The Lazzarettos of Ragusa

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
a cargo ship staff member reaches the port at Ragusa and is made to stay in a 40 day quarantine, him and his cargo to see whether he is carrying the plague. 14th Century

Submitted: April 21, 2020

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Submitted: April 21, 2020

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The sound of crickets and the smell of salty waters met me as I exited the cargo ship onto Ragusa port. Though nearing the end of the summer, the heat still made the air heavy and wet to breath. Not a single breeze to cool the beads of sweat suspended on my skin as though in a vacuum. At the lazzarreto port there were no sounds of fish mongers or civilians going about their day, instead there were dozens of dirty faces anxiously looking out through bared windows above you. They all gazed back and forth between the crew and the cargo trying to decipher where this new ship had sailed in from. My cargo of wool is heaved up on 3-metre-high stills and covered from the rain, the ladder will be moved and none will be able to reach it until I am ready to leave.

I wonder about the cargo of the men that are taken ill and I wonder how I will be spending my time here amongst a myriad of different nationalities, I wonder if I will meet some crew I have met on my previous travels. I walk through the five courtyards each connected by wide porticoes. My quarters consist of a small single bed and a little table below an arched barred window. It is all made out of big stone blocks which are cool to the touch and a welcome on these hot afternoons. I look out at an aquamarine blue sea scattered by islands that look like green limpets. The kitchen and latrines are shared amongst all the various cargo men from all the various places. I took walks around the courtyard, played latrones with various cargo men though the suspicions we all felt amongst one another made playing games a rare occurrence. I was of particular concern to the others as my ship had come from one of the pestiferous region in the East.

A couple of days ago I felt the summer heat was so oppressive I confused it with the notion that I might have a fever, though by the time the cool night came my anxieties subsided and I was again relaxed. But then yesterday I felt extreme fatigue which brought on a sudden nervous cramping in my gut, is this fatigue I am feeling normal? Or am I diseased? Nowhere in the Lazzeratto could I find a mirror to see the colour of my skin and my eyes and I couldn’t ask anyone for equal parts of fear and embarrassment. One of the men that was on my very own cargo ship became very ill and apparently died within two days. They said the man stayed in his room the whole time and didn’t seek help, so whether he died from the sickness or dehydration no one could tell.

Last night I had a terrible dream. A large skinny man in a black overcoat is chasing me down a street, I feel my legs jerk in bed as I am trying to run away, I am on the brink of awakening and just can’t seem to get out of the dream, I am aware my nightgown in drenched in my sweat, though underneath the wet clothes I am burning. An incredible feeling of anguish and malaise covers me like a thick layer of mud, I fall to the ground too tired to run and too hopeless to keep trying and the man inches away from me leans down towards me opening up his large cape as if to wrap me in it, and a calmness washes over and I see the sea during the evening bonanca, motionless and still.


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