A remarkable new literary talent – Read an excerpt from Tumelo Buthelezi’s debut novel The Last Sentence
More about the book!
‘Come to me …’ she said, softly, ‘and I will make your pen sing again.’
BlackBird Books has shared an extract from The Last Sentence by Tumelo Buthelezi!
About the book
Bandile Ndala is a once-successful scriptwriter who now struggles with substance abuse, anxiety and depression as he starts to lose his tenuous grip on reality. His career has stagnated with the rejection of his literary work and life at home with his family is under strain. His life starts to descend into a living nightmare, literally.
Bandile is desperately searching for inspiration so he can make a much-needed comeback.
When Bandile finds himself in room 28 at the Cariba Inn with a sultry temptress he wonders whether he has gone crazy. Has the formerly brilliant writer who churned out hit TV show after hit TV show lost his mind? Is he on drugs? Or is it all in something he ate at a dinner a few years back … ?
Buthelezi takes us through the inner workings of Bandile’s mind as he thinks about his writing and battles with the possibility of not producing something meaningful, ever.
The Last Sentence introduces us to a remarkable literary talent. Tumelo Buthelezi is an exceptional storyteller.
About the author
Tumelo Buthelezi is from Sebokeng in the Vaal. He is a founding member of the Ink Gallery, a movement that promotes an interest in reading. The Last Sentence is his debut novel.
Read an excerpt:
Bandile Ndala, a successful playwright and author in days long gone, found himself in an open field – naked as the moment he popped out of his mother’s womb 43 years ago. A cold, driving rain slicked off his body. His teeth were chattering. He looked around, hoping to spot something familiar – a landmark, a sign post, anything to help him figure out where he was. How he got there, he’d try to figure out later. For now, he had to find a way to get home, a journey that starts with knowing your current location. The psychotic episodes had been getting worse. But he never imagined they’d become so bad that they’d cause him to wander off in nothing but his birthday suit.
The call of an owl caused him to turn and look up into a tree covered in darkness. There was something about the empty, tinny quality of the owl’s call that made Bandile nervous.
It sounded like an accusation. In the tree, on one of its skeletal branches that reached out into an endless night, he saw a pair of round, glowing eyes looking down at him. The rest of the owl he could not see; its tar-black feathers blending into the darkness.
The sight caused his blood to run cold. He knew owls to be omens of bad luck. Black owls, he thought, surely must be the devil himself paying a visit.
‘Come to me,’ he heard a voice say, a woman’s voice.
It was warm and inviting. Irresistible, in fact. He thought it was coming from the owl. Talking owls. He almost laughed out loud, thinking that the cheese had finally well and truly slipped out of his sandwich. But, when the woman repeated herself, it became clear that her voice was coming from somewhere behind the tree.
He felt his body move on its own, manipulated by the woman’s voice.
There, behind the tree, a few steps away, he made out the shadowy figure of a woman with long braids. The owl called once more and, again, he threw his gaze up into the tree. When he looked back at the woman, she was hurtling towards him. He tried to move but was paralysed. He could only watch as she plunged a massive meat cleaver into his chest and pushed it deeper with relish, causing blood to splutter out of his mouth as he struggled to breathe.
Bandile woke up with a start. He and his sheets were soaked in sweat. He rubbed his chest where the knife in the dream had pierced his body. It ached and itched – the sensation of a healing wound. Again. He exhaled. Different night, the same nightmare. The same dull, cleaver-shaped pain below his left collarbone.
It was still night. The full moon slipped between gaps in the blinds and bathed the room in half light.
Bandile fumbled for the cellphone he knew was resting next to the pillow on the cold side of the bed, where Zoleka used to sleep. He felt for a moment pangs of longing for her; his wife, his soon-to-be ex-wife.
Three weeks ago, as he ranted and raved in a jail cell at the Hillbrow police station, facing charges of domestic violence, she had packed her things and left – taking with her their two young twins, Luzuko and Funeka, his heaven and earth. The house he returned to after he was granted bail had been emptied of the people and memories that made it a home. The divorce papers on the table punctuated the silence as the new, permanent state of the house.
Phone in hand, Bandile took a deep breath. Zoleka’s departure was for the best. Even he had to admit that. Lately, he had not been himself. Violent outbursts. Long absences where he couldn’t explain to anyone, not even himself, where he had been. The man’s madness had poked holes in his memory of the night he attacked Zoleka. He couldn’t remember what made him want to hurt her.
He closed his eyes, shook the thoughts away and flicked the phone on. 10:34pm. Had he been asleep for only an hour?
Impossible, he thought.
A tiny square envelope at the top of the phone’s screen caught his attention. A notification of a text message. He hadn’t received a single call or SMS from anyone since news of what he did to Zoleka made front-page news. He was damaged goods, a persona non grata in the world of film, TV and theatre. All the people he thought were his friends had been staying clear of him.
Scrolling to his inbox, he opened the message. It was from a number he didn’t recognise.
All it said was: ‘Cariba Inn. Room 28.’
That’s it. There was no name to give him a clue about who sent it. There wasn’t even a greeting. Could he even be sure it was for him? He was about to ignore it and attempt to return to sleep when he heard her again, the woman from his recurring nightmare.
‘Come to me,’ she said.
Bandile jumped out of bed and switched on the lights. He looked around the room, adorned with luxuries that he could no longer afford to maintain. There was no one else with him. No doubt about that.
A semi-religious man, the kind who only remembered his Lord and Saviour in times of need, Bandile had been praying about his problems – praying for deliverance. He knew that God worked in mysterious ways. But only figures in Biblical tales, like Noah or Moses, heard the voice of God telling them what to do. Not real-life people in the year 2020.
If you’re hearing voices Anno Domini, you’ve definitely lost the plot, he thought.
‘I said … come to me,’ the woman said. Her voice was more stern but still pleasant to the ear; harmonious and tempting.
It took every bit of will Bandile had to keep his body from obeying. He pinched himself. It hurt. Whatever. Surely he was still dreaming. A dream within a dream. A lucid dream.
‘You’re not dreaming, Bandi, my nunus. In fact, you have just woken up to a new world – a reality beyond your wildest dreams,’ the disembodied woman in his room said, replying to his thoughts.
‘No,’ Bandile snapped, pacing back and forth. He was running through a list of the nearest psychiatric facilities in his mind. That’s where he was convinced he should go – not room 28 at the Cariba Inn.
‘Come to me …’ she said, softly, ‘and I will make your pen sing again.’
The words caused Bandile to stop in his tracks. He’d been struggling for months to choke a decent sentence out of his pen. His study was a mess of papers stained by one still-born story after the other, of mind maps that led to dead ends, character sketches that fell apart.
‘This has to be a dream,’ he said, aloud.
‘Fine,’ the voice said, a hint of exasperation peeking through the sweetness. ‘Have it your way. On my signal you will come to me.’
The snapping of fingers broke the fleeting silence that followed. The sound echoed in Bandile’s brain and cascaded down the rest of his body. Suddenly rendered a marionette on a puppeteer’s strings, Bandile took out his phone to search for the address of the Cariba Inn.