Over the last two months I have been working myself sick at the site of my dream house. Having been conned several times by rogue construction technicians, I learned the tricks the hard way, but I learned all the same. At this time when I am putting the last touches, crossing the t’s and putting the dots on the I’s, my presence at the site was what was needed to keep things running, but with a price to pay. I arrive home looking like a dead man walking.
At my age, the back strain after bending the whole day washing off the white cement on the tiles is not a cup of tea. I did it again over the weekend and when I got home, lifting a cup of tea from the tabletop to the mouth became almost impossible. Rather than face the embarrassment of using a straw to drink tea, I chose to wait for some time to regain the use of my palm, which had somehow become numb. There was a game of soccer going on and I thought it was a good idea to watch while I waited for my hand to heal. After all, the soap opera lovers had retired to bed when I got hold of the TV remote control gadget.
The two teams were playing quite an entertaining game. At one point, a young player of African origin missed an open goal and I had to shout loudly, an obscenity to him. The room was deadly quiet. I was sure there will be some backlash from my wife about shouting at night and maybe a confiscation of the remote control. But it was as if they did not hear me shout. That got me worried. Something wasn’t right at all. One look at the screen told me more. The referee was approaching on the screen, from the farthest end of the field towards the front of the screen. Think of shooting a video. When you want to film a person walking towards you and you want him to seem as if he is walking on the same spot, you zoom out smoothly and keep at his pace, with a full frame on the screen. That was what I was looking at.
The referee kept coming towards the screen and, with the easiest of effort, literally walked out of the TV screen and into the room! I happen not to be a superstitious person but this was a bit scary. I have seen on TV adverts where a cheetah outruns himself out of the screen, but I know that is a camera trick on editing. But this was real. I was watching the ref right in my TV room, looking at me menacingly. I could not explain how he got out of the TV screen and into the room. But he did just that in front of my very eyes. I tapped my kneecap to see whether I was asleep. The pain on my knees told me I was wide awake. Fear gripped me. Much as I tried, I could not talk, or scream the way I had just done to the poor black player.
The referee asked me why I shouted at the player. His voice was kind of rusty and rough. Almost non-human. His eyes shone on the walls of the room like two bright luminous pebbles placed inside the cement. I tried to answer him, or rather ask for forgiveness, but no sound would come from my system. When he spoke next, the sound came from the surround system speakers in the room. “Do you hate your brothers in our country that much?” he asked, his voice booming with a deep bass. I still wanted to talk, but somehow, my voice just refused to come out of the throat. I was sweating now. The game had stopped and the black man was also approaching the screen, to come out as well. This was not fun at all. I had to shout for help now, if only my voice would come out. I tried again to scream but I felt two strong hands holding on to my neck from behind.
“You have had a bad dream, bushman. Let’s go to bed now.” Those were the words of my wife.