Once more, I attempt to fall asleep. My eyes are heavy, I feel dizzy, weak. My body is wracked with aches and I am shivering uncontrollably. The blessed relief of healing slumber still eludes me. Is it morning or night? What day is it? I don’t know. Nearby I hear a muffled groan. Someone else is suffering. Another victim of this god-awful pandemic. How many more of us will it take? With some difficulty I manage to turn my head and can just make out large, blocky letters which from my perspective spell ‘AROD’, adorning the outer sides of my Dora the Explorer play tent.
From the amount of light passing through the garish green fabric, I’m guessing it’s early morning. Moments before dawn. I survived another night. Another night of this sleepless nightmare. Dora’s jarringly cheery face peers at me as I awkwardly urinate into an empty bottle. The stale smell of the strawberry and kiwi smoothie it once contained hits my nostrils and makes me retch slightly. How did it come to this? Have I gone mad? Perhaps.
Let me take you back a few weeks…
My relatively successful Twitter account had been suspended. Even typing these words brings about a vicious mind-stab of PTSD. Suddenly I was left with nothing to do. To make matters worse, my parents had already disowned me when I loudly demanded everyone use she/her pronouns during Father’s Christmas business luncheon last year. My monthly allowance was cruelly withdrawn. I tried to support myself but my hot chunky vegan smoothie business venture failed to take flight. Critics kept telling me: ‘It’s soup, you’ve just invented vegetable soup.’ Philistines. Have you ever seen soup served in a tall latte glass with a salted caramel wafer? No. It was a culinary innovation. Nevertheless, my potential business partner rejected my offer of £350,000 ($455,000) for a 5 percent stake in ‘Smoo-V’ (trademark pending) and I was cast adrift. Depressed and dejected, I lost all sense of perspective.
It was then that I made my gravest error. I began to watch the news. Oh God. Why did I do it? I should have stuck to watching Brie Larson’s YouTube channel. I felt safe there. Her sanitized playlists made me feel calm and centered. Nothing she says is interesting enough to cause microaggressions. Her monotonous voice and vapid personality would anesthetize my chakras into a state of soporific oneness with the universe. I should never have left the comforting blandness of Larson’s vlog posts. But leave them I did, in hindsight, to my bitter regret.
The news these days consists of two things: outrage, and panic. Once you dip your toe into the toxic stream of day-to-day events, it slowly begins to wash over you like a sewage-infused oil slick, until you feel yourself drowning in its fetid depths. After three days of non-stop Sky News I wanted to smash the system to shit. I felt an overwhelming urge to shake my fists and rage against the machine. I had also developed an intense fear of COVID-19. I started to wash my hands every five minutes. My flatmate Titania walked in on me scrubbing away at my cuticles with a bleach-soaked sponge and oh God, I looked at her and her face. Her face. Christ. It was crawling with the COVID. Like when Greta Thunberg’s parents claimed she could visibly detect CO2, I could see COVID. Literally see it, on the skin, in the particles of dust moving around people. Titania’s face was covered in millions upon millions of tiny creatures. I screamed and ran from the bathroom.
My paranoia and fear increased tenfold until I was unable to leave the flat. I could not even leave my room. Eventually, even my cozy and culturally ethically sound living space no longer felt safe from the virus. Using my iPad, I drew up a detailed plan for an underground bunker which would have an airlock entrance, a refrigerated pantry, and space-age corridors very much like the ones you see in the movie Alien before the alien starts causing a kerfuffle. I WhatsApped my plan to Titania and requested she make arrangements with a construction company ASAP, but she refused point blank, saying that she ‘couldn’t be doing with the noise’. It was for the best to be honest; I’m not sure we’d get planning permission for a half-mile-long reinforced steel insulated bunker incorporating a sanitisation sprinkler system underneath a two-bedroomed apartment in Islington.
All I knew was that two things needed to happen. First, I needed to arrange my own accommodation away from the COVID-infested hordes. Second, for the sake of my sanity: I needed to get my Twitter account back. I took to Amazon and began searching for an eco-friendly living pod, and a hazmat suit.
…which brings me neatly back to my present situation. Turns out eco-friendly accommodation is a tad too expensive when you only have a couple of hundred skidoodles left in the bank. Still, this tent is adequate for my needs. It keeps the rain out (to a degree), and keeps the COVID well away from my respiratory system. Unfortunately, I had to throw away the Hazmat suit because it had ripped open on the barbed wire fence when I made my escape. Still, the fresh air is a tonic, and Titania is good enough to occasionally leave me any food she no longer requires in the compost bin in the passageway next to our small yard, and as she never eats her vegetables I’m relatively well fed.
Yes it’s cold out here. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, Gavin’s sobs keep me awake at night. Oh, yes. Gavin. I forgot. Well, ha ha. Funny story. It turns out that Titania’s friend was mistaken. The husband of her friend’s second cousin doesn’t actually work for Twitter. At least not in any capacity which would be of use to me. He works, or rather worked (haha) in the cafeteria. Kidnapping him was a complete waste of time and effort! Of course, I can’t let him go now. He knows far too much. If he managed to escape from our tool shed he could lead the COVID straight back here. No. Better to wait it out. Who knows, perhaps tonight I’ll be able to get a few minutes of sleep, and tomorrow I may have enough energy to fill in Twitter’s suspension appeal form again. Fingers crossed. Then sanitized. Then crossed again.