The night was so still that the terrifying screams of the elephant fight made their way all the up from the Amboseli flats like a far away old-time radio trying to retrieve its signals. Leo stood motionless beneath a half moon, his attention twitching back-and-forth between the fighting jumbos and the surge of innocent laughter that he’d left behind, uncertain which should command his attention, petrified of a wrong decision.
A strip of cloud left over from the pitiful wet season whipped around the great mountain and slipped briefly over the moon. South breezes rushing up from the flats died, and the jumbled merriment in the mess tent suddenly crystalized into distinct words. Stubbornly he walked further away towards the camp fire, but as faint as the voices grew he understood the two millennials recounting a recent wedding gone awry, Frank comparing his barbecue to Nelson the cook’s, and poor Charles, the waiter, plaintively offering to search the nonexistent back pantry for still another nonexistent bottle of Spier shiraz. No mention of the morning elephant walk.
He squatted in front of the dying fire, picked up a stick and carefully teased the last live coals into a final pile. He stared into their glowing orange edges without blinking, his soul opened to some direction when they screamed again. Undelivered by the breezes off the flats they were less real, distant staccato screeches, hard to make out if playful or deadly, like any safari, like any moment in a life surrendered to its fate alone.
Opening, Chapter Seven, The World by Ole Surit by Jim Heck, due out mid-2021.