The sun shone brightly through the vertical blinds. Blue spacious empty sky peering through the abbreviated slats revealing an occasional wispy fallucca sailing past overhead. The small apartment seemed to be getting incrementally smaller with each passing day. Its occupant sitting upon the alternate of the two most favored seats in its central lounge. Two bedrooms next to a small bath to the north and a oversize kitchenette to the East by the entrance to the hall. An oboe filling the room with a high tone atmosphere many pay grades above its occupant. A hushed for of quiet accentuated by the hint of a restless wind being the only other occupant present in the room. Neuralgia of the limbs like a fire beneath an overfilled pot.
Severin was an overweight man. The less than proud possessor of a permanent pouch. Not one for diets and despite strict regimens of exercise in his middle adult years his middle persisted beyond all attempts to relinquish it. The few times that due to neglect of his health due to stress he had almost lost it he had plunged into inevitable sickness. One that over recent years had less and less amenable to the company of strangers. Perhaps it was his age to readily hanging out pressing against his belt. He had put on an extra inch or two in the first weeks of the quarantine. The apartment was too small to pace about and he had canceled his account with the cable media provider so there was not much to do beyond a daily routine of downloading old out of date movies from the upstairs party room’s Internet. Something provided as a mostly unused amenity of his building to snag new tenants on behalf of unit owners that otherwise might default on paying their monthly assessment.
His stultifying routine that with so many others might have been interdicted by the rote imbibing of alcohol in the form of cheap beer or wine was a non-starter. Perhaps an undiagnosed tendency towards A.D.S. kept him frenetically on his toes without any hope of soothing through common conventional forms of customary medication. Too much trouble with a sensitive nature easily put into imbalance by the different name brand concoctions of patent pharmaceuticals over the years turning off on anything beyond what was designated as organic or natural. The small phalanx of cans of cheap brew growing cold on the back bottom shelf of the fridge downed in direct accompaniment with a meal. Usually spaghetti. A ration of one can only no frequently than a can every other night. As of late that had accelerated to a can each night. The tension of this imposed solitude was getting to him.
A swarmy uppity pretentious female voice broke his attention from the pocketbook that he had balance just the right way to catch the optimal amount of illumination on the yellowish craft paper page. Something had happened to the radio in the last three decades. Where before most announcers stuck to simply naming the selections that played at length. This new breed of Feminist obsessed cultured want-a-be’s insisted on play like they were with the listener have a conversation inferring a generic level of probing familiarity. Essentially a mild mind fuck to convince you of some otherwise vacant endearing quality to stand in for the vapid lack of identity that probably had characterized their upbringing as petty make a difference Socialist educated Liberals. “Shut the fuck up!”, he would yell out spontaneously into outer space whenever he heard one of these maven’s plying her bilious presence as a palpable entity within the otherwise empty space of his vacant room.
His eye seemed to track over to the hall that was festooned with a small collection of framed photographs. Trophies of a sort that spoke towards his former efforts as a would be professional and equally to his lack of batting average in terms of romance. A ball, a bunt to first, and a line drive. Only one of them getting to first base. But in the end not scoring anything beyond a lifelong lasting pall of remorse. Some people were lucky in business, he was perpetually challenged in the realm of females. The all too trusting naivete of young adulthood converted over time into the chrome plate of apparent misogyny. Few if any ever saw him in the company of a female in the vicinity of his own abode. He was written off by the other tenants as a perpetual hermit.
It was nearly five-thirty and he rose up and cantered unsteadily towards the toilet. Standing over the bowl in the semi-darkness of the passing of afternoon like the Colossus of Rhodes he drained forth the remnants of his favorite beverage. If the human body was composed of seventy percent water, his had the tinge of coffee grounds. It might have been easily conjectured that one of his incrementally persistent ailments was due to this unchecked indulgence to this addiction. Prostate and other plumbing issues in a sorry state somewhat akin to that of his aging residence. The stand pipes handling the back end of things were equally a jumble. His daily regimen of a hearty two mile walk had been interrupted by the insistence of the state that any activity outside one’s residence be abrogated indefinitely. A hardship that was having some troubling effects on his system.
