Outpost to Africa

The year is 1902. Britain's most costly colonial war has ended - its war against the Boers in South Africa. Blake and Cody, two British infantrymen are about to discover a sinister monster lurking in the African plains. Will they fall victim to it or overcome it?

Sergeant Blake

With this letter I hope to explain to you the matter as best I can.  We've been receiving reports of disturbances.   Soldiers, officers and locals have been disappearing since the end of the war.  You've proven yourself to be an excellent scout and perhaps potential investigator...

They say even peace can never triumph over death and suffering.  Blake was a seasoned soldier, a scout who fought during the Second Boer War.  As a scout he had to master the terrain as good as the experienced farmers and hunters who had mastered it decades before.  He survived the war, but his next challenge would require a lot more of him. He would have to find the truth.

The disturbances and disappearances had been happening around a small town called Colesberg.  Because of the fragile nature of the case and desire of his superiors to keep the situation a secret Blake was to travel alone and investigate independently.  

On arrival the flashes of gunfire hit Blake.  His mind was under siege by a recollection of battlefield sounds and gruesome images.  The pleading screams echoed in his mind as he watched trenches being covered with soil.   

Colesberg was now but a peaceful quiet town.  Surrounded by savannah and small hills it was the perfect place to settle down after a war, to reflect and to redeem one's soul, maybe even to start a family.  However, as much as the beauty of the region appealed to him Blake knew that there would be many broken hearts residing in the area.  As he rode diligently surveying the area he also saw a lot of Africans burying their dead.  How ironic it must be to sacrifice one oppressor for another he thought to himself. 

After scouting the area surrounding Colesberg Blake went to the small military outpost set up just outside the town, near the foot of a hill.  The outpost guards were all on edge, each keeping his sight fixed upon the horizon and rifle readied.  Upon seeing Blake walking through camp guards converted their open conversations to brief whispers.  He was received with suspicion. An officer even readied to unholster his revolver, squinting as if a gun battle was to ensue.  The atmosphere was tense.  An officer quickly exited his tent and called Blake in with his head turning back to the tent.  Blake followed the officer and entered the tent.  The officer seated himself behind an old desk, immediately doing paperwork.  Blake, unsure about his standing with the officer stood at attention in front of the table.

"The name's Captain Cody.  Take a seat." Said the officer agitatedly.  Blake took a seat,  looking around the tent.  It was full of holes which he expected to be bullet holes.  Cody was still doing paperwork.  He stopped writing, looked up and said angered:" You know this is the tenth disappearance.  We request support...and they send you.  One man?  What's so special about you?" 

Blake, composed as he had always been, looked back into Cody's eyes and replied:" I survey areas.  When there's an enemy hiding out in the field, I'm the one who finds him.  When there's a murderer or thief on the run, I hunt him down.  I served under the Natal police and 92nd infantry brigade.  I can help you."

Cody, keeping a poker face, stood up and walked to the exit of the tent.  "Let's take a look at the parameter shall we?".  The outpost was well defended.  It had adequate fencing and towers running all along the fence.   For worst case scenarios there were also maxim guns deployed in towers and at entrances.  It seemed safe and with the warm African sun keeping the area well lit it surprised Blake even more.  There were also infamous block houses on the surrounding hills which kept the area well lit with search lights at night.  Blake was dumbfounded.  Never during the war had he seen such a secure parameter which even the Boer commandos had a tough time of bypassing. 

Blake and Cody walked all along the fences.  Cody reluctantly explained the ins and outs of base protocol while Blake looked at the intricately thought out base defenses.  Blake was impressed, if any response he'd want to compliment Cody on keeping such high standards. 

"I swear if it's those commandos..." Blake interrupted Cody:"Can't be.  All commandos were dissolved and accounted for at the peace signing.  Even if one reorganized it would be pretty hard finding weaponry and ammo.  Besides, no group would get passed the block houses and outpost entrance.  Are you sure these guys didn't just go AWOL?  I mean, the war has ended and everyone just wants to go home. "

Angered by Blake's intrusion Cody replies agitatedly:" Look, no AWOL soldier would be allowed to even get to the coast, not to mention get on a ship!   These were bloody good soldiers.  They were all non-commissioned officers.  Good lads who survived four years of brutal combat, do you think they'd just sacrifice all that now?  They would have been on a boat back to England by now."

