Joe ran square to the spot, and jumped on the stump. He caught hold of his wife’s soft palm, as her eyes met his.
More shots, and they advanced. He looked behind him. Luckily, no one had seen them yet.
But then he became scared of what might happen if they got to him. They were not being seen, yes, but the shots were approaching fast, and in their direction too. Something had to be done, to channel their course another way. He racked his brain.
Without warning, he let go of his wife’s hand. She sank three inches. The soft dark sand had accommodated her above her knees. Her eyes followed him about the clearing, as he seemed to look for something.
He got hold of a large rock, and faced west. He hurled the rock forward, low, like a goalkeeper to a defender after he had just made a wonderful save. The rock rustled and rattled the lush vegetation, giving an impression of hurried and desperate movement in that direction.
Joe made a sign with his finger to his lips and faced her. He crouched low as voices could be heard, directed by the compass he had offered. She managed to stifle her sobs, her head as low as possible, as their curiosity and anger were being fed, and they hustled past.
Minutes later, Joe and Tanya were trotting along a lonely bush path, flanked on both sides by trees that were well endowed both in height and in greeny shade. Hand in hand, they trudged on, thankful for the cool the environment offered, yet cautious about the eerie silence and very little light provided by the tiny streaks of light that found its way into the luxurious forest. They had nowhere in mind to go, never neither having been in that part of the country before nor knowing anyone around. Caught up in each individual’s thoughts, they continued, Joe beginning to blame himself for putting this princess through all this stress. But what could he have done, other than what he just did? The options were clear, as well as the intentions of the robbers, to add to the fact that he had brutally killed four of their men. He was sure only God would save the both of them, and the fear of the consequences of falling into their hands shuddered him more than the obvious danger they were in. Anything was better that coming face to face with those brigands. He cast a glance at his wife.
‘Tired, or tiring?’
He got no more than a shake of the head, and a wry smile. He pitied her.
‘Let’s rest a bit.’ He guided her to a clump of trees, invitingly cool, and they settled under a large one. They sat close, and by reflex, or intention, Tanya’s head was on Joe’s chest in a matter of minutes, his hand on her back. They rested a bit, and the bit turned out to be four hours of peaceful sleep.
Biodun had just deposited a fresh mound of waste, thick and brown, on the organic floor of his part of the forest. He pulled his combat jeans up to his waist, and tightened his belt, humming a nonchalant tune. Before his very eyes, under thirty seconds, his donation to the ecosystem depreciated to vanishing point, and he was beginning to shiver, at the thought of some diabolic activity around, when he noticed the hundreds and hundreds of the milling insects, dispersing lazily, and they looked like they were discussing the highly nutritious serving they just received, by the way they were nosing about each other. Recovering from the shock of it all, he immediately remembered the carbon cycle he was taught nearly seven years ago in secondary school, and marvelled at nature. This God was just too much.
His reverie suddenly received a jolt. A swishing in the leaves nearby. He got hold of his gun, and employed the cover of the bushes.
The minute he sighted them, hands interlocked, all the hate which had taken a little leave from his heart flooded back, as the Technicolor clip of Bidemi, his only brother hurtling in the air and crashlanding played in his head, and brought a murderous red to his eyes. He watched them.
In spite of his anger and hate, they seemed a nice and happy couple. The lady interested him the more. Curvy, and tall, with her oval beauty of a face. The way they were all over each other reminded him of the better days which had long passed; the days of happy sunshine his family had experienced. He watched the man set large leaves, layer upon layer, around the tree they had rented, all the while talking in a soothing tone, words which were lost on him but he secretly hoped he could hear, and help the tired woman down. They curled up against each other, and he found liking them, an impossibility to resist.
But Satan’s hold was too strong for that little show of emotion.
He picked his phone, and dialled. He was disgusted to see the service bar empty, and he sought for convenience moving some metres ahead. He dialled again.