“To hold a pen is to be at war.”
- Voltaire

"I understand how. I do not understand why."
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

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I was thinking I'd take Friday off as a funeral day, given I've not taken a proper bit of approved leave since the divorce. At least this was the helpful system prompt on-screen, a Arial-12 pt reminder of a wholly absent personal life. Seems “funeral services” now represent a whole category of authorized absence (there'd been no need to check this before), distinct from “Issues - Personal” (an oddly robotic way to refer to private life), “Leave - Compassionate” (an injunction not to seek empathy within a workplace) or “Death – immediate – family” (sounded more like a menu option than request).

Post-industrial bureaucracy is, at a minimum, unwavering in its commitment to appear humane.

Now, should that strike your ear as cynical, I have a waiver. Of sorts. I am a journalist, and one whose main beat is governmental affairs. So jaded is a job requisite, the only edge a hack's left with over the wretched algorithms. Code itself churns out eighty percent of the news copy these days.

As the lead correspondent in the Capital for the nation's largest circulation paper (for close to ten years now), I attest to a lost generation of officious denial and oblivious officials. Of unanswered phone calls, deleted emails, pointless press conferences and chintzy photo-ops. Of scandal too pointless to merit the title petty, parties too invidious to rank as in-fighting, bureaucrats too back-stabbing to paint as back-pedalling. I'm full-on case hardened, as they say.

Meaning when awful is what you wade through all day, as a chosen profession, what really does it say about the chooser?

I linger a half-second on the touch screen, the drop-down options in the leave approval system quivering on screen, a new gloss on a dismal morning. Funeral Day - September 29, 2018. I'm thirty-nine years old, a miserable, fatalistic recluse ... yet somehow I have three ex-friends to see buried in the space of one shift. That's an indicator of how bad things have got, when even a man with no close companions is privy to this many memorials.

My name's Alex, and for the record, I never really wanted to be a journalist but rather slipped into the profession unawares. It was a jarring detour, the career path really more a swerving, accidental joyride. Minus the joy. The aptitude tests in high school all said the priesthood would have suited better.

I suppose market demand drew other conclusions. I'm blessed with a face people want to trust, a voice they want to believe. So they tell me things. And I am a diligent, if faithless, recorder.

Web-bots, copyscripts and write-ware might churn out the vast majority of what you'll read today; assuming, dear reader, you haven't abandoned text entirely for video and can still actually process the written word sans software. Still, someone has to transport their frame and sit down with sources face-to-face ... for however much longer that quaint nicety should be seen as useful.

But as noted, I do politics. Breathe it, really. Which is pure cancer of course and, as a consequence, matters of health and science just never held my attention. Medicine and Technology are the new Sports. I can offer a gist of the CARV outbreak though: Catastrophic Airborne Respiratory Virus. Children are the primary carriers for whatever reason, though they rarely die from it. But it surely has a knack for killing pretty much anyone over age forty. Which represents pretty much a universal, trans-cultural horror show for most parents. Parenthood is the closest thing to secular redemption on offer. But this epidemic has a whole half of the planet running scared.

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As outward disposition goes, amicable I can manage. Under normal conditions, mind you, just not of late. For it seems harder, each passing day, to even try. Blame all that computer-generated copy I have to sift through. That's enough to push anyone off human shores towards the robotic and depersonalized.

But even I can muster some sense of propriety at the first name on the to-mourn list: Patrick McDonnell. An actively difficult individual – contentious politics, caustically outspoken, a walking abstraction of dissent. Pat would habitually fall in with whatever protest against authority happened to march across his path, often the more fringe it seemed the better.

But how the man could write? Born with a soul to muster argument, to summon and weave and send it searing over the air.

For that quality alone, he was worthy of attention. For is true writing, where it rivets us most, not more commiseration than communication? We don't sit down and sweep papers off our desks after midnight to impart information. We don't yank old books from shelves and rifle through files in drawers then to better grasp or describe events.

We do it because the other option is to feel our skulls fissure. Our hearts ice over in silence. Our thoughts concatenate, combine, collapse without expression. It is to channel a pressure both psychic and serious.

That was the ballistic manner in which Pat wrote – as few salaried journalists ever can. With a sonic passion, a scouring precision and a penitent sincerity.

So how could I not don a suit and tie in memory of that dedication? Plagues come and go, governments fall or thrive. We are ready for the inevitable decline or we deny it. But hang words of those like McDonnell before hacks like us and we come to realize we have always just been eating dust.

