|Coronavirus and Island X-24|
|This is fiction. Nevertheless… |
There was a small island.
Amazingly, it had never been claimed by any country. It just sat there. It was inconsequential. Geographers were irritated that it had no name. In 1998, they named it X-24.
123 families lived there. They had emigrated from 14 countries.
During the onset of the trouble in China, 19 citizens had escaped the lockdown in Wuhan and found their way to the island in a small makeshift boat, which broke into pieces near shore. The families welcomed them without fanfare, and offered them housing in huts on the north side of the island.
People on the island practiced agriculture on their tiny farms, and they raised chickens and ate eggs. There was no government. The families met once a month to discuss any issues that might have arisen since their last meeting. They did not vote. They used common sense. They were sensible people. They had no ideology. They had no phones, no computers, no electricity.
One of the newly arrived Chinese women explained, at a meeting, the coronavirus, the epidemic, the lockdown, the testing. She asked whether anyone was concerned that her people might have brought the virus with them. The people of the island looked around at each other and shrugged. They didn’t seem interested.
Three weeks later, an article appeared in the mainland Chinese press about X-24 and the 19 escaped Wuhan residents. It was picked up by a wire service and then republished by a number of outlets around the world. It did not become a big story.
However, a boat soon arrived at the island. A Chinese official and an American public health officer from the CDC stepped off. Several conversations ensued. The visitors were concerned that the virus might have come to X-24. The residents said they didn’t travel, and they didn’t even fish. Why not? No one had an answer. They just didn’t. The visitors took samples of rainwater from a backyard container. They took a look at all the X-24 residents and saw they were healthy. They took throat swabs from all 19 Chinese residents. There was a bit of tension when the Chinese official told these Wuhan escapees they were living illegally on the island and should return home. The Chinese residents said they wouldn’t, but they had intention of causing trouble. The visitors left.
A week later, at a meeting in government offices in Wuhan, CDC and Chinese scientists told a deputy mayor of the city that nine immigrants on X-24 had tested positive for the coronavirus. A call was immediately made to the public health and safety office of the national government, and the news was reported. Two hours later, a message came back: leave the people on X-24 alone for now.
The government in Beijing took up the X-24 issue in several committees. A decision was made. Drones would do high flyovers and surveil the island. No one would be permitted to leave it.
Three months later, with the world in lockdown, a small elite government committee met in Beijing. The news: all the residents of X-24 were going about their daily business. No sick people were observed, even among the elderly. No one had tried to leave the island. No one was practicing social distancing. People met and mingled as usual. A CDC/WHO message was read: It expressed concern about X-24. People who were positive for the virus couldn’t be allowed to live outside the limits of control. Something needed to be done.
Three weeks later, X-24 residents observed a group of armed boats approaching. Maneuvers were executed, and the craft made a ring around the island. They sat about 20 miles offshore. They stayed there.
This operation was noticed by the press. The X-24 story made a brief limited comeback. INFECTED PEOPLE LIVING ON AN ISLAND. QUARANTINE FORCED. A few reporters tried to get information on the condition of the X-24 residents. They couldn’t.
CDC meetings took place. The gist was: These people remain healthy. There is no sign of trouble. No disease. No illness. “What happens if THIS becomes a story?”
The issue was kicked up to the Chinese and American military. Very private meetings took place. “We could launch a drone missile attack and wipe them out.” “We could send in a kill-team.” “How about a massive fire? Drop a few incendiaries.” “Spray them with some nasty chemicals. They’ll have a hell of time trying to breathe, foam at the mouth, and fall down dead.”
But in the end, the military held back. A message from a carefully guarded private source came down the line: “Leave them alone. Remove the stupid ships. Observe from drones. Do not attack. They rate as experimental subjects. They constitute a control group. By CDC projections, at least a few of them should become ill. So far, that’s not the case.”
…A year later, on X-24, the Chinese woman, who had originally told the island residents about the coronavirus, wrote in the diary she had been keeping, “The mainland madness is just a faint memory. My mother is 93. She is reasonably healthy. A few people here get sick, as a matter of course, and then they get well. Nothing unusual. There were two deaths last year. A French woman and an American man. They were both in their 80s. I helped their families make them comfortable. I saw no sudden illness of the lungs. I liked all these island people from the start. I feel close to them now.”
Old habits die hard. She looked around her small cabin, as if some government authority might be present. She walked to the pile of stones arranged in the corner, where a low fire was burning. It occurred to her there was no reason to continue her diary. She bent down and placed it in the flames and watched it for a minute. The past was past.
Nothing untoward had happened on the island.
Back at the CDC, a private analysis was carried out. Nine mitigating factors were listed to explain why no one on the island had fallen ill from the virus. The conclusion was the island was not a proper representation of the real world. The analysis was sent up the line to the guarded source who had ordered the ring of ships to back off. He read the CDC analysis.
He sent back a message. “I wasn’t asking you to cover your ass or justify your role in this fiasco. Your so-called mitigating factors are a crock. Apparently, you’re unable to be honest. So let me send you my analysis. The people on X-24 didn’t get sick because they didn’t get sick. Remove promoted fear, diagnostic tests which fall far short of proving disease, treatment with toxic drugs, and other damage falsely labeled as COVID, and you have nothing. I see why you were disturbed about the story of X-24. But then, accounting for healthy people who stay healthy has never been your strong suit, has it? You’ve gone too far. I should set my hounds loose on you.”
A colleague of his walked into the steam room, picked up a pitcher of cold water and poured it on the rocks. Steam rose and the rocks hissed. Wrapped in white sheets, the two men sat side by side.
“Did you tear them a new one?”
“I gave them something to think about. These people are incorrigible. They really are.”
“When our friends arrive tonight, we’ll discuss the situation.”
“Yes. Recess is over. They interrupted business. Products must flow. Money must flow. They don’t understand we’re the engine of the world, for better or worse.”
“We’ll school these little bureaucrats. They parade around thinking they’re princes. They’re going to pay.”
The steam spread. The men were invisible.
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