Isolation blues

It had been a couple of weeks since Martiño had been trapped inside his house, he sat on his cold laminated kitchen floor where he had kept guard for the last 2 days in an upward position that faced the front door so he was able to make sure no one entered the house. The world around him had gone mad, everyone and everything was at risk in Spain, 15,000 people had died. The government was out to get him and many others had fallen victim to these terrible events. Martiño couldn’t trust anyone so to protect himself he had booby-trapped the house and destroyed his phone as he believed that the government was tracking his phone calls. He spent a lot of time monitoring who had been passing his house and logged it all down in his notebook, he believed this would prevent him from disappearing. 

Suddenly came a knock on the door, the enemy had arrived Martiño thought, he shifted along the kitchen floor to get out of sight, if he wasn’t seen he might be safe.

“Hello, Martiño? 

How do they know my name? They must have done their research, Martiño thought. Martiño tried not to move, he stayed silent, so much so he limited the number of times he took a breath, the fewer times he breathed the less likely anyone would hear him he thought as he very slowly exhaled. His plan backfired when he heard the intruder putting a key into the keyhole. How the hell did they get a key cut to my house? Martiño started to panic, scrabbling around pointlessly trying to come up with some kind of plan, he jumped to his feet realising he could no longer stay sitting on the kitchen floor.

“Martiño Are you in there?”

They heard him, with no plan he decided he had to get off the ground floor. He ran up the stairs 2 steps at a time and ran into the bathroom where he locked the door behind him.

“I am coming in” The front door began to open followed by a loud bang and then silence for a few seconds.

“What the fuck is wrong with you Martiño. You could have really hurt me.” Pleased with himself Martiño realised that they must have found the booby trap he had made! 

Suddenly Martiño heard footsteps coming up the stairs, whoever it was they were following him. He looked for something to protect himself. After a few seconds he decided to unscrew the showerhead, he believed it would make a good bat. As he heard the slow footsteps get ever closer Martiño stood by the door with the showerhead in both hands hovering over his shoulder like he was about to play a game of Rounders.

“What the hell is your problem” the stranger yelled. Martiño smiled amusingly knowing that they must have found his other trap. He stood patiently practising his swing with the showerhead, it wasn’t long before he thought he would have to get pretty close to the intruder to cause any damage with the showerhead. He thought about the cricket bat in his bedroom and debated whether it could possibly protect him better. He quickly unlocked the door and ran across the hall throwing the showerhead in the direction of the intruder who was getting closer to him. He heard a tumble but didn’t look back he ran into the room slamming and locking the door behind him.

Martiño picked up his cricket bat ready to fight. As he stood waiting with the bat he started to tremble, he felt weak all this panicking about being watched and waiting for an attack had taken a toll on him so that he was struggling to hold the cricket bat. Martiño listened carefully, he couldn’t hear anything on the stairs, perhaps he had scared the intruder off?

Martiño’s questions were answered when he heard a yell, “What the hell is your problem”, followed by footsteps on the stairs.

“Come on you can’t hide forever, I know you are in there” the intruder yelled and commenced banging on the bedroom door. Martiño was ready with his cricket bat in hand, he was ready for a fight. 

“I can hear you are in there! Don’t make me knock down the door”. What would happen if it wasn’t a fair fight? What if the intruder had a gun? he worried, Martiño realised that he couldn’t win a fight against a gun, what the hell is he going to do? Martiño felt trapped. 

Suddenly a crashing sound came from the door, Martiño started to panic, he had nowhere to turn. He looked around to see what he could use to defend himself against a gun. As he looked around he figured that his only chance was to climb outside onto the roof, no one would shoot him when he was outside. Then came another smash at the door, he realised the window was his only chance of survival. He opened the window and carefully pulled himself onto the window ledge. He wasn’t tall enough, he was a few centimetres too small from reaching the roof so he shifted himself along the window ledge towards the drainpipe using the cracks in the walls above the window to keep his balance. To get to the roof he wedged his foot in between the drainpipe and the wall, it was enough to give himself a leg up so he could reach the roof. As he pulled himself onto the roof he could see a couple of the neighbours were starting to gather below him, they were shouting but Martiño couldn’t hear anything they were saying. Martiño sighed with relief as he sat down on the roof, he was safe, out of reach, with his neighbours watching him, no one would do him any harm up there!

