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The Book of the Siamese Crocodile
By Lawrence Clarke Hilton All rights reserved © 2004 De Villiers Hilton Partnership
Lay our ashes in the ship
And now be it ten thousand thousand thousand strides
To reach the shore.
The day will come.
The ship will float.
We with the sea arisen.
The universe abounds in magic
And buckets of nuclear fission
Source: Preserved ancient digital CD
Locations Recovered: Cape City - Green Point dig - Ancient Cape Town
Geographical Area: Southern United States of Africa
Date of origin: Lec 25 (Sans Calendar) Dec 25 (Old Roman Calendar)
Year created: 2006 AD
Age: 1005 years 10 Hours and 46 minutes
“No, after you!”
“No, after you!”
The grace with which the Sans Brothers argued as they made their way to the stage was impeccable.
“No!" Rene Sans insisted and with a mockingly low bow and broad sweep of his hand indicated to his brother to go up the stairs first, “No, my dearest brother, after you. I insist!”
Having just made their way down the center aisle, the almost identical twin brothers had arrived at the steps leading up and onto the stage. Both were brothers were now in full view of the many eager faces in the huge audience. The podium that awaited them had been set center stage.
Thousands had gathered for the turn of the millennium party. The room was abuzz with excitement as the word was out that the Sans corporation was about to make an announcement of enormous importance.
Various news broadcasts had put the figures in the audience at anywhere between ten and fifteen thousand. Both estimates were absurd as only 3000 guests could be crammed into the main auditorium of the International Cape Town Convention Centre. However this exaggeration could be forgiven in light of the momentousness of the occasion. It was not just another year that was about to be rung in. Not even just another turn of another century. We were talking here of the once in a thousand rollover of a millennium.
The party crowd in the audience was breathless with expectation. It had been advertised as “The Millennium Mother of all parties.” And many had hopes of making this one the one to end all parties. No doubt they intended to be motherless by the end of it.
"No after you!" said Robin, the older brother now trying to pull rank. They were still arguing as to who should climb the stairs to the stage first.
Whenever Robin was described as older of the two, he was always quick to point out that he was only older by 30 seconds. But if the truth be told those 30 seconds had seemed like a lifetime to their mother for it had not been an easy birth for her. In fact it had not been easy on any of them. Robin's umbilical cord had wrapped around his twin brother Rene's neck as their mother's pelvic muscles compressed them down and through the birth canal. It had caused him to drag the baby Rene behind him. Although the surgeon had managed to save the latter twin baby, it was a stranglehold that Rene would feel that Robin had on him throughout almost his entire life
Sadly according to the reports these labour pains were to be their mother’s last experience on earth.
According to other family legends the almost identical twins would later be told that their mother had loved them so much, that in spite of the Doctor’s warning that carrying the twins to full term could cost her life, she had paid the ultimate price to ensure their survival.
In the heat of the brother’s life long explosions of rivalry and bickering, Robin would often scream that Rene had killed their mother. Rene would shout back that Robin had nearly killed both of them.
Although both boys were born with the most extraordinary proverbial golden spoons in their little mouths, Robin had started his life off by moaning. Not crying, nor wailing, just moaning. Even when the nurse took the baby Robin from the surgeon and slapped Robin lightly on his little bum, Robin did not cry. He just let out a little moan and gave his first of the many dirty looks that would follow.
Rene, on the other hand, once the shock of the near suffocation had passed, when given the little slap by the midwife, just cocked his head and stretched his little body out like a kitten. He then simply chose to mewl and force a little grin.
As much as Robin’s moaning and scowling became habitual and he did go on to complain incessantly throughout his life, Rene’s obsequious little grin became his signature expression.
As Robin grew older, his face had set into layers of frowns that no amount of Shocktox (STX)- the latest non-surgical cosmetic craze - could quite dissolve.
After the biological disasters that followed the previous millennium’s alternative non-surgical cosmetic procedures, Shocktox had been hailed as a major breakthrough. It was a conveniently self-administered treatment that injected no poisons nor deadly bacteria into the patient’s bloodstream.
