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Life of Brian
The Namibian Ghosts

By Elise Hogden

Nubia ran back through the alleys, frantic with worry. Where was Gethii? He was beside her only two minutes ago!She couldn't have lost her little brother. Not today. Her birthday was supposed to be a day of celebration! Not of sick fear.

He could have been kidnapped! Or murdered! Or worse! Nubia had heard whispers that the terrible Boosdoeners, a group of notorious kidnappers and thieves, had returned to Swakopmund. She pushed the thought from her mind. Gethii was only lost. Not gone forever.

Nubia paused in the crammed street,her chest heaving. A small group of roadside performers had attracted a group of people to watch their tricks and dancing animals. Nubia remember how much Gethii loved the animals. If she found him, she would take him to every circus in Namibia!

She peered between the figures standing around the dancing men and women. A small figure stood off to the side, near some monkeys in colourful collars. Was that..?

"Gethhi!" Nubia cried "I thought I'd never see you again! Oh you are so naughty my kleintjie! Where have you been?!"

She waited until she felt his little hand grasp hers.

“ I am sorry. I tried so hard to keep up with you Nubia but then I saw the dancers! And they had a dans aap! A dancing monkey!” he said

“ You have seen those many times before. And countless other animals besides!”

“You know I love the animals Nubia. Remember when there were lions?”

“They were only lion cubs and you gibbered in your sleep for a week afterwards!”

“Did not!”

“ Yes you did! You know what Vader says, Gethii. Nooit ontke...”

“Yes, yes. Nooit ontken die waarheid. Never deny the truth. But you are not Vader so you cannot tell me what to do!”

“ No matter. It is my verjaardag! My birthday! Or have you forgotten, boetie?

“ Just because I am your little brother does not mean I cannot beat you in a race! See you at home Nubia!”

As they approached the house, Nubia watched as Gethii rushed across the old finish line, a shallow trench dug by their father when Nubia was only nine. Now, on her fifteenth birthday, she smiled back at her memories. The house had barely changed since that time, the tiny doorway shoved in next to all the others in the street. The walls were thin, and on more than one occasion a hand or foot had broken the barrier and made contact with the neighbours.

“Gethii! Nubia! Come quickly inside now. Ma has a great surprise for you!” Nubia’s Vader called from the doorway.

He was a strong man, his arms well muscled from his tough work in the new mine at Rössing. He spent much of the year in the worker’s compound to save the 70 km trek from his home in Swakopmund but he never failed to return on special occasions. Nubia’s curiosity was instantly aroused and she quickly followed Gethii into the house. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she noticed a small package in the middle of the family’s low dining table. Ma stood next to it, smiling.

“ Happy birthday, my dogter. I hope you have enjoyed your day, even if it was partially spent looking after your little brother.”

“Dankie Ma. I did not mind looking after the little skelm. He did not cause
too much trouble.” Nubia said, winking at Gethhi. She wouldn't reveal his naughtiness today. At least, not yet.

“It pleases me that you feel this way. I think you truly deserve your birthday gift. You may open it now." she said, passing the package to Nubia.

Nubia ran, her legs aching and feet pounding the dirt. Skinny chickens scattered as she sped round a tight corner, narrowly missing a boy leading on a tired mule. She could hear his shouts behind her as her pursuers drew closer. Ahead she could see the main crowds of the markets, a seething mass of human limbs all hunting down the cheapest stall. Safety. Her lungs burning, Nubia began the perilous journey down the packed road.

Animal traders screamed ridiculously high prices for underfed cows and beggars reached up from the dust in a moaning plea for coins. The air held the sour taste of unwashed skin and flies swarmed in the dry heat. But still Nubia ran on, ducking and weaving, ignoring the cries and groans of the poor and the wretched.

She began to slow and the crowds became unbearably thick, a crush of bodies in a desperate race for space. She dared to look behind and saw no obvious signs of being chased. She breathed a sigh of relief but not before a grubby hand shot out and caught her wrist, yanking her into an alley-way. She was efficiently and expertly gagged and a rough sack was pulled over her head, blocking her sight.

The grip on her wrist was strong and unrelenting and her captor only squeezed tighter as she fought to free herself. Nubia was lead through many streets, though never through crowds and the only sounds she could hear were the grunts of the people who had taken her. She presumed they were men, maybe two or three. One was very large as she could feel his hand had easily wrapped around her wrist. She guessed they were moving through the western side of Swakopmund, towards the ocean. Nubia soon gave up trying to remember the twists and turns of the paths they took. She was just wondering whether they were going to dump her in the ocean when the world around her became dim and she was forced to her knees.

‘I’m in a building,’ she thought.

The sack and gag were quickly removed and Nubia studied her surroundings. She was in a small, poorly lit room with a low roof and grimy floors. Her captors directly left the room. She was kneeling on a thin woven mat, worn down by the weight of many feet.

A small scratching noise sounded in the otherwise empty room and she mildly observed a rat scampering across the room. For a second it paused, one crafty eye fixed on Nubia. She was unafraid. Rats were common and serged through this district in hordes, most many times larger than the bony animal before her. It swiped its whiskers with its tiny paws and scrounged off. She tried to rise but was yanked back to the dust by a thick rope which bound her to an iron ring set in the floor. There was no escape.

A deep cackling laugh began, tormenting and clear, resounding off the walls of the room. It grew to to high screech that hurt her ears. What had she missed? There was no one in the room! But a tiny movement betrayed the cackler’s hiding place.

“Who are you? Why am I here? What do you want to do with me?!” Nubia’s voice cracked. She was suddenly tired and felt like bursting into tears. She knew that the adrenalin rush that had kept her alert was now ending but she could not risk letting this laughing maniac know too. At her abrupt demands the insane giggling ceased.

“ I do not think this is a matter of what i want to do to you, child, but rather what I will do to you. Unless I have your full cooperation, of course. You are here because I wish you to be so. And as to my identity, I am sure a smart girl like you, Nubia, can about guess that for yourself.” and with these last words the voice stepped from the shadows into Nubia’s full view.

The fact that this strange man knew her name had already set Nubia’s head reeling. But his appearance set her shrinking back from him, her face a mask of horror. For what else could she express at this man, if he truly was human?

He wore a dark grey suit and to the trained eye it was obviously of a high quality but Nubia had grown up in the ravages of the poor and the suit was the the same to her as the dirtiest tunic. But it was not his fine garments nor his bejeweled fingers that drew forth the feeling of dread. No, it was the man’s sniveling rat-like features that earned Nubia’s disgust.

A fine grey fuzz floated about his cheeks and chin and his nose pointed like a long thin snout from the rest of his narrow head. His hands curled in horrific glee as he fixed Nubia with a crafty eye. He had come for her, as he had vowed all those years ago. It was then that Nubia realized there was not even the slightest chance that she would escape from this, the last of the Boosdoeners, the Evil Ones.

Brian Falkner Books