Why, no, I’m not going through all my settings and seeing how they’d reacting to a pandemic. I mean, well, maybe a little. Any you want to see?
Winter, Autumn, Summer, and Spring.
“6 p.m. Eastern,” Summer was saying as Autumn logged on. “You were early, Winter, of course. Spring’s late, of course.”
“She is on the West Coast,” Winter retorted mildly. He was wearing his work shirt and tie sans jacket and he’d loosened the tie. The whole image looked very professional against his home bookshelf, if you ignored the fact that he was holding Tortuga, his half-grown cat, while Myrrh, his ferret, climbed the bookshelf and Dehradun, his kitten, napped on the laptop keyboard.
Autumn giggled, even though it might not be kind. Of all of them, she’d have expected Summer to be the pet owner, not Winter.
“She is,” Autumn agreed, “and being on time would disagree with her. How are you both?”
Summer gave her a double thumbs up. “It’s a good thing I live with a bunch of people, because I would go stark, raving mad if I had to go through this alone. How about you? Going stark, raving, mad?”
“Thinking about making the trip to get The Van, but… doing okay,” Autumn admitted. “Well, sort of.”
She had gotten a very good deal on an Air B&B under the theory that she was there, the house was there, and tourism had just shut down nearly completely for the lockdown. Also, she’d agreed to do a series of fantasy portraits of the house and its owners while she was there, in addition to her other work, which had lowered the rent further.
She rolled her shoulders and looked around the little cabin. It was everything she needed… Except it was…
“Doing fine,” her sister guessed, “except that your whole life and your whole livelihood is based on moving around. What are you doing about your art sales?”
She knew better than to turn it back on her sister; she knew what Summer was doing for money, as it was. “Selling art online, and I’m talking to a local place here about doing a mural, since I seem to be… here, for a while. And giving away art online. And, mmm. Drawing, a lot.” She had three easels set up in the tiny cabin, including one on the porch, and she spent half of her day in a face mask down in the town, sketching or painting the scenery. “Painting, a lot.” She huffed. “Staying 8 feet away from everyone.”
“I hear you.” Summer winced sympathetically. “This, this, big sister, this is why you need a boyfriend.”
“I – well.” She rolled her shoulders again. “Well-“
“Am I late?” Spring popped in suddenly. “Hey, Autumn, Summer, Winter. Hey. Sorry, I am late. But I got arrested.” She made a face. Her face mask was hanging around her neck and her hair was tangled. “Well, okay, I got detained.”
“Were you breaking isolation again?” Winter sighed, the affectionate sigh that was so often aimed at Spring. “Do I need to contact a lawyer again?”
He’d had one on retainer for Spring for a while, but Spring was, well, Spring. Chaos embodied, like the tattoo visible clearly across her sternum and the same sigil (but crooked and off-center) on her mask. If she had a lawyer on retainer, she’d find a way to make that lawyer go away, and she had. Over and over again.
“No, no, I worked it out, not even a ticket. I wasn’t breaking isolation, I was, mmm. Bending it.” She pulled her mask over her grin. “See, I found all the regulations and I was following them and, big brother, and big sisters, I see you glaring at me, too, I was staying six feet away from everyone, wearing a filtered mask, and using that little Strand-working you showed me to clear away any disease in the air or on surfaces. I’m not a monster.”
Winter snorted. “Of course you’re not. We raised you better than that. So what did you do?”
Spring rolled her eyes on the screen. “You have no sense of fun, big brother. You have no sense of excitement.”
“Spring.” Autumn tutted lightly at her little sister. “Come on, share the story.”
“So I wasn’t breaking the rules, but the rules have, you know, they have wiggle room and then they have, you know, errors.”
She was nervous. Autumn stifled a sigh. Spring was so confident but sometimes if it sounded like her big siblings were ganging up on her, she’d get jittery. She’d stop making sense, if they didn’t handle this carefully, and Summer wasn’t always good at handling things carefully when it came to the baby of the family.
“Yeah, I know,” she put in, before Winter or Summer could make things a mess. “There’s the spot where they meant to leave wiggle room and then there’s, oh, murder is okay if you do it on Leap Day sort of things – I ran into that once,” she added. “I’ll tell you about that place some day. Not today, though. Today’s your storytime, Spring.”
