‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Eleven

Peter and Michelle hailed a taxicab and got in.

“Take us to the nearest gateway to Regent Park,” Peter said. “And hurry.”

“OK, from here, that’ll be Queen Street East,” said the cabbie. What do they want to go that dump for? he wondered as he started driving.

“I guess we don’t need to wear these suits,” Peter said to her, “if those little white dots aren’t going to enter our bodies.” He was about to take his head covering off, raising Michelle’s and the cabbie’s eyebrows.

She put out her hand to stop Peter. “Let’s not jump to any conclusions,” she said. “What just happened to us may have been a fluke.”

The cabbie let out a sigh of relief that Peter kept his whole suit on.

“What could have caused those things not to have entered us?” Peter asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be foolish or overconfident until we know. We need to find out more about ‘those things’ before we can be sure of what we’re dealing with.”

“I really don’t think we’re dealing with a disease,” he said. “I’d swear those things have some kind of intelligence. It’s as if they knew when to strike, right when we took the head coverings off, and no sooner. They didn’t come off when Wayne took off his gloves, because they seemed to know we weren’t vulnerable yet. I’ll bet they raised the temperature in that room, too, to make us too uncomfortable to keep the head coverings on.”

“Yeah, OK…and then not enter us?” she asked while sneering at him.

“Yeah, I know it doesn’t make much sense, but maybe they have some kind of subtle plan for us that we haven’t figured out yet. Like they wanted to show themselves to us…to toy with us.”

“Here come the conspiracy theories again.”

“Well, do you have a better explanation for what happened back there?”

“No, and that’s why I think we need to err on the side of caution until we know for sure what’s going on.”

“Well, that’s why we’re going to Regent Park.”

“Getting us a hotel room is going to help us know for sure?” she asked with another sneer. “By ‘knowing,’ I don’t mean in the Biblical sense.”

The cabbie smirked in envy at the thought of Peter soon to get it on with his pretty, shapely girlfriend in a hotel room.

“Well, after the hotel, we’ll meet my doctor friend.”

“You think he knows something about this?”

“It’s the only recently discovered ‘disease’ he admits to being real,” Peter said. “And while you’d think he’d have been wearing a protective suit, he wasn’t when he tested me. Maybe he had the same experience we had.”

“You never asked him why he wasn’t wearing one?” she asked.

“Part of me was glad he wasn’t succumbing to all this fear, so I didn’t.”

“OK,” the cabbie said. “Here’s the Queen Street East entrance gate.” He stopped the cab. “Don’t let any of those bums sneak out when you get in, as a favour to all of us.”

Peter paid the fare, and he and Michelle got out.

Peter took a key out of his pocket, opened the locked gate, holding Michelle’s gloved hand with his free one, and they went in. By the sidewalks on the way to the hotel, they saw rows of tents of homeless people. All of them were filthy. All of them held out their hands for spare change. None was wearing a suit.

“Take a look around,” Peter said as they rushed past the tents and stepped over the stretched-out legs of beggars lying on the sidewalks with hats and bowls beside them, hoping for spare change. “The rejects of Toronto. I’d love to give them some money, but if you or I drop even just one penny into a hat or bowl, they’ll all be mobbing us for more, and I didn’t bring enough pocket money, rich as my family is, to satisfy all of them at once. I feel like such a dick to deny them, but there’s nothing I can do.”

“Same here,” she said. “I don’t have much on me, either. I wish I could give them something.”

“If you think this is bad, wait another few years, when the world completes the transition to a totally cashless society,” he said. “The homeless will really be fucked then.”

“Oh, that’s awful.”

“Yeah, MedicinaTech all but abandoned this part of Toronto. A piddling amount of government taxes goes into helping the poor here, but as you can see, it’s nowhere near enough. The gates keep them from entering the richer parts of the city; only people here with a reasonable income have a key to get in and out, like my doctor friend.”

“Why did he choose to live here?”

“He wants to help the poor by providing either affordable or free health care. Without volunteers like him, if the homeless–note the lack of protective suits for them–ever caught The Splits, or any other disease, real or imagined, they’d be in a pretty hopeless situation.”

They reached the Ritz Hotel.

“Here we are,” he said.

They went in and got a room.

“I guess we can finally take these off,” he said, then slowly took off his head covering.

They paused for a moment.

Their eyes darted around the room for glowing little dots of light.

Several seconds of tense silence.

“I guess we’re safe,” she said, taking off her head covering and looking around cautiously. “The woman at the desk was wearing a suit, and those things only come out from people’s uncovered skin, don’t they?”

“Yeah, and they don’t seem to want to enter us, as you’ll recall,” he said, removing the rest of his suit. “Don’t worry. We should be fine.”

“OK,” she said, still in a cautious attitude. She took off her suit with her eyes always on the alert for the little white lights. Peter was already naked and under the covers. She slowly began unbuttoning her shirt.

“If they were gonna get us, surely they’d have already done so by now. Stop worrying.”

“Well, if I’m gonna die, I want us to die together,” she said, then soon got naked and went under the covers with him.

As they made love in the missionary position, they sighed not only with pleasure, but also from the relief of finally being able to enjoy close physical contact.

For too long, he thought as he went in and out of her, kissing her and caressing her cheeks, all of us have been denied closeness. Fear of disease has split us all apart from each other. We can’t truly help each other if we’re apart, not hugging, not touching, not seeing each other’s facial expressions because masks are hiding our smiles and frowns.

She was thinking these very same thoughts.

When they finished, they lay together and cuddled, their arms tightly around each other.

“Oh,” she sighed. “I’d forgotten…how good that feels. Not just getting laid, but…feeling the touch of someone else. I’m glad we took…the chance here. I’m sick of being afraid…and alone.”

“That’s what I…have been trying to get…you to understand,” he sighed. “We need closeness. It’s what makes…us human.”