*

It was a beautiful sunny day in Ribadeo, the sun was beating down on Sofia as she walked along the harbour on her way to her boyfriend’s house. The world was starting to get back to normal and Sofia felt great looking out over the harbour seeing the reflection of green hills and high rocky mountains that sat over on the other of the side of the estuary. She had not seen her boyfriend Martiño for almost a whole month and she was worried about him. When the virus hit Europe, Spain was one of the worst-hit countries and many had died. The world panicked and millions died all around the world, everyone went into lockdown, no one left the house, only vital workers went to work, the country closed and it felt like an apocalyptic movie. Everyone locked themselves away and we all missed friends, family and loved ones and learned to appreciate them the way that we always should have. It was a rollercoaster of emotions you laughed at how ridiculous the world was and gained a dark sense of humour about the whole situation, you cried at the thought of the possibility of your loved ones being in danger, you smiled thinking about not having to work and how much spare time you would have, you sulked when you realise the television was boring and just full of bad news that you didn’t want to listen to, you start thinking about the bigger picture and you started to appreciate life, because for a while everyone had started to forget how good it was to feel alive. This pandemic was hardly a surprising event, Bill Gates talked about an outbreak and how unprepared the world was 5 years beforehand, these kinds of things happen every century or so, we get a plague that kills millions and causes destruction on the world. This time we are luckier in a way than during past incidents, we have the internet and can watch televisions to keep us all sane and we have advanced science to keep us safe, we were living through one of the best times to have such a virus hit the world, they weren’t so lucky in the past. It was the first time in Sofia’s adult life where she didn’t have a secure income coming in and it made her feel like she wasn’t safe and she was uncertain of her future, she spent a lot of time in isolation thinking about her insecure life and what she could do about it. The experience had changed everyone’s way of looking at themselves as individuals, which could only be seen as a good thing as we need something good to happen in this fucked up world that we live in, everything needed a bit of good shake up so the world could start to change.

Martiño had been convinced that he had caught the virus as he had a cough and a runny nose, both symptoms of the virus, so to be safe he went into self-isolation away from everyone else as he didn’t want to pass it on. Sofia and Martiño phoned and texted each other every day, now and again she would drop boxes of food at his door helping him so he didn’t have to leave the house. Gradually the phone calls stopped and his messages were getting a little crazy. 

“Morning Sofia, Can’t phone you today as I suspect people are listening to our phone calls, WhatsApp messages are the safest way forward. I have kicked the cat out of the house and advise you to do the same as I believe that cats are spies for the government! Stay safe, love Martiño”

After a week Martiño went silent, Sofia had tried phoning and messaging however it would seem Martiño’s phone had been turned off. Sofia quite often went to the house to check on him but he never seemed to be in, today she has brought a spare key with her to his house, he must have got better by now she thought as she walked up the drive to his house.

Sofia rang on the bell but there was no sign Martiño. She looked through the windows to check if anyone was in, all the lights were off, there was no sign of any movement, in fact, it would seem like there had been no one living there for months the living room looked like an image from a horror movie, it had turned into a dark, cold room with no character there was dust-covered seating and cobweb filled bookcases. It seemed like there was no one in the house but she knocked on the door one final time just in case. No answer, so she started to put the keys into the door and then she heard movement. 

“Martiño? Are you in there?” She yelled through the door, but she heard no reply.

The sounds of movement turned into more of a scrabbling and banging. “I am coming in” She yelled as she turned the key and she heard someone sprinting up the stairs. What the hell is going on she wondered. As she opened the door in the corner of her eye something seemed to be moving, she leapt backwards as a bucket fell from above. A thick black liquid splat up the walls, over the carpet and on the door. Sofia got closer to further inspect and it would seem like it was a thick oil, from the way steam came from the carpet she presumed it was boiling hot oil. Martiño had aimed to harm someone, she just hoped he hadn’t intended it to be for her. 

“What the fuck is wrong with you Martiño. You could have really hurt me.”   

Sofia, still a little shocked from the oil cautiously started to walk up the stairs, she had no idea what was going to happen, no idea what was going to leap out at her as she was starting to walk up the stairs. Very slowly and very carefully she placed her foot on the first stair, she looked around and glanced up the staircase, she couldn’t see the top of the stairs yet because the stairs turned and weaved upwards. She wondered if Martiño was standing at the top waiting for her and if he even knew it was her. She slowly made her way up the stairs, she gently placed her foot on the next stair, again nothing jumped out at her so tried another step. Sofia eventually dropped her guard a little, still slightly cautious she started walking up the stairs a little more confidently. She followed the stairs up and around a corner but stopped herself quickly as the  step in front of her had been covered in nails, each one carefully placed standing upwards all along the step. If she had stood on that it would have gone straight through her foot. He is out to kill me, Sofia thought bitterly.

