The Last Days of Planet Earth Volume III: The Children of Raphael
The Children of Raphael is the third book in the series. This time, Helen and Jack fall in league Blake and accompany him and Victor on a quest to find the experimental beings created by Raphael. Mordred and Sariel follow the group in an attempt to thwart them. Jericho and his motley band of Paladins track them closely as well.
The group's travels take them around in the world and leads to encounters with some strange but gifted creatures. Mordred is becoming increasingly infatuated with Helen, which turns out to be just as well. Jack tags along, humoring the others as best he can, unaware that the end of the trail contains a secret he could have done without.
The Children of Raphael is a rough first draft, but you can preview the Prologue and first chapter below.
THE CHILDREN OF RAPHAEL PREVIEW
Robert Lincoln was straightening a picture by the window when Richard Shaw burst through the door. As Lincoln turned around to face him, Shaw was already apologising for the manner of his entrance.
"I'm sorry, sir. I wouldn't normally interrupt you in this way but there is a man here to see you and he has the codes, the Dead Angel codes," said Shaw.
"Are you absolutely sure about this?" asked Lincoln.
"It's a twelve-digit binary number, exactly as you said it would be. It is tattooed on his arm and we have run it through the scanner. It's a match, sir. A positive," said Shaw.
"Then dark times are indeed upon us, Robert," said Lincoln. "You had best show our visitor in."
Shaw nodded and left the room. Lincoln knew that this day would come and for a while now he had been concerned at the events taking place around the world. The Dead Angel codes were not really a collection of codes, they were a highly secretive twelve digit number that was tied to the DNA of one individual. For that man to reveal himself to not only Lincoln but Shaw as well, the time must have come for change. The holder of the Dead Angel code would not use it unless the world was in dire peril.
Lincoln sat down in the leather chair behind his desk as Shaw and two burly members of security escorted the man into the room.
His dark hair hung in waves over his face and his muscular physique was barely concealed beneath his grey suit. A pair of sunglasses rested on his nose to hide his eyes and he did not smile as the men sat him in the chair opposite Lincoln.
Lincoln waved Shaw and the security guards away and once the door had clicked shut leaving the two men alone, the dark-haired man removed his sunglasses.
Lincoln smiled and offered a hand to the man who shook it warmly.
"At long last I get to meet the infamous, Adok Vega," said Lincoln. "If only it were to herald news of something good, not something bad."
"When we first campaigned for you, engineered you into this position, you understand that it was to minimise the interference of others upon different tribes," said Vega. "You also understand that I would only reveal myself to you when your time is done here."
Lincoln nodded and poured himself a glass of wine, offering a drink to Vega as well. Vega accepted courteously and sipped the wine gently.
"In some ways, I am relieved that you have come at last. The responsibility of my post has been a heavy burden. I must admit that it will be good to return home and live out a less worrisome life," said Lincoln. "In another way, I am sad because I understand that the things we feared would happen, have happened. We are abandoning ship."
Vega nodded and handed Lincoln a list of events that had a signature below them. Lincoln picked up the paper and read the list out loudly.
"The crucifixion of Pilate. The second coming of Christ. The return of the King. The discovery of the anti-Christ. The bleeding of the Holy Grail. The gift of the book and World War Three," said Lincoln. "All the others are there but World War Three?"
"Russian intelligence has reports of an imminent attack on Russian soil. They have already dispatched a fleet from Sebastopol. They are in a high state of alert and their nuclear submarines are out at sea and all in stealth. The British and French have responded in similar fashion. The American government will shortly be contacted by Chancellor Lindemann. He will inform you that Germany is reforming its military and request hardware and training from them. They will grant this request because they must," said Vega.
"How is it that I know nothing of these events?" asked Lincoln.
"You do know, Robert. I have just told you. I believe they call this a heads up," said Vega. "The Russians have deployed a fleet as they believe the terrorists that threaten their country are backed by a foreign power. They intend to scour the land and the ocean until they find their adversary and cut out the supply. The British, French and German nations have reacted first, you must react as well."
"By leaving," said Lincoln.
"Precisely. We must not interfere. We have given them what guidance we can but these events are imminent," said Vega.
"What if we did interfere?" asked Lincoln.
