"Happy New Year," gritted Asher from between clenched teeth. Turning over in bed, she kicked the thin, mildew lad sheet from her thighs. A frustrated tear escaped from between closed lids.
The fireworks had been exploding all around the house where she was staying in Mombasa, Kenya. Noisy children, loud adults, babies crying, teenagers screaming, thudding music, and tooting tuk-tuks had kept her evening disturbed. The sleeping tablets she was on were stubborn. Rest kept a distance from her shattered consciousness.
In a desperate attempt to flee Australia, Asher had signed on for overseas humanitarian work. Something she had always harboured dreams of doing. The COVID-19 restrictions had been ridiculous. It had been the only way Asher could see that she would be able to take her crippled body to see the world. It was also the only way she figured she could get work experience as a counsellor.
At the time, the volunteer opportunity had seemed a Godsend. The trip had fallen together with ease, draining her meagre savings. What did that matter, if she could change not only her own life but the lives of others like her? Asher would be back in Australia within 3 months, with new skills to offer potential employers. A part-time job in mental health was just what she felt qualified for with a Diploma of Counselling. All it had done since she had completed it was gain dust in her cloud drive the last 12 months.
COVID-19 looked to be disappearing and international borders were opening. It was as if the unnatural viral winter had thawed into spring.
The beginning of the trip went well. Luggage wasn't lost, no delays to flights and she wasn't arrested for any reason. (People had been merciless with toying with Ashe's mind. Everyone had told her she was going to prison. What the charges were didn't seem to matter. The government can lie about anything.)
Then she arrived in Mombasa. It was a disappointment, though unsurprising, that the people were intent on playing a vicious mind game with her here, too. This time there could be no doubt. It had nothing to do with Karma or any unacknowledged sin. Having spent years transmuting and releasing her Karma, paying it through being persecuted, there could be nothing left. As for sin, she followed the Biblical law to a T. If she ever doubted that an action or thought was a sin, would the behaviour please God?
To begin with, there was the ringworm she had squired on the flight between Perth and Mombasa. Within days, she had accrued injuries to her head and developed a rash from showering with bore water. There was the hay fever with a nose that dribbled like a tap needing a new washer. The host families dog preyed on any chance to maul her. To add insult to injury, her back trauma had flared up, making it impossible to do any volunteer work. Then, there was either the parasite or bacteria she had picked up the week before Christmas. Unable to poo, and when she did, it was a funny, light brown colour, with a lot of mucus. The inevitable trip to the hospital was not one she was relishing taking.
Then there were the mind games. Asher had felt, safe in social isolation, that her mind was now repaired enough to deal with anything the enemy could throw at her. The enemy, of course, is the Devil and the people whom she called his slaves. In controlled circumstances, she was correct, she was very healed. In a foreign nation, with people she couldn't understand, their malice took on a vile hue. The amount of so-called Christians who did the Devil's work while professing love for Jesus astounded her. As a woman who knew her Bible, she could line up actions to verses, like a maths genius. If 2 and 2 equalled something other than 4, they were trying to rewrite maths. One can not change the rules of maths, as one can not change the law in the Bible.
All Asher wanted to do now was to return home to Australia and never venture out again. During the last fortnight, even that possibility had had grim doubt thrust upon it by the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (Why couldn't they name it after a politician, she thought.) The United Arab Emirates had shoved half of Africa on their Red list and began enforcing travel bans.
The week before Christmas had passed tense. Panicking, Asher went off her medication, knowing that there would be no more painkillers if she couldn't return home. Being in a developing nation left her very dubious to the possible quality, or lack thereof, of any medication. This had caused an even greater emotional instability. Nothing but tears had kept her company on Christmas and its eve.
On a whim, Asher had contacted a Vedic astrologist to get a forecast on whether her flights would become cancelled. The bank had been unable to verify her phone number, her card; blocked. PayPal had offered a simple solution to that. Regardless, how was she to contact the bank now to unblock her card? With no M-Pesa account recharging the phone was a challenge.
New Year's Eve had arrived and the Vedic astrologer still hadn't replied. The flights were not yet cancelled. Asher checked the website several times a day. There was nothing in the news about the UAE travel ban ending either. Though there was still 8 weeks left in Kenya, Asher's stress was blossoming like a mushroom cloud.
The cacophony of the evening died out. Asher slept a dreamless sleep.
New Years Day 2022, Asher awoke at 7am with swollen eyes. Foregoing her phone, ignoring what she felt to be an evil Satanic device, she staggered to the mirror. Dark circles covered half her face.
Collecting her laundry, she filled up her buckets, to do yet another hand wash. Asher was over the romantic notions she had of her dream trip.
After breakfast, she did her normal meditation and exercise routine. It was no fight today to not switch on the net to get more bad news from many sources. It wasn't until she found herself alone in her tiny room again, that she turned on her tech.
Opening her G-mail, the report from the Vedic astrologer was waiting for her. It confirmed her own rudimentary assessment of her situation. No, her flights weren't getting cancelled. Yes, she was returning to Australia as planned. Still, there were other forces to consider. Such as The Devil. The people in authority on the planet.
Doing a search for the UAE and Kenya travel ban, she hit the News tab on her google search engine. Lo and behold, the travel ban, having started but a mere week prior, was set to end at the end of the week. After the data on Omicron had undergone assessment, it seemed that the ban was unnecessary. There was no need to overreact and halt the world's progress. Omicron did not make people as ill as the other Coronavirus variants.
Switching off her laptop, she lay on the bed. Moments passed before a beautiful smile graced her ghost of a face.
"Happy New Year!" shouted Asher at the top of her lungs. Grateful that God was listening to her after all.
Never The End