“You’re right. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” They kissed. “Now, let’s go…and meet my doctor friend.”

They put on their clothes and left.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Ten

At 8:02 that night, Michelle sat in the lobby of MedicinaTech, looking around the crowds of people in those protective suits walking by and looking indistinguishable from each other except by suit colour. Growing impatient as she hoped to see Peter among them, she wondered if she’d see him without a suit on.

Finally, after about ten minutes of waiting, she saw him walking along, chatting with Wayne Grey. Both were in those suits.

It took a while for her to be sure it was Peter approaching, for his suit obscured his face. But when she saw through his head covering (made more difficult because she, of course, also had a head covering to look through), she breathed a sigh of relief to see that he was finally complying with the safety precautions.

She stood and waved at him. “Peter, over here!” she said.

He and Wayne walked up to her.

“Wayne, this is Michelle, my girlfriend,” he said. “Michelle, this is Wayne Grey, MedicinaTech’s new boss.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she said with a smile while her gloved hand shook his.

“Nice to meet you, too,” he said with what looked to her like a forced, unnatural smile.

She and Peter exchanged glances of suspicion.

“I just want to say again, Wayne, that it does my heart good to hear you say you want to make some more democratic changes in the government of the city,” Peter said with a fake smile of his own, for he doubted the sincerity of such promises.

Michelle remembered similar promises from her mom, and similar smiles. It was hard to know if any of these promises were genuine.

“Well, don’t get your hopes up too high,” Wayne said. “I won’t be able to make a lot of changes right away, what with the stubbornness of all the members of the Board of Directors and their sympathy with your mom’s and dad’s way of doing things; but I do have a plan or two up my sleeve, ideas of how…to persuade them to see things my way.”

“I see,” Peter said, again exchanging doubtful glances with Michelle. Already I hear ready-made excuses for not keeping his promises, he thought. We’ll see.

“How about we go into that room over there,” Wayne said, pointing to Peter’s right. “Since you’re so concerned about finding a cure for The Splits, there’s a computer in there, and with it I can show you in detail all the progress MedicinaTech is making.”

“OK,” Peter said, and he and Michelle followed Wayne into the room, which was a small meeting room with a computer at the far end of a long table surrounded by chairs.

The three of them sat by the computer: Wayne using it, and Peter and Michelle on either side of him.

“I can’t type the keys with these thick gloves on my fingers,” Wayne said. “So I’ll need to take them off. I hope you don’t mind.” He looked at Peter intently, then the same way at Michelle.

Peter and Michelle looked at each other nervously for several seconds of silence.

“I was tested by Dr. Teague this morning,” Wayne tried to reassure them. “I tested negative.”

There was another pause, of five seconds of silence.

Good old, trustworthy Dr. Teague, Peter thought, as did Michelle.

“Have you both been tested?” Wayne asked. “If you keep your suits on, I’ll be safe.”

“Yes, we’ve been tested,” Peter said. “Just today, in fact.”

“I was tested a short while ago, too,” Michelle said. “I’ve been wearing this suit pretty much the whole time since.”

Now Wayne looked at the two of them, his eyes going back and forth from left to right, with some suspicion of his own. Then he took a deep breath and smiled.

“Well, even if you’re lying, I can feel safe as long as you two are both suited up completely,” Wayne said, then he took off his gloves and turned on the computer. “This should take only a minute to get ready.”

When it was ready, he began typing away. As he did, and then found reports and data on the testing of the vaccine MedicinaTech was working on, Peter and Michelle felt their nervousness abate, since no white dots of light were flying from Wayne’s fingers. What’s more, Wayne seemed so caught up in his work that he didn’t look at all nervous about catching anything from the two on either side of him.

It was as if he didn’t care one bit about it.

Now, Peter was feeling an increasing itch to take off his head covering. Actually, Michelle was feeling that way, too, for the suits were just that uncomfortable. And the room, inexplicably, was getting hot.

“As you can see,” Wayne said, pointing to some figures on the computer screen, “we’ve done over a dozen trials with Aziprom, with no outright successes, of course, but with what seem to be some repellent quality that, to a small but notable extent, eases the symptoms. It isn’t ideal, but it is progress.”

“I see,” Peter said, fidgeting and sweating in his suit. How’d it get so hot in here all of a sudden? he wondered. Wayne seems safe and healthy. Nothing’s flying out of his bare hands. If he had The Splits, surely I’d see those tiny stars by now.

“Why is it so hot in here, all of a sudden?” Michelle asked. It was hot like this in the hospital room with Mom and Dad, now that I think of it, she thought.

“You feel hot?” Wayne asked.

“Yeah,” Peter said. “Me, too.”

“That’s odd,” Wayne said. “I don’t feel hot at all.”

“Well, you seem safe of The Splits, anyway,” Peter said, putting his hands on his head covering. “I’m taking this off. I can’t take it anymore.” He pulled it off his head.

“Peter, wait!” Michelle yelled. Then, when no little dots of light flew out of Wayne’s hands, she calmed down.

Peter put his head covering on the table. Both he and Michelle froze for a moment, looking around for little stars.

Wayne looked at Peter and then at Michelle, sneering at both of them. “I told you,” he said. “I was tested today, and it came out negative. I can see that Peter’s test also turned out negative, which is very gratifying to me. I can trust you; I think you both can trust me. How about it?”

“OK,” Peter said. “Sorry.”

Drops of sweat were running down Michelle’s cheeks.

“Well, if you two can expose your skin, so can I,” she said, then she removed her head covering and put it next to Peter’s. “Oh, that feels so much better.”

Immediately after her sentence, those dots of light flew out of Wayne’s hands.

“You lying fucker!” Peter shouted, punching his fist into the plastic face covering on Wayne’s suit, knocking him off his chair and onto the floor. Peter and Michelle reached for their head coverings. They were about to put them on in panicky speed…

…but they noticed something odd about the little lights.

