Sabine: Five Years Later
Sabine knew that one of her migraine attacks was beginning.
They had been so numerous in the last four years that the prospect of spending a few
days in bed didn't anger her, as it had in the beginning. She felt a bit of frustration
and panic, but mostly resignation.
The frustration came from being forced to instantly drop her plans and projects, run
home, close her bedroom curtains, turn out the lights, and lay in bed until the headache
The frustration also came from the certainty that her headaches were psychosomatic, yet
no amount of reasoning and pleading with her idiotic body would help.
And there was the panic, which depended on how far she was from home. Would she make it
before the pain became unbearable? Before she had to throw up?
But mostly, there was resignation. Absolutely nothing had helped. And there was no cure
With a sigh of exasperation, Sabine made a 180 turn on the bicycle path and began to
cycle back to Leiden. Luckily, she was only in Warmond, which was some 5 km (3 miles) from
Leiden. "How stupid of you to think you could have made it to Amsterdam," she
said out loud. (Amsterdam was some 45 km = 30 miles from Leiden.) "Imagine your
plight if the attack had started midway."
As she cycled past a colorful tulip field, she winced at the thought of having to spend
this warm, sunny Spring day in her dark bedroom.
It was even one of the extremely rare days where the sky was cloudless. She suddenly
remembered a television program she had seen (was it before or after the Jump?)
A man, who had spent many years in the Dutch Antilles had brought his 8-year-old son to
the Netherlands for the first time. After a few days, the son asked his father "Papa,
why has the sun broke down?".
Her attention was dragged back to her ever increasing migraine. Would she have to take
those disgusting, animal-tested pain-killers again? Sometimes, the pain got so unbearable
that she felt compelled to resort to them. Temporary relief, in exchange for guilt and
numbness. She had tried herbal and homeopathic remedies to no avail. She had even tried
switching to a raw-food diet, temporary succumbing to a raw foodist's claims that every
ailment could be cured by raw food. All she got was a colitis attack on top of her
migraine. (The raw foodist then insisted that she hadn't stuck to it long enough. Maybe
so, she thought, but French fries help me psychologically.)
Leiden, 2 km. The red and white signs for cyclists were yet another link to her
"past": 300 years in the future!
The colored strings in her long, blond hair had turned a beautiful purple under the
radiant sun. Although Sabine's face was slightly contorted with pain, she remained
strikingly beautiful. Several male cyclists heading the opposite direction almost collided
with each other, their attention having been diverted from the bicycle path to her. She
was wearing the same long blue coat and sneakers as the day of the Jump; they showed
absolutely no signs of wear five years later.
Sabine's thoughts flitted back to the day of the Jump. It was a cold, cloudy day in the
year 2290, and Sabine had an hour to kill before her train left. She was perusing the
magazines at the Leiden Public Library when an issue entitled Een blik terug caught
her eye. That issue covered the world of 1990, three hundred years in the past. It
featured a very large section on the food animal industry, an institution almost unknown
to Sabine, inasmuch as nearly the entire world had stopped eating animals. Sabine had only
vague recollections of food animals, atomic wars, racism and other such barbary from her
high school and university History classes.
Sabine checked out the magazine and, since she was running late, ran to catch her
train. However, upon leaving the library, she somehow made the Jump three hundred years
into the past.
At first, she refused to believe it, and she began the day like an amusement-park goer,
determined to test this "illusion" to the fullest. She discovered that her
favorite microdisc shop had "become" a chicken store, with the bodies of roasted
chickens turning gruesomely on a spit. She met Bart, a handsome health-food store worker
to whom she immediately was attracted.
Then came the fiasco at the butcher shop when she had asked the shopkeeper about the
conditions in which the animals were slaughtered. The shopkeeper became aggressive and all
but threw her out of the store. After that, she went to a slaughterhouse and fainted when
she saw the horrifying way the cows, pigs and chickens were treated and killed.
She had awakened in the hospital, where a kindly, meat-eating nurse took care of her
and even made her a delicious vegan meal. It was only then that Sabine understood how
people can be friendly, nice and decent while still directly financially supporting the
most hideous institutions. When she left the hospital, she got her first panic attack and
tried to cope by discussing with a group of youths her age at a fast-food joint. The
youths were friendly and seemed to like animals, yet grew defensive when their link to the
slaughterhouse was brought up. One of them, Bart, (how ironic, the same name as my
Bart), was a bodybuilder and believed in ridiculous myths about how meat made you strong
like a tiger. The discussion also ended in a fiasco, with Bart's girlfriend bursting into
hysterical tears and another boy politely asking her to leave.
