“I don't want to be your prisoner, So baby set me free --- Borderline, feels like I'm gonna lose my mind. Keep pushing me, Keep pushing me, Keep pushing my love. You just keep on pushing my love, Over the borderline.” - Madonna Ciccone
“Ready or not, refugees taking over The Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock Rasta, On the twelfth hour, fly by in my bomber, Now they're under pushing up flowers Superfly, true lies, do or die. --- Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide, Gonna find you and take it slowly.” - Lauryn Hill - Nel Ust Wyclef Jean - Prazakrel “Pras” Michel
The days waned and waxed as Barshana plotted. She was a wanted woman in a world of chaos. She needed to escape.
But she felt like shit.
Her body shivered every night and each morning she awoke in a sea of her own sweat. The virus had taken hold in her. 1.8 million virus particles gleefully replicated and raced through her body. Her white blood cells raised her temperature in an attempt to bake out the infection but this fever wouldn't save her.
After the assassination of Prime Minister Sharukha Khan with the most stylish of friendly fires, the military placed Bangladesh under martial law. The army's Fashion Industry benefactors installed their puppet, Kinng Kumar as Prime Minister. He immediately declared a State of Emergency to purge all rebel forces. The meek women on whose backs the nation industrialized were overnight relabeled as enemy insurgents. Photos of the women, filtered with dark, menacing tones, burst from holoscreens in every home and in hologram clouds that drones created over residential areas. Barshana saw her own image flashing above her home, draping through the sky with a reward for her capture.
The bounty for her whole existence.
She was wanted.
Dead or alive.
She knew her neighbors loved her, but there was a pain. In their eyes, she saw their hunger and frustration. And in their ears, she heard the cries of their children, a sound evolutionarily made to grate through a mother's body and ignite anguish.
Barshana knew the careful calculus of humans teetering on the edge of existence. As food grew scarce in the coming days, all morality would be sacrificed for survival. The whole world would be ranked and, as desperation to feed their children grew, any of them could snap and turn on her and turn her in.
She had to pull herself out of the equation.
That night, she bundles a bag of her things and grabs her daughter. They sneak out of their home, a funky little shack set in the shadows of the factories. She looks up at her tin roof, rusted from years of rains.
“I can't die here.” She thinks as she turns and runs.
Usha cries as she dawdles behind her mom.
“But whyyyyyyy?” She whines.
Barshana calculates and knows she should be shielded from the severity of the situation.
“Shhhh, we're going on a trip.” She says to her little one, who is weighed down by wearing all the clothes she can't carry. “A long trip.”
Barshana prepares herself for the journey. It would take eight days to walk to the border with India. She only has enough food for four days, but she can ration this and hope a friendly family will provide them with more.
As they reach the edge of town, the rains begin. A torrential downpour drowns the land with four inches of water every hour.
The earth beneath their feet vanishes by the third hour. The once solid dirt melts into a sludge of mud, sucking in legs up to ankles and then knees. A slurrrrp-pop sounds as Barshana and her daughter pull up each vacuum-sealed leg.
The rains continue for the next four days. As Barshana and her daughter trudge, this deluge changes the equations for millions of Bangladeshis.
The wetness seeped into every home, into every crack and corner, damping the meeting of thighs and filling armpits with moisture for bacteria to feast and boils to grow. Clothes cling to skin like a wet tongue, suffocating them. These humans' 5 million hair follicles gag under this wet weight.
Each calculates their own algorithm of defection, how many days of suffering? How deep has the water become? How much of their home has been ruined? How much of their farm has been destroyed? How many nights have the children been crying? How scarce has the food become? How dirty is the water?
Anger and anxiety swell until hundreds of thousands of humans reach the breaking point.
Time to move.
One by one, the humans cross the mental threshold, where uncertainty and death is better than drowning in this squalor. Each year, the rains had grown worse, the rivers had flooded more and the plains filled further. What little they have is saddled on their backs, shoulders and heads.
The trickle of bodies pour onto the main roads and then swell onto the highways. A laugh and dizzy glee erupts as each foot first touches what they hadn't felt for days. Solid ground! The concrete of these main roads welcomes their wobbly legs.
Solid as a rock.
The highways through Bangladesh were built to bolster trucks carrying 20-tons of designer jeans and skorts, not the citizens who made these.
But here they are, stomping their feet on the concrete and pushing north and west, like salmon swimming upstream, eager to spawn a new life.
The raging river of humans parts around trucks and pushes over military blockades, which had been set up to prevent this surge of desperation. Military tanks shoot down the first humans along the front, but the masses push forward, knowing that only death remains behind them. At least forward carries a drop of hope, a possibility for a better life for them or at least their children.
The bodies that were shot drop beneath the swell of humans. As the tanks are overwhelmed, the snipers slide back into the safety of their tank's body.
This surge overwhelms Barshana. She and her daughter fold into the crowd, glad for anonymity among the multitudes.
For five days and nights, they move, collapsing in the road in waves for a few hours before the sea of humans drags them onward.
Now, 352,723 strong, the river of humans rages upstream all through the night, until they reach the borderline with India and the possibility of a new life.
But then their dreams are---
These humans smack into the Trump wall that stretches the entire division between India and Bangladesh. This portion of the wall carries a large plaque, and on it, in a mocking tone, is a reminder that Bangladesh had seceded from India.
