Moses was a Liar: 3 GENESIS 5: Beowulf Arrives

Posted: October 25, 2011 in SciFi

 

Esme went into labour.

It had been on the cards for the last two weeks and Christine had been fluttering around her to everyone’s amusement except for Esme herself.

A small nursery had been created in the stockade which had been unused now for the last two months. A bed was made for the expectant mother as well as a small crib for the baby well in advance of the massively expected and awaited event. Skins and woven hemp served as curtains. All the equipment necessary for the confinement was sterilised at least ten times by an excited and nervous Zyndile.

In the camp, a mood of great expectation and excitement prevailed. The children were arguably the most thrilled with the coming of a new child in their midst, while the adults, young and old debated the gender and size of the baby. Some even laid wagers and substantial banter pervaded the settlement.

As soon as Esme started her labour pains, Christine bundled her into the nursery and closed the curtains to ward off inquisitive onlookers. Gary was asked to stand guard. Oscar pranced around like a typical expectant father while Karl disappeared into the hills of the plateau to hunt in preference to waiting. Suzette and Father Ridgeway were as excited as the rest and held a vigil and prayed to protect the mother and baby from evil.

Inside the small enclosure, Christine had boiled water, washed her hands and did what she could to make Esme as comfortable as possible. She called Zyndile in to help and who rubbed Esme’s back with lard and herbs to dull the pains.

Esme’s first contraction was accompanied by her water breaking, much screaming, panting and some serious swearing at all and sundry.

She continued to have contractions for the next six hours; Christine was becoming very concerned as the dilation of the cervix was too slow for her liking. However, once the baby’s head started to poke through, the rest came swiftly in a rush of blood and fluids.

In true tradition, Christine held the child by its small ankles and slapped it smartly to extract an anguished yelp, followed by loud cries from the healthy little boy child. Outside a cheer arose as the gathering heard the tell-tale sounds from the infirmary.

She quickly tied and cut the umbilical cord and with Zyndile’s help, bathed the child and cleaned a smiling, tired but happy Esme in the process. They then walked outside the enclosure and were shocked to see the whole population of KRAT standing at the entrance. Holding the small bundle up in her arms, a tearful but smiling Christine shouted: “It’s a bloody little lad and Esme is fine!” to shouts and cheers from everybody.

“Three cheers for Esme!” Gary shouted exuberantly pounding a speechless Oscar on the back.

“Hip Hip Hurray; Hip Hip Hurray; Hip Hip Hurray,” rang the cries over the plateau and cliffs in celebration of a new-born child. To the religious it was a symbol of God’s love for them. The rest were just deliriously happy. This was cause for a great party.

Returning to Esme, Christine gently placed the small bundle in her arms. Esme’s first reaction was to unbundle the child’s wraps to check that all the appendices and pieces were in place. Satisfied with what she saw, she cuddled the baby close to her naked body and promptly fell asleep while Zyndile wrapped the two of them in a clean blanket.

Oscar, Karl and Gary tiptoed in when Christine said it was OK and in wonder just looked at the little miracle. A new life; a new beginning.

That night the celebrations lasted till dawn.

Some of the men had devised ways of fermenting cassava mixed with wild barley as well as the fruit of the sausage tree which aided the fermentation process. For sugar they had used wild honey which combined with the starch of the cassava created a rich and potent beer. Yeast was plentiful in its natural state as fungus on stale bread and pulped berries left to ferment.

Music was provided with improvised instruments made from gourds with metal inserts from the wreck; flutes from reeds and drums from hollowed trees with animal skins stretched over them. While not melodious, nobody cared; the beat was intoxicating as was the beer.

The cold weather was banished for the night by a large bonfire around which the latter day citizens of KRAT danced and sang new songs to mark the occasion. A great celebration was held with many splitting headaches the following morning. Some of the revellers fancied themselves as songwriters and many new songs were born that night.

 

A child, a child born in the wild

More than a child a legend, a new beginning

Drums and flutes Let’s be singing

The son of man, love the new

Loved by all but carried by few

 

To survive, to survive the challenges that strive

To destroy the new world and life so dear,

Free us, believe us and deliver us from fear

We’re alive, we’re alive

and a boy is born and we have no fear

The son of man, loved by all but carried by few

 

To grow, to grow, stronger as we go

we sing, we sing of our roots down far into rock

We stand, we dance, we love

let the wind blow

The son of man, loved by all but carried by few

 

To live, to live we are born to give

Life to the world, we sing we sing

The son of man, loved by all but carried by few

Morning dawned over a quiet camp. Here and there a figure would peer out of a hut only to disappear again to get away from the cold.

In the nursery, Esme was attempting to suckle her baby without much luck. Zyndile was helping her but she also knew that mother’s milk would not be produced for a couple of days as only colostrum would be forthcoming, accompanied by some sharp pains in the mother’s breasts. The baby however quickly found the nipple and with contented little squeaks and burbles sucked with closed eyes while his mother watched in total amazement at the tiny miracle.

“Have you thought about a name yet, Esme?” Zyndile asked, while she cleaned up the nursery and washed the bowls and instruments.

“Yes, it’s been something I’ve been pondering for some time. We are in a strange new world and everything we used to hold dear and believe in has been destroyed. Old names just won’t do, so I’ve decided to name him Beowulf after a mythological Danish hero-figure who battled monsters and dragons in the Ancient world.”

“What a strange name, Esme!” Zyndile exclaimed in wonder. The name conjured up images of spirits and monsters in the dark. “What’s the history and meaning of the name? In our Zulu culture we normally name the newborn child after some joyous happening or happy destiny that we wish upon the child such as Jabulani which means happiness or even my name Zyndile which is derived from the Zulu term, to get better or to become healthy after an illness.”

“Beowulf has no real meaning in itself. It was the name of the hero-figure some 1500 years ago in the then Denmark. According to legend he battled with a monster called Grendel as well as its mother who was a dragon which Beowulf killed but is then himself mortally wounded. I just thought the name to be symbolic of our battle to survive here on this mountain top. I don’t know what the future holds for my child.”

“Wow, I think it’s beautiful and I believe he will become a great hero like Beowulf. I will ask my ancestors to look after him.”

“Thanks Zyndi. You have been such a good friend all this time. I think you and Christine should be Beowulf’s god-parents.”

“But we are two women!” Zyndile exclaimed.

“So what? What better parents than two wonderful people like you? In any case there are enough men in the camp who will be only to happy to play the father role to him but I guess Oscar will fulfill that role.”

 

The child was symbolically christened a few weeks later, in three separate ceremonies much to Father Ridgeway’s protestations.

First they held a normal Christian ceremony conducted by the unsuspecting Catholic priest. Esme herself was not a Catholic but that seemed to be a minor issue on KRAT. After that Zyndile and Tom together with some of Esme’s closest friends including Karl, Christine and Oscar held a secret ceremony in the forest during which the child was introduced to his ancestors by way of the slaughtering of a hyrax caught by Karl. The blood of the writhing little animal was ceremoniously daubed on the forehead and cheeks of the baby while Zyndile as a royal descendent, invoked her own matrilineal ancestors’ blessings for the child. After the ceremony they all feasted on the hyrax together with some other cooked meat brought to the feast by Karl and Christine.

