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2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Fogland

Written by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond

The day after the fog settled on the world, it seemed it had never been any other way. The sun became a memory, diffused in haze. The fog hugged the earth, or floated high above, out of reach, but always there. Jets could not fly above it, and we did not have the will to leave the atmosphere.

Satellites returned images of the blanket over the globe. ‘Gray soup’ one talking head declared it. Colorless, odorless, and tasteless, the fog cast a pall over everything bright and cheerful. Folks didn’t have the energy to be depressed about it after a while. It defied explanation and wouldn’t lift. Neither science nor religion could shift it. That was years ago.

Explanations abounded, but answers remained absent. ‘A post-pandemic deliverance from light,’ whispered in hushed tones we heard everywhere people gathered seeking an explanation. 

***

Deidre headed south from Ireland and Gerald headed north from South Africa both seeking the sun. They converged in Marseilles, elbowing each other, attempting to see a witless speaker at the port. It ended abruptly, when a woman used her broom to shove the man into the bay. Those gathered didn’t laugh, nor even react.

As people dispersed, Deirdre offered the hungry looking black man she elbowed a coffee and croissant. 

“I’d love a bouillabaisse,” he answered.

“So would I, but it’s a bit early in the day for that, mate,” she responded.

“How can you tell?”

Deirdre watched the woman that had brushed the guy off his soap box . She returned to sweeping the floor at her cafe. She was muttering curses to herself, Deirdre suspected, as she popped her ‘P’s. “I go by looking at the restaurants around here. C’mon, there’s a boulangerie up the street.”

He followed her like a lost puppy, and in a way he was. He was just off the boat from Africa. “Your English is good,” Gerald noted, sparking up the conversation as they walked in silence.

Deirdre smiled, “I’m not French. I came from Ireland.”

“Looking for the sun?” he asked. It was a common question.

“Thought I might find it nearer  the equator, maybe in the Sahara where it’s hot.”

“Sorry to disappoint. I just came from there. More gray soup. Save your time and money.”

Her look of despair was plain. The grass was no longer greener, only a uniform brown everywhere, or gray rather. Even colors were bleaching as people entered monochrome. Fishing around for something to say, she offered, “I’m Deirdre, you?”

“Gerald, just Gerald, no Gerry.”

“Right then, Gerald. Here we are. How do you take it?”

“How do I take what? The weather? This fog?”

“Nay, your coffee, ya dosser.”

“Black like me.”

“You’re a cheeky bugger!”

Gerald smiled; his first time in Europe. He rethought her command of the language with all her slang. They were two folks cast adrift. Both seeking the sun, both disappointed. Meeting at the edge between two continents. As they sat with their coffee and croissants, they both wondered which way to go next.

“It’s a zombie apocalypse,” Gerald said, glancing around at all the blank faces slurping and munching. Even those in conversation seemed to murmur conspiratorially and shift their gaze when the foreigners looked back at them.

“Effects of the after party.”

He looked at her funny.

“The pandemic, the dumbing down. You know, this fog has seeped inside us. It swamped us. A brain fog inside and out.”

He nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Deirdre,” she answered, flipping her hair like she used to when she was a teen. She didn’t mean to flirt, maybe it was an act of despair. “So where to?”

“Find a hotel, check-in…”

“No, I mean, long term,” she said blushing, thinking he had ulterior motives.

“What do you say? We go East? Maybe out to the islands?”

“Together?”

“We are looking for the same thing. Sunshine. Why not?”

Her mind was going several places at once. He watched the play of thoughts roving over her face. “I dunno. I’m a loner.”

“Me too. Loners together alone.” His white teeth gleamed as he smiled. “Maybe save some cash. Two alone is cheaper than one.”

Deirdre looked out the window, thinking. A ray of sunlight burst through the fog. She pointed, and soon everyone else pointed at it. They pushed and shoved, getting out the door to track it across the sky. People raced after it, their faces staring upward, hoping to catch some on their faces.

Gerald and Deirdre ran down to the port. People were shouting and pointing. It wasn’t much. A strip of sunlight drifting west to east. Cars crashed into each other, trying to catch up to it as it moved across the field of fog. A cacophony of horns and raised voices. Old folks grabbed their chests, gasping, falling to their knees. Kids danced joyously. Then it was gone.

