Tag Archives: near-death

The Diary (#2)

Sowa (Sua) Pan, Makgadikgadi

Sowa (Sua) Pan, Makgadikgadi, the last remnant of the superlake that once covered Botswana.

“My gosh!” Gertruida takes off her reading glasses to stare at the ceiling. “He’s had an out of body experience!”

“What? They took him to the abattoir?”

She glances at Vetfaan, sees the twinkle in his eyes and ignores him. “Let me read to you what he says here…”

***

The feeling I got was completely foreign to me. I’ve never used drugs or anything like that, so maybe it was just the smoking herbs on the embers. However, while a second before I still felt embarrassed and shy, I suddenly found myself relaxing. The night’s sounds faded away. The glowing coals of the fire seemed to enlarge and envelop me with a peculiar warmth – a sensation so comforting and relaxing that even the faces surrounding me disappeared.

Then, slowly, a new face stared at me. It took a second to realise it was me, looking at me. This didn’t bother me at all – in fact, it felt like the most natural thing ever. I could see myself smiling. Then I opened my mouth and spoke to myself.

“You are here for a specific reason, Koos. And these wonderful people saved you, because that’s the way it had to be. They have an important message for you.”

“What,” I asked myself?

“Listen to them….”

The face disappeared. The next thing I knew, was that I looked down at myself, sitting there under the karos next to the fire. Once again, this didn’t cause any problem – it simply felt…right. I went higher and higher up in the sky until I could look down on Earth. It was beautiful, peaceful. I saw seasons change, animals migrate, rivers flow. Somehow I realised I was looking into the past – until eventually the desert changed into a sea. I saw boats on the waters and an island where a harbour bustled with activity.

‘This is what was,’ I heard a voice say – it could have been my own. It sounded like me, anyway.

9[PHO]AMy view became sharper, clearer, as I neared the island. I could see men in long, purple robes strutting about. There were slaves attending the boats, while others patrolled the beach around it, armed with bows and arrows. Off to one side I saw a tented town, where women in white garments prepared meals and looked after children.

“This was the stronghold of Kubu. These men and women came from far away, worked hard and supplied the Kingdom,” my voice said. I sounded calm and in control.

“Which kingdom,” I asked.

My voice sounded tired when it answered. “It is far away. It no longer exists.”

“But why,” I eventually asked, “am I here?”

“To see, to observe, to learn.”

“What?” I asked.

“To know what you have to know.”

Suddenly I was elevated again to a high spot, from where I once again saw the Earth change. The sea disappeared and the desert formed. Seasons changed. 

And I woke up – or whatever one can call it – in the smoky haze next to my fire with my saviours staring at me.

***

“Man, he went on a proper trip, that guy. Shew! Drugged beyond recognition, I’ll say!” Vetfaan laughs at the idea. “I’d love Boggel to start serving that stuff!”

Tsodilo

Bushman geometric pattern, Tsodilo Hills.

“The herbs certainly had something to do with it, I’m sure. The old San shamans used herbs to put them in a trance. That’s the explanation for many of their weird paintings, according toe researchers. Those geometric patterns are similar to the ones the Incas did, as well. You get the same patterns repeated in Europe, Egypt and wherever ancient witchdoctors understood trance-like states.

“But then you get strange things, as well, like the whale at Tsodilo Hills – where no known sea existed.” Gertruida thinks for a moment before adding, “Except for Spook’s inland sea where only the salt plains remains – the Makgadikgadi Superlake, of course.”

“Yeah, right!” Vetfaan snorts and signals for a new round. “He was whacked out of his little mind, I tell you. Dehydration and disorientation does that. Add to that the death of his nephew and the obsession to find out what really had happened to cause the suicide, and you have the perfect example of stress aggravating a post-traumatic disorder. Spook had a post-suggestion hallucination, that’s all.”

