14th April 1992

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The clock struck four. It was 14th April 1992; the day my first child, Jessica, was born.

My husband was away for a medical emergency in Naypyidaw, and would not be back home for three more days. I laid in bed with extreme discomfort in a blue plastic gown, with IV drips painfully piercing through both my hands.

Out of the blue, a loud scream perforated through my ears. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my heart skipped a beat. I sat up in my bed and confusingly looked at the other patients in my ward. Over the next few seconds, the screams got even louder; it felt as if someone was yelling into the speakers. My eardrums started hurting and being the nosy person that I was, I got up from my bed to investigate the noise.

Following the sounds of the screams, I landed outside Room 103. I took a peek inside and saw a young woman screaming at the top of her lungs like a baby and vomiting out unrecognisable words in a deep manly voice. Her legs were vigorously kicking the air as swift as lightning, but her upper body was completely paralysed.

“Wh-wh-what is ha-happening?” I muttered to myself, under my breath.

“O-oh-m-my God! It-it-iiss t-tr-true..” a voice shockingly whispered into my right ear. I turned around and saw May, another patient from my ward. May’s hands were trembling from fear and her face was as pale as ghost.

“What? What are you talking about May?” I asked, curiously.

“Sister, y-you-re-rea-really don’t kn-know?” May asked, wearing a shocked look on her face.

“No, I don’t. Come on, tell me.” I said, tugging on May’s left sleeves.

“L-look in front. Y-you will k-know..” May said, avoiding eye contact.

I took another look into the room and shivers went down my spine. Five nurses were holding down a young woman, who was so strong like an ox that she kicked a nurse away. I looked closer at the woman’s facial expression and was extremely disturbed; one moment she was smiling innocently like a child and the next, her face became distorted.

I stood rooted to the ground, with my mouth agape from shock. My heart dropped and I too, started trembling.

“Y-yo-you g-get it?” May asked, placing her hands on my shoulders.

“This is not n-nor-normal…” I said, “Is she poss…”

Before I could finish my sentence, May leaned close to my ear and whispered, “They died. The nurse and the ward boy…” before pointing towards an elevator, with tears welling up in her eyes.

“Why-what?” I asked, “Wh-why are you…”

Just then, I was interrupted by a team of doctors and Head Nurse Thu running towards Room 103 while shouting, “ALL OF YOU, PLEASE GO BACK TO YOUR WARDS!”

The crowd immediately dispersed. May hastily walked towards Nurse Li, hugged her tightly and started balling her eyes out. Nurse Li slowly caressed May’s hair and whispered in her ear. I wanted to comfort May, but a nurse tugged me back to my ward as it was time for my surgery.

My beautiful baby, Jessica, was born at 4.30 am and I spent the whole day attending to her alone. I was so exhausted that it seemed I had forgotten everything about Room 103. At 11pm, one of the nurses took my baby to the nursery and I prepared to tuck myself in for bed.

My back was aching horribly as though someone was punching me profusely. I tossed and turned in bed, adjusting myself for the perfect position. As I laid on my right, a sudden loud “BANG” on the walls scared me out of my wits.

The walls started cracking, followed by first punches bulging from the other side of the wall; it felt as if someone was desperately trying to escape from within it. A few seconds later, the walls tore down and two black figures emerged. As they approached closer, a bright light shone before them, dawning on their features. A young nurse was smiling eerily at me in her pink uniform, hair tied up in a bun, lips as red as blood, cheeks blushing pink and eyes pure jet black. She was wearing a dark red jade necklace with the initial ‘N’. Following behind her was a ward boy in his white uniform, with enormous lips, face whiter than snow, skin as blue as ocean waters and a mole on the top right of his forehead. They were holding a white stretcher and to my utmost horror, I saw a head peeking out from underneath the blood-soaked, white blankets. Trails of blood followed as they inched towards my bed.

I tried to grab for the phone on my bedside table but realised I was paralysed; my body was stiffer than stone and I could not utter a single word. Fear terrorised my soul.

At that moment, my vision went astray and I could only make out tattered images of what was going on before me. I was helpless, extremely helpless.

“Maybe this is the end of me-” I thought to myself. “Oh God, pl-” Just then, I was flipped over on my back violently and I felt someone breathing intently close up to my face. Sounds of laughter filled the air and I felt icy-cold hands caressing my arms. In the next few seconds to follow, I lost both my vision and hearing; my world turned upside down.

“Nato tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhasa. Namo tassa….” I immediately began reciting prayers to myself, praying for God’s mercy. By the grace of God, my vision and hearing magically returned, but I was quaking in my boots. Without hesitation, I called in the nurses and demanded that I be transferred to my husband’s hospital, which was 2 miles away. It had not even been 24 hours postpartum, but I knew I could not stay on any second longer.

“I DON’T CARE! I WANT TO LEAVE NOW!” I yelled in anger with tears profusely streaming down my cheeks, “IF YOU ARE NOT ALLOWING ME TO LEAVE, I WILL LEAVE BY MYSELF!”

I created a big commotion and was finally granted permission to be airlifted to Naypyidaw Central Hospital. I grabbed my hospital bag, tightly clutched my newborn in my arms and scurried out of my ward.

I was escorted to the Reception Counter, where I had to wait for a while before arrangements were made. I sat in the Waiting Area and noticed a group of nurses walking out from the prayer room wearing Yawgi, a Buddhist prayer outfit worn on occasions like donations or death anniversaries.

“Why would they wear Yawgis? And in a hospital, too? Today is not even Halloween,” I thought to myself.

“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen. In memory of our colleagues Nilar and Min, let us now chant ‘a-hmyah’ for their souls,” a voice cried over the speakers a second later.

The entire hospital staff froze in their positions and with tears rolling down their cheeks, chanted in unison ‘a-hmyah, a-hmyah, a-hmyah”.

After a minute of silence, the doors to the prayer room in front of the waiting area sprung open, and I saw monks and nurses crowding before two portraits. As the crowd backed away, I had a chance to take a peek at the portraits; a woman was smiling beautifully in her nursing uniform and the man was pulling off a cheeky grin in his ward boy uniform.

“They look so familiar…” I thought to myself, “Have I met them before?”

I squinted my eyes at the portraits for a few more seconds , before a distinct feature on the ward boy’s face caught my eyes — he had a mole on the top right of his forehead.

“None of my family members, friends or acquaintances have a mole on their right foreheads.” I wondered, “I am sure I haven’t met this guy before, but why does he look so familiar?”

I took a close look at the nurse’s portrait and my attention drew close to the beautiful red jade necklace she was wearing — it had the initial ‘N’ on it.

“This can’t be a coincidence… it is too much for one… How can it…” I muttered to myself while breaking out in cold sweat, “Ok Nicole, you are overthinking. Calm down right now.”

Just then, Nurse Li walked towards the portraits, with tears uncontrollably rolling down her cheeks. Her trembling hands held onto the mic and with an unstable shaky voice, she announced, “14 April 1992; Today marks the first death anniversary of our beautiful nurse, Nilar and wonderful ward boy, Min. May you both Rest in Peace. “

A shiver went down my spine…

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