Ben stared at the dark bush surrounding the car, the rustling
of the grasses like old women whispering to each other, the
scary smear of galaxies above. 'Fuck camping out here.'
They backtracked and found the turning. There were no signs marking which direction the road headed or even what its name was and they had to take it on faith and an old map that this was indeed the Jango road. They drove slowly over the dark surface of the land. The grasses hissed in the wind, a flickering chatter that made them roll up their windows.
'It sounds so human,' David said, his face pressed up against the glass.
Ben looked at him strangely, then turned back to the road and braked suddenly, the car's wheels spinning out from under him. Jack flew forward, arms crashing hard against the dash.
Ahead of them the road forked. There were no signs and each branch seemed of equal width, both disappearing into blackness at the edge of the headlights' domain.
'Shit,' Ben said, pulling out the map, spreading it on his knees, his hands shaking. 'There's no fork marked on the fucking map.'
'Africa,' David replied with a sigh. It had become their code word for anything that defied logic, that did the opposite of what it said it did.
Jack unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car, the ground crunching and squirming under his feet like something living. He walked up to the fork, trying to see whether one side was more used than the other, looking for tell-tale tyre tracks, but there was nothing to distinguish between them. Something flickered across his vision an antelope? Gazelle? and just as quickly disappeared, bounding up the left fork, its white hoofs illuminated by their headlights. He stared into the black distance where both roads disappeared then walked back to the car.
'There's nothing to tell them apart. We'll have to guess.'
David looked at him, his eyes sagging with sleep and frustration. 'You liked the way it sounded; shit, you choose.'
Jack stared at the place where the road divided, thinking: left or right? Trying to work out which direction they were facing, looking for a sign, a hunch, a spasm of intimation, but there were only the odds. Fifty-fifty.
The others were waiting for him to make the choice. The hours on the road were weighing on them and they just wanted to keep moving. He thought of the ghostly gazelle he saw, the small circle of hoofs flashing in the black night. 'We're taking the left,' he finally said, trying to sound authoritative.
He turned to Ben, about to answer, then saw that Ben was joking and for a moment all the fear and nervousness was gone and they were three friends in a car again, hurtling towards the next adventure.
Ben turned the engine back on and shifted into first. The road felt crinkled and folded beneath them as if loathe to let them go. They swung onto the left fork and disappeared into the night.
Excerpted from A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez. Copyright © 2013 by Stav Sherez. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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