Jannes and Mambres have lost track of humanity among their charts and epicycles, a not-uncommon occupational hazard for the magician. Plague has come again with the hot moist breath of summer, and both tempers and lives are running short.
“The city cannot go on like this,” pants Jannes, melting and barechested and miserable beneath the window screen. “Everything is shut down, and all the best people have fled to the country. It’s impossible to live these days; everyone is so anxious.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” drawls Mambres, who glories in the heat and the humidity like a lizard. “If you look at restaurant bookings and sports attendance, we’re at 85-95% of what we were before the plague. People have accepted the occasional buboe as the price of living.”
“I haven’t seen anyone except you in ages, except for a few brief picnics around the vineyards, and even then you know we’re all so spaced out that it’s not the same. You do what you can, and everyone is pretending as best they can, but it’s so different. I miss our lives before.”
“Love, you are simply extracting too much from our own circumstances; we are, after all, out of touch with the average person by design.”
Things go rather downhill from there, and they don’t speak for nearly a week. For the best, perhaps; daily new cases double yet again over those seven days (observes Jannes, gloomily) but corpse fires barely tick up (notes Mambres, cheerfully). The river rolls on.