Tag Archives: Africa

Nine Toes’ Penny

1010396.jpgThe day Nine Toes disappeared in the Kalahari remains shrouded in mystery. Gertruida says there has to be a logical explanation, but Servaas – in an uncharacteristic pensive way – reckons one should never dabble with superstition or magic. Vetfaan dismisses the whole episode as a myth while Boggel only smiles and reminds them that the Kalahari is a great keeper of secrets.

Nine Toes, the Bushman, used to visit Rolbos occasionally. Way back then, he’d saunter in to Boggel’s Place with a casual smile and a cheerful greeting. He did this when he had something to sell: sometimes a few strings of beads, at others something more significant like an old coin or a rusted pocket knife. He’d explain these finds by telling them about the abandoned wagons of the old Dorslandtrekkers – the Afrikaners that that tried to escape British rule by trekking to Angola through the merciless desert which killed so many of them.

“There are wagons out there, Mister Boggel, just like the people left them. Eish! Many of them are almost worn away by the wind and the sun by now, but some things remain – if you knew where to dig in the sand. In the rusted tins and leather sacks, one may find strange things.” And with that, he’d hold out a handful of Kruger Pounds or maybe a ring or a necklace.

Nine Toes was rather aptly named. Many years ago a surprise meeting with a cobra – in the dead of the night – resulted in the snake being decapitated and a young Bushman contemplating his rapidly swelling big toe. He knew what would happen once the poison spread and did the only thing he could. When Vetfaan once said he didn’t believe a word of that story, Nine Toes produced the evidence the next time he visited Rolbos. The shrivelled up, dried-out toe silenced his critic completely.

Servaas had tried – many times – to find out where Nine Toes’ wagons were, but the man shook his head.

“Mister Servaas, leave those wagons to rest where they are. They supply me with a means to survive and they deserve to be undisturbed. There are graves there, too. Six of them. Long ago they had wooden crosses with names but now only the rocks on them tell you where they are. Four small ones, two big ones. And the spirits? They are there, too. They talk to me. They don’t want to be disturbed.”

Now that, of course, drew a sharp rebuke from Oudoom; but Nine Toes remained unfazed. He wasn’t talking about ghosts, he said, but spirits. There was a difference, he maintained.

“A ghost has a body, a face, a voice. When a ghost touches you, his fingers burn like ice. But a spirit…no body. No voice. A spirit can move right through you and you’ll never know. But take time, Mister Servaas, to sit down and talk with a spirit, and you’ll get an answer; not in words, but here.” He tapped the side of his head. “Spirits are soft, mostly kind and always ready to listen.”

Servaas scoffed, which only made Nine Toes shrug. An ignorant, sceptic old man could not be blamed for not believing him, after all. Oudoom remarked that that was the problem with the world those days: people believed in the most absurd things. No, Nine Toes countered, that was wrong.

“We must welcome the spirits, Mister Oudoom. They share this world with us. Sometimes they go away – I don’t know where – but then they return again. I’ve heard you people talking about angels – it’s the same thing, I think. Only, the spirits I know of don’t have wings and they don’t shine. They are. That’s all. Like the wind, they don’t move with feet. But just like you can feel the wind, I can feel the spirits. Eyes can’t see them, no, only your heart.”

Gertruida reckoned that one must not dismiss such arguments. Africa is a continent of superstition and myth – which may overlap remarkably with reality. “It’s a state of mind,” she said, “a way of thinking. We are, truth be told, the result of our upbringing. You grow up in a Christian home, so you never question the ideology. The same thing applies to all religions and certain philosophies: they get so ingrained in your mind that you never take time to dissect what – exactly – you believe in.” She smiled at that point and made a dismissive gesture. “Live and let live, I say. If Nine Toes believes in spirits, let him be. We’re not going to change it.”

