Authors: T.M. Clark
ALSO BY T.M. CLARK
My sounding board, and first beta reader. The one who
tries to change my ânonsense' sentences into language
that everyone will hopefully understand, and the person
who is always brutally honest with what I have written.
Thank you for not being the stereotypical macho
male, but for being what is perfect for me!
Love you more.
To my mother Carole Wilde,
Because you had a belief in your own
family who I too grew to love.
Thanks for always trying to do the best you could
for us, for your sacrifices along the way.
Love you Mum.
Mission Station Outside Sinoia, Southern Rhodesia
The hunting dogs went ballistic. Their excited howling rang through the African bush.
âSee, told you there were animals here. They have something cornered,' Kirk said as he ran next to Impendla. âCome on, run faster.'
Kirk, we go no further. Call your dogs, bring them back.'
âWhat? No, listen, they have something.'
The dogs continued their baying, the noise high pitched and foreign in the bush.
âWe go no further. Bad muti here. Look,' Impendla said as he pointed to a few feathers strung together like a bunch of leaves and hung on a tree.
âHow can you tell that's muti? That looks like just some stuff in a tree!'
There is evil in this place. We must not go closer.'
Kirk looked at the tree. Luckily there were no thorns. It was just a leopard tree, its bark changed colour in patches of green and silver. The trunk was slim but solid. The bark was rough beneath his hands, but it made digging the toes of his boots in easier as he climbed up and onto the first branch. He reached downwards, his fingers edging towards the bundle.
, don't touch that. The
, she puts those where you must not go. This ground it is sacred to her, like a church is to you. No one must touch that, the
will get you. Spirits sent from the
Kirk laughed. âMy father says you natives are all talk and there is no such thing as bad magic. And he says your
are lost souls who need saving.'
!' Impendla shook his head. â
is the one Shona god, the high god.'
âImpendla, you live in the mission. My father taught you in school that there is only one God, and he's not Shona.'
âThere is muti here. The
, she's a spirit, the voice of
, and she said her bones would rise up again. We must not be the ones who disturb her. She can be a
, a lion spirit, and if we disturb her, she can pass into us and then we will hold the spirit.'
Kirk shook his head. âThat's not true, Impendla. Who told you that?' he asked as he drew his hunting knife and cut the bark twine holding the crude bundle in the tree.
It tumbled to the ground.
Kirk shinnied down the tree and kicked it with his foot. The feathers tied around the bundle parted and it split apart. A strong stench of carrion swamped the boys, and something else, something worse than any rotten eggs Kirk had ever smelt.
For a moment they just looked at it, then Impendla dropped to his knees and hung his head and began to wail. âDo you know what you have done,
? You have angered the
âPish-posh,' Kirk said, âthat's nothing except a bit of powder with a bad smell. The
probably collected it somewhere near the hot springs or something. Come on, I'm going to see what the dogs have got us.'
He hitched the rifle higher on his shoulder and strode towards the howling dogs, but realising he was alone, he turned back to Impendla. âYou coming with me?'
.' Impendla shook his head.
Kirk shrugged and continued to follow the sound of the dogs, smacking the tall grass away from his face as he went.
âSuperstitious native!' he cursed.
The howls of the dogs became more frantic and he began to a run. Hunting for meat rations for the kitchen in the mission station had recently become one of his responsibilities and he took it seriously. His father had told him if the boys didn't get fresh meat, the people would eat only vegetables and
He hated the vegetables Sister Mary always put on his tin plate, and couldn't understand why he should be grateful for mushy carrots, smelly turnips and a wild spinach mixture that tasted terrible. But since he always felt hungry he knew better than to complain about the food, because his father would make him feed his meal to someone in the sick bay. So he made sure they shot something each day, a rabbit or a fat guineafowl. Sometimes he'd shoot a small duiker and the tender meat would be used to make biltong to store in the pantry.
The thicket of trees and tangled bushes that pressed up next to the grassland narrowed, pushing Kirk forward. He broke through the long grass into a clearing and stopped dead. His father's dog pack yipped and yelped even more now he had joined them, and they knew they would be rewarded for doing their job.
In a tree was a black woman, screeching and throwing bean pods. Although the pods hit the dogs every now and again, they were well trained and kept their prey cornered. As one dog fell back, another rushed to take its place. Their heads swung to check that he'd seen what they'd acquired for him, and they wagged their tails excitedly and yelped a few more times.
âHeel!' he shouted, and the dogs backed away and came to stand at his side. Quiet but alert, their ears erect, not ready to give up on their prey just yet. The oldest bitch whined. âHeel, Mylani!' he commanded.
She rushed closer to his side and sat close beside him, submissive to her little master, but she remained alert and watched the tree.
Kirk stared as the woman climbed down and approached him, her knobkerrie raised. She shouted at him in a native language he couldn't understand. He couldn't even catch a few words, it was gibberish to his ears.
Her chest was bare and painted in white, with dark red stripes and dots across her belly. At her waist she wore a leather thong decorated with strips of different animal skins that had curled as they dried. Many of the pieces of skin flashed different colours as the hair had not been removed from them, and the leather was untanned. But his eyes were drawn to the mummified remains attached to the bottom of each strip. Small cats, rodents and even tiny jackal heads all seemed to look at him at once, their beady black eyes taking him by surprise.