"How do we know what is the correct course of action to take? How do we know who is good or who is evil? We do not even know if what we are doing here is right or wrong? Look at Lucifer. He believed his actions were for the good of this planet, but the results of his interference never worked out that way. Pompeii. World War I. World War II. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Do we really want to risk the blame for results such as these? Do we really want guilt like that to be written into our history?" asked Vega.
"I understand, I will make preparations immediately," said Lincoln.
"There is something else," said Vega. "The wolves are claiming Texas. Texas will seek separation from the Union," said Vega.
"Are they mad? How do they hope to achieve this?" asked Lincoln.
"They are stronger and faster than their human counterparts. They will turn their enemy rather than kill them where possible. How do you fight a plague of wolves?" asked Vega.
"They will cause a civil war," said Lincoln. "How can we leave the humans to this fate?"
"You must," said Vega. "This is not our fight. If you defy the wishes of the council they will come and collect you. It is better just to comply."
"It just seems wrong, Vega. How can I desert this post and leave them with catastrophe? You understand who I am to them? It might even exacerbate things and accelerate the blind march to war," said Lincoln.
Lincoln rubbed his neck until it burnt from the friction he was creating. The Eye of Horus symbol appeared on his skin. Lincoln pointed to the Eye.
"We are the Illuminati, surely there is something we can do?" he asked.
"There is. You can leave your post and I will stop here to observe. There is no alternative," said Vega.
Lincoln stood up as the symbol faded from his neck.
"I suppose I vacate my post by way of death?," said Lincoln.
"It is always the best option," said Vega. "No questions to answer and no blame apportioned. Your associates will remain in power and they are well equipped to deal with the situation. It is their world. Let them try to save it."
Lincoln shook Vega's hand once more and smiled.
"I wish you luck, down here, Adok Vega. Do not leave the moment of your return too long. Now if you will forgive me, I have a death to construct," said Lincoln.
Vega returned Lincoln's smile and left the room. Lincoln sat on his desk for a moment or two before leaning back into the soft cushion of his leather chair. He removed the rear of his phone and took out a small pill. He poured himself another glass of wine, leaving a still half-full bottle.
"Such a waste," he said, as he put the bottle back down on the desk. As he swallowed the pill with the wine, he hit the panic alarm below the desk.
Shaw and two security guards burst back into the room to find Lincoln already slumped motionless over his desk.
Shaw and the guards tried in vain to revive Lincoln but to no avail. It was only a couple of moments after the panic alarm sounded that a doctor entered the room and confirmed the men's worst fears.
Shaw sighed and punched a number into his phone.
"Mister Secretary. It's Richard Shaw here. I am sorry to have to inform you that Robert Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, is dead."
The rows of badly constructed shacks shook uncomfortably in the light wind. Made of timber, corrugated iron and whatever salvaged material could be held together, they signalled the ongoing presence of poverty that still held its unforgiving people of the Township. The smell of sewage was overpowering at certain points, particularly the road where the last overflow had occurred. The people tried to clean the overflow up as best they could but they had neither the resources or the equipment. There were plumbers and a never ending supply of workmen in the Township but every time they fixed something, something else would break and stretch their resolve once more. Electricity was supplied by a series of faulty generators that sometimes worked and sometimes did not work. The men of the town serviced and maintained the generators, consigning them to scrap when a part failed that they either had no replacement for or could not afford to buy. There were three water pumps to supply the whole township, and they were in constant use. The supply of water was limited and overuse of the pumps would often result in a drop of pressure that rendered them useless. The children played in the streets, dodging rotting carcases and the spillage of the sewage. Disease and starvation were rife, and life expectancy short. The township was one of many scabs that dwelled in the consciousness of the rich and the guilt of the apathetic. The children played in gangs, with the older teenagers forming for a more sinister purpose. They traded cards, clothing, football shirts and guns and ammunition. Unlike the other townships of the country, there was no crime here, so the gangs were raiding parties, formed to attack other townships and the nearby city. There was only one bus in and one bus out, that came once a day just before dusk. Outside of the township itself, there lay a small settlement surrounded by armed men and barbed wire. Inside the settlement, there were a variety of motor vehicles that were used to ferry the raiding groups to and from their destinations. The handguns and rifles inside the compound were supplied to the children under the supervision of one of the men.
