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Pandemic

2020 Pandemic Phillip Morris Prose

The Pit

Written by Phillip Morris

A mass of people wait in a concrete pit open to the wind and rain the dim sun promises to bring. 

Most of the people are black and brown, though there are a few that could pass if they didn’t speak with such a heavy accent. More languages are known between them than there are people in the pit, and yet those in the pit almost never speak to each other. They remain stuck in their spheres of solitude.

There is just enough room for everyone to sit down on the bare ground. Only the smallest among them can stretch out straight. The rest must curl-up on themselves in dirt that’s dark and muddy from still sticking human waste. 

A young mother, is given room to lay with her weakly crying child next to a teen, too skinny and dirty to betray their gender, who scratches another tick in the wall. 

It’s been 124 days by their count. 

Some people came earlier, others came later. A minority were counting the days even before arriving at the pit. Fewer still don’t bother counting at all because all that matters is that this is the end. 

Beyond the wall, the sound of a monstrous machine grows louder. It’s engine roars and echoes inside of the pit. It sounds like it has the power to break through the concrete wall, instead, it stops just beyond. 

From somewhere out of sight a guard and his dog appear on the wall. 

Covered head to toe in blood-red armor the guard patrols unarmed. It’s only ever a single guard per pit, and even that is just for show, there’s little that needs monitoring. It takes four people standing on each other’s shoulders to send a fifth over the top. It’s only ever tried once per pit. Then it becomes clear to everyone below that they’ll never be faster than the lid snapping closed. 

The guard doesn’t need a weapon because his dog is always at his side. As loyal as it is fierce, this dog is the greatest weapon ever made through selective breeding, cybernetics, and genetic engineering. So much so, that no one in the pit can recognize it as a dog. 

Their dogs played with their children and protected their homes. However, this thing on the wall must be kept far away from children and all things precious.

The guard and his dog patrol the perimeter of the concrete pit. Its walls are thick enough that he and the dog can walk comfortably side by side. 

While the man’s on the outer edge, looking beyond, the dog splits its attention between the guard and the people in the pit whose gaze it greets with a growl in the back of its throat, even as they do their best to keep to the side opposite the patrol. 

Someone slips in the filth as the crowd moves around the pit and the dog snaps to attack position, barking loudly with its teeth full bare. The guard stops to look on as the person scrambles back into the throng of pitiful people. The dog reverts back to its perpetual growl.

The guard stops near to where the engine beyond the pit has been idling loudly. A signal from the guard and the engine kicks into gear, this time accompanied by the sound of hydraulics raising something large. 

The dog is barking again. Its joined by another, and another, and another, until its a deafening, terrifying chorus that drowns out all else before a heavy slab of metal slams onto concrete, releasing cries and screams into the mix, and masking the sound of thunder from the clouds bursting above. 

Then there they are, the screaming crying people, standing in the rain on the edge of the pit. Throngs of people. Brown, black, and white people. Miserable people, getting wet like those in the pit. Stopped at the edge, too scared to go forward though there’s clearly nowhere else to go as the guards and dogs corral them in. 

Too well trained to ever break the rules, the dogs snap at the legs, fingers, and toes of those on the edge. Close enough that they can feel the heat of the dogs’ breath, but never enough to claim they’ve been bitten. 

Those at the very edge and close to falling turn around. They use their arms and their pleas to hold the rest back. But there’s too many and their numbers are growing. 

The weakest go over, tearing open the floodgates, so the rest fall, push, or are shoved into the pit. The first to land are crushed beneath those that follow. Their blood mixing with the mud.

Phillip Morris is a Californian living in Amsterdam. When he’s not writing dry instructions he’s writing colorful fiction.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Rate of Diminishing Returns

Written by Marianna Faynshteyn

Rate of diminishing returns
We’ve hit a wall: what worked for us isn’t working for us
A trend is sailing across the x-axis, on a relentless tide that won’t recede no matter how many moons
Label the y trouble, name the graph current state
Indirect relationship: profit margin and overhead, money and sympathy
Have your children
But what will your children have?
Desperate women carrying babies stand at the entryways of countries they can’t pronounce
While tired VPs carrying targets stand before rows of people whose gaze they can’t meet
The parents before us belabor the importance of the things that have become invisible to them
While the parents ahead of us labor the pain of the invisible things that have grown inside of them
What are your pain points your must haves
She points to her pain and doctor says you must have
Made this up, done this to yourself
Until he opens her up and sees scars that scrape from inside her, tissue too torn to piece together
Nothing is something until it is named and nothing is still nothing until it happens to men
We’re all so tired but we can’t sleep
I set my alarm, make myself promise to bypass the snooze
Meeting starts at 9 must make the minutes in the morning count
I hear The Second Coming as I close my eyes
“Things fall apart”
“Things fall apart”

Marianna was born in Ukraine, raised in New York and has lived in Amsterdam for 5 years. She likes sad music and has strong opinions.

2020 Art Contributing Creators Pandemic Photography

Disposable Gloves

Photos by Andrew Lawrence

In these days of pandemics, natural disasters, and stress, worry and fear about family, friends, and work, we all need a respite, a break. Something positive and uplifting – and quick – to take our mind off our problems – if only for a few moments. In today’s society, and especially in turbulent times, we need something to instantly make us feel better, naturally.

— Andrew Lawrence on the place for art in the pandemic.