The STX system delivered tiny electrical charges to the skin’s epidermis. Although these were at very low levels of voltage, the impact at a cellular level was the equivalent of administering the most extreme of shock treatments.
Standard shock therapy was still prescribed and even encouraged for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. It had over the last 10 centuries continued to show amazing results in terms of the lifting of chronic depressions. And this after only a few treatments. Research, however, had never quite shown whether the substantial improvements in the patient’s mood was as a result of the shock therapy itself. It could also have been derived from the fact that the patient had become so terrified of ever being strapped onto the table again, that they found themselves lying to the doctors and euphorically stating that everything was all now suddenly “A-OK”. They were perhaps filled with the elation and terror that only surviving a near death experience could bring.
Robin’s wrinkles would lead Rene, the slightly prettier, freckled and plumper, to call him 'old meringue puss' behind his back. Never to his face of course, and only when the combination of recreational barbiturates and alcohol had raised his levels of courage to the giddy heights where he no longer had a care anymore as to what Robin thought.
“Robin I insist. As it was in the beginning, after you!”
The orchestra had gone into a repeat of the event overture to cover the delay in the proceedings. Rene's hazel eyes twinkled as he noted that that he was really starting to irritate his brother.
Having lived his life in his older brother's shadow led Rene to develop an over-polite, ingratiating manner. As he grew up he had cultivated it, for he knew that it worked on Robin’s nerves. His unfailing ability to unsettle Robin had become one his main passions, if not the very reasons for his existence. Rene's jealousy of his older brother festered like a boil which as he reached puberty burst into full blown spite. He shammed and hid this bitterness behind a flamboyant “devil may care” outward persona.
“Oh, butter would never melt in your mouth!” Robin would often shout sarcastically during their arguments. Rene would then act dismayed at the reaction he provoked in Robin.
The applause and whooping that had accompanied them ever since they had entered the room started to peter out as those at the back became confused by the delay occurring at the front.
"No after you" urged Robin slightly edgily. He knew his younger brother was starting to play up again.
Rene thought 'what the hell' and stood his ground,
"No Robin, after you! Age before beauty!"
“You are so…” hissed a furious Robin who was so overcome with anger that he did not hear the shot ring out. He could not believe it as Rene lunged at him. Thinking that Rene was attacking him, Robin lost it and went into a defensive stance. He shook with fury as he tried to fist Rene in the face. Rene’s momentum however threw them both to the floor before any blows could land.
Rene was shouting "They're after us!"
After a few screams and shouts from the crowd, the auditorium unexpectedly and suddenly became deathly quite. Everyone waited to see what would next occur. Was their a sniper on the balcony? No second shot came.
Those in the audience who had thrown themselves into positions of safety, peered over the backs of the seats and gingerly began to stand up. They slowly began to resume their applause. Relief fed their enthusiasm as they realized that what they all had thought was a gunshot was merely one of the balloons escaping early from the drop and being popped as it was hit by an on-stage pyrotechnic. These had been accidentally triggered and the fireworks were now exploding and zigzagging around the brothers who were now cowering at the foot of the stage.
As the penny dropped Robin ignored the fact that Rene had been trying to protect him and kicked out as he shoved Rene off of him.
The shock of it all forced the Sans brothers into a compromise. The explosions silhouetted them as they slowly recovered their poise, and began to walk arm in arm up the stairs. They held their free arms high to protect their faces from the ricocheting rockets that zoomed around their heads.
As they navigated their way between the exploding Roman candles that had been over-enthusiastically loaded with powder, they were forced to crouch again. A second batch of pyrotechnics triggered by the first began to explode around the podium.
The audience was now screaming with laughter. Finally with one last fizzle the explosions stopped. The audience clapped and laughed as the visibly shaken brothers slowly stood up.
Kieron Legacy, Head of Sans Security and Public Relations, sighed and ordered the other security women to stand down.
