2 GENESIS 2: REALITY BITES

Posted: September 19, 2011 in SciFi

 

The rumbling of the volcano woke most of the survivors the following morning. They were not able to see the volcano from their new position on the side of the hillock but they saw fresh smoke rise high into the air once again and strong tremors shook the mountain. The Lockhats fled in terror to the small overhang where Esme and Christine comforted them. Most of the survivors kept close to the overhang.

Young Alistair seemed to be sleeping through it all. When Christine knelt beside him, she saw that he was asleep and that the fever had passed. It was quite a surprising turn of events. She had not expected him to survive the night. She stood up and walked over to Gary.

“Young Alistair seems to have stabilised. He’s sleeping now. I’m very surprised.”

“Good. That is good news for a change.”

Father Ridgeway overheard them and walked to Alistair’s side where he knelt and offered a prayer in thanksgiving to the Lord for sparing the young boy’s life. The Lockhats joined him and Ahmedi put his hand on the injured boy’s forehead and said:

“Al-Llahu Ahkbar, God is great. God has taken and God has now given. Al-Llahu Ahkbar!”

Hassan who watched his father pray over the young boy turned and walked away leaving the camp to enter the forest alone.

Meanwhile at Bennie’s camp they were able to witness the eruptions of the mountain again but this time the magma flow was relatively stable and hissed harmlessly into the seas which continued crashing against the sides of the mountains.

Looking out at the volcano, Bennie, James and Graham were discussing their next moves.

“Our water is getting low, Bennie. We need to get some fresh water.” It was Graham talking. “I think we could still survive for a day or two.”

Before the others could respond, a man called Peter ran up to report that they had found the remains of one of their party, a relatively quiet person called Charlie.

“Christ Bennie, the fucking hyenas nabbed Charlie last night and not one of us heard them. Are they fucking ghosts or what?”

“Bullshit man. They’re just ’ungry and we’re part of the food chain ’ere. We’ll ’ave to watch out and not get drunk like we did last night without posting a watch,” replied Bennie crossly. As self-appointed leader he had not protected his group and realised this.

“I don’t like it, I tell you. These bloody animals freak me out,” Peter said.

“So where are Charlie’s remains?” James asked.

“About two hundred metres from us. Not much left I’m afraid. Shit! What a way to go! And we heard fuck all.”

“Well, we better bury it or it’ll attract flies and even some other animals. I don’t want vultures around ’ere.”

“Who’s going to bury it?” Peter asked.

“You, you fucking fool,” Bennie shouted. “Find someone to ’elp you and just do it. D’ya want me to do it? Shit, I must think of everything, must I?”

“Just asking,” Peter mumbled as he turned and stalked off to where the others were sitting watching the volcano. A small party followed Peter to the gruesome remains and after packing a mound of rocks they gathered on the remains, returned somewhat quieter than when they had left.

“OK, let’s all listen up,” Bennie called to the small group which now consisted of 14 persons. “Last night we all ’ad a well deserved break from reality, but this morning we ’ave some sore ’eads and one dead. It’s no-one’s fault but we’ll ’ave to be vigilant. As we said last night, the law of the jungle applies ’ere on this fucking mountain top, and we ’ave become its first victims. I propose that we organise ourselves into workgroups so that we can make our camp a bit more livable. We ’ave no women ’ere so someone is going to ’ave to cook while others are going to ’ave to ’unt for food. We’re also running out of water, so a small party needs to go to Oscars’ camp and get us some water. This will ’ave to be done on a regular basis until we establish a more permanent base.”

“But, Bennie you said we will be rescued in a couple of weeks or days,” someone piped up in the group.

“Yes I did, didn’t I? ’ow long have we been ’ere, ’ey? Meanwhile we need to live, right?” He stared at the questioner with some venom challenging him to ask another question. The man called Fred, who was quite old and frail looking, sat down suddenly.

“Any more clever questions?”

“No, but we will have to nominate who is going to do what. Right?” said Armstrong. “I suggest that you and I as well as another two volunteers walk to Oscar’s place and get some water, while the rest of you get off your butts and start to clean up around here. When we get back we must have a talk around setting up chores and duties.”

