vaccycle

By

Kyntrampstamp.

Carin cuts off a big yellow taxi and veers into the pharmacies parking lot. Her white car zips across the reflective front windows. Tires kicking up the odd leaf dropped by the prairie autumn. Autumn leafs slip-flipping their way down to the cement. She swerves into a spot next to a handicap parking stall. The store’s large windows mirror her opening the driver’s side door. Peering at the ground for hypogenic needles she nods and sets her feet down. Standing she holds her long purple dress against her as she shuts the car door, adjusting her Scooby-Doo covid mask already on her face. Pacing forward her raised heels pop on the cement sidewalk. The car beeps behind her.

The entrance doors slide to the side. Parting in between two planted pots that had clearly dried up over the summer. Ugh, plants. She takes a step in. Just inside the doors is a small, ATM like machine for scanning QR codes. She puts her phone under the red search lights and the machine beeps. It gives a green glow. She sighs with relief. She made it here in time. She had just received a text that her Jab was past date and was worried she wouldn’t be able to get in to the pharmacy.

She breaths deeply through her two ply cotton-fibre mask. The medical smell of Big-Pharma seeping in. Around her are white shelves stocked with wheat crackers and typical chocolate bars, diaper bundles featuring masked babies, a cold fridge isle with cheese, and tofu products. Carin looks left at the only cashier. He is holding open a National Truth And Theory magazine. His nose is not covered by his medical mask. Is he crazy? He continues flipping through the paper’s pages.

The Cashier eyes Carin over the edge of his magazine. He sees a child’s mask on a grown women’s face. Idiot. The woman keeps her distance from him. Thank-god. The cashier watches the customer tug at top of her mask, clearing her throat. He looks down at his mask, sitting below his nose, and looks back at Carin. He sets down the paper and with his middle finger he flips the mask back over his nose. Bitch.

The woman in the kids mask taps her shoulder with her four fingers. The cashier blinks. Carin waits.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Four fingers means fourth. I’m here for my fourth!”

He blinks, “Ok. I’m not a pharmacist,” Blink. Blink, “I’m a cashier. Have you been here before?”

“Yes.”

“Ok” he says. He shakes his head and looks back down at his reading.

“So I will just go this way!” And Carin goes that way.

He continues reading. As he watches her head towards her jab he pulls his mask back down below his nose. Breathes in very deeply though his nostrils. Then says very, very quietly, “stupid cunt.”

The pharmacy is quite. There is no line this time. Not like the first and second time she came here for the vaccine.

“Are you hear for your jab?” asks a male pharmacy assistant leaning at the pharmacies counter. Phone sliding from gloved hand in to his smock pocket. Plastic “face-shield” over his N95 mask. Face-shield Printed in red.

Carin reins on her mask, and muffles “yes” through the two ply.

The pharmacy assistant seems to smile. His eyes wrinkle, “It’s a cute mask, don’t worry. Glad to see YOU responded to the text!”

He points her to a seating area lit by LED lighting. A small waiting area. All empty chairs. Bare silver frames with brown pleather padding. She goes to take one, removing her black pea-coat, resting it on the back of the seat. A flatscreen mounted from the ceiling above is audible, but mostly silent. The news anchor on screen smiles as a group of young girls jump into a pile of red leaves in the background. Little, single buckled mary-jane shoes kicking in delight. Happy, masked faces. Red splashes of leaves. Hands searching through the televised autumn pile.

Carin turns the chair away and keeps the barely audible noises to the back of her head. She waits for the needle. Legs crossed. Foot tapping air. Arm out. Ready. News anchor mumbling to the back of her head. She slides down in the chair and leans her head back. I hate this having to wait.

White-blue LED lights above glow over her face. The rectangular light fixture is framed in a mirror like lining. She looks up at it, catching her reflection in the silver frame. She rolls her face back and forth noting the reflected fraction of her open mouth under her wide open eyes. The pharmacy assistant approaches. The sound of expensive boots startling her up. Sitting up she admires his black boots with khaki pants tucked in. His white smock is pressed.

