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NEGRITUDE part 6


Deep, resonant notes from expertly beaten kettledrums heralded the entry of one of the opponents to the arena.
As he took his steps into the makeshift stage, the kettledrums went silent, and everyone did too. All eyes turned automatically to the new entrant.

Jaws dropped.

Eyes bulged.

Mouths whistled.
He was a monster of a man; with hands huge enough to cup coconuts in their palms, and a chest so wide, you could comfortably hide two men behind it.
He brought with him a faint smell of woodsmoke. He stood on the wooden platform, arms akimbo, as he waited for his opponent.
Everybody stared at him in awe, as he stood there, like a denizen of the deepest hells.

There was a short whistle and the kettledrums started again, but this time, a soft creaking could be heard. From outside, the wagon pulled a huge object covered with cloth. When the wagon got as close as it was ever going to get, to the stage, Mr. Stone, who prior to that moment had been riding the donkey that pulled the cart, jumped down, walked back and grasping a bit of the fabric in his hand, threw it off.
As he did, the cage swung open and Koby stepped from the cart to the stage. Again, the kettledrums went silent.
His body was covered in paint of different colours, depicting all sorts of devils, beasts and monsters. Of course, before the fight was over, it would be smudged, but the effect it had on the audience was instant.
Several crossed themselves, others called out to household goods for protection from the evil eye.

It helped that most of the inhabitants had not, before then, laid eyes on a man with black skin. Not to talk of the images he carried.
As he walked to his opponent, a pink ribbon fluttered from its position, securely tied to the little finger on his right hand
Soon the men were separated by only a few paces. A distance, easily closed with a leap or two. The crowd went quiet. The tension in the air was electric.

They had been promised death and glory and having bought the tickets, now they waited for Mr Stone to deliver.
“Ladies and gentlemen. What you are about to behold, has never happened before. And might never happen again.”
With a snap of his fingers, he signalled for the match to begin, and the kettledrummers began plummelling their drums in a frenzy.
With a huge leap, the giant closed the distance. He stretched his hand, intending to grab Koby by the head. Koby jumped back, his head just missing the grasping fingers. He bent down and shot a kick at the giant’s knee, but somehow he knew, and stepped aside quickly, and Koby missed.
The giant bent down, and grabbing Koby by the knee when his guard was down, threw him hard against the stage. Koby hit with a smack and rolled off the stage.
The crowd went wild, cheering and screaming. Koby climbed back up. There were slaves surrounding the stage, fully clothed, each holding a spear upright. Any attempt at escape would not be tolerated. Their lives depended on it.
So back to the ring it was. 
The two men circled themselves warily. Koby feinted to the right, the giant sidestepped to the left and Koby launched himself at him. Grabbing him by the waist, he pulled him completely off the ground, turned him midair and hit him against the stage with a loud thump.
Once the giant was down, he beat him with his fists on his face, his chest, every where his hands could reach.

Briefly he had the upper hand, but then like a snake the giant’s hand shot out and grabbed him by the neck and with great force, threw him to the ground.

The giant rolled on top of him, and landed a heavy blow to his face.
*Crack*

His nose twisted out of shape.

*Bam*

A sharp pain in his side. Did something break?
Koby took a deep breath, pulled his knees to his chest and using his feet, pushed out with all his might. The giant fell backwards. Koby rose to his feet.
He swayed a bit. Blood dropped from his nose to the floor. The giant, seeing this, grinned at him. His teeth were stained with blood.
Koby looked behind the giant, and saw Ewatomi, hiding behind the cart, looking at him with huge, pleading eyes.

He remembered his promise.
Like a deer, he ran towards the giant, who spread his hands wide in welcome, to grab and crush him when he arrived. 

But Koby had other plans.
Just before he got to the giant, he jumped and kicked the giant in the stomach. He doubled over and Koby slammed both his fists on his back. The giant fell to the floor.
Looping an arm around his neck, Koby began to pull and pull.

The giant stretched his hand out, and making a fist, slammed it on Koby who was hanging to his back, piggyback style.
Koby held on for dear life, struggling and tightening his grip as blow after blow rained on him.

Then without warning, the giant leaned forward and Koby slipped off. He raised his foot and slammed it on Koby’s exposed right leg. He stomped again and again.
The pain was unbearable. Koby closed his eyes and willed it to stop. As he did. He heard a voice scream
“Koby!”
Ewatomi. He had to win this, for her. He had to live. He grabbed the foot and pulled. Hard. The giant fell down again and Koby dragged himself up. 

