The Inspiration Behind “Left Behind.”
By Emerian Rich
My story “Left Behind” is set during the polio epidemic in New York City, 1916. A girl who is supposed to be dancing at cotillions and being courted by handsome young bucks, has been struck by this illness. Her mother keeps the house dark and ancient as the vibrant city around her installs electricity and revels in the happiness of progress.
While researching for this story, I learned a lot about polio. Over the course of a year, more than two-thousand cases ended in death in New York City. Although mostly in Brooklyn and in children under the age of five, there were rare outliers. Glorianna’s story is such a tale. She is older than most. She is from a prosperous family. She is ill much longer than others.
Studying this epidemic during a pandemic was quite an experience. Like COVID-19, polio caused widespread panic and thousands fled the city to nearby mountain resorts; movie theaters were closed, meetings were canceled, public gatherings were almost nonexistent, and children were warned not to drink from water fountains, and told to avoid amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches. Sound familiar?
In the absence of proven treatments, a number of odd and potentially dangerous polio treatments were suggested. Internal use of caffeine, dry muriate of quinine, elixir of cinchone, radium water, chloride of gold, liquor calcis, and wine of pepsin were used.
In “Left Behind,” Glorianna’s mother uses a “tonic” to help cure her. It is described as acidic and acrid and we do not know what is in it. I left it up to the reader to decide what horrible concoction her mother might try to save her child’s life. Did she mix up metallic ingredients, herbals, or both?
We can look back and awe at the stupidity of using such cures, but in reality, what would you do to cure your child? We live in an age of information. Mother’s back then did not have such information at their fingertips, and yet… even today, if we heard that taking a spoonful of cinchona a day would stop COVID and was proven to work, who of us wouldn’t start feeding our family chicken cinchona cacciatore?
I hope you enjoy Glorianna’s story and the creature it inspires.
Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. Emerian is a podcast horror hostess at HorrorAddicts.net.