Quarantine ending again.

Our second quarantine is ended more early than we plan. Nobody uses the isolation rules anymore, there is no point to pretend we keep them. We have no time or energy to dig the graves now, and no plastic to carry the dead to them. We wrap them in sheets, but some have already too much decomposed. We bring the remains of our friends to the stinking meadow where we once lay in the sun to read and talk and kiss, and we throw them onto the bodies of our other friends, and we run from that place, coughing and puking, and wash in muddy water from the lake. I think when we finish cleaning the rooms, there will be little detergent left for washing ourselves. There will be more death – not just from the Flu, but other diseases.

Our immunity is weak because we have little food. Li is sick, and the medical team has much work to do. We all fear another raid, but those who refused the quarantine went outside and they say the army camp is worse than us. We outnumber them now. The vaccination did not work – many who had taken it died of the blood flu after the fighting. Now, we think, the soldiers have no more anti-virals, and they are all infected. There will be no backup for them, no new orders. There is no command, no government, no CCP outside the campus. The Party try to keep order in the meetings, but their authority is gone. So is the Quarantine Movement. We must start from the beginning, with nothing. I try to start a new forum app. It is developed by the student occupations in Greece. You can set a time to discuss a topic, and when the time limit is reached, the conversation is frozen, the five posts with the most “up” votes becomes a poll and everybody can vote on a decision. I post about this three times, and I think there is a fault on the forum, because my post is deleted after five minutes each time. Then the forum has a power cut. Then Party members start a thread to say the forum is not reliable, and we cannot use it for decisions.

Many do not want to stay. It is not a safe place now, there are gangs in the campus who steal from other students, and there are gangs outside who will kill us and take the campus if they do not die of flu first. Li says it is because we lose Zhen. Even though he could do nothing anymore, he was a symbol that kept us together. Jian says I should stand for the new leader, that I was always far enough from the committee to not be blamed for their mistakes, that everybody knows I do the hard work, I make sure what we need is done. He says people respect me. But what else will they say to him? I do not think I am special. Those of us who still meet in the democracy building, we are just one more gang, we stay together for protection and because we are familiar. We begin to speak of leaving the campus. It is not our place anymore. I will wait until Li is well before I decide what I will do – I want to stay with Jian and Li, whatever happens. I will miss my cat. I have not seen him for a week. I think he leaves the campus, too.

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Falling Apart

In quarantine, we are forced to make our decisions through the forum, and at first I think this is helping a little to make us work together again. But many do not read the forum, or ignore the decisions. I am on watch yesterday, and see a student who is supposed to watch another gate throw a packet over the wall and climb in from outside. I stop him and ask why was he outside. I tell him he must start the clock again on his quarantine. For a moment he looks ashamed or afraid, like a child who is caught out of school, then he calls me “committee bitch” and walks away with the packet. I think I will go after him or call for help, but who can I call? Everybody on watch is too far away, nobody else can come out of their room. I cannot force him to give up the packet – it must be food – and if I try I will make contact and maybe catch the flu, because he has been outside. I decide it is easier to post about him to the forum, and expel him after quarantine. Does this make me the “committee bitch”? I do not want to force an authority, I only want us to all agree a rule and keep it, to keep us safe. If he does not agree, why does he not post on the forum to say so? This is our quarantine. If some people refuse to keep it, why do we bother?

I am angry about this, and feel helpless, but I know we have a bigger problem. The army may attack again at any time, and then we will have to fight again and risk dying again, and there is nobody but the committee to decide what to do, and we cannot argue with ourselves online. The Quarantine Movement lost a lot of face, and a lot of hope, when we lost Zhen. We made many decisions without him – we never had a leader among ourselves, only for the committee – but we use his authority to debate with the Party, because he has so much respect. Now, all our respect is lost, I feel like we are lost.

On the forum, some people suggest new elections, but nobody in the Quarantine Movement is nominated, only the Party. We do not want another Zhen. Li says, let them sacrifice one of their own to this stupid game of democracy, let us question and doubt and blame them until they lose their mind and jump from the BoYa tower. She was close with Zhen, but I don’t think she really means this. The Party, here, are also just students, we were all the Quarantine Movement in the beginning, not two different parties. We must try to remember this.

Back in quarantine

No time for a meme this month. Now, I am in a quarantine again, only it is not so organised as last time. We avoid close contact, but have to leave our rooms all the time, there are so few of us and so many extra duties – tending the vegetables, gathering the animals, keeping the watch and guarding the little food we still have.

