The story takes place in a fictitious (or is it?) reality of Brno during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and follows a young student who’s making sense of what’s going on.
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Vaclav finished reading some articles on the Spanish flu. He wanted to find out more about the pandemic that killed so many people more than a hundred years ago. Vaclav was a reasonable young man. It was 6 April 2020. Covid-19 pandemic at its best.
“This is ridiculous,” Vaclav said to himself, “how could people believe that? We’ve come such a long way since then.”
Vaclav studied at the Faculty of Social Studies; however, due to the Coronavirus situation, he couldn’t attend classes. He spent most of his time in his room in a shared student apartment near Mendlovo Namesti keeping in touch almost only with his flatmates.
Sitting in his room, procrastinating, and still browsing the internet, Vaclav clicked on a new video by a popular Czech YouTuber with millions of subscribers.
“The virus is being spread by the 5G network. It’s so obvious,” the man in the YouTube video said, “I mean, look at the statistics. Do you know which country had the most infected people? In which country did the virus originate? That’s right, you got it. It’s China. And do you know which country has the world’s largest 5G network? You got it right, again. China.”
Vaclav scratched his head.
“That makes sense,” said Vaclav’s roommate Vladimir sitting on his bed.
“I guess it does. It’s the facts. Did you know that they actually launched the 5G network in Wuhan just before the pandemic?”
“Really? Where did you hear that?”
“I read it somewhere on the internet. We’re so lucky we have internet nowadays, aren’t we? You can check everything so quickly. I was just reading something about the Spanish Flu. Imagine living at that time not knowing what was happening. Everything controlled by propaganda.”
After a while, Vaclav left his room in search for food. Moving from one room to another was still allowed under the Czech emergency laws. Eating was allowed, as well. One of Vaclav’s flatmates, Jan, was sitting at the kitchen table working at his laptop. He was discussing his Master thesis with his supervisor over Skype.
“So you’re saying Ibuprofen makes it worse?” Jan asked.
“Actually Ibuprofen is fine.”
“Is paracetamol problematic now?”
“No, Paracetamol is fine.”
“Well,” the supervisor said, “Ibuprofen is not recommended.”
“So, it’s not recommended now?”
“By the way, you haven’t sent me your list of sources,” the supervisor said.
“Oh. I don’t have one. It’s all pretty clear to me, it’s logical and overall the thesis makes sense to me. Common sense.”
“Of course! You’re absolutely right. That’s definitely a feasible approach,” said the supervisor and smiled, “well I still think your thesis is going to be one of the best I’ve come across in a very long time. You should present it at the next conference.”
Vaclav realized he had nothing to eat in the fridge and decided to go to the supermarket. The supermarket stayed open. During certain hours of the day, the supermarkets were closed for all the people except the elderly. To keep people on their toes these hours changed regularly. Vaclav checked the time and put a jacket on.
“Hey Vaclav, put some vinegar on your face mask,” Vladimir said.
“Why?” asked Vaclav with his mask already on.
“I’ve just read somewhere, that the vinegar creates a sterile environment on the mask, therefore it’s even more efficient than the surgical masks.”
“Yeah, I read it online.”
“Cheers, man,” said Vaclav and sprinkled some vinegar on his mask.
In the evening, Vaclav and Jan were watching the news on TV.
“The source of the coronavirus Covid-19 finally revealed. The investigators came to the conclusion that the virus originated in an American laboratory in China and was financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with WHO. The virus was meant to be a weapon of biological warfare, however, it was later decided to release the virus for the sole purpose of making billions of dollars through the pharmaceutical conglomerates creating a vaccine for it.”
“See, I told you,” Vaclav said to Jan.
Next, there was a video from the press conference of the Czech Prime Minister.
“I am very pleased that we’re doing so well at the moment. I just came across this chart that basically tells us we’re doing a great, great job. We’re one of the best, maybe even the best in the world in response to the Covid-19. I understand that some of you are affected by the shutdown of businesses, but this is the only way. There’s no reason for me to resign. I won’t resign. The numbers tell us we did the best thing we could. We could’ve ended up like Italy. We saved thousands of dead people.”
