The story below gives us a haunting insight into what would happen if a falling meteor caused a virus outbreak.
The Night It Rained Virus
“Come on, Tina! We have to leave.” Little Tina’s eyes opened to see her father pulling out their luggage from under their berths. She sat up on her berth and looked outside at the crowded railway platform.
They had come to Suhan, where little Tina’s mother pursued her nursing training. The young couple had been high school sweethearts and married in their early twenties. Tina was their only daughter, who had turned 8 years old the previous day. Tina was relatively mature and understood that her mother couldn’t leave the town to attend her birthday despite her age. Her father had brought her to Suhan this weekend to compensate for the delay.
Hopping down from the train with her tiny pink backpack mounted on her back, Tina looked around for her mother in the crowd. “Mumma!” She ran into the crowd the moment she spotted her mother.
Yushi picked up her kid in her arms amidst the crowd with a wide grin and cried out, “Happy Birthday, my baby!”
“Belated birthday, Mumma!” corrected little Tina.
“Let that be! I have a surprise for you in my quarter. Wanna see?” said Yushi wiggling her eyebrows at her little daughter, who gasped audibly in joy. After receiving a kiss from Haan, Tina walked out of the station holding both of her parents’ hands.
Yushi made sure Tina’s eyes were closed at her quarter before they entered her room. As soon as Haan removed his hands from Tina’s eyes, the lights were switched on, with the rest of the nursing batch yelling in unison, “SURPRISE!” and bursting party poppers above the little one’s head.
Tina’s little face brightened up with a broad smile when she spotted the cute little pink cake resting on a table decorated with colourful balloons and confetti.
Tina quickly advanced toward the cake and stood behind it without much ado. After they lit a candle, it was her turn to make a wish and blow it off. A distant yet intense rumble caught her off guard when she was about to blow out her candle. With a worried face, Tina looked at her mother.
“Don’t worry. It must be thunder. Come on, blow the candle and cut the cake!” assured Yushi with a smile which encouraged her little daughter to blow off the candle and cut the cake. Everybody started singing and clapping in the chorus but was interrupted by another rumble, much louder.
“Is it gonna rain today?” said somebody amidst the gathering.
“It is doubtful to rain at this time in Suhan. I couldn’t see any cloud build-up when we arrived. Let me check.” said Haan hastily as he walked towards the window to have a peek outside. He advanced at the door and dashed it open to step outside without a word. The rest of the crowd followed him to witness the astonishing phenomenon in the sky.
It seemed like today, the sky offered two suns to the local people, just that one of them was moving faster than a jet plane and at a height lower than the stratosphere. Scared as hell, Tina clutched tightly at her father’s jacket and hid behind him. “What the hell is that?” Haan threw a random question hoping to get an answer from the rest.
“Looks like a meteor chunk!” somebody exclaimed from the group.
“Would that crash on us?” Haan’s question remained unanswered. Soon, the seemingly moving fireball disappeared into a distance producing loud roaring sounds, and the town sighed in relief. Everybody walked inside and continued with the celebrations.
Someone cut the cake into equal pieces for everyone and poured fresh orange juice individually. Haan turned on the stereo boxes with a happy party song, to which everybody raised their glasses. The party had just started, and it was hardly an hour or so after they witnessed the fireball when there was a low rumble and a mild quake felt by all under their feet.
Tina looked up at her parents and asked in curiosity, “Did the moving fireball crash somewhere?” Her question remained unanswered, but it was pretty evident to everyone that whatever it was, it indeed crashed somewhere and caused this mild quake wave. Yushi turned on the TV to check the news about this sighting and gasped in shock after learning about its true nature.
“A massive ball of fire was spotted falling from the sky and crashing into north-eastern China’s Dashi city today. In footage of the incident captured by the local people, a giant fireball can be spotted flashing across the sky, looking like a missile on fire shooting prominently across the sunny sky. In multiple footages captured by locals, a ball of fire, suspected as a meteor, lights up the sky and plummets into the county of Nangiman in north-eastern China’s Langhai province.
“Locals have reported hearing loud rumbles and a wave of a loud bang. Some experts suspect that the object was a bolide, an extremely bright meteor. The remnants have crashed somewhere uninhabited since no report of destruction has been received until now, and the rescue team is making attempts to find the affected areas. Stay with us for live updates.”
Haan turned off the TV with a weary face. The atmosphere was filled with severity after watching such a piece of strange news. Scratching their head to find answers desperately, Yushi suggested, “I have a bad feeling about this. Let’s leave this town!”
Little Tina tugged softly at Yushi’s skirt with eyes about to leak and asked, “Are we all going to die?”
“No, we are going to be fine. Nobody’s going to die,” said Yushi comforting her daughter with a warm hug.