The one saving grace was the expansiveness of the buildings top seated lounge area. In better times it had been rented out for a pittance to building residents. Now it stood empty and mostly abandoned. It’s main virtue beyond a way to cheat paying a monthly fee was an expansive view of the city stretching from the far north west suburbs all the way over to the communities south of the city’s center on the lake. One could measure the locations of their former existences by the landmarks visible along the line of it’s 180 degree view. Severin had originally avoided the place for years never attending the two semi-annual celebrations that were held there in former years. Now he was a regular constant room ‘s the viewpoint of the room’s two security cameras. Staring away alternately at the laptop screen and the panoramic view outside curled over on a metal folding chair by an equally portable table. A captive of an equally apportioned display of society from both an interior and exterior framing. This state of limbo placing him in a form of suspended animation of sorts. Each day an enforced sojourn slowly rotting his carcass like raw meat left out static in equatorial Summer sun.
Severin didn’t believe it. Didn’t believe anymore. Two plus months of a more refined sense of inaction beyond what had sequestered his existence from five years past seemed a grand irony solving the philosophical puzzle in some respects as to who was really in charge of the universe. How could it be that instead of just him being brought low at the approach of existence’s end could one have been joined by the rest of earthly humanity? Or, based upon the incessant reports of the details of the epidemic as well as all associated actions, could it be that this whole situation was a scurrilous misrepresentation? A gambit by the mask of the state playing their hand of a follow through of the abolition of individual freedom by the snare of a crafty Socialist minded ploy leading to a singular universal planetary empire under the jurisdiction of finance? Severin checked his thought. “Too wordy!“, he thought. To clip all its flourish, it was the final move, winner take all, of a Globalist plot.
If there was a virus at all, it had not been proven beyond a high degree of ant like bureaucratic orchestration of manpower and resources. The past two decades had revealed the pattern of conducting exercises that on special occasionally required the sacrifice of human life. Their absolute total control of all broadcast airwaves assured them that they had complete control of the daily narrative. The high production values of their longstanding entertainment offshoot, Hollywood, allowed them to produce any sort of sumulation that would obtain the necessary suspention of disbelief necessary to convince an ever gullible public. Years of indoctrination versus education in the school system of the land had provided fertile minds ready for the planting seeds of any form of the latest deception. If it came from a screen versus word of mouth, the former was the one unhesitatingly embraced as absolute truth. The virus was not a microns long hidden menace threatening human existence. That was the demonstrated intent of hegemonic cabal who thought only of the enfranchisement of their plan to create that long dreamt of state of having total domination over every inch of the entire globe. The many examples of a less than accidental thematic predictive programming, long recognized as more propaganda than flight of fantasy escape, now a another tell confirming the nature of the sort of promised land where they intended to lead the rest of the scrupulously mentally indentured flock of guileless humanity.
“Fuck all those goddamn dirty bastard motherfuckers!”, his lips spat forth in a spontaneous terrets like fury. A Bach quartet was now playing in measured counterpoint oblivious to the violence of his sentiments. The humanistic illusion of of an inviolable universal order as ministered by a eighteenth century version of the music of the spheres. The music lurching to an end handing over to the recitation by the announcer chanting a pest control’s PSA. “Pests?“, he thought, “Insects!” “Wasn’t that what this whole situation boiled down to?” He was considered a form of vermin by his betters. One that had to be controlled through a measured form of organized elimination. Their exalted species of man overturning his kind by way of one’s own folly as motivated by the instilling of unreasonable fears. Self-destruction by was of one’s own mental incompetence to factor the situation for what it proved to be, an overreach. To some opinions, out of their own exasperation of every methodology of physical violence over history gone awry.
The only solution left being total annihilation of the zoological bred portion of biped in favor of one that they had sired through intensive selective breeding. A variety of entity safely constituted to remain servile and responsive to its masters whim. One that would hold no lasting grudge when by that same whim some of its kind might be suddenly terminated as a matter of expedience by its betters. The tried and true but clumsy alternative of war and its resultant byproduct of physical destruction not made obsolete. Where did this penchant for wordiness come from he wondered. The fact that his transmutation of thought to language had too much art and too much dogma wondered about his own control over his persistent form of social insanity. Why was it so hard for him to submit to a mindset that most others routinely adapted safely restricting their exterior utterances to the weather, sports and their kids? The answer at this late date was obvious! He had never really been capable of falling in love with a woman.
