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“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

That is taken from the opening lines of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. If you don’t know the story, it’s a classic Science Fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, and was first serialised in 1897 by Pearson’s Magazine in the UK.  Cosmopolitan magazine serialised it in the US. The novel’s first appearance as a complete work was in hardcover in 1898.

I tell you these things because in the story, the Martian invaders are finally vanquished not by an army or ray-gun wielding heroes, but by the smallest microbes on our planet. In much the same way the microbes in Wells’ book is the hero, it’s a virus that’s the villain in our own story. A story that is unfolding before our very eyes in real time.

In Italy the Coronavirus has killed more people than in any other country, after deaths there rose by 427 in a day. The stock markets around the world are crashing and leaders of powerful nations are having their ineptitude and downright stupidity exposed for all to see. Meanwhile, the world seems to be in lock-down.

In Jordan, my step-daughter and her family live in an apartment in Amman. They are teachers and their children go to the same school they teach in. The school was closed, as were all schools closed, last week. Now the government has imposed a curfew that starts today at 7am. And I don’t mean a curfew where your restrictions are curtailed for so many hours a day. This curfew is meant to stop ALL movement. Nobody is allowed out in public, at ANY time, night or day. How that will pan out when the food runs out, nobody seems to know.

Here in Cyprus, my wife and I have self-isolated all this week and will be doing so for the foreseeable future. We ventured out to the shops on Wednesday, and it was fine. We were going to only go out twice a week for food shopping, but have now decided once a week is enough, so today we see what’s going on in the village. But not all of us are that responsible and the Cyprus Health Minister warned yesterday that unless citizens and residents start to take this crisis seriously, they will impose restrictions on movement. Unfortunately, the rule of law in Cyprus tends to be looked at as a guideline, not an absolute. That general laissez-faire attitude may well change soon, when people start to die and the police arrest people for not following government orders.

All this is happening to a backdrop of huge numbers of infections, many people getting sick, and some poor souls dying. Heartache and fear lives among us and this looks set to continue for some time.

Sometimes reality jumps up and slaps us in the face. It’s a wake-up call to us all. We have very little control in our lives when nature decides to enforce a cull on humanity. It’s the little things in life that now seem to matter more than ever before. And it’s the little things in life that are deciding who lives and who dies.

Good look, world. I think we’re going to need it.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2020

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