The rapist dragged the little girl on the ground with one hand. The girl screamed but the man didn’t seem to care. They were in the middle of the forest and trees and bushes had no ears. Ugly bruises appeared on the girl’s skin: jagged rocks and backlash of branches tore through her body and the pain was excruciating. She cried out and blood soaked into her clothes. She kicked and scratched … tried to find a firm footing but then suddenly a door opened and they were inside a cabin.
The rapist grabbed the girl by the hair and dropped her into a chair and when the girl tried to rise, a huge fist slammed into her head. She fell back into the chair stunned. The rapist proceeded to tie her hands behind her, and her legs to the chair. Then the big man stepped back to admire his work and an evil grin crossed his face. He paced around the girl then stopped in front of her and raised her chin. She was young and pretty, probably in her late teens. Blonde hair covered her eyes seductively and the blood on her lips aroused the man.
The rapist ran his hands over her feverish cheeks and then down the nape of her neck. The girl moaned and the rapist moved closer. He began to unbutton her blouse with one hand while the other hand fought clumsily with his belt. A demonic look appeared in his eyes and his hands started moving faster, ripping the buttons and exposing her bra.
Gridlock Village sat on the edge of Mozart forest. The houses were built of wood and thatch roofing. Farming was the main source of livelihood in the village and horses the main means of transport. The village by choice was a far cry from modern civilization and all those who left for the city came back and readjusted to the country life: left the cars and fancy dressing on the other side of the world. Gridlock Village was a little paradise on earth. Well, until five years ago.
Five years ago. Something had happened in the village… strange things had started occurring. Young boys and women started vanishing into the forest; the older folks were never touched. It was ominous. And when the forest was declared out of limit, evil crept into the village in a cloud of fog and every full moon somebody’s child disappeared. Nobody knew what to make of these sinister occurrences and villagers were reduced to hiding indoors and occasionally braving outside to get food and water. The village was a ghost town: the gardens dry, the trees and grass dead. It was Stone Age all over again.
At the age of fifteen, Nikita lost her smaller brother Tommy to the forest. For many years after the incident she hid in the house with her parents and the quality of life diminished. She craved to play outside, run up and down the hills but that was an unaffordable luxury. Her parents wouldn’t hear of it and none of the kids in the village left their houses. Nikita missed her small brother and always replayed their time together. “I will race you up the hill,” her brother Tommy had said.
She had cheated and won and he had laughed. “You cheated Nikita. I could have won.”
“Don’t worry Tommy. One day you will be strong and fast and nobody will ever beat you.” And that broke a smile on Tommy’s face.
“And then I will protect you Nikita, from all the evil in the world. I will be a strong brother,” Tommy had said solemnly.
Nikita had cried a lot when Tommy had vanished into the forest. She had been heartbroken and for many years after regretted not having been there for Tommy at a time of need. “It should have been me and not Tommy,” she kept telling her parents.
“Hush child, don’t speak nonsense!” Her parents wouldn’t hear of it.
Finally at the age of eighteen, and tired of hiding indoors, Nikita fled to the city and for two years nobody in the village including her parents had any idea as to where she was or what she was doing. But she did come back two years later; a big girl and her parents had received her happily. “You should have stayed away,” they told her. “The village is no place for a girl.”
“Nothing has changed?” Nikita asked defiantly.
“No,” her dad said in a whisper. “The police combed every inch of the forest and found nothing. The village is cursed.”
Nikita had noticed on her way in. Nothing had changed. She had been the only one on the streets and the sound of her trotting horse had echoed throughout the little village. A neighbor had creaked a window open.
Nikita didn’t believe in curses. If the police had failed to protect the village, then there was only one thing left to do if she was going to find out what had happened to her brother Tommy. She had to change the rules of the game. She was tired of living in fear. There was once a time when folks in the village had been happy. And now, nobody smiled or laughed. People were scared of each other and suspicious of their neighbors. The music had stopped. What was life without music?
Full moon was nigh and Nikita stepped outside her house and walked down the deserted street. There are approximately ‘twelve point something’ full moons in a year. She had calculated and timed everything perfectly. Hopefully.
The night was cloudless and brightened by a canopy of stars. The wind carried leaves from one side of the street to the other. No lights glowed from inside the houses, as nobody wanted to draw attention. Families huddled around the embers of dying fires. Two glowing eyes appeared and Nikita jumped back startled as a black cat ran across the street. A bad omen, she thought with a fret. She tightened her shawl and heart pounding, walked on slowly. What are you doing Nikita? A lightning thought. For you Tommy, for you dear brother. I have to try; I just have to try even if it means giving up my own life. The line of thought was depressing, her presence on the streets, a preposterous endeavor.
