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9/22/2009

Tuesday Tale - Inferno - Nightmare's Dance

There's a new challenge on The Inferno. The challenge this time is called "Nightmare's Dance". What follows is my response to that challenge.

Nightmare: Lions in the Night
A Short Story by
Louis Charles Lohman



There was not a breath of air. It was hot and still and every sound that normally flooded the night was silenced. There was a lion in the area and the animals knew it and had either fled or were hunkered down until the danger passed. He was alone, in the middle of an area of waist high grass, he had his rifle in his hands and he knew the lion was stalking him. The slim sliver of moon shed just enough light for him to see trees in the distance, but they were too far. If he ran, he'd never make it. He heard a low growl behind him and turned to see the glint of eyes in the grass moving toward him.

He woke with a start. He was drenched in sweat and his heart was pounding against the wall of his chest. He'd been having this nightmare for weeks. Ever since he'd agreed to take this one last safari out on the savanna, he'd had a feeling of dread and this nightmare came almost every night.

It was always the same. He'd find himself alone, in the middle of the night, gun in hand and sure that he was being stalked. He would hear the growl, turn around, and see the eyes. And then he would wake. The dream would never finish. It always ended before whatever was going to happen ... happened.

He rose from his cot, rearranged the netting over his bed, and walked out of his tent into the still and silent African night.

Silent.

They were camped close enough to the trees they should be hearing the sounds of the forest. There was no sound. 50 years of leading safari had taught him the nature of the beasts of the forest. They chitter and chirp and howl all through the night. They are seldom silent. When they are, there's usually a reason. He walked over to the fire and tapped the nodding bearer on the shoulder to wake him. Normally, he would have redressed the man for sleeping, now his only concern was that the man arm himself and guard the camp. He walked over to the stacked arms, near the fire, and withdrew his weapon, a large bore hunting rifle he'd inherited from his father. His father, who had been eaten by a lion, while guiding a safari when he was but a small boy.

He walked to the edge of the camp. He turned and spoke to the bearer. He spoke in a casual and normal tone of voice.

"Wake the camp."

The nightmare was starting. Only this time, he was awake.

When he knew the camp was awake, he faced out toward the savanna, pointed his rifle toward the sky and fired a shot. The sound of the big bore rifle seemed to roll across the savanna, echoing back sporadically off of tree clumps in the distance.

The animals of the forest had reacted. They started the chirp and chatter, but soon stopped. He knew whatever was out there hadn't left.

He heard a lion roar. A single quick roar. A challenge.

Using hand signals, he positioned the bearers, now armed, around the camp, rifles at the ready.

He reloaded. He stepped out into the savanna.

There was not a breath of air. It was hot and still and every sound that normally flooded the night was silenced. There was a lion in the area and the animals knew it and had either fled or were hunkered down until the danger passed. He was alone, in the middle of an area of waist high grass, he had his rifle in his hands and he knew the lion was stalking him. The slim sliver of moon shed just enough light for him to see trees in the distance, but they were too far. If he ran, he'd never make it. He heard a low growl behind him and turned to see the glint of eyes in the grass moving toward him. He leveled his rifle and fired just as the animal leaped at him. In slow motion, it seemed, he saw the gaping red wound open in the animal's chest.

The animal's leap carried it's body into him, and though dead, she brought him down to the ground. He struggled to get out from under the dead lioness, but she was too heavy. He knew she probably wasn't alone. He also knew if he didn't get out from under the animal, it wouldn't be long before another lion found him.

He screamed just before the second lioness bit through his neck. The nightmare had ended.

They heard his aborted scream at the camp. There was no sleep for anyone that night. The next morning they looked for him, but found only blood and a trail where the lions had dragged his body farther away from the camp. They didn't follow the trail. They broke camp and went back the way they had come.

Back to civilization.

There was not a breath of air. It was hot and still and every sound that normally flooded the night was silenced. There was a lion in the area and the animals knew it and had either fled or were hunkered down until the danger passed. He was alone, in the middle of an area of waist high grass, he had his rifle in his hands and he knew the lion was stalking him. The slim sliver of moon shed just enough light for him to see trees in the distance, but they were too far. If he ran, he'd never make it. He heard a low growl behind him and turned to see the glint of eyes in the grass moving toward him.

He woke with a start. His heart was beating a tattoo against the wall of his chest. The nightmare had come to him, again. Ever since that night on the savanna, when the old guide had been taken by the lions, the night he had been caught sleeping by the fire, he had been having this nightmare.

Tomorrow, he was to go out with a new safari.
With a new guide.
Him.

Ndinombethe.

3 comments:

Heather said...

you have such a way with words, Lou, the weaving of stories & such. I just love it. I really do :)

Jientje said...

Phewww!!! Can I breathe now?

Joyce-Anne said...

This was well written, it felt as if I was there with him.