But Nine Toes wasn’t finished. “Sometimes we house those spirits. They stay here.” He thumped his chest. “Other times, they live in animals. Snakes house bad spirits. Strong spirits prefer lions. My father is an elephant.”

That was one bridge too far. The group at the bar fell silent and stared at the ceiling. Arguing with Nine Toes would have been an exercise in futility – agreeing with him, equally unthinkable.

***

Then, yesterday morning, a strange thing happened. During the night, Vrede barked so much that Boggel had to get up. He checked his bedroom, the house, the street outside…nothing.

But that morning, a copper coin– obviously old – was found on Boggel’s veranda. Boggel picked it up and placed it on the counter. Gertruida came in a while later and gasped.

“Where on earth did you find this, Boggel?”

“Oh, on the doorstep. Somebody must have dropped it.”

“No way, Boggel! This is an 1853 penny with the bust of young Queen Victoria. Very rare. Nobody carries such coins about in their pockets! It’s a collector’s item.”

As Boggel turned the coin over, Vrede started barking again outside. Vetfaan came in and asked what was bothering the dog.

“Dunno. He’s been acting strangely since midnight. Bark, bark, bark all the time.”

“Well, he’s outside now, hair on his neck all erect, barking at the ground.”

Gertruida got up suddenly and walked out. Then she called them all over.

“Look, a print.” She pointed at the track in the sandy sidewalk. Vrede was standing a yard away, obviously annoyed at the spoor.Eyes fixed on the track, there was no mistaking what was irritating the town’s dog.

“Mmm…interesting.” Vetfaan bent down to have a better look. “It’s a brown hyena. Been a long time since last I saw one in the area.”

9 toes.jpgAnd so the group went back to the bar to have a cold one and chat about the strange coin Boggel had found.

Which is a pity.

Had they looked at the spoor a little more closely, they would have noticed a missing toe. And then, when the months went by and their favourite Bushman never showed up again, they would have understood.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Morning Olympics

In the quest for Olympic gold, Africa must be a favourite for the Breaking of Day competition….

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Her sunrises can be fast or slow, gradual or intense – but always a small miracle of nature.

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Animals know that dawn will conquer night’s darkness, announcing the new day.

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On the banks of rivers, birds will sing their praises, celebrating, calling, chirping in the misty light filtering through the haze.

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And man will, like he must, rekindle last night’s embers to brew a mug of coffee.

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Others aren’t so spoilt – a long, cool, drink will slake that night-thirst just as well.

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Jep…Africa should be assured of a podium finish – even the King thinks so.

The Problem with Democracy

“I am the biggest,” Elephant said, “you need protection. So it’s only natural that you must vote for me.”

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“Oh no,” Jackal countered. “You guys need somebody clever as a leader. Look, I know where to get food for free! I am your only choice.”

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“You’re all ssso ssstupid and sssilly!” Snake’s disgusted voice silenced the argument for a while. “You need to have a leader who is in touch with matters on ground level! Forget the lofty argumentsss…vote for me!”

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“Oh, shut your traps!” Lion had enough! “I represent royalty! I have a reputation! How can you not vote for me?”

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But, sadly, the voters didn’t care. The drought had brought on a terrible famine.  Hunger and fear – so much more that policies – made them vote for the candidate who had no intention of fulfilling his promises. When Baboon promised green pastures, plenty of rain, freedom to do what they want – and said that all animals would have equal rights, he knew it would be impossible to deliver. “The carnivores,” he said, “are the criminals. They steal our land and eat us. When I’m in charge, there’ll be peace. I’ll get rid of them.” Of course, he couldn’t look them in the eye…

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And so, when the day of the election dawned, all the animals voted. Monkey, being the most numerous of all, had the biggest say in the outcome.

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There was chaos afterwards. There was no free food, no strong animal to guard them, no freedom and plenty of fear.

