Horror of a Dream
Monayem Khan Nizam It was a hottest day of summer. The world had become a furnace with the burning sun.
"O God! Save us. Is it a sun or cauldron on earth? "
The day was over, I was driving home. I tuned on my radio. It was Radio Today FM92.6. I heard a little blurb about a little village Dahgram in Lalmonirhart, a border-lined district in Bangladesh where some villagers had died suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It's not influenza, but three or four people were dead, and it's kind of interesting, and they were sending some doctors over there to investigate it.
I didn't think much about it, but on Friday, coming home at afternoon from a long time prayer in our local mosque, I heard news on a satellite TV channel. Only they said it's not three villagers, it's 30,000 villagers on the other bank of the Mighty Teesta and its neighbours. I switched on CNN but it ran a little blurb. People were heading towards some safer places because this disease strain had never been seen before.
By Saturday morning when I got up, it's the lead story. For it's not just Bangladesh. It's Myanmar, India, Nepal and before I knew it, I was hearing that story everywhere and they had coined it now as "the mystery flu."
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh Premier, has made some comment that he and everyone are praying and hoping that all will go well over there. But everyone is wondering, "How are we going to contain it?" That's when the President of China makes an announcement that shocks the whole Asia. He is closing their borders. No flights from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, or any of the countries where this thing has been seen.
And that's why that night I was watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. My jaw hit my chest when a weeping woman was translated from a French news program into English. There's a man lying in a hospital in Paris dying of the mystery flu. It has come to Europe! Panic stroke. As best the woman could tell, "Suddenly my husband got it, he had it for a week before I could guess anything. Then he had four days of unbelievable symptoms. And then he..." She couldn't utter the most unbearable word for her, 'died'.
Britain is also closing its borders, but it's too late. South Hampton, Liverpool, North Hampton and the news became more alarming when Barak Obama, the President of the United States makes the following announcement. "Due to a national security risk, all flights to and from Europe and Asia have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I'm sorry". Tight security has been declared throughout the USA and Canada followed them as early as possible.
When asked about the permission of the return of the American migrants overseas, the White House Spokesman said, "They cannot come back until we find a cure for this thing. Within four days our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are talking about "What if it comes to this country"? And preachers in the churches are saying "It's the scourge of God."
It's Wednesday night and I was at a mosque prayer meeting when somebody ran off from the parking lot and yells, "Turn on a radio, turn on a radio!" And while the people of the mosque went to a small tea-stall nearby and the shopkeeper turned his small radio with a microphone stuck up to it, they could just listen to an announcement was already made. Two women were lying in the Apollo Hospital in the capital dying from the mystery flu. Within hours it seemed, this thing just swept across the country.
I turned my TV on. It was CNN. The flu is always breaking news in the scroll. ''We need any vaccination. Now and immediately....." shouted the Director of the US Royal Academy of Science. People are working around the clock trying to find an antidote. Nothing is working. New York, California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, people everywhere are seized with panic. It's as though it's just sweeping in from the borders. And then all of a sudden the news comes out. The code has been broken.
A cure can be found. A vaccine can be made. It's going to take the blood of somebody who hasn't been infected and so, sure enough, all through the Midwest, through all those channels of emergency broadcasting, everyone is asked to do one simple thing. "Go to your downtown hospital and have your blood type taken. That's all we ask of you. When you hear the sirens go off in your neighborhood, please make your way quickly, quietly and safely, to the hospitals." This is all about which is being telecast on the channels there.
I was having a tensioned cup of coffee. I needed some relax. I didn't talk well to my wife today as I was taken away by the only panic. She was just loitering around me and so was my son. But the news that was just on Cannel 24 made me more worried, yet hopeful. A group of US scientists are coming to Bangladesh as they want to collect some blood from the origin country of the flue. But the blood must be of that person who has not got any touch of the virus of the mystery flu yet. I thought I won't be me, nor my wife and my son. Though I was always praying the Almighty must save us.
I couldn't sleep that night, just prayed in the mosque with others. 'Save us the Almighty, save us,' a concord in the prayer of all. Unison was there in the prayer for some blessing from Him. I returned home at dawn. Things seemed to be kept down to the wire. Office! Go to hell. I need security of my family.
Sure enough, when I and my family got out of the apartment for getting our blood tested on the Friday morning, there was a long line and they got nurses and doctors coming out and pricking fingers and taking blood and putting labels on it. Many spouses and their kids were out there, and they took their blood type and they said, "Wait here in the parking lot and if we call your name you can be dismissed and go home. We got doctors from the USA, so don't worry, we're going to get some antidote inshallah."
"Doctors from USA!"
People got a silver-line, yet not unworried.
I stood around, scared, with my neighbours who had already gone there for their blood test, wondering what in the world is going on and if this is the end of the World.
Suddenly a young man came running out of the hospital screaming. He's yelling a name and waving a clipboard. What? He yelled it again! And my son tugged on your jacket and said," Daddy, that's me."
Before I knew it, they grabbed my boy. "Wait a minute. Hold on!" And they said, "It's okay, his blood is clean. His blood is pure. We want to make sure he doesn't have the disease. We think he has got the right type".
Five tense minutes later, out came the doctors and nurses crying and hugging one another-some were even laughing. It's the first time I was seeing anybody laugh in a week, and an old doctor along with the US doctors walked up to me and said, "Thank you sir. Your son's blood type is perfect. It's clean, it is pure, and we can make the vaccine."
As the word began to spread all across that parking lot full of folks, people were screaming and praying and laughing and crying. But then the gray-haired doctor pulled me and my wife aside and said, "May we see you for a moment? We didn't realize that the donor would be a minor and we need.....we need you to sign a consent form."
"What!" I exclaimed agape. Some neighbours were patting me on my shoulder.
I began to sign and then I saw that the number of pints of blood to be taken was empty.
"H-h-h-ow many pints?" And that was when the old doctor's smile faded and he said, "We had no idea it would be a little child. We weren't prepared. We need it all!"
"But-but. . . .I don't understand. He's my only son!" "We are talking about the world here. Please sign. We-We need it all!"
"But can't you give him a transfusion?"
"If we had clean blood we would. Please, will you please sign?"
In numb silence I did sign. Then they said, "Would you like to have a moment with him before we begin?"
Could I walk back? Could I walk back to that room where he sat on a table saying, "Daddy? Mommy? What's going on?"
Another one suggested me in a low voice, "Could you take his hands and say, 'Son, your mommy and I love you and we would never ever let anything happen to you that didn't just have to be.' Do you understand that?"
And when that old doctor came back in and said, "I'm sorry, we've got to get started. People all over the world are dying."
Could I leave? Could I walk out while he was saying, "Dad? Mom? Dad? Why. . . .Why have you forsaken me?"
And then next week, the hospital authority arranged a ceremony to honor my son, and some folks slept through it, and some folks didn't even bother to come because they had better things to do, and some folks came with just a pretentious smile and just pretended to care.
I and my wife went there. But I couldn't control my emotions. I burst into anger. "Excuse me! My son died for you!
My only son! Don't you even care? Does it mean nothing to you?"
I wondered, is that what God wanted to say?
I started crying out. I felt someone was pushing my shoulders. I could a voice, voice of a woman. "Hey, what happened? Why are you crying out? You dreamed anything bad?"
"Oh! No. Where's Muhaimen, my son?"
"Here he is," said my wife.
"I'm sorry. I was dreaming!"