It all started when I fell down a rabbit hole of links learning about the history of the plague in Europe. It was a dark impulse in the middle of a modern-day pandemic, but I became fascinated by the plague doctor costume, a head-to-toe covering designed to protect the physician from infected patients. Through my research, I learned that the costume itself may not have been widely used, but those who adopted it reflected a new wave of understanding infectious disease in the West — the personal protective equipment of the day.
The mask, while turning the wearer into an ominous looking bird, was meant to filter out contaminated air (“miasma”) with strong-smelling herbs and spices. The gloves and robes prevented the doctor from physically touching their patients and the staff may have allowed them to give direction from a safe distance.
Over the years, as our understanding of disease prevention and treatment evolved, so did the protective garb employed by doctors and nurses to mitigate infection. Gradually, the plague doctor uniform disappeared…
…but what if it didn’t? That was the starting point for the short story that been published this month by Creative Colloquy. In this story, I update the plague doctor for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I know we’re all awash in coronavirus anxiety, so I promise this will be my only pandemic-themed fiction for a while. But, I hope you enjoy my twist.
Please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks for reading, and please wear a mask and wash your hands. Thanks!
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Jonny Eberle lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife, three typewriters, and a puppy. His fiction has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.