The woman sat me down in the shelter, held out her hand for the bag containing the last, remaining herbs, and then seated herself – cross-legged – in front of me. Her eyes never left mine while she hummed a monotonous tune. Still staring at me intently, she slowly undid a small pouch attached to the leather belt that held up her short skirt, to produce a bone pipe. This she started filling with some of the herbal mixture.
I understood immediately. Throwing the herbs on the embers produced the smoke that made me experience amazing things, but that was wasteful. Smoking the herbs through the pipe would save quite a bit of the stuff. She called out softly and the man (her husband?) appeared in the doorway with a burning twig. She lit the pipe, inhaling deeply, before passing it to me.
The effect was immediate and much more pronounced than when I was sitting next to the fire. Only…this time I was very much aware that she was travelling beside me.
“Come,” she said, “it’s not far.”
The fact that I could suddenly understand her, somehow did not surprise me. I also realised that we weren’t ‘speaking’ in the normal manner. Don’t ask me to explain this – but ‘communicating’ with her was as simple as thinking. How? I don’t know.
“Where are we going?” I had to know.
“Deep,” she answered without words.
And we did. Instead of flying off into ‘space’ like before, she led me down into Earth. The going was much slower than my previous excursions, but there was no mistaking our surroundings. I was aware of a layer of sand and roots, then coal-like rocks before finally arriving in a huge cavern of blue. Light emanated from the walls and bathed the interior of the huge cave of hues of blue.
I suppose I gaped, as I became aware of her giggling. Yes, I agreed, this is quite amazing. She nodded. Then she showed me the rest.
The walls of the cave were formed by huge crystals, some of them as large as myself and completely transparent. The surface of these objects felt cold to the touch. These ‘crystals’, I understood, were…diamonds? Again the woman agreed.
But then I saw the object in the middle of the cave, This was no crystal, nor any other naturally-occurring thing. It was oblong and shiny, like a cigar holder, and it hummed softly.
“Whaa…” I didn’t understand.
“This is The Beginning,” her eyes still didn’t leave mine. Then she drew closer to place her fingers on my eyes.
And suddenly I saw….
There was Kubu again, surrounded by rivers and water, covered with grass and trees and animals of every description. And I saw a man and a woman, completely naked…
“Eden?” I mused.
Then, unexpectedly, I felt myself pulled back to the shelter at an amazing speed. When I opened my eyes, she was there, holding the pipe.
“What was that? Did you just show me Paradise?”
But she only smiled and shrugged before saying something in her native clicking language… I once again couldn’t understand a word she said…
“Yup, that’s it! He showed his hand! As mad as our president…or even worse. Completely bonkers. Off the rails. Nuts.” Vetfaan’s brow shoots up. “Talking of which…Nuts? Any left, Boggel?” He points at the empty Voortrekker Monument bowl on the counter.
“It is a bit farfetched,” Gertruida concedes reluctantly. “Although the Makgadikgadi used to be a huge lake with vegetation and forests and animals around it. And don’t forget the fossils they found in the Karoo. I tell you, things were a lot different a few millenia ago.” She goes on to describe, in some detail, what the Karoo looked like – reminding them that a set of stamps was issued to depict the prehistory of the region.
“Give that women more nuts,” Vetfaan growls, “she needs them to keep up this balderdash.”
“You can believe what you want, Vetfaan. But, however hard you try, you cannot wish away the fact that the Karoo and the Kalahari once held much more water and life. In fact, scientists agree that life may very well have originated at the southern tip of Africa. Why not here?”
“Let’s stretch our imagination and say you’re right. How do you explain the chamber full of diamonds and the cigar-thing…which sounds terribly much like a spaceship to me? Or are you jumping from Paradise to Star Wars now? Wait until Oudoom hears this.”
“Oh, I won’t mind.” Gertruida shrugs as she helps herself to more nuts – just to irk Vetfaan. “I once asked him about Genesis 6. You know, where some extraterrestrials are mentioned? How did they get here, Vetfaan? By floating down a rainbow? No, there are only two ways: either by interdimensional travel – which you ridicule with such enthusiasm…or with some craft or vehicle that made the journey.” She arches a cynical eyebrow. “Which do you prefer, anyway?”
Vetfaan mumbles something about ‘going too far with this nonsense’ without answering her. No, he doesn’t want to even contemplate the question.
“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Vetfaan, than were dreamt of in your philosophy.” Gertruida pats his shoulder affectionately. “Look, only a few pages left. Let’s read to the end, shall we?”
She’s almost pleading.