My Short Stories

2.

"South Africa in Winter."                                Charlie  Dimech.  

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These improved my staple diet of fish and shellfish. 
 I spent most of my time searching for food. I killed birds which I first trapped in nets  made of fine twine and I made spears to kill any form of animal I could find including snakes, rats and wild pigs, present in small numbers.
 I also killed lizards and captured turtles which were delicious, roasting them over the fire and keeping their shells to use as food and drink bowls.
 
I eventually thatched a makeshift and portable roof out of dry grass bundled together with twine which was plentiful in the trees.
 
There was no trace of anything which could have caused the sound I had heard on my first day. My imagination ran wild thinking up endless possibilities which could have made that heart-stopping sound, and settled after several months on it having been a wild boar of enormous proportions.
 
I fixed my ready made roof into the tree which housed the platform. I then proceeded to make the sides with the same material, leaving two very small openings near the top of the eastern and western sides and a large opening facing the north from which I had easy access. I then made a rope ladder from twine which I kept rolled up in case I needed  an alternative exit.
 
The following day after my ladder had been installed I decided to go farther afield.
Heading for the top of the mountain range with a water carrier strapped to my back which I had made out of pig skin, and my knife strapped to my side in another sheaf which was also made out of pig skin I made for a peak which was close by. I needed an overview.
 
I had grown accustomed to keenly observing my surroundings, taking note of special features, odd trees, land formations or outcrops, leaving a trail or marking a large stone or a tree with an arrow  for later recognition and in this way I avoided getting lost.
 
The overview was no great surprise, an endless panorama of forest, the one I had made my home.
I stayed up at the top of the mountain enjoying the view all day, watching the birds and listening to the sound of the waves.
Sea-gulls came up here, perched on rocks and surveying the sea.
Towards late afternoon I made my way down again to take some food and to escape the night on the "track". That was the worst place to be when night fell.
There was no security from insects, rain and reptiles.
 I hadn't gone far, about 500 metres on my downward descent when I was stopped suddenly. There was a movement in the bushes off to my left which was electrifying. I stopped perfectly still, waiting, listening intently. I had grown accustomed to the sounds of the bush.

 My hunting taught me the differences between birds and reptiles and between rodents and pigs by the sounds they made in  their movement. My senses were outwitted by my instinct however and I pulled my knife and braced myself as there was a further movement and I knew that whatever it was I had heard, knew of my presence and a moment later it sprung on me. It was a wild cat  about three feet long not counting its head and tail. Its ferocious power astounded me into repeated jabs in the stomach and chest but not before it had gnawed my right arm and shoulder.
 I bled all over the affected areas and stood dazed and weak but the cat lay dead on the ground near me  as I ripped up my one shirt and tied strips around the wounds of my right arm and shoulder.
My fear was that it had a mate and it would be only a short time before it would find me. I therefore sat down on a rock and rested only as long as I needed to continue the downward journey with a cat on my back. If I passed out or slept out here I might not wake up until it was too late!
 
I arrived two hours later at my "home" just as dark was approaching and lit a fire.
 I skinned the cat, gutted it and roasted it whole over a large fire using a pole rammed right through the carcass and suspended on two Y branches stuck in the ground.
 I ate as much as I could and kept the rest in my tree hut, which I devoured over the next three days. It was a good source of energy and I recovered slowly over the next week. I used the skin as a mat on the floor after tanning it as I did the pig skins, with the juice obtained from the bark and shoots of the oak tree I had discovered on my arrival.
 I now knew the path back to that tree which I visited from time to time.
 I found several other oak trees and each pig that I killed, I tanned the skins and sewed them together using a fine twine that I found in the region and a sharp piece of very heavy wood, like ironbark which I fashioned into a needle. I did the same with the other skins that I collected from which I fashioned a new wardrobe and footwear, no doubt adding to my wild appearance but I determined to maintain a semblance of civilized appesarance by tying my hair with a strip of skin as it grew. This also made it safe moving through the forest as well as making me feel civilized.
 
