On the third day, as usual he woke up to find the pill by his bed. Muzi studied it and decided that he didn’t need any more of the pills. He had never felt so relaxed. The withdrawal must be over. But as he made this decision Tabane came into his room. Muzi knew that he wouldn’t leave before he had taken the pill, and so he swallowed it.
After breakfast all the participants gathered on the green patch of grass behind the building for exercise. As Muzi was stretching, the skinny guy with the wary eyes approached him.
“Good day brother. My name is Goodwill – glad to make your acquaintance. Excuse me for having not introduced myself to you upon your arrival.” His voice was rough, as though he hadn’t used it in a long time.
“Muzi … I’m Muzi.” Muzi shook Goodwill’s hand. He was amused by the peculiar man. “So, Goodwill, what brings you here? How are you finding it? I must say I have never felt more relaxed and I have been to a few rehabs. It’s lovely.”
Goodwill shook his head. His eyes darted around him fearfully as though he was scared of the other inmates. When he spoke, he was whispering so that the others couldn’t overhear.
“You have to stop taking the pills they give you so that you can see clearly what is happening here. This place is anything but lovely. Have you noticed how the guru speaks and everyone obeys him? How there are no counselling sessions? How this is more like a cult than a rehab? It is too late for them,” he pointed at the others. “Look how drugged they are and obedient. But I haven’t been here long, nor has Gayle over there,” he pointed to the woman with the ravaged face.
As they looked at her, two of the ‘helpers’ who worked at the rehab came up to Gayle and talked to her in low voices. Muzi couldn’t hear what they were saying but Gayle went back with the men inside the building. One of them was holding her elbow and guiding her.
“Do you know where they are taking her? For the next stage of her treatment. Watch, when you see her again she will be more like them. Puppets of the guru. Brainwashed puppets who will do anything he commands. But we must resist, Muzi. We are strong enough. We have still got a chance. We need to run away as far as possible from here. Before they come to fetch you for your next treatment you must flee.”
“What are you talking about?” Muzi asked Goodwill. But before Goodwill could reply Tabane came rushing to them, scolding Goodwill to return to his room. Soon Goodwill was being escorted away by the two men who had taken Gayle.
Muzi was confused. He turned to Tabane and asked what Goodwill had done to be sent to his room.
“Don’t let Goodwill get into your head,” Tabane told him. “He’s very shrewd, but he is unstable. Stay as far away as possible from him and his conspiracy theories. He is not right in the head and he won’t be good for your recovery. Now, Mr Radebe, please come with me. We have to go to the guru now. He has asked to see you.
On the way to the guru they walked past a group of men and women. They smiled at Muzi serenely as they exercised. Was Goodwill right? Muzi stared at them. Their facial expressions were all exactly the same.
As Muzi stood in front of the guru in the foyer he heard a disturbing noise coming from down the passage that led off the hall. It was as sound of distress, a high shrieking sound.
“Don’t mind that,” said the guru calmly when he saw the look of alarm on Muzi’s face. “It’s part of the withdrawal. I am sure you are familiar with that. Mr Radebe … now pay attention to me.”
His voice was hypnotizing and Muzi felt he was being sucked in by the guru’s eyes and soothed by his voice. “You’re a deeply bothered spirit, aren’t you, Mr Radebe?” His white teeth gleamed.
“I don’t …”
“Yes Mr Radebe. I can tell that you are not well from your breathing pattern, the texture and colour of your skin; and your eyes. It’s been a while since you truly loved yourself. You are plagued by the question of your existence. You don’t know where to go nor who to become … Am I lying?”
“Yes … I mean no, you are right, I don’t know where to turn. Yes. Yes … I’m struggling, clutching at loose straws. I can’t find my purpose.”
“Now don’t worry. You came to the right place for your salvation. You shall go through our gates a free man, with direction and purpose.”
Muzi nodded. He wanted to believe that so badly but then he thought of Goodwill and what he had warned of never leaving House of Astra.
“I think you are ready for your next treatment,” said the guru, nodding his head and smiling.
Tell us: What do you think of the guru, so far?