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Prologue

Maria Saju

The veil of depression had descended upon the land of Mayo a while back. It was a slow but steady process. Life dragged on and people walked from home to work and back. Luxury was invisible. It was hidden from the workers, even though they worked to uphold it.

Everything used to be colourful. The leaves used to be green. There were many differently coloured flowers. For instance, the lilacs that grew on the divider between the four lanes of the main road were yellow. People who passed by could faintly hear the ‘hellos’, if only they could have slowed down a bit. Now the lilacs are ash-coloured, like most things.

First, the sky started to turn. It used to be blue, orange, red, purple and black with glittering stars spattered all over. Slowly grey clouds started creeping in. Some gave rain. Others rose from the pipes of the refineries and spread all across, until there was nowhere to spread to. It just hung there, forever shrouding the sun and the moon and the stars. Gradually, it seemed as if the greyness had started to pour out into the earth. The sky began overflowing. One day, it seemed as if you could touch the vapours.

On that day, some people fell to the ground dead. On the next day, you could smell the vapours. On that day some more people fell to the ground dead. This continued for four days, upon which the factories started to report reduced production and the shops started to report less movement of goods.

On the fifth day, the honourable Table of the Supreme Order issued that the refineries stop functioning. Everyone was directed to go the nearest hospital. The hospital officials were ordered to tag high-risk persons and they were given an apparatus that was to be attached onto the mouth and the nose. The production of this paraphernalia took place in the empty warehouse by the harbour.

The attachment was an object of curiosity for many people. Children started visiting their grandparents more often so that they could try out this strange object. Some kid on the street was heard saying that the first breath he took using the ‘mask’ was too empty to handle. His insides burnt. But at the same time, he wanted to keep on using it. Finally, his mother had to arrest the object from him so that she could wake up her father who had fallen off to the ground and had started foaming. Some reports also stated that teenagers were stealing and selling the masks for an insane amount of money. On a Friday, a breaking news by National Channel showed an inconspicuously shot video of three girls misusing this mask. They were detained and thrown off the cliff the next day.

Soon, it all came to a stage where there were more ‘tagged people’ than there were masks. The Leader for Health ordered a survey to be conducted and found that the people who required the masks consisted about ninety percent of people who were aged sixty years and above. Now, these people were not a part of the workforce. So, the Leader of Health thought and thought, but not for long.

The next day, hospitals across the nation received another directive. But this time, the content was to be kept under wraps. People under the age of sixty were given masks and those above the age of sixty were given a more effective apparatus that was as smooth as a cotton cloth, as they were elders and age naturally demanded respect. Soon, the elders started foaming and slithering away to the dark corners. The supervisor of the factory that produced the new kind of masks was compressed to death between two rocks for being indirectly responsible for the death of almost everyone aged sixty and above.

All was well, at least for a very short while. About six months from the mishap, a strange death was reported in the country. This was in the southern side, in a city close to the busiest harbour of the country. It all started when a girl of about twenty, who had been to another country that was about a day away, reported a very high fever three days before the bizarre incident. The girl used to sleep with her mother. Her condition had started to deteriorate and none of the hospitals around had a bed for her. Death was almost certain and her family decided to sleep in the same room as hers on the third night. The next morning, a nurse who lived nearby came to check on the girl and found the whole family dead, with a black oil-like liquid leaking out of their eyes. The interesting part was that the girl was still breathing. She was breathing with very much strain. Upon seeing the nurse, she said “Now you see this too”. Almost instantly the black liquid began leaking out of her eyes and the heaving of the lungs stopped after a few seconds.

The nurse died four days later; her family, five. The patients she attended, four. In two weeks, there were about five thousand reported deaths from all over the country. This puzzled the team deployed by the Leader of Health. If this was indeed infectious, why were people far removed by distance getting infected? The team came to the conclusion that there might have been an aggressive aerial spread. Their suspicions were confirmed by scientific tests.

This time, the Leader ordered masks to be made for everyone in the country, for now the non-essentials had already been eliminated.

The new kind of masks were truly a sight to behold. They were made of a leather-like substance and had to be worn all the time. The spread had become so aggressive that those who tested the air had their eyes leaking black fluid and stopped heaving instantly.

The mask covered the whole head. The front was made out of a transparent material so that faces could be discerned. Near the mouth, the transparent material elongated into a small circular mesh. The infomercials showed animations of how the mesh filtered out the virus that caused the Black Death. There was literally no gap between the flesh and the leather. People were directed to shave off their hair before putting on the apparatus. Suffocated, the hairs refused to grow back.

By the time the apparatus was made available to everyone, half the population had leaked to their death. As this story begins, it has been almost two centuries years since the last Black Death.



1 comment

  • Reflective of the times. Loved the style!

    Phiona Joshy

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