The pall of fog fell back across the city. Cars stopped, people froze. They willed the rays of sunlight back. Prayed for it. It was a tease, a broken promise. All the while, a news bulletin blared out into the street from TVs talking about the freak incident. The sunlight started in France, crossed the border into Italy, then vanished. 

“The sun moved the wrong way,” a mother uttered in French.

“No, no, always west to east.” 

This led to arguments and yelling while Deirdre and Gerald watched, amused. Their hearts sank, feeling the loss of the sun once more. Not willing to fight over it like the others.

Gerald turned to Deirdre, “It’s a sign. We go East.”

“East might be okay. The sun rises there, right? It may rise for us.”

“I like the ‘us’ part.”

“I do too,” Deirdre answered, and flipped her hair, feeling girlish.

END 


Dr. Raymond is an Emergency Physician. He practiced in eight countries in four languages. When not writing, he is scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea.

2020 Pandemic Phillip Morris Prose

The Autopsy of Donald J. Trump

Written by Phillip Morris

After years of the media rarely mentioning his name, the 45th President of the United States was once again in global headlines, “Donald Trump Dead!” 

Trump was found dead in his cell while awaiting trial in New York. No official cause of death was given in the early articles, but reports of a bluish hue to his body suggested asphyxiation. Video surveillance of the hall outside his cell only showed guard patrols in the time between when his dinner tray was retrieved and when his body was found at breakfast. 

The Trump Re-election Campaign Committee called for an investigation into the prison kitchen staff. 

“Everyone knows kitchens are filled with Mexicans and radical-left Democrats,” Donald Trump Jr. said from the campaign’s headquarters in Costa Rica. He went on to spread suspicion among everyone with access to the former President, including the medical staff that attended to him during his bout of stomach flu and weeks earlier, and several Democratic members of Congress that never interacted with the President.

“Did they poison him?” Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani asked from his own cell in the prison’s psychiatric ward. “Did they hide needles in his diapers? I don’t know. You don’t know. There are a lot of questions about emails.”

Prison and DOJ officials were quick to rebuke claims of foul play and urged the nation to remain calm. They promised a quick and thorough investigation into the cause of death expressing confidence that if it wasn’t natural: “Then he did it to himself.”

Photos of Trump’s corpse spread like California wildfire online. His supporters scrutinized every pixel so even the most mundane details were woven into keystones of grand conspiracies. One theory that rose to prominence early was that he had been poisoned during a court appearance weeks earlier, but that his body was so strong that his only symptom was a lack of bladder control. Despite video footage from outside of the cell showing otherwise, the theory concluded with the assertion that a Soros backed assassin was hired to finish the job by strangling him..  

Trump’s opponents amused themselves by parodying the memes his supporters produced as evidence for their theories. A comparison of Trump’s trademark orange tan juxtaposed with his post-mortem blue was re-imagined as an action movie poster that was shared over one million times. 

The Trump autopsy was completed in less than a week. In a muted press conference it was announced that Trump’s official cause of death was a fungal infection that had gone unnoticed in earlier exams. The medical team that performed the autopsy quickly left the stage without taking any questions after stating the body would be cremated as a precaution. 

The mundane explanation did little to stifle the public’s curiosity. Just a few hours after the press conference an anonymous post appeared online claiming to be from someone who worked with the county coroner. 

“It was aliens that killed him,” the poster claimed. “I saw the body. They were crawling out of him. He was on his stomach so his butt was in the air and these yellow tendrils were coming out of his anus and moving in the air like vines looking for a hold. I didn’t see what they did to the body but they kept calling in more and more experts to examine it.”

What should have been dismissed as the ravings of an internet troll got picked up by the mainstream media and amplified. Leading another anonymous individual to publish an article in the New York Times that offered further details on Trump’s bodily invader. The Times verified the author was an investigator involved with the Mueller Report. 

As the author saw it, if Mueller’s focus was less narrow and his approach less conservative Trump’s infection could have been discovered years earlier. Misconduct by Trump from before the start of the campaign was all but ignored unless it was directly relevant to later criminal actions, which caused a lot of now pertinent details to be overlooked. 

