You’re driving home from work next Monday after a long day. You turn on your radio and you hear a brief report about a small village in India where some people have suddenly died, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It’s not influenza, but four people are dead, so the Centers for Disease Control is sending some doctors to India to investigate.
You don’t think too much about it—people die every day—but coming home from church the following Sunday you hear another report on the radio, only now they say it’s not four people who have died, but thirty thousand, in the back hills of India. Whole villages have been wiped out and experts confirm this flu is a strain that has never been seen before.
By the time you get up Monday morning, it’s the lead story. The disease is spreading. It’s not just India that is affected. Now it has spread to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and northern Africa, but it still seems far away. Before you know it, you’re hearing this story everywhere. The media have now coined it “the mystery flu.” The President has announced that he and his family are praying for the victims and their families, and are hoping for the situation to be resolved quickly. But everyone is wondering how we are ever going to contain it.
That’s when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe: He is closing the French borders. No one can enter the country, and that’s why that night you’re watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman’s words are translated into English from a French news program: There’s a man lying in a hospital in Paris dying of the mystery flu. It has come to Europe.
Panic strikes. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for a week before you even know it, then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms, and then you die.
The British close their borders, but it’s too late. The disease breaks out in Southampton, Liverpool, and London, and on Tuesday morning the President of the United States makes the following announcement: “Due to a national-security risk, all flights to and from the United States have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I’m sorry. They cannot come home until we find a cure for this horrific disease.”
Within four days, America is plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are wondering, What if it comes to this country? Preachers on television are saying it’s the scourge of God. Then on Tuesday night you are at church for Bible study, when somebody runs in from the parking lot and yells, “Turn on a radio!” And while everyone listens to a small radio, the announcement is made: Two women are lying in a hospital in New York City dying of the mystery flu. It has come to America.
Within hours the disease envelops the country. People are working around the clock, trying to find an antidote, but nothing is working. The disease breaks out in California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts. It’s as though it’s just sweeping in from the borders.
Then suddenly the news comes out: The code has been broken. A cure has been found. A vaccine can be made. But it’s going to take the blood of somebody who hasn’t been infected. So you and I are asked to do just one thing: Go to the nearest hospital and have our blood tested. When we hear the sirens go off in our neighborhood, we are to make our way quickly, quietly, and safely to the hospital.
Sure enough, by the time you and your family get to the hospital it’s late Friday night. There are long lines of people and a constant rush of doctors and nurses taking blood and putting labels on it. Finally, it is your turn. You go first, then your spouse and children follow, and once the doctors have taken your blood they say to you, “Wait here in the parking lot for your name to be called.” You stand around with your family and neighbors, scared, waiting, wondering. Wondering quietly to yourself, What on earth is going on here? Is this the end of the world? How did it ever come to this?
Nobody seems to have had their name called; the doctors just keep taking people’s blood. But then suddenly a young man comes running out of the hospital, screaming. He’s yelling a name and waving a clipboard. You don’t hear him at first. “What’s he saying?” someone asks. The young man screams the name again as he and a team of medical staff run in your direction, but again you cannot hear him. But then your son tugs on your jacket and says, “Daddy, that’s me. That’s my name they’re calling.” Before you know it, they have grabbed your boy. “Wait a minute. Hold on!” you say, running after them. “That’s my son.”