Two fear stricken women stood aloof in front of a mud hut with their hands behind their backs staring at a child cry. His mother soothed him verbally from a distance but all he wanted was to be carried.
But his mother would not take that risk. Ever since they got to know about the outbreak of a highly contagious deadly disease which was said to have chewed up the head of thousands, they had resigned to the fear of death from the unknown disease.
The disease was said to have invaded north-west of Canerusa, a community bordering the north of Ebemma; a community twelve communities away from Burgir, their own community.
The news had gone around even to the remotest locations that people should avoid physical contact of any kind till further notice.
Women had asked questions like how they were going to cater to their babies especially the suckling ones and the equally scared community crier had told them to do that at their own risk.
Press out your breastmilk and feed your child from a cup.
“How do we carry them to feed them?”
No one could answer.
Few moment after the announcement, rumour went round about two people, a husband and his wife and another, a child and her mother had died instantly after physical contact.
So these women left the child to cry. They knew it was for his safety. He could get the disease if they touched him and die.
They knew that crying didn’t kill anybody and for children, it helped them to mature emotionally. When they are left to cry to their satisfaction before consoling them, it’s for their good.
The baby bottom shuffled to one of the women and she moved away to maintain a safe distance.
“Sorry my son. Soon this will be over and I’ll carry you as I usually do.”
What are we going to do my sister? Do you know I’ve not given my children a bath since morning?
The two women laughed at their helpless state until real tears dropped, they sniffed as the situation dawned on them.
That was a foolish and a horrible sight for an old woman Deumie. She was a kind childless widow who lived in the same community. She was passing by the open compound with the aid of her stick when she heard the child and looked to see what the mother was doing. How her child was bottom shuffling after her and she kept moving away.
She heard about the epidemic just like the others but she was not giving in to the lies that a touch could actually kill. People shouldn’t believe such things. She was not doubting the existence of the disease, she only didnt believe the disease could kill just by touching someone else. It’s an exaggeration and misunderstanding on the part the crier.
Deumie hastened to the child.
The women sensed what she was about to do and stood in her way to prevent her from touching the child.
“Don’t touch him Deumie!” The other woman shouted.
“Have you not heard the about an epidemic announced a while ago? The child’s mother asked.
“If you touch that child, he will die and you too will die, ” the other woman said.
“Out of my way, you heartless women, ” Deumie said but they refused her access to the baby.
She raised her stick to scare them away but they stood between her and the child.
“Take her stick, let me see how she will walk to him.” The other woman said and the mother of the child grabbed Deumie by the stick.
“I won’t allow you kill yourself and my child, ” the mother of the child said.
“What a bad mother you are!” Deumie released her stick and she took it. ” I’ve not seen such a heartlessness as you in my entire life, ” she said and the child’s mother began to cry.
“Return my stick this instant. Wicked mother. How could you abandon your child? Can a woman ever abandon her child for any reason?”
The mother refused to hand her over the stick.
Without her stick, Deumie limped to the child. The other woman made to stop her but she threatened to lay a curse on her if she ever touched her or pushed her down. The woman stayed away, least Deumie touched her.
Deumie got to the baby, wiped his tears and carried him in his arms. She felt him sniff constantly and felt really bad. How could a mother do that to his child?
The two women shouted in unism and began to wail. The children joined them. Deumie couldn’t believe her ears. She laughed hysterically.
Neighbours gathered. They maintained their good distance from each other around Deumie who kept shaking her head in disbelief, mocking their terrible state of ignorance with intermittent laughter.
Deumie carefully carried the baby up to her chest, lay his head on her left shoulder and limped to a stool. As she was limping along, they made way for her as if she was death itself. She sat down.
The child had stopped crying and was looking into her face with a smile. She sang him a song and in a very short while, he slept off.
One man moved closer to her to check if the child had died but withdrew when his wife warned him to maintain his distance. They all were surprised that both Deumie and the child were still alive.
Deumie began to speak to them.
*What is wrong with all of you? Think about yesterday before the news came. You touched each other didnt you? Did you die?”
They kept silent.
“Don’t make us look like cowards, Deumie. We are only taking precausions to stay safe. Is there anything wrong with that?” One man said.
“This disease doesn’t exist. No one is dying by touching the other. Come, touch each other now and see.”
They looked at each other. Some ran away while some stayed but refused to do what she said.
“I need two people to volunteer to do this, to show there is no such thing as touch and die. I have touched this child and we are still alive.”
Two women went out to the middle. One man shouted at them not to listen to Deumie.
“Hug each other women!” Deumie encouraged them.
They stood there. One of them began to cry.
Most women began to cry as the two women finally hugged each other.
They both slumped to the ground and everyone began to scream that they had died. Deumie had killed them. They swore not to forgive her.
But the women started, opened their eyes and pinched themselves. They’re still alive.
“We are alive! We are alive! They jumped around. Deumie is right. They are wrong.”
“Now everyone, hug one another, ” Deumie said and they all laughed and hugged each other.
The mother of the child took her child and caressed his sleeping head. Deumie stood up, picked her stick.
As she was walking away she said to them
“If there is anything that kills more than a deadly disease, it is fear!“
They were very pleased with her for saving them from their ignorance.
A moment of silence to those who lost their lives to coronaVirus.🙏
Physical touch is forbidden in my locality because of the coronaVirus.
What we don’t know that when the virus comes to town, (may God forbid this) the air will touch us. How on earth are we suppose run away from the air?
It’s needful to take precausions against an infectious disease but we shouldn’t be terrified to the extent that we cease to breath before it comes any close.
In those days people ran away from leprous patience because highly contagious skin disease.
They were kept in isolated areas far away from the populace. But some uninfected people visited and related with them. Some shook hands with them but didnt get the disease.
Actually these are contagious diseases but sometimes we are extremely fearful of situations that we could die from fear of the situation rather than the situation itself.
I'm a food scientist who has chosen the path of creative writing- the one thing which comes to me naturally.
Back in 2013, my love for teaching young learners propelled me into picking teaching as a career. I taught English, Maths and Science in the United Arab Emirates where I lived for ten years. Right now, I live in Coal City, a beautiful hilly area of my country Nigeria.
My website Fiez-writer is a product of my extreme desire to share my writing with the world. Here, I share fiction, poems, thoughts and writing tips.
A huge part of my life is spent with my lovely family and I'm a proud mother to three brilliant kids.