The Lion of Umuna
The Lion of Umuna

Excerpt from ‘Ghosts’

The thundering of hooves shook the ground as the thrashing of foliage grew louder.

The silhouettes of tall trees and bushes parted. Ignatius awoke and we stood facing the stampede. Ghostly, cannon ball-like spectres shot out from the trees, screaming like heralds of Hades. Terror billowed in my chest.

Two were headed straight for me and I ducked at the last second out of their path. They flew by, a mournful howl in their wake and bringing with them a blast of freezing air. A larger ghostly bundle flew at Ignatius. He feinted as if to run to his left then broke back to his right and the ghostly ammunition missed him. I spun around on the floor to see that Caleb and Ujku had been forced apart by at least seven of the projectiles that flew in tight circles around their bodies and seemed to grown in size with each revolution.

One of ghost things flew at terrific velocity to the ground at Caleb’s feet and as it rose again, lifted Caleb a few feet in the air. He fell to the ground and screamed for his father.

Ignatius shouted for me and I turned back to look at the forest face where the stampede sounds came from. Ignatius had abandoned trying to outmanoeuvre the ghostly missiles and stood, feet planted solidly, and swung angry blows as the intangible white orbs flew around him.

The sound of the dog barking broke through my thoughts. I could see him yapping and snarling and lunging at the intangible enemy as they whizzed by him, shrouding him in vapour.

The aerial assault intensified as greater numbers of the flying spectres joined the bombardment and they grew in size. The moon loomed as a huge, impassive orb in the sky and cast a brilliant light on the unworldly scene. I could barely see the ground beneath me for all the spectres and their vapour trails. I staggered to Ignatius’s side as I saw Ujku run screaming to the edge of the stream, pursued by three man-sized wraiths.

As I reached my cousin’s side, one of the ghostly projectiles surged toward me and struck at my chest. I felt no impact but became blinded by its spectral cloud. I looked down at my chest into a dense, white fog. I thrashed at it, trying to push it off me. I did this to no avail yet kept on thrashing away.

The dog sprang closer to me and barked his anger at the apparition that covered my torso. As the dogs’ barking rose in aggression and volume, eyelids suddenly appeared amidst the white mist on my chest. I questioned my sanity and wondered if I had fallen asleep against the tree and was mired in a nightmare. Any thoughts of sanity, all thoughts I had, left screaming from my mind as the eyelids snapped open to reveal angry red eyes glaring intently at me.

The eyes were a deep, piercing crimson, and blood red tears spilled over the lower lids. I felt cold all over as I looked into the terrible eyes. Fear jabbed a thousand pinpricks into my skin and I could not move. I could no longer keep trying to push whatever this thing was away as my hands were held as if by guards by my sides. Fierce cold moved into my chest and a growling sound came from the creature. My breath came in short, hacking gulps as a gaping mouth appeared in the ghostly face.

Rows of yellow, knife-sharp teeth competed to show themselves. Beyond the teeth, a gloomy blackness stretched out.

The mouth opened wider and wider, and the face arched back. The growling stopped, then without warning, the ferocious teeth surged toward my chest with a feral snarl. I yelled in shock and continued to shout as the knife-like teeth tore at my upper body. I could not tell if my flesh was being broken but pain filled my mind and body. The sound my ghostly assailant made as it attacked brought my last meal to my throat and I would have vomited had my oesophagus not been so constricted due to fear. I could hear Ignatius shouting and screaming somewhere to my left. Caleb’s screams punctuated my terror. I could not concentrate enough to make out Ujku’s voice.

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© H. C. Chuks 2013