Just for fun I’m putting the first section of my latest NOVA story (2013 entry – it won 2nd prize in the South African Section of the competition) on my blog. I’m a little wary of posting the entire story, as I’m planning on compiling a collection of my Africa stories, later in the year, with a view to publishing them as a book. But here’s a taster – enjoy!
“Don’t hold my hand so tight” whined Karski
“”Quiet! Stop grumbling. Everybody concentrate.” Torl began to murmur the spell that would open the portal and transport them to the Otherworld of Earth. The four kids were breathing in unison, mentally following Torl’s words, hands in hot, sweaty grasps, concentrating on the words, relaxing into the deepening vibrations that swirled round them, letting the vortex take them down, down, down, down.
“Ouch!” shrieked Karski, when the hard pavement met her bottom, and jarred her hand away from Obski’s clutching fingers. Her eyes jerked open with the impact and took in feet/shoes/legs/black skin/ blue denims/bright skirts/plastic packets/crumpled red and white cups …. “get UP” hissed Obski “people are staring at us – get up!” He yanked his twin up, ignoring her complaints. She lurched backwards, struggling to find her balance on the hard surface. Her legs wobbled and she was dizzy. She sucked in a deep breath and coughed as the hot, thick air assaulted her nose and lungs. It smelled alien, gritty, chemical. Nothing like the sweet, clean air of home. The thick smelly air was making her eyes water. She rubbed them with her knuckles, and peered through her matted lashes. “Look at the sky! It’s so bright! And it’s so blue … “
They gazed upwards. “It’s so hot” said Mori slowly.
“And so noisy” added Obski.
“Is this Earth, do you think? Did you get the spell right?” said Karski turning to Torl. Before he could answer they were shoved backwards by a group of large women, carrying lumpy cloth wrapped bundles on their heads, forging down the pavement in a phalanx, oblivious to the crowds, shouting loudly to each other.
“Look at that!” gasped Mori. “I wonder what spell they’re using to balance those bundles?”
‘They’re not” replied Torl tersely. He was very sensitive to Magick and could sense spells, or creatures from Otherworlds long before the twins or Mori. “This is not a place with any Magick. This is an Otherworld, remember? That’s why we came travelling. “
The kids looked around them, taking in the crowded pavement, the road filled with boxy, metal objects that moved on four wheels, filled with people. The mechanical noise from the metal people-carriers was deafening. Across the road was a large area filled with giant metal people-carriers, standing in rows. People were swarming round, shoving and jostling to enter the carriers. Vendors moved amongst the crowd, selling food, hats, clothing, shiny unidentifiable objects.
“But maybe I’m wrong ,” said Torl . “Look over there”. He pointed to a woman sitting on the ground, lined up with other vendors selling fruit, vegetables, clothing.
The middle-aged woman was stout, wrapped in a bright red, white and black patterned cloth, with coloured beads threaded into the myriad little plaits that framed her square face. From across the street it was difficult to make out what she was selling. She had a cloth spread out in front of her, covered in twiggy bundles. The kids cautiously crossed the road, holding hands and shrieking when a noisy motorbike zoomed alongside them and backfired. “Ooooh “ moaned Karski “I don’t think I like this place” . Her round grey eyes were panicky, darting left and right. She was twisting her long silvery hair into a knot around her thumb. She always fiddled with her hair when she was upset.
“C’mon on” grunted her twin, towing her briskly through the crowds. “Don’t be such a baby – remember we’re ten years old now! You were the one who wanted to come, remember?”
They fought their way through the crush until they reached the woman. They stood in front of her, surveying her display of roots, herbs, small gourds, mysterious twists of paper.
“I smell Magick” murmured Torl “but its Earth Magick, not like ours at all”.
The woman peered at them through her beaded fringe of little plaits.
Torl flicked off a quick translation spell and said to the woman “Good day to you, mother. What are you selling?”
“Muti” muttered the woman, with a sidelong glance at the four kids.
“What’s? “… began Mori but was interrupted by a skinny girl, who jumped between the kids and the muti-seller.
“Hey you guys! Whatsup! Howzit! Whatcha doin? Howzit goin? Hey?” The girl fidgeted from foot to foot, as she rattled off her questions.
“C’mon you guys! Muti’s not for whiteys, you know that! haibo! Come with me! I’ll take you to Sandton, to the City, to the stores, Haibo! Ja! “
The kids instinctively clustered together. The girl’s taut body energy was vibrating their magickal senses like a stinging wasp. “Uh, I’m not … what’s Sandton?” asked Torl, as the girl physically shoved them towards a white metal people-carrier.
“You don’t know Sandton? Where you guys been? Where you guys from ? Huh ? Huh ?”
“We’re from Arksi “ replied Torl.
“Hau! From where? That’s new ! sounds like Greece or something? You tourists, right? Come on, get in-get in- get in – taxi leaving now – baba, five for Sandton City – yeah!”
Just then a police helicopter swooped low over the taxi rank, rotors clattering . Nobody else paid any attention to the surveillance, but the kids instinctively ducked as they gazed upwards, stupefied by the noise and the sudden appearance of the chopper. Even Torl’s face turned a paler shade of grey.
“What’s that?” quavered Karski.
“Some sort of flying device, I suppose; if you think about it, without Magick ,the people on Earth can’t fly on their own like we can” said Mori thoughtfully, watching the departing chopper.
“Come, come! “ scolded the sparky girl shoving them into the minibus. The stunned kids meekly crammed themselves in. Karski had to sit on Obski’s lap, Mori and Torl jammed themselves into a micro space on the next seat, flanked by the frenetic girl who yelled “ Me – I’m Thembi – Thembi from Bembi, haha-hha! Yeah! Let’s go, let’s go!”
“Auw, sisi, not so fast “ reproved the guard “not so fast, we are going. Who are these young ones? Why are they such a strange colour? And who is paying?“
“I don’t know - white tourists from somewhere – plenty tseheleti for me today - eh, baba, let’s go before they get out of your taxi!”
She turned to Torl and demanded ”Pay, you must pay! No riding for nothing, ja? “
Slowly Torl reached into his neck-pouch and extracted a Planetary Federation Basic Unit.
“What’s that? You can’t pay with that! Tsheleti, bucks – where you coming from hey? No money in your country? No US dollar? Huh? Huh?”
Mori whispered “Torl : this is not safe – we need to get out of here! Now!” and she muttered a short Flash Spell, together with an Escape Spell. Instantly the taxi was filled with a blinding purple flash and a strong smell of burning. The four kids disappeared.
“Auw! Aaahh ! – what is happening?” panicky screams erupted from the taxi, along with the jumble of rapidly exiting passengers. Thembi was frozen, stunned by the flash, the noise and the departure of her victims. The guard dragged Thembi out by the scruff of her neck and shook her violently “See what you have done!”
* * *