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“That’s the problem with elections,” Secretary Bird sighed. “Smoke and mirrors. Promises of change? Hah! When will we learn to vote with for good, upright individuals who have already served the community, shown that they really care and proved that they are qualified to deliver on their promises? Sadly, we get what we vote for: lots of words and no change. It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent. It’s the ones most responsive to change. Darwin said it and we still don’t get it.”

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Cherry on Top

He’s been walking for a day-and-a-half; if he doesn’t find water, the desert would have won. But…he knows the area and he knows the tradition of his people. If only he could see their marker, he’d be alright.

Ah…there it is!

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To a stranger, it’s just a heap of twigs. Nothing to stand out in the barren wilderness. He knows better…

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First, he’ll thank the unknown man who did this. Then, carefully and with the necessary respect, he’ll remove the camouflage.

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Uncovering the hidden treasure needs time and patience. Breaking the egg would be disastrous.

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Is it dry? Has the water evaporated? Noo…there it is – the cherry on top! Cool, clear, water.

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Now he has to do the right thing: find the man who hid the water, thank him…and then fill up the ostrich egg again.

 

What’s in a name?

fullback “So Fiat is going to introduce a new bakkie?”

“Yes, Vetfaan. It’s called the Fullback and will be available next year.” Gertruida doesn’t add that the vehicle will be built in Thailand by a Japanese firm for the Italian company: Vetfaan still believes bakkies are unique to South Africa. “They’ll have a 4X4 version as well.”

Vetfaan doesn’t even bother to respond. If the bakkie wasn’t a 4X4, he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

“It’s time for you to replace the old Land Rover,” Kleinpiet says.”That thing must have a million kilos on the clock.”

69-LandRover_SIIA_88_SWB_DV-07-CA_02“It’s still as good as new. The carburettor is a bit iffy, but that’s all. And the oil leak isn’t so bad – a can a week is much cheaper than buying a new pickup.” Always fiercely loyal to his Landy, Vetfaan defends the ’69 model with pride. “Last week, on my way to Upington, I even got a speeding ticket.”

“If you’re so happy with that old thing, why did you mention the Fiat?”

“The name got to me. Fullback. The chap with the number 15 jersey. The defender, see? Just like my Landy. But – and this is where the Italians lost the plot – a fullback must also be the secret weapon: able to switch from defence to attack in he blink of an eye. Fast, strong and aggressive when needed; calm and relaxed even under the most trying conditions. A fullback never panics – he stands his ground when the odds are stacked against him.”

“Lost the plot? How can  you say that after praising the vehicle so much?”

Vetfaan turns to Servaas with a mischievous grin. “Think about it, Servaas.  They needed a name no other vehicle ever had. This is a world wide problem for all manufacturers. And the name can’t just be any old name; it has to convey a message. The buyer must feel that he’s invested in something he can trust. Now, calling it a Fullback, might seem interesting to rugby players, and that’s fine in a country where rugby is a generally accepted sport. In South Africa, however, the game of rugby has become a very controversial subject. The government insists on politicising the issue, forcing down quotas and playing the race card over and over again. Remember, too, that the buying power in the country is now situated in the income group that supports soccer. The next thing you’ll hear, is that Fiat is insensitive about our colonial past.”

“I hate that.” Servaas knits his brows together. “Why is everything associated with the past so wrong? Colonialism brought a lot of things to Africa, massively improving the way we live today. If the politicians want to do away with the remnants of colonialism, they should stop using electricity.”

“Ja, and what about suits, ties, shaving cream and panties?” Boggel blushes, glances at Gertruida and shrugs. “But facts are facts, guys. You can’t throw out Rhodes while wearing jeans and T-shirts. If the old ways were so good, why adopt the style of the coloniser? And what about English – isn’t that a legacy of old Queen Vic as well?”