“I don’t think so,” Gertruida says haughtily, “not if you read the rest of the diary, anyway. Something very, very unusual happened to Spook. And I’m not at all sure you’re going to understand half of it, Vetfaan. Listen…”

(To be continued…)

Bianca (# 6)

2674928-256-k384998The two men move silently to the annexe next to Boggel’s Place; tracker and hunter, closing in on the prey. The tracker is a brilliant detective; the hunter, an assassin without morals. They are a formidable team…

You won’t find Twilight Partners  in the Yellow Pages. If you were to stumble across the name in official documents, you’ll be led to believe that it’s a debt-collecting agency, used by the Presidency to recoup monies lost to corrupt officials. You may even think that this is a wonderful initiative by government to recover bribes received by officials and that these funds are then allocated to various charitable NGO’s. It is a front that has fooled everybody – until now.

Tracker points at the annexe and waits for Assassin to nod. Yes, that’s where the woman is. I understand. I’ll get her. Checking that the safety is off on the silenced 38, he moves towards the room on silent feet.

***

Old Servaas isn’t the man he used to be any more. Gone are the days when he was a spry young man, the best shot in the district and the object of many a young maiden’s desire. Despite his age and appearance, he still imagines himself to be relatively fit and agile for his age.

Using the shadows for cover, he slowly tiptoes to the edge of the veranda, which is adjacent to the newly-built annexe. Should any intruder try to get near that room, Servaas would be ready for him – or them. He has a gun, a dog and a lot of resolve. Nobody – but nobody – must harm Bianca. For a moment he considers calling in the others, but that would mean giving away his position and  (which is worse) deserting his post.

Ah yes! There’s a movement. Something darker than the shadows is moving slowly and silently towards the annexe. The man – Servaas assumes it to be a male because of the large bulk – is moving, back against the wall…and now the glint of moonlight on something held in a hand draws his attention. A knife? A gun?

Servaas brings the shotgun to his shoulder. If that man reaches for the doorknob…

Suddenly, Vrede’s frantic barking shatters the silence. At the end of Voortrekker Weg, the tracker tries to ward off the storming dog, but Vrede won’t be denied. With an almighty growl, he launches himself into the air, flying in a perfect trajectory that ends on the right wrist of the stalker. Despite the experience of many campaigns and years of working under cover, the man lets out a terrified scream.

At the same time, Servaas acts.

“Stop where you are! Stop right there…or I’ll shoot!”

The assassin swirls around, identifies where the shout came from, and lets off a shot in one fluid movement.

In a single second, the operation to eliminate Bianca fades away in the confused shouts that follows the shot and growling. While the rest of Rolbos switches on every available light, it is Bianca who rips open her door.

“Oh no!” She’s shouting for help as she sees Sevaas staggering off the veranda to fall in the dust of the sidewalk next to Voortrekker Weg. “Help! Servaas has been shot.”

***

The next few seconds witness the Rolbossers trying to make sense of the chaos in their main street. Vetfaan storms towards the growling Vrede, only to discover a very agitated man screaming for help. Precilla and Fanny run instinctively towards Bianca’s shouts and Boggel’s Place. It is Gertruida who understands what Bianca is saying, so she turns around, reenters her house, and then storms out with a first-aid kit.

Kleinpiet joins Vetfaan and together they convince Vrede to let go of the man’s bleeding wrist. Despite his whimpering protestations, the tracker gets tied up securely without any sympathy from the two men. Then, with Vrede keeping a tail-wagging eye on the little procession, they frog-march the man towards the bar.

Servaas is bleeding copiously from a wound in his shoulder. He’s trying to sit up, ashen-faced, when the women kneel next to him.

“Take him inside, we need light.” To everyone’s surprise, Bianca takes control over the situation. “We have to stop the bleeding immediately.”

***

  The bullet passed through the fleshy part of Servaas’s shoulder, severing a small artery on its way. When they get him on to the counter in Boggel’s Place, he  is short of breath with a barely palpable pulse.

“Get me a cloth. A towel. a shirt. Anything! Now!” Bianca presses down on the spurting wound, but it is clear that Servaas is in a bad way. Gertruida wastes no time. With a mighty heave, she tears Kleinpiet’s shirt right from his back and hands it to Bianca.

“Have you got a doctor in town?” Bianca seems calmer now as she forces the remains of the shirt against the wound. “A nurse? Anything?”

“No. The nearest medical help is in Upington.”

“‘Cilla, you have a little pharmacy – I think you said that when we were introduced?”