They weren’t entering their heads.

Still with their head coverings off, Peter and Michelle stared at the tiny, glowing stars, which just hovered in the air a few centimetres in front of the vulnerable couple’s faces.

It was as if the little dots of light were staring at Peter and Michelle, observing them, sizing them up.

Their eyes and mouths were wide open; they were shaking all over, but from terror, not from the entry of those floating things.

Wayne got up and removed his head covering. He looked stoically at Peter and Michelle while he rubbed his chin, where Peter’s fist had hit him.

Several more seconds of frozen silence went by.

Those little dots of light just stayed where they were.

“Why aren’t they coming inside us?” she asked. “They don’t even want to make us carriers?”

“Yeah,” Peter said. “Why don’t they want to?”

“Neither of you have anything to fear from them,” Wayne said in perfect calmness.

“You lied to us before,” Peter said. “You’ll lie again. C’mon, Michelle. Let’s get out of here.”

“As you wish,” Wayne said with a shrug.

Peter and Michelle put their head coverings back on, then they ran out of the room and out of the building.

The dots of light flew back into Wayne’s hands and head.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Nine

“So, you finally admit that The Splits is real?” Michelle, talking on her cellphone in her bedroom, said.

“Yes,” Peter said with a sigh of embarrassment. He, too, was calling from his bedroom. “I’m sorry for having been so pig-headed about this whole thing. It’s just that there’s so much bullshit out there in the media, it’s hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction.”

“I know,” she said, “but the media didn’t split our parents’ bodies into pieces. Our eyes aren’t the TV. We can trust what we see, and you can trust me to tell you the truth.”

“Yeah, but still,” he said. “There’s something strange about this ‘disease.’ As they say, it isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen before.”

“Split-off body parts acting like entities unto themselves. I know what you mean.”

“They were talking, Michelle. My mom’s and dad’s body parts were actually talking.”

She felt a shudder at those words, remembering her father’s death. “It seemed that way to me, too. I thought I heard the parts of my dad saying, ‘No, no, no…’.”

“I saw faces forming on my parents’ ripped-off body parts,” Peter said. “What looked like eyes and mouths in their innards, saying, ‘I don’t want it. I don’t want it.'”

“It’s more like demonic possession than a disease.”

“Exactly. No disease does anything that freaked out.”

“Anyway, have you been tested?” she asked. “And do you have a protective suit?”

“Yes, and…yes,” he said with a sigh of annoyance. “I’m gonna hate wearing it. It’s so uncomfortable.”

“I know, but it’ll be less uncomfortable than feeling your body tearing up into pieces, and nowhere near as traumatic as seeing other people’s bodies tear up into pieces, especially if we’re the ones responsible for passing The Splits onto them.”

“Yeah, I guess. It still sucks, though.”

“But at least we can be together, and since both of us have been tested recently, we can be intimate. When did they test you at MedicinaTech? Earlier today?”

“Oh, I got it done today, but it wasn’t there. I know a doctor in Regent Park.”

“Regent Park? Why’d you go to that poor-as-fuck place? Why not in your parents’ business, where they have the best medical equipment and doctors?”

“Because I don’t trust the doctors there,” he said. “Dr. Teague, our head scientist, is a carrier, and he infected my mom and dad, though nobody saw it was him, and nobody believed me when I said it was he who passed it on. I think many of the staff are carriers, and trying to keep it all a secret.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. That’s why I doubt that this is just a new virus. There’s a weird, body-snatcher kind of thing going on.”

“Like my mom and her fake smiles,” Michelle said with another shudder.

“Yeah. I’ll tell you another thing. Now that both my parents are dead, I’m supposed to succeed them as head of MedicinaTech, right?”

“Yeah, and what’s going on there?”

“They made Wayne Grey, head of R and D, the new CEO of the company.”

What? Why him? How could your mom and dad do that?”

“Oh, come on, Michelle. You know why.”

“Because you’d end the company and its rule over Toronto as your very first act as new CEO.”

“Exactly,” Peter said. “And this Wayne guy, who’s been with the company since it began, has shown more loyalty to MedicinaTech and its government than even any of the surviving members of the Board of Directors. Mom and Dad would have given it to that Derek Gould guy, the old CFO, but The Splits killed him, remember? And his replacement is too new to be trusted to lead the company and government.”

“I see,” she said. “But why did you get tested in Regent Park? It’s so filthy dirty there. How can you know they did a good job there?”

“I don’t trust rich people. And I know the doctor there personally. He’ll test you without any agenda. He doesn’t buy into any of the older diseases, though he acknowledges The Splits. For me, that’s reliable enough.”

“OK.”

“In fact, I suggest we go over there and rent a room in a hotel there.”

“Eww! Why there?

“It isn’t all that bad. There are some nice places there. The hotels are nice and cheap, too, and we won’t have to worry about surveillance cameras watching us and penalizing us for not wearing the suits, the way we do even in our own homes now. The government doesn’t care about the people in Regent Park, because they’re too poor to do anything against the powerful; they’re not allowed to enter the middle- and upper-class sections of the city, so nobody worries about them spreading any diseases among us.”

“Well, I guess that makes it OK,” she said, still wincing. “If we’re alone and don’t have any of the residents near us.”

“We can wear the protective suits all the way to the hotel room, then when we’re all alone, we can take them off…and everything else. Then we’ll leave with the suits on, we can get tested by my guy again, just in case, then go home.”

“You think it’ll be romantic in Regent Park?” she asked with a sneer.

“I like the poor a lot better than the rich,” he said. “I like to be reminded of how the other side lives. And I think you need to be reminded of their plight every now and then, too.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” she said. “I feel a little guilty about my ‘Eww!’ before. I need to be reminded of how lucky we are. When do you want to meet up?”