A movement. Premonition, something was happening. Nikita’s senses were sharp and she knew it before it even happened but she pretended not to notice. A horse neighed in a nearby stable and stumped the ground restlessly. A shadow cut a hard right and then moved behind her. She gasped in horror and cringed in anticipation. And then she felt it. Boom! Her scream was stifled as something hit her on the head. Her knees buckled. She blacked out for a few seconds and when she came to, realized that she was moving at a very fast speed, although her feet were not touching the ground. Her eyes half opened and she watched the ground rushing beneath her: it was brown at fast and then it turned green and she knew that they were heading away from the village and into the forest!
The man’s hands were huge around her waist and she placed him at six feet, two hundred and fifty pounds… a beast of a man. He carried her, dragged her on the ground and then finally… both burst through a wooden door. He roughly placed her on a chair and strapped her in, both hands and legs. She was inside a cabin. Nothing good ever happened in a cabin in the woods. A heavy fist landed on her head when she tried to look up and once again her head dropped and she yielded to the darkness.
She woke up a few seconds later to the rotten smell of his breath and the sound of his moans and grunts. She opened her eyes and dizziness overtook her. Concussion, she thought. She sat very still for fear of getting hit again, her hair hang loosely over her face. Who was this man and what was this place? she wondered. And then she felt her blouse being ripped from her body and heard the buttons hit the floor next to her shawl. She gasped at the prospect of what was about to happen. The man’s big hands caressed her face and then trickled down gently to her neck, her body. The hands were like sandpaper, calloused. He groaned again as he fought with his belt.
Nikita prayed with all her might. Soon it would be all over. Soon she would be dead … raped and probably mutilated. But first she needed to know. She had to know what had happened to her brother. Calmness descended over her body and she readied her mind. It was better to die than live in fear. It was better to die than live behind closed doors, peeking through a crack on the window, watching one’s life wash away.
“Wha…t are y…ou plan…ing to do with me?” she asked in a surprisingly calm and yet meek voice and the man jumped back in shock, one hand holding his pants. He had thought her unconscious. He was used to victims screaming and kicking, begging for their lives… unconscious… definitely not this.
The hooded rapist walked over to the window and pointed outside. Nikita followed his finger and saw an almost full moon.
“Anytime now, the moon will be full and then… and then it’s all over for you little girl. Your pain will be over. We will offer you as a sacrifice to our gods!” the man growled and turned and Nikita saw his face for the first time: dozens of scars… no, they looked like incisions… like gills on a face, malignant eyes. She shuddered at the sight. “You are a different one,” the man said as he walked over. “Who are you?”
The ambience was full of malevolence: the room full of grotesque shapes on the walls. The man was the very definition of evil. “You killed my little brother!” Nikita spat the words out and the rapist held his chin pensively with one hand.
“Hmmm, I see. I finally understand. You let us take you. You stepped out of your house when nobody else would. Why?” The rapist paced the room. “We are not monsters you know. We don’t kill young boys here. We only sacrifice women.” Nikita’s hands clenched in anger as they always did when she encountered male chauvinism. She unclenched them in a show of self-control as a ray of hope lit inside her heart at his words. There was still hope for her little brother? Five years! Could it be? Was it possible that he was still alive? Nikita surreptitiously glanced at the moon. She was running out of time. Any moment now a full moon would arise and then it would be all over.
Activate! The word cut across her mind sharply, but she pushed it back. Not yet. Distraction! Another word. She had to distract the rapist.
“How long do I have before the full moon?” Nikita asked in a scared voice. The man grinned and turned to look at the moon and she made her move. She blinked three times and the laser beams in her contact lens turned red. A bright ray of light shot from her eyes and onto the ropes. It took seconds and the ropes sat loosely around her ankles. “You probably have five minutes left,” the rapist said as he turned his head to look at the girl.
Anger! Nikita thought. Provoke him!
“Do the members of your cult know that you rape the women before you kill them? Do they know that you lie to them about how pure and beautiful women are… after you rape them!” It worked and Nikita watched as the rapist’s eyes flooded with blood. The man charged blindly with a scream. “Your time’s up little girl!” and Nikita rose to meet him in a twitch. She knew that she only had one chance and so she put everything into the kick. Her right foot caught the man between the legs in a sick thudding noise and the stunned man dropped on his knees clutching at his groin, eyes dilated in shock, face distorted in pain. He couldn’t breath. Nikita, hands still tied behind and onto the chair, jumped on top of the table and somersaulted through the air, landing the chair perfectly on top of the man’s back. The chair shattered into pieces and the man screamed. It hurt her hands but she pushed the pain away and struggled with the ropes. She was free! It was time to get out of dodge.