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With the passing wistfulness of Widor's 10th Symphony, it occurs to me I am still working, watching as the shadows of figures file in to the chapel's candlelight from greyish rain. I expected this would be a private affair but a very quiet spectacle confronts me instead. Pew after pew of very public figures sit in whispers: journalists, writer, advocates and academics. Some wear filter masks, everyone appears nervous and pallid. As if even solemn observance and assembly carries risk.

I twitch myself at any cough or throat-clearing, make mental notes to keep anxiety in check. This is newsworthy, intones my inner editor, and so begin recording who sits where, who seems more distraught, who seems out of place. This is an obvious ploy but pursue it anyway rather than let the cold seep into recollection or fear tint each notation. What else is work good for, really, than keeping the obvious, endless decay at some safe distance?

Which is when the shade of Audrey Freeman resolves suddenly beside me. A mourner's sweep of hair and bright sweater conjures her, a phantasm summoned by a morose subconscious. Who else did I ever allow to see this rotten cast of mind? This was fifteen years ago but staring now at my soaked shoes darkening the granite floor, her wrenching smile and warbling voice pushed aside the present gloom.

The first funeral's not even begun. Audrey's is next. I grip the back of the pew before me as all in attendance rise to the priest's injunction. Already I'm wrecked, my detachment puddled around my feet.

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American authorities estimate the virus has claimed close to forty million in the six months since it first emerged throughout the Indian subcontinent, evaded any systemic containment and spread globally. International travel is under strict controls and in many regions has been suspended entirely. Entire geographic zones like the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Northwest in North America are now declared under quarantine.

No-go orders and repression measures seem to the daily relations of every news outlet and the public face of every government. The tenor of all talk tinged with defeat. The future tense evaporating off the surface of public discourse, burned away by fear. We wait for night to fall and the moon to rise, the howling to commence at last.

It's near-impossible to get anyone in government to talk under the circumstances. Writing copy and filing stories is reduced to processing one's own reaction to the calamity. Reporting is a kind of recursive catalogue of worry, telling people what to avoid thinking about rather than setting out actual events or evidence. News, in other words, has become even more like it already was. An exercise in mind reading, reflecting back to the reader their own frustration and anger. Like trauma counselling in column format. We're here for you, feel your hurt, so keep subscribing.

The last real contact I've been able to pry out a government cubicle presented all the trappings of a man unhinged. We met under the dilapidated awning of an abandoned building. He smoked in jitters, his face a mask of tics as he explained the contents of a thumb drive passed hurriedly between us. He looked like an escaped convict masquerading as an office worker.

The evidence he presented me with was dangerous, in that it made the previously obvious simply explicit. Federal authorities had no real plan for dealing with the virus itself, no rational contingency to set in motion. Their sole preoccupation was instead managing the interpretation of events, guiding public awareness, outpacing the outrage as opposed to the outbreak. He seemed to be waiting for an immediate reaction. Not exactly news, was my boilerplate response. Still, I promised him I would review the documents. He put out his cigarette against the crumbling brick wall. That would be wholly unnecessary in his view, he said.

It was clear from the cache of material that other parts of the world were faring somewhat better, statistically speaking. Seems to be much easier here in Canada to suppress an emotion or opinion than contain a pathogen. In the Asia Pacific, for example, real gains seem to have been made. There were exchanges detailing the Singapore strategy: a potent mix of data analytic techniques, predictive mapping, ubiquitous surveillance, behavioural manipulation and martial law.

The software, claimed one document, promised to reduce kill rates dramatically by cordoning off certain socioeconomic zones and conduits automatically, tagging entire blocks or city areas for containment, or, more ominously, applying “protective removal” where hot spots arose. Whole buildings, neighbourhoods or villages could be sleep gassed in what was dryly labelled “subconscious evacuation.”

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Auto-transcript - eulogy - Patrick McDonnell (Saint Patrick's Basilica) - 2018-08-29 (Father Tito Marcella):

“We older priests, particularly of Italian ancestry, always had an unspoken understanding about men like Patrick, a silent, grudging respect. That's because despite all the grief they bring us, to the Church as an institution, such critics were kindred spirits. The anarchists, communists, revolutionaries - they too struggled daily with the 'non-believers', those less interested or optimistic about human nature than even us.

