Corona: Collapse Between Fact and Fiction

18th March 2020

Eski knows there’s something up. Why the hell is my Master here all the time? Why does he seem to have more patience for my everyday needs? I’d like to come inside, then outside; oh, and now can I come in again? No, let me wag-and-pivot. I mean outside. Let me outside, please?  

This must be a time of deep reflection for my four-year-old mutt. She is, in her collie-cross ways, one of the great thinkers of her time. 

What can it be, she wonders? Have all my prayers to the Great Canine in the Squirrel’s Lair been answered? Is the Master hanging out with me for good? And if so, should I have been more careful in what I wished for?

Pondering big questions can make one’s paws wobble, one’s ears drag, and eyelids droop. Change is thrilling, but it is also tiring.

In the meantime, I am here. At my table. Holed up in Howth. 

I can look out at life, but cannot be fully part of it.

The clouds roll by, and the waves create white flashes as they fall upon the rocks of Lambay island. Spring has made her yellow presence known – in the flaming gorse, in the daffodils, and in the golden-hour of morning which, every day, beckons me awake a little sooner. 

I feel tired of being so alert – to all that is unchanged, and to all that is wholly the reverse. I secretly wish to join Eski in her reverie.  

What is it that is going on here? Am I part of some fictional work, this whole past week?

Ah yes. That is it. I am Matt Damon. From my mouth flows the cadence and language that are most definitely Damon-esque. 

My friend Pete, FaceTiming from Australia, casually mentions that he too believes he is in a movie. And he thinks he’s Gwyneth Paltrow.

Well now. That’s beginning to feel like confirmation. I am caught in the screenplay of Contagion, and my waking self simply does not know it. And yet, Pete seems fine. His pallor is good. Am I Matt or not? 

I move to a mirror, to verify.

Alas, I am no Matt Damon. Truth is gnarlier than fiction. Worse still, truth makes appalling lighting choices. 

And then I thought, perhaps I am wrapped up in a song. 

Am I Hazel, the young buck rabbit of Watership Down, who has fled the warren because a soothsayer warned that death would stalk the land? Am I wandering in a manner that is already pre-destined? Is this a kind of dream – floating out on the tide? And whose voice is that? The one I hear now. The high-voiced beautiful man, singing with such vulnerability – warning that all bright things must turn to pale? 

But no. I am the protagonist of neither movie nor song.

This path I am on, isolated here in Howth, does not call for migration. I am not called to move away. Rather, to have us all remain safe, I must remain here. And you must stay where you are, too. We are part of the warren, but away from it. We are part of the rabbit herd, but alone within in.

Ignore all I have said. Because it is this.

I am book-bound.

Caught in its leaves, but only just. This strange cocooning place where I lie is on the first page, of the first chapter. There is an air of incredulity in the line woven by H. G. Wells. I examine his sentence, letter by letter, word by word. 

“With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter.” 

Now the veil slips. Here is a work of fiction and fact, so finely wound that I cannot prise them apart. Written in the 19th century, to us in the 21st.

Are we the future of which Wells speaks? Have we mutated, tumbling into an incestuous version of ‘War of the Worlds’? 

But the current plot seems confused. The ‘enemy’ is not some alien force, but a microbial dance from within. The invader is not our fellow man, but our governing Nature. Can the creator of all things now become its own destroyer? 

Or is it another meaning, altogether? Is this dis-ease part of some confusing weave of healing? 

My hallucinatory body, square in the chair, begins slowly to sway. 

She becomes aware of the movement, and lands her paws on my lap. Eski needs company. I am glad. So do I.



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