Odd tales of pandemic’s past: Year Two

(Riddhi Jani)

DISCLAIMER: Stories and images published in this week’s issue under satire (with the exception of advertisements) are purely satirical and created purely for entertainment and/or parody purposes. They are not intended to communicate any accurate or factual information. Some names used in Excalibur’s satire stories are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or entities may be purely coincidental.

September 7, 2021 was a cold and chilly day on York’s Keele campus. A gentle, but not too gentle, breeze rustled the grass and sent the dried up goose droppings soaring through the air like a leaf on the wind.

The large, wooden pillars of foliage we call trees let go of a few of its buds as they joined the goose poop in the wind. It was as if the leaves themselves were the aspirations of York students, as the harsh realities of their school year inevitably left them lying on the ground at the end of the day. 

But the foul stench in the air was not the danger. The real danger was what lay ahead of students in the next year of the pandemic. The first year saw them learn completely online, face a corrupt election system, deal with a president that may or may not be an alien (or a lizard), and many more uniquely wild and challenging times. Now that the following academic year is almost complete, let’s take a look down memory lane and examine some moments in time with a finer-toothed comb.

This is Year Two.

Goose Game

After a year of living in a global pandemic, students continued to make apocalyptic jokes to ease the pain of living in isolation. But the student body would never expect that their jokes would become a reality, as York’s Queen Londa Renton announced this year’s opening games of the semester. 

In her opening remarks, Renton addressed the crowd with an emphatic welcome by the entrance of York’s very own subway station.

“Humans of York! It brings me great joy to kick off our opening games for the semester. As many of you know, the past year was a troubling one. You all endured your academics inside the comfort of your own homes, waking up mere minutes before your recorded lectures were set to begin, hoping that your beloved Wi-Fi would be stable enough to retain a steady connection. Well, I am here to say that York is open for business!” Renton exclaimed to the crowd of cheering parents, and those who were forced to live with their failures — I mean children.

Behind the locked doors of the subway terminal were a crowd of what appeared to be students, slamming their fists and bodies against the glass, desperate to get out.

“As you can see,” Renton continued, “your children clearly want to be here, taking advantage of the education you are paying for them. Before that life-changing and career-making knowledge is learnt, the students must successfully make it through a series of obstacles. Failure to do so will result in extermination — I mean expulsion.”

Not everybody agreed with Renton’s ideology. “The students looked terrified. I tried to warn them in the weekly email newsletter, everybody reads those, but I guess they didn’t believe the messenger,” says Clint Hancock, royal scribe to the court of Londa Renton.

For legal reasons, Excalibur was only permitted to detail the first obstacle. Upon release from the subway station, students were tasked with navigating the halls of Keele campus in search of certain items, a scavenger hunt. The twist? Don’t catch COVID-19. 

Alongside the students were about an equal number of actors pretending to be students who all actually had the virus. 

Mike Minivan, a fifth-year journalism student, says it was hard to tell who had contracted the virus. “Nobody was wearing masks, so you really couldn’t tell who was a visitor or not,” says Minivan.

Once a student had collected every item on their list, they were tasked with making their way through various other dangerous obstacles that we can’t name, but all accumulated to one prize. At the end of the game, once every obstacle has been surpassed, the first student to reach Fort Fork would receive the Silver Fork.

Catnip Everdone, the winner of Renton’s twisted game, found the Silver Fork to be quite useless and opted to trade it in for a different prize of equivalent value. Lucky for her, Everdone now has a coupon for 15 per cent off the York Bookstore (on qualifying purchases only).

The second-place prize was York’s newest NFT of Gandalf the Goose. The non-fungible token was York’s one and only of its kind, as the runner-up kept sharing the image with all of their friends.

Unfortunately, once the prizes were revealed, a lack of interest in the competition came, resulting in only two winners. The third prize would have been the grand total of money (cash) equal to each participant’s student loans.

The Union Strikes Back

Staying true to tradition, York went on strike. The newly-created student-athlete union, appropriately named the “Not Really Union Student Athletes’ Union” (NRUSAU), was originally formed in support of the student-athletes not being recognized by official outlets as “real competitors.” And on January 26, NRUSAU went on strike, halting all unofficial practices and games — as if they were going to happen anyways.

Claude Doe, chair of NRUSAU, says, “We’re not playing. It’s simple. If we’re not gonna be recognized, what’s the point? We have good groups out there, yet somehow the football team is funded because it’s ‘mainstream’.”

