Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Short fiction: On An Empty Shore VI

It’s Eat or be Eaten

I saw my first lion two years after the zombiepocalypse. Doesn’t matter that technically I was already dead, I still just about wet myself. Whether the lions escaped from that fancy lion park near Paarl or if they got out of one of the wildlife reserves I don’t know. I expect they were pretty quick to multiply and stake out territories because not long after that I did encounter a female with four cubs.

By then there were people farming close to the city, so the cows, pigs and sheep were easy pickings and I shouldn’t have been too surprised the night I came face to face with one. The southeaster was blowing like mad, and I was upwind from the beast. Guess it couldn’t smell me―not that vampires smell much like anything except dust―so both of us were totally clueless up until the last moment.

Our chance meeting happened not far from Lion’s Head, actually. Though I wasn’t laughing at the time. There was a quarry near there and I think the animal had gone there to drink. It was already quite dark and, on top of it, it was new moon.

Sure, I saw pretty good at night but I was preoccupied. Estelle’s girlfriend, Betty, had gotten sick and I was supposed to see if I could get antibiotics from the hospital, but the place was already picked clean. Not nice going back empty-handed.

I’d also seen the remains of a fresh zombie kill. It had been a young woman because I saw most of her face had been untouched, her expression one of horror. Her bones had been scattered and very well chewed. It grossed me out big time so ja, for once I didn’t look where I was going and I almost stomped on the big cat’s tail.

Fuck me, the lion moved fast. Almost as fast as I could run. Its claws whispered right past my back. It’s like I could feel them almost in my spine. I screamed like a little girl and fucking ran. I didn’t stop until I was almost at Estelle’s shelter.

At first they laughed at how freaked out I was but then it must have sunk in. Lions in the city centre meant they had more to worry about than zombies. By then Estelle and Betty had more people to living with them. Three small kids, and no one knew what had happened to their parents, so the ladies took them in. What if the lions got the kids? They were easy targets.

With every month that passed the city got more dangerous. Simply being able to run faster wasn’t always all that helpful. After a few more close shaves with local wildlife I took to carrying a weapon. I found an old samurai sword in one of the houses up in Camps Bay. Smart-looking thing with a carved ivory handle. Of course I was no swordsman but it would but it still made a bit of a difference. Now the skinny vampire had a steel claw.

But it wasn’t just the lions, and later bears or tigers. Yes. And wolves. It was also small stuff that could kill, and there wasn’t a doctor a phone call away who’d be able to help.

Snakes came down into the city: puff adders, Cape cobras. There were scorpions too. One of the kids got stung and almost died. I got bit once or twice but the poison only gave me a headache. It was the warmbloods who were really in trouble here.

People forgot that Africa used to be a very wild place. Estelle asked me to go to the library to get books for the kids and during the day I’d listen to her teach them about history and stuff. I never had teachers when I still went to school who told me stories with so much love.

I learnt stuff about South Africa, about its past. I sometimes wondered if the zombies hadn't done us all a big favour in a way. If it wasn’t the one group who stirred kak it was the other. People did some pretty horrid things to each other. What makes one man better than another? Coloured, black or white, they all bled the same. They tasted the same too. No diffs.

Sometimes I sat and wondered whether the zombiepocalypse wasn’t the earth’s way of wiping most of the warmbloods off the face of the planet. My uncle used to keep pigeons. He had hundreds of them, these big white fantail pigeons that used to preen and strut all over the roof of the house. And when they flew, their wings made a wonderful whirring sound.

My auntie always used to complain that he had too many pigeons and although they were white and quite pretty, they used to fight, the males, I think. One day the birds started dying. My uncle tried everything but he found out it was some sort of bugs that were attacking the birds. The vet told him it was because he had too many of them in the Wendy house out back.

Nearly all the pigeons died, almost to the last one. The ones that survived were clever enough to go live in the neighbour’s roof. They never came back though my uncle put out food for them.

Maybe the zombies were meant for the warmbloods. Maybe the vampires weren’t doing a good enough job keeping them in check so the zombies came to do the job properly.

But what do I know? I just gotta try figure the stuff out after the fact. Nothing out there would want to eat me, that much was for sure, but I still had to watch my back. Survival of the fittest, Estelle often said. I don’t think I was ever fit, but I kept correcting her and telling her it was survival of the fastest. She’d laugh at me and just shake her head. Guess it’s good to see the humour in these things.

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  1. With all the America/Euro-centric fiction on here you have rubber stamped Africa as not just your home but also your literary play-pen. You have my attention. I am willing to learn.

  2. Really really enjoying this series...I've never been to South Africa so it's a real eye-opener for me.

  3. Always enjoy how you bring SA to the rest of the world.