A knock on the door can often bring good things. A friend coming to visit, that parcel you’ve been waiting for, a letter from a loved one. But there are situations where a simple knock can bring bad things. Sometimes a knock on the door can be utterly terrifying…
This story will talk about topics that may be triggering for some people. It will mention murder, the sexual abuse of a child, animal cruelty, as well as suicide and depression.
My mother was still a child when a police officer knocked on her door. He was there to inform the family of a tragic accident and the he loss of her stepfather, Bob Hayes.
He was working as a cleaner in a local factory. That morning he had gone in early, as always, and began to clean the machines before the day started. When one of his coworkers came in they switched on the machines, and Bob’s sleeve got caught in the machine. His friend didn’t notice in time, and his arm was dragged into the machine and torn from his body. He bled to death on the factory floor.
Bob was a convicted murderer for a crime of passion. He came home one night to find his wife, the woman he loved, in bed with another man and saw red. He had since rehabilitated and remarried to my grandmother. From what I’ve been told, he was a good father to my mother and her siblings. So answering that door and hearing the police officer deliver the news was a traumatic blow to the family.
After that day, Bob would appear to my mother when she was alone and talk to her. Though I don’t believe in ghosts, she believes it to have been real. For her the proof came during the funeral. It was a closed coffin funeral. My mother asked why they couldn’t see him. My grandmother chose to lie, saying that it was because he had something on his face and it would be embarrassing for him. Then my mother asked, “so how come when I see him at night he has no arm?”
Later, when my mother was about to give birth, my grandmother insisted that she name me after Bob Hayes. She gave me his surname, and Robert as one of my middle names.
I had a TV in my room growing up, one of those old CRTs. Like any other kid with a TV, I would secretly stay up at night and watch it on mute. Often I’d hear my stepfather getting up to go to the toilet and I’d quickly turn off the TV so he wouldn’t find out. I’d know it was him as his footsteps were heavier.
I would wait for him to go back to bed so I could watch TV again. It would always be a long time before he finished. Sometimes I’d even fall asleep while waiting. It always seemed weird to me that it took so long for him to use the bathroom.
Years later, my mother would be forced to tell me a horrible truth that explained why. He wasn’t using the toilet. He was knocking on my sister’s door so they could have “Daddy’s Special Time”. As I got older I knew there was something off about these nights. Now I was facing the realisation that I could have saved her. If only I’d known better. If only I had said something.
Soon after I would have the chance to testify about this in court. I had to face him, the man who had abused my family, and tell everyone what I knew. The prosecution asked, I told them the truth. Then came the cross examination.
The defense made me look like a liar. I was unable to think on my feet, and he destroyed my testimony. That piece of shit made him look innocent. I can remember the exact date because that was also the day I saw planes crashing into the Twin Towers in Manhattan.
The verdict came back a few days later. He was found innocent. He was a free man and would probably go on to hurt others. Me, I hurt myself. I hit the bottle and later I would hit the white powder. It took me a long time to return to myself.
I had failed to protect her. I’ll have to live with that until I go to my grave.
In 2022 the Omicron variant of Covid-19 came back to China. Initially I was confident that the Chinese Communist Party’s response would follow WHO’s guidelines and that things wouldn’t be so bad. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The CCP’s response was to lock down any buildings occupied by someone who tested positive. They started building makeshift camps to quarantine people who caught the virus. These camps filled up quickly, and it was hard to get out. It’s difficult to test negative when you are surrounded by people that have the virus.
This didn’t work. Omicron was more infectious than previous variants, so lockdowns and quarantines are ineffective at preventing the spread. WHO already knew this – increasing the number of people vaccinated was the real solution. The problem was the CCP were having a tough time convincing older Chinese people to get vaccinated.
But the CCP had a plan. Covid Zero at any cost. A four day citywide lockdown was announced. No one would be able to leave their apartments. People were panic buying, stocking up on food. I personally made sure I had enough for a week, and also enough food for my cat.
We noticed that trains had been bringing the military into the city. I followed them around Jing’An and noted some of the hotels they were being set up in. Then it started. It was Pudong for four days first, followed by the rest of Shanghai.
Pudong’s quarantine didn’t end when the rest of us were locked down. This was a sign of things to come. During the lockdown, tests were arranged at every building. Anyone who tested positive would be moved to the camps. Every other day people would come around and bang on the door so hard it felt like they were trying to break in.
Omicron still kept spreading despite the lockdown. It was obvious that the volunteers performing the test were spreading the virus – it could be no one else. But the CCP pushed the idea that it was parcels spreading the virus, despite the WHO’s advice saying the risk of this was negligible. Most people believed them, so deliveries were banned. As a result of this we could no longer order food.
Four days passed. We were still locked in our homes and were starting to run out of food. It started to became obvious we weren’t going to be let out any time soon. And there was no communication from the CCP as to when this would end.
Eventually bulk orders started being organised, but as a foreigner it was difficult to get in on them. Luckily Demonware started sending its staff food parcels. I remember breaking into tears when I got the first one. I was so hungry and I suddenly had a lot of food.
My cat was still running out of food. If getting human food was difficult, cat food was virtually impossible. I thought I was going to have to watch him starve to death. Some people actually did lose their pets this way. I got lucky – I managed to get some cat food delivered despite the restrictions in place.
