Hallo. My name is Thomas Bloch. I am lying in a bed in a military hospital. This is 1967. This body I am wearing is full of holes, dents, cuts and bruises. It is slowly growing together again. And when it is satisfactorily regrown, they are going to hang it.
Around me bustles the army camp called Tempe, in the middle of that blood and sweat and tear-stained country called South Africa: a stupid name for a country. It will be called Azania after the Revolution.
This body is smallish, about five foot ten - but it's a well-formed thing with good proportions and I would be happy with it if it weren't for the pain. The hair is a little too fuzzy and the nose just a bit too big. I will have just turned seventeen when they hang me.
I entered this body at ten in the morning in February 1949. This was a good time to be born, as this, early in the morning there was a fresh shift of doctors and nurses in the Brentwood Nursing Home, so they didn't fuck up my grand entrance. So I'm an Aquarian, one of the people for whom this current age is supposed to have been made. I haven't as yet come across any evidence to support this theory.
I want to tell you how I got here, how I ended up in this hospital, and why all these people keep pestering me with their stupid questions.
It began when I met Pieter. Or when we met Absolom. Or when my mother met my father. Or when the world began.
I sometimes think that I know everything, see everything, remember all my past lives, can see into other people's past lives, am, in other words, omniscient and possibly God. Pieter tells me that I cannot possibly be God, as he was told on good authority that God was killed by a number 37 bus in 1973. Since this is in the future, I will have to explain all that. Or I will let Pieter do it.
I don't really have the time to trace the history of the earth and show how it landed me here sore all over. Also, I can't get enough paper in this stupid place. I have to beg Nurse Van Tonder to get it for me. She isn't sympathetic. 'Why you got to waste your time on this? Why you don't write to your mother?'
Mommy and Daddy came to visit me last week, when I still had bandages wrapped around most of me. All I wanted was a piss, and I couldn't call Van Tonder to bring the bottle because that would offend the parents. As a result I must have seemed pretty rude. Mother left in tears. I always manage to squeeze water out of her for some reason. It's never my fault.
Time warp. Johannesburg 1948. Everything in black and white except for a couple of specks of pallid colour. A grimy smoke-smeared station. Full of all races of swarming people and loud with the Ouf-wheeze of steam trains pulling in and out.
A particular train. They called it the Blue Train. Its carriages are squeaky-clean and paneled in yellow- wood and mahogany and the First Class carriages are modeled on the Orient Express.
We have to pass those and go to the Second Class. I'll spare you the Third Class because that's too much like India. A particularly handsome young man at a train window, bidding his mother goodbye. She is pressing packages into his reluctant hands - cold chicken, biscuits, sandwiches, tomatoes already splitting and musty boiled eggs flaking bits of calcium dandruff. Little Jewish lady in a shawl, her eyes with tears. Inside the carriage, his best friend Phil who has no mother is bidding a noisy and embarrassing goodbye to a girlfriend.
Handsome Danny is embarrassed because he's twenty-eight years old and unmarried, and his mother is making a scene. He is in the process of becoming a successful businessman in a very small way - with rocking horses. He gives his mama more than half his earnings. She thinks he's a bit funny - but vunderful. She also thinks he's crazy to work so hard when he should be going out and finding a pretty Jewish girl to marry.