Gathering what was left of his strength, he waited for the giant to stand.
As the giant rose shakily to his feet, Koby looked him directly in the eye and said.
Saanu mi.“*
*Forgive me. 
And with a shout he kicked him far off the stage with all his might, straight into the ring of spears that surrounded them.
Slaves crumpled under the giant’s weight, but the spears did not.

The giant was impaled. He stretched his hand out, as if to grasp something, then it fell to the ground. 
He died.
As Mr Stone’s voice announced

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!”

Koby closed his eyes, and overcome by pain, fell to the ground in a heap, totally unconscious.

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NEGRITUDE part 5

By noon the next day, they arrived at their destination. Stopping at the outskirts of town, Mr Stone had some of the slaves line up in front of the wagon, wearing shiny attire, with drums and trumpets. Others he loaded with flyers. And then the parade began.
As they made their way into the town, people craned their necks, peeling from behind doors, shops and salons to catch a glimpse.

A whip cracked and the procession came to a halt. The noisemakers ceased their noise and Mr Stone’s voice rang out, loud and clear.
“Hear! Hear!! Good people, I bring you much fun and merriment! 

A gladiator fight, a gladiator fight I tell ya, and all are invited for a small fee; two dollars!

Come see men battle for honor and glory! Come see blood! Come see a man tear another apart with his bare hands! Come see a sight like none you’ve ever seen before, or ever will see again, right here, on this here ground, by this time tomorrow!

See you then, my friends!!!”
And with that, the whip cracked again and the procession started moving again. They made a few more strategic stops where the same words were repeated before they finally left to set up camp on the outskirts of town.
Meanwhile, back in the cage, time slowed into a crawl for it’s lone occupant. Too tense to sleep, he occupied himself with little tasks, like counting the iron bars of his prison, flicking sweat at them, at plotting different ways of killing Mr. Stone. 

You know, nothing much.
Lost in a particularly pleasant daydream where Mr. Stone was being squeezed slowly but surely to death by a huge snake, Koby did not hear the tinkling sound at first.

When it eventually caught his attention, he looked up from the squiggles he had been making on the sawdust floor of the cage to discover it was night already.
And Ewatomi waited patiently with a covered plate.
“Hello Koby.” She stretched her arms through the food slot at the bottom of the iron bars. He collected it gratefully and set it aside.
“Hello. How do you get the food again? You give- someone something?”
“You mean did I bribe someone? And yes, I did. I told the cook he could have a bit of the money Master would give us at the end of the year.”
“Money?”
“Yes. He is saving to buy his freedom. And master gives us a bit of money at the end of the year. It’s not much, but over time, you can buy your freedom if you’re careful and don’t spend everything.”
“You call him, ‘Master’?”
“Yes. He is master. He out a hot iron on us to tell us we don’t belong to Eledumare anymore. We belong to a man now.  Him. He’s master.”
There was a long, awkward pause. Then Koby spoke up.
“He’s not my master.”
Eyes wide with fear, she swung her head from side to side to see if anyone else had heard the mutinous comment.

“Be careful Koby, not everyone thinks-”
His hand shot out from between the bars and gripped her by the arm. She was startled, then relaxed. He drew her close, close enough for their noses to touch, but for the bars of the cage. Then he whispered, so quietly that no one but her could hear it;
“I have no master.”
She nodded. He nodded too, then let her go. He picked a spoon and out some of the porridge in his mouth, chewing slowly before swallowing.
“So, why did you- br- bribe cook?”
She turned her gaze downwards, and gathering the hem of her skirts in one hand, fiddled with them.

She would not meet his eyes.
“You can talk to me. I’m not like other men.”
“I know.”
“Good. Now why bribe cook?”
She took a deep breath.