“Alright! Your forth booster. Once again, good to see you are following up. ” Carin proudly taps her shoulder with four fingers. Then gives a thumbs up.

In his smock pocket he pulls out a vaccine vile with a needle wrapped in plastic. He unwraps the needle. He holds the vaccine bottle up to the light. The vile sparkles. He draws itscontents. He flicks the side of the needle to clear the air bubbles.

“Have lots of people been coming in for boosters?”

“Somewhat,” smiled the pharmacy assistant, “ But, lobbying always helps to mandate the science. We can’t have hesitancy this late in the game. We can only normalize when everyone has done their part.”

He leans towards her. Carin notices a hint of expensive cologne. I thought pharmacies were supposed to be scent free? He rolls her sleeve up a bit more and wipes the injection site with a small, wet pad. Needle balanced in his spare fingers. The smell of disinfectant.

She looks away from the injection site. Peers over to the store window where her car’s parked. Where she sees a man walking in front of it. Haggard looking. He looks homeless. Layered in almost matching clothes. Obviously stolen. She wonders how he can afford that phone in his hands.

I am very good at affording that phone in my hands.

The assistant holds off on injecting, wrapping his hand around the needle. “He’s our block’s newest addition. Can’t rent if you won’t get vaccinated in our hood. He could just go somewhere else, though, still.”

Through the window the man is filming with his phone. He exhales onto the window and with his finger, mis spells the word “nurembourg”, then exhales again and writes “2.0”. Then, fogs up the window one last time and writes “complacent fuck”. He gives the finger to the pharmacy assistant, or Carin, then points to his camera lens, and yells “global-pharma fuck” through the window. Then spits. They both watch him for a moment. Standing for a bit longer at the window, just staring, he gives the finger and leaves. The cashier laughs in the distance.

“That deserves to be shut out. You have the choice. Make the right decision. You don’t get to choose conspiracies. That puts all of us at risk. Honestly,” He unwraps his hand from around the needle, “searching your phone while on the toilet is not cool.”

*R you going to see the need to wipe your phone after doing shit research?

“We know what’s going on. That’s what the boosters are for: the more you get the more protected you are from people like that. The more safe regular things will get. Simple. It’s just how things are now. It’s what we need to get back to normal.”

Carin pauses. Those words echoed. The end of a discussion. It was during spring. A friend who stomped out on a heated debate while they watched the news. Carin had had enough, calling her then friend, Julie, “completely selfish”. Julie burst out emotionally, probably cause Julie didn’t want to admit that Julie was wrong, and stormed out of the back door, clearly unable to defend her “views”. She didn’t even shut the back door when she left. Just stomped off the porch and out through the alley.

Later, Carin had hoped Julie would have taken back that gift Julie’s kid had made for her: a single sunlfower growing in a pot painted with a lady bug in tap dance shoes. Julie abandoned it without any obvious consideration for what Carin should do for it. Carin avoided going on her porch most of summer, but summer had been very keen to show the plant to fall.

“Ready?”

“Ready Freddy!”

The needle floats towards her shoulder. Closing in. She wants to look away. She thought to look up at herself in the sliver of a mirror that lined the LED lights, but the thought of the pressing pain made her insides scream. She just didn’t want to see it land. Carin obviously hated needles. Couldn’t bare to see them. She closes her eyes letting the television murmur to the back of her head.

When that fourth needle pumped in something hit: she felt like she misplaced something, her anxiety, she kept forgetting about it. She kept recalling it. Where was it coming from? At home? The kitchen? The oven is on? It wasn’t. — Is it? No. I left without cooking this morning. I need more cilantro. — She was able to see that. She looked through her memories as her thoughts entered her bedroom. Her bed wasn’t made. Because I’m single. It’s been depressing lately. Some days she would get out of bed and not look back. Just shower right away. Throw it all in the laundry. Blast it away with lots of Ox-Sea Clean.These are stressful times. It’s just stress. It makes me sooooo lazy.