We at least hold the campus. The soldiers fired warning shots and many of us ran, but more stayed and fought them. We thought they would not aim to kill us, but they no longer care about killing. They do not shoot a lot, but we now know this is only because they have few bullets. Many students and staff died beating them down from the walls with broom handles and petrol bombs. This distracted us from the few who came in without uniform, and took much of the food from our stores, and also destroyed the runs for the rabbits and guinea pigs. We caught some of these, but too late. We capture many weapons, and in the middle of the fighting, with people in panic and grief, the few soldiers we caught were shot. We did not want to do this, we wanted to be better than them.

Even during the fighting, the Party leaders keep asking the Quarantine Movement committee members: where is Zhen? Where is our leader? After the fighting, when the army retreat from the walls and we begin to list the loss and damage, we find the answer. He is in the committee meeting room in the Democracy Building, hanging from the light fitting by his neck, leaving a note saying only: “I am sorry, I must resign.”

We have fought up close with the army, so our worst fear now is that many will be infected. We go in teams of three to minimise contact amongst ourselves, and bring the dead to the burial place, by the Jing Yuan memorial. We have no time to dig more graves. We pile up the bodies, including Zhen, and throw on the remaining petrol, but the fire does not take well and there is nothing we can do except leave them, and abandon the meadow and the Yuan buildings.

We gather the little food that remains from a few hidden personal stores of those who died or ran away. There is not really enough to feed us for another quarantine, but we have no choice. We do not even decide if those in the inoculation experiment need to join the quarantine or not. They each decide for themselves. This is wrong and frightening, how we cannot make a decision anymore that everybody will follow. How can a quarantine work if everybody makes a different rule? But we must try.

The final warning

Today we have a final notice from the army – if we do not open the doors by 7:00am tomorrow and let them in, they will force a way into the campus. I do not even forward the message to the forum, where the Party will see it, but go straight to Li, and we go together to Zhen. He listens while we read the message. He looks at us, like he did not understand, and I read it again. Zhen says nothing. He stares in front of him. He begins to tell Li to call a meeting for breakfast – we think, this is good, he begins to make a plan. Then he asks how much is in the store for lunch, do we need to harvest more root vegetables? Li almost throws the tea at him, but we make him drink it instead.
“This is very kind of you girls,” he says, smiling. “I know you are very busy. How is the power system, Mei? Is there enough electricity for the forum? I should start reading the forum again. I have more time now.”
I ask Li, “How long has he been like this?”
She tells me maybe two weeks. They hide it – take him to the meetings with rehearsed lines to say, and then somebody takes him away and they continue without him. They cannot let the party see he has become so bad – we will be finished.
I tell Li we will be finished anyway tomorrow if we do not do something. But what? Get people ready to fight? Open the gate and get people locked into their rooms? Call the committee for a meeting?
“Call everybody,” I say. I put a message out on the forum and we get some people calling through every building where people live or work – Emergency General Meeting in the auditorium. For a moment, I feel almost happy, because this is how it was in the beginning, when we felt strong and we could do anything, when anybody can call a general meeting and nobody will say: “By what authority?”
Of course, The Party and even some of the Quarantine Movement in the committee are angry we did not go to them first.
“There isn’t time,” I say. “We need to get ready, now, all of us. Never mind the procedure.”
“Where is Zhen?” somebody asks, but I shrug my shoulders and say, “I am just an assistant, how do I know?”
Li chairs the meeting. She tells everybody that Zhen prepares a plan for the fight, but meantime we must decide who will be guarding each entry, prepare the barricades and traps and distribute the weapons we have, and the face masks and gloves – I had nearly forgotten how uncomfortable they are. We will be ready tomorrow morning. I will use a camera for a live feed and Li leads the medical group. Jian will join her. We only fight if they get past the gate and the barricade. I try to sleep a little before the morning, but I do not think I will. I will tell you what happens when I can.

