by Paul du Pré
Africa, in an alternate world.
A 9+1-part series.
“Oh, bra…” sympathizes Saleem.
“Eish,” agrees Saleem.
“I can’t believe it!”
Bulumko and Saleem are sucking on beers at Maxwell’s Shebeen down the road from the PlayPark Tavern. It’s about the only place still open.
“Where were you bra?”
This is about the fifth time Bulumko has asked, and Saleem declines to repeat his answer – ‘on stage, getting ready for the last set’. Instead, he says, “Oh, bra…”
“I mean, I thought she liked me.”
“I really thought there was something special between us.” Bulumko lifts his head and stares unseeingly at Saleem’s face, the last rally of a faithful dog, dying. “I’ve never felt…that. Before.” Bulumko subsides, lips riding up on the fipple of his beer bottle, his teeth partly bearing the weight of his skull. It’s uncomfortable.
Alcohol numbs the pain.
“Bra…” says Saleem.
But Saleem is thinking. “I can’t believe we’re doing it again!”
“Letting Shikara go off on her own.”
“But bra, that’s what she wanted – to go with Easton.” There’s a sob in Bulumko’s voice.
“Easton is scum. He’s psycho, homicidal scum! Thinking ‘bout what he did to Leticia… I can’t believe you let her go with him!”
Bulumko looks at Saleem blankly. “If you’d heard what she said…”
“What are you?” bites Saleem. “Come on. We got to go.”
They hustle towards Easton’s place, not quite knowing what they’re going to do, but anticipating doing it just the same. The exercise helps, and Bulumko begins to feel some concern, maybe a hint of compassion, as his self-pity shifts to one side. Not that he’s ready to forgive her yet. Oh, no, no!
Exertion also clears his mind a little, and he’s starting to wonder, seriously, just how clever it is doing this with only Saleem to back him up? (Or is it the other way round? No, she’s my girlfriend… He gives up.)
But when they get to Easton’s there’s no sign of life.
Not a sound.
Saleem won’t move on until they’ve checked, so they try the front door.
Creaks, but there’s no response from inside.
It’s dark in the front room. Bulumko stumbles over something, sprawls – there’s a huge crash and clatter as he overturns some kind of furniture. Probably a table, chairs.
Still no reaction.
“Sparky, you dum…” hisses Saleem. “Just give us some light before you wreck the place!”
“What? Yeah, OK…” A small, dented globe of puke-green fire wobbles to life in the centre of the room. “Sorry, I’m a bit…” Bulumko doesn’t finish what he’s going to say: the ‘something’ he stumbled over is a corpse.
One of Easton’s gang buddies.
Bulumko’s globe of fire goes even wobblier.
But, before it snuffs, Saleem spots a kerosene lantern on the sideboard, primes it.
And, Bulumko sparks it alight – he’s got that much focus left.
He also wants to take a closer look at the corpse, but Saleem hisses, “No. We check the rest of the house first.”
In the bedroom there’s bodies, a half-dozen, more. All guys, all Easton’s friends; a few of them with their trousers undone: flies open, or rucked about their knees. Or ankles.
Easton is on the bed, on his face, naked from the waist down. A bloodied knife held, glittering, in his hand. “Oh shit!” chorus Bulumko and Saleem.
Unfreezing, Bulumko grunts as he flips Eeston over. His lifeless fish-eyes stare up at the ceiling, bulging.
There’s water dribbling from his mouth.
The mattress beneath is sodden.
Sobered up by now, Bulumko insists they get the cops.
“No ways, bra,” urges Saleem. “We quit while we’re ahead – who needs involvement with the law? Besides, we’ve got to find Shikara first – she could be hurt bad; she could be…” He doesn’t say it. “We’ve got to make sure she’s OK.”
But, Bulumko is resistant.
Saleem is exasperated. Beyond! “You sick, bra? I don’t care how mad you are at her!”
Bulumko shakes his head. “She’s OK,” he says, stubbornly.
“You are not making sense…”
But Bulumko doesn’t explain, and eventually, disgusted and angry, Saleem decides to search for Shikara on his own: “One thing’s for sure – you don’t deserve her. As for you and me, bra, we got issues now!”
Saleem stalks off.
A few seconds later Bulumko leaves to summon the police.
The officers ride in on horse-back, Bulumko in the coroner’s cart behind. The preliminary finding is that Easton and his gang drowned, every one of them. Though how that could happen on dry land…
Bulumko doesn’t tell the cops what he knows and suspects about Shikara’s powers. He does check they know about Leticia though. And then fills them in about Shikara going with Easton. Immediately, he feels he’s revealed too much. The officer interviewing him keeps a straight face but Bulumko can almost hear him thinking, Fall guy! Fool, failure…‘fecus’. But, all the officer says out loud is, “We need to find that girl.”
The sun is rising by the time the police finish with Bulumko. They tell him not to go far.
Woman underwater – Free-Photos on Pixabay
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Shikara is a work of fiction by Paul du Preez, writing as Paul du Pré. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved, including without limitation, the right to reproduce Shikara and the original art or music associated with it, or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Paul du Preez. Copyrighted 2020 by Paul du Preez.