“How about tonight at around 8:00? I’ll meet you in MedicinaTech. I want to talk to Wayne about the progress they’re making on finding a cure for The Splits. Not that I trust him all that much, but I’m so desperate, I’ll do whatever I have to so we won’t have to wear these suits anymore.”

“OK, I’ll be in the lobby at about 8:00. Bye.”

“See you then,” he said, and they hung up.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Eight

The next day, Peter, still without a protective suit, went over to his parents’ office in MedicinaTech. As he walked through the halls, passed the other offices, and went up the elevator on the way there, he frowned and sneered at the sight of everyone else who, without exception, not only wore the protective clothing, but had that passive, almost trance-like look on their faces, because of the vaccines they’d taken.

This is so pathetic, he thought.

On the top floor where his parents’ office was, however, he eyes widened to see the few employees working on that floor not wearing the protective suits. They were no longer wearing the old surgical masks to prevent getting any of the earlier viruses, either.

“Membership in the upper echelons has its privileges,” he whispered as he approached the office door. Funny how the older diseases have suddenly been forgotten about now that ‘The Splits’ is here, he thought.

He went in and sat in a chair by his father’s desk as his parents were reading emails on their desktops.

“What brings you in here, Peter?” his mother asked.

“Oh, nothing much, just hanging out,” he said.

“We’re very busy today,” his father said. “Don’t distract us from our work with any of your petty problems.”

“I was just wondering,” Peter said. “How come everybody downstairs has to suit up, but nobody here on the top floor has to? The staff up here aren’t even wearing the old surgical masks anymore.”

“Every morning when we come in, Dr. Teague gives us a medical check first thing to determine if we’re carriers, of The Splits or of any other viruses,” his mother said. “He can get quick test results, too, within just a few hours. Since we’re all cleared of all of the viruses, and the employees downstairs are all suited up, we don’t have to be.”

“How convenient that the rulers of the city don’t have to live by the same rules as everyone else,” Peter said.

“You enjoy the same privileges,” his father said. “And you’d be crying like a baby if they were taken from you.”

“The point is that none of those people downstairs should be in those stupid suits, either,” Peter said. “Why doesn’t the doctor test them, too, to see if they have The Splits?”

“Because there are too many employees for him to test every morning,” his father said.

“On this floor, there are only about a dozen of them to test, then himself and the two of us,” Peter’s mother said.

“Besides, Dr. Teague is working on a vaccine and making some progress,” his father said.

“Well, I’d say the real reason everyone down there has to wear suits, but we up here don’t have to, is because Teague and both of you know that ‘The Splits’ is nothing but a goddamn hoax.”

“If he knows it’s a hoax, why is he working tirelessly to make a vaccine?” his father asked.

“For the same reason as with all the other vaccines MedicinaTech makes,” Peter said with rising anger. “To profit off of everyone’s fears. This hypochondriac hysteria is good business!”

“Oh, not this again,” his father said.

“It was Dr. Teague’s idea to do the tests for us, not our idea,” his mother said. “He knows that we up here do all the hard brain work, and if we’re in those uncomfortable suits all day and night, it will be harder for us to do our jobs well. It’s only a dozen or so of us up here, so we should be safe.”

“As I said before,” Peter said with a sneer. “How convenient.”

“Can you quit belly-aching?” his father said. “We have a lot of work to do today.”

“Fine,” he said with a sigh.

Just then, Dr. Teague came in the office, without a protective suit, of course.

Speak of the Devil, and he appears, Peter thought.

“Here’s a report of the test results from this morning,” the doctor said, handing a folder to Peter’s father.

“Thank you, Paul,” his father said, taking the folder and feeling his thumb brush against the doctor’s finger.

White dots of light flew out of Dr. Teague’s hand and into Peter’s father’s arm.

“Uhh!” his father moaned, then fell off his chair.

“Ray?” his mother said after turning her head away from her computer monitor. She got up from her desk and ran over to him. “Ray!” Those red cracks were all over his hands and head.

Peter jumped up from his chair and backed up to the glass wall to the left of the office door.

She held Ray by the arms, and some of the glowing white dots flew into her chest. “Aah!” she screamed, and fell on the floor beside him. Now the red cracks were visible on her skin, too, and both of them were shaking and groaning on the floor.

“Holy fuck!” Peter said, then went out of the office and closed the door. He watched his parents through the glass wall. This isn’t happening, he thought. This can’t be happening!

His parents’ body parts started ripping open, making tears in their clothes. Other office staff were looking through the glass wall on either side of Peter. One of them got out a cellphone to call 9-1-1. Another was shouting about getting protective suits up to their floor.

Peter was shaking as much as his parents were. He tried to disbelieve what he saw, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t the hallucinating kind, and what he saw couldn’t have been the fakery of movie special effects.

He saw their shirts and chests rip open. He saw their exposed hearts, stomachs, and intestines.

No blood sprayed anywhere.

There’s no way this is really happening, he thought. I must be dreaming. He pinched himself–no waking up.

His parents’ heads split open. He saw their brains, then remembered Michelle saying she’d seen her mom’s brain.

“I am such an asshole,” he whispered among the screams of the staff around him. She’s going to say, ‘I told you so,’ big time, he thought.

His parents’ pants ripped open. Now Peter could see the torn muscle and sinew on their legs…and their bones.

Finally, the body parts ripped apart into several dozens of pieces and flew in all directions, a few pieces hitting and cracking the glass wall. The left half of his father’s bare right foot struck the glass right by Peter’s face.

“No!” he yelled.

Screams of the staff pierced his eardrums.

His mom’s and dad’s torsos lay there, each in halves beside each other, rocking side to side, limbless, and split open, on the floor by his dad’s desk. Moving holes formed in their lacerated hearts, lungs, stomachs, and intestines. Some of the holes flapped open and shut like mouths. Holes to the top left and right of the flapping holes seemed like eyes; it was as if faces were being formed in his parents’ innards.

