2020 Flash Fiction Submissions

Thank you everyone who has submitted a story. Many stories have also been submitted by email.
We are approaching the closing date now but there is still time to enter the challenge. We are looking forward to closely reading all the entries!

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I remember the days when I felt so alone. I remember the days when my parents would make the dreaded phone calls with doctors. I remember the time when I suffered, thinking I was not worth being brought into this world. I remember the day when everything changed.
The day was a typical day, I came back from school, got a snack, and turned on the daily news.
“100 more corona cases in Colorado today.”
I sighed and turned the news off. I knew I shouldn’t worry, but my grandparent’s hospital bills became more of a reality each day, and so did my family’s money problems. The only thing that kept a smile on my face was my music. Music brought me hope and gave me the strength to get through each day.
I went to my room and laid on my bed listening to a melody of songs on my old iPod. I slowly drifted to sleep to the sweet melody of Beethoven.
I woke up to the sound of people chatting in the neighborhood. That’s odd, people should be quarantining. I walked outside to see children chatting. What were these kids doing? They were not wearing masks! Then I noticed something else. One of the kids had a holographic pen on the floor, and above it was a holographic picture of a dog. Holograms were only a thing in movies, right? I turned my back on the kids, bewildered.
Where was I? The one and only thing I knew was that this is not my neighborhood, not my friends, and not the life I knew.
I ran to the nearest gas station and sat on the pavement with my head on my knees. I started thinking the worst and tears streamed down my face. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I look up to see a teenage boy. He stared at me in his dirty, greasy, overalls. The boy gave me a soft smile.
“Honey, are you okay?”
He said in a deep southern accent.
I just nodded timidly. He slowly sat next to me.
“Hi. I am Andy. Now, what are you doing on the side of the road?”
“I’m Maya.”
I said, avoiding his question. His voice reminded me of the sweet melody of country music. I shook his hand and smiled, wiped my eyes with my shirt sleeve, and looked down.
“Come to my house and you can explain all about it. ”
He looked to see my worried face. Then he gave me a reassuring smile.
I hesitantly walked toward the house thinking of all the horror movies I watched. As I walked I thought I might as well just follow him, he is my last and only hope. We walked up to a hut. I looked up to see the roof slanted and the paint peeling.
“I know it’s not the nicest place, but I can share my dinner with you.”
Andy said, looking ashamed. I knew where he was coming from, my house had been downgraded to an old apartment after my grandparents were diagnosed with covid-19. My face lit up when he said dinner, but why would he share his dinner with me? I had a feeling he wouldn’t have much dinner to share.
Andy went to a room and walked out with a picnic basket and a scrubby blanket.
“Get ready for a walk.”
As we walked he told me that it was 2030.
I gasped, completely bewildered. 2030?!
“Corona existed years ago when I was a child. Honey, don’t you know that?”
I shrugged like it was nothing. I would tell him my story at the right moment.
“There were many positive effects of the corona.”
He said laughing like everyone thought that.
“What do you mean?”
I must have sounded so confused cause he stopped laughing. He looked at me not understanding and then we stopped at a cliff. We set up a blanket and started to watch the sunset. The sunset reminded me of my favorite operas.
“This is really beautiful. Thank you, Andy. Here is my story.”
“Andy, I don’t know what happened, I woke up and it was 2030.”
I said. Andy looked confused, but I moved on.
“Last night, it was still 2020. We were still quarantining. I could not go to school, and it was just painful, stuck in my house all the time. My grandparents were infected with the corona, my parents were overloaded with their hospital bills. My parents would make these dreaded phone calls with doctors. Music was my only hope. How can corona be positive?”
“Well as I was saying corona brought back wildlife, nature, created incredible technology, and mainly united the world. You see, Corona didn’t end with one person doing the work. Once the world came to a consensus on a plan and united as one socially distanced force against corona, we won.”
“People learned that working together was the solution to many problems. So, Maya, you have one job in this world.”
I looked up at him with longing eyes. I could see a smile sliding across his face.
“You just have to spread hope, to people at your fate, and you can be mighty good at that.”
I looked down.
“What if I can’t? What if I’m not good enough?!”
He looked at me and held his face to mine.
“You can, you will and I believe in you.”
I woke up startled. I saw my mom coming into my room. I checked my iPod, May 1, 2020. What just happened? Was I dreaming the whole thing? Had I just time-traveled?! No, I wasn’t dreaming. I could still hear the opera from the mountains and smell the sweet air. I could hear Andy’s voice. I looked up and decided on one thing. If it was a dream, or if it wasn’t, I still knew that all I could do is spread hope.
10 Years Later
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Maya Green to our stage. She will be giving a speech.” I heard the round of applause booming in the background, as I stepped onto the stage.
My speeches revolved around one story, it was the story, I may or may have not had, with Andy. Andy gave me the hope to move forward in life and gave me my motivation so I’m paying it forward. I know it was probably a dream because time travel doesn’t exist, but I can’t help but have a slight bit of hope to meet Andy one day. I just want to thank him. Thank him for the impact he made in my life.
I ended my speech by saying.
“I learned that you don’t have to physically change but your mind and perspective change you.”
I stepped off the stage and an old man approached me. He had greasy overalls and a sweet smile.
“Hello, honey! I am so proud of you.”
I ran into his arms and just whispered thank you, thank you. Because I always remembered the sweet country music I heard when Andy was around and the music was louder than ever now.

The Fresh Elements

‘Take your shoes and socks off,’ he said, stuffing his socks into his shoes and carrying them as he pranced into the open water, our two Border Collies already taking a dip; their tongues flapping to the side as they chased one another, spraying up sand that dusted their furry chests.

‘The back seat is going to be covered,’ I laughed, and he flashed me a grin from over his shoulder.

I looked around at a mostly empty beach. The restrictions had been lifted for some time now, but the bitter November air meant fewer visited the British coast; instead I knew they were filling every seat of the planes that passed in stripes between the thick, grey cloud above in favour of the warm, tropical beaches and pools of abroad – places that had been off limits for months, but longed for by many. Leaving behind their shower curtains a picture of a Spanish beach pinned to a wall in the back garden, where they’d spent blistering days of Summer sat around little bistro sets they got on sale, pretending to be anywhere but here, sipping homemade cocktails that just didn’t taste the same.

A salty, cold wind danced in my freshly cut hair, and I felt my skin prickle with shivers; it seemed so long ago since I had seen the sea and the sand. So long since I felt such a breeze on my skin – this must be what it feels like when they say about ridding yourself of cobwebs.

It was a lot like taking the first relieving gulp of cold water that your throat ached for after doing forty-five minutes of jumping around your living room trying to follow a fitness coach on YouTube, during which you realise that you can only do thirty minutes with three 5-minute breaks to catch your breath and curse the unhealthy eating habits and the extra shiraz you’ve been indulging on.

I sucked in the air, as if I had been starved of it, before taking off my shoes and socks, and hiking up my trouser legs – realising, but not caring, that I hadn’t shaved my legs in a few weeks – and ran for the sea.

I squealed out in glee at the icy water around my feet and ankles, and he laughed at me, kicking up a spray of water I turned away from; feeling the droplets shower my back in a breath-taking shock of cold.

‘Isn’t it great, though?’ He said, coming over to me. ‘What they’re doing about the sea?’

‘The fish?’ I asked, smiling up at him, and the joy that came from him was like a bubble of warmth.

‘The over-fishing, the plastic waste, the pollution, building new wind farms.’ He nodded.

‘I like the fact they’re increasing compostable materials used in café’s and take-outs from supermarkets.’

‘It’s actually great what Covid-19 did for the environment.’


‘You know what I mean,’ he frowned.

‘Still can’t believe how clear Lakeside’s water became,’ I shook my head, but feeling the chill I huddled myself against him.

I felt the hum of his agreement through his chest, and I smiled. Not too far away, I heard the dogs barking, and we turned to look at them, and called them over. They ran across the beach toward us, racing one another, and I reached into my pocket – not the one with the compostable dog bags, but the one with the homemade dog treats I found from a small business in my local town. They had crumbled a bit now, but the dogs snaffled them from my open palms as they joined us at the lip of the ocean waves.

‘Good boys!’ I praised.

‘The beach is clean,’ he noticed.

‘Off you go!’ I released the dogs, and glanced behind myself. ‘Yeah, nothing like that hot July-’

He scoffed.

They were desperate, I supposed. Aching for some kind of holiday away from not only what had been normal, but the new normal. I don’t think many realised how difficult it would be to stay in the confines of their home 24/7. They used to joke about it to those who had chronic illnesses; must be great lying in bed watching T.V. all day , they’d say.

They didn’t now. Instead, a charity had started up to help those who had restricted access to the wonderful outdoors, could apply for discounts for eco-friendly holidays in the forests, or at the seaside. My grandma had always wanted to try one of those glamping Yurt holidays, and she did just that earlier this year – she loved it. Now we had one booked for next year with the dogs – it even has a hot tub!

‘My toes are cramping,’ I whined and laughed, and plodded out the water.

‘Get your shoes back on, and we’ll get back in the car,’ he smiled down at me, attempting to wipe wet sand off his heels.

With my socks and shoes back on, I looked back at the ocean. The waves were a gentle roll, kissing at the golden-brown sand, washing up shells and pebbles. I watched as a crab crawled beside a rock pool, and I smiled.

I thought I’d always see empty plastic bottles, cans, plastic food wrap, and the like… but here – like more and more places were becoming – the beach was clean, tidy, cared for .

The news had already reported an increase in aquatic numbers; Bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, monkfish, red snapper… even sharks, swordfish, and whales were seeing a promising rise. And that wasn’t the highlight of the recent news; all over the world we were seeing a slow but steady reduction of families and children in poverty; more people seeing their basics needs met by government schemes and charity efforts.

