The group had assembled for their third meeting of the week. They met as often as someone would have a crisis. When I say this was the third meeting of the week, let me clarify that it also happened to be the third meeting in 7 hours. I imagined another crisis emerging within 30 minutes of the end of this meeting.
To say I reluctantly attended would be understating the obvious. Every fiber of my being resisted the notion of the re-programming that needed to happen. Four years of masks, distancing, aggression and fear had rewound time. We were social cavemen.
Beady-Eyes scanned the room quickly, careful to avoid eye contact. Ironically, I held her gaze easily, watching her movement. Like a frightened chipmunk, she squeaked out her words sporadically.
"Oh. I," she swallowed emphatically, her throat bobbing like a buoy in rough seas. "Can't. Fathom." Her eyes annoyed me. I sighed loudly and looked away.
The sound of my irritation flustered her. She clamped her lips shut tightly and shook like a leaf.
Counselor Cliff slapped his clipboard against his leg sharply before regaining control of his composure. His grin was more of a grimace, and his reprimand was more of a threat. "Katrina, you have been warned. Society needs to exercise extreme patience through this time. If you cannot control your more primitive urges, you will wear the muzzle to assist in suppressing your behavior."
I adjusted myself in the chair, shrugging my shoulders in a dismissive act of rebellion.
"Shirley, would you like to continue?"
"No. I," Beady-Eyes kept her head lowered, but peeked up in my direction.
I couldn't help myself. I curled my lip into a snarl, and growled audibly.
"No!" she answered the counselor in a high-pitched yelp.
"Suppression tool requested in Assimilation Room 14, please." Counselor Cliff lifted his wrist to his mouth and spat the instructions into his sleeve.
Mission accomplished. As far as I was concerned, they should just consider me a lost cause. The rest of society had lost their social skills due to Covid, but I never had them. While the extended season of restrictions had turned others into the shrinking violets before me, I had blossomed into my ideal: self-sufficient loner. The sooner I could return to my cave, muzzle and all, the happier I would be.
My imagination was tickled to create this flash fiction after reading Suggestion #46 on @theinkwell's 50 Imagination Ticklers: What if the pandemic really ended for good, and some people forgot how to socialize? This was my interpretation of what an extreme introvert might be feeling now. Isolation might be their perfect panacea during this pandemic.