“I must be going nuts,” Peter said among the shrieks and gasps of disbelief among the horrified staff.

Those ‘mouths’ were now grunting, over and over again, what sounded like, “I don’t want it.”

My kingdom for a protective suit, Peter thought.

…and amid all the confusion, no one noticed how unruffled Dr. Teague was as he walked out of the office.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Seven

A week later, Peter was texting and calling Michelle over and over again, though she wouldn’t answer, until she received this text from him: I won’t stop ringing your phone until you answer and talk to me!

Finally, she, at home, answered: “What’s your problem?”

“Gee, I don’t know,” he replied. “Could it be that I have a girlfriend who hasn’t communicated with me in over a week? Could that be my problem?”

“Would you like to know what my problem is?” she asked.

“I don’t know: could it be believing in a fake disease?”

“Oh, a ‘fake’ disease that I saw kill my father with own eyes?” she said in tears.

“Your father?” Peter said. “I thought it was your mother who had it.”

“She got better, but she’s a carrier now, and she gave it to him. I watched his body explode all over the hospital room. His body parts hit me and the medical staff there!”

Peter tried to keep his chuckling inaudible, but she heard a bit of it.

“It was in the news, Peter! Didn’t you read about it, or see it on the TV? The Splits killed my father!!”

“I don’t follow the news anymore, Michelle. You should know by now that I don’t trust the media.”

“People have been reporting cases of this pandemic all over the world. It’s real, Peter! Millions have been infected, thousands have died.”

“I’m sorry, Michelle, but until I see it with my own two eyes, I’m simply not going to believe it.”

“And until you’re in one of those protective suits, I’m simply not gonna be anywhere near you.”

“Oh, come on, Michelle. I miss you. I miss your touch.”

Her jaw dropped. “You want sex?

“No, not just that. I miss all of you. Your company, your smile, your closeness. I’m lonely.”

“Well, I…I miss you, too,” she said with a sigh.

“Then let’s get together. Come on!”

“Peter, if I see those white dots of light fly into your body and tear you apart, all because you’re too proud to wear a protective suit, I won’t be able to handle it. I’ve seen the Splits kill my dad, and it almost killed my mom. Dad wanted Mom’s touch, they took off their head coverings, and it killed him. I don’t want to see that happen to either of us. So, suit up, or stay away.”

Peter let out a sigh and asked, “How’s your mom?”

“She’s OK now, I guess. She’s back at work at the newspaper and governing Mississauga, with a special marking on her protective suit so people will know she’s a carrier.”

“Is she acting strangely, or anything?”

“She is, actually. She doesn’t show much emotion. She gives me these reassuring grins, telling me she’s fine, but the grins look fake. She didn’t look at all broken up about Dad’s death, and that makes absolutely no sense. She totally loved him.”

“No crying at all?” Peter asked.

None,” Michelle said. “At his funeral, she frowned in what looked more like boredom than grief.”

“Really? That’s weird.”

“Yeah. What’s even weirder, though actually a good thing, is she says she wants to make some democratic changes to her administration of our district, and to be more objective in the reporting of the news here.”

“Whoa!” Peter’s jaw dropped now. “That’s even harder to believe than all these diseases. Still, I’ll be glad if it’s true.”

“Well, it isn’t going to be easy for her to make these changes, since all the other people on the Board of Directors for the magazine/government have a major say in the decision-making, and none of them will be easily persuaded by her.”

“Now, that sounds believable,” Peter said with a sneer. “Anyway, are we gonna get together or not?”

“Are you gonna wear a suit, or not?”

“Oh, come on!”

“No suit, no cuddles.”

“How can we cuddle in those confining things? With the plastic in front of our faces, we can’t kiss.”

“It’ll be difficult, but at least we’ll be together.”

“Look, I’ll think about it, OK? Just answer my calls.”‘

“I’ll answer them, but I won’t see you until you suit up. Got it?”

He moaned. “Got it. Bye.”

“Bye.” They hung up.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Six

Peter and Michelle exchanged text messages over the following week. Each exchange was a variation on this:

Peter: When am I going to see you again?
Michelle: Are you wearing protective clothing?
Peter: No way!
Michelle: You’re not seeing me until you are.

In her living room, she looked down at the messages on her phone, having just sent that last text. Please, God, if You exist, she thought, make Peter see the light.

Her father came in, wearing a yellow protective suit, but with the head covering in his hands. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said, putting her phone in her purse. “Is Mom really better?”

“That’s what the doctors said,” he said. “They say there hasn’t been any splitting of her skin for the past three days. Your mom doesn’t even have those red crack lines on her body anymore. She is a carrier, though, so suit up.”

“OK.” Michelle put on her suit, they both put on their head coverings, and they left the house.

As they went in the car to the hospital, she looked out the window to see all the pedestrians and people in neighbouring cars, in protective clothing from head to toe, all those essential workers who didn’t need to stay home. She could see through the plastic, transparent face coverings of those close enough to the car to see the blank expressions on their faces.

“MedicinaTech’s vaccines sure have taken the life out of everybody,” she said with a sigh. “They’re all just a bunch of passive automatons. So easy to control. What the hell has happened to the world over the past ten years, Daddy? How did the 2020s turn everything into, well, Nineteen Eighty-Four?”

“Just be glad you’re exempt from taking any of those vaccines, Michelle,” he said. “We didn’t want you to be a zombie like them, and our money and influence ensured you wouldn’t be, so be grateful for that.”

“Yeah, but it isn’t fair to all of those other people.”

“Life isn’t fair.”

“That’s an easy evasion of responsibility, Dad.”

“Look, if you want to blame someone, blame the company the parents of your boyfriend is running, not me. Our newspaper constantly criticizes MedicinaTech for not doing anything about the bad side effects of their vaccines.”

“But your employees, especially the lower level ones, all take the vaccines, too.”