Finally, a few days later the child was taken by Christine and Esme and some of the younger people, to the waters of the Source and washed of all ‘sins’ real and imagined, imposed by mankind. Christine had convinced Esme that she as the mother should accept that a child is not born in sin as determined in Christian theology; that so-called ‘sins’ are normally transgressions of societies’ norms and that a symbolic cleansing would be a break from the past. Esme agreed wholeheartedly.

“I do not subscribe to mystical rites such as the christening of a child which seeks to reaffirm a parent’s loyalty to the church under the false premise that a child is born in sin and should be ‘cleansed’,” Christine said as she held the new-born child in her arms. “Neither do I subscribe to the notion that angels and ancestral spirits be called upon to look after a new-born child in his or her life time or be protected from evil or from demons; that is the responsibility of the parents of such child and no parent may abrogate this responsibility to any deity. In any case I don’t believe in demons either and have never been bothered by them. Here on this mountain we are faced with a stark truth; to survive we must face reality just as it is presented to us; there are no other alternatives. If we believe that the gods or spirits will guide us and protect us, we are denying our own minds’ capacity to formulate solutions to the challenges confronting every one of us.”

As she spoke, Father Ridgeway, accompanied by Suzette and Alistair who had run to call them, walked up the incline to the small gathering. Holding his small Bible aloft in his right hand and pointing straight at Christine with his left, the priest thundered: “You! Sinner and false prophet, you are forbidden to bless the child who has been offered to Jehovah through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! Your soul shall burn in hell, woman!”

The children who had joined Christine, all started in fright at the priest’s dark countenance and his threat to Christine. Most of them decided that discretion was the best part of valour and ran away from the group to their huts. Only Rachel and Hassan remained behind with the adults.

“Priest, by whose authority dare you threaten me?” Christine retorted loudly, not intimidated by the approaching priest.

“By God’s authority and by the authority vested in me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ!” the priest shouted.

“I do not recognise your god or his authority over me. Neither do I recognise your right to tell me what to do or not to do, priest. It is my right to take conscious decisions for myself. I do not expect any other individual to follow me or my chosen path unless they are happy to do so and then do so of their own free will. I live by my values and I am prepared to face the consequences of my own decisions and actions. I do not expect a single human being to live by my values unless they are happy to do so. That is the basis of my morality, father.”

“You are a witch, woman; how dare you speak of morality? You are Evil incarnate. I absolutely forbid this ceremony to carry on!” the priest shouted again, walking forward to take the child forcibly from Christine’s arms. As he did so, Oscar as well Esme stepped out to block his way.

“Father, it was my decision to have this private ceremony and you were not invited. Please leave us alone.” Esme said firmly as she took the child from Christine’s arms.

“But Esme,” the priest objected, “you presented your child to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was baptised in the blood of Christ while you partook of the flesh of the Lord. Do you realise the seriousness of straying from the Path? You swore a holy oath in God’s presence to bring your child up in the presence of Jesus Christ. Do you now rescind that vow and your oath to God Almighty? Do you understand what that means in the eyes of God?”

“Yes I did that and it was a joyous occasion indeed, father. That was as I was brought up although I’m not of the catholic faith, and yes father I understand full well what I am about to do and what the consequences may be. But here and now we’re expected to create a new world and my child is the first born in this world. The Christian baptism was symbolic to me of the old world, a world we’ll never see again; his introduction to his ancestral spirits was done as he is our joint heritage on this mountain top but carries in him the blood of his father, a father he will never have the privilege to see. We who are gathered here today will be this child’s parents in flesh and in spirit.  This cleansing is also symbolic of the New World. It is my choice and my choice alone to bathe him in these waters because I believe it is good and proper. How I bring this child up is my decision and my decision alone. I will not permit you or any one else to take those decisions for me or for my child. I don’t recognise your right to do so and neither do I have faith in your capacity to do the right thing by me or by my child. Now father, I ask you to leave this gathering and to return where you came from.”

Esme remained in her position until Father Ridgeway in a last attempt, shouted at Christine: “You will regret this, Christine. You will be struck down for corrupting the youth and for undermining the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will not permit this to happen.” He turned angrily on his heels and with Suzette and a somewhat confused and almost apologetic Alistair scampering after them, marched off to the camp.

The small remaining group clustered around Christine and Esme. In a silent but ceremonial manner, they washed Beowulf in the cold waters, who with wide eyes but without a sound looked at his mother as the cold water covered his tiny naked body.

 

The atmosphere in the camp rapidly worsened after the baptismal incident. Everybody was obliged to take sides. There was no middle path. The two distinct camps, which had been emerging for some time, now represented two clear and disparate value systems. The one which was based on religious and mystical values was substantially larger than the other which subscribed to a non-religious value system which was strongly opposed to mysticism and supported a liberal open value system.

Zyndile found herself torn between the two as her values, both the traditional ancestral as well as the modern Christian upbringing she had had, rejected the notion of a world without deities and spirits. At the same time, she had listened carefully to what Christine had told her. For the first time she realised how the spiritual world she came from had been annexed by European values and belief systems which were propounded by missionaries, priests and schools that used various religions to subvert their traditional values and practices. These practices still continued in most parts of the developing world as underdeveloped people battled to come to terms with a so-called global village, a term coined by western powers that had everything to gain through their subversion of emerging peoples and nations.

For many years, her native country South Africa, was ruled by white cliques who believed, utterly and with firm resolve, that they had the God-given right to control and exploit the blacks of that country. The Christian reformist movements which emanated from mainly France, the Netherlands as well as Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries AD, had transplanted value systems totally alien to the indigenous peoples under the guise of so-called modernisation of the natives.

She could clearly remember reading a hated quote during her studies at university, in ‘The Christian Express’, a small but widely read religious newspaper published in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa dated 1878, which stated that: ‘Christianity also teaches the duty of working and denounces idleness as a sin. To Christianise a Kaffir is the shortest way, and the surest, to make him put his hand steadily and willingly to the work that is waiting to be done. [1]

The total lack of morality of the apartheid system had always puzzled her when she had studied this at university, especially when public pronouncements by church leaders and political leaders of the apartheid regime had seemed to find religious justification for their immoral policies. This contradiction she had never been able to understand. As the daughter of the paramount ruler and king of the Zulus, she also knew that Christian missions with a few exceptions, had sought to differentiate between the ‘heathens’ and ‘converts’ and by so doing undermined the powerbase of the traditional leaders in her country. This together with forced labour migration, armed incursions into their traditional lands by colonisers and the imposition of punitive taxes had led to the disintegration of the old order of which her father was a descendent on the one hand and victim on the other.

In discussion with Christine about this a few days after the cleansing rites, Christine asked her: “What is the apparent contradiction, Zyndile?”

“What do you mean?” she asked puzzled.

“Well, the way I see it, the apparent contradiction lies in your understanding of morality. You have been brought up to believe in the Christian gods and in your ancestors. In other words you’re expected to have faith, unquestioning and absolute faith, not so?”

“Yes, that is expected, but how does that relate to the immorality of apartheid?” she asked.

“Hang on, I’m getting there,” Christine replied patiently. “The politicians of the apartheid era were led by political mystics who were convinced of their religious destiny and their divine right to do so. As all religions are mystical and constitute the opposite of reason and logic, so did the political principles espoused by the politicians of the day use mysticism to manipulate the people of South Africa. Many of the principles of apartheid were mystical in the sense that they created false realities for both the oppressor as well as the oppressed.”