Debating about vaccinating

The news reaches us that a vaccine is developed. Li is worried that this will not be effective – it is too soon, she says, even if they have a sealed laboratory of a thousand experts working since the first confirmed case, it is a miracle if they can develop an effective vaccine in this time. It is not yet tested. We have a communication from WHO asking if we will volunteer to try the vaccine. We are a perfect control group – we are mostly young, the group with highest risk, and we have a successful quarantine so they know we do not have the virus already. But to test it, we will need to be exposed to the virus, and if it fails, then we will need to begin quarantine again and lose more people.
There is also another danger. If we have the vaccine, the remaining government will say there is now no need for us to keep out the army, and we must give up the occupation, lose all our hard work and have the same emergency rules as the rest of Beijing. Still, the idea of a vaccine makes us want to hope that it will work, that the Blood Flu will finally be over. If this is true, the army will not need to stay in the campus for long. They will be rebuilding, not keeping control. This is what our Party members say.
In the meeting today, I do not sit with Li and the committee on the platform as usual, but with Jian and some other first year students. At first they do not talk much to me, but I tell them I do not know how I will vote on the vaccine, and they begin to discuss what they believe. They mostly do not believe a vaccine can work yet, but some feel a duty to try it. We watch the two factions, the Party and the Quarantine Movement, each waiting for the other to make a proposal so they can oppose it. I can see that Zhen fears to call for a vote, because the party will say he is too weak to decide himself. He thinks he must make a decision and defend it, though he believes in us voting for ourselves, and I know he will give in because he is tired, very tired from not sleeping and from carrying the weight of all our hopes, and being called weak by any whose hopes he cannot carry. We debate and debate and know our decision will be irrelevant, he will decide. Why do Jian and I sit here and listen? We could go away and enjoy our time together. We have worked so hard.
The vaccine is already given to the army – but they take the anti-virals, so nobody knows if they already have the virus or if the vaccine will work for them. I believe we should wait, find out if the army have a bad effect from the vaccine before we break a safe quarantine, and I put up my hand to say so. Li tries to call me to speak, but there are too many hands, and a party member behind me answers when Li points to me. She speaks for more than five minutes, repeating many things to keep the floor, uses the applause of the Party to silence a challenge, speaking loudly so that nobody can interrupt, and by the time she allows a challenge I cannot remember what I want to say and everybody is cheering because we are heroes of the quarantine and we will have the new vaccine.
After the meeting, I ask Jian and his friends to come with me to the Democracy Building to speak with Zhen and Li and the rest of the committee, but they want to go to the lake. They ask me to go with them, and I want to. The meeting rooms are hot with people, and make my eyes close; I wish I can sit by the lake in the sun with them and talk about music and art and ourselves, and not go to talk more about a bad decision that is already made and how to make sure we do not look bad to the Quarantine Movement because Zhen gave in to the Party again. But I must go and support Li as she explains, again, why this is so dangerous, why this vaccine will not work.
After the meeting, the Committee decides we will ask for volunteers for a group of 200 to have the vaccine. They will stay in a separated area near the entrance to campus for two weeks, go outside the campus every day, and see if they have the virus. Li asks what if nobody will volunteer, they say they will find volunteers easily. She asks if any of them will volunteer. Nobody from the committee raises their hand, not the party who pushed for this, not Zhen who made the final decision. I stand up and I tell them it is wrong to ask other students to take risks we will not take ourselves, that if nobody from the committee wants to volunteer, we should refuse to test the vaccine in the campus. The party members then begin to shout, say I try to turn over a decision made in a general assembly, I do not understand how the process works, I am just an assistant, not a party member or elected to the committee, I should not be in this meeting. So I leave. I don’t know if I will go back.

Our quarantine ends

We are out of Quarantine five days now – this is the first time I have to write my blog. It is a very busy time, and a strange time for all of us. After the long isolation, we came running from our rooms for the big meeting, very joyful to see and speak with each other again. Many people I don’t know smile to me and then we run and hug each other, all modesty is lost in the joy to touch another person again, knowing it is safe. But when we reach the auditorium, the feelings soon change.

We take a register, to know for sure who has survived, and there are many missing. We go to check their rooms, and find sometimes they are dead, sometimes missing with no word, sometimes leaving a note to say they will leave the quarantine and go to a hospital, so they do not need to die alone and we do not need to clear the body. I think again about my neighbour, and how lonely these people feel as they die. We put on the forum many resources and support for survivors, but there is little for those who find themselves dying. We say stay in your room, post to the forum to say you are infected and we will leave food and drink outside the door until it is no longer taken. There are few doctors, and the medical forum must spend most time on those who they can help. We begin a counselling forum, but have not enough with the skills to run it. We should talk more about supporting people after they know they will die. We have lost so many who played their part in setting up the quarantine so that we could survive – we owed them more than to let them die alone.

