Aphelion Issue 262, Volume 25
June 2021
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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Before The Plague

by Lori R. Lopez

All that we were accustomed to
Seems a world away in the wake of this
Pandemic. Before The Plague
Sun bathed us in a gilded hue. Streets
Sounded alive, astir with cheery
Bustles of children chasing, adults hastening
Cats darting, the traffic of cart wheels
Rolling. Coins jangled in pockets, dogs
Barked, Peddlers and Shopkeepers haggled
In the light of each day. Fresh opportunities
Arose with the populace, hopes springing like
Jesters at a Fair. Troubadours sang
Playing instruments, sharing music as they
Strolled, their steps lively, visiting for a spell
Bringing color and dance in vibrant tides of merry
Earsong, mimicking the notes of feathered
Minstrels on trees and rooftops
Strumming the emotions of young and old
Lightening moods and postures
Even the air rang with a festive spirit
And people were untroubled as
One might be who skips ahead of The Reaper
Like a Fool, blissfully oblivious
Cavorting before an unseen conclusion
Then it moved over our land
A virulent storm blocking the Sun
Though none could view its arrival
No eye glimpsed the Scourge
It hung, a thick dense shadow of
Diseased breath. There was
Coldness, a chill transferred spine to spine
Instilling dread at its stealth and spread
Lacking compassion; dividing families
Advancing house to house, door to door
Entering without permission; seeping
Under, between cracks. An atmosphere of
Treachery, a silent unseen
Menace stalking, straining chests
Claiming, robbing every age, every hearth
Lungs ailed, flesh wore the odor of
Contagion, contamination
Minds grappled to comprehend, wailing
Echoing the question of who we would be after
This Eternal Midnight had gone
Neighborhoods shuddered and wept in its thrall
Respiration felt heavy, laden with misery —
Fierce woes that could not be prayed away
Cured by healers. Great sadness and despair
Settled on shoulders, rained on heads
But wouldn’t soak in. From that day
That moment of doomfall
We were not the same people. Scant joy
Could be shared. Meager optimism
Remained in hearts broken, battered by loss
An Albatross of grief, the cumbrous
Weight of cares and tribulations, deep abiding
Sorrows. Grim were the faces, solemn
And gaunt-featured. Backs hunched with
Inner strife, boulder-size burdens
The figures of near-wraiths passed without
Greeting or remark; speaking seldom in low
Murmurs, grunts of acknowledgement
This became my village, my town
Barren of warmth and health, robust gaits
Listless treads shambled to and fro
Moving by instinct and rote, somehow
Dredging up courage to venture out for
Necessary tasks and provisions. Complicit in
The change, the drab fleece pulled over
To conceal, disguise everything we knew
Hide it from view
Conceal from memory the faces lost
Those of us left mere remnants of
Former selves. Ghostlike
Apparitions who shuffle and hobble as if
Crippled by guilt — bowed under the
Mass of death, the ordeal to survive
No longer whole, safe, complete
In the arms of our kin
The circle of fellowship that once
Embraced this hollow shell of community
The empty walls of home
Where most had dreamt we were
Content… before The Plague.

2021 Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez is an author, poet, illustrator, and wearer of hats. Verse and stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Weirdbook, The Horror Zine, The Sirens Call, Spectral Realms, Space & Time, Illumen, Altered Reality, California Screamin’ (Foreword Poem), and several HWA Poetry Showcases. Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Leery Lane, An Ill Wind Blows, The Fairy Fly, and Darkverse: The Shadow Hours (nominated for an Elgin Award). Four of Lori’s poems have been nominated for Rhysling Awards. You can learn more about her at the website shared with two talented sons: https://www.fairyflyentertainment.com

Find more by Lori R. Lopez in the Author Index.

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