Tired by the long-distance travel and puzzling case Blake decided to rest for the day.  A special tent had been set up for support they requested.  It was big enough for perhaps five or six men with lockers and beds readied.  Blake started unpacking his things.  Along with his Bible, notebook,  rations and water bottle he kept a photo of his wife, she was blonde-haired and had the most beautiful smile.  They were barely married when he  was sent across the world.  He couldn't stop thinking of the disappeared men.  He oppressed superstitious thoughts.  It seemed as if Africa had revealed yet another mystery.  He had always laughed along with his mates when they shared an African bush tale, but always knew in the back of his mind that Britain and especially himself knew very little and that the romantisized mystery could easily turn into a horror story.  It didn't take long for him to doze off after putting his head down on a pillow.  Despite whispers echoing from other tents and footsteps going passed his tent entrance the outpost was a pretty tranquil place... 

A sillouette appeared from a dark corner of the tent.  Blake quickly turned over to grab his revolver, but he was too late, a faceless figure appeared, it was just a black figure...Blake went blind...

"Sergeant Blake!

Sergeant Blake!  Wake up!  There's something out there!" 

It was a lookout calling him.

Blake awoke frightened and shocked.  All too happy that he was just caught up in a dream, he felt his arms and eyes, but reminded himself of the urgence of the current situation.  Blake grabbed his revolver, quickly checked if it was loaded and rushed outside the tent.  A group of soldiers lined up outside the tent. 

Cody came out of the dark with a dumbfounded look:"All our bloody lamps are dead.  Search lights are down too.  Take these five men and check the spot there."  Cody pointed to a spot at the bottom of a small hill.  There was some kind of light reflecting.  It was orange and seemed like a fire or lit sigarette.

Not wasting any time to discuss the situation with Cody Blake rushed with his men.  He readied his revolver and told his men to approach the light in a line formation with five meter spacing.  Everyone was scared.  The guards were relatively fresh, having no combat experience.  They looked upon the dark foot of the hill...Blake started to recollect memories of night battles.  He knew that one light could cause the deaths of hundreds of men.  Light gave away one's position.  It also made him less convinced that it was the workings of a commando.  Commandos were smart warriors.  He knew commandos relied on the element of surprise and couldn't afford giving away their position before an attack.

All eyes were on the light.  The men struggled navigating in the dark.  Their eyes were so fixed on the light that they continually had to watch their step.  They were walking on a battlefield after all.  Some trenches weren't even filled. 

The light went dark.

Blake signaled everyone to halt.  He also ordered everyone to crouch.  He could only hear heavy breathing from the other guards.  He was shaking. 

One of the guards came crouching up asking in a stuttering voice:"What do you reckon..."

Suddenly a flood of orange light blinded everyone.  Blake turned around and ordered a retreat.  He had never been so filled with fear...suddenly he stumbled with an abrupt pain in his stomach.  He screamed and fell into a hole.  The pain resided,  Too scared to move he lay with his back on the ground.  He passed out.

A deep voice reached him:

"My children...all dead" 

Blake's eyes opened quickly.

He sat with his back against a boulder.  It was pitch dark around him...except right in front of him.  His vision was blurry. It was a large fire.  On the right side sat a man.  It was definitely an African.  The fire's reflection revealed a dark complexion.  The man spoke in a very weak English accent:

"You know white man.  My forefathers always said:'Beware of big boats, the weapons that break through our best shields and the languages that sound completely different from ours'.  I never believed them...I thought you were good.  You say you come to free me, but then you give me less than what I need to live for another day.  I offer help against the Boere, but then you put my family in camps just like theirs.  I never believed them...but now I do...but now I'm dead and you'll be soon too. "

A blast of light came out of the fire revealing the man's chest.  It was bloodied.  He fell over, disappeared and Blake's eyes were blinded again.

"Sergeant! Sergeant!" Shouted a soldier while softly tapping Blake's cheek.

"Are you alright?  You seemed to have stumbled into this Trench somehow"

Blake's throat was dried, but he was able to speak:" We were following the light to the foot of the hill and..."

"Hill?  You're ten kilometers out of camp.  The hill is to the other side of camp.  Captain Cody sent out a search party a few hours ago, it's almost dawn sir." interrupted the soldier.

Another guard came running by, he was hesitant, but mustered the strength to speak:

"We found bodies."

Blake sat up and replied surprised:

"Really, that will clear up a lot"

The messenger came up to the trench and helped Blake out.  He looked back to camp.

"Sir, they're ours, but we don't know who they are.  None of them were reported missing.  My God, they were never reported missing sir."


The End

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