She burst through the door staggering, a cool breeze against her face. Streaks of blood outlined her cheeks like tears and her whole body ached. It took a minute for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Activate! The word crossed her mind again. No, not yet. She had to find her brother first. She ran twice around the house yelling his name.
“Tommy! Tommy! It’s me. It’s your sister Nikita!” No reply. Silence. The sound of the wind bending trees. There were no other cabins either: no hiding places. And then she looked up and saw the full moon and a terrifying feeling descended at the pit of her stomach. Something else was happening!
She heard branches breaking and twigs snapping. An eerie shriek span her around and what she saw turned her blood cold. The hair on her body rose and she took a subconscious step backwards. There, in front of her and advancing were ten men who looked like zombies: tattered clothes, hands outstretched forward, footsteps slow and calculated. They laughed, they screeched: they advanced. Nikita turned and ran in the opposite direction and another group of advancing zombies cut off her exit. She was surrounded. It was now or never.
“Activate!” she yelled. “Actiivvaaaateeee!” she yelled at the top of her voice.
She bent down and picked up a stone. Ten seconds. She threw the stone and hit one of the zombies on the head. Five seconds. The zombies were getting closer. She picked up another stone and before she could throw it, her ears caught the twirling noise of helicopter rotors. The sound of music. A spotlight suddenly hit her and she waved her hands desperately towards the zombies. The spotlight shifted and the chopper fired. Gunfire lit the sky in spits of orange and Nikita ducked. The chopper machine gun turned in an arc and fired on both sides and the explosive noise made her cover her ears. Grim faced zombies dropped in every direction and those that tried to run were gunned down from behind. It took seconds but it felt like forever and Nikita’s ears hurt. And then… silence, as quiet as a cemetery. The chopper landed and a man ran towards Nikita and threw a blanket over her shoulders.
The man was dressed in US Marine uniform with numerous budges on his shoulders. Nikita looked at the man and smiled.
“Commander Johns! Thank you for coming,” Nikita said.
“I made you a promise agent,” the commander said. “I always keep my promises.”
Nikita smiled and saluted. The man’s brow furrowed. “You are my best agent Nikita, I was worried about you. You risked too much. You shoulder have activated sooner.”
Nikita looked around at the dead bodies and nodded, but before she could reply a shout erupted from one of the men.
“We found the boys!”
Nikita didn’t wait. She turned and ran into the cabin. The first thing she saw was the rapist cuffed onto a chair looking terrified. The rapist had talked, her trained eyes could tell as she gave him a vindictive glare. The house had an underground basement and Nikita hurried down the stairs heart pounding. There were ten boys inside. Skinny yes, but alive! There was no adjective that could describe how the boys looked like. At a glimpse they looked sad, happy, relieved, afraid and exhausted: emotions changing on their faces to the beat of their hearts.
Nikita hugged them all, looking for one… the moment of truth. And he was there! His little brother Tommy, all tall and grown. Five years was a lifetime.
He recognized her and rushed into her waiting arms. “Nikita! You came for me. I was so scared. They were gonna turn us into zombies. They were waiting for us to become men.”
“I’ve got you now Tommy, you are safe. You will never have to go through this again.” Nikita was crying and so was Tommy.
The boys were herded back into the open air and the weak ones literally loaded on the chopper. The commander and some of the soldiers gave up their seats and opted to trek through the forest. Nikita and the commander paired up on the walk.
“Why did you wait so long to activate?” the commander asked with a frown. “You had my blood pressure very high you know?”
“I wanted to find the nest sir, not just one man,” Nikita said as she ducked under a branch, anxious to get back home. The commander understood. All Nikita wanted was to find her brother and wipe the evil clean off the land. Settling for less hadn’t been an option. The voice-activated device had been implanted into her body at her request. The sophisticated gadget was a GPS that showed the exact location of the agent on the radar and at the headquarters.
“Good thing you guys were nearby,” Nikita said. “Those zombies would have had me for dinner.”
Gridlock Village finally roared back to life and the fog disappeared. Folks stopped hiding and a feast was thrown to celebrate the return of the boys and mark a new beginning. Nikita’s parents were elated to have both their kids back and it was obvious by the look in their eyes that a few more life years had been added to them. The days of darkness were over. The sun rose again and gardens blossomed with food. The dogs and children came out to play and the market was opened.
It was like fresh air and Nikita soaked it all in. This was life. Not life as it is but life as it should be.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...