Excerpt from “The Dark of the Sun” by Wilbur Smith ~~Bridge~~

picture-DarkoftheSun-SmithBruce stared down into the hole in the floorboards. His eyes began weaving fantasies out of the darkness; he could see vague shapes that moved, like things seen below the surface of the sea. His stomach tightened and he fought the impulse to shine his flashlight into the hole. He closed his eyes to rest them. I will count slowly to ten, he decided, and then look again.
Ruffy’s hand closed on his upper arm; the pressure of his fingers transmitted alarm like a current electricity. Bruce’s eyelids flew open.
‘Listen,’ breathed Ruffy.
Bruce heard it. The stealthy drip of water on water below them. Then something bumped the bridge, but so softly that he felt rather than heard the jar.
‘Yes,’ Bruce whispered back. He reached out and tapped the shoulder of the gendarme beside him and the man’s body stiffened at his touch.
With his breath scratching his dry throat, Bruce waited until he was sure the warning had been passed to all his men. Then he shifted the weight of his rifle from across his knees and aimed down into the hole.
He drew in a deep breath and switched on the flashlight. The beam shot down and he looked along it over his rifle barrel.
The square aperture in the floorboards formed a frame for the picture that flashed into his eyes. Black bodies, naked, glossy with wetness, weird patterns of tattoo marks, a face staring up at him, broad sloped forehead above startlingly white eyes and flat nose. The long gleaming blade of a panga. Clusters of humanity clinging to the wooden piles like ticks on the legs of a beast. Legs and arms and shiny trunks merged into a single organism, horrible as some slimy sea-creature.
Bruce fired into it. His rifle shuddered against his shoulder and the long orange spurts from its muzzle gave the picture a new flickering horror. The mass of bodies heaved, and struggled like a pack of rats trapped in a dry well. They dropped splashing into the river, swarmed up the timber piles, twisting and writhing as the bullets hit them, screaming, babbling over the sound of the rifle.
Bruce’s weapon clicked empty and he groped for a new magazine. Ruffy and his gendarmes were hanging over the guard rails of the bridge, firing downwards, sweeping the piles below them with long bursts, the flashes lighting their faces and outlining their bodies against the sky.
‘They’re still coming!’ roared Ruffy. ‘Don’t let them get over the side.’
Out of the hole at Bruce’s feet thrust the head and naked upper body of a man. There was a panga in his hand; he slashed at Bruce’s legs, his eyes glazed in the beam of the flashlight.
Bruce jumped back and the knife missed his knees by inches. The man wormed his way out of the hole towards Bruce. He was screaming shrilly, a high meaningless sound of fury.
Bruce lunged with the barrel of his empty rifle at the contorted black face. All his weight was behind the thrust and the muzzle went into the Baluba’s eye. The foresight and four inches of the barrel disappeared into his head, stopping only when it hit bone. Colourless fluid from the burst eyeball gushed from round the protruding steel.
Tugging and twisting, Bruce tried to free the rifle, but the foresight had buried itself like the barb of a fish-hook. The Baluba had dropped his panga and was clinging to the rifle barrel with both hands. He was wailing and rolling on his back upon the floorboards, his head jerking every time Bruce tried to pull the muzzle out of his head.
Beyond him the head and shoulders of another Baluba appeared through the aperture.
Bruce dropped his rifle and gathered up the fallen panga; he jumped over the writhing body of the first Baluba and lifted the heavy knife above his head with both hands.
The man was jammed in the hole, powerless to protect himself. He looked up at Bruce and his mouth fell open.
Two-handed, as though he were chopping wood, Bruce swung his whole body into the stroke. The shock jarred his shoulders and he felt blood splatter his legs. The untempered blade snapped off at the hilt and stayed imbedded in the Baluba’s skull.


1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Dark of the Sun” by Wilbur Smith ~~Bridge~~

  1. Wilbur Smith was born in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia – now known as Kabwe, Zambia – on 9 January 1933. ‘The Dark of the Sun’ was published in 1965 following the publication of his first successful novel the year before.

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