I loved doing the dirty work. No, I didn’t mean typical dirt-under-your-fingernails type of gardening or scrubbing drains and toilets. It’s more like the filthy blood and sweat that goes into making an ugly, otherwise undone job successful. The satisfaction upon completion is blissfully thrilling— I would rather die than give up that feeling.
Settling into the sofa, I took a deep breath. I had done a particularly good job today. The United States had far surpassed the million cases benchmark, thanks to my fabulous spree, recently. Spain, Italy and Germany were well into the tens of thousands of infected persons, soon to be dead if I made the extra effort. The words “Corona Virus” were spoken by every lip, heard by every ear and ingrained in every pathetic human mind.
I was the hero that no one wanted and everyone needed. It amused me. For once, the humans were at war with something other than themselves.
My clock beeped. My job was a regular nine-to-five, unless I felt like working overtime. Today was one of those extra productive days. I had a meeting with a client in fifteen minutes.
After donning my signature polyester over shirt—nothing screamed psychotic more than wearing black polyester in the New York heat— I brushed my hair till the strands hung impeccably straight and glossed my lips till they shone like Sirius A.
After all, I was a star and this pandemic was my show.
Ever the extrovert, I made my way through the humid subway, working assiduously giving hugs, kisses and touches. The protective apparel they wore was as amusing as it was ineffective. The minor hindrances of sanitiser and gloves on the train platforms were equally exciting. I wouldn’t be a virus if I couldn’t handle a little competition. I loved challenges. Hindrances were healthy for me.
Satisfied with my spread, I stepped off of the train, revelling as a distant cough sounded in my wake. The first of many, hopefully. Soon, I was in Central Park, busying myself in dancing unseen amongst the strolling, mindless folk, playing ‘tag’.
I had almost caught an old man when a sharp tug on the strings of my hoodie startlingly pulled my attention downwards.
A little girl met me at my waist. She was a typically spoiled child—she had the soft blonde ringlets, chubby rosy cheeks and charmingly angelic smile to prove it. She would have made a fine headline. I grinned.
I did have a soft spot for killing the vulnerable.
“Hello!” Irritatingly blue eyes stared up at me.
“You can see me?” My eyebrows shot off my face. That was a first.
She nodded seriously, lips parted in wonder. I too was filled with wonder. Conversing with a human was unprecedented.
“Who are you?” She scrunched her nose as she peered up at me.
I repressed my surprise and smirked at the blatant display of innocence. She reached out to touch my hoodie and I swatted her hand away with my own.
She coughed. I grinned. The damage was done.
“Didn’t your mommy tell you not to talk to strangers?” I mocked, pouting lightly while crouching down to her level.
Her little fists clenched briefly. “My mommy isn’t here. Miss Rogers told us to pair up with a friend but they all say I’m too weird.”
I snorted. “You’re going to have bigger problems than the playground soon,”
She stared at me with saucer-like eyes and I rolled my eyes. I had places to be and people to infect.
However, feeling particularly benevolent and perhaps in the mood for fun, I motioned for her to follow and we walked in silence.
“So tell me—” I looked at her as we strolled beneath the trees, “— what’s your name?”
“Angel,” she smiled lightly.
“Pathetic,” I sneered. Humans came up with the most idiotic names; even ‘COVID-19’ was a fine example.
She smiled, tilted her head and looked at me expectantly for a while.
“Well,” I shrugged, catching on, “I go by many names.”
“Can I call you Ariel?” She bounced excitedly and I scowled.
“Why? That’s a disgusting name,”
“You have red hair! Like the princess!” She clapped her pudgy hands and laughed.
“I do not,” I growled and grabbed her shoulders. “I’m not a stupid princess. I’m a deadly virus that is going to obliterate your disgustingly idiotic species sooner than you can say the words ‘ugly Disney princess’, okay?”
She looked far less perturbed than I would have liked and stared at me for an uncomfortable five seconds.
“What?” I snapped, resisting the urge to throttle her into showing some fear. I deserved respect.