Christo Botha hated the men who lived in the compound. Christo was educated and intelligent and he could have left the township anytime he wished to but chose to remain. Christo taught the children in the daytime and walked the streets in the evening to reason and inform the young men that lived there. He had taught the children of the township for some ten years now and in that time, he had never lost his enthusiasm for the task or shown any sign of anger towards his pupils. The children loved him and would listen to him intently during lessons. Even the young men who served as night raiders in the evening would stop to talk to Christo. They always treated him with respect and good humour, hanging on his every word. Unfortunately, their need to survive in a world that had abandoned them meant that all they could take from Christo were words that might someday prove invaluable should they manage to leave the township. Christo's relationship with the adults of the township was markedly different. Although the adults were eternally grateful for the time he spent with their children, Christo was shy around the adults, particularly the women. He never held long conversations with them, he just politely answered their questions and returned their greetings. Ten years ago, the handsome young black African entered the village to offer to teach the children and Christo looked exactly the same today as he did then. Many women in the township had tried to get closer to Christo. He was after all, handsome, intelligent and well mannered and on top of that he always seemed stronger than the other men. No one could explain the aura that surrounded Christo but this aura extended itself to the males of the township as well. The women called the men of the village 'bang', meaning scared, in reference to Christo. When the young men gathered in a group around Christo, laughing and joking and slapping him on the back, the women would giggle at the creeping of the young men and whisper 'bang' to each other. The men knew that the women would ridicule them in this way but what could they do. They did not know why and could not explain it but they were very scared of Christo.
Christo was teaching the children in his class when one of the boys leapt to his feet and pointed outside to the road. The other children quickly followed suit and jumped up and down excitedly despite Christo's best efforts to calm them. He smiled to himself as he knew that he had no hope of curtailing the children's exuberance. When strangers came to town in a brand new vehicle it was a major event.
"Okay, okay, I will look as well," said Christo, looking outside.
The jeep was shiny and new and travelling with the driver were four others. A dark long haired man, a big man, a stunning woman and a fat man. When the jeep stopped and the four of them left the vehicle, Christo opened the door of the shack and gestured for the children to go outside.
"C'mon what are you waiting for? I think we should greet our visitors, don't you?" he asked.
The children cheered wildly and ran outside to mob the new arrivals. The occupants of the jeep had come well prepared and well briefed as they distributed sweets and chocolate to the children. As Christo made his way through the pupils towards the new arrivals, the dark-haired man looked at him and smiled broadly.
"I hope you don't mind?" he asked. "We were told that they would love this."
Christo smiled and shook his head.
"I don't mind at all but then again they are not my children. I am just their teacher," said Christo.
The dark-haired man strode towards Christo and extended a hand.
"You must be Mister Botha. We have heard all about you. The people of the township owe you a great deal. I am Adam Blake by the way. It's a pleasure to meet you," said Blake.
"They owe me nothing. It is an honour to educate these children. Christo Botha. What brings you here Mister Blake?" asked Christo.
"I am an archaeologist and historian. As part of my visit to South Africa, I want to learn more about the townships. To be honest, I chose this township because they say there is no crime here. Safer for me and my companions, you understand?" said Blake.
"There is no crime here, that is true. The young men just export it," said Christo. "I try to convince them not to but it is very difficult when you have nothing and others have everything."
"You are their teacher not their probation officer," said Blake, smiling.
"This is true and I thank you for the chocolate and sweets but the children need education more than anything else, so I will take them back to their class now," said Christo.
"Before you do that," said Blake. "Victor!"
Victor started to take boxes from the back of the Jeep. Once he had unloaded them all, he brought one across to Blake and Christo. Victor opened the box to reveal notepads, pens, pencils and other stationery inside.
"I thought it would help," said Blake.
Christo crouched down and sorted through the contents of the box, excitedly. He stood back up and shook Blake's hand firmly.
"It will help tremendously," said Christo. "This is fantastic."
"Some of the other boxes have similar contents, whilst others have literature of all kinds in them. Although, do you think the children here are ready for Shakespeare?" asked Blake.
"The children here are as bright as the children anywhere," said Christo. "It is opportunity they lack, not intelligence."
"I know that and you know that. It's a shame that the powers that be don't," said Blake.
Helen and Jack came over to introduce themselves to Christo. They introduced themselves as students of Blake's. Christo spoke shyly to Helen and just stared at Jack. The man was huge and looked more like an American wrestler than an American student.
"You have somewhere to stay?" asked Christo.
"We have arranged to stay in a shack on the property of one of the townsfolk," said Helen. "Although, the lady we made the arrangements with, doesn't seem to be here."