Her only salvation had been the handsome health-food store worker (my Bart, she
thought). In despair, she went to him and love took care of the rest. At first, Bart
didn't believe that she was really from the future, but she eventually was able to
Sabine moved in to Bart's small studio apartment and Bart helped Sabine with the
administrative formalities needed to regain her Dutch nationality, for she didn't exist in
any government records! They solved the problem by making a fake passport and birth
certificate from Liechtenstein and then declaring her as Bart's girlfriend, which gave her
work and residence privileges in Holland.
Sabine also spent several weeks reading up on Liechtenstein so she could answer
questions about her "native land".
Yet Sabine's administrative victory did not mean a cultural one. Her alternate periods
of panic and curiosity eventually subsided, and gave way to the grim resignation of being
stranded in a strange world with no way to return to hers. And she wasn't sure if the fact
that she was stranded in her "own" Holland helped or worsened the situation.
She would see the familiar Leiden train station, but the miniplane hangar was gone. She
would see the familiar bicycle direction signs, but then hear cyclists speaking this
hardcore version of Dutch which was almost like a dialect for her. She would answer the
telephone, but only hear voices without images. She would turn on the radio and
television, but the songs, programs and celebrities were unknown to her. And the
television was flat: images didn't even come out of the screen!
And her family and friends were gone.
The English language had been another major disaster. In Sabine's time, the entire
world spoke English, but shortly after the Jump, Sabine found out that her English was
worlds apart from the English of 1990. Only months later did Sabine resolve this mystery
thanks to a sudden recollection. In a high school History class, she had learned about the
Linguistic Revolution. She didn't remember when it happened, but did remember that at a
certain point in history, the countries of the world were torn between the need for a
global second language and nationalistic pride which prevented adoption of the English
language, which unquestionably dominated the world's language scene.
One fellow finally resolved this problem, encouraging the peoples of the world to
deform the English language in any way they pleased, as long as they were understandable.
Non English-speaking countries wasted no time seizing this golden opportunity, throwing
their literally translated expressions into this new linguistic melting pot. Conventional
English saying like "The straw that broke the camel's back" became "The
drop of water that made the vase overflow" in Spain and France. (In Holland, it was a
bucket that overflowed.)
Sabine grimaced. This revolutionary idea had been an immense source of problems for
her. Not only was her English unrecognizable in the beginning, but she also had to unlearn
her lifelong habit of colorfully and creatively shaping the language as she pleased.
It was in fact during an English class that her first of many migraines began. Her
migraine.... Ow! Once again, the pain dragged her back to reality.
Luckily, she made it back to Leiden, back to Bart's and her studio. As she had done so
many times, she ran to her bedroom, violently drew the curtains shut, undressed, and flung
herself into her bed.
A restful, healing sleep was out of the question, of course. Her pain was too intense.
She lied on her back, propped her head up with an extra pillow, and stared at the ceiling.
Bart would not be home from the health-food store for a few hours.
"Why am I having this attack? Damn it," she muttered under her breath.
Resignation soon extinguished this renegade burst of anger, but the question lingered in
Why was this happening? Obviously, culture shock played a big part. Sabine was utterly
certain that a quick jump back to her native year would banish her migraines forever. As
the years went by, however, her hopes of returning to the future had evaporated.
Culture shock was surely the main culprit; yet Sabine was convinced that there was
more. Some other factors were intensifying her migraines to the point where the pain had
become unbearable. Sabine didn't know why, but she was sure that if she could pinpoint and
remedy these factors, she might be able to lead a normal life despite her migraines. These
added factors continued to elude her, despite much introspection.
"What a useless, idiotic body," she mumbled. "What's the use of telling
me that something is wrong if it doesn't tell me what?"
And she again began to compare her present self with the Sabine of five years ago.
"I used to be exuberant and curious" she whispered. "Now I'm disinterested
and resigned." This didn't surprise her. She had read up on culture shock and
familiarized herself with the six aspects of culture shock by Dr. Kalervo Oberg, an
anthropologist in the 1960's:
1. Strain due to the effort required to make the necessary psychological adaptations.
2. A sense of loss and feelings of deprivation regarding friends, family, status,
career and possessions.
3. Being rejected by and/or rejecting members of the new culture.
4. Confused in role, role expectation, values, feelings and self-identity.
5. Surprise, anxiety and even disgust and indignation after becoming aware of cultural
6. Feelings of impotence due to not being able to cope with the new environment.
She had also read about the adaptation process: initial enthusiasm, followed by a down
period during adaptation, followed by renewed enthusiasm as the adaptation process
completes. Unfortunately, the renewed enthusiasm had not yet come.
"There is something else," she continued, "I used to he enthusiastic.
Now I'm bitter. Extremely bitter. How did this happen?"
A sharp pain interrupted her thoughts. She closed her eyes and waited for it to die
down. Then she continued to tell herself. "I feel like I'm constantly battling with
the Barbarians and the Idiots. And I have no patience for either of them."
