Variant CXXIV

“Jane, have they released the numbers from the last census?” I asked my wife as I checked the locks that secured our bunker.

“There wasn’t a census,” she replied flatly. She sat in one of those collapsible chairs we used to take camping before the Rona changed everything. She was looking up at me, a tablet held between the fingers of her right hand.

“What?”

She slowly shook her head.

“The Constitution requires the government perform a census every ten years.”

“Not enough government left to do so,” she replied looking at her tablet. “They put out a mass media blitz on the internet asking people to do so via their website, but who knows how accurate that is.”

“What did it come up with?” I asked, looking into her brown eyes.

She looked back to her tablet, tapped, and swiped until she found the website she was looking for, “The count sits at one hundred and twenty-five million.”

“Jesus!” I whispered

“Jack, its not official. We don’t know how many people got the message or have internet. We have entire cities, hell, entire states without power. Keeping infrastructure running is becoming impossible.”

“And why is it becoming impossible?” I asked, knowing I would answer my own question, “Because we are running out of people who can keep even essential services running.”

I scanned the concrete walls that surrounded us. Jane and I sealed ourselves in our bunker three years ago. It was a bunker I had built eight years ago when the COVID reached its double-digit variant. At that stage, it was just conveniences that were falling by the wayside, like fast food joints and unessential retail stores. First because of quarantines, then because the people needed to run them ceased to exist. The cost of goods continued to escalate, and I saw the writing on the wall.

Had to tell the contractor that poured the concrete walls for this bunker that it was septic system. Just in case the cities sewage plant failed. Pretty sure he didn’t buy it, not that it mattered, Corona claimed him six months later. It became God awful expensive to finish this place and stock it.

The survival supply website delayed my shipment four times because of supply issues.

We were lucky…I looked over that the generator panel to verify…we were still on grid power. We still had internet, but others were not so lucky. As Jane stated, entire states had lost power and access to the internet.

Neither one of us talked about our children anymore. We had not heard from them in four years. We tried to get them to come home, but they said everything would be fine. The government would find a vaccine that would take care of the Corona once and for all.

The masses lined up for one vaccine after another, each one promising to address the current variant and any mutations that followed.

I laughed when this mess first came out of China. Sure, it was infectious, but I didn’t think it was lethal enough to shutdown the world. But the politicians did. Entire countries went into lockdown. States mandated masks, told people to stay home.

I scoffed the whole time. My laughter died when we sealed the bunker.

I walked over to Jane and looked over her shoulder at the tablet. She had Fox News pulled up, and it was bleak. Most of the major cities burned. Roving bands of bandits terrorized the countryside, stealing food, guns…daughters.

Some counties still gathered the dead for mass burials, others no longer had the resources. Navy ships floated dead in the oceans. Hospitals were filled with patients cared for by volunteers and family. The number of trained medical staff was no longer sufficient to care for the sick.

It used to be that if you got sick and recovered, you would probably be protected from future infections. Not with the later variants.

“Didn’t it seem like seeing and infected person on TV was enough to get the later variants?” I asked Jane as I vocalized my thoughts.

“It was bad…yes,” she replied while swiping at the tablet.

“What variant are we on?”

She slid the display to the top of the news website. There at the top in bold red letters, COVID-19, variant CXXIV…no booster is available.

“One hundred and twenty-four?”

“Good translation!”

“Never liked the use of the Greek alphabet. Had to keep looking them up. Glad they switched to Roman numerals.”

“There are only twenty-four of those. But, it’s not like less people would be dead.”

I nodded grimly as I walked back to the ladder that leads to the hatch and checked the locks once again. I didn’t think anyone would find the hidden entrance located in the basement of our home. But if they did, I wanted to be sure they didn’t get through that hatch.

There was enough food to last us a decade more. That was assuming we don’t go crazy and kill each other once the internet went dark. Sure, we had a huge collection of movies, TV shows, and other entertainment, but not knowing what is going on in the world, that would be tough.

If we did survive, what kind of world would we emerge into? Would there be a government? How many people would there be? Would the apes have taken over?

I shrugged, it’s better to live for the moment, and not worry about the future.

“Wanna fool around?”

“Sure,” Jane replied, setting the tablet down and letting me take her away to the bedroom.

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