“Explain how they did this, please,” Zyndile asked, still puzzled.

“Well, the false realities the oppressor created were firstly to get the whites to believe they were in fact superior to blacks; that they had the divine right to rule and exploit them. In fact this can be dated back to the days when blacks were considered property and were captured as slaves by western traders and sold on markets. These people successfully used the Bible to justify this; even in the Bible itself, slavery was an accepted way of life. If I recall correctly Verwoerd, the architect of so-called grand apartheid had a doctorate in divinity.”

“No, he had a PhD in Psychology but he was a very religious person and was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church,” Zyndile corrected her.

“Just as bad,” Christine commented cynically. “Most psychologists are very astute mystics in my view. Anyway, the apartheid rulers also created false realities for the oppressed by forcing them to live in homelands, creating separate and inferior education systems and convincing them they were inferior through propagandistic methods much like the Nazis did in Germany to Gypsies and Jews. One of the falsehoods they created was to convince the so-called leaders that it was in their people’s interest to rule and govern themselves in the Bantustans. This was strengthened by corrupting the leaders with quasi-power and material goods. Probably the greatest lie they perpetrated was to preach, quoting parts of the Bible out of context that the indigenous people were destined to be slaves and carriers of water and hewers of wood, and added to this they created fear among the whites of the so-called ‘swart gevaar’ or black threat which would engulf them and their families and confiscate their property. The contradiction as you see it is that they used Christian values and belief systems to prop up an immoral system. Fundamental to your confusion is that you consider the Christian value system as moral in and of itself. Think about it; if a value system allows itself to be used by criminals like Hitler who was a Catholic to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Jews; by Verwoerd and some influential South African churches to oppress millions of blacks; by Martin Luther who railed against the Jews as a ‘brood of vipers’, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that system, despite the stated Christian value which calls for tolerance. When Hitler instructed his Gestapo to eradicate the Jews was it a moral, justifiable instruction?”

“No, obviously not.”

“When Stalin purged his country for the ‘common good’ of Mother Russia, was it morally justified?”

“Again, no.”

“When Jehovah instructed Moses and Joshua to annihilate the enemies of the Israelites, was it morally justified or not?”

“I cannot see the justification except if the enemy threatened their lives or security of the Jews as a people, Christine.”

“And again, when Al-Lah calls on his faithful to ‘slay the idolaters wherever ye find them,[2] is it justified?”

“Christine, I now have a headache! You are confusing me with so many thoughts that my brain is objecting, but please go on.”

“The contradiction lies in the perceived moral justification of the ends to be achieved through immoral methods such as I have mentioned. It makes no difference whether it was Jehovah’s, Al-Lah’s or any dictator or moral bully’s instructions; they were all immoral. The argument that every religion has its good and bad practitioners while true, doesn’t wash with me; an even more cowardly argument is that we should not hold God responsible for man’s actions.”

“What do you mean; why do you say that?” Zyndile asked again.

“Whenever, a discussion concerning the ethics of a religion is held, defenders of the religion argue that one shouldn’t blame a religion for the actions of its faithful as man is not perfect. We all accept man is not perfect, but religions play a big role in creating the environment within which man functions, so when the morality of the religion is tested it must be tested by the extent to, and manner in which it influences man’s actions. After all, the dogmas of the churches have been created by man. It cannot stand alone. This is where religions are fundamentally flawed. When religionists try to justify a particular ethic it, the ethic I mean, is often held to be ‘the will of God’ telling those who would believe that they had had direct communication with God, Al-Llah or whosoever or more to the point, that the scriptures are sacrosanct, inviolable and the ultimate truth. This effectively negates any attempts to question and criticise. It is man’s fundamental right and responsibility to think, ask questions and to analyse; religions resist this and in some cases punish this most severely. They hold up the Torah, Bible or Qu’ran to justify their actions, quoting verses from them, often totally out of context. This is done so successfully that any criticism is thwarted by non sequiturs, threats of dire consequences and everlasting death.”

“Immoral politicians have replaced this falsehood with the equally illogical and immoral concept that some political policy or strategy is ‘in the interests of the common good’ or ‘in the public or national interest’. They never define what the public interest is or who the ‘public’ is; neither do they specify at whose cost the public interest is served. Underlying this false argument is the notion that the public interest is superior to the interest of the individual. This of course gives these mystics the power to loot the property of the individual including his or her intellectual property ‘in the public interest’. They are nothing more than common thieves and looters. A practical example of this is where mineral- or water rights of private landowners are confiscated by these looters ‘in the common’ interest. The argument naturally resists questioning and intelligent debate because the ‘common good’ is held to be above debate, above the interests of mere individuals; a non sequitur.”

“Now I will go back to the concept of faith. When it is impossible to justify a system on moral basis, faith is called on to do this. What this means is to say ‘just believe, don’t question the facts’. That equates with a moronic, slavish denial of man’s intellectual capacity. The same argument applies to the ‘common good of society’ approach. In essence this gives a particular society a blank check to do whatever it decides is ‘good’. Naturally this suits dictators and moral bullies. When you are called on to believe, watch out Zyndile. When a political leader states that a decision has been made ‘for the good of the common people’ run for the hills! The imperative to ‘believe’, suggests that the object of such belief is suspect, doesn’t exist or at the very best may or more realistically, may not happen. Belief is not required where certainty exists.”

“But Christine, how is one to know the difference between what is right or moral as you put it, versus what is wrong or evil if there is no religious norm or system which judges the actions of a society?”

“I hope you have identified the fundamental contradiction in terms of your question, Zyndi,” Christine replied with a wry smile.

“Why? What did I say?” Zyndile asked.

“You expect a system or society to judge your behaviour against whatever its norms are. This implies that you are unable or unwilling to make these judgement calls yourself; you require and look for outside guidance and even judgement. How is this different to control by an external agency? If a religion is needed to direct and actually to control individual or societal behaviour, you create a slavish, granted possibly an obedient but a slavish society nevertheless, which the powers that be, can manipulate and control. Isn’t that exactly what the apartheid fascists were attempting to do in your country? Isn’t that what the Chinese did to the students in Tiananmen Square many years ago and were still recently doing in Tibet? Isn’t that what the Islamists in Saudi Arabia did to their women and isn’t that what the neo-fascists were doing in the USA when they started their hate campaign based on fabricated lies against Muslims and terrorists? Of course it is usually couched in terms which imply that the means justify the ends. The ends are invariably described as being ‘for the common good’ and thus the lie is perpetuated.”

“Religion is not the patron of what you termed right or the enemy of what is evil. In fact what you are asking is why should people be ‘good’ if there is no god?  This suggests that without a deity it’s OK to be bad, to kill, rape, steal and so on. It also suggests that you are only ‘good’ to avoid some god’s wrath. This denies man’s morality; it’s tantamount to saying that man is a beast and needs to be punished and rewarded like a beast to extract acceptable or good behaviour from him. Is this what you believe, Zyndile?”

“Hang on Christine. The way I see it is that religion provides us with guidelines and laws if you like. Without these we wouldn’t have any norms to measure human behaviour. Who will decide?”

