top of page

Plague Doctor

by Lily Peavey

There was something so eerily peaceful about death. At least that’s what the doctor thought. After all, that was all he knew. Ever since the darkness had come, tearing up the lands with its cursed grip over the hills, it couldn’t be contained. Death, in his dark cloak and hood that fell over his shadowy, featureless, face, carrying its scythe of polished silver, and bringing it down on the sinful and the innocent alike. Few were spared from its sickened and shaking hands. It crept through the night, falling upon homes of the rich and the poor alike. Once it was gone, there was little that anyone could do other than pray. Some cursed the heavens, others believed that it was salvation. The doctor believed nothing. The doctor only watched.

He went wherever he was called, trekking across the foreign lands. He was a rarity, someone who seemed unafraid to look the poison in the eye. There were few of his kind now. Slowly, they had fallen to the plague and to Death’s unflinching hands. Silent, they went. Silent, just like their patients when they left the world. Few survived this burden, and the doctor had never witnessed such exceptions.

The town that would be the doctor’s last was nothing out of the ordinary. It was cold and dark, with a cursed wind whipping through the empty cobblestone streets. The houses were crumbling, the sounds of whining dogs carried on the wicked breeze. This town felt haunted, like angry spirits were cursing it. Or, at least, that was what the others in the towns the doctor had already visited seemed to believe. This was indeed nothing new.

The home he was meant to find was more of the same. Someone richer, a bit more fortunate than the ones left in squalor to tend to their sickness on their own and pray for miracles from the heavens, but yet still didn’t have enough fortune to flee to the countryside. The empty roads between towns were silent, shut down to slow the creeping of the plague to others. But the manors on the countryside for those who were able to own them were known to be semi-safe havens. Semi-safe havens that only a few were able to find and escape to.

When the doctor entered the home, there was a part of him that could sense that Death was already there. Waiting in the clumps of shadows to finally emerge. A man in heavy layers of fabric and a mask that resembled the ominous face of a raven was something that may have resembled Death. The doctor knew the feeling of Death like that of an old friend, like a companion that he so often felt in the rooms as a spirit slipped into the afterlife. In many ways, the doctor felt that he and Death were alike. They were the bringers of misfortune, but while the doctor directed the sickened soul to eternity in pain or joy, it was Death who was the one that brought them to the other side. But the doctor was not like the ones he treated and pointed the way to. He had never seen Death in his gaze, though, as he had not yet crossed over. Even now, he knew that he would witness yet another journey that was not his own.

The doctor had found that children were the worst to treat. This one, a young girl, swollen from the infection, was perhaps the most torturous to assist. Their fragile bodies rarely survived, and even then, the doctor knew little of caring for them. Children were tricky and delicate things, especially in an already weakened state. He cared for adults, for those whose children had either left home or had succumbed to the plague and were waiting on the other side. Their last words were that of peace, praying that they would see their lost children once again.

But the doctor did his best, going about his normal procedures as he would with any patient. But, despite his best efforts, he failed. The girl died, just as he had assumed she would. She died faster than the rest, though. Quicker and more peaceful than days of pain, but that wasn’t what her parents saw. They saw another failed attempt that simply resulted in another dead body. They always saw another dead body, for they did not know Death as the doctor did.

And so it went on. More days, more deaths, more grieving families that were struck by the disease just days after, and perished before he returned to their homes. Day in and day out he would work, but all it would amount to was simply another body stacked in the flames. Burned away into nothingness, the infected corpses lost to the embers.

When the doctor met Death after all this time, it was more so a relieved feeling than anything else. He lay on a thin bed, with no one there to attend to him, as the town had fallen to the disease. No one ventured in or dared step a foot out of the boundaries of the enclosed land. So the doctor died in solitude. He died alone, just as he had lived. And yes, there he was. Clothed in darkness, a slice of silver on his arm. His old friend.

When the doctor saw Death face to face, all that there was to be felt was a chill and an overwhelming sense of peace.


bottom of page