The Plague Doctor

As his eyes began to open, Toomas felt the bright light stabbing into him, causing his head to begin throbbing. He tried to move, but he could feel that he was restrained, and he could not feel his fingers or toes. His throat was very dry, and he tried to call out, but his voice came out as a weak croak and his head fell back against the straw mattress where he lay and he breathed shallow breaths and tried hard to swallow.

He sensed people moving about nearby. Why did they not come to him? He tried to gather his thoughts. Where was he? Why was he restrained? He felt dizzy. Not good. No. Darkness engulfed him once again as he slipped back into unconsciousness.

The doctor noticed Toomas was stirring, but he had so many others to attend to. That one will not last much longer he thought to himself. There was nothing more to be done. He shook his head and sighed. So much death. The Great Pestilence had been raging for many months now, and it had been days since he had any sleep. The infected keep being brought in, and with each new case the doctor’s heart grew heavier. When would it end? It was hot and stifling inside his coverings, but he must not take them off! As much as he pitied the infected, he dared not chance becoming one of them.

Toomas stirred. Something was different. He was in another place. Not where he had been when last he could remember. It was darker here. The smell! It was horrible! All at once he knew where he must be. This was the Cellar of Death! He had heard the stories. The silence all around him brought an icy chill to his heart. He was so hot. And so very tired. His throat so dry. If only they would give him some water. Surely he would make it. Why would they not come to him? Why? His thoughts were cut off as he heard the sound of a door opening, and a shaft of light fell on some stairs near where he lay. It came to him all at once. The Black Death! He was infected! No! He could not go out this way! He struggled, but was unable to right himself. He shook his head from side to side and his vision began to clear a bit. Oh my god! He could see rats scurrying along the walls opposite. Moaning and wailing began to fill his ears. He was among the dying! What hell was this?!

He strained to see in the dim light from the open doorway above. As he stared, a hellish looking figure began moving down the stairs towards him, cloaked in black from head to foot, his black hands, extended before him holding a knife. Toomas tried to scream. Only a thin, keening wail escaped his parched, cracked lips as he felt the blood rush to his head and he evacuated his bowels. His head fell back with finality and the blackness engulfed him.

[This story is inspired by the photo above. It is of a figure wearing the costume of a Plague Doctor from Medieval times in Europe. The photo was taken at a cannon tower museum in Tallin called, oddly enough The Kiek in de Kok. That translates as “a peek into the kitchen”, but still I get a chuckle out the name everytime I say it.]

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