect ourselves then the plague is going to be rampant, put it on, not matter how dark it may look, it’s warm, and it will protect you.” I reluctantly followed his orders, as he also put on one, that fit like a charm on him. He.. must have tailored his… mine wasn’t so fitting, a bit baggy but it protected me at least. I mean at least the important part, the head, fit.

First I donned on white pants, putting them on. Then, I removed my dress, which had a white button up shirt on. I always had this shirt on in case of an emergency where I had to remove my dress for the safety of the patient, and my own well-being. Then after, I placed on the long white gloves, which rolled up my arms perfectly, it wasn’t a hindrance at all. In fact, sometimes I forget I was wearing them. After that, I donned a black mask, which was pretty basic, and covered everything except my eyes, and nose. Then next, I placed on the cloak, which was a bit larger, and waxy. Little did I know I would grow into this weird thing. And finally I looked towards the crow mask, white, and as creepy as creepy can get. There were… various medicines stuffed inside of this mask… Mr. Actuarius already had his stuff on, and it frightened me, just about to where I stood there for awhile, just zoning out as my heartbeat raced faster. Somehow… I managed to pull myself out of that and get a rather decent grasp on reality again. So I steadied myself and placed on the mask, it fits securely, and then finally, I placed on a black gentleman’s hat, for more protection. My vision was limited. I felt confined… I felt… terrified to the point where I was disillusioned. Was this merely a nightmare? Yes, that’s it. One terrible… terrible nightmare, it’ll all end soon, right?

A few days later, we’ve been traveling for a while. Mrs. Smith had died, it was a tragedy, although a lot of people have died no matter what we’ve done, it seems like everything we tried just made everything seem so much more hopeless… so much darker. Although Mr. Actuarius was there to guide me through those times. Like for example, Agathe Malantha, my own neighbor, had ended up dying too from the disease. I remember crying, it was probably one of the only times I remember crying over someone. Maybe even the last. I still twitch and end up sobbing sometimes it’s hard, thinking about everyone who I had lost.


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I remembered, back to, I think months and months ago? My memory is very fuzzy, I get nostalgic every time I think about something like this. I can actually feel a migraine coming and shrouding my senses as I remember this… anyway, I was carrying water through the town. I had just gotten done with some work at Mr. Actuarius’s office, examining some dead animals, trying to figure out what they had died from, we still never had a chance to figure it out to this day. Agathe had stopped me. Her blonde hair tumbled down to her shoulders as she placed on a soft kind smile like she always had, while her beauty mark under her right eye reflected off of the dim light.

“Mercy, you look exhausted. Are you sure you need to keep pushing yourself? Your eyes are tired. You in yourself always seem exhausted. Place the bucket down… please.” I found myself complying as I set the what felt like a gigantic bucket of water down. It felt as if the world was lifted off of my shoulders, as Agathe gave a soft yet weary smile, ushering me inside, and directing me to sit down. “Stay right here, I’ll get you some tea.”

I remember arguing with her, bickering, and yet, in the end, she still got me the tea, and I was grateful. At the least, I had so many loving and supporting people by my side. In what seems like the entire town had despised me. Yet, here she was, lying dead from this god awful disease… just why was I being put through this torture?

Everyone was dying left and right, and there was nothing to do, my life fell and fell, although I got tougher and tougher. This carried on for an entire year. Then it hit.

Joannes Zacharias Actuarius, Mr. Actuarius, my mentor, he… had started developing symptoms. Over the years I slowly started to develop a deep connection with him. He was what felt like my only best friend. We rode around in sheer blankness, and dread, relying on each other. I… didn’t know what to do. Despite how strong I had become in this past year. This crushed me. I tried, relentlessly, rose hips, clean water, clean air, I nursed him as if he was my own child. Yet in the bottom of my stomach, in the bottom of my heart, I knew it was fruitless. I was right. He ended up dying a few days later. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was utterly hopeless, my life had turned to the point of no return. I was stuck here. In this pit. In the next few weeks, this continued on. Until I decided to take a ride through Constantinople again.

There was no other way to describe this. Perilous, hopeless, just a pit of darkness, there was no cure. That much I knew. So here I rode, through the masses of dead bodies, seeing through two eye holes lidden with glass, to cover me. It was like a thin sheet of blankets, a thin sheet of protective covering, protecting me against this harsh and stale air. Familiar faces I knew, and one, that killed me on the inside. My name is Mercy Reese, and this is my story.


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The Plague

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