My babies need to eat; it is all I can think about waiting in line. The people among me snicker at my presence, but their petty taunting will not discourage me. Sadea’s illness has even kept her from dreaming. My brother Raame wonders if she’ll live. No doctor will see us; they are afraid of being haunted by spirits or cursed. The people that bring aid relief, they don’t believe in such things. They’ve even converted some of the neighbors to their religion.
The help Sadea needs is inside. I avert my eyes from the others and inch ever closer, my little ones coughing fits still resonating in my head, along with Lyra’s frightened gaze. A woman takes me, when my turn arrives.
“My child is sick”. I tell her.
“Some many sick ones this month” she replies. “Wait here”. She leaves me alone and I watch others in the tent being seen. These people who had all once cursed the arrival of strangers, now lined up with their hands open but not their minds. Thinking they could simply slip in and take what they needed inconspicuously. They would be shamed in the village square at the end of the week.
“He’ll go with you” the woman says approaching me. There is a man beside her, he smiles gently, and helps me up. He is half a foot taller than me, thin, but sturdy in his build, with dark brown eyes, and softly curled hair. He begins moving towards the exit and I follow.
“Come this way,” I tell him.
“What are the child’s symptoms?” he questions.
“She can barely eat, she vomits most of it when she does, she has terrible coughing fits, and she’s been running a fever on and off for the last week.”
We walk in silence until we reach my home the man seems to be deep in thought. My mother greets us at the entrance, little Lyra is peaking from behind her skirt.
“Did you bring someone,” she asks.
“Yes, this is…”
“Dr. Haamed,” he interjects.
Sadea is lying in bed in the adjacent room, she is still like the dead and fear overwhelms me.
“Sadea!” I shriek.
Haamed calmly pushes me aside. He kneels down next to Sadea and places a thermometer in her mouth.
“103 degrees,” he says.
He then listens to her heart and lungs.
“Her symptoms seem similar to those of these other children in village.”
“Many of them have already started to recover; I positive she’ll be all right,” he finishes.
Haamed gives me medicine for Sadea. He explains when and how to administer it, one bottle is for her fever, once a day, the other bottle for her cough, two times a day.
“She’ll pull through, I promise,” he says.
“Do you need me to guide you back?” I ask.
“That’s all right” he responds. “I’ll make it.”
“If she doesn’t improve come and find me right away, don’t wait line, and just tell them Haamed sent you.”
I nod my head in acknowledgment; he leaves me one last easy smile, before turning his back to leave.
That night I wait at Sadea’s bedside, mother and Lyra have already fallen asleep. I imagine that somewhere Sadea is walking in the land of dreams, even though I can see her spirit tonight. That’s where she must be, enjoying herself, skipping below the tree tops and spying on incest nests. There isn’t any pain or discomfort for her there.
The next morning Sadea opens her eyes. She makes slow progress over the next few days as her grandmother tends her side, while I work the fields. I wondered if Haamed was still in the village and muddle the idea of going back the relief location. I should at least thank him.
He is visible a few feet from the town entrance, I can see him smiling and laughing at the children. They must be those that have recently recovered as well. He looks up at me, as I approach.
“So there you are,” he exclaims. “Is everything okay, Sadea, I mean”.
I nod my head yes.
“That’s good,” he says. “I should come have another look at her.”
We walk side by side to my home. He looks as though he wishes to say something, but hesitates each time.
“The people here are a bit superstitious huh,” he attempts to say casually.
“They seem to think something unnatural is going on here.” He seems perturbed by what he has just suggested, and we walk silently for a moment.
“If something occurs how can it be unnatural, the fact that an event takes place at all, whether created by man, beast or otherwise must be natural,” I argue.
“That’s what I think anyway.”
“I think so as well,” he answers.
Sadea is up and moving around by the time we reach my home. She still seems a bit lethargic. She walks toward me and wraps her arms around waist and buries her head in my stomach.
“Are you all right, honey?” I ask. I can feel her nodding her head up and down. Pushing her away from me gently, I make her sit down.
“It’s okay he’s just going to look at you.” Haamed kneels down to her level; he takes her pulse and shines a small light into her eyes. He then listens to her heartbeat and lungs.
“Her lungs sound clear,” he says. “She’s breathing normally, her pulse is strong.”
“How do you feel?” he asks her directly. Sadea hesitates for a moment.
“It’s okay,” I reassure her.
“I feel fine,” she says nearly inaudible. Haamed grins at her.
“You’ll tell your mother if you feel ill again, won’t you?”
“I will,” she replies.
“Most of the other children have recovered as well,” Haamed tells me as we exit the house.
“It’s true, what they say about us”. He looks genuinely surprised.
“Earlier, I wasn’t necessarily talking about you,” he offers in response.
“They told you though, right…told you there’s something wrong with us that we’re spirit wanderers.” He stares at me as though he has no idea what to say.
“It’s true, we are.” I’d never willingly told anyone before, not even people who already knew, yet I felt comfortable enough with this stranger to share my secret. He mulls it over for awhile.
“Kadja, I’m not sure that’s possible,” he says softly.