"Mister Blake, Mister Blake," came the cry from the crowd of children.
A stout woman came pushing through the children, laughing as they protested.
"Please, little ones. Let me speak to our guests," said the woman.
"Mrs Pillay," said Christo, moving the children aside to let the woman through.
Although Christo had little to do with the adults of the township he had a lot of time for Anusha Pillay. She organised activities for the children and worked tirelessly to try and steer the people away from a life of crime. She read a lot and her English was excellent, so it came as no surprise to him that this was the woman that Blake had spoken to.
"Forgive me, Mister Botha but I have arranged accommodation for our guests. I need to take them there," she said.
"They are all yours, Anusha," said Christo. "Children. Come. Bring the boxes inside with you. Let us see what our friends here have brought us."
Christo picked up the box in front of him and the children picked up the other boxes. Most of them carried a box between them but some of the boys attempted to pick up a box by themselves with varying degrees of success.
Anusha was laughing at the boys dropping the boxes and fighting off the attempts of other boys to help them with their box.
"They want to be men already," she said. "They do not want to be seen as weak. Even if takes them all day to move one box."
Christo returned to thank Blake for the books once all the boxes and children were inside the school.
Blake smiled and looked at Anusha as Christo walked away.
"He is quite an example for the children," said Blake.
"In teaching and respect, yes," said Anusha. "He is a good man but he is very shy. We know nothing about him and he never tries to tell us anything. He talks only to the children."
"Is he married?" asked Helen.
Anusha laughed and rested a hand on Helen's shoulder.
"Is he married. No. Many women have tried to seduce Christo but he runs away. He has been here ten years and he has never been with a woman. No. He does not like men that way either," said Anusha.
"Perhaps he is like my friend, here," said Blake, pointing at Victor.
"Ha, ha, ha," said Victor.
"Do you not like romance either?" Anusha asked Victor.
"Actually, I do. My friend here thinks he is funny," said Victor.
"He is funny and very handsome too," said Anusha.
"They say that you do not have any crime here. Is that true?" asked Blake.
"It is true. We do not have crime. Not here, only outside," said Anusha. "It is more than anyone dare do to commit a crime here."
Christo was about to enter the school when he heard Anusha's words. He had already turned around to try and save the visitors from what he knew would be her next sentence.
"Anusha. No. Our guests do not want to hear that nonsense," he shouted to her.
"You haven't told them, have you?" Anusha shouted back to him.
"Told us what?" asked Blake.
"About the Tokoloshe," said Anusha.
"There is no Tokoloshe," said Christo. "Superstitious rubbish, don't listen to her."
"It is not rubbish, Christo. You know it is not rubbish. You have seen the results of messing with the Tokoloshe."
"What results?" asked Blake.
"He comes in the night and trashes the houses of those who upset him. If he likes the women of the house, he makes love to them," said Anusha.
"And they just let him?" asked Helen.
"Some of them resist but he takes them by force but some of them let him make love to them," said Anusha.
"Anusha," said Christo.
"Please. Let her continue. This is fascinating," said Helen. Helen turned back to Anusha.
"They let him? Is he handsome?" asked Helen.
"No. He is very small. No more than four feet high and his body and face are covered in hair. He is a vile looking thing. Like some horrible monkey," said Anusha.
"Then why do they let him do it?" asked Helen.
"He has a massive penis," said Anusha.
"That'd do it," said Jack.
"You see what nonsense this is," said Christo.
"You only deny it because the men blame you for the Tokoloshe," said Anusha. "They say you brought the Tokoloshe here."
"Why would you have brought a Tokoloshe here?" asked Christo.
"I didn't. The men think that it's my fault because I do not sleep with any of the women here," said Christo. "They say that the Tokoloshe was sent here because I have left a void to be filled."
"A sexual void," said Helen.
"Exactly. The Tokoloshe comes to satisfy the women that I should have. Bizarre, hey?" asked Christo.
"You scoff, Christo but the Tokoloshe came just after you arrived. If you commit to a woman he may leave. Raza says this is so," said Anusha.
"Raza?" asked Helen.
Christo raised his eyes to the skies and threw his arms open wide.
"The local witch doctor. A bigger drunk you could not wish to meet," said Christo.
"I think he may some competition now," said Helen, looking at Jack. Jack had already raised one very prominent middle finger at Helen.
Blake put an arm around Anusha who blushed at the touch of the handsome visitor and led her away from the others.