“So you’d like a bakkie to represent South Africa, Vetfaan? Something that is above criticism, epitomises the culture of Africa and is undeniably indigenous?  Well, then you must find a word that encompasses defence, attack, the ability to get into trouble and out of tight spots. It must say something about traction on all kinds of surfaces, the ability to purr over rough areas and the power to wade through mud and water while not getting stuck. In fact, the name must say so much that the majority of the country will fall for it, even though it remains, in the end a Fiat. And you know what that stands for…”

“Ja, that was the old joke. First In All Trouble. Used to laugh at that twenty years ago, but I don’t think it’s true any more.” Boggel actually likes the brand.

“Still,” Kleinpiet continues, “I’d like to know what Vetfaan suggests as a name to replace Fullback.”

“That’s easy,” Vetfaan smiles smugly. “Call it a Zooma.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: African Treat with Italian Flare.

Africa is the world’s best Treat Continent, without any doubt. The variety of surprises – the whole spectrum of them – is enough to lure you back again and again. A typical day on a recent trip serves as an example.

t1The road seemed to go on and on – a never ending strip of gravel through an endless terrain. No rushing here: a mishap might leave you stranded for days.

t3The desert gave way to stunted bush as the sun set. A lonely giraffe ignored us as we drove past. How far to go still? The map wasn’t of much help. The other question involved the camping site: what was it like? Booking a place where you’ve never been remains a risk, especially in Africa… But, bone tired and hungry, we pressed on.

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Oh. My. Word!!! Was that the ablution block? A long-drop and bucket ensemble to freshen up after a day like that?

t2Well, set up camp, clean up, get the fire going, and then consider the options. There’s a lodge not far away – maybe we could take our chances and enquire about having dinner there? Two beers later, the decision was made. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

x6And…surprise! At Shakawe Mario turned out to be the best pizza-maker in Africa! Imported from Italy, he did his heritage proud. What a meal – what a treat!

And that’s the treat of Africa. Forrest Gump’s famous line rings true here: Life is like a box of chocolates….

The Mother Angle

Never forget about the mother…even in nature. It’s an angle to be considered whenever the bully tries to show off.

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“Oh, we’re all covered with ticks,” Mother said, rumbling noisily. “Come and join us for a dust bath.” Little Bull, feeling a bit independent, didn’t want to bath with the rest of the family. Grumbling that he was old enough to do his own thing, he wandered off a little while to have some privacy. Puberty is such a difficult time!.

an 2But Bully Bull  thought this was the time to show off. Interrupting Little Bull’s ablutions, he tried to intimidate him.

an 5Poor Little Bull. He was no match!

an 4“Mom! Mom! Bully is at it again!”

an 6“Come on, Mom, I’ll show you who did it. Whaaaaa!” And Mom singled out Bully Bull to give him a piece of her mind.

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Telling her son that not all elephants were created equal, she led her son off into the thicket. “Those young bulls from that herd? They simply have to impress others with their short tempers. It doesn’t work like that, Little Bull. Come, lets finish that bath.”

an 8And that’s what the whole family did.

The angle? Listen to your parents, they know best (even if you are a teenager!). And never, never forget that a mother will always put a bully to shame.

The Contrary President

556999104aa21852660039b9“The difference between just another story and a very good story,” Vetfaan says, “is what you don’t tell. I mean, telling everything takes away the fun, doesn’t it?”

Gertruida eyes him suspiciously, wondering what he’s up to now. Ever since they stopped speculating about The Diary, Vetfaan seems determined to stop talking in mid-sentence, letting them guess what he was about to say. Although never mentioning the curious case of Spook Visage, it does appear that the gaps in that story fascinated the burly farmer so much that he wants to copy the technique.

“Look, it’s like our best story-teller ever, our beloved president. Man, he must be the chairman of the Half-truth Society! He can dance around the obvious things he has to say and leave you to piece together what he actually wasn’t telling you. And – mostly – he’ll allow you to get to the wrong conclusion, go heh-heh-heh while he pushes his glasses higher on his noble nose and then say he never said something you’re sure you heard.”