She had coin these two terms over the past five years. The Barbarians were the meat
eaters who became defensive when confronted with their direct financial link to the
slaughterhouse. They sputtered inane rationalizations which she had grown too weary to
And then there were the Idiots. They had "seen the light" and had stopped
eating meat and financially supporting animal cruelty. Yet when they would come together
and try to plan ways to fight animal abuse by joining forces, they would invariably end up
bickering and quibbling about trivialities. The few successful projects were overshadowed
by myriad wasted afternoons and evenings, not to mention the irritation and hurt feelings
among the participants.
And then there was Sabine, the grand Cynic, who inwardly criticized everyone without
daring to change things. And when she wasn't frittering away her time on useless, boring
activities, she was lying in bed with a migraine.
"Throughout this ordeal, Bart has been a source of joy and pain. He is
compassionate, supports me and loves me to death. He is patient. Yet he has demolished the
excuses and rationalizations that I had when I was single. Because of him, I'm confronted
with my misconceptions and shortcomings, and they are painful."
That was her last coherent thought. Another hour went by before she finally fell
As she had also done before the Jump, Sabine kept a "small notebook" at her
bedside. She called it her "droomblokje" (dream pad) and would record her dreams
immediately upon awakening. As with many other things, she missed her "old"
dream pad (the one before the Jump), but had started a new one.
She sometimes found it irritating to force herself to write just after she woke up,
while she was still sleepy. In the beginning, she had also found it annoying that her
recollections of the dream would evaporate so quickly. However, her diligence had paid off
in time, to the point that she could record her dreams in amazing detail.
That is why Sabine had no trouble recording the dreams which ensued.
The first dream was of the younger brother. Sabine was doing her long division homework
in the kitchen. Her six-year-old brother, Joepje, was in the kitchen. He looked at
Sabine's homework and said he found it simple. Joepje was six years old and obviously too
young to understand long division. Sabine got irritated because she knew he couldn't
possibly understand, yet lied and said he did. He was carrying a box of chocolate-flavored
chewy sticks called K-Kauw's, which he loved. Sabine yanked the box away from him and said
"If you're so smart, solve this long division problem. And for every mistake you
make, I'll throw out one of your K-Kauws." Her brother then tried to solve the
problem, but wrote total gibberish on the paper, whereupon she began to toss one K-Kauw
after another in the waste disposal unit.
Undaunted, her brother wrote on, burying himself deeper in his hole, yet continuing to
act arrogantly. Before long, Sabine told her brother that all the K-Kauws were gone. He
tossed his head back in a haughty, condescending way, as if he couldn't care less, but
then suddenly his eyes opened in a wide, unsettling way and he began to emit a high
shriek, which scared Sabine. He continued to shriek for a long while but eventually,
Sabine's high-school History teacher, Mr. Begrip, appeared in the distance. He came
through the dining room which Sabine could see through the kitchen. Mr. Begrip came into
the kitchen, looked disapprovingly at Sabine and then lifted up Joepje, who stopped
screaming. Mr. Begrip carried Joepje to the dining room and in the distance, Sabine saw
him put Joepje on the dining room table. Joepje had the haughty, arrogant look on his face
again. Mr. Begrip kneeled down to face Joepje and then said with a smile "1+1?".
Whereupon Joepje's arrogant expression disappeared and he said "2", confused.
Mr. Begrip then gave Joepje a K-Kauw. Sabine found it strange that her high-school History
teacher was teaching her six-year-old brother basic arithmetic. Begrip continued
"2+2?" "4", answered Joepje, still confused. Begrip gave him another
Sabine stood up, and called out to Mr. Begrip. She asked if he would eventually lead up
to long division. He smiled back and said "I don't know. I'll see."
Then she was outside, in her Leiden of 2290. She saw everything as it was, before the
Jump, and joy filled her heart. She began to run back to her apartment, where she lived
with her family. She would tell everyone about the Jump and what she had seen. Suddenly,
she felt scared. Would Bart be here too?
She ran into Maria, her best friend. She told her that she had made a Jump through time
and the two agreed that Maria would come by that evening to talk. She ran further. She saw
Mrs. Noyee, who she knew had many family and health problems. She greeted her and
exchanged a few kind words, but did not mention the Jump or her excitement of seeing her
She took leave of Mrs. Noyee to go to her family's house, but the surroundings grew
unfamiliar and her legs became so heavy that she could hardly walk. This part of the dream
had recurred countless times before.
