Thanks to Lok for the fantastic sunset shot.
I swear I will nevermore travel alone to places abroad where I have to fend for myself. Unless I am sure that I will be greeted, either by a close family member or a friend at my port of destination, then I will not travel by myself to foreign shores again.
The meaning of this incident is now clear to me, in retrospect: The purpose in visiting Brisbane in 2007 was to help my uncle with his upcoming operation, and to uplift the spirits of my aunt. It was not, as I believed at the time, to eke out a way of existing there beyond fulfilling this main purpose.
But why a near-death experience? Only the Lord knows.
My Divine friends in Spirit seemed to be warning me from the minute I arrived at this wierd house which I had mistaken for a refuge. The strange and peculiar events which followed, after my uncle’s operation was completed, seemed to be indicating most profoundly that my future did not relate to Australia in any way, and that I did not need to stay because of my elderly relatives.
My children were back in New Zealand, and although they are all grown adults, they still like their Mother to be around.
Although I was in my mid 50’s when this bizarre and frightening incident occurred, I am now of the mind that, really, after all this time, I am still an extremely naive and ‘green’ person, when it comes to making judgements about strangers, or even lovers, or family, for that matter, and the things they might be capable of doing if given the opportunity.
Sometimes, I can get judgements, and even predictions, 100% right, when the matter concerns someone else’s welfare. But for myself – it seems that Spirit requires that I experience some things first-hand, probably in order to gain more insight and knowledge. Somehow I have survived.
In the past, I had always travelled to and fro New Zealand to Australia with my beautiful children, who, in lots of ways, were very much more wise and circumspect than I ever was. Their presence had protected me against many evils which I might have otherwise encountered.
Our visits to Oz were mainly to visit my dearest Aunt Barbara and her husband Hilt, who lived in Birkdale, Brisbane. These were our favourite relatives, and we all just loved going to see them. They always made us feel so welcome.
Barbara was an interesting woman: She loved art and architecture and was very proud of their first house which had been built and designed by John Scott, the famous New Zealand architect who produced some wonderful buildings for the Catholic Church. Their house in Hastings was one of the first buildings John Scott had done in the early days, when he was just starting out, before he became recognized as one of NZ’s best architects.
She loved academic achievement and had always been proud of my music diplomas. No doubt, she most surely would have attended my Bachelor of Arts Graduation in Wellington if they had still been here in New Zealand at the time.
Barbara was secretary for the Bishop at the Anglican Cathedral in Auckland for many years. Besides being a capable secretary, she was well loved there for her generous spirit and good humour. And she had a respect for Maori culture – something which was largely rather absent in our family.
Barbara was probably my best friend during the years we all lived in Auckland. Both Barb and Hilt were incredibly supportive of me as a solo parent, and attended every important event which my children attended, such as Baptism and Confirmation services. Barb never forgot one of their birthdays.
I missed them dreadfully when they went to Australia. Soon after they had moved to Brisbane from Auckland, I set about buying land over there, so that we could be near them for a time.
So -I was at my least vulnerable, at the beginning of my Australian experience, with beautiful relatives, beautiful children, and a purpose-driven life which was fairly amply funded from my last house sale. It seemed that the possibility of meeting any mentally deranged, or potentially menacing people at this time was rather remote, although not entirely to be out-ruled.
But then life changed radically, as it has a habit of doing. According to my perspective, these much-looked-forward-to Brisbane visits of familial happiness, where we all enjoyed a sense of belonging, good food thanks to dear Barb, fun, laughter, and a sense of predictability, all changed for the worse: Our wonderful relatives got put into a home for the aged. And, soon after I had returned to New Zealand with my children, one by one, they had left to embark on their own journeys and adventures.
I felt compelled to visit my aunt and uncle again, one last time, before they died.
They were getting on in years, stuck in their rest-home, miles away from home. My beloved aunt was suffering alzheimer’s disease. I thought I would move over the ditch again, to be near them.
I knew that my aunt would respond to my visits, which she did. Unlike other relatives their age, she adored me and had always enjoyed my company. She was a great conversationalist, and was very witty. We laughed a lot when we were together. Over the time I was living there and visiting regularly, she began talking, and even joking, again. This did make me very happy.
