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DARX CIRCLE CHAPTER 2: Return to the Valley and a Bombshell (i)
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The breakfast was excellent – a good old farm-style one with the works. Mealie-meal (maize) porridge, followed by eggs, bacon, ‘wors’ sausages, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, and lashings of toast with butter and marmalade were enough to restore any spirits. They had phoned the hospital, to be told that the Kippens were still in a ‘serious’ condition, but stable and probably out of danger.
‘I want to go back to the valley,’ Donald announced while they were sipping their coffee, ‘and see if anyone at the Hendersons’ place can tell us anything. It all seems very strange.’
‘Something seems to be stirring things up there,’ Hugh ventured.
His father nodded. ‘I wonder if anyone has been using some dangerous new insecticide which is affecting everything? I mean, snakes bite, horses can get spooked, and mysterious diseases do happen. Still it goes beyond strange for all of that to take place in such a short time in one area, plus that extraordinary madness of the bees, and not to mention whatever has chased the Ndlovus out of their village. They seem to have been terrified by something, and are clamming up. I gather Dengana didn’t tell you much, either … Hugh? Hugh!’
The boy’s attention had wandered to what he could see through the window near the table. There was some activity in the garden, and it seemed that the …
‘I know that funny look you get. You haven’t taken them again, have you?’ stormed Donald. ‘Pills! Now! And I’m watching you!’
Under his father’s determined glare, Hugh had no option but to take the hated meds. Soon, he knew, he would start to feel all woolly and fuzzy again. Indeed, by the time they again came to the dizzying zigzags leading down into Rhino Valley he had started feeling dizzy enough already without them.
They stopped by at the Field of Bees just to check that everything was still in order. The only activity was from the hives which were, of course, hives of activity. Donald looked nervously at them. ‘Bob told me once that he has well over two million bees there. I’d say it must have been at least a million of them in that swarm. What that was about, or why you started raving in that way, and then it was just as if … actually, I don’t even want to think about it. It is all too … too … unnatural!’
Apart from the bees, the scene seemed about as lively as a bear’s den in midwinter. There were no signs of pets or livestock needing attendance, so Donald simply switched off the main electric power and locked everything up. Then they drove on to The Frogs’ Place.
Field of Bees had seemed like a thriving city centre compared with what greeted them as soon as they entered the property. Nothing seemed to be stirring. ‘I’m not a fanciful person,’ Donald said – and this was an understatement – ‘but something here gives me the total creeps, now. At least there were bird calls and some insect activities at the Apiary; but listen. No birds; no insects; nothing. And where on earth are all the horses and cattle and chickens and things?’
Indeed, it was so still that even the occasional slight stirring of wind through the leaves seemed loud. As they approached the house Hugh had a vague feeling they were being watched, and with it came a trace of familiarity, as if to do with something he had experienced recently, but the thought didn’t seem worth following up and he simply concentrated on following his father up instead.
Things happened in turns for a while. The front door was closed and turned out to be locked. Donald knocked and called out for a while, without really expecting any response, and then they turned to go to the back. The door there was also closed, but when this handle was turned in turn it turned out to be unlocked. ‘We may as well make sure there’s nobody inside in need of help,’ Donald said, and in they went ready to do a good turn.
Dimly, Hugh had a feeling of foreboding: that something inside was horribly wrong.
Everything looked normal, though. They checked each room, and there was nobody to be seen. Some of the furniture seemed to have been changed around since they were last there, and bare floorboards showed in one or two places where they thought they remembered there had been carpets, but there was nothing remarkable in that.
‘I’ll switch off the electricity here, too,’ Donald announced, and Hugh pointed to where the box was situated in the scullery. ‘Don’t think I’ll lock here, though. We’ll leave it as we found it. I don’t mind telling you, I’ll be glad to get out.’ He shuddered involuntarily.
On the way back to the car, Hugh suddenly had a clear view of a leopard lying lazily across a large branch to the far side of the surrounding lawn and staring at them. ‘Look, Dad …’ he began urgently, pointing, but then decided it must have been a trick of the light and shade. ‘Uh … no. Just thought I saw something,’ he mumbled.
They spent the next couple of hours in a completely fruitless set of visits. It hadn’t been expected that there would be anyone at the village, or at Ferreiras’ or Coetzees’ farms, or at Crags, and they found the nobody they expected. The smaller farms at the far end were similarly deserted.
‘This is utterly mad!’ Donald stormed for about the twentieth time as the finally set out on their return. ‘Beyond any sort of sense. Anyway, all we can do now is to report it to the police who have jurisdiction over this area – that’ll be at Kranzton – and we can find out how Bob and Beryl are doing at the same time.’
The Kranzton revisit was also rather fruitless. Both Kippens were now conscious and their condition was ‘improving’, but they were not allowed visitors.
Then, the police seemed utterly disinterested.
‘It is not our area,’ said the policeman at the desk.
Donald demanded to see his superior, and convinced her that it was their area. ‘But what crime has been committed?’ the officer asked reasonably.
‘All these people have simply abandoned their homes and vanished!’ Donald protested.
‘Well, they must want to be some place else,’ the woman shrugged.
She only said they would ‘investigate the matter’ after Donald had lost his temper and raged for a while, but there seemed little assurance that much, if anything, would actually happen.
Then there was nothing left to do but buy some pies and soft drinks to act as lunch, and set off on the return journey to their home near Durban.
© Colonialist June 2013 (WordPress)