Lockdown

Lockdown by Robert W Cely, Jr.

I am Dr. Samuel Arnold, key researcher and Director of the Ark Project. This will serve as the final record of what we have done. If anyone wishes to see the details of our project, this will be impossible. I have destroyed them all, except for this last testament. Mankind should never repeat what we have done here. I hesitate to even write this brief recap, but they also must be warned. Never repeat what we have done. If humanity survives, which I expect he will, it will be because he does the exact opposite of what we did, foolish men that we are.
While the Ark Project was my not my idea, I put all my power and influence to seeing that it came about. We thought we had no choice, you see. What else were we supposed to think? We thought we were doing the right thing. Whatever history may think of me years and years from now, I tell you this with all the conviction I can muster. I believed we were saving mankind. I truly did. But what I discovered is that we almost destroyed him.
What led us all here was the discovery of a new virus. It first emerged in the Wuhan province of China, but quickly spread across the world. Within weeks it was global, infecting millions. We named this virus, COVID-19.
At first, it seemed like we had it under control. After implementing social distancing measures and select quarantines we saw the slowdown of infections. Then the virus showed its true nature. Mutating quickly it hit us again and again. Death rates were never truly high, but we kept fearing the worst. What if it made that one mutation that would be catastrophic? What would happen to us then?
Every year we shut down all social activity for two months. Every summer the virus would slow down. Every winter it came back. As I noted before, death rates were never very high, never more than .3%. At first, we thought they were much higher, but after all analysis was in, we found this not to be the case. Some years it was slightly worse than the flu, other years it was weaker. Still, we feared it.
You see, we could not get rid of it, so it frightened us. It kept mutating and coming back. The people got tired of the quarantines and shutdowns. The economy started to crumble, so bad that basic services were failing in some areas of even the strongest, first-world countries. Something had to be done.
This is where the Ark Project began. The only solution, we figured, was to enact such a total and absolute lockdown that the virus would die out completely, never able to mutate again. After a year of debate, the governments of the world believed this was our only chance. And while it would take another year to prepare and eighteen months to carry out, we were certain that COVID-19 would be eradicated for good. A bonus is that almost every other disease that afflicted man would be wiped out too.
In one sense, the project was a success. COVID-19 is gone. But the price we paid… Who can say it was truly worth the price?
The Ark Project consisted of a massive quarantine and lockdown. Every human being on planet earth; every man, woman and child that was old enough to feed himself, was to be quarantined for eighteen months. This was total and absolute quarantine. Families were not even permitted to remain together, for we feared the virus could pass between as few as two people and keep mutating. This was the only certain solution.
Cells were built in every country. Each one was outfitted with a single ceiling window to let in some natural light. Distribution of food and water was automated and stored in the stockpiles near the different cell clusters. At first, we thought to provide only the most basic needs: bed, clothes, food, water. As a concession, we gave in to allowing entertainment through a streaming source and monitor mounted in each room.