I found a good job as a recreational therapist, but it wasn’t ideal as far as the location went. It was miles away from my relatives, in the North of Brisbane. I was due to start this job in several weeks, after I had hopefully relocated to the North of Brisbane. However, my domestic circumstances in the mean-time were not good. And here is what happened:
Surviving the wilds of Australian Brisbane on a budget was proving to be an extreme challenge. How to make the last of my house and car money last until I began my job was one thing. Where to live cheaply was the next.
Every decision I made seemed pertinent to my survival. And now, no sweet voices close-by to help guide me into making decent judgements about finances, accommodation, or people, or anything.
The first week or two, I slept in my Uncle’s car, which I usually parked up at night at the local Church which he and Barb had regularly attended before going into the home for the aged. Even at the Church car-park, I was prey to wierd midnight cyclists who seemed to endlessly tour the streets of Brisbane, looking out for anything unusual. I tried several different spots, but every time I got found out, which resulted in me having to flee quickly and to hunt out another spot which might do for a few hours, before these prowlers discovered where I was.
The weather was pleasantly hot, and the sea-water quite warm, so bathing took the form of a swim each day. But this kind of living was really, really difficult, mainly because of the safety issue at night, and the fact that you get very little sleep strung out on the back seat of a car. Still, I kept up those very important visits by day to Barb and Hilt’s rest-home, and made the necessary trips into the city hospital with Hilt.
I saw an ad in a local rag, which advertised several cheap boarding houses not too far away from my relative’s rest home. I phoned up one in nearby Cleveland, which was $100 per week. They sounded like nice people. A family. He drove taxis by day, and earth-moving vehicles by night. She stayed at home to do the house-work. They were Moslems, as it happened, Indian people from Fiji, and I thought that this would prove to be an interesting experience which would broaden my horizons.
Mohamed and his wife Rakina made me very welcome. They told me that they were broad-minded people, and that both of them were on their second marriage. Interesting. Rakina had been a Hindu before she met Mohamed, but had changed her religion for him. I soon found out that he objected to my singing any Hindu chants, which Rakina liked, and any song which had a Christian connection made him absolutely irate.
Rakina was a lot younger than me. But I was definitely the healthier of the two of us, regardless of my advanced years. She had a kidney disease and, they told me, doctors had predicted she would die within two years if she did not get a kidney transplant.
I felt very sorry for Rakina. It really must be an awful thing, having sick kidneys, and knowing that your time on Earth is limited. She had a dialysis machine which she had to use each day. This machine would bring her hugely distended stomach down to a more reasonable size, but within the next 12 hours or so, her stomach would be filling out with fluid again. She appeared as if she was heavily pregnant before she got onto the machine each day.
They told me about the man who had just vacated my room, only days before I arrived. He was a friend ot theirs, an Indian doctor who was studying kidney medicine, they said. Rakina told me that the Indian doctor was not very popular with Mohamed at the moment, because he, the doctor, had given Rakina some special kidney medicine which he said would cure her. She had ended up in intensive care and had almost died as a result of his medicine.
And still, for me, the alarm bells were not quite sounding off.
I think I began to hear them faintly when Mohamed wanted proof of my identity, including my pass-port details, birth certificate, as well as driver’s licence, which had a taxi P endorsement, Dangerous Goods, and an additional Class 2 on it, as well as the usual car licence. He seemed so fascinated that he wanted to write every detail down, including my date, and place of birth.
Mohamed drove taxis around the place by day, and knew many drivers around Brisbane. I suddenly could easily visualize him procuring a new licence, or even stealing this one, and selling it off to some would-be taxi-driver. Once you have a person’s correct name, date and place of birth, forging a person’s identity, including getting a new driver’s licence and pass-port in their name, is a relatively easy thing to do, by all accounts.
He got angry when I swiped my passport back, thrusting his head close to mine, clenching his fist at me, and saying : “You think I am going to do something criminal with thees? You don’t trust me?”
The alarm bells were sounding slightly louder at this point. I could hear a few more of them in the distance. Mohamed had suddenly become very bullying and intimidating. He was also lying about his intentions, I was sure, regarding my identification certificates.
