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Total Lockdown

Born in the UK, Andy relocated to Luxembourg where he worked in marketing, contract sales, and computing before starting his own web consultancy. He sold the business and retired early to write, take small parts in movies, and perform on stage. He is married and has three artistically talented daughters. His short stories appear in various anthologies and he has published a sci-fi trilogy. He is working on a new far-future series and has a classic noir series on the back-burner.

You heard the governments' announcements.
"Coronavirus-22 is more dangerous than Coronavirus-19 back in 2020! Stay indoors! Don't go to work! Keep your distance! Wear masks. We'll get them to you as soon as we can."
Yeah, stay indoors. Easy to say. Easy for us to do.
In compensation, we had this wonderful view. I looked out at ocean, desert, and forest. I could even see the distant city lights twinkling away in the darkness. A billion-dollar view.
And if we did want to take a walk, we had all the protective gear we could hope for. Of course, the stores were a long way away.
Did I get on with Olga and Boris? Not like we had much choice. Nowhere to go sulk if there was friction. So we behaved like grown-ups. Yeah. Sure we did.
Boris and I arrived after the initial outbreak, just when the borders started closing.
Olga was already there, so she was kinda den-mother, showing us the ropes and the rest. I liked her right off. Maybe too much. She was chatty, very smart, warm, funny. She gave me warm vibes when we first met, and we grew very close. But nothing would come of it, not here, not with the surveillance cameras, not with two professionals like us. Not with Boris around.
Boris? I got along with him in a professional way, though it was all smiles and arms-on-shoulders for the cameras. In between? Well, we got along as professionals. Distant.
Like when we arrived. "Greetings over, we should settle in." Boris was Boris. Stiff, professional. "Then we can begin our work." He spun away to unpack his few possessions, leaving Olga and me to swap smirks.
We kept ourselves busy. Lots of work to do, reports to make, and we kept to a strict exercise routine.
It wasn't really working from home, but we were there and local transport was kinda limited. So we just got on with things. Sure, we could go online and chat with family, trapped in their spaces back home, waiting for the all-clear, just like everyone else.
The first few weeks were okay, a learning process. Olga began teaching me Russian in our spare time. We didn't have a lot of that, but we made time. Boris kept pretty much to himself. He talked in his sleep. In Russian. I wore earplugs. It's not like there's much social distancing with so little physical distance.
Yeah, Olga and I got pretty close, as close as we could with the security cameras and Boris there 24/7. After a while, we forgot about the cameras and just got on with our work.
Border controls tightened. Fatality numbers rose daily. Food riots got put down. We tried to ignore it. Nothing we could do, after all. And borders meant nothing to us.
Our older commanders got replaced by younger ones, then by people we didn't know.
Presidents started pointing fingers, shouting at each other over the news media. Tensions rose, militaries mobilized.
Olga's mother took ill, then was hospitalized, then came the bad news.
I held Olga, hugged her, tried to comfort her. I guided her to her cubicle, where she could lay down. She pulled me close when I tried to go. She didn't want me to leave her alone.
Yeah, it started as comforting. It ended in another place.
We forgot where we were and the cameras. We sure forgot about Boris. Like I said, there wasn't much physical distancing there.
He ripped back her cubicle's curtain and screamed out a stream of Russian. He grabbed the cubicle frame to hold himself steady as he swayed.
I caught some spittle, a few words, and all the message.
The bit about 'peresecheniye granitsy' stumped me.
I reached out and grabbed at him as he tried to hit me. We both failed, crashing instead into the cubicle's metal walls.
I heard voices in Russian and English yelling at us from the speakers.
Beside me, Olga struggled to cover herself and pleaded in both languages with us.
I've seen the security surveillance recording since I got back. Of course, it leaked onto the internet. Of course, it did.
I can see the funny side now. Everyone says it lifted their spirits as they watched two idiots trying to land a single blow and only succeeding in crashing themselves into walls, floor, and ceiling. Yeah, we got a 'Highlights of the Lockdown' internet award.
A relief crew arrived as fast as they could get one out here.
But we spent a sullen few days in even deeper isolation. Antisocial distancing. Yeah, we found you could sulk there. We daren't take a walk outside for fear no one would open the door to let us back in.
So we were disciplined, sacked, disgraced, and all the rest.
But I did find out what 'peresecheniye granitsy' meant. Crossing borders.
Up there, in the zero-gravity confines of the International Space Station, we crossed borders every few minutes.
But Olga and me? Man, we crossed a much bigger one, for all the world to see.
That 'Highlights of the Lockdown' internet award? It's on the shelf over there if you wanna see it.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Author Comments

With all that 2020 brought us in terms of lockdown isolation, I felt a little humor wouldn't go amiss. I tried to think of the ultimate lockdown and a YouTube documentary about the ISS launched this tale.

- Andy McKell
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