“The belief in providence, the outline of world history, the cosmic horizon against which world history is set, the scope and dreamlike nature [Phantastik] of the visions, the concealment of the writer, the seething eschatology the computations of the End Time, the apocalyptic science, the symbolism of numbers and secret language, the doctrine of angels and the hope for an afterlife – all are elements which determine the structure of the apocalypse.”                                                                                                                                         – Taubes, J., 2009. Occidental eschatology. Stanford University Press, p.43 

Snell Parade, Durban, December 1999. 


Dan tipped Bev, waited for her to thank him, and muscled his way through the crowd to where Shad and Ty sat at their table for the night. Dan was irritated that the wind outside had ruined his cigarette, which only partly explained his attitude. He sidled over to the table, tongued his burnt lip, felt unfulfilled. 

Had they been anywhere else, Dan would have leant against the wall. Dan was a leaner, a lean-and-leerer. He was Dangerous-Dan Anders, had The Boss’s ear, and liked to think people knew that. You couldn’t lean in Jimmy Slick’s Bar & Grill though. The collective exhalations and perspirations of The Usual Crowd sat heavy inside the bar and built an inverse wall of hot breath that dripped from the mirrored ceiling to the mirrored walls, leaving them wet and wholly unsuited to leaning. 

The Usual Crowd, that congregation of communal secrets, had never asked who Jimmy was or why he was Slick, even after he’d got the old name of the bar replaced. No one seemed to have missed the old neon sign blinking ‘The Lion’s Den’ above the parking lot. After a while, everyone had forgotten that it used to be called ‘The Lion’s Den’ at all. In Durban, it seemed, all you needed to be Jimmy and Slick was to say you were Jimmy Slick, provided you said it often enough and loud enough in the company of those who mattered. 


‘You see that! He did. He did it again!’ Dan, irate. 

‘Just leave it man. You’re dreaming again,’ said Shad, whose idea of a night’s relief, unlike Dan and Ty, did not involve a fight. There was always, with Dan, this desire to guard the honour of the group. To speak for them. Last night’s liquor sloshed and gurgled in their bellies as the three of them, sensing what was to come, feigned deliberation. Shad reached again for Dan’s arm. Touch might slow him down, pull him back from the jaws of the proverbial big cat reflected in Dan’s eyes. 

‘You don’t just blow kisses at ohs though,’ said Ty, twice.

‘Right,’ said Dan, or at least it sounded like, “Right.” Nine double Bols Blues had stunted Dan’s already sub-par diction, but eight trips to the toilet cubicle had brought the worst parts of it back, so that what came out of his mouth now was unadulterated thought; unfiltered by that mesh of reason found in a frontal lobe which had been repeatedly shaken by the cocktail of cocaethylene governing the voice in Dan’s head. Words were just sounds to Dan now, stripped of any semiotic value they may have once had, indecipherable blurs. Just strange, indeterminate noises that moved in and out without time or reference, adding background music to the running smash-up about to ensue. 

‘You just don’t blow kisses at ohs though,’ said Ty again. The tattooed words 'Only God Can Judge' Me splayed on Dan’s back became visible. Shad wanted to lean forward and touch him, to put one hand on Dan’s shoulder, look him in the eyes and say, “Stop it.” Shad wanted to do this, but he couldn’t, so he didn’t. And then: 

‘Here we go.’


Everyone had said the shot was an absolute Howler—a Big Dip, a Bullseye. Constable Siphiwe Okunye turned his head at the sound, mockcharged a bit and leant on Vincent Dibble’s shoulder when he saw the mess it had made. Three AM and the palm trees wept rain, soaking the promenade below, spurred by a violent onshore wind that, in an hour or two, would have surfers up and down the coast cursing their ceilings while barometers played the fool on their walls. Stragglers and strandloopers, carrying eons of cumulative Durban tan on their leathery backs, hid from the storm, mollusc-like, in the cracks and fissures that scarred the Art Deco masterpieces of yesteryear. Hard-shelled membranes, earned over countless hungry days in the Durban sun, buried these coastal-homeless in the night. Their living was paid in skin and the detritus of once used ice-cream wrappers, which the rain swept over the promenade into gurgling drains. It gave them a unique camouflage amid the lazy half-darkness of the morning, concealing all but their eyes from the storm that raged around them. There was heat there, so much heat, but a different kind. It oozed out of the sand like a burp, infused inauspiciously with the sea air as if it thought no one was watching. A heat that made you sweat the kind of sweat you only smelt there at the end of North Beach Pier, Durban. The carpark that Daniel’s body lay in, seeping crimson into the rising storm water, stank of it.


They went there to remember, and they went there to forget: The Usual Crowd. They went there every Saturday. They went there to remember, and they went there to forget, until they couldn’t remember what they’d forgotten, struggled to forget what they needed to remember, and just danced. They went there to pretend to be people they would eventually become, and when they had they would reproach themselves in the company of friends while asking, ‘Oat milk in your rooibos?’ on bigger verandas further up the coast. That would happen, eventually. 

The night Dan was shot, they’d swayed themselves down Jimmy’s stairs, they’d howled in misshapen queues for hot-dogs, they’d sung slurred words to lyricless songs with no melody. The smell of fried onions wafted up over the promenade and merged with the heat and the sea air and all that was left was the flick-clap of flip-flops slapping their alabaster heels as the drunken orchestra of the mid-December morning wound down, coaxing the coastal homeless out of their shells.


Daniel’s body lay there, stoksielaleen, while all around it people screamed this and that, as if they knew the point. Practically apocalyptic, until Dan had opened an eye. 

Daniel in The Lion's Den