Asked my wife that when this ‘self-isolation’ stuff is over, could I take her out on a date. She said, ‘Sure,’ and gave me a fake phone number.

The Outer-edges

Where most husbands created a ‘man-cave,’ Jasper Clarke had a study. It’s here that he had been spending longer than normal hours, reading, writing, and in essence, studying everything he could about COVID-19.

He thought it a wise use of his ‘self-isolation’ time.

A self-directed courses in virology wasn’t his normal interest, as usually he’d be searching out something more specific, more understandable, more relatable to his chosen genre of horror-fiction. But at the moment, Jasper Clarke couldn’t find any greater horror than the one the country and the world faced at that moment.

If ever there was a Lovecraftian monster roaming the outer-edges of both imagination and reality, Clarke couldn’t find it, and yet he couldn’t tell from the majority of his Internet searches, whether the virus was as great or less a threat than being made out.

Abnormal, accursed, amorphous, antediluvian, blasphemous, cyclopean, daemonic, eldritch, fetid, gibbering, indescribable, iridescent, loathsome, squamous, unmentionable, unnameable, unutterable. This left Clarke more than worried, because here was a true monster that defied all description.

Not only was the threat otherworldly, in the form of unseen, but to the real world, his world, this could be a monster so great that it might never be able to put back in the shadows. Because of this, sleep refused to fill Clarke’s eyes or head as he sat at his desk into the darker hours of the early morning.

Questions abound: does hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin work? Certainly they can inhibit the ability of malaria to act, but malaria is a bacteria and not a virus.

But further more, can any component within the COVID-19 virus be effected by these two common drugs? There seemed to be nothing but opinion over opinion, those for nay, those for yay, on the subject.

Plus, he couldn’t help but recall how his father had suffered from malaria over the years. And even with this first hand knowledge, he couldn’t tell if he were on the right path to a good horror story.

Next was the use of ventilators. Should they be used in only the most dire of circumstance and could they be the cause of lung damage as witnessed in x-ray after x-ray?

And could the problem actually be not a lack of oxygen but an inability to transfer oxygen, because there was a difference.  But again, he was uncertain given the myriad of differing opinions he discovered.

He felt a chilled sweat coat his body as the idea, could this confusion of fact and opinion, be purposeful? He shuttered at the thought.

Then there were the numbers, numbers that failed to register to the level of pandemic, yet people were dying. This much Clarke knew and fully understood.

Further, Clarke could not get beyond the fact that he could see basic freedoms being shed and that with their shedding came a loss. But of what? Nefarious didn’t cover all of the bases in this situation, even for a seasoned horror-fiction writer.

Then he stumbled onto something called ‘Event 201,’ an exercise between the US and China, portrayed as a ‘doomsday scenario,’ with an ultimate outcome of “world wide vaccines and RFID chips.” This discovery tied into a real-life program called, ‘ID 2020,’ which has the same goal in mind, which Clarke read about earlier in the evening.

It was 3:13 am when Clarke decided to begin tapping at his keyboard:

“There are things outside the confines of my home, right outside this window,” Nate Olson wrote in his private journal, “Things seen and unseen and both as deadly to the body and soul as either.

Olson decided at that moment that he should remain hidden in his study, in his home, holed up, but prepared to repel and terminate any monster that came for him or his family. And if he couldn’t do that, he’d terminate his family.

“That is the fear of the thing,” he added, before turning off his desk lamp.

Jasper Clarke coughed hard, realizing he was too winded and exhausted to continue.

Fight or Flight

Shaving kit, check. Three pair of underwear, check. Three tee-shirts, check. Three pair of socks, check. One pair of pants, check.

All the bare essentials one needs for a two day trip home in a single bag. Check.

Seven that morning, check-in counter, 90-minutes before boarding: “I’m afraid there will be a fifty-dollar charge for your carry-on.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Sorry, sir, but that’s what it will cost for your carry-on bag.”

“No one told me it would cost anything extra for less than ten pounds of clothing and an effing shave kit!”

“Sorry, sir, but it’s company policy.”

Decisions.

Inside Time

The time continuum does not really exist, never has; it is simply a science-fiction writer’s construct. I learned this, this morning as I ran into myself coming out of a grocery store.

I looked at me with as much surprise as I did when I recognized that stupid look on my face, that one that is so familiar to me. We stood there, dumbfounded, lost in our surprises as other shoppers move by us in rapid succession without seeing either of us.

“How are you?” I finally asked.

“I…I…I’m…” I stuttered, learning that I was using my voice.

As I stepped back to allow me to exit the door way, I vanished, evaporating like a million-upon-million pixels into the wintry atmosphere. I never got the chance to answer me or ask me how I was doing.

From there, my entire day has been a series of a thousand micro-shifts and wavy distortions, much like heat coming off asphalt, and all of them in my mind. And now, this evening, as I lay in my bed, it comes to me that I might be singular to only me and how I am the one who vanished.

Perhaps I’ll still be here come morning, or maybe, I’ll be here when the sunrises.