January of the new century did not start off well for Cross.
I don’t know the particulars as to when it started. I was off on an errand when the worst of the plague struck the town. As it was, I returned to a dismal state of affairs.
Most of the town was sick, and more than a few families, especially those on the outskirts of town, were wiped out completely. As the cold weather struck with force, the few of us who were healthy – and apparently immune to the illness – took it upon ourselves to remove the dead.
Traveling through bitter cold to knock upon the doors of neighbors to see if any lived was difficult. In more than one house, I was forced to extract the stiff bodies of children from their sickbeds; their mothers dead either in the room with them or in their own rooms. I dislike thinking of the number of people who may have frozen or starved to death because they were too weak to help themselves.
Eventually, the plague ran its course. Ninety-three people were dead, and none of us were the wiser as to why the illness had arrived. Perhaps the most horrific aspect of the disease was that there was no sign of illness upon the victims. There were no boils or blemishes; no swelling or bleeding out; nothing at all.
Each victim looked healthy, as though they might rise up from their death beds and smile and greet us at the door.
It was only when we cut into the first of the victims that we realized something was wrong.
No one’s innards should be black and charred.
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