“I like you Koby. I like you very much.” As she spoke she raised her head, and when she said the last two words, she was staring him in the eye.
Koby smiled, put his spoon down and set his plate aside. His hand snaked out and traced the outline of her strong, pretty nose.
“I like you too. Very very much.”
After he ate his meal, she took his plate back to the cook, and came to sit by his cage. Through the iron bars, they held hands and talked, and this was how they were, girl sitting on a crate beside the cage, boy flat on his belly, hands intertwined, when sleep came, and took them to a better place.
For a short while.
The following morning, Koby stirred out of a deep sleep, feeling the most restful since his feet touched the strange sands of this place.
As the events of the previous evening came back to him, he wondered where Ewatomi was.
“Ewatomi?”
There was a soft moaning sound and a head came up, to the level of the cage floor. Hair scattered, eyes unfocused with twigs and leaves stuck to her hair, clothes and face, Koby thought to himself that she had never looked more beautiful.
Her mouth opened up in a little yawn, her eyes focused and she jumped to her feet.
“Eledumare! Look at us. I must go to change. There’s no good if we are caught like this.”
Koby grunted in agreement. But she didn’t make any move to leave and he didn’t remind her. They were both lost in each other’s eyes.
“I might not come back today Ewatomi.”
“You must.” This was said with much conviction.
“I don’t know. I am not an orisha.* I die too.”

* One of the gods that make up the Yoruba pantheon.

“Yes. But not today.”

Her hand came through the bar and he grasped it.
“No, not today.” He agreed. She put her hand in her hair and removed a pink ribbon and gave it to him.

He accepted it and put it in the pocket of the trousers, which apart from the dusty shirt was all he had to wear.
“When you go to the ring, I’ll go with you.”
He held the ribbon to his nose and took a slow, deep, breath, holding it for as long as he could before releasing it.
He added another reason to his list of reasons to live and leave.

“No. I not die today.”

NEGRITUDE part 4


The next morning, Mr Stone had his prize fighter brought before him.
“Trust the wench was to your liking eh?”

He made some obscene gestures and chuckled. When the only answer forthcoming was a grunt, he shrugged and continued
“Well you my friend, have made me a rich fella. But then I started thinking. If I could make so much from this here town, imagine how much I could make if our show hit the road! So saddle up blackie, you and I are hitting the road!”
Again, Koby simply grunted.
And that was all till the end of the week. There was some packing to be done of course and a retinue of slaves prepared to wait on Mr Stone hand and foot. Fruits were cut, dried and put in jars, meat and fish were cut into strips and left on hot coal, slowly hardening as they were smoked into perfection.
Clothes were washed. Oh, a lot of clothes were washed. Mr Stone was a showman, and every showman needs his costumes.
Last but not the least, Koby was prepared. When the day for the journey finally arrived, Koby was dragged out, bound hand and foot and thrown into a huge cage with wheels. There was a bowl and a cup on the ground, and a small but clean mattress. There was enough space to stand and even walk a bit and stretch one’s legs. The cage even had it’s top covered so he wasn’t exposed to the mercy of the elements.
All of this, Mr Stone gladly pointed out in a cheery voice, tapping each item as he explained how it was another luxury to show just how much he valued his moneymaker.
Koby grunted. A cage, no matter how beautiful, remained a cage. He wanted to be free. After a few settled scores, of course.
The cage was attached to a wagon, the wagon was loaded, and with a wave and a happy shout of “Be back soon lads!” They were off.
With so many slaves walking together on foot beside the wagons and the cage, the journey was slow.

The cage creaked and was jolted as every bump in the road. After a while, Koby got used to the rhythm; enough to settle down for a nap on the small mattress. Idly, he wondered when his bonds would come off. Not anytime soon, he thought. Best to conserve his strength. Soon he was dozing.
The cart stopped with a big jolt, and Koby woke up. He yawned and rubbed at his eyes with his forearms, and then yawned.
“Good! You’re awake! It’s almost time for feeding! You’re having porridge! Isn’t that wonderful, my good man?”
When Koby only grunted in response, Mr Stone stuck his hands in his pockets and walked away, whistling a tune and tapping his feet to keep the beat.
When evening fell, a slave girl came with a platter of food to give him. He tasted some of it, picked a grape and bit into it, nodded and flicked a thumb at Koby’s cage. The slave came bearing the food. As the she got closer, Koby saw it was Ewatomi.
She passes him the food through a slot at the bottom of the cage. He picked it up and ate. Soon he would be fighting for his life. He needed to keep up his strength. Mr Stone must have thought the same, because there were berries and strips of dried meat and fish in his porridge.
“He likes you, you know. He doesn’t normally give us fish, or meat. Or even taste the food we eat.”
“He… Like what I am to him. Money.”
“You understand far more than you show, Adekogbe.”
“Is not my name. My name be different.”
“What is your name then?”
Koby lifted his manacled hands so she could see them.