Some people, after they got dragged away to a camp, had their pets murdered. Cats and dogs can’t catch human coronaviruses, but they were blamed for the spread anyway. They didn’t use humane methods. No lethal injections or gas here. They simply bashed their skulls in or snapped their necks.
Stories of people starving, or dying due to lack of necessary medicine started coming out. One South African, a friend of a friend, died in her home. It’s unclear exactly how she died, but she may still be alive if she hadn’t been locked in her home with limited access to food.
My girlfriend, who was locked in her own apartment, was living off boiled cabbage and rice for a long time. She started getting nosebleeds: a sign of vitamin deficiency. She had potatoes, but no idea how to cook them, so I wrote up some recipes she could use.
The fear of a knock on the door and being dragged away to a camp became very real. a close friend of mine got taken, and was forced to sleep next to the bins on her first day. Videos came out of people being chased through their apartments with giant hooks or nets to catch them. In one video someone jumps off their balcony rather than allowing the police to take them.
Factory workers were locked into their factories rather than their homes. In doing so, they could be forced to work while not being allowed to work. Many companies in the west were perfectly happy to take advantage of this method of lockdown.
After a month or two of being locked in, with no end in sight, more videos had been sent around. Many people couldn’t take the toll of isolation. Instead they chose another way out. In many of the videos they stand on their balconies, hesitant to make the leap. Eventually they jump, leaving a corpse for the volunteers to clean up.
In one compound people started to fight back, refusing the tests, trying to force their way out. A few days later videos of that compound showed that the military were monitoring the tests, rifles hanging outside their Covid outfits. Rebellion squashed.
After a few months people were starting to lose support for the lockdowns. Many CCP supporters were in good spirits at the beginning, shouting “加油上海!” at every opportunity. Now they had had enough. It was becoming more and more obvious that this wasn’t working. They wanted to be let out and get back to their lives.
The CCP had built an infrastructure to support this. Testing booths on every corner, and a colour coded app that would show your test status. You had to get tested every 3 days to be allowed to go anywhere, but logistically you had to get tested pretty much every day. We were out of our homes, but the nightmare wasn’t over.
They kept building more quarantine centers. The knocks on the doors continued. People who tested positive were dragged away to camps. Then people who came into close contact with someone else who tested positive were dragged away. Then it was people who were in the same building. Then it was people who came into contact with people in the same building. The net kept getting wider.
Intermittent lockdowns continued. Buildings that had cases were locked down again and tests were enforced. Then came the fire.
In Xinjiang a fire started at a building that was in lockdown. The authorities would let the firefighters near the build for fear of breaking quarantine. They watched helplessly as almost everyone in the building burned to death. One family was almost completely wiped out – only one student who happened to be studying abroad survives.
The CCP couldn’t keep this one quiet. Protests started breaking out across the country. At the same time factory workers started rioting against their conditions, breaking out and looting stores. One man protested by holding a up white sheet of paper – “I can’t say what I want to say, but you know what it says”.
I attended the first day of the White Paper protests in Shanghai. People were shouting “CCP step down!” and demanding the release of those arrested for demanding their freedoms. They held up white sheets of paper as a symbol for their protest.
These peaceful protests were met with violent aggression from the police. In one video, a man is in a bus after being arrested. He is in handcuffs surrounded by police. One office starts punching him repeatedly in the face with full force. In another video, a police officer grabs a young woman by the ankles to pull her to the ground. Her head smashes into the pavement.
So many videos came out it was almost impossible to suppress. The CCP started spamming twitter hashtags with advertisements for prostitutes to try and prevent people seeing the videos.
About a week after the protests they announced a U-turn. They declared it a victory, but they know they had lost. The Covid camps that they had invested a lot of money were abandoned by workers. The test stations were torn down. All lockdowns were ended completely.
The CCP had suffered defeat, but not only from its own people, but also from Covid. After they forced us through these lockdowns, after they allowed people to starve to death, after they pushed so many people to suicide, we all got Covid anyway. It ripped through Chinese cities like a hot knife through butter.
There was some other fallout from this. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The next Chinese New Year, many citizens started launching fireworks in celebration. Fireworks had been made illegal several years ago by the CCP, after they blamed them for causing pollution. Now people were doing it despite the law, and when police tried to stop them, the people effectively told them to fuck off.
There is an unwritten social contract between the CCP and the people of China. The people support and believe in the CCP, and in return they get to live fulfilling lives. The CCP broke that contract with these lockdowns.
Now, people don’t love and support the CCP in China as much. They probably won’t discuss it openly, but the launching of fireworks during the New Year shows that they are more willing to challenge authority. The CCP won’t be going anywhere soon, but they have lost some influence over the people of China.
I moved to Dublin after these lockdowns. I didn’t want to stay in the country after what the CCP had put myself, and most of the people I care about through. Still, I feel guilty for running away. I wish I could have protected the people I care about from this monster.
I noticed recently that every time someone knocks on my door I panic. I lost my mind during the lockdowns, and paranoia was something that consumed me. Even outside of China I’m still afraid of being dragged away to a camp. Or a mental institution.
It’s been getting harder to recover. I’m in therapy now, and hearing things like PTSD and executive dysfunction. I still love China, and I miss being there and the life that I had. But I need to figure out a way to keep moving forward.
But I’m not sure I can do it this time.