Natural/Digital

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WARNING before reading any further, my latest story is more dystopian than usual and has unsettling covid themes…discretion is advised…

Here is some background on why I wrote this….“Our industrialised planet is hurting, its time to heal and return to balance. We live in a world obsessed with increasing digitisation. We can learn to live with nature or attempt to escape into the digital. We might get away with it but nature is pissed. This story illustrates a dark implausible future of what happens when nature becomes digitised. Enjoy…”

Nicola was smart, healthy and in her mid thirties. She sat proudly in her favourite chair, staring out at endless waves, as they tumbled relentlessly to the shore. She was lonely, bored and lost in thought…

Sometimes I day dream about what life was like before the virus. We had freedom to meet without fear and a kid of social safety we definitely took for granted as a species. I long for that same connection with friends and family. This was a time before the masks, mandates and isolations.

The government said everything will be ok once we were all fully vaccinated. Three years later and the virus has continued to mutate. New scary symptoms and increasingly more transmission, forced the hand of governments, who had no choice but to in-force a new series of lockdowns. I miss my workmates. I miss my boyfriend. I haven’t seen him in person for three months. On the positive though, I love my work. I love technology. I now work remotely for Spark, the telecommunication company. We are back to video calls again. It’s amazing to see someone’s face, even if its on a screen.

I feel safe but I have heard some strange stories about people contracting the virus while at home in lockdown. Scientists are investigating the possibility of an exceptional mutation in dormancy which sounds likely. The only probable explanation is that the virus is already in the system? Animal to human transmission is another possibility but sounds far fetched to me. I mean, its not as if we are patting someone else’s dog or feeding birds while in lockdown.

At least i’m healthy and safe at home. Stay away from animals, got it. Nicola’s thoughts were interrupted by the familiar sound of a call coming through on her IPAD. Ding Dong Ding. I must remember to change that ringtone she thought. It was the boyfriend. She lit up. She stole a moment to fix her hair before starting the call.

“Hi Baby,” his voice was familiar and smooth. My ears rejoiced.
“How are you today, I miss you.” He always says this but I never get tired of hearing it.
Suddenly my screen glitched, just for a second. It was like a momentary static but if I blinked I would have missed it. Ok I’m a geek. That was weird.
“I’m good, how’s things where you are? How’s rover the dog?” I asked, making small talk in the usual way, expecting the same response. 🙂
“I think I have Covid baby.” He said. My heart sank.
“Are you sure, have you done the test?” I replied nervously.
“I cant hear you, are you on mute? I’m Covid positive.” He said.
Stupid mute. I checked and I wasn’t muted. I tried calling him back, he still couldn’t hear me. We messaged a bit, which made me feel better because he seemed to be doing ok.

I rang a few friends which was a bit hit and miss because the calls ended in more glitching and silences. The next day my nose started to run. I couldn’t believe it! The next day I had a sore throat and i felt terrible. I needed to reach out and talk to someone. So I gathered as much energy as I could and ran a full diagnostic on my devices and noticed something odd. Modifications had been made to the software… I tried to understand what was going on in the code. But this was a language I had never seen before.

Another day passed and I was really struggling. I dozed in and out as I lay in my bed. Thinking, dreaming, sometimes my eyes were open but mostly it didn’t matter. I didn’t have enough energy to do anything productive. My body was very busy dealing with this virus that had found its way into the house and into my body. But how?

I awoke weak but startled by the strangest dream. I dreamt that the coronavirus protein binded to a devices screen. The virus using the device as a host, replicated itself in the form of software and was then able to infect other devices. Ultimately, returning to original form to infect the unsuspecting human user. That explains the glitches and I guess loss of sound is the digital equivalent of loss of smell?

I had the implausible crazy answer and just enough energy to make the call. As I paused, seconds away from messaging my boss, It dawned on me. If I make contact with a person they will become infected! Without thinking clearly, I posted my thoughts to social media instead. A lot of people will think I am crazy. Wait what have I done?

By Hayden Breese

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