Cue Gabriel’s Oboe. Int. Home Base.
I pulled on my well-worn distressed black Jag jeans and paired it with a long-sleeved thick cotton shirt. The shirt was also black, a battered old thing from the eighties, emblazoned with the faded album cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. My handheld computer-cum-communicator went into my left pocket, my conveyance activator into the right. A small bottle of disinfectant gel followed it. I donned my earpieces, which also served as the microphone for the communicator. Plexiglass goggles and a filtration mask that covered the lower half of my face completed my gear. I would normally be blasting Led Zeppelin or AC/DC, but this wasn’t the proper occasion. The enemy can’t be seen, or as our leaders hoped, shot dead. It kills invisibly and silently.
The Apocalypse wasn’t what we expected it to be. Pestilence walked among men, but she walked slowly, lazily, touching the living randomly. Death followed in her wake, taking many of the elderly and infirm. Famine was patient, waiting for leaders to fail to feed those in their charge. War, uncharacteristically, was content to watch and wait. After all, there will always be war when famine, and pestilence, and death walked among the living.
The job was a simple resupply, to forestall Famine, and therefore Death. However, a resupply mission meant that Pestilence would be a threat, no matter how much gear or how many precautions were taken. Risk and reward, constants in life. It is ironic that our leaders, with their uniform apathy, lack of foresight, or malevolence, foist this situation on us all. Our lack of desire of ability to replace them with competence is confounding. But that is for another time. For today, survival is the objective.
My steel combustion engine-powered steed takes me to the resupply point. Many others are here, all looking to purchase goods. Some are geared, some are not. Some are alert to the fact that others are not adequately geared. We all give each other a wide berth, and shoot dagger looks at the apathetic and unprepared. If Pestilence comes, she will come for them.
There is a long wait for entrance to the supply depot, to reduce the ease at which disease may spread if an unlucky one most unfortunately finds his/her/its way into the premises. Guardians mist the air, and us, with disinfectant aerosols. It is an empty gesture, a placebo, as this will not prevent the transmission of the disease. My turn comes and I enter the supply area, taking a battered wheeled cart and pushing forward.
I swiftly circle the aisles, sweeping bottles and cans and packages and all manner of supplies. It is an obstacle course to avoid the others milling about and filling their own receptacles. I swerve away from any oncoming traffic, particularly if the individual is not properly geared. No goggles is poor judgement. No filtration mask is inexcusable, and should be punishable by law. But this is not the situation to engage this malfeasance, not when the goal is to avoid the Plague. I steer away and give these miscreants a wide berth, even if it takes me out of the way of my objectives.
My communicator’s screen casts a baleful glare at my eyes as I tick off the items on the list. I also take some things that are not on the list, goods overlooked or forgotten in the planning of the mission. Once in a while I need to contact Mission Control to clarify a detail or two, to ensure that even the most minor objectives are met, maximizing the effort and resources of orchestrating this perilous sojourn.
My cart full, I roll into the exit area, where further lines have formed. I pull out my special-issue azure card, which allows me to use an exclusive portal. The wait is shorter here, and soon my spoils are being packaged and prepared for transport. My account is credited, and I push past the egress and toward my conveyance with alacrity. It has been three hours since I departed Mission Control. I pass the dispensary, and make a final stop to acquire pharmaceuticals. They have zero stock of protective equipment, which is both expected and distressing. I sweep the drugs into my cart.
The journey back is uneventful. I pass a military barricade but they wave me through after seeing the credentials prominently displayed on my forward view port. Others were not as fortunate and I saw them pulled over, having to deal with the authorities and therefore hazard infection.
I pulled into the Mission Control docking bay and unloaded the supplies. Each item would need to be individually disinfected before it could be brought into Home Base and stored. I moved to the main entrance and stripped off everything I was wearing, leaving me in black compression shorts. My communicator, footwear and other gear would be thoroughly disinfected as well. The disposable gear such as the filtration mask would be incinerated. I walked straight towards the sanitation module, not touching anything, barely breathing. Once there I stepped straight into the hydrojets, lathering up the anti-bacterial foam (knowing that the Plague was viral and not bacteria-based) and two full cycles of ethyl cleansing. Thirty minutes later, I’m as clean as we can manage in a residential setting. All we can do is hope that it’s enough, and that the Plague doesn’t get lucky and find its way to our family.
It’s 2020. I lived this. This is the new normal.
This post is a response to the Discover Prompt of April 10, 2020.