Friday 11 March 2016
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An African Tale chapter twelve

The Cart trundled along at normal donkey cart pace which was rather tedious. The sky still had that strange colour and although the sun beat down relentlessly, sucking every bit of moisture out of everything, Lesedi felt a chill in his bones. As they passed by the pans, the marabous flew over and circled. Lesedi normally found these creatures amusing with their long legs, balding red heads, and large beaks. They sometimes inflated the air sacks on their necks, which made them look even more ridiculous. Now, however, as they circled above casting menacing shadows on them he didn’t feel at all like laughing. They could see mountains of eggs lying in the pans. Every now and again a screeching, cracking noise could be heard and the marabous immediately focused their attention in the direction of the sound.

“Sounds as if whatever it is in those eggs is starting to hatch,” said Lesedi, looking up nervously at Lorato.

Lorato nodded, staring hard at the road ahead and wishing they could go faster.

They reached the trees with a couple of hours to spare before nightfall. As they drew closer Mary and James stopped abruptly, refusing to go any further. Lorato tried to coax them on but they stood there stubbornly with their heads down. He got off the cart and walked towards the trees. Then he, too, stopped abruptly, staring at the ground in the shadow of the trees.

“What is it?” shouted Lesedi from the cart, not daring to get down and take a look.

Lorato continued to stare, narrowing his eyes to try and make out what he thought he was seeing. It looked as if the shadows of the trees were alive. They were moving, pulsing backwards and forwards.

“It’s the Kgoa!” he exclaimed. “The tick-like creatures the Mokaedi told us about.”

“Don’t get too close!” shouted Lesedi.

“They don’t come into the light, remember?” Lorato was looking around for the path the old man had spoken of. Then he saw it. It was very narrow but in the sun and with no Kgoa on it. He walked back to the cart.

“We can go through over there.” He pointed out the path. “Come along now, we only have a couple of hours left.” He pulled at the reins. Mary and James stood firm. They knew all about these Kgoa. They were hungry. They hadn’t smelled warm-blooded creatures for a long time and they were desperate to get their blood suckers into something tasty.

The sun was getting lower and lower and now Lorato could see shadows appearing on the path. This wasn’t going to work; they would have to spend the night here and go through the next day. He had noticed some large boulders a bit away from the trees and he guided the cart over there, this time with no objection from Mary and James.

There were two large boulders with soft sand in the middle that afforded some shelter. Not wanting to attract any undue attention they did not light a fire. Lorato found them something to eat and then they settled down to make themselves as comfortable as possible for the night. Kgatwe lay on one of the boulders for a while to get some warmth but it soon got cold as the sun went down and he climbed in under Lesedi’s blanket. No one said much, they were all busy with their own thoughts.

Lorato was thinking of strategies for the next day and how they would get into the caves. Kgatwe was wondering whether it would be better to be large or small. If he was small he would be able to hide in tiny cracks or under leaves but then a snake might swallow him or a bird might peck him off. If he was large then he wouldn’t be able to fit into Lesedi’s pocket and he’d have to walk all the way. The very thought of this exhausted him and he fell asleep. Lesedi was thinking of home and a hot dinner and a cosy bed. He shivered, pulling the blanket up around his ears as he stared up at the night sky. He supposed when he got back home (if he got back home) he would have all sorts of exciting stories to tell everyone but right now he would rather be the one listening to those stories. Eventually he fell into an uneasy sleep, which was punctuated by the screeching and cracking noises in the distance.

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