Sabine: Five Years Later
Sabine knew that one of her migraine attacks was beginning.
They had been so numerous in the last four years that the prospect of spending a few days in bed didn't anger her, as it had in the beginning. She felt a bit of frustration and panic, but mostly resignation.
The frustration came from being forced to instantly drop her plans and projects, run home, close her bedroom curtains, turn out the lights, and lay in bed until the headache subsided.
The frustration also came from the certainty that her headaches were psychosomatic, yet no amount of reasoning and pleading with her idiotic body would help.
And there was the panic, which depended on how far she was from home. Would she make it before the pain became unbearable? Before she had to throw up?
But mostly, there was resignation. Absolutely nothing had helped. And there was no cure in sight.
With a sigh of exasperation, Sabine made a 180 turn on the bicycle path and began to cycle back to Leiden. Luckily, she was only in Warmond, which was some 5 km (3 miles) from Leiden. "How stupid of you to think you could have made it to Amsterdam," she said out loud. (Amsterdam was some 45 km = 30 miles from Leiden.) "Imagine your plight if the attack had started midway."
As she cycled past a colorful tulip field, she winced at the thought of having to spend this warm, sunny Spring day in her dark bedroom.
It was even one of the extremely rare days where the sky was cloudless. She suddenly remembered a television program she had seen (was it before or after the Jump?)
A man, who had spent many years in the Dutch Antilles had brought his 8-year-old son to the Netherlands for the first time. After a few days, the son asked his father "Papa, why has the sun broke down?".
Her attention was dragged back to her ever increasing migraine. Would she have to take those disgusting, animal-tested pain-killers again? Sometimes, the pain got so unbearable that she felt compelled to resort to them. Temporary relief, in exchange for guilt and numbness. She had tried herbal and homeopathic remedies to no avail. She had even tried switching to a raw-food diet, temporary succumbing to a raw foodist's claims that every ailment could be cured by raw food. All she got was a colitis attack on top of her migraine. (The raw foodist then insisted that she hadn't stuck to it long enough. Maybe so, she thought, but French fries help me psychologically.)
Leiden, 2 km. The red and white signs for cyclists were yet another link to her "past": 300 years in the future!
The colored strings in her long, blond hair had turned a beautiful purple under the radiant sun. Although Sabine's face was slightly contorted with pain, she remained strikingly beautiful. Several male cyclists heading the opposite direction almost collided with each other, their attention having been diverted from the bicycle path to her. She was wearing the same long blue coat and sneakers as the day of the Jump; they showed absolutely no signs of wear five years later.
Sabine's thoughts flitted back to the day of the Jump. It was a cold, cloudy day in the year 2290, and Sabine had an hour to kill before her train left. She was perusing the magazines at the Leiden Public Library when an issue entitled Een blik terug caught her eye. That issue covered the world of 1990, three hundred years in the past. It featured a very large section on the food animal industry, an institution almost unknown to Sabine, inasmuch as nearly the entire world had stopped eating animals. Sabine had only vague recollections of food animals, atomic wars, racism and other such barbary from her high school and university History classes.
Sabine checked out the magazine and, since she was running late, ran to catch her train. However, upon leaving the library, she somehow made the Jump three hundred years into the past.
At first, she refused to believe it, and she began the day like an amusement-park goer, determined to test this "illusion" to the fullest. She discovered that her favorite microdisc shop had "become" a chicken store, with the bodies of roasted chickens turning gruesomely on a spit. She met Bart, a handsome health-food store worker to whom she immediately was attracted.
Then came the fiasco at the butcher shop when she had asked the shopkeeper about the conditions in which the animals were slaughtered. The shopkeeper became aggressive and all but threw her out of the store. After that, she went to a slaughterhouse and fainted when she saw the horrifying way the cows, pigs and chickens were treated and killed.
She had awakened in the hospital, where a kindly, meat-eating nurse took care of her and even made her a delicious vegan meal. It was only then that Sabine understood how people can be friendly, nice and decent while still directly financially supporting the most hideous institutions. When she left the hospital, she got her first panic attack and tried to cope by discussing with a group of youths her age at a fast-food joint. The youths were friendly and seemed to like animals, yet grew defensive when their link to the slaughterhouse was brought up. One of them, Bart, (how ironic, the same name as my Bart), was a bodybuilder and believed in ridiculous myths about how meat made you strong like a tiger. The discussion also ended in a fiasco, with Bart's girlfriend bursting into hysterical tears and another boy politely asking her to leave.
Her only salvation had been the handsome health-food store worker (my Bart, she thought). In despair, she went to him and love took care of the rest. At first, Bart didn't believe that she was really from the future, but she eventually was able to convince him.
