ISSUE 65

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 The Chuck and Chum Virus approaches. Like the rumor of an advancing zombie hoard, news creeps through work and school. It acquires names: The Sickness, The Crud, Obama’s Revenge. “Did you hear about Tim?” A coworker whispers, compulsively hand sanitizing her entire forearm. “He was taken.”
 Soon, newspaper headlines appear: “Freakish Foreign Flu Floods Hospital Emergency Rooms,” “Super Virus Paves Wide Swath Through Western States, Leaves Snotty Ruin In Its Wake,” and “THE SICKNESS IS HERE. GET OUT. GET OUT BEFORE YOU ARE INFECTED. NO TIME FOR THE CHILDREN.”
 You may view the sick in a long, winding line at the pharmacy, grasping limp Kleenex, squinting through bleary eyes, faces ready to sneeze in your coffee. They will come in pajamas, sweatpants, extra-large t-shirts, and slippers—a wardrobe some have described as a “visual monstrosity, like almost as bad as a Star Wars character.” You may even think this line is for chemotherapy patients or people slowly turning into frogs.
 Soon, friends, family, and coworkers will fall, turning into sniveling, listless monstrosities. It may be difficult to parse through what your loved one has become to what you remember. Is this a naked mole rat with a thyroid problem or Kendall, your loving partner of twenty years?
 They will survive—but not before turning a ghastly white and decomposing into an incapacitated, sniveling mess. Passerby could easily think, This person needs to be locked in a white room and kept there forever for the good of humanity. Considering the noises coming out of the bathroom at two o’clock in the morning, this might not be a bad idea.
 Fear will clamber through your psyche as you begin to realize this could happen to you. Unfortunately, adequate protection requires enough hand sanitizer and handwashing to turn your hands into a dry, scaly, bleeding mess, where Jesus Christ himself would look at them and think, Man, this guy has some serious problems.  
 As regards your personal relations, you have two options. Either you can excommunicate them, discarding such trivialities as “love,” “interpersonal connection,” or “keeping a friendship to use their Netflix account.” Or you can think seriously about quarantining yourself until spring.
 The latter will require a call to your boss to tell her you’re skipping work. Try rationalizing: You saw Joseph, right? You saw that horrific, slobbering man smearing his hands over every single door handle and light switch? Do you want more people like him?
 Or go the intimidating route. It’s best if your monologue devolves to this level quickly, ideally right after you make it clear who is calling. If you don’t allow me to stay home, I’ll do my work half-assed but not so much you can justify firing me. And then laugh like you could just be a sadist who holds their fart until they’re close to someone.
 Whatever you do, you will become ill regardless, as someone coughs directly in your face or mashes their grimy hands into your food when you aren’t looking. A tingle in the throat, your stomach telling you that you suck, or a general foreboding of doom—whatever it is, you know that tomorrow involves an intimate relationship with the toilet and an extended lesson on your gastrointestinal system.   
 Lying on your bed, a cool washcloth on your forehead, two thousand cough drops in a pile beside you, you’ll remember what it was like to be healthy, those naïve, idealistic days where you could go places without an industrial trash bag and were able to endure the painful, painful light of the sun.
 But now you are reduced to the level of Gollum, the ravaged, skulking creature in The Lord of the Rings. Food needs to be ground into a mush, your body temperature vacillates between cold and strip-off-the-blankets-it’s-an-effing-sauna-in-here, and your body’s main byproduct is a chunky green ooze.
 Soon, you find the door to your room is jammed shut. You shouted to your housemate, but he said he just finished Stranger Things and would only consider removing the padlock when the next season comes out. You are angry, but somehow—through the psychological murk and congealed sinuses—you also understand.  

          
There is a book.
It is cheap.
It is wonderful.
It is at The Trident Bookstore and on Amazon.
   
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