Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Immortality

Together the flames is the prompt for Julia's 100 Word Challenge this week. I imagine we're supposed to wax fluent about the Olympics, but now I've watched the diving and the gymnastics I'm unmoved by our national sporting fervour. Instead, I thought of a small stone village in the Derbyshire Peaks that I recently visited. Eyam seems lonely, windswept and unremarkable until you realise that almost all of the oldest cottages bear an inscription...

Death arrived in a bale of cloth from London. The tailor aired it before the fire and as the household huddled together the flames released the fleas. Randomly the plague claimed victims in the knot of small lanes. They could have fled but, to contain the horror, the survivors sealed off their village and awaited their fate. Today plaques brand the cottages where whole families died. Rocks in a field show where a widow buried her six children. Within a year, three quarters of the village were dead. The disease perished with them but, three centuries on, the vitality of their sacrifice remains indestructible.



40 comments:

  1. First line captured me immediately and I couldn't stop. Each sentence spurred me onto the next. Like the flames on a roof. Well done!

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    1. I'll visit Eyam with better eyes next time.

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    2. What a lovely compliment! You've been there then...?

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    3. Climbed at stanage When i was Youngster. Eyam Not that far. Will prob go back.

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  2. Wow. Great story. People’s ultimate sacrifices to save other people is a (if not the) most difficult and darkest aspect to confront within myself as a reader – and seeing/reading about heros/heroines who do this is the most bittersweet and sadly touching of tales. I am choked. Thank you for prodding that spot inside of me. Randy

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    1. It's difficult partly because of the pain of those who sacrificed themsleves and partly, I think, because of the doubt that one could be so noble oneself. It was the vicar apparently who persuaded everyone to stay put - and he lost his own wife to it.

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  4. Your story conjures images of an older time, a darker history, but it brings the reader to our present by the end. A wonderful interpretation of the prompt!

    http://theshortpages.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thank you. I'd been wanting to write about the village for awhile. It's the most powerful place.

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  5. Brilliant. Goosebumps. That is all.

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  6. wow it felt like i was back in those times- scary! can imagine the worry and fear in the people x

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    1. The whole place is still redolent of that worry and fear, especially when you read the names and dates of family members who died one by one.

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  7. Fantastic writing. I almost cried for that poor widow burying her six children. Well done!

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    1. Oh Rachel, it's the most heart-breaking place. She had to bury them and her husband by herself in one of her fields. You can still see the rock with a hole in on the parish boundary where villagers left sterilised coins for neighbouring villagers to buy supplies and leave them for collection. And the hill and rocky arch where the vicar held outside services with his dwindling flock.

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  8. Just terrifying to think what it would have been like to live through the plague. It may be only 100 words but you've managed to capture the story behind the statistics in the history books - so awful for that poor widow having to bury her six children.

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    1. I know. And the two lovers, the boy from a neighbouring village, who used to tryst at a safe distance every evening until the girl came no more. She and all her siblings died. I shuddered the entire while I was there. It is, however, well worth a visit.

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  9. Wonderful writing, as always. Terrible story. I really must join this group.

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    1. Which group? The 100 word challenge, I hope, and not sacrificial plague victims.

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  10. I too know Eyam, and like Ventahl have climbed at Stanage. Have you read 'Year of Wonders' by Geraldine Brooks? It's a novel about the plague in Eyam. Well worth a read.
    Brilliant post as always. x

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    1. I don't know it. I'll see if I can order a copy online. Thanks.

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  11. I love the way you told this, and the clever way you merged in the prompt so that I didn't even notice it on the first read.

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    1. Thank you. Funnily enough I didn't notice it either when I reread it and feared I'd forgotten to include it!

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  12. A wonderful but tragic piece of history that bears repeating again and again.

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  13. Great use of the prompt to shed a little light on the history of this village.

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  14. Great use of the prompt to shed a little light on the history of this village.

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  15. This is really remarkable, I think the best 100 words I've ever read. I'm in awe.

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    1. Blimey! And I'm in shock! What a startling thing to hear, you charmer.

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  16. An excellent flash; well rounded and complete in 100 words. Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks very much for taking the trouble to comment.

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  17. I have visited Eyam and it is a sad place but with that vigour that says 'we saved you'. As for the prompt, I don't expect anything for you all other than the fabulous writing you produce.

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    1. The expectancy of fabulous writing is rather daunting! You're right, there is a sort of vigour there, but a very melancholy one.

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  18. As a reader of Anne Perry's victorian mysteries, I enjoy reading entries from your corner of the world-where some of mine came from hundreds of years ago...I would love for you to check out my blog and follow if you wish, it is www,beebeesworld@wordpress,com. Best Wishes, Your story on the plague was inspiring!

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  19. Brilliant use of the prompt, which, like many others, I didn't even notice at first as I was so 'in' the story. I have never visited Eyam but I am curious now, however you tell the story so well I fear I would be overwhelmed by its history... Wonderful writing.

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    1. Very nice of you to drop by and be so kind. Do go. It is a bit overwhelming, but it does readjust your attitudes to life a bit. makes you realise how lucky we are today.

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  20. And their loss has not been forgotten...
    Very emotional and moving!

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    1. Yes, it's stirring how their humble names live on through the centuries while most ordinary folk who lived their full span are long forgotten. Their sacrifice did, in a way, secure them immortality,

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