Recovering quicker than Robin, Rene seized the initiative. He threw his head back, laughed and then announced that Robin would be addressing the audience first. He giggled for the benefit of Robin and then cackled. He knew his brother would want to lash out at him again but could not be seen to react in full view of the audience.
Keeping up appearances was very important to Robin. He just managed to contain his anger. Robin glanced upstage and sneered at Rene. Rene held a fixed ridiculous smile on his face as Robin mouthed, “Fuck you!”
He turned back to face the crowd and was about to start when he heard Rene cackle again. Robin smiled at the front row and then looked upstage. With his eyes creased he nodded and indicated that Rene should look down at his hands where Robin carefully concealed from audience view an upright middle finger.
Rene feigned confusion with a wide-eyed look of innocence. Robin turned back to face the crowd and waved for them to settle down. When they ignored him, he decided to push on though.
'Okay let’s get to it shall we?' he paused and then began, “The Sans Corporation Africa Division…..”
Finally the crowd fell silent.
'Ah, that's better' Robin thought and was just about to continue when he was surprised by a slow hand clap that had begun at the back of the room. Robin was a powerful man but extremely unpopular.
Rene stepped forward and leaned into the mike, “Guys, you are going to want to hear this.”
The clapping stopped immediately.
“Thank you Rene, but I have this under control.”
He clearly did not and the beads of sweat began to trickle down his forehead.
“The Sans Corporation of Africa is pleased to announce, that to mark the turn of the New Millennium, they will be erecting a monument on top of Sans Lion's Head. This will also be in honour of those who came …”
He paused and looked like he was going to vomit.
Rene quickly stepped forward and pinched Robin on the back. Robin jerked and just managed to stop himself from slapping Rene in the face.
Taking a sip of water he haltingly went on.
“This monument is to be erected in honour of those who came before us. Those who have now been accredited with having had some hand…” Robin stumbled through this part of his script. Some in the crowd laughed. '...um has been accredited with perhaps... having had some hand in bringing some of us …'
The crowd began to really laugh now.
'All of us!' a woman shouted from the front row.
Robin grimaced and continued, 'Has been accredited by some,” he emphasized the “some” part, “..accredited by SOME of bringing all of us to this planet of ours - Sans Earth.”
He had to stop his eyes from rolling backwards in sardonic disbelief as the audience rose to its feet and erupted in cheers.
This time he would have to wait for them.
“Oh please,” he said under his breathe with sarcastic disbelief as the crowd went wild. His upper lip and his left nostril pulled up into his trademark sneer as he watched the back-slapping hugs and shouts of joy amongst the crowd who were all now standing.
'Oh for God sake' he moaned and glared back at Rene. Rene slipped past him to the front of the stage, and began to jump up and down with delight. He was now at that exuberant stage where he was wonderfully beyond caring what Robin thought. The monument was to be built.
“Don’t forget the news about the Paradise Hotel Robin!”
Robin reluctantly turned back and “In so far as the Paradise Hotel. This development will now be …”
The crowd knew what was coming and the applause became stronger. Robin realized that he would not be able to continue and turned to leave the stage.
A live shot of the bell tower of the Green Point Catholic Church appeared on the screen. It gave its first chime of the hour signaling 12 seconds to the New Year. Rene rushed up grabbed the mike and began the count down. “11, 10, 9, and 8, 7….”
Robin grimaced as Rene really started to really wind it up.
“5, 4, 3...,” The crowd erupted and shouted along. Thousands of silver balloons began to float down onto the crowd.
As the countdown finished, Rene shouted "Happy 3000!"
Rene called to Robin who was trying to find his way offstage through the black curtains of the wings. He walked towards his brother with open arms.
“At least just for the camera’s Robin”
Robin turned and saw Rene coming to hug him.
“Don't even think about it,” he warned.
Rene shrugged his shoulders, backed off and ran to join some of the crowd who had climbed onto the stage and were dancing frenetically across the front.
Robin steadied himself against the side curtain, and began to stagger as he made his way into the sudden darkness of the backstage.
“What a way to welcome in the third millennium,” he thought and looked like he was about to have an aneurism.
