AGORA

It was their second day alive, the sky was blue, the sun was golden and the day was bright, just as it was yesterday: all ten chicks were on a jolly outing with their mother. The world, it seemed, was a mega playground, a smorgasbord of puny worms and bugs, breadcrumbs and cereals, all for the taking. Eager to take over the world, to find out what juicy treasures it was still hiding, some colonial chicks slowly strayed away from mother hen, deaf to her repeated clucking that they’d better not stray too far from her. A hawk watched keenly from a roof as one chick strayed farther than the rest. Then, swoosh, the sniper struck! Mother hen shrieked, the chicks sprinted back, all but one of them.

It was their second day but it was not to be like yesterday. The sky was still blue but theirs wasn’t. They were deaf a while ago but they now they could hear. They could hear their mother cackle in anguish as they huddled behind her wings in utter silence. They could hear a generator chug loudly nearby, beside the house whose roof the hawk had stood on…

A WITCH AND A BOY

The boy died.

I think he would have lived, though. If their perfumes had not snuffed out the only, albeit slim, chance he had left.

Six days they had been in church, praying and doing God knows what else. They most definitely were cleaning poop and vomitus anyway because that’s what they said he had been doing – pooing and vomiting – nonstop besides running a fever all the while. By day 4, the boy could hardly sit up straight let alone stand. And by then, he had stopped pooing loose stool, it was all just clear fluid. They said he was an olomi and whoever is an olomi in these parts they don’t give too much water to drink. It’s said that the more water they drink, the more they shrink until they shrivel up and die. So, they didn’t give him water to drink, even when he was strong enough to cry out for water.

Day 6, he could hardly respond to anyone calling out his name. His mother called him, shook him, tugged on his arms but all he did was roll his eyes. That was when they stopped swiveling to the entrancing drum beats that accompanied their melodramatic prayers. With her heart palpitating and eyes freely tearing, his mother heaved him onto her shoulder and walked out of the church. The incense kept burning right where they left it.

There was just a nurse at the nearest basic health center, there was no doctor. The child was to be referred to the general hospital which was kilometers away. The nurse knew he’d die before getting there. She knew she could give him a chance by giving intravenous normal saline. She was going to site an IV line when she suddenly began to have difficulty breathing. She was asthmatic. The dense smell of incense on them had exacerbated her asthma. The incense was bent on doing its job apparently – why burn for 6 days without snuffing out a witch?

The nurse needed her inhaler. The child needed an IV line. The inhaler was now more important than the line. While she sought that, the child gave his last few gasps.

They found a witch but lost the boy.