An Evil Sweeps Through
- by TC Lai, 9th April 2020
- by TC Lai, 9th April 2020
There's a rumor in town that a new evil has arrived.
It used to be the Tax Man. "A necessary evil," is what the people in charge told us. His masters will keep us safe; give us medicines; cure our crops of malice; or equip hired soldiers to keep us safe from marauders.
Sometimes their medicines don't work and we watch our loved ones die - often due to "consumption", "dysentery", "cholera", or "listeria"...Names we dare not give our children even though they sound exotic and faeryish. Soldiers are at times ill-disciplined and steal from us.
But such pestilence would often pass after a toll has been exacted, a price paid. Or when the crows have flown away to another accursed land.
However, this time it is different.
This new evil is said to be more vicious, and careless. A careless evil is hard to arrow down even if you know it is present and near.
And worse, it watches and stops you from comforting the sick. For if you do you will soon need the same attention, and so on. Quickly, your whole family will lay gasping on the floor, not unlike fish that has fallen out of a basin. Your home is still lovely: the sun pouring sunshine in, the wind playful with the curtains. And you wonder why you are in such dire straits. You should be outside singing and dancing. It feels unreal, surreal. You gasp your last breath and wonder if you will ever wake from the sleep you feel is creeping up and sealing you in
darkness for good.
But why am I drowning on dry land? - a final thought that locks you in limbo, in cyan, a color that is not supposed to exist.
Soon your whole village is asleep. Any visitor arriving will see corpses lying forward as if when alive a sprint race was afoot. Hands grasping chests as if enormous effort had been expended to win what must be the most valuable prize on offer at race end.
The visitor covers his face... In fear as well as in familiarity. Is this another incidence of pestilence? When was the last, he wonders, for some plaques do have a regular cycle like the seasons. Locusts are born, fly about, make love and die. Not before greedily eating up all your harvests leaving behind stalks for you to weave mats of, to lie down and grab your tummy in memory of food once promised.
In time folks from all over the land hear of this evil and stay away. They wear garlic in hopes of warding it off; masks so the evil will not recognise each as a family and drag them all away in unison. That's the most terrible loss a person can bear. To be alone where once meals were consumed with company, conversation and laughter. Now the silence is unnerving and unbearable, persistently gnawing at your grief.
Days and months pass. A stranger turns up and wonder why the land is lush, the wild creatures aplenty. He doesn't notice the graves that dot the land for they have been hidden from view by tall, willful grass. Birds sway atop them as oblivious as the stranger to what an evil had once wrought. Even the folks who went through the ordeal cannot be sure now if that evil had indeed passed through, so swift and devastating it was. Like a bad dream, they rather not talk about it. Soon new communities are formed, comfortable relationships forged.
Faces that were once familiar fade into a fog pierced by bright
sunlight. The blindness fades and the color of earth emerges, a land thirsting for water and the familiar grip of fresh crops. A new cycle beckons. Life once on hold begins anew.