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THE universe is engulfed with darkness and the night is absolutely still. My mind is crystal clear and I enjoy the serenity that the still of the night presents. I am not familiar with my surroundings, and although I seem to be far away from humanity it feels okay, because Clinton, my son is with me.
We wander about silently ... aimlessly. The silence is shattered as a deafening sound heads straight towards us. Bright lights, seemingly attached to the sound, grow bigger and brighter as they speedily approach us. Then there’s a screeching noise ... a nauseating thud ... and once again ... silence.
Then I’m alone. Where is Clinton? Suddenly I am conscious of the dark and fear sets in. “Clinton!” I scream as I try to gather my thoughts. “I’m in bed,” I think out loud as I look around dazed. The tranquil feeling of peace is replaced by anxiety as multiple questions flood my mind. “Was that a dream? Where is Clinton? Why did it feel so real?” With my heart pounding loudly in my chest and sweat trickling down my forehead, I reach for my alarm clock on the beside table. It is 1.37 am, Saturday, February 28, 2009.
Alarm clock in one hand, I gently try to massage away the knots which have formed in my stomach with the other. Then reality sets in. Clinton wasn’t at home when I went to bed that night. Overwhelmed by anxiety, I make my way towards Clinton’s room. I take quick steps at first, slowing down as I get nearer to the door. It’s impossible to ignore the nagging pain in my stomach. With one hand still trying to massage away the pain, I slowly open the door.
Taking deep breaths in an attempt to alleviate the mounting anxiety, I cautiously enter the room and switch the light on. It feels as if my wind has just been knocked out. The room is empty! Body trembling and mind all over the place, I head back to my room and creep into bed. Dennis, my husband, reaches out and folds his arm around me.
“What’s wrong?” he whispers.
“Something has happened to Clinton,” is my soft reply. “Something has happened to Clinton.” He gently strokes my hair and repeatedly says: “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
Dennis falls asleep almost immediately, with his arm still wrapped around me. While wrestling with my thoughts, I shut my eyes, hoping to catch 40 winks before morning. Finally I’m relaxed, but exhausted. Then, just as I’m about to fall asleep, I hear a quiet eternal voice, “Go to Copesville”, it prompts. Simultaneously, I see with my mind’s eye flashing lights of a police car and an EMRS vehicle on a dark stretch of road. With a jolt I sit upright on the bed. Faith gives way to fear. Everything within me is screaming to get up and go. My hand moves towards Dennis in a attempt to nudge him, to awaken him. I stop abruptly. What do I tell him? How do I explain myself?
Finally, I decide against giving a voice to my fears. After all, this is crazy.
“Maybe it’s a side effect of the antidepressants I’ve been on for the last three months,” I think.
“It’s the medication,” I tell myself over and over. It’s a few hours before daybreak and I fight the urge to take another sleeping pill. I’ve taken two already, double the prescribed amount. As I lie awake, starring blankly into space, my mind drifts to recent events that led to a psychiatric evaluation and a diagnosis of major depression. The emotional pain is vivid and tears stream down my face as I recall the darkest journey of my life that left me physically, emotionally and spiritually crippled.
It all started in January 2004 and by December 2008 I was at the end of my tether. Morning seems so far off as I squeeze the longest five years of my life into these few hours before daybreak.
Finally, it’s morning. I get out of bed, exhausted. I’ve managed to convince myself that the medication has caused me to hallucinate. I dare not tell Dennis about the vision. But by now I am very concerned about Clinton. It is uncharacteristic of him to sleep out.
Tuesday, March 4 at 10 am, I am standing underneath a tree, trying to escape from the scorching heat at Alexandra Police Station. I am relaxed as I watch Dennis and the officer in charge have a brief conversation.
We are in the process of opening a missing persons docket, and the officer didn’t recognise Clinton from the picture we were carrying. We had decided to check in at the morgue just to tie up some loose ends, and the officer obliged when Dennis requested to view unidentified bodies. Dennis stands slightly behind the officer as he opens the gates and I’m not surprised when they emerge about three minutes later. Surely this is a good sign. We had made inquiries at all the local hospitals and police stations over the weekend and surely no news is good news.
Then I look at Dennis. His countenance has fallen. His shoulders have dropped. He doesn’t have to say anything. I let out a blood curdling scream as I walk straight into his outstretched arms.
Gently wrapping his arms around me he says: “Come and have a look at our son.” I look at the officer questioningly. Extending his hand to me sympathetically he says: “I’m sorry.”
He was in an accident on the R33 to Copesville.
He died on February 28. At half past two. He died at the scene of the accident.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Denise Gilden was born on October 24, 1959 in Richmond, in the Northern Cape. Her father’s love for reading prompted her to pick up her first book at the age of 10. It was a novel by James Hadley Chase. She read it from cover to cover and a love for books was born.