 
 
 
 
I reflected on why I had been placed here on this shore. It wasn't nice. I had been a non-conformist, unacceptable in the world I knew for two reasons.
Firstly I did not take the oath of allegiance required by the new secular authorities. In the name of harmony and the efficient functioning of all aspects of society this was mandatory on all citizens of every age, sex, state of health and background, vocationally and ethnically. It overode all religious affiliations and duties and beliefs associated with such religious organization. Its catchcry was "End wars, peace begins at home" Its message was conform but conform to what? A computer or aetheists idea of humanitarianism which correlated with conformity at all costs, a set of lies.
 Who gained out of this? No-one, everyone lost.In order to preserve peace they completely destroyed it on the inside of a human being where it counted most. But this wasn't their main aim. Their real aim was the fulfilment of a false doctrine. This doctrine was simply that society was best served by being properly ordered and it was best ordered by completely dehumanizing it to the level of a computer program.
It started out many years beforehand with the introduction of an I.D. card for all citizens.
 Bureaucrats and politicians saw how much easier their job was becoming once they had more and more control and the process was deliberate.
At heart was the real desire to have people work for you rather than you work for them; to completely turn it around and become not the servant of the public but the served by the public.
 It was an old idea which needed only one basic human emotion, that was selfishness, to revive it but it took on a modern technological disguise. The disguise was in its simplest form "crowd control". They used the population increase to justify under the guise of patrimony that tired old human emotion, for thats all it was, there wasn't a real reason for it, dictatorial enslavement and servitude.
 But a servitude far more sinister, ruthless and dehumanizing than any previous dictatorship of human history.
Murder was not nice, jails were counterproductive and uneconomical. The old English tradition of banishment was re-instigated. It served a very strong psychological purpose for the whole community.
Many others had like myself been totally unaccomodating to the new regime which slipped in before anyone knew what was going on.
This was possible because a gradual conditioning had been going on for years and expert stop- gaffing of public voices of protest in the most underhand and foolproof manner had left the population powerless. Still it was possible for many to go into hiding.
The second reason for my banishment was my refusal to work. They said they could forgive the first but not the second.
 But before you jump to any conclusions let me first outline what was involved in this seemingly harmless task. Most jobs had been filled. I was unqualified. I got the jobs no-one else wanted. The sinister jobs, those that had been created specifically to serve the new state, those that had been created on false ideology, and society was permeated with it; a truck driving position, picking up waste from abortion clinics; a teller in a TAB agency, a government rip-off of human sport and recreation; a clerk in a payroll tax office, imposing heavy fines on companies which innocently made mistakes in underpaying the hugely complicated payroll tax requirement, keeping without a word, year in , year out all overpayments so that companies never suspected their mistakes; a court attendant at trials which were totally contradictory to justice and supported feminist and homosexual rights over the legitimate human rights of citizens; caretaker of human conflict resolution centres, the new term for a brothel; cab driving in an industry where the human rights of every member of the public is respected even the right to abuse cab drivers unwarrantedly without getting corrected by the driver; in factories manufacturing outrageous, blasphemous and demeaning objects of human use - for recreational purposes.
No I did not intend to work as most of society abhored this type of work any way and as there was full employment and no unemployment benefit and the interchange waiting lists were long for any decent job I was forced to take the oath of allegiance they hoped would straighten me out and mend my errant ways.
I knew of people who had escaped inland but I was not invited to join any and to do so alone meant only what I got now anyway, isolation.
 Either way it went it was the same result but preferred infinitely, this consequence to subservience to pure and to myself, undisguised perversion. It was evil and I wanted no part of it.
I lived and died if necessary in my own moral standard not someone else's. I say in it, not by it because I became more connected to it than ever before under the persistent force of the oppression of the world itself, that is, what it had become.
They did me a favour, they saved me a trip to the inland and dumped me in a place where food was more abundant than I could have found under my own steam.
 I knew roughly not through any politeness of the authorities but through my own intuition where I was.
In many ways I was infinitely better off. I was ostracized in my previous society where you had to conform.
 Here I was not. I was continuously in poor health there because of the atmospheric pollution, the pollution of the drinking water, the pollution of the food and the diseases inherent to my respiratory condition in substandard accomodation.
I experienced none of these problems here, even though I was, I knew continually undernourished.
I paid no tax, rather all my efforts were self-rewarding.
I was under no laws which were inhibitive of genuine human expression and which prevented you from doing just about anything you wanted to do and especially in the way you wanted to do it.
There was no noise pollution, one of the great scourges of modern cities, affecting our very nervous makeup. Here the noises were pure, and beneficial to the soul rather than working against the soul as in the cities.
There was no visual pollution. You were not continuously bombarded with messages you did not like or want to hear and which prevented your own freedom of expression and interaction and everyone else's. In consequence multiplying its effects on you.
Thee was no human conflict, distrust, dislike; no one to rob from you; no one to abuse you; no one to lie about you and no one to harm you in any way.
You were free to think whatever you liked, do whatever you liked, say whatever you liked, not because  previously  there was any one thing preventing your doing this but because there were thousands of influences preventing your doing so.
I felt I had only one obligation - to be human, to maintain that human dignity which is inherent in us by natural and spiritual existence.
 It was this obligation which brought me into conflict in the first place and I would not relinquish it.
 
