“And what do I hope for? Health and happiness, mostly.

“I hope scientists find a cure for a virus that feeds upon human organs, drowning the lungs and clotting the bloodstream. I hope that as scary as circumstances might get, we all learn new ways to be. I hope for learning from the stillness. I hope for gifts in the silence. I hope to hug again, to travel, and be unmasked from every mask I’ve ever worn. I hope to pet my neighbor’s new puppy, to gather friends around the campfire we’re building in the potager, to hunt for agates and run from black flies again. I hope to have guests and readings and workshops in my new home. I hope no one has to fear losing their home. I hope people find their passion in their work and community. I hope simply to live as fully as I can.”

Charli Mills, Founder of Carrot Ranch

“It is never too late to be a child again or perhaps for the very first time. Just let go and be who you were meant to be or who you always wanted to be.

“Never give up until they are shoveling dirt over you. When it is your time, you will leave this world, but nothing says it will be forever. We don’t know what lies on the other side, and all the souls have to go someplace, so why not think about it that way and forget the forever aspect of it all. The world is constantly evolving, and so I know that there is no true end to things; it only happens in our minds. Take this time to make things right in your life. Rebuild fences and be a true friend to everyone you know and love.”

-Anne Copeland, “This is the Way the Earth Rolls.”

Anarchists and Aliens

Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.

For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”

Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.

two alien inside car wallpaper

Photo by Miriam Espacio on Pexels.com

I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 14, 2020. Use the comment section …to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

4/4/2020 of COVID-19 Home Life

Today’s my son’s birthday. We were planning a birthday party for him, before. “You know this year you get to have a big party, right?” I’d said to him. “Make sure you’re thinking about what you want to do and the friends you’ll want to invite.”

Fortunately, my baby-surgery recovery and our other birthdays made it so we didn’t get past that point in conversations. I didn’t have anyone or anything reserved. We hadn’t invited people. All that happened is that, when Utah’s governor first announced the schools were closing, my son asked, “What about my birthday?”

“Well, we’ll plan to have it after school’s back in session. If things go longer, we’ll have it in September.”

Looking at maps of the spread of Coronavirus, I’m thinking we’ll push his party till next year.

World map showing countries with COVID-19 cases
Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation reportexternal icon. ©2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Another event’s been affected by all this, for us. Kev (my husband) and I were planning on our first-ever trip to Europe. We had to commit to going last year, and have been paying toward it. I’ve also been stressing about it; thinking and praying about whom to leave which boy with for three weeks.

Although the organizers have not officially told us this is the case, we think it will be cancelled. More than the money is the idea that I was *this close* to something that’s been on my bucket list since I was a girl. Not much is still on that list, mostly because humans haven’t developed self-aviation.

Birthday parties, vacation plans, weddings, funerals, baby blessings, Disneyland, the dentist… all cancelled.

We’re not the only ones affected. A friend complained about missing their family cruise. Another listed all the concerts she couldn’t attend. What whiners, right? There are people dying after near-suffocation from a disease they contracted at Wal-mart.

But, we are not trying to be shallow. We are dealing with massive change.

My favorite example of this, pre-COVID-19, is in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. <Spoiler Alert> Planet Earth is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace expressway. The protagonist, Arthur Dent, escapes with Ford Prefect (an alien in disguise) just before the bureaucratic aliens known as Vogons blast us to nothing. Arthur is an Everyman. When Ford tells him what’s happened, he can’t grasp that Earth and everyone on it is gone.

“There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parent and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.

“He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it, He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every ‘Bogart’ movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.

“He passed out.”

I remembered this quote as I drove around on my once-a-week errands, feeling a slight jolt at empty restaurants and neon signs about what part of which business was open. I remembered the quote while we watched LDS General Conference this morning; while the camera panned over an empty exterior shot of the building where 21,000 people would have been meeting.

Mormon NewsroomGeneral Conference, April 2019. Thanks to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the picture.

Surreal.

The good news is that I think I’m through all the Stages of Grief now. I skipped from Shock to Depression, swung back to Emotionless, and am now resigned to Acceptance. My family and I are still here, are fine, and are just staying home. I can stay here in my own, four walls. I don’t need to worry about what if because those who are in charge have removed the stresses I had, outside of my four walls. If IT can stay outside those walls as well, then we’re set for months.

And, we’re making lemonade out of lemons. My son and his brother set up a Minecraft server and invited his classmates. We’ll wait and see what happens with Europe. The LDS church leaders are broadcasting from a small room, with their chosen speakers sitting six feet apart.