“We've rolled up your Partition!”
As the swarm approached, the gate in this wall had been sealed shut. Just inside this wall, they remain “internally displaced people,” a large label that carries with it little international assistance. Just on the other side of the wall, inches away, they would have been renamed refugees, an incantation which carries great power. Even in these dark times, the international community had agreed to provide for the basic needs of refugees, supplying them with food, shelter and healthcare.
Barshana joins the masses in the fifth wave that crashes into this barrier. Each wave steps up to the retaining wall and pounds on it, wailing in disbelief that their journey so far would end so concretely.
The rains persist for a second week. Every drop fell like a knife, slicing off a little more of their will to live.
Each day, as hundreds of these internally displaced people died, with nary a care from the world, their bodies are heaved at the wall in protest. By the sixth day, the pile of husked shells grew and the survivors crawled on the dead, clawing at the wall and screaming. Higher and higher! They hoped this new height carried their cries to the other side.
On the eighth night, Barshana pulls her courage and grabs Usha. As the others slumber, Barshana knows this is her last chance. She's been sick and delirious for days. Her coughs have grown into hacks. Red bumps crawl across her skin and face. One by one, they've begun to pop.
But tonight, she has energy.
Tonight, they have to move.
Under the flood lights, she sees that the pile of dead bodies has reached just feet from the top of the wall.
She grabs her daughter and scurries. She arrives at the mound of flesh and looks up.
A staircase of skulls stands between her and freedom. Shocks of desperation spring her as she climbs.
Her feet squish into the first, bloated bodies. The firmness of form had given way to rot as water and bacteria rage through these bottom bodies, turning their soft spots gangrene.
With each step, she slips, but she does what she must to carry on. Her right hand pushes into a stomach cavity. Her left foot slides through thigh fat falling from a femur.
Her left arm clutches her daughter, hiding her eyes from these horrors. Her right hand claws for any leverage. Her fingers grasp a shoulder and slips through to the bone.
But the only way is up!
Wedged between mounds of flesh, she pulls herself up the rungs of bodies.
Another three rows up and she stumbles. She jams her fingers into a skull's soft, squishy eye sockets, clamping it like a bowling ball as she pulls herself up another level.
By the seventh level of the dead, the shells are fresher and still firm.
She fights the constant waterfall which courses over the corpses. She kneels to a crawl, hooking her right hand into armpits to steady herself for each hoist.
At the top, she sways in the wind, looking down from the tower of flesh to see the slumbering camp of humans now arcing half a mile in every direction.
And just beyond them---
What is that movement?
A new wave of human desperation rolls just at the edge of the camp, crashing through and pushing their way to the wall!
A group of guards atop the wall have enjoyed her struggle, laughing at the mushy human pitfalls of her scramble for the past thirty minutes. Each placed bets on how far she would make it: five feet, ten feet, fifteen, twenty! Only one bet she would surmount the full thirty five feet of flesh. As she reaches the top, that young recruit, Mustafa Sayyed, beams at his colleagues.
“What's my prize?” He jumps for joy.
“It's your lucky day!” One of the grizzled older guards tosses him a gun. “You get to finish her.”
Barshana squares her legs into the opening between the uppermost bodies, wedges her feet under shoulders and braces herself against the wall. She stands! Her fingers are just able to touch the top of the wall.
She twists her torso to her daughter, finally allowing herself to feel again. Tears of joy and sorrow swirl down her cheeks, washed away by that interminable rain.
“Sweetie, you'll be safe on top of the wall. You'll get such good food and a warm place to sleep. Shhh, you can do this. When I lift you, just pull up. I'll push. Just pull!”
Her daughter stares up at her. With wide eyes, she starts to look down, curious where they are. But her mom grabs her cheeks and yanks her face up.
“Don't ever look down. Don't ever look back. I'll join you. Someday. But not for a long time. But I'll be with you. Somehow.
“Now, up you go!”
She hooks her hands into her daughter's armpits and hoists her. As she extends her shoulders, she can feel Usha's weight tottering to the top. Her left hand slides down her daughter's back and she pushes her, heaving her heavenward.
Barshana laughs to herself. Its happening! She knows that just on top of the wall is India. Her daughter would be a refugee and protected by the United Nations and International Law.
“You're almost there, just pull! Kick your foot over. Just pull! Now kick!”
A gun clicks and she looks up to see a steel toe boot at the wall's ledge, lightly pushing back her daughter's fingers.
“You are trespassing!” Mustafa shouts.
“Nooooo!” She screams seeing this guard and his gun.
He pulls the trigger and half an inch of hot lead traveling 768 miles-per-hour rips through her left cheek and out her right chin.
The bullet pierces a pus mound on her cheek that erupts, spewing 3.2 million virons to the wall.
Barshana falls back. Her feet are still hooked under the armpits so her body dangles backwards off the top of the mound, flailing like a flag announcing her surrender.
Her daughter tumbles down, snapping the C1 vertebra in her neck, dying instantly.
Mustafa leans over the ledge to inspect his handiwork.
He draws in a deep breathe, dragging in a few thousand Variola maximum virions into his body.
The particulates hook into the walls of his lungs, clawing until one breaches his body.