In fact he was.
Give Me Hope Suzanna!
Suzanna lay in the gutter of the convention centre.
She had been drinking all day. Alcohol had become her way to block out the horror of her situation. Shocking waves of despair sometimes overcame her. These terrifying moments of consciousness of the all that she had lost had begun to decline in frequency over the years spent living on the street, but they never lost their intensity.
Thankfully, she had gained a moment to moment span of attention. It protected her from the overwhelming and devastating memories that would have left her feeling so very lost and alone. She had learnt that any reverie of the past was to be avoided. It was simply too painful. So she wandered the streets in a dreamlike state, that blocked out the nightmare of her reality.
The 'papsaks' of wine or if they ran out, then the glue would help to blot out the huge distances that lay between her and her earlier irretrievable happier times.
For Suzanne this was a good thing for to be fully aware would have brought levels of anguish too deep for her to bear.
But still on occasion these memories would cut through her mind like shooting stars that disappeared quickly into the darkness of her confusion. They would be gone before she could quite grasp them.
On certain days she could find herself transported to a place where her past family and friends seemed to lie just around the next corner. She would have to steady as images flashed in her mind. She would then begin to walk and chase these mirages that flickered ahead of her. Suzanna would then march around the entire block, shouting at the people from her past who kept disappearing around the bends in the road ahead of her.
The whole morning would be spent chasing them. She would trudge up the hill, round the corner, past the park and back down the stairs of the lane. Then slowly turn and proceed to shuffle the route the other way. “I’ll catch you now,” she would shout as she slowly turned and began to shuffle as quickly as she could in the other direction.
“You're chasing rainbows!” the others would shout from the park as they shared the dagga zol or whatever any of the others had managed to beg enough money for that day.
"Ah Voetzak! Get away!” Suzanna would shout without looking at them, her focus firmly ahead.
In those moments she would truly believe that all that she had lost was just around the next corner. If she could just make it to the corner, all her friends and family would be waiting there to take her home to her babies.
Her babies had been taken from her at birth. She never saw them again. Her father had banished her from the house for falling pregnant at 14 and threatened to do the same to any family member who dared to have contact with her.
Over the years she had met some who had tried to help. Mrs. Jones was one of them. Sometimes she would believe that Mrs. Jones still lived in number 9. Mrs. Jones had always been kind to her. She had become Mrs. Jones' drinking partner. In those good old days Mrs. Jones would send her down to the bottle store every morning to buy the daily supply of a bottle of gin or vodka. If it was payday, then both were ordered.
Suzanna would spend the morning calling outside the security gate of the block, waiting for Mrs. Jones to appear. On sadder days she would just stand outside forlornly, knowing Mrs. Jones could not come back even if she had wanted to. On those days the wine really did help.
The empty "papsak" of wine that lay next to Suzanne looked very similar to one of the silver balloons that had exploded inside the centre. Suddenly she felt nauseas. .
‘I am not feeling very well!’ she called out to the throng of guests who were trying to step past her as they exited the convention centre. She tried to get up. Some of the older guests who were the first to leave the party attempted to ignore her pleas for help by turning back to chat to friends as they came close to her.
‘I am not feeling right’, she called out more urgently, "I need some water"
A little girl stepped out from the crowd with a bottle of water she had taken for the trip home.
"Here!" she said offering it to the haggard woman staggering in front of her. Her father quickly grabbed his daughter's hand and pulled her away.
‘Honey, I am sorry, but she is not well. You don't know what you could pick up.’
At that moment Suzanna's arms froze outstretched. She fell, hitting her head against the pavement as she went into the convulsions of a fit.
The father was right. Suzanne was indeed not well. She needed more than just water. Having passed out for eight hours in the street earlier that day, she was extremely dehydrated and in the grip of symptoms of severe alcohol poisoning.
In another time or another place Suzanna should have been in a home that offered permanent sanctuary and psychiatric treatment. However the year 3000 saw proper medical care reserved almost exclusively for the rich. The poor had to be thankful for whatever the non-private hospitals could offer. Someone so far out on the outskirts of society as Suzanne was, could expect little if any care.
