THE WILD DOGS
Why must you go Camilla?
We have a good life here – Cape Town is finished. Why waste your life?
I landed safely in Cape Town and was taken for a medical check-up. With the world still baffled about the causes and the cure for the disease, foreign aid workers like me are checked meticulously on arrival. I volunteered to help rescue a falling city, and I’m not completely sure why. I don’t feel heroic. I feel like I’m running. Running from complacency and comfort into the unknown? Why do such a dumb thing?
After the medical exams they shuffled us through the airport and out onto ‘Special Transports’. All tough 4×4 vehicles since the roads have been damaged. I remember the shacks that used to line the route to town. There are so few now. The land is barren. Even of its poor. I remember arguing with locals, wondering how they could handle the incongruence of this city. I suppose that doesn’t matter anymore. The flood gates opened. This place was once both beautiful and ugly. Now it’s just ugly. Or, I suppose I exaggerate – Table Mountain still stands with confidence while the city crumbles beneath. How’s that for privilege?
I’ve been watching these briefing videos they’re playing on the Special Transports. Apparently the police who greeted us are a special branch of The South African Police Force called ‘The Wild Dogs’, specially trained to combat the creatures that manifest from the disease.
I’ve got to meet up with Bonkosi and get to Hout Bay. We’re meeting at what’s left of Long Street.
I got off the transport half way up Long Street. While disembarking, one of the Wild Dogs handed me a brochure. Meeting all your security needs!
There was a list of private security companies sponsored by the African National Congress, and sections like, “How to Survive Cape Town”, along with phone numbers, and pictures of armed men.
I made my way up Long Street, past dilapidated buildings. There was that annoying Cape Town drizzle. The kind that’s light as a feather but ceaseless as a tyrant. Eventually I reached Zula Bar and stood outside for a while in shock. The architecture was disintegrating; paint peeling like flesh, chewed wood and worrisome blood splatters. Armed men roamed idly around Long Street, amidst one or two homeless.
I gulped, picked up my bags, and creaked up the stairs mentally beating myself.
Do you like the way the water tastes?
At the bar an armed man was nodding off to the music. The bartender approached twitching and scratching. Strands of hair were breaking through the skin at the top of his ears and his teeth were sharp – way too sharp. He just looked at me, said nothing.
“Black Label please.” He hobbled off.
Abruptly the armed man looked up and pointed at bartender. “He’s got it!” He laughed uproariously.
“Jou poes naaier,” the bartender replied.
“Ja! Keep talking shit. When you change, and start fucking everything that moves, I’m going to put a bullet in you. Right here.” The armed man tapped the middle of his forehead and laughed again.
I took my beer and went out to the balcony. Bonkosi was late. I waited and watched the drizzle hit the plastic blinds. He arrived about six beers later as evening was settling in.
“Well, we’re going to overnight here, and leave in the morning,” Bonkosi said after we’d exchanged formalities. “It’s great to have you here. Many have given up on the city.” He ordered a round of tequila. “Trust me, you need this,” he said. “It’s going to get really depressing.”
We took the shots, and sat for a moment. Bonkosi stared at nowhere, with a grave expression, as if he were on the verge of breakdown. I thought I could see tears in his eyes.
“Right, let’s go,” he said.
He drained the remnants of his beer and stood up. “I’ve organized us an escort for tomorrow. Just for things to run smoother. WCLS. Western Cape Liberty and Security – they give discounts for the volunteers. The owner’s a bit of a capitalist hippy. Ex-Executive Outcomes – very dangerous. Runs the family business with his two sons Zakhile and Jonno.”
We descended as Bonkosi spoke. I realised I was mildly drunk.
“Things can get a bit messy while traveling alone. Especially if a female turns up.”
“A female?” I asked.
Bonkosi stepped through the door and vanished in a swish of blood.
I heard gun shots and felt dizzy.
“Bonkosi? Bonkosi?” I could hear rustling through the door.
I was shaking, and each gun boom felt like the pound of a headache. “Bonkosi?!”
Men were yelling and running up and down the street, and the laughter, the laughter was so penetrating.
I put a foot forward.
You should know by now.
That this could end.
You should know.
I could never make it work.
“Good morning Ms. Haake.”
Where am I?
“You can relax. You’re safe here at Chris Barnaard Hospital.”
How did I get here? Who is this guy?
“I found you last night. You were hiding in the gardens. Do you remember?”
Do I remember? I remember stepping outside Zula. Herregud! Those things! Yenas! I’d never seen one.
“Bonkosi? One of the casualties yesterday. Did you know him?”
He was slaughtered right in front of me.
I’d stepped out into Long Street and all hell had broken loose. Bonkosi was reduced to a mauled pulp – a Yena was eating his face.
“Excuse me. Ms. Haake?”
