The darkness never left him. It was always there, below the surface of a coldly calculating mind. Under the right circumstances, when you added to it unpredictability and medieval ruthlessness unbound by modern social conventions, what you got was the living embodiment of a combination between John Rambo’s explosive capacity for violence, Jason Bourne’s strategic thinking and the merciless attitude of East Europeans on a vengeful rampage. In other words, one of the worst men to piss off- yet that’s what the ANC’s unwittingly did with its genocide…

The president’s announcement of a national state of emergency at the end of the third week of August 2024 didn’t really surprise him. Upon hearing it, all he thought was “Took you fuckers long enough, now let’s rock ‘n roll”. He was sufficiently provisioned to last a couple of weeks in his backyard apartment without going out, so he stayed indoors, cell phone and lights off, weapons on him or at arm’s length at all times, even in the shower. The area he lived in was formerly residential and nowadays mostly held empty houses awaiting rental by small businesses, which hadn’t happened since the recession began in June 2017, so there was a lot of room to maneuver undetected by street patrols if the need arose.

By the end of the first week of September, the need did indeed arise. There had been too many gunshots, too much screaming and more than enough fires in the neighboring suburb of Walmer to think this was going away. Cold he may have been, but he still felt the need to save his father and brother who lived in suburbs 3 or 4 kilometers away, although in different directions. The first target was his father, just over the valley. That Sunday night, he smeared black shoe polish on his face and hands, put on an old army jacket he’d gotten from a friend, his black backpack whose logo and silver stripes were blackened with a waterproof marker pen, stuck the holstered .45 caliber H&K USP on his belt along with the camping knife and a catapult as well as a cloth bag full of steel bearing balls in his jacket pocket, then opened the well-oiled lock of his front gate. The street was quiet. Nevertheless, he walked bent forward on the grassy side of the driveway to the fence alongside the house, which was covered by a green mesh. He took cover behind the concrete wall, drew his pistol and carefully craned his neck upwards so he could see the street out of his right eye. The property next door had an open parking lot and could be crossed in about 3 seconds. The problem was a lamp post on the corner and two more across the intersection about 15 meters away. He’d have to take them out in order to cross unobserved, so he pulled back a few paces, and aimed at the nearest light with his catapult. Three shots and a muted pop later, it was history. The other lights were more problematic. The only way to take them out from that angle was to stand up and shoot. He took a look at the one closest to him on the half right and memorized the angle, then ducked down. After a few seconds, he drew back the catapult, stood up smoothly, aimed and fired. Shit, he’d missed. Calmly, he rehearsed the movements in his mind’s eye, then stood up again to fire. Hit! Okay, one more to go. He sneaked a look and ducked back down again. After taking a few deep breaths, he once more visualized the shot and stood up. In that split second, it felt right. Steady, he let loose and ducked back down. Piiing! He’d hit it.

Dan stuck the catapult in his backpack and grabbed hold of the corner beam. With a quick breath and a pull of his muscles, he got atop the wall, then turned to climb down. It was a six foot drop, but he put one of his non-slip soled safety shoes halfway down the wall to land without noise. He pulled out his USP, crouched and headed along the wall of the empty house to the corner. Once there, he lowered the piece, angled his nose so it wouldn’t stick out and looked around the corner to the left using his right eye. What he could see of the street in both directions was quiet and only lit further down, so he moved quietly towards the Telkom (government owned phone company) box that stood in the darkness four meters away. He got there in one piece, squatted, and again looked carefully both ways. This time he could see all the way and even though there was a security company’s office about 100 meters on his left, the “minimum wage chicken-muncher” on duty was nowhere to be seen, so he crossed the road.

Still crouching, he moved past a dentist’s office whose glass door had been kicked to shards and two houses (formerly offices) with gates wrenched off their hinges. Trash and papers were strewn all over the place, clear signs of looting and a breakdown in the city’s garbage collection services. The car dealership on the next intersection was a mess. “How the fuck did they miss me?” he asked himself. “Must’ve been lazy” appeared to be the answer, because nothing else made sense…

The cars were gone, only the sparkle of broken glass left behind. Shit man, this was the big one- time to cross Cape Road. Kneeling next to the low wall of the dealership, he looked around. The lights were on, but the chicken take away place over the road was vandalized along with every business around that he could see. There was no traffic, so he crossed quickly, eyes scanning as he moved. Made it across! The supermarket was broken fucked up, so were the car dealership next to it and liquor store another 70 meters further. Hmm, nice to see some motherfuckers had their priorities straight. A few lights were on, but nobody, not even cops were home… He moved forward, quickly and quietly like a deadly ghost, until he hit the valley around a kilometer further down. Every house he’d seen so far was dark, gates ripped off, doors open, no sign of movement. Man, there weren’t even any dogs, and everybody had at least one yapper. Shit, this is bad… The careful side of his mind brought back to life lessons of field craft which trained warriors had given him nearly a quarter of a century earlier. “Stay low; move from cover to cover, shadow to shadow. If you can’t see clearly, extend one foot carefully and sweep gently in a small circle with the toe; if there’s anything, move it out of the way quietly and put down the toe and outer edge of the shoe in that order, then you plant the rest of your foot down. Move your center of gravity slowly, always with care for what may be under your foot. Silence is golden, it will save your life more often than speed through darkness…” The strain of that spooky eternity would’ve made a normal civilian shake uncontrollably by then, but after decades of pent up hunter-killer instincts, it was exhilarating. Finally, he was doing what he was meant to do, put his life on the line in the best game there was, to match oneself against the most dangerous predators on the planet- armed human beings out to get you… The coldest, meanest and most dangerous motherfucker in two battalions crouched on the edge of the valley, his senses reaching outwards. To be continued…

Mircea Negres

Port Elizabeth

South Africa