He was the irritating sort of male that in early adulthood had much preferred the Pygmalion attitude to worship from afar using the stair step of soft porn directed fantasies to moderate his expectations rather than take directly in hand the back and forth of the eternal chase. When his expectations would wane he might often fold his tent and move on back into the desert for the solace of solitude and a recharge of his fantasies. Having experienced some unexpected roadblocks along the way turning the tables on this sense of escape he became drawn into having to confront personalities equally as demanding as his own. The experience culminating in a marriage that petered away into insignificance as far as any shared emotions were concerned. From that point forward, his appreciation of females and their womanly wiles had taken on a cynical tone. The need for physical intimacy becoming bankrupted by a stony indifference to any invitation offering a lasting connection. His universe from that point on was populated at best with friends and acquaintances, and not lovers.
But then, what did any of that have to do with the current indefinite sense of crisis that had now become the guiding force contaminating people’s lives in general? The building he lived in, though it contained over a hundred residents was the type in which it was hard to detect the fact of their existence. Even in normal times, he had made no effort to know his neighbors. Even if in some fundamental brainless way they manifested irritating behaviors that were next to impossible to ignore. Loud music, dope smoke, the usual annoying refuges of the young and care less. There were exceptions of course. A few building legacies from generations past his own that still lingered about the lobby by the mailboxes. Or taking a daily stroll with their walkers through the party room’s lounge eager to start up a conversation out of a lack of regular human contact. One had just been claimed the previous weekend by symptoms as of yet to be determined. There was always the happenstance of new faces occasionally to be found in the building’s elevator. A virtual Ellis island revealing that the cheap rent charged for legacy units that had been ceded to family members after death were quickly occupied by a diverse crowd from all corners of the earth.
The observance of the quarantine in his building was equally haphazard. Some wore masks and gloves as the CDC had finally succumbed to admit after spreading confusion for the first three months of the outgrowth of the crisis. But many did not. Those who while maintaining a casual sense of social distancing had their hands over everything slumping about against the railings of the cabin as if completely unaware of the daily strident invocations coming from every sort of social media platform. Maybe it was that age old defiance for convention that one’s transition between adolescence to adulthood demanded? Maybe it was just simple stupidity cultivated from being warehoused by public institutions all their lives instead of being taught how to reason? The penned up emotion that one felt in these short vertical travels seemed to make one want to explode in the same way that trying to hold your breath behind your mask would after the slow travel past the ninth floor. If leprosy elicited a common response of both horror and disgust then these sorts had no hope of making friends anytime soon. Most times however the elevators afforded one the relief of no companionship. Severin could tap the eraser of his disposable pencil on the floor button with a measure of assurance that fate in the form of some ignoramus Typhoid Mary had his number.
A strange sense of weekly communion with some former friends and remaining family had as of late slowly been rekindled. Age and the onset of expected disease had whittled down the family to three cousins, two of them warring siblings. One living in a condition of near infirmity with his wife in a modest city suburb. One of the other youngest of his cousins, now retired with his wife, in an older section of the city on the fringe of a ghetto. The third a recluse by the airport in what was originally his families’ former residence. The latter now transposed to a nursing home with a terminal lung condition. The fact of his long odds of survival complicated by the insidiousness of this devastating pandemic. While the younger cousin was only an occasional caller, the fact of his brother’s circumstances made Severin confident that at some point sooner than later that he would receive a call announcing the older brother’s passing. The demise of their collective past coming ever closer. Severin’s step daughter with whom he had suffered a break some years back over their respective views on politics had begun an infrequent dialogue once again on the Internet. A very verbose highly intellectual presence who’s offerings sometimes seemed mini volumes almost impossible to keep up with in terms of sheer length. The responses of her surrogate sire being conversely extremely curt and somewhat teasing in offering trite analogies to counter the seriousness of the often formal tone between them. Still the bond of years seemed to rule out the possibility of a final separation.