“Give her a moment please Sir, she’s just woken up. She’s still in shock. Hello, I’m Dr. Winters. You’re alright now. Just a few cuts and bruises but it’s alright now.”
I looked at the woman, failing to understand her.
Images flooded me, of blood and fur and maniacal laughter, streaking human beasts, Bonkosi’s eyeball being pried from its socket. I drifted off to men screaming for their mothers…
I’d been crying for about an hour, clinging to this strange man.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Sweden.” Mucus ran into my mouth as I answered him.
“I’m terribly sorry about this. We haven’t had an attack of that scale in a long time. The Yenas…sorry, the creatures tend to maraud in smaller, more manageable groups. This was quite a big group, led by an Alpha-Female. Nobody was ready.”
He looked at me with what seemed to be as much sincerity as he could muster and rubbed my back awkwardly. He pushed away from me gingerly, and rested his hand on my knee. There was nothing jovial in his face; it was thin and stern. Not unattractive, but not particularly warming either.
“I’m supposed to interview you. Gather any information I can regarding the attack. I’m with The Wild Dogs. We deal with, uh… the diseased. We also submit to the places doing medical research like Hout Bay. I’m Jacobs.”
I nodded, lacking the energy to object – lacking the energy to even absorb. He ran me through a series of mundane questions: background, purpose of visit, how I knew Bonkosi. I answered as best I could before he turned to the hard part; my account of the night.
I began processing the nightmares.
I ran… I had to run. There were Yenas and mercenaries everywhere. Two Yena packs were converging from the top and bottom of Long Street. They were laughing and whooping hysterically. The private military seemed overwhelmed. There were gunshots and grenades going off everywhere, and Yenas zipping up and down, using their numbers to take the soldiers out.
I ran in the first direction I could, screaming my lungs out. In my partially drunk terror-haze, I ran straight into The Company’s Gardens. There were even more Yenas there – whooping and giggling excitedly, their eyes glinting an excited pale. I could barely see. I could hardly hear my screams over that deranged laughter. It was a choir of horror. There were entrails and residue everywhere. Sticky and gross, and at every turn there was a Yena…trying to touch, claw, or bite.
Then more gun shots rang out. Finally the Yenas started to scatter, many dropping to all fours. I felt them zipping past as I hid in the shrubbery. I hugged my knees and rocked until a flashlight shone in my dirty face.
“I found someone.” Someone yelled, staring at me through a gas mask.
“Shoot her. It’s not worth the risk.”
“Are you mad? No extra hair. Ears look normal. Her arms and legs are still proportioned like a human. She’s fine.”
“Okay Jacobs, what do you want to do with her?”
“She looks injured, but not badly. We can leave her at Chris Barnaard and brief her tomorrow.”
“Are YOU mad? I’m not getting near her. And don’t put her in the car either – she’ll contaminate all of us.”
“Please man. You talk so much kak. I didn’t know you studied medicine?”
“Don’t give me that shit. Remember what happened to Peterson? He played hero – he’s lekker in his poes now.”
“Ja, ja. Just give me the bike. I’ll take her myself, and you can burn it after if you want.”
I was lifted and carried to the bike.
“It was you?” You found me.”
“Um… ja.” He looked uncomfortable for a moment. “Thanks for your testimony. I’ll be in touch if I need more information regarding Bonkosi.”
“Wait!” I exclaimed. “I need to get to Hout Bay. I’m a volunteer. How am I supposed to get there on my own? I was supposed to go with Bonkosi.”
“Maybe a transport?” he replied. “Here’s a pamphlet.”
He handed me the same pamphlet I’d received on the ride into town. This time I paid attention to the pricing.
“I can’t afford this!” I yelped, but the room was already empty.
I have to sit put. Skit. After no word from The Wild Dogs guy, Jacobs, I conjured up the guts to go to an internet café.
I was discharged from the hospital. Terrified, with nowhere to go, Dr. Winters suggested I shack up at Carnival Court on Long Street. Yes, back to Long Street, a place of much PTSD and former youth culture hub. So what could I do?
I headed back to Long Street and got a room with the little money I had. When the money ran thin I’d have to make another plan. I’d hid inside for about a week, moping and righteously so.
Do you like the way the water tastes?
I made contact with the doctors in Hout Bay. They told me to sit put, and wait for them to organize an escort.
There’s someone banging on the door. What do I do? They sound human. This could be my salvation.
I jumped out of bed. Skitsamma! I grabbed the keys off the dresser and made my way downstairs, turning on every light as I went. The banging and yelling was getting louder. To be sure, I unlocked the balcony door and took a look from above.
I leaned over the railing still scared shitless. “Hello?”
It was a man. He kept on banging and yelling, obviously not hearing me.
“Hello?” I said again, louder this time. He stepped back and looked up. He looked at me for a long time in consternation.