Many considered – in retrospect – the sacrifice to be worth it; from having to be holed up inside cramped spaces, unable to see family and friends – some even losing family and friends – to seeing such a change in eagerness to bring the future in with more abundance, and less damage,. The change wasn’t just to the ecosystem and nature, but to home-lives as well; to the ordinary, average person. So many had lost their lives, and their loved ones carried that loss with them, but as they came out the other end a new hope for the future restored their spirit.

The majority of people were championing the intrinsic value of nature, and not only was nature benefitting wonderfully, but so were the people. There was a decrease in use of anti-depressants, and a giant rise in hiking boot purchases!

We called the dogs back, and placed them on-lead.

‘I want to try vegan fish,’ I said as we walked back to the car.

‘What’s it made of?’

‘Banana blossom, I think.’

‘What is that?’ He laughed.

I shrugged, and I felt a hum of warmth radiate from within; the wind, the sand, the sea – I felt them restore my spirit; my head no longer ached from the tension headaches I’d been getting during lockdown.

‘Maybe a sausage for the dogs, though,’ I said.

  • end -
    1,182 words

On a different perspective

I have lost count of how many days it has been since my family has always been home. I feel like it’s been a year, or even maybe more. I’m not good at counting. I used to see them only at night when they come home or whenever they wake up and scramble to go to work but since the start of what my humans call “pandemic”, they are always at home with me.

Hey, I’m not complaining.

It was noisy at first and I loved being noisy with them. Sometimes they love it too but whenever they are talking with their computers, they would want me to be quiet. I once tried to see why they were talking to the computer and I saw another human! He was inside it! I was asking for help because he might be imprisoned by the computer but my humans just got mad at me. They probably liked talking with the computer man so I just let them be.

One of my favorite times of the day is whenever I’m with my youngest human, Robbie. He always watches cartoons in the morning since he was always at home and he loves it when I sit beside him. He loves giving me belly and paw rubs too. Back in the day, he would be going to school early during this time so I never really had a chance to play with him. But now, I see him talking to other computer men and studying with them. It was so weird! Robbie at first was having a bad time adjusting so I would sometimes sit beside him and he would rub me whenever he’s tired. Also, for the past few months, while waiting for breakfast, Robbie would play catch with me in the living room. There is not a lot of room to run around but I know how to navigate this house even with my eyes closed. Though there was a time when I accidentally broke one of the vases when I hit it with my long tail. They all got mad at me; they didn’t let me sleep on their beds for 2 days.

It was okay though. It was cold on the floor but I liked it.

They are also eating together at every meal now. Before the pandemic hit, it was just me and Bernadeth. She was our mother. When everyone was out for work or school, she was alone at home. After cleaning the whole house, she would cook her own food and sit alone at the dining table. I can feel back then that she was sad so I usually ate beside her at every meal but now that everyone’s home, I am left to eat on the floor. But Bernadeth would occasionally put me on her lap and feed me chicken meat or liver.

I always knew I’m her favorite.

Sometimes, one of my humans, Grace, gets bored inside the house and she would take me out for a walk. Even though she’s usually spontaneous, I’m not mad. I love walks! I know Grace likes talking to other people so she must be looking for someone to talk to whenever we go out but when I first went out with her for a walk, I got mad at a lot of people because they were all hiding their faces! They were all wearing something on their mouth and I can’t see them! How rude. Grace quickly calmed me down. I didn’t understand her but since I am smart, I just figured out that since everybody was wearing it, it must be important right?

It must be something like my collar.

Another one that I love is whenever other people would come to our house and give us food. At first, I thought they were invading our home when they came knocking on our gate but as soon as I saw the food, I knew they were friends. I mean, anyone who gives food is a friend, right? Sometimes, my humans would give them something too. It was like they were exchanging food.

I wonder if they also gave some of mine.

However, there are times when I feel like they are all afraid and uncertain. In the first few months that they were home, they would always watch the news. I don’t understand anything but I feel like they are waiting for something. I would get bored watching it so I always doze off but when tensions are high, I listen to them talk. They always watch how many cases there are already (I stopped counting at 6) and they are also waiting for a cure or something like that. They even told me once that it’s possible for me to catch the pandemic.

I knew they were joking but I didn’t laugh. I don’t want jokes like that.

Now, they are more relaxed. They still watch the news but it feels like they have already adapted with whatever happened. I see them finding ways to cope up with it. Robbie with watching cartoons, Bernadeth with cooking delicious meals for us, Grace trying to occasionally walk outside and of course, talking to the mysterious computer man, whoever he is. And me, I cope with playing and sleeping. Sometimes by eating too. I also love barking at random objects or creatures I see outside the window. I miss running around but I guess I have got to adjust too like what my humans are doing.

I know. I’m the best boy ever, right?

I know there is something bad happening out there. I wish I can just bite it away. When I see how my humans have been doing everything they can to go by this new normal thing for them, I can’t help but try my best too. I even stopped being a picky eater. I adjusted greatly to the circumstances. I wonder how others are doing outside. I wonder how my friends are. I miss playing with them. I’m sure we will do it again sometime soon.

Right now, I love being with my humans. I’m sure they also love seeing me all the time. I’m technically like a glue who holds together our family. They even bring home a lot of treats for me whenever they go out for groceries. I’m sure that’s a reward for me being good. So, no matter how hard hitting this pandemic is, at least I have a home with my human family.

Paws up, my friends. We will see each other again soon.

Word counts: 1,093

Here is my entry for the 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge. Thank you for your consideration!

The Oldest Banyan Tree by Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson (1197 words)

Great Grandmother sat, cradled in the roots of the oldest banyan tree. Her family prepared for the celebration around her; her children shouted directions in playfully scolding tones, her grandchildren collected food from the village garden and cooked rice in big pots, and her great-grandchildren zipped around like bumblebees, dirtying their knees and dress shoes. Three generations she birthed and raised. Great Grandmother smiled faintly and breathed the damp smell of Indonesian summer.

Her youngest great-granddaughter, little Buana, toddled over and nestled under Great Grandmother’s waiting arm, legs tucked into her chest. The two rested, observing the bustle of activity. A firefly floated lazily by. Great Grandmother remembered when they used to be endangered, their numbers dwindling.

Nenek, are you scared?” Buana asked.

Great Grandmother shook her head. Contented with that answer, Buana rested her head back on her bosom. Great Grandmother was a woman of few words, especially in her old age. She had more than her fair share of scars, and she worked hard to prevent her family from inheriting her trauma, wounds from a time before.

“Let’s go for a walk, little one,” Great Grandmother said, her voice hoarse. She began to rise, gripping a bough of the banyan tree, and Buana’s mother rushed over to help her up.

“Are you sure, Nenek?” Buana’s mother asked. Great Grandmother nodded and flapped her hand. She took Buana’s tiny hand between her weathered palms and patted it before walking slowly through the village.

They passed the community kitchen, warm and well-stocked, and the barter hall, where villagers traded and gifted their wares. The village was beautiful, full of greenery and art and smooth roads. Great Grandmother was glad; she remembered a time when no one had the time or the money or the will to invest in their village, before everything changed.

They stopped in front of a very old building. The steel walls were transformed with multicolored murals, and the steps were covered with candles and flowers. The gentle hum of machinery filled the air outside.

“I used to work here, many years ago,” Great Grandmother said.

“But, Nenek, nobody works here,” Buana said, puzzled.

“Not anymore,” Great Grandmother agreed. “They called it a sweatshop.” She tugged gently on one of Buana’s braids, and Buana wrinkled her nose petulantly. Great Grandmother cleared her throat. She had no tears left to cry for the horrors of the past, but today seemed like the day to remember.

“Before they had the robots, people made everything. We worked for twenty hours, sometimes.”

Buana gasped. “Twenty hours in one week?”

Great Grandmother smiled. “Every day, little one.” Buana squeezed her hand tight, and Great Grandmother squeezed back.

“When people first invented the machines, we were scared. We thought, if robots replaced us, made everything, we’d have nothing. No work, no food.”

Buana frowned. “That doesn’t make sense, Nenek. Everyone gets food,” she said, like it was obvious.

“You’re right. But before, the powerful, the rich—they kept all the money from the factories and hoarded it. If we worked for many hours every day, they gave us a little, and we could usually buy food. We had no choice.”

“What about Paman?” Buana asked. Buana’s uncle had been paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident years ago. Even after receiving the best public healthcare, he remained paralyzed. It never hindered him; roads and buildings were always wheelchair accessible, virtual workspaces offered him a wealth of opportunities to contribute to worldwide innovation, and the abundant community pool took care of him same as everyone. He lived a happy life.

“In the past, your Paman would have suffered. People who could not work received very little. You had to earn the right to live.”

Buana said nothing. She buried her face in Great Grandmother’s linen skirt. Great Grandmother smoothed her hand over Buana’s hair.

“But that is not now. Your Paman is happy. We learned.”

Just beyond the factory stood the cemetery gates. Great Grandmother led Buana through the rows of gravestones, their faces tall and smooth. Most of them were from the Sickness. Great Grandmother remembered her friends dropping like the endangered fireflies, lights slowly blinking out, as they were forced to live out their last days laboring in the sweatshops. Now, their ashes mixed with fertile soil to support new life. Dozens of trees created a canopy overhead, many planted by Great Grandmother herself in living memory of those who passed.

At the center of the cemetery, a still pond reflected the afternoon light, surrounded by meditation benches. A statue stood in the middle of the pond. It depicted a woman holding bread with arms outstretched next to the mechanical arm of a robot from the factory. Hundreds of names were engraved at the base of the statue and on the nearby benches, commemorating the revolutionaries.

“People had to fight to make the world the way it is now, little one. To show the world that there is always enough food to go around. That taking care of each other is our sacred duty.”

Buana traced her Nenek’s name on one of the benches and looked back at her in wonder.

“Come,” Great Grandmother said, squinting at the setting sun, “Let’s go back now.”

The two were greeted with cheers and energetic music; the celebration began. Colorful paper umbrellas filled the air, and skilled performers started their puppet show, a rich cultural tradition that thrived once again in this post-Sickness renaissance. Basked in the pink glow of the sunset, Great Grandmother chuckled, shooing Buana off to play with the other kids. Buana lingered, squeezing her Nenek’s hand once more. She nodded gently, and the child wandered away.