“Shit! Who are you to order us around?” a man called Tom, asked. He was athletic looking and had long hair. There was something faintly familiar about his face. Armstrong looked at him calculatingly.

“You can come with us to carry water, OK?”

Tom agreed and after a few minutes, Tom, Graham, Bennie and Jim took off for Oscar’s camp. The trail was easy to follow. They had merely to follow discarded items from the previous days’ trek. Each man carried a couple of containers to carry the water in.

 Meanwhile at base camp, Oscar and Gary led the whole group into the forest to explore and decide upon a possible location for their first permanent village. The only ones to remain behind were the injured passengers together with Christine and Zyndile to care for them.  Ahmedi and Shenaaz had also remained behind and were busy setting up a more livable area for themselves. Hassan was nowhere to be seen.

Gary walked ahead and as they progressed through the forest, he remarked on the suitability or otherwise of the places they found. When they emerged at the other end, everybody was awestruck by the sight that met their eyes. As far as they could see, waters raged and beat against the plateau. On the horizon, the clouds met the seas in an almost imperceptible line.  Not a sign of life was to be seen.

Sitting on the edge of the cliff with his legs hanging over the precipice, they found Hassan. Surprised, Gary approached him, saying gently: “Are you OK, Hassan?”

The boy continued to stare out to the horizon; maybe to will something to save them from ultimate destruction, maybe the opposite.

Rachel, who had followed Gary, stepped forward and sat down next to the boy. They were about the same age.

“My Dad was killed by this disaster.”

Hassan turned his head slightly to her in acknowledgement of her pain.

“He knew it was coming and refused to join us. I miss him so!” she continued softly.

“What type of god would do this?” the boy suddenly asked. “Inshal-Llah, my father always says when he is unable to explain something. It is just too easy to talk things away.”

“I know. I feel the same,” Rachel responded quietly. “My mother says that God doesn’t exist and if he did he would indeed be a cruel and senseless God. Come, the others are leaving.” The two children stood up from the edge and joined the group where they were discussing the waterfall.

 “It seems like such a waste,” June was saying to Oscar, “isn’t there a way we could dam up the water?”

“I’m sure we could, if we could find a suitable place further upstream,” John Duguid replied.

He was lying on his stomach, peering down the mountain side and called out: “Oscar, have a look here. We could actually build a small hydroelectric generator down there where the water is forced through the narrow gorge.”

“What will we use for a generator and wire John?” Oscar who had joined John to peer down, asked. Young Hassan, suddenly intrigued, lay next to Oscar with Rachel standing behind them.

“Well we have all the scrap on the Airbus and I’m sure that I’ll be able to fashion something from that. There are hundreds of small electric motors, which if reversed, make lovely little dynamos. I can string them up in series and generate quite a lot of free electricity.”

“Sounds like a nice project John, but right now we’ll need shelter and food,” said Oscar. “Do you think we could build something here?”

“No, I think we should build some huts closer to the water, where we could use the rocks from the hillock on the other side of the forest. It’s easier to cart stuff here for the generators than to bring the building materials here. In any case we should try to protect this forest. It will be our only source of firewood and wood to build with. Can you imagine what a fire would do to this forest? The volcano could incinerate it in the blink of an eye.”

The group moved back through the forest spreading out in a long single file as if searching for a lost child. Hassan walked next to Rachel. He was quite excited by the idea of building a power plant. He loved everything electronic and had played with young scientist play-sets since he could remember. Physics was his favourite subject at school. He had won several prizes for projects he had put together.

Every now and again a member of the group would exclaim at something she or he would find or see in the bush and the others would run to see. It quickly became evident to all that John’s words about protecting the forest were wise words indeed.

As they emerged from the forest, Gary exclaimed to the others: “Look who’s here!”

Bennie and his friends were sitting next to the water scooping water into their receptacles.

” ’ope you guys don’t mind. Our water’s just about done. Nice place y’got here, Oscar,” he said looking around him. He smirked while speaking from the side of his mouth.

“Help yourselves. There is enough to go around for all of us as long as we look after it,” Oscar replied. He was uncomfortable with Bennie and it showed. Bennie was not the type he would normally have associated with, but circumstances have forced their hands; they had no choice.