“Zyndile, to complete your last statement… Who will decide if God doesn’t? Many philosophers have debated this issue through the centuries. Your question follows the school that believes that man must ‘obey the rules’ regardless of who established the rules or how moral the rules are. For example, does a conscientious objector have the right to refuse to go to war because his government decided ‘war is the right thing to do’ or is for ‘the common good’? Were the Nazi murderers justified in their defense at the Nuremberg Trial when they stated that they were only doing their duty by exterminating the Jews and Gypsies?”

“While I accept that religion in many parts of the world, did establish rules or laws as you put it, the most famous arguably being the mosaic laws of the Jewish faith, there are thousands of communities who survived for centuries without formal religions and who formulated their own laws, usually designed to protect citizens from attack, theft or to create a system of judgement in disputes. A good example of this was the ancient Greek civilisation which had many gods but no real religion which defined their standards. They had lawmakers who wrote their laws. The first such laws were written about 620 years BC. They were not inspired by a god but by human logic and what they considered to be moral behaviour at the time.”

“What then are we here for?” Zyndile asked pensively.

“How do you mean?”

“I mean here on earth if what you say is true. Is there no better hereafter?”

“Ah. Reward and punishment again. The question begs an answer. It presupposes again that we were placed on earth for ‘a reason’. By implication some external deity or some would argue alien being, placed us on earth to fulfill some purpose. I reject that. We are the result of an evolutionary process which is on-going. Our purpose is to survive and maintain the species; it’s as simple as that and indeed here on KRAT, this has become our prime raison d’etre. However, if you ask what we should try to achieve during our lifetimes, I believe it is our duty to be happy and seek happiness on the one hand, and on the other hand try to leave the world in which we have some influence, a better place. This motivates me and gives me satisfaction. We do this in different ways depending on our interests and talents.”

Zyndile sat still for a long moment. A realisation started dawning on her: mysticism was a source of power which could not be ignored; she thought it would be critical for her survival on KRAT but it would have to be mysticism far removed from the mysticism of Christianity; it would have to be her own brand of mysticism. She would establish values which she was comfortable with. She however made no mention of this view to Christine. Her new realisation would lead her on an inexorable path, away from both Christine’s atheist/liberal approach which she found distasteful as well as the Christian philosophy which she believed to be fundamentally flawed and above all, dishonest. She also knew that her chosen path would recognise an individual’s right to think but that it should be subjected to the scrutiny of the ancestors. For the moment she did not consider the underlying contradiction of her thoughts.

Christine was watching her with a small smile on her face. She could only guess what was going on in Zyndile’s mind. She knew however, that Zyndile had not fully accepted her argument. Her body language said as much.

“Zyndile, you are my friend and I respect you and your traditions as you know. I will and can never impose my arguments on you unless you wish to learn or hear my views. Every person has the inalienable right to hold dear that which he or she believes in. I will fight to the death to protect that individual right. The only condition I do wish to put to you for your consideration is this: never allow your mind to be closed to the views of others even if such views are different to your own. That doesn’t mean you must listen to the rubbish some people talk, but to evaluate and consider another’s views before judging, and judge you must as measured by your own individual norms and morals.”

The two friends laughed as they stood up and walked towards the ablutions hand in hand, comfortable with each other, accepting each other.

 

Meanwhile, Father Ridgeway, Ahmedi and Suzette were in earnest discussion. They were sitting in an isolated spot on the crest of the little hillock on KRAT.

They were very unhappy with the circumstances in the camp. Although they knew they had the larger following, the atmosphere was stiff and formal. Whilst the work committees were all functioning well under leadership of either Gary or John, social occasions reflected a split camp and disunity; while Gary, Esme and their friends would easily sit up until late at night regaling others with songs, jokes and stories, Father Ridgeway’s group tended to make some excuse and return to their huts as soon as the camp had been cleared of left-over scraps of food to lessen the possibility of hyena attacks.

They were looking for a way to resolve this tension and ultimately to convince the other group of the error of their ways. They agreed about one thing though; Christine was the main problem. She had a gentle way of communicating her atheistic views. Especially the younger set such as Rachel, Elizabeth and the Lockhat children were exposed to these dangerous and blasphemous views and enjoyed her company because she expected nothing in return.

“We must employ a divisive strategy,” Ahmedi was saying. “It will not work if we try to get Christine to side with us. She’s too set in her ways for that. What I have in mind is that we work on the younger set and those who are neither here nor there.”

“Like who?” Suzette asked.

“I don’t think June is an atheist at all. She merely enjoys Christine and Zyndile’s company and thus associates with them,” he replied.

“Sounds rather far-fetched to think she or her kids will prefer our company in preference to theirs,” Suzette commented.

“That’s true enough,” Father Ridgeway replied. “We need a more aggressive approach. Associating with the atheists should be seen for what it is; a deadly sin in the eyes of the Lord Jesus. In addition, they need to appreciate the risks they are running when they reject God.”

“The same applies in Islam but there are differences…” Ahmedi added. Without waiting he continued: “Muhammad received a revelation from Al-Llah, which provided for those who opposed him and had been captured after the battle of Badr:

 

O Prophet, say to the prisoners in your hands:

“If God knows of any good in your hearts

He will give you better than what has been taken

From you and he will forgive you, surely God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate[3]

 

“That’s good and well Ahmedi,” John replied with a twinkle in his eyes. “The Qu’ran also states:

Say: “O unbelievers,

I serve not what you serve

And you are not serving what I serve, nor am I serving what you have served, neither are you serving what I serve.

To you your religion, and to me my religion! [4]

Suzette looked at the two and said: “A direct confrontation or preaching from whatever scriptures you wish will be counter-productive. Threatening them with God or Al-Llah’s wrath will not work. We could achieve our goals quite simply through the provision of a proper level of education as well as other assistance and social counselling.”

“Many of the survivors are virtually lost souls with no perceived purpose in life after the tragedy which has struck us. If we set up a proper schooling system and use the skills of some of the people here, it would give them a purpose and at the same time educate and train the younger set. The education must however be expanded beyond the Bible and must include maths, physics and other practical subjects such as making clothes, hygiene, cooking etc. In this way we could possibly persuade people like Christine to participate, as she has skills in nursing.”

“I like that. It sounds like a good idea, Suzette,” Father Ridgeway said. “That would also give us an opportunity to influence people’s minds and develop appropriate value systems while at the same time providing a valuable service to the small community.”

“Yes,” Ahmedi added. “We have been wasting a lot of time here on the plateau. We should have started earlier and maybe thus have avoided the split in the camp.”

“Yes but be careful, we don’t want them to think that this is merely a ruse to get their co-operation. We must be genuine in our approach and education must be the main and overriding purpose behind it all,” Suzette warned.

Father Ridgeway seemed to have some doubts. Education was fine by him; after all it was part of his background as a priest to teach. What worried him was how cooperative Christine and her friends would be.

Sensing his hesitation, Suzette bulldozed him into accepting the proposal.

“OK, what’s the plan? I suggest that we first prepare a proposal which should contain exactly what subjects to include and who we propose should teach it. I for one can teach mathematics, economics and statistical systems, not that the last two have any relevance any longer,” Suzette said, rubbing her still sensitive leg.

“I agree,” the priest replied. The notion of a relevant education system on KRAT was starting to appeal to him. “Besides religion, I can teach English and English history.”