“Was I sweating in my sleep last night?” She blurted as the pharmacy assistant tapes a ball of cotton to her shoulder. He smiles. She pauses. She thinks maybe, instead, it was her dreaming of sweating. Like a bad dream. Not actual night sweats. She could only remember the heavy, wet feeling for a second or so. Something she was told to say yes to. Something she encouraged herself to sleep through.

She wondered if she dreamt of the night sweats to escape a completely different dream. A short, distracting dream to escape a nightmare. An echoing fear. Something that stuck? Under an open night sky? An invasion?

No. It was at nightime. Back in her kitchen. At the table. Doom scrolling, again. The only light on is her phone. Engulphed by dark silence. All that’s visible is her brown table. Phone screen in hands. On the screen is the moon card. From a daily tarot card reading. She’s looking for an answer. She pulled the round silver pale moon with shaded creatures dancing underneath it. She didn’t like the card’s answer. It didn’t make sense. She closes the app and swipes to her news feed, scrolling through titles that spell drastic measures: more numbers. Rising deaths. Anxious articles talking outbreaks. This one! She clicks on it. The moon card pops up, again, instead. I closed the app! She Swipes the app off the screen. She swipes back to her news feed. She clicks on a similar article. The moon card pops up, once again. I thought only computers got viruses? The moon on her screen then starts growing brighter. Dark figures waving underneath. The phone amps up the brightness. The darkness around her does not shrink back. Her thumb goes to swipe down the brightness, but her battery is at zero. A red zero % that blinks red. She panics. That article! I need to read about the outbreak happening! She plugs in her phone, but all she has is her old earphones. She stabs the stereo plug into the micro USB port. It Scrapes side to side. Panicking, Carin stabs harder, keeps fidgeting it to fit.

She presses hard. The screen shatters. She stops. Blood collects within the cracks. Lining the pieces of shard in red. Veining over the moon’s panicked face. Oozing. The moon pulses against the screen. It won’t stop bleeding. The moon starts to feel heavy. The screen bends out. Irregular shapes falling off from the dome of the moon pushing through the screen. She curls over. Her mouth drools. She looks to her stomach and on either side, just inside the hip bones, the earphones prod. Hooked into flesh. Boom. Boom. Boom. They blast a noiseless base. She shudders. Hunched over. Her walls shaking from the hits. She swipes the phone off her table. It flies off into the dark distance. Slowly floating away. She sees the tiny moon in the distance.

She can’t see her phone. All around it is pitch black. She can’t figure our where she is. She looks up to find herself. She sees silver. Reflective like a mirror. A silver ship approaching above her shoulder. It continues advancing. Very large. Stretching overhead. She wants to see where it will land, but all she sees is open, dark space ahead. And, other people, suspended like she is. All turning towards the space ship.Open gawking mouths. She wants to look away from the ship, but the only other option is the other people suspended like her. She doesn’t want to look into it. She rolls her head back for the ship as it floats a large, rectangular window into her view. Over her face. Her jaw relaxes. Her eyes widen. Celebrities!

Through the ships large rectangular window is a view of a red carpet event. Hollywood style. Men in black,white tuxedos. Women in fine, white dresses. Their diamond studded covid masks on sticks. They place them in front of their mouths after talking to mics and cameras behind velvet ropes. Carin’s limbs relax. The event is so representative. So many peoples. She rolls her head back to the others floating in space. She looks at them as she holds her palm out to the space craft’s window, noting that she was the first to point out the diverse virtue of this event. They are all masked, like me!

All the different celebrity ladies have tall heals on. Which shows equality! Most of them end in silver points. Equalizing is the point! As they step on the red carpet they leave sunken dimples. Her stomach shudders.

