As the emergence and rapid spread of coronavirus show, pandemic preparedness can anticipate biomedical risks but never quite pre-empt them. More generally, human imagination mobilises the past in an attempt to reimagine it and predict the future but it can never anticipate the moment of surprise, the moment when risk moves from the realm of active (often fearful) imagination to concrete manifestation. The only temporal dimension in which potential risks can be meaningfully understood is the "here and now".