I am driving down the N1 toward Cape Town, the sunset in my eyes, Table Mountain wreathed in clouds, a beautiful day. I see all this because I am driving well below the speed limit as my last two fines had wiped out most of my disposable income. I am thus driving like a little old lady. Offensive to me and possibly to little old ladies, but none the less that is my feeling about the matter. Cars whizz past me in the fast lane, huge SUV and tiny run arounds and here I drive slowly conservatively and mostly alone so it is some time before I realise that there is a vehicle right behind me. I take a second look. It is one of those very sexy coupe's, bright red, sleek, slim lined with the hood down which allows me to see the driver very clearly.
The driver is almost as stunning as the vehicle - you can tell I am a car nut cant you? But seriously, she is everything I have ever fantasized about, blonde, high slanted cheeks, firm looking breasts. Probably in her forties, the best moment in a woman s life as far as I am concerned. Still beautiful but having lost the airs and graces of the twenties, knowing what she wants and prepared to go with her urges.
She is doing her lips a vibrant scarlet using hands that end in bright scarlet nails. I am transfixed until I notice that both hands are busy with her face. What †is she driving the car with? That thought is wiped completely out of my mind when she looks away from the mirror and, I feel, directly at me. She pouts, sticks her finger in her mouth, runs it down her cheek and toward her cleavage. I tear my eye away, look at the road ahead and realise that I am fast approaching a huge truck, I slam on brakes, hoping she can get her mind off the lipstick and onto driving. I glance in my rear view mirror. Somehow she has managed to avoid colliding with me and is now rearranging her top with both hands engaged. I am still wondering about her ability to drive without hands when she flashes both breasts at me, covers up, swings out from behind me, drives up along side, smiles and then takes off like a bullet. I can not resist. I swing out, put my foot down on the petrol peddle to follow her.
A hand descends on my shoulder, shakes me vigorously, follows that up with a swift kick to the arse.
"Wake up. Your time for guard duty."
I sit up slowly, shake my head to clear it. The guard room barracks is full of snoring soldiers.
"Here, have some coffee to wake you up."
I take the offered mug gratefully, take one swig and nearly gag. I had forgotten this was army coffee.
"This is not coffee, this is tea."
"Nah, it is coffee. they didnít finish the tea yesterday so they topped the urn up with coffee. More coffee than tea, so democratically it is coffee."
"Stop whinging, both have caffeine which will keep you awake so that you can go up there and protect us from the loup-garou."
He laughs and I growl at the standing joke about why we protect this end of the camp. The story goes that there are werewolves and ghosts here. Why were wolves and ghosts? the stories are complex and legion. Suffice it to say that according to tradition, the magazine we are issued with doesnít contain ordinary bullets, but silver bullets. No one can prove or disprove the story because the magazines issued are sealed and have five rounds deep in the magazine, held down by a nail passed through the magazine and kept in place by a lead sealed wire passed through a hole drilled through the nail. You have seen those sorts of locks on fire alarms and such things. The joke is of course that how do you get that nail out without have pliers to remove the lock wire? We never got an answer to that. The army is super efficient at not telling you things that are kind of important.
I grab my weapon, climb the stairs to the guard tower, shake Johnathon awake, sending him off to bed and settle down to watch for the next two hours.
I have just recently read a memoir of a US Vietnam Veteran who said that at Observation Posts, he would count the trees and bushes before sun went down and then recount them every 10 minutes or so. If there were suddenly more than the number he had counted, he would open fire.
I decide to count trees, bushes whatever. Being in the Karoo with low scrub makes life a tad difficult, but I count peaks of which there are thirteen. I do it twice just to be sure. Definitely thirteen. I drift off on a tangent, thinking of my rather delicious dream and wondering what would have happened if I had not been woken by the Sergeant for my stint in the watch tower. I remind myself that I am on guard duty, keeping the loup-garou out. So I count bushes.
I count and discover that I am one bush short. Twelve bushes. I count again. Same number. The Vet did not say what to do if your number of bushes goes down. I consider this issue for a while. I don't think fast at 2:30 in the morning. No one that I know does which accounts for unwanted pregnancies and public violence charges.
I count again. Still 12. I decide that the use of the search light to find the errant bush is warranted. I swivel the light around the bushes look all pretty strong and healthy. I swivel the light down onto the cleared path outside the fence and find, standing direly in front of me a figure. Male, part wolf, part man. Not a pretty sight, but the wolf head kind of makes the whole thing unpretty to the point of terror.