Sabine moved in to Bart's small studio apartment and Bart helped Sabine with the administrative formalities needed to regain her Dutch nationality, for she didn't exist in any government records! They solved the problem by making a fake passport and birth certificate from Liechtenstein and then declaring her as Bart's girlfriend, which gave her work and residence privileges in Holland.
Sabine also spent several weeks reading up on Liechtenstein so she could answer questions about her "native land".
Yet Sabine's administrative victory did not mean a cultural one. Her alternate periods of panic and curiosity eventually subsided, and gave way to the grim resignation of being stranded in a strange world with no way to return to hers. And she wasn't sure if the fact that she was stranded in her "own" Holland helped or worsened the situation.
She would see the familiar Leiden train station, but the miniplane hangar was gone. She would see the familiar bicycle direction signs, but then hear cyclists speaking this hardcore version of Dutch which was almost like a dialect for her. She would answer the telephone, but only hear voices without images. She would turn on the radio and television, but the songs, programs and celebrities were unknown to her. And the television was flat: images didn't even come out of the screen!
And her family and friends were gone.
The English language had been another major disaster. In Sabine's time, the entire world spoke English, but shortly after the Jump, Sabine found out that her English was worlds apart from the English of 1990. Only months later did Sabine resolve this mystery thanks to a sudden recollection. In a high school History class, she had learned about the Linguistic Revolution. She didn't remember when it happened, but did remember that at a certain point in history, the countries of the world were torn between the need for a global second language and nationalistic pride which prevented adoption of the English language, which unquestionably dominated the world's language scene.
One fellow finally resolved this problem, encouraging the peoples of the world to deform the English language in any way they pleased, as long as they were understandable. Non English-speaking countries wasted no time seizing this golden opportunity, throwing their literally translated expressions into this new linguistic melting pot. Conventional English saying like "The straw that broke the camel's back" became "The drop of water that made the vase overflow" in Spain and France. (In Holland, it was a bucket that overflowed.)
Sabine grimaced. This revolutionary idea had been an immense source of problems for her. Not only was her English unrecognizable in the beginning, but she also had to unlearn her lifelong habit of colorfully and creatively shaping the language as she pleased.
It was in fact during an English class that her first of many migraines began. Her migraine.... Ow! Once again, the pain dragged her back to reality.
Luckily, she made it back to Leiden, back to Bart's and her studio. As she had done so many times, she ran to her bedroom, violently drew the curtains shut, undressed, and flung herself into her bed.
A restful, healing sleep was out of the question, of course. Her pain was too intense. She lied on her back, propped her head up with an extra pillow, and stared at the ceiling.
Bart would not be home from the health-food store for a few hours.
"Why am I having this attack? Damn it," she muttered under her breath. Resignation soon extinguished this renegade burst of anger, but the question lingered in her mind.
Why was this happening? Obviously, culture shock played a big part. Sabine was utterly certain that a quick jump back to her native year would banish her migraines forever. As the years went by, however, her hopes of returning to the future had evaporated.
Culture shock was surely the main culprit; yet Sabine was convinced that there was more. Some other factors were intensifying her migraines to the point where the pain had become unbearable. Sabine didn't know why, but she was sure that if she could pinpoint and remedy these factors, she might be able to lead a normal life despite her migraines. These added factors continued to elude her, despite much introspection.
"What a useless, idiotic body," she mumbled. "What's the use of telling me that something is wrong if it doesn't tell me what?"
And she again began to compare her present self with the Sabine of five years ago. "I used to be exuberant and curious" she whispered. "Now I'm disinterested and resigned." This didn't surprise her. She had read up on culture shock and familiarized herself with the six aspects of culture shock by Dr. Kalervo Oberg, an anthropologist in the 1960's:
1. Strain due to the effort required to make the necessary psychological adaptations.
2. A sense of loss and feelings of deprivation regarding friends, family, status, career and possessions.
3. Being rejected by and/or rejecting members of the new culture.
4. Confused in role, role expectation, values, feelings and self-identity.
5. Surprise, anxiety and even disgust and indignation after becoming aware of cultural differences.
6. Feelings of impotence due to not being able to cope with the new environment.
She had also read about the adaptation process: initial enthusiasm, followed by a down period during adaptation, followed by renewed enthusiasm as the adaptation process completes. Unfortunately, the renewed enthusiasm had not yet come.
"There is something else," she continued, "I used to he enthusiastic. Now I'm bitter. Extremely bitter. How did this happen?"