The more the famous ladies step, smiling as they wave masks on sticks back in forth in front of their mouths, the more the dimples appear on the red carpet. They press down. Drops of blood squirt out from under the pressing heals. Drops of blood that cling to the tips of their heals. They drip off the tip of the heals as they lift, and trot. The carpet begins to fill, to soak. Dark red. Their white dresses begin to sop the blood up at their white, frilly hems. Blood slowly creeping up their white dresses. Carin curls over her lower abdomen.The ladies heels dimple into the carpet. Her torso pulls in. She moans.

Her face begins to flash read as a police car floats through outer space in front of her. The blue light is smashed out. Dangling by a cord. Only the red light blinks. A homeless man drives the car through space. He points a mega phone — with some weird white symbol on its side — at the space crafts window. The celebrities halt. The ladies curl their fingers around their masks. The men freeze, continuing to face away. The pain in Carin’s stomach stops. The car continues to drive on. On the back is a bumper sticker in the shape of the middle finger. Little empty vile bottles tied to the bumper trail behind. Clinking against each other as they are dragged, trailing in space.

The celebrities continue their red carpet strut. Stomp. And walk away up a set of carpeted stairs. The bottom half of their dresses now completely red. Arm in arm with white and black. The red flashing police car fades off into the horizon as the rising sun, red, starts to dawn in its place. Warming the earth. She starts to sweat. It’s hot. The red won’t stop. The sun expands. That pressure is back on. Around her the other bodies floating in space begin to writhe. Squirming as they begin to burn red. They burn to a charred black mass. Orange, red flames in space. Flaring. She watches the planet in front of the sun wipe itself in white clouds. She wraps her arms around it trying to press the cool ocean into her belly. Sun burning her face amongst the crisp corpses in dark space. Charred limbs unifying into deep darkness.

“They’re just shadows.” Her friend says. Pointing to the light ahead. This woman sits beside her. Carin has her legs tucked up into her stomach. Sharing the couch in the TV room. This friend is pointing to the flat-screen on the wall in front of their faces.

“No, I’m watching this,” Carin turns to look at her, but her friend is facing the opposite direction. Outside, through the patio doors behind her couch, towards Carin’s back yard. Carin turns and sees a massive bonfire. Engulfed by a dark night. Dark figures standing all around it. Posed.

“That’s not what they are doing.” She turns her head back to the screen. She hears her phone chime, “calling Julie”. She tries to end the call, The batterries aren’t charged! The phone disappears between the cushions of the couch. That article! She looks to the flat screen on her wall. Which channel? Her friend points the remote and says, “It’s the same station. That’s why I changed the channel. It’s a safer drug so you don’t get vitamin D”.

Julie looks back outside. The bonfire is going strong but it’s evening, or early morning. The sun isn’t strong enough to do that! She can just barely make out the clothes the figures are wearing in her back yard. Is it a wedding? The figures are smaller, awkwardly waving tiny hands, sneaking away. The TV throws its reflection on the window, blocking the view to the shy retreats in the backyard.

She turns back to the TV. The face of a dark boulder takes up her wall. Shimmering under flames. The bonfire heats her back. She hears her patio-door open. She turns to look out the door and it’s summer, afternoon, bright, hot. She wipes her forehead. The door is left open. The fire is out. Just charred remains. Laying on the patio is the painted pot. It’s empty. Contents scattered around. It’s too bright right now. She shields her face. The door sucks shut. Clicks.

