The Mystery at ETU # 42

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They came for him at night, after he was abandoned near a local hospital for dead. His head hurt so badly, and he felt many times the sensation to throw-up. Though three persons had already died in the house, and he had had no contact with any of the bodies, and therefore could not come down with Ebola virus disease infection.

"A life in vain," was what his wife said the last time he heard of her. It had been three days since he was dumped near the hospital. It was three days of horror, for he had not received any support from any of the healthcare workers since reports had indicated that majority of them had died of the disease.

He was waiting to be transported to ETU #42, the notorious treatment center where many who were transported there never returned alive. Since he would be sent there in the end to seek help or to die, he did not have anything to say.

“ETU #42,” he said as cough shuttled in his throat, “going and not coming back.” His headache increased and he knew that it would be the end. By the fourth day, he was no more to himself and he lost consciousness. So when the truck came for him, when his body was heaved into the floor of the truck, he had no idea where he was, not even two hours later when four men in PPEs dragged his body and deposited it among the many at the holding center, ETU #42, on the outskirts of Monrovia.

Darkness fell slowly and distant echoes of hopelessness in the face of the Ebola scourge filled the city. Several hundred kilometers away, outside Virginia, a dim light silhouetted the infamous Ebola Treatment Unit #42, with its many fearsome stories about the living entering and returning in body-bags on their way to the crematorium in Boys Town.

As shadows covered the neighborhood, a noisy echo sounded as the man opened the door with a creaking sound. The man shrugged in a PPE eased himself into the room, flicked on a light that glowed from a distance. He mumbled something intelligible to himself and grimaced to fix his focus on the pile of bodies strewn on specially designed benches. He pulled the door behind him but was struck by an echo from someone in a body-bag pleading for attention. He did not show any sign of surprise and ambled his way silently to inspect the suspected body. “What noise is that?” he murmured to himself and, turning to his left, a smile wedged at the corner of his mouth. He lifted a mallet that he had used many times over, and stained with blood. His wide eyes glared at one of the bodies in the nearest body-bag agitating, possibly with life. His heart did not fill with concern but just a relish of excitement. A glance at his wrist watch announced the time at 1am.

The man, about forty, stooping and growing bald with his gloomy eyes squinting, lifted his right hand, grabbed the leg of what seemed like a corpse and yanked it to himself. Finding it not too easy to handle, he dropped the mallet on the nearest bench and with his two hands grabbed the body and lifted it, and doggedly placed it on an empty bench designed for his purpose. The body began to come to life and audible sounds emitted from the body-bag. “Please help,” the voice came from the body-bag, but the man paid no attention. He knew that help would only come from above and from ETU #42 where those who were sent there never had the chance to return to the world of the living.

Satisfied with the placement, he returned to the other table and lifted the mallet and walked back to begin the job he had to do. Turning around, he looked over the increasing number of bodies, and refocused at the body-bag that now seemed to tremble with life. He knew it was too late for whoever was in the bag; he must finish victim 55, if his counting was correct.

He then grabbed the mallet and refocused on the location of the head and with glee, whacked the mallet on the head several times, as blood seeped through the bag. Though as life seeped out of the body, it agitated with protest that only brought laughter from the executioner. With the job done with perfection, the man retained to ensure the speedy departure of the Ebola dead, smiled at himself. He knew the Ebola virus disease had come to increase the departure of the living to the great beyond and he was there to end their final journeys. Was he a sadist? Not exactly because he had a job to do, he told himself, and though he did not bring the Ebola virus disease to Liberia, all he had done and continued to do was to become a merciful disposer of the Ebola dead in peace and in flames.

Walking back outside ETU #42, the man smiled as he inserted the key to shut the door to await those who work the morning shift and then for his next assignment. It was a challenging job but he knew that someone had to do it with perfection.

One month later, a local newspaper carried a banner headline story: DOCTOR DIES AT ETU #42 and reported that the doctor’s body, after tests were conducted, was infected by the Ebola virus disease. The daily did not explain, nor did the ETU #42 officials, how the respected doctor was infected.

When the doctor’s body was collected by the Ebola Burial Team and sent to the crematorium and later placed in the incinerator to ground it into ashes, though the day was a sunny afternoon, the weather dimmed and many residents of Boys Town, where the cremation took place, swore that they heard raging thunder, as the smokeless incinerator began to turn his remains into ashes. But up to this day, many people still talked about the mystery at ETU #42.

Editor’s Note: This is a story from the author’s imagination and events here did not happen anywhere in Liberia.

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