Letter from Barbara
Dear Lyceum Theatre,
We have retreated from the invisible enemy. Never has such a minute particle caused such dread, panic, indeed, for even before it was here, we were positioning the building blocks that would turn our homes into impenetrable fortresses. Hygiene, cleanliness like we have never seen before. Antiseptics, disinfectants, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitiser and gel – for those of us who could find them – were gleaned from the shops and stacked up in every available corner within our castles. For the less lucky, only long rows of empty shelves met our gaze, increased anxiety, and made us run to find the scarcity in the smallest most forgotten corner shop, where we paid through the nose.
And we wiped everything down with toilet paper.
With freezers and fridges stuffed to over-flowing – those who had had foresight, but no generosity, and armed with bactericides, which were thought to be effective against the virus, we settled down to wait for the virus. And so our portcullises slammed shut. Silence descended over the towns, cities, whole countries. Days passed. The natural world began to invade our empty spaces. A herd of goats ventured into town, wreaking havoc over the well-kempt gardens; sheep played at ring-a-ring o’roses in the children’s playground, the merry-go-round eerily twirling faster and faster, screeching metal against metal. The joyous song of birds filtered through our half-opened windows and, undisturbed, built their nests. A whale appeared from the depths to see what was happening, investigate the silence. Wild boars, tigers, monkeys - animals all over the world began to take back their place.
Then, in the silence, the enemy struck, below the belt. We began to fall, first the odd one, then a few, five, fifty, five hundred. The word ‘exponential’, never heard since arithmetic lessons at school, crept into our daily language. We still did not know what it meant but this mortal enemy knew, knew very well, for the word meant victory.
And we fell like flies, zip, zap. For all our preparations, our cleanliness, our own immune response, we fell in our thousands. The sight of fork-lift trucks, coffins piled one top of another, cadavers filling ice-rinks, intensive care units housed in conference halls, now only exhibiting the success of the virus and demonstrating the failure of the Government.
Wave of viral armies arrived, grew, and, under our watchful waiting eyes, took hold. The news was relayed by graphs, carefully prepared by those mathematicians, statisticians, and disseminated by our politicians who stood at the head of our ranks and tried to dissipate our fears through lies and ambiguities. All over the world, from East to West, North to South, the virus spread.
And afterwards? What will we have learnt as we place a toe once more outside our doors, test the water, our eyes still wary? And if we find wild flowers growing in our streets, birds nesting by fountains still trickling water, what then? Shall we shoo away the dolphins, the leaping salmon from our rivers? Will we let the pandas mate undisturbed without relaying such intimacy across the world by CCTV? Will the plankton multiply in the silent seas, the air remain fit to breathe? Will the seismologists continue to measure the underground noiselessness?
For these are things we have discovered while secreted away in our castles. And as our dead were buried alone, those who had passed through the field hospitals discovered first-hand the meaning of life – and death – and the rest of us, lucky not to have fallen, what will we have learnt? And will our planet at last be saved from humankind’s persistent encroachment? Has the Earth, pushed to extremes, hit back, and Nature triumphed? For if we do not listen, it will happen again and again until we, too, are extinct. At least we now know the extent of our damage. Can we go on to live and let live?
Tags: From Audience