COVID-Z

Justin Yeung

Justin Yeung

Winner of the Third Prize in the Undergraduate Category of the 16th English Short Story Writing Competition

“John,” his partner O’Brien-Beatty tapped his shoulder, “you ready?”

John gave the SWAT team a hand signal to surround the target’s house as he put on his Emo-meter. He took out his handgun and approached the front door with caution. After checking in with the orphanage and antidote company, John knocked on the wooden door. To his surprise, the door was opened by the suspect before he could knock.

“Come in,” she said in a monotone, “the kid’s in the living room.”

John was shocked. The Emo-meter showed: Extremely healthy (no pandemic threat). She couldn't be any more healthy. Following arrest protocol, John subdued the woman and kneeled on her neck on the ground as the SWAT team rushed into the house from every corner to neutralize potential threats. The woman was coughing frantically on the floor. However, John’s Emo-meter showed the same result. Seeing that there was no threat in the house, and the target was not resisting the arrest, John dragged her onto a police vehicle hood and handcuffed her.

As he was about to look for the suspect’s child in the house, O’Brien-Beatty walked out of the house with an emotionless girl. Her eyes were soaked with tears and her neck was covered with strangle marks. John grabbed her by the wrist and looked for the needle mark on her arm.

“Sanitized and purified,” O’Brien-Beatty gave her a heavy pat on the back as he ushered the girl onto the orphanage bus, “a good girl gets candies, and a bad girl gets strangles, be good now.”

After running the sanitization procedure in the area, John and O’Brien-Beatty drove the convict to the precinct for further interrogation. John was very curious about the prisoner. Normally, they would often be classified as “social threat” or “pandemic threat” in the Emo-meter. They would often resist arrest and try to run away with their children, which would lead to violent consequences. John felt quite strange as he did not expend a single drop of sweat or bullet in this operation.

“Bloody enigmatic,” O’Brien-Beatty shouted, “I thought my Emo-meter was broken when I saw her.” He pointed his thumb at the stone-faced woman sitting at the back.

John shrugged his shoulders. He was starting to regret his decision to pull his troops out of the area. "Maybe there was a threat I overlooked?" He thought.

As John’s long-time partner, O’Brien-Beatty understood his concerns and stopped talking. He turned on the car radio and tuned into the music channel, but it was just in time for a news broadcast.

“Today, we commemorate national scientist Walter Schmidt. He was the innovator of modern medical practices and the inventor of the Justice Department’s Emo-meter. In Swiss Year 2047, his ground-breaking research of ‘The Correlations of COVID-19 and Impulses” pioneered a new means of preventing the mutated East-Asia virus from reaching the Swiss Border. In the following years, the Swiss King adopted the approach set forth in the paper and successfully developed an antidote to battle the mutated virus now known as COVID-Z. The Swiss King also enforced a quarantine law that separates offspring from harmful ‘pandemic and social threats’. The first trial in the East district...”

O’Brien-Beatty tried tuning into other channels for music, but they were all broadcasting the same news.
“...but it sparked outrage among the immigrants in the East District as they did not want to be separated from their children. To protect the country from further harm, the Swiss King established the People’s Guard who...”

O’Brien-Beatty turned off the radio and looked at the strange suspect. “Say what you want about us, but we're here to protect your children.” He sighed and continued, “say something, you crazy woman. Aren’t you angry that we took your only child away? Aren’t you sad that you will never see her again? Aren’t you upset that your husband never came back from the East-Asia War?”

The woman’s eye started to twitch. John looked at her through the Emo-meter: Healthy (no pandemic threat).

“So, it’s about the husband.” O’Brien-Beatty nodded. “You're not the only widow in this war, so you're not special. Every day, we get calls in the Department from children with crazy mothers. I often wonder why you people would strangle and beat your offspring. For the King’s sake, spare them the rod and prevent another COVID-Z pandemic from you people.”

The woman opened her mouth, but she decided to shut it right away. John’s Emo-meter showed: Normal Healthy (minimal threat of pandemic).

“Dr. Schmidt was right. You people are just a bunch of trouble,” O’Brien-Beatty continued, “The Swiss King opened the borders for you before the worst mutation of COVID-19 and provided you with a living standard that you will never get in East-Asia. When the King needed soldiers to fight the neutralized and Zombified East-Asia, only 10% of you people showed up at the boot camps. Did your husband need to end like that? No, he could’ve gone to the backline had he volunteered in the first place like a good citizen.”

The woman looked glassy-eyed. John’s Emo-meter showed: Unhealthy (pandemic threat).

“Then, you didn’t want to partake in the 'Offspring Quarantine' and rioted in the East District. The ironic thing was: the more you bombed and destroyed, the more of you were infected, which justified the Quarantine. Numbers don't lie, but people do. Your kind is filled with conspiracy theories and lies which made Switzerland worse. Your kind says, ‘The government is killing us,’ yet you're killing yourselves by getting emotional every day. Worse yet, you are killing the good people of Switzerland.”

John’s Emo-meter showed: Very Unhealthy (social pandemic threat). He gave a subtle eye signal to O’Brien-Beatty to go on with the execution procedure. His partner took out his gun and pointed at the woman’s head.
“You will never get to the judge, filthy insurgent.” O’Brien-Beatty smirked, “any last words?”

“What happens... dream... deferred?” The woman mumbled.

“See you in...” O’Brien-Beatty could never finish his sentence.

It was too late for John to get out of the vehicle as everything was ravaged instantly by the bomb. John was right about the trap, but the procedure did not allow an X-ray check. As he struggled to breathe on the ground, he could hear people nearby shouting,

“Viva la Suisse, viva la Suisse, viva la Suisse...”

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