“Do I know you?” he slurred.
My heart palpated with unsentimental joy. It was Jacobs.
“Since when do you work here?”
I didn’t bother to answer. I ran downstairs and ripped off the locks. After I flung the door open he just stared at me again, swaying to-and-fro.
“Are you guys still open? I want a beer.”
He barged past me, and sluggishly stumbled up the stairs.
“Ha! Where’s the bouncer? I almost got into a fight once with that oversized Nigerian naaier. If he was here today, I’d shoot him in his poes.”
He laughed. I didn’t see the humour.
“Where’s the barman? Let’s have some shots!”
I followed him up after locking the door behind us.
“Um…he’s not here. He dropped some beer off last time he was here. Hold on.” I went to the fridge and got the beers out. I couldn’t decide how I was going to play it. He was my drunk Knight, whether he wanted to be or not. For a moment I considered using sex to keep him there, but he interrupted me.
“Wait! I do know you, man. I had a girlfriend once. She liked tats and piercings too. You kind of look like her, except she wasn’t so pale and blonde.” He laughed obnoxiously.
I nodded slowly, and shook off the post-apocalyptic sexual sacrifice scenario. I figured I would just lock him in. He was already drunk anyway.
“So what brings you here?” I started pouring shots of whatever I could find. The faster he passed out, the less time I would have to spend trying to distract him from going home.
“Nostalgia, and everyone at home is pissing me off…what was your name again?”
“Ja, the Swedish girl with the nice bum who was hiding in the bushes. I’m Randall. Randall Jacobs.”
He stared at my chest for a couple of seconds, though he appeared to be zoning out. He then mumbled something inaudible, and suddenly began detailing his Long Street exploits for the next twenty minutes. Eventually I became impatient – the anxiety was killing me.
“So what happened?” I asked him.”
“What happened? Fok if I know what happened the rest of that night. I was dik gesuip.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I said. “I mean, what happened here? I’ve read about the Yenas. I’ve seen them in the news. I mean, I’m a volunteer you know? I don’t know much about medicine. I just sort of volunteered. I wanted to help with the humanitarian crisis and – and I suppose I wasn’t doing much with my life anyway. I’m not sure if I was expecting this. I knew it was bad but this…”
He looked at me from a humourless slouch and gulped down another shot. “White saviour, huh? Thought you could come here from your nice flat in Europe and help poor little diseased Africans, eh?”
“It started in Pollsmoor. Whatever it is started there. Spread to townships first. Skipped all the rich, white areas…naturally. They boarded themselves up nicely once people in Tokai started getting sick. Constantia and Bishops Court turned into security villages, and the concept spread like wildfire. It doesn’t even make sense to do that, but you know, paranoia and fear.” He took gulp of Black Label. “There are only a few ‘safe’ areas left. Some don’t let non-whites in anymore, not that they’d admit it. Let’s see, there are villages in the Northern Suburbs, Southern suburbs, Camps bay, Hout Bay. I think I’m going there. At least you can visit the beach there. I can’t handle this. I don’t care what she says about betrayal. I’m getting out. I think Hout Bay is still accepting people into their security village. It’s safe there.
“The irony of this situation. Our history…” He chuckled dismally.
I was so taken aback by his description that I had to pause. It was as raw as an open wound. “That’s not exactly how they described it in the news in Sweden.”
He chuckled again, this time truly amused. “Well, you know what they say, right?”
“And nobody knows exactly what they are? The Yenas?”
“Nope. Niks. Fokol. Nada. Jackshit.
“The ones I’ve seen up close look like, like, hyena-men. Hairy, elongated ears, fangs. They travel in packs. Scavenge, attack each other. Mate excessively no matter what sex.”
He wobbled on his seat.
“I heard a rumour it came from a dirty tattoo needle in Pollsmoor.”
He beckoned for another beer, and I obliged him in silence. He definitely didn’t look like he was going anywhere after this, so I felt my mission complete.
After gulping his beer halfway Randall continued. “Who knows? I’ve heard a lot of rumours honestly. Nobody says it out loud but they’re blaming us – coloured people. We have the highest infection rate and enough sins to back it up. I’ve mostly been exterminating my own people. She keeps dragging me to these fokken sermons and kak. ‘Die vloek vannie nommer’ they keep saying. ‘The curse of the number.’ We should just let the disease claim us for all our sins. Drugs, rape, rampant killings – Cape Town’s disgusting underbelly of filth. I mean what kind of a people willingly indoctrinate their own children into gang culture?
“Fuck man, this country, sometimes I don’t know. Jinne…all those years I worked the flats. Sometimes I think those religious nuts she follows are right. Maybe we deserve this.” He lit up a Dunhill and pulled hard on it. “Lucky for me I have two accents. Most people don’t think I’m from here. I’m leaving. Hout Bay – that’s where I’m going.”
