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Competition runner-up: ‘After the Virus’

This short story paints a dystopian picture of a possible world long after the coronavirus pandemic is over, a runner-up in the Visions of a World After COVID-19 competition.

Lily Peasegood
6 August 2020
Coronavirus lifecycle
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Artwork courtesy of David S. Goodsell and the RCSB PDB, CC-BY-4.0

2037

“… now we move on to 2022. Referring back to 2021, we know the British economy bordered on collapse. 75% of all wealth resided with the top 3.5% of the population, and most businesses had made their employees redundant. Nevertheless, the lower class - that we now name the Insolvent - did not receive the governments next logical decision with good grace. Instead, the inevitable privatisation of the NHS was met with the beginning of the infamous Second Revolt in December 2021. But remember that despite the Second Revolt also being known as the Revolt of 2022, 2022 is actually the year it ended.”

“But today we are going to focus on the revolts failure. The revolt ended on July 12th 2022, which is marked by our national Restoration Day. On this day 15 years ago, the ed of the revolt and the restoration of Britain began with the death of Insolvent leader Jacob Corn, dubbed Tyler. He declared war on democracy on December 4th 2021, an act of violence in retaliation for the supposedly selfish act of closing the NHS to the public, claiming it was an act indisputably for the prioritisation of the rich over the rest of the population. He then led a small army of the Insolvent through London to the museum, 10 Downing Street. Only then it was home to England’s Prime Minister. Yet despite Corns sizable support, the ignorance of his followers towards the true injustice in society – the entitlement of the lazy lower-class population – ultimately resulted in the first uprising’s downfall. A distinct lack of food and two days of fighting forced the Insolvent to abandon their campaign. Now open your book and turn to page …”

*CLICK*

Kate held the button down for another second, savouring the initial moments of silence it gave her, before allowing it to pop back into place. After brushing her hair and deciding she was hungry, she stood: balancing elegantly on long, pale legs before crossing her room and turning to fall on her bed. After enjoying a moment of blissful relaxation, she stretched out, arching her back like a spoilt cat to reach the cord snaking alongside her nightstand. Pulling it towards her, she pictured the reaction travelling along its length. The slack rope would be made taught like a bow string, causing her bell in the kitchen to chime with command. The servants would come rushing: she smiled at the thought of them scuttling up the stairs and disappearing around corners like mice in a larder. But the happy moment that should have been Gretta or Diane knocking timidly at the door was soured, as before she could grant them admission, her mother entered.

“Katherine. You’ve not finished. And you can’t use the bell until you do.” Kate resented that. It was only now that she noticed wretched Gretta’s form, hunched feebly behind her mother’s silhouette. Kate’s mother had the mysterious ability to do that, to catch little mice misbehaving and then, dispense the ‘justice’ she found most appropriate. Gretta had been caught, and Kate would have to punish her later…

“Katherine!” Her speculation was abruptly ended. “Do it now!”

“I don’t understand,” was Kates solemn reply. “Why did the economy crash? Why did everyone lose their jobs? Where did the Insolvent come from? What did they expect other than for their revolt to fail?.” Kate’s mother stood there in shock.

“The pandemic…” she spoke quietly but surely, breathing rhythmically to control her frustration, “destroyed the economy, forcing everyone to isolate. The lower class were named the Insolvent, and lost their jobs because they were lazy. Why should we pay the poor to sit and do nothing in their homes? The only effort they ever put in was creating a revolt that they couldn’t even sustain because they were all unemployed!”

Kate didn’t know what to say. She’d never seen her mother get so upset.

“But why Insolvent? Not just lower class like before…”

“Because they are less than us. They aren’t part of our society, why should they be counted as part of its structure? Finish your work and you might know this before you embarrass yourself again.”

*CLICK*

“… 64. Answer questions 1 to 5 before moving on to the next …”

With the sound of her mother’s footstep receding down the hall, Kate retreated to her balcony. The wind was strong and cold, but she didn’t mind. Along the horizon, past the house and abandoned office blocks, she could see the wall, tall and comforting. “It keeps them out,” her mother would say. “Keeps us apart, as we should be.”

“… the wall was hastily constructed in 2023, but has - over the years - been steadily refined. Surrounding the entire city by 2024, it seals the rift between Us and Them.”

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