The first thing I felt was a slight throb in the side of my head, then came a bit of nausea so tried to open my eyes. When they did open I wished they had not, as my whole world fell away and the nausea hit me big time.
I immediately closed my eyes and felt slightly better. What the hell was going on? I lay there just letting the feeling come back into my body, arms and legs and decided to keep my eyes shut a while longer and figure out what had happened. As my mind started to clear it all came back to me, very slowly and then only in dribs and drabs.
I was supposed to be on holiday in South Africa and here I was lying somewhere not feeling too good. I had left Manne my home in Botswana, on Thursday to travel with Josh to Francistown to catch the train to Johannesburg. I had never been on a train before and that was my reason for choosing to go by train. Then there was that cryptic message from the Swamp Spot, Colon had said that soon after I had left, there had been someone who had come looking for me but had left without any explanation. I remember feeling uneasy at the time but what the heck, I was on holiday so no need to freak about it.
Then on the trip down I had a weird sensation that everybody was watching me and when I got off the train there was that guy who came up to me and told me he was from BOSS the Bureau Of State Security and he wanted me to go with him because they wanted me to do some work for them. Scary bloke that but in a quiet way, not good. They knew about my special ‘talents’ as he put it and they needed me to help them. I had told him I was on holiday and that I did not want to work for anybody for the next four weeks. I had just come from the bush, I had things to do, place’s to see, girls to chase and hell I was only twenty two years old and that was what I was going to do. He had nodded and walked away leaving me feeling extremely wary. But being the young man I was, carrying some beef, I was about 220 pounds, fit and able to look after myself I was not too worried. All I knew at that point was that I was hungry and it was time for lunch so had wandered into the first restaurant I could find which just happened to be in the hotel where I had been booked for four days, the Imperial Hotel. Nothing had come up on my ‘whisper’ radar, so did not worry too much. It should have warned me but there had been nothing.
Reading through the menu was unbelievable, what they did not have on it was scary, especially being used to our little hotel and the Swamp Spots usual fare. Then I remember noticing the woman, a pretty good looking woman watching me but then she had turned away and was talking to some other guy. After my meal I wandered around Johannesburg and then took in a movie and was again blown away by how big the movie house was, huge, really big. I remember going back to the hotel, changing to go out on the town and walking around until I saw a little pub called ‘The Madd Irishman’ and knowing old Colon back home decided that was going to be the first stop. I was looking through their choice of pub grub when someone had walked up to me.
“Fancy seeing you here.”
As I looked up, there was the good looking lady from the hotel and my immediate thought had been, what does she want? Then she had said quietly.
“What are you drinking? I know you are on holiday so would like to buy you a drink. Oh I work at the Imperial Hotel as the Restaurant Manageress, so that is how I know”.
“A Lion lager, please.”
Now I was feeling slightly chuffed that I was being offered a drink by this very good looking woman and this little interchange had dulled that funny feeling I had earlier when I saw her watching me. She sauntered over to the pub to get our beers and when she got back I thanked her and we cheers’d all around and I had a good slug or two of my beer and do not remember anything after that, until now. Damn, where were my so called bush whispers, they should have warned me but there had been nothing, not even a twitch.
I heard someone come into the room where I was lying and slowly opened my eyes to see the guy who had spoken to me at the station, the man from BOSS and my beautiful lady.
“Oh so you are awake” said the man and walked over.
I tried to get up to confront him and came over all weird again.
“Woah guy just take it easy” said BOSS man “sorry we had to do this to you but we had to talk to you as we have a particularly sensitive and critical issue on the go. We could not take the chance you would turn us down. We really need your special abilities to help us with this problem”.
Feeling as mad as a snake I said
“You drug me and then expect me to help you guys, what planet do you come from?”
Then it was Miss Beauty South Africa’s turn to chip in.
“Look we have said sorry but if you give us a chance to tell you the reason I think you’ll understand”.
“Look Miss charming this is not the way” and by now I was yelling “to treat anybody and I don’t give a damn what your problem is....”
I did not get to finish my sentence.
“Oh grow up, there is more than holidays and fun out there and our President’s wife has been kidnapped.”
The BOSS guy had cut in very quickly.
“Margy are you nuts, what the hell are you doing. You can’t just tell him that. You have just told this unknown aah person a state secret that nobody but a few insiders, know about. What happens now if this idiot here does not play ball with us, huh?”
That jerked me back into reality.
“One, who the hell is the idiot here and what the hell is that about your President’s wife being kidnapped?”
“Yeah she has and that is why we needed your abilities to try and help us find her before anything else happens.” He quieten down then continued “We think it could be one of the radical groups, possibly the ANC, PAC or one of them but we are not sure. No damn idea who. We have used all our on the ground resources and come up with zilch, so that leaves you”
My mind went quiet and realized that these people knew about the whispers and were hoping that I could use them to help find their President’s wife.
“OK, OK but you need to know that it does not always just work like that, it is not something I can switch on and off, sometimes it’s there and sometimes zip.”
“Mr Rath, we do understand that but you young man, are unfortunately our last option and we would not have done what we did, if time was not on our side and it was not in the interest of South Africa and not a state security matter. We will make it up to you but need to get onto this quickly.”
“Ok I’ll hold you to that but first I need to clear my head of whatever you fed me and that feels like it is going to take a while, so, some coffee and some alone time, please.”
With mumbled apologies they left me trying to sort out what had just happened to me and went off to sort things out. Me I just flopped back down.
I started thinking back to where this had all started and unknown to me then was that dreamland was going to run a full length feature movie of my childhood past me and waiting in the wings was the Sandman who promptly chucked a truckload of sleepy sand into my eyes and the lights went out.