“And I can teach business practices!” Ahmedi laughed. The three conspirators were enjoying this. The concept of setting up a school gave them a constructive goal; one they believed would benefit all the survivors.

After further discussion it was agreed that Father Ridgeway would discuss the proposal with Oscar. Prior to that, Suzette would ask for volunteers who would be prepared to offer their knowledge and skills to the children. They could then discuss the logistics of setting up a small facility to teach and to start with the development of materials to teach. Men such as Gary and John Duguid would be asked to assist in constructing and making basic infrastructure and aids such as slate boards from local slate, chalk from the lime stone deposit they had found at the far end of the plateau close to the spot where the Airbus had crash landed and benches which could be made from stone and wooden poles.

It sounded like a fantastic project and they were very enthused by their own creativity.

As it panned out, Oscar and his committee gave them their full support. Naturally the educators would function on a voluntary basis which created no problems in the camp. A surprising number of survivors offered their services and after evaluation they found that they almost had more teachers than learners.

Only one proviso was made by Oscar’s committee; religious education would only be provided on demand and then be provided on a non-partisan basis. Father Ridgeway objected vehemently to this but finally agreed. He realised that he would have ample opportunity to influence the manner in which school was conducted and what values their education would contain. To object now would only create further division and dissent.

The education project, which became known as Eduskills, absorbed everybody’s attention for the next two months. During this time they constructed a small lean-to in the forest where it would be cool during summer and relatively protected from the cold in winter.

They only had a total of 33 children of school-going age, which they had determined was to be between 6 and 16 years of age. To cater for the wide distribution between the ages they constructed three primitive classrooms; one for the 6 to 9 year olds; one for the 10 to 13 year olds and one for the 14 to 16 year olds. The latter group consisted of 12 youngsters, making it the largest group.

While the lean-to was being built, Father Ridgeway, Suzette and John Duguid worked on the curricula for each of the levels. All classes would contain practical skills classes such as clay moulding and painting for the tiny tots; the intermediate group would do small projects aimed at improving the living circumstances of the survivors in Base Camp. This would include refuse removal and -disposal, food production, water harvesting and general environmental improvement projects.

The senior group would be drafted into small work teams and together with the adults, help with actual construction projects or to develop technologies such as the generation of electricity if at all possible. Agricultural projects included hunting and trapping. Besides the practical content of their schooling, at least 50% of a scholar’s day would be absorbed by theoretical classes such as languages, mathematics and creative arts.

Eduskills created a strong sense of purpose and unity among the survivors. Even Christine pitched in with all her energy and helped in personal hygiene course development; practical first aid and together with Zyndile, they developed innovative ways to teach all the classes the value, purpose and cultivation of herbs and natural medicines as well as environmental protection. Eduskills also gave Father Ridgeway, who was elected by all as the chairperson of the educational committee, a powerful position in the community. It could not have worked out better for him, he thought privately to himself. The project seemed to be a success with regards to healing the rift between the two major groups.

The launch and official opening of Eduskills was a grand affair. Naturally everybody was invited. A duiker had been trapped, dispatched, skinned and cooked over a large celebratory fire together with some hares and hyrax. The women prepared a substantial meal with cassava, wild berries and onions and while it was spring, the festival served the double purpose to celebrate the coming of summer as well.

A clearing had been prepared around the new ‘school’ and the newly-to-be-inducted pupils had been cajoled into rehearsing for a small concert. Hassan wrote the script for the play and titled it: “A mid-summer night’s scream!”

The opening day was awaited in eager anticipation by all. Everything was in readiness at noon, and all the survivors moved into the forest clearing, taking up their seats to witness the occasion.

The organising committee had elected Gary as Master of Ceremonies. He seemed to be the most erudite and popular. Ahmedi was asked to bless the gathering which went off without a hitch or a murmur of dissent.

Gary then introduced the camp leader, Oscar.

He strode up to the front of the gathering.

“Fellow survivors. This is the first and the most historic opportunity we have had since that fateful day when we were forced down on KRAT. It is also the most auspicious occasion; this small school should not be judged by its size or the primitive state of its equipment, but by the innovation and sheer effort which has gone into creating it from nothing. We must thank the organising committee under the able leadership of Father Ridgeway who put it all together and organised this opening ceremony as well. In my view, it is the first time we as the KRAT community have pooled our energies in this focused and single minded manner. I salute you all and welcome you to this opening ceremony. Thank you.”

With that very short formal address he returned to his log-seat, after which Gary regaled the audience with some jokes.

The play was then performed by all the new learners much to the hilarious laughter and enjoyment of the audience. The scenes from the play were surreal to those who reflected on their location and precarious position on KRAT. This made it so much more enjoyable.

Hassan had done a magnificent job with the script and the production of the small play which was basically a satire of the KRAT community. No-one escaped the sharp end of his wit.

After the play, Gary introduced Father Ridgeway as chairperson of the Eduskills committee.

Holding his Bible in his right hand he strode to the front and without further ado, said: “Fellow survivors. We are indeed privileged to be here today. We did not know what God intended for us when we crash-landed on this mountain top, and we cursed Him many times. Yes we did! But today we can see it. Each and every one of us has been carefully chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ to be here today. Our destinies are not of our own making and do not necessarily follow our preferred options, but they nevertheless are ours to explore, understand and to live to their final inexorable outcomes. We see around us many who are not of the same conviction as ourselves. We also see here those who do not appreciate the relevance and immense importance they have to realise God’s work; yes God moves in mysterious ways and while He tolerates no opposition, He also uses those who reject Him and harden their hearts to exclude Him in glorifying His name and His work. Praise the Lord!”

A murmur of hallelujahs followed his lead.

“This project is the living proof of God’s work. It has been manifested in many ways which we will not discuss here but to the faithful, it has been evident. Our prayers have been answered and now we have this wonderful facility which will be used for the benefit our young people, regardless of their beliefs and traditions.We have here the net result of the joint efforts of every one of us here. We will be able to teach as best we can with the scarce resources but at least it’s all free.”

Laughter rippled  through the audience.

“Eduskills belongs to all of us and we will in the near future prepare and submit to you the final curricula and rules for the school.”

This time a small groan emanated from the learner body, much to the amusement of the adults.

“We must thank all of you for the effort and commitment you have shown. We must also express our special thanks to Professor Suzette who was the originator of the concept as well as my dear friend Ahmedi who also played a crucial role in the development of materials and as you saw, his son Hassan has a very creative flair.”

More laughter.

“It would be remiss of us not to mention the role Alistair has played since we arrived so tragically here on KRAT. He was grievously injured and close to the doors of death; he had lost his dear and beloved mother and was left with no-one. Only through the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ did he recover miraculously from gangrene. He was and still is I dare say but a child and one can only wonder at the workings of the Lord as to what He has in mind for him.”

No-one except Father Ridgeway himself noticed Christine getting up towards the rear of the audience and walking out quietly.

She was fuming but thought the better of it to object to the priest’s bias and twisting of the facts. It was after all the occasion of Eduskills’ opening which she fully supported. To create a scene would be boorish but Father Ridgeway was exploiting the situation to the fullest and over and beyond that, he was using every tool to strengthen his influence over the small community. It was clear to her what he was up to but she also knew there was little she could do about it.

