Chapter 2: The hiding place
Lack of moonlight has allowed the darkness to devour my surroundings, as the shadows behind the trees became giant monsters that swallow the trees and rocks from the vision of the day hunters. It devours it from those who should not dwell during the darkness of the night. The rock face of the cliff is cold, like the body of my friend.”
“I have to drag my body on this ledge to the opening,” I start my new notion.
“It is fuckin cold,” my mind reply, while my eyes comb over the valleys below in search of movement, of predators and my enemies.
“Our enemies,” I start, “they will hunt us until they die, or until they can carry my body down to the foot of the mountain to take photographs of the soldier who died by their hands.”
“You will be that lucky, I mean, photos of your stinky ass,” my mind interrupts.
“Yeah,” I reply while I scan the vale below, my eyes can now see in black and white under the weak light of the stars. The Light that left some of those stars before I was born has now arrived to witness the hunt, the blood stains on the trail that I have left.
The Southern Cross above me tirelessly points the direction to those who dwell at night, and so it will do for years to come. Years that will cure the pain of the moment. It will kill the memories of this unforgettable night.
My fingers have arrived at the opening in the cliff.
“The opening that the blond Dragon bird lady showed me last night,” my thoughts run over the lady and her pointing finger.
“Sure?” my mind replies
I decide not to answer. He is looking for a squabble again.
“I have to get my fingers around this rock-face,” I loudly interrupt my thoughts.
“Naked and cripple, struggle,” he torments me.
It is difficult to move the broken knee around the last rock that stands guard next to my new nest in the cliffs.
Sounds of the hyenas below me are now sweet. The short bursts of their complaint sounding like a dog in distress signal that they are feeding on the guts in my clothes. One of them will grab a piece and run towards the trees to protect his meal from the beady eyes of his friends. Another might run towards the valley, and another might grab a piece and just run, run to a place of safety.
“I wonder…,” I begin a thought.
“Wonder how you will get in.”
“No, how long I will stay here.”
“Until they kick you bare ass out of here.”
“Okay I mean wait here.”
“Until they kick your bare ass out of here,” my mind repeats.
“Only time will tell how long I will remain naked in the dark crack in the rock face.”
My hands feel over the rough bark of the small tree that grows from the hole. One of the, I think, reasons the lady selected the place. My fingers grip and pull my ripped knee around the edge.
“Told you, I can.”
Before my mind can interrupt me I move into my new den, settling on the main branch, a branch with leaves that will hide my camouflaged body from the searching eyes of my combatants.
The crack is narrow and my body barely fits between the branch and the cold wet rock. For the first time, I feel the cold air dancing over my bare skin. The goose bumps that accumulate like fear bumps, like flies around the carcass of a rotten baboon.
“I have a clear view over the death acre,” I say while looking over the valleys in front me.
“View, vision don’t we use those word during the day when you actually can see,” my mind break his long silence.
Without answering I look down on the expired body of Chappies, the last moonlight still edges his shape onto the ground.
I will be able to guard over his body.
“That is if the hyenas don’t carry him away during the darkness of the night.”
“With first light, I will have to ensure that my hideout is safe, that my camouflage is effective before the dogs and their leash holders arrive.”
“The shots that I have fired earlier have done the trick, it forced my enemies to camp and wait for first light.”
“Not bad,”for the first time my mind compliment me
“I cannot see any torch lights in the valley,”
“I would givemy…,” I want to say left leg, but I might still donate this leg, “I need to know the time.”
“I cannot switch my watch light on,” I answer.
“I don’t know where they are, they might just take us out if they see the light, you know like I did from the rock.”
I need the time to estimate how long I have left before first light, but I will have to wait.
Using the Southern Cross I search towards the east which is on myleft-hand-side to see if there is any sign of light, but it is still dark.
“Perhaps I can sleep for a few hours,” I inform myself
My eyes close and I feel how I slip into a deep pit of tiredness with a smallslitat the bottom, my mind slips through the hole and I am back in the nightmare room.
The walls are now covered in ice that shines a phosphor green in the dark. Chappies is not there anymore but the dark black inviting hands are. They wink in the dim green light the opening to reality is now covered with bars and a lock. On the slippery floor, I can see a key next to the inviting hands
“I need to get the key so that I can get out of here before the sun pushes his red face over the horizon,” I think, “before the hunters close in without my knowledge.”
My strong knee jumps into action and pushes over the floor toward the key, but the key slides closer to the reaching hands, the hands of doom. Hands now with dripping guts from their fingertips.
A sharp flame spits from the faint gleam in the back wall. Words follow, that I do not understand as a language but my soul knows what it means. The words that might mean that “you are mine” rumble again with the flames towards me while the dark black fingers on the wall crawl like attacking worms, wanting me.
The key is my only salvation.
