Sunday, March 5, 2017

When it started

As I look back on it, I guess it started at the theater that night. Or at least that’s when I first noticed that something was wrong.

We went out for dinner at one of our favorite places, and everything was great. A wonderful conversation with my cousin and his partner about their recent vacation, discussion about a possible cruise together a few years from now, great food, and plenty of drinks.

I suppose we should have known that something was wrong when the back entrance to the theater—one that we use often—was locked. I guess they didn’t have enough people to staff it.

It seemed like a pretty good crowd in the theater, although the seats next to us were empty until just before the show. I noticed that the box seats weren’t full and the floor and the mezzanine looked to be a little more sparse than was the case at most shows.

As the show commenced, we drank our beers, and as usual, I started to doze off part of the way in. Unless it’s something that totally captivates and energizes me, I can’t help it. It was a very low-key show and I drifted off for a moment. I woke up just before the intermission and we headed off to the restroom. I had to stand in line for a while, and even then, I didn’t really notice that anything was amiss.

We got back to our seats in plenty of time for the second half of the show. We settled in—I was wide awake now—and I sipped the wine my husband brought me.

That was when I started noticing it. The coughing. It came from several rows behind us. Then closer to us. Then a few seats down from us. Most of it sounded like a dry, hacking cough, but some of it was a...well, I guess I would say that it was a wet cough. At times, it was so loud that I couldn’t hear the actors onstage. It was constant. I exchanged a glance with my husband and I saw that he was concerned, too. I whispered in his ear, “What is going on? This is awful!”

It continued throughout the rest of the show, and although my initial feeling was annoyance, I ended up worried. I had never heard that kind of thing at a show before.

When the show was over, we got out of there as quickly as possible. We both expressed concern about the incessant coughing, and when I texted my cousin, he said that it bothered him and his partner, too. At that point, I don’t think any of us were feeling any real danger. I know I wasn’t, although I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

We turned on the TV when we got home, and that’s when the news reports started coming in. London was first, although there was a lot of speculation that it began in the chicken farms in China. No real surprise there. Then the reports started trickling in from the East coast. Jersey and New York. There were incidents at the airport in Atlanta. People dying on planes, even a pilot! Quarantines of planes, sitting on the tarmac for hours. It was in the airports, too. People collapsing at baggage claim, airline agents keeling over behind the counter. It wasn’t too long before all flights in and out of the country were canceled. The president issued a statement that he would “bomb the shit” out of whoever was behind this.

But of course, that was empty rhetoric, and it was too late by that point, anyway. I doubt that anyone was behind it. Viruses happen, right? Anyone with half a brain knew this wasn’t just a possibility...it was an inevitability.

We stayed in contact with family and friends as long as the lines were operational. That lasted maybe two weeks after our night out at the theater. It became obvious pretty quickly that we weren’t going to be able to combat whatever this was. Without the help of the United States, the global health network couldn’t cope. We were able to watch the news during that time and saw the chaos and the mass deaths. We watched the footage of Atlanta when....

Never mind. I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to write about it. Hell, I don’t want to think about it.

It’s been a month now and we are still here. Neither of us has any sort of fever, cough, or other symptoms, and I’m certain we would have them by now if we had been exposed. We still have power, although we know that won’t be the case for long. We are working on what we can do about that. We’ll figure something out. I really don’t want to say too much. We hope to get out soon and check on people, but things look pretty dangerous right now. We haven’t seen any cars on our road for days, and we haven’t heard any traffic sounds from the nearby overpass. It’s so quiet now that we hear every little sound, including owls and coyotes. I’m a little afraid to walk out into the yard! Ha!

I think we’ll survive this. And by ‘we,’ I mean the human race. When we lost the news feed, the mortality rate was disturbingly high, but quarantine measures were being put into place. We can only hope that it will be enough to save the majority of people around the world. We just don’t know right now.

It occurs to me that Abraham Lincoln had a very bad night at the theater. I’m worried that our night at the theater might be worse. His assassination was horrible but I’m starting to wonder if we are looking at extinction.

In the meantime, we got some groceries...some peanut butter...should last a couple of days! Ha! I can’t resist the song references, even if I can’t play any music because we’re trying to save energy. I miss it.

I hope everyone is okay. I hope we’ll be okay.

***

Notes:

This is obviously not real. At least I hope it is obvious that it is not real.

Get your damn flu shot! Is it 100% effective? No. But it could provide you some protection against an influenza virus.

There really were people coughing like crazy at the show tonight. It was bad enough that I wanted to write this!

There really is a very serious strain of avian influenza circulating in China right now. It has about a 40% mortality rate. That is some serious stuff, people.

The current Resident is planning on cutting the CDC’s budget by about 12%. This would be disastrous for public health, both here and abroad. Lives will be lost.

That is something to fear.

5 comments:

  1. exceptional- you should write fiction more often!

    xxalainaxx

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    1. Thanks, Alaina! Maybe I will push myself to do that a little more!

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  2. I remember(years back)a very good fiction story you wrote....with the girl in the window.
    At first(hey, I do have a paranoid mental disorder, so..)this had me.

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    1. Thank you, Mary! Yes, that story came about from a photograph that our friend Laurel posted. Sometimes there is something mundane that sparks a little idea in me. I write those little ideas down in a notebook but I rarely flesh them out. I had fun with this one!

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  3. ...I was really captured by this... you do have enough talent to be a writer Beth..!

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I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?