Read Part 1 HERE.
… Wherein we find ourselves at the very beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic …
Apart from a few highly qualified virologists I don’t think anyone really knew what was happening, or what to do. Most of those in authority seemed to be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, and/or trying to protect their arses at the same time.
Would this be the ‘armageddon’ event that so many people feared it would be and civilisation would degenerate into warring tribes, (not that we weren’t doing that anyway) bent on claiming the remaining resources for themselves? Truth was, no-one knew how bad it would get.
Across the world people started dying in the hundreds, then the thousands, then finally, horrifically, millions. Talks, (let alone taking any sort of action) between nations, about closing international borders started far too late to stem the tide.
As the days passed it seemed the only voice of reason we could find in a sea of inertia, arse-covering, and ineptitude, was Dr John Campbell. We watched his daily updates with a growing sense of dread.
I was (still am) immune-compromised, and Mrs Widds wasn’t (and still isn’t) a spring chicken, which made both of us prime candidates for this global killer to target.
We pulled our RV out of storage, de-winterised, and provisioned it so that if one of us caught the virus we would be able to isolate from each other. We were unclear how effective that might be, but at least we had a plan.
Even before borders, both international and domestic, finally, and with the speed of a snail on valium, began to close, it was obvious, at least to us, that any sort of long-distance travelling was completely out of the question. In fact we picked up our RV only days before travel in our entire province shut down.
Growing up in the country, albeit in different hemispheres of the globe, we both understood the value of a well-stocked larder in times of crisis. (we tended to have a fairly well-stocked larder at the best of times) And if those early months of the pandemic didn’t constitute a crisis, I don’t know what did.
Face masks were suddenly as rare as hen’s teeth and what stocks were available were slated for first responders, so we sewed our own.
Only ‘essential travel’ was allowed. After the Canadian/USA border closed, and with no-one having a clue about ‘essential services’ needing to include the trucking industry that kept every aspect of modern-day living running smoothly, things started to look dire indeed.
Where previously we’d topped up Mrs Widds baked goods supplies only when we were running low, we now doubled up. Two bags of flour at a time instead of one. Two boxes of baking soda instead of one. Never emptying a shelf though.
(And we certainly didn’t contribute to that ridiculous run on toilet paper in any way. I understood the reasoning behind it, the fears people had, supply-chain disruptions, etc, and most people didn’t buy more than they immediately needed. But seriously, those bastards who bought it by the truckload and profiteered off other people’s fears, and not just toilet paper … there are no words to describe how fucked-up that was)
Fresh fruits and vegetables soon joined the ‘hen’s teeth’ brigade, so we bought canned or frozen varieties.
Thankfully Mrs Widds was working in an essential industry at the time so we still had an income, unlike so many, many, people who lost everything.
I remember very clearly, developing this little twitch, where I would constantly run my thumb across the insides of my fingers. At first it was an involuntary thing, but even when I noticed what I was doing I couldn’t seem to stop. I don’t know if it made me feel any better, but it was an action that I could take, it was something I had control over, which was a far cry from the world around me.
Human beings showed their very best side, doing things for each other, reaching out, (as best as could be done from afar with masks and gloves) and sharing the burdens of ‘lockdowns’.
We all saw the news stories, and perhaps we were some of those doing the reaching out, sharing a friendly word over the back-fence with the neighbour we’d never talked to before. All of us have stories like that, and each one I read about or watched had me weeping with the true humanity of our species.
On the other hand, humans also showed their worst side. The me-first-and-screw-everyone-else brigade hoisted their colours from the nearest flagpole and posted their deeds of complete arse-holery on their social media blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
I was already aware of the growing divide between these two aspects of our humanity. The pandemic not only pulled back the drapes of civility behind which we hid our ravenous hungers but somehow was seen to be giving permission for some of us to exhibit our foulest natures.
Was this how we, homo sapiens – the current peak of evolution – had always behaved? Had society, civilisation, only coated us with a veneer of domesticity, so that all it took was a simple act of will, a choice, to crack it wide open and expose the festering wounds beneath?
