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Virus

With Coronavirus sweeping the world, cases increasing, and the public unsure what to do next as a writer it's difficult not to let my creative mind run wild. There are movies and books that cover the topic of pandemics but to see it actually happening is somewhat different. There's concern and worry about contracting the virus, and practical thoughts about how we can all protect ourselves. For a writer this is all brilliant for inspiration and that's why I went ahead and wrote a little something. I don't usually write about this kind of topic but I was inspired and so thought I'd give it a go. 


Virus | An excerpt inspired by Coronavirus excerpt


Virus


Kimberly stood in front of the patio doors staring out at the birds soaring in the clear blue sky. With her palm over her heart she rubbed her chest and took a deep breath. The morning sun was shining brightly highlighting the vivid green of a field in the distance. Sheep scattered that pasture months ago, spotting the green with specks of fluffy white. Now though there were no sheep, just a field of green lined with scraggly trees that seemed to be suffering after a hard winter. To the left of the pasture a country road snaked towards Kimberly’s home. It wasn’t that long ago a convoy of cars would make their way through the village at the beginning, or the end, of a work day. They’d fill the air with the stench of exhaust fumes and the roar of engines, making the village an unpleasant place to be. There were no more cars making their way through the village. None.

In her garden in front of the patio, dandelions poked through the long grass of the lawn. It hadn’t been mowed in months but it was still a lovely shamrock green specked with spots of yellow from the dandelions. The large oak tree with its reaching branches cast a shadow over the old rusting trampoline that sat beneath it. In front of the patio doors, where their black metal garden furniture would usually be standing, the patio was looking old and empty. Weeds had started poking between cracks in the large concrete slabs. A Blue Tit fluttered down onto the patio and began pecking at the weeds. Kimberly smiled as she watched the bird. It left the patio and flew back up into the air speeding towards the trees on the opposite side of her garden.

Thudding footsteps hurrying through the house pulled Kimberly’s attention from the garden and she turned to see her youngest son, Timothy, jump onto their brown leather sofa. It hissed as air rushed from the cushions and Timothy laughed when the leather rubbed together. Timothy was quickly followed by her eldest son Scott, he carried his phone in his hand and dragged his feet as he walked towards the sofa. He dropped down, and the sofa hissed again, as Scott put his phone on the sofa arm next to him. The floorboards creaked as David made his way into the living room and he smiled at Kimberly when he saw her. David rounded the thick wooden coffee table, where a short vase of pink Freesias sat, and sat on the sofa opposite the TV. He reached over from the sofa and picked up the silver remote control that was laid on the coffee table, switching on the TV. Kimberly moved away from the patio doors and sat down next to David but as she did the sun bounced off the TV and made her squint so she got back up and pulled the cord of the grey Roman Blind hanging above the patio doors. The blind dropped steadily and as the sun’s reflection disappeared from the TV Kimberly let go of the cord, glanced over at her boys, and then sat back down next to David. She placed her hand on top of his and they looked at each other, forcing smiles.

On the TV the newsreader’s voice was muffled by the face mask she was wearing and strands of her hair stuck out left and right, unusual for people on TV. She wasn’t wearing any make up either, revealing her pale skin. She looked tired. Instead of being in a studio she was broadcasting from her own home, a sight that had become familiar to Kimberly and her family over the last few months. She informed viewers that another 350,000 deaths had been confirmed in England as a result of the Gleotrechosis virus. Kimberly squeezed David’s hand. 

Her heart ached and she looked at her family instead of watching the broadcast. She clutched David’s hand, her husband of 16 years. In the last few months the lines on his face had grown deeper, much like her own, as the stress of the situation took its toll. His brows pulled together as he listened to the scheduled broadcast. Scott, her 16 year old son, was sitting with his knees to his chest, arms wrapped around his knees. A few months ago she would’ve told him to put his feet down and sit up straight, but none of that seemed to matter any more. He rested his chin on his knees as he listened to the newsreader. He was a shadow of his former self, the poor boy hadn’t seen his friends for months. No rollerskating, which had been a regular Saturday afternoon excursion, no going to the cinema, and definitely no trips to the city. The only contact he’d had with friends was via his phone, which was sitting on the sofa arm next to him. Timothy sat close to his brother. He mimicked Scott and hugged his knees. At twelve years old he was struggling with the influx of teen hormones as well as having to deal with not seeing friends or going to school because of a virus sweeping the country. Kimberly could see Tim trying to stop himself from crying, he blinked more often than usual and his eyes glistened. He gripped his phone in his hand and every so often glanced down at it, but he knew, like them, his friends and everyone else in the country would be sitting in front of their TV watching the broadcast.