“We have to vaccinate them, honey. No choice.”

“But they all have that same half-asleep look on their faces. I wonder how your reporters can be sharp enough to get the facts of their stories straight.”

“We give them a stimulant to counteract the lulling effects of the vaccines,” her dad said.

“Yeah, everyone’s on drugs,” Michelle said with a frown and a touch of anger in her voice. “How wonderful. As long as you and Mom are profiting from all of this, though, right?”

“Oh, here we go again,” he sighed. “You haven’t forgotten that you, as our daughter, benefit from those profits, too, have you?”

“No, I haven’t, and that’s part of why I feel bad for all those Mississaugans out there that our newspaper business-slash-government is ruling over. We enjoy all those benefits–wealth, exemption from lockdowns, influence–that those zombified people don’t have.”

“Governing a city is no picnic, Michelle.”

“Then give up on the governing! Put it back in the hands of the public; then we can create some social programs to help the poor, and we can have an unbiased media that doesn’t twist the facts of current events to reinforce and justify this family’s rule over the city.”

“Social programs for the poor,” he scoffed. “That’s Peter’s commie influence on you, isn’t it?”

“That’s my own, independent thinking, and you don’t have to be a ‘commie’ to believe that! Peter just happens to agree with me on that one point. You’re just mad because I’m not under your influence!”

They arrived in the hospital parking lot.

“Look, let’s just drop it, OK, Michelle? Let’s try to be in a good mood when we see your mother. I’m so grateful she didn’t die on us; this is going to be an emotional moment for me, and I don’t need your arguing to make it even harder.”

They got out of the car and went into the hospital. They were in a waiting room flooded with visitors, nurses, orderlies, and doctors all in those protective suits, some yellow like Michelle’s and her father’s, and others in blue, pink, red, and orange. In fifteen minutes, they were allowed to go into Siobhan’s quarantine room.

Lying on her bed and also in a protective suit (purple) with the head covering on, she had a blank expression, though one not so passive as those vaccinated workers Michelle had seen outside.

Michelle and her dad approached her bed.

“Mom?” she said, troubled by Siobhan’s emotionlessness. “You look far too peaceful to be believed.”

“Hi, sweetie,” she said with a smile that seemed almost forced. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. The struggle is over.”

Tears ran down not only Michelle’s cheeks, but also her father’s. He would find it harder and harder to resist the temptation to take off his head covering, so much did he hate feeling any separation from the wife he almost lost.

“Don, I’m OK,” Siobhan said softly. “I’ve also been thinking about all Michelle has said about what’s wrong with the newspaper. We should make some changes…”

“Well, let’s not get carried away, Siobhan,” he said.

“Yeah, as glad as I am to hear you say that, Mom, I think that for the moment, we should just focus on you getting better.”

“I am better, honey,” Siobhan said, removing her head covering. “Ah, that feels better. I can breathe now.”

“Mom, I don’t think you should do that.”

“I’m 100%, sweetie,” Siobhan said with a grin for her daughter.

“But you’re still a carrier,” Michelle said. “You might infect somebody. People could die.”

“Only if they resist, Michelle,” Siobhan said.

“Resist? Resist what, Mom?”

Tears of relief were soaking Don’s face. An urge to hug and kiss his wife was overwhelming him. “I don’t think I can resist any more.”

He took off his head covering and reached forward to kiss Siobhan.

“No, Daddy!” Michelle screamed.

Siobhan accepted his kiss on her left cheek and his arms around her with a serene smile.

Then the little white dots flew out of her and into him.

Ungh!” he groaned, then fell to the floor.

“Dad!” Michelle screamed, bending down to help him, but already the red crack marks appeared all over his face. He was shaking and grunting. “Help! Somebody out there! Any doctors? Nurses?!”

Within seconds, a doctor, a nurse, and two orderlies ran into the room.

Now, Michelle could see her father’s brain through the opening cracks.

They would open wide, but close only slightly between even wider openings. His protective suit would show fidgeting bulges where the rest of his body was cracking open.

The medical staff just stood there in a daze of astonishment, not knowing what to do. The doctor was on the verge of tears, hating herself for her helplessness at watching a man die and doing nothing about it.

“Daddy, don’t die on me!” Michelle sobbed.

But the inevitable happened. Don’s body parts ripped apart so violently that they tore out of his clothes and protective suit, flying in all directions in an explosion, and causing an explosion of screams.

Body parts smacked into Michelle and the medical staff, knocking them all back onto the floor. They all looked on with wide eyes and mouths at the fidgeting pieces of the separated four quarters of Don’s head, his bifurcated neck, pieces of his arms, chest, stomach, groin, legs, and feet, all torn into halves, thirds, and even more, smaller fragments.

There still was no blood. The pieces shuffled and wobbled back and forth on the floor, as if alive. Holes formed in the exposed inner anatomy, opening and closing like mouths talking. In fact, Michelle, Siobhan, and the hospital staff could hear something being said through all those ‘mouths.’

Over and over again, grunts of the word, “No.”

“Oh, my God!” the nurse said.

After a minute or so of the fidgeting body parts repeating, “No, no, no, no…,” they all lost colour, stopped moving, and lay there, dead. White dots of light flew out of the body parts and out of the room. Blood poured out in lakes all over the floor.

“Was I hearing things, or were they speaking?” one of the orderlies asked.

“We all saw and heard it,” the doctor said, wiping tears off her cheeks. “And we don’t believe our eyes or ears any more than you do.”

“Let’s clean up this mess,” the shaking nurse said, then he looked at Michelle and said, “I’m so sorry, Miss.”

The doctor went over to weeping Michelle and put her arms around her. She sobbed, “I’m sorry, too. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and I just can’t do anything! I can never sleep.”

“I don’t blame any of you, Doctor,” Michelle said between sobs. “This whole thing is getting so crazy.”