News of the strike spread quickly, and soon, just about every union within the York domain felt inspired to defend their rights and their people. Soon enough, York’s very own administration felt that the time was right to heed a strike of their own. 

On February 10, 2022, York’s administration went on strike.

Jacky Lambton, representative of the union for York’s administration, claims they’ve waited long enough for their time to strike. “Running a university is difficult. Administration practically runs the show, while Renton gets the fancy title and all the credit. We’re tired of being the unsung heroes.” 

Lambton later issued a very informal statement regarding the state of the administration’s union. “Y’all can run yourselves. Good luck! Maybe Londa might do something, maybe not. Who knows? We’re not working until we get the credit.”

The desire for proper respect and credentials seemed to be a common demand for most unions that were striking. Until, of course, Londa Renton herself decided it was time for her to go on strike as well.

On February 11, Londa Renton released an official statement. “York has always been a school of strikes, but it does so because the people care. And to show my solidarity with the students, faculty, staff, and administration that are on strike, I too shall join them. As I take these next steps into the unknown, I kindly ask you to join me, to join us all, as we go on strike for what we believe is right.”

Following the statement, Renton changed her profile picture on social media to show her solidarity with her fellow strikers.

Shortly after, the entire student body went on strike. A public uproar has been going on since.

Ringtail Vigilante

Following the mass outcry for justice within the university system, campus has become a lawless town. Plagiarism, vandalism, robberies, and other petty crime were amongst the common retaliations to the system’s failure to appease the public’s demands. If everybody was on strike, who was there to care? 

Not everybody is on strike, though. Families in need of making a living and students struggling to achieve their C average are only a few of the innocent that wander the halls. Those poor souls are pressured into locking their doors at night, for as soon as the sun goes down, trouble wakes up.

At night, the corridors are stalked by human-animal hybrids, recently deemed Torontus Trashus-Pandus by Dr. Von der Helsching of MünsterLabs. This monstrous abomination was created from a possible side effect for the sixth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, turning its victims into human-like raccoons — or raccoon-like humans.

But not all of the side effects were negative. 

For there is another that prowls within the shadows. A masked vigilante roams the corridors and hunts justice for those who cannot reclaim it themselves.

Once believed to be an assistant at MünsterLabs, this crime fighter shares the same DNA configuration as the crime doers, but altered their mutations to gain more control. 

Inside of Dr. Von der Helsching’s now-abandoned laboratory are some handwritten notes that gives us an in-depth look at this vigilante’s psyche.

“They think I’m hiding in the trash, but I am the trash.” Certainly sentiments that business students can relate to.

An Excalibur intern witnessed an encounter between this vigilante and some trouble-makers. They describe the gang of menaces taking on the masked hero with multiple weapons, but none of them were able to withstand his sheer will and determination to scavenge. With their last breath, one of the gang members shouted out their final words, “Who the heck are you supposed to be?”

The masked figure proceeded to beat the thug to an inch of his life, before uttering the words, “I’m Gary.”

To this day, Gary, or his alter ego — the Ringtail — protects the university campuses by nightfall. People say he’s become the hero York needs, but certainly not the one we deserve.

There Are No Post-Credits

Life has been crazy this year. Just when we thought CUPE would strike again, everybody else went on strike instead. We saw an outbreak of human-raccoons take over the streets, only to be brought to justice by one of their own who fights for the people. We saw Renton play god in a maniac-driven game show that put student lives at risk. The time to share these stories only comes once a year — the end of the year. 

So, while we may be at the end of times, let’s make this the best of times. After all, who knows what the 2022 school year has in store.

About the Author

By Jonathan Q. Hoidn

Former Editor

Jonathan is a Canadian multimedia writer and editor who has a passion for storytelling. Despite his preference for writing poignant and humorous tales, Jonathan loves to challenge himself with new topics, mediums, and perspectives. When Jonathan isn’t editing articles, you can find him tackling his backlog of movies, TV shows, video games, and comics; being the nerd of the group; writing down jokes that come to him in the middle of the night; watching the Raptors game; planning out several screenplay details in the seemingly endless “Story Ideas” folder; staring into the void; walking his dog (which is notably the cutest in town); looking into the camera, breaking the fourth wall; and hunting down that pesky little radioactive spider.


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