The Idea: Let several bloggers test out their writing chops by going 1000 words on a given scenario.
The Instigator: This feisty wench
The Scenario: In the early hours of morning a man wakes in a cold sweat. Disoriented, he reaches for something in the darkness. He thinks he hears something, but is unsure if it is from his dreams...
Waking to the sound of hyena jaws crunching femur bones is never
pleasant. It helped that they weren't *my* femur bones, but 'twas
still quite unnerving. At first I was sure I was dreaming of my
brother and I breaking empty bottles behind Uncle Sid's tavern back
home. The maniacal whooping of these filthy scavengers, though
similar to Kip's braying laugh, differed enough to raise me out of my
Taking stock of my situation, I was still tied up in a crotch of a
leadwood tree, the now-flaccid water bag lashed tightly to my belt.
Judging by the sweat still pouring off me, the fever hadn't completely
broken. Since I wasn't dead, I took it as a sign that I might just be
It was near dawn, judging from the pale glimmer of gray beginning to
creep in through the leafy canopy. I struggled to reach the water
bag, but quit when I realized that only a mouthful or two of brackish
water remained within.
Blackwater fever is something I wouldn't wish on a Mohammedan. It
starts off like the malaria attacks you've had for years, so you order
your bearers to make camp, you lay out the bottles of quinine and gin,
then send your tracker for plenty of water and you endure the chills
and shakes for as long as necessary. You'll get better, or you'll
perish. If it's blackwater fever and not malaria, though, smart money
is bet on "perish".
When my lead tracker Merciful helped me roll out of my hammock to pass
water on the third day, that poxy Ndebele
boy serving as kitchen toto
saw the dreaded black stream and raced to tell the porters. It took
but half a day before the swine decided I was already a dead man, and
that it was only fair to divvy up all the supplies and the ivory of 8
weeks hunting in lieu of future wages. Merciful, faithful to the end,
tried to keep them from taking my personal gear and got a panga
skull for his troubles. Fear of sickness kept them away from me, so I
managed to retain the Rigby, the waterbag and the trekking pack, even
my revolver. The last item suprised me. A genuine Colt's pistol would
set a man up with a kraal
, several wives, and a hell of a lot of
cattle. I'm not sure why they didn't risk taking it. I vaguely
recalled waving it at the mutinous bastards, but it could as easily
been my John Thomas I brandished in the fever's grip.
How I managed to make it up this tree still puzzled me, considering I
was weak as a kitten. The fear of being gnawed upon like my former
tracker must have been a powerful motivator. After a day or so up
here, my crotch ached most terribly, both from the tree branch
underneath and the rawness of the skin where my waste had dried after
I'd voided myself while still clothed. I shifted position as best I
could, but I was far too weak to do more than that.
Below, the fisi
had finished with their grisly breakfast and were
starting to drift towards the river. I was feeling the first
stirrings of hunger since the attack began, tempered somewhat by my
weakness and the sight of poor Merciful's scattered bones.
I had several sticks of biltong
in my pack, but water was the
immediate concern. It would take a couple of hours for the hyenas to
clear the area. As weak as I was, I didn't need them nosing about
while I crawled to the river to refill the waterbag. Was I standing
tall and walking strong, they'd give me a wide berth, but consummate
scavengers that they were, my illness would be a clear invitation to
test the odds.
My head pounded something fierce, and I had little to remedy the ache.
All the gin had headed towards Bulawayo and Points South atop the
heads of the departing porters, and I had but a pinch of morphia
powder in my pack. Best to save that for later. No use trying to
climb down a tree while gripped in poppy euphoria.
Ah! I still had cigarettes in my vest pocket! They wouldn't help the
situation, but one certainly couldn't hurt. I fumbled open the case,
managed to withdraw a Caporal and get it in my lips, then swapped case
for matchsafe and thumbed a Swan Vesta to life.
I then froze as the match flare reflected a pair of yellow eyes in an
acacia tree not 20 yards away. Though I desperately wanted to shake
out the match and pretend I'd seen nothing, I forced myself to light
the cigarette and make no sudden motions. Death by fever might just
not be my method of leaving this mortal coil, it seemed.
In these parts, he's called Nyalubwe
. Southeast towards the coast he
goes by Chui
. The chaps at the Royal Museum call him Panthera pardus
I call him roughly 160 pounds of male leopard within leaping distance.
This bugger must have lain there all night watching me. The hyenas
were so wrapped up in polishing off Merciful that they didn't catch
the cat scent. For the leopard to tarry this long was odd. Perhaps
the lure of having your breakfast already dragged up a tree appealed
to him. It's hard to say with a leopard, really.
The Rigby is hanging by its strap just out of reach. My skinning
knife is tucked away deep in my kit bag. As much as I'd like to punch
that cat's ticket with a 400 grain soft point slug, it'll be the
revolver, then my bare hands.
He's going to leap as soon as I start to move. I've often wondered if
I'd stayed in the States if I could have made a decent quick-draw
gunfighter. Guess now I'll find out if I'm fast enough.
Waiting on you, Chui