 
 
 
My hunting equipment had by now included six large hand spears about three feet in length and fifty or so smaller spears which  I used in conjunction with a bow.
These were carried in a pouch slung over my shoulder and made of rodent skins as was my hat which was a bit like a Robin Hood hat, turned up at the sides. This was for comfort, they could get pretty hot and hence this would be counter productive without a cool airflow around my skull.
I also tanned the reptile skins which were about two feet in length but as yet I had no use for them.
I roamed further afield each day unless the food supply was adequate. It seldom was.I was also running out of firewood and knew I would soon have to think about making a stone axe.It would serve for a good supply of branches at least if not for heavier logs.
I had reserved the heaviest logs I had found lying on the forest floor because I had wanted to make a raft to take me down the coast but this would only be a last resort if my food supply ran out completely or some unforseen circumstances overtook me.
I did not entertain any hope whatsoever of  ever seeing another human being so this figured at the bottom of my list of priorities for leaving. It wa dangerous. It was futile and it was seemingly a remote possibility anyway.
I did not seek to be rescued. I only sought to have someone or some few join me at some stage who shared my ideas and who like me would also be banished.
I counted my blessings and they seemed to outweigh my losses every time.
I had by now grown accustomed to leaving the embers burning as long as possible. After trial and error I found a timber which burned a long time once it had turned to embers.I saved this in a hole in the ground and after each fire kept a piece alight in a trench on which the fire was built in order to light my next fire.
I could not light a fire using sticks or flint and the one technique I did know of, apart from my precious matches was using a piece of glass to ignite dry grass by reflecting and pinpointing the suns rays. But alas I did not have a piece of glass.
Bottles washed up on the shore were few and far between, no matter how hard I hoped.
 
The rodent skins were better than pig skins for obvious reasons, namely the fur. I tanned as many as possible I also made more nets for catching fish further and further upstream before I became alarmed that I was possibly preventing their migration and hence breeding. I promptly removed the nets confident that I would still be able to obtain a good supply. Also at high tide the sea came all the way up in the channels where I had first set foot on this shore, and I decided to place nets in the path of the receding tide in these channels to trap any fish that were in there as it receded. This worked splendidly and I had some astounding catches including a three foot shark!
I found plants inland from the coast that were excellent emulsifiers and together with animal fat and wood ash I was able to make a substance which when dissolved in water made a reasonable cleaning agent for my skin and clothing. This ash was also good for cleaning my teeth.
By now my beard had grown and was beginning to get itchy.My knife wasn't, I thought, sharp enough and even when used with 'soap' the beard -knife trick was unworkable. I grew used to having a beard and I grew used to it so much the more
once it stopped itching that I didn't even notice I had one.
 
The nights grew longer now as winter enveloped the land and the climate was frighteningly cold. I felt thankful and glad that I had spare skins which sewed together to form blankets kept me wonderfully warm.
 
