In honor of the coronavirus quarantine, and because April 1 is coming, here's another fiction story for you.
Pandemic response had improved by 2050.
Instead of a stay in place order, the government was ready with mass testing on the onset of SARS-49.
The tests were sophisticated. Not only could they tell if someone was infected, they could scan their likely response and predict who might survive the infection and who would likely die.
As with all pandemics the infection was coming, but not everyone was going to get through it.
I felt confident. My name is Alan Petrie. I live in New Rochelle, New York, with my wife Kim and our two children, Bill and Alice. We lived through the first global pandemic back in 2020. We had a basement full of food and medical supplies. We were ready for what was to come.
Everyone would get the virus. Everyone would take the bullet.
People were nervous up and down Bonnie Meadow Lane as the electric van moved slowly down the street. From it emerged gowned, gloved and masked workers, going door to door, doing their tests. But we knew the stakes. Even the kids were scared. None went out to play, and none would until the all-clear was sounded.
But first, the test.
We Petries were all by the door as the bell rang. I was 62, Kim 59, so we knew the risk. Bill and Alice, both home from college, knew no one was without risk. Alice had already lost two of her WeChat friends to the virus.
I opened the door to find a woman who looked familiar behind the mask, face shield, gown and globes.
“Is anyone visiting from out of town?” she asked, quite dispassionately.
I shook my head, but the woman’s assistant Freddy, a former high school classmate of Alice, headed in anyway, going through each room. Not that he expected stragglers. This was routine.
Alice had lain a drop cloth in the living room. She said a little prayer and we all stood together, waiting for Freddy to return and tell his mother what we all knew. We were all the Petries left in New Rochelle.
Kim recognized our test giver first. It was Marquesa Jones, who lived a few streets over. She began her work, reading off a screen, but from memory, with Freddy getting the whole ceremony on his phone.
“Present are Alan, Kimberly, William and Alice Fears, all resident at 148 Bonnie Meadow Lane, on this 2nd day of May in the year 2050 CE.
“Under orders of the World Health Organization, and the government of the United States of America, each resident will be tested for exposure and susceptibility to SARS-49, and dealt with under Executive Order 39451, signed by Governor-General Barron Trump on April 14 of this year. Will the youngest member of the family step forward?”
Alice wasn’t religious, none of us are but she crossed herself before she stepped toward her friend’s mother.
“Roll up your sleeve please.” Alice did as she was told, nervously. A needle stick went into her right arm and quickly withdrew a tiny blood sample.
Marquesa Jones took the syringe out with a practiced, gloved hand, then placed it into what looked like an old .45 caliber handgun, below the barrel. Alice moved to the center of the drop cloth as Marquessa placed the barrel of the gun against her temple. The electronic testing device ticked off the seconds. It was the only sound in the house.
A final tone, higher than the others, and Marquesa Jones pressed the trigger on the device to deliver its verdict. A high-pitched sound came from it, and data scrolled across her screen. “Miss Petrie, you can expect a high fever and difficulty breathing in about 10 days from exposure to SARS-49. Freddy, have you got that order? Please acknowledge and retrieve the necessary supplies.
“Yes, mom,” said Freddy, and as Marquesa’s eyes narrowed, added, “Yes, ma’am.
“Miss Petrie, you will remain confined to these premises for the next 20 days. You will follow the entire health regimen Fred Jones will deliver here. Then you should make a full recovery and resume normal activity.”
Alice, who had been shaking from the moment the device came against her head, nodded gratefully and stepped off the cloth.
The inspection continued. Bill, as expected, was also infected, but now had antibodies in his system. He had probably brought the virus home with him from college. Fred printed a card for him allowing him to travel about during his sister’s confinement. Kim got the same treatment as Alice, which meant the two would be together. They smiled shyly at one another.
Then it was my turn. I stepped onto the drop cloth she had laid down so carefully. Marquesa didn’t know about my recent trouble breathing. Doctors had been unable to find a cause, despite batteries of tests. She did know about my prostate cancer five years previously, which had been cured with drug therapy. It was right there on her chart. Still, her eyes narrowed as she looked at her screen.
I tried to hold Kim’s hand, but it was slapped down by Freddy. I gave her hand one more reassuring squeeze, then she stepped off the cloth, holding the shoulders of both Bill and Alice so that Mary could see them, so this would all be documented.
Marquesa Jones repeated her speech for the fourth time. Mary nodded in reply. She understood. The needle injected. It filled the syringe. The syringe went into the device. The beeping began. The final beep sounded. Marquesa Jones pressed the trigger.
“Fred, dispose of this please. I’m sorry, Mrs. Petrie.” She said it with complete dispassion. “This is all for the best. SARS-49 is a horrible way to die.” This was her 5th kill of the morning, and it wasn’t yet 10 AM. “Make certain this area is completely disinfected. It’s 152 next?
“The Singhs,” I said. “I speak as Bill Petrie, head of the household.”
“I always liked Violet Singhs’ samosas,” said Marquesa Jones with a sigh.