While working overseas a few years ago, I had the great misfortune of developing shingles—which, I might add, is really unfair given my age and all.
For those of you who haven’t experienced it; good, keep it that way. I don’t recommend it. It’s a painful rash that feels like a mix of needles, blisters, and your skin ripping open. Anyone who’s had the chickenpox can get it – Mwhahaha!
Even to this day, I can’t get over just how lucky I was. That’s not sarcasm. I was incredibly lucky. Because all I had to do was take one little pill. That’s it. One pill. And it changed five weeks of agony to one. Spared me from sustaining lasting damage to my eyes. And kept my roommates from boarding me up in my room as makeshift quarantine.
Still, that week was my first taste of the isolation being thrust onto me instead of being a conscious choice. My friends would leave food at my door, for which I am forever grateful, but no one hung around to chat. I have never felt so gross in my life.
It’s a new experience in pain to try and shower with shingles so, to compensate, I washed everything I touched in disinfectant. And all the while, I couldn’t stop worrying about just how bad it was going to get before the meds kicked in.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to have been sick to wrap your head around the idea that the Black Death was a horrible thing to endure.
But while I had understood the horror, I had always overlooked the helplessness. The misery of being bedridden. And how exhaustion, pain, and fear of the unknown worked on your mind as well as your body. The idea of going through that without knowing what it was, why I had it, or that I would survive, is still one of the scariest thoughts that have ever popped into my head. And that was before I saw I picture of the Plague Doctors.
Pain. Helplessness. Isolation. Everyone in the town dying in horrible, mysterious circumstances. Now, that’s just a checklist for a ghost story.