“South African Folklore is in its very nature plain, and primitive in its simplicity; not adorned with the wealth of palaces and precious stones to be met with in the folklore of more civilized nations; but descriptive in great measure of the events of everyday life, among those in a low state of civilization; and with the exception of evidences of moral qualities, and of such imagery as is connected with the phenomena of nature, very little that is grand or magnificent must be looked for in it.”

– W.H.I. Bleek, ‘Preface to The South African Folk-lore Journal, Vol I. Part I’, 1879. The South African Folk-lore Journal. Saul Solomon & Co. 



Let me tell you a story. With your permission, of course. Let me tell you how a soutjie like me came back to find the end of these things in a place where nothing ever happens. A place the News would eventually come to forget, where Blue Flag statuses would be lost, where people would wail, sunburnt and yearning for shade, hiding behind Sundays alone. Please forgive my tendency for the tangential but it must be said, all of it. Said because it’s a story about power and problems, deep sea mammals, and the end of the world – in Durban. 


Clarification of story[1]: Nothing overly Mother Shipton &c. and less loquacious than Uncle Michel. I would like to believe it to be far more infused with the realpolitik of the age. Counters clocking on the horizon, threatening to digitally erase the past hundred years, scuppering a future. The Bureau were calling it the Y2K Problem, and a problem it was. They had employed my services based on a DPhil I’d been working on and had provided a flurry of sudden funding. They were clearly flinging money at this. I did not complain. Even though I had emigrated to Bergen back in ’95, it felt somehow honourable to have some sort of connection to South Africa again. To ‘lend a hand’, to play my part, if you wouldn’t mind. And they were paying me. I am an occidental eschatologist[2]. In rare social situations, or on even rarer dates, my confidence compounded by a tendency to overindulge in both liquor and myself alike, I might refer to myself as an ‘apocalypse hunter’. Although, that makes it sound more exciting than it is. What I was really doing was working on a paper[3] analysing numerological patterns in monotheistic narrative strands within the eschatology of the occident, searching for correlations between potential climacteric sequences, 32-bit integers and 10-character date-based fields for ICL South Africa’s Y2K Bureau[4]. It was riveting stuff. I believed that it may prevent the end of the world. The Bureau believed we were being held hostage by mischievous data, and I was tasked with getting it to behave. I digress. At the time, I was struggling through a particularly garrulous verse of Daniel II when the fax came through. It was the kind of office you might call ‘nondescript’, riddled with stereotypical banalities one might expect to find in a space provided for two doctoral students in a fiercely underfunded philosophy department. The room was bellicosely lit with humming fluorescent strip lights that only seemed to make the oncoming Norwegian winter seem more ominous. Although Bjarne and I had tried to decorate the place neither of us had much of an eye for interior design, we hadn’t done a great job, and I can’t say I ever really enjoyed my time in there. 


Description of Bjarne: Portly-short, ruddy faced, bespectacled with a bucolic air on account of his drinking habits which had immediately endeared me towards him. Void of humour in the morning and plain of dress. Noticeably less barbigerous than those imagined Nordmanni that flute and skoot and go a’ viking on the television screens of the West. Less of an idiot than me in the school of rhetoric. He had arrived in Bergen from Kaupanger, southeast of Songdal, presumably exhausted by the sound of aeroplanes flying overhead and had mentioned some historical connection he had to Durban. Generally congenial, evidently rural. Letters addressed to Bjarne Karlsen with the letterhead ‘Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk, Kongsberg Gruppen ASA’[5] arrived regularly enough for me to surmise that he must have been receiving funding from them. Either that, or he had a surreptitious sweetheart in their employment with a penchant for bureaucratic correspondence. Bjarne had been studying semiotic shifts in the structure of whale song brought about by the advent of the 20th century floating factory ship and its subsequent deployment in the whaling grounds of the Indian Ocean[6]. He believed the whales had been trying to tell us something, back then in the 70s, and was trying to establish what that might have been. I mostly dismissed his work as pataphysical flimflam being, myself, employed in the explicit prevention of the ultimate and final reckoning. 


Description of shared office: Scantly decorated, barring a few photos from home I’d pinned up on the corkboard. Bjarne’s contributions were A) framed sepia print of bearded Norwegian. Below glass, on a little brass plaque mounted on the frame, the moniker ‘Sven Foyn 1809-1894’. B) The lyrics to Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, handwritten and tacked up to the board. Sometimes I would come to the office and find him kneeling, looking up at the board in a state of lonely reverence muttering something to himself. When I came across him like this, he’d always get quickly to his feet and shuffle back to his desk as if I’d caught him doing something he shouldn’t. 


