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[Fiction] The Plague Chronicles
A fictional account of life in the midst of collective madness (part 1)
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2009-11-09 09:49 (KST)   
This is a fictional short story.  <Editor's Note>
"Hell is other people"
Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher


Day One

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Today was the first official day of the vaccination campaign.

I stayed at home as it rained and had work to finish up. I decided to go to the local drugstore and get a face mask there. There were none left on the shelves.

On my street, there was garbage piled outside on the curb due to the public workers strike. It was a health hazard and could help the deadly unknown virus to spread my neighbor told me. The germs were invisible but the stench of the rubbish was very noticeable. While walking my dog in the local park, I saw a dead swan floating on the lake셲 surface. Maybe the creature died from bird flu?

A man my age wearing surgical gloves picked up his pet셲 droppings and with great precision dropped them into a plastic grocery bag as if he were handling samples of the Ebola virus.

After a quick lunch, I went with my wife, (who also decided to call in sick from work at the office) to the local half-dead mall. There was panic buying at the supermarket. The racks and stacks for hand wipes were empty. And there was no liquid antiseptic hand cleaner to be found.

In the local news, I read that a major drug company is making record profits from the sale of the government purchased vaccine. I went to the library and took out a copy of Albert Camus 쏷he Plague and 쏷he Journal of the Plague Years by Daniel Dafoe.

Today there셲 a massive vaccination campaign underway. The elderly first and schoolchildren and those 쐆ighly susceptible to this mysterious plague like disease. I just heard on the radio that the president has declared a state of emergency and that all schools, universities, concert halls, sport stadium, restaurant, clubs, bars are to close and public gatherings will be banned and shut down.

A massive vaccination center located in the old Olympic stadium opened today. The local authorities announced, the alert level for the deadly virus was raised from green to yellow. On the metro ride to my office, I noticed more people wearing face masks and some even hygienic gloves.

The health officials announced that some "high risk" individuals are to be isolated.

There have been 5,900 cases in the capital so far. As of tomorrow, the metro and buses are to increase sanitary standards. The subways are to be disinfected and sanitized as a public safety health measure.

Day Two

On the radio and television we have been told to wash our hands and use antiseptic gels, cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing using the arm not with the hand, and not use or share any eating utensils with others. The health ministry has ordered anyone who has a fever, respiratory problems to report to the local clinic or hospital immediately.

I walked back home alone in the nearly deserted street wearing my face mask. I had just dined with my sister who served buckwheat, chicken, beet soup and fruits. We discussed the possibility of martial law being invoked if this pandemic spreads further.

My sister셲 husband had just returned from Colombia. He works for a mining company down there. He never talks about his work, but I found out using electronic resources that his job involves assisting the local paramilitary forces in displacing forcibly villagers from their land. At dinner we talked about the municipal elections and how the mafia has infiltrated all levels of the city hall, by using extortion and coercion to get construction projects. We concluded that our city has become a cesspool of graft and corruption.

Day Three

Today the unknown virus has spread and some place military detachments have been mobilized to prevent people from spreading by traveling to non-contaminated zones.

I felt sick when I saw Halloween revelers dressed as zombies walking outside my house. "Sickness and death surrounds me," I thought.

There is panic and hysteria everywhere I went. Are we all going to die? Like dogs like, like sick infected sheep? Is there a cure for this virus which is spreading each day?

I drove downtown. In the city, there were malaria yellow ghost like people, seemingly sleepwalking like zombies.

Clowns and carnival like troubadours performed outside the city hall. There were black Mercedes cars parked in the parking lots with tinted windows. A guy who would fit into a set of the gagster movie in Chicago of the 1920s went into "staff only" entrance of the municipal building.

Day Four

Today is 쏷he Day of the Dead so I went to the cemetery to light a candle for my mother who died of influenza just after child birth and my grandparents who all reposed in the same plot.

Then I met my old friend, the art critic and reporter, Leo Rothstein outside an open air up-market shopping concourse. We became engaged in a heated discussion on the terrace of the coffee house.

I felt very hot as if with a fever in the unusually strong sun beaming down on us.

"People lead such fragmented lives," he told me. "Hannah Arendt was right. I fear that we are seeing technologies supplant face to face human interaction and an ugly form of authoritarianism is slowly creeping towards us all. Our democracies are rotten and this dictatorial fruit is ripe for the picking," Leo roared to the displeasure of those around us.

This was much too mild for this Fall month. I decided to have a smoke and lit my pipe when an old woman, got out of her seat and approached our table. She told me it was forbidden to smoke within three meters of a restaurant or cafe or take out counter.

"But we are outside," I protested.

"It doesn셳 matter," she replied curtly and threatened to alert the security guard standing in the middle of the food court.

"The rules must be respected," she said.

This woman was most likely part of the newly instated and indoctrinated "citizens brigades" I thought, whose job was essentially to render the existence of other people as miserable as possible. They were quite successful at it. I felt like an outlaw and put my pipe back in my satchel. Leo continued his monologue to the disgust and dismay of others around us.

"In addition to the loss of strong bonds among members of a society, many critics agree that the Internet will limit connections between central and peripheral actors in society," Leo continued.

I listened to him intently while watching the grey masses walk by with their mouths covered by surgical masks.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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