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Rolfin's Orb
Book 11 - Diamond – Malawi
Chapter 7

Elspet took a few photos. “You know, there’s not as much to take photos of here. It’s pretty in its own way though. 

“That’s true. Boy, this is a long road. How many kilometers did he say it was to Livingstonia?” Callum tried to recall.

“Ten long miles. At least it’s cloudy.” Elspet looked up at the sky. “Uh oh. Look at the clouds. They’re gray. I think it’s going to rain. I know we can’t have two traps be the same thing, can we?”

Fiona shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. We’ve never had that problem before. It’s probably just the rainy season here. It sure is humid.”

A few minutes later drops sprinkled from the clouds. “Here we go. It’s raining. Should we keep walking, or find a big tree with big leaves to stand under?” Callum didn’t feel like getting drenched.

“I suppose we might as well find a tree. As long as it’s not a  killer storm, we’ll be all right,” Fiona said. They found protection and listened as the lightning and thunder boomed. All found relief in the distant bolts and rumbles.

“It’s lunch time and I’m hungry,” Callum said. “We should just go, even if it is raining. I don’t want to sit here all day. A little rain never hurt anyone.” Callum took a step back and his foot caught in a loop. He went hurling into the air like a catapult and dangled from a tall tree; a vine wrapped around his ankle.

“What did you do, Callum?” Fiona stood gazing up at him. He bounced up and down like a bungee jumper.

“I didn’t do anything. Get me down from here. It’s a stupid vine, that’s all.” He bent his body to look at the knot. “Wait! It’s not a stupid vine. Someone made this knot. It’s some sort of trap. Trap? Help! Help!”

“Did he say trap?” Elspet looked over at Fiona.

“I think so. He’s so high up that it’s hard to hear him. Hold on, Callum. We’ll think of a way to get you down.”

“Why don’t you just grow tall and cut the rope, Fiona?” Elspet shook her head. “I mean, it’s the simplest way. Just don’t let him fall on his head and break his neck.”

“Duh! Why didn’t I think of it?” Fiona grew tall and her face was right next to Callum’s.

“You look weird with that big face,” Callum said.

“Weird? I guess you’d rather stay up here all day?”

“Sorry, Fiona. Get me down from here.”

Fiona examined the vine. “You’re right. Someone made this knot. Hold still while I undo it.” She struggled with the vine. When it came undone Callum slipped out and fell towards the ground. Fiona caught him before he hit.

“I just saw my life flash in front of me. Thanks for the good catch.” Callum wiped his brow as Fiona put him gently on the grass. She shrunk down to normal size.

A man holding a crude spear appeared, stepping out of the bushes. His skin was dark, nearly black in color, and he wore nothing but a loin cloth, which was tied around his waist and held up with a slender piece of leather.

Elspet moved closer to Fiona. “Who is that and what does he want?” She whispered to her friend.

“I don’t know. Some native,” Fiona said.

The man rambled on in some strange language. Only Fiona understood. She didn’t let the native know that she knew what he said. She whispered to Callum and Elspet. “He wants us to follow him to his village. I wish this rain would stop. I’m soaked.” Fiona did as the man said. The three of them walked ahead of him.

“Is he a friendly native? He’s not smiled once and what’s with the bone in his nose?” Callum gawked at the man.

After an hour of struggling through thick jungle, branches and roots, the rain stopped. A village stood to their left. Several straw huts sat in a circle and in the center was a roaring fire. The native nudged them on, poking Callum in the back. As they were paraded into the village, they noticed the natives had no teeth and none wore clothes except the loin cloths. Even the women dressed that way. Each person held a spear.

“What are those?” Elspet’s nose crunched up as she saw pieces of vine with something dangling from them. “Are those heads?”

“Ew! Gross. They are. They are headhunters and making shrunken heads. That is so sick,” Fiona said.

Callum overheard. “Whose heads are they?” Some heads were fully shrunken and others in various stages of the process. All had their lips sewn together. Callum nearly vomited when he saw blood dripping from a freshly decapitated head. “That is sick.”

They stopped in front of one of the huts. A man stepped out and stared into their eyes. Fiona listened as he spoke to the man who captured them. “He’s a witch doctor. They’re going to make our heads into shrunken heads.”

“What? Is this one of our traps? It is, isn’t it?” Elspet wept. “I don’t want my head cut off and shrunken. They wear them on belts and things around their waists.”

Several men and women ran over, grabbed them and tied them with stringy rope to three poles that sat to the side of the witch doctor’s hut. The witch doctor moved closer to them and kept going around them in circles, not saying a word.

“What’s he doing, Fiona?” Elspet tried to turn her head to see the man.

He wore a band of feathers, poking out all over the place, like they’d been stuck in randomly. Leather strips tied it around his neck. Several multi-colored bead necklaces hung around his neck. Chalky white stripes had been painted diagonally across his face and his body.

“Do you guys see the bone in his nose?” Fiona tipped her head forward.

“They all have bones in their noses,” Callum said. “The leather bands he’s wearing don’t look like leather. I think they are made of human skin. This just keeps getting better.”

“They’re finger bones from their victims,” Fiona said.

“What do you mean, victims? Dogs, lions, rhinos?” Elspet’s face went pale. “And what’s all this about human skin?”

“No, I don’t mean dogs or lions. I think he’s sizing us up, looking at our heads to see if we’ll be good trophies. I heard him tell the other guy that they would eat the rest of our bodies after skinning us. They’re not only head hunters but cannibals too,” Fiona said.

“Cannibals? Cannibals, as in eat people type cannibals? They want to eat us? I’m too skinny to eat. Tell them we’re too skinny, Fiona,” Elspet said, sobbing in fear.

