The end is near!

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The world as we know it is about to come crashing down. People will expose themselves on the streets. Lions will lie with lambs. Restaurants will cease to offer curbside pickup, and we — the meek, the quiet, the introvert­ed who felt that we had finally inherited the earth — will be forced out of our homes by the tyran­ny of the Militaris­tically Extroverted Complex. You may think you are safe in your bedroom with your stack of books and your Disney+ and the one succulent you haven’t yet over-neglected, but ask not for whom the vaccine tolls — IT TOLLS FOR THEE.

Listen, all ye introverts! We have never faced a greater threat to our very way of life than this insidious vaccine — funded by the government and created in a lab, no less. All we want, all we have ever wanted, is to be left alone. When we see people, we want to do it on OUR terms, with a concrete end time and the full, unfettered freedom to back out at the last minute. For generations, our par­ents and our parents’ parents suffered in an extroverts’ world, where business deals take place over lunch in public dining estab­lishments, where con­certs attract swarms of people who require booze to appreciate music, where children run free with their sticky hands and their saliva.

For one year — for one single year — the extroverts were asked to adopt our ways, to stay home and refrain from congregating in loud groups past our bedtime. And I ask you, could they do it? No!

The extroverts could not humble them­selves enough to appreciate our long-sup­pressed traditional ways. Yet still we per­sisted, and our ways flourished in the sun, even if that sun sometimes stayed behind a black-out curtain.

The skies cleared, because we worked from home and didn’t require our cars. Garden centers ran out of seeds, because we returned to the soil. Aquifers and riv­ers replenished, because we had no need to bathe on a regular basis.

The world sighed, and for the first time, we felt assured in our way of being. We learned the heartiness of staying in without feeling guilty about it. We grew strong with­out the anxiety of wondering how to turn down social invitations. Our faces, veiled behind masks, could finally mouth all the biting thoughts we normally have to keep inside because of society’s complex rules of decency. And it was good.

But now! Now, the old dominant dog­mas are returning to reclaim us from the bliss we’ve come to cherish. This vaccine should be, could be, a pure step forward. Saving lives, freeing hospital beds, putting an end to Uncle Tommy’s rants that this vi­rus is a hoax. Sure, he will latch on to some other fabricated crisis, but thank God this will be the end of his pride in creating the portmanteau “Fauxvid-19,” which he spells “Fovid” to our unending delight. These are all glorious advances to the credit of sci­ence.

But that segment of the population, nearly half of our siblings in the great American experiment, those who cannot wait to knock down the walls we have built around ourselves in the last year, wield 96 percent of the desire to speak up in public. They are louder than they are big, like a poorly socialized terrier. They will manipulate this triumph of inoculation to effectively eliminate our standing and drag us from this world we love into one they call “normal” and we call “torturous.”

To this we say: we cannot stop you! Our social skills are way too rusty after a year of not seeing other human beings. But to this we also say: you can have your normal, though you cannot force us back into it! We cannot be forced any more than Moses could be forced back to Egypt, or George R. R. Martin could be forced to finish an­other Game of Thrones book.

The human landscape is forever changed. We like being home, and we won’t relinquish that gift so easily. What will you do, ye extroverts, when you find that your parties lack wallflowers, and your one-time sidekicks outright decline your invitations instead of pretending their phones died for a while?

The end is nigh for the introverted world. But neither must we succumb to stepping backwards. Let us shape a new post-vac­cine era together, one where introverts and extroverts alike respect each other’s needs and admire each other’s strengths! Or at least one where you all stop expecting us to return your phone calls.

Zach Hively writes from Abiquiu, N.M. He can be read and reached through http://zachhive­ly.com and on Twitter @zachhively.

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From Zach Hively.