The isolation that had descended upon all was wearing thin. Though Severin refused to surrender to sleeping during the day he would catch himself falling into occasional narcoleptic moments. His head sinking down on his chest and then an instant later pitching upwards as if he was catching himself in the midst of a fall. His physical inactivity broken up by short walks around the building looked forward to but answered in mid stride with the realization that there was nowhere really to go but walk up and down the empty streets. The ‘C’ word was not an anathema and his appetite for daily news updates had been deferred to text based articles forgoing all the regular media’s click baiting. Time was lost in this way and when he tried to analyze what had happened in the course of a day while waiting for rest at night it was impossible to make a realistic activity of his actions. For a person despite having an outward appearance of someone ever at risk of being classed as a veteran couch potato, this unexpected sojourn was Hell. The short abbreviated excursions were an much atrophied form of the several miles plus of sidewalk he was otherwise used to. Those weekly trips into the city to make the rounds of cafes and art museums now beyond reach a mental degradation was having its effect. How long was indefinite, he thought. Not one to ever lose control he wondered when a distinct personality change would occur? Was the world he once considered part of what so recently a normal life now just a passing recollection?
Severin had been guilty of a number so significant mood swings over the decades. Some of which that had brought him to the brink of self-destruction. His upbringing had been what might have been characterized as normal beyond the fact that his father had been away on business for significant amounts of time up to the end of his adolescence. No great traumas beyond that solitary sense of loneliness felt particularly by only children when they are moved about to new neighborhoods abruptly. Severin had experienced three such major moves in his early life running the usual gauntlet of ceremonial abusive being the new kid on the block. The resultant effect being someone that tended to strategically recede in the face of a threat to a point where if the assault continued a counter attack was made. This awkwardness resigning him to the dirty dozen brigade of hopeless candidates of his high school designated most likely not to succeed. To say that anyone sidelined through no fault of their own might hold some degree of repressed anger was not a stretch of the imagination. Generally those sorts of things worked themselves out into one of two categories. Severin outwardly tended towards someone that played the victim or at least held an inordinate amount of sympathy for the same. But in some ways an alter ego held a deep seated wish to enable some form of ritual vengeance. If not on others then one that was directed upon himself.
Violence in all its many forms had since early adolescence had become a major interest in terms of constant study. Certainly the popular media of time in terms of both cinema and television provided endless grist to be milled.The figures from polyethylene play sets of his childhood recounting stormy historical sagas of wars dating from the ancient Romans, American Civil War and all the way through envisioning conflict with here to fore undiscovered alien presences. The impression of a common theme of anti-hero beyond help from an indifferent society a consistent thread in the underlying psychology molding young male minds of that time. A another factor was the probability that those more susceptible to that sort of indoctrination invariably had no place in the pantheon for anything female. Maybe that boiled down more accurately to a permanent sense of unease. His own mother was a model of the ideal of both motherhood and career independence. Always there when she was needed but living a life of her own in the practice of the arts. The female peers of his own generation always at a distance from the strange little interloper from out of town. He put off equally by their forwardness as much as their elusive distance from him. It was ever always most confusing!
The sentence of universal self-confinement was beginning to seem as much a dream as the loss of what had been once been considered reality. The space lived in not unlike that point in the evening when viewers had to endure a solid block of commercials between the end of one program an the beginning of the next. The more committed cadre of seasoned watchers completely familiar with the thematic formats and contexts of action particular to each presentation. The current situation was more like the beginning of a new season of viewing when the first episodes of each were anybody’s guess. The expectation of seeing a corollary of what had once come before in past seasons not necessarily guaranteeing that the show coming up next would relate or even be good! A common sense of mounting angst seemed to be leveraging its way into all general conversations. The apartment was now taking on an abandoned quality significant of mounting despair. Severin had known a similar empty impression during the week just after his mother had past away at the hospital. The topic of intensive care and ventilators was on his shit list and had been since that time.
