Pestilence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


It is the fourteenth century anno Domini, and the plague is ravaging Europe. In a dark and damp room, deep inside a medieval hospital, there is a most troubled man.

Submitted: June 18, 2018

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Submitted: June 18, 2018

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The room’s air was thick with an eerie dread, a dread which had enveloped the hospital since the great dying had first begun. A single oil lamp shone its light across the cold stone walls of the windowless room. A single straw mattress lay atop a wooden bed frame, and the patient lay atop the bed. Inside of that small, cold room was a most troubled and unfortunate soul. 

“How are you doing today, Mr. Clarke?” Dr. Ashdown asked in a jovial tone.

“Not well,” the patient replied, his neck swollen, “I don’t feel well at all. My forehead is the victim of the devil’s hellfire it seems.”

“Well, that is to be expected.” Ashdown replied, “Those are the symptoms of the great pestilence.”

The patient looked gravely and somberly into Ashdown’s eyes. “Doctor, am I going to die?” he asked weakly.

“Of course not, what makes you say that, my friend?”

“A priest performed last rites on me just an hour ago, for one thing.”

“Well, the priest doesn’t know about this,” Ashdown said, pulling a small, greenish bottle out of his coat. 

“And what is that supposed to be, Doctor?”

“The cure for your illness.”

“Doctor, have you gone mad? There is no cure for the pestilence.”

“This cure was created by the pope’s chief priests, astrologers, and scholars just weeks ago. They have given it to this hospital in the hopes of testing it. All those whose lips it has touched have survived the pestilence.”

“Really?” the patient said in astonishment, his expression becoming one of hope and joy, “You mean I’m going to live?”

“Yes, Mr. Clarke. You are going to live, now drink up,” Dr. Ashdown said, placing the bottle to his patient’s lips.

“Thank you,” the patient said softly as he drank from the bottle.

“Get plenty of rest,” the doctor replied.

Mr. Clarke did just that; he closed his eyes and rested. 

Dr. Ashdown watched for hours as the movement of his patient’s chest ceased, and his breathing ended. He grabbed the patient’s arm to feel his nonexistent pulse. Tears began to flow down the doctor’s face. 

“Sleep well,” Ashdown said, “May God rest thy soul, and have mercy on mine.”

Just then, a second doctor entered the room. “You have done what needed to be done?” he asked.

“Yes,” Ashdown replied in sadness and spite, “I have.”

“Don’t look so distraught,” the other doctor said, “You know what condition he was in. He would have been dead by morning. Thanks to you, his suffering has ended. He died happy, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did,” Ashdown admitted.

“That bottle of poison is the most humane thing we could’ve done for him.”

“I know,” Ashdown said, 

“I realize it is difficult for you to do this, and I’m sorry you have to.”

“I need to sit down,” Ashdown said, seating himself on the bed. He pulled a small rag out of his coat pocket. He coughed into the rag, and to his horror, speckled it with drops of red. He looked down at the cloth with fear and revulsion. His eyes widened, and his face distorted itself into a horrified expression.

“Are you feeling well?” the other doctor asked.

“I don’t… I… I’m fine. I’m just a bit overworked,” Ashdown replied in denial. Again he coughed up scarlet onto the rag.

“Ashdown, I am so sorry,” the other doctor replied somberly, picking up the bottle from off of the bed and offering it. “Care for a drink?”


© Copyright 2019 Christopher Trajan. All rights reserved.

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