The latest from LDS General Conference: Church membership tops 16.5M; afternoon session begins with a virtual vote
(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General Conference begins at a small auditorium in the Church Office Building with top leaders socially distanced amid the coronavirus pandemic. ©2020 The Salt Lake Tribune

I’ll bake a birthday cake and make enchiladas from the ingredients I picked up from my store order yesterday. I’ll wrap the presents our postman delivered. I’ll remember to look at this from my son’s perspective, because all he wants is a happy birthday.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

3/31/2020 of COVID-19 Home Life

My parents came by yesterday. I don’t talk about them much because they have the right to decide whether they want their information online.

Still, over they came. They walked forward and deposited my and my son’s birthday presents on our porch. They stepped back. I unwrapped them: a framed pencil illustration my mother drew of our son, and a beautiful Schwibbögen. My children crowded around me in the doorway and excitedly waved and yelled about schoolwork and the new computer game we’ve been playing as a family, Stardew Valley.

My parents put up a good face. I held my new baby in the doorway as they drove away, waving his little hand for them. I doubt they saw; they probably barely saw well enough to drive if they were crying as much as I was.

I think IT -as Mike calls the Coronavirus crisis- has finally hit most of us. One of my sons came in last night around 9. He sat on our bed. “I’m scared,” he said.

“Oh? Did you have a bad dream? What are you scared about?”

“I don’t know. Just scared.”

Trying to uncover the fear did nothing, so I quickly switched tactics to enumerating everything safe about his situation. We have family, a safe area, a warm house, brothers to take care of him. He calmed enough to sleep in his own bed.

As I was drifting off to sleep later*, I heard and felt the slight change in air pressure that meant our bedroom door had opened. One of my older sons stood in the doorway.

“Son? What’s wrong?”

Bearing his about-to-cry face, he came to my bedside. “I’m scared.”

I hugged him and held him. “It’s okay, Son. It’s okay.”

“Thank you, Mom.”

We walked back to his bed together. I gave him a Melatonin and tucked him in.

…Which might explain why several of us slept in this morning. I awoke to feed Baby at 8ish; finished and got ‘ready’ to pick up a prescription by 10 a.m. Everyone but we parents and my early-riser was still asleep. Costco’s automated phone message played its usual bit, then had a slightly louder recording tell how they have new hours for the warehouse, including a special time for seniors to shop. People picking up prescriptions do not have to wait in line at the door -just tell the guards associates at the exit doors that you’re picking up a prescription and they’ll let you in.

I haven’t written about Costco yet. Usually, it’s my home away from home. I like to go there when we travel, and Utah boasts the world’s largest Costco. Friends have even teased that I ought to travel to all of them and chronicle my adventures.

When I went there to stockpile toilet paper and water three weeks ago (okay -kidding), people were a tad tense. A few, like me, knew what was coming and were purchasing a few extras. A week later, the store had imposed limits on supplies. A few days after that, signs dotted the columns and tape lines dotted the cash registers and waiting areas so that we might stay 6 feet away from each other. Lines formed to get in, separated by cones and pallets; lines formed to check out, enforced by Costco employees.

Today, plexiglass barriers are screwed to the front of all the cash registers. Some workers wear face masks. The receipt-checkers at the exits have clipboards and gloves. No one touches your membership card. Everyone furiously wipes down counters and computer equipment. They spray shopping carts (trolleys) with a pink solution out in the parking lot.

I saw a pregnant woman of Indian features and dress wearing gloves and a dentist-style face mask. They’re probably not doing much for her, but I’d be doing the same in her shoes.

Next on my errands was the post office. They had tape on the floor as well, plus a sign outside about keeping 10 or fewer people in the waiting area. The woman at the desk wore a face mask and she also sat behind newly-installed plexiglass.

Perhaps we ought to start living in personal plexiglass houses.

The oddest part of my experiences is something Pete pointed out in his comments on my last update: people are avoiding any interaction. Told to be wary and stay six feet away, we are also avoiding nonverbal cues that indicate safety. We are not smiling, laughing, reassuring, or talking. I guess we need to learn to be friends …from a distance.

Which is why I find comfort in the snippets of sunshine. A woman asked another woman at Costco where she’d gotten her package of Charmin toilet paper** from; I heard them laughing at whatever the response was, and I smiled at their smiles. The secretary for my sons’ school asked how we were all doing when I called about a registration issue. My friend and I talked on the phone.