Suddenly he was silent. Nodding back and forth on the bar table. Sluggishly taking sips of his beer and smoking his cigarette.
I figured he’d told me too much and would’ve forgotten by the time he woke up. I wanted to ask him more questions; not about the disease, but about himself. He seemed to be guarding something, and it was making me curious. I couldn’t bring myself to do it though. I’ve always felt there was something low in fishing out a drunk person’s emotional issues.
He’d unloaded a lot though. Coloured – Randall was coloured. The South African term for mixed race people. Weird…the coverage I’d gotten had been less…racially charged. I hadn’t even thought about it. Cape Town had been a wonderful city to visit, it had a lovely veneer and it was easy to think of it as perfect but I’d been to Cape Town enough times to know of its underbelly. To have heard about the notorious Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. To know about The Numbers gangs, 26s and 27s, or something like that. ‘The curse of the number’. I hadn’t heard any of this in regards to the disease. He couldn’t have been serious about some security villages only letting in white people could he?
“Randall?” I tapped his shoulder and he stirred slightly from his drunken stupor.
“Are you going alone? To Hout Bay I mean?”
“Of course I’m going alone!” he slurred. “There’s no one here for me anymore. I’ve been disowned by my family and friends, and that stupid suicidal fucking cult. For trying to fucking help. Nobody wanted to come with me. Not even her!
“I’ll come with you! I mean,” shit, I jumbled my words, “I mean – could I come with you?”
He regarded me vacantly. I wasn’t even sure if he heard me.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“It’s 3 a.m.,” I responded. I had been monitoring the time.
“I have to go.” He stood from his chair, wobbled, then collapsed into heap of tangled limbs.
I tried to lift him, but he was too heavy. Instead I shifted around a couch, and strained to roll him onto it. Once finished, I went upstairs for a blanket. As I placed it on him he began drooling vomit. I grabbed a bucket and shifted his head to the edge of the couch. I got a chair and blanket, wrapped myself in it, and watched him. I needed him; I couldn’t let him be another John Bonham.
Eventually I dosed off, and when I woke up he was gone. Temporarily I was terrified. I ran downstairs, and found that he had somehow managed to lock me in. I went back upstairs and looked at the vacant couch. There was a piece of paper with a number on it.
“I was drunk. My plan was to go alone. I don’t even know why I told you. I don’t even know who the hell you are.” He was different, not like the previous night – his tone was refined again, like the first time we met at the hospital.
“Please,” I begged shamelessly. “If you didn’t want company, you wouldn’t have told me! You wouldn’t have left your number.”
“I was drunk!” He barked.
He breathed heavily into the phone for a moment.
“Fine. I’ll come by in two days. That’s Monday. 10 a.m. Be ready.”
He hung up before I could thank him.
At exactly 10 a.m., I heard a car horn downstairs. I was ready for him; I had been packing and pacing since the phone call. I collected my rucksack and bounded down the stairs. I took what was left of the alcohol, plenty of water, and shoved it into a cooler box.
When I got outside I hesitated; I was unsure whether to lock, or leave it open. I didn’t know if the bartender would return. I wasn’t sure if the owner would return really – hadn’t seen either of them in weeks. I locked up, and loaded my stuff onto the open boot of the Nissan. Under the tarpaulin were more bags and another cooler box.
I opened the passenger door, and greeted Randall. He nodded back.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with these keys,” I said. “I figured I’d hold onto them in case we don’t make it. Maybe we can come back and hole up here again.”
“Maybe,” Randall replied. “Or maybe we could drop the keys off at the municipality and they can convert it to RDP housing for mercenaries.”
He looked at me as if I should respond. “Are you ready for this?” he said eventually “I’m going to try Camps Bay first – I don’t know – for kicks. Maybe they’ll let us in. I doubt it though. If that doesn’t work, we take the hard way…to Hout Bay.”
I nodded tentatively, and made sure not to ask what ‘the hard way’ was. He turned on the engine.
We made our way up Long Street, and onto Kloof Street. We joined Tafelberg Road, and curved up the hill. Moving into the suburban areas, walls started to rise, interrupting the serene beauty of the foliage. Finally, on Camps Bay Drive, a fortress loomed, dead and menacing.
Randall had not been kidding. It was medieval and strange. The freeway was wedged between a giant wall, blocking the view of the ocean, and to our left the mountain loomed. I could see some of the Yenas marauding in the distance. To the right security guards manned the walls, eyeing us and the creatures through rifle scopes. Abruptly, Randall chuckled.
“Years of guarding white people from other black people has earned black security guards the ‘right’ to lock themselves up with white people. What a fucking joke…”
“How do you know they’re black? They’re completely covered.”
Randall rolled his eyes.
