The Unremembered Country


 Now is tomorrow and yesterday…

I wake up with Onamandla.

Ona was a basketball player when we met. I was embarrassed to go out with her at first because she was so much taller than me. At six four she had me by six inches, and she liked wearing heels. It surprised me that I was feeling held back just because she was bigger than me because I found her very attractive. I couldn’t believe I was so insecure. But Ona was persistent and patient with my stupidity.

But this is no basketball player nor is basketball even known to the people of this strange village I’ve awakened in. Instead, after a morning ritual and feast, my Amazonian ex goes out to wrestle a golden bull. A crowd gathers to cheer her on.

“She won’t harm the bull,” says a hooded stranger suddenly standing beside me. “Their people value the sanctity of all life.”

“Of course they do,” I play along.

“You have no idea what’s going on,” the stranger says.

“Of course I…”

“That’s Nguvu Onamandla, she joined a religious exploratory mission launched from west Africa who found themselves upon the Americas. Nguvu’s people were deeply introspective and pondered the larger stage of the universe with unceasing reverence and curiosity. To discover what happened to the Sun at night, when it apparently sank into the ocean, her society launched expeditions of discovery every year. The explorers were not to return without an answer. In their quest they watched the Sun outrace them again and again, overhead at noon but far beyond them by dark, until they hit the shores of America. To continue, to discover the answer, they would have to move across the land, again into the unknown.  I’m Mike,” says the man reaching out to shake my hand, appearing about my age with a friendly demeanor. Hold on!

This is the guy who appeared to me just before I woke up in post op. This is the guy who followed Doctor Bijksana the last time. Be cool. “Modern handshake? Modern name?”

“Modern? That’s a meaningless phrase. Still a little confused?”

Why is this guy on me? I do my best to stay inconspicuous. “What can I do for you, Mike?”

“It’s what I thought I could do for you,” says Mike. “One day you wake up and have no idea where the hell you are – even though you’ve been there all along, at least according to everyone else. Sound familiar?”

I involuntarily draw a deep breath of relief. Someone else knows.  Someone else in this crazy cavalcade knows! “How do you know?”

“I’m not from here, either, but I’ve been at this a bit longer than you have.”

“You’re a time traveler, too?”

Time travel is impossible. It’s a fantasy that people wish could come true so they can visit dead relatives and pets,” Mike lectures, leading me away from the crowd. “Just like ghosts, time travel is a poorly-conceived attempt to distract us from the hell of our regrets.”

I look around at the primitive village. “This isn’t our past?”

“Stop thinking like you’re watching one of your science fiction shows,” Mike advises. “Have you ever actually thought about so called time travel? Think about it as just one event that you want to revisit…

“Where did that event happen? Under a tree in a meadow? Sure. But where else? On a continent. Then on a planet, in the Solar System, in the Milky Way Galaxy, and so on. All of these things are in motion through space, so if you’re going back to the event you have to travel through space to get back to the time. You have to turn back the clock not only on your little scene, but on the entire cosmos. And if you do reach the right space, where is the event? Is every moment that ever happens always happening somewhere? Is everything that ever happened actually recorded somewhere to be played back and even re-written, over and over again until what originally happened is smeared and unintelligible? Time travel is ridiculous. Everything is happening now.”

Mike seems so confident. How can he know these things? Is he my fairy godfather? My own personal Ghost of Christmas Whenever? 

Nah, he said ghosts aren’t real. Reality can’t be that much of a cliché.

“So why… why! … am I…?”

“This isn’t the place,” Mike says, noticing native eavesdroppers becoming concerned with the strange tongue spoken by these outsiders. “They’re starting to think we’re bewitched. Let’s take a walk in the woods. I can help you along your journey…”