“Not at all, Mohamed. It’s just that if anyone untrustworthy gets hold of those details of mine, they can then apply for a driver’s licence, and even get a pass-port in my name. This might be worth a lot of money to some person with these evil intentions. So it is better you don’t write down these details, in case some dodgy person gets to see them…”
I had learnt this trick of placating a suspected psychopath several years beforehand, when I had a psychopathic boyfriend who was also a habitual liar. He would get very aggressive and bullying if ever you pointed out the discrepancies in his words or actions. The only way to survive was to go along with the pretense.
Mohamed seemed to accept that I was worried about someone else being the worry, and not him. He drew back, ceasing to argue or threaten me. “I didn’t know that,” he said. But I could see that although my words indicated that I had removed him as a suspect from my reasoning, he didn’t believe me any more than I believed him that his intentions over my identity details were honest and good. His eyes indicated to me that he, also, was playing the game of pretense.
As he went to the kitchen to put on the kettle, I retrieved the piece of paper from the table, which he had written many of my details on. He saw me fold the paper up and put it into the pocket of my jeans. It was possible that he remembered some of the information, such as my birth-place, but I was not going to take a chance with him holding my driver’s licence or passport numbers.
As I had a week or so before the new job began, and had paid around a month in advance, I decided to bide my time there for the next week. I was still not 100% sure that I would take the job. Unless my uncle lent me the money to get decent accommodation near my new place of work, I would have to commute four or five hours each day from Mohamed’s house, until my first pay came in. It was unrealistic to think that I would have the energy to tackle my job, which would be very demanding, on top of all this exhausting travel. Although I was reluctant to leave my relatives without any immediate family in Brisbane, I began to consider returning to New Zealand, after staying as long as I could on the money I had with me.
My Aunt Barbara was getting very chatty by this time. The staff at the rest-home were astounded at the recovery she had made, after a couple of months of my visits. I would shout out “Gidday, Barb” as soon as I saw her sitting, waiting. She would look up, give me a wide and happy smile, and say “Hello, dear”.
She hadn’t spoken for months before I arrived, but was to be seen each day shuffling around slowly, severely depressed, looking at the floor instead of the people around her. She had not been communicating with anyone, neither verbally nor with eye contact.
Soon after my arrival, Barbara began to brighten up and to talk to me about many things, including her husband Hilt, who had taken to sitting with non-dementure people, including one very nice-looking woman, far away down the other end of the dining room.
As I fed her at one end of the vast dining room, I caught sight of Hilt sitting far away from us: “There’s Hilt, waving out to us from way down the other end of the hall”, I said……”Yes..I BET he is”, said Barb impatiently.
“Can you tell me, dear, is that woman with him his new wife?” – Barb obviously was not missing a trick, even though the staff had said that she was in a total dream world and had no idea what was going on about her. She had every reason to suspect that Hilt might have a girl-friend now, since he never sat with her anymore at meal-times, and sat with this other woman instead.
Back at the Moslem house, Mohamed had obviously noted that my dear aunt and uncle were in no shape to be phoning for me, nor to find out where or how I was actually living. In fact, because I was not intending to stay for longer than a month, I had not even given Mohamed’s and Rakino’s phone number or address to anyone back home in New Zealand. No-one knew where I was, except that I was somewhere in Brisbane, visiting Barb and Hilt.
I still had the use of my uncle’s car, which he kept warranted and registered for the use of visiting family coming from New Zealand. This was the only way that I could be traced, as it happened. I kept the car parked outside Mohamed’s house overnight, and drove back to the rest-home by day.
The car was necessary at this stage, because I had been taking my uncle into the central Brisbane hospital for examinations each week, before and after, and during a cancer operation which he had done on his face . These were long trips through the busy streets and freeways around Brisbane. My uncle was very grateful that I was there to drive him to and fro. I guess if I hadn’t been there, he would have had to have paid for the ambulance to run him in and back each week. Very expensive.
Barbara began to say some astounding things. She told me how she thinks normally, but that she cannot speak fluently anymore, and so it takes a long while for her to articulate her words. Slowly, stuttering, and with many pauses between words, she told me: “By the time I have it all out, people have moved on to other topics, and then they think that I am a fool, because I am talking about something they were on about several minutes ago.” She laughed.
