The following piece was an entry for our Writing Competition back in Spring where we asked for creative writing pieces on the student experience of the Coronavirus lockdown. The author, Isabelle, is from Edinburgh and is an English Literature and Creative Writing BA student. Please note the following piece contains strong language.
“Stay at home, it saves lives.” is what the government told us. I can still remember the recording like it was yesterday. But nobody listened, people continued to go outside and mingle – spreading the disease.
It's been three years to the day, since the worldwide Pandemic was declared by the WHO; almost two years since the internet stopped working and since I last heard from my friends.
The UK is completely cut-off from the rest of the world now – I have no idea how the rest of the planet is coping. Only the Government knows, but they're not telling anyone. A year ago they took over completely, democracy was no more. With the internet gone smart phones became impossible to track and they decided to chip people. Well, the people they managed to get their hands on – those who escaped became spirits of the night. The day they took over was the last day I felt the sun on my skin.
My next door neighbour's dog is barking again – begging for his walkies, not understanding that daytime walkies are no longer possible with the Government monitoring all of our movements, and the Police patrolling the streets now.
I listen as my neighbour pleads for Jasper, that's the dog's name, to be quiet. I silently agree, we don't want to attract the neighbours across the road – as far as they are concerned the house we're in is empty. The walls are also pretty thin and the windows not well isolated.
I continue to listen to the begging and Jasper's whining, which is growing louder by the second; in fact it's getting to the point where I'm sure the family living across from us can hear him. I have seen them before when I risked a glance through the cardboard that covers my windows. It's a couple with two young children, all of them chipped (as evidenced from the barcode tattoos on their left wrists – each code associated to one human, to be scanned by the Police on patrol).
'What's that ruckus?! Catriona come here and have a listen!' A male voice, probably the father, calls.
I knock on the wall my neighbour and I share – two quick knocks in succession, followed by three slow and again two quick knocks – the warning signal. 'Jasper – you need to be quiet, please boy … ' I can hear through the wall as I lean my ear against it. 'Please boy …'
'What is that? Is that, a dog?' I move back to the window.
'I think so – but where is it coming from? I don't remember anyone having a dog around here – '
'You're right.' The woman's voice, Catriona, takes on a tone I remember from the show The Nightmare Neighbour Next Door, when tv-shows still existed. It's the tone someone takes on when they think they're about to grass someone up and take pleasure in it.
'John,' I call.
Silence at first, then a hesitating, 'Yes?'
'I think they know.'
'John …' I stop, the next sounds stop me in my tracks and send shivers down my back – similar to when I come across patrol vehicles at night. Jasper's whining has turned into a painful and heartbreaking gasping. I never knew dogs could make such a sound. Followed by silence – the only sound left being the wild beating of ...
My heart - it's beating a hundred miles an hour when I wake up covered in sweat and tears. Nightmares have plagued me since the lockdown started five weeks ago and they're getting worse.
I trudge to the kitchen and turn on the kettle and wait for the water to boil. It's all I can do, drink tea and wait for all of this to blow over. I lean against the counter and listen to my neighbour's dog barking outside in their garden. I pray that he will never have to go through what poor Jasper went through.