Apocalypse In The Valley
In The Valley
The cooling climate, malnutrition and mass-migrations of the 5th century created the perfect conditions for diseases to erupt and spread. In this tale, we experience one such outbreak through the eyes of a humble village priest…
Our leader Hadric was the best of us, and he was the last of us. Even as the pox etched its way across his flesh like some grotesque illumination, he remained resolute in his faith. Last night, in those final minutes before his spirit shivered its way to freedom, I locked eyes with him and I witnessed the strength of his belief. There was no doubt in Hadric’s mind that he would be made clean and whole again in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus I had counselled him, and all the others who went before him; it was my duty as the village priest.
The pox came to the village three weeks ago, brought to us by a trader from the Britannic Isles. We thought it some common ailment, so easily found on the road, and we did as any good Christians would: we took him in, we placed him before the hearth, and we fed and cared for him. But he worsened, and swiftly. The ulcers erupted across his body and he soon died, shaking and weeping, far from his family and his home.
Those we had tasked with his care soon fell ill. Hadric swiftly divined the gravity of the matter and wasted no time in separating the healthy from the infirm. I prayed often with both, to keep them within the fold of God’s mercy.
It was all for naught. The illness tore through our village like fire through a granary. After a week, a third showed the signs; after two, fully half were dead. Now three weeks have passed and I alone remain, the silent sentinel of a dead village. The deceased lie in their beds where they passed. The stench of rot, monstrous and unbearable just a week ago, I barely notice now.
As the sighs and moans of the dying drifted through the village, the same questions returned time and again to batter me like a hail of arrows: Why has The Lord forsaken us? And why am I, alone, proof against this plague?
In the moments I dared to hope, I thought I might be blessed.
But now I am alone, and the answer seems plain to me. I did not praise well enough or deeply enough.
I was spared the pox not as a blessing, but a punishment. I have not cared for my flock, and my lot now is to wallow here among the dead, alone in grief and misery and filth. It is His Will.
This is the end of days. And I alone bear witness to it.