I talked with Barb about my theory that both Barb and Hilt had ended up in the rest home, severely debilitated in one way or another, because of the extremely potent poisoning they had had done at their beautiful house, just prior to their being admitted to hospital, and then to the rest home.
In relating this story, I see this strange irony, that my concern at the time was with my dear relatives whose demise had been through chemical poisoning, a situation which, although not of my own design, I was just about to experience myself to some degree.
I was sure that Hilt had gotten the mysterious nerve disease the moment they had had the cockroach and ant man back a second time within three months, just to make sure no bugs would survive. The poison the commercial pest exterminator had used was an extremely potent product which was guaranteed for three years after spraying. Hilt had spotted an ant somewhere after the first spraying, and got the man back.
I remember visiting them in Birkdale after that first spraying of the insecticide. I could not sleep in the house, the stuff was so bad. I felt dizzy and ill every time I entered the house. Barb helped me to put up a camp stretcher and a bit of a tent on the lawn, where I slept for the couple of weeks I had been visiting them. Barb thought it was all just so hilarious, and took photos of me in my bed out on the lawn. She was inclined to believe me that the spray was extremely toxic, and would have a very bad effect on their health. But Hilt would not listen, and Barb habitually accepted Hilton’s authority as ‘the head of the house’. So my warning went unheeded.
Anyway, thankfully, I was not there when Hilt got the insecticide man back for the second time to re-spray the house with poison. I would not have been able to prevent him from doing it.
So, here am I, speaking to Barb on the lovely sunny balcony of her rest-home where we had our most enjoyable conversations, and this time about my theory that Hilt’s paralysis which had struck him, had happened around the time of the second spraying. The doctors at the hospital had all been baffled at Hilt’s sudden mysterious paralysis when he became sick. Barb was totally lucid now……..
She thought for perhaps half a minute, gazing out intently towards the frangipani flowers hanging over the balcony, then said, without much stuttering at all:
“My goodness….You are right, Merrilyn…..I can remember….” She was excited now…..”Because we took everything out of the kitchen cupboards and the pantry, so that the cockroach man could spray the cupboards as well. We still had all the food out of the cupboards and all over the floor on the day Hilt suddenly collapsed. And I can remember that everything stayed on the floor for weeks…… Because I can remember that there was no time to organize the house after Hilt went into hospital. I was so busy visiting him…it took hours for me to get into the hospital and back each day by bus….. the state of the house just was not a concern. You are right….It WAS the insecticide, the cockroach killer, which made Hilt sick.”
I said that I was sure it also had much to do with her alzheimer’s. She thought this was quite likely as well.
Hilt, of course, was not interested at all in my theories about insecticide. He never had been. And now, combined with the fact that he needed me no more to run him into the city hospital, the fact that Barbara was remembering such details, and talking about them, was making him quite antagonistic towards me. He did not welcome the news that Barbara’s memory was making huge leaps forward at all. He actually seemed annoyed that she remembered that Hilt had become sick on the very day the second insecticide spraying had occurred inside their house. He remembered very well that I had warned him about the danger of this insecticide. Too late.
Hilt, family, and staff had all written Barb off well over a year ago. Hilt, understandably, now had very mixed feelings about my visit and the apparent recovery of his beloved Barb.
I wondered if Barb had sensed something about the house I was staying at. Either that, or she sensed that my presence now was making Hilt very jealous and titchy. She seemed to be pressing me to leave ASAP. She told me that I mustn’t stay in Brisbane, that I must get back to New Zealand, to be there for my children.
On one of my visits, she also pleaded for me to take her home with me. I explained that Hilt would never agree to this.
She was so grateful that I had come at all to spend time with her. “Even this much, dear. I will never forget it. It has been absolutely fabulous having you here. You have made me just so happy. It has been such fun. But you can’t stay. Even with a job. You mustn’t stay in Australia.”
I felt I had her Blessing to leave. Hilt’s operation was all over. He was OK. Barb was now telling me it was alright to leave her, too. The job I had lined up, although it had great potential, was so far away from Birkdale, I would not get to visit Barb and Hilt very often. And to top it all off, Hilt had turned down my request for financial help towards accommodation near my new job.
