The days following isolation…
World seers and sorcerers lost this in their visions. One man sat in a lab somewhere. One man did a series of researches, trials and errors until he got it right. Then he blew droplets of his invention into the air and the entire world came crumbling down. Kelvin has taped the entire house in waterproof. The windows and doors are covered in waterproof. Our Internet has been set to 3G. The solar battery in the room is whirring gently. Kelvin and I are lying languidly on the floor of the sitting room. I am watching the news and Kelvin is going through his phone. Italy has been Pompeiisised. The eye in the sky watching the world recorded the last moments of the Italian president when he breathed his last. He was Italy’s last survivor. France is hanging onto threads. It has 1005 people left in it. The UK is fighting with the vigor of a man caught in a whirlpool but it drowns anyway. In the USA, the streets are filled with the dead tossed out of doors by their panicking relatives. In Nigeria, everyone is cloaked in fear. The president caught it too and the frenzied doctors are passing taunts on him to go to the UK for treatment. Nigeria’s chicken has come home to roost. It is like a gravedigger who refused to dig graves for others, forgetting that he too will need a grave when he dies. Mexico has assisted the USA to finish up the wall at the border. In Egypt, the hospitals are overflowing and the streets have become makeshift wards. I am biting my nails and blinking tears away. This end of the world has no trumpet.
Kelvin taps me and shows me a text from his friend Ayo. It says that Ayo’s wife in her indefinite obstinateness had gone outside to look for fuel because their fuel supply had finished and NEPA was not giving any hope for electricity. Ayo had locked her out when she returned and called the NCDC. After the tests proved she had gotten infected an hour ago, they took her to quarantine. Quarantine. Ayo bolded the quarantine word and ended it with a crying emoji.
“Kelvin, what to do when our food supply finishes?’’ I ask tearfully.
Kelvin grunts and switches off his phone.
We have become walking Gods praying to ourselves. Somalia has closed its borders to the milling crowd of European refugees. Graphic pictures of dying and starving Europeans fill the screen of my phone when I log onto the CNN site. Aseigbu Nkanta, a black journalist doing a documentary on the effects of the coronavirus on European children, gave the clothes and shoes he had on to a dying child. He donated the masks and gloves he came with too. His last picture of a kwashiorkor freckled girl with a reddened face was titled, Are the White Gods Dead? He committed suicide afterward by drowning in a stream. I gasp on seeing the news, holding my chest and trying to breathe slowly.
Kelvin says I am letting this eat me up. He shakes like foaming palm wine while saying it. My chest twitches when I hear news like this. It twitches again when Kelvin grabs me roughly by my arms.
“Look! I want you alive when this whole shit ends. I want you alive while it is going on. I want you alive in fucks and in kisses. So you don’t die.’’
That calms me and I wipe my eyes dry.
“The media is having an effect on you. They are feeding you with panic and you are eating it so gladly.’’
“I need information.’’
“This information is killing you softly. I say you should stop reading this news.’’
“But how will I keep abreast with events?’’
I need me an artist to paint me how the world now looks from the outside. Not live moving images and still pictures. I want me an artist to paint it with colours, soak her heart into it and bear it with life. I am wondering how the seas look like. Are they still blue and crystal white? Do the waves still froth with anger? Is the sky still azure? Are the stars still twinkling at night? Or are they showing solidarity with the world by not coming out? Do the trees still dance in the wind? Are there still sands on earth?
“Kelvin, what happens when the air conditioner is exhausted?’’ I ask, looking up from knitting.
“We have the fan,’’ he replies calmly. Then drums his fingers on the table.
“I don’t even know what the wind feels like anymore,’’ I say, dropping the wool.
“The wind feels like my love for you. Trapped yet wanting to be free.’’ He stops drumming his fingers and extends his arms for a hug. I go to him and slip into his arms. I can hear his breaths. He is humming a tune from Dan Marya Jos. Then he stops, shuts his eyes and prays in Hausa. “God at this point, we cannot pretend to be fair and selfless in our prayers. We are each praying for our lives. Grant me life and my loved ones too.’’ It’s not like we are religious fanatics or spiritual extremists, just that at this point hope is out of control and all we can do is believe in these deities–God, Gods–and perhaps wish they can hear us.
I am dreaming or it seems like it. A flute is wailing mournfully. The tune slow like a dirge. It is faint and I can’t hear it well. I tell Kelvin to open the windows a bit so I can hear it clearly but he glares at me like a herbalist looking at his mad patient. The tune goes on and then the note of a saxophone joins it. I recognize the tune; it is the song from the Bollywood movie ‘My Name is Khan’. I lean my ear more closely to the wall, muttering the lyrics quietly. The piercing vibration from the saxophone and the penetrating hum from the flute fills the air, ricocheting. A human voice there, another one there, and the street is one closed-door opera concert. Kelvin’s tenor voice enjambs into the next line. I pitch my voice into the next line. Gently, we are all singing. Our voices lights in this darkness. I realise here that we are not alone and we will never walk alone.
…We shall overcome.
We shall overcome someday.
Deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome someday
Hum Honge Kanyab.
I am thinking flowers for Ghana. There’s been a robbery in Ghana. Hungry residents of the city armed with masks, gloves, rubber coats, and guns barge into residential homes to loot food. Hospitals are being guarded heavily. There are more entries than exits. The doctors are holding helplessly onto the reins of their mental notes. They’ve exhausted all the lessons in their medical notes. An image of a weeping nurse refuses to leave my mind. The other scenes come up but that image remains stagnant. Her words linger in my head as I switch off the television from sadness. She says, ‘’We are dead now and we are just waiting for our graves.’’ The Western Frontiers headline this morning reads, ‘’The War’s Lost in Ghana.’’