An extensive investigation into Trump’s trips to Russia was whittled down to bare bones in the final report because failed business deals and evenings with sex workers were not considered relevant without explicit evidence that Russia was using them to blackmail him. 

“We couldn’t verify the existence of The Pee-Pee Tape, so we had to proceed as if it didn’t exist. However, we all believed its existence was likely, and we were certain the acts rumored to have happened, actually happened.”

According to the article’s author, that certainty came from the story of a housekeeper who worked at the hotel Trump stayed at in Moscow. She was not a witness to the events of Trump’s romp with the sex workers but she did clean up the aftermath. 

Initially the suite seemed to be in the standard state of disarray for travelling businessmen. The bedding needed to be laundered, there were roomservice hamburgers to be tossed, and left over drugs to be resold. What stood out as unique was that the chaise lounge was “absolutely drenched in piss.”

The housekeeper recommended the chair be sent for a professional cleaning, but her manager ordered that she clean it the best she could and mask the scent with perfume.

She did as she was told and thought nothing of it until the next week when she was again cleaning the suite. She noticed the chaise lounge had developed a yellowish tint and immediately panicked thinking the cleaners she used had damaged the expensive piece of furniture. 

She began scrubbing it again using only water and found that the cushions had also changed to be uncomfortably stiff instead of luxuriously soft. 

The housekeeper told the interviewer that she felt movement in the cushions, but she ignored it thinking it was only her imagination. Then a thin yellow tendril emerged from the fabric wiggling in the air like it was looking for her hand. 

She ran out of the room screaming that the chaise had to be burned. Her request was ignored until the entire cleaning staff one by one refused to clean the suite. When finally the hotel’s management inspected the suite with their own eyes the lounge was removed from the hotel less than an hour later. 

The anonymous author ended his article by speculating that the fungus was purely terrestrial in origin. Nothing the investigators uncovered could be related to alien visitors. To support his reasoning he cited numerous examples of strange fungi, including several fast moving varieties and even some that could control the behavior of small animals as part of their reproductive cycles. 

Unfortunately for the curious, Trump’s remains can no longer be studied directly because the day the New York Times article was published his body was hastily cremated. 


Phillip Morris is a Californian living in Amsterdam. When he’s not writing dry instructions booklets, he’s likely writing colorful short fiction. When he tweets it’s @lephillipmorris.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Abandoned

Written by Gail Aldwin

How can I possibly be responsible for the spread? I’m made of pure gold and the simplicity of my design means I’m just a circular band that fits neatly on Sophie’s finger. It’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest that my presence makes her susceptible. I certainly don’t irritate skin and the only things I attract are admiring glances. My sole purpose is to symbolise love and marriage. I didn’t even realise Sophie could remove me. It took a large quantity of soap to ease me off her finger and I noted with a little pride, that I left an indentation on her skin after my years of loyal service. I can’t believe I’ve been dumped and left to associate with adornments in the jewellery box. 

I hate being in enclosed spaces but at least I’m in the cushioned section and not shoved into a pocket like Bling. Feelings of grandeur can’t save her and anyway we all know she’s made from paste. And it’s so noisy in here. The usual residents are complaining of overcrowding. Grandma’s Brooch doesn’t like to share her compartment with Beaded Bangle. She says Bangle is a contender for germs because she hangs around wrists. I should sympathise, Grandma’s Brooch is an older piece and belongs to a vulnerable group. As for Choker, she’s long escaped. From what I understand, she’s having a fine time doing acrobatics on the jewellery tree when she’s not languishing around Sophie’s neck. I can’t blame her for making the most of her freedom. She’s a lucky one and as for Stud and Hoop they’ve never been so grateful to be associated with ears. Getting out and about was something I really enjoyed. Day and night I was on Sophie’s finger but now look at me, abandoned. 

On the bright side, it’s only a matter of time before a vaccine is found and I can resume my place on Sophie’s finger. I mean she is still married to Paul, isn’t she?



Gail Aldwin’s publications include a debut novel The String Games (Victorina Press, 2019), a poetry pamphlet adversaries/comrades (Wordsmith_HQ, 2019) and a flash fiction collection Paisley Shirt (Chapeltown Books, 2018). Prior to repatriation due to Covid 19, Gail volunteered at Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda. Find Gail @gailaldwin and https://gailaldwin.com.