“Nah, Vetfan. You wouldn’t like his job. As an esteemed leader of one of Africa’s foremost countries, he has huge responsibilities. He can’t be bothered by mere trivia all day, every day?  And, let me remind you, when a man has many wives and more than 20 kids, it surely leaves very little time for affairs of state. Add to that the dancing lessons, the extensive livestock he has to take care of at Nkandla and cleaning that pool, and what do you get?” Kleinpiet pauses dramatically, waiting for the answer. With none forthcoming, he sighs and continues: “You get an overburdened and underfunded chap who simply doesn’t have the time to spell out every little detail about every little thing that happens in his life. No, there can be no more dangerous a president than one who takes his time with explanations. That’d mean he’s hiding something.”

“That’s the Presidential Corollary,  Kleinpiet. The quantity of words is inversely related to the quality of truths. That leads you to the Parliamentary Conundrum, which states that the quality of truth is again indirectly related to the number of protest actions.” Gertruida arches a cynical eyebrow, challenging the group to disagree. They don’t, of course. “That implies that a president who is frugal with words, is generous with the truth.  I think that puts us in the pound seats.”

“Come on!” Servaas gets up suddenly. “You guys are just pulling my socks! What is this? The, er, um, Support His Integrity Troupe?  Everybody’s clamouring for his head these days, and you guys are singing his praises?”

“That’s Rule Number One they teach in Presidential School, Servaas, and it’s a worldwide inevitability. You hold an election. Somebody has to win – usually the chap that made the most promises. He gets sworn in and everybody jumps around, cheering their new champion. Now, of course, he has to deliver on his promises…which he can’t. Logically, he then starts ducking and diving, but by the time his term nears the end, everybody’s fed up with him. It happens with all presidents, even Obama.” As usual, when Gertruida gets going, it’s hard to stop her. “Except, of course, José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano of Uruguay.”

“Never heard of him.” Vetfaan isn’t really interested, but he can’t help raising a questioning eyebrow.

“Pepe, my friend, is seven years older than Zuma. He was jailed longer than Zuma for fighting against an unjust government. And like Zuma, he became president in 2009. That’s where the similarities stop.”

She paces up and down the counter as she lectures them on the man dubbed the ‘Humblest president in the world’. “He addressed the United Nations in a memorable speech in 2013, calling for  ‘a return to simplicity, with lives founded on human relationships, love, friendship, adventure, solidarity and family, instead of lives shackled to the economy and the markets’. He received a modest salary, of which he donated 90% to charity. Oh, his only possession, apparently, is the 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

“Strangely, he is married – very happily – to only one woman and he has no children. When offered a million dollars for his car, he said he’d donate the money to the needy.

“Then in March this year, his term in office ended. He refused the use of the luxurious presidential palace or even just its attending staff and retired to the small farm his wife owns – where they grow chrysanthemums which they sell for a living. His security arrangements? A three-legged dog called Manuela.

“There’s a quote – one of many – I love from this man. He said: ‘I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live… My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I’m the son of my history. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress.’ No wonder he’s such a loved and revered man in his country.”

Vetfaan sighs, nods, and takes a sip of peach brandy. “He’s lucky to have been born in Uruguay. His style wouldn’t have worked here…not at all. Any politician around here driving about in an old Beetle would have been as successful as that American dentist trying to sell conservation. No, we won’t be fooled by poverty; being currently disadvantaged isn’t in fashion.”

The discussion peters out and the group falls silent. They refrain from saying the obvious, which is the point of a very good story, not so?

The Diary (#4)

a1_edited-1“You know,” Gertruida says before reading any further, “this reminds me ever so much of the hypothesis of Interdimensional Realities. A lot of people dismiss this as hogwash, and maybe they’re right, but what  if it is really possible to travel to another dimension, or another parallel reality? I mean that would fit in nicely with Spook’s story.”