He had some time back made a promise that his connection with anything medical had come to an end. Any subsequent malady that he could not address that might have its way with him would not occasion a call for outside help. The current situation now seemed to redouble that resolution. If ever there was any need to add proof to the impression that the world had not substantially changed since childhood the fact of its consistently increasing indifferent forms of lethality proved it. With too much time on his hands he delved more and more into the plethora of articles about the virus. Doubts were being thrown about concerning its actual effect and the issue of its source was having a geopolitical context that for someone that had lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early sixties smelled of the onset of a probable coming world conflict. The incessant media bombardment to those following along the current all consuming virus narrative, all of which having become unintended players in the drama, including of course just about everyone on the planet, the notion that the virus was the worst of their worries seemed completely out of consideration. Severin on the other hand saw it as a thinly veiled diversion.
The mafia had an old trick of lending out money to smaller merchants then taking their establishments over when they defaulted making the poor unfortunate debtor the front of a well practiced scheme of running up tabs from every available outside vendor and finally burning the premises down. The only difference between this unprecedented event and the nature of these much smaller scale techniques was the number of zero’s on the amounts involved and the arson contemplated coming in the form of a global military clash that would leave all societies in shambles. It wasn’t a shock. It was the kind of assumption that could be so easily lost amidst the large file under the heading of uninformed conspiracy theories. It seemed amazing to Severin that the general population of the country as he knew from several decades before had sired offspring that were so amenably indifferent to recognizing the truth of potentially dangerous circumstances to their lives and tossing them off as inconsequential to their future existence as if the recitation of a critical political crisis was simply another Netflix docudrama episode that they could be assured that would evaporate after the final credits. So many years of intensive techniques of casual indoctrination by the the various types of media had done their work too well!
Certainly in the corollary of the various repetitive scripted themes that the media of his day had implanted in his thinking it was obvious that there was absolutely nothing could do or say that would change these events if indeed they were in play. Yet the impression that as being the sole owner of his own experience of life he was somehow part of the process of bending the rules. How many times had his life seemed like some fantastic game of continual coincidences that made him wonder if there was another level unseen by him where undisclosed players were prompting him to make decisions as if he was a set piece on a game playing board? In the world that had displaced his own sense of self with movie avatars a sense of indecision reigned. It was not as if he was fully taken by his own momentary sense of discovery. He had been working his way towards vindicating his conclusions all along. Yet what sort of action could he take that showed complete conviction in this actual sense of definite reality? Load up his sedan with food and clothes along with a few personal possessions and head out to some sparsely populated region? What impact could a city born and raised neophyte have in the midst of what would be for him table raza in terms of possible survival?
The adage of actions speak louder than words did not seem to cover the vagaries of the effects of shock on a mass population in a continuous state of stunned mass compliance. What would happen he wondered when from scarcity and hunger they might suddenly wake up? Mass SHF panic? Outbreaks of civil violence? Severin had heard many stories about exercises that certain special branches of the military had held with foreign military forces. The agreements that the former chief executive had signed without the need for Congressional approval that would allow these troops on U.S. soil without prompting by officials. A massive conspiracy by officials burrowed in at all levels of government both state and federal. The mother’s milk of what had been termed for so long the baby bottle of conspiracy theories. The trouble being that many of these pronouncements were historically recorded as present or past events on the official record. The Lockstep had begun to the Globalist Utopia just as predicted by their Georgia monument. But of course, all this didn’t make any sense! Just a case of Hollywood induced flight of fancy psychosis/ That was except for one thing. The cards of how society was being guided were being furiously reshuffled. Inconceivable levels of wealth in the form of liens on credit based upon future labor were being expended. The system as people knew it had been undeniably wrecked and most people had been set up in a scenario where they had few option to expect the necessities of life would continue if they did not go along with those taking control. The lack of trust that over the years that had crystallized within like lime clogging someone’s plumbing pipes was now in some strange way vindicated. What really had changed since the time of the ancients as he had perceived in his own daily play in childhood? Had he been somewhere in the vicinity of thirty, give or take, then . . . Then what?