I run to Kelvin in the bathroom. He is putting antiseptic in the water in a pail. We don’t bath straight from the shower no more.
“What happens if Nigeria loses this war?’’
“We always win, Cee. We always.’’
This is a survival for the willed. People who live near the northern pole are migrating to Antarctica. They say the arctic zone is at risk of total collapse due to the influx of humans. The penguins are being killed for food and seventy-five percent of the region is saturated with plastic. The news says North Korea has launched a counter virus. Let the viruses be born, their president says to a mob of journalists at a conference. World War 3 is on. The first battle is at Nor Pas De Calais. A news analyst on BBC predicts that the entire human race will be wiped off. She tells viewers to do their last acts. In Sierra Leone, people are saving their final moments in everything tangible. The news analyst calls it Earth’s last days in the wake of doom’s day. With new technologies and nuclear warfares, destroying the world will be like making pie.
The TV shows weapons in the Nor Pas De Calais field lined up waiting to be active. There are no soldiers in sight. Outside the scene of the battle, soldiers dressed in camouflages, masks and gloves are waving white flags. They crouch in prayer, waving their flags and chanting, “We are not killing ourselves for wars we did not start.’’ They thump their boots on the dirt as if doing so will crush the war. There is a drone shot of the soldiers kneeling down with their hands clasp to one another and singing Bella Ciao. Kelvin says they surrendered to peace too soon. “The world is already in chaos,’’ he adds. “Now we are going to have battalions of soldiers down with corona because of power-mad leaders.’’
“They came prepared,’’ I say, stirring the cup of black tea in my left hand.
“This is a different war and the microbes are winning. We don’t need no more soldiers. We need scientists,’’ he finishes and exhales.
Everything sleeps when opium crawls upon it. Humans sleep when tiredness does, and the world when plagues creep in. Lagos sleeps at last, a blog post reads from my phone. Lagos the city that destroys and builds is thrown into a slumber following the Coronavirus, the nut graph reads.
Kelvin strolls into the sitting room holding an apron. “Our food supplies are running out,’’ he says solemnly. My eyes water and I swallow a globule of dry saliva. “You know what that means,’’ he says in that tone one says something which is neither a question nor a statement. I know what that means. I know that it means hunger killing us before the virus does.
“This is more than a war, Kel,’’ I say and break into hot sobs.
“Hey!’’ Kelvin says, taking me quickly in his arms. He rocks me like a baby.
“Don’t cry big baby,’’ he hushes. ‘’The virus will end.’’
“When?’’ I ask, my voice hoarse.
In Germany, the news reports that families are becoming cannibals. Families are killing weaker members for food after their food supplies run out. They throw out the discarded organs from their houses into the streets. There are pictures of this on the TV screen. Kelvin throws up on the table. I want to keep watching out of curiosity but I shut my eyes and leave my ears so I don’t totally miss out.
“How do people do that?’’ I ask, grimacing in disgust.
“Hunger has never made one think,’’ Kelvin says, reaching for a rag hanging on the doorknob to wipe the mess.
“Pray and will it that you never get deadly hungry. It’s a terrifying state.’’ He spreads the rag on the milky splatter.
For lack of a reply, I sigh. Outside my window, I think the world is an open field of lunatics displaying their antics. Reality was never made for the sane.
Cuba has recalled all of its doctors and scientist to the labs. The government wants it to find a cure and end the rampaging virus. The world watches this development with fingers clasped fervently in suspense. It is like watching a movie with your favourite hero fighting a dangerous villain. The script’s been already written but somehow you hope it could fall in line with your expectations, so you can see your side win.
“Will our heroes win?’’ I ask Kelvin that night in bed.
“It’s not the winning,’’ he said, turning to face me. ‘’The villain just shouldn’t mortally wound them so they can live to fight another day.’’
“What if the villain wins?’’
“Then the credit rolls in.’’ He smirks and places a wet kiss on my forehead.
“No. There will be a sequel.’’
“There are no sequels to life.’’
“Can you be a little more optimistic?’’
“Pessimistic I say. Negative plus negative.’’
In my head, I want to sleep and wake up from this mare. But it’s all in my head anyway.
In the first week, Cuba sends a battalion of doctors to affected countries with tanks of numbing fluids to kill the virus in the air. Second week, the numbing fluids are given to quarantined Corona patients. Third week, a thermal bird is sent out by different countries to inspect the environment. If the bird comes back blinking green then the world is still infested. If the bird comes back blinking with red then life could return to normal again.
The Thermal Bird always returned blinking red and each return in different countries was met with rousing welcomes.
I am with Kelvin in our balcony in the fourth week. We are drinking a glass of wine and laughing. The sun is setting. The sky still has clouds. There’s still sand on the earth. It is raining lightly. The wind cascades sweeping dead leaves into the balcony. I am smiling, strands of my dreadlocks flying in the wind. I get up.
‘Where to?’’ Kelvin asks
“To chase the wind.’’
“Catch it if you can.’’ He shouts after my running figure. Did Corona want to see us dead like dead leaves? No, even dead leaves roll in the wind. Even in our helpless states we die fighting because we are guardians of the earth–we will walk this earth gifted to us. The world has not changed much except that now I know just one race. The human race.
The conversation starter between my daughter and I will be on how we survived the Coronavirus in 2020. I will sigh like a benign oracle, wrinkle my forehead and say, ‘’Well, we all thought the world will end. Till my dying day, I will never wish for another virus. Akpa a’virus iki fon ofon owo idem.’’