I went back to Mohamed’s house and told them that I had made the decision not to take the job up north, but to return to New Zealand instead. “I will be taking my uncle’s car back in the morning, and will leave the following day.”
This news seemed to excite both Mohamed and Rakino. As Mohamed went off to his night job, which was pushing concrete and clay into the harbour as part of a land reclamation project, he seemed very happy. The next day, the day I was returning Hilt’s car to his rest-home car park, they said they had a lot of business to do together, before Mohamed went to drive his bull-dozer that night, and that they would be away until later in the evening. They made sure that I was returning to the house that night after returning the car.
Both Mohamed and Rakina gave me instructions to leave my bedroom door open that night, and not to lock it.
“It will be very nice if you leave your door open – OK?……Because it is your last night,” Rakina said.
I thought this was very strange….”Is this some wierd lesbian thing?” I wondered. “OK. I will leave my door open,” I said. My own thoughts were that in no way would I be leaving my bedroom door open that night, but that I would be shutting it most securely.
At the end of the day, Mohamed went off as usual, to do his land-fill by night. Rakina usually sat up with me to watch telly, but early on this last night, strangely enough, she went into her bedroom which adjoined the lounge, abd did not come out. Her door was right opposite my own bedroom.
They knew I liked coffee. “Make yourself a coffee,” she said, as she went into her room. I did so, sprinkling the coffee with Indian masala, which they allowed me to use. I left the coffee by my chair and went off to the toilet, which was at the other end of the house. The locality of the toilet was one of the things which helped save my life this night.
I came back to my chair and settled down for one last night of Australian TV, with what I thought would be a delicious cup of coffee. I sipped it. It tasted mildly bitter.
“Might have been the masala,” I thought. I sipped again. Still bitter. As I drank more of the contents of the cup, the bitter taste became more prominent. And then, as I tipped the cup up, I spotted the white, chalk-like powder at the bottom of the cup.
“My God….They CAN’T be poisoning me.” The thought seemed just so horrific, I did not want to believe it. I sat there, thinking. She must have darted out of her room when I went to the toilet and put this powder into my cup. I was sure that the masala had not been poisoned – It had had the usual cinnamon colour when I had sprinkled it over my coffee.
I sat, immobile, trying to gather my wits. I thought about the events of the past few days: the passport incident, the driver’s licence, their mysterious activities during that day, his land-fill job at night, their friend the Indian doctor who was studying kidney medicine, how they wanted me to keep my door open.
I also thought about all the giant, plate-sized crabs, covered in mud, which Mohamed brought home from the harbour most nights. He transferred these poor things straight into a huge freezer in the kitchen, live. In there, they screamed and moved around, scratching at the sides of the freezer, until they became immobilized from the cold, and died.
“It’s all right. They will settle down,” he said every time, as if the poor crabs were just going for a nap. I wondered whether any body parts of mine which they could not sell might end up with the crabs in the freezer, in the black plastic bag he brought them home in, until he took them down to the harbour to bury them under a mountain of concrete at night.
Was I a saleable commodity, just like the crabs?
Of one thing I was certain – that whatever happened, I must not alert Rakina to the fact that I knew she had tried to poison me. Even within a few minutes, as I thought about what I must do, I began to feel my nerves being affected. An intense pain at the nape of my neck had appeared. My arms were beginning to tingle. I felt I was becoming paralysed.
The bitter taste was strong in my mouth.
I went quietly to the sink, wondering about whether I should try to keep the last contents of the cup somehow, with the chalky poison still in it. If I kept the contents I could have them analyzed later, to prove that these people had tried to poison me. However, I decided not to do this, in case Rakina came out and spotted me transferring the contents. My other consideration was that, without medical insurance, it was going to cost more than I could afford to pay for a doctor’s visit, let alone any follow-up analysis of either the contents of the cup, or a blood or urine sample.
Instead of trying to conserve some traces of the poison, since Rakina could hear my movements, I behaved quite normally, rinsing the cup out well as I always did. I put it on the dish-rack with the other dishes.