I had no answers. (only opinions) None that would change anything. I stopped watching the news, barely glancing at the headlines before retreating to more sane pursuits …reading, sitting in our garden, drifting with the clouds …
… waiting, for … something …
Vaccine trials intensified and by the end of 2020 their results, in the form of mass-produced vaccines, began to trickle out into the most vulnerable communities. The conspiracy theorists put on their tin-foil hats and took to whatever social media platform that would give them their fifteen seconds of fame, (and there were so many platforms willing to do just that) to spew their idiocy to any audience they could find.
Sadly they always found an audience.
A simple internet search of those times will lay bare the hysteria exhibited by people from all walks of life, in all professions, from the very highest authorities, in quite a few lands, to the lowliest of the low.
The only thing that hadn’t irrevocably changed for any of us was the passage of Time, and eventually 2021 rolled around.
2021 – would we be able to get away this year?
Viruses, like all living organisms, including us, want to survive, to live, to thrive, and we do it with either our intellect or our biology.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, (aka Covid-19 – finally called thusly, to avoid offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities or stupid people wanting to be racist arseholes) was no different. Not having an intellect as we humans define such things, it used biology and mutated, again and again, until in May of 2021, the Delta variant reared its brutal head above the crowd.
Too few people had been vaccinated. Too many were resisting the simple ‘masks-and-social-distancing’ concepts that were either mandated or ‘highly recommended’, (depending on where one lived) to make much of a difference.
No, we wouldn’t be travelling anywhere in 2021.
With the beauty of 20/20 hindsight, had we braved the wildfires of the years before the pandemic and headed out anyway, our story would’ve been so much different. There were times in those early months of 2021 when, again as in 2020, no-one knew what was going to happen, we fervently wished we had. (hell, if the pandemic hadn’t happened in the first place, things would’ve been so much different)
In the midst of all this, quite frankly, terrifying new paradigm, and after feeling emotionally paralised for a year, I began to write.
I’d had a vague idea for a story rattling around in my brain, and computer, for a while but not enough to hang a whole novel on. I was in no particular writerly frame of mind either. I simply sat and read through my sparse notes one day, pictured the scene in my mind, and began to describe it.
Words flowed through me like the boundaries of my body were made of nothing more than the vaguest of tissue, porous enough to let the story, from where, I knew not, flow unheeded. A thousand words a day, (on my writing days – I still had the non-writing aspects of my life to attend to) became two thousand, and after a few weeks, evened out at three thousand words each day. They were good words too. About dragons, and living forever, and how a world wracked by, and recovering from, WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic, might respond to such wondrous things.
I wrote, edited, and published, The Last Dragon In London, in six-ish months. It was a glorious experience in the Time of The Plague. (as I called it on days when the never-ending, always-increasing, death-toll got me down)
By mid-Summer, the continuing threat to our water quality on Widder Island resulted in weekly water interruptions, as them’s wot knew wot needed to be done, purged the system of increasingly nasty bacteria. (we finally bit the bullet and bought our Berkey water filter, which paid for itself in a matter of weeks – In fact as I write this – August 2022 – it’s saving us a fortune in bottled water as the water here in our ‘home’, is too ‘hard’ to drink safely from the tap)
Mainstream politics, as reported by mainstream media, continued to fracture and polarise like nothing I’d ever seen before. Perhaps those who are a generation or two older than me could name what was happening, as could any student of history.
I discovered a brilliant series on YouTube called ‘Fall Of Civilisations’, which, apart from being highly informative and entertaining, reinforced my feeling that we humans have been stuck on this ‘rise and fall’, of civilisations since ‘civilisation’ began. And all we do is keep repeating the same cycle, over and over and over.
Yes, technology improves, and the overall quality of life takes an uptick each time around, but really, imagine all the resources, human and otherwise, that are completely and utterly wasted every, single, time. (perhaps this is why I’m fascinated by ‘alternate history’ SF – the ‘what if’, stories that start with a pivotal incident whose outcome is changed in this reality, and an alternate reality heads off in … who knows what sorts of directions)
The town of Lytton, only a hundred and eighty kilometers away from us, burned to the ground.