Once more I find that I'll be checking some research when I come round to editing this. Right now I'm struggling with SAD. Where I was on schedule two days ago I'm now dropping behind because I'm self-medicating on World of Warcraft which is the only thing that'll get me out of bed at the moment. Maybe I'll get a chunk done later today.
I got to Gatwick airport for our flight to Jersey with plenty of time, despite my luggage (one carry on and one booked suitcase, plus several pockets full of gadgets) weighing a ton. Judith was waiting for me through security sipping an over priced coffee.
Our flight was due to leave on time so we had time for a breakfast, something light for me while Judith tucked into a plate piled with bacon, sausage and eggs. With more coffee.
The was a joke once upon a time that the safest flight would have an autopilot, a dog and a pilot on the flight deck. The autopilot would fly the plane, the pilot would feed the dog and the dog would bite anyone who tried to turn the autopilot off. It was no longer a joke. Too many planes had crashed when one of the pilots had started showing symptoms of CLBD-7, either the hallucinations or the paranoia. So the new policy for all airlines was three pilots and one autopilot. The autopilot would fly the plane and it would require codes from at least two of the three humans in order to be turned off.
Crashes were now at an all time low.
The few times I’d flown were in the big commercial jetliners, so the little propellor plane that would fly us out to Jersey made me a little nervous, there is something strange about sitting in your seat at the back of the plane, yet being able to see all the way down to the door of the flight deck.
I think that Judith noticed my nervousness and she just grinned and me and told me that we’d no doubt be flying in smaller, and far more rickety planes than this. All I could think of was the comedy films where the hero was flown over mountainous terrain in a plane held together with bailing wire and flown by a crazed lunatic. It didn’t make me feel any better.
The flight was through beautiful weather, looking down and the ground, the cars, the towns, the fields, it all seemed so peaceful – as if there were nothing wrong with the world.
We soon landed at Jersey after Judith took advantage of the duty free to buy a huge bottle of vodka.
The sun was shining and the skies were blue as we cleared customs, it was a scene spoilt by the remnants of the machine gun outposts pointing at the doors of the airport. It was the reason for those that I was here to talk to Ben Slade, who was a Jersey Senator during the early years of the outbreak.
We caught a taxi to his townhouse at St. Heliers.
“We were worried”, he told me after pleasantries were made and tea was served, “We had heard reports of an unusual disease, the same stories we all heard, of people suddenly going crazy, of being overcome with mental problems, of violence and terror. You have got to remember that no-one knew what was happening in those days. We didn’t know that the incubation period was so long. After all we’d just got over the second wave of Swine ‘flu, isolation had worked for us there.”
He was right, in the second wave of Swine ‘flu, Jersey had implemented strict quarantine policies – thermal imaging at airports and docks, reduced internal travel, mandatory health checks for people in certain professions. This had limited the spread of disease in Jersey to minimal levels.
“We thought that we could do the same with this new disease. After all, we’d barely wound down the Swine ‘flu systems so it would be a minimal matter to bring them back into effect. Of course, then we’d had the airport attack.”
“I read the reports after the attack, they said that we were just unlucky, that a family with a predisposition to the disease had all manifested symptoms on the same flight from Russia. I can only imagine what it must have been like, three people running through the terminals, attacking people, biting them. You may ask why our security didn’t shoot them, but can you imagine shooting an eight year old girl just because she is biting people?”
“We weren’t sure that it was the disease at first, but the newspapers got a hold of the story and it was on the front page for several days. That caused panic and the public demanded that we do something. So we got more strict. Tests on people before they could leave the airport. Of course that took time, especially because we didn’t know what we were looking for.”
I interrupted him, “What happened to the people who were bitten?”
“Oh, they were sent to a quarantine camp. Well, the Jersey people were, those bitten who came from other countries were denied entry and sent back to where they had come from. Possibly not a wise idea in retrospect but the officials at the airport were scared, they acted without understanding what had just happened. I think they had seen too many zombie movies”.
“More and more people were being turned away, mostly those with high body temperatures – we didn’t know that this way of screening was useless, and with the frenzy whipped up by the papers about these ‘zombies’, we were forced to do something”.
“And so we closed the ports and the airports to non-commercial traffic.”
“No private citizen would be allowed onto the island, only those with a valid commercial reason, and they would largely be restricted to the ports and terminals. No-one would be allowed to come onto the island to stay. We had been lucky after all, the only cases of CLBD-7 that we had were from those bitten at the airport. There were no cases of infection within Jersey proper”.
“But there were attempts to enter the island, after all, we were famously ‘infection free’, us and Madagascar at least. So people fleeing from France and the UK tried to breach our borders. They would sneak aboard the mail planes, or aboard the container ships brining us supplies. After one or two near misses where someone managed to breach the cordon we put up the machine gun posts.”
“Understand that we didn’t want to do that, we didn’t want to end up shooting people who were just trying to be safe, but you have to remember that we were all scared in those days, we thought that Clubbed was going to end the world, that we’d all be dead, or worse, within ten years. We wanted to to be safe long enough to give the scientists a chance to find a cure.”
“But that day never came. Instead, despite our paranoia, we started to get cases of infection within our borders. We now know that this is because the incubation period was so long, that the infected were already living here before the first symptoms started showing up on the world stage, but that we’d been lucky that in our cases the incubation was very long. I suppose it’s just because we have less people here to be infected.”
“I still remember when the WHO declared Jersey as ‘infected’, all our precautions had been for nothing, the people shot while running for the fences were killed for nothing. The quarantine camps were a waste of time and the endless hours that I and my fellow senators spent trying to protect the people of this island was for nothing”.
I asked him why he stepped down from being a senator.
“You might think that it’s because I was ashamed of what I’d done, the people who we’d killed in an attempt to save ourselves. But it wasn’t, it was much simpler than that – my wife was showing signs of infection and I didn’t want her to go through it on her own, with me away from home for long hours at the States building. So I shucked my duty to the island for the duty of caring for my wife”.