They adorned her spot in the roots of the oldest banyan tree with pillows and streamers and flowers. She nestled in. Her doting family brought her rice and sweet potato and tofu with chili sauce. Her cup was never empty. Gathered around her tree, a joyful bonfire blazing in the center, the village shared in stories and prayers and raucous laughter.

One by one, each of Great Grandmother’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren approached her tree. They took her hand and wished her a final farewell. Buana was last.

“You’re not scared?” she asked again, tears wetting her round cheeks.

“No, little one. I lived a long life. When you live a life full of value, full of family and nature and art, you don’t need to fear the end. My life is complete. Death is not so scary.”

“I’m scared,” Buana admitted, voice wavering. Great Grandmother took her into her arms.

“I will see you again, my baby.”

Great Grandmother stayed in the arms of the banyan tree, long after the bonfire dwindled and the villagers cleaned up and put their children to bed. Buana insisted on sitting by her side. Glowing fireflies blinked in the night. Great Grandmother leaned back against the trunk of the tree, the tree that had witnessed it all. She felt its solid bark cradling her head. With the profound weight of a lifetime, her eyes had long grown heavy and tired. At last, she closed them, at peace.

Quiet by Adrian Ellis

It didn’t happen with a fanfare - it couldn’t - but it changed everything. The last wave of Covid-19 was the culprit, that final strain that swept through a world population already exhausted by lockdowns and the virus’s terrible lottery. It left widespread devastation but it also left a strange legacy; heightened auditory sensitivity.

At first, many people didn’t believe the virus had done anything. They thought that the sudden avoidance of noise had been caused by the lockdowns, the restrictions, the loss of traffic, that the grounded flights had created a prolonged quiet to which people had become accustomed. When the virus finally died out, and the countries’ rulers announced the all-clear, praised the doctors and ordered a return to normal activity, the truth became clear. The virus had left a physical effect; it had altered the auditory nerves of the majority of people. No class, clan or rank was exempt from this effect. Covid-19 had never cared if someone was in a mansion or a hut; it was an entirely egalitarian plague. That final strain, officially type-F, became known as the Tuning Fork because of the single note patients would hear when it infected them. That final strain had switched its attack. Instead of removing its host’s sense of smell, it gave them an amplified, hair-trigger cochlear. Everyone reacted. Instead of meek acceptance of the return to noisy normality, they gave the billionaires and politicians a firm, implacable ‘no’. There would no return to the old, noisy, angry grind, to the hubbub, rush and cacophony of twenty-first-century Earth. A comprehensive revolution took place. It wasn’t a revolution of barricades, of megaphones and chants, it was a revolution of silent action. Nobody could take the old noise, nobody would take the old noise. The changes were swift. Roaring, six-cylinder cars were abandoned en-masse. Bicycles were cleaned up and brought out. A few, electric buses and vans were allowed to travel but any sports car or SUV, driven by a petrol-head-in-denial was stopped, in its tracks, by barricades manned by resolute citizens wearing ear-protectors and implacable expressions. Train speeds were lowered until they could only purr along the rails like happy cats. Planes were grounded, or moved to remote airstrips. A quiet descended upon the world, a peace unknown for over a century. Human-generated noise became the sound of cycle-bells, the closing of a door, the sweep of a broom, the high staccato of laughter. Bird song filled the air, an orchestral accompaniment to every day. With the gas-guzzlers and Jumbo jets gone, the air cleared. Sounds travelled further. Everyone’s sensory world expanded. The old world they’d experienced, a brown tunnel of clamour, became a sky-blue amphitheatre, miles wide.

The new situation scared the billionaires. They told their TV and newspaper friends to talk of imminent breakdown, of economic collapse, to explain that everyone in the world had to just plug their ears and return to normal. It didn’t work and it wasn’t true. The economy didn’t collapse and no one starved. Instead, the Quiet did the opposite. Local artisan work flourished because the international freighters had stopped. Delivery jobs ballooned in number because huge trucks were banned. Health costs plummeted in the clean air and quiet nights. People’s aspirations changed. They no longer desired international travel or four-litre cars. Instead, they found bliss in tranquility, their daily lives, in their community and their environment. The pace of life slowed. ‘Just in time’ became, ‘in its own time’ but work was still done. Collectively, the world’s population transformed the energy sector. Fossil-fuel consumption dropped to zero. The scream of jet-engines was replaced with the low whoop of wind turbine blades, of waves lapping against the booms of tidal-power systems, of solar-panel arrays humming as their transformers drew their gathered energy on to a distributed grid. The Quiet had never officially been an environmental plan but it had succeeded where so many previous, noble environmental campaigns had failed. Earth had changed for the better.

Time passed. Many people regained their normal hearing. A new generation appeared that had no experience of Covid-19, but it was one that had gestated, been born and grown up in Quiet. They did not want the return of fossil fuels. To them, the idea of burning oil and coil to get energy, when renewables gave them all the power they needed, was nonsensical. Their aspirations, their driving aim, was the opposite; to reduce the ecological damage of their forebears, those earlier generations that had merrily burnt and polluted to power high-decibel lifestyles. They needed to do it immediately. Time was dangerously short. Negative feedbacks were already established, in the Amazon and the Arctic. These were driving more melting, more heating and more release of warming gases. It was no longer good enough just to pump less carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. A vast amount had to be removed as well, as fast as possible, to stop Earth’s climate spiralling downwards into atmospheric Hell. It was all hands to the pumps. The response and collective effort by everyone was both astonishing and heart-warming. Some wondered if the Tuning Fork had changed people’s minds, physically, but others believed that it had been the silence, the clean air and the calmness that had made the change. Humanity had just needed a moment of reflection, of uninterrupted thought, to realise what was important and what needed to be done. In the end, it didn’t matter exactly how the change had occurred; the result was the same. The world was working together.

For half-a-century, it was touch-and-go. The human race’s near-silent, global effort of carbon-capture, atmospheric cleansing and marine-seeding ebbed and flowed. Positive signs were seen, then a calamity would send everything back a step. Finally, in the 2050’s, earth’s scientists could see significant progress. Earth’s climate was finally shifting in the right direction. The worst had been avoided. The people of Earth rested, hugged, gave silent thanks, and smiled.


“Grandpa, when Mom was a child, did you also tell her bedtime stories?” the little girl asked. “Unfortunately not, sweetheart. In those days, we did not have time for such things.” her grandfather replied. Emma likes the ”true tales” best. Every evening, Grandpa David sits on the edge of the little girl’s bed and tells her about the fantastic old times. Emma is his only grandchild. The family signed up to the One Family - One Child Program the government introduced after the Great Pandemic.

Once upon a time, people travelled to other countries by airplanes, like we now go to the neighbouring village by bicycle. They hopped over to Rome for just a weekend to see the city, drink limoncello and eat grilled squid. All sorts of exotic things from all over the world could be bought in large, fancy shops - but there was a catch. Most of the goods, even food and clothes, were tainted with chemicals. Only the rich could afford the clean vegetables and meat coming from the local farms or shirts made of organic materials.

The virus appeared in early 2020. The first lockdown felt like a holiday. People went jogging, enrolled in online yoga classes and language courses, posted photos of home-baked bread and conspiracy theories on Facebook. Travel agents and airlines sent out optimistic newsletters and offered discounts for trips to take place a few months later. The music festivals were just postponed and not cancelled. Grandpa David and Grandma Sue worked from home office, while their daughters, Christy and Lisa, continued the school year digitally.

There was a real festive atmosphere in the weeks following the lifting of the first lockdown. The pubs were full even on Monday evenings, the stadiums were packed even for the most boring games, and on weekends, even the remote lakeside roads were congested by SUVs. Crowds were queuing in front of IKEA for the discounted shelves with unpronounceable names. Those returning to the offices rushed to procure new pants and skirts instead of the ones they could no longer fit into, after all the snacking and binging in quarantine. Teenagers stormed the fast fashion stores and bought up the stocks of winter coats and hoodies stuck in since early spring, as if they were all preparing for Arctic expeditions in late May.

The second wave reached the hospitals more prepared, but the people less so. There was nowhere to escape from the cramped flats in the rainy, fall weather. More and more restaurants and hotels gave up permanently, it was getting harder and harder to wake up the kids for their virtual classes and somehow home office also lost its charm. Freight shipments began to stall due to the airline bankruptcies and fears of the illness grew. Slowly, it began to dawn on everyone that the usual order would not return anytime soon, or perhaps never.

The turning point came around the fourth wave: By that time, confinement had become the normal state of things, and the short periods of freedom evoked a sense of irresponsible, deceptive relaxation. With the decline in international trade, goods have disappeared from stores. After toilet paper, durable battery, dishwashing liquid, butter and raincoat also became in short supply. It was around that time, that Grandpa David and Grandma Sue decided, like many of their acquaintances, to sell their town apartment and move back to Grandpa’s home village.

Living without malls, restaurants and crowds was a big change for the girls. Christy adjusted quickly. She learned to ride and fell in love with a good-looking boy working at the stables. The romance did not last, but her fondness of the countryside did. She now runs a successful industrial automation design company from her home office overlooking the gentle slopes covered with vineyards. Emma loves to sit with her mother and watch her work on the hologram simulations. When she gets bored, she can join her father in his study or her grandparents, who live just a five-minute walk away from their house.

Christy’s sister, Lisa, chose a different path. She enrolled in a space program, was selected, and relocated to the Mars at the age of just sixteen. Since then, she can only be contacted during the monthly scheduled calls allowed by the Space Agency. Despite the unpleasant climate, she is happy on the Mars. She keeps busy and was recently offered a great new job opportunity. If she accepts, she will have to move to an even more distant planet. Grandpa David and Grandma Sue are very proud of both their daughters.

