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My Black Death Ancestor and I
She walks in, a strong smell follows her; feces, vomit, body odor, rotten food, tears
Anna B: Hi
My 14th century ancestor: avoiding gaze, looks at floor, up to my eyes, back down, nervous, Hel-lo
Anna B: Don’t be nervous, I’m not judging you here. So you lived through the plague, right
My 14th century ancestor: uncertainty, nervously, yes
Anna B: Do you need anything? You know, we do have things which could help you cope with the pain you’ve endured. Since you’ve been alive, there have been a few marvelous inventions, including the shower, central heating, warmer clothes, better tasting food, medical help… Let me get you some of that, alright.
My 14th century ancestor: I… don’t understand these things of which you speak…
Anna B: signaling to someone in the room, quietly aside, send in a doctor and find if they’re a good shower and some clean clothes available…. I don’t know how long I can handle this… to ancestor, That makes sense. Just know that these things I’m bringing for you will make you feel better.
My 14th century ancestor: But… why better? This… suffering, discomfort, pain in my foot is…
Anna B: I know, it’s terrible and relentless. That’s why I’m going to get it fixed for you
My 14th century ancestor: But…. This is all… me, and my sins, that have caused such suffering.
Anna B: No, haha. In a few hundred years bacteria will be discovered, and all will be fixed. Don’t worry, alright? None of this is you.
My 14th century ancestor: I have sinned though… I know those who have fallen away by me are repentance for the ill thoughts I have had against many individuals. I was not giving enough, had salacious thoughts, did not always listen to my husband. In fact, my first and second babies died, one in the womb and one right out…. I poisoned them with my sins.
Anna B: No, wow, I have a lot to explain. Sigh. It wasn’t you, Ancestor, it was the birthing methods. You probably did not take enough folic acid during pregnancy, probably didn’t have proper nutrition overall, may have gone through significant physical and emotion stresses, may have been sick during, and the physician (if you even had one) probably didn’t wash his hands while delivering the baby! My GOD—
My 14th century ancestor: gasps. And I thought I was the sinful individual. Satan already has his hands around your neck, using the lord’s name in vain like that….. I am ashamed that one of my children’s children’s child will birth such a heathen scoundrel. What else do you do, defy the very institution of marriage by copulating with an individual other than your husband? Do you condone sodomy? Do you miss church, instead engaging in heathen activities? On return, I shall figure out which child most resembles your visage and make sure they never find a spouse with which to reproduce.
Anna B: Much of what you say is true, but you must understand…. Today life is different. Premarital sex is expected, if not encouraged, outside of ultra-religious circles. Actually, most people in the developed world aren’t even very religious at birth. Although I was born Protestant—
My 14th century ancestor: What is “Protestant?” What is this heresy? Why is it that I suffer so, while you, a clear sinner under the eyes of the Lord’s judgmental and all-seeing gaze, carry so bright a vitality and such a clean, happy demeanor?
Anna B: You are Catholic, right? Protestantism is a type of Christianity that will be born out of Catholicism in about 300 years… But the important part is not what it is, but that religious isn’t widespread. And back to what I was—
My 14th century ancestor: So you’re a HEATHEN? I shan’t be in your presence, it will soil my clean conscience—
Anna B: YOUR clean conscience? First of all, didn’t you just talk about how you deserved all the adversity coming your way because of the sins you committed…. You just contradicted yourself! And maybe by my standards it’s you with a soiled conscience. You believe that all other societies are below you, “savages” you call them. They are not intrinsically worse than yours. In fact, in many ways they’re better. Like, maybe they treat women with respect? Like almost equals? Rather than subjugate them to this filthy existence which you are enduring?
My 14th century ancestor: I am a good Christian woman, so I will not say all that is on my mind, but shame on you. You’re the heathen. And Christian society is truly the most innovated, advanced, enlightened culture ever. And women are by no means repressed, in fact I would say they are kept in their natural, proper place. And what of you? A woman’s place is not outside the house, not in the public sphere, and it is certainly not to be whoring herself to every man who smiles her way as your generation of women do. Just look to God. Which society does He bless? Yeah, I thought so. You may be headed for the Underworld yet. Doctor enters with medical equipment and washcloths.
Anna B: Aw, but isn’t the proof of my superiority in myself? For all of your devout religion and abstinence, you and all your loved ones have still been decimated by the plague. Died. Shouldn’t that, as you said, be proof you are wrong? And I am healthy, happy, white-toothed. Wouldn’t you say that God has blessed my form of life, a mark of its superiority? Now go meet with the doctor and see what I mean. See if you want to return to your dark, desperate, restricted form of life. Under her breath, To think that she carries my DNA.