Less than three thousand now remain on the campus. There is no celebration. We spend the first day with meetings, listing what we must do. Ideas that give us so much hope on the forum become more difficult now that we ask for volunteers, knowledge, materials. The next three days we are counting everything we have, searching empty rooms for more food, getting equipment ready for the food and power projects. Also, we are digging graves, packing up the possessions of the dead, contacting the families if we can. Then we have the burials, in Jing Yuan meadow.

We try to do this properly, with respect, even though some of the remains are rotted down very far and there are ten people in one grave. Most sickness was reported and the bodies are taken from the freezer, but after two weeks when there are fewer people left, there are some that have died too far away from others for anybody to know. We have to wear our plastic suits and ventilator masks, and wrap them in a refuse sack, then clean and disinfect the room. We fill each grave, and then move to the other side of the meadow, by the monument to the PKU students who die in the revolution. Here, the friends of those buried make a speech, and we read messages from the families, and read a dedication to our friends and companions of the Quarantine Movement. This is said too many times, and the burial becomes a mechanical process. I try to make myself feel regret and grief for every person, but yesterday and today I attend burials from morning until it is dark, and soon I cannot feel anything, I am like a worker in the factory, the product moves along a line, the process has no meaning, I even become used to the smell. We change shifts after five burials, so I am sometimes filming, sometimes speaking, sometimes moving the bodies on a stretcher, and sliding them into the grave. Many people take short digging shifts – we have grown weak from poor food and much time indoors, apart from a few who exercise all the time of the quarantine. Now, we all have exhaustion and depression – too much fear and sadness for ourselves to grieve for others. But we take comfort in those still alive, and we go on living.

How we keep the power going

Today the power has failed, not just for 3 hours like it has before but all day and much of the night. We all keep a spare battery charging for an emergency, because we rely on the forum to organise without breaking our quarantine, but the forum is slow to load, too many panicking students. What if there is no more power? This is the end! We have to all take food supplies into our rooms! No, we cannot all go out or we have to start the quarantine again! Many begin to say that if power is off for 24 hours, all quarantine rules are no longer in use and we start again. This would be a disaster for us, after all the hard work to keep people in isolation while working together.

After 18 hours, the lights go on again, and we all calm down a little and begin to talk about what we will do if the power goes for longer, or forever. We begin to speak of places on campus where we can get wood for fuel – trees we can cut down, furniture we can break. We have SkIMp workshops on how to build a dynamo powered by bicycle, to charge batteries for our handsets, and we list solar-power sources around the campus and get volunteers to connect the residential buildings to this. A group of engineers talks about making a “bobbing duck” to put in the nameless lake after the quarantine. So the power cut that nearly breaks us apart now brings us together again, with more hopes and plans for the future. It is just four days before we end our quarantine, and we look forward to keeping our community going after this, and dealing together with whatever the future brings.

I also look forward to meeting the people I speak with and never see. Yesterday, I hear a crash from above me and somebody in the upstairs room screams – his arm is broken. He is changing the light bulb from the top bunk and fell – he was drunk, and thought it was the bulb, not the power, that is broken. So I request a medical helper from the forum, but this is a big problem because it will need somebody to go into his room, and then both must go back to the beginning of their quarantine. Some medical students agree to do this for emergencies, but nobody wants to do this for such a stupid accident, so I say give me the instruction, I will do it. Then a medical student says no, he will go, it is better to be somebody with training. After 30 minutes, I hear him arrive in the room above me. I mostly don’t hear what he says, but I hear moaning and crying, then silence. I call out “Are you OK?”, and I hear from the ceiling “He is fainted!” He shouts it is OK, he will set the arm more easily now. He asks me why I volunteer to help this man, do I know him? I say I cannot stand to hear him moaning with pain all night. It is the first conversation I have without a set, for three weeks, and it is strange to think only the ceiling separates us. I climb on the top bunk, turn my ear to the ceiling. We shout and repeat our words a little, but we talk – he says it helps him to work. His name is Jian. I tell him about the girl in the next door room to me, who died near the beginning of the quarantine. I think about her in the night, when it is quiet. I know she died only a few feet from me, and there was nothing I can do to help. I listen to her coughing, I leave hot drinks outside her door until she no longer takes them, talk to her, though she cannot speak loud enough to talk back. I tell her I am here, though I know it makes no difference. When I no longer hear her coughing, I post to the medical forum. For five hours I know she is dead on the other side of the wall, and I cannot sleep. I feel like the wall is glass, like she watches me. Then two students come in a ventilator suit with a stretcher from the medical labs to wrap her in plastic bags and put her in the freezer room. I know this, though I only hear the plastic suits scrape against the wall and the rustle of bags and the squeak from the tape. I cannot stand to do this again. It is my selfishness that makes me offer to help the boy upstairs. Jian says no, it is compassion. It is good to hear him say so. We keep talking until the man wakes up and we know he’s OK.

