In my dreams, the fields glow an unnatural blue colour but I am not afraid. I’m standing in the centre of the maize and all the crops shimmer in the dark. He runs towards me – he has been running towards me for dozens of lives before this one. When we die, we will be born again – he will always find me. But in my dreams, he runs and cannot reach me. The beast comes out of the shadows and lunges towards him. I scream his name to warn him, to make him run – but it’s too late. The creature already has its teeth at his neck and is just about to rip out his throat when I have to look away. We are reborn again and again but we can never really be together. We are cursed. For us, it’s always too late.
I finish writing and look up and around at my lab. For a second, as I wrote down my dream, it had felt like someone, or something, was watching me. But it’s late in the day, all the students have gone home and I am alone. I blink at the words I wrote, read a few lines and roll my eyes. I’m a scientist. I don’t have time to obsess about these crazy dreams I keep having. I have to focus on my work. What I’m doing is important; my work here at the University of Cape Town is important. I’m helping people. So why the hell should I care about some guy dying in my dreams? I’ve had other dreams too, things that I saw that ended up happening. I’d dream of a test that I hadn’t studied for, or my boyfriend cheating on me. Sometimes these things actually happened. That’s why this dream frightens me so much. I don’t want it to also come true.
I confided in another scientist in the agricultural research department, Professor Ndlovu, and he suggested that I write down these dreams. He said maybe if I wrote them down, I could investigate them further. Maybe I would remember more details; maybe they would make more sense. Now, with this page staring up at me, I think I’m even more confused than before. I pick up the sheet of paper I’ve written on and tear it up. Scrunching the pieces into a paper ball, I throw it away. My dreams are just dreams. I should focus on what’s real.
As I prepare to get back to work, a dark man with a nervous smile walks into my laboratory. He’s wearing a wide-brimmed, straw sunhat and the boots of a farmer. He removes his hat as he walks towards me, and presses it to his chest.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“I’m looking for Dr Makana?” he says, uncertainly.
“I’m Dr Makana but you can call me Nomfundo,” I say, extending my hand to shake his.
His hand meets mine and I feel something like a spark of electricity between us. His hands are rough and used to hard labour but his eyes are gentle and I feel like he is a good man.
“I’m Bambatha,” he says.
I ask, “What can I help you with?”
The smile he had on his face hardens into a frown, and he looks stern and much older now. “I’m from a village in the Eastern Cape. I saw your work in the newspaper. It said that you can predict how much the crops will grow.”
I nod, saying, “I can also find out what’s wrong with the crops. I’m working on refining a new technique that uses autoluminescent phytosensor plants.”
His brown eyes widen like I’m speaking another language, and I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh. “Using what plants now?” he asks.
“Autoluminescent phytosensor plants. We call them ALPS. They are plants that we have altered so that they can tell us when they are in danger. All we do is change the plants’ DNA so that it lights up when something is wrong, like being exposed to a poison or something in the soil.”
“The crops light up? Like a lamp?”
“It’s more like moonlight. It’s difficult to explain. It’s easier once you have seen it.”
“I want to see it. I want you to bring this technology to the village. The crops are dying and the rains have not come. People keep falling ill. The villagers and other farmers in the community have started to become suspicious of each other. They believe someone has bewitched them. I don’t know what to believe … but I want to try to find out what’s going on with the crops. It’s our only source of food and income. Will you help us?”
In his eyes, I see the kindness I sensed earlier but I also feel comfortable around Bambatha. There’s something about him that makes me feel like I should trust him.
“I had planned to take this technology to test on a real farm soon anyway. Of course I’ll help you.”
He sighs, relieved. “Thank you. That is wonderful news.”
“When is the ukucamagusha?” I ask.
“The ceremony to ask the ancestors for help?”
Bambatha looks shocked and takes a step back.
“How did you know we had planned that ceremony?” he asks.
“What do you mean?” I reply.
“How did you know that we are doing ukucamagusha? It’s not very common and I didn’t tell you that we practised that ritual.”
I panic. How did I know that? The thought had just popped into my head and I said it without thinking. I try to smile but I feel the same fear that I have in my dreams grip around my throat. I can’t remember how I knew about that. It feels like … it feels like I dreamt it.
“I just guessed,” I lie. “If the villagers are scared, they need to ask the ancestors for assistance soon, right?”
“Yes, that’s true,” he says but he still sounds unsettled.
“Really,” I try to convince him. “It was just a lucky guess. It’s not like I can predict the crops and the future.”
He nods but doesn’t say anything.
In my mind, I keep hearing my own words over and over again: ‘It’s not like I can predict the future’. But what if I can?
Tell us what you think: Is it possible to dream of future events?