A sharp pain interrupted her thoughts. She closed her eyes and waited for it to die down. Then she continued to tell herself. "I feel like I'm constantly battling with the Barbarians and the Idiots. And I have no patience for either of them."
She had coin these two terms over the past five years. The Barbarians were the meat eaters who became defensive when confronted with their direct financial link to the slaughterhouse. They sputtered inane rationalizations which she had grown too weary to attack.
And then there were the Idiots. They had "seen the light" and had stopped eating meat and financially supporting animal cruelty. Yet when they would come together and try to plan ways to fight animal abuse by joining forces, they would invariably end up bickering and quibbling about trivialities. The few successful projects were overshadowed by myriad wasted afternoons and evenings, not to mention the irritation and hurt feelings among the participants.
And then there was Sabine, the grand Cynic, who inwardly criticized everyone without daring to change things. And when she wasn't frittering away her time on useless, boring activities, she was lying in bed with a migraine.
"Throughout this ordeal, Bart has been a source of joy and pain. He is compassionate, supports me and loves me to death. He is patient. Yet he has demolished the excuses and rationalizations that I had when I was single. Because of him, I'm confronted with my misconceptions and shortcomings, and they are painful."
That was her last coherent thought. Another hour went by before she finally fell asleep.
As she had also done before the Jump, Sabine kept a "small notebook" at her bedside. She called it her "droomblokje" (dream pad) and would record her dreams immediately upon awakening. As with many other things, she missed her "old" dream pad (the one before the Jump), but had started a new one.
She sometimes found it irritating to force herself to write just after she woke up, while she was still sleepy. In the beginning, she had also found it annoying that her recollections of the dream would evaporate so quickly. However, her diligence had paid off in time, to the point that she could record her dreams in amazing detail.
That is why Sabine had no trouble recording the dreams which ensued.
The first dream was of the younger brother. Sabine was doing her long division homework in the kitchen. Her six-year-old brother, Joepje, was in the kitchen. He looked at Sabine's homework and said he found it simple. Joepje was six years old and obviously too young to understand long division. Sabine got irritated because she knew he couldn't possibly understand, yet lied and said he did. He was carrying a box of chocolate-flavored chewy sticks called K-Kauw's, which he loved. Sabine yanked the box away from him and said "If you're so smart, solve this long division problem. And for every mistake you make, I'll throw out one of your K-Kauws." Her brother then tried to solve the problem, but wrote total gibberish on the paper, whereupon she began to toss one K-Kauw after another in the waste disposal unit.
Undaunted, her brother wrote on, burying himself deeper in his hole, yet continuing to act arrogantly. Before long, Sabine told her brother that all the K-Kauws were gone. He tossed his head back in a haughty, condescending way, as if he couldn't care less, but then suddenly his eyes opened in a wide, unsettling way and he began to emit a high shriek, which scared Sabine. He continued to shriek for a long while but eventually, Sabine's high-school History teacher, Mr. Begrip, appeared in the distance. He came through the dining room which Sabine could see through the kitchen. Mr. Begrip came into the kitchen, looked disapprovingly at Sabine and then lifted up Joepje, who stopped screaming. Mr. Begrip carried Joepje to the dining room and in the distance, Sabine saw him put Joepje on the dining room table. Joepje had the haughty, arrogant look on his face again. Mr. Begrip kneeled down to face Joepje and then said with a smile "1+1?". Whereupon Joepje's arrogant expression disappeared and he said "2", confused. Mr. Begrip then gave Joepje a K-Kauw. Sabine found it strange that her high-school History teacher was teaching her six-year-old brother basic arithmetic. Begrip continued "2+2?" "4", answered Joepje, still confused. Begrip gave him another K-Kauw.
Sabine stood up, and called out to Mr. Begrip. She asked if he would eventually lead up to long division. He smiled back and said "I don't know. I'll see."
Then she was outside, in her Leiden of 2290. She saw everything as it was, before the Jump, and joy filled her heart. She began to run back to her apartment, where she lived with her family. She would tell everyone about the Jump and what she had seen. Suddenly, she felt scared. Would Bart be here too?
She ran into Maria, her best friend. She told her that she had made a Jump through time and the two agreed that Maria would come by that evening to talk. She ran further. She saw Mrs. Noyee, who she knew had many family and health problems. She greeted her and exchanged a few kind words, but did not mention the Jump or her excitement of seeing her family again.
She took leave of Mrs. Noyee to go to her family's house, but the surroundings grew unfamiliar and her legs became so heavy that she could hardly walk. This part of the dream had recurred countless times before.
