Ring Around The Rosie

This piece of fiction is an extrapolation of a dream I had when I was a young child. Hopefully this idea will grow to form a larger body of work.  

The sky is grey over the playground.  There are no clouds, just a grey wall that lines the sky from edge to edge. The wind is still, but the sky shows us that a storm is imminent. There is a chill in the air as envisaged by the heavy wool coats worn by the remaining children.  The children are dressed in black from head to toe. The girls wear long black dresses with black bonnets on their heads. The boys, too, are all in black…black trousers and black shirts and black caps. The children’s faces sullen and pale with blackened eyes; there is almost no life in these young peoples faces. These children should be alive with passion in this playground, but alas, this is not the case here…not at this time or in this place.

They wait like heroin addicts for the next fix for the news of another fallen comrade.

Up in the sky, there is a glint of light and then it disappears like a flash of lightning. Can it be? No...no...there is no way. Hannah's spirit looks down on the playground...an open space to play and run around outside the schoolhouse.  The only piece of equipment is a pole with multiple ropes coming out of the top of it.

The pole, ominous in shape and size and intent, has children's names scratched into it. Hannah sees her name, freshly scratched, in the pole.

It happened so fast. First she had pain in her head and she was vomiting uncontrollably.  Her mother, first to attend to her, put a cool cloth on her forehead to bring down her fever. The sweat continued to pool on Hannah’s forehead and dripped into her eyes  appearing like Hannah was crying uncontrollably. Hannah remembers looking longingly into her mother’s eyes and trying to see her future, but mother’s eyes were dim. Hannah felt helpless and she knew that her mother did too. On day two of the illness, Hannah’s mother found lumps on her neck and in her armpits.

Dr. Stine checked on Hannah and confirmed her mother's worst nightmare...Hannah has this uncontrollable disease that is taking all the children. Hannah saw her mother turn pale and any life that she had left her eyes disappeared. Can you imagine learning that there is no cure for the illness plaguing your child?  Last week, Nathaniel died and the week before it was Cecily.

As Hannah’s spirit flies above the schoolhouse that is now a makeshift hospital, she sees her mother weeping, face in hands as Hannah’s physical body is put into a wagon to be buried. Her mother runs to the wagon and places coins on Hannah’s eyes to ensure her safe journey to heaven. In this wagon are the copious amounts of bodies of the children consumed by this disease.  The bodies are rapidly decomposing. All the symptoms were the same: rapid fever and headache; lumps on the neck, thighs, and armpits that would burst open and bleed; blood in the urine; vomiting; and death within a fortnight.

“Ring-a-ring o’roses.
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down”

The children sing this all too familiar and haunting folksong. This was the anthem that the living sang when one of the children died. Hannah had sang it too when Cecily died; little did Hannah know that she would meet the same fate.

Hannah sees the children, her brothers and sisters, and her friends holding onto the ropes that hang from the pole. They walk slowly and lifelessly in a counter-clockwise direction and sing:

“Ring-a-ring o’roses.
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down”

And they all fall down in dramatic tone. Some get up and some do not. Some are too weak to pull themselves up from the ground. The horse-drawn wagon, laden with the bodies of the dead, boorishly makes its way to the burial site. The shrieking of the weight the wood is bearing and the clicking of the horse shoes on the road startles the children. Their hollow eyes fixated on the wagon. At any time,

THIS could be THEM. This is their fate.

~Jennifer Ward

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