July 6th, 2052: Quiet today

Another hot day today. To make it worse, I had to go to work.

The Kohl’s I work at is right outside town but not far from my apartment, so I generally walk there. Traffic is always so cramped here that I don’t like to drive, but today is different. The street is still busy, as it is in the morning, but it’s twice as hectic as it is every other day. I turn the corner onto Main Street and glance from window to window down the stripmall that runs like veins through the village. Every other gym is populated healthily by muscle builders and underfed teenagers, their noses and mouths trapped behind surgical masks. Their faces flushed and water bottles unopened. This is crazy, one word of illness and the paranoia breaks out more often than the flu itself. Passing one of the churches that are left in this town, I notice the announcement board. “Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague broke in upon them. –Psalm 106:29” It looks like even the religious bunch is buying into this too. That always baffled me. When I was younger, I used to go to church with my mom. The pastor would tell us not to worry about our health, that God would take care of us, that we should trust Him to heal us. Whatever happened to that? Have we really screwed up that badly that even the Christians worry about getting sick?

Nobody used the sidewalks; no morning dog-walkers, no joggers or mailmen. Just me. I put my headphones in. I’m not sure if it was to drown out the roar of tires against the pavement or the udder silence of the town. I’m no social butterfly, but even I get weirded out by a completely vacant state that Main Street wore today. I counted the steps in the back of my mind until I got to work. I lost count at 1,370. Stepping past the automatic sliding doors to the department store, the chemical stench of hand sanitizer punched me in the nose. The break room was even worse. My locker was wet with antibacterial cleaner. I glared at the janitor. Obviously, he was the one who soaked my locker and everything inside it with sinus-melting cleaner. He turned his back to me and scoffed, but the sharp exhale stuck to his mask, rather than to me.

Once I grabbed my lanyard from the sanitary storage box, I went to clock in. The hand scanner was malfunctioning, telling me that it couldn’t recognize my fingerprints. Seriously? It obviously couldn’t feel my hand on top of the layer of Lysol spray. After wiping it off with a paper towel, I finally sign in. Late.
I finally get to my register and start my day.
Every customer that went through my line shot me shocking looks. A few of them told me to be careful, to take my vitamins and drink orange juice every day. I kept my eyes in place, fighting the urge to roll them. I told them “thank you for shopping at Kohl’s,” and went on with my day. Three hours later, it was lunch. A few coworkers asked me how I felt, complaining that they had a sore throat, that they felt feverish. I told them that I felt just fine, minus the sarcastic bite. Lillian sat down next to me. I told her I wanted to start a garden. She smiled at the thought. At least she has some sense left in her. I confided in her, told her I was happy that she wasn’t being paranoid too. It’s nice to know my best friend is still in her sound mind.

Work went by quickly after lunch, and before I knew it, I was home.

I’m exhausted, but I need to take a shower. Maybe I’ll take a bath instead.