“Not while I have this. Never. Till I- off this.”
“So? Adekogbe?”
“Koby. For now.”
A few minutes later, the wagon door creaked open, and a male slave came out with the used dishes. There was another creak, and yet another, and then there was Mr Stone, leaning against the wall of the wagon.
“I reckon I’m feeling frisky right about now. Let me see…”
A hush fell over the camp. Female slaves shuffled faster, their eyes fixed downwards, and feet moving quickly as they moved from place to place.
“Hey! You! That girl!” The girl in question froze like a rabbit in the glare of twin headlamps. Then she raised her head slowly. There was no denying it, she was beautiful; full lips, curly hair, shiny, chocolate skin and a very neat uniform.

She was also young. From the way she looked, Koby guessed she had not seen more than eighteen harmattans.
“Me sir?”
“Yes you. Git over here and be damn quick with it.”

She walked towards the cart with small mincing steps. Just before she got to the cart, a man howled and lunged for her. Mr Stone got out his gun and fired- the gunshot as loud as thunder in the silence that lay over the clearing. The man who had been shot fell into a heap.
The girl looked at the man and stifled a sob. Mr Stone reaches out and grabbed her arm, dragging her into the wagon and slamming the door shut behind them.
As soon as the door was shut, a few slaves ran forward and lifted the man from the ground. He groaned. He was still alive. Together they rushed him off, into the darkness.
“Why don’t they do it immi- imidi-”
“Immediately?”
“Yes. That.”
“Mr Stone would just shoot anyone who helped him right then. Best to let him be off before helping.”

A scream rang out from inside the wagon and then crying followed, deep, terrible sobs.

“Mr Stone please.”
“Mr Stone, no.”
“Please, God, anyone, help me!”
The heavens were silent.

Slowly the wagon started to rock from side to side.
Ten minutes later, the wagon door flew open. The slave girl was pushed outside, she stumbled and fell. The wagon door slammed shut after her.
As she lay in the dirt, tears trickling down her face, the slave girl gathered her clothes into a bunch in her fist and bit down on it. A matronly woman stepped forward with a shawl and lifting her to her feet, covered her up with it. But just before the shawl covered everything, Koby saw a bright red stain at the back of her dress. With soft words the woman led the girl away. And the camp once again bustled with activity.
“The man. Who was he?”
“Her father.” Looking in the direction the girl and her guardian had gone, Ewatomi mumbled softly.

“Could have been me again.”
And Koby added one more score to settle…

NEGRITUDE part 3


That morning dawned clean and bright like any other. But it was no ordinary morning, no you see, Mr Stone was opening his salon. And he had gotten a lot of people to pay the steep entrance fee of five pounds with the most delicious of lures-

For their entertainment, a man would die that morning!
With pomp and pageantry, the first fighter was led on stage. No one knew his name, they just called him “the cannibal” because a few months ago, at the first fighter of this nature also organized by Mr Stone, he had fallen on the corpse of his opponent after killing him and hurriedly consumed great portions of flesh before the thugs refereeing the match could pull him off. No one among the crowd knew that he was half-mad, driven to that point by starvation, constant whippings and torture. All they knew was that he was vicious. And they loved to see him fight.

Even today, he was bound tightly with hempen rope. Once he had found the soft patch of earth that served as the arena, they cut him free, keeping him in check with sharpened sticks and curses.
Koby was also led to the arena. The crowd did not know him, but they went crazy nonetheless. Afterall, this was the man who would face  the cannibal. And without further ado, the cannibal launched himself at his prey and the match began.

Koby dodged easily, slamming his elbow into the small of the other man’s back. The cannibal stumbled and fell. The crowd went wild.
The cannibal scrambled to his feet and came again. Koby made a quick feint, went the other direction and grabbing the cannibal by the middle, lifted him clean off the ground.
With a mighty THUMP! he slammed him against the ground. And then stepped away. The crowd went insane. 

The cannibal came to his feet again and lurched for Koby, swaying on his feet like a drunkard.

Koby dodged the flailing hands and caught him around the neck with the inside of his elbow. Like a vise he began to squeeze.
The cannibal flailed and struggled but every thrust and push was weaker than the one before until finally he shuddered and grew still, pink tongue lolling out awkwardly.
Koby gently let the body to the ground and pushed the tongue back in. Then he closed his eyes. And with the crowd watching and telling for more he said quietly
“Sun rere ore, ma gbesan.”*
*Sleep well friend, I will have our revenge.
The thugs rushed in to clear the corpse and Mr Stone came in to work the crowd with promises of another match with even more spectacular fighters.
_____________________
That evening, Koby was taken to a separate room. It was cleaner than the other and he had it all to himself.

