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Jeffrey Lyons is a software developer from Ontario, Canada. He spends a lot of time daydreaming, and occasionally manages to write down some of it coherently. You can visit him at magehat.wordpress.com.

Billy stepped outside the door and let out a year's worth of tension with a single breath.
Having never been the kind of kid to enjoy sleepovers, the anti-quarantine had been particularly hard on Billy. Normal school was a challenge on the best of days, but being forced to stay in the same house as multiple families was a unique kind of torture for someone who often found his original three-person household too crowded.
He hadn't thought it would come to that. He had watched the early news reports on the Divers with his parents, but it didn't seem like they would affect him. They were continents away, after all.
Then the first attacks had occurred in Europe, and pretty soon they were everywhere. The official advice became commonplace--don't go anywhere without at least two others, and stay within six feet so they can't pick out a target. Make sure not to cover your face so they will know how many of you there are. The more people they think they see, and the closer they are together, the less chance of an attack.
Billy had to say goodbye to wandering around on his own playing make-believe in his back yard.
Though he had never seen a Diver, the news said that didn't mean they weren't there. They were too high up in the clouds for people to notice, and they could plummet to attack in seconds. There was even enough worry about them attacking indoors that the government had forced families into shared housing to reduce the amount of time people were alone inside.
For Billy, this meant moving into the Jensen's house and spending time with their kids, Todd and Freddie. All they seemed to do was play video games online and swear at people, and they chewed gum so loudly he thought he was on a farm visiting cows. He asked his parents many times whether they could go back to their own house if only for a moment, but they were softly persistent--it was for the greater good.
The internet had tempted Billy on many a cramped night at the Jensen's. They said the Divers were being greatly exaggerated so the government could use them as an excuse to ban masks. That way nothing could get in the way of their new facial recognition police state.
He stopped going down that route when his dad's friend Brad was attacked though. He didn't know how you could exaggerate that.
When the sprays had been developed, opinion was split. Billy could understand why--covering yourself in an agent that was slightly radioactive and would never leave your body was scary enough without the internet's theories of it being used as sterilization or DNA modification. But it was supposed to throw off the Diver's ability to see you, and if you got the spray, you could walk free.
In the end that had been what did it. Billy's parents had seen what the anti-quarantine had done to their boy and they were more than happy to take the risk to get back to normalcy. The three of them had just undergone the procedure and emerged from the monitoring station, free to resume life.
It smelled a little like sunscreen, but the nurse had said that would fade in a few days. Billy didn't care about the smell at all. His parents said he could walk home from the clinic all on his own as a reward for getting it. And with a big smile plastered across his face, he planned on enjoying every second of it.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 13th, 2021

Author Comments

As an introvert, the pandemic lockdown measures and isolation didn't phase me as much as they did extroverts. I wondered what kind of threat could cause the reverse, namely an enforced togetherness with no alone time. The result is this story.

- Jeffrey Lyons
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