“Yes, but…”

“Have you any intravenous fluids in stock? Saline? Ringer’s? Dextrose? Anything?”

“Yes, well, I have a vaculitre of Dextrose. I ordered it when Judge was here – he was a diabetic and…”

“Get it. Get it now. And an infusion set and a needle. Any bloody needle. Now!”

Gertruida watches the unfolding drama. Bianca is not acting like a common harlot at all – she suddenly assumed responsibility for Servaas; and she’s done it in a decidedly authoritative way. This woman, she decides, has seen much more action than just bed-time gymnastics. She’s acting like a well-trained…soldier?

Servaas groans and tries to sit up.

“Shhh, my darling. It’s going to be allright. Relax now. Lie still.”

Theses are the most beautiful words Servaas has ever heard. He slumps back on the counter with a silly grin.

“They…they didn’t get you? Good…” With that, he closes his eyes, whispering: “I’m so glad…”

When Precilla returns with the drip, Bianca gets busy setting up the infusion. Within a minute, she’s got the clear fluid running into a vein.

“Boil some water. Two litres. Add three spoons of salt and a quarter cup sugar. Let it simmer for five minutes….Can somebody please do it immediately?” Fanny rushes off, shouting Okay, I’m on it!.

For a while the little crowd watches the old man on the counter. He’s showing no sign of response; his breathing is still slow and irregular.

“Will he make it?” Timid, from Mevrou. She’s standing towards one side, barefoot and without a gown.

“Let us pray,” Oudoom says and closes his eyes. Servaas is only dimly aware of the prayer – he remembers a song Siena loved so much. Smiling, he feels Bianca’s fingers on his pulse. With the greatest of efforts, he manages to twist his hand to find hers. Heaven, he thinks, must be something like this.

The History of SHIMMERstate

Where did it start? I often wonder where stories come from – especially this one, by far the most unusual of all. SHIMMERstate goes back a long time…

Many years ago, I attended a terminally sick gentleman. His body had given up the fight against cancer, leaving him frail and weak. This, quite naturally, was the reason why he became more and more depressed and short-tempered.

I came to know him quite well in those days. Twice a day I’d sit down next to his bed to try and convince him to see his family and friends; but he refused, saying he didn’t want them to see him like that.

“I used to be a big, strong man Doctor. In my youth I excelled in athletics and later I played wing for my club. Look at me now – I’m a pathetic bag of skin and bones. I don’t want hem to remember me like this. Anyway, mind your own business. The other patients are waiting for you.”

Despite his rebukes (and later, sullen silences) I’d spend time next to his bed every day, chatting about Life, Love, Faith and Hope…even the subject he detested and feared: Death. Whenever I sat down with him, I’d be met with a scowl and a tired sigh.

Then, one morning, he flashed me a brilliant smile as I walked into his room. He was – quite obviously – in a tremendously happy mood. I asked about it.

“Last night, two men visited me. They were dressed in white robes and stood at the foot of the bed while they spoke to me. They told me too say my goodbyes today, Doc, and that they’d be here at eleven tonight to escort me home. 

“I can’t explain it, but after they left, a feeling of excited anticipation settled inside me. I understand things so much better now. Please, Doc, tell my family I’d like to see them. Please?”

I asked the night staff: no, nobody visited him during the night. His room was right opposite the nursing station, they’d have noticed…

He spent the day with his family and friends, encouraging them, telling them not to worry. He knows where he’s going now, he told them; the fear of the unknown is gone.

That night, at exactly eleven, he smiled, closed his eyes – and was gone.

***

That incident planted a seed that would take more than two decades to germinate. During that time, other patients and other events added to my impression that we are so much more than a body. And finally, when I sat down to write SHIMMERstate, the story came to me as a complete unit – I only had to write it down. Even so, it took three years.

I’m not a theologian, and my talent is not to convey a message with a dry, unexciting thesis. I’m a story-teller: that’s what I do best. So, SHIMMERstate is the story of a simple man who experiences a near-death event. In his comatose state, he leaves his body and gets involved in the ultimate adventure of his life. 

My wish is that the book will help people to look at Life with new eyes; that we’ll start questioning the superficial values society accepts, and that we’ll appreciate each other with greater respect.

           Click to buy.

Click to buy.