"Tell me more of this Tokoloshe," he said.
The compound lay approximately two miles away from the town. Its perimeter was protected by a wall of rubbish and old wood with barbed wire holding it in place. There were old vans, jeeps and cars, strewn everywhere, and men sat playing cards, drinking and cleaning their guns. Punctual George sat at his makeshift desk, twiddling a pen between his fingers. On his desk was a book with what looked like nonsensical scribblings but to George were a plan. When two more men entered his shack, he looked up and wagged a finger at them.
"You are late. Tell me, what is our motto?" asked George.
"We are never late," said one of the men.
"And why do you call me Punctual George?" asked George.
"Because you are never late," said the man.
"Exactly. So why are you?" asked George.
"Please. Our apologies but there are two men heading towards the compound in a car," said the man.
"Two. There were, at least, six of them when we last spoke," said George.
The man shook his head.
"It is not them, these are two different men. One has white hair and the other is fat," said the man.
George stood up from his deck and grabbed a rifle.
"Then let's go and greet them. I forgive you for being late. This time," said George.
He strode outside of the shack and the two men followed him. When they reached the guards at the entrance, he grabbed a pair of binoculars from one of the guards and scanned the horizon. In the distance he could see the faint outline of a vehicle, kicking up dust into the air as it approached. It was travelling at speed and was approaching in a straight line.
"They do not have an appointment," said George. "I do not like people who presume so much. If they bore me, kill them."
The guards smiled and pointed their rifles in the direction of the incoming vehicle.
The two men in the car were visibly angry with each other. The white haired one who was driving would occasionally lift a hand from the steering wheel, pointing a finger at the fat man in accusation. The fat man was mimicking the driver and shouting angrily back at him.
"You just had to do it, didn't you," said Sariel.
"He called me fat," said Mordred.
"You are fucking fat," said Sariel.
"I know that but I don't need to be told that by some thick as fuck bigot," said Mordred.
"And I agree. I think you were perfectly entitled to slap him around a little but not break his jaw, his teeth and them give him a kicking," said Sariel.
"I'm emotional, Sari," said Mordred.
"I'm emotional but I don't go around kicking the shit out of everyone who mocks my appearance, and stop calling me fucking Sari," said Sariel.
"Well you say that but I bet you have killed more people than I have," said Mordred.
Sariel's anger dropped and he stared out of the windscreen before speaking quietly.
"I have been here a lot longer than you, Mordred," said Sariel.
"Prorata, I meant," said Mordred.
"So now you want a statistical analysis of the number of people we have killed?" asked Sariel.
"Well it would be kind of cool," said Mordred.
"We are approaching the compound. I doubt that the greeting will be friendly. Prepare yourself," said Sariel.
Mordred took a small brush and turned the rear view mirror to face himself. He started to apply the contents of a circular jar to his skin.
"What are you doing?" asked Sariel.
"Preparing myself," said Mordred.
"You are doing your make-up," said Sariel.
"A boy's got to look his best," said Mordred, giving Sariel a cheesy grin.
Sariel sighed and stepped on the accelerator.
As the car approached the five men stepped outside, closing the gates behind them and aimed their rifles at the car. Only Punctual George kept his rifle strapped across his back. When the car stopped in front of them, the men surrounded the car, pointing their rifles at Sariel and Mordred. Sariel and Mordred stopped perfectly still as George approached the car and gestured for Sariel to wind down his window.
"I do not wish to appear rude but do you have an appointment?" George asked.
"We are businessmen, traders if you like," said Sariel.
"Really? Where I come from businessmen make appointments," said George.
Mordred leant over Sariel and looked at George.
"So it's a fucking cold call," said Mordred.
Sariel shoved Mordred back into the passenger seat and gave him a cold stare.
"Excuse me, friend. It is not and he sweats a lot," said Sariel.
"I can see that. Get out of the car," said George.
Sariel and Mordred hauled themselves out of the car and stood perfectly still as the men frisked them.
"We come in peace," muttered Mordred.
George heard the comment but ignored it.
"Traders you say," said George. "What exactly do you have to trade?"
Sariel gestured to the boot of the car and one of the men opened it. George walked around to see what delights the boot held and smiled as he pulled back the heavy tarpaulin that protected the items. The boot was packed with guns, grenades and ammunition, as much as it would hold.
"Arms dealers then," said George to Sariel.