I felt like giving up that day we had the earthquake. I’ve mostly stopped obsessively checking the United States Geological Society’s latest earthquakes page since, and was handling each day too busy to dwell on the larger implications of what we were doing. Today, however, I’ve returned to some of that anxiety. The novelty’s worn off, I suppose. We’ve purchased all the extra food we can eat. We’ve got a rough schedule for schoolwork at home. We’ve even finally started a nap routine for the baby. Now, though, comes the most difficult part: facing the long dark of Moria.

But wishing IT away hasn’t worked for most of us. Assuming IT wouldn’t come didn’t work very well, either. My son’s speech and behavior aide last year told me they were working on his Sphere of Influence; what he could control. Me, I can’t control IT. I can’t control the world’s response. What I can control is me. I can still control much of what my family does and is exposed to as well.

So, you may find me writing from within a circle of salt. Still, at least I’m still alive. And writing.

©2020 Chelsea Owens, including photos of the Schwibbögen and Costco
GIFS © GIPHY

*Okay, I was really playing Candy Crush. They’re offering infinite lives all week, which is brilliant for keeping people in.
**Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissue is worth more than gold right now…

Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Five

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Four.

Ungainly, inhuman, unsettling; the Mutants roiled into the supplies room. A piece or part or person in the mass swung into the lower shelves; unseating bandages, dust, tins, and pills. Finn counter-balanced against the blows. The measure brought to mind that series of weeks only months ago, when he, Patrick, and Mary crouched together beneath the rocking world; when they wondered if they or the Earth herself would come out of it, and what they’d all look like then.

“Ooomph!” Something hit his shoulder. In the noise and tumult, he’d forgotten the person near him. Having gotten Finn’s attention, the stranger tugged at his arm. Tugged hard. Finn couldn’t tell where his companion thought to go, but the writhing ground was no longer an option. He nodded in the wristlight and followed.

Together, they squat-walked across the shelf top. Finn wondered if their attackers could climb. He felt certain they could, given the right impetus -say, like him. That thought and their howling and scrambling drove him faster.

His companion stopped and sheathed his gun across his back. Then, to Finn’s surprise, he stood. A second later, his legs and feet kicked the air before Finn’s face. He disappeared.

A sharp jarring beneath him galvanized Finn. He, too, shuffled to where his companion had stood. Rising, he found himself halfway within a wide ductwork. Probably the heating, he thought. Sheathing his own weapon and bracing against either side of the hole he’d entered, he pulled his heavy body up and in.

A dim light shone from down the tube and off to the right. Finn deactivated his, and followed. A reverberating *clang* of metal on metal, then a *clong* of metal on cement told him their shelf had fallen. The animal sounds seemed muted or leaving, but maybe it was he who left them behind. He had no idea where he crawled or if he crawled to safety; he knew only the bobbing glow ahead, and the scrabbling form attached to it.

A few seconds of eternity passed and he crawled out of the jagged-edged remnants of ducting and onto a stone ledge. The sun wavered at the tops of the mountains in the distance. Sunset.

The stranger in the suit pulled at Finn again. One after the other, they scaled a rough climb down the hospital’s remaining back wall. Once their feet touched the ground, Finn and his guide took off running. He still followed, mostly by instinct. What Patrick might say or do worried him, though not as much as what Mutants would do should he be caught.

Passing shadow, outline, foundation, and rubble; his guide stopped at a large manhole cover set in a cement-crusted tunnel. He dug a bit in his pocket, then removed an access card and panned it against the cover. The outermost access door opened.

“In!” barked the suited figure. When Finn hesitated, it added, “Now!”

Finn complied. He still felt in shock. The voice commanding him was clearly female.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Four

Continued from One, then Twothen Three.

Step, Finn told his legs. Step againJust there. Almost there. This mantra kept his stiff-suited body moving forward, till a Mutant rolled or made a sound. At those times, he had difficulty maintaining the rhythm. He felt sweat pooling at every joint. He felt his heart pounding against his ears. He felt his finger itching to engage the Laserlock’s trigger.

Yet, he gained the supplies room door, leaping the last mound of creatures to do so. Some internal sense or paranoia warned him to hurry; warned that their movements increased with each second he passed among them. He’d be a sitting duck if that were true. “A legless duck, like Patrick,” he whispered.

But Patrick canno’ get you, should that happen, his thoughts reminded. “Damn,” he said aloud.