It was strange to some, that in what could be seen as a society gone mad, psychiatry and mental health were the most ignored of the medical disciplines. Any possibilities of care for mental health patients were further undermined by savage cost cutting exercises that were deemed necessary by the public and private health systems.
The father took his daughter’s hand and edged her on. “Come on lets race Mom to the car”
The Sans security women who had just arrived were busy cordoning off the area around Suzanna. Two others were putting on protective bio-suits and one had already begun spraying disinfectant on the pavement where Suzanne had just vomited.
The young girl looked out the back window of the car as her father slowly drove past the entrance as they exited from the parkade. They had to stop to wait to join the cue of cars that were attempting to exit onto the freeway.
Suzanna seemed to recognize her though the tinted glass of the back window and shouted, "Thank you my darling!" Thank you for trying!”
The young girl turned away quickly and faced forward. She could not believe that the drunk lady had recovered so quickly.
Have lovely day!" Suzanne shouted, as she was hustled away from the entrance towards the parking lot.
“You are going to win the lotto tonight! You'll see, don’t you dance too much, hey?” she called out after the girl.
‘What will happen to her?’ the little girl asked.
Her father looked briefly in the rear-view mirror. He didn't answer her question; instead he turned to his wife and said 'Was that a great party or what?'
Seeing a gap in the traffic ahead, he accelerated as the light turned green. As they drove off, the little girl could hear Suzanne as she began to scream abuse at the security woman who was now signaling that she better move on.
To be fair the security woman could not have known that Suzanna had just had a stroke. Neither could Suzanna have known.
“So Very Last Millennium!”
Robin Sans cut a lonely figure as he lurched though the backstage area to the stage door exit. His normal carefully poised and erect posture had given way to the weight of the world that he now felt he carried on his shoulders. He was crestfallen. He felt utterly exposed and vulnerable at every level. He stared at the floor as he pushed past the fire doors and entered the lift.
‘Going?’ asked the electronic voice of the elevator.
‘Down!’ groaned Robin and then repeated with a dark irony, “We're all going …” Before he could finish the thought he was startled by another voice.
“We’re all going down!” the voice completed the thought.
He froze as he realized he was not alone in the lift. He fell screaming to the floor, winded by the weight of the other as they fell upon him.
‘Happy New Year my lovely!’ There was foul breath close to his ear.
It was Suzanna. After her episode outside she had somehow staggered past the busy security team at the delivery entrance and had made her way to the back stage lift.
Robin's blood pressure beeper began to give out shrill warning tones. “Oh Hell!” he thought as he dropped to his knees and began to pass out. “I'm dying!” he gasped.
The reading on his monitor did seem to indicate that he would be lucky to reach his 130th birthday. He was on his 5th bypass and 3rd heart transplant and currently would not be considered a great candidate for a 4th.
“I'm dying!” mimicked Suzanna as she too began to pass out again.
“Happy Fuck all!” thought Robin as he gazed at the exaggerated reflection of his nose in the marble tiled floors, against which his head now lay paralyzed.
Rene had so carefully insisted upon on marble when they constructed the building. “Carpets are so last millennium!” he had commented.
Robin so hoped that his last thought would not be that of Rene. But as he lay there dying, all he could hear was Rene's voice repeating over and over, “Carpets are so last millennium, Robin. So very last millennium.”
Within minutes a Sans Medical Chopper landed at the stage door helipad.
Two of the show's dancers had come across the two bodies locked in a frozen embrace lying on the lift floor. “Disgusting drunks!' one said as she stepped over them and out of the lift. Fortunately for Robin, the dancer's boyfriends noticed Robin’s ID badge and had alerted the security women.
The paramedics worked on stabilizing Robin for 15 minutes before signaling that they were now ready to fly him to the gleaming Sans Medical Center. The centre was literally across the road from the convention centre, but this was Robin Sans they were dealing with and needed to pull out all the stops.
