The sunlight poked through the window. It danced into the room, shining a spotlight over the bed where Rapunzel was in a light sleep. The duvet was tangled in her limbs, her hair dragged into a messy bun, destroyed by the constant tossing and turning throughout the night. This light is the only indication of the beginning of another day. As the sun hit Rapunzel’s face, she blinked, living in a blissful momentary ignorance. She suddenly remembered where she was and her face curled up. She turned over, away from the sun and pulled the duvet over her head. Now, in her own dark little cave, she takes a few moments to calm herself. The anxiety builds in her body as her skin feels like it’s vibrating.
Breathe in. Pause. Slowly, breathe out.
Not much help. She begins to sweat in her cave, so, she whips the duvet off her and sits up. The anxiety is constant, she may as well just swallow it.
She shuffles into the kitchen and switches on the kettle. The rumbling whistle fills the silence, feeling louder because of the vast emptiness. She momentarily wonders if it will
explode but reminds herself to push the anxiety down. She can’t spend all day bogged down, again.
She sits by the window and looks at the world below. She is up in her tower, eight floors high and wonders how many days she has been stuck here. The days melt into weeks and it all becomes a blur. Her sense of time is completely lost. She can only tell time is passing because her hair has continued to grow, a brunette shadow has been growing slowly and consuming her former self.
A monster has taken over the world. It has pillaged through villages and taken so many lives. Human contact is forbidden. Rapunzel hasn’t seen another human in weeks as people fear each other, not knowing who could be possessed. It can enter the human body and kill them from the inside. It sometimes lays dormant and uses the human as transport until it finds a vulnerable host. The leaders have locked the people away in order to slow the monster down. Everyone has to wear face coverings as a way to disguise themselves from the monster. There are workers on the frontlines trying to slay the beast, with little reward. Rapunzel feels disgusted that she is upset about her own life when these people work so hard to save others. She is in awe of their strength.
She fills her time by flicking through books, getting lost in someone else’s world, completely escaping her current reality. But once she closes it, she is brought right back. Back to the four walls that box her in.
When night falls, she sits on her bed and stares. Looking at nothing. Feeling nothing and everything all at the same time. For such a quiet space, the anxiety is so loud. It bangs off the walls and rips through her like fire in her veins. It stops her in her place. Rapunzel plays music to drown it out but it doesn’t work. She is alone. She is scared.
She wonders when the world will go back to normal, but she knows it never will. The normal she was used to is no more and the future is unknown. No one knows if the monster will conquer. They just know they have to keep fighting.
She thinks of the playwrights and authors. How will they document this portion of history? Will there be children who learn of these times and are thankful that they didn’t experience them? How will they see the leaders who didn’t do enough? What if this monster will always be a part of their lives? Everyone wants normal, but what is that now?
The night fades into the next morning. Rapunzel is still sitting, still staring. What is the point in going to sleep early? The days have no structure. Stories need structure, a beginning, middle and end. That is what Rapunzel was always taught in school. How can you structure these stories when it feels like there will never be an end? They are just drifting through this horrific middle, or is this just the beginning?
Breathe in. Pause. Slowly, Breathe out.
A whole day has just passed by and nothing has happened, nothing that would be worth telling in a story or play. She will wake up tomorrow and do it all again. How long will she drift until she finally reaches a new equilibrium? Rapunzel lays back and waits for sleep. The world will spin around her, she will stay frozen in time.
Today’s story is not by me. It was written by my wonderful, brave daughter Tingirl, who moved to London just in February and spent eleven weeks of the lockdown on her own in an eighth-floor apartment in Croydon. This story was published yesterday on pendemic.ie,, a website set up to act as a journal for this time, publishing poetry, short stories and non-fiction about the coronavirus.