Patrick had that resolute faith - that people could change and the world with them. One well-carried banner at a protest might make the difference. One pointed speech might just bring the right person around. One keen argument might get one more citizen involved. So it ever was with Patrick, always and endlessly, just one more push.

The cynic in us might ask what justice is achieved or equality reinforced by such works? When decent care for the ill, basic rights for our poor, might materialize? When civility itself now seems to unravel around us in fear? How will all that striving for change tally now?

Patrick had an answer, one cribbed from Augustine I would point out. Namely, human ends are fleeting, and not nearly so weighty as we've come to see them. This is an insight into grace, for those like Patrick spend their lives aware that the effect is not nearly so important as the cause. Nobility is striving for its own sake, for the human energy and warmth that it generates, for the light that simple belief in change can bring.

We live now in a world of rolling deadlines and tracked results, of daily reports, end-products and scorecards. We ignore those with a "calling", who speak up with passion, who seem outside our system. Yet we ought to cherish them in times like these more than we ever have, because we need both the light and shadow they cast.

And as this bleak winter comes upon us, let's remember Patrick, for his qualities both bright and dark. Amen.”

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“Do you have time for a drink Alex? A pour and toast for the departed?”

Marcy Whitaker corners me on the way down the slippery parish steps. I have my coat pulled over my ears. The rain falling as it has all morning in grey, windy arcs.

Marcy is using a folded up newspaper, nearing saturation with one page plastering itself to her ear. She interned for us a few years back, but has since gone over to online streaming news. Video, print and radio journalism all rolled into one. Better pay, better hours, smarter staff – it was a brilliant fit for her. A reminder to the rest of us still working ink. I suspect she learned very little that was professionally positive from our newsroom. She came to us smart, thorough and quick. So she did depart.

So I am clinging to the iron railing of the stairs casting about for an excuse to bow out. All I want is for the day to end. To be in bed with covers pulled up and the shade drawn shut. For silence. For distance. For absence.

“Yeah. Sure Marcy. Let's just go across to the pub there to dry out.”

We slip quickly across the street into an older haunt of Patrick's, which make's me wonder if its proximity wasn't the basis for his selection of church. It would have been in keeping. I shake off the rain and we take up a corner boot, two pints soon in hand as other mourners file by and some divert in.

“It's good to see you Marcy. How's are things at Vice? It's still called that right?”

She rolls her eyes at my attempt to sound more old media than I already am.

“Well, Alex. It has been a bit of a transition. We just don't seem to have the access and the contacts that go with - - -”

She bursts out laughing, unable to echo back the mock news patter. One assumes with the new gig, no one's quite as self-important as us paper people.

“It's good. Steady, fluid, always emerging. We certainly get people talking and debating and connecting with the issues. The entry barriers just aren't there for online, which is great. I really like it. How about you? How's Julia?”

I wince at this, trying to formulate a socially acceptable response to sincerity, beauty and intelligence so professionally incarnate and earnest. It hurts a bit. That I feel less like a journalist and more like a mortician most day crosses my mind. But that's rather weepy.

That people barely read past the first three paragraphs, if our own site's web metrics hold true. But that's too petty.

That our sports and TV section somehow now runs twenty pages print, to one on culture. Too cute. That internal corporate discussions have begun to convert the whole broadsheet format into some form of free ad-supported tabloid given away at transit stops and gas stations. Too dire.

That Julia left me for a political staffer with a real future. That I have the cloying vision of the industry, government, society, civilization probably not seeing this whole plague thing through in one piece. That ---

“Pretty good. Busy though. All the interns are web-junkies. We miss you.”

“Very kind. I read your series on the government virus response. Really solid. Look, Alex, I don't know how much of a line you have into the Ministerial level after all that but I think you clearly got some people shaking their heads at the top. From what I understand, the health authorities and public safety people are getting ready to go on the offence.”

“You mean they're what? Going to start actively containing carriers? Locking down communities? Like the Asian countries?”

“No. More like forced evacuation. Like the Blitz in wartime Britain. They're going to isolate the children.”

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Leaving the bar, running Marcy back to her care with a pilfered umbrella, I am mulling over how journalists get to be pariahs in this town. We're seen as jackals, gossip hounds, tattle-tales. Gotcha journalism wall-to-wall. But the truth is a decent hack won't report even a tenth of the information they end up gathering. We jot it down in notebooks, slip into a filing cabinet, archive it on encrypted zip drive, seal it up in a wall safe. It goes down into the deep well of professional memory for some later use. But we don't report it.

