Death (I)

He was happy. He had finally found the real McCoy,  the man that could do it for him, the man that could give him his bullet proof vest. He had spent years searching for a reliable manufacturer. He finally got a clad iron recommendation from his very good friend that lived down the road from him in his Mushin neighbourhood.

They travelled together early one morning to see him deep in the Olumo forest They travelled the first 5 hours over tarred highways but soon turned off the main roads into the deepening bush, there were no other signs of life or habitation along the way. It was as if the forest had swallowed them up. The sun was lost far above the lianas and the tree tops.  It was easy to believe in magic in the dark towering forest.

It was good that they were travelling in a  Jeep, there would have been a great deal of hardship in a regular car negotiating the dirt roads with the deep gullies and there was even a shallow river or two they had to cross. He could have sworn that he saw a crocodile slither into the river once as they drove through the water sending wings of water up into the air on either side of the car.

After 2 hours driving through the forest they stopped and left the Jeep and driver and took a small foot path through the forest going east. The forest floor was cool and dark, the sun filtered through the leaves and branches of the old growth trees. They walked for what seemed to be hours and finally came upon a small clearing in the forest with a thatched mud hut squatting towards the back of it.  A fire smoldered in a lean too beside the hut.

Adjacent to the hut was an enclosure made of grass and sticks with an opening in one of its four sides.  Just inside the opening was a pile of skulls and in the center of the enclosure was a stunted tree that seemed to be growing out of a pile of more skulls and other objects.  Tied to the tree with tender green palm fronds was a dead chicken. Red soldier ants made a line across the enclosure from the woods, up over the pile and up the trunk of the tree to where the freshly killed cock hung.

A  thin sinewy bent old man emerged from the doorway of the hut. He was covered from head to toe in red cam wood and wore a dirty loin cloth. His eyes were painted round with chalk, his washed out nappy hair was matted in long locks, his beard was wild and unkempt, his bare feet were thickly calloused and dirty, his finger nails were long and encrusted with dirt, in his right hand he held a six foot staff with a small bell and a monkey paw tied to the top end.

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