“On the night of ‘July 27th’, in the year of your Lord 1661, the River Thames in Londontown began to glow bright blue. Some say bright red. It doesn’t matter what color, we know now. It was probably both. This fluminal illumination caused an excitement that spread through out the city. The bells of churches woke the snoring; dreams detached & floated away. A strange many-tentacled octopus, luminous & radiating hue, was netted at London Bridge. After its capture, the river dimmed, & eventually returned to normal. This Impossible Specimen was kept alive deep underground in a large glass tank built by Robert Hooke. The Human King of Londontown who was at that time was still called King Charles the II appointed a Clubb of Natural Philosophers known as the Royal Society of London to study it & derive knowledge of its being through experiment. Maximilian Van Duult, a professor at St. Frances College & fellow of the Royal Society, was given the charge of being the Impossible Specimen’s caretaker & primary scrutineer.
Deep beneath the city in an ancient vault it swam in Hooke’s tank, pulsing, glowing, coloring the cobbled walls.
That night, the night the Impossible Specimen was netted & lifted like a drowned angel into the dirtsoot air of Londontown so that it hung star-bright above the river, oozing color, almost too bright to look at…what has been called the Night of Flaggerbash by some & by others the Evening of All Sparrow’s Eve… the night this story begins & began & will begin again everytime it is told, was the first outbreak of a stupendous pestilence which we refer to now as the Wonderful Plague. It erupted beneath a not-full moon & passed by morning. But twas a sight to see! The Rats & Cats & Dogs that lived in Londontown reported the madness to us in missives. The madness, they wrote, was unimaginable. Roving bands of singers, skippers, roar-rhymers crashed through the streets & alleys. Fishwives debated chimneysweepers, fish debated chimneys, buildings were broken into & decorated, deep secrets were professed to candlewicks, the city echoed with sobs & laughter & above in a dream-bank the not-full moon improvised at its organ. When did the not-full moon acquire an organ?
That is the nature of the Plague, you see. Maybe the organ was there all along.
By morning, the infected revelers were sober & sick & no one could say just what happened or why. Or where or when. Seven men & four women & sixteen children had drowned. Many Londoners had eaten rocks & died terribly from indigestion, & even more had leapt from high roofs. Over one hundred were dead from duels, & many more were injured. After this chaos, a number of humans were arrested by the King’s Army & hanged for their cooperation in the Madness. In the Rectangle of Tyburne, I believe. Fear of this Plague was great, for its spread was inexplicable. The spread of the Plague, I mean, not the fear. Twas odd! Walking in the streets or the open air, one might become infected at any moment, anywhere. As if socked in the face! One would tumble to their knees, laughing & crying! While the Nobility fled to the countryside, the poor population of Londontown hid in their dark rooms. Those days, some humans lived in terrible conditions. In their dark candlelightless or uncandlelit rooms they extracted clouds of confusion from their ears. This is a metaphor—humans employ metaphors, yes? The Mole of Love burrowed deep; that is a metaphor. No, for love. Look: the story of the Wonderful Plague is difficult to tell, & even harder to understand. But it must be told, & it must be understood. You’ll see.” - Rozologue Bagumphious, Librarian-King of the Candletoads, translated by Sir Oooleyipsire, premier Translator of the Toads.