“Ta, mate. Y’guys find something in the bush out there?” he asked pointing to the forest behind them.

“No, just exploring to see what we could find. We have to start building shelters.”

“Yeah, well one of our guys got nabbed by the ’yenas last night. You need to watch out for them.”

“Who was it?” Zyndile asked, suddenly concerned.

“Don’t really know the guy, named Charlie I believe. Snuck up on him during the night and nabbed ’im while ’e was sleeping. We didn’t ’ear nothing.”

“They are spirits who move silently and can appear at will wherever they wish,” Zyndile said.

“See I told you guys so!” Graham exclaimed. “Those fucking creatures are weird man.”

“Aw come on Graham, they’re just animals looking for food,” Bennie retaliated.

“Well in my culture, they are seen as mystical animals with great powers and here in the wild we must respect that,” Zyndile responded. She knew that whites were very sceptical of the traditions of black people.

“Yeah, yeah whatever,” came the dismissive response from Bennie.

“Bennie, you must listen to what she says,” Graham said again. “These people…,” throwing his head in Zyndile’s direction, “they know about these things. Shit their witch doctors even change to hyenas at night, I heard. You can’t trust them.”

Zyndile caught the racial jibe in her stride. She had learned in the hard school that was the still-racially divided and polarised post-apartheid South Africa. She bit her tongue knowing full well that to argue with people of Graham’s ilk was useless.

“Oscar, we need to come to some kind of arrangement regarding the water. We’ll need to fetch water every day or so,” Jim stated.

“Well, if you recall that was our view from the beginning. You’re still welcome to join us here,” replied Gary.

“Naw, we’re OK where we are. We got some things to do there. Water’s the only problem. If it’s OK with you we’d like to come and fetch water everyday,” Bennie said. He was not going to back down on their original decision.

“I’ll talk to the others but I cannot see a problem as long as you agree that we protect the water for everybody’s sake,” Oscar replied. “We’ll have to agree that drinking water only be sourced near to the fountain head while water for ablutions and washing is done further downstream. We’re going to build toilets somewhere in the verges of the forest where they’ll not contaminate the water. Bennie, we also need to see what we can use from the wreckage of the Airbus. I guess that we all have a stake there as well.”

“Well, maybe we can trade,” Tom remarked casually.

Oscar shook his head. “No, I don’t agree. If we start haggling over water or pieces of equipment we’re going to run into shit quite quickly. Let’s rather play it by ear and talk about things as they come up. OK?”

Bennie looked at Jim: “What d’ya think?”

“Well, I guess Oscar has a point although in the real world, possession is nine tenths of the law. But then they could make a point about access to the water as well. Let’s just leave it for now and as Oscar says, talk about it.” He was well aware that they did not have the numbers to confront Oscar’s group at this stage. They would have to work out a different strategy when the opportunity presents itself.

Looking down at his clothes, Bennie asked:

“D’ya mind if we wash ourselves downstream somewhere?”

“Help yourselves. If you go close to the edge of the forest or even in the forest, you’ll find a couple of pools you could use. You could hang out your wet clothes on the bushes as well. We don’t have any soap or towels though,” Oscar added laughing.

Bennie’s group laughed as they walked down towards the forest. The offer of a wash was too good to miss. Oscar and Gary looked at each other and grinned. It had gone better than they expected but Bennie was trouble with a capital T.

Returning to the main group, Oscar updated them on what had transpired.

On the issue of the hyenas Zyndile got up and said to the group: “I know that our cultures are different and that we attach value to different things. In my culture, that is the Zulu culture, the hyena or ingkwa is a symbol of evil and we have experienced the evil they have brought to our group. I’ve been worried by these animals because they seem to be following us and know when to attack us. We will have to protect ourselves if we wish to keep them away.”

“How do you propose we do that Zyndile?” June asked.

“Well, we must build an enclosure which will keep us safe from them, first of all. Then we must gather and burn some muti, which is medicine from the forest with which I am familiar. I have been trained as an inyanga or herbal doctor.”

“You mean witchcraft, don’t you?” June continued.

“You may wish to call it that June, but in my culture it is like an insurance policy. Witchcraft, especially the bad medicine or black magic is called umThakathi. What I’m talking about is not witchcraft but common sense. We’ve had thousands of years experience in dealing with these types of threats and just as you pray to your God, we invoke the powers of our ancestors and their knowledge of things beyond the understanding of people from the West.”

