The sun dangled in the sky like the devil’s eyeball between the gates of Hell. Its rays streaked the yonder heavens like the splayed fingers of a witch. Where I stood, the grass was dewy, and the dew drops captured the red rays of the rising sun and reflected them in my eyes in the form of minute rainbows as abundant in beauty as they were in number.
The morning was redolent of the sweet, spicy pungency of the nearby cypresses, eucalyptuses, and the wilderness.
The events of last night were still as fresh in my memory as a newly dug grave with its repulsive odor of eternal slumber. Darkness had been fluid and eerie, and when we drove away the goats, the blasts of our gunshots had cracked the night like thunderbolts in a silent storm.
Wadi, my colleague, had exploded a man’s head into huge chunks of brain and flesh. Wadi’s bravery bordered on daredevilry.
Dora was in labor. It was for her that we’d made the raid. I needed the goats to pay the midwife. We dealt in goats.
I crossed the patch of grass which separated my hut from the one in which we’d hidden the goats. I had no intention of letting them out lest the owners descried them. I needed only one to take to Dusila, the midwife.
When I entered the hut, my shock was as painful as a gash of the kneecap on a broody afternoon. There were no goats.
A surge of fury swept through me, darkening my spirits, as a possibility that I’d been cheated occurred to me.
It must be Wadi, I thought acridly.
What stopped the malevolent outrage seething within me from jetting forth and leading me to commit blatant murder was the presence of blood on the stony floor.
And then there was the goat. A medium-sized goat, white with a terribly black head and glaring yellow eyes. It was licking . . . Oh my God!
Wadi’s head was pressed against the wall. His cheeks had been ripped bare, and now he wore the everlasting grin of a skeleton. His eyes had been sucked out. The rest of his body was gone. I could see the roof of his mouth through his mangled throat.
The goat looked up. Its mouth was bloody.
I retracted. My head swirled. Memories thudded and battled and gyred potently in my mind. Months ago, there had been rumors that the farmers in the north were losing their goats at an alarmingly rapid rate to something they could not name at all. They’d held communal vigil over their lands, and they were sure they were not victims of raiders and thieves.
It’d started with one of the farmers disagreeing openly and bitterly with his potential in-laws over his daughter’s bride price on the day of the paramount exchange. The in-laws had relinquished their stand and added the farmer one more goat. The following day all of the farmer’s three hundred goats had been devoured. Only their hooves and horns had been abandoned.
Then the farmer’s children had begun to disappear one by one. Their skulls and clothes had been found strewn where they’d been dispatched. It’d been surmised that the farmer’s in-laws had invoked the spirit of their ancient gods which had been believed to be capable of possessing the souls and taking charge of the actions of humans and animals. It’d been a fierce spirit, infamous for its unappeasable thirst for blood and flesh. We, the farmers of the south, had dismissed this deduction as cowardly and foolish. We’d laughed it off, even as our counterparts became impoverished and perished in the grip of a superstitious phenomenon.
But now that I was facing a goat with horribly yellow eyes and blood-drenched muzzle, I felt unsure and scared. The possibility that we’d been followed the previous night by a cannibalistic demon in the body of a goat swathed me in morbid anxiety and rendered me feeling helplessly moonstruck. When the goat lunged for me, I turned abruptly and charged towards my hut. I was hoping for a weapon, preferably a sword. Dora was spread-eagled on a rug on the floor, squirming in labor while clutching her abdomen with both hands.
“Where is Dusila?” she asked in anguish.
Seeing her in such agony disheartened me.
I was barely past her when the goat entered. Its yellow eyes glowered like car headlamps, and its tongue appeared red and barbed. My heart thrummed with the tempo of the Saharan heat. The goat sprinted forward. I quailed. It wrapped its mouth around Dora’s big toe. Dora jerked her leg. The goat uprooted the toe, tearing a long strand of skin attached to it up towards her knee, creating a trail of white layer with fine red droplets. Dora emitted a scream of life-ending agony. She cried out my name. I grabbed a stool and flung it at the animal. It caught it across the ribs and engaged its neck and forelimbs. I heard bones crack as its neck folded and twisted, and its ribs and limbs shattered. It dropped.
I fast-forwarded towards Dora. Her mutilated toe was ejecting an endless thread of blood. The goat rose. Bones crackled back in shape. My knees turned to water. My heart pounded like the gore-filled cogs of Hell.
It hit me, hammered my chest squarely and left me gasping uselessly for breath. Its forehead was as heavy and hard as an anvil. I passed out.
When I came to, Dora’s head, now lipless and cheek-less, was rolling towards the door. The goat was struggling to lick off her eyes.
Horrified, debilitated, yet compelled to escape death, I sprinted for the door. My bicycle hung on a rope beneath the threshold. With adrenaline-inspired deftness, I yanked it down.
I’d cycled no more than ten yards from my hut when the goat pounced on my back. Wailing at the top of my lungs, I rode towards the main road.
© Peter Nena 2010