The salt container was there on the bench. I got a large glass and quickly popped several big spoons of salt into the glass. I went straight around to the toilet, which was behind the kitchen. Using the water from the basin, I filled the glass up with water and began to wash out my stomach. I filled the glass up several times, swallowing the water, and then vomitting it out again, as quietly as I could manage, so that Rakina would not hear me. Fortunately, the poison had already made me feel very nauseous, so I did not have to make any effort, or any noise, to release the contents of my stomach. The salt water did the trick admirably.
I think I went back to my seat to watch television for a few minutes. But I still did not feel well. In fact, I felt terrible. So I repeated the salt and water exercise once more. Then I went into my room and locked the door.
The lock was just a wee sliding catch, so I pushed the double bed up hard against the door to form a barricade, in case someone should try to bust in during the night. Of course I did not sleep.
The next thing that happened was really my saving grace.
Mohamed and Rakina had sent Mohamed’s daughter away for the weekend. I am sure that they sent her away so that they could carry out their terrible plan to have me poisoned. If she had stayed away, then there would have been nobody in the house to hear my cries, and nobody to let me out the locked door in the morning should I survive the poison. But their plan was foiled, because at some time that evening, daughter returned unexpectedly from her friend’s house. She had decided that she needed to prepare for university in the morning, and so came home to get organized.
My Dear God. Thank You. If the daughter had not come home that night, then it is likely I would not have escaped. All the doors had deadlocks which needed a key to open them, both inside and out. Mohamed and Rakino had asked me for the key the evening before.
Daughter in the house meant that the door would open in the morning to let her out. Her presence meant also that I was probably protected from my door being broken down in the night.
I had a plan, in case they decided to do this. The neighbouring house was only a metre or so away, and I had a bottle ready to fling through their glass window-pane, should my door get busted in. I would then have made the jump a couple of metres or so down to the ground, and yelled for help.
“What would happen when Mohamed came home at five in the morning?” I wondered.
Here is what happened: At around five o’clock, Mohamed arrived at my door with another Indian man. Was this the Indian doctor, I wondered. Or an accomplice who planned to help Mohamed carry me to another house where they expected to terminate my life? They tried the door. Mohamed was obviously angry that the door had not been left open. They spoke in Hindi outside my door for several minutes. After an extremely dynamic, frenetic conversation, but in undertones so as not to wake daughter, the other Indian man left the house.
At precisely seven o’clock in the morning, when I knew the door would be unlocked for daughter to go and catch the train to university, I made my exit from the room. What joy I experienced, to see that the outside door not only had its key left in it, but it was slightly ajar. It had just been opened by daughter, who was almost ready to leave. I shot out onto the landing, opening the door wide, and put my bag against the open door.
Then I went just inside the open door of Mohamed and Rakina, keeping at a distance in case Mohamed, who lay fully dressed on top of the bed, jumped out at me. I guessed that they did not want daughter to know anything about their murderous intentions, and felt safe saying a hasty goodbye from just inside the doorway.
Rakina was so mad, she would not look at me. She lay on her pillows and kept her head down. They had just lost an incredible amount of money: It is possible that they had to pay the Indian man who came back with Mohamed that morning. Perhaps they had already paid the doctor too. As well, they had lost the potential sales of passport and taxi licence, the sale of a new identity, and the sale of body parts – and she had just lost her chance at getting what probably would have been a home-styled kidney transplant.
I could feel Rakina’s fury from where I stood by the door.
Mohamed was absolutely curious as to how I had survived their poison. He was staring intently at my eyes, to see if there was any sign there that I may still be drugged.
I remained perfectly calm, as if nothing at all untoward had ever happened:
“Thankyou Mohamed. Thankyou Rakina. It has been very nice staying with you. Goodbye.”
And I left, counting my lucky stars as I raced down to the subway. I never looked back.
Even though I had acted fairly promptly to expell the poison from my stomach, the feeling of nausea stayed with me for about six months after this incident. My sick liver was a constant reminder during this time of how my life had almost ended so abruptly and violently, with my cut-up and useless body-parts becoming united with the land-fill on the Brisbane water-front, Rakina’s life prolonged, perhaps, with new kidneys, and some immigrant or other driving around on my taxi and bus licence.
I have not been back to Australia.