Emma is still small, but she does not believe everything from Grandpa David’s stories. The most incredible of all was the tale, that in the past, children were separated from their families for most of their awake hours. Moms and dads left home early in the morning and spent their days in awful concrete cubes, called office buildings. The poor people who worked there, were forced to sit all day in the 2m x 3m cubicles allotted to them, and repeatedly press on some strange structures called keyboards. Those who pressed fast enough, were given a half-hour break once a day when they could eat their plastic lunches out of plastic boxes. Those who did the pressing slowly, had to eat at their desks. The workers were given a few days off each year when they could spend some time in the open air. They were even allowed to move around at such times, but most of them were so weak, that instead of running around, they were lounging on furniture called deck chairs. The training of the children started at the age of six. In the schools, they were forced to sit obediently in one spot for many hours, so by the time they grew up, their muscles were sufficiently atrophied and accustomed to confinement. Emma laughed for days at this impossible, funny tale. She was a bright student and she knew already that there was no better way to learn than by walking in the woods or by rowing on the lake with her friends and the tutors. How could one possibly observe the migration of the fish or the stars in a bare room?

She has decided to share the funny story with Aunt Lisa too. The call from Mars is due in two weeks and Emma always writes down in advance what she wants to report to her aunt. She is a little sorry for her, because Auntie is forced to live so far away from them, on a distant, barren planet, and thus always misses out on all the interesting things. Emma added Grandpa David’s “true” tale to her list, right after the birth of the foal, the three-tier birthday cake and the neighbour’s broken leg.

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I loved elaborating on this concept, it made me hopeful myself!

Remembrance Day 2091 - words: 1041

It must have been around six in the morning when my room was permeated by this extraordinarily mouth-watering smell of pumpkin pie which, alongside the feeble light rays peeking through the blinds, managed to wake me up completely. My family had always enjoyed Covid Remembrance Day. We would get a day off from school, bake pies and other delicacies to bring to the annual town gathering, and just spend time together.
After putting a colorful knitted jumper on, I ran downstairs to greet my grandparents, who would always show up early on holidays to assist with the preparations. Lauren, my grandmother was a rather slim and fit 70-year old, still very sharp-minded and affectionate. She was sitting in the corner of our living room, her legs crossed and a big hardcover book on her lap that must have been at least a hundred years old. Around her were the rest of my family, each one of them gazing at the pages, so old that the flipping sound of the paper was almost unbearable.

“Good morning Raymond! Come, look at what I found hidden away in the attic” - exhorted Lauren in an excited manner. I went up to her and sat on the chair’s arm to her side. “This is my mother’s journal from when she was in her twenties. This is why we celebrate Covid Remembrance Day”. She then turned to a specific page in the journal which had a faded picture glued on. The woman in the picture was far-along in her pregnancy and she was laying on an old fashioned hospital bed. She didn’t look good at all with tubes in her nose and IV needles. However, the thing that stroke me the most about it was how overall scary the picture looked with three men surrounding the bed, dressed up in white baggy vests, their masks completely covering their faces, and multiple pairs of surgical gloves on.

“This is my mother, and that” - she said pointing at the pregnant belly in the picture - “That was me in there. My mother contracted Covid-19 and she could have died in that hospital. Let’s be thankful that humanity won the battle against that dreadful virus and we can now live in peace”. I knew what Covid-19 was, we used to have an annual lecture on it at school before Remembrance Day, but it had never crossed my mind that my own family could have gone through it.

The cars were already fully charged and packed with every piece of equipment we had been asked to bring to the town gathering, and I got to sit in the front seat with a tall stack of pies lying on my lap. Everyone would bring something to the table, whether it was food, chairs, or decorations, and people loved being together as a community. We would not spend much time at home on a daily basis, and this applied to both children and adults. After school or work, people would take part in a lot of communal activities, like knitting, baking, or learning a new skill through the teachings of someone more knowledgeable on the matter. You never felt alone or helpless: when you needed help, someone would reach out and lend you a hand, or a piece of advice. That night, while I was reading my great-grandmother’s journal, I was surprised to know that it had not always been like that. The world she described was one where people would greedily get ahold of toilet paper, yeast, and hand sanitizer that they would not share with those less fortunate. A world where money and economics were deemed as much more important than healthcare and human lives. That didn’t look at all like the world I lived in, and the Remembrance gathering was the perfect demonstration of it.

Upon our arrival, tables had already been set up, big colorful banners were hanging from the town square’s buildings and kids were playing in the neighboring park. Most people lived in the countryside and so the town center was not particularly big. Buildings and shops were distributed upon a vast green land so that people would always be surrounded by nature, every hour of their day. I enjoyed seeing the luscious trees swaying outside my window every morning at sunrise, and I could not imagine a different way of living life. My grandmother, however, once shared with me that some of her earliest memories, around three or four years old, were set in a small cluttered house, immersed into an ocean of millions of other buildings, all competing to be the closest to the school, the bank, the supermarket. I did not know what a supermarket was, and my grandmother herself was not sure if she had ever visited one.

All the inviting pies, the colorful salad bowls and the dozens of corn dogs that you could see on the banquet tables were all made with local produce. Of course, young people like me would occasionally have the foreign candy bar that we would get from friends and family returning from trips abroad, but people would mainly live off the products of the land and packaged goods from the local food company. We still had some plastic waste, but nothing compared to the pictures I was shown in my Environmental Education class in school. Apparently, the last global pandemic led to a significant reduction of plastic waste and pollution, petrol cars were replaced with electric ones and, according to my great-grandmother’s memoirs, the Planet finally had the chance to take a breath.

As the celebration drew to a close, I stopped to look at the stars to collect my thoughts. I couldn’t believe that just about seventy years prior you would have not been able to admire such a marvelous show of sparkling dancing dots far above your head due to the heavy pollution. I just couldn’t imagine not being able to hug and spend time with my grandparents, fearing losing them by the hand of an invisible enemy, and ultimately living in a world where you could not enjoy the company of others, the wonders of the outside world, or a big deep breath of fresh air.

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Thanks for your stories everyone!

Masks of Freedom

Don’t forget your mask when you leave the house; keep a spare one in your backpack and back pockets; wear it above your nose, not under, because it’s useless otherwise; I look like a ninja mommy; remember you are a black boy; I know mommy; even in a mask you are a black boy; I know mommy; behave yourself; don’t make a scene; don’t walk to slow; don’t walk too fast; go to school, learn; remember to take notes for me; remember to take notes for your father, neither of us has been to school; remember to wear that mask; you already said that; keep your hands clean; if your friends look at you strangely, look the other way; but I… ; wash your hands consistently, even if you think they might be clean because you cannot see the germs; wash them for at least twenty seconds; scrub them with soap and water; if you don’t have soap and water use hand-sanitizer; I put one in your backpack, but soap and water is preferred; okay mommy; keep your distance from the other children; two meters would be best; avoid coughing or other people’s coughing; same goes for sneezing, yawning, because that’s how you catch it; be sure to avoid touching; that goes for handshaking, hugging; use your elbow if you must; wear a baseball cap on the bus ride, because it keeps people distant; which baseball cap?; don’t touch the seats, the handlebars; try to avoid conversation with anyone; what if someone talks to me? If you forget a math problem, don’t raise your hand, they’ll think your stupid; they’ll say our family is stupid; if you forget your lunch bag, don’t even bother going in the building, they’ll think we’re poor ; but we are… poor; you go to school; your dad works; I work; you will work; I want to be a doctor ; don’t share your lunch; don’t share your toys; don’t share your masks, they are not for trading; but Joshi did it with Luke ; this is how to tie your shoes; wash your hands after doing that too; don’t eat from the floor; don’t eat from any floor, because the floor is dirty; I never eat from the floor; don’t put your head on the desk; be sure to keep your hands away from your face; I know; if you need to eat or drink, find a corner; don’t forget the mask; I won’t forget the mask ; if you don’t feel well, tell your teacher; do so from afar or else she might catch what you have; you sure you’re feeling alright this morning?; this is how you call me at work; this is how you call your father at work; this is how you call your grandmama, but don’t call grandmama, unless you’ve tried me and dad first; I told you I’m fine; the minute you get home, wash your hands again; wipe down your books; wipe down your pencils; wipe down your toys, even though I told you not to bring your toys; I like my toys; throw away your mask; unless you chose the cotton mask, then throw it in the tub; do your homework; eat your dinner; take a bath; go to bed; mom!; okay, stay safe, son.

Mom, I never forget my mask; I keep a spare one in my backpack and back pockets, though I don’t need it; it’s okay to take it off and expose my skin, my black skin; I don’t need to look the other way; I can walk slow; I can walk fast; I can hold hands with my white buddies and sing Christmas chants; I can raise my hand in school and not be stupid; I can forget my lunch and not seem poor, because my white friends will share; my white friends will care; they are every bit like me, rich and poor; we stand up for each other; we go out to the field and play basketball and I don’t need the baseball cap; you don’t need to worry anymore; you don’t need to cry; the pandemic is over but I’ll keep washing my hands; I’ll scrub them for twenty seconds, like you taught me; I can go anywhere I like, no one looks at me twice; you don’t need to work hard because I’m going to give you everything I earn; I’m going to go to college and take notes for you and dad; I’m going to become a doctor; I’m going to save people’s lives because nobody could save yours; I’m going to walk in my black skin and be proud; I’ve always been proud; I want to thank you for caring; I want to thank you for protecting me from the world, from the bad; I understand why you were afraid; I understand why you begged me to learn; I understand why you wanted me to keep my distance from the world; but look outside mom; look at the difference; people are smiling; black and white smiles; colorful smiles; we are living a new dream. Mom, we can do anything, can you believe that! anything; we are free mom; can you taste the freedom?; I wish you and dad could be here with me, enjoying the world as it should be; I’ll never forget grandmama and her stories; I’ll never forget our ancestors who fought long and hard for this freedom; I’m going to be the best that I can be without worrying that I’m a black boy living in a white dream; I’m going to build myself the life that you and dad struggled to build and I’m going to travel across the seas like a free man who dreams of seeing the world, with equality. I’m not saying goodbye; I’m not moving on without you; you are in my heart, in my memories saying, “don’t forget your mask,” therefore, I carry my mask and think of you and all the people who will never get to taste this freedom; the freedom to hug a fellow and not think of their color; the freedom to raise your hand in school and be alright with the wrong answers; it is the wrong answers which brought us to the right ones; Mom and all those angels in heaven take those masks off, share in this freedom; I insist.