They left the room together while the nurse and orderlies began picking up Don’s pieces.

In all of the confusion and shock, no one paid any attention to Siobhan or her reaction to her husband’s death…a rather calm reaction.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Five

A week later, Michelle was in her bedroom, chatting with Peter on her smartphone.

“So, have you got your test results back?” he asked with the expected tone of disbelief.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m OK. I’m not a carrier.”

“I could’ve told you that a week ago,” he said.

“Peter,” she said, struggling not to raise her voice. “My mom has it. She’s in quarantine, struggling to fight it off. You weren’t there when she caught it. I was.

“What did you see? An acting job?”

“It’s real, Peter! She wasn’t acting. I saw red cracks all over her body. They were opening and closing. I could see bits of her brain showing!”

“Did you see any blood?” he asked. She could almost see his sneer. “Blood must have been flying all over the place if her head was opening up.”

“No…oddly, there wasn’t any blood.”

“Which makes this whole thing all the less believable.”

“Oh, go to hell, Peter! Don’t talk to me again until you grow up!” She hung up on him. “Ignorant, arrogant asshole!”

Her father was standing by her ajar bedroom door. “Michelle?”

She looked over at him. “How’s Mom?” she asked.

“She’s about the same,” he said with a sigh. “Still struggling with it. According to the people taking care of her, those cracks on her body keep widening and narrowing, back and forth, in a kind of stalemate.”

“Have the doctors learned anything about how to help her get better?” she asked with teary eyes.

“No. All that seems to help is the wearing of decontamination clothing. A week has gone by and no one wearing that clothing ever catches The Splits. People on the news are already telling everyone to buy those suits and wear them everywhere. Stores are all getting stocked up with them as we speak.”

“I know. Peter’s gonna hate it. He’ll never comply.” She started crying.

“Oh, honey,” Her father walked over to her and put his arm around her. “We’ve both been tested, so I guess we can make contact. But Peter’s still being stubborn, eh?”

“Yeah,” she sobbed. “He’s too proud to admit he’s wrong. When…er, if…he catches it, I don’t wanna be there and see his body cracking into pieces.”

“He might just be a carrier.”

“Then he’ll carelessly give it to me, or to you, or to somebody else, to many other people, and at least some of them will die. I might be there to see that, and I’ll have to explain why I wasn’t insistent enough to get him to wear the protective clothing.” She sobbed louder.

“Do you still want to go out with him?”

“Yes, of course. I still love him. I’m just mad at him, and really afraid for all of us.” She knew her father’s real motives for asking the question: if she’d stop being Peter’s girlfriend, she wouldn’t have his influence, and maybe she wouldn’t be so against her parents’ business and governance of the Mississauga area. And he was much more adamant in defending his business than her mom was.

Still, she bit her tongue: now was not the time to be fighting with him.

Now was a time they all needed to pull together.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Four

Michelle arrived in her mother’s office in their newspaper, The Mississauga Exposé, about an hour after Peter had arrived in his parents’ office. “Hi, Mom,” she said as she walked through the doorway.

“Hi, sweetie,” her mom said. “How’s everything? How’s Peter?”

Wearing masks, they didn’t get close to each other.

“Oh, he’s fine,” Michelle said. “Still anti-mask, as usual. How are you?”

“Oh, good,” her mom said. “You know, there’s a new virus we need to worry about.”

“The Splits?”

“That’s what we’re calling it. Our reporter, Ann Carleton, thought up the name. Stroke of genius on her part. All the other media outlets are using the term, too–all over the world.”

“Peter doesn’t believe it’s real.”

“He doesn’t believe any virus is real,” her mom said.

“I know, but this new one sounds a bit on the unbelievable side to me, too, to be honest. I mean, seriously? People’s bodies split and break into pieces as soon as they’re infected?”

“I know it sounds incredible, but Ann was on the spot at the time a paramedic’s body split into fifty pieces right in front of her.”

“And you believe her?” Michelle asked with a slight sneer.

“She’s been a trusted journalist for over ten years, eight of which she’s worked for me. She’s never once reported a story we needed to retract.”

“Yeah, but this virus sounds a little…out there. It’s the kind of thing that feeds easily into Peter’s paranoid government conspiracy theories.”

“What do you think?” her mom asked. “That we made it all up? That Ann was high on drugs or something? Look, I’ll agree with you that this is a pretty wild new virus. It’s unlike anything anyone has ever encountered. It seems like something from outer space or something.”

“That’s what Peter said it sounded like.”

“Still, there were witnesses who confirmed what Ann saw and heard, including the wife of the CFO of MedicinaTech, a company we hardly have any sympathy for, as you know. We rule our district far more humanely than they do theirs. The lockdown and mask rules aren’t so strict here, and income inequality isn’t as bad.”

“Mom, that fact that you and Dad rule our district is precisely what makes it not done so humanely,” Michelle said. “There I find myself in solid agreement with Peter over all this corporate government. Income inequality isn’t as bad, but it isn’t all that much better here, either.”

“Oh, the idealism of young adulthood,” her mother said. “We do the best we can here.”

“Mom, we can do much better.”

Her mom sighed in annoyance. “Anyway, the CFO’s wife, Hannah Gould, has been quarantined, for though she’s infected and a carrier, it isn’t killing her. Doctors can learn more about The Splits: what kind of virus it is, where it came from, why some are susceptible to dying from it, and why others aren’t. Our reporting on this research can do a lot of good for everyone, while MedicinaTech will just profit from selling vaccines of questionable worth to treat The Splits.”

This paper profits from the news stories, too, Mom, Michelle thought.

A masked woman in her thirties entered the office.

“Ann, there you are,” Michelle’s mother said. “She’s the one who got the scoop for us on The Splits story.”

“Here’s the report on those tests you were asking about, Siobhan,” Ann said, handing her the papers.

“Thank you, Ann.”

