Gertruida scans the next few pages.
“He goes on and on to describe the way he felt tremendously tired after his experience, and how the Bushman family cared for him, He also mentions a strange excitement – a type of yearning to relive that incident. By this time he seems to have worked out a basic way of communicating -not only through gestures and facial expressions, but even to the point that the four of them started sharing words. It seems as if the logical thing happened: you point at a bow or a tree, repeat the correct word or term over and over, until it gets repeated by the listener. He gives a list of words here with their meanings. I won’t even try to pronounce them.
“Oh yes…and here he goes on…”
I lost track of time. How long have I been here? I tried to understand their way of thinking about time, but they don’t seem to have any inkling of the concept. They’ll refer to ‘tomorrow’ or next week in the same way. Similarly, the past seems to be the past – whether it’s yesterday or the last time it rained. Also, counting isn’t something they really do, except: one, two, many. Anything more than two, is ‘many’.
At first I thought them to be dumb, but the more I observe them, the more I understand the way the do things. The most important moment in their lives, is here and now. They don’t dwell on the past, neither do they care about tomorrow. The present is their only reality.
Of course I don’t understand them properly – their language is far too complicated. But every night, the old man tells them things. I think it’s stories, but some of his talks certainly refer to me. The other two then listen with rapt attention, occasionally staring at me in wonder (of shock, or awe…I’m not quite sure which).
They draped me in the karos again last night. I’m so tired now, I can hardly concentrate – but, being afraid I’d forget the details, I’m forcing myself to pen down what had happened.
The initial sequence of my dream-journey (for the lack of a better word) was similar to the first experience I had. This time, however, my impression was that I travelled to some time in the future. Or maybe it was a nightmare, I don’t know. While I was elevated above the Earth, I saw what I can only describe as a sequence of devastation. I saw smoke, people fleeing, dwellings burnt. There were armies of people at war with others. More terrifying, I saw the desert growing larger and larger, destroying life in the process. Rivers dried up. I heard strange sounds, huge booming sounds, that shook the Earth.
“What is this?” I asked, terror-stricken.
“The end,” I heard my own voice answering. “Mankind is destroying itself. In this future there is no future.”
“But…” I tried to make sense out of it all.
“Don’t interrupt. Look.” I answered myself.
And I did. Then it dawned on me that the fighting was not because people hated each other. I saw a man with strange eyes – almost Mongolian in appearance – at the back of the fighting columns. This man was providing food to several armies of men. He stood next to a huge ship, directing the off-loading of all kinds of weaponry – most of which I’ve never seen before.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“He comes from the East,” my voice said. “He will take everything and leave nothing. He is clever and will make people destroy themselves completely before building his many houses on the plains. When he has taken what he needs, he will leave only the desert behind. Nobody will be able to stop him.”
I looked, and the scene unfolded as my voice had described. I felt tremendously sad and overwhelmed.
“That’s why you are here. To observe. To learn. You have work to do.”
And then, suddenly, I was transported back to the fire.
Time… How long is it after my second trip? I must have slept for days – it definitely feels like it. I’m weaker than ever, but the broth the woman makes certainly helps. I am slowly recovering and feeling stronger.
I tried to talk with them about my journeys, but the visions were so complicated, I can hardly convey the basic outlines of what I had experienced. The old man has taken to sit with me fo long periods of time, drawing pictures in the sand. This morning he made me gasp.
First, he drew – rather accurately – the outline of Kubu. He pointed at it, then at us. Next he drew the same outline, looked at me with tremendous sadness in his eyes, and slowly erased the picture by wiping the sand smooth with his withered hand. Lastly, he drew the picture again, pointed at me, and walked away, leaving the picture to haunt me..
I didn’t understand. Not then. Only later.
“I still think he was delusional.” Vetfaan downs his beer, smacking his lips before continuing. “I mean, this story is too far-fetched to be real. Meeting stray Bushmen, travelling into the future and the past, and now strange drawings in the sand. Of course he didn’t understand. He wasn’t thinking straight at all. Poor bugger…”
“Ah, Vetfaan. Ye of small faith…” Gertruida turns the page before placing the book on the counter. “I think his descriptions are far too detailed to be mere figments of imagination. This man had an exceptional experience, and we shouldn’t discard his visions out of hand. Remember, this was 1965, fifty years ago. How could he have known about what’s happening in Africa today? That description of the man at the ship sent shivers down my spine.
“No, there’s something here. Spook, I tell you, did indeed travel to other times. Or had a prophetic vision. Or something. Maybe he skipped through other dimensions.
“Be that as it may, I think this story is far from finished. We’ll just have to read the rest.”
Little do the group at the bar know how well Gertruida summed up the situation. Boggel serves another round when she picks up the book again…
And days pass like this
Me, growing desperate
And you, you answering
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps
Everytime I ask you
That when, how and where
You always reply me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps