fifty-three            

            There is sickness, consequently there is fire. Iron drums stand like brimstone-breathing dragons at the Quarters' grim periphery, spewing sparks and pointed tongues of sulphur-coloured flame. Smoke billows thickly, forms a shroud of cloying ash. All day all night the incendiary sentinels dispense their would-be purgative, cauterizing the air: eyes redden; cremating unseen ills: lungs wheeze; scorching contagious and non-contagious alike: throats choke, noses run, voices chafe bereaved as the number stricken rises, the spared bewail, and the omnipresent graveyard warms its ghastly welcome.