The sky was ocean blue and there was no sign of any danger. In the deep blue heaven, colourful birds twisted up and down, totally indulging in their own freedom. Doves and pigeons stood still on tree branches and radiated with peace. Beyond the grassfields and crystal rivers were cattle and buffalo. Zebras and elephants. Green jungles and leafy forests. There were rocks and mountains clothed by climbing shrubs blooming with flowers and surrounded by bees. Swans and ducks lined up in harmony on the transparent waters of ponds. It was still beautiful.
The air was cleared by green tree-leaves and was scented by rosy fragrances. It was easy to inhale, as our lungs felt lighter than air. The wind blew gently on our skin and cooled the heat-waves away. Children ran on the dusty streets, played with cans, threw tennis balls and slid through the dust and clotted mud. Laughing and giggling. It was all beautiful and peaceful. Children enjoyed their ice-creams and the suburbs were filled with smoke from braai-stands and meaty spices. Towns were adorned with spring colurs and bright summer clothes. But as peaceful as it was, things were beginning to seem suspicious.
Oh God, it was the same dream again! My heart started a pulse of suspense, my lungs warmed. My skin released salty sweat. No matter how much I tried to wipe it off, I kept sweating. I stared one last time at the children playing on the streets. Why should these little souls deserve this beastly penalty of death? I tilted my head up to the quiet blue sky, and saw that the birds were gone. An omen: the birds had already sensed the danger. Mucus leaked from my nostrils, and I wiped it off with the palm of my hand as I shivered and shook. I hated this dream! Did I still have the chance to save these little children? Was there any cave nearby where they could hide in less than a minute?
I cast my eyes to the west. The sun was dropping below the afternoon horizon. It was a bright, glorious sun – dazzling with fire and conveying rays to keep the earth in daylight. Then I quickly turned my head to the east… It was late. The second sun! It rose beyond the mountains of Mpumalanga, brighter than the natural sun, emitting rays that blinded our naked eyes instantly. A terrible thunder, like a thousand thunderbolts, exploded at the same time. It deafened our ears and filled our hearts with terror. Within 3 seconds, the east became brighter than the west. Two shadows raced on the ground. A God-made sun and a man-made sun. But the man-made sun brought a dreadful terror with it.
The second sun wasn’t alone. It spat wind that raced faster than bullets and stronger than cyclones. Within the blink of an eye, the roofs of houses were flying away. Windows broke into trillions of pieces and shacks rolled like dice. The blast dragged giant waves of fire. Across the east of Mpumalanga, tornadoes unleashed blazing fires. Fast as torch-light, a hellish storm was restructuring what our hands had built. Children were screaming as the clouds of fire swallowed them. Cattle flew like balls of fire, and everything was set alight. Bridges collapsed into sands, and roads cracked into burning coals of fire.
Trains and buses peeled into rusted skeletons. Towns crushed into pile-ups of concrete waste. Human bodies blazed in the heat. Their flesh didn’t even get the opportunity to bleed, because the fire was so ferocious. The hair on women’s heads was burnt even before the fire touched them. Old and young, everyone cried for help. The clear air was gone, there was only black and grey smoke. Suffocating… They died. I cried too at the smell of burnt human flesh everywhere around me. I cried. What if it wasn’t a dream and this was happening for real now? I ran home to my wife and kids. Oh God, a home? Did I still expect a home after this inhuman catastrophe? Two walls had crushed my wife like slices of a sandwich. She was bleeding a red river of blood. My kids? They were toasted and deformed like fried eggs beneath what was once a bed.
I cried. I cried. I was guilty. I couldn’t save my family. I cried.
“Baba! Baba!” No, that couldn’t be my son’s voice. It must be a ghost.
“Baba!” The voice was louder now.
Slowly, I opened my eyes. My heartbeat was pulsing all over my body. I had a fever and a slight headache. My chest was wet with sweat. My vision was blurred, but it stabilised when I recognised my 6-year-old boy waking me up. I blinked my tears down over my face. I was sitting on the couch and couldn’t recall when I had fallen asleep. And in my hands, I was still holding the newspaper with the bold headlines that read: “SOUTH AFRICA CANCELS NUCLEAR PROJECT.”
What do you think of the narrator’s terrible nightmare? Do you think that something like it could happen one day?