“Alistair,” Father Ridgeway continued, “has since his miraculous recovery, played a very important role in joining all the learners together in this project. It was as a result of his joy of life that other less enthusiastic youngsters were turned around; it was his vision which he shared with all that made this project what it is today.”

Hassan and Rachel snorted quietly.

It had become a joke among them and some of their friends, that Alistair saw himself as a miniature version of Father Ridgeway. He was often derided for being imperious and quite demanding in the false assumption that he had any authority over them. He basked in the reflected power of the priest.

In the play Hassan had written, he had made a subtle mockery of Alistair but not many had noticed except those in the know. Hassan’s role in uniting the youth through his play went totally unrecognised.

Meanwhile, Father Ridgeway had reached the stage where he declared the Eduskills project officially open and with one of the last remaining axes which had been specially sharpened for the occasion, he ceremoniously cut a cord made of hemp and which had been wrapped around a large log. Everybody cheered and with a lot of banter and jeering from the learners they all returned to the amphitheatre where the banquet had been prepared.

The celebration lasted well into the night and for a change Father Ridgeway and his followers stayed the course and revelled well into the early hours of the next day which had been scheduled for the first classes.

Christine was a notable absentee from the celebrations.

 

The first school day dawned and was conducted without a hitch, except that Christine was nowhere to be seen. She had not arrived to present her lecture on healthy eating. Her campfire was cold.

Esme, who was feeding Beowulf, was the first to notice her absence. Christine always made sure she was present when she fed the child. Wonder where she could be? After finding that she had not slept in her hut, the alarm was raised and two search parties were sent out. The threat of the hyenas was still present and spending a night out was frowned on by the community.

Karl’s team found her first.

She was sitting in the fuselage of the Airbus.

She had obviously spent the night there among the memories and nightmares which still terrorised many of them.

Karl sent message to Base Camp that she was OK but remained behind with her. It was clear that she was emotionally spent and very tired. She sat in the seat she had sat in during Flight 765. She was huddled forward as if preparing for the crash-landing; her shoulders and body were racked with convulsions as tears streamed down her face. Karl sat down next to her and wrapped his arms around the thin body. He was shocked at her boniness and how frail she felt. Everybody always saw the cheerful, happy, bouncing Christine who ministered to all who needed it and some who didn’t! This was a very different and vulnerable woman; a woman who suffered as much as the rest of them but who was always prepared to give of herself, unselfishly and with great compassion. She asked for nothing in return.

She laid her dishevelled head on his shoulder and soon fell asleep. There the two of them sat quietly; he not daring to move lest he wake her; she obviously totally worn out and tired to death.

After a couple of hours she woke and raising her head shyly, looked up at Karl.

“Thanks, Karl,” was all she said. That was all that was necessary. She put a finger on his lips, forestalling anything he may have wanted to say. Words were not needed.

The two of them clambered from the wreck and walked slowly back to Base Camp.

 

About eighteen months after the Airbus disaster or what was now being hailed as a miracle by some on KRAT, a rumbling woke up the survivors during the night. It was a small tremor; something they had all become accustomed to. This one however felt different; it sounded like a large bubble rising to the surface of a pool of water.

With an abrupt roar, the bubble burst forth from Mt Brutus, ten kilometres away in the red seas. The survivors quickly vacated their flimsy huts and ran to the relative protection of the small rock overhang. They were unable to see Brutus but memories of its birth were still fresh in everybody’s minds, especially for Ahmedi and his children.

The mountain plateau shook and trembled as the volcano continued its eruption; in the reddened dark glow of the night the survivors could hear the flaming missiles plunge into the seas around them with loud cracking explosions as the molten rock hit the cold water.

The eruptions continued for half and hour and eventually quietened down while the hot magma continued to flow down the mountain into the seas with a hiss so loud they could hear it ten kilometres away.

After a while, the survivors returned to their beds to sleep fitfully till dawn awoke them.

Bleary eyed they emerged to commence another day on their perch in the red seas. It was only after about an hour, that Karl who had left early to clear his traps returned to the camp with some astounding news.

“The seas are receding!” he shouted as he approached Base Camp. Everybody looked at him uncomprehendingly.

“Come look,” he called, turning around to disappear around the shoulder of the hillock towards their customary look-out point facing Brutus.

They gaped at the sight of the seas receding. Vast currents and eddies had formed. Something had happened to break the massive marine dam which had been created more than a year ago. The waters were rushing out, carrying everything before it towards the Great Divide. It seemed that an opening had been created in whatever it was that was blocking the waters. Long streaks of red mud and foam converged towards the Great Divide where the waters were pouring through. A roar was heard which sounded like a thousand trains from afar. The survivors could only imagine what it looked like as the massive body of water forced it way through a narrow break in the mountains.

It slowly dawned on all of them. A slow sigh seemed to escape their collective mouths; this increased to become a shout and rose to a delirious cheer of relief and delight. Their stay on KRAT was coming to an end; the waters which had held them captive for so long were receding!

As they danced on the edge of the plateau, Oscar, Karl, Gary, June and some of the other leaders gathered to discuss the implications.

“Damn, I’d just become comfortable with KRAT’s toilets,” Gary laughed. They were all grinning at each other like children.

“Jeez this is one for the record book,” Oscar said. “I never considered this a possibility and had somehow resigned myself to remaining on KRAT until we either die or are rescued. This changes everything.”

“It does,” June commented, “but let’s not fool ourselves; the seas would’ve ruined any short-term possibility of descending and setting up camp in the valley below.” June had become the official geographer in the group although she had no real training in the field.

“I’ve no doubt that the seas have killed off any prospects of agriculture or fresh water and that we are probably better off here on KRAT for some time,” she continued.

“Surely we need to investigate once the mud has dried up, June?” Gary objected, somewhat taken aback at June’s negative assessment of the situation.

“Absolutely, Gary. I’m not denying that. All I’m saying is that we not delude ourselves about the realities confronting us.”

“I guess it’ll take some time for all the water to disappear, let alone dry sufficiently for us to traverse the valley,” Oscar said. “We don’t even know whether the seas were salty or not. But what is clear is that our options have now improved immensely.”

“Yep, I agree,” Gary said.

“I wonder what happened to Bennie and his Crew?” Karl said suddenly. They were all immediately quiet. Since the banishing of Jim’s group, they had neither seen nor heard of them again. They could be dead, but they preferred not to think about that.

“Well whatever became of them, good riddance to rubbish as far as I’m concerned,” Gary replied. He hadn’t lost any sleep over their decision to get rid of them.

Slowly turning and trudging back to their small village, they were mostly silent.

 

KRAT would in the next week cease to be an island. Things would never be the same again and they all wondered what lay in wait for them now.

Father Ridgeway called all his followers together and they gave thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for their deliverance from the waters of damnation.

During the week there was much debate and discussion around the possibilities of descending from KRAT and exploring the valley below as soon as the waters had receded sufficiently for them to do so.

Oscar was reticent but eventually agreed that a small party consisting of Karl as the expedition’s leader as well as Gary and Tom be tasked with the exploration. They prepared themselves for an absence of about a week and would need food and sustenance while away. Ropes were prepared for the precipitous descent and rough hemp knapsacks were assembled by a couple of women.  The women also prepared the food and Zyndile showed them how to season meat with salt and herbs to last for the duration of the journey.