Finn sheathed his gun to free his hands, looking right to left to back to front as he did so. He did not, however, glance up. Activating a small glow pack on his wrist, he clumped over to the nearest shelf of medical supplies. There, he found an empty case. Near it were scattered bottles and a few ashen strips of material. More bottles and spilled white pills, like gravel, covered the next shelf. Yet another held filthy surgical masks and some sort of tubing.

He pocketed handfuls of pills and gauze, small containers of what he hoped were ointment, and a few liquid-filled bottles. Then, his view fell on a dirt-crusted tin. He wiped at the top, revealing the words, “General Suture Supplies.” Bingo.

At that moment, he thought he heard a scrabbling. Turning, he pulled out the Laserlock and panned it at the doorway. Nothing appeared out of place: the hallway still twitched with random, mutilated bodies. The wheelchair wheel still spun. The ash and late afternoon sunlight still filtered into a decimated hospital entryway and foyer.

Finn let his breath return to normal patterns. Scanning the room once more, he returned the gun to his back.

As his hands closed around the precious tin of suture materials, he heard the noise again. Spinning and backing against the shelf, he arched his whole form in order to look upwards. There, in a hunched, firing position, perched another fully-suited person.

Finn’s shock and tilted helmet made breathing difficult. He backed farther away, arms raised, till he reached the direct opposite corner from whoever this other being was. This other, armed being.

They may have stayed forever staring at one another, had not a moan sounded from the hall. The person gestured sharply with his gun toward the tin Finn sought. Needing no more encouragement, he rushed forward and grabbed it. He scrabbled with a zippered pocket on his suit front, as he heard the distinct shuffling of many bodies. Get in, he told the supplies. He shoved at them and turned to face the doorway.

Like in a nightmare, he saw the creatures’ movements increase in intent and purpose. They were waking. Stretching. Sensing. Shifting.

Finn arched up to view his companion again. The other person had activated a glow pack as well, and seemed to be waving with it. Finn watched for a precious few seconds before realizing he was meant to climb up. He turned and scaled the shelving without hesitation. No need for, Step. Step again; he sensed a rising intensity that lent his limbs a frenetic adrenaline.

Gasping, he reached the restrictive summit. He squeezed in the space between top shelf and ceiling. The other person squatted right next to him, mirrored helmet lens to mirrored helmet lens. Thus, Finn nearly knocked into his new companion when the first Mutants sprawled into the room.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

What do you hope for?

I’ve always wanted to fly.

I’m not talking airplanes, either. I’m talking: self-automated, magic flight. In my childhood nighttime dreams I’d run -fast, faster, faster!- till the momentum or movement or fairy dust accelerated my hopeful person into the sky.

I have other dreams, of course, but I fear to share them. I fear that voicing my wants, desires, and wishes will result in disaster. If, for example, I’d always wanted perfect vision, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Telling another would surely result in Fate crashing a car into mine and causing blindness, afflicting me with a genetic condition that affects sight, or causing one eye to randomly fall out.

Hey; it could happen!

As you can see, I’ve a real problem looking forward to things. From a psychological mush of my parents using upcoming events as rewards I might lose; my always putting others before me in true, selfless motherhood; and a desire to avoid the pain of disappointment, I do not anticipate positive events.

Instead, I numb. Instead, I cry. Instead, I sadly shelve my glowing orbs of potential dreams and tell myself to look elsewhere.

Elsewhere is safer.

And yet, I do have dreams. I think. Waaaaaay back in high school, our teacher had us make a bucket list of things we wanted to do in life. Mine included traveling to Europe, learning another language, and …I don’t remember.

Wishing and anticipating and doing were so much easier then -you know, before I had to wait for the ol’ money tree to produce something besides sour grapes.

How about you? Have you ever had a dream? Do you still? Do you share your dreams, or hold them like secret treasures?

—————-

Here be what I wrote in the past week:
Wednesday, October 30: Opened up about the elephant in the room in “Depression and Donuts (and an Elephant).”

Thursday, October 31: Shared my first entry in the Halloweensie contest, “Midnight.”

Also, wrote an entry for this year’s contest, “Scampy Mouse.”

Friday, November 1: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Ruth Scribbles!

Saturday, November 2: Announced the 50th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is FIFTY (go figure). PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, November 3: “The Healthy Benefits of Popcornopolis,” in response to reading the front of my favorite, very unhealthy snack.

Monday, November 4: An inspirational quote by Charles Bukowski, in the form of his poem.

Tuesday, November 5: “Since the Bombs Fell: Three.”

Wednesday, November 6: Today.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens