Chapter 17: Road Trip With Ghosts
Tires on the solid gravel road, five cases of beer, a three-quarter tank of diesel, firewood and most of all a loyal four-legged friend a friend that I can trust, is the recipe for a road trip home. At least a road-trip for the next two to three hundred kilometers, or as long as the fuel lasts.
Dust is now kicked up by the vehicle between the trees, dust that will be seen as a local movement. We bounce over the road and potholes. The camp from where I have stolen the vehicle is now at least fifty kilometers behind us and the broken tar road allow me to travel at close to eighty kilometers per hour. Pipes little ears flap in the wind that blows through the window. His little tongue is hanging out and his cheeks flap open and close. I have buried the body of the owner in a shallow grave next to the road after I removed his boots and firearms. The 9mm side-pistol is now proudly hanging on my side. The AK47 and ammunition decorate the passenger seat with Pipes.
With the sun blistering down through the front window and the beers filling my veins and driving ability we keep the vehicle on the road.
I have to stop every few kilometers to relieve my bladder from the warm beer that flows like a river in my veins that sink like bricks to my bladder. Release it like a fountain against the dry trees when we stop, we drive and drive, covering distances that would have taken us days to do on foot.
I have now covered a hundred and fifty kilometers during the past eight hours. With sand roads that bring my average speed to less than ten kilometers per hour to on the tar road, with bad potholes, bringing the average to sixty kilometers per hour. That is according to my calculations using the odometer and the small clock on the dashboard of the Toyota.
The sun is now pulling his head from the warm sandy road from the trees next to the thick this road that I am now traveling on.
I will be able to drive for a half an hour or even less before I will have to stop.
“I do not need headlights in the bushes, headlights that will warn the population of my movements long before I am close,” I think.
My estimation is that I have plus minus seven hundred kilometers to go. But the fuel gauge will not take me there. With the gauge showing less than a quarter now I will have to make a decision to steal some fuel or abandon the vehicle. Place Pipes and I back on foot, back between the bushes and the night dwellers.
With a bladder full of beer and a little friend very uncomfortable in the front seat I know that I have to stop.
Pipes needs to run, and for me to relieve the pressure of a full bladder.
We are now on a harder surface and I can drive the vehicle off the road into the trees that will need to cover our transport through the night. From search lights of helicopters and from the local population.
We are now relieving our natural needs next to the car before we start walking for plus minus two kilometers on the hard surface of the road, where our tracks do not show. Before we turn into the bush. I am carrying a few beers and the two guns with us; my belt is filled with as much ammunition as it can carry. The small hunting knife that I took from the driver, after breaking his neck is hanging in the pouch on the belt between the ammunition pouches. My home-made knife is like usual just pushed through the belt behind my back.
The sting of a tsetse fly on my arm indicates that there will be water and wildlife close. We have traveled closer to one of the rivers that will sustain us. But also rivers that will measure us up in the food chain of hunters, we will hunt and be hunted.
In the sand I now see the small tracks of a buck, the light of the stars allow me to see the track.
“Come on Pipes, let’s get meat to eat,” I inspire the dog, he wags his tail, smell the tracks and start the lead towards the buck.
Without any further communication or barking the two of us start the hunt, a hunt where I lose the tracks under the trees but where Pipes follow the scent and lead me to our meal.
While following the dog on the trail my mind slips away to the moment that brought me here. To the ghosts in my mind and the route through the pipes;
The little paws against my legs bring my real surroundings back into focus, and I can see the small buck under the thorn bush in front of me. In the poor light under the trees I cannot identify the buck, but.
“who need to know the name of the meat you are about to eat”, I think by myself, before my mind slip into another thought of horror another movie triggered by the stalking;
With the soft black shadow left by the moon between the pale praying streetlights. My eyes search over the ten-foot fence a fence with small little stars where the light reflect from the sharp thorn-like wires protecting rubber legged vehicles that look like round nose animals in the shadows of doom.
I move undetected between the tall grass towards the diesel driven dragons. Towards the gate protected by a black shadow figure. The figure of a guard, his AK47 stand like an aerial against the moonlight from his shoulder and his un-neat beret sit like a flat piece of cow dung on the round ball that I gathered to be his head. My feet move slowly through the grass, slow enough that the grass does not wave their hands to the guard in the light that the moon provides.
I am now ten meters behind the guard. These last few meters is the most important the most dangerous and then also the most crucial of the stalk. It is the meters that determine the outcome of life or death, and the scales can swing at any time.
I am now going down into a catwalk position. Into the position where I can move without a noise. Without the voices of cracking branches.
The position is on your hands and feet, four areas of touch, four areas that you have to control. Every branch and leave is moved to make space for your hand to go, while you balance is on the other three limbs. Then every branch and leave is moved again to make space for the foot that follows. The process is slow but quiet, effective and keeps the surprise factor on your side. My arms bend, to lower my body to the ground as the guard turn around. I keep my body dead still about 6 inches of the ground. My eyes follow every movement, every suggestion that his body makes. My body is ready to roll at any time, roll over to my back so that I can aim and shoot. An action that will kill the guard but also rips the camp alive with the outcry of the bullet into the quiet night.
