86 PACES

The time to strike drew near.

Andy’s heart rate slowed as Coral approached the ambush site.
The killing-time was Andy’s cool-water libation; the hunt – his calming opiate.
Coral jogged along the trail, spurred on by the revolutionary call of Bob Marley:

“Dem crazy,
Dem crazy…
We gonna chase those crazy baldheads outta town…”

If Coral wasn’t jogging to Kanye West, then it had to be Robert Nestra Marley.

“Oh, I and I build your cabin,
Oh, I and I plant your corn.”

Coral jogged on.

Andy crouched behind a large oak tree, which he had selected weeks ago, when he first began his surveillance of Coral.
“She’ll never see or hear me coming,” he whispered gleefully. “Oh, but she will FEEL me! She’ll feel me…just like the others.” Andy smiled a crooked smile and ran his slick tongue across his pointy, shark-like teeth. Coral was seconds away from the oak tree now.

“Death is your reward for our love.
Tellin’ us of your God above…”

He rose and pressed close against the massive trunk of the old oak. Coral jogged past the tree, totally oblivious to Andy’s presence. He counted sixteen of Coral’s paces and then took off behind her, jogging in step with his unwitting prey.

Everything was going as planned. In exactly eighty-six paces, Coral would reach the part of the trail that was blanketed in shadow. He would pounce upon her there…enter her there…tear out her throat with his teeth there. Andy had planned every second.
However, he did not…could not, plan for the squirrels.

The squirrels that had followed Coral from the time her daily jog began, starting with a single squirrel, which leapt from tree to tree high above her. The single, little squirrel was soon joined by another squirrel…then another…then another. By the time Coral had run past Andy’s hiding place, there were so many squirrels flying through the treetops, they had become a dark storm cloud, racing across the evening sky.

Andy was too focused on the hunt to notice; Coral, too lost in the lamentations of Mr. Marley.

“You’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin away.
You’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin away.
You’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin away.
You’re runnin’, an’ you’re runnin’
But you can’t run away from yourself…”

Fifty-two paces away. Andy picked up his pace. The squirrel-cloud grew even larger…darker.

“You must have done somethin’
Somethin – somethin’ – somethin’, somethin’
You don’t want nobody to no about.
You must have…
Ooh, Lord…
Done somethin’ wrong…”

Twenty-two paces. Coral pressed on. Andy’s jog became a quick trot. The squirrel cloud descended.

“Why you can’t find where you belong?”

Twelve paces. Andy grinned his shark-toothed grin. The squirrels descended even lower.

“You’re runnin’ away.”

Eight paces. Andy bent his knees deeply, coiled his muscular back and exploded upward. His powerful legs propelled him high into the air…right into the squirrel-cloud.

The first wave of squirrels gnawed at Andy’s face. His wedge of a nose fell onto the gravel running trail and then bounced off into the high grass.

Andy landed on his feet. His hands clutched at his blood-splattered face as he ran on, attempting to continue the hunt. The squirrels descended onto the jogging trail like acid rain.

The second wave of squirrels tore into the backs of Andy’s ankles, rending flesh, tendon and bone. Andy squealed in pain as he dropped to his knees.

The biting, ripping, clawing mass of squirrels swarmed him.
Coral jogged on.

The squirrels went on with their work, removing Andy’s fingers, then his lips…his eyes…his tongue. Scores of squirrels rushed into Andy’s tattered mouth and then scurried down his esophagus. The squirrels tunneled their way through Andy’s bowels and out of his anus.

Within a few short moments, Andy had been completely consumed. The squirrels left nothing behind…not his clothing, his hair, or his bones.

And Coral jogged on…past the end of the jogging trail…past the park’s exit…past the elementary school on the corner…the liquor store…the church.

Coral jogged on…through her front yard…up her granite steps…into her home. Coral continued to jog on…past her living room…her dining room…her den. On, until she reached her laundry room, in which there was no washing machine or dryer. Instead, there were white candles, pictures of relatives who had passed away, crystal cups, filled with fresh water…cigars, bottles of wine and a plate of fresh apple-wedges.

She prostrated upon the straw mat before her shrine, pressed her forehead to the floor and began to chant:
“I honor my grandmothers. I honor my grandfathers. I honor my mothers and fathers and I honor the Society of the Great Mothers of the Night. I thank you for keeping me safe as I go about my days and, as always, I give special thanks to the great teacher who instructed me in the ways of the revered and feared Spirit-Women – Iya Yemi, whom her family and students affectionately referred to as…Squirrel.”

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

2 responses »

  1. shaydee5 says:

    This is a great story. The building suspense until the attack, but even better, the final surprise. Brilliant piece of work.

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