"Not exclusively," said Sariel.
"I do not wish to appear ungrateful but what is to stop us from shooting you and taking these for free?" asked George.
"It would make us very angry," said Mordred, smiling.
George laughed and slammed the boot shut.
"Can you get more of these?" asked George.
"Oh, a lot more," said Sariel.
"Then that is what stops us killing you, not angry fat men," said George.
"Don't call me fat," said Mordred.
George had quickly worked out to ignore Mordred and speak to Sariel so once more he ignored the comment from Mordred.
"How much do you want for these?" George asked Sariel.
"Accommodation," said Sariel.
"Accommodation?" asked George.
"We have business in the township but we cannot stay there as there are people there who would not welcome us," said Sariel. "So we need a place to stay close to the township. For that, you can have the guns."
"I know how that feels. We are not welcome there either," said George. "I have a shack you can use. You turn a blind eye to our activities and do not interfere in any way and the shack is yours. How long will you need it?"
"Two nights should do it," said Sariel.
"That seems perfectly reasonable. If you have more guns, how do I know you will come back with more. I am prepared to pay next time," said George.
"You don't know for sure," said Sariel. "But some people call me an Angel. This may offer you some reassurance."
"I don't believe in God," said George.
"You should," said Sariel. "You really should."
"Bring the car inside and my men will take the goods from you. There is plenty of food and beer. Help yourselves to whatever you want. I will instruct that you are to have whatever you need. After two nights I expect you to leave," said George.
"So do we. Isn't that what we just told you," said Mordred.
Sariel drove the car inside the compound as Mordred walked back inside with the others.
"Are you wearing make-up?" one of the men asked Mordred.
"Of course, I'm wearing fucking make-up," said Mordred.
"Why?" asked the man.
"I guess I'm pretty in pink," said Mordred.
The man just looked wide-eyed at Mordred before saying something in Afrikaans and turning and laughing with the others.
"You'll be the first," muttered Mordred.
In the township the sun was disappearing behind the corrugated roofs of the shacks and most people were settling down for the night. Anusha was pouring another drink for Blake when her son came rushing in.
"What is it?" asked Anusha.
Abu was agitated and was checking behind him as he closed the door of the shack. He put his fingers to his lips for Anusha to be quiet. Outside Blake could hear a group of men running past the shack. Abu sat down by Anusha and Blake and unwrapped the biggest piece of meat Blake had ever seen.
"Where did you get that from?" Ansha asked Abu.
"It is mine," said Abu. "I worked hard for it. The work I did last week for Pierce. He didn't pay me for it. So I took my payment in food. Now we are even."
"You stole it. You know what happens when someone commits a crime here. Are you mad?" asked Anusha.
"I didn't steal it, I earned it," said Abu.
"And if the Tokoloshe doesn't see it that way?" asked Anusha. "You know what will happen."
"It is not a crime to claim your wage," said Abu. "The Tokoloshe knows this. He will not come to our house."
"Fool, boy," said Anusha. "He is a beast. He does not know right from wrong. He does not judge the actions of people. He will see only that you have taken what is not yours."
Blake patted Abu on the back.
"If it's any consolation, I don't think you have committed a crime," said Blake.
Anusha was furious at Blake's intervention. She pounded the table with her fist.
"Are you a hairy demon sent to rape women and murder men?" Anusha asked Blake.
"There are people who have accused me of such," said Blake.
"You can help make the preparations. Tokoloshe will come tonight. Abu put the ornaments away. Seal them in the boxes," said Anusha.
"Shall I raise the beds?" asked Abu.
"Only for the woman and me," said Anusha.
"What about the men?" asked Blake.
"Tokoloshe loves women, not men," said Anusha.
"How do you know?" asked Blake.
"Tokoloshe has made love to many here but not one of them was a man," said Anusha.
"What if he's just coming out?" asked Blake.
Anusha stared angrily at Blake but spoke to Abu.
"Use the bricks on the woman's and my bed," she said to Abu, before speaking to Blake. "If you want to protect your men there are bricks out the back but Abu and I will only protect the women."
She wagged a finger at Blake.
"Tokoloshe is not gay," she said.
Jack watched as Abu stacked the bricks under Helen's bed until it was four feet from the ground.
"Tell me again. Why are you lifting the bed up?" asked Jack.
