283 Change in a Family

    From August 2nd to August 13th, in just a short 11 days, the epidemic had claimed 2,000,000 lives around the globe. Most of the fatality came from the first 3 days of the outbreak. The aftermath was almost the same in major cities hit by the epidemic all over the world. Lively streets became deserted, with the occasional teams from disease control centre passing by. Animals prowled the streets looking for food, and their perished owners. Outside the affected cities, people worked under the haze of deaths of loved ones and families. Medical masks, antibiotics, antiseptic gels, mineral waters flew off the shelves...

    Over the past month, everyone was focused on one hot topic, the epidemic. "Jiahwa, coming to the ball game this afternoon?""No thanks, if my mom finds out, she'll have my head. I think I'll just stay home." Chen Jiahwa just graduated from high school, he planned to go on a trip around the country in August but that had to be cancelled. His summer holiday was thus spent laying around at home. The news urged the citizens to stay home if there was no emergency. The government banned all large activities and even entertainment venues like the cinema was to shut down. However, life being trapped at home was boring and hard. For example, the air conditioning could not be switched on due to the bacteria's transmission method.

    Of course, not everyone abided by the mandate. Most of them assumed they would be lucky enough to be spared from the infection. However Chen Jiahwa's mother was a doctor at the city public hospital. Due to his mother's expectation and his own interest, he applied for a medical degree at Ji Hwa University. Therefore, their family had a deep understanding of the importance of disease control. They kept the air conditioning and shower off. Perhaps because of that, the clouds over their family were thicker than the rest.

    The appearance of this epidemic readjusted Chen Jiahwa's parents' view of their son's future. Most of the fatality number was contributed by medical workers. Selfish as it was, his parents wanted him to give up the offer from Ji Hwa Medical School and choose a different career path. After all, which parents would willingly push their children towards death?

    But Chen Jiahwa did not heed their advice, it was not that he had such admiration for the doctor's coat but he did not want to sit through another entrance exam. The thought of daily revisions and exam questions numbed his skull, it was fate worse than death.

    "Son, you have no idea how difficult medical study is." His mother persuaded, "You're going to have exams every day at university."

    "But that's not what you said last month." Chen Jiahwa butted back. "You said it will get me a good job and a great marriage prospect."

    "If that's true," His mother groused, "Do you think I'll end up with your father?"

    Actually Chen Jiahwa knew that his mother supported his decision to study medicine previously because she knew, as a male doctor, he would go further than she did on this career path. Even after so many years, she was just a doctor at a small city public hospital. It was not that she was complaining but gender favouritism in her field of work was quite obvious. However, in the past few days, his mother changed her attitude. She sighed like she had ruined her son's life, like Chen Jiahwa was already in some kind of danger.

    "Son, taking one more entrance exam is no big deal." His father joined in. "We're still young. Life is more important."

    'Is this really a problem of age?' Chen Jiahwa was too lazy to get into this circular argument. He really did not want to sit for another entrance exam or he'd be bald before 20.

    Due to the epidemic, the news had been heaping praises on the selfless spirit of the medical workers at the frontline. People had renewed appreciation of the medical workers but at Chen family, the opinion was reversed.

    "It's just a ball game at the basketball court next to our neighbourhood. Why are you so scared?" His friend grumbled. "Eastern State is not affected by the epidemic, so don't be such a chicken. Furthermore, we have survived that contagious flu, haven't we? I'm sure everything will be fine."

    During the start of the year, Eastern State was exposed to a serious contagious flu. At the time, the whole city was placed on lockdown and the citizens were not allowed access to the internet. Their communication was completely cut off. The other states did not realize much but the people of Eastern State spent their lives in fear for several months, it had even dampened the celebratory mood of new year. The atmosphere had lightened after half a year. In fact some began to take certain things for granted and went sparingly on their protective measures.

    "It's different this time." Chen Jiahwa sighed. "There have been 2,000,000 deaths globally already. My mom has a friend who works at the state hospital. She said it's very serious this time, much more serious than the flu and it mustn't be underestimated."

    "Fine, fine, you win. Be a coward if you want, I don't need a lecture." His friend hung up.

    "Well, cowards often live the longest." Chen Jiahwa grumbled but strangely enough, how come his cowardice did not put a stop to his determination to become a doctor?

    "So hot, so hot." He dragged a chair to the balcony. As the wind caressed his face, he went scrolling online. Despite the heavy online monitoring, the rumors still flew everywhere. There was news from both inside and outside the country. There were multiple theories, there was even one where the government would decide on a national lockdown and the countrymen were to fly to the north pole. But the news that Chen Jiahwa told his friend was real, his mom did have a friend working at the state hospital.

    Looking through the news, Chen Jiahwa felt upset. But the pictures of the medical doctors in the protective gears going about their work and the pictures of children staring down hardship with determination... gave him a boost in his spirit. However, Chen Jiahwa knew these pictures did not describe the actual epidemic-stricken cities, they had been carefully selected by the government to monitor and ease the public emotion.

    After going through some mainstream news media, he logged into his social apps. Once Chen Jiahwa logged in, he saw there was a new notification in his inbox, "Emergency, suspected appearance of legionella pneumonia at Eastern State!"

    "What..." He jumped up from his seat as a chill surged through his spine...'Epidemic... here?!' He immediately clicked on the link, it was a picture of a team of quarantine cars. Government workers were ushering a group of strangely-dressed people into the cars. He pulled down to read the comments, many Eastern State online users posted panicked comments. At a moment like this, the appearance of quarantine cars meant only one thing.

    The more Chen Jiahwa read the comments, the more lost he felt. He wanted to refresh the post but he realized the post had already been deleted by the admin.

    "No way, this means that it has to be real..." He was gripped by fear. He went to search for other sources to corroborate the story but he found nothing.


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