He had just washed his face and hands when the door was pulled open and a girl shoved into it. The door was slammed shut.

He turned to look at her. She was a pitiful sight, curled there on the ground with her arms round her knees, whimpering. He knew what they expected him to do with her And it disgusted him. He walked over to the girl as she sobbed. When he touched her shoulder, she yelped. Then remembering no one would come to her and she cried even harder. 

Koby did not want the white men knowing, but he had picked up a bit of english from the long voyage back.

He used this now to put the girl at ease.

“I not hurt you. I swear.”
She looked up at him in shock. 

“You speak english?”
“Small. Tell no one. It is secret.” He put a finger across his lips to fully pass his message across.
“I- I won’t.”
“Here. How long?”
“Many many years. Since I was a little girl.”
“This thing they do to you. Everytime?”
“No. Not everytime, thank Eledumare.* But once in a while, yes. And I suffer.”
*The Yoruba title for God, the supreme being and ruler of the universe.
“Se omo Yoruba ni o ni?*
*Are you Yoruba?
The girl nodded, still scared despite his promise. He lifted her to her feet and wiped her tears. His door was pushed open and food was pushed in, and again, the door was slammed.
He scratched his head at this odd behaviour until the girl explained that the room he was in now, once belonged to the cannibal. The servants were scared of him, a man who could have defeated a beast like the cannibal, and bare handed too.
It was this fear that caused them to behave the way they did. He chuckled and asked her of her name. She told him. Ewatomi*

*A name which when interpreted literally means; I am satisfied with beauty
He held her face up to better see it by the light of the single candle in the room and agreed that indeed, she was beautiful. Then he shared his meal and they stayed up talking till the strange hours of the night…

NEGRITUDE part 2

With whips and prods the slaves were led one after the other, to the auction block.

Interested buyers started bidding and gradually, the number of available slaves dwindled. Soon, there was only a handful left.
Up next for auction was the slave that had bitten off the white man’s ear. Like a king before his army, he strutted up to the auction block. Instantly, there was silence. Nobody wanted to bid.
A voice racked with agony spoke up. “Five pounds!”

Another countered “I’ll give ten pounds for it.”

And then “Twenty!”
Mr. Hardy groaned as he saw his chance at retribution slipping away. He did not have twenty pounds to throw away on a useless slave. But someday, he swore to himself, someday he would get his hands on that uppity black. And boy, would he teach him a lesson like no other.
Silent, the negro watched the men scream prices, two of them in particular working themselves into a frenzy.
One of them was Mr Richardson Beets. He owned a sugar plantation and wanted a big strong slave to work for him. 

The other was Mr Stone. He was a reknown entertainer and he had just opened a new saloon, and he wanted slaves for his main event. A fight to the death!
Eventually Mr Beets caved in and Mr Stone had himself a brand new fighter. Satisfied with his purchase, he grinned from ear to ear.
Later that day, the slave was pushed into a cart where he was jammed in with farm produce and other purchases as Mr Stone got in the market.

A quick flick of the whip, a neigh, and off they went, to a whole new place.

___________________
That night, Koby, for that was what they called him, was introduced to the rest of the fighting crew. At first they rushed at him, intending to injure him but he tore into them with all the anger of a cornered tiger and they fell back, heads bowed in gestures of submission.
There really wasn’t a need to fight anyway, they just wanted to establish his hierarchy in the pecking order. 
Just before they went to bed, there was a loud sound. The slaves shook themselves to full alertness, standing stiff and barely daring to breathe.
Mr Stone walked in, escorted by a giant of a man, and a cigar between his lips. Calmly he surveyed the slaves before lazily lifting a finger to point.
“There. That one.”
Three hefty men previously hidden in the shadows stepped forward and grabbed Koby, forcing him to his knees. 
Mr Stone took one last drag of the cigar and then casually crushed it into his neck. There was a sizzle as the skin there burnt and blackened.
“Listen up Koby. I own you now. You don’t breathe without my say so, you don’t live without my say so, you don’t eat without my say so. Understand?”
“Emi gan gan lo ma pa e.”*
*I’ll surely be the one to kill you.
“Anyone understand what this fella be saying? Anyone?”
When no one stepped forward or made at sign to indicate that they understood, Mr Stone chuckled and called out
“It don’t matter anyways. Fetch the branding iron.”
And so it was brought, with the end red-hot and sizzling, and like that it was pressed into the flesh of the new slave. Again it sizzled, burnt and blackened. And then it was done, the slave was branded.
Just like he did earlier, Koby clenched his teeth and no sound escaped his lips.
Mr Stone chuckled “I like this one. He’s up for a fight tomorrow.”