I am now almost at the road that leads to the gate an area where the grass will not cover me anymore. Where the catwalk will not work any longer, the last meter is now covered to this road.
My right arm lock around his neck, my shoulder push forward to separate the vertebra in his neck, my arm snap tight and I hear the ligaments tear. The soft dull separation of his neck vertebra. The entire movement is fast and accurate. The body become lifeless in my arms, for a moment I hold it waiting for the last contractions from the muscles before I place the guard softly on the ground. His eyes stare stiffly from his head into the night sky towards the stars that now will guide his soul through the universe. I have created another ghost, another fatherless child, wife and possibly a mother that will cry in my mind forever. That all for a few liters of diesel that will power …
The images of the movie are vivid, but I know it did not happen on this mission. I know that my mind is playing a memory from a previous time. The face of the guard is one whose necks I did snap, whose stiff eyes I did send through the universe and through the stars. But I cannot place the face the cow dung beret into the right file in my mind.
My eyes are now back to the stalk of the little buck, we are downwind so the little fellow does not smell or detect me. I am now ten meters from the buck before I take aim with the stolen AK47. I fire one shot, and the buck buckle runs a few meters before it falls into the sand. We run closer to claim our meal, with the buck still alive I slit his throat allowing the heart to empty the blood into the sand, my mind jump.
My eyes meet the eyes of the little dead buck. The green cow dung beret that covers the small horns on his head. The blood that trickles into the thirsty sand, sand that swallows every drop. My eyes dwell to the thorn trees above the little buck. I see the blond woman again in the branches above the ground. The little dragon-like bird on her shoulder, there is smoke on the bird’s breath as he speaks, as he points my eyes to the moving bushes. Bushes now covered in mist, to the dark black figures that drive goose bumps over my spine. Goosebumps that settle like flies around my heart. The dragon lady waves and I see how my little dog Pipes run towards her. The little tail is waging so much that his hind legs buckle under the swing. His legs struggle to carry him fast enough. I scream at pipes but my voice does not work. The sound that I blow out turn into mist, into the mist from a Dracula movie. A memory far removed from these bushes, a memory that should be settled in a theater with popcorn and a paper cup of Coke.
I jump up to catch my friend to stop him from meeting the movie that will swallow him like a hungry mouth from my reality. But my legs are stuck, stuck in the blood drenched sand around my feet. Stuck in a dream that plays while my eyes are open to my reality. Filled with the images caught in my head.
The images are now gone, my hands are filled with blood, with the liver of the little buck; Pipes are sitting patiently next to me waiting for his piece.
With my knife, I split the liver for Pipes and me, split the raw warm protein of the buck. The warm beer in my hand swallows the liver down.
The fire that I made, the spit that I have built is now the home of the little leg of the buck that had to die. While the legs are summering over the wooden fire, I take a beer, tell Pipes to sit, before I stumble to a tree to make a speech, a speech of promise and of care.
“You have seen the dragon woman; you have seen the horror of my ways. The death the destruction that I have left, you have heard the bones that broke, the souls that left.
Tonight my little Pipes I am here to make my promises to lay out my insanity. To promise that I will never damage anyone again unless my life depends on it.
I promise that of this day on I will never talk again, of the eyes that stare through my darkrooms I will forget. I will bury the Blond dragon woman that come to my rescue and bliss the fire of the bird.
I will never ever again leave a soul behind use his guts to take the hyena away so that I can walk. From now if I say I care I will care with my life. I will care for life and I will never leave that person or dog like you behind.
We have a few days left, days that we might have to kill to survive, kill to eat, but that will be it. My nightmares will stay in me, will be my secret from those who I love and care for. It will be my dragons, my insanity that I cannot share, an insanity that will destroy the sane minds of my wife of my kids to come and of you little Pipes.
Of this, we will never talk to him who have a solid sane mind because I cannot break it. I cannot bring their sanity to visit my dark room, my room of horrors.
So Pipes I am here tonight, to promise that sane I will always act, that my nightmares will only ever be shared with broken minds.
Tears are now flowing over my cheeks over the beard that time has left, it drips on my lap. I call Pipes to me and hug him tight onto my lap with tears,
“Friends forever” I utter in his ear
“You are now part of me, of my life and of my hurt,” I laugh through the tears of beer before I rise to slice some cooked unsalted meat for Pipes and me.
Sleep and tiredness are crawling now to me, to my eyes and to my mind. With a stomach full a warm body of a friend now on my lap. I drift into a peaceful sleep, a dreamless sleep, without the dragon lady, without the stiff tearless eyes that stare at me.
“John…..” I said, looking up at my friend. But he is not there anymore. My eyes search the pub but it is dark.
“John,” I call out. But the sound of my voice echoes from walls that I cannot see.
“Did I …”
The thought now stuck in my head, where is my friend? I think.
The beer, glasses and the chairs they do not exist anymore. The bar lady is now only part of the cobwebs in my mind.