“It’s all mysticism, you guys,” Christine piped up from where she was sitting with Esme next to Alistair washing his wounds with clean water and some disinfectant which she brought from the Airbus’s First Aid Kit. Giving him another shot of penicillin, she continued: “Hyenas are part of the natural way things are. They have a task in nature and when they get hungry as they no doubt are, they will even attack and carry away their prey much like lions. If we’re going to start scaring each other instead of being rational about things, we will soon see ghosts and spirits in everything.”

“What is mysticism, Christine?” June asked.

Mysticism is the creation of false realities and is a process which attempts to recreate or alter reality. It evades or ignores the facts or creates problems where none exist. It is the way of moral cowards who refuse to face the here and now and who revert to the past to justify their behaviour,” Christine replied with an air of confidence.

“Give us some examples of what you call ‘mysticism’,” Gary asked.

     “Sure. When the Pope says condoms will increase the incidence of disease and is unable to prove this, it is mysticism; when dire predictions are made of earth climate change based on computer models using spurious assumptions, it is mysticism; when religious fanatics say that by killing infidels they will go to heaven, it is mysticism; and when George W Bush told the American nation on the night he launched the war against Iraq, that: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,” it was mysticism. It is also mysticism when a preacher says you were born in sin but only need to believe in whatever god or deity and you will be saved, helped, assisted or healed.”

     “How is mysticism different from lies, Christine?” June asked.

“Mysticism is a wider concept than mere lies, June. Lies and half-truths are often used by mystics to mislead. Mysticism is more pervasive, infinitely more difficult to identify when used by master mystics who fully appreciate its uses and its praxis. It is designed to create fear and uncertainty. Mysticism is a destructive force; a denial of man’s ability to be rational and develop self-esteem. It calls on man to relinquish his capacity to think, and by thinking rationally to integrate reality. Mysticism requires a person instead to believe or have faith in whatever the mystic wishes to promote. In other words it is the sacrifice of man’s mind to the undefined, the metaphysical; a denial of reality. To put it more simply, mysticism is when a person claims something to be true because he or she ‘feels’ it to be so.”

“Jeez, Christine now you sound like a preacher yourself,” Gary quipped.

“Anything but, Gary. In fact I like to believe that I’m an amateur philosopher who subscribes to the notion that mysticism, which by the way includes all religions and most political doctrines, uses fear to achieve its ends, creates its own  ‘realities’, such as false standards, guilt where no guilt exists, belief in external deities and magic powers. In other words mysticism is the opposite of reason, reality and logic.”

“Well, I don’t know Christine. I guess I’m conservative and prefer to believe in a god, although heaven knows I never attended church,” Esme commented.

“It doesn’t surprise me, Esme. For millions of people that is how they’ve been brought up and above all, they’ve been taught not to question religious teachings or the dogma of the church. It was not long ago that most Catholics could not even read the Christian Bible because it was written in Latin. Only the learned, meaning priests, could. This is how they ensured that by controlling the education and schooling of people they could control their beliefs as well. Martin Luther said that a questioning mind was the enemy of religion. A good example of a master mystic was Plato when he reversed the relationship between consciousness and reality thereby creating a structure for false concepts such as gods because according to him if the mind decides something exists, then it does, regardless of reality. The ridiculous conclusion one could arrive at, is that if your mind decides something does not exist then it doesn’t. Try kicking a rock that doesn’t exist in your mind, but exists in the real world! To take it one step further; when another master mystic, Hitler told the German nation that an evil, meaning the Jews, was threatening the security of the State, he was enthusiastically supported in the establishment of the Gestapo to solve the perceived problem.”

“I can see that we are going to have some big debates around the fires, Christine,” Gary piped up jokingly.

A short distance away, Father Ridgeway had been listening to the discussion without commenting. He now understood Christine’s belief system and understood her anger at his preaching. She was an atheist. She would be a challenge for him to convert to Christianity, one which he looked forward to, indeed relished.

Standing up, he walked to the small group and stated rather than asked: “You’re an atheist aren’t you, Christine?”