She hears more clicking and looks down between her thighs. She sits in a pile of red leaves. Red papery maple leaves. They pool around her legs and start to lift. They shift. Tiny, tiny mary-jane shoes push themselves up. Eight of them. Rising through the red leaves. Bending stick legs. Crawling up, clicking, is a giant, white spotted black beetle. Carin holds up her hands. Its silver pincers stab up into her groined, dragging back down the insides of the walls, pricking over her lips. Blood pools massively. Continuos. Its silver pointed Mary-Jane shoes stabbing into her legs. Running its legs forward. The shoes dimple her thighs. Slicing. She grabs it with both hands, trying to push it back. Too scared to let go. Every time she heaves it back its back-shell opens and blue wings brush her open eyes. Hands covering eyes its silver plated shoes scamper it in further. She reaches into herself and tries to heave it out, but the blue wings assault again. Her grip slips. She covers her face with her arms. Pincers gnashing through. Swallowing itself in. The large beetle is in.

There is nothing she can do. She leans her head back. Eyes wide open. Looking up into the white ceiling. Eyes and mouth pooling in pain. Her feet resting on the floor. A voice at the back of her head telling her that THIS is autumn. Head back, mouth open under that bright, white light.

She blinks. The pharmacy assistant is gazing into her eyes. She blinks again. And looks around the white, bright pharmacy.

“Your observation period is over. You should be fine,” smiles the pharmacy assistant as he checks something off. He drops his silver pen with the black bird logo into his smock pocket. His blue eyes gleam. Walking away, his boot heels click over the speckled tiling. She gets up from her vaccine appointment. Scan code in hand to update her health history. To go anywhere she likes now. No consequences for no questions asked, she wants to tell herself. The power of silence. As she leaves the cashier says, “Don’t forget to call Julie back!”

She looks across the silent, empty street from where she is parked. A pizza parlour. Maybe it’s still open? She decides to go eat before heading home.

The morning after. She lays in bed. Awake. Lying in a drying fetal position. Getting ready. Not just sweat. She knows. She throws the blankets off of her. She is surprised. Not because the amount of blood is as expected. But, their is even more. It’s spread the length of her legs. She had expected to see dark splotches and pock spots coagulating and crusting. She, however, sees a large, smeared flare of red and orange that curls and comes to a point. It makes a shape similar to her favourite plant that Julie always threatened to buy for her: Bird Of Paradise. She looks at her phone. Screen blank. She leaves it off. She lets her phone stay silent. It’s autumn outside.

The blankets and bed sheets bundle up. They go into the washer. Heavy soil option selected. Extra scoop of Ox-Sea- Clean as usual. She stands alone in the laundry room. The house is empty. Everything is silent. The washing machine beeps and cascades water over the load. She looks at her scooby-do mask hanging on her mask station. She wipes her mouth. She looks to the small garbage bin underneath.

From the the tv room a gentle tapping happens on the glass doors behind the couch. A soft fist trying not to disturb, trying not to go away. A faint voice whining. She knows that SHE knows she is home.

Carin looks out the window of her laundry room and sees a clear autumn and afetrnoon sun. The bare trees vein their abyss like canopy against the open sky. She stands up on her toes to see the back yard is covered in leaves. Yellow. Gold. Prairie autumn. Not red.

Out side of the laundry room she hears the tapping at the window. It sounds hesitant, and each following tap begins to feel a little more hesitant. She moves through her kitchen for the back patio door.

“Hey. Julie,” Carin glares at the enemy fading from her friend. Her daughter is at her hand beside her. Behind them on the patio is the pot with the painted lady bug. Small chickadees, Bluejays, and Red Gross Bills had been picking at its seeds this week.

“She was worried the birds would eat all the seeds from the sunflower. Soooooo she’s been sneaking into your yard to collect you some for next spring. I, very clearly, asked her not to. Just like you very clearly were not able to answer your phone, ever. She had already put them in this envelope which I am not wasting. Sooooooooo.”

Julie leans down to her daughter and asks, “Do you want to show auntie Carin the envelope for spring so mommy can get to yoga on time?”

To be continued… Obviously.

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Hello. My pronouns are bio/logical. God is a plural.

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kyngtrampstamp

kyngtrampstamp

Hello. My pronouns are bio/logical. God is a plural.

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