Ubertine's 08: Love in the Time of EbolaSubmitted by monkeyswithguns at 2008-02-12 21:16:07 EST
Rating: 1.44 on 39 ratings (39 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
My submission to this contest:
Love in the time of Ebola
Ainabo walked through the camp, followed by two of his neighbors from his home village. They had arrived across the border weeks ago, but the raging battles between the liberation fighters and government troops had yet to subside, and he was too much of a coward to join the rebels just yet.
They were walking to where the UN trucks came daily, hoping to get there before the throngs created a wall of flesh between him and his daily rations. The crowds grew daily, with refugees now pouring in from both the North, and now the East as well. The fighting was getting closer, and the terrified populaces were fleeing en masse. He groaned as he rounded the corner of a tent, realizing he should have taken his neighbors advice and waited all night.
“Forget your personal possessions and your tent! What good are they if you don’t have food and water?”
Reflecting on those words, he was quickly realizing how desperate the situation was becoming, and that the promises of the UN to keep them safe and supplied would be impossible to keep, that they had underestimated how many people would end up here.
As he stood at the back of the line, he noticed a familiar face, a girl from a neighboring village. He had seen her at some of the dances he had attended, and had been in a stick fight with her brother that had resulted in some deep scars on his arms, and quite a bit of pride at his victory.
She wasn’t as beautiful as some others, but she radiated vigor and he could see how high she held her head, even in these poor circumstances. As he approached her, a smile flashed across her face, reflecting his own.
“You’re from M’Kabo aren’t you?”
“Yes, I knew I had seen you! My name is Akuma. My brother still claims he could beat you if given another chance. At least I think he does, he stayed behind when we fled, and I haven’t seen him since we arrived”
The smile fell from her face, replaced by a look of fear as her head and eyes dropped to the ground.
“I’m sure he’s fine. He was a strong fighter as I recall, and I’m certain he escaped before they arrived. Probably hiding in the mountain forest with the others, and eating better than us on bush-meat and drinking pure spring water.”
“I hope so. What of your family? Are they here also?”
“No, they moved to the south to live with my uncle in the city months ago. I wish I had not been so stubborn and reluctant to leave my herd behind.”
“Well, better that you are here and they are there. At least you can be sure they are still alive, and not have to suffer their worries over your predicament!”
The iconic trucks with their blue and white paint were only seen long after the dust clouds were noticed down the long red road, and the cheers had subsided by the time they arrived. The people were just too tired and hungry to keep their spirits and voices high for too long.
The initial thrust after the flaps were opened, nearly crushed the frail old women in front against the bumper, and the noise from the crowd grew deafening. The young white men and women in the truck looked healthy and clean, a clear reminder of where they were from in the Western world.
The young men in the back were beginning to throw packages into the crowd, realizing there were no orderly lines formed here, only the desperate push and daily struggle for life. Ainabo jumped, and snatched a package from mid air, and just as suddenly received a kick to his back.
“That was meant for me! You are a thief!”
But he just smiled and ducked out of the crowd, knowing his attacker would have to focus on catching the next one if he stood a chance at eating tonight.
Akuma had focused on filling her water jugs, and when Ainabo reached the water trucks, they were nearly empty, but at least he had some food to trade, so he rushed to Akuma.
“The water trucks are nearly empty and the food truck is preparing to leave already, if you’ll share your water, we can split my food and both be sustained.”
“Come to my tent then, and I’ll cook for us if you can keep watch to make certain my neighbors don’t try to steal my water while I collect firewood.”
As they moved toward her tent at the rear of the camp, they passed his own so that he could pack up what few possessions he owned and move closer to her. Finding a mate in these conditions was difficult at best, but better that he should try when he might, for life is fleeting in a place like this.
They arrived at her tent an hour later, toward the rear of the camp, where it wasn’t so crowded. Being at the opposite end of the aid trucks had its benefits as well as its shortcomings.
Akuma went to look for broken branches and twigs to create a small cooking fire while Ainabo began to set up his tent. The old man in the tent opposite him eyed his package as he smoked his pipe contentedly.
“Young man, what have you got there in that package? What food have they given you today?”
“None of your business you old fool! If you had any sense you’d have stayed in your village to be killed by the troops instead of starving to death here!”