It had started as a regular bulletin releasing information about the spread of Gleotrechosis, a stupid name for a virus as far as Kimberly was concerned. The first case of the virus was confirmed in China nearly 6 months ago, during winter, but it spread fast as the country failed to contain it, and was now worse than anyone could have imagined. Despite having quarantines in place, again and again viewers were told new cases had been confirmed in another country and before long cases broke into the hundred-thousands. The entire population of the earth feared contracting Gleotrechosis with new cases popping up around the world, even Antarctica had confirmed cases. The problem was the incubation period, for four weeks people who had contracted Gleothrechosis were symptom free but contagious, and by the time they displayed symptoms they’d been wandering around town infecting others but completely unaware. Anyone they’d been in contact with during those four weeks was at risk, and more often than not people slipped through the quarantine and the virus continued to spread. 

Within a month of the first case someone died. Deaths were announced regularly. More and more every day. Borders closed. Flights shutdown. England was on lockdown and as the newsreader had just informed them, the number of people dying was still increasing. It was a scenario played out time and again in movies: a virus that sweeps the earth wiping out thousands of people - but this was no movie.

Gleo-20, as the newsreaders dubbed the deadly virus, came in two stages and had varying symptoms, the most common were a stuffy nose or sneezing, headaches, and sometimes a cough. Much like the flu in its first stage Gleo-20 made you feel rough for a few days but then you’d start to feel better, thinking you were recovering. The virus then caused havoc inside your body. The next stage of Gleo-20, having quietly turned your immune system against you, caused symptoms such as hallucinations, bleeding from the eyes and nose, and eventual organ failure and death. 

Talk of a vaccine hit the news two months after the first diagnosis but with research and testing taking months the soonest any kind of vaccine could be available was 18 months, and that was fast. Every single person in the country watched the daily bulletin hoping to hear news about a vaccine, but processes were slow and hygiene became the issue to focus on to help protect citizens against Gleotrechosis.

Hand sanitisers were installed around schools. Supermarkets provided gloves and masks for customers to use. Local Councils installed hand wash stations around their districts. The sales of face masks soared. Posters popped up in towns emphasising the importance of hygiene. Around the world hygiene was of utmost importance and the press pushed it in the hope it would slow down the spread. It didn’t.

Despite watching the news daily and seeing the number of Gleotrechosis cases increasing it wasn’t until a case was confirmed at Scott’s school, and the county shut down the schools, that Kimberly thought they could actually be at risk. The virus was always far enough away that she didn’t need to worry about it. She hadn’t considered it would grow to the extent that schools would have to close. She’d even watched the Education Secretary a few months ago reassure MPs in the Houses of Parliament that they wouldn’t close schools, and she believed him. So when Scott’s school sent him home, and she received a message from Timothy’s school telling her to pick him up she knew things were getting serious. Every child in the county had to stay home, which obviously caused chaos for the working community too. 

At first David had been pleased about less cars being on the road because his drive to and from work was quicker than usual. He would be home from work in 20 minutes, compared to battling through rush hour traffic for 50 minutes. As the virus infected more people across the country though, and the news of office closures echoed throughout the city, David started to worry. He was concerned about travelling to work and bringing the virus home with him. He didn’t want to keep putting his family at risk. Needless to say he was pleased when his boss told him the office was closing.

With the boys and her husband at home every day Kimberly had seen a drastic change to her routine. Used to having the house to herself during the day she had to adjust to having her boys at home all day every day. It was tough to get used to, and sometimes she found herself looking for a quiet room to sit and read just to have a little peace. She noticed she wasn’t the only one facing changes either. While watching morning TV the news anchors started wearing face masks during their broadcasts. The background, usually filled with busily working people, was suddenly devoid of activity. Bulletins were intermittently broadcast from newsreaders’ homes instead of the studio, using their own phones and computers, and these types of broadcasts increased in number until every one of them was from a newsreader’s home.

As Spring began and flowers bloomed in gardens bringing beautiful colours to the world citizens of England were told not to venture outside unless absolutely necessary. The death toll rose. Panic gripped the nation and supermarket shelves were left bare as shoppers bought anything and everything. With the infection, and panic, spreading the British Prime Minister made a televised announcement on March 30th 2020. Broadcast from inside Number 10, and while wearing a face mask himself, he laid out a series of measures issued by the Government to try to contain further spread of Gleotrechosis. The first of these measures was to quarantine every UK citizen in their own homes. They would be issued with 1 single protective suit, similar to a hazmat suit, to be worn when food and medical supplies, being provided by the Government, were delivered to their homes. The Prime Minister informed them suit would have to be wiped down with sanitising wipes after being worn, and again the Government would provide the wipes. A regular bulletin, at 10am every day, would inform citizens of any updates and the latest measures in progress.

