In Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story "The Masque of the Red Death" the plague that ravaged the land was described as positively horrific. It was truly horrifying because of the way in which it killed its victims, the short amount of time that it took from first infection to death, as well as the way it spread through the land infecting and killing everyone. It was described as a gruesome death as the victims received "sharp pains" and became dizzy and then they would start bleeding profusely out of all their pores. Due to the high infection rate, people were unwilling to help the victims or go near them as they died. The process of death was quick, about a half hour. "The whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour." This was a horrible excruciating death, but it was quick.
In Poe's short story the scurrilous disease called the "Red Death" terminates its victim in only "half an hour."
"The Masque of the Red Death" is an allegorical tale about man's fear of death. As in allegory, Poe's characters, settings, and events are designed to have meanings independent of the action in the surface story. For instance, the seven rooms are designed with single colors which are symbolic of the seven stages of man.
The tolling of the large clock intrudes upon the revelry of the guests, reminding them of the passage of time. When this clock strikes the hour of midnight in the seventh room, which is decorated in black with "blood-colored panes" in the windows, an uninvited guest appears in the walled abbey of Prince Prospero. This guest is
...shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat.
When Prince Prospero learns of the masked figure who has intruded upon his fantastic festivities in which he and his guests attempt to defy time and death, the prince asks, "Who dares?" and he rushes into the seventh room in order to accost the figure who is "shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave." There Prospero grapples with Death itself and, without the protection of his wealth and art, he succumbs to the Red Death.