“On a more positive note,” the newscaster continued, “because of the decreased human activity, a group of bears was found sleeping in Luzanky park after getting intoxicated by some wine, while on the other side of Brno, dolphins are coming back to the Brno Reservoir.”
The next day Vaclav was calling home talking to his mother.
“You should come home, Vaclav, you haven’t been home for a few weeks now.”
“I know, mom, I’m planning to come the next weekend.”
“Vaclav, I have to tell you something. My friend has a friend and her cousin’s mother’s former colleague works in a hospital. He told her all about what’s actually happening. He told her that young people are dying now and that they are not in the official numbers. The government is trying to hide these numbers. He said the bodies are being taken away in trucks and are cremated somewhere off-site. So it’s not just the old people who are at risk now.”
“Wow, I didn’t know, that’s serious.”
“Just make sure you eat a lot of garlic. That should prevent you from getting sick. And have a shot of Slivovitz in the morning, just in case.”
“Thanks, mom, but I think I already had the coronavirus in January anyway. I mean I had a temperature, dry cough, it must’ve been the coronavirus, what else?”
“Look at that,” Jan said and showed Vaclav his phone, “that’s a photo from Riegrovy Sady in Prague. Look at all those people hanging out in big groups. I can’t understand how people can be so stupid. Some of them are not even wearing face masks.”
“You’re right. They’re definitely not social distancing. Who posted it?”
“I don’t know, some guy, but that’s not important. This is the typical Prague mentality, you know. That wouldn’t happen in Brno. Have you seen any people hanging around in Luzanky, Tyrsuv sad, or even Jakubske namesti recently? Of course not. People from Brno aren’t stupid.”
“Stay home, stay safe.”
Vaclav went for a walk along the Svratka River the next day with the girl he was dating, Klara. These times were difficult for people dating and for lovers not living together. It was even more difficult for people who were cheating on their partners. These people were faced with a dilemma whether to continue seeing each other and risking contagion or to avoid social intercourse altogether.
“How long, do you think, until the state of emergency is lifted?” Vaclav asked.
“Hard to say, we don’t know what to expect…”
“I understand why we’re doing this, but it’s pissing me off. I want to touch you and be with you…”
“I know. Me too. But as a scientist, I know the risks.”
“Any progress on the vaccine?”
“Not really. There was some positive news coming from the scientific community abroad, and we were actually supposed to contribute with our research to the development of a vaccine, but they decided to halt the progress in the end.”
“They said it was unethical to create a compulsory vaccination and to inject people with microchips tracing their behavior and sending it to Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Perhaps this new idea we came up with could work. But it hasn’t been tested yet.”
“What is it?”
“As you know a disinfectant kills bacteria and virus on the surface in a matter of seconds. We would like to try and inject people with disinfectant.”
Vaclav was browsing through what was considered relevant and trustworthy media by various sources in the Czech Republic. The news sources included but were not limited to revealthetruth.org, thenationalnews.com, and useyourbrain.info.
“It’s all just a cover-up of a much larger issue – the immigration,” a newscaster was saying in one of the videos, “The illegal migrants are secretly coming to our country all the time. The whole pandemic is supposed to make us weak, so the whole society can get Islamicized. It’s face masks now, it’s going to be burkas before we know it.”
Vaclav clicked on the Breaking News headline. China factories producing toilet paper for the whole world are closing down due to the Covid-19.
“Wow,” Vaclav said, “I’m glad I bought so much toilet paper in advance.”
“Have you heard that the whole Brno is going to be quarantined soon? There’s a high volume of new cases, the government doesn’t want to risk anything,” said Vladimir.
“Yeah, I think I heard about that. No one gets in and out.”
Standing in front of the St. Anna Hospital in Brno, Andrea finished listening to the narrative. The date was 11 January 2055. Andrea spent half a day walking around Brno physically visiting the places that were in any way connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a new disease spreading fast and Andrea was doing her research comparing it with other historic pandemic events. She took her bone conduction headphones off and just stood amazed.
“How could people be so stupid?” she said out loud and watched the hot air from her mouth forming in the freezing cold, “This wouldn’t happen today. We’ve come such a long way since then.”