A few days ago President Trump extended the Coronavirus social distancing guidelines to include the entire month of April, which was unwelcome news for everyone save our political/media class of Twitter-addicted shut-ins. A major concern is not just when things will return to normal, but what normal will look like on the other side of this crisis. “We can’t return to business as usual,” the talking heads tell us.
Okay, but what does that mean? I’d like to think that we’ll make significant changes to our geopolitics, but there’s no guarantee that our leaders will do that. No doubt it will be impossible to get a consensus on what those changes should look like, no matter how many people die from COVID-19. Like so much, what happens next is going to be a waiting game while we importune the people we voted for to do what we voted them to do.
For my part, I’m still writing the science fiction adventure series I started last year. (Well, I’m trying to write it with everyone at home.) A theme in this new series is, somewhat unfortunately, a kind of contagion. I’m some time from finishing it, but in light of recent events, I don’t know how the story will be received. I know that there are likely many writers right now developing Coronavirus fiction of all kinds. We’ll see how that works out for them.
Disease was also a theme in my Armageddon trilogy. In the first book, The Blessed Man and the Witch, I introduced the secret war of Heaven versus Hell, with innocent people used as proxies to fight for the holy artifacts that would make a difference in the last battle. The second book, The Nephilim and the False Prophet, showed the characters attempting to stop Hell from gaining an insurmountable advantage, and how a third faction planned to change the nature of the conflict. Finally, in The Holy Warrior and the Last Angel, demons swarm across an Earth in which the angels are terribly outnumbered.
Hell’s victory plan involved the corruption of souls with horror and self-loathing; one way they did that was by releasing a virulent, incurable strain of leprosy. The American government’s response was to set up temporary hospitals (leper colonies) to quarantine the infected. Several characters wound up contracting the disease, which, while not immediately fatal, was nevertheless debilitating and disfiguring. Many sufferers attempted to conceal the symptoms by wearing gloves and/or surgical masks. In the following excerpt from The Holy Warrior and the Last Angel, Ozzie has recently joined up with Aidan, a teenage leprosy patient who fled a burning hospital in a stolen ambulance with Mrs. Cai; Lem, a bar owner now driving the ambulance; and Patty, a regular at Lem’s bar.
Ozzie glanced over his shoulder and found himself eyeball-fucking the weird, mute Mrs. Cai, who stared back and said nothing. Patty hadn’t moved. Aidan happened to look in his direction, and seeing him said, “Ozzie? Can I ask you something?”
Mierda. The kid hadn’t shut up for more than five minutes since they started this trip, and now Ozzie had broken the welcome silence by looking at him.
“What,” Ozzie said.
Aidan swallowed. “Uh…we’re all gonna have to fight, right? Fight the…the demons. Once we find the five angels.”
Ozzie didn’t reply.
“It’s just that…it’s not that I’m too scared to. You know, to fight. I mean, I am scared, but…well…I can’t see real well. I was gonna get cataract surgery next week, but…” Aidan lifted his gauze-wrapped hands. “And…the nerves in my fingers are shot. The ones I got left. I can’t feel anything.”
Leaning back, Lem glanced sidelong at Ozzie.
“We ain’t gonna leave you on the side of the road just ‘cause you’re sick, manito,” Ozzie said. “Just do what you can and stay out the way.”
“Can the angels cure us? You know, me and Mrs. Cai. People got cured in the Bible all the time.”
Ozzie shook his head. “No lo sé. Maybe.” He turned back around.
Squeezing the steering wheel hard enough to make his yellow rubber gloves squeak, Lem murmured, “I got it, too. The leprosy.”
“Sí. I know.”
Lem didn’t look at him. “I ain’t took these gloves off in five days. Afraid to see what my hands look like now.”
“Sí. Deal. We all got problems.”
Scowling, Lem shook his head and said, “We need gas.”
“Can we make it? We’re almost at the Lincoln Tunnel.”
“This thing drinks more gas than a Caddy. You want it to shit the bed in the Tunnel? What if we got to chase the angels around like we did in Philly?”
Take care, and stay healthy.