from some guy's book.
Wed May 20, 2020 17:36


I need to get something off my chest. While the quarantine was being planned I was planning my own operation that had to do with a promise I made over a slice of pizza. I told Ava I could get her an interview at the network and I was determined to make it happen. The problem was that I didn’t have any real connections to speak of. The only thing I could provide was hope—the sort of hope you might say was of the false variety. I had been facing a crisis of conscience ever since the video conference. The team and I knew what was about to happen to our city but we were also barred from warning anyone about it.

I wanted to give Ava a confidence boost, the kind of boost to her spirit that would sustain her through the coming weeks and potentially months of quarantine. Given that she was worried about paying rent and making ends meet before the crisis I feared her situation was about to get much worse. So I did the only thing that came naturally to me, I improvised. Abu and Mo would pose as network executives and we set up the interview in a boardroom that I knew would be free beforehand.

It was all going perfectly until the swat teams entered the building and forcibly evacuated it. Yes, apparently, the building and all of its employees were being cleared out for reasons of national security. Abu and Mo’s cover was blown. Naturally, they couldn’t hold up under any scrutiny. Ava was so disappointed in me that she stopped returning my calls and texts. Looking back on it, that was the first sign of things to come. The dream was over, to borrow a phrase from John Lennon. But it wasn’t merely over. The dream was corrupted. By the end of this, would we even remember what the dream was? I felt like my optimism had been shattered like shop windows in downtown Manhattan after the second phase of the quarantine was announced. New York was to be cordoned off from the rest of the country like an amputated limb and the world would never be the same again.

You’ll forgive me if my timeline is getting a little disjointed. After months of lockdown the days tended to blur together. If I gloss over some of the details, I’ll circle back to them later on. As you can imagine, a lot of shit went down in the weeks following our first meeting with the executives and the DHS.

Everyone at the TMA was busy fighting battles on multiple fronts as the pandemic spread across the world, paralyzing communities, citizens and governments, causing panic in global markets and squeezing international trade and travel. If that wasn’t enough, our efforts in dealing with the life-form were leading to mixed results. The situation on the ground wasn’t good either. Covid-19 had hit the United States harder than anyone had predicted. NYC in particular was ravaged worse than any other place on Earth. Throughout May and April, the entire country was more or less locked down. By early June, the government announced that it was easing lockdown measures. That was when 'the mutation' occurred and Phase Two was announced.

I’ll skip ahead to the day that Nathan sent me to Chinatown in search of an exotic fish. I remember it vividly because I had to take precautions beforehand. Going outside was no longer a simple matter. I would need a face-mask, gloves, sanitizer wipes, and of course tunes for the trip. I had been cooped up inside central command over at the network office and this was an opportunity to take a step back from it all so I volunteered for the mission. I think everyone else was a little relieved that it wasn’t them going. After the mutation even a short trip to the supermarket could prove dangerous.

Doctors had scrambled to explain the symptoms of the new mutated strain of the virus—confusion, disorientation, uncontrolled verbal outbursts, physical tics, manic episodes, high fever. Only we knew the truth. We could tell the difference between the coronavirus and what ‘it’ was doing to us. Despite genomic analysis, contact tracing and lockdowns, we were helpless against an infection that originated in a world that bore no resemblance to our own. This infection wasn’t airborne it was earborne. The life-form was turning the very thing necessary for survival against us. It was weaponizing words and turning language into an infectious pathogen. By the time you stopped to talk to someone on the street, listened to a joke, it was too late. It had captured you. Back at the station the team was busy cooking up content to serve the beast but if this thing somehow went non-verbal then humanity would not stand a chance.

I remember listening to The Strokes album ‘The New Abnormal,’ as I rode my bicycle through an empty Time Square. It’s finally happening, I thought. The world is now a piece of fiction. A feeling of ‘unreal’ had become omnipresent like I was living through the memory of a future that hadn’t arrived yet. Riding past shop windows, I would catch my own reflection but the face I saw wasn’t the one I had lived to recognize. It was a face with no future, speeding by, a streak beyond recognition, half-covered by a blue surgical mask. If you freeze framed that reflection you would see sad eyes squinting in the harsh sunlight searching for signs of life in the emptied out streets. This must be what 9/11 felt like, a city whose heart has stopped pumping blood. This dissociative state of mind was new to me. I felt like an actor rushing on stage or a soldier storming the beach. I was stepping into my own shoes for the very first time.

On that particular afternoon the sun imparted a corroded color to the city. I rode my bike calmly, the wind at my back, listening to my music at full volume as Nathan suggested. I’ll tell you a secret of the quarantine—music sounds better when you’re the only one around. But as you can imagine, the state of the country was no longer democratic and cool. The gates of hell had been left ajar and anarchy in all its subtle shapes and forms unleashed upon the world. Despite the occasional wave of euphoria that crept over me as I glided through the streets under the scorching sun, I knew we were at war and the enemy was winning.

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