I feel how my lips form the word that I do not understand, words that deny the statement of the flame voice. For a moment the fingers stop and the key slides over the floor towards me as if my words commanded them to do so.
The key is heavy and my fingers cannot find a gap where they can enter to pick it up. They cannot move the metal key, the only hope I have left.
Flapping black wings of a bird bring me back to reality. Fear rushes, with the first light, through my inner bones.
“My fingers ache from my efforts to pick the key up,” I think to myself.”
My eyes are now open and the black and white crow flaps his wings again before he flew off the branch. I see the blood under my fingernails where they clawed into the bark of the branch.
A soft blue line appears on the eastern horizon.
“The first sign of light, and the announcement of the day,”
“A day where defeat or victory will be written into my memories forever,” I dream/talk
“Will this be the last sunrise that I will witness?”
“Will it be the last time that the east will show his beautiful colours to me?” These words and questions dance on the melody of singing birds now flying from branch to branch.
Before I can attempt an answer to these questions the sound of barking dogs jerks me from the dream world, of maybe’s to the reality of being hunted.
“Camo, hide,” is the first word that gets to mind.
There is no answer from my mind.
“Does that mean that you agree?” I request.
“Yeah,” he mumbles.
I immediately cut two branches off to cover my naked self against the sharp eyes of them who follow me.
“The intestine infested clothes that I left under the cliff has disappeared,” I say proudly to myself
“Hyenas you are beautiful.”
I lean forward to see if Chappies is still lying next to the rock, at first I cannot see him but then I see the limp body a few meters away.
“Hyenas must have dragged him there.”
“Drag who where?”
“Stay withmebud,” I utter while my eyes dwell over the colours that start dancing with the grey blue night skies over the horizon.
“Look,” I show with my index finger, “the light red and orange flow like rivers into each other.”
“It is a joyful celebration of the birth of a new day.”
“Yes, memories might be engraved into the souls of those who will leave their mutilated bodies on the rocky fields for the scavengers in the air to feast on,” My mind suddenly adds.
“Look he continues,” he points my eyes to the two black dots in the sky.
“They announce the first of many that will circle the arena shortly,” I add
Treetops become visible and I can faintly see the long dark shadows forming.
“The shadows that will become havens during a blistering day,” my finger fold under my chin before I continue, “This battle might be over before the shadows will have the opportunity to shrink and hide under the cliffs.”
“Slaughter,” my mind adds
“What?” I ask.
“Better word for this battle, two against…. Thirty. The two are you and me, we are only one,” my mind professes.
“We are not dead yet.”
“but we will be.”
“I never died before,” I convince myself, “I have no experience in that, so……” I think for a moment before I proceed, “we will not do that today.”
For a moment the words echo through the hollowness in my chest.
“My mouth is dry and sticky. My pallet has not seen water for the past two days. My teeth feel hairy under my tongue.”
“Hairy teeth,” my mind enquire.
On the leaves nearby I can see the drops of dew that formed during the cold night. My fingers collect a few drops to rub over my dry lips before my eyes start scanning the basin below. Stressful my mind take the beauty of the bush in, the careless flight of a bird.
A jackal is approaching Chappies carefully with a stop, walk, jog technique, a technique that keeps his legs ready for unexpected movement.
“His approach has one major advantage over mine,” I ponder, “he has an escape route, I only have an attack route.”
“A death path.”
“I have drawn the line in the sand, a line that will resolve the conflict, and end the hunt,” I think.
My surroundings between the rocks are still dark and my eyes cannot see the sides of the rocks that protect me. Cannot visualize the angles of vulnerability, where my body will be exposed to an enemy assault.
My naked body shivers as the morning wind’s fingers tickle over my bare skin. I can now hear the bark of a few dogs, but the sounds of the bark indicate that they have not started tracking yet.
“I have to place myself into the head of the commanding officer of the hunters,” with this thought my mind slip to the temporary camp of my foe.
My sub-conscious mind and I become a team and we form the vision of the camp.
Troop with green berets, sitting like cow dung on their heads, littering the bushes with their presence. Aroma of coffee and food ride the morning breeze.
“Hup,” fill the deep voice of the commander the base.
The sound of AK 47’s rattling against the bodies of troops as they hasten to the man, one of the automatic rifle crackers into the sandy rocks as a soldier drop it.
“You,” the commander point at one of his lieutenants, “get fifteen men together and follow the track to the rocks,” he shows with his hands to the cliffs where I am hiding. From the so-called parade ground, my hide-out is visible
“You,” he indicates to another soldier.
“Take the dogs and follow the valley.”
“I will take the rest,” he bolder commands.
For a moment my mind is back in the crack, I look down the valley in the new light.
“That is a valid scenario,” I think.
“They are flanking your ass, our ass,” my mind adds his penny.