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Working Toward a Better World by EA Brown (1078 words)

Janice loved the volunteer work she did, and she loved all of the seniors that she encountered while doing it. Yes , she’d insist to those that would look at her doubtfully, even the grumpy ones who barely say a word to me when I drop off the meals. Even the ones who say plenty, but none of it particularly nice.

What not everyone realized was that even the grumpy ones were interesting characters. Learning how to interact with them without making them feel upset, gradually getting to the point where they were comfortable enough with her to show off their rare, often toothless smiles- those were little victories, and Janice treasured every one.

Mrs. Candy was particularly special to her. When Janice was first starting out and felt uncertain about what she was doing, Mrs. Candy was the one to reassure her that she was doing just fine. When Janice needed a kind ear to air out her troubles to, Mrs. Candy was there to listen sympathetically and give her advice better than she’d ever had before. Mrs. Candy’s help- her kindness- meant more to Janice than she would ever be able to say. She hoped that how much she loved this little old woman showed.

She’d get another chance to show it today. Today, Mrs. Candy was on her route.

As she knocked on the front door of Mrs. Candy’s house and was called inside, Janice was smiling preemptively as she walked into Mrs. Candy’s living room. A smile that was matched by Mrs. Candy’s own.

“Put those away in the fridge if you don’t mind, Janey. Then you come right over here. It’s been ages since I last got to see you.” The older woman was saying before Janice finished coming through the doorway.

Janice was quick to comply, giving Mrs. Candy a gentle hug when she was done.

“It’s only been a week since I saw you last, Mrs. Candy.” Janice couldn’t resist saying in a gentle tease, while a part of her agreed that it had been too long.

Mrs. Candy huffed at her playfully, “That is an age for me not to be able to see you, child. What on earth was keeping you away for so long?”

“I had midterms, Mrs. Candy. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be here, though. Was my replacement nice?” Janice had been hogging the route that took her by Mrs. Candy’s house for months now, excepting the past week. It probably had been a little odd to see someone else considering that.

“Oh, of course, of course, Phillip was a very sweet boy. So polite. I missed you dearly, but he and I had a wonderful little talk. Now. I’m awfully glad to have you back, but it does make my heart glad to hear that you’re taking school so seriously. You can never put a true price on a good education, that’s what I always say.” Mrs. Candy said, beaming at her.

“I know, Mrs. Candy.” Janice said obediently. Mrs. Candy was most of the reason why Candy was trying harder in school now than ever before.

“Good girl. Now, tell me a little bit about these tests and how you think you did.” Mrs. Candy said.

Smiling, sitting down in the recliner beside Mrs. Candy’s own, Janice settled in to do just that.

By the time Janice left Mrs. Candy’s house, the sun had set and streetlights were on. She’d have to drive home in the dark, but being able to spend so much time with Mrs. Candy was worth it. She always made sure that Mrs. Candy was the senior she visited last so she could spend that little bit of extra time there. A little darkness wasn’t about to stop her from doing so.

Weird as it was to think it, she wouldn’t have this if not for the pandemic. The pandemic had inspired Janice, no, driven her to want to do something good for other people. Everyone had been through so much bad, she’d thought. Wasn’t it time that people like her go out and help someone else have something good? Her, who had never volunteered at all before then. Her, who never thought she would.

It had inspired a lot of people.

All across the board, volunteering was up- everywhere, not just in Janice’s country. More people than ever were coming out of the woodwork wanting to do some good after being forced to not do anything at all. Some of them just wanted the extra company that came with volunteering, while others had felt the same drive that Janice did. All of them were a help.

None if it would have worked had donations not rose up to meet the needs of the new workers along with the greater demand of the needy. Inspired by adds on television and drives sponsored by both global and local companies, people were willing to give more now. To look more kindly at organizations that helped those in need. To not keep so much money in their pocket when they were aware that there were others that needed it.

Not that donations or volunteering were the only thing improving; world leaders were doing their own part to try to help. Funding for social services were at an all-time high globally, with new grants coming into existence every day. Grants that provided greater help for seniors, more resources for the disabled, safer help for those who had nowhere else to turn. Grants supporting greener lifestyles and sustainability were even beginning to grow. The leaders of the world were finally beginning to see the necessity of such things.

And Insurance? Insurance was easier to get than ever. The leaders of the world had no interest in seeing another pandemic come about- were actively working to prevent such a thing. With little other option than to admit that easily accessible health care was key to stopping a repeat, the governments were working- really, earnestly working- in making health care accessible to all.

So much bad had come from the Coronavirus. So much unspeakable loss. Janice would never be glad for the virus, no matter what she’d gained from it. But thinking of Mrs. Candy, thinking of the way that the world was improving around her as she watched, Janice was proud of the way that the human race had taken something truly terrible and used it as inspiration to work for a better future.

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The cold tonight was bitter and bad, nipping with sharp bites at our toes and fingers as we slept in the monotonous alleyway of beggar street.

Ever since the little greeny virus came around; the one that made one all wheezy and coughing, we didn’t see much of our friends anymore.

Yeah, they were told to stay at home because the virus was airborne and spreading, but they should have stopped by sometimes yunno.

I remember when poor Tom got infected, and he was all sick and wheezy, when they came around and took the lot of us to some secluded place, where we got good food and bathing water. I sincerely thought that that was the end of all our problems. But after two weeks, they again took the lot of us, and returned us back to the streets.

Back at the space, each one of us staring into empty space, waiting for that one kind person, longing for that one good heart, but they never came. Seems they forgot that we existed. Night came with its darkly blanket, the warmth of the day departed. Then I noticed that the holes on my cover cloth seemed bigger tonight, as big as the hunger I took to bed.

When the morrow came, we sat again watching in hope, but no one passed by beggar street again. Then old Fredrick let out a good laugh, the mirth rolling all about, and he said.

“George, how about you go walk around and stroll down to rich street. You could sit by the statue there, maybe someone will see you there.”

I looked at him in wonder and I replied.

“What if they don’t notice me? Yunno the virus has drained the lot of em, they can’t come out to make money, so they even forget to share.”

“Well, it ain’t better than sitting your old ass around here. The holes in our bellies ain’t gonna fill themselves, worse still the worms in there would soon start feeding off us. There’s still a chance you get something over there. I would’ve gone myself, but my legs still aren’t able to walk me.” Fredrick retorted and he did his usual cackle again before drifting into solitude.

Listening to him made me disturbed. I was lost in thoughts of what to do. Going to rich street was something I really wanted to do, but something kept pulling me back as well, and we stayed that way for a while.

One early morning, I awoke with a sharp pain in my belly. Immediately I knew what I must do. I called out to Fredrick.

“Yo, Fredrick, I’d be going over to rich street today. I can’t take the hunger any longer. I’d see if I can get some for you and I.”

Fredrick gave no response. He must be sleeping I thought. I moved over and gave him a nudge but he didn’t budge. I turned his face around and Alas! I saw he was gone. The white of his eyes told me as much. The still of his heart said it all.

Straightaway, I moved away and began my stroll from beggar street to rich street. I got there late in the day, I found my way to the statue and spent the night there. In the morning; I put out my alms bowl, my palms extended, my head reclining, and then I began to mourn. Poor Fredrick, poor Tom, poor Robin, poor me. The tears began to roll with each passing of time, with each human that walked by, and as the day grew older. My eyes were gradually dimming as though spent of the tears. They were struggling to stay open, sleep suddenly became sweeter. I fought each wave, fought to stay awake, but I was succumbing with each take. Then I saw an angel, little as child, female as girl, smiling as light, and she touched to my palm.

She touched my face and asked.

“What’s your name sir? Why are you out here? Where is your family? Where is your home?”

Her voice was as calm as the waters, as still as the gentle breeze. I wanted to answer her, tell her of all my turmoil’s, but my speech failed me. Soon a person appeared. Old as elder, female as woman; with a worry creased brow, she spoke out aloud.

“Sarah, why did you leave the house. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

And the little one replied. “I saw this man; he’s been here for a while. He looks hungry and tired, let’s help him out.”

“Sarah, let’s go away. You shouldn’t talk to strangers.”

“But mum, he needs help, just look at him.”

“We don’t have much, we can’t afford giveaways.”

“Mum, yes we don’t have much, but why do we have, if we can’t share.”

Those words warmed my heart, brought life back to my bones, and sparked the dying fire of hope in me.

The woman looked at me for a while, pity ran around the corners of her eyes. She asked me in a low tone.

"Kind sir, would you like to come in my house for a while. I have some food, water, a change of clothes, and somewhere you can rest your head a while.

Again, my speech failed me, so I just offered a smile and a nod of my head in response. The little one did a little dance and hugged her mum. Oh! I have never seen one so happy to do good.

Now I’m in a better place. From her house, she took me to someplace where they tended for those who didn’t have during this Covid-19 period. I was shocked and touched that the government had put the likes of us in mind. I told them of beggar street and of Ricky and Joe and Amos and the rest. They soon joined me and we were all happy together. The government sent food and water to us from time to time, and even though we slept in tents, it was still better than out in the open.

The worst has now passed, and I look towards the future, it looks brighter now. A little kind act did save my life.

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Here is my entry for the systems alliance flash fiction contest

Good afternoon! Here is my entry for the 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge.
The gift, spoiled with gloss

Ironically, sometimes we cannot put together the puzzle of our life for long years. We add new details every day and sometimes it seems that the perfect picture should be ready long ago. However, there is always a lack of one small detail … But when we finally get this small detail, it turns out that we have not thought through the concept of our puzzle. Now it seems to be absurd and intrusive. Then we destroy the old puzzle and start to make a new one… And again, it seems that only one necessary detail is enough for everything to be perfect. We call it the ‘routine’…

With disgust, she took a sip of her coffee. “How could he do that? I was an invaluable expert. How will my boss replace me?” Once again, she (now the former secretary of the bank) filled out an online application form for a casual vacancy. She, like many of her colleagues, came under a wave of cuts during the quarantine crisis and, as a result, the bankruptcy of her “stable” bank. Our heroine did not even think to fold her arms.

