Alejandro thought that perhaps he would not be able to go on. As the only person with immunity he was the only person unafraid to tend to the sick. He applied ointments to the blisters covering the sick, mixed and administered teas to bring down fevers, and cleaned bed sheets and bandages. It felt like he had not slept in days and the fatigue was beginning to seriously wear on his sanity.
The mortality rate had turned out to be higher than he had expected. Every six in ten had died, but with the first survivor, he began to inoculate people. Eztli had been the first person to breath in the powder he had created, but it was still within the incubation period and he still feared for her. Those tending the sick had also been some of the first to be inoculated. Now they were starting to inoculate those who had had contact with the sick such as family. Eztli had worked wonders in the first days of the outbreak. The large rooms found in the ground floor of the temple had become a center for the sick while the remainder of the city was broken up into two regions. One section was filled with those that had had contact with the sick and the other portion included those who hadn’t. It had slowed the spread of the disease considerably.
He yawned and picked up a couple of bowls filled with the new batch of ointment. He walked down the middle walkway, his feet dragging on the smooth stone floors underneath him. Torches had been used to illuminate the large columned room in the center of the pyramid. Incense burned in large cauldrons all around the room trying in vain to cover the smells of hundreds of unwashed sick and dying bodies. The Aztec people were actually meticulously clean people and unlike their European counterparts they bathed every day. Like the Romans of ancient times domed bath houses could be found all through the city, but those suffering from the pox did not have the strength to bath and had to be content with a damp cloth.
The large room had normally been used for religious rituals but now it served to house the sick. To either side of him was row upon row of poor souls lying upon the hard stone floor. Some brave family members who had been inoculated helped him tend to them and he handed a bowl to a short woman who was surely a mother to one or more of the children on the floor. She wore a maguey cloth tied around her face just in case. She wore the traditional skirt and blouse of her people without adornment. She was round and her body testified to the fact that she had survived many births and was a proud and honored warrior for it.
He closed his eyes as he walked to the other side of the large room and had to force himself to open them again. He sat down beside a sick child and began to apply the ointment to the lesions surrounding the child’s eyes. If a blister appeared on the eye it would mean blindness. The Aztecs did not have a large amount of blind people and it was seen as a weakness worthy of sacrifice.
As he finished applying the cream, a priestess approached him with a cloth tied around her face, her eyes full of worry. She said, “Alejandro… its Eztli…”
Suddenly he was fully awake. He did not let her finish and instead pushed the bowl into her hands and ran from the sick room to the top of the pyramid where Eztli’s bed chamber was located. He burst into the room and found her on the bed being treated by one of the priestesses. Rushing to her side, he took in her appearance. She was pale and sweat bristled on her brow. Lesions had sprouted on her forehead, neck and arms. She breathed heavily and her movements were labored. He collapsed by her side, unable to process the situation.
Her head turned towards him and she reached for his hand. “Alejandro, please. I’m only one person, go back to the others. They need you.”
“No, you are my mistress, and the only reason I am alive. I am not going to leave your side until you get better. If you died… I would surely die with you.”
She placed a finger on his lips and silenced him with a small smile. In a feverish haze she whispered to him, “I am not going to die, I am not ready to dine with you in hell…” At that, she closed her eyes and fell into a fitful feverish sleep. There was something about what she said that resonated with him, and he let the words fill him with courage. He sent the priestess away to tend to the others and began giving her the medications that would bring down her fever and take care of her blisters. When he was done he climbed into the bed next to her. If he was going to continue to care for people he would need to get some sleep. He removed a sweat soaked hair from her forehead before lying down and falling into his own fitful dreams.
He dreamed that he was in a large garden with Eztli only they both wore strange clothing, but it didn’t matter they were together. They were dancing but suddenly it turned dark and she was pulled from him. He found himself alone with heavy chains on him. Out of nowhere he was struck. Someone was speaking a strange language to him and he was hit in the face and ribs over and over. He screamed at them, “Where is Eztli!?”, and they would only answer him with punches and gibberish. When he finally awoke he was covered in sweat. He turned and looked at Eztli who was sleeping peacefully beside him. He touched her forehead and discovered that she had already broken her fever. That was certainly good news.ns 184.108.40.206da2