The first African science fiction short story? Leonard Flemming’s ‘And So It Came To Pass’ (full text)

I’ve had various queries about accessing some of the texts I mention in African SF 101; so here is the complete text of the earliest African sf short story I have been able to locate so far. It appeared in Flemming’s collection, A Crop of Chaff (Pietermaritzburg: Natal Witness 1924) pp. 26-31, which had an introduction by Jan Smuts. There was a second edition the following year, but neither it nor the story seem to have been reprinted since. As far as I know, it is out of copyright.

[26]

AND SO IT CAME TO PASS

A distinguished scientist has made the startling statement that mankind will soon be extinct – that there will not be a single human being left in any part of the world. I was in the middle of my tree-planting when I read this, and it almost made me decide to stop planting trees altogether. What’s the use of it all, I thought, if mankind is to be blotted out of existence soon? But I went on with the job, reckoning that they’d be useful for the monkeys to climb up, anyhow.

No human beings on earth . . . nothing but wild animals . . . . wild life.

*            *            *            *

One day in the future, something like this will be written about the past:-

“The last historians of that period state that the beginning of the end of mankind came when the White races were completely exterminated and the Black and Yellow races ruled.

“Of events in other parts of the world outside South Africa this article is not dealing. The over-running of Europe, Australia, and America by Coloured people, and the total annihilation of the

[27]

Whites is to be read of elsewhere; and though the exact year of the last sign of a White man in South Africa is not certain – some stating it to be 150 years after a fight in Europe in 1914-18; and others believing it to be 250 years after, there is sufficient evidence to show that towards the end of the era of man, the Native races in that country made short work of their one-time White rulers.

“From the meagre information available it would seem that events moved along smoothly enough, even during that epoch, when 50 per cent. of the members of Parliament were Blacks; but when the Native races reached that point where they outnumbered the Whites by 47 to 1, it is said that the White races made a final desperate effort to pull together to save themselves and the country.

“This attempt at unity seems to have failed. The Bill for the Employment of Poor Whites on the Mars air route was apparently the stumbling block. That all the Whites were in a poor way at this time does not seem to have occurred to the majority of the politicians, but it is evident that the pushing of this Bill meant a certain number of votes to one section of the White members of Parliament; and the Native menace, which throughout the years had been put aside in favour of Bills like this, very quietly and quickly sprang into a terrible reality. . . .

“One reads of the marvellous efficiency of the Blacks, their organisation and endurance – the overthrow of the Whites – the Black monarchy – the well-trained armies of countless millions, and so, in the eternal efflux of time, we find history repeating itself,

[28]

and discords and dissension taking place amongst the now ruling Black race, eventually terminating in the Great Black War.

“Before this, conditions, compared to the previous “White” era, appear somewhat extraordinary. Courts were abolished, large distilleries erected, nine-tenths of the arable land of the Union was under Kaffir corn, and every riem had disappeared as if by magic.

“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Practically the whole of mankind was made by 1924. There is a mass of evidence on the truth of this statement (see Vol. VI., pages 47 to 598). One of the most famous and historical instances, of course, was the objection, by a section of the Whites, to the initiation of a broad, bold, emigration scheme, which might quite easily have been the salvation of South Africa.

“Under the rule of the Blacks, Dingaan’s Day became a day of mourning with trained weepers in every market place, and a great annual festival appears to have taken place in the Government Buildings, Pretoria, on July 27, the date of the massacre of the last White man in South Africa – a one-time prohibitionist member of Parliament who was found hiding in an ant-bear hole.”

It was about this time that I was given a day’s leave from – from the place where I was spending eternity. An excellent arrangement this, giving odd residents 24 hours’ leave on earth at the end of a century or two.

I had chosen a day in midsummer as being one in which I stood less chance of catching cold. A

[29]

private Glidoplane had been put at my disposal – motors had long been obsolete.

I landed in Bloemfontein eventually, feeling very depressed at the sight of thousands of black, and brown, and yellow faces, when, to my joy, I caught sight of a white face inside a funny-looking sort of hut, which on closer examination turned out to be one of the old trackless tramcars.

The man inside proved to be a descendant of my old friend Brones. He wasn’t quite white, but at least he was not so “nativey” as the rest of the inhabitants.

Brones and Mrs. Brones were employed by a Mr. Mopilo Thlatyane as cook and gardener.

“It’s a good job as jobs go for one whose ancestors were white,” said Brones. He talked English with difficulty and with a strong accent of Buzuluto – the universal language now – a sort of native Esperanto.

“Do you mean to say that you and Mrs. Brones are working for a native family?”

“We are,” said Brones, “and very glad of the job too; we have this old tramcar for a house, we spent our spare time during the first six months screwing up the loose nuts, we get enough to eat, Thlatyane gives me his old boots and trousers, and Mrs. Thlatyane gives the wife quite a number of old dresses and things. We’re alright. The people I am sorry for are the descendants of those who were connected with the Police Courts – they have a fiendish time of it – always being run in for something or other and tried by the King – of course you know we have

[30]

a monarchy now with a black King at the head. Only yesterday there was a strong leading article suggesting that the authorities go in more for the death penalty with a lingering kind of death.”

“This particular writer is a chap named P. Pombulo Menletyohae – his grandfather’s name was ‘Sixpence,’ I believe. Of course you know that sending these chaps to English Universities was the beginning of the mischief.”

I listened in horror to the details of life as it was to-day. The native police force was kept solely to deal with the descendants of the Whites. Natives were rarely punished. Sheep stealing was encouraged in order that the old traditional cunning and characteristics of the race should not be entirely lost.

“When a native stole a sheep he at once reported the matter to the police, who, after, satisfying themselves that it was a genuine theft, gave the thief a metal disc. At the end of the year the native who had stolen most sheep was given a Diploma of Merit and a sum of money.”

It was with a feeling of relief that I returned to – to where I was spending eternity. It may be warm, but at least my own race are there and – one does feel safe. . . . .

There came in the course of time the inevitable. Jealousies, spite, hatred, disruption, disunion. Just as these had in another era undermined the power of the White man so did they begin to eat in the power of the Black.

The split occurred when a section of the people headed by one Bolohlomo, a noted psychologist of his

[31]

day, started the “No Education” campaign. It was one of the greatest reforms for the betterment of mankind that had ever been known.

They quoted the downfall of the White man as their chief argument for the abolition of education. “If that is where education brings you,” they said, “we don’t want it.”

So came into being the Pro and the Anti-Education parties. There followed feuds and fights and wars until there came the culminating Great War of the Blacks, in which was used every diabolical means of destruction known to science. Until . . . . man existed no more . . . . there was not one human being on earth . . . . as it was in the beginning. . . .

*            *            *            *

A cold wind swept its way around the world. It was the poor old earth singing, “Thank goodness – relief at last.”

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