That’s the name of a short story I wrote during the pandemic. I have to admit, writing during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. At times, I’d sit at my desk and sometimes nothing would come to me, so overwhelmed was I by the isolation, fear, and at times debilitating loneliness of this so-called new normal.
But I had to find a way. If only to have my words act as a kind of therapy to help me through the real horror of what we’ve been living through for the last year. And maybe I did go a little crazy during the pandemic. If I didn’t have my words, the idyllic forest and beach where I live, and the support of a handful of close friends and family, I don’t know where I’d be right now.
I don’t wanna think about it.
Instead, I’ve been focusing on doing what I do best, writing stories.
After I release Tales of Damnation in a few months, I’ll be releasing Macabre Alley, my latest collection of short horror stories.
Macabre Alley Synopsis:
Wander down Macabre Alley and witness a blood-curdling monster lurking in every dark corner. Thirteen short horror stories meticulously crafted to terrorize, educate, and entertain.
A small sampling:
Fear Sells: A conspiracy theorist who believes the pandemic is a hoax realizes—maybe too little too late—that it’s time to heed public health measures.
I Hate That: A woman consumed by hatred is stunned to learn her bad attitude is devouring her soul from the inside out.
You’ll Pay: A man suffers the horrifying consequences of disrespecting Mother Nature.
Lost: An analysis of recurring dreams leads a troubled man into a spiraling abyss of regret.
The Thought Police: Discover the shocking truth about how smart speakers pry into the private lives of users.
Thinking about Death: A man ruminates on why thinking about life inevitably leads to thinking about death.
Oftentimes facts are stranger than fiction. Feeling fearless? If you dare, try to dissect fiction from fact.
Fear Sells Excerpt
“Fear sells,” Andrew Robinson said. “Fear over nothing. It’s all a bunch of fake shit politicians invented to rile the population.”
The words hit Jamie McIntyre like a punch in the face. He had to bite his tongue to avoid smashing his friend in the face. They sat in Jamie’s garage on the man-cave couch in suburban Calgary, Alberta, on a wintery Sunday afternoon swilling a few beers and trying—and evidently failing miserably—to solve all the world’s problems.
Shit had splattered the fan when the subject of the global pandemic surfaced. And Jamie knew only too well the deadly seriousness of it.
COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus that originated in China. It produces mild flu-like symptoms in some, no symptoms in others, and dire symptoms and quick and horrible death in others. It had hit the world by storm early in 2020. It took everybody by surprise. Over 80 million people worldwide infected. Over two million dead. Worldwide lockdowns. Hospitals overwhelmed. A new normal where social distancing, self-isolation, mask wearing, and regular hand-sanitizing was practiced.
Most countries, including Canada, were ill-prepared to deal with the pandemic. Many politicians implemented Band-Aid temporary measures, short lockdowns or no lockdowns in an effort to balance political and economic interests with public health. In large part, these measures failed. In January, 2020, Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said, “The risk of an outbreak in Canada remains low.” Ten months later, Canada saw over 500,000 COVID-19 infections and over 18,000 deaths. Now, Canada was breaking records, averaging over 2,000 new cases per day. There was no comprehensive national pandemic management strategy to speak of. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for the most part, had left it up to the individual leaders of individual provinces to manage their fates. Some succeeded marginally; others failed dismally.
The United States had fared the worst in the world. Over 25 million infections. Over 400,000 deaths. Some states averaging a coronavirus death every six minutes and the US averaging over 1000 coronavirus deaths per day.
Unprecedented economic devastation crippled economies worldwide. Massive government bail-outs, huge deficits, and thousands of businesses went bankrupt.
How dare he? Jamie thought, regurgitating the facts over in his mind in far less time than it takes to explain them.
This fool with his smug know-it-all attitude and greasy blonde hair has the gall to call the pandemic ‘a bunch of fake shit politicians invented to rile the population.’
Jamie drank the remainder of his beer in three gulps, tossed the can into a plastic garbage can, and reached into the cooler for another. He had a feeling he was gonna need as much liquid courage as he could pour down his throat for what was about to transpire.
“Why would governments want to rile the population?” Jamie asked.
Andrew burped loudly, tossed his empty in the garbage can, and reached for another. Popping it open, he said, “Fear sells, like I said. People get riled and scared, buy into it, and the government uses their fear to manipulate them. Control the population.”
“Are you saying the pandemic is a hoax?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s fake. If I knew someone who had tested positive, just to prove my point, I’d hug them, kiss them, and even lick their face. Just to prove it’s all fake.”
