Ebola

Pieces of consciousness stirred me awake. I felt the impression of the soft blanket on my skin, the hotness of the room, the stuffiness of the room and the drip gently resting on my wrist. My eyes opened to see. Where was I? I slowly searched the room for familiar faces among the beds that crowded the room. I saw none. I shut my eyes again and fell asleep. I awoke to a woman changing my drip she was dressed in a white plastic suit covering her whole body. I wanted to ask her where I was and what I was doing there but I was too weak to speak. She looked down at me, behind her goggles I saw a painful expression that I couldn’t decipher. I watched as her whiteness disappeared into the darkness.
My mind plays images of me playing “fulayi”. Thandanani laughs and threatens that this ball will “kill me” for sure. She swings her hand backwards and sends the colourful ball made from multi-coloured plastic bags accelerating towards me. I lift my feet sending thousands particles of dust into the air. My legs freeze straight in the air as the ball passes. I reach the ground…breathless from the physical exertion and exhilaration. I smirk deridingly at Thanda almost saying “I survived”.
My eyes open again to find the nurse changing my drip. “Where am I?” I asked.
“In a clinic…your family brought you here yesterday. You have Ebola.”
Her words fell into my ears like pieces of hail falling on one’s head: Cold…and painful.
“Where are they?” I wanted to ask where my Mother is?! Where is Thandanani?! But my strength failed me.
“They aren’t allowed in here.”
I wanted to ask why not. But my voice failed me. There was something about the nurses cold eyes that made me shrink inside. Where was my family and why couldn’t they be here.
I dont know how long I slept for. Lucid images flashed in my mind of Amayi.
“You have to eat.” She said gently as though she was speaking to a baby.
“I dont feel like eating.” I said glancing at the maize porridge in the bowl. It was going cold now and looked even less appetizing than before.
“Magodise, you have to eat so you can give your body the strength to fight the malaria in you.”
With a defeated look, she placed it aside.
“I feel hot.” I moaned.”And cold.”
Thanda took a wet face towel that was hanging on the metal bed post and started pressing it against my forehead. The coldness of the towel against my inflamed skin soothed me.
I was so thirsty I looked around for Amayi and Thandanani. I looked around the room it was filled with frail looking women and crying children. No mothers to comfort their children. The room smelled. I heard woman next to me call the nurse. The lady asked her to change her sheets. They were covered in blood she complained. The nurse in a big voice told her they were no more sheets. She went on shouting how she had already changed her sheets in the morning. I turned the other side to escape the nurse’s loud scary voice. There was a little girl much younger than me maybe eight who lay so still in her sleep. The nurse finally came near where I was. I asked her for water. She gave it to me. The nurse was scary she did everything with an angry face. When I asked her for water she looked at me like I was bothering her. She went to the little girl’s bed and turned her then went outside. She came back with two men in ebola suits and they took the girl outside the room.
“Where are they taking her?”
“She is dead. She has been dead since morning. “The woman who had complained about the bed sheets said in an agitated voice.
“What will they do with her body? Will they return in to her family?”
“No they will bury it near here in a plastic bag.”
I didn’t know the girl but my heart pitied her. She had been alone in here without a mother and now she was going to be buried alone. Even in death she was separated from her family.
I could not sleep that night. What if I died? Would I too be taken and buried in a plastic bag? Would my family attend the funeral? Would I have a funeral? Why weren’t they visiting me? Another little girl was brought into the bed the other girl slept in.
Mai mabvuto seeing that I was awake started telling me about her family. She told me how her last born had Ebola.
“I didn’t want to bring her to the clinic because I knew they wouldn’t let me see her. So I used to make her drink holy water that I got from Nigeria. I tried not to touch her. But she was in so much pain she kept crying. I couldn’t watch my child suffer like that. I wanted to hold her soothe: Ease the pain somehow the way only a mother can. So I did. She died in my arms.”
I wept as she told me. Where was my mother? She had just dropped me off at this clinic with no explanation. Did they think I would survive? Even if I survived would they welcome me with open arms or would they cast me aside as people had been doing with the few that had survived this plague. I thought of the little girl that died next to me and how she was buried in a plastic bag. She was forever separated from her family. Ebola had not just robbed her of her life. It had robbed her of love. It had robbed us all of our dignity. We had become statistics in a lost war.
Today Mai mabvuto died the whole of yesterday she had been bleeding and complaining of a headache. I watch as they take her body out of the clinic ready to put it in a plastic bag. I cling on to life. I refuse to die and be separated from my family’s love forever. I refuse to be a statistic…