"Tokoloshe is mean and angry but he is only four feet tall. If we stack the beds high enough he cannot reach the women. If he cannot reach the women, he cannot rape them," said Abu.
"Can't he jump?" asked Jack.
"That is why we make the beds higher so he cannot jump the women," said Abu.
"Forget it," said Jack.
Jack walked out of Helen's shack and walked into the shack he was sharing with Blake and Victor. Blake and Victor were just finishing the raising of the last bed when Jack entered.
"Why are we raising our beds? I thought it was just the women," said Jack.
"It's in case the Tokoloshe is gay or bisexual," said Victor, shrugging his shoulders.
"Are you serious? Who thought of that one?" asked Jack.
Victor was pointing at Blake.
"Are you willing to take the risk that you wake up with some furry midget giving you one?" asked Blake, without looking at Jack.
"Yew. Guess not. Stack 'em high, Lucifer," said Jack.
Jack sighed and returned to Helen's shack to find her looking in amazement at her bed.
"And how exactly am I supposed to get into bed at night?" asked Helen.
"He left you a ladder under the bed," said Jack.
"A Tokoloshe proof ladder?" asked Helen.
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger," said Jack.
"Well, I am going to get my ladder and get into bed. Goodnight Jack," said Helen.
"Maybe I should stay with you to protect you," said Jack.
"I would feel safer with the Tokoloshe," said Helen.
"Then lock your door and shout loud if you're in trouble," said Jack.
"Oh, I will, trust me," said Helen.
Jack shut the door behind him and went to find Blake who had promised to share a bottle of Jack Daniels with him and Victor earlier. When he found Blake and Victor in Anusha's living room, they were already halfway down the bottle.
"Hey, you started without me," protested Jack.
"Don't worry," said Victor reaching below the table. "We've got two more of the fuckers."
Victor produced another two bottles of Jack Daniels and Jack laughed as he sat down with the two men.
"Shouldn't we stay sober in case the women need us?" asked Jack.
Victor shook his head and pointed at Blake.
"Never gets pissed no matter how much he drinks. Merry, yes. Wasted, no. So fuck 'em," said Victor.
Jack determined to drink himself unconscious.
"Tokoloshe, my arse," he laughed as he took his first drink.
"Don't tempt fate," said Blake.
Jack's eyes opened and looked at the ceiling. He wondered why the ceiling was going round and round. Jack Daniels and his magical turntable, he thought. He turned his head slowly to the side and looked across at the table where Victor lay unconscious face down. He groaned as the dull ache hit his head. Slowly but surely he managed to crawl on his hands and knees to the table and shake Victor.
"Hey dude, wake up," he said.
"I can't," Victor muttered.
"You are awake," said Jack.
"No, I'm not. This is a near death experience," said Victor. "And you are disturbing my spirit."
"Dude, we disturbed a shit load of spirit last night, not now. Now get off the table," said Jack.
Victor groaned and rolled over, falling off the table and hitting the floor with a loud thud.
"Now you've fucked me over," mumbled Victor.
"Ouch," said Jack, reaching for his bottom. "Oh no."
Jack's bottom felt really sore. He jumped to his feet forgetting the pain in his head for a moment.
"Victor. The Tokoloshe. Do yo think it came while we were asleep?" asked Jack.
Victor opened one eye and looked at Jack.
"You're worried about your arse, aren't you?" asked Victor.
"Damn right. What if Blake was right. My ass is on fire," said Jack.
Victor was waving a floppy arm dismissively at Jack.
"Don't worry," said Victor. "I think your sore arse has more to do with you insisting on showing us how you can meditate on top of a bottle of Jack Daniels than a randy Tokoloshe."
"Thank fuck for that," said Jack. "Hey wait a minute. I did that?"
"I need help," said Jack.
Victor climbed to his feet.
"Where's Blake?" asked Jack.
"I have no clue," said Victor.
"I don't know about you but I need some fresh air. Let's go and find Blake," said Jack.
The two men made their way outside and walked around the township, shielding their eyes with their hands from the bright morning sun. Victor laughed and tugged Jack's shirt as he pointed to Blake. A young woman was hurriedly dressing as she clung on to Blake's arm. Blake caught Victor's gaze and smiled.
"How does he do that?" asked Jack, rubbing his eyes.
"It's like he's the Devil himself, isn't it?" said Victor.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said Blake. "Feeling a little under the weather, are we?"
"Can I ask you a question?" asked Victor.