All the world’s resources and labor was bent to this one goal. We had to not only build the cells and collect the supplies we would need for eighteen months, but also stockpile enough resources to survive after it was all over, to give us time to get everything in order again. But we accomplished all this, and incredibly, after a year, we were ready for the lockdown.
I weep when I think back on that fateful day. Every human being was locked in a cell alone, not to emerge for eighteen months. For a year and a half they would be alone, with only their own thoughts to occupy them along with whatever entertainment they could stream. The doors slammed shut, like the doors on the Ark when Noah was shut inside. I felt a cold dread in the pit of my stomach when I heard them rumble in place and lock, and only consoled myself with the thought that this would save humanity.
For myself, I was part of a select team that would monitor the functioning of the cells. Each group of cells had twelve overseers. We were also separated from each other, but in larger cells that were divided by glass partitions. Communication was key for us to coordinate the working of the cells, so this concession was allowed.
Once the cells were filled and the doors closed, we had but to wait the long and agonizing months until it was complete. Much happened during this time, but it is pointless to recount it all here, for only the outcome matters. Imagine for yourself, if you would; a year and half, 548 days all alone in a cold, metal cell. Imagine, eighteen months alone except for four, steel walls and your basic needs. Needless to say, we lasted the eighteen months, and the day finally arrived when we could open the doors at last.
We approached those first cells in a celebratory mood. Finally, we would be able to gather together, to reach out and touch one another. The world was going to be restored, without disease. Excited, we approached that first cell, gathered to watch the door swing open. What we found there should have warned us.
The first cell we opened was occupied by a corpse.
This result certainly dampened our spirits, but was not completely unexpected. About 1% of the population dies every year, and since we could not administer medical care to anyone who may have a heart attack or stroke, we estimated that we might have twice as many deaths as normal during lockdown. Doing the math, the number seemed acceptable, especially considering the good we would do. If only we had known.
The second cell we opened offered better prospects. It was a woman, about thirty years old. She cried out when we first opened the cell, her hair disheveled and a confused look on her face. She just looked at us for a moment, unmoving and silent. Then, recognition dawned on her face. Running into my arms, she collapsed into me and wept.
I wept with her, though mostly out of guilt. It was because of what I had done, after all, that she suffered so. Never have I seen another human being who was so grateful to see another.
It wasn’t until we opened the third cell that we discovered the true cost
of our actions.
You may think that the dead would be the worst result we could find. Not so, we discovered. For when we pushed aside that third door, what we found was something far worse than a dead human. What we found was something less than human.
It took us a moment to discover what we were looking at. The figure in the cell huddled in the far corner, a pale arm thrown across its face. Sores littered the colorless skin.
We called out to the figure but it only pressed further in the corner. Assuming the shock of seeing people after so long alone frightened the man, one of the researchers leaned forward and tried to soothe him with a touch.
None of us were prepared for the violent reaction. The figure screamed – a high pitched wail that gurgled in the back of the throat – and leapt at the researcher. I drew back in horror, seeing the pale lips, the red, almost bloodied gums and the dozens of open sores that covered the face.
Most terrible of all were the eyes. They were wide and bloodshot. A maniacal look possessed them, something primal and terrible to behold. There was no trace of empathy or compassion or even reason. It was a wild animal, a man reduced to instincts that hovered deep in his genetic framework.
After the initial shock, we freed the researcher who had been seized by the wild thing. Instinctively, I kicked out and landed a blow to its ribs. It howled and ran back to its corner, covering its face in fear. We had no choice but to run from the room and slam the door shut.
From then on we were cautious about how we entered the rooms. Still, we were unprepared for what we found. It was a result none of us had imagined.
In nearly a quarter of the rooms, the inhabitants were found dead. Twenty- five percent! It was a calamity. Old, young, it didn’t seem to matter. A full twenty-five percent of the people had died. A sense of dread settled on us at our discovery, knowing this would be reflective of most of the cells. What had we done? Killed twenty-five percent of all living humans.
But that wasn’t the worst. The worst was discovering that almost half of all people had been turned into that awful distortion of humanity that we found in the third cell.
They all acted a little different, but they were the same. They would not talk or come out of their cells. They howled and hissed. Their skin was pale and covered in sores. If we came too close they would scream and lash out, using some sort of guttural language that made no sense at all. In short, half of all the people in the world, those who we had locked away for eighteen months, emerged as monsters.
And we are the ones who did this. We, who were supposed to be the saviors of humanity, have destroyed them. A quarter of the people have died, and half of them reduced to beasts. Only twenty-five percent came out alive and with their minds intact. It was consistent all over the world. Almost half of humanity had been transformed into these instinctive and brutish creatures, violent and without reason.
We have tried to rehabilitate them. All to no avail. They will not listen to talk or any persuasion. Food can entice them for a time, as can the prospect of coitus. But these activities are taken on with the same animal ferocity that has taken over them. No, they are beasts.
But they are worse than beasts. For one, they will not tolerate each other’s company. In a room together they either withdraw and cringe against the wall, or fight with unbridled rage and lack of feeling, or fall upon one another with animal lust. It is a horror to behold.
I feel that there is no greater sorrow in all the human world than mine. Or maybe I am just being dramatic. But I cannot help but feel this way. For I am the one who has destroyed humanity. Will we ever recover? Will we ever get back to the place we were before?
I, for one, hope civilization never fully recovers, at least the same as it was. It was our civilization, after all, that conceived this idea and carried it out. We should never be that kind of people again.
We cared so much about keeping the body alive, about preserving this physical life, that we were willing to sacrifice everything that made us human. We made the biological function of man the be-all-end-all of his existence, which had to be preserved at all costs. We saw man as just another animal, and that is what we have made of him.
We learned a hard lesson here, one that we never should have had to learn. And we only had to learn it again because it is a secret we had foolishly forgotten. We forgot the secret of what makes us human, of what gives us our humanity. You see, what gives us our humanity is other human beings. Living in the society of others makes us who we are. To have to live with others, interact with others, make compromises, help one another, experience each other’s pains, make mistakes, fight, be hurt, make peace, forgive, and love. That is what makes us human. Take away the opportunity to love one another, and you take away our humanity. Take it away for too long, too absolutely, and we forget altogether.
I make this plea to future generations, whatever virtues you may pursue and possess, do not forget this one. It is truly what makes us human. Do not hide your hearts, and do not sacrifice your humanity for anything. And remember, of all good things, and all great virtues, the greatest of these is love.

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