A lot of it is trivia. Some of it is slander. Much of its too indecent, pointless or both to print. The majority of government news goes by the wayside as uninteresting, unusable or nonsensical. The minutiae of the system, the fine-grain of clockwork.

But a final category is what you sit on because its just too disastrous or explosive at any given moment to give voice to responsibly. Sometimes the information you trip over is pure acid and it will eat through your fingers. We older reporters have a name for the stuff that must be printed: dynamite. Curiously, maybe owing to professional taboo, we've never reached a consensus shorthand for material we cannot print. The explosive metaphor breaks down.

If I were giving a talk or class, I'd put Marcy's lead into a kind of cosmic category of story. Or quantum. As something too primal or warped for most readers to want as news. It had a cold machine logic but it was ashen grim. If it was true, and it would be very close to dangerous to try and verify, it would be calamitous to report. It could bring down the government, or even lead to violence. It was too bleak to contemplate, although it was obviously someone's job somewhere in government to do precisely that kind of thinking.

I thanked Marcy again for trusting me with her tip. As he car pulled away into the rain, I stood there with that dire hint circling in my head. I thought of Julia leaving over my disinterest in having children. My obsessive, humourless fixation on work. My terminal lack of trust. Her leaving was exactly the right decision, every bit as Marcy's had been. I had two more funerals today.

Departure after departure, loss follows loss.

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Audrey Freeman went from the world on a warm sunny autumn afternoon eight days ago at age thirty-seven, in the Intensive Care Unit of one of the capital's best hospitals, alone in a sealed bubble. She was not their youngest fatality lost to the virus, but she'd been a very strong, hopeful and vital sort. This made her succumbing all the more traumatizing for those to witness it. Even now though, institutions were hardening to these losses. Post-mortems were brief, releases to family swift and efficient. Care gave way to curtness in such places.

By contrast, walking through the foyer of the funeral home that afternoon, it was clear that the business of memorializing was enjoying a renaissance. I looked over the day's multimedia schedule and noted seven separate receptions slated for that afternoon alone. A packed house, which explained why parking took twenty minutes. Death care was in demand.

This turn of thought was how I practice a bit of self-hardening, but descending the carpeted staircase to the appointed room, confronting the self-portrait of Audrey in blown-up Polaroid, remembering her in an instant from her art class projects and mid-term cramming, the veneer of resolve peeled at the edges. I took a back row seat, counted twelve family and friends of hers in the visitation line.

All around the globe there are spread other versions of this same ritual unfolding. Old acquaintances or lovers or colleagues stumbling awkwardly over their emotions. Every week or so now new shadows seem to spring forth from where just now two or three or four stood days before. And one by one – person by person – we too become untethered.

Then, before being in any prepared for it, I am stepping the two stairs of the dais and am confronted with Audrey's face, framed in white by the casket much like the Polaroids she used to take. “That our existence itself implies guilt is proved by the fact of death,” wrote Schopenhauer. But I doubt very much he meant it was always the departed who carry guilt, and certainly the death need not be our own to prove the deeper point.

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Under any normal circumstance, stepping into the office on an off day would be a personal taboo. I have a number of reasons for that, foremost being that the newsroom of 2018 is generally a wretched, demotivating place. Envision a computer monitor blanching out a human face, forever - which sounds like an old Charlie Brooker line, before Google snapped him up too. The main pen for the staff writers at the paper was cramped and looked out over a parking lot backing onto a seedy strip joint. There was never enough paper, despite half the younger staff being allergic to the stuff. The lighting was monochromatic off-white from the low-watt, environmentally-efficient bulbs. Even non-smokers look like pack-a-day sorts, though the plague seemed to have made the habit itself a great deal more socially tolerable. And the place just reeked of a suppressed, passive hostility: inter-departmental, inter-generational, inter-personal.

Whenever the so-called Golden Age of journalism had been, I'd never seen so much as a trace of it firsthand, and all the old-timers who'd reminisced about themselves were long gone. Awful pay, endless hours, sullen conditions, mirthless support, no recognition ... it was hard to know where even to start apportioning blame for the demeaning state of print news.

