This is the first in a series of journal entries made by the main character in Sugar Scars, written during the weeks just before the events in the novel.
You see a lot of videos on YouTube or Facebook that are supposed to make you outraged or horrified or scared. But after a while you just get numb to them. I’ve seen the aftermath of terrorist bombings in the Middle East, children starving in Africa, riots over some injustice here in the US. More dead bodies than I could count. (Well, that’s not true. I count everything. I can’t help it.)
But this video got to me.
A whole town in China. Almost every single person dead. The news reports initially said 10,000 people, but that was obviously a rounded number. I don’t like my numbers rounded, so I did a little research and found the exact count: 9,847.
They had no idea what caused it, so people from the government were walking around in those body covering outfits you see in the movies that almost look like space suits. It wasn’t the number of dead that got to me. Numerically there have been worse tragedies. It was the number of survivors.
A teenage girl, like me. Someone in a space suit interviewed her and she said that people just started dying. She ran home to be with her family and found them already dead. She sat down on the floor and waited for whatever it was to claim her. It never affected her and eventually, after finding no one else alive, she used a phone in a neighbor’s house to call relatives in another town.
Of course China isn’t saying anything. They’re not big on sharing information. The video was leaked by someone who has probably been dealt with.
The current popular theory on the internet is a gas leak from a natural underground chamber. People say the girl happened to be at the high point in the town when it occurred, so the gas didn’t reach her. It suffocated everyone and then dissipated. The town is in a valley in the mountains, so that might explain the underground chamber and how the gas could be trapped for long enough to kill everyone. But that explanation doesn’t seem right. The bodies looked like they’ve already began to decay. Decomposition shouldn’t be noticeable yet, especially in the cold of that altitude.
Everyone is lamenting the girl’s situation. How she had lost everything and had been left utterly alone. They all feel so sorry for her. But here’s the horrible thing:
I envy her.
Those moments of being totally alone. If I were her, I probably would have waited much longer to call anyone. I have so often longed to just be away from everyone. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want everyone dead. I just don’t need people that much. I’m perfectly happy by myself. I’m not like everyone else. Being around people drains me.
I guess it’s not completely fair to say that I don’t need other people. I need the civilization they provide. And really just one very specific product of that civilization: insulin. A type 1 diabetic like me wouldn’t live very long without it.
If I could just stay in my little house and have it delivered to my door and not see another living soul, I could be content. But the insulin (and the house and the electricity) costs money, so I have to go to my glorious job at the 7-Eleven.
While there I’ll let the numbers distract me. Totaling the prices. I figure it out all in my head even though the register calculates it for me. It’s wrong a lot of the time anyway because someone hasn’t entered a number right or marked an item on sale. I keep track of every number in the store. The manager gave up trying to argue with me after the hundredth (actually the eight-seventh) time I proved the computer wrong.
That will distract me from thinking about that town in China and the girl left all alone. It’s the big topic on the internet for now. Until something more interesting comes along.
Tragedies happen every day. It’s not the end of the world.