The rain poured down on Lower Strangling as September turned into October. Guardian journalist Sarah Peterson could hear the raindrops patting on her 15th Century Manor as she sat in her cosy living room, writing her review of the recent Conservative Party Conference in which they turned from a British political party to a cliched evil organisation such as Spectre or Hydra.
Whilst she was doing this, Sarah was talking to her husband on the phone, who was working in London. They were talking about the major news that had come from across the pond.
“So, the President’s got COVID, has he?”, Dave Peterson asked his wife on the phone.
“Yes, it seems so”, Sarah Peterson replied.
“Hmm, about bloody time”, Dave mused.
“Dave!”, Sarah shouted down the phone.
“What? It’s true. The man’s been so blasé about the whole thing that it serves him right that he got the dratted virus,” Dave responded.
“Even so, we mustn’t be rude about someone who’s ill,” Sarah said.
“Despite literally everything we know about the man?”, Dave asked.
Sarah sighed, “Yes, even then.”
A beat of time passed before Dave spoke again, “ok, break’s over, I better get going otherwise I’ll be late to the meeting. Bye, love, see you tonight.”
“Ok, see you then. Bye,” Sarah replied before hanging.
Sarah continued to write her Guardian article, but then stopped for a moment. She listened to the rain patting on the manor. She looked backed at her laptop; she’d almost finished the first draft of her article, but she’d lost momentum. She then looked at the TV in front of her.
“Hmm”, she thought, “I’m sure a little bit of Netflix won’t hurt.”
With that, she put down her laptop and turned on Netflix.
“Hmm… let’s see,” Sarah said to herself as she sifted through the various films and TV series that were available, very few that seemed to interest her.
But then she came across something; Being John Malkovich, a film about a puppeteer who discovered a hidden passageway in his office which led directly into the mind of actor John Malkovich.
It was a film Sarah had wanted to see ever since she’d heard about it, mainly because she wanted to know whether the film really was as bizarre as its synopsis led her to believe.
She pressed play and began to watch the film. She quickly found out that no, it was not as bizarre as the synopsis led her to believe, it was even more so. It quickly became apparent that Being John Malkovich was not a film at all, but an experience.
About an hour had passed and Sarah was still staring blankly at the screen, not moving since putting the film on. She was in a trance that was hard to escape. She couldn’t even hear the rain pit-patting on the roof of the manor. In fact, she wasn’t aware of her surroundings at all. All she knew where the visuals in front of her. The laptop with her Guardian article on it sat beside her, with its lid closed, unnoticed, forgotten.
After a while, the phone ringing brought Sarah back into reality. She paused the film and answered it.
“Hello?”, she asked. It was the receptionist at Warwick Prep.
“Yes, hello Mrs Peterson, I’m calling from Castle Hill. There’s been an outbreak of COVID in your son and daughter’s classes,” the woman on the phone annouced.
Sarah gasped. Had Will and Eleanor got COVID?
“Are they fine?”, she asked the receptionist.
“We’re unaware of the exact people who have the virus. We would however suggest that you pick them up straight away and self isolate with them at home for two weeks just to be on the safe side.”
“Ok, I’ll come right away”, Sarah said before hanging up. She sat in silence for a moment, wondering what the heck she was going to do. If Dave came home, then he’d have to self isolate with them for a couple of weeks. Should she call him and suggest he book a room at the Premiere Inn for the length of time instead?
“No”, she thought, “don’t be ridiculous”, Dave didn’t have his belongings, plus he could work from home for a couple of weeks anyway. So Sarah decided to tell Dave once he got home from work.
Sarah then got up and left the manor to pick Will and Eleanor up from school.
A few moments later, and Sarah was driving back to Lower Strangling, with Will and Eleanor both in the back. Neither of them seemed to have any visible symptoms.
“Are you two ok? I mean, you’re not coughing? You haven’t lost your sense of smell or taste? You don’t have a fever?”, Sarah asked her two offspring, clearly panicking.
“It’s fine Mum, neither of us have symptoms,” Eleanor reassured her mother, “besides, we have no idea who actually has the virus.”
“Ok, well, we better keep you two safe at home just to be sure,” Sarah responded.
A little while later, and Sarah was back in her living room. Will and Eleanor were safe in their rooms continuing doing the work they’d started at school. Sarah prepared to reach for her laptop in order to continue reading the article, but then she caught a glimpse of the TV screen; she hadn’t finished the movie.
Sure, she should probably finish the article and sent it off as soon as possible, but on the other hand she only had about 45 minutes left of the film anyway.
Making her decision, she turned the film back on and fell once again into her trance.