Disposable Glove on the Ground
Disposable Glove in Space
Black Disposable Gloves

Andrew Lawrence is a Los Angeles photographic artist with 20 years experience in high-end fashion photography. In the fine art arena, he takes “normal” objects and turns them into colorful, often abstract photos. His recent work also includes a collection of pandemic art. You can find more of his work at www.andrewlawrence.pixels.com.

2020 Contributing Writers Creative Pieces Pandemic Prose

The Rabbit Hole

Written by Caroline Goldberg Igra

I grip the edges of the hole into which I was most brutally pitched weeks ago, and peer over the edge, squinting to block out the impossibly bright light of the sun. I struggle to adjust to what used to be normal and the blurry forms before me begin to take shape, surprising me with their familiarity. The world just outside is one that I recognize; indeed, it’s the very same one I left behind. Still, the idea of resuming the life I was living seems out of the question. How will I ever regain what I have lost? How can I possibly move forward, knowing what I have missed?

I duck my head back inside. It’s safe in here. I’m not sure I’m ready to venture outside. I wander through the chambers, the rooms of my home, finding comfort in what has become my new reality; each space assuming an altered significance, providing a newly-defined need. Fact is, I kind of like it here. What I was sure would be depressing, a mausoleum of lost opportunity, has become the opposite. My life in the deep belly of my home is more than a little wonderful.

I consider whether it’s really worth considering the leap beyond into the new unknown. Maybe it won’t be as terrific as everyone says, maybe it will disappoint by being the same as it’s always been. I need to figure that out. I crawl back up toward the light, plant both hands firmly, and lift my shoulders above the rim, this time taking more than a peek. Scanning the view before me, I find something new. There’s color everywhere. I hadn’t noticed that the first time, when I was still trying to adjust to the light, to focus. Yet now the spectacular rainbow of color–pinks, reds, purples, oranges, and yellows–is impossible to miss. Spring has come without any fanfare, insisting on its inevitability despite humanity’s forced absence. 

Down I go. I’m not ready. I don’t need all that color. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. In any case, I’ve managed to find my own glorious kind of color right here. My kingdom is bursting with multiplicity, shot through with brilliant points of light, heaving and breathing with discovery, exploration, connection, and self-realization. The feelings of isolation, abandonment, and mourning I’d expected when this whole journey began are nowhere to be found. In their stead is a wealth created from sheer willpower, the human need to thrive. My need to thrive. I’ve spent six weeks frolicking in worlds I’d never thought to explore, never taken the time to explore–expanding my mind, challenging my palette, breathing life into words I’d thought exhausted and reigniting connections long dormant. I’ve crossed more borders from within than I ever could have from without. This new world, one of my own design, beautifully competes with the one that is waiting just beyond, challenging its ability to make me smile and laugh; to make me want to get up in the morning. 

Again, I wonder if I’m better off staying put. It’s so hard to decide. I tap the font of renewed strength these last six weeks have provided and force myself to leave the comfort of my very own, now even more beloved, home, launching myself into the new unknown, the one everyone’s talking about, the one everyone has been waiting for. One hearty push and I’ve crossed the border that has protected me. I’m outside. The colors I spotted earlier rush at me from all sides, overwhelming me with their presence, insisting on being noticed. They’re inordinately enticing, so hard to resist. They welcome me back. “You made it!” And while, oh so tempting, exactly what I’d desperately craved when this all began, I hesitate. The magnetic pull of the richness I’ve left behind is too strong to ignore. I glance back over my shoulder at the place from which I’ve come. It’s equally appealing and holds a promise the outside world cannot provide. I turn my back on the beyond and jump back to safety. This rabbit hole is complex and twisted, flawed, and imperfect, but it’s eternally mine.

Caroline Goldberg Igra has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in international, academic art history journals, a book on the work of WWII artist J. D. Kirszenbaum (Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2013) and a novel, “Count to a Thousand,” (Mandolin Publishing, 2018). Caroline blogs for the Times of Israel.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Pandemic

Written by Ann McLean

The world as we knew it has come to an end,
The shelves are bare, no money to spend.
The markets are crashing, we are hoarding and stashing,
The airlines and cruise ships are taking a thrashing.
No handshakes, no hugs, wash your hands scrub your mugs.
No cuddling or kissing, no sharing your bugs.
Keep your distance don’t touch, just smile and stand back,
If you sniffle or sneeze you’ll cause a panic attack.
The virus is spreading all over the planet,
Science can’t stop it, slow it or can it.
Our leaders are stunned, they don’t know what to do
They thought it was just a new strain of the flu.
Trump gave the order, he’s closing the border
And Trudeau’s deflated, he’s now isolated.
Italy and Korea are locked down in fear,
China and Japan, are now in high gear.
Over in London, Boris is blundering,
How long can this last he is constantly wondering.
The media’s gone viral in a continuous spiral,
Reporting the numbers, their staff never slumbers.
The news is depressing, disturbing, distressing
When will it end, it leaves us all guessing.
How will history look back on this epic outbreak
Which shook the whole world like a massive earthquake.
Will we remember it casually, as the corona caper.
When our greatest concern was no more toilet paper.
An affluent society that has never known need
This pestilence will make us humble indeed.
We think only money, makes our world go around
This little bug has shown, he can shut it all down.
As always, our pride goes before a fall,
Our ego is big and our wisdom is small
If our world should return to it’s former normality
Will we remember the fragility of our own brief mortality
Pandemics bring change, may this be for the best.
Our human values are being put to the test.

Ann McLean is a painter and poet.