  The Authour Wongile Mbano is a student  at University of Malawi, Chancellor College. She is currently working on publishing her Play Ka’ulimi

DADDY’S NEWS AT NINE

The door creaked open, and daddy walked into the lounge in his usual mien, undaunted, his shower-fresh smell of Power soap slowly filled the lounge, his Ankara wrapper fastened in tight rolls under his big belly. Then he sank himself into the sofa, tilted his head to the wall clock to check the time, then finally rested his gaze on the side of my face with a shadow under his eyes that said ‘about time’, all in a fuss that sliced the air of comfort, my face suddenly felt fat on the sides. Of course I surely knew it was nine, time for NTA news. I sat still, resolutely unshaken. I pursed my lips and stared blank at the Television, aware of the stretches of time when Alicia Keys bobbed her head melodiously, playing a piano, her braid fluttered around, “no one, no one, no one” the gentle trailing voice slightly cracked with emotions on Mtv Base.
And although it was one minute past nine, I resisted Daddy’s noisy gaze, I had been there from the greying of the evening to the darkening of the night, submerged in excitement
“Ahn-ahn, ngwa tinye NTA right now osiso” he yelled with a contempt-tinged tone. I panicked, threw the remote to the centre table, sprang up
“Are you alright? Ah-ahn, I say put NTA now kita” he repeated aloud, his stomach heaved in the rhythm of the syllables, his face hollowed in anger “This boy has no respect”
“I will put it sir, I’ve put it” I said in a hushed voice, hastily bending down to switch to NTA, leaving my glasses behind, I took off in a brisk pace, almost running into my bedroom, troubled in my own skin, the door banged.
Inside my room, the letters NTA hung heavy in the air, unsorted. The thought of NTA was a TV screen coated in a translucent haze of dust, northern-like voices read careful censored news in bogus traditional clothes “The Governor of Yobe is empowering youths with sewing machines” the words filed out of their mouth with stylish difficulty, headlines were written in white and bold old-school font styles upon chocolaty brown backgrounds below the screen. A minister always commissioned a bridge or a building, a commissioner commissions a borehole water, cutting ribbons in an entrance cladded with balloons. The following day, the first lady wears a black silky veil and empowers women with mosquito nets that heaped in bulk, then makes a speech of sickening banality with a chubby microphone half the size of her head. The president always said this and that, but never said any bad things, “The chief commander of the armed forces of the federation has addressed..” this soared my stomach or drove me into giddiness. When it was a police man, it even made me hungry.
I climbed into bed, I can’t, I won’t watch NTA, then in a wave of resentment the word “nonsense” rolled around my tongue, then out of my mouth, my head shook to my thoughts, and a ball of fire seemed to woosh from my head and flickered. There in my room, I listened to the discordant drone of our neighbour’s generators that came through the windows that flung open. This subtle tragedy (power cuts) was something that NTA never talked about, they never talked about anything, they often sounded like ‘How sweet my Nigeria’. And yet when I switched to Channels news, accusations flung back and forth, civilians spoke to reporters with tears in their voices, bruised lips, placards, melting eyeballs, orotund protests, impassioned rants about unemployment, even government officials punched each other at the House of Assembly.
I remained in my room, listening to the cacophonous noise of the generators, and in that ugly noise, I wondered whether NTA was truly Nigerian. Then the sound of NTA news “pararam, raraam, kwararaa” continued in the lounge like sneezing trumpets, I heard it. Finally I walked to the door and closed it in the best possible way, then blocked the keyhole with pieces toilet rolls. I curled myself on bed, buried my head in a pillow and drifted off to sleep.

Daddy’s News at Nine is written by Anthony Nonso Dim, a student of Univeristy of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. He was born in Lagos Nigeria, working on his first novel.