I walked to the communication hub and as I dialled Chike’s call code on their high-end video phone, I could feel Bisi’s hostile eyes burning holes in my back. At least she is not crying anymore, I thought.
Chike’s face came into view on the large view screen; he seemed relieved to see me. “what is going on?” I asked.
“Mr. Dotun. Thank God. I can’t talk much. Thinks are getting crazy out here. Things are worse than I thought. But tell me, the rats, did you notice any strange thing as you buried them?” Chike was tense, he kept looking over his shoulders, even though he appeared to be in a sort of enclosed lab.
“Yes,” I said, somehow knowing what he would say next.
“That means the plague has already reached the mainland and will soon climb up the food chain. You have to leave Eko now. Please take my wife with you; force her if you have to.”
I was about to inquire further when the screen went blank, but not before I saw the door behind Chike burst open and two burly soldier types enter the room.
We left Eko the next morning, way ahead of the mass exodus and death that turned that beautiful city-state into hell-on-earth, but not fast enough. By the time we made it to Benin four hours later, the quarantine was fully in place in Eko. We hoped to cross Benin and make it to Enugu where Chike’s brother promised safety in the form of a close-knit clan of hill dwellers, but a hastily set up quarantine zone for people coming in from Eko negated our plans.
All through the drive, we had kept abreast with developments. Though the truth was still scanty and bitterly guarded by the Eko government, Chike had managed to get the story out and the net links were abuzz.
I worried for a while, when we could not get clearance to travel further into Chike’s ancestral home where we felt we might find safety.
In the quarantine camp, which grew by the minute as more refugees flowed in, we waited two weeks for the second round of test results to either clear us, or sign our death warrants. My wife and Bisi, more like sisters now, comforted each other, they both lost family in Eko. Then Bisi died, not from the scourge, no, I think of heartbreak. Of Chike, we heard little. Some say he they placed him in a government facility safe from the plague; others said he tried to help the afflicted and contacted the late stage of the infection.
Because we left when we did, we managed to cross Ogun before the militia blocked all exits. From there, only horror tales escaped.
‘Sir...sir,’ an urgent voice intruded on my thoughts, drawing me back to the present.
I look up to see a Guardsman looming over me, blocking the rainbow hue from the cathedral windows.
‘What?’ I ask, grateful for the intrusion but wondering what he wanted. The Guardmen were notorious with how harshly they’ve been treating people since emergency law came into effect last week. Adunni says it is the tension, they are human after all.
‘Please head to the meeting tent, the result for the tests are out,’ he say, turning to walk away.
‘Wait,’ I call out, stopping him in mid stride, ‘What happens now?’
The Guardsman looks at me as if he was pondering how much to tell me, then he just shrugs and continues on his way.
I stand up from the plastic chair, take one last look at the Cathedral, and enter the tent to fetch my family.