"Sure," said Blake.
"If you're looking after that young lady and we were both dead to the world. Who is looking after Aunusha and Helen?" asked Victor.
From the direction of Helen's shack, they heard her scream.
"Ooops," said Blake.
The three men ran to Helen's shack and Jack ripped the door open.
"You, you drunken bastard. You did this," Helen screamed at Jack.
"Me?" asked a bewildered Jack.
The shack had been trashed. Helen's clothes were lying on the floor, torn and dirty. The bulb in the ceiling had been smashed and the drawers where Helen had carefully laid out her clothes had been smashed to pieces. What little jewellery she had brought with her was scattered around the room and her bed sheets had been torn to pieces.
"How did I do this?" asked Jack.
"I heard the three of you last night. Everybody heard you. Singing and chanting. Last thing I remember before I fell asleep was you saying how you felt obliged to check on Helen. I must have fell asleep because next thing I know, someone smashed the bulb so I couldn't turn on the light and scurried about trashing everything. I shouted for help but not one of you came. Then the ladder appeared at the side of the bed but whoever was attempting to climb it was too drunk to do so. I leant over the bed to try and see who it was but the next thing I know the ladder smacked me on the back of the head and knocked me out. I woke up to this. Now who do we know who was too drunk to use a ladder?" asked Helen.
Helen started to cry and Jack rushed to comfort her.
"It wasn't me, I swear it wasn't me," said Jack, holding the sobbing woman.
"Okay, okay. I believe you but not one of you came running," sobbed Helen.
"That was my fault," said Blake. "We should have stayed sober and one of us should have kept watch."
Victor pulled the sheets from Helen's bed and started to tidy up the room but yelled out in disgust and shook his hand. A sticky white substance like glue was hanging off his finger. Victor tried desperately to shake it from his hand.
"What the fuck is this shit?" asked Victor.
"It is the semen of the Tokoloshe," said a voice from the doorway.
They turned around to see Abu standing in the doorway. He walked over and examined the sheets.
"She is marked by the Tokoloshe," said Abu. "He means to have her."
Victor wiped the semen on the sheets and looked disgusted.
"How do you know this was the Tokoloshe?" asked Blake.
"Come with me," said Abu.
They followed Abu and he showed them into his mother's room. The room was trashed, just like Helen's but the walls and floor and bed were covered in the sticky liquid. Anusha lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling and quietly stroking her body beneath the single clean sheet that covered her. She was singing softly to herself. Blake moved closer to her but resisted the temptation to touch her or try to talk to her. Instead, he turned and spoke to Abu.
"Is this the Tokoloshe's doing?" he asked.
"She is in a trance at the moment. It is always like this. She will recover but she will never be the same after this. I am responsible for this," said Abu.
"I'm sure she will forgive you," said Helen.
"You don't understand," said Abu. "She will thank me for it but it will be the voice of a woman entranced. It will not be the same voice that I have come to known."
"Is there a way to snap her out of this?" asked Jack.
"Kill the Tokoloshe," said Abu.
Jack suddenly realised that there was something important they had forgotten to check.
"The book. Where is the book?" he asked Helen.
"In that mess on the floor in my shack somewhere," said Helen.
"Fuck," said Jack.
"Don't worry I'll get it," said Victor.
Victor left and returned quickly, handing the book to Helen. Helen opened the book and sighed.
"I'm sorry Jack. I know it wasn't you now. It was the Tokoloshe," said Helen.
"How do you know it was the Tokoloshe?" asked Blake.
"There is a new entry in the book. It says 'Here walks the Tokoloshe'," said Helen.
"So the book has confirmed it? What about the co-ordinates it gave us?" asked Jack.
"They are in red ink now," said Helen.
"You knew about the Tokoloshe?" asked Abu. "All this time, you knew? You came here to find it, didn't you?"
"We need something from it," said Blake. "We're not entirely sure what, though."
"You must trap it and kill it," said Abu.
"We can't kill it," said Blake. "Like I said we need something from it."
"Then kill it when you have taken from it what you need," said Abu.
Helen rested a hand on Abu's shoulder.
"We'll have to see," she said.
"How do we trap it, exactly?" asked Jack.
"You are marked," said Abu, pointing at Helen. "He will come to claim you. We just need to be waiting for him."
"When will he come?" asked Victor, wishing he had phrased his words differently.
"Tonight," sad Abu.