Mandy Raquel


15 years after the virus.

November 28,2035

Curfew was fast approaching in the streets of New York. Times Square began to lull as I made my way down 44th street. The number of people on the streets was sparse. Too many businesses are closed permanently than ever before. So much loss for a city that was once filled with so much life. I remember the lights of Times Square before the virus. They were so bright that it felt like daylight even at 10 pm. Now they are dimmed and will soon be turned off completely by 8 pm when curfew begins. A new normal that I’ve grown used to.

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I began to feel a bit winded while approaching the old building that once housed New Dramatist Playwright Center. It’s late November, my cheeks burn from the cold air against my face. There were no signs of holiday decorations to be found. With a curfew in place, the city stopped seeing the point in decorating if there was no one out to enjoy it. Taking a moment to catch my breath, I’m relieved I’ve made it with 5 minutes to spare until curfew hits and the streets go dark. My eyes shift upwards to the Bright Cellars sign in the window. It’s not unusual to see something that was once a family-owned Italian restaurant turned into a Bright Cellars Wine-Mate building. They never change out the old signs either, just put up a new one on the front door or in the windows. It’s their way of never forgetting the original business that used to be there. They’ve taken over all sorts of establishments that have closed in different locations when the return to normalcy failed 3 years after the virus.

Once I’ve swiped my access badge the doors open, allowing me to enter the red-colored lobby. The building hosts Wine-Mate, an online quiz that once matched you with a bottle of wine now matched you with a soulmate based on your preference of wine. It sounded too good to be true, but I took the bait. Loneliness won that night 3 weeks ago as I’d spent over an hour answering too many personal questions about my likes and dislikes. How I liked my tea, and how I pictured my ideal day going. Somehow through all those answers that I’d given, they managed to find someone with a 95% match in my answers.

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