I also begun to mould rubber soles for my shoes to protect my feet from the ground more effectively and comfortably than the soft hides. I did this by ringbarking rubber trees and collecting the juice and pouring it into leather moulds of my exact foot size. It took several months to set sufficiently without the aid of any extra coagulents to be worn, but once they did it became an excellent base for a leather shoe.
 
                                    . . . . . . . . . . . .
 
 
 
I had no boss to tell me what to do and hence I worked measuredly more productively. This is always the case with the self employed. If more employers gave their employees control over the workplace they would find a remarkable achievement was taking place in quality of work and increased output. There would always be those who dragged the chain but these should not effect the way the majority is treated. Work is life and most people want to do it that way if given the chance and not enslaved by the mental oppression of their employer.
 
Besides, there was no real purpose to my existence I thought, without work. The stretches of lying on the beach on warm days or sitting in the tree tops with that joyful and peaceful sensation which comes from listening to the birds, the wind in the trees, and connecting it with the visual beauty all around me, which had grown to be a part of me now, that is, oneness with nature, would not be possible if there were not intervening periods of work from which to rest. Work which was fulfiling in itself, created the act of rest which was blissful.
 
When I had got enough skins together I decided to make an attempt at a sail and rigging. This was a long and arduous process as I had very little knowledge of either or for that matter sailing.
 
My one purpose was to move further down the coast, but if that failed to provide me with a more or less hospitable environment I would be forced to return and thus I wanted a sail. I had no knowledge of tides and currents except that the currents appeared to go south. Hence I floated several logs out into the ocean with an upright so that they could be seen, to get a better idea of the strength of the current and the direction I was likely to take. These logs went straight out for half to one mile then south. Was I to risk my life? There was a possibility I might
never reach land again.
 
I ditched my raft near the channel nearest the camp and kept my sail and rigging at the camp.It was not worth the risk. But it might become so in an emergency.
My lonliness was difficult but this was compensated for at times by the euphoria I felt often, when I'd thrown myself into a task and felt at my creative peak.
 
Whilst this feeling of loss was ever present, there were no negatives to destroy this creative exhilaration, as we almost always experience in society. There was no one to put it down; to say it can't be done. To call me mad and generally inhibit
me with their own repressed feelings and obvious failures. The irony was that there was no one to witness what I in my naieve and exagerated fashion regarded as clever achievements.
 
My food supply did not run low and I had the run of a forest which was huge, untapped and my own. No one else, it seemed existed and yet I was joyful, bitter, full of hope - and despair, happy, unhappy, alone and . . . alone. I felt closer, much closer, to God and to nature and because I knew I was alone in time I seldom felt lonley as there was nothing missing from the picture that ws not normally there. The saying "you don't miss what you never had" begun to tell on me.
 But there were occasional excruciatingly painful relapses.
After a year of never seeing a single, solitary soul, except in dreams (both waking and nocturnal), instead of getting worried I resigned myself to my fate, to my prayers, and the joy and peace it sometimes brought and the feeling of desolation I felt at other times.Overall however, by coming to terms with it and accepting it I was more happy and content than I would have been able to imagine, on the inside despite the daily hardships of struggle for survival and in a sense happier and more at peace with myself than I had been in society.
 
My prayer life gave me a sense of security as it was at these times that I felt an extraordinary company and this was possible because of my faith and my belief.
I identified at these times with all the hermits that had gone before me both into voluntary and involuntary isolation and decided that it wasn't such a bad life.
 
Eighteen months passed and I had become so adept at food gathering that I spent barely half my day in that occupation, the remainder being spent in enjoying my surrounding more, improving my accomodation, clothing, and making a variety of instruments painstakingly, for my everyday and not so frequently but equally important use. These included long lines for sea fishing using wooden hooks, crab pots, eating implements,various experiments with animal traps and fencing off my enclosure from wild animals.
 
I had just begun to run out of ideas. A fact which had not even had time to dawn fully on my concious mind when my whole life changed.

3.


Here's to you... Mr Robinson.