One minute you’re standing at the president’s side, listening to the football on your earpiece, checking out the maidens in the front row. And the next – boom. The gibbering, leather-winged horde. Beelzebub’s army, getting all up in Number One’s grill.
Of course we train for moments like this. On your first day at the academy they show you the tapes of all the near misses, like when the Lesser Azanian Skull-Sucker rushed Thabo Mbeki in parliament. (Stupid demon didn’t know the Prez was wearing a vest laced with garlic and beetroot and it blew up like a Zuma nephew in front of a buffet table. Lolz.) And of course they show you The Incident.
That’s what we call it. The Incident. I reckon it’s still too raw to call it what it was: that time a demon actually possessed Number One. Me personally, I haven’t watched that tape a lot. I don’t need to. I’ve got it on replay in my head, all day and all night.
I was there, you see. In the gallery, one hand on my earpiece, listening to the football. And then all hell broke loose. Literally. Little suckers came straight up through the floor in a metaphysical cloud, like translucent vampire bats. I remember starting to scream “Nnnnnnnnoooo” (they train you to scream like that, in slow motion, because it looks more impressive in the replays), and I remember Julius Malema grabbing one of the demons, putting Aromat on it, and eating it whole, and I thought, “We’re going to be okay.” And then, bang. Out of nowhere a Giggling Gargoyle zips across the chamber and slams into Number One’s left armpit.
Everything goes very quiet. Number One looks kind of stunned. I mean, he always looks kind of stunned but this was different. Then he slowly raises his middle finger, and I think, Sweet Jesus, he’s possessed. He’s going to flip us the bird, and then he’s going to poop on the lectern and projectile vomit on Mmusi Maimane and then we’ll never hear the end of it. But then I think, wait, he always flips us the bird when he pushes his glasses up his nose, and I’m flooded with relief. Maybe the Giggler went clean through him. Maybe .
Baleka Mbete had a spare vial of holy water in her garter
And then Number One starts making a terrible sound, and I know he’s been hit. “Heh. Heh. Heh.” Classic Giggling Gargoyle. Echoing through the chamber. It was the lowest point of my career. Also, my earpiece was going crazy because fucking Arsenal had just scored.
As we now know, it all worked out okay. Baleka Mbete had a spare vial of holy water in her garter and jabbed it straight into the back of his neck, and Number One was saved.
There was an internal investigation. The finger got pointed. (The Ministry of Metaphysics and Old-Timey Religion has a special disciplinary mummified finger that kind of swivels around by itself and points at sinners, traitors, media sources and women who can read.) I kept my job. But the stakes were clear: if I let a demon get that close to Number One again, I would face the harshest punishment the state could hand down. Yes, I would be given an ambassadorial post.
Things calmed down after that. The demons are going elsewhere these days, mostly possessing schoolkids playing Charlie in the Western Cape. The response to that has been excellent, with some schools warning parents about “satanic” and “demonic” games and threatening to expel anyone caught playing them. Good for them. Nothing stops kids experimenting with superstition like authority figures telling them that the magic is real and that they’re not allowed to do it any more.
I thought we’d be okay for a while. But then on Saturday at the reed dance in Nongoma – wham. Demons. At least that’s what the maidens said. Google “Zuma demon maidens” and you’ll see what went down. Trans-dimensional pandemonium. You’ll also see me hustling Number One out of the demon triangulation zone. He was actually pretty brave: some of those little girls were properly possessed, babbling hateful stuff like “But what I really want is a good education” and “Pay back the money”.
Some claimed the maidens gathered for the reed dance were just tired, cold and hungry, and that the demon menace was group hysteria. Bull. That’s exactly what the demons want us to think. Luckily, King Goodwill is the kind of guy who still calls a spade a devil’s shovel, and he scolded Satan’s concubines and told them they had brought evil spirits to ruin his special day. Not that I’m surprised, really. I mean, girls are basically demons. Which is why they need old men to tell them what to do.
I’m just glad nobody got hurt and nothing got damaged. Well, except the pursuit of secular and rational leadership. But if those science crazies won, I’d be out of a job.
First published in The Times and Rand Daily Mail.