Then she was in a meeting with her current Animal Rights friends in 1995, in the living room. Bart wasn't there. All were bickering and squabbling as usual. This time, it was about an irritating meat commercial where potatoes and green beans danced around on a dinner plate, yet an empty space remained on a third of the plate. At the end of the commercial, a big steak came and occupied the empty space and a voice said "If you don't eat meat, you're missing something." Large advertisements corresponding to this commercial appeared in bus stops throughout the country: potatoes and green beans occupied two-thirds of the dinner plate and the remaining third was empty. The commercial's slogan appeared in large letters at the top of the poster.
Sabine suggested that the group go around Leiden and tape small posters in the plates empty space. The posters would show a cow being bludgeoned, the blood gushing down its head. The group hemmed and hawed over this idea, and it was eventually forgotten. Disgusted, Sabine went to the kitchen to get lemonade for everyone. When she came back, she saw them writing a letter of protest for the advertisers. ("A lot of good that's going to do," she sighed.) They were writing only one letter on one piece of paper. Each person would write one word and pass the sheet on to his or her neighbor.
Disheartened, Sabine took a pile of posters with the cow's head being bludgeoned, and went into town. She pasted the posters in the empty spaced of at least ten bus stops. Sabine didn't know how she knew, but she knew that enough posters would remain in place long enough to cause several thousand dollars of damage due to peoples' reflection.
On her way back home, she saw Bart in the distance. He was walking somewhere and strangely, was at the other side of a Finish Line of a large racetrack. The "contestants" were dressed in running clothes, yet were standing still! They were facing random directions and were at varying distances from the Finish Line. Bart was dressed in normal clothes and seemed oblivious to the Finish Line and the racetrack. He was walking parallel to the Finish Line, on the winning side.
Every now and then, Bart would look sideways at a "contestant" and judge whether he or she was in arm's reach. If s/he wasn't, Bart would ignore the contestant. If s/he was in arm's reach and also facing Bart, Bart would offer his hand to the person and smile. Sometimes, the contestant would look away quickly. Often, the contestant would shake Bart's hand with a smile and let it go. And very rarely, a contestant would grasp Bart's hand firmly and Bart would pull him over the Finish Line, to Bart's side. Both the contestant and Bart would smile at each other....
Sabine awakened with a start when she felt a wet kiss on her forehead. It was Bart. He had come home.
She smiled clasped his hand and sat upright in bed. Her headache pain had gone down. She motioned to Bart to leave her alone while she recorded the dream in her dream pad.
After she finished, Sabine and Bart went through their usual ritual: Sabine rested her head on Bart's lap and Bart read her dreams, commenting on them. Bart had this habit of whispering the words when reading out loud. Sabine usually found this habit irritating, but found it useful with her dream pad, because when he made a comment, she knew exactly where he was.
"Your history teacher is smarter than you are," he smiled after reading the dream with her brother and the long division. "Rather than using negative punishment, he rewards Joepje and only goes as far as Joepje can go. He's big enough not to be put off by Joepje's arrogance and stick to what Joepje is really capable of understanding."
Bart's face grew sad, as it always did when he read about Sabine dreaming that she was back in her time. When he read Sabine's encounter with Maria and Mrs. Noyee, he said "You saw that Maria was ready for what you had to say; Mrs. Noyee wasn't."
When he read about their Animal Rights group writing one letter and how Sabine pasted posters on her own, he muttered "I've been irritated with our group for awhile too. I think in our case, the whole is less than even one of its parts!"
When he read about helping people over the Finish Line, he said "Here again, we're only reaching out to people who are open to our message, want to join our ranks and need a little help making the leap. We're not bothering with people who aren't interested. And we're also not wasting our time with people who have too far to go. There's too little time, no guarantee of success, and in that time, we could help many people who are almost there."
"Maybe your dreams are touching on a lot of important issues that are bothering you aside from culture shock," Bart concluded. "Also, Sabine, please remember that we are not the initiators of all of this animal horror around the world. This whole mess began long before we were born. We can only do as much as we are able and willing.
"Each of us can think of creative ways to help the movement individually," he continued, "by sticking up posters or writing a story or a song. We shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking we are useless outside of a big group. And we shouldn't let our well-being be dependent upon this terrible reality."
Bart realized that Sabine was sleeping. He wondered at what moment she had fallen asleep again. He smiled at her beautiful, peaceful face and stroked her long, blond hair.
"I see you've been listening to me, sweetheart, even in your sleep," whispered Bart. "Your dreams reflect the things I've been nurturing in you all these years. I hope that they're a sign that you'll be getting better soon."
May be used in unchanged form by avowed Animal Rightists if accompanied by this copyright message.