The three men set off after the waters seemed to have sufficiently receded leaving the valley plains relatively dry with large remaining pools of stagnant water. Their descent was uneventful and especially Gary loved the exercise and challenge again.

When they reached the floor of the valley, they realised that the seas had virtually destroyed everything.

It was clear that the waters had an oceanic origin and was salty. They even found the remains of fish around with fresh tracks of jackal and hyena which had been scavenging the dead fish. Trudging through the mud flakes and scratching around in the soil, it was clear that agriculture would be impossible for a long time to come. The only signs of life in the valley were a number of tracks of wild animals. Gary could distinguish between hyena, jackal, some buck types and caracal. These had obviously descended from their mountain hideouts around the valley when the waters had receded.

Returning from their disappointing expedition, they conveyed the bad news to the survivors on the plateau. General consensus was that they remain where they were. When the prospects improved they would have the opportunity to investigate again. Gary also suggested that they send out a longer expedition to trek to the Great Divide as the far off mountains had been named. This was where the break which let out the seas had occurred.

 

Beowulf had turned two years old and the survivors on KRAT held his customary birthday party.

Since his birth, several babies had followed as if it had triggered an instinct to procreate among the survivors; the strongest instinct of all living species. This was evidenced by the cries of the newborn in the camp.

Father Ridgeway was having the time of his life. His involvement with Eduskills had grown substantially and working at the three levels of the learners required a lot of his time as well as that of Suzette’s. In addition, he had launched Bible appreciation classes for the adults which were well attended by quite a large group of the adults. Ahmedi helped him but it became quite quickly evident that substantial differences were emerging between the Qu’ran and especially the New Testament.

In addition, the priest held a mass every Sunday although nobody was too certain anymore whether their battery powered watches still reflected the correct dates or time. Many watches had been thrown away in disgust as they failed or were broken.

The births and funerals he was required to conduct had also steadily increased with the rise in deaths resulting from the general hardships they suffered especially when simple diseases such as influenza or infections could not be sufficiently addressed with their herbs or concoctions. Neither did prayers or incantations seem to work as well as they were expected to.

Generally the population had diminished to a total of only 72 adult souls taking into account that Bennie’s Crew had been banished while the births had of late stabilised the population on KRAT.

To cap it all the priest had decided that what the community needed was a small church. There was not too much support for this idea but after some debate concerning the church’s placement and design, it was agreed that a small church be constructed on the far side of the forest but close enough to the hillock so that they could use the natural rock to build it.

A small team was organised and some women were taught to dress the softer rocks into shapes required for the structure. The church catered for 100 souls which was roughly double the number who actually made use of the church, but clearly Father Ridgeway had visions of his flock growing quite dramatically.

After some six months the church was completed. It was constructed with rocks packed in neat wall structures with lintels of stone, while the roof was covered with grass thatching over wooden slats and beams. Inside the building, rocks had been placed for seating purposes while the baptismal font and small altar were also made from suitably shaped rocks. Under the circumstances, it represented the first substantial structure on KRAT. The survivors were very proud of the achievement.

During its inauguration, the church and the faithful who worshipped in it called themselves the Church of St Ignatius, after the founder of the Jesuit Order.

In the meantime, substantial progress had been made with improving the day to day lives of the survivors.

A number of expeditions had descended from their mountain perch to investigate the surrounding territory. It became evident that slowly but surely more animals were returning to what was probably their traditional grazing area. Although the grazing was exceptionally poor, a very small reddish grass did start sprouting despite the poor soil and high salt content. This seemed to provide sustenance during the summer months for a number of antelope as well as buffalo, zebra and wildebeest which roamed over vast areas in order to find sufficient grazing.

Heavy rains helped to leach out the salts and to the survivor’s delight small pioneer shrubs started appearing along the banks of the small river which originated on top of KRAT.

Esme, Oscar and John Duguid started planning the construction of a small dam in the river’s course not too far from a small lake which remained after the tides had receded. The lake was quite hot and Mark was enthusiastically building his new nursery next to the brackish waters to house his cannabis plants. He led the water down a small slope to course through his small rock structure to heat it up in order for the cannabis to survive the cold winters. In the nursery he constructed beds for the plants and carted bird manure which had been decomposed to give a rich compost which when mixed with soil from below the volcano provided a rich loamy base to plant his precious plants.

The dam which Esme and her small team started constructing was regularly destroyed by periodic floods until, in a flash of inspiration, the former air hostess recommended they build the dam in a tributary and strengthen it sufficiently before diverting the water from its normal course. They made provision for the overflow of water and after toiling in the hot summer sun and a cold winter, the small dam was successfully filled after eighteen months. This dam would eventually in turn supply a smaller holding dam with fresh water for their homes which they would construct in the valley. They were quite quickly able to start with some rudimentary irrigation of lands for cultivation and fresh food production.

It was also due to Esme’s efforts that small sapling trees and herbs from their forest on KRAT were transplanted to suitable spots next to the banks of the river. No wonder then that everybody started calling the river, Esme’s river.

Karl, Gary and some of the younger men trekked far and wide in their new Valley. The valley was shaped much like a long sausage with the Great Divide providing one border and KRAT and some smaller mountains close by, the opposite border. Mt Brutus stuck out like a pimple while a small flattish hill lay to the south east.

To the south another range of mountains enclosed the valley but exploration in that direction would ultimately discover several exits from the valley. These exits were found to be located at a relatively high altitude and exploration teams would be required to trek uphill for many kilometres before emerging from their valley.

Karl’s explorers discovered the tail of the wrecked Airbus on the slopes of the mountain where it had come to rest after breaking away from the main fuselage during one of the earthquakes shortly after their arrival on KRAT.

They also discovered human footprints in the mud around the wreck.

Relaying this news to Oscar and the rest of the leaders when they returned to KRAT, concern was expressed that it was Jim Armstrong and his men who were poking around. On the one hand Oscar expressed relief that they had survived their voyage over the waters but immediately cautioned everybody to re-establish and sharpen their vigilance. The women and children were all warned to be on the look out and never to walk alone. They also implemented a system of writing down where they went and posting this on slates on the wall in the amphitheatre.

Christine often accompanied Karl on his explorations. The two of them had become very close and now shared a hut on KRAT. On one of these trips they were sitting on a small hill to the south of Mt Brutus looking out over Esme’s handiwork on the side of the river.

“You know Karl, some day we’ll have to move from the mountain down into the valley,” she said to the deeply tanned business tycoon turned hunter, next to her.

“Why? We’ve been on KRAT for close to three years. I’m used to it now.”

“Yes so am I but if we have to set up a more sustainable lifestyle, this valley will be where it’s going to have to be. Here where we are sitting right now is where I would build a house for you and me. Here I can see us living, even having children. Some of the others could join us here as well. I’m sure Esme will love that too. She’ll be close to her river and we’ll have good access to water.”

“You’re forever the realist aren’t you?” Karl said looking at Christine with a laugh, “but at the same time I detect something of an idealist in you too.”

“Well, being a realist doesn’t mean you cannot dream. We’ve been dealt shit cards but, hey, what about the rest of the world? The devastation the apocalypse has caused must have been a terrifying experience. Maybe we were the lucky ones,” she replied throwing her head back coquettishly.