“What the hell is your problem” she yelled hoping he could hear her.    

As she walked around the last corner she could finally see the top of the stairs, still no sign of Martiño. She looked around and could see no more booby traps, she was starting to feel like one of the burglars from the Home Alone movies. She continued walking up the stairs when she heard the bathroom door swing open and before she knew what was happening an object smashed her in the face, she fell backwards down the stairs and smashed the back of her head against one of the steps causing her to blackout for a few seconds. When she came round she started to secure herself so she didn’t fall any further down the stairs. Her head was banging, once she started getting onto her feet she noticed that the object that smacked her in the face was a showerhead. Why the hell was Martiño throwing a showerhead at me? she wondered

“What the hell is your problem”. She yelled as loud as she could

Sofia decided at this point that crawling up the remaining stairs was her only option, she felt that being hit by another potential trap might cause hospitalization. She was walking through a minefield set by her boyfriend, she only wanted to check if he was alright and it seemed completely unreasonable and it made her feel so angry. She knocked on the door as hard as she could,  just so Martiño knew she was angry.

“Come on you can’t hide forever, I know you are in there” She yelled still banging on the door, she could hear movement in the bedroom.

“I can hear you are in there! Don’t make me knock down the door” everything suddenly went silent in the room. 

Sofia had enough, her head was bouncing from the impact and Martiño was obviously not going to come out, she had no choice but to knock the door down. With all her rage she lifted her leg up and kicked out with all her strength. The door didn’t break open after the first kick but she felt it was a great stress relief. Sofia proceeded to kick the door with all her might as it was making her feel better. After her sixth kick, the hinges on the door gave in and the door fell giving her a sense of accomplishment. As soon as Sofia smashed the door open she was hit with a nasty smell, a combination of body odour and a musty greasy odour the same kind of smell you would find in an old peoples home which Sofia had always guessed was the smell of death. She started to think that Martiño must have spent most of his time in his room during his isolation. She looked around but  there was no sign of Martiño, considering the smell, she was rather surprised to find everything quite tidy. She felt a breeze coming into the room and saw the window was wide open, her heart started to hurt a little and she began to panic as she thought to believe that Martiño must have jumped out of the window.

Sofia ran to the window and looked down, no sign of Martiño at the front of the house, only a gathering of neighbours looking up. Sofia looked up to where all the neighbours were pointing and staring. Martiño was standing on the edge of the roof looking down. Sofia was shocked that Martiño looked so thin, he looked about six stone lighter, dark rings under his eyes like he hadn’t slept in months and he looked absolutely terrified. Sofia’s heart skipped a beat as Martiño stood on the roof edge deep in thought he looked like he was considering whether to jump.

“Don’t do it” she yelled “Come down, no one will hurt you” She started to wonder if he even recognised that it was her shouting. 

“It’s me Sofia, please come down, for me”. He immediately heard her name and recognised the voice that had come with it, he looked over and gazed at Sofia and the look of relief spread over his face. He smiled and sat back down on the roof, he brought his knees up to his face and began to cry. 

It must have been a hard time, Martiño who had suffered from anxiety and depression for many years. Depression and anxiety is a strange thing, everyone talks about when it hurts, when you cry, when you break down and when you want to hurt yourself. No one talks about when you can’t get out of bed, you just lie there not wanting to do anything wondering what you can do to make it go away so you just wait for things to end and it is just agonizing. You feel bad, you feel like you’re letting people down, you feel like everyone is against you, paranoid about the way people feel about you constantly feeling like you’re being judged. Martiño must have got to a point where his anxiety had caused him to become paranoid, creating stories in his head, he had been alone for so long he thought someone was out to get him.

One of the neighbours brought a ladder and helped Sofia talk Martiño down off the roof. Martiño and Sofia went back into the house and sat on the dusty sofa finally together and reunited after such a long time apart. They didn’t speak, they just held each other and remembered happier times until Martiño fell asleep.

They got a knock on the front door, Sofia answered and was greeted by the police. They were concerned that there had been a suicide attempt, Sofia tried to tell them everything was ok now but the police weren’t interested, pushing her to the side they stormed into the house. They woke Martiño by pulling him to his feet. Martiño didn’t kick up a fuss he stayed silent and put his head down trying to hide his sad expression as the police marched him out of the door. They passed Sofia a card on their way out with all the details of the mental health clinic that they were taking him to. She tried but couldn’t prevent them from taking Martiño. At least he would be able to get the help he needed, she thought as she tried to reassure herself that everything would get back to normal soon as she watched the police van take Martiño away.

Stay Safe, Stay Sane

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