- Byliner Original
“Andre, this is bad.”
Daniel says this into the new darkness that has come in suddenly, with strange birdcalls and a restless murmuring of the forest. A few of the soldiers turn their heads, but Daniel can barely see their faces now. He doesn’t know them by name anyway. There’s nothing left of the long, blazing day behind them but the West African heat. It sits heavily amid the palm trees and radiates from the pitted asphalt road. Daniel lights a cigarette to see if anyone will tell him to put it out. For a minute or two, no one says anything, and he’s tempted to think maybe they’re not in such a bad spot until the captain makes a hissing sound from across the clearing. Daniel looks up and nods and stubs it into the sandy soil.
The soldiers are strung along the road in no particular formation. They’ve backed the armored personnel carrier up into the clearing and thrown some palm fronds over it. For some reason, the stubby little barrel points out toward the road, though Daniel can’t imagine anyone trying to approach that way. They’d come quietly through the trees and then suddenly the darkness would explode. Or at least that’s how Daniel imagines it. He’s never been in anything like that—few of them have, despite the cocktail-party stories that come later. Andre finally walks over. Andre’s the photographer. Andre’s been through all of this before.
“What’s happening, mate?” he says. Andre’s Australian. He and Daniel have been together for a couple of wee...