They reach the Valley of the Buried Wagon at sunset, to find !Tung patiently waiting. She’s collected a few twigs and used some of the old wagon’s timber to make a small fire, which acted as a beacon to guide them there. When Vetfaan stops a few yards away, she gets up to walk to the back of the vehicle. Silently, softly, she strokes the injured leg while making soothing noises.
“Thank you, mister Vetfaan.” The language is certainly foreign on her tongue, but she manages quite well. Before Vetfaan can wonder about how she knew his name, she continues. “And it’s good to see miss Fanny again. Thank you.”
While Fanny has spent some time with the family, Vetfaan has never met !Tung. Still, he shakes her hand and says he’s happy she’s there.
“Look.” She points to the full moon rising slowly over the horizon.
Vetfaan carries !Ka over to the fire; the small man has improved remarkably over the last hour, proving the resilience of these men and women who are used to the harsh life in the desert. He still complains about the pain in his leg though, and only settles down after !Tung gives him a few herbs to chew.
“!Ka, I have no idea what happened today. Fanny arrived. Vrede ran across the veld. You got injured. !Kung left the family to wait here for us. I do care how you stitch it together – it doesn’t make sense. There are just to many coincidences and unexplained events. It has no logic to it, at all. Can you tell us more?”
!Tung holds up a withered hand, preventing !Ka from answering, and launches into a long monologue with !Ka. The clicks of the strange language melt together in a steady rhythm; an almost hypnotising melodious cascade of words; as she tells !ka why.
“”!Tung, says she’s sorry, but her own tongue is better for this story. She asked me to tell you what she said…”
When the people of the wagon arrived at this spot, they had nothing left. No water, no food. One after the other, they laid down to enter the final sleep so that they may enter the New Life. Only a little boy was still alive when the Bushmen arrived later. His mother, it seems, saved him by burying him in sand up to his neck, to keep the heat and the sun away from him. The boy took so long to recover, some members of the family gave up hope.
But, he did get better. Slowly. And the family fed him and gave him new skins to wear. And he grew up with them and stayed for many years.
Then, one day, men came with guns. That was the custom in those days. Men with guns and horses would come and shoot any Bushman they could find. This they did, because the men didn’t think the Bushmen had the right to stay here. The boy – almost a man now – ran towards the horsemen and tried to stop him. He told them his family had done nothing wrong and why are they shooting his brothers and sisters? Of course, he had no knowledge of the language of the horsemen, but they soon saw this boy wasn’t a Bushman. He was different. He was like them.
So the men on the horses said to themselves: this is very strange. And they took the boy with them and they stopped shooting.
Now that boy was taken to a big place near the sea, where he learnt to speak the language of the horsemen. His story of survival made him very popular. Then, one day, he got into a ship and sailed away to a far country. He never came back here.
“That’s a fascinating story, !Ka, but how does it relate to today’s events?”
In the far country, the boy – who was a man by then – married a woman. They had a little girl. But over there (!Ka points to the south) the people of this country and the far country were fighting with each other. The far country made the man come here to fight. He didn’t want to. In the first fight he was involved in, he stood up to protest, just like he did when the horsemen came to kill his brothers and sisters. He died there.
His wife – in the far country – became ill. She coughed and coughed and died. Her daughter was put in a place with other children. One day a rich man came and took her away. She was happy there. And later, she married a man. They had a daughter, too: and she was your mother, Fanny.”
“What?” The word jumps from Fanny’s mouth. “These people were my family?”
Yes. She, !Tung wasn’t sure at first. But since Fanny went back to England, she had vision after vision that repeated this story over and over again. It would come in the night, and sometimes even during the days. All of them with the boy becoming a man, the horsemen, the far country, the war, the mother coughing and the girl later staying with the rich people. The same. Again and again. Yes, !Tung is sure.
Fanny is dumbstruck and can only shake her head. “I knew my grandmother was an orphan, but…”
!Tung claps her hands in delight.
You see? You see now?
The boy who later became a man, learnt the art of the shaman while he stayed with his Bushman family. It was thought he had special gifts, because he was the only one to survive. He was taller than any of us. So it was natural for our people to see him as a sort of magic man, even as a god. That’s why he was taught. The family agreed it was a good idea.
Now, once a boy who becomes a man is taught these things, it stays with him. And it stays with his children. And it stays with all his children, but not all of them. Some will inherit this gift, some not. But always, always it will be carried on to the next generation. That’s how it is. Many times the child won’t know about it – it’ll just be there, waiting to wake up. Sometimes it remains sleeping.
“Then…then you are saying that I may have inherited this gift?” By now Fanny has stopped trying to understand the story. It defies logic. It is weird. It is simply unbelievable. And yet…how would the old woman know these things, if it didn’t come too her as a vision?
Yes, you have the gift of the shaman, Fanny. I am sure. Before you take !Ka away, we must make sure it wakes up inside your mind.
!Tung shuffles over to !Ka and thanks him for translating. Then she sits down next to the injured leg and starts singing in a crooning voice. The same words over and over again.
Vetfaan fetches the rest of his emergency supplies to divide it equally between them, sharing some with Vrede. He can see Fanny is in deep thought and that she doesn’t want to talk right now.
When at last !Tung finishes her singing, she gets up. No, she won’t eat. And no, she won’t drink.
There’s too much to do under this full moon.
Then she tells Fanny to undress and sit down next to the fire…
None shall sleep! None shall sleep! You too, princess,
In your cold room
You watch the stars
Trembling of love and hope…
But the mistery of me is locked inside of me
No one will know my name!
Wait for it…