Deadbeat Cannibals on Tour is this week’s 1100 word flash fiction. I continue to be a week behind Chuck Wendig’s prompts. This week he suggested an excerpt from Twitter, but I picked two numbers and applied them to his previous week’s list to get a head to head of Musicians v Cannibals. The thought of ‘cannibals’ sent me in the direction of our old friend Carruthers, but then I thought of this. I hope you enjoy it.
Deadbeat Cannibals on Tour
The port engine went silent shortly after the flames from the starboard engine had been extinguished. The pilot and crew in the cockpit might have been worried, but their passengers, the members and crew for the Deadbeat Cannibals were totally relaxed about it. Maybe the unlimited booze with dinner, maybe something else passed around; all slept, stretched out across rows of seats or in relaxers, depending on their status.
Despite the pilot’s endeavours, including a ‘Mayday’ signal, nothing was going to stop the small plane careering ever lower over the sandy scrub until it hissed through the grasses, through some large bushes, eventually coming to a halt, nose down in a small swamp. The fuselage was intact, save for the tail, lost about mile back. Once the few members of the team who weren’t concussed or worse had struggled to their feet, they realised that water was creeping up the floor towards them. They shook their colleagues into action, shoved them out of the back, where the land was merely squidgy, and told them to head for the trees.
Fortunately, their accountant had done the ‘Desert Survival Exercise’ in a team-building session during his blue-chip days, so he rounded up the survivors, got them to stay still, pool their resources, and light a fire. He said it would help keep the mosquitoes and snakes away. Everyone was keen to do that. It was also their best chance of rescue.
“Stay put,” he told them. “People will look for a crashed plane on the route it last held. They’ll see the fire. They’ll find us.”
“How long?” moaned the lead singer, whose head hurt. He had enough toxins on board to give him one helluva hangover.
“Two days max.” The accountant kept a straight face. Who knows? was more accurate, but nobody needs accuracy when they need hope.
Crash+1 saw them arguing with the accountant, but nevertheless three roadies went back into the fuselage in search of non-alcoholic liquids. They made quick work of unloading all the juices and a crate of waterbottles, and also discovered a range of snacks and squished food in foil trays.
“It’s meant to be heated,” complained the lead singer, as each was handed a tray and a spork.
“So leave it in the sun for a while.”
“It’ll attract the flies.”
“So eat it before they do.”
They ate it.
Crash+2 saw them arguing with each other.
“We should head off towards civilisation.” The bassist had taken the lead for the ‘walk’ group.
“Which way is that?” The accountant was firmly in the ‘remain’ group. Most of the roadies, loyal to their paymaster, stood behind him.
The bassist looked around, before deciding. “That way?”
“On the basis of…?”
“It’s south. South is South Africa, everyone knows that.”
“Have you any idea how far it is to South Africa from here?”
“Nope, do you? Where are we anyway?”
“I reckon we’re south of the Sahara, but north of the Congo.” The accountant had also been good at Geography at school.
“So, there’s bound to be civilisation that way, sooner or later.”
“Well, it’s tribal country. The tribes have their own civilisation, but they may not speak English.”
“Tribes, as in natives?” asked Keyboards.
“Natives as in pygmies? I saw old films of them at school.” Keyboards wasn’t long out of school. Their original keyboard player had been rubbish.
“Could be. No knowing, really.”
“I’m staying here, then.”
The ‘walk’ party wandered to the edge of their shady patch of scrub, discussing Keyboards’ views. They shuffled back after a while, and took up their places under the awning they’d strung from one bush to another.
“How do we know these pygmies aren’t cannibals?”
“Why should they be?”
“I’ve seen them National Geographic things too.”
The accountant just shrugged.
Late in the afternoon they felt the earth tremble, and saw dust rising, coming towards them. Some elephants passed by. The men had never been so close to uncaged beasts, and elephants in person were ten times larger than they’d imagined them. From the safety of the bushes, they prayed the animals wouldn’t trample them.
“Leave them be and they’ll leave us be,” said the accountant, but he stood with three of the roadies holding sticks at the edge of their little hideout, just in case. That was how they came to meet the tribesmen, who were collecting piles of dung to dry for their fires.
It was the accountant’s first encounter with anyone who did not speak English. Lots of gesturing, a few words of French, or maybe it was Spanish, like agua for water.
“I think they’re inviting us back to their village for a meal and shelter,” he reported.
“How do you know we’ll be safe with them?”
“I don’t. We could stay here and wait till someone finds us. Or we could go with them, leave a good trail in case someone sees the wreckage, and have food and water, and shelter.”
Eleven weary men staggered into the village, cheered by the sight of a large fire, over which hung a large pot from which steam rose. The women all giggled at the sight of the strangers, and the younger ones scrambled into their round huts through a half-height doorway. The group followed the tribesmen’s directions and sat near a wooden barrier. One woman brought a goatskin of water from which they drank, then cleaned up as she poured more into a wooden trough and mimed washing face and hands.
Then the entertainment began.
A rhythmic pounding on some drums, shaking of beads and rattles accompanied singing and stamping from a long line of locals, both men and women. The accountant watched, stomach churning, hoping this was a celebration, not a ritual. The lead singer had a vision of white hunters being stewed in a large pot over the fire. He jumped to his feet and ran for it. The dancing stopped. The rest of the rescued stood. An old man clothed in a great cape of ostrich feathers came out of the largest hut, holding a small object in his hand.
The accountant stepped forward, heart in mouth, hoping the object wasn’t a ritual disembowelling tool. He bowed low.
“We thank you for your hospitality, oh chief. We hope it will not be long until the birds that fly tell of our crash and our own people find us.”
The chief smiled and reached out his hand to the accountant’s forehead.
“You are welcome, my child,” he said in perfect English. “I have informed the authorities, and they are sending a jeep for you. It should be here by morning. Is there anyone else you would like me to call?”
He held out the object in his hand – the latest Samsung Galaxy, playing a vid of the Deadbeat Cannibals’ last gig.
© J M Pett 2017
Elephants in Kenyan bush, picture: Colin Donohue http://environment.yale.edu