It was so great to finally be out of quarantine and able to visit the tropical paradise that I had spent so much money to go see. I had been going bonkers, particularly since there was no Internet access and the phones were out of service. I know it was part of the back to nature appeal, but when sequestered to your room for two weeks, it was terrible!
It didn’t take me long to find my best friend, Mort. He had arrived with his wife, Peg, and my girlfriend, Cheryl, almost a full week before I did, so was already nicely tanned. Me? If I was pale when I reached the island, I was absolutely pasty after 14 days locked inside.
Our initial greeting surprisingly cold and formal, I asked Mort about Peg and Cheryl. He stared at me for a minute before saying, “Uhm, yeah, well, we’ll see them soon enough…”
“Rather enigmatic of you,” I said.
Mort turned away.
“Let’s walk,” he said over his shoulder.
I shrugged and followed him beside the beach.
The beaches were as beautiful as I had imagined and totally empty.
“Wow, some great beaches, huh?” I said.
Mort just grunted.
“Worth the quarantine, I’ll say. Are they still at zero cases?”
Mort nodded, still refusing to look at me.
“Yep, no cases on this little fly-speck island nation of theirs. Bah.”
“Well, that’s great! Super beaches, no worries about catching the virus. Paradise!”
We walked on the sidewalk next to the beach in silence. I half wondered why we weren’t actually in the sand, but figured we were on our way to find the women. Perhaps they were at a shop or restaurant.
Up ahead there were a few strange posts on the edge of the beach.
“Let me tell you about your so called ‘paradise’,” Mort said.
We drew up even with the first post. There was a gruesomely realistic male human head at the top of it, facing towards the town, like some sinister medieval warning.
“They take that record of no cases very, very seriously.”
“Great,” I said, though I was somewhat shaken by the odd display.
“They take social distancing rules very, very seriously,” Mort continued.
“Fine,” I said.
“Only go on the beach when you are told it is your time.”
“And keep all of the towels at least 8 meters apart. That’s about 25 feet.”
“I can handle that.”
He stopped and looked at me for the first time since we had started to walk.
“I hope so, for the penalty is pretty harsh.”
“How bad can it be?” I asked.
As soon as I asked, I looked up at the post in front of us.
There was another head mounted on it, this time a woman’s head.
I stopped and stared in horror.
“Harsh, as Peg and Cheryl discovered. Come on, Cheryl is the next one down.”
Mort took a few steps, but I couldn’t move, held to the spot by Peg’s lifeless eyes staring down at me from the top of the pole.
This story was written for Shari Marshall’s Photo Prompt 24 (actually a photo chosen from some she had used earlier in the year). The photo at the top of the page (the prompt) was taken by Shari.