We came to great black gate, with watchtowers on either side.
“Quick, tell me how to say hello in Swedish.”
“If I can convince them we’re both foreigners, they’re more likely to think we’re clean, and more likely to let us in. If they figure out I’m Cape Coloured they’ll never let us in.”
“You’re kidding right?”
“Sorry to state the obvious but we’re not in Sweden anymore. We South African’s don’t really get the concept of social justice. Get with it sister!”
“Or, you just speak Swedish. Quick, jump out before they get suspicious.”
I climbed out of the car with Randall.
“Hello,” he said in a poorly feigned Scandinavian accent. “My name is…is…Marten! This is my wife Camilla. We come from Sweden.”
“God dag,” I said, awkwardly.
“Wait there,” the guard yelled down at us.
He disappeared, then reappeared through a door in the giant black gate. He was wearing a gas mask. “What do you want?” he said violently, shaking his rifle like a telekinetic probe.
“We’re looking for shelter. A place to stay. We came for holiday, and now we’re stuck here. We just want to be safe.”
The guard searched us violently. After finding nothing he eased his aggressive demeanour.
“You came for holiday? Nice try. Nobody comes to Cape Town for holiday anymore. Where will you go, heh? The beach? We’re full up my bru. No space inside.”
“But please! I mean we came as aid workers. We just want be safe. We’re from Sweden…we’re not sick.” Randall looked at me, and I nodded, clasping my hands together.
“Doesn’t matter chief. Nobody is allowed in. We can’t risk it.”
Randall dropped the accent. “Come on bra! I’m from The Wild Dogs. I moes know I’m not sick. Don’t listen to those white people man. Hulles mal naai. Me and you, we’re moes one. I can teta even.”
The guard broke into Xhosa and Randall fumbled his words, his second bluff called.
“You think you’re clever, neh? Jy lieg! What else could you be lying about?”
Randall gave up and started walking away.
“En you Mr. Wild Dogs,” the guard called. “You moes know. Die baas is sleg.”
A guard on the wall said something in Xhosa. The guard below looked up to his comrade and nodded. He then looked back at the two of us. “Askies mense.”
He went back into the fort. We got back into the car and Randall swore.
“Die baas is sleg?” I asked.
“Yes,” Randall said. “That’s basically ‘black’ for ‘white people can be mean’. You know, our history, blah blah, white people are always the boss, and treat the help like shit, etcetera. So, I suppose we can’t blame the man. Him and his family would be out here with us if he’d let us in. Which brings me to another fundamental life question – who does the gardening in Sweden?”
I rolled my eyes and didn’t answer. He started the engine, and began to back away, but the guard appeared again. He was holding a small crate. Inside was some food, water and gas masks. He handed the crate to Randall through the car window.
Randall looked through the items in the crate. “Hmm, not bad…”
He placed the crate between us and reversed away from the gate.
“We have to go round,” Randall said, as we wound our way back into town. “Via Seapoint, along the beach.” He laughed that pained bitter laugh of his again. “The beach community has fenced themselves off the beach.”
I began to wonder about him. The more I’d gotten to know him, the more damaged he seemed. Just like his city. I suppose I should have expected it. I should have known what I was getting into before I came here. I suppose it’s what I get for being a ‘white saviour’ and a runaway. I just wanted to help.
Do you like the way the water tastes? It’s like gunfire.
You knew that it was never safe.
Would I ever get that infernal Deftones song out my head? It was his favourite.
As we weaved out of the city centre heading towards Sea Point, his beach statement resonated unpleasantly. We travelled along Beach Road, onto Victoria, passing a series of closed communities, all cut off from the beach by barbwire fencing. The Yenas roamed the coast indiscriminately, taking dips in the ocean at their leisure.
As we neared the coast of Camps Bay, the Yenas seemed to grow in number. Randall did his best to weave around them. Eventually he opened the glove compartment and took out a pistol. He stopped the car and took pot shots at a group of Yenas congealed in the road. After a few heads had exploded, the rest disentangled themselves, and cleared the way.
When we drove on, he spoke again. “Do you know how to shoot?”
My heart jumped, and I looked at him, utterly incredulous. My mind was already throbbing from the immense thunder of the pistol, and the blood, muck and fur that had slicked the road. I shook my head.
“I packed a cricket bat for you.” He winked and drove on.
Without warning a giant female Yena leapt into the road. Randall swerved the car erratically until it came to a stop. She paced around the car ponderously, sussing us out, and her eyes made my blood cold. Randall’s body was dead-still, but his head moved with her bulbous steps.
“I’ve never seen one this big!” he hissed. “Shit.”