So how about my personal top ten and we can move on: 1. corporate amalgamations driven by, 2. egotistical, monomaniacal executives willing to, 3. short-shrift any meaningful sliver of real investigative journalism in favour of, 4. trite, ephemeral stories with a 12-hour impact written by, 5. 'personality journalists' more interested in selling themselves, their book, their endorsement, their brand than actually practising the craft itself because that's what, 6. a shallow, hypnotized, apolitical readership online is fixated by, leaving the, 7. paying, literate individuals who are willing to pay actual cash dollars for a tangible published daily news product to dwindle into a feeble minority and who then in frustration fall back on, 8. much slicker, high end weekly magazines, 9. trade journals or 10. niche micro-published gazettes (now all the rage).

Bad enough that the industry's a desiccated corpse, but now it gets to turn its empty eye-sockets outward upon a world sputtering towards collapse. We've replaced the books and arts section with an obituary pull-out. So that's what I'm reduced to rendering now, cobbling together bits and pieces from Partrick's eulogy. I sit before my screen and my headphones drown out silence. I coax my absent editor with a text or two, teasing about a big new lead on the virus story. I dial up my previous sources. Anything to fill the three-hour gap before the day's last funeral.

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I sat alongside my insider contact once again, deciding Mr. Slate was as fitting a moniker for my notes as would apply. We hunched on the same bench, under the same awning, beneath the same ruined brick structure as during our talk two months prior. He was even more sputtering and shifty than before. A fairly exhaustive witch hunt had been loosed following my last series, based on his documents, despite their being largely innocuous and unclassified. I'd lured him out this time with the assurance I was asking for no materials or linkable details. Just pure reaction to a lead, informed theorizing, deep background. Sources like Slate have a weakness for phraseology like that, at the offer of an attentive ear to profound, expert counsel, which is routinely denied them in their actual agency of employ. It didn't keep him from gnawing nervously at his nails though.

“So I've laid out the hypothesis I have, that federal authorities are working up some sort of forced cordon of the main carriers of the virus – those being children. Can you give any insight at all as to how that might work in practice? I mean what would be involved?”

He shifted on the bench, head nodding slightly with eyes closed, apparently running the process through his administrative sub-routines and next steps.

“We'd want to break the ice first. While the logistics ramped up and while monitoring for political price and public backlash. But by the same token, most people are truly very frightened at this point. They're looking for strong government intervention to provide some reassurance. But I have to believe we'd begin with a more manageable population – say a particularly blighted urban area, one that's been hard hit.”

“Like Montreal? They've fared rather badly.”

“Exactly. And forced evacuation is quite simply not an option in this era, you must understand. It's not the 1940s, not wartime. So we'd need to achieve isolation in a zone of extant facilities and infrastructure. You cannot ship two million children off into the wilderness. Meaning then you compartmentalize them within the urban areas already rigged for monitoring, regulation and policing.”

“What do you mean?”

“We'd convert the schools. Put buffer zones around them. Bring in mobile facilities for medicine, hygiene, food preparation. Establish sleeping quarters and so forth. I'd guess something approaching seventy percent of our emergency shelters and disaster relief stations are already geared to use of public school facilities already. We'd simply ramp up atop those existing procedures and stock.”

“But the obvious question is how do you make it happen?”

“Alex, a great many families already entrust their children to this system for close to 12 hours a day as it is, without batting an eye. It's familiar. In fact, to ease discomfort with the idea of boarding you'd retain all the educational elements possible. Lessons could be conducted remotely, as could supervision to some extent, though teleconferencing and holography. Almost all grade schools have been fully wired for this. Obviously some direct adult contact would still be required but I have no doubt there are a good number of dedicated educators would volunteer for this. These people are fully exposed already, right now as we speak, to risk.”

“And parents? How are they sold on this? It would be very traumatic.”

“You're asking the wrong person. I have no children.”

“Is there any kind of precedent for any of this?”

“Every level of government has some kind of contingency powers for serious disease outbreak or natural catastrophic events. The CARV epidemic has already killed close to sixty million people.”

“Sixty? We keep reporting forty.”

“Those are CDC numbers, very conservative figures, low-ended to minimize panic and maintain some semblance of market confidence. Anyway, the precise numbers are not important. The progression is – it took six months for mortality to climb to forty but in the last month there have been twenty more worldwide. We are not doing well, particularly Europe or North America. There may be societal, even genetic aspects to vulnerability that we haven't yet honed in on. We just don't know but at this point, this scale of virulence, well its precisely why we have emergency laws.”

“So they would enforce quarantine with laws we have now?”