Several days of the same utter nonsense of empty space efforts to mark time with useless activity attempting to fill what was otherwise once a life was wearing him thinner. Hollywood dramas and his collection of unread novels seemed to irritate more than soothe. It was increasingly clear that the old work, much of which that had contained his decades of existence was dead. His status as a citizen had been eliminated and he was left with the dilemma of whether he would have to remaster his own personality to favor his survival by a whole new set of rules. This new world was going to have to involved a studied form of craftiness that most likely would break all the former rules of what was once considered decent. The notion of decent was no longer going to get anyone anywhere it seemed in the scheme of a totalitarian world empire. Ruthlessness and actions without remorse were going to have to replace any respect for one’s fellow man. The unleashing of that deeper darker part of his personality made him shiver. He had always felt himself a person that had some moral boundaries. Certainly not killing anyone was one of the cardinal taboos. But now the cards as read inferred that society as a whole was going to go to the dogs as many upstairs had mandated. All it would take would be a week or two of empty grocery stores and the looting and burning’s would begin. The law of the jungle would descend and everyone would be fair game. If it came down to someone breaking in and assaulting him, for any reason, worrying about the application of deadly force would be an afterthought. The whole situation mad him seethe with anger at those that thought themselves so clever to set these forces loose.
The idea of the means of self protection was not a foreign topic to Severin. He had grown up in a time in history after the second most major war had almost mandated that one’s offspring would be introduced to firearms as a normal part of one’s upbringing. The fact that Hollywood and television of the time always displayed a penchant to exploit such practices, mostly to their detriment, eventually grew in a proportion to where their was a sense of stigma along with an inordinate amount of baggage for the desire to have at least one handy. The explosion of sales of such weapons had been ramped up by each successive initiatives in this last decade to force the issue of their expulsion from society as a necessary legal means of self-protection should the need unexpectedly arise. It was obvious now that it was only a matter of time till the reapplication of state control over the coming predictable chaos would criminalize anyone still in active possession of same. Another inevitable conflict that in the world before was always lurking in the fishbowl of one’s unconsciousness. Now it seemed a question of devising a strategy of second guessing timing and and implementing artful craft to guide one’s own response out of the realm of fatal.
Yet a more important matter of the issue of shaking the complacency that the old work had instilled that in so many ways had displaced the virtues of youthfulness. He felt in some ways like the stub of an old pencil at this point in his like. The intellect had to be resharpened and focused at the task at hand in terms of continued survival. He had no friends commanding influence, and at this point with this unprecedented situation, who did? The former convenience of the notion of friendship had been wrecked in only a matter of weeks where now the first impulse of people was to pull away from anyone beyond near family to recede to a safe distance. Friendship would atrophy fast falling into two categories both equally dangerous. Those that would pretend based upon a sense of desperation to achieve their needs by an artificial theatrical performance our of expedience. And the other smaller group of those that out an matching sense of desperation would cling to what once was without taking account the seismic shift in the nature of society. Mistakes would be made by this group that could bring down one’s existence through a lack of awareness of the new misapplication of authority. Or a lack of loyalty to the actions that might be taken on one’s own behalf. There was nothing that could be done at this point to change that! Though Severin had always been tagged as a loner, it was promising to be a very lonely existence from this point onward!
The persistence of the past nagged him. Whenever distracted by the mundane it was hard to imagine that the whole world had been brought to a total standstill. That his own community was at the mercy of petty bureaucrats that had little useful knowledge to balance against their own political animal instincts that anyone with common sense in terms of human nature could be assured that was being actively played upon by those anonymous people upstairs. He could imagine that those in the third class lounge of the Titanic might have persisted in believing that the crew was busily performing necessary tasks to increase the overall chances of survival. Yet, also ordering round after round on the house as the forward compartment flooding tilted the ship inevitably at a sharper and sharper angle. The futility of going up on deck convincing some to suppress their instinct for survival at any cost by dousing these flames through more drink in one hand and the other hanging from a support! By this point in time it was obvious. He was going up on deck and over the railing for a swim. Severin looked down at his paunch and noticed that it had shrunk down like a week old helium filled balloon. A new life was beginning to sprout forth inside. The old needed to be forgotten and the new confronted. Who cared about the future? It was only the singular instant of the present that counted from this point onward.