“Elspet, stop crying. Fiona can save us. She always does. You think too negatively. Fiona, what are you going to do? You can burn them with fire, or you can do other things, right?” Callum looked over at his tied up friend.

“I’m thinking about it. They don’t know I can understand them. I’m listening to everything they say. I’ll get us out of the mess before anything bad happens to us. In the meantime, try to loosen your ropes without drawing attention to yourself,” Fiona said.

They stood in silence for the next hour, watching the villagers work on the shrunken heads. Elspet nearly passed out when one woman pulled the brains from a fresh head and dropped them on the ground near her feet. A pet dog ran over and hungrily ate them. “I think I am going to be sick.”

 Callum watched as another woman sewed a man’s lips together.

Fiona turned to see a man washing the long black hair of a decapitated head and then brushing it out with a bone comb. “They use their victim’s bones too.”

Callum felt his tummy grumble. “I am starving. I don’t want to be their supper. I want to eat my own. How long do we have to stay like this. The sun will be setting soon and I don’t want to be tied up in the dark.”

“Patience, Callum.” Fiona winked at him.

As dusk turned to twilight and then darkness, the fire in the center of the village grew stronger. Flames danced high into the darkening sky. Lead by the witch doctor, the villagers began dancing. They swayed back and forth; arms on each other’s shoulders; stomping their bare feet in the dirt. They started chanting and ran up to Elspet, Fiona and Callum. Their faces came right up next to them as they screamed and spat.

“It’s time,” Fiona said. She closed her eyes and called to all the jackals, wild dogs and hyenas in the jungle. Come to the village of the headhunters. Come and chase them away so we can be free. There are many to feast upon.

“What’s Fiona doing?” Callum turned his head to Elspet.

“I don’t know. Get away from me,” Elspet said as a man came within a hair’s width of her. His bulging and googly eyes rolled upward, so all she saw was the white part. “He just spat on me, Callum.”

The sound of growls filled the air. The chanting overpowered the noise of the dancers, who were so engrossed that they didn’t hear the paws running towards them. Every bush and tree around the village shook. Hundreds of jackals and hyenas rushed towards the dancers. Screams, instead of chants, now burst from each mouth as the natives noticed the wild dogs and creatures. People ran in every direction, trying to escape the hungry animals. Within minutes the village was empty, except for Callum, Fiona and Elspet.

The animals disappeared into the bushes. “We’ve got to get out of here before they come back,” Fiona said.

“Fiona, will those animals eat the people?” Elspet wiggled around, trying to free herself.

“Probably some of them. It’s the only way I could save us,” Fiona said. “I’m going to have to grow big again.” She grew, bursting the ropes holding her. “I need a knife,” she said, shrinking back down. She ran from hut to hut, looking for something sharp.

“Hurry, Fiona. I hear screams and growls,” Elspet said.

“Here’s something. It’s not a knife, but a sharp rock, like an arrowhead. What’s this?” She picked something up. “It’s a blow dart thingy. I’ll bet the tips of these darts are coated with poison and paralyzes the victims.” Fiona dropped them in the dirt and ran to her friends. She cut the ropes. Elspet rubbed her hands when the ropes fell off. Fiona cut Callum free too. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Can I take one of these shrunken heads with me? It would be cool to have one,” Callum said.

“Callum, that head was once a person that ate and drank and spoke.” Elspet couldn’t believe he’d even think of keeping one.

“But they’re not alive now, so what does it matter.” Callum picked one up and put it in his pocket. “It’s a small one.”

“Come on. Let’s get out of here before they come back; the hyenas, not the villagers. I doubt if any of them are alive now anyway.” Fiona led them through the darkness. She stopped and pulled her torch out of her pack and turned it on. “Much better.”

After tripping on vines and scratching their legs on the thorny bushes, they finally found the road. They ran as fast as they could and came upon Moses standing near the car. “Moses? What is going on?  You’re just now getting back to change the tire?”

Moses looked up. “Did you go the wrong direction? Why are you coming from the direction of Nkhata Bay?”

“It’s a long story. Are you nearly done?” Elspet climbed into the car.

“Just tightened the last bolt. We’re ready to go.” Moses looked at the three of them. “Did you just see a ghost?”

“Worse,” Callum said. “We were captured by cannibals and they were going to cut off our heads and shrink them and wear them on their belt. I saw a bloody head and we saw them pull the brains out of one.”

“What?” Moses laughed. “You’re teasing me. I’m sorry it took so long. Just so you know, there are no headhunters or cannibals in this area. There never has been any. I’m not going to fall for that story, no sir.”

“We’re not lying. A bunch of hyenas and jackals came into the village and chased them into the jungle,” Elspet said, “and ate them.”

“Come, come, wee ones. I’m not easily fooled,” Moses said.

Callum remembered the shrunken head. He pulled it out of his pocket. “Look! I took this from one of the huts. This is a real live shrunken head.”

Moses took it from Callum. “You’re serious.” His gaze wandered to the jungle. “I think it’s best if we keep this story to ourselves. I believe you, but if others find out, I am not sure what will happen. You do understand, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Callum said. Fiona and Elspet nodded.

“Let’s be off then. We can be in Livingstonia in half an hour. I’ve got a small house there. It’s not much, but there are beds and a kitchen. I’ll feed you and you can sleep. Tomorrow I’ve got to take supplies to Ekwendeni Mission, so you’ll be on your own. Do you plan to stay long?”

“We’ll just be here tomorrow and then we’re heading home,” Fiona said.

“I’ll not ask how you’ll accomplish that. I think there’s something special about you three. It’s best I don’t know.” Moses focused on the road and drove along in the darkness. Once or twice they spotted the glow of hyena’s eyes, caught in the light, but aside from that, they had no problems and arrived in Livingstonia safely.

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