Peter Cobb-Hopkin was on the other side of town in the early afternoon of the next day, reading an online newspaper article on his phone about the incident in the park the night before. He was with his girlfriend, Michelle Buchanan, in a Starbucks. She was wearing a mask, pulling it down occasionally whenever she took a sip from her coffee. He wasn’t wearing one. Only two other people were in the Starbucks, masked and buying coffees to take home immediately, out of compliance with the lockdown.
“Oh, look at this bullshit that your parents’ newspaper is publishing!” he said. “Apparently, there’s a new disease for us to be worried about. ‘Something the likes of which has never been seen before’.”
“What’s that?” she asked, her hand darting out of the way of a droplet from his mouth. “And watch your spitting.”
“They’re calling it, check this out, ‘The Splits’,” he said with a chortle. “When you catch it, you may show no symptoms, but still be a carrier. Haven’t we heard that old line before.”
“And if you do show symptoms?” she asked.
“Oh, here’s where it gets interesting,” he said, snorting and chuckling. “Your body tears itself to pieces. Splits apart.”
“What?” Her eyes widened.
“According to the article, Derek Gould, the CFO of my parents’ company–which has governed this municipality for the past four years, as we know–was taking a walk with his wife, Hannah, in Queen’s Park last night…because ruling class privilege means they don’t have to comply with the lockdown.”
“Like you and me, who have the same privilege, through our families.”
“Yes, of course, I wasn’t denying that,” he said. “Anyway, Derek Gould suddenly became infected with something, he fell on the sidewalk, shaking and screaming in pain, then his body cracked open into many pieces…with no blood spraying anywhere, oddly…and then he died.”
“Wow.” Michelle said, then pulled her mask down to sip her coffee. “What else does it say?”
“The infection spread to her, but she hasn’t shown any symptoms. When the paramedics arrived, they found her sitting on a bench, just zoned out.”
“How do they know she’s infected?”
“They gave her tests at the hospital. Also, one of the paramedics got infected, and his body split into pieces in the same horrific way, hence they’re calling it ‘The Splits.’ Small, white dots of light flew from Hannah’s body into his.”
“I see. I guess we’d better be careful.”
“I guess it’s just more mainstream media bullshit.”
“Come on, Peter. You’re always saying that.”
“Because I’m always right.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” Michelle said.
“I never wear masks, and I haven’t caught anything…over ten years.”
“You’ve been lucky. You’ve also been lucky to have parents who rule over this municipality, so they can bail you out when the cops give you a hard time for not wearing a mask.”
“Your parents could bail you out for defying this b.s., too, if you had the guts to, like me,” Peter said. “The media corporation they’re a part of governs your neighbouring municipality, too. We’re not like the unlucky poor people who don’t have family in the corporate city governments. And I’ve been lucky not to get sick? I’ve had my eyes open! All these viral variations of Covid we’ve had over the past decade. It’s just seasonal flu.”
“Oh, not this again.”
“What ever happened to seasonal flu, Michelle? People used to die of it yearly by the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, prior to 2020, then the global financial crisis hit in early 2020, and the capitalist class needed a distraction: the flu rebranded as a global pandemic. Millions of people plunged into poverty, while the billionaire class, now directly our cities’ governments, have made billions more over the years, and everyone’s misery and loss of freedoms can all be conveniently blamed on a virus.”
“The flu disappeared because people, unlike you, were masking up, social distancing, and taking fewer flights.”
“Assuming the flu and the ‘rona are separate diseases, those preventative measures might reduce the flu cases, but we’re talking about a virtual disappearance of the flu, while the pandemic remains unabated, even stronger. I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying into this new one, ‘The Splits’.”
“Fine,” Michelle said, rolling her eyes. “Believe whatever you want. As soon as we’re done here, I’m going over to Mississauga District to talk to my mom and dad about this new disease.”
“Same here,” Peter said. “I’m heading right over to MedicinaTech.”