“The question will be,” I now add, “what about the dogs”
“Barking dogs they will not send them after you.”
“You are right.”
“That will give me the advantage….. I will hear them coming.”
“We were listening to the dogs the whole morning,” I commence with my thoughts.
“Fuck what time did they leave?”
For a moment I wish that I had the ability to see through the eyes of the vultures that is circling the area.
“Well, we have some advantages.”
“They have to walk to us,” I start, “we only need to hide and watch them.”
“The soldiers will be sitting ducks in and open field, while we will be hidden from their eyes.”
“Have enough ammunition to keep them down?” My mind interrupts.
Ignorant to the question I continue.
“Iwilltherefore, have the edge of time on my side an edge that can change the outcome of a small battle. I wish my knees were better so that I could have climbed higher last night that I could have moved Chappies with me, but my circumstances did not allow that, and wishes do not win battles.”
Every minute that passes changes the situation, the light and visibility, balance of approach, and I know my advantage will grow minute for minute. The ability to move without being noticed will become more and more difficult for my enemy.
A dust stripe appears in the valley, dust that is only visible as it rises above the shadow areas. The pink light from the sun colours the dust like pastels.
“It must be a vehicle or vehicles moving towards the soldiers, it might carry more soldiers, food or even just water,” I think.
“I am not bothered by the content; my interest is the position where the vehicles will stop.”
“This will indicate the distance of the camp from me.”
The standard issue binoculars in my hand are dirty and I do not have a shirt to wipe the lenses, the bandage around my knee is bloody and wet and cannot be used.
The bushes below me announce life within. It shuffles as something pushes it to the side. My finger curls around the trigger of the AKM now lying on my lap.
I hear the grunt, a grunt so familiar to me.
“Elephants,” I say out loud, “calling the rest of her family,”
“Shortly they will have the ability to see each other. I can now see her in the twilight of the morning. She is clearly uncomfortable and shakes her head, her ears flap before trumpeting the warning of her discovery to the herd.
“The smell of human blood and guts will indicate predators to her and if there are calves around they might be in danger,” I think.
My mind remains quiet while we watch the elephants.
Calmness flows over my soul as she moves through the bushes.
She turns her big body and starts walking away from me, her trunk still pointed in the air warning the herd to leave. For a moment my mind observes the family bond, the trust that they have for each other. The last radio message flashes through my mind.
“Charlie three, Romeo Echo Charlie one, we do not acknowledge you. Good luck you are on your own.” I feel how the pain in my chest increases as the message play over and over in my head. The sudden loneliness fills my soul with shock. The people that I have trusted have left me to die. Worthlessness fills my soul with a pain far worse than any physical pain I know. I feel the betrayal that stuck to me like glue. I have devoted my life for you I think, and all I get is “good luck you are on your own.”
Suddenly it dawned on me that I will be an illegal entry into my own country. I do not exist anymore.
Tears of self-pity flow over my cheeks.
The elephants, I think, will never betray each other like that.
I will survive and face these assholes, is my thought.
With pity I now look down on the only friends I have left.
“You must leave the area where gunshots might shortly become the order of the morning.”
“They are not part of this battle, and did not choose sides.”
Through the tears in my dusty eyes, I see that the dust in the valley is now settling and I estimate the distance about 3500m. This estimation is inaccurate as the distance on an uneven area can be very misleading. Itis,however, important to know that their camp is more than an hour away. With the remaining question that still needs to be answered in the time to come.
“Did they send soldiers out at first light and how far are they now?” I frowningly ask.
Vultures are now circling the area around my estimation of their overnight camp. To my left, there is also vulture activity, my estimated place of my gut infested clothes.
Sunlight is now colouring the valley in, the grey twilight colours are changing to greens and browngreys.
My eyes scan through the dirty binoculars in the direction where I have seen the dust trail, but I cannot identify any abnormality between the few trees in the area. Fingers now wipe the binoculars, using the wrist knife bandage.
“I will need some moisture to clean the lenses. Bandages only spread the dirt with protein lines, reflecting the light,” I think.
I can now see the sides of my hideout the rocks that will protect me
“Hello,” I greet the large bird spider hanging above me.
I see the tiny plants growing behind me in a small cavity filled with dirty dew water.
“Now I have a house with water and lights.” I think.
For the first time, I have no answer, no response to a statement that I have made to myself. I feel embarrassed by the lack of thought, the lack of humour I have left.
Suddenly my arms holding the binoculars freeze,
“I see something” I mumble to myself
“What, what,” my mind scream
“Look for yourself”
“I am busy,” comes the reply
My eyes drop to the floor before I answer myself
“There is movement in the trees, and….. It is not normal animal movement” I continue to explain the visual to myself.
“Your granny is not normal movement,” he answered
I feel how the anger pushes up in my chest, anger at the no care attitude half of me have for this serious situation.
