Approximately a week later I made my way as usual into town for something to eat and my normal tipple. By 22:00 I was ready to go home so I donned my "Dry as a Bone" and buttoned it up to the neck as it is fairly chilly riding motorcycle at that time of night.
After pulling on my helmet and clipping the safety strap fastener in place I kicked the machine into life and headed off through the dim empty streets. Heading out of the town I passed familiar dwelling houses, across the bridge and into the ominous forest. One last bend and I would be on to the three kilometre straight stretching out into the inky blackness. In the far distance I could see the welcoming twinkle of lights from my village and thanked God that the power was on.
Winding on the power I was now travelling at around 80 kilometres an hour, fast enough for this road through the gloom, as anything is liable to appear in front of you – ranging from a full grown teak to a one-ton water buffalo, and every woodland inhabitant in between. As the light from my headlamp sliced its way through the night air I was fast approaching somewhere near the mid section between the bend and my village.
In an instant I felt a searing pain rip through my neck and right arm. The bike wobbled and lurched as I tried to keep upright. The suddenness and the shock of what has just happened had thrown me out of control momentarily and something was hanging loose and flapping against my throat. My brain was turning somersaults. In what seemed like milliseconds I was asking myself,
I had seen nothing on the road just before the incident and whatever it was that had struck was high up, but there was no overhanging branches, nothing. What hit me seemed to be invisible.
Then the moment of realization dawned on me.
"Good God", I exclaimed to myself, "I have just been attacked."
There was no other explanation for it, but why and with what? Anger and adrenalin welled up inside me and I brought the bike to a skidding halt about half a kilometre further on up the road. I stood hurling abuses in the foulest of language back in the direction of the strike.
"Jesus, what am I doing?" I thought, "This is no joke! Get out of here fast".
In seconds the bike was pushing hard up the road crashing through the gears while swerving from side to side and never stopping until the front wheel hmet the entrance to my house.
Shaking with both fear and fury I opened the door and got my bike inside. I must have stood motionless for about five minutes just gathering my thoughts and when I finally emerged from the trance I was again reminded of the aching pain in my neck and forearm. I reached up to open my safety strap nursing my right arm as I did so. Then I realized it was already undone. After lifting the helmet off I noticed straight away that the fastener was smashed to pieces and looking in the mirror seen that my throat had a number of scratches running from left right – but not deep enough to draw too much blood. However it was black and blue from just under my chin to where the neck joins the chest and running for about two inches either side of my Adam’s apple. Opening my coat proved a little bit difficult but when I exposed my forearm it was the same colour as my neck and covered an area from about the elbow to the wrist.
I mulled over the incident in my mind, trying to work out what had happened. The only conclusion I could come to was that somebody wanted me out of the way. If I was not going to go under my own steam then they were prepared to help me make a decision and were certainly prepared to use force to do it. Timing my movements would have been very easy as I went to town and came home again more or less at the same time almost every night. Thinking about it there had to be two people involved as I knew I had been struck by two projectiles which struck me simultaneously. Furthermore I doubted if one person would have lain in wait for me in that place. But did the "bullets" hit me or did I hit them? From my deduction of the scenario it would seem that I was indeed a very fortunate nightrider because the assailants must have been split seconds too early. The evidence from my point of view showed the main strike to be right on the front of the forearm while the other had hit precisely on the side of the safety strap fastener, and had torn most of it away.
Everything was now beginning to make some sense, right from the meeting with the foreign correspondent, the confirmation of rumours, the strangers around my house, the chance visit to the restaurant and the meeting with the westerner while the gathering of military minds was in progress. I and the other European, who lived in the town but whom I had not seen for months, were (possibly) the only Caucasians left living close to the border.
I made the decision to leave but not straight away. Having had very little sleep I went back to where I guessed the assault had taken place. There was no evidence of anything except for the fact that it was the only place that you could park a vehicle or a motorcycle hidden from view. I deduced this because a small track from the forest joined the road at that exact location.
I went to the monastery early the next morning and informed the head brother about the incident. He suggested that I go to the police. I had other ideas and that certainly was not one I would entertain. Walking into the lion’s den was not part of my plan in making a hasty retreat to the relative safety of friends. I decided to stay at my girlfriend’s house in town and leave early the next morning. I reasoned that it would be better to be close to people as it offered a certain amount of protection. Being on my own may have created other clear cut opportunities to my adversaries. The 300 kilometre ride through the mountains looked a better option than hanging around enticing fate to beckon some grim reaper.
Cerebral medication would taste a lot better if I could sleep soundly in my bed at night.