“I meant no harm in asking! I have food of my own here in my tent! I killed a monkey before I got here, and I still have some meat, I only wanted to find if you would like to trade some of your rice and beans so that I could add to my dinner, and add to yours as well!”
Ainabo looked at the old man, and with great shame and regret in his voice said
“I’m sorry, but times are hard, and it is better to be greedy and live than to be generous and die. I will trade with you, and we will both eat well tonight.”
With that, the old man smiled and pulled out a bundle and hobbled over to his tent.
He unwrapped the package, and the split the slightly rotted meat as the young man filled his cup with rice. The old man scurried back into his tent without a word, and Ainabo began to prepare his cooking pot.
Akuma soon returned with a few branches, and with the cardboard from the box they cooked their meal as best they could, and ate the still hard rice and undercooked meat in the privacy of her the silence of her tent, not wanting to attract any attention to their good fortunes.
After they had finished, they sat and talked for the next few hours, about the people they knew mutually, their longing to return home, their fear of being in such a precarious situation, and how much they missed their families.
Love blossomed in the darkest land of the Dark Continent.
As dusk came and went, and the silence of night arrived, Ainabo got up to go back to his tent to sleep.
“I will arise early tomorrow, and go to try again at the trucks for both of us. You can wait here and watch our things, and it will be easier and safer for us both.”
”You’re not leaving are you? Try to trade your tent for some food, and join me in mine! In this place, there is no need for chastity. We could both die tomorrow, so there is no need for modesty.”
The night went on, and eventually they even slept.
The next morning they awoke groggily, not wanting to move from their blanket.
“I’m feeling sickly today, I may have flu, and I don’t think I have the energy to fight for food. We still have enough water to last us another couple of days, and I can trade my tent later for an evening meal. Let’s just stay in and rest a bit this morning.”
Ainabo felt guilty saying this, after promising the night before to get up early to beat the crowds and reach the truck, but the night of lovemaking had left him exhausted. Akuma was worn out also, and didn’t feel like pushing him out, so they slept on.
The boy peered over them.
“I think you must have Malaria! I’ll see if I can find one of the doctors at the aid station!”
Akuma had awoken in the dark, in pain, and had cried so loudly that it had awoken the boy three tents down. Ainabo lay beside her, in pain himself, but too proud to wail and whine.
Sweat beaded off of their faces, and yet they shivered as if they had been encased in ice. They lay still for an hour, Akuma letting loose the occasional moan, and Ainabo could only say “It’ll be ok. Everything will be ok” before returning to patient silence.
For three days they hadn’t eaten, and had only left their tent to use the trench that served as a communal toilet, which they had done often. Now they could hardly move to do even that. Their tent reeked far worse than it normally should, and the stench of the old man across from their tent had made matters worse. He had died the second day, and his death had gone un-noticed for a full day and night before the looters came to take what appeared to be unattended possessions.
They had also taken all of Ainabo’s belongings the same night, and now he had nothing left to trade.
The doctor finally arrived, with three helpers, and using their blankets, formed stretchers, and carried the pair to the makeshift camp hospital.
Upon arriving, they were both given an injection of Quinine, and told to hold on to the syringes, as these would be theirs until they recovered.
At the very least, they were next to each other, their cots only separated by a few feet. The five feet between them though seemed like miles, because neither of them had the energy to cross the dirt floor.
By the fourth day, Akuma had become somewhat delirious, and had begun to speak to her absent mother, telling her “Mother, I’d like for you to meet my husband, he helped me survive the camp...” before trailing off into gibberish and falling back asleep.
Ainabo had also lost bearing of where he was at, but he still remembered Akuma next to him, and would speak to her when he had energy.
The nurses and doctors were hovering around them often now, and they had begun to bring white doctors with them. Even nuns had come to see them, and Ainabo thought it strange that so many people would have such an interest in them. Was it really so strange for two sick people to show such love for each other?
On the sixth day, Ainabo awoke, and found Akuma had gone into a coma, though she still had signs of life. Blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth, and though he wanted to call out to her, when he opened his mouth, his lungs didn’t have the wind to make any noise.
On the seventh day, he awoke, and she did not. His final thought on that day, was that his heart bled from a million cuts for the loss of his love. The truth was that it bled because he had found love...in the time of Ebola.
Yay Ebola! How cute and cuddly-wuddly.jpg