Delivering food and keeping harmony.

Many people who read my blog want to raise money for the student occupations. We start a bank account, and many people and organisations give us money, but right now this seems a little pointless, as we cannot buy anything – there is no delivery service besides the army to get supplies into the quarantine now, and nobody can leave the campus. We must survive on what we have until the 28 days are over. But you can donate to the independent distribution networks that deliver where the army do not. These are not government or NGO, just ordinary people who get a transport and decide to do something. They have to keep very secret, but they have good communication networks and work inside communities, so can get food where it is needed and organise local distribution before they deliver. A whole neighbourhood in Wukan, Guangdong uses the same system we have here – a schedule for going to the pick-up place and taking food for your house, so that people do not come in contact. I don’t know how they avoid army patrols. Maybe people from inside the army give them information – it is very easy to join now, and soldiers, too, have families needing to eat.

Only the army now move freely in Beijing, and the army grows every day. Requests for volunteers are all over the national Socnets, and many sign up, some wanting to help others, some hoping they will get anti-virals, others just wanting two meals a day. They are given very hard work to do. There are many recruits the same age as the students, and we talk through the video-link to those who deliver food to us. They have complex orders, but not regular, so we cannot predict their movements. Sometimes they come only once in two weeks, another time twice in one day (we think this is an administrative error). They want to know who is in the occupation, numbers of healthy and sick people. We tell them the numbers, but not names. So far we tell them we need very little, and ask them not to break our quarantine. So far, they agree – there is not yet a food shortage in Beijing, it is only distribution that is needed.

Now I can speak with my parents in Anhui, I know it is not the same there. There is very little food and people must leave the house to look for some. Yesterday, army food trucks are in my parents’ neighbourhood, delivering a ration for the next two weeks. After the food is delivered, there is knocking at the door. It is a woman with a boy 3 years old. She is from the next neighbourhood, they do not deliver there yet, but she sees the trucks have been close by, and asks to borrow some food. She can hardly lift the child, she says she has not eaten for three days. She promises she will bring the food back when they have a delivery, and my parents give her a little rice, beans and oil. After another ten minutes, another person comes, this time an old man alone. They give him a little of their own dinner they have just cooked, but nothing to take home – they have little for themselves and cannot give to everybody. They do not answer the door again, though many more people come looking for help.

The main problem with the distributing system is not enough information. Nobody knows where the food is, when it will come. Nobody can plan to ration what they have, and when they have nothing left they must break quarantine or starve. Many of us feel very angry at how this is organised. Many people in the occupation are youth members of the Party, but even they agree that enforcing the silent zones was dangerous and shameful. If we knew what is happening, if we organised our quarantine sooner, many others would be alive now. There is much debating and arguments the political board on our forum, but these go around in a circle until somebody calls for harmony, and then everybody unites to attack that person. It has become a joke on other boards in the forum: somebody will say “I call for harmony!” when there is a disagreement on which singer is best or how to cook a noodle soup. Some worry that there is nobody in charge of the quarantine, and ask who will make us keep our rules. But we all want the quarantine to work. Why else do we stay? More important is that when the quarantine is over, to keep safe we have to remain in occupation. Then we will need to decide how we organise, what are our tactics, and who is in charge.

The W4 and freedom

Many here are sharing the reports on how General Secretary Hong Xianhua praises the student quarantines for keeping order in the universities during the disaster. This makes me angry – that she can praise us and get praise, all over the world, because she does not send the army against us, and nobody asking about the silent zones, the protests, the police raids and the students arrested or dead. Does anybody know that the same students who organised the quarantines are the ones who were in the protests? And why do many of those students now accept a SkIMp call and shake a virtual hand of the General Secretary? I think for a scrap of praise and the promise of a good career in the CCP. We must see that Hong only praises us because it is to her advantage to control the student occupations. If we talk about how the army behave at Hebei University, where they threaten students and take away their supplies, how much will Hong praise our organisation and courage?