“So, higher economic education, excellent analytical skills, a non-trivial approach to the performance of duties, incredible efficiency…”. She seems to have filled out similar application forms dozens of times. The phone always remained silent.

Suddenly, she heard the long-awaited call.

The manager: Good day! Have you filled in the application for the position of senior manager?

She: Yes, everything is correct. You know, I have a red diploma from a prestigious university, 2 foreign languages…

The manager: Yes, yes, I read everything carefully. However, may I ask: how do you apply your skills in practice? Apparently, being well-educated, creative, with excellent analytical skills, you could fulfill so much in your life. Tell us, what have you done for yourself or your previous company, say, in the last six months?

Not to say, in fact, that her schedule was reduced to the standard scheme “breakfast - work-sleep”. That lately she was only worried about divorcing her husband, and she hears her son’s voice only from the telephone conversations. It was a shame to admit that on the weekends she only dreams of getting some nap.

There was still something to answer.

She: You see, my responsibilities included a wide range of responsibilities and a position in a respectable structure like my bank required full time…

The manager ‘Yes, yes, you probably think I am trying to make fun of you. That I can’t even imagine the sleepless nights at my desk. That after the long-awaited return home at 12 pm I do not come across a mountain of unwashed dishes and the undone homework of my son. It’s all part of my daily routine, too. Honestly, I also have the high analytical skills: what can they be like after a year of night hugs with my son’s textbook called “Geometry”? I am quite creative: not everyone manages to hold a meeting in an hour, fry an egg, and read the latest news at the same time.’

At that very moment, she felt ashamed again… For all the missed meetings where it was a shame to show up; for a speaking club, for which she always needed a little “growth” of knowledge.

The manager’s voice tore her out of her thoughts again, ‘If you have a creative acquaintance with analytical skills, give him our contacts. Oh, and all the best to you!’

After all, what was she hoping for?

She understood that she needed to go just somewhere. “Just somewhere” turned out to be her son’s school.

‘Hi! How was your day?’ she asked her son.

Son: Everything is fine! I have finally seen classmates after the quarantine! We have not seen each other for so long… Was it a pleasure for you to meet your colleagues again?

She: You know, I was fired yesterday. Almost forgot to tell you. The colleagues … There will be a new job — there will be new colleagues. All in all, we all need something from each other. Our life is a big lottery business. Someone must win, someone — lose.

Son: Look, I have a nice box of candies — my friends at school gave me. And now unfold it — you see, the cardboard inside has an unpleasant gray color. And from the outside, it is shiny, glossy …

She: Let me guess, it seems that the candies are delicious, the illustrations on the package are also beautiful. However, then you understand: this gift is designed for the unpretentious buyer, who will not see the gray spots on the inside of a package. The main thing is that it looks good from the outside and the quality of sweets is ok.

‘Is he completely impudent?’. That is what she heard from her friend when she told her about the interview with the boastful manager.

‘Look, based on his logic, I’m a complete loser?’ her friend continued indignantly. ‘I have never learned a foreign language. Career growth… I have been on maternity leave for 7 years. However, you know, I do not consider him successful at all.’

‘Well, maybe this quarantine and an unexpected firing from a job is actually a reason for me to think about my future.’ our heroine added thoughtfully: ‘Sometimes I don’t have the courage to look the truth in the eye: my whole life is like a gray unwashed canvas.’

The friend laughed skeptically, ‘But his life is like a multicolored gaudy picture. Even in a nightmare, I cannot imagine how one can hold a conference, fry an egg, and talk to his boss at the same time. Think about how much he devotes himself to each of these matters? I usually start my day with a cup of tea and my favorite series. We walk with my daughter in the park every afternoon, in the evening we play lotto or dominoes. Isn’t this the life you should strive for?’

We will not guess what our heroine answered. This is not a story about her… This is our ‘new routine’, which we have unexpectedly faced right now. We stopped putting our own ambitions and plans in one glossy box with the label “The- Image Of- The- Ideal - Successful- Business- Person”, because this image does not fit the new post-quarantine realities. Instead, we pulled out another box with the label “Successful- and- Realized- Person- in- New- Realities” and began to clamp their own dreams and desires in new walls, in new frames…To abandon such a system of “Social Criteria of Success” means to destroy the rules of the game that are clear and appropriate for all. However, not everyone has become a hostage to such false values. For many people in the different parts of the world, isolation was a chance to feel the tiredness of the frantic pursuit of trophies. Chance to start drawing their own story. Scoop the paint of their own inspiration with a brush, dissolving the colors in the stream of their dreams.

After all, it is only in our soul that any colors can mix in the soft shades. Do not look for them on the outside, in the obsessive glossy standards of others! Because you are the unique palette of your own life! All you must do is dare to take a brush in your hands and paint your own canvas of a dream.

                                     Protector of The Realm’s Diary
                                   “The Big Realm of Animals” Farm
                                             Miami, Florida, USA

The pigeon, Jojo, the Viceroy’s palace.

Today they came to interview.
I woke up in the morning and watered the plants, wondering how 70 years had passed.
I didn’t have time to think much.
“Cling, cling!”
I heard the sound of someone pushing against the brass chains of the gate.
“Sir, you were a young man at the time of the epidemic, right? And were going through abject poverty. If only you could tell us a little bit about the story of that time.”
“Yes, what was the world like then? Surely today’s young people will be inspired by the story of their ancestors’ hard fight?”
“As far back as I can remember, the world was uninhabitable then. The smoke from this city could not be breathed. There were piles of dirt in the streets, that’s why people couldn’t walk. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, violence, and hatred reigned among the people.”
“How did we get from that time to today?”
“Well. Everyone in the world then understood how much we really needed each other. From vaccine invention to distribution, in all cases. People understood the importance of their loved ones very well. Everyone began to value each other’s feelings. Because what if you don’t get to see your beloved ones from the next day? What if you can’t tell them how much you loved them the next day? So, they thought it would be better to say it earlier.”
“People became serious about mental health issues. Researchers began to research. Even a boy from a village who refused to understand the struggles of city life was able to understand the pain of a boy from an urban area who had been confined in his house for a long time and the pain of never being able to go to the playground. And a boy from an urban area who refused to understand the pain of hunger because he never had any problem finding food to eat earlier, understood it”
“And the weirdest thing is, the fear of death engulfed the people so much that everyone understood very well they did not really have any differences between each other. Socially, politically, economically, religiously, ethnically, nationally, all of them broke down the walls of so-called divisions among themselves. Tomorrow morning, they might not be able to open their eyes anymore, this fear engulfed everyone. But they had to fulfill their desires. The desire to travel, the desire to fly in the sky. The boundaries among the countries were demolished. So that every human being can travel through all the roads of this world.”
“But how exactly did these changes occur? How did people come to realize all of these?”
“Mmm, well. Hands. We washed our hands, scrubbed them, disinfected them. And again, we washed them, scrubbed them, disinfected them. It’s funny how each hand matters. A hand nurses the diseased ones, procures food for people it is supposed to take care of, strokes the brows of a beloved deceased. When thousands of hands are joined together, a revolution starts. Thus, people understood that every hand is important. Even our own hands are important. Because if we don’t take care of our own hands, we can’t take care of others’ hands. Just like if we don’t wash our hands, we ourselves may get ill as well as our closed ones. People understood it’s necessary to take care of thyself before taking care of others.”
“What about equality? How did people start to value everyone’s profession?”
“Funny, the people who look after us, the nurses, earned a very little amount of money. But see how important their job is. If they didn’t take care of us, who were we supposed to go to after we fall sick?”
“Uh, yeah…”
“And then the workers. The drivers. The gardeners. The people who eat day in and day out. In exchange for a very little amount of money, they do all these. During the pandemic, when the world stood still, they still went out, risking their own lives. At some point, people realized that we depended on these people very badly. And we still do. Delivery men carried our food when we sat idle at home, nurses took care of us when we fell ill despite knowing that thousands of bacteria wriggle in hospitals. Bus drivers drove us to the destinations amidst that pandemic, and the people who went to office were administrators. Thus, we also understood the importance of the jobs of those people who run our legal and justice system.”
“Everyone started tolerating each other’s opinion. People started accepting everyone.”
“Basically, they built a new world. And I built an animal farm.”
“Er, sir? Now tell us about yourself. How did you build the largest animal farm in this world?”
“Well, I built houses for the animals using crushed plastic bottles and juice cans. I don’t want my children to get sunburnt. If animals can get houses, eat peacefully, and live in harmony then I guess we can, too.”
“And building up an animal farm was your childhood dream?”
“Being a child, I had a diary in which I wrote my dreams. I wrote how I would go on a run in the morning with my dog after having coffee in a dressing gown and reading a few pages of an Austen novel. I wrote how I would go on vacation to villages and enjoy the moonlight there. And after nightfall, I would go on a ghost hunt. I would be connected to my friends from childhood. I wouldn’t be in need of medication because I would have cycled every day. I would have a job that I loved. I would have fallen in love with life once again.”
People called me unrealistic because I dreamt of finding eternal happiness instead of caring about how others would talk if I don’t show off. And people who thought getting married early is a success would fight with their partners almost daily.
I always wondered if that was the definition of family.”
“Do you have anything to say to your grandchildren as the oldest, strongest, and most successful survivor of the pandemic? Things they could learn from?”
“It’s just that…I never tried to fit in.”
“No one should.”
“Everyone should follow their heart. As long as we don’t hurt other people and ourselves, we can do everything we want. And every little dream of ours matters. Every little thing we do for our happiness matters.”
“You know how I got to realize how important these little dreams and things of ours are? When, after 40 years, I realized I have fallen in love with life once again.
I hope they fall in love with life, too.”

