I Must Go

“You should stay home.”
“You just want me to stay so that I’ll keep you company.”
“Is that so bad?”
“Will you stay then?”
“You’re sick. I can see it just looking at you.”
“It’s not so bad.”
“It’s your head and your throat and… is that sweat? Have you got a fever too?”
“It’s just water.”
“If that’s water, then I’m a giraffe.”
“A giraffe with a very short neck.”
“You are sick and you should stay in bed with me.”
“They need me.”
“They need you to be healthy.”
“Compared to many of them, I am. And if I’m not there, who will teach them?”
“There are teachers that you pay good money to. Let them teach!”
“And who will lead the teachers?”
“Someone who is not you, while you rest and recover.”
“I love you.”
“But you won’t stay.”
“I must go.”
And with that, Mabalo Lokela left his wife at their home and started on his way to work. It was a beautiful say in August, the sun not too hot against his back, the clouds providing just enough coolness to make the walk pleasant. And yet, Mabalo Lokela was not feeling pleasant. His wife was right. He was sick. If it didn’t hurt him so much to admit that to her, he would turn right back around, walk into the house and announce it, before lying down and resting his eyes. But he was a proud man, and admitting to a woman that she was right, even if it was his own wife, was something that he would not forgive himself for. And so, he walked.
It wasn’t far to the school of which he held the privileged title of headmaster. It was a small school, but a good one. The teachers were kind, but stern when they needed to be, and Mabalo Lokela had to admit as he looked at the children playing in the small, dusty yard, that they looked to be some of the smartest he had ever laid eyes on. Look at that boy, there, who had made a toy with nothing but some old tire and a stick, or that girl who had fashioned a doll from dried leaves and pieces of litter. Watching these children made him happy, but not happy enough to forget how his throat ached, and how his knees had started to buckle beneath him. He was not so old that he should not be able to handle a walk, he thought to himself. It must be the sickness. He walked away from the children and into his small, cramped office space.
“Mrs. Kasongo?”
“Yes, headmaster?”
“Do you think you could find me a doctor?”
“The nearest doctor is at the mission. Would you like me to fetch him, or can you walk?”
Mabalo Lokela considered this for a moment. His wife and Mrs. Kasongo would sometimes talk, and he didn’t want her knowing.
“I’ll walk,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious.”


On August 26, 1976, the first known outbreak of the Ebola virus was recorded in Yambuku, Zaire. 318 cases were reported, 280 of which resulted in death – a 90% mortality rate. Mabalo Lokela, the headmaster of a local school, was the first recorded case.
Write at least 500 words about this day in history. It can be from the perspective of living through that day, recounting the day afterwards, or even your own variation on what the day might have been, in an alternative history.



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