Jamie had known Andrew for over ten years and had never known his friend to be a conspiracy theorist. A digital marketing graduate, Andrew earned his living working on computers. But, he supposed, it took something like a global pandemic to bring the fucking morons out of the woodwork. Not only that, since Andrew was on the computer for at least ten hours a day, he was certainly susceptible to all the misinformation and disinformation floating around about the pandemic. Conspiracy theories were rampant. The sad and dangerous fact was people had access to them with the click of a button. And they were believing them. And that was deadly-dangerous, especially when it led to disregarding and even flaunting public health measures designed to curtail the spread of the virus.
Jamie was awfully close to exploding, but for the hell of it, he decided give his friend—not for long—a little more rope to hang himself. He wanted to know exactly what hare-brained conspiracy theory Andrew was buying into.
“If it’s a hoax, and the government created it, then why?” Jamie asked.
“Here’s the deal,” Andrew said. “Governments around the world have banded together—conspired—to create an elite population. The pandemic is a way for them to cull the masses. They get people believing that the pandemic is real, then they develop a vaccine—as you know Canada has purchased millions of doses already—and inject the population with it, killing off all the idiots.”
“I’ll give you a little more rope. What else do you think?”
“If a person dies of a heart attack, drowning, even a car accident, doctors around the world call it a COVID death. If you have any lung issues at all, you would be considered to have the virus. If you end up in the hospital and get put on a ventilator, the ventilator will kill you. This whole mask-wearing measure is nothing more than fearmongering. A mask won’t protect you from a virus. It will only protect you from a bacterial infection.”
In spite of his best efforts to control his temper, Jamie exploded, picking up on one of Andrew’s brain-dead points: “If the government is trying to cull the population—kill the idiots—they should start with you. That is the fucking stupidest shit I’ve heard all day.”
Andrew slid clear to the other end of the couch, far away from Jamie. His eyes narrowed and his face whitened. “You’ll fucking find out. Wait until we start vaccinating on a massive scale and you’ll see tons of people dying.”
“I can’t believe someone as seemingly intelligent as you are is buying into this shit. And I suppose, even though we are in lockdown right now because cases of COVID are skyrocketing in Alberta, you’re flaunting health measures. Probably not wearing a mask, not washing your hands, and sure as shit not social distancing.”
“Why should I bother,” Andrew said. “It’s all government manufactured bullshit. Let me ask you this: Do you actually know anyone who has contracted COVID?”
Jamie balled his fists and wracked his brain. He didn’t have a large social circle. His mother and father, brother and sister, lived in Ontario and he had a handful of friends whom he saw occasionally. None of them had it as far as he knew. Wait. His job-site, a high-rise construction project in downtown Calgary, had recently been shut down because of a COVID outbreak. Two contractors had contracted the disease, although they worked five floors above Jamie and he didn’t actually know them.
That wouldn’t do.
Or maybe it would. He had to try to penetrate this fuck’s thick skull. “My construction job was shut down recently due to an outbreak. I can’t say I know the guys who tested positive but I know who they are. It’s only a matter of time before someone we know either dies of the virus or gets really sick from it. And, before you try and sidetrack me, I have to warn you. Don’t fucking flaunt the health measures. They were put in place to protect us and keep us safe.”
“Like fuck they were.”
“Your complete disregard for public health measures is scary. You could easily get infected, maybe have no symptoms, and walk around spreading it to everyone you come into contact with. Let’s say you infect an elderly person or someone with underlying health conditions. You could kill them. Never mind that, even young and healthy people are dying from this disease. To my mind, that would make you a murderer. It’s reckless negligence. Criminal negligence. There should be a criminal charge for that. People like you should spend your fucking life in jail to pay for your stupidity.”
Andrew rose quickly, the color draining from his face. “I see you’re not gonna listen to reason, so it’s time for me to fuck off.”
Jamie also rose, clenching his fists, his face reddening with rage. He stepped toward Andrew, raising a fist.
Andrew’s eyes widened with fear and he backed away.
Jamie suddenly lowered his fist, stepped back, and sighed. Beating the shit out of Andrew wouldn’t accomplish anything. Violence never solves anything. A few blows to Andrew’s head would probably only serve to make him stupider than he already was, and that was hard to beat.
“I agree,” Jamie said. “It’s time for you to fuck off from my garage, and fuck off from my life. Forever!”
To be continued…