It has been two years since the virus began to subside. Five billion people infected, four billion deaths worldwide. People thought at the beginning wearing face masks would help. All the sports wear giants got on board. Slogans like Just Do It…Breathe and Hazmat…because you’re worth it became commonplace. In the end though, a little cloth around your face couldn’t stop an ever mutating micro-organism.
The COVID-19 virus was contained, but this happened far too late. It had mutated, and COVID-21 didn’t just go after the elderly and weak, it went after us all. Able to survive outside of the body, everything we touched could infect us. Our immune systems were no match. The Corona Virus 2.0 ate away at our white blood cells, spewing out cancerous mutant cells which attached themselves to our internal organs and killed us off rapidly.
Society crumbled. Self isolation became meaningless as the world made it’s way back to the dark ages.
I survived though.
A few of my mates did too.
Whether this was because I stayed in bed for a year watching Netflix after everyone I knew died, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps the smell from the mound of dirty washing by my bedroom door put Corona 2.0 off entering.
At first we had laughed and shook our head in despair at the panic buyers in the supermarkets. Why on earth did they need 85 toilet rolls and sacks of dried pasta? These days, if you can find one, a toilet roll is worth more than gold. Ever tried wiping your arse with gold? It doesn’t leave you feeling clean and fresh, that’s for sure.
The world ended…and then it began again.
These days things are a little different though. The oldest person on the planet is just forty-four years old, people have started growing their own food after the collapse of mass manufacturing, and there are never any queues at the post office anymore.
One thing which hasn’t changed though, is our love of a good drink. True, the once abundance of high street watering holes has taken a hit, but the great British pub is still alive and well, welcoming it’s customers through the door to the warmth and exuberance one can always rely upon down their local.
‘Oh, God not you two again.’
Oh Jack, the Landlord. He’s a funny one, so he is. Always feigning disgust whenever we walk through the doors of his establishment. I smile and laugh, my breath steaming up my hazmat suit’s visor for a moment.
‘And a fine day to you too sir,’ I tell him as I approach the bar, slapping my mate Dave, or as his ID tag says on his suit’s shoulder FJ-1623-M256. I still prefer Dave though.
‘Alright mate,’ I tell him.
Dave turns, his visor knocking into mine, a greeting common in these parts these days since handshaking, even suited up, is now illegal.
‘Not too bad FO-3492-K652,’ he says. Always a stickler for the rules is Dave, he refuses to call me Rob any longer.
Jack, the Landlord, steps forward to the bar.
‘Ah barkeep, what is on offer in this fine establishment today?’ I ask.
Jack shrugs, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, ‘Same as yesterday, last week, last year…’
‘Well throw a little salesmanship into it mate, come on. There are plenty other pubs we could frequent but we choose your place and we are paying customers.’
Jack holds up his hand to stop me, ‘Hold on there a second shall we. First of all, this is the only available pub within four miles, and secondly you have a bar tap going through the roof. You do know I’m trying to run a business here don’t you?’
I shrug, ‘These are turbulent times my good friend. With the abolishment of actual money once the world stock exchanges crashed, I’m a little stuck with what to actually pay you with.’
‘You could try and trade, barter. SV-6385-H772 and EW-1975-I339 gave me a goat. Do you have a goat?’
Do I have a goat?
Of course I haven’t got a goat.
‘Of course I haven’t got a goat,’ I tell him, ‘I’m not made of goats you know.’
‘What about a cat? Cat’s milk is beginning to take off in a big way down south.’
‘Cat’s milk? What do you mean cat’s milk?’
Jack nods, almost knocking once frequently used but now antiquated pint pots off the shelf above his head with his suit visor.
I sigh…the bloody visor is steamed up again… ‘No I don’t have a cat. Could we please just get a drink? We’ve been regulars here since before the virus.’
Jack saunters off, muttering something about us having outstanding bar tabs from back then too. ‘If you had a goat then you’d be square with the house.’
‘Neither of us has a goat!’
Dave turns to me, rolling his eyes, ‘He always wants a goat.’
‘I know, tell me about it. That guy really gets on my goat.’
We both laugh at this as Jack returns with a bottle in each hand, placing them down in front of us on the bar.
‘Alright lads, just like the last time you were in here, when was it, two days ago?’ We nod. ‘We have whiskey from the Isle of Skye, one of the only places on Earth the virus left alone…and we have infected whiskey which is a little harsher but a lot cheaper.’
‘Harsher how?’ I ask before Dave butts in.
‘How much cheaper?’
Jack gives it some thought before saying, ‘Half a goat cheaper.’
‘Awww that’s some savings right there.’
‘But it’s infected,’ I try to reason with Dave, ‘And neither of us have half a goat just like we don’t have a full goat. We’re goatless.’
Dave nods, considering my words, then turns back to Jack, ‘Is there nothing else we can barter with? It can’t all be half goats and cat milk can it?’
It doesn’t feel so long ago that this line of conversation would seem laughable.
‘Do you have any toilet roll?’
The pub quietens and I watch as the other Hazmat-clad punters stop their conversations and stare, waiting for a response. No one would be so stupid as to go flaunting it about their local that they were in possession of such luxuries.
I scoff at the very idea.
‘If we possessed toilet roll do you really think we’d be drinking here? We’d be able to write our own ticket, hanging out in the big leagues.’
Dave nods, ‘We’d have so many goats you wouldn’t be able to see us for cat milk.’
Another eye roll from Jack the Landlord.
‘So what will it be, the good stuff or the infected stuff?’
‘How infected is infected?’ I ask.
‘You ask this every bloody time FO-3492-K652.’
‘Hey now, calm down with using my full name, you’re not my mother.’
‘She wanted to call him HY-7362-L993 but he didn’t look like one,’ Dave interjects helpfully.
‘Look lads, you have no money, nothing to barter with, and still you come here racking up your huge bar tab. You guys are less than customers to me because I don’t have to give anything to none-customers. Now decide, what will it be.’
I shake my head.
‘It’s just the last time we had the infected stuff it gave me the shits for a week.’
‘With no toilet paper?’
‘Exactly Dave…sorry, FJ-1623-M256. Exactly. But on the other hand, I don’t want to be drinking a goat’s worth of whiskey either.’
‘You’re not made of goats FO-3492-K652.’
‘Exactly Dave, I said that before, I’m not made of goats.’
Jack clasps his hands together, ‘So what will it be?’
I shake my head, undecided.
‘Have you nothing else? No other alcohol on the premises?’
Jack smiles, ‘Well boys, you’re in luck.’
He steps to the side to reveal a countertop fridge with rows upon rows of ice cold, chilled to the optimum crispness, bottles of Corona lager.
‘I’ve had these sitting in this fridge ever since the virus took hold. They’re still in date, been waiting here for someone to drink way back when there was still seven billion of us on this crazy rock.’
I wince, ‘I’ll have a shot of the infected stuff please barkeep…actually, goats be damned, give me the bottle.’