“The federal Emergencies Act is very non-specific. There are no listed parameters on what measures it can be used to authorize. These would come via regulations issues directly from the appropriate Ministries. My best guess would be that Cabinet would meet, approve a broad Memorandum and funding, departments would draft the necessary regulations, a major city would be selected to pilot these and a declaration of some kind would be issued with the province marking out that locale as a virus hotspot. The media and local authorities would be briefed and brought on-side, then quarantine announced as an urgent, temporary control measure. All local families with school age children would be put on a week's notice. Then the retrofitting and build-up of facilities would immediately begin, to show resolve. I'd say with the right funding and planning, that could be deployed in a major city in under a month.”

“Until the rioting started...”

“You didn't ask if any of this will work Alex. You just asked how we might go about it.”

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The last comment stuck with me as I walked back to the car.

The futility of all planning. The erosion of human intentions. Our inability to see the plainly obvious before us. We do not choose change, it chooses us; we don't shape events but survive them. There are no meaningful contingencies, only checklists of reaction.

I started the car, turning on the wipers to clear away the fallen leaves and lowered the windows to let in the surrounding scent of autumn, a dampened sweetness tinged with ice, a hint of smoke carried by the breeze. The world's embrace was surely too kind a comfort for many of us, and I have a sense her patience is exhausted.

Separation foreshadowed that natural revulsion, Julia's departure just the first opening aperture of my accelerated slide from reality. What had been previously superficial about my failings, these became sickening. Sleep was an elliptical impossibility, a clockwork rerun of nightmare, with every shout, squabble and awful silence looping endlessly. No note came in the end, no real confrontation or decision. Just departure and absence. Like a candle put out.

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The last of the rainclouds had been swept by the wind, rising as the sun set and cast the last leaves of red and yellow alight, glowing radiant against the dark revealed sky. Professor Martin Wallace was to be laid to rest at dusk in the National Memorial Cemetery. An honoured scholar, thoughtful instructor, decades of awards and lauded books on early settlement history, a sage of the country's slow, stubborn birth.

I parked the car inside the cemetery gates and joined a scattered, silent procession of mourners as we picked our way around gravestones and obelisks on the way up the hillside. I had take two of Martin's classes in J-school to round out the political science and arts requirements. History up to that point had seemed to me an abstract string of colonial dates, explorer routes, disjointed wranglings and treaties, all prefacing a modernity of economic expansion and political disunity.

Wallace tugged down that doctrinal curtain single-handed, foregrounding the experiences of real people and most of all highlighting their basic struggle. To survive, and just as crucially, find in themselves a reason to. Taken that way, the intolerable expanse of our history points to kind of future. The past is not revolution, but resolution.

That sentiment made his suicide all the more jarring. The loss of his wife to the virus, fear for his children and their children. The fulcrum of family – immediate, extended or communal – was always a theme in his study. How rural settlements endured hardship.

How simple folks confronted the colossal.

That may have been the killing blow for Martin. Knowing that was not our country anymore, where familial ties might provide safe harbour. So the dying light encircled us, a windswept collection of strangers, rumbled and raked together in memory. The priest cleared his throat and began. I shivered and scanned the faces in the gloom, was handed a memorial candle, realized there was no use even trying to light it.

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Drained and depleted, that night's climb to my flat was hateful and hurtful, every step. Barely the energy to undress in the dark, I shed coat, clothes and keys in a mound at the end of the bed and fell under covers and pillows. I waited for sleep, and cursed, am refused.

Close to midnight, I slunk catatonic to the living room and sat at my work table. I took a pen and meant to make some note to self on one good reason for continuance. The world had already ended for me, some time ago it seemed. Friends all fallen away, all loves passed and done, all inspiration erased.

Martin had made a historical perseverance seem noble, Patrick a civic endurance a virtue, Audrey humane understanding an art. But was breathing this air of aimlessness just isolation without merit? Was survival in a vacuum not just a cold self-immolation? Drawing out the lines of disaster but ghoulish habit?

But the response and saving petition was already arrayed in front of me. These notes from the day, now composed above, thoughts from the services, cues from Marcy, tips from Slate. Here was the crucial cue, the answer to oblivion’s question. For in every form of anguish, each moment of doubt, we walk through another story in need of recording. And it is some fool's doom to write it.

Even if there's not a single soul left out there by now left reading it.

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This story springs (maybe not suprisingly) from a long bout of insomnia, a re-reading of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly and Hunter S. Thompson's Generation of Swine, some reflections on the plight of the contemporary newspaper writer, and an unseemly inclination towards the consolation of pessimist philosophy.

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