Between one breath and the next, it just… stopped.
And in the bubbles of our cloistered homes, something skittered like a needle screeching across a record player.
Laundry. Laundry. Laundry. Toast. Laundry. Toast. Toast. FUCK. Laundry. Laundry.
Or maybe it was more like a worn-out videotape. Static for days and then the too-bright vision of a screaming fight. Static for days and then the nauseated overwhelmingness of a sobbing, choking meltdown. Static for days and suddenly you’d realize you hadn’t spoken a word or been outside in a month.
It never really restarted after. They call the kids from those days the Bubble Generation. For us, responsible relationships were about fluid bonding. Informed consent was semen and saliva and blood, the fluids that had put our parents at risk.
For the Bubbles, danger was in the act of breathing together. Bare hand to bare cheek. Girls in toilets whisper-giggled about whether or not you could catch anything if someone kissed your throat. How romantic it was that they were going to go for nasal swabs and then share air. Curfew was about distance, not time. “Don’t go beyond the park, that’s a different health zone!”
Safe sex was cybersex. Intimacy was of the mind, not the body.
I suppose it was inevitable that the population started plummeting. My friends, if you got them drunk enough, admitted that they had stopped trying for children. Too much worry. Too much fear. Not enough money. Not enough food. A virus that mutated faster than a foetus could develop. Why, they asked me, would anyone choose to bring a child into a world where the lockdown had become permanent?
I didn’t have an answer for them. Just more booze.
Toast. Laundry. Laundry. Vodka. Laundry. Gin. Toast.
A toast, then. “To our Bubble children, whose time has stopped and who would rather breathe than breed – hail. Hail and farewell.”
Laundry. Laundry. Toast. Laundry.
G. Grim writes speculative microfiction and has been published in anthologies and online.