Fiction

EXCLUSIVE | Read a Paige Nick short story about twists in the Covid-19 tale

29 March 2020 - 00:00 By Paige Nick
"Turn to page 21 and you’re in a supermarket ... On page 57, you discover you’ve stepped into a fiery apocalypse."
"Turn to page 21 and you’re in a supermarket ... On page 57, you discover you’ve stepped into a fiery apocalypse."
Image: 123RF/Jozef MiÄ?ic

Paige Nick is a South African novelist, columnist and copywriter. Her published works include 'Unpresidented: A Comedy of Errors', 'Dutch Courage', 'Pens Behaving Badly' and 'A Million Miles From Normal'.

In this short story, titled 'Turn to page 173, she imagines the coronavirus pandemic unfolding as a choose-your-own-adventure story:

Maybe the coronavirus pandemic is like a choose-your-own-adventure story. And if you choose to wash your hands and self-isolate, you turn to page 173. It's a few years from now and we're dealing with a new normal. There's an unprecedented focus on health care. Those of us left are a little gentler with the planet and each other.

Or you turn to page 21 and you're in a supermarket, staring at an empty loo-roll shelf. If you want to order an 18-pack from the Dark Web, in exchange for a kidney or your eggs, turn to page 38.

If you want to start crying, turn to page 41. And if you want to start a change.org petition, turn to page 57.

You quickly flip to page 11 and you've gone back in time to just moments before a family in Wuhan, China, is about to sit down to a pangolin* dinner

On page 57, you discover you've stepped into a fiery apocalypse. If you've watched a lot of sci-fi movies and reality TV and you want to try out your survival skills, turn to page 91.

Or you quickly flip to page 11 and you've gone back in time to just moments before a family in Wuhan, China, is about to sit down to a pangolin* dinner. You burst through their door, smash their plates to the floor and get locked up for being a crazy person. But you're OK with that.

Or turn to page 3, and halfway through that page you go even further back in time. Where you spend a few years creating a massive campaign that ensures pangolins become the most revered, sacred and untouchable animals in all of China. Worshipped for their scaly exterior and love of ants.

Next, you turn to page 303, and find yourself at your futuristic virtual workspace some years from now. Reading about yet another medical breakthrough, unintentionally inspired by research initiated at the apex of the coronavirus back in 2020. Contact lenses that cure cancers, digestible data and mushrooms that ease gout and cure diabetes.

Then you're sent to page 659, where you wake up and it was all just a horrible nightmare. Or, inevitably, you make a choice that sends you back to page 1, and we start all over again.

*Disclaimer: authorities in China and elsewhere continue to patrol for illegal smuggling of pangolins. Pangolins are listed as second-class state-protected species in China. Animal rights groups continue to raise awareness over the plight of the pangolin and hold World Pangolin Day every year on the third Saturday in February.