It’s a page of someone’s diary in 2060. So I didn’t name the writing. But let’s name it “A Morning at Mr. Steven’s Farm”

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The poet and the neighbor

His anxious mirror was reflecting him with perfect approach of anxiety.
He walked away to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. The vapor was rising above his head. His withered shirt and old glasses reflected the expensive doormat of the neighbor. A voice yelled ´I mean where is money?´
He quietly passed the road and didn’t turn. His stillness was stubborn and tightened like heartbeat. He bound his eyes in disgrace and said ´I have no sense.´ The dark rainy evening with cold dreams of life hauled him.
Two hours later when he returned home, the isolated neighbor watched him rudely and cried ´Where is my weldie, My sweet dog? You lost it? He isn’t barking.´
He softly replied ´No, i mean he is in Rita´s kennel with her dog.´
The neighbor furiously said ´Are you saying my dog is being smuggled under my nose.´
He softly said ´Can you lend me some money? My friend is being isolated and he needs some help.´
The neighbor looked with his wide big eyes as if something suspicious was being told and replied ´Why you bunburying like Ernest?´
He halted and said ´No, i am not doubling myself. He is my real friend and he needs some money.´ The poet then showed the friend´s picture. The neighbor nodded ´I don’t have more than 8000 in total. I can’t give all. I can lend 4000. But i need some extra on it like 4,500. No less then that.´
He sighed and confirmed the agreement by nodding and lastly said to his neighbor ´You are more into business and less into society. Thanks.´
The neighbor could catch a little of the satirical content but ignored it. After an hour the neighbour shouted to the poet ´When will you bring my dog? I am feeling uncomfortable. If he catch that Corona? I can’t let….you please bring him. She is brainwashing my dog.´
The poet stared at him with sympathetic eyes and softly adviced ´Your dog is lucky to get a master like you, who is more a pedigree feeder then……´
´I don’t care, whatever you say about my love for dog and greed for money. I am what i feel i should be.´
After twenty minutes, the neighbor, hurried towards the window, after hearing his dog bark. The poet said ´Your dog is well and fine.´ The neighbour watched his dog happily, and he hurried back when some notification popped up. The poet asked ´How is your shares and all those entries going on? Earning a lot?´
The neighbor after sometimes came in the window and said ´Its less money. Nothing is more in this crisis. You know my greed, i am open to my behaviour. But do note in your head, i am lending your friend with 500 interest.´
´I know. Just look at your dog from window. I will go and do some meditations.´
The neighbor curiously asked ´I don’t think meditation leads to money.´
´I have no insight to know money after meditation. Its just for resonating strain on head and heart.´
The poet went away, the neighbour watched his dog with a curious joy of reunion. The phone rang soon afterwards informing the neighbor about the death of his cousin. When the poet came out and called him, he said ´My cousin died. If i died too my money will go waste.´
The poet nodded with a tone of condolence in his expression and said ´What is haunting you, i mean your cousin´s death or your death and wastage of money?´
´I don’t want to say. Its all same for me.´
The poet pulled the dog and gave him something to eat. The neighbour gently looked and thanked the poet ´You are anyways a kind one. Hey, will you do a job for me.´
´What job?´ asked the poet.
´Just type some 20 pages and also write a content for a gasoline company.´ said the neighbor.
´I am in greed too. How much?´
The neighbor watched seriously and said ´You will have to pay me less. Talk about it later. I will send you details in Whatsapp.´
The next day the poet came red eyed and seemed very sleepy. The neighbor asked ´Didnt you sleep?´
He yawned and said ´I completed all your task.´
´What? I mean so quick, but how?´
The poet replied ´If you need more help then please….But i need you to discount me around half of the debt of my friend.´
The neighbor nodded and disappeared into the room. Five hours later, the neighbor called the poet to share a death of his friend. The poet sadly said ´You may be getting these all news as a reminder of life. You better focus on your work and dog. It will help.´
The neighbour replied ´I will distract myself but i can’t let my thoughts blow me a false conscience of truth.´
´ Its beyond your greed. Just isolate and know your impulse for life.´ consoled the poet.
The neighbour looked very ernest and tired. The new birds swelling in his garden under the warmth of sun brought no any solace to him. He breathed deeply and asked to the poet ´…. but i don’t know to sustain in these failing news of relatives and friends.´
The poet watched him and said ´ You need to know how your greed for money and life should work.´
The neighbor sighed and walked away beyond the window, leaving the poet in state of confusion concerning his returning back. Rita came loitering into the space of the poet and his neighbor. She said ´How is your greedy neighbor?´
The neighbor came up to the window immediately and replied ´I am here. And i tell you i won’t give you dog.´
Rita looked with little anger and said ´I don’t need. I just came to say goodbye for some months.´
´…are you shifting?´ asked the poet sadly.
´I have hospital duties so i am going out.´
The neighbor asked out of curiousity ´Its sad to hear you departing, but can you tell me what about your dog?´
The poet sadly looked at neighbor. Rita replied ´Its yours until i return.´
´I have to go. Its late i have to finish some charity assignments too. Are you willing to give some money?´ asked she.
´I knew it.´ said the neighbor. Rita glanced at him ´Its all about money. Charities, help, this and that.´
´Its not for you. I was asking him.´ said Rita.
The poet asked his neighbor ´Can you give me some money?´
The neighbor anxiously said ´Why not?´
The poet signed some amount anonymously, with the neighbor´s eyes on it.
At night when the poet was reading, the neighbor asked him ´Dont you think she fooling you?´
´No, i personally know some of her donor friends.´
The neighbor nodded and remained silent. When some notifications popped he hurried, glanced and came back to the reading poet and said ´I have some work for you. Workload is getting beyond my head.´
The neighbor at noon next day when the poet came out pausing the works given, said to him ´If i donated some money what will i lose?´
The poet smiled ´You will lose your greed a little.´
´Well, let me lose some greed.´
The neighbor handed the poet the amount he had ask for and smiled.
The poet commented ´You were never that greedy but more anxiously into anxiety.´
´I am fine.´ replied he.

Pandemic - the capability of being transmitted to others.

A word imbedded into the English language; a word we can’t escape. The meaning of this word, however, can be perceived as more than merely a global crisis.

Pandemic – the capability of transmitting kindness, hope and joy to others. This is the new found reality of today. Oppressing the previously feared concept, the developing world has created a new sense of happiness amongst the scourged ruins it emerged from. The founder of this approach: gratitude. Found appreciation of seemingly mandatory actions, that we were deprived from during past hardships, is something, even I; have experienced a great aura of community with. Acts of random kindness previously took for granted, then unexpectedly missed and thereafter respected with greater understanding. The contagious bliss of a simple smile has been the deed I have most prominently practiced among those whom I’ve had the opportunity to inspirit. Taught by the blessing of sight, I have witnessed the significance of this mannerism that had formally been shrouded by a mask.

As I meander down the bustling streets to the local market, my eyes are drawn to a man, a familiar stranger. Smartly fitted in a tailored navy business suit, this was a not his regular hang out. Greeted by a kind gaze and a handshake, he sparks conversation with one of the community’s vendors. A full stock of vibrant peppers amongst an array of ambrosial fruit and vegetables print a look of marvel across his face. Placing his selection of produce into a brown paper bag ( which had become the grey squirrel of the plastic bag industry ), the intriguing gentleman then did what many of us make an effort to implement as many times as possible in the 24 hours a day we are given. Smile. The welcomed gesture mirrored onto the vendor’s face as the eye contact was broken and the man walked away. I observed, admiring the series of events that followed. Infected by purely a glance, the smile was spread rapidly through the succession of waiting customers, resulting in the surrounding crowds becoming contaminated not too long after. A society of resilience stood before me, influenced by an honest act of human compassion that connected us deeper than the intelligence of algorithms.

Leaving the lively stalls behind me, the distant hum of music pulled me, and many others as it seemed, toward the park. In the time we strolled along the trail between the newly planted thickets, the volume was amplified with the voices of the captivated audience. I was met with a breathtaking display of musicians rendering harmonious melodies alongside the uplifting sound of harmonic vocals - the puppeteers of the graceful movements being performed across the stage. An expression of content radiated off the dancer in front of me, the joy she felt for using her passion to bring happiness to others was truly admirable. Presentations of countless remarkable talents had become a regular occurrence to come across during one’s day. Ranging from shared insights of artists inner thoughts, portrayed by a singular brushstroke, to the blindsided common understanding of a violinist’s ballad – life seemed fragmental without such displays. The arts had become the social media of reality, binding us in a common ground of unified morals. I (and not I alone), felt a great sense of exuberance in seeing a neighbors’ smile as they to found the liberty to express themselves along with the symphonies. Separate to the group, I caught sight of the impressively dressed business man once more. He stood facing one of the numerous “charity donation boxes” that were scattered around the city - perplexed by the decision of which one he should chose. The vast selection (though scarcely representative of the degree of benevolent programmes being carried out) enables locals to aid those that are in need without necessarily providing finances. Appealing to members of society classed as “less wealthy” yet eager to provide a tool for change, this method allows resources, time and ideas among additional personal attributes to be given an obliging purpose. The democratic leaders of today had discovered a new principle in which they strove to stand by – social and environmental concerns. With the economical state of the world prospering day-by-day, focus no longer has to be maintained solely on the need of gaining profitability (profit, might I add, which was exclusively reinvested into economic factors - overshadowing the desperate pantomimes for support given by the earth and its residents). This redirected attention thus urged politicians to forge operations such as the “charity donation boxes” jointly with the deed that 10% of all corporation proceedings are given to a non-profit organization of their choice. Shadowing the suave individual’s steps, we headed downtown.

