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Lopound Virus 1

Nigeria.

 June, 2020.

It was a usual Monday morning at the United World Organization (UWO) regional office at Lagos. Employees walked like robots, every figure busy with his or her own tasks, nerdy eyes glued to their computer screens as their fingers pranced like hares on their keyboards. Men and women all dressed in suit and engrossed in their tasks. Their workaholic figures hidden behind their individual cubicle.

I marveled at the site for a while then continued to mop the stairs. Just then, two hefty men brushed passed me in brisk motions that would have sent me tumbling down the stairs if not for my breakfast of fufu and bitter leaf soup that kept my feet on the ground. As I regained my balance, I wondered why they were in so much hurry as to obliterate every sense of courtesy.

Few minutes later, they dragged Jackson down the stairs in handcuffs. What has he done? Why the public show of shame? The whole office was filled with murmurs and hushed whispers. I picked the mop then scurried down the stairs. I had so much to do and I was sure that the reason behind Jackson's arrest will soon emerge. All I had to do at the moment was to clean up my portion of the UWO's building or kiss my monthly salary goodbye.

The last part that needed Hygenia's touch was the rest room. I knocked then listened. No response seemed to be forth coming. I gently turned the door knob and the door creaked open. I saw two pairs of trouser-wearing legs under the toilet door. They were both wearing male shoes and talked in whispers.
"Stupid fags!" I muttered under my breath. I turned to exit there but mischief seized me and I decided to hide myself in the next toilet closet and listen.

"You think he embezzled funds?" a baritone voice asked. I knew the voice's owner.
"I thought so too till I heard the Head of Operations say he stole a document," the other voice replied.
"Mehn, I would embezzle fund if I had access to it than steal a useless document."
"It is still a rumour. I don't see how possible it is for someone in communications department to embezzle fund."
The other man sniggered. "It seems you have forgotten that you live in Nigeria. Anything can happen here. Vouch for no man."
I heard the sound of the bolt been drawn backward as the door swung open and the men emerged. They adjusted their trousers and ties then left the rest room.

I heaved a sigh and sneaked out of the toilet, deflated. Just gossip. Men who gossip in the toilet? They must be sissies. The rumour has been all round the office for a while.
The baritone voice was Efe. He traded in gossip and rumours, the paramount grapevine.

I didn't feel sorry for Jackson. What I felt was pity for the embarrassment. He was a snub and looked down on everyone that came across him. Bloody narcissist. He once embarrassed me right in front of Jane, the Head of Administration by calling me a 'mere cleaner'. I had gulped down the insult like Lager.

If I was opportuned to pass out of college like he did, we 'd probably be sharing the same office by now. WhenMom lost her job, the bills became overwhelming. The only solution to the situation was to drop out of the university in my third year. That put paid to my dream of being a computer programmer. My girlfriend, Abike often joked that I was a computer programmer without a certificate.
Crazy girl! But that was one of her traits that endeared me to her more. I stooped to push the toilet brush aside and mop the floor, then a flash drive dropped to the floor. Maybe, someone lost it. I shrugged then slipped it in my pocket and continued cleaning. Its destination was certainly the security department then the careless owner would go there to identify it.

Five pm stared at me. I unstrapped my water resistant wrist watch and put it in my jean front pocket. My skin needed some exposure to. Air. The day's job was over. I bounced to the gate, signed out and stepped out of the premises. There was no cooked food at home. My only option was to stop by a restaurant, buy food in take-away packs then transfer it to a new plastic food flask. You just can't blame me. A guy who is choked with work and the only child who has a sick mum in the hospital.

I scuttled across the road and ended up at the grocery stall. Orange and banana's made my old lady smile.

"Mama gi kwanu?", the familiar grocery seller asked as I picked the fruits.

"Oh! She is getting better. Thank you", I replied with a feigned smile.

Mama was not getting better. She looked more weak and sick each passing day. I had no money to fly her abroad for treatment and her condition was a rare one. It had no discreet diagnosis, the world health assembly (WHA) were still conducting research on it. They called it the 'Lopound Virus'. It was idiopathic and had no cure yet. The number of infected victims was drastically increasing.
All the news headlines flashed was the menance of the deadly Lopound virus. Mama was losing weight at the pace a fertile  hen lays eggs, her animated eyes were now sunken and her charming smile was now a nightmare to a new-born.

I exhaled, flagged down  a yellow and black taxi.

"St John's hospital!", I yelled. The traffic noise was deafening. The driver gestured at me. I hopped in and he sped off. I jogged up the stairs and headed straight to Mama's ward.

"Knock! Knock! Then I pushed the door and walked in.

Her sleepy eyed fluttered open and a wry smile covered her face. She looked pale despite the brightness of the room. The laboratory diagnosed not even headache and she was looking like an AIDS patient.

"Kene!", she called out in excitement.

"Mama, kedu?" I asked softly

"Ifugo nu m", she replied.

I sat down and brought out the food flask and fruits. "Nna! I have told you not to spend so much money on me", she reminded me.

I smiled. "Then who will I spend it on?", I grabbed her frail hands and kissed them. " You are all I have and I will do all I can for you"

She gestured at me to come closer then embraced me and whispered. "Thank you, son", with a weak smile.

I helped her up. She sat on her bed with a pillow propping up her head as she ate.

"You like it?" I asked

She nodded. "What about you friend,Abike?"

"Oh! She is fine but she has not been picking my calls throughout today", I replied.

Mama had a smirk on her face. "Both of you will settle. She loves you and both of you being together looks awesome", she said calmly.

"Ma......ma!", I chuckled.

She licked the spoon. "I know what I see. She is a good girl"

I stayed with her till 8pm and decided to head home. I walked down my street. Few cars drove in flashing their headlamps at the teenage figures standing in pairs. Teenage girls standing on the streets and listening to the love tales of their sagged-trousers boyfriends.

I entered my compound and banged the gate behind me. I walked to my door and inserted the key into the door hole then I caught a glimpse of a dark shadow that ducked. Could it have been my imagination? I turned the key to unlock the door and felt a pair of palms cup my eyes.

There had been no supply of electricity. The black out just gained extra momentum.

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