“Oh, come on, Gertruida! You really believe in parallel universes and such nonsense? If I told Oudoom what you just said, he’d make you mow the grass in front of the church for a year!”

“Hee hee.” Kleinpiet giggles as he nudges Vetfaan. “He wouldn’t dare! She’d smoke it…”

Gertruida goes harrumph! and starts reading again. 

***

I sat staring at the old man’s sand-pictures for a long time, trying to understand what he tried to tell me. Three pictures of Kubu Island – one as it is now, one wiped out and one more that wasn’t erased. What did it mean?

The old man returned after a while, carrying three pebbles. He placed them on the sand in front of me, sat down, and stared at them – occasionally looking up to see that I, too, was looking at the small stones. Then he pointed at the island, pointed at one stone, and grunted. Yes, I got it: the pebble was Kubu. He next took the second pebble, ground it into the sand with his thumb, pointed at Kubu and shook his head, looking extremely sad.. 

Okay…that means no more Kubu…I think.

1.1311548951.1_san-bushmen1The third pebble remained. The old man pointed at it, got up and made a small mound of earth a small distance off. Next, he fetched a smouldering piece of wood from the fire and placed it between the pebble and the mound. He walked some distance off, lay down flat on his stomach, and crept up to the mound. He seemed to be stalking, leopard-crawl style. At the mound, he slowly lifted his head to peek over the heaped sand at the pebble beyond the smoky log. Then he pointed at the pebble, laughed, got up and did a little happy-dance.

What? Kubu still there, but beyond the smoke? Why would that make him happy? What was he telling me? I shook my head and the old man stopped dancing. He was clearly frustrated that I couldn’t understand what he was telling me. He walked off, joined the other two, where they sat down in a huddle, talking softly.

The seemed to agree on something when they got up to approach me once more. The woman held up two fingers and pointed to the small skin bag that held the fire-herbs. Right, I got that. They have two more doses of the stuff. Two more….travels into the unknown? I nodded.

And so I sat down next to the fire again as they draped the karos over me and waited for the herbs to take effect.

***

“I get it!” Gertruida exclaims and stops reading. “The old man was telling Spook about three realities…”

“I’m getting something stronger,” Vetfaan says as he gets up. “Being sober doesn’t work with this story.”

“Oh shush, Vetfaan! This is getting to be hugely fascinating. Look, he describes the same sequence in the beginning and then he goes on…”.

***

This time was different. This journey was neither to the past nor the future. I simply drifted off into a big, black void towards a pinprick of light. After what seemed a very long time but maybe was only a few moments, the light started getting stronger, bigger and more compelling. The darkness disappeared and the brilliant light enveloped me completely. I think the light became part of me. I might have become the light…

Then, I saw a figure approaching. The figure drew near. The figure was…me!

“You have the power,” the figure-me told the real-me. “And you must use it. If you do, things will change.”

I stood there, completely flummoxed. 

“You won’t understand, but you must trust. Trust is the one thing that mankind lost completely. Without trust, you cannot love. And without love, the earth is doomed.”

I stared at myself, trying to make sense of it all. “Why me?” I asked.

“Because you arrived at the right time, the right place. It was all planned this way. In fact, you have no choice.”

“But what,” I  asked the figure-me, “is it that I must do?”

“You have to go back. Right to the beginning. Start over. Save Kubu.”

And with that, the figure-me receded into the light (my light?) and disappeared. I felt myself being drawn back into the dark void, returning to where I was sitting next to the fire.

And when I woke up, eventually, I was so exhausted that the efforts of the family to feed me were in vain. I knew then that I was going to die…or something…

***

“What a load of bulldust!” Vetfaan fetches the peach brandy and pours a stiff one.

Gertruida shrugs. Either they are on the verge of something so extraordinary that it defies normal thinking…or Vetfaan is right. She turns the page.

The Diary (#3)

A2_1_28_02040-1024x645Gertruida 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.

“Why…?”

“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.

kubu-islandFirst, 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