Saturday 7 May 2016
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An African Tale chapter thirteen continued

As he sat there staring at the candle he noticed that it seemed to be flickering and slanting as if there were a breeze coming from somewhere at the base of the hole. How could there be a breeze down here in this sealed-off hole? Then it occurred to him that if there was air coming in from somewhere it could mean that there might be a way out. Picking up the candle he slowly moved around the walls of the hole, holding it low to see if he could make out where the draft was coming from. Suddenly the flame went horizontal and blew out.

“Don’t blow the candle out,” squeaked Kgatwe, who had poked his head out to see what Lesedi was up to.

“I didn’t,” said Lesedi, fumbling for the matches in his other pocket. “There’s air coming through somewhere here. It might be a way out!”

“Okay. Well, let me know when you find it,” said Kgatwe, burrowing his way down into Lesedi’s pocket again. He was cold and depressed and when geckos are cold and depressed they find it difficult to get enthusiastic about anything; all they want to do is sleep.

Lesedi wasn’t listening to him. He lit the candle, placing it carefully on the floor away from the breeze, and then he started scraping away at the sand with his hands. As he did so he felt more and more fresh air on his face. There was definitely some kind of exit here. After about five minutes there was quite a large gap between the floor and the wall. Excitedly he dug away faster, making the hole big enough to fit his head and shoulders through. He seemed to be in some kind of narrow tunnel that went a little way down and then curved at a ninety-degree angle. It wasn’t very large and he definitely wouldn’t be able to stand in it, so he would have to try and wiggle his way through on his stomach. The most exciting and also scary thing was that he could see all this; there was light coming from around that corner. Was this a way out or a way into Bosula’s cave? He pulled his head out and sat down to think.

“What’s up now?” said Kgatwe, poking his head out of Lesedi’s pocket.

“I think I’ve found a way out…or in,” said Lesedi.

“Through that hole?” asked Kgatwe, not knowing whether to be excited or scared.

“Yes. There is a narrow tunnel with light coming from the other side.”

Kgatwe hopped out of his pocket. “Okay. You go take a look. I’ll stay and watch the candle.”

“No,” said Lesedi. “I think YOU should go take a look! It’s a very narrow tunnel and it will take me awhile to manoeuvre along it, whereas you can just run along quickly and take a peek.”

“Go in on my own!” said Kgatwe nervously. “What if there are bats and scorpions?”

“Stop making such a fuss about everything!” Lesedi said, somewhat irritated. “We need to get out of here and I could do with some help.”

“We could wait for Lorato,” said Kgatwe. “That tunnel might lead to Bosula’s cave!”

“That’s the reason we’re here. To get into Bosula’s cave and get the ivory palm nut back. Remember?”

“Okay! Okay!” muttered Kgatwe, making his way nervously towards the opening. “I still think we should wait for Lorato.”

Once inside Kgatwe darted quickly along the tunnel hoping desperately that all the bats and scorpions were taking a nap. Where the tunnel took a right angle bend there was a small round chamber that looked big enough for Lesedi to be able to manoeuvre his way around in. Then the tunnel carried on for a bit and he could see the exit not far off. The light was now becoming a lot brighter. He moved slowly along the tunnel, wary of what he might find at the end. For once he was glad to be small and not easily visible as he poked his head out into what seemed to be a narrow passageway with a very high ceiling, if there was any ceiling at all. To the left a little way along was the source of the light. It was silvery and bright and seemed to be shining upwards from somewhere far below—it was a cold light that made him shiver. Kgatwe had by now used up all his little bit of gecko courage and didn’t feel he could go the extra few meters down the passage to investigate the light source. Turning, he scuttled back down the tunnel to where Lesedi was sitting anxiously waiting for him.

“Well?” said Lesedi expectantly as Kgatwe jumped onto his shoulder, out of breath.

“It goes out into a passage,” he panted.

“And then?”

“And then there is a very bright light…strange, cold kind of light, made me shiver!”

“Where is it coming from?”

“Ummm…the one end of the passage.”

“So what’s there?” Lesedi was starting to get impatient.

“Well, I thought it might be better if we did that together… I was getting a little worried about you being all alone back here,” said Kgatwe, hopping back into Lesedi’s pocket.

“Yeah, sure,” said Lesedi. “Did you notice whether I can fit down the tunnel?”

“Ummmm…” said Kgatwe. In his nervousness he hadn’t thought too much about that. “I’m sure it’s fine!” he said, crossing his toes.

“Well, let’s go then,” said Lesedi.

He lay flat on his stomach and started to wiggle his way in through the hole. It was very narrow and he found he had to keep his arms pinned to his sides and try and push himself along with his toes. He almost got stuck a few times and just as he was starting to feel a bit panicky, that he didn’t have any strength left and that this was probably a silly idea, his head popped out into the round chamber and he managed to push himself through and get his arms unstuck. He sat there hunched with his back against the sandy wall, breathing hard.

“Now what?” he said to Kgatwe.

“Down there,” said Kgatwe, pointing to an even smaller-looking opening at right angles to where they had just come out.

“Down there? But it’s narrower than this one!”

“It’s shorter than the first one,” said Kgatwe. He couldn’t really remember, but he thought he had better sound encouraging. “I could try and make you smaller.”

“No,” said Lesedi firmly. “We’ll use that as a last resort.” He didn’t want to take a chance with Kgatwe’s hit-and-miss sizing powers down here.

“Okay,” said Kgatwe, climbing onto Lesedi’s back. He was getting a little squashed in his pocket with all this stomach wriggling.

Lesedi bent his head and peered through the hole he needed to go down. There was quite a bright light coming from the other side, which although it scared him also encouraged him to carry on. The darkness of the cave had started to become oppressive and he needed to get into some light no matter how dangerous it might be. He put his head and shoulders through the hole and with his arms at his sides started to push himself through. This time it seemed a lot easier and in no time he was out on the other side. Standing up in the passageway he tried to shake out all the sand that had collected in his clothes. He looked around. It was a narrow passageway, at the end of which was this strange silvery light coming up from below as Kgatwe had described. It looked extremely cold and made him shiver. He walked slowly towards it with Kgatwe now firmly back in his pocket, peeping over the edge and ready to duck down at the slightest sign of trouble.

As they got closer they could hear voices coming up from below. There were three voices. One was a raspy, ugly voice that sent shivers down Lesedi’s spine. He was sure it must Bosula, although he had never seen or heard him before. The other two sounded vaguely familiar and then he suddenly stopped frozen in his tracks. He recognised the voices. One was Kilo, his grandfather’s brother, and the other Bosenyi, his son! The voices, like the light, were coming from below. This passageway must be coming out at the top of a large cave. Lesedi went down on all fours and crawled forward slowly so that he could look over the edge.

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