Historical setting: 561 C.E., Gaul
“Wake Lazarus; you must go now! The one who gathers the dead of plague has come for you. Go quickly so you don’t bring plague down on all of us here.”
The abbot has his face covered in a cloth as though I bore the stench.
“I’m not ill Father Mark. I assure you, I am not bringing the plague down on this place. Really the one who comes for the dead of plague – he is my family and he has likely just come to take me to see my daughter.”
“The hallucinations and belligerent disobedience are the first signs. Go now or we will seal you with this cell!”
“Very well. I will just gather my work from the scriptorium and ready my horse.”
“There is no time. This cell is to be sealed now.”
I can only take the few things I brought with me and go away into the dark of this night. Surely I can understand the fear of the plague that sucks up any Christian vows of love for one another.
Nineteen years ago a small battalion of soldiers from Constantinople arrived by ship and came up the valley of the Liger reaching only as far as the cluster of cottages by my farm before some of the soldiers were overtaken with plague. My wife went to tend the sick and it was soon after that she, herself, sickened and died, then it came down on all of us. Plague must be a natural turning because surely the judgment of God could not be so harsh and misplaced.
It was not like the pox with scars that stay to mark the safe ones. The scars of plague are hidden under hoods or tunic or they last on only as a limp or a lisp. We knew nothing of this sickness before it took so many. People from the important cities, they already knew — a hag from Milan – the missionaries who traveled the roads – they knew; and now in all these nineteen years it is well known everywhere. It rises up here or there with reasons only in guesses and the cures must be in godless magic.
I can understand why I am sent away only on rumor.
I walk out into the darkness of this wretched night.