Quarantine Gothic

Quarantine Gothic

You’re in your car, driving because you have to or want to or… you know, you can’t quite remember why you left your home. The time is just brushing past midnight, and the night is cool. It’s early 2020, but you’ve forgotten what month. Is it too cold for the time? You can’t quite remember.

The streets are empty. The yellow light from the lampposts hits against the asphalt and reflects back at you. You try not to stare. There are lights on in the houses on the side streets; the lights are on in the stores on the boulevard too, but you know no one is in them. The lights are on for other reasons.

You turn the radio on. “Toxic” by Britney Spears is playing. 

The light in front of you turns red. You stop, wait, stare at what you can make out of the dark horizon. A car pulls up next to you. Your gloved hands tighten on the steering wheel instinctively. You turn to look out your window at the car. The windows are tinted. You look away.

The light turns green. You press your foot on the gas pedal lightly and continue on your way. In your rear view mirror, you can’t see the car.

A flickering light catches your attention. You look to your right. A gas station. You pull into the lot. A big semi is parked near the back of the gas station. There are two cars parked in the lot, one at a pump and one next to the semi. You pull up to a pump, number 13. You turn off your car and step out, walking around the back of your car to the pump. You follow the prompts on the machine and start pumping the gas. A commercial blares out at you, preaching about “uncertain times.”

You see someone inside the store, standing behind the register. You can see the car parked at the pump has the fuel dispenser still in the tank. You don’t know where the driver is. 

You stop pumping gas. You get back in your car and start it. Britney Spears is still playing. Fleetingly, you remember why you came out. You pull out of the gas station, turning back onto the main road. 

You frown. You can’t remember why you came out. You make a u-turn. 

You drive slow. You’re in no rush, despite the time. Despite being on the same road, the stores you pass look different than the ones you saw before you stopped. 

You pull into a parking lot as a shortcut to get home quicker. There’s a car parked to your left, the hood propped open. You see no one nearby. Something in you tells you to stop. You know better.

You turn right and then turn left. You park in front of your home. Britney Spears is still playing. You turn off your car.

You step inside your home, toeing off your shoes. You peel off the latex gloves, pulling at the fingers first before hooking your thumb under the wrist and pulling the glove off so it remains inside out. 

A smell wafts from the kitchen. Something is baking in the oven. You look up and see your housemate sitting on the couch, staring at the tv. The channel is tuned in to a cooking show. 

You can’t remember why you left.