The population had become a people of silent do-gooders - as I like to call them. The kind-hearted that perform acts of generosity in secrecy to those who will, without a doubt, praise their graceful efforts. Fawning at their own conducts, they encounter a richer sense of pride. Standing here, in the epicenter of the city, where I often found myself at one time in the day, the fresh breeze caressed my face and calmness filled my lungs. A spectacle of pure elegance unfolded before me. Life. Life lay before me. In all of it’s: ups and downs, hassles and resolutions - its profound beauty. Confidence, a sensation that circulates through the bloodstream of man kind as they take a deep breath - knowing that, due to the increase of environmental pursuits, breath is no longer a carbon-filled mirage of survival, the earth is no longer being destroyed by the people it provides shelter to and the creatures, with whom we share the suns rays, can too roam free. Adversities we didn’t realize needed to be resolved until the comforts of distraction were taken from us, establishing us into a more gracious race. Appreciating the aspects of life we had no comprehension held such importance, urges us to work harder to maintain our natural surroundings.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…”

It won’t be gone again.

“Look deeper. Look farther.”

Mariana nodded at her mother’s words, brushing her fingertips on the glass. Upon contact, various signals of existential grandiosity reverberated through her palms and up her arms, revealing the coming time period in a swath of detailed visions. Mariana gasped while her heart thrummed with the power of foresight. Her eyeballs rolled agitatedly left and right under shaky eyelids, transmitting bright images of events yet to happen. Her mind hopped on each mental vision enthusiastically, copying them down inside her vast memory tank for permanent retrieval.

People of all kinds crossed Mariana’s wandering mind in this hazy state of consciousness, walking through the sidewalks of her mind. Blips of dialogue, interpersonal scenes, population trends—all walks of life careened in delicate strokes on the backs of her eyelids like an informed paintbrush. During her semi-conscious clairvoyant journey, Mariana couldn’t help herself from grinning intensely. Magnificent international growth she witnessed right before her eyes, and it warmed her heart to see.

“What do you see?” Her mother’s voice dipped into her thoughts. “What do you see, Mari?”

“Every…thing…” Mariana whispered the sweet word aloud, a sign that her search was proceeding well. “I see everything, Mama.”

“Tell me.” Her mother adjusted herself on the chair next to the window overlooking the coast. She studied the deep blue waters intently, hoping that whatever time period Mariana’s mind was traveling in, the girl saw something significant. Like Mariana, her wrinkled fingers touched the cold glass of the window, regarding the waters with hope.

Somewhere across the world’s oceans were millions of people awaiting better circumstances than those provided by the dark present. Mariana’s gift was supposed to offer insight into the next step for mankind, at the order of the top city leaders. This reading was bent on helping them decide how best to aid the people of Rio de Janeiro during the global pandemic.

“I see…I see animals. Lots of them.” The girl’s eyes twitched, her mouth working hard to describe the central focus of her vision. “I see fish repopulating the seas, mammals giving birth. I hear the birds, a cacophony of them. They sit on tall trees in forests that mankind has left. The trees…they’re growing back. They’re taking back their territory, and the animals are coming too.”

Mariana’s mother straightened in her seat, greatly surprised by the description. “The jungles, forests, seas will bloom once more. Wonderful, Mari. Now, what else? What of the cities? The people?”

Furrowing her brows, Mariana hummed as she tried to grasp that which had to deal with Earth’s metropolitan sector. Her head tilted by some invisible force while she visualized the events of the world’s cities transpiring in shocking harmony beneath her eyelids. “Mama…I see lots of activists marching in the streets. Their voices…are so loud together. The emotions are overwhelming. But there’s change, a sense of equality, cooperation among all lines. So much change they’re hoping for, and by standing peacefully they’re going to get it. And they’re taking the first step, Mama!”

The older woman ran her fingernails across the glass. So much hate, contention, and mistrust existed in contemporary society. To know that the world planned on reshaping the lasting systems for the better made Mariana’s mother overjoyed. But she wanted to know more.

“What kinds of change, Mari?”

The girl sighed. The first signs of effort were beginning to show in the slight perspiring of her brow and the shake in her hands. “I see…signs demanding equality. Political justice. Freedom. Power to the people. Democracies. New, peaceful ideologies. I see a wide spectrum of change…and everyone is working together.”

Mariana’s mother nodded, very pleased by this. If Mari saw that the world was on track for new orders of peace and prosperity, then it was likely to happen. When the old woman opened her mouth to speak, it was interrupted by the girl’s enthusiastic continuation.

“People are moving into homes, regaining their security. People are getting new jobs, having children…paying bills. Helping others. Lending…I see people exchanging gifts, speaking compassionately about the past in restaurants, having festivals…outings, parties. Concerts, performances, sports…and everyone is so excited to get back to the events they missed, the energy level is so, so high. Un…beatable…”

Mari’s posture soon grew to a slump. Mariana’s mother knew that her daughter couldn’t explore the future’s vibrant visions too much longer, otherwise she would exhaust herself. “Okay, Mari. Only a few more questions.”

“What are they?” Mari spoke dreamily with her eyes still shut tight. Her body swayed gently, as if in the grasp of some distant melody only she could hear.

“How far into the future are you seeing? Is the world close to that point? What can we do to get there?”

The girl sat unmoving for a few moments. Her dark mocha locks sat in a standstill, framing a pale face pinched in thought. Mari’s mother tapped the glass window overlooking the ocean, studying the enigma of her daughter. Mari’s face twitched into realization after a few moments.

“I’m not seeing far. Soon, soon…this is soon. Less than five years. The world is close to realizing it…it just needs a push. A push for all of us to avoid the darkness and take the opportunity to build better and step into the light. Yes, humanity will grow from this. Become more compassionate for the hardships of others, empathy will skyrocket and…it will take time and effort on many fronts. But we’ll do it, Mama.”

Mari’s mother snapped her fingers a few times, laughing to herself. She did not expect such a hopeful answer amidst such dark times. She found herself toying with the idea of stability and growth, enjoying the way it unfurled in her mind’s eye. Her fingertips left the smooth surface that had been warmed by her fingers. The ocean waves crashed and spun, twirled and leapt towards a better tomorrow.

Mariana opened her eyes. After a few seconds of bleary blinking to recollect herself in the present, she giggled.

“So…how did I do?” Mari asked.

The old woman looked her daughter in the eyes, mesmerized by the sparkles she saw there. Mari was so young, so fresh in the world…yet with her talent she provided such hope to so many people.

“The ocean thinks you did well. And me? I know you did well. The world will know it too, in due time.”

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Do you believe that there are bad things happening in this world that are just in disguise? They commonly call it “blessing in disguise.” We are all now facing and suffering from a destructive virus called COVID-19. What if I say to you that this virus has a good thing to do in our world after all? It looks like this virus is waking us up to see what are the most important things in life that we often overlook. We tend to overlook important things in life because we are busy with the things we thought we need but the truth is we are just blinded and the reason we woke up from all this blindness is this pandemic. Before, there are a lot of families that are not close to each other busy with a lot of things. But since people have to stay at home during the pandemic, we eventually realized the value of togetherness or the value of being one family that before we often ignore. They are the people God has given to us to be with us through good times or bad times and will love us unconditionally for who we are. Before, we take them for granted, we don’t give them our time, but we realized that they are our real treasure from above. According to Desmond Tutu, he said, “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” Then a quote from Michael J. Fox, he said, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” It looks like God is showing us how we need to appreciate and value our family as this is his will and he knows it will be very beneficial to each of us. Second, is the difference between being materialistic versus having good health. Today, we realized that being healthy is more important than being materialistic. If you have lots of money but have poor health, you cannot enjoy life at all. Now, everyone is taking care of their health afraid of being infected by the virus. Now, I think God wants us to focus on things that are very essential in our lives like our health. Health is wealth. We can no longer do the things we want to do or be with the person we want to be with if our health failed. Third, the beginning of valuing time. People are now thinking that at any moment they can die due to the pandemic. Before, we just waste our time on many things that are not valuable but when this pandemic came we felt like we have to value our time because tomorrow or today might be late. Now, we can spend our time more on activities that will make us productive and make it valuable. Time is gold. Time is God-given. Time is a gift. So it is our responsibility to use it wisely and now this pandemic is teaching us this. We start to treat time as precious. Fourth, come to think of it. The whole world is facing the same problem which is the occurrence of the pandemic. I want to call it, universal problem. Before, nobody knows what we are going through in our lives but now, we are all battling the same problem. If we have a universal problem, there is also a universal response. This means there is universal concern happening because this is a battle of the whole world and everyone fights together. It seems that God wants to level up the world in becoming a philanthropist with a sense of empathy, unity, and selflessness. He is showing us that we are one that we should have a concern for each other. These days, we learn to encourage and help others. It tells us that the world should be one family despite the diversity and that we are for each other. Fifth, the pandemic leads us nearer to God. This pandemic made us worry, anxious, and problematic so these days we strive to be nearer to God. Before, we are too busy with so many things. We have no time for God. We take him for granted. Sometimes we just treat him like a genie. But these days, you will see people singing to God on the street, people praying harder or people want to be closer to God. According to Pascal, there is like a vacuum inside our hearts that nobody and nothing can be fit in it but only God. In our lives, we are finding this missing piece in our hearts through many things in this world that’s why when the pandemic came we shake easily because we are too attached in this world not to God. Imagine this scenario. A vase represents us and the table represents the world. If it shakes, the vase will shake too, but if I detached the vase on the table, the vase will not shake. That’s why when the pandemic came, our whole world trembled because we are too attached in the world not to God.
This pandemic has given us so many lessons. It looks like it’s helping us to grow in many aspects of our lives or self-growth. I showed the positive things happening because through these positive things I can see a beautiful world coming. I am seeing a vision that these positive things I showed will outgrow and will continue. For many years, the world has lived a very selfish life. Now I can see families being closer to each other, people valuing health more, valuing time more, people loving others more, people valuing time, and people loving God more. God wants us to value life. We are in the moment of our lives that our eyes are being open to something that will make us see what a real-life should be. It may be hard for all of us but it will be worth it and valuable. I can say this pandemic is a wake-up call from God that will lead us to a better world.