Stripped of social interaction, structure and variety, lockdown-living is a lonely and oppressively drab state of existence.

We all have our own way of combating lockdown’s stale fog of inertia — mine was simple. If I could not go to my friends, perhaps a friend could come to me. 

Nicholas Wiseman is a third-year maths and philosophy student, who is 5’10” tall, and made of flesh and blood. Regrettably, he is thus very Covid-unfriendly.

Nicholas Wisemannequin, however, is a third-year maths and philosophy student, 5’8” tall, and made of cardboard. He is thus incapable of both contracting and transmitting the disease: in short, he is perfectly Covid-friendly. There was but one problem present from the beginning – or rather, the middle. Searching through my photos to choose a likeness capable of capturing Nick’s basal essence in post-tree form, I noticed that every photo of him cut off at the waist. Mercifully, Microsoft Paint was able to outfit a new pair of legs for Nick, and Bonnie Prince Nicky, the Pretender, arrived by post a few days later.

 Figure 1 ‘Snicks and ladders’:

Two friends play snakes and ladders; one is a cardboard cut-out.

In many ways, the Usurper shares much in common with his human namesake. He is a good listener, thoughtful and infinitely stylish. In some ways, he is even improved: he has thus far expressed no strong opinions on effective altruism, nor the pitfalls of conventional morality. In fact, if it weren’t for his slightly depressed stature and intolerance to water (his body begins to dissolve), it would be difficult to tell the two apart. So realistic was Nick that two neighbours, spying him peeking out from behind the living room door, called my parents to report a possible intruder. No intruder, however, was Nick — beyond his tendency to lurk behind doors or in dark corners of rooms, he was a very welcome presence to the entire household, accompanying us for the occasional meal, game or walk, and providing a convenient and obliging place to hang our scarves. 

Figure 2 ‘Cooking Nicken Tikka Masala’:

The real Nicholas was entirely unaware of the proverbial cuckoo that had replaced him until lockdown’s end. Then, dozens of images of my pandemic pandemonium with his cardboard counterpart were sprung on him, depicting us cooking, jamming, sightseeing, drinking, etc. together [see figures 1 and 2]. Perhaps inevitably, Nick seemed surprised to see himself blatantly disregarding Covid-guidelines, and with an unfamiliar pair of legs, but as I am yet to be indicted for identity theft, I can only assume he appreciated the gesture.

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