“Ooh, I get a storytime? I’m all grown up now.” Spring made a face. Autumn relaxed. That was a normal Spring reaction. “So there was one place in town that wasn’t covered by any of their regulations. Gatherings weren’t allowed in public places and they were strongly suggested against in churches and clubs and so on, you know. And private houses. But my friend Rea, they own a park. Well, they don’t own it all, it’s a co-op, but it’s not public land. And it’s technically a garden, like the signs and everything else. So I went there with nine other people, I mean, eight and Rea, and we were having a concert. Everyone masked, and I ran the spiral so hard there that the disease couldn’t have hooked on to anyone if it tried, everyone 2 meters apart. We were doing everything right, you know. Except that we were, sort of, out where people could see us.”
Even with her mask still on, you could tell she was grinning. Autumn grinned back at her; Spring’s smile was like that, contagious. It made you want to laugh, to dance.
She glanced at their other siblings; Winter was frowning slightly and Summer was beginning to smile.
“And the police came?” Winter asked. “Someone called them?”
“I think they were driving by. No masks, tsk.” Spring shook her head. “It was pretty ridiculous. They wanted to issue us all tickets but when Rea pointed out we were on private property, then they got all bent out of shape, and then I got arrested. Well, no, what’s the technical word. Detained. It was all very not good for the whole social distancing.” She tutted. “Now I’m going to have to spend seven days away from everyone, and you know how well I do with something like that.”
“This would be a good time for a boyfriend,” Summer put in helpfully. “Or a girlfriend. Or both. I mean, for all of you.”
Winter tutted. “Spring, send me what you remember of this police department. I may be bored enough to arrange for a lawsuit.”
“Oh, Winter.” Spring huffed. “I know you’re bored, but if you do that, well, then I won’t have any fun because you’re going to spook them off. If they know I’m someone who sues, then they won’t treat me like just any person.”
“Well…” Winter hesitated. “Well, it does take some time to properly put together a lawsuit. Perhaps we could make certain this went through after the lockdown is lifted. Then you can have all the fun you want – safely, of course.”
“Of course.” Spring pulled her mask off to stick her tongue out at Winter. “You’re the best, big brother. So! What’s everyone else doing? Sitting around being miserably bored? Wandering around braiding the Strands into perfect order? Charming everyone healthy?”
Autumn started giggling. “You know us so well.”‘
“We’re all a bit easy to predict,” she admitted, chuckling. “I mean, I’ve been thinking, but I think it would, um. I think it would break the world.”
“What, you thinking?” Spring quipped.
“No, well, not really, no. No, more like, the disease spreads by connection. It spreads specifically by physical contact, or at least physical close distance. Right?”
“Right,” Winter began slowly. “That’s what the strand-spiral we’ve been working on works off of. It stops the virus’ connection without affecting human connection. But viruses are harder to work with than people. Their Strands are something only a few people work with. So it’s an aid, but it’s not completely prophylactic. “
“Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking about the physical connections. About the connection specifically that infecting someone else makes.” She shook her head. “But we’re having so much problem with connection – not we, the Roundtree family, we people, the world, that it seems like doing something to mess with the infection connection might, well.” She ducked her head. “Break the world.”
Winter was silent for a moment. Autumn looked at her brother on the screen. Summer looked like she was doing the same. Spring was holding still, nervous again.
“I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the connection of infection,” Winter admitted slowly. “That’s a very good point, Spring.”
“But,” Summer put in quietly, “the physical connection. People are having a hard time, being alone. People are not doing well with it already. They have trouble holding on to connections. She’s right. The physical connection and the infection connection, they’re linked…”
“It’ll take some study,” Winter admitted slowly. “Some, ah. Fast study.” He made a face. “This whole situation requires things moving much too fast for my tastes. It’s chaotic.”
“Well.” Spring smiled brightly. “Well, I guess I’d better go chaos up some scientists. And Autumn-” her voice was suddenly soft. “Autumn, sis. Maybe you ought to go study the way that physical connection works? Just a little, ah, hands-on empirical study? Surely, wherever you’re camped out, there’s got to be some handsome men, someone you can, mm, study?”
Autumn snorted and didn’t mention the drawings in her sketchbook. “Sounds like a good way to study infection.”
“Well.” Summer leaned forward until her hair was touching the camera. “We need that, too, right?”Want more?