The first implementation was mandatory orders to don masks while in public, raising our cackles, but most people obliged the inconvenience out of compassionate camaraderie. Many people found it too difficult to assuage their insecurities about their rights to consider establishing a united front, their emotions dictating their unquestionable selfishness and paranoid projections. The infected forcibly quarantined; international borders closed as some countries abided by expert advice and suffered fewer confirmed cases and deaths.
We also accepted social distancing to further combat the elusive, invisible enemy that ravaged the land from the Pacific’s golden coast to the Atlantic’s rocky shores like an unstoppable rebel force, perpetuated by the contradictory actions of an inconsiderate few more concerned about where their liberties ended and another person’s liberties began, disobeying the scientists’ experienced suggestions from developing evidence to not gather in mass congregations.
The thunder of dissent rumbled louder. The Aria Virus pandemic equaled the virality of the Black Plague during the Dark Ages and stretched taut as a winter quilt upon the planet.
With no further choice, the governments of all the world’s countries, acting on the opinions of highly respected experts, instituted mandatory lockdowns except for business enterprises deemed essential. Business owners with every valid concern of losing their life’s hard efforts to establish themselves fought back with defiant openings, escalating the rapacity of Aria, their petulance aided by avaricious conglomerates gobbling up limited, commercial governmental subsidies, whose filings for such aid, questionably securitized without consequence save for a few major companies who reimbursed the program meant to save small businesses through public shame, depleted that precious resource faster than multiplying rodents.
A false flag of progress, mislead by inconsistencies in the number of tests, allowed for a reprieve in restrictions, the collective cheers of businesses reopening, but reduced to limited capacity patronages in tighter, enclosed atmospheres deemed super-spreader venues such as indoor dining, exercise gyms, and bars. Once the testing kits caught up with the infected totals, conjoined by the narcissistic and invincibly complacent inclinations of the public to take advantage of the relaxed limitations, alerting scientists and governments alike that such evidence required swift action, luxury business operations halted as swiftly as they’d reopened, as positive case numbers and their causational death counts soared. The Aria Virus’s threat as a massive global pandemic not seen since the Black Death of the Middle ages, made the COVID-19 outbreak of three years earlier, in which such insolent dissension in the public perception of scientific competence and terrifying loss of freedoms marinated, seem like a sneeze by comparison.
Had we learned nothing?
The crippling changes disturbed us all, as concern flashed in strangers’ eyes on the limited excursion beyond their homes. Frowns, conveying a powerful message that maybe next time they’d be in a better mood or on a more positive errand, replaced more receptive, pleasant overtures.
The essential supermarkets quickly saw cotton hygiene products: napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper in higher demand and shorter supply than blood diamonds. Consumers hoarded liquid hand sanitizer and disinfectant products, price gouging on the private and online markets exploded unchecked. Yet even when site moderators flagged one culprit’s price gouging operation, two others surfaced and took its place. Retail store aisles became boxing rings for pugilists as spectators cheered, gawked, and laughed at the absurd awkwardness of it all.
Soon, every government who hadn’t already done so enacted mandatory, countrywide lockdowns without exception, the essentials of supermarkets limited to select hours and age brackets based upon vulnerability, and capacity restrictions forcing us to wait in line in our cars, twenty-first-century food lines.
Hospitals didn’t see such order, inundated with the sick, their worker’s health jeopardized with many succumbing to the disease, and supplies exhausted. Yet, more social gatherings led to increased infections and deaths from the new Aria coronavirus, the origin remained publicly ambiguous, perhaps to defer public attacks targeted at select groups. Nobody believed intelligence failed to narrow down the whereabouts of ground zero. Once sick bodies occupied all available hospital beds and indoor spaces, parking garages became ICUs as frontline workers turned away and refused treatment to patients with far more common ailments due less to callousness than lack of resources. Health officials even commanded EMTs to abandon heart attack victims if they failed to regain a pulse in the field, demanding they not transport them to local hospitals.
As weeks passed, as money dwindled and unemployment claims—and unfulfilled and unreachable unemployment representatives—skyrocketed alike, desperation and patience battled for dominance in the dictation of reactions. Even the most stable and hopeful felt our government was lying, triggering our defensives further.
Forced to comply or suffer the consequences of imprisonment as far as we knew, we aligned with the experts’ recommendations for longer periods, increasing the severity of our sacrifice for the collective health of the country. The portion of the population defying the government’s futile efforts to quell the spread of the deadly mutation of another novel coronavirus grew exponentially, and the two factions conflicted against one another. Self-centered nihilists versus conforming sheeple.
I, of the latter group, didn’t enjoy going along with the program and did so without blinders. But I corralled my skepticism, remaining vigilantly aware all the while, but struggled through the ever-harsh times for the greater good, holding onto hope that we’d survive and emerge from the other side stronger than ever before. That our society would rise above the microscopic killer as a phoenix rises screeching from the ashes, thriving and more united from having endured this grievously, tormenting experience together, as we always had in the past. Of that, we all were sadly mistaken.