A lot of people are afraid for me because I blog about how our occupation defies the authorities. People have an idea about China that is not really untrue, but is a little old fashioned. The government wants to suppress dissent on the internet still, but what can they do since the W4? The Socnet I use does not share information, so I am safe if nobody who knows me gives me away. Also, I am not the only one who says these things. There is safety in numbers – they cannot investigate every blog and track everybody who criticises them, especially when resources are taken with more important matters.

I am the wrong generation to be afraid of what I write on the internet. I was 13 when the Golden Shield, “The Great Firewall of China”, fell to the W4. I remember when the satellites are launched, my parents saying: “They will never let us have this technology – it will be for the government only.” But the technology is built into all the new computers, and we are building all the computers. For a little while, they try to make it illegal to own a W4 device without permission, but they are everywhere, and there is always a set available from a black market or internet site. Though many were prosecuted, the government get more from the tax on W4 devices than the fines on those they catch with an illegal set. Of course, we all must register to the National Socnet, but they cannot stop us using another Socnet, one that will take a fake name. Since the silent zones, I understand why they are so excited for the W4 at that time. To me it is just a new technology to do the same things I always did, but to my parents it was the first time you can use the internet anywhere, at any time, totally free to say what you want. None of us knew it could be taken from us so easily. Still, they do not do that here, in Beijing, while the world watches. Instead, they try to make us their pet, take the credit for our success, but we are not fooled, our words are still free.

Would I be more free in Jack’s farm in America than here? My parents always think that the West is some place where everybody has freedom, more than we do, but in my life I never see the evidence for this. Though some places have more rules and worse punishment for a small crime, everywhere is free or nowhere is free. Since the quarantine I feel more free than ever in my life. Though what we can do is very limited, nobody tells us what we will do – we decide the rules ourselves, on a forum where everybody has an equal voice. Everywhere else in the world, say the wrong thing, have the wrong ideas or the wrong background, or don’t have enough money, and somebody will make you less free.

We are too late.

Of course, we are too late. I think part of me knew this already – we still have the mass meetings after the police come into the campus. They take the anti-virals, so may have spread the virus among us.

Twenty-four people on the campus are sick now. My neighbour in the next room was coughing all of last night. I make food for her and leave it outside the door today, and she takes it, but does not answer anymore when I call. The coughing stops now – I think she is sleeping. I will know soon, if there is a return when I knock on the wall. If there is no reply, she will not be the first to die, and there will be more. I do not know her, only her name. I ask on the forum if anybody knows who she is – her friends say they SkIMp her and will speak to her family.

There is no point to send a medical student – just like outside, they can do nothing. If somebody goes to the doctor now with flu, they put them in a secure ward. There is no treatment, no cure. Mostly it is young, healthy people dying. Children and elderly people do not get the virus so quickly – it takes longer and they can recover from the illness sometimes. But the most healthy person will always die. Li explains why this is to me, about how the virus uses the immune system to attack the body. It seems crazy, to be healthy makes you in the most danger. We fear our own youth and health now, but more than this we fear that our quarantine will be broken from outside. The army patrol the street, shooting anybody who leaves their homes. They stay away from the campus so far – we think they are too busy to enforce our quarantine when we enforce it ourselves, but perhaps they will decide they need to patrol the street inside our gates, too. Then we cannot reach our stores – all our careful planning and rotas will be useless. Perhaps it would be better if we all keep a personal store in our room. Many of us did keep some personal food as well, but not everybody, and not enough for the whole quarantine.

When I finish writing this I know it will be time to find out if my neighbour is alive, and I do not dare to stop writing. This morning, as I go to fetch the food for my corridor, I meet a cat, following me all the way to the dining hall and back to the dorm building. I do not know where he comes from – maybe his owner is dead. I know the virus cannot travel through an animal, so I let him into the building. He follows me all the way to my room. I give him some rice and fish sauce and he eats a little, but mostly he wants to sleep on a human. Like me, he wants to feel a touch, comfort, company. I feel grateful that I have this, and guilty that others do not.

The girl next door to me must know that she will die, and she is alone. She makes little noise, she does not cough anymore. She does not talk. Is she so brave, to make sure she will infect nobody else? Or does she have no strength to go out of the room? If I listen, I can hear her breathing. It sounds so painful, like she breathes through water. I wish she will cough again. I cannot stand this sound. I don’t know how I didn’t hear before, it is so loud.

I cannot sleep when she sounds so bad. What will happen if I go in? I can put on my mask, and look at her, and hold her hand, then wash my hands very well. I might not catch the virus, and nobody will know.