“Shut the fuck up and look”
The bushes are moving without any disturbance of the birdlife. My eyes squint to see. I feel how my ears tickle as they become more aware, in an effort to identify the cause of the movement. There is nothing now.
“Perhaps you were right” I continue the conversation
“I am always right,” he answers
Suddenly Chappies move his head and turn his eyes towards me.
“Did you see that?” I asked
“Chappies, he… he moved.”
“You are fucked, his guts is all over the mountain.”
I feel how the cold shivers creep up my spine, how the fever bumps follow to the back of my head.
The darkness is back in my eyes. My vision becomes blurred as if I am looking at the valley through plastic bags.
The spider is now at the bottom of his web, his eight eyes are staring at me, he lifts his one leg point it at me before he starts talking.
“What are you doing here?” He asks
My eyes struggle to keep him in the centre of the light circle; his body surrounded by a dark black ring, half his legs are not there anymore.
“I come in peace.” I hear the sound escaping from my sand dry lips, lips that feel detached from me; it feels as if they are only there to cover the hairy teeth in my mouth.
“Stop talking to the freaky spider”,he reprimands, “another imaginary friend?
My body is in freefall again, it is falling towards the room of fear. The icy blue walls, the grabbing hand and the one-way door guarded by an elusive heavy key.
“You cannot go back, there is no time to play,” I hear his voice ringing in my ears.
For a moment I float between the fever room of death and reality, trying to respond to the words that I have spoken to myself.
I slip through the small entry into the room.
The walls are not icy blue anymore; the hands are not trying to touch me any longer.
The sound of hunting dogs dragging their handlers towards the prey is sounding faint from the hole in the back. Walls now dripping with jammy blood have moved back and the room is now larger, with the hollowness of nothing.
I am totally alone in the room. Loneliness surrounds my body causing a heavy pain of emotion in the emptiness of my chest. My eyes look through the small opening. I can see my body lying against the rock, I see the AKM on my lap and the spider on the rocky roof.
My own voice echo from the outside pleading that, I must come back. I move my body in an effort to get up, but my limbs do not respond. I move the fingers under the knife bandage, but they are also unresponsive.
I want to scream back through the gap replying to my plea, but my words do not form. My voice does not respond and my lips are lying still over the fluffy teeth in my mouth. I know that I have to wake up from this nightmare, that I need to control my body to prevent it from falling from my den, but my wishes remain a voice in an empty chamber.
The weakness has overcome the power of my instincts to survive the will to live and the drive to take Chappies back to his wife and his little boy.
Heavy bleeding and the lack of liquid have changed me into a useless commodity, a sloppy body hanging like a drunk on the branch of a tree. It has decompensated me into a person who enjoys the company of a spider, a night web dweller.
I think I am now back into my body, the pain in my knee the view through the hole in the roof the AKM on my lap, the tree under my legs, and the view of Chappies lying in the rocky grass.
“My body has become my home again, my home inside my den of rock. But I have no control over the limbs of this body, no control over my vision, my only tool to combat is now my mind,” I think out loud to myself.
I hear the sound of a squeaking door behind me. The cold breeze that trickles over my naked body turns my spine to ice. I want to turn to see the origin of the chill but my head does not turn. My neck cannot feel the urge sent from the stem of my brain.
The pain the fuckin pain in my empty chest rips me back to the pub.
I take a large mouthful of the beer.
“The wind where did it come from, the rocks,” John asks.
“Yeah, it was like an icy wind blowing through the rocks,” I reply.
“The music is much better now,” I say while turning around. Just in time to see ‘Elvis’ packing his last microphone away.
“Ah, he is playing real music now,” I say.
“Any news from the - Mitchellin man - brothers?” I ask.
“SPCA is close, he probably couldn’t get them out,” John says dryly. I swallow the rest of the warm beer down.
“Loop, dop?” I offer in Afrikaans.
“Why not,” he replies.
“Hey sexy,” John calls to the ex-pupil.
“No, No fuckin no, Mam can you please fill our drinks,” I order.
“She doesn’t mind if I call her sexy,” John reply.
“I do John, it is her work. She is an ex-pupil for God’s sake.”
The tired dark hair bar lady responds with two beers.
“I don’t mind if John hit on me,” she says with a soft voice.
“Well, in that case, hit us both,” her chicks turn red before I continue, “with a shot of tequila my girl.”
“You are full of shit,” she says while turning to the bottles in the back.
Salt is now poured on my hand before I throw it in my mouth and down the tequila.
“We will continue next time John, I feel a bit tipsy. Yes before the ex-pupil get sexy I need to leave,” I conclude with a smile.
“So what’s wrong with me?” the bar lady asks
“Tell me I am a good listener,” I reply.
I now down the beer before I get up to leave.