Bjarne and I, for want of any genuine acquaintances, spent most of our time together. His taste in music was questionable, overly metallic, but I endured it for want of anyone else with whom to share my post-work ramblings. We didn’t have many friends in Bergen. For me, it was all lines and endpoints, starts and finishes, races through and against time. I was required to send monthly reports back to the Bureau and spent my days chiselling them out. Bjarne, as far as I was aware, was doing the same. We were, it must be said, desperate to escape the tedium of the room. Desperate to escape the city. Desperate to escape the winter. Hungry for something resembling danger, dreaming always of our previously imagined lives. Which is how we were feeling when the fax came through our little Panasonic KXF 2060. We worked in silence, mostly. So, when the dial tone on the fax machine started up we were taken by excited surprise and made an odd sort of eye contact immediately. A fax in the middle of the month? Irregular. We sent our respective findings off on the 28th and 29th of each month respectively, like clockwork, like schoolwork, like work. The routine never broke, and yet here we were. Terms set, modulation tested, sound checked, digital hands shook – a cacophony of information being negotiated somewhere untouchable. Bjarne’s left eyebrow raised continually towards the ceiling, then then the rhythmic pump of the printer churning the cartridge paper out bit by bit out through the mouthpiece of the machine. A neat, typed letter pushed its way slowly out.

Contents of fax[7]:

SAPS Occult Related Crimes Unit

Point Police Station

42 Masonic Road





Room 21B

Iniversitetet i Bergen

Institut for filosofi og forstesemesterstudier 




7th November 1996


For the attention of Messrs Dibble and Karlsen,


Please forgive the expedient medium of delivery but time is short. We have grounds to believe that your respective research, while seemingly disparate, may in fact be linked. To expound this link, we require both your expressed attention and, with hope, action. 


You ask, ‘What shall be the end of these things?’ Well, there is certain broker in our employment, a causal agent performing a semantic role, who believes he might be able to show you. This broker has, under our expressed direction, been covertly monitoring the activities of local musical act – and you must know that I use the term ‘music’ liberally here, heavy-metal no less – operating out of The Bluff. 


This ‘band’, Carcinogenocide, are prepping the launch of their sophomore EP, ‘Anything you WantYou Götterdämmerung’ set for release in January 1999. There are clear indications of expedient links between this event and covert efforts to frustrate any obstructions to the eventual arrival of the Y2K Catastrophe, which you well know could potentially spell The End of The World. Remember, South African Satanists focus on committing crimes and Carcinogenocide are already described as having a “cult” following. I am confident you would agree that a chance to expediate the apocalypse, the final reckoning, the revelation itself, must be considered the greatest crime of all.   


As such, we politely request your attendance at the SAPS-ORCU crisis symposium, to be held at the Seaman’s Institute and Rest this December. We believe we may be in possession of answers to at least some of your questions. 


Please RSVP via secure correspondence at your earliest convenience but for your own sake, do not delay. 




Dr. Lt. Col. Kobus ‘The Hound of God’ Hindernislauf,

1st Master of The House




The SAPS ORCU is graciously indebted to Anathematic Illimited, a subsidiary of Saturnalia Pharmaceutical™, without whose gracious generosity we would be unable to continue our vital efforts in our fight for the light.


Certainly something, if not a little prosaic. Whether or not we believed it at that initial stage remains unclear – our disbelief, however, would not necessarily render it untrue. Regardless of its authenticity, it immediately garnered in us both a sharp sense of anticipation. It did this, upon reflection, for two reasons: 1) Someone, anyone, had been engaging in our respective research on their own accord. We were being read. The thought seemed to blow a gust of hope in the direction of that sulky, solipsistic pall that hung constantly over us in that godforsaken room. 2) It meant fieldwork, escape, a reprise from the conceptual, the arbitrary, the nuts-and-bolts drudgery of the supine nature of raw academia. It meant South Africa in the summer, sunshine, sand (and, by the sound of things, satanists…)[8]. Straight away, we conferred over the viability of an excursion concluding that neither of us had much, if anything, to lose. Although I didn’t articulate it to Bjarne – we had our secrets – I thought, perhaps selfishly, that even if little came of it, I’d still be in South Africa for Christmas. Back there, in the heat and the confusion of a place I had run away from too long ago. And now, summoned back by some apocalyptic lure. Leaving had fused a longing to my soul. A longing I’d since smothered with work and work and work, but you can’t ever really leave. Can you? You can escape, sure, but it only really morphs you into some canonical wanderer, home and place swap clothes constantly until they seem to conflate entirely and you’re no longer sure what it is you’re missing other than time imaginary. Leaving you to act out some perpetual death in every moment away. To be a whole, I thought, you must join a whole.

So that’s what we did. Little did we know that this hasty decision was itself going to cause a whole lot of trouble. Which is, looking back, how Bjarne and I came to spend that summer in Durban. With more questions than answers – drunk, anxious, paranoid, and sunburnt. Led on into a universe of confusion, wondering how the apparent end-of-the-line had been there all along, waiting at my beginning. How I introduced Bjarne to the Usual Crowd – that collection of secrets shared, Mucklestone’s role in it all, our coastal folly into the Kingdom of The Zulu, how we crossed the Tugela, a tale of flies and lions feeding on the ghosts of whales in that Babylon by The Sea. How a couple of cooped up mavens ended up cajoling up and down the coast, collapsing in Durban, South Africa’s Playground, with the wicked, the foolish and the free. 


Let me tell you a story. 



Prologue  The Wicked, The Foolish & The Free