Ann scratched at her afro, just above her right ear, then little dots of white light flew out of her eyes and at Siobhan’s chest.

Ungh!” Siobhan grunted, then she staggered and fell to the floor, shaking and screaming in pain. The papers flew all over the floor.

“Mom?” Michelle said, bending down to see her.

“Don’t get close to her,” Ann said with surprisingly little emotion. “Or to me. I’d better go into quarantine myself. I’m so sorry, Siobhan.” Ann ran out of the office, putting out her hands and warning the staff out there, “Don’t come near me!”

“Mom!” Michelle screamed, her eyes watering up.

Siobhan’s body had red cracks all over it, which opened and closed, over and over again, as she was shaking and grunting on the floor in agony.

“Somebody get a doctor!” Michelle screamed out the wide-open office door. “My mom’s in trouble!” Why didn’t Ann call a doctor? she thought, then, Why haven’t I? Stupid! She took out her smartphone and called 9-1-1.

Shaking almost as much as her mother was, Michelle looked down at her. Her eyes and mouth widened to see those red cracks opening and closing, back and forth and back and forth, like many mouths speaking but making no sound. It was hard for her to speak coherently on the phone, making articulate words through her sobs and trembling voice.

To keep her self-control, she had to look away from her mother while explaining the emergency. After finishing her 9-1-1 call, she looked back down at her mother. The cracks kept opening…and closing.

It seemed to Michelle that her mother was fighting the virus. “Keep fighting, Mom,” she sobbed. “Don’t let it kill you.”

Her father was hurrying over to the office, having heard from an employee what had happened to Siobhan. Michelle looked over and saw him coming.

“No, Dad!” she screamed. “Don’t come in here!” She closed the door in his face.

He froze in front of the closed door, standing there with a stupefied, helpless expression.

“What’s wrong with her?” he asked in a trembling voice.

“She has The Splits!” Michelle yelled. “It’s contagious! I could have it. Paramedics are on the way. Keep out!”

In five minutes, paramedics in decontamination suits arrived. Siobhan was put on a stretcher in her own decontamination suit, with a bag valve mask on her face. Michelle and her father stood back, separate from each other for fear that she was a carrier, as they watched the paramedics take Siobhan out of the building.

Michelle went up to one of the paramedics just before he was to leave the office.

“I was nearby when the virus was passed on to my mother,” she said. “I could be a carrier showing no symptoms.”

“Come with us,” he said. “We’ll have you tested. Let me get a decontamination suit for you to wear.”

Why couldn’t Ann have gone into quarantine before? Michelle wondered.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Three

An hour later, Peter had arrived in MedicinaTech, his parents’ pharmaceutical and vaccine-making corporation, and also the seat of government in his district. He waited in his parents’ office for them to arrive.

As he waited, he looked out the glass walls of the office and at all the masked employees rushing about doing this and that. He sneered in disgust at their, in his opinion, thoughtless compliance to all the rules meant to protect us from the viral variant of the time.

He thought about what had been happening over the past decade. Not just about the viruses, but also about how corporations no longer used the government to protect their interests…how corporations gradually replaced governments. It all started with certain tech companies in Nevada creating their own governments, as proposed by a bill back in early 2021. Over the 2020s, this idea caught on little by little as a way for capitalists to cut out the middle-man of the state.

There was some resistance at first, of course, but gradually people became used to the idea, and just passively accepted it. By the end of the decade, pretty much the whole world was being run by corporations as local district governments. No longer was it even pretended that governments looked out for the interests of the people: what had once been only implied was now explicitly understood. Corporations were the government, because they were the only thing the government had been there to care for anyway.

Though Peter benefited from the privilege of being the son of governors of his area, he still sighed, sad for all the people, the vast majority, who didn’t get to enjoy his benefits. When his parents died, and he was to succeed them, he planned to give up the whole MedicinaTech company and give the power back to the people…if he could.

His parents arrived after about five minutes of his waiting. His father followed his mother through the doorway, and they saw Peter sitting by their desks. “Hi, Peter,” his mother said. “What can we do for you?” His parents sat at their desks.

“I heard that Derek Gould died last night,” Peter said.

“Yeah,” his father said without a trace of emotion.

“We need to find a new CFO, and fast,” his mother said with an equal lack of emotion. “It’s going to be a real pain.”

“You two don’t seem too broken up about his death,” Peter said. “He’d only been with this company since it began, hadn’t he?”

“When you run a business, you focus on the business,” his father said. “Not on feelings.”

“And that goes double for governing a district,” his mother added. “Your head has to be clear when dealing with the kind of pressure your father and I have, dear.”

“Yeah, but you’ve never focused on anyone’s feelings here,” Peter said with a hint of aggression. “Not Derek’s or his wife’s, not the workers you overwork and underpay, not–“

“Oh, let’s not start that up again!” his mother said.

“This is the influence of your girlfriend’s family’s liberal newspaper, no doubt,” his father said.

“The newspaper that governs our neighbouring district, and that demonizes our company and all the good we do for the world,” his mother said.

“Yeah, all the profiting off of other people’s suffering!” Peter shouts. “Michelle’s newspaper doesn’t criticize you enough, as I see it. Their writers think these viruses are real. Michelle isn’t influencing me one tenth as much as you think she is. I was just debating her earlier today about whether this new virus is real, which she believes it is. My opposition to what you’re doing here is from my own heart.”

“Yet you hypocritically enjoy all the benefits of being the son of wealthy, politically powerful parents,” his father said with a sneer. “You, as our son, who doesn’t have to wear masks or stay in lockdown.”

“And an ungrateful son, at that,” his mother growled. “Maybe we should deny you those benefits, so you can learn some appreciation.”

“I knew it was pointless coming here,” Peter said, then stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.

“Why did I have to have Friedrich Engels for a son?” his father said with a sigh.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Two

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.”