That was three months ago and as a family they’d eventually got used to the quarantine, spending time playing board games as well as watching their favourite movies. It was like a family vacation, except they couldn’t go outside. But after months of being stuck indoors, thousands of people still dying as a result of the virus and no apparent progress on a vaccine there didn’t seem to be an end in sight to quarantine and it was getting old.

Kimberly and her family stared at the TV screen as the news anchor coughed and excused herself. They watched as a red patch on the newsreader’s face mask spread out, seeping into the white material. It grew in front of them, on live television. As she tried to continue with the bulletin her nose began to bleed, the trickle seeping into the top of the face mask, and she soon had to run off camera. The bulletin was cut short.

Kimberly and David looked at each other, eyes wide. Scott’s and Timothy’s phones pinged immediately and they both stared at their screens tapping away with their fingers, no doubt discussing the bulletin with their friends. Before Kimberly had a chance to talk about what they’d just witnessed she saw the food truck pull up outside. She rose from the sofa and walked around the coffee table towards the large bay window. She watched a group of people clad in bright yellow hazmat suits and big white boots emerge from the back of the truck. One by one they carried large cardboard boxes to each home on the street, placing them on the floor by the front doors and then returning to the truck for another box. She watched as they made their way along the street depositing boxes as they went and when they disappeared around the corner she took a deep breath and looked at David.

“It’s time again.” she said.

David nodded and watched as Kimberly left the living room.

“Boys! Upstairs!” she called.

Scott and Timothy emerged from the lounge still looking at their phones.

“Oh, mum! Why do we have to do this every time?” Scott asked.
“It’s for your own good. Now go!” Kimberly said.

They both stomped their way up the stairs and slammed their bedroom doors behind them.

Kimberly walked to the front door and stood for a moment looking at the family photographs that lined the walls. She smiled as she spotted the group photo of them standing with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World. A young Timothy gripping Mickey’s leg like he didn’t want to let him go, and an older Scott with a huge grin on his face. It seemed like a lifetime ago, yet it had only been a couple of years. 

Kimberly pulled her gaze from happy holiday photos and picked up her Government-issue suit that was sitting on a small table by the front door. She climbed into the suit, pulled the hood over her head and zipped up. As she turned to face the door she saw David, or rather a blurred version of him through the plastic window of her suit, watching her. She twisted the key in the front door, glanced back at him and he turned back into the living room and closed the door behind him. Kimberly opened the front door. She stepped out of her house, moved around the box, bent her knees and knelt down. She hauled the box up into her arms walked back inside her home and kicked the door closed behind her.

She carried the box a few more steps into her kitchen and placed it down on the granite countertop, then she removed her suit. Kimberly flung the suit over her arm and tore the tape from the box. Sitting on top were the sanitising wipes and she pulled open the tab on the plastic wrapping and tugged a wipe from the packaging. She wiped the suit while holding it in her hand then folded it carefully and walked back to the front door to put the suit back on the small table, ready for its next use. Kimberly turned the key in the front door and locked it. Through the glass in her front door she could see the sun still shone down and the sky was blue. A slight breeze in the air made leaves on the trees dance and she longed to step outside into that breeze, it had been too long.

Kimberly wandered back into the kitchen to unpack the tins, packs of food, and medical supplies that she already knew as in the cardboard box. Before unpacking the box she pulled another sanitising wipe from the plastic pack and ran it over her hands and arm where she had hung the suit. With herself and the suit sanitised Kimberly turned her attention to unpacking supplies. 

The box was filled with baked beans, dried spaghetti, and boxes of tomato sauce, amongst other things. She used to hate having to cook at the end of the day, thinking up interesting, nutritional meals was a chore, but now all she could think was how much she’d love to cook a Chicken Lo Mein or Biryani for her family.

With a heavy heart she began removing the tins from the box and placing them on the countertop ready to put away in the pantry. 

“MUM!”

Kimberly’s heart skipped a beat and she dropped the tin in her hand. It clattered onto the thick ceramic tiles and rolled under the cooker but she didn’t care. She darted from the kitchen and ran up the stairs to Timothy who was standing on the landing, tears rolling over his cheeks. She knelt down in front of him.

“What? What is it?!” She said, clutching Timothy’s shoulders.
“Mum! I just sneezed!” he said.




It was a scenario played out time and again in movies: a virus that sweeps the earth wiping out thousands of people - but this was no movie...






My Random Musings

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