I swivel the light away and back. It is closer to the fence now, and I swear it is smiling. I solve the issue of how to remove the wire. Sheer terror helps I guess, I rip that wire out of the hole in the nail, I rip the nail out of the magazine and bullets click reassuringly into place. Now, I hope that the stories that the army had sold the silver bullets to pay the bar bill are not true. I cock the weapon and look up, the creature has crossed the outer fence and is almost casually strolling toward my tower. Under normal circumstances I am a terrible shot. Terrified, I become lethal. I blast off two shots at the things chest and it staggers back, looks at the two holes in in its chest and manages to look even more terrifying than before. It starts to move, fast and is half way up the side of the tower in a moment. I have no idea how it is climbing the smooth cement, but it is, mouth open, grinning and drooling. I fire off two more shots, right down its throat, it keeps coming, as it reaches for the lip of the tower I use my last bullet and fall backward. The garou disintegrates into fine white powder, getting in my mouth, my nose, my eyes.
I struggle to get up and then a voice from behind the powder growls,
"You went to sleep with a cigarette in your hand again. I told you I would empty a fire extinguisher on you. I was merciful, only half. Now clean up your mess, I am trying to study here. I want to pass, even if you don't."
My college room mate throws the fire extinguisher at me, I dodge and it lands on the powder covered bed by beside me. I sigh, get up, and start tidying up. The evening studying is not going well, in fact I am getting nowhere fast so I reach for the ultimate cure all, my bottle of rum. Just one tot and then back to work. Somehow the single tot turns to double, then to triple and then somewhere late in the evening, the bottle is empty and I am no longer interested in studying. Sleep seems to be the ultimate curative. I crawl over to my bed and pass out.
I wake to a sort of roaring sound, a bad smell and lots of heat. It sounds as if the whole place is on fire, but I write the whole episode off as another pesky dream, turn over, stick my head under my pillow and try to sleep. The siren is what finally persuades me to take part in whatever stupid dream this is. I pinch myself just to prove it is a dream and end up in one of those circuitous arguments that says, well if you are dreaming, you can pinch yourself and you will feel pain, so what good does that do? I give and stagger to the door. Fortune favours me for once. I trip over my discarded tee shirt and end up stumbling toward the door. My hands hit the door first and I recoil in shock. The door is hot. Not summer hot, burning hot and I realise that I am head deep in smoke. I collapse to the ground, untangle my tee shirt from my feet and wrap it round my head. I get the door open and a huge waft of smoke rolls in. I slam the door closed and head for the window, hoping to get some air, but my last lungful was not of air, but almost pure smoke and I find myself curling up against the wall under the window. The blonde comes to mind as I slowly descend into blackness. I remember smiling at her flashing me and think to myself that this is not as good a dream as the first one.
I waken in warm, antiseptic conditions. I look around. Hospital.
"You awake?" I look around a nurse has just looked over at me from another bed.
"Yeah. Just about."
"People to see you." she says and ambles off. The dean of students and my room mate arrive.
"Don't you listen when we talk fire drills?" the dean asks politely.
"Thought I was dreaming."
"Pissed as a newt." my room mate interjects. I glare at him.
"You haven't lost your sense of humour I see."
"OK, you are alive. You had better say thank you to Mike here for your continued well being. OK, I am off. I have better things to do than to look at singed, stupid students." says the dean and hurries off.
"He likes you."
"Funny way of showing it."
"Me on the other hand. I hate you. You stink, you smoke in the room, drink rum at all ungodly hours and then have to be carried out of the fire. On the upside, I reckon you are gonna have to buy me oceans of beer when you are back on your feet. Get well soon." And he too is gone.
A day or two later I am discharged, I pick up my car from the college parking lot, scratch though what is left of my belongings and decide to ditch them all. I head out on the free-way home. Still sticking to the speed limit, middle lane, cos now my disposable income is gonna be even more indisposed. I look in my rear view mirror and there is the bright red coupe, and the blonde but with both hands on the wheel. Right behind me. I nearly collide with the truck in front of me, she swerves to avoid me, flashes a breast at me and is gone in roar of supercharged power. I try to follow but someone in a huge SUV nearly takes me out, so I slink back into the middle lane and keep on chugging along.
I get home to my flat, to find an ocean of post. I start sorting through them. The brown envelope is last. Call up papers for a three month camp at Outshoorn. In the Little Karoo. Dry bushes, guard towers. I do not want to actually face the loup-garou and, if the blonde is anything to go by, the encounter with the loup-garou wont end well either. I sit back and wonder if I can persuade the army I am mad or something.