Throughout this period Suzanna slept under the gurney on which Robin's currently dead body lay. Now and then she would go into a fit, but this was ignored by the team who were feverishly attending to Robin.
The surgery at the medical centre had been placed on the highest alert for the imminent arrival of possibly the wealthiest man on earth. The theatre staff was already making their way though to the disinfection pre-op facility.
‘We're trying to stabilize him,’ an impatient Rene was told as he arrived and asked, 'What's up?'
Rene was exasperated by having to be called off the dance floor during his favourite song of the moment.
'He looks pretty stable to me' Rene chuckled to himself as they strapped Robin onto the gurney and wheeled him away.
'Do you want to accompany your brother to the hospital in the chopper?'
“Oh sure!” Rene’s answered them sarcastically and waived them on.
“I'll see you tomorrow Robin. Don't worry!” Rene shouted as the chopper lifted. He had been through this drama with Robin before and was numbed to any urgency as far as his brother’s health wobbles went.
Rene turned and loped back to the building, the heels of his boots tapped as they as hit the tiles.
“Nice,” Rene thought as he strutted and stamped his way down the stairs back to the hall in time to the music.
He could hear the DJ had just started playing the latest re-mix of the hit, ‘I will survive!’
The song was over a thousand years old, but with the remix, it could still fill a dance floor. Rene sang along with the chorus and pushed his way though the heaving crowd.
As he sang he pumped the air with his fists. “As long as I know how to give, I know I will survive!”
“Lift your chest and breathe”, a voice told Suzanna as she managed to regain some level of consciousness.
“What?” she asked as she came round. But the voice had gone. She managed to raise herself onto one elbow.
“You get better soon, hey?” she called after Robin as he was carried out to the waiting chopper. She had been utterly ignored by the Sans Medical evacuation unit.
“I am going to have to ask you to move on now, please.” It was the same security woman who had dealt with her earlier.
“You know, you look so familiar,” Suzanna glanced up as she was led shuffling down the loading ramp towards the security gate. “How is Mrs. Jones? She had a beautiful daughter. You look just like her. You give your Mom my regards hey?”
‘Yes I will,’ the security woman answered gently. It was easier to just play along. “It's okay”, the security woman spoke into her head mike, “You can let her pass.” Almost immediately the boom was raised.
As Suzanna walked out into the street below the highway, she could feel the distant music thumping though the walls of the convention centre. She tried to stagger in time to the beat as she made her way into the warm Cape summer ‘Eerste Nuwe Jaar.’
Legend had it that the New Years Eve parties were so good in Cape Town, that in the distant past a second or ‘tweede nuwe jaar’ party was held on January second. ( Old Roman Calendar)
“I will survive!” she shouted and lifted one hand in farewell without looking back. At that moment the first of the sun's rays hit the road in front of her.
“Another day!” This one clear thought slipped though the fog of her mind in her one of her irregular moments of early morning clarity. “Thank God we see the light!”
She quite clearly knew for that instant that she had survived another day. After that things would start to getting cloudy for her again. Her thoughts began the desperately chase around the maze that her mind had become.
The sound of the party still thundered though the early morning haze.
The first of the Marching Bands’ buses had arrived. They would be parading though the streets of the city in a few hours. The members of the teams yawned and stretched as they exited the bus. Sea Gulls swirled around the square in search of scraps of food as Suzanna joined them and began her methodical search of the bins that lined the square.
A trumpeter sat down on the bench and blew a few notes. He paused for a moment wiping his mouth and then began to play a slow tempo melody. It was a now timeless jazz standard.
He played beautifully and his clear notes floated out across the Cape Town foreshore.
As Suzanna staggered up to the trumpeter and swayed in front of him she began to sing along, “What a difference a day makes..”
The Church bell chimed out that it was 6 in the morning and that the Catholic Church had also survived another day and that it too was making its way into the third millennium.
Little did Suzanna know nor could she ever have imagined that on that very day, the first of January in the year of their Lord 3000, Suzanna would be meeting none other than the Pope.
All rights reserved © 2004 De Villiers Hilton Partnership