Exacerbating the tense circumstances, were experts and politicians consistently, and unabashedly making—and breaking—promises they either didn’t care to keep or that they couldn’t keep them, or were benevolently ignorant of how unattainable their impossible timescales of nullifying lockdowns, social distancing, and mask mandates could occur, all the while dangling vaccines in front of the public like carrots on a stick. Revised delays became open-ended speculation forever, and unmentionable topics.
Along the logical streams of actions, the dire results and after the death toll—disputed by the most skeptical who mainstream people originally dismissed as conspiracy theorist crackpots, but now nobody knew what was real and what was fake—topped four million, surpassing ten percent of the three hundred eighty million Americans, and inspiring the government to enforce lockdowns with a mighty, authoritarian fist. Active military forces combined with the reserve forces of the national guard in every city, stalking the streets, enforcing levies on anyone caught outdoors without a valid reason, like hall monitors exploiting their power. Something had changed on the political landscape, the reality of our acquiescence or inability to conquer a biological enemy opening the door. The punishments for unauthorized public presences ranged from monetary fines after an arrest and rapid release with a summons—that could theoretically and sometimes cause additional problems and confusion on court dates that required said charged to venture outside—varying in severity to several imprisonment sentences dependent upon the number of prior offenses.
The Second Amendment reared its ugly head and urban centers became Beirut of the 1980s. Protesters took to the streets, with the idea that the police state couldn’t punish everyone. They barked and sparred, donning flannel coats, steel-toed boots, hunting rifles, Molotov cocktails, and more incendiary devices and weapons. A few wielded bazookas and one had a grenade launcher that he never fired.
Military enforcement fought back, initially using rubber bullets and tear gas to quell the upheaval, but when those compassionate tactics failed to disperse the crowds, they discarded them in favor of live rounds and smoke bombs obscured visibility, tanks rolled down city streets leaving bodies and cries of anguish in their wake.
The whole time my family and I, as I’m sure scores of others, witnessed the unruly responses to the exploitation of our considerations, as the defiant ones who refused to comply since the beginning of the outbreak had prognosticated if not by early projections. This time, their paranoia came to fruition.
What the hell were we degrading into? A civil war? An insurrection? A revolution? I thought during the earliest stages.
Rather than sharing and helping neighbors survive, people resisted and suspected any offers of help, graces of unity, camaraderie, strength, and compassion.
When satellite disruption affected television, cellular phone, and Internet reception nationwide, telecommunications experts assured everyone it was only a temporary inconvenience. Only certain channels and websites blocked out at first, then restored within days. Subsequent interruptions extended reported delays by weeks, a month, and finally never restored.
Total global blackout heralded the fall of humanity’s advanced technological civilization.
One couldn’t but wonder governments worldwide had colluded at some precipice. A point of no returns spurred by the over concerns for losing control of their lives rather than taking control of protecting other lives and their own. Either way, the outcome probably would’ve resulted in the same, if only separated by months.
Tensions ratcheted as gas stations ran out of gas and closed without ever receiving fresh supplies. Supermarket store managers locked and chained doors once shelves emptied as warehouses discontinued deliveries. Hospitals inundated to the capacity not just of their wards and parking garages, but also tents set up outside, in sporting venue parking lots, and even open area fields at parks. They refused new patients until those sick and dying occupying beds either passed away, among the few who recovered and were released or those people released due to a lack of hope of recovering to their prior health conditions and deemed an unnecessary burden on resources that could save someone (usually younger) else's life. Also, hospitals refused to treat anyone over the age of seventy. The hospitals operated greasier revolving doors with greater turnover rates than a strip club offering twofer lap-dance specials.
Without question, my only concern was for my wife Allie, my fifteen-year-old son Chase, and my four-year-old daughter Heather. Anyone else I helped came second to those three beacons of hope in an increasingly dimming world. My focus lay solely on my undying responsibility of protecting my family.
All systemic authority had gone off the air weeks ago, receding into obscurity, but by then I didn’t care. Armed with several firearms from my autumn hobby of sport hunting and an enthusiast who appreciated such fine iron and steel craftsmanship, our plentiful dry food supplies in the pantry may have suggested doomsday-prepping paranoia, but I’d begun our stockpile as an economic instability safety out of common sense.
There was no way to oppose the government’s overreach. The military fractured as increasing civilian forces fought back and cities became off-limits to anyone not engaged in rampant murder or nihilistic vandalism and looting. The government shattered, disappeared below ground. Years of national division along partisan lines and ubiquitous contrary information that confused people from rationally deciphering what news was true and what was to push a (not so) hidden agenda, dulled our society’s coping mechanisms and compromised our free thought when something this deleterious inevitable unfurled like a Pirate’s flag on the isolated seas. We dismissed all news as fake news that soon became faded views.
An uncertain future stretched along the time-space horizon, and what I feared most of all was not knowing what to expect. The only thing we could expect was that we couldn’t believe anything someone else said that we didn’t witness personally. And even then, how could we be certain of reality’s veracity itself?