Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 11.3

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.

Knight after Knight. Chapter eleven, part three.

Whilst we waited, Zahara and Sekelaga joined us and handed each of us a small vessel containing a thick, sweet-smelling liquid that they bade us drink.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It will help you relax and enjoy the festivities,” Mercy said, “Drink it, please.”

“Is it some kind of drug?” I asked, “A hallucinogen, perhaps?”

“Not exactly…”

But something like, I thought. Looking around, I saw I was the only person present still holding a full cup. I shrugged my shoulders and downed it in one swig.

The taste was like nothing I’d ever experienced. And I did experience it, not just taste it. I was aware of the passage of each drop through my oesophagus and into my stomach. I felt its tendrils reaching into and invading my blood vessels, giving life to sensations never before felt. I was with it as it entered my nervous system and swam towards my brain with the determination of a sperm swimming towards a receptive egg. And then I saw, as though through its eyes, the structures of my brain; synapses firing like short bursts of lightning between neurons. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. I stood transfixed by the sensations and looked around myself. All of us in the centre of the circle: Max, Mercy, Kanene, Sekelaga, Zahara, Habibu and I were in the same state. Each of them, and I assumed I was the same, wore a fixed, blank expression with eyes so wide they could be described as crazed. Zahara must have been immune to the stuff as she alone looked normal.

Suddenly, or so it seemed, we were surrounded by large numbers of people in traditional dress, dancing to an unheard drumbeat. There seemed to be many times more people here than inhabited the village, and every one of them – all men of a similar age – had the appearance and demeanour of a time-served shaman. I was fascinated by the movements. The muscle control these men exhibited was little short of astounding. Their adhesion to the rhythm was absolute, they were moving as one, with a total precision that would put the best-drilled platoon of marines to shame. Yet I could hear neither music nor drumbeat. I tried to concentrate on one of them, hoping to analyse his movements and divine their purpose. As I did so, all the other dancers disappeared. I closed my eyes and reopened them. All the men were there again. I found that with practice I could reduce them to one man – not always the same one, but whichever I chose – then bring the others back again. But through all of this, those of us at the centre of the circle remained fixed and immutable.

After what felt like more than an hour but was probably no more than a few minutes, I began to find it more difficult to isolate a single dancer and, gradually, it became impossible. Then, rather abruptly, all the dancers disappeared. I started to feel more normal and looked at the others.

“Wow,” I said, “that was weird.”

“What,” Max asked, “all those beautiful African ballerinas?”

“Ballerinas? What ballerinas?”

Mercy laughed. A joyous, infectious laugh that caused the others to join in with her.

The first to calm down, Kanene explained, “The mixture you drank—”

“Hallucinogen?” I asked.

“No, but it can have that effect on some people, especially the first time.”

“So you didn’t see things?”

“We did, but not in the way you did. Once your system is accustomed to it, all it does is to open your mind and allow you to think creatively and to visualise possibilities that would otherwise be closed to you.”

“So, what did you see?”

“Nothing specific, Hannice. Our opening up was something between intellectual and spiritual. But if you tell me what you saw, I may be able to offer an interpretation.”

“I saw a lot, and I mean a lot of what looked like witch-doctors. They were dancing but I heard no music. I found I could single one out and look at him closely. When I did, all the others disappeared, but I could bring them back by closing my eyes and reopening them.”

“I had the same, exactly, but with black ballerinas, not shamen,” Max said.

“That’s interesting,” Kanene said, “especially so because you both had the same experience. Don’t worry about the gender thing, that isn’t material.”

“Then what is?”

“I’ll tell you, Max. You have both demonstrated that you can focus on what is important to you to the exclusion of everything else. You share the ability to zone out distractions and external influences and deal with your core processes. That is a great starting point for a business or any other partnership. Your link is deep and will not easily be broken. Your partnership is right, it’s organic and it has to be. You are so much more together than either or both of you could be alone.” She looked towards the centre of the village. “I see they’re ready for us now. Let’s go to the village hall.”

The liquid’s effect evaporated even faster than it had arrived. We walked together to the hall with none of the uncertainty one would expect having just recovered from inebriation. Our minds were as clear and sharp as ever – mine was, anyway, and I had no reason to doubt Max’s was, too. As for the others, they were presumably accustomed to this substance and would suffer no ongoing effects.