This is Episode 2. To read from the beginning, all posts are published in reverse order here.
Written by Niki Moore…… In which our heroine becomes interested, despite herself.
Meanwhile, life continued in the Castle of the Undead. The puzzling pain and crippling stiffness would come and go with no discernible pattern. Even in my lucid moments I had all the energy and enthusiasm of a dish of cold boiled string.
I had abandoned any idea of working. I was terrified of answering the phone and nauseous at the idea of opening e-mails. The prospect of simple errands loomed like a dentist appointment. Talking to anyone was out of the question. Without wishing to labour the point, if a Mariana Trench of Misery existed, I was right down there with all the other bottom-feeding sea-dwellers, waiting to get evolution over with in one go.
And if you are asking why I was not camped out on the doctor’s doorstep, bawling for help, I can only say that I had no idea what I was supposed to tell him: “Doc, I’m fine now, but you should have seen me a few hours ago!”
And then, three months later, something happened that changed everything. That neighbour arrived on my doorstep again.
His name is Andre, and he rather resembles a rugby player gone to seed. I was to discover that Andre has enormous energy, an extremely good nature, helpfulness in spades, and the attention span of a gnat.
He began by telling me that he had, indeed, gone to the local paper as I had recommended. The story had been printed, but nothing had changed. He repeated his tale of this strange conspiracy by MTN and the city to put up cell masts with no due process, and how it was making him sick. And how he was unable to get any answers.
I was not in the mood for this. I made an excuse to get rid of him … but, as I was about to turn away, something surfaced from the depths of my misery. Curiosity opened one eye.
I turned back.
“How are you sick?” I asked. “What are the symptoms?”
“Terrible headaches,” he replied. “Horrible body pain, your muscles feel like they’re on fire, your skin feels sunburnt, your mind is fuzzy and you can’t sleep ….”
I stared at him in wild surmise.
“But … but … but … that is exactly what I’ve been feeling!” I said in astonishment.
His face took on a smug expression.
“Well, then, you’re getting it too,” he said. “Most of the people in this street are feeling sick.”
“But, but, but …” I sputtered like a two-stroke engine. “You say this is caused by these new cell masts? But there aren’t any cell masts around here!”
“Yes, there are. There is one right there” – and he pointed away, across the road, to where the view was blocked by houses and trees.
“Where? I don’t see anything!” I was still ready to argue. A cell mast? Causing me to feel like week-old cat’s mince? What nonsense!
“Let me come in and I’ll show you,” he said. And so he went with me into the house and upstairs, where he pointed out of a window. And there, standing grimly like the Eye of Sauron, was the antenna of a cell mast, around 100 metres away and directly in line with my bedroom.
The wild surmise was now working overtime. ‘How did that get there?’ I marvelled. Cell masts aren’t supposed to just pop up in people’s backyards like malignant mushrooms. As I well knew from the multiple stories in newspapers where communities got up on their hind legs in opposition to proposed cell masts, there was an entire process to follow. None of that had happened here.
According to Andre, the masts were not only illegal, but were pumping out huge volumes of radiation and most people in the neighbourhood were being affected.
Charged up with righteous indignation and – let’s face it – incredulousness, I promised Andre that I would investigate.
There were two issues here: I had to find out more about electromagnetic frequency radiation (called EMF, for future reference) and whether this was indeed the cause of my mysterious ailments. And I had to get answers about how MTN had managed to bypass legal processes.
I fired up the computer and began to research.
And I read, open-mouthed, as page after page detailed exactly the same symptoms that I had, along with facetious disclaimers from cell companies and earnest discussions from scientists. It seemed there was something in this.
What happened next might sound a little bit loopy from the safety of distance, but when one is half-crazed with pain – and fighting an invisible enemy – one does strange things to get it to stop.
To start with, all I wanted was a safe place to sleep. So … I became a fully paid-up member of the tinfoil hat brigade. I was working off a zero base of knowledge and the next few days were a festival of outlandish ideas.
That first night I went to the kitchen and got my largest cast-iron soup pot, put it over my head and tied it firmly under my chin with a bow. I have no idea if it worked or not, because eventually I got sick of the smell of soup and took it off.
A tinfoil helmet didn’t work well either. In fact, the hat was completely traumatising… after a fitful and crackly night’s sleep I woke up to total darkness.
“I’ve gone blind!” I shouted in panic to the world at large. Until I realised that the bandanna holding the helmet in place had merely slipped down over my eyes.
I fashioned a kind of sleeping bag from space blankets, but it made a noise and I couldn’t breathe. I made up a bed in various rooms, even the kitchen floor and under the stairs, but there did not seem to be much difference.
I won’t embarrass myself by detailing any of the more extravagant schemes, but the next few weeks were taken up with feverish trials and errors, none of which seemed to work.
Then the idea that had been knocking on the gate of my attention finally found the doorbell.
I remembered that my cell phone had never worked in my garage – the building is below the house with impenetrably thick walls and a steel door. A signal had never been able to penetrate. That would have to be one place where I should be safe!
So when evening came, cold and rainy, I traipsed down the stairs, jammie-beclad – with a sleeping bag, pillow, torch, book, fluffy slippers, cat tucked under one arm and my evening nip of sherry in a hipflask.
That night I slept the sleep of the dead and woke refreshed, pain-free and ready for anything. I felt like Asterix after his magic potion, complete with oscillating feet.
With one problem apparently solved, I could now investigate how this whole thing had come about.
I had no idea – in those early days – that my car would become my home, on and off, for the next two years. And even less idea of what I was up against.
I was fighting my own scepticism about the health effects of cell masts (my friends and family thought I was nuts), I was about to take on a flagrantly corrupt city council, and I wanted answers from a notoriously unethical multi-million-rand multi-national corporate bandit.
It was to be a bumpy ride.
And while my opponents would be coasting over their legal potholes in tax-payer-funded luxury 4×4’s, I would be trundling along in a supermarket trolley – you know, the one with the manky front wheel…..
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this series of articles are purely those of the writer, they are not endorsed by Safrea or any of its members.