The New Normality. Flash Fiction by Lola Elkin

I have an eerie feeling of unreality that starts every morning as soon as I open my eyes: 7:00 AM, with the help of no alarm clock, my heart starts pumping blood at a rate that is considered abnormal for a half sleeping body; I sit up and open the blinds in an automatic gesture, expecting for all of it to have been a bad dream. No chance; silence slides through, echoing in the stillness of the room, only birds chirp their morning song with the faraway rumble of a stranger’s car tuning into the apocalyptic melody.

Many things have happened since the night of the 14th of march of 2020, when a global State of Alert was declared, and they all signify the same thing: the end of liberty as we knew it. For a moment I think of how I used to cycle along the port on Sunday mornings, slowly blending into the crowd on the promenade, wind blowing in my face. All experiences are now confined to the isolation of your home, if you are lucky enough to have one; to the communal improvised shelters if you don’t. It is for the benefit of society as a whole they say; the virus is relentless and will not stop its vertiginous voyage otherwise. Some have taken it as their duty to stay locked in, others are starting to feel like hostages but still obey. There is plenty of time to spend but no place for protests. Gatherings are not allowed.
The invisible threat is made tangible in every report and newspaper headline: ‘Thousands killed in a week’; ‘This disease knows of no frontiers’; ‘Hospitals are overflowing with infected patients”; ‘The virus can resist several hours in the air’; ‘There is no cure’. Fear seems to be shaping the way our new society is being created, with us citizens quickly becoming stranded automatons, in the dark as to what will come next.

I get dressed and turn on the radio while making breakfast. After weeks of strict lockdown, the government is announcing that we will be getting our lives back soon, with caution and surveillance, lots of it. Drastic measures that are necessary means to protect us, or so we are told. This week we will be stepping into stage zero of the deconfinement, there are four steps towards what is referred to as “the new normality”. Everyone is pleased to be let out again, even for a short time, whilst anxiously awaiting the extended liberties of the next stage, and then the one after that… I sip my tea numbly and think of Pavlov’s dog.

Lola Elkin is a freelance writer and photographer. For several years she worked as a journalist and editor at an indie arts and culture magazine in Madrid. At present she lives in Majorca with her dog and writes only for pleasure.

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