The woman breathed in deeply and let the crisp cold air surround her lungs. Suddenly, mid-breath, she came to a halt in the dead center of the street with the confronting realization.
Yes, she could smell it.
Or rather, she could feel it – feel it curling in-between the dress folds, feel it slapping harshly against her cheeks, and feel it brutally stinging her heart. Yes, she could smell it – she could feel it: that mingled cry of fear hanging above like a mass of clouds. It had come: the Black Death. The townspeople had known it was coming – had waited for it even – until the day it came. However, it was only at the plague’s arrival that their minds changed from the silent patience to panic.
The woman continued walking briskly. Her total body was still numb with shock – it felt like she wasn’t human. There was no more sense of time. No, none at all. Death haunted, and death watched. Suddenly all the material wishes she had ever dreamed of having – money, clothes, a grand house, even servants - had surprisingly disappeared. They weren’t important, they didn’t matter anymore.
Now, she only wanted to survive. She wanted hope, yearned for life, and everything beautiful to be found in it. Now, she only wanted her daughter to recover from this hovering death. But she was just a mouse cornered by the serpent. She slammed the door.
The next thing the weary woman heard was her daughter’s feeble voice calling to her, and she then rushed to her bedside, but stopped. The stench – it was unbearable. And to see flesh rotting - dead flesh - on a live human, her very own daughter, to see the glassy eyes, and the bleeding rashes - yes, she always hesitated for just a second, before going on.
“Yes, darling?” She held back just a little.
“I’m dying.” She whimpered.
“You don’t know that, you mi–”
“Nooo.” Hurting tears gushed out. “I’m dead, look at me. Mama . . . tell everyone I’m sorry.”
“What? You have nothing to be sorry about.” She tried desperately to calm her child.
“Yes, I do. I’ve done everything wrong. I’m scared - I don’t want to die. Why do I have to die?” She moaned. “Why didn’t we run away from this, Mama? Why didn’t we spend our money to live like the nobles, while we had the chance? Why, Mama, why? I don’t want to die. I’m too young to die. And in a few years no one will even remember my name.”
“Darling, we couldn’t leave – you know that.” The daughter tried to speak, but her mother put her finger to her lips. “Papa’s work is here, besides, where would we have gone? Where could we have fled? As for living like nobles, how could we be remembered as the people who lived only for the moment? It’s okay, you’ll be all right. You don’t need to be remembered as someone great or famous, what’s really worth living for, is being remembered in a heart that you have touched. And you’ve certainly accomplished that. Darling, it’s all right, I love you.”
The mother didn’t care anymore about the smell, about the sight or the feeling of her child. She cuddled her daughter gently. “Hold on,” she whispered.
(& feel free to follow my blog)