Then she was in a meeting with her current Animal Rights friends in 1995, in the living
room. Bart wasn't there. All were bickering and squabbling as usual. This time, it was
about an irritating meat commercial where potatoes and green beans danced around on a
dinner plate, yet an empty space remained on a third of the plate. At the end of the
commercial, a big steak came and occupied the empty space and a voice said "If you
don't eat meat, you're missing something." Large advertisements corresponding to this
commercial appeared in bus stops throughout the country: potatoes and green beans occupied
two-thirds of the dinner plate and the remaining third was empty. The commercial's slogan
appeared in large letters at the top of the poster.
Sabine suggested that the group go around Leiden and tape small posters in the plates
empty space. The posters would show a cow being bludgeoned, the blood gushing down its
head. The group hemmed and hawed over this idea, and it was eventually forgotten.
Disgusted, Sabine went to the kitchen to get lemonade for everyone. When she came back,
she saw them writing a letter of protest for the advertisers. ("A lot of good that's
going to do," she sighed.) They were writing only one letter on one
piece of paper. Each person would write one word and pass the sheet on to his or her
Disheartened, Sabine took a pile of posters with the cow's head being bludgeoned, and
went into town. She pasted the posters in the empty spaced of at least ten bus stops.
Sabine didn't know how she knew, but she knew that enough posters would remain in place
long enough to cause several thousand dollars of damage due to peoples' reflection.
On her way back home, she saw Bart in the distance. He was walking somewhere and
strangely, was at the other side of a Finish Line of a large racetrack. The
"contestants" were dressed in running clothes, yet were standing still! They
were facing random directions and were at varying distances from the Finish Line. Bart was
dressed in normal clothes and seemed oblivious to the Finish Line and the racetrack. He
was walking parallel to the Finish Line, on the winning side.
Every now and then, Bart would look sideways at a "contestant" and judge
whether he or she was in arm's reach. If s/he wasn't, Bart would ignore the contestant. If
s/he was in arm's reach and also facing Bart, Bart would offer his hand to the person and
smile. Sometimes, the contestant would look away quickly. Often, the contestant would
shake Bart's hand with a smile and let it go. And very rarely, a contestant would grasp
Bart's hand firmly and Bart would pull him over the Finish Line, to Bart's side. Both the
contestant and Bart would smile at each other....
Sabine awakened with a start when she felt a wet kiss on her forehead. It was Bart. He
had come home.
She smiled clasped his hand and sat upright in bed. Her headache pain had gone down.
She motioned to Bart to leave her alone while she recorded the dream in her dream pad.
After she finished, Sabine and Bart went through their usual ritual: Sabine rested her
head on Bart's lap and Bart read her dreams, commenting on them. Bart had this habit of
whispering the words when reading out loud. Sabine usually found this habit irritating,
but found it useful with her dream pad, because when he made a comment, she knew exactly
where he was.
"Your history teacher is smarter than you are," he smiled after reading the
dream with her brother and the long division. "Rather than using negative punishment,
he rewards Joepje and only goes as far as Joepje can go. He's big enough not to be put off
by Joepje's arrogance and stick to what Joepje is really capable of understanding."
Bart's face grew sad, as it always did when he read about Sabine dreaming that she was
back in her time. When he read Sabine's encounter with Maria and Mrs. Noyee, he said
"You saw that Maria was ready for what you had to say; Mrs. Noyee wasn't."
When he read about their Animal Rights group writing one letter and how Sabine pasted
posters on her own, he muttered "I've been irritated with our group for awhile too. I
think in our case, the whole is less than even one of its parts!"
When he read about helping people over the Finish Line, he said "Here again, we're
only reaching out to people who are open to our message, want to join our ranks and need a
little help making the leap. We're not bothering with people who aren't interested. And
we're also not wasting our time with people who have too far to go. There's too little
time, no guarantee of success, and in that time, we could help many people who are almost
"Maybe your dreams are touching on a lot of important issues that are bothering
you aside from culture shock," Bart concluded. "Also, Sabine, please remember
that we are not the initiators of all of this animal horror around the world. This whole
mess began long before we were born. We can only do as much as we are able and willing.
"Each of us can think of creative ways to help the movement individually," he
continued, "by sticking up posters or writing a story or a song. We shouldn't fall
into the trap of thinking we are useless outside of a big group. And we shouldn't let our
well-being be dependent upon this terrible reality."
Bart realized that Sabine was sleeping. He wondered at what moment she had fallen
asleep again. He smiled at her beautiful, peaceful face and stroked her long, blond hair.
"I see you've been listening to me, sweetheart, even in your sleep,"
whispered Bart. "Your dreams reflect the things I've been nurturing in you all these
years. I hope that they're a sign that you'll be getting better soon."
Copyright ? 1995-2003 by Mohan
Embar. All Rights Reserved
May be used in unchanged form by avowed Animal Rightists if accompanied by this copyright
Animal Rights Counterculture