“Virus?” She tugged on my hand.
I yanked it away. “Yes, an extremely contagious virus. You don’t hold hands with death, sweetie,” I said, mockingly.
“Will my mommy die?”
“She’s sick.” Tears pooled in her eyes as she spoke, evoking a strange emotion in my chest. I assumed it was triumph. She reached for my hand again.
“And so will you be if you keep touching me, Angel,” I warned.
“I am not afraid of you.” She looked directly into my eyes and crossed her little arms.
“No one is, until it’s too late,” I said.
“Are you killing my mommy?” Angel tugged at the hems of her blue dress, looking at me dolefully.
Instead of playing on her sadness as I wanted to, I steered her towards a bench, against my better senses.
“Have you heard of COVID-19? It’s a virus on your planet,” I asked her, once we were seated.
She nodded emphatically. “My mommy got it from working in the hospital! Daddy says I can’t go near to her ever again.”
I almost slapped myself for wiping the tear that trickled down her cherub cheeks. I couldn’t help but pity the poor child, surprisingly. Perhaps, it was because of the novelty that came with being seen for the first time.
“Well, Angel. I’m the one everybody is hiding from.”
“Are you going to kill my baby brother too?” She gazed at the ground sadly.
“Your baby brother?”
“He’s in mommy’s tummy. Daddy said if we’re lucky, I’ll see him next month but I think he’s lying,” she whispered.
I stayed silent, unsure as to what could justify me taking Angela’s brother away from her. My fingernails caught my interest instead.
She wiped her eyes furiously. “Why do you do it?”
I sighed. “Because I like to.”
“Why?” She repeated. I stared at her.
“Well,” I searched my brain, “Don’t you eat candy because you like to?”
“Candy doesn’t hurt anyone,” she reasoned.
“Tell that to your teeth in a few years,” I scoffed and turned to face her. “Quite frankly, I find you irritating and relentlessly gullible.” She looked at her shoes and scooted away. I reached for her knee.
“But, I think you would understand me better than most,”
She wrung her tiny fingers. “I’m not a grown up.”
“Exactly,” I smiled. “You see, sometimes grown ups don’t act very grown at all, Angel. That’s
mainly why I’m here.”
She stared at me in confusion.
“Humans are irresponsible and insanely stupid on the cosmic level.” I reached out to touch a shrivelled leaf, smiling at her gasp when it came to life at my touch. “You all destroy the gifts, like this leaf, that you have been given, with little thought of the life around you. I’m here to save your world by saving you from yourselves. ”
She looked at me blankly.
“You don’t understand, Angel. Don’t you see how alive the trees and flowers look? I am nature’s guardian. If it weren’t for persistence and occasional ingenuity, your people would never last a day in this colony. Homo sapiens are their own virus.” I paced back and forth as the words spilled out from my depths.
“You’re manipulative and toxic. This is a cleanse, Angel! So really, I am the hero of humanity, saviour of the earth, COVID19. The life of a few million to save billions more in the future. Consider it a fresh start. Like resetting a phone or… cutting split ends off your doll’s hair,” I finished lamely.
“You’re killing us in advance, then?” Her lip trembled faintly.
I nodded. “Saves time and energy. Plus, they’re like stress balls only more exciting,” I flashed a smile.
“How can you see me, Angel?”
She furrowed her eyebrows. “Do people not usually see you?”
“Well—” I toyed with the strings of my hoodie. “People know of me, they hate and fear me but I don’t suppose anyone has taken the time to look at me.”
“Why would they? You hurt their family.”
I sighed. I should know better than to reason with a human, especially a child. Angel’s raw logic subconsciously ingrained itself in a distant part of my mind. I paid her no mind, of course...
“It’s my nature, Angel. I’m a virus. The same way you eat and breathe, so too do I survive when I infect people.”
Angel put her hands on her hips. “ Couldn’t you be a nice virus?”
“If I was nice, no one would listen to me.”
