Humanity is diseased. Schifoso. Rovina. Una piaga. In brothels and church pews, they stumble towards oblivion in an age of debauched abomination and spiritual desolation. God no longer cares. Man either pleads or falls into sin. Fate indifferent, the beccamorti carry them away by the cartful. There should be no flash saved, as was written, as these eyes have seen.
The doctor picks his way through the deserted streets like the specter of death. Here and there are dead animals--hens and cocks, dogs without masters, mules dropped in their final stubborn repose. An ill wind whips at his black robes, carrying a stench that no lavender could mask. Indeed, dressed as he was in waxed canvas and long beaked respirator, he resembled more closely a vulture than any type medical professional.
The clacking of his wooden cane echoes loudly in the piazza. There is no din of custom or sociability. The fruit sellers fear the drupe's pit. The glaziers make no cutting and the tanners stretch no hides. Not even the carpenter, who’s neither the nails not planks for coffins, hawks his living, having taken to Fiesole or elsewhere. The only mercers still operating weave shrouds while candles sell for more florins than a man might see in a lifetime. Avvoltoi e amantes del macabro.
The doctor turns down the street where the gravediggers have yet to come. Many bodies line the avenue, left dead at the curb by fleeing relatives, or more grimly where they died crawling towards the well. It is a pillaging beyond the fevered imaginations of the most depraved Goths, a reckoning that has claimed more the blood feuds of Guelph and Ghibelline, a massacre fomented by the blind eye of God. The doctor pauses and gags, attempts to stuff more mint and rose in his mask.
The last house in this street was abandoned in the night. None might have known, save the untimely conscience of a husband who could not bear the full weight of his abdication. Fifone.
Casimiro, tend to my beloved. Your hands may succeed where mine have failed.
Smidollato! No one escape judgement. Not even the doctor, who is naught but the final hands before the boneyard. Bugiardo! Ye who knows that confession after fait accompli is no penance, that meaningless gestures cannot relieve a conscience. None know it more than the doctor, who has lanced buboes, feted leeches, and spilled blood till the humors had run their course.
The door pushes open easily. Unlocked. Many have died this way, abandoned by their kin without food or water. Only the cruelty of man could ever hope to match the flagellation of God. It is dead quiet inside. Pax mortem. The doctor picks over the silver and the cloth much like a ghoul at the bone. There is not much, but even so a man can cover most of his expenses in the aftermarket.
A moan surprises him. Non morto accora. He finds the woman bed ridden, riddled with buboes, racked with fever. There is blood on her spittle. Close, but not yet.
She moans again. Disaster makes us all realists. There is no blood to let, no humor to read that has not been cast by fate. The rites he can give will fall on deaf ears. So too the curses.
"Vino," he says as he presses a cloth to the bottle. He dabs her lips with the stain of red grapes and drinks freely for himself. She shutters and rasps. Close now.
"Sicuro." He is also a professional liar, this man of motley talents. It’s one of the few esteemed vocations in these days of tribulations. From the pulpit to the palace to the piazzas, a liar is just about the only honest professions left.
She convulses with dry sobs. Soon, but not soon enough. The doctor reaches for a pillow.
"In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. Redemisti me Domine, Deus veritatis."
And so he becomes something else altogether—Macellaio! Pastore!—the hooded figure of death, in a wide brimmed hat and leering face. An angel of mercy besides. In this strange days where sin and virtue are not only confused by co-conspiratorial, a man must be all things—thief, confessor, scoundrel, and saint. A doctor is nothing. He’d save more lives fishing in the River Styx. But Casimiro can still save his neighbors, one stifled wheeze at a time, until the scourge of God comes for him next.