The President of the United States sat at his desk with his head in his hands. No way this was getting any worse. He’d just turned the corner, the economy was coming back, and now this fiasco.
“Admirals, I want you to restate that just so I know I’m not hearing things.”
The Director National Security Agency (DirNSA) looked to the Surgeon General for approval. Getting the nod, he clicked the stylus in his hand and went back to the first slide.
“Sir, COVID-19 was the original threat. As Admiral Sparberger will tell you, it was already well under control when the new threat emerged. My wife is ill with the new disease, but I test negative, and because of some other indicators, that’s how I came up with the theory. It all fits. It’s mathematically perfect, and all of our analysts agree. We don’t know the exact mechanism of transmission from the source, but it appears to be a valid correlation. We have recommendations on shutting it down, and how to treat it, but the outcry will probably cost all of us our jobs. It’s that crazy.”
Admiral Sparberger shuffled nervously. “I have to agree Mr. President. We must continue the social distancing and shelter-in-place for another month. Really enforce it. Worst of all, the second part of the cure is going to cause some serious mental health problems for many in our population. People don’t read much anymore, and if we carry out this plan it will be horrendous.”
The President stared out the window. “I’ve got to get my sons in here. They will know what to do. I’m not well versed enough in this to render an honest opinion, but I think you two are a pair of jackasses that need to be shot. April Fool’s day or not, this isn’t funny.”
Pushing a buzzer under his desk, he sat quietly as a trio of Secret Service agents burst in, guns drawn. “Get the boys in here. Mike Pence as well. They’re in the cafeteria with their staff. Just keep these two seated and quiet until I tell you otherwise. No rough stuff, Okay?”
The admirals sat in the chairs next to the desk. President Trump waited for the summoned men to arrive.
“I’ve just heard the most ridiculous thing ever. But since these two aren’t known to be raving lunatics, I want your opinions on this. Admirals, let me explain this in my own words. But if I make a substantial mistake, let me know.”
The men sat quietly while the President continued, “Here’s the nub of it: we’re now facing an epidemic of the Spanish flu. It’s broken out in thousands of homes, pretty much equally distributed around America, but with a big concentration in the middle of the country. In other words, all the places that didn’t get kicked in the guts by the Chinese virus.”
He paused, downed the Diet Coke™, and drummed his fingers on the desk.
“Their solution is to keep everyone sheltered in place, and then shutdown the internet and all television. Cable, broadcast, the whole shebang. Just leave one station on in each area with us in charge and only public service announcements. The entire radio spectrum as well, one per market, etc. Wait until you hear why: the Spanish Flu is being spread because people were binge-watching Downton Abbey. They’ve named this the “Livinia Swires” phenomenon. They have a bunch of charts and so on. They don’t know why, but it seems that the homes that first were infected watched that show, and some character named Livinia dies from the Spanish flu. It’s crazy. But they don’t know how. Until they figure it out, we can’t take chances. Any opinions?”
Vice President Pence started to laugh, “Nice joke, Mr. President. Now, why are we really here?”
The President’s eldest son spoke, “Why now? Why not in the first run of the show. I mean, it’s been off television for years?”
President trump pointed at the admirals. DIRNSA spoke up, “We think it’s because of the emotional state, fear, and reduced exposure to the real world. It didn’t hit the first time around because this is so unique. Why in the heartland? Because most red states didn’t waste their time watching it until they were stuck at home. They had lives to live that day, not waste time on Edwardian England and some toffee-nosed bunch of snobs. My wife and I are both army brats, and don’t have the coastal syndrome. But with time on their hands, and people writing about watching it in a binge to kill the time, it hit hard. She watched it and got sick. I didn’t and I’m fine. We’ve actually measured the incubation as 8 days from when they watch the Spanish flu episode. Somehow, stuck in their homes, people started to think this was real life. Our teams show the virus is real. No clue how it got out of the television – that sounds totally crazy. We don’t know the mechanism. But it’s real. We shut down Amazon Prime this morning before I came over here. My people put a virus – not a great choice of terms, but what it is – on the Amazon servers and crashed them. That fix will be good only four more hours unless we renew it. But we need to kill any way people might get a copy of that show and do it now.”
Don Jr. nodded. “Okay, I get it on taking down Amazon Prime. But why the other things?”
President trump made a rude gesture with his hand, “This is the good part. Go ahead boys.”
The Surgeon General spoke, “We don’t know what else they can conjure up given this phenomenon. We’re particularly afraid of reruns of the Walking Dead which is airing 24-7 on AMC. DIRNSA assures me that he can wreck every DVR in the country with a worm, but that still leaves boxed sets. What if everyone watches Friday the 13th? Will we have that to deal with… We just don’t know. And until we do, we’re recommending shutting it all down.”
Stunned silence filled the room like a coating of frost.
“Fine. I’ll give the orders. Figure it out and get on with it.”
From outside the Oval Office came a roaring sound and the earth shook. “What the heck is that?”
Moving to the window, the President’s lead Secret Service agent stood at the edge and peered out, looking toward the Washington Monument. His shoulders slumped. Crestfallen, he turned to face the assembly of advisors.
“How many of you caught the free movie on youtube’s streaming service last night?”
Baffled looks crossed the assembled faces.
“It was Godzilla. We’re screwed.”