Chapter Ten – Passage Two
Simply put, COVID-59 had been a great filter –a biological one– that the CCP unleashed on the unsuspecting Uyghur population. Those who listened to Beijing were most likely to make it through the ordeal. Obedience was tested in a way like never before, with very real-world and lethal consequences for non-adherents. Additionally, even long after the vaccine was “discovered”– the effects of the virus in the aftermath was profound– its effects lingered. People were afraid to congregate in large groups. An air of suspicion descended upon the land and hung over every physical human interaction like a dark cloud. Anyone could be a lethal carrier. You could never be too careful since every interaction was now suddenly a mechanism of possible contagion. Sure, maybe you wanted to catch the latest movie at theaters with friends. But was it worth possibly dying to go? More than any other measure in human history, COVID-59 attacked the core of civilized society– community. It isolated and divided us. And in our isolation, our worst imagined fears controlled us because we could no longer interact with others. So we listened to the state because it became not just the mainline, but the only line of information that we had.
COVID-59 was a state-created instrument of fear– it drove and kept people apart. And it made them obedient. Since its founding, the CCCP had always disallowed the freedom of assembly. (When you gathered in groups, you got Tiananmen Square.) But realistically, you couldn’t just deploy a phalanx of tanks to steamroll your citizens every time a protest sprung up. Though the CCP would’ve loved to do that and possessed no moral or ethical qualms about such a suppression technique, the logistics were just impossible. How were you supposed to deploy a tank squadron into the Himalayan mountains of Tibet with half-a-day’s notice if the Dalai lama started getting spicy and having ideas? And if you did somehow to miraculously fly a C-130 over to para-drop protestor-squashing tank battalions in some remote range of Nepal, chances were that the flash mobs would’ve long disbanded and dissipated back into the ether long before you got there.
China was a big country. And it was difficult to stomp our suppression in all its corners and pockets.
But a virus. A biological agent that could literally be everywhere, all at once. This was ingenious— precisely the big brother and (lethal) consequence-dispensing mechanism that the Chinese Communist Party had always dreamed about. COVID-59 answered all the CCP’s prayers in one fell swoop– it was the complete package.
Let’s not mince words here: This was biological genocide on a sweeping scale– one unlike any the world had ever seen.
Oh, the world.
The world was an unfortunate casualty, several tens-of-millions dead, an unpleasant side-effect of the CCP’s grand scheme. Of course, at one point, COVID-59 had escaped China. How could it not? It wasn’t like the CCP exactly took measures to prevent its worldwide spread. In fact, for weeks after the initial outbreak, the Chinese had publicly in truly reality-distortion-bubble fashion, steadfastly maintained that there was no virus. Even as hundreds, and then thousands, and then tens of thousands of Uyghurs began growing deathly ill and perished. For those critical first few weeks, international flights continued flying. Conferences, concerts, and mass sporting events were all continued to be held. And for fourteen-days, it was total open season for COVID-59 as it spread itself silently to all over the world as the CCP gave it plausibility and cover and deniability to spread.
As for me? I’m okay. Sure, I have my low moments. And the knowledge that a plan I helped devise has somehow come to life and killed tens of millions does weigh on me. But honestly, the human mind is incapable of processing horror of such scale. Our evolution is strong and we possess plenty of defensive mechanisms to rationalize and console. Sure, we’d developed a plan. But it was a fictional plan. Yes, we’d crunched all the numbers to present a realistic cover story– how many hospitalizations, how many deaths, the rate of spread, etc. All of the metrics to make the story believable. But again, it had been a fictional exercise. I was more like a screenwriter or a fan-fiction creator, just fantasizing imaginary scenarios. Just because I wrote a gender-bent Harry didn’t mean I actually wanted one.
Also, from that fateful meeting with Governor Wu, it’d taken a short six weeks before, we now know, patient zero had started the spread in the Urumqi fish market. Three weeks! So, certainly– somewhere in some frozen biohazard storage locker somewhere in the bowels of some deep-underground Chinese dungeon, the CCP had clearly already been working on COVID-59. Maybe already for years even. So the building blocks had all been there. It’s not like they’d created the virus because of us.
Besides, the official line from Beijing was that this was freak of nature incident. An unholy unfortunate consequence of contamination at the fish market by bat feces or someone eating a rodent or something. I can’t remember now, but there’d been some sort of story that was of course entirely speculated, completely unverifiable, and yet simply presumed the truth by everyone somehow.
Surely, you couldn’t put this crisis at our feet, right?
That day that Coleman and Deepak had somehow commandeered pizza was the day that we’d gotten the call though. It’d been simple and had arrived by secure message on our smartphones.
RETURN. CAR WILL BE BY AT 2P. -ASV
Alan, Shu, and Van. We were being summoned back, somewhere.
“Hmm,” Kristen says, looking at her phone, still eating her pizza slice. “Do we go back?” A crease has formed between here eyebrows.
“Do we have a choice?” asks Deepak.
“Just when I was starting to get used to this place,” Coleman says while lifting a dumbbell with one hand. He taken up weight training for the nine-month duration that we’d been holed up and his once scrawny frame and had grown impressively lean and muscular. The kid was 23, good lord. Did I possess such drive back when I was his age? Of course, the monastery hadn’t had a weight room so Coleman had eminent domain’ed one of the empty rooms in on the ground floor that’d formerly, in some previous life somewhere, been a meditation space; and had had mats, dumbbells, medicine balls, rope, and a Bowflex Muscle Master 3000 flown in by drone. This was in the early days before everything had exploded into a full-scale global pandemic. Back when if you had enough money, you could still get the drones to deliver whatever you wanted or needed to anywhere you were willing to pay for. Even a far-flung monastery in the hinterlands of the Tibetan outskirts.
Coleman’s biceps were now the size of my head. Like I’d said, we’d had a lot of downtime.