Go Right Ahead
I’m second in line. Behind me is a single-file mob of piss-and-vinegar people, like some great fleshy snake ready to spew its pent-up venom. Two months under quarantine has us all ornery. The virus has been extracted, and everyone is ready to get back to their lives. But first we must pass through the checkpoint.
The armed guard eyes the woman in front of me and asks, “What have you learned from this experience?”
“Many things,” she says. “But, most of all, it’s time for change.”
Change. An oil change. That’s what I was doing, sitting sardine-packed in the claustrophobic waiting room with a host of knee-to-knee patrons. Suddenly, the television spewed an urgent news bulletin:
“The highly contagious virus can be spread through minimal contact and is potentially fatal. Please return to your homes immediately. This is not a test. Return to your homes and await further instruction.”
Abandoned with the echoes of clacking shoes and screeching tires, I frantically searched the empty lot for my car. I finally found it amongst the Rorschach oil stains in the garage, clasped in the metal jaws of a vehicle lift. It was to remain suspended in time, immobile and useless for all of isolation. The two miles home were navigated on foot, an unwelcome journey through a ghost town with the rest of the lost spirits.
“We’ve lost our way,” the woman in line says. “There needs to be relief for those less fortunate. There needs to be healthcare for all.”
I remember the paranoia with each shallow breath. I remember the gurgling from my hungry guts. I remember the well-fed celebrities on television, swimming in their crystal pools and throwing dance parties. And then there was the constantly upticking death toll on the news, like a telethon tote board.
The woman in line continues, “The common man needs to rise to the forefront. No more bailing out corporations. No more choking the voice of the middle class. Oligarchy ends now.”
Raising his clipboard, the guard checks a box. He unholsters a pistol and eviscerates the woman’s face with a single shot. A man on mop-and-drag duty quickly disposes of her in a travelling geyser of red. Another man joins in on the cleanup. Soon there is no way of knowing she ever existed.
The guard looks up from his clipboard and smiles at me. “What have you learned from this experience?” he asks.
I swallow a surge of vomit, but I can’t help from expelling these words: “We need to go back to normal, to the way things were before.”
The guard checks a box. “Go right ahead,” he says.