She was about the size of a bear, and moved clumsily on all fours, with her arms stretched, and legs stunted, as if through some medieval torture rack. Claws ripped unnaturally from her fingers and toes, which were deformed into the shape of paws. Other than a thick mane running down her spine, her body was spotted with random patterns of fur and human skin, like an unhealthy mosaic. Her human breasts dangled, lifeless and green with rot. Her nose and mouth were stretched into a snout, but the skin was hairless, and human.
She nudged the car, giggled and whooped, while rocking back and forth. Hyena-men spilled onto the road and joined her, while Randall struggled to keep the car moving through the assembly. They rounded the car together, snapping at it with broken hybrid jaws.
“Reach in the back. Pass me that grenade launcher,” Randall said. He sounded agitated.
I looked into the back seat. I hadn’t been paying attention to what was in there. It was an arsenal. Petrified, I looked around the rifles, pistols, and hand weapons, for something bigger. It was sitting on the floor, and with difficulty I lifted the oversized revolver and passed it to Randall. He stopped the car, his brow was sweating, and I swore at the prospect of his composure seeming broken.
“Ma se poes…I’ve never seen this before. Hurry up! Get me that case in the back.”
I reached looked back into the back seat arsenal and found the case. I put it on my lap, opened it, and watched Randall load up his grenade launcher.
“Throwback apartheid-style crowd control,” he said – and for the first time, his sour humour comforted me. He took out the pistol again. Yena males were snapping at the windows, and I was bent so far in my elbow bounced against the pulsating gear stick. Randall opened the window a little, and pointed his pistol out. He started firing with insane accuracy. Some Yenas began to scatter, as their comrades fell lifeless and faceless.
The giant Yena female watched the proceedings with disdain, and as Randall killed more, her agonized howls grew louder. She lifted a paw, and I ducked behind the dashboard. The impact shook the car, and I yelped stupidly. Randall appeared unfazed. As the Yena males began to clear he threw the pistol into the back, opened the window wider, and put out his torso. I was still hunched, but watched through my elbow, as he bashed any Yena that came close. He fired the grenades, and his confidence loosened my muscles.
The giant Yena female smashed another paw on the bonnet and I ducked under the dash board again. Randall almost fell out the car. She whooped piercingly then ran off. The Yena males followed.
As they disappeared, I looked at Randall in awe as he sat back down.
“What?” he said, defensively. “Quick, put this on. It’s tear gas.”
We put on our masks in unison, and he shoved the car back into gear.
As we rode I couldn’t resist. “Quite the badass,” I said.
He ignored me. “We’re out of Bakoven. If we can make it to the 12 Apostles Fort – I’ve heard they offer escorts.”
Randall began to speed up, and again I could see kinks in his composure. I could hear heavy breathing through his mask.
“I think we’re okay,” I said. The road was winding.
“I want to get there…”
The Nissan squealed and there was a blurred lapse in time. A muddle of sound, vision and hearing. Something distant. Weightlessness, glass, and plastic created a whirlwind.
Thunder came into focus. No, it was gunshots.
I was alone in the car, hanging upside down from a seat belt, blood dripping from my hair onto the roof.
“Camilla! Camilla! You need to get the fuck out! Get up! Alle kak is nou hier!”
I fiddled with my seat belt and felt the tip of my forehead. A huge gash leaked. The belt wouldn’t come undone. It was a terrible cliché.
“Randall I’m stuck, the seat belt!”
I yanked at the belt, then glass spattered my face. There was a clunking sound.
“Jissus! Fok! Maak vinnig! They’re swarming us!”
I scraped the roof of the car below me, and slashed my finger on the knife. I reached back, cutting myself again before finding the knife’s handle.
I could hear his fear, footsteps, growls, so much commotion I could not see. My ears rang from the endless gun chatter and bodies were strewn all over the beach. Waves crashed against the jagged rocks before me. The belt was tough, but I eventually managed. I fell awkwardly, and shifted around the roof like an invalid.
Randall stuck is hand in. “Crawl! Nou! Vinnig man!”
I took off my mask. I’d lost count of body parts that hurt. I dragged my clothes and flesh through the sharp plastic and glass, grimacing. The sand was damp. It had begun to rain. When I looked up, Randall’s face wounds were clear as day as the rain inadvertently cleansed them. The only thing that bled clearly was his nose. It was smashed, and he looked at me through bruised swollen sockets. I was surrounded by stench, fur blood and sand. Yena carcasses cushioned my arms.
“Wat maak jy?” Randall yelled. “Staan! Are you jas?!”
“Am I wha-”
A Yena male stomped over me, claws digging into my skin. I screamed while Randall went to work. Each mushy thud was felt in my bones. The Yena yelped and collapsed on top of me, it’s open skull leaking brain onto my boots. It was largely hairless – mostly knotted mouldy skin oozing muck. I felt sick. I shoved it off and vomited into the sand.
“I’m low on ammo. There’s too many. I can’t get the fucking grenades out.”