“I’m sure we were. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we should start setting up a small village here for those who want to join us. I don’t think Father John will be one of them. He’ll have his church and flock to think about.”

“Thank heavens for that. I can’t stand the man and his ‘direct line to God’ ways. My motivation to move is partly to get away from him and his kind as well.”

 

June had in the meantime progressed substantially with what she had euphemistically started to call the ‘The Ten Pillars of Ancient Wisdom’. Originally conceived as a repository of the scientific discoveries of the world to date, which would serve as a historic if not scientific treatise, of important breakthroughs in man’s quest to improve life, it had grown into a more comprehensive tome which would deal with economic as well as social issues. Among these she thought to include the discovery of penicillin, Sir Isaac Newton’s work as well as Darwin’s theories of evolution. John Duguid was tasked to write up a chapter or ‘paper’ on gravity; while Christine did a paper on Darwin’s theories. Even Suzette wrote a chapter on a market economy.  It was however not that simple. Once the contributors started out they wondered about the subject choice and prioritisation. This led to long debates and discussion. Ultimately the book would be quite different to what was originally intended.

One of the guidelines they had however all agreed on was that only one paper would be included per selected discipline. This would force them to carefully select and prioritise the subject matter for its relevance to, and impact on future generations. As time was not an issue, June encouraged each contributor to carefully evaluate content and to ensure that future readers would be able to interpret and understand it. A further point they agreed on was that no ‘paper’ would be written on religion. The book was very much a ‘work-in-progress’ project and kept the ten contributing teams busy for a number of years.

June had selected soft buck-skin for the pages of the book much along the lines of ancient parchments and once the paper had been written, edited and approved by her small editorial team, it was carefully re-written by Karl, who had the best long-hand handwriting, in ink on the skins. The book’s cover was fashioned from wood and illustrated with beautiful yet simple carvings of the Seven Wonders of the World they had come from.

 

During the following six months, Christine and Karl were joined by Esme, Beowulf and Oscar, John Duguid, June and her two daughters. Together they built three small but comfortable houses close together. Gary joined them some months later. Being a bachelor he added a room to Karl and Christine’s home for himself. Their new homes were more substantial than the huts on KRAT although they were obliged to use the beams from their old huts to construct the roofs. Wood was scarce as was suitable grass for the roof thatching in their new location, but the new homes were built for the long term and even boasted internal, waterborne toilets designed by John. Each house also had a small hot spa bath which utilised the hot sulphurous waters from the Bracken Lake. The hot water sluiced through the homes and away from their small settlement to form a small pan which they would be able to use for the extraction of salts at a later stage as the brackish water evaporated.

The bulk of the survivors however, remained on KRAT. They had become accustomed to their lives close to a good supply of water and the forest which provided them with herbs, wood and some wild fruits and cassava. Meat was nonetheless scarce and with the main hunters living in the valley, some of the men from KRAT were obliged to start looking for their own meat instead of bartering with Karl and Gary. The annual bird migrations continued to provide meat, feathers and eggs.

Zyndi and Tom who had moved in together, stayed behind on KRAT as well but they missed their friends, Christine and Gary who had become one of Tom’s best friends despite their earlier differences. They kept much to themselves and did not attend the masses and church classes Father Ridgeway was conducting. Zyndile as well as Tom together with some other survivors preferred to do their own worshipping deep in the forest. Father Ridgeway was aware of this and he never missed an opportunity to lambaste them for their ‘devil’s worship’. This eventually developed into a crisis which forced Zyndile’s followers to descend from the plateau and to start searching for their own place to establish their new homes. Donald James remained behind on KRAT. A close but platonic friendship had developed between him and Suzette, much to Zyndile’s surprise.

A small flat-topped hill to the south-east of KRAT was eventually chosen, and with the help of Christine and John, they started to build their own homes on the summit of this hill. As Zyndi had remarked: “I want to be able to see when the hyenas approach us.” Christine knew full well that she was scared of the wild creatures but wasn’t too sure she was referring to them. With the help of John’s engineering expertise they dug a well, finding potable water thirty feet down which would suffice their village for many years to come.

After another year, the valley population was divided into three small villages; Oscar’s group who now started referring to themselves as the New Londoners near the Bracken Lake; Zyndile’s village which had grown very quickly when quite a number of those who had remained on KRAT decided to join them; and those who consisted mostly of Father Ridgeway’s followers still stuck to their lives on KRAT.

Meanwhile Rachel and Elizabeth had developed into two stunning young girls as had Amanda. Elizabeth had turned seventeen years old; some of the unattached older men were starting to hang around on some pretext or other to help June with the distillation of salts from the salt pan. They fooled no-one and Elizabeth actually enjoyed all the attention. Rachel was a lot more stand-offish and preferred to visit Hassan whenever she could. He in turn would spend weeks on end at their home in the valley and the two of them would take long exploratory hikes in the valley to see what they could find. The nineteen-year old Amanda had however remained on KRAT and was living with Suzette and Alistair.

On one of their hikes, Hassan and Rachel chanced upon the carcass of a wildebeest. Portions of the animal had clearly been removed. Upon examination they saw a broken arrow lying next to the carcass. It was made from a thin reed tipped by a small flint arrow-head. The animal had clearly been killed on a hunt but they knew that nobody in the valley or on KRAT used such arrows.

Returning with their find to New London, Karl remarked that it was the work of the Lost Tribe. He informed them that he had been following their tracks for some time now and knew in which direction their lair lay. On hearing this, the women and especially Esme and Christine were quite shocked. They could still clearly recall their experiences at the hands of the likes of Graham Grant, James Armstrong and Bennie Smith.

“So what are we going to do about them, Oscar?” Christine asked while the three families were sitting around a camp fire, their traditional social gathering point.

“I don’t think there’s much we can do, Christine,” Oscar replied. “As long as they’re not bothering us we’ll just have to carry on building our lives here as I suspect they’re doing.”

“What happens if we run into them?” Gary asked.

“Well, it could turn into a confrontation I guess. So far they haven’t done anything despite knowing no doubt where we are. It’s a bit worrying that they know more about us than we about them,” John commented.

“I think we should send out a small scouting party to spy on them. Knowing their set-up could stand us in good stead one day,” Karl said.

“Hmm, maybe that’s a good idea. Of course we’re a lot more vulnerable than we were while living on top of KRAT,” Oscar said.

“I’m worried about the girls,” June commented. “Those bastards will have no hesitation to do them or us some harm if they could, so the sooner we find out where they are hiding out and what they’re up to the better. They really hate Christine, Gary and Oscar here,” she pointed out.

“My problem is that we can’t leave you women alone while we try to find them. If something were to happen to us or if they knew in advance that we’re coming, they could easily outflank us and attack you here,” Oscar observed. He knew that Karl and Gary were the obvious scouts to send on such a mission. That would leave only himself and John to look after the women and young girls. Maybe he could convince some of the men on KRAT to join them for the interim until Karl and Gary returned.

The discussion did not produce any constructive action but this was soon to change.


[1] Christian Express VIII, 1878. Lovedale, South Africa.

[2] Qu’ran: Surah 9: 5

[3] Qu’ran: Surah 8:70

[4] Qu’ran: Surah of Rejection: Surah 109

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