Into the Wood

Submitted into Contest #37 in response to: Write a story that takes place in the woods.... view prompt


Mystery Horror Drama

April 17, 2020 - 5:00 AM Central Time - Day 48 of Pandemic - Journal entry 7

Subject: Facebook post - The Wood

Nearing fifty days of lockdown and I now know things will never be the same. What worries me most is the shift in my attitude. My positive we can beat this mantra has disappeared. My prevailing mantras swing from the angry “those idiots” to the piercing loneliness of “I will die alone”.

Touch, a simple hug, remains longed for, needed the way a newborn and mother seek bonding, the way a worn wooden deck absorbs sealer to keep it from falling apart. I wonder how much more the darkness which slaps me hourly with numbers and surrounds me in a pool of loneliness, shakes me with a fear of the unknown will weaken me and others? What will happen to humankind? Today I wrote a comment on Facebook. Rereading it later, it showed a clue to the future. I know from my work as a sociologist this post signaled the outset of humanities adieu.

Cleaning the kitchen led to pacing until my hair crawls with an imaginary virus. Over showering is a problem too, I remind myself. But I take my second shower, anyway. This post appears an important clue for future analysis:

April 17, 2020 - Thanks for the Facebook pictures. Spring covered my wood in buds and powdered it in a rare April snow. Your wood, though across the Atlantic, looks greener than mine it makes me optimistic the apocalyptic cycle will not start here in the United States.

We doubled our deaths in one week, and the cases tripled. I hope others understand this virus is like a car accident, but this accident causes two more accidents and then each of those cause two more accidents, and those two cause two more unceasing like a branch burgeoning other branches from limbs to twigs. Eventually the highway then the county roads will become impassable. Our first death was only a month ago in our county. Today, in our town, we have 19 deaths with 271 cases up 40 from yesterday, each infecting two others. The larger cities first infected showed us how the numbers double daily. Across our country, we have 699,032 Cases and 25,987 Deaths. It won’t be too long. Yet the election seems more important than the solution. We are on the rise. After watching NY and LA come so close to collapse, I wonder how my small, less powerful community will do. It will be months before lockdown lifts.

Every day seems surreal and longer. I don't remember snow this late. I'm feeding the chipmunks, robins, and baby bunnies Cheerios. Ha. It's all I got. They look as stunned as I feel. Through windows, I survey my subdivision. I can't help but wonder who will die, who is sick, and if my cough is allergies.

I know the odds are small, but amid this sparkling white, the black asphalt road becomes the arm of the plague weaving through, curving to capture me. "Move on by," I whisper. The guilt pricks my heart.

April 17, 2020 - Second Entry: 1 PM Central Time

Asymptomatic became the demon. I needed human-touch and connection. I wanted to heal others. But others were the problem—the disease. How could I trust the others? Those who believed this wasn’t dangerous and a hoax were just as capable of killing me as those who tested and worked to solve this virus. Any human was dangerous no matter how much I needed human connection I must isolate myself.

As the supply chain continues to weaken and scarcity and illness climb, I know from my training what would happen next. I must act. My radio flyer wagon bounced over the dirt path of the wood only a few blocks from my subdivision home. Garden tools, shovels, and supplies clanked and shifted as I tugged them off the path toward the hill. The plan in my head to dig into the side of the hill and create a hidden garden area rattled in my brain and bounced back and forth from insane to proactive sensibility. My gut ached, more out of fear than hunger. This would be the fallout place in case the world fell apart. If this government gets a handle on this virus, then I would have gotten exercise and a garden I could share to relieve some of my guilt. However, if as I suspected, the government falls into bickering versus helping, I’d shelter myself here. There would be no electricity, but protection from the other people ranked higher in priority.

All the clues were right there. This is how an apocalypse begins—we separate for the other—we blame the other; we forget to solve and instead protect our own asses. With each shovel of Earth removed from the hill, I knew I was creating an apocalyptic future. But my memory replayed the sight of empty toilet paper shelves in the once greatest country in the world, and I knew the fear of the unknown had taken control.

My guilt ran deep, but still, I shoveled, turning the out of season snow black with misplaced dirt. I subsided my guilt with the words this is what I must do. This is the smart move for me… for my family. I swallowed hard shaking the dirt from me as my empty radio flyer free of its now hidden tools rolled onto clacking a repeating rhythm "save your self, save your self" the thumping repeated as the wheels rolled over the cracks in the sidewalk. I sat with my most perishable meal and watched the news to end the day. Sleep fell hard but restless.

April 17, 2021 - 4 AM Central Time - Journal entry 543

Today, I move into the hill. It's sturdy and the weather will change in a few weeks, I hope. But after reopening the workforce before testing the virus spread like wildfire. The economy faltered when the president refused to leave power after his defeat. Factions formed. The divisions exploded between the others. Tomorrow the military was doing testing. Testing now meant if you had a past of disagreeing with the new government you were taken to a virus internment camp for your protection. I didn't know how long I could survive on my own in this new world, but I knew the others whichever side they were on would not allow me freedom. I would be better out of their reach. I gathered the last of my books, my matches, my seeds went into the wood. Invisible to the world and the virus. My only regret was I didn't change minds sooner.

April 18, 2020 00:46

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Naomi Coffman
03:25 Apr 28, 2020

A terrifying glimpse at what can happen under extraordinary circumstances, such as COVID 19. I love the journal entry format, but I think your story needs a bit more structure. What is the essential conflict here? 


Christina Steele
03:17 May 01, 2020

First, thank you for reading. Thank you even more for the constructive comment. This was a new format for me and it proved challenging. The inner conflict is her struggle with loneliness and her slow slip into becoming a hermit perhaps mental illness. I tried to show that the world was more normal than her plans called for but with her talking after the action through her journal and being isolated, it became difficult to show her conflict. So I agree with you. I put it here hoping someone would help me with it. And you did. I think one more...


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