DAS BUCH HENOCH
TWO WIRE EGG
Sunday July 15th, 2001.
Far West Rand,
It would later seem ironic that the second journey the egg
took after two and a half billion years of sleep would not be in a strong box
in an armoured vehicle, but in an old tog bag lying on the back seat of a 1985
Volkswagen beetle. In the beetle were no scientists with white jackets and
thick glasses, but a very large South African geologist wearing old denim jeans
and a khaki shirt. The destination was not a high security scientific
establishment, but the home of a wealthy young Johannesburg family who had no idea of the
significance of what was on it’s way to them.
The egg was not aware of these things. All it knew was that
eighteen hours previously an object at thirty-seven degrees Celsius, and having
an electrical resistance of a few million ohms, had touched its interface for
about three seconds. It did not know that the object was a finger, and nor did
it know what a finger was. It did not know that the finger was connected to a
human body, and nor did not know what a human was.
But the finger, attached to an arm acting as an aerial, had
buzzed with hundreds of thousands of radio signals collected from the world
around it, and in that brief contact the egg knew that intelligent life had
evolved on the planet.
It had all started with a hangover at 04:30 AM on the
previous Friday in the North West Province of South Africa.
Frank had needed his alarm clock that morning, and when the
persistant buzzing finally pierced his sleep it took a while for him to work
out why it it was set so early. He eventually remembered setting it to take the
05:00 cage down the mine. He had been frustrated in his attempts to decode and
interpret the complicated geology of a new section of the mine, and decided to
visit a new box-hole before the drilling team filled it up with smoke, grit and
grease, and made observation difficult.
The memory of what caused the headache brought the first
smile of the day to his face. Thursday was the mine’s squash club evening, and
Frank seldom missed it. After the games he had sneaked into the mine pub to
replace some of the fluid lost on the courts with a quick Lager, but it had not
proved to be as quick as he intended. He had been dragged into the games room
as the fourth player in a snooker game. The games had been close, and he and
his partner Jimmy had walked away with the winnings of ten Rand, hardly enough
to buy one beer, and nowhere near the few dozen the four of them had downed. He
remembered clearing the colours in a single break from the last red, a break
that had included quite a few hallelujah shots - he had admitted them as such -
but he had still suffered lighthearted abuse from their opponents.
It took him no longer than a few minutes to brush his
teeth, slap some water onto his thick red beard and change into the Mine
Geologist’s uniform of khaki trousers, shirt, velskoens and leather jacket, and
soon his old Volkswagen beetle was making its way through the icy pre-dawn blackness
to the shaft.
As he parked his car he was
surprised to notice that his beetle was not the first car in the parking lot
reserved for officials. The Underground Manager’s white BMW was also there –
complete with the resident cat stretched out on the bonnet. The cat was
enjoying the heat rising from the warm engine, and he mentally apologized to
the cat that his beetle, being rear-engined, did not have a warm bonnet to lie
on. He wondered if an open window would afford the cat some warmth inside his
car, but a mine cat is not stupid enough to trap itself, no matter how warm.
There are mineworkers for whom cooked cat is a delicacy, and this cat knew
that. The frost crunching under his
heavy shoes on the gravel path bore testimony to its wisdom in finding the only
warm and safe spot in the area.
“Hey Cat,” said Frank with a smile as he passed. “Do us a
favour and drop a big turd on that car.” The cat appeared to consider the
request carefully but did not comply.
Frank had worked on the same shaft for three years since
leaving university, but had not often