He was panicked, looking around rapidly at the Yenas that surrounded us.
“We need to get to those rocks. Their limbs are deformed. Makes it hard to climb. Come on. Grab the cricket bat and ammo.”
I wiped my mouth and stood. There was definitely something wrong with my ankle. I winced, and Randall grabbed me before I fell over. He put the bat in my hand and loaded up.
“We’ll do it together. Welcome back to Cape Town by the way. A veritable paradise, we have beautiful mountains and sandy beaches and a rich history.”
“Hilarious,” I said.
We started forward with my left arm over his neck. It was painfully slow progress. Randall was slightly taller than me, and half dragged me, while I clutched the cricket bat in my right hand.
“Like my knobkierie?” Randall gestured to the long stick with a bloodied knob he held.
“What are they doing?” I whispered. The Yena males circled around us in small groups, laughing.
“I don’t know. They’re… like… hunting. The female knocked us off the road. Now she’s just watching. I think they’re wearing us down.”
A group of three broke away. Randall let go of me, and I wobbled, leaning onto the bat. He shot one.
“Need to save ammo. I’ll take the one on the left.”
“What!?” I squealed.
Randall paid no me no attention. He readied himself. I hobbled around to face the Yena. Lifted the cricket bat, forcing my shaking muscles not to tense. I shifted my weight onto my good leg. Rain poured, the wind howled, and the waves crashed. Cold…it was so cold.
I swung down and looked away. The Yena yelped like a pup and fell flat-faced into the sand. It moaned and cried, flopping about in my peripheral vision.
“Randall?” I still couldn’t look down. I’m not a murderer?
“I’m busy!” More Yena’s had charged him, and he dissected them with his ‘knobkirie’.
“It’s still moving!”
“So? Smack it in its poes!”
“But I’m not…I mean I don’t…it looks so human!”
“Human? Are you jas? Smack it in its poes! Do you want to die?”
Something snapped. All his joking. All his snarky nonchalant answers. It reminded me of someone.
I just wanted to help! All I wanted to do was fucking help someone, anyone but myself. I didn’t ask for this. My whole family laughed. My boyfriend laughed in his ignorance to how other people live. How could I come from the least socially conscious, most bigoted family in all of fucking Sweden?
I cried and swung. The heaviness of the blow hurt my hands. The Yena stopped moving. I didn’t look down. Randall grabbed me.
“See, I knew you could do it. The more human they look, the weaker they are! Let’s go.”
I said nothing. Just wiped my tears and steeled myself.
He dragged me along to the rocks, and I clutched my bloodied cricket bat. As we started climbing the slimy rocks another group of Yena males broke away. Randall shoved me up the rocks painfully. My ankle throbbed and the jagged rocks scraped my skin. I could barely see through the bloody hair in my face. Randall began to climb up to reach me. He began kicking Yenas in the face. I joined him as he struggled up, breaking paws, hands, nails and claws against the rocks. Once Randall was up, I grabbed onto him. My tight boots crushed my swollen ankle.
“Now what?” I asked.
Waves crashed beside, spraying fresh sea water, as the Yenas assembled below us. Those with mostly human arms attempted to claw their way up. The giant female Hyena calmly walked through the crowd. She reached up on her hindlegs and propped herself against the rocks.
Her height was just short of us.
Male Yena’s started to climb her.
She looked directly at us with a hybrid smile, making a sound that bordered on a human witch’s cackle.
Randall slumped next to me and I followed suit.
Was this the end?
“They chewed my leg on the way up. It’s fucked.”
I dragged him closer to the ledge and readied my cricket bat.
Randall reloaded his rifle and pistol. “I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with, but it was good to meet you,” Randall said. “And I know I gave you shit for being a white saviour and all that but I’m glad you came…I needed the company and I didn’t even know it.” He breathed heavily through the mouth, wiping blood that dripped from his nose. His eyes were bloodshot. I couldn’t tell from what.
“I left her. I left them all to die. I’ve got nobody,” he said. I thought I saw a tear roll down his face but it was hard to tell in the rain.
“Don’t worry – neither do I.”
The rocks shook, a ball of flame rose from below us, and the Yena’s laughter became less hysterical. They began to scatter.
“Grenades?” Randall whispered.
A giant 4×4 appeared on the beach.
“Please remain calm. This is Western Cape Liberty and Security. Allow us to clear the Yenas.”
A man in army fatigues and a gas mask stepped out of the 4×4 and pointed a flamethrower at the cluster of Yenas.
I looked at Randall. He was still sullen. “Look like you need a hug?”
He smirked with blood stained teeth.
Below us, the remaining Yenas began to burn.
The smell of burning flesh and hair assaulted us, as did their wild, pained screams. The closer to death they came, the more unnervingly human the howls. Watching the carnage from above, I bit my lip at the prospect that there was no cure yet. No humane solution. No way to reverse the transformations.