She coughed again on my right. I glanced instead to the left.
“Please don’t take my mommy,” Angel whispered.
“It must be done,” I said simply.
“Please! Daddy and the people at the hospital need her.”
“And what about you?” I glanced at her curiously, “Don’t you need her too?”
She nodded earnestly. “Yes, but I made a decision,”
“What kind of decision?” I asked, amusedly.
“I’ll come with you if you promise to keep my mommy and brother safe.”
I gaped at her incredulously and she returned the stare with as much defiance as she could muster. I felt something shift within me.
“Come with me? You’re willing to die?”
“My mommy helps people. She needs to be alive.” Angel said stubbornly.
I schooled my features into neutrality as I internalised her statement.
“You’re only six!”
“My cousin was two and you took her,” She stared at me pointedly. “Besides, I want to be a hero too.”
I hated the way my insides flipped at her statement, her voice empty of all sarcasm and trickery. I stood up sharply as she coughed once more. “You’re dying, Angel. You have the virus. You need to go home,” I said, suppressing the foreign emotion in my throat.
The look of betrayal in Angel’s eyes was overshadowed by her unwavering voice. “That means my mommy is safe?”
“You don’t understand!” I screamed, stepping away from her as she reached for me. “Stop touching me, you’re spending your own life!”
I was given her quickened breath and shivers in response.
“Thank you,” she whispered after a few seconds.
“Why are you thanking me?” I yelled, bewildered. My chest pounded in an unprecedented panic. “I’m ending your life.”
“—And saving my mommy’s.” She finished.
“That’s not how it works, Angel!”
I pulled at the strings of my hoodie till it constricted at my neck. I could feel her symptoms like a textbook. I felt different.
Hot flashes of blood, flesh and phlegm blinded my vision. Millions of diseased, tormented faces replaced Angel’s as we stared at each other. They were haggard, cold, worn, begging for mercy. Whispers of wills and eulogies swirled in my ears. I tasted tears of weeping families as Angel’s eyes bore into me.
She silently closed her eyes as mine opened. Suffering was everywhere. Humans dropped like flies. The pleasure I felt turned to intense pain in my stomach.
“What are you doing to me?” I seethed. She remained motionless.
I scrambled towards her, possessed by the force of an unknown, superior emotion that threatened to explode within me. I shook her. A faint pulse responded from deep within her tiny body.
I exhaled and sat back on my heels. The trees that I had revived during my reign seemed to close in on me. The fragrance of the flowers that flourished in my presence suffocated me. I felt as though I was drowning in my own fluid as I stared at Angel. Her eyes cracked open briefly and I felt a sliver of my sanity returning.
“I can fight you.” She croaked.
I moved next to her. “Many people try.”
“Will I die?” Angel asked.
“You’d have to ask the Grim Reaper,” I joked.
“Am I sick?”
“Well, I don’t suppose anyone as pure as you can truly be sick.”
“After I die, will you kill my mommy?”
“I promise you that your mommy will recover.”
“So are you going to take me now?” Her voice was a quiet whisper, as though she was more lost in thought than afraid.
“Are you giving up already?” I asked, teasingly. She shook her head vigorously.
“I suppose your mommy needs you as much as you need her. The world craves an Angel like you, as much as I hate to admit it.”
She brushed my sleeve feebly, an amazed look in her tired eyes. “You’re saving me?”
“A virus can’t save people,” I laughed.
She looked at me as though she understood. I knew she didn’t. I supposed nobody really would.
“Can you stop killing other people?”
I looked at her in surprise. “Certainly not.”
Angel’s face fell and she clenched her fists.
“Even if I say please?”
I grinned. “Perhaps one day, if your world can have more Angels, then maybe.”
I stood and began to walk away.
“So is there hope?” She called after me.
I looked over my shoulder. “There always is. People just forget.”
“I won’t forget!” Her voice echoed behind me as I disappeared into the trees.
“I’m counting on it, Angel, but will Humanity remember?”