No. It can't happen. Not me. Not now. I can't get it. He said I would be safe. He said I would be safe.
"Are you sure it's safe?"
"Oh, absolutely; without a doubt."
But it wasn't. Now look at me: covered in red scars and pustules oozing pus and drenched in sweat.
"Look at him."
"No thanks, he looks awful."
"Go call the father."
It can't happen. But it is, he came in three hours ago. I tried to say something, that I wasn't going to die, but I didn't have the strength to open my mouth. Now I can barely see the figures that haunt my doorway.
"Last time we go to that doctor."
"Yeah, it's all his fault."
"That should be illegal."
But it isn't. And I made the mistake of going there.
"The Arabs have been doing it for centuries; I assure you, it's perfectly safe."
Why didn't he just tell me this might happen? Why? I used to be a strong young man, and now I'm just a quarantined animal, stuck in this bed. If only Jan hadn't come down with it.
"Yes, he's got it."
"Who's got what?"
"Jan's got the pox."
"Yeah, got them from Flandersville down the road there"
"How long has he had them?"
"The doctor says 5 days now."
"FIVE days!? I was with him two nights ago!"
"WHAT? Get away--Get away!"
Soon, everyone in town knew who had it. It was up to six people including the town mayor, when everyone else-myself included-took the road down to Zeeland, for inoculations. It only cost six Guilders, and it seemed a fair price for living. He said he had done thirty people this week.
Of course, he said it was safe.
"Are you sure?"
"No one I know of has ever died from it."
Well, so much for tradition.
Oh Julia, Julia, what wonderful things we could have done.
"Well, it's settled son. The dowry will be the one-hundred twenty-five and one-half acre plot of land around the northern well."
"Thank you Mr. Holland."
"Let me tell you something son: I want to see some grandchildren soon."
"I don't think that will be a problem, sir."
"Ha ha ha, my goodness son, you're..."
"Oh, Julia, What will we do now?"
"It doesn't matter, as long as we're together."
"Oh, I do love you so."
"And I, you."
But nothing ever became of our love. It was just half a fortnight ago that you-my poor sweet Julia- were taken by God's loving hand to join him in heaven-but what is so loving about death? I lost my only true love to the smallpox, and now I shall join her, and we shall ignore the scars on each other's faces.
"So, Mr. Verneer, what is your son's height?"
"And his shoulder measure?"
"And the length across his waist?"
"Eighteen inches across."
"And what type of wood would you like, sir?"
"Thank you Mr. Verneer."
"No, thank you. I only wish I won't need your services after all."
"We all do Mr. Verneer."
I can see the oak box outside my window: just sitting there, staring at me with its eyes of hinges and its evil grin- staring, staring, staring. They're just waiting for me to die. But I'll show them; I won't die. I won't.
"I hope he goes soon."
"Me too. He's too far along to move to a sanatorium, and to recent to bury."
"Yeah, and he's scaring the neighbors too. Mrs. Svenson won't even let us borrow an egg anymore."
What will they do with me now? Will they wait for me to die; starve me like they did Job; or come in and shoot me so I don't linger too long? What will they do? They came and took Julia away before I could marry her. It would be Thursday we would be wed. Oh, if I could just look at her once more.
"What would you like me to do with her, sir?"
"Bury her in her wedding dress."
"And what of her face, sir?"
"Cover it with her veil."
"I hear they're running out of graves in the cemetery."
"Yes, they're having to bury two or three in a grave."
"My goodness. God rest their souls."
"We're lucky: Flandersville up the river has to bury five people in one grave; they even buried a family of twelve in only two graves."
"Oh, if God was not so cruel."
I can hear the screams of the other wretched people. I should at least be thankful that my struggle has not been great and hard like some peoples have. Soon, I shall render my weak soul up to God and then I shall forever be with Julia in God's caring bosom. But I wish not to go to heaven. That means not that I want to go to hell, but that I do not want to die. For who does want to die but a Muslim in their 'holy wars?' But if I should die now, what will happen to all other people in Fingerstády? In Belgium? In Europe? On Earth? Will God let me look down upon the face of Europe and will I be able to see what will happen to my family and friends? Or will I have to look up towards Europe, only to see the Earth between us? Oh, had I but gone to the last mass instead of going to Zeeland. I would be in twice as good of health as I am now. What? What was that? Was that the sound of death knocking on my door to take me away?! Holy Mary mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Holy Mary mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
"Go Away!! Go Away!! I say GO AWAY!!"
"What is he raving about?"
"I don't know, fever must've caught up with him."
But what will happen when I am gone? What will my friends do? My family? What will become of all on Earth? If only I could see into the future and find what could have become of me. What? Who is that knocking on my door?
It is I, the teller of fortunes and seer of futures. I have come to answer your questions.
But how are you to do that?
I told you, I am the teller of fortunes and seer of futures. And you do not need to know how I perform my trade. I see you in 20 years, with a woman of 35, and--
That is Julia! Oh, how happy we could have been. *sigh*
Yes, Julia, except you are not happy. You--
What?! How can we be-
Silence!! Let me continue. All will be explained that you need to know. You are unhappy. Your own parents, your flesh and blood, have died of Typhus. Yours and Julia have had three miscarriages, and are getting frail. You wonder who will inherit your large estate. When you awake, you find Julia in your bed to be cold as stone--she is dead.
What!! How can my sweet love die???
It will be explained. Your wife for 19 years died of a broken heart. But that is what would have happened, if Julia was still alive. But since she is not, your future is decidedly different . . . . It is a summer day, your day of fate, instead of observing Holy Monday, you work the fields, alone in your cottage. As you work, a snow-white pigeon does aloof on your plow. You stop your horse, and look at the new arrival. Soon, a young lady arrives. You are startled by her beauty, and the two of you fall in love.-
But how can I love of another when I can only think of my departed Julia?
Time has healed your wounds. Now listen . . .You fall in love. You ask her father for her hand in marriage, which he refuses. The two of you must be content not to see each other. You, live out the rest of your life, cold, hungry, and lonely.
But who was she-I mean, who would she be? I would be hungry? Answer my questions!!
"Come back! Do not go. I have so much to ask! No!"
"We should put him out of his misery. Come to the hunting shed."
Now I am alone once again. Oh, Holy Mary mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. What shall I do now? What is that noise coming from the window? Oh happy day, 'tis a bluebird, one of a good omen. I shall recover and live my life, as I should. But another sound cometh. It is a rat-tap-tapping at my door. Do not come in. Go away. I am too sick to be looked upon.
On the contrary, friend. I come to ease your pain and scars. Come with me.
No. Go away evil and sinister man in black. Turn around and take with you your scythe.
I can not. I am here to take you away.
To take me where?
To another place.
That will be decided later.
But I don't want to die.
Your friends are creeping closer with a gun, to kill you. Do you want them, your family, to kill you?
No. Fine, I will go with you.
And so, on October 18, 1519, Julian Henry Verneer died, muttering something that sounded like "Jewels."