Was extermination the only way? Look at the toll it had taken on Randall. How many minds and lives lost?
I had even killed one of them with my own hands.
I started to shake in the wet, with more howls ripping my mind apart.
There must still be something human in there?
“Don’t think about it,” Randall said suddenly. How long had I been lost in thought? “It’s best not to think about it,” he repeated.
“You see bru! I told you! How many times did I say? I know that chick. I’d seen that binnet. I knew her bra! I was paying attention. You never pay attention bru. That’s why–”
“Please man! You guessed. You didn’t know shit. You never know shit. You just thought she was hot!”
Zakhile and Jonno, heir to the WCLS throne, had argued non-stop since we’d arrived in Hout Bay. Jonno was convinced that he’d seen my face on a poster my future colleagues had put out to all the private military companies. He was sure his ‘positive vibes’ had lead them to finding Randall and myself cornered on the beach. They had both hit on me endlessly since the rescue, and despite Zakhile being adopted, it was almost impossible to tell the two muscular monstrosities apart.
“I wish my family could see this,” Randall said.
We were sitting on perfect white sand, watching the ocean, wrapped in our assorted bandages.
“Here we are on a beach, and people are dying out there.” He’d changed the more time we spent together. Less jokes, more intense. He was warming up to me, his guard slowly dropping.
“Sho…you’re so negative bru,” Jonno said.
“No, he’s realistic Jonno, realistic. Something you’d know nothing about.”
“Are you trying to start something Zaks? You know I’ll fuck you up boet.”
“You couldn’t fuck-up a squirrel china. I lift more than you. I’ll snap your chicken legs.”
The brothers started wrestling. Dr. Pillay walked past shaking his head.
“Glad to see you two are healing,” Dr. Pillay said. “Again, sorry for the screw-up Camilla, but you seem to have found your way.”
He looked at Randall. “I understand you don’t have a background in medicine. That’s perfectly fine. We’re severely undermanned and underfunded here.”
Dr. Pillay glanced painfully at the wrestling brothers. “We recently struck deal with Mr. van der Berg of Western Cape Liberty and Security. He’s offered to provide funds and security. As a part of a recent research document we’ve published, vilifying the Democratic Alliance for supporting security village initiatives over our proposed ‘Take Back The Flats’ initiative. Mr. van Der Berg has offered up private troops for the campaign. He’s using us to play politics but we are glad for any help we can get.
“Our research so far indicates that the disease is a bizarre rabies mutation. Rodents, notably rats seem to be the urban carriers, and we assume it was passed from Hyenas. We’re still piecing that part together. Of course the spread has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with unacceptable poverty levels, lack of access to sanitation, health care, and the usual bullshit the poor have to endure. Initial symptoms are flu-like and there’s about a 10-day treatment window before people start turning. Many of the poor in the townships were the first to be infected and of those with health care access, many didn’t bother to get treated. Why waste your bread money on a flu? Now the mutation has worsened.
“So what do we do now? How can I help?” I asked, trembling.
“Not many people care about our research yet. But with the WCLS’s help and contacts in the government, we might be able to make some headway. I don’t know if we’ll ever find a cure, but we have to try. Maybe even the DA will get behind us eventually once they know the facts. I just hope we don’t have to kill all the infected. Anyway, I think that’s about it. Welcome aboard.” Dr. Pillay shook my hand, and walked off.
I looked to Randall. “What’ll you do now?”
Zakhile looked up from his tussle. “That bad motherfucker right there is hired! WCLS needs people like you, until all this kak is sorted!”
“I’m considering it. I don’t know if I have it in me anymore. But maybe I can show them Dr. Pillay’s research, convince what’s left of my family that working with you guys is the right thing.”
“And your girlfriend, you have to convince her too right?” I asked.
He shrugged. “That’s over. She’s ‘born again’ in the cult. In the ‘Vloek Vannie Nommer’. Plus I have my own personal ‘white saviour’ now.”
I flicked his healing nose and he squealed nasally.
“Ohhh! Jonno, this guy’s smooth hey. I’m pulling out of the bet off boet.”
Mandisi Nkomo Mandisi is a writer, drummer, composer and producer. He currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa, and spends most of his time performing with his bands, Tape Hiss and Sparkle, and Oh, Cruel Fate or, writing and performing his solo material, under his pseudonyms, The Dark Cow and The Mad Drummer. While Mandisi is more focused on his music career of late, he still makes time to write. His fiction has been published in the likes of AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers, and Omenana. He is also a proud charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society. For updates and information on Mandisi’s writing and musical endeavors, follow him on twitter and instagram: Twitter @mandisinkomo and Instagram: @mandisithepolymath.