Writing in a Time of Chaos

After my self-doubt post, I enrolled in a Coursera class focused on the craft of writing. I have to say, I’ve already seen a difference. It really makes me contemplate word choice to ensure the desired effect. For this week’s assignment I was tasked with writing a 500-600 word short story. As soon as I received the assignment, I knew exactly what I was going to write about; the topic currently dominating every single media outlet, COVID-19. Like most people, I’ve had some anxiety surrounding this pandemic and thought that maybe if I typed out a fictional story that had been ruminating in my head, it might help me cope with the real world. And guess what, it did! I’m not quite as anxious, and it was fun to write something completely different and focus on honing the recent skills I’ve learned. So, I thought this month I would change up my blog post format and share my story. Hope you enjoy! *Just a warning, if you are facing a lot of anxiety about the future, perhaps you shouldn’t read onward.*

I can remember my exact location when the news broke of the entire country’s shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. I was sipping on my jasmine mint tea at my kitchen table, scrolling through the news on my iPad after a long workday when, as I once again hit refresh, the newest headline blared:

“The President just tweeted that the entire U.S. is on lock-down effective immediately.”

I slammed my teacup on the table and gasped. That had to be a misprint. Or should I say, mistweet? The entire country couldn’t be on lock-down, right? There could at least have been some type of warning this was going to happen. My husband wasn’t even home from work yet!

The news headline didn’t change when I pressed refresh another time. I debated whether to begin reading the article. Was I really ready to digest how my life was about to completely change? Curiosity was too hard to overcome, and I succumbed to the temptation.

“After consulting with the President for clarification, the President explained, ‘As of 6:00 p.m. EDT all Americans must remain exactly where they are situated on March 16, 2020.'”

Wait, what!? How did anyone think this would work? And what did it mean by “remain exactly where they are situated?” Thirty minutes before “the headline,” I was commuting home on a train. What about everyone after me on said train? Did they have to sit on there until the end of time?

I snatched my phone out of my purse and clicked on the most recent phone contact, my husband. It rang once, and then I heard the most ominous sound or rather the lack thereof, silence. Not even a busy signal, or some automated voice calmly enunciating that all lines were busy. Nope, dead air, signaling I wasn’t able to speak to any other human life-form. I hung up and tried a second time.

“Come on, come on!” I shouted, as if that would help connect faster.

No such luck. This time there wasn’t even a single ring, just immediate disconnection. I tried my mother, but same situation. Exasperated, I threw down my phone on the kitchen table, grabbed my purse, and sprinted out the door to see if my neighbor, Jenna, was home to gather more intel. The moment I emerged on my front step, I felt a slight rumble under my sneakers, and then it became more pronounced along with a low roaring sound. A military tank appeared barreling down my suburban street. I blinked multiple times to assure myself I wasn’t dreaming. A soldier in full military garb, complete with a helmet, popped out of the top hatch of the tank, which had just slammed on its brakes in front of my humble home.

“Step back into the house!” he shouted through a fire-engine red bullhorn.

I remained rooted to the ground, my brain not yet able to comprehend the scene unfolding two feet in front of me.

“Don’t make me ask you again!” he screamed, pulling out a rifle.

I shrieked, spun around, and catapulted myself through my door, slamming it behind me. I leaned against the wooden door and slid to the ground, gasping for breath. I covered my face with my shaking hands. Was this how I was going to die? Not from the dreaded virus, but from the world coming undone?

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