“Yes, I am. It’s a label priests and religionists like to use to isolate and identify us as the enemy because all religionists need an enemy ranging from Satan to atheists and blasphemers to idolaters, to justify their own arguments and beliefs, don’t they father? You cannot justify your existence if you are not able to create fear and uncertainty in people’s minds, isn’t that so, father?” she replied, emphasising ‘father’ mockingly.

The priest merely shook his head and walked away.

Zyndile looked at Christine and wondered how a person who seemed so positive about things could not believe in a god. Surely you have to believe in something to guide you?

Sensing Zyndile’s questioning look, Christine said to her, not unkindly: “I respect your traditions Zyndile and if your rituals can help, then so be it. However, if people are only good because they fear being punished or hope to be rewarded for being good, then we are a sorry lot indeed. That by the way is a quote from another atheist, Albert Einstein! The reality here is that we need to protect ourselves from wild animals and your suggestion of a stockade makes good sense. The muti as you call it doesn’t make sense unless you are able for example to establish beyond a doubt that a mixture of herbs will repel the animals, but you are obviously free to do as you please.”

“That is an interesting philosophy. We must talk again,” Zyndile replied.

“OK guys let’s get out of debate mode,” John Duguid said. “We can talk about these things after we have dealt with the realities facing us right now. We have to build toilets and Oscar has asked me to co-ordinate this. I need some hands to go to the forest and pick a spot for the pit latrines.”

“How’s that for some realism, guys?” Gary joked as they all got up from the grass. “I need some help with the building of a stockade as Zyndile has suggested. We need to chop down some young trees for this. At least we have a couple of axes.”

After some discussion four groups were established to sort out the toilets, stockade and basic shelters as well as water storage, while one group led by Karl Hofmeyer set off to explore the possibility of hunting and gathering food.

Some of the women, who had remained behind in the camp, created a cooking area and gathered wood from the forest for the night. Fires would now have to burn all night.

 

During the following weeks the survivors started coming to terms with their circumstances. They knew that their survival depended on their capacity to create a livable environment for themselves.

In the meantime, Alistair’s recovery continued to amaze all and sundry except for Father Ridgeway. He declared that it was due to God’s intervention and his constant prayers that Alistair had been spared. Christine’s contribution, the massive injections of penicillin and constant care she gave him, was never mentioned and she didn’t bother to enlighten them.

Father Ridgeway’s supporters which included Ahmedi and Shenaaz, grew. They held daily prayer meetings invoking the powers of Jehovah through Jesus Christ to have pity on them and to guide them. At times, Ahmedi was allowed to preach from the Qu’ran. This tended to create a deeper understanding between the two faiths. Alistair had become a symbol and icon of their survival and of the future. He was carried to the prayers and lay in front of the small gathering. At the end of the prayer sessions, Father Ridgeway would sprinkle water he had consecrated around the litter upon which Alistair lay to protect him from evil spirits and speed his recovery.

The priest, being of the Jesuit Order, compared Alistair’s miraculous recovery to that of St Ignatius, founder of the Order. He was a Spanish Basque soldier and underwent an extraordinary conversion while recuperating from a leg broken by a cannon ball in battle.

Christine meanwhile continued to administer the remaining medicines to the sick. Zyndile helped her and actually brewed some concoctions from herbs and aloes she had found in the forest to assist.

 Amanda’s arm was virtually healed and the burn wounds from the volcanic eruptions some of the survivors had suffered from were treated with the clear gel found in the fleshy aloe leaves. They had all virtually healed completely in the dry mountain air.

Rachel Hailey had in the meantime struck up a friendship with Zyndile. The two of them, often accompanied by either Christine or Esme, would spend hours in the forest discussing herbs, cultural traditions and even philosophy towards which Rachel seemed to have a leaning. She in turn would sing them songs. She had a beautiful voice and they loved listening to her.

June Hailey was slowly coming to terms with the death of Mike and started to become something of an expert at explaining to those who would listen what had happened to the planet and what the effects would have been. Naturally she could have had no inkling as to the actual impact of the earth’s crust displacement. Ironically, they had been spared the horror of it. She and John Duguid spent more and more time together and could often be seen walking together on the hills.

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