Soon, everyone in the quarter started moving towards their rooms and packed up hastily to leave the town for some time. Haan and Yushi made preparations to leave but couldn’t book train tickets.
“Seems like most of the locals have decided to travel away from this town!” exclaimed Haan in a stressful tone.
“Don’t worry; we’ll figure this out. Let’s get going!” Yushi started tugging little Tina forwards, holding her hands behind her. Haan followed her, carrying Yushi’s bag full of crumpled clothes and a few necessary items.
The town was already in chaos after what people had witnessed that afternoon. It was growing darker than usual and suggested something uneventful might soon happen. Desperately looking for a bus to travel out of the town, Haan and Yushi ran across the bus depots like homeless people.
Finally, after searching through three bus depots, they got two seats empty in one bus scheduled to travel South. Despite their success, they were a bit late. The sky grew too dark for 3 PM in spring.
With a few lightning flashes, it started pouring heavily. The couple got wet but somehow managed to keep Tina dry, draping their jackets over her. Giving a dry seat to the little one, Haan stood beside Yushi’s seat and made sure Tina stayed dry. He started looking outside at the people in distress, running around like lunatics to find a shelter.
The rain didn’t seem normal. Something was off. Haan noticed the water drops making dirty puddles whenever they collected. “That meteor might have left ash in the atmosphere. The raindrops are so dirty!” said Haan rubbing himself with a towel.
“Daddy, you need to get a hot bath fast, or you will catch a cold!” said a worried Tina. The bus engine started and departed on time for their journey towards the southern outskirts of Suhan. It was a two-hour journey, and the bus was packed up with passengers – both sitting and standing.
After almost an hour, Yushi stood up and let Haan sit. As soon as she stood up, she fell backwards unconsciously on another man’s back standing behind her. Haan tried to catch her and place her on his lap when he realised she had a bad fever.
“Oh no! Mumma is sick.” exclaimed a worried Tina. Rubbing her forehead, Haan kept trying until she gained consciousness.
“Honey, you’re burning with fever! I think you have caught a cold!” exclaimed Haan in a weak voice, followed by coughs.
“You don’t look well either. But-” Yushi stopped when she heard coughs from many people inside the bus. With every minute they spent on the bus, the couple got weaker and weaker enough not to be able to stand up when they reached their destination. They realised most of the people who got wet in the rain had fallen sick.
At the destination bus stop, the passengers, including the driver, had become so ill that most couldn’t move from their seats. Ambulances arrived there in a few minutes, and the paramedics started running in turmoil to rescue as many people as possible. The doctors couldn’t rescue a few senior travellers aged somewhat above the third score. They died during the journey even before the paramedics reached them.
Most people were suffering breathlessness and gasped for breath audibly even with oxygen masks on. Yushi’s condition didn’t deteriorate so much, but she had become frail and pale while Haan was already breathing in short fits. Little Tina devastatingly watched her entire life falling apart in just a few hours.
She couldn’t handle the overwhelming fear and felt like crying. Her eyes were moist and about to leak, but she kept herself strong, looking at her parents in distress. She kept holding both of her parents’ hands while the ambulance dashed towards the nearest emergency ward. That’s how Haan had raised her.
Upon reaching the hospital, the couple was checked up by a doctor. Yushi had lost consciousness again, and Haan struggled to breathe. They were hastily pulled out of the ambulance and pushed into the emergency room. After a few checkups, the doctor walked out and gave little Tina horrifying news.
“Hi, sweetie. I am so sorry, but I don’t think your mother will make it. Your father is in better condition. We are trying our best to bring both of them back to health for you.”
“Did this happen because of the dirty rain today?” Tina mewled, trying hard to keep tears from falling out of her tiny eyes.
“I think it did. That meteorite might have brought some virus into our atmosphere, which fell with the rain afterwards. There are a lot of cases similar to your parents’,” said a doctor before patting Tina’s back and walking inside the emergency room again.
Tina kept waiting with a nurse by her side who tried her best to comfort the terrified little soul. That night never came to an end and devoured little Tina’s world as the doctor surrendered in front of her, “I am sorry little one. We couldn’t rescue either of them.”
Tina sat there in shock as she watched other patients being brought in and dead bodies being pulled out for the rest of the night. Soon, before dawn, police officers looking pale arrived at the spot and took Tina, along with some other children, to the nearest child shelter facility.
Tina listened to the Senior Inspector talking to his already pale-stricken juniors. “It seems like whatever the disease it is, children below teenage are quite immune to this naturally.” Tina looked around at the terrorised children sitting inside the waiting room, wailing like a pack of wolves – scared and lonely.
She wondered if she had been a bad girl during her last Christmas because of which she lost her parents then. Along with the other children, Tina was assigned to live in a state facility for orphans and be given free treatment by the government to study and find an antidote to this disease. They were the only hope to save humanity from a deadly cosmic virus.