I return to the cave behind the koppie one last time. I’m alone. My story-teller has finished his story now. Still I am drawn to this place where the veld stretches out to the smudge-blue mountains. It is late afternoon, when the sun’s red-orange afterglow becomes a purple-haze dusk; when the air is alive with spirits.
Inside the cave, my hand traces the outlines of the eland and the hunter who stands, bow and arrow poised, taking aim at the beast. A shadow moves across the scene and I turn to see the figure of a man outlined against the burning sunset. For a moment I think it’s the story-teller. But no, this is someone else.
He’s dressed in a long blanket; a string of beads decorates his head. He carries a long, stout stick which he lays against the cave entrance before stepping silently into the cave.
The San man.
He points at the eland and at the hunter. He turns to me and our eyes meet. His are the colour of the early morning sky. They tell me that he was that hunter and this was the first eland he ever killed. Killing an eland made him a man.
He beckons me over to another drawing. A lion and a man stand next to a bush which has strips of meat hanging from its branches. The man doesn’t fear the lion, because they are friends. The man shares his meat with the lion and the lion does the same with his kill. They belong to the land and the land belongs to them.
Together we walk to the cave entrance and stand looking out across the veld as the sky darkens; two tiny figures in a vast universe.
When I turn to look at him, he has gone.