He left the stinking, hot little room with his cronies and Koby silently swore revenge.

NEGRITUDE part 1


The ship came to a sluggish, lurching stop. Gradually, the nauseating to and fro movement reduced, but not totally, for it was still on a body of water, even if it was grounded now by the anchor the captain had let down.
Thus firmly affixed, a small door opened up in it’s belly and it vomited it’s cargo; strong, barrel-chested, virile young men and women with skin as black as burnt wood, curly hair and wide nostrils.

Each one was attached to the others and restrained by means of hand and leg irons, with a contraption holding the neck upright. But there was a little chance for movement, a little, but it was there.

The white traders at the seashore were temporarily dumbfounded. Surely, they had heard tales of these creatures who looked like men, but were black, black as sin.

Curious, one of them stepped forward and licking a thumb, he rubbed vigorously against the nose of one of the negroes close to him to see if the color would come off.

The negro froze, barely moving with the white man still rubbing, increasingly surprised as the color would not come off. 

Overcome with curiousity, Mr. Hardy made the foolish mistake of stepping too close to the black man. In a single fluid movement, flowing like quicksilver, the negro pounced on the caucasian. There was a wicked tearing sound and a sharp cry of agony, then he spat out the ear he had torn clean off the other man’s head. Blood dribbling down his chin, the negro steeled himself for the sting of the whips he knew were sure to come.

Eyes fixed on the horror stricken crowd, he grinned.

Wham! Wham!!

Like raindrops racing one another to dry, brittle earth, the lashes landed in quick succession, and the negro bore it without flinching.

The captain came running, waving his arms wildly; the cargo was precious, slaves with strength such as the negroes had were rare. He had endured a long, ardous journey to get them, he wasn’t about to let foolish men whip them to death before he had a chance to sell them off and make a profit.

What? He did not go to Africa, and brave the heat and mosquitoes because he had nothing better to do, he was a business man. And dead slaves were bad for business. Anyone with a lick of sense knew that.

Meanwhile the man who had been bitten had finally gotten to his feet. With a look in his eyes that told of the fires of hell, he grabbed his neighbor’s sword and raised his hand high…

“Stop!!!” The Captain’s voice rang out, loud and clear. “Stop or by God, I’ll have your head! Have you bought that chap? No? Then what right have you to touch him? Away with you! With all of you!!”

And so saying, he shooed the wounded man and the slavers away. Now the fellow’s back was crisscrossed with welts, but if he was grateful to have the beatings cease, he did not show it.

Instead he fixed his black pupiled eyes on the crowd and said one one. Just one. And everyone present heard it fall from his lips like a curse.

Adekogbe

*The crown rejects the bush. It’s a name that indicates that a prince is not to be involved in manual labor. You see, our dear negro wasn’t just any kind of negro. He was a prince, even far away from home as he was.

From there it was straight to the slave market, for the captain had to make his gain…

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

A fat drop of rainwater makes its way through the intricate gathering of branches and leaves- gathers at the top of a leaf and hangs upside down, suspended for a brief moment before falling.

You can follow it’s shimmering path through the evening air, and it’s subsequent splashing against Ogunjimi’s left eyelid. This was what woke him up.

With a yawn and a stretch, the hunter wakes up. As he moves, he rouses his dogs from their sleep. He gathers his catch and fetches his torchlight. Tries it.

It flickers, coming to life briefly before dying a slow sputtering death. He gives it a good smack and it brightens, steadying, releasing a small focused beam of light.

With the light, he makes his way out of the enclosure, followed by the three hunting dogs. Slinging the day’s catch over a shoulder, he checks the gunpowder in his gun. Satisfied, he nods and slings it over a shoulder too. 

Whistling a merry tune, Ogunjimi and his hunting dogs pick their way home, unaware of the presence of a new companion.

As the happy group moves through the forest, a black leopard trails behind, perfectly camouflaged with it’s blue-black coat, it’s biding it’s time. You see, in the jungle, every predator is also prey to some other beast.

Having gained on them, it’s hind legs bunch, tense for a moment and then the big cat pounces…