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Episode 9

December 24

0800 hours

Mmiri Village Forest, Uyo


For the first time in days, Ken woke feeling refreshed.

When he didn’t see Emma at his side, he panicked. But he relaxed when her chirpy voice came to him from the front room. Ken picked himself from the bed and walked into the parlor. Tom, Ajayi, and Emma were seated at the dining as Madam Mary served breakfast. The aroma of the food dragged him to the table, causing him to salivate.

Mary frowned at him and blocked his path. “No one shall sit at this table unless they are bathed and freshly clothed.”

Ken noticed they were freshly clothed. Tom, who wore a clean white polo, shrugged and faced his meal. Emma beamed at him, looking divine and attractive in her beautiful, light pink spaghetti gown.

“Do has she says, Kennedy,” Mr. Ajayi said unnecessarily. He too wore a clean white polo.

Ken started to complain. “I don’t have a—”

“You’ll find everything you need in the bathroom behind the house.” Mary cut him off. She led him to the door and handed him a hip of fresh clothes that she had arranged on the head of the couch. “Dustbin the clothes you have on now, when you’re done.”

Ken took the clothes from the woman and exited the house. He was relieved to find out that they weren’t surrounded by those black creatures from hell. He rounded the house and found the bathroom. He quickly dumped his clothes on a heap of clothes beside the bathroom and took a long thorough bath. He found a new tooth brush on the window ledge. He used it to give his teeth the same treatment he had given his body. He left the bathroom freshly clothed and feeling close to God. Back at the house, he was allowed to sit at the table. Mary served him his yam and fish sauce. He started on it instantly.

“Hi,” Emma whispered into his ear. Her perfect set of white teeth brilliantly reflected the light from the windows.

Ken smiled back at her. He swallowed and said, “how are you doing?”

Emma replied looking at her half finished dish, “fine, giving everything that’s happening.”

Madam Mary joined them at the table with a plate of her own and began eating. They all eat in silence until every plate was devoid of food. Mary cleared the table and sat with them.

“We have hay decision to make,” Mr. Ajayi said, visibly getting ready to launch into a lecture.

“Kaduna is down,” Tom interrupted him. “The radio station we got our news from before is down. We believe the virus has covered the nation. Our parents, Ken. Our parents may be dead.”

“You’re the expert, Ken” Ajayi said, shooting Tom a wicked glare for interrupting him. “How many people do you think could have survived the virus?”

Ken had done the calculations. But he was too afraid to say it because Emma was beside him. She had almost had a break down seeing all those dead people lying in the streets.

“Go hon,” Mr. Ajayi said. “She already knows the last count.”

Ken glanced at his fiancée who nodded for him to speak. “Not more than two million people are left in the country,” said Ken. Then he quickly added, “except those that fled the country and those that may have somehow developed immunity.”

Tom whistled—a low, airy whistle. “Only two million people left in the country?”

Mr. Ajayi’s face hardened, anger evident in his eyes. “We need to get to Abuja immediately. Find hout what government his left hand heradicate the virus from hour borders.”

“I agree,” Ken said. “Since we can cure the virus, we need to establish an immunization program to cure all those that are currently sick or immunize those that have somehow evaded the virus.”

“Can’t you start here? Why go to Abuja?” Tom asked.

Ken nodded. “The equipment I need is in my lab in Abuja.”

“Abuja it is then.” Tom agreed.

“Do you think your cure can heal the dogs?” Mr. Ajayi said.

“Maybe. Maybe not. It’s too early to say,” replied Ken. Ken felt Emma’s delicate fingers on his hand and so he turned to her. Before she spoke, he said, “baby, you don’t have to come with us. You’re safe here with Madam Mary.”

“That’s not it, Ken,” Emma replied in a whisper. “I don’t want to ever leave you again. I just wanted to say that we should spend Christmas together in a home, not running for our lives. It’s Christmas Eve today. Tomorrow is Christmas. We can leave on the next day.”

Ken glanced at Mr. Ajayi and Tom. They both nodded.

“Okay,” he said to Emma, thus ending the meeting.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Ken spent most of the time with Emma, chatting, snuggling, and idling around the house. The darkest piece of news they received that day came in the evening when Ken’s prediction was confirmed by VOA—Voice of America.

In the night, Ken withdrew from his friends and went outside to gaze at the stars. As he lay alone on the dusty ground, staring at a sea of stars and a bright, burning moon, he remembered his childhood. He and his father would lay out on their backs in the night stargazing and telling stories. Now, his father was probably somewhere in Abuja dead and rotting, along with his mother and siblings.

Ken wiped his tears when he heard the door open behind.

“May I join you?” Emma said, standing at his side.

“Sure,” Ken said, giving her some space.

Emma settled down beside him, came close enough so her skin pressed his, and then gazed at the twinkling stars.

No one spoke for a while. No one wanted to spoil the mood.

The wind blew over them softly. The trees rustled lightly. Emma turned on her side, and looking at him, she said, “Merry Christmas, Ken.”

Ken turned and looked into her eyes. Her fair face shone in the moon light. Though it was a dark Christmas, he decided then and there that he was going to enjoy it as much as he could. “Merry Christmas, Emma,” he said with a smile.

“I love you.” The soft wind brought Emma’s whisper.

Before he could reply, her lips were on his. He felt happy.

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