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A story set in Rhodesia during the 1970s. They were the best of times and the worst of times. A time of forced political change and the battle to keep things as they were. This powerful, fast moving novel will enthrall as much as it will enlighten.
An accidental soldier’s life of danger, love and tragedy.

Chapter 2

Rhodesia 1949

THE LABOURED RASP OF STUART’S BREATHING sounded like the dregs of a milkshake being repeatedly sucked from the bottom of a glass through a straw. The sound was unmistakable – Stuart had taken a lung shot and was breathing through his own blood. Twenty metres farther ahead, Rob had gone down and the manner of his falling indicated that he was dead – probably without ever knowing what had happened.
Sergeant Andrew Mason had taken cover thirty metres away and, in the time he’d been lying there – somewhere close to an hour – he had become immobilized in the grip of rising horror, in the face of an unfolding catastrophe.
Mason could hear movement close by, just ahead of where he lay. The unseen peril was drawing closer, but the darkness was absolute and for what he could see he may as well have been blind.
All he could be sure of was that the slow, soft disturbance of dead leaves and twigs only metres away was not Vern. The fear had slowly crept through him, and it was now a consuming wave of terror. It welled up from his groin, through his tightened guts and chest, and into his throat where it threatened to explode in an anguished scream..
It was five years since Mason had left South Africa to join the Rhodesian army, and in this African theatre of war he’d faced down death in scores of engagements. It was death, in fact, that had driven him from South Africa to Rhodesia – the tragic demise of two people whom he’d loved. He had faced the grim reaper with something very near to flippancy, a confidence born of anger and a desire for retribution. He’d been commended and decorated for his conduct under fire, and he had the emotional ability to endure danger and fear. But this was different. Never before had he been so vulnerable. He was trapped, hunted, and alone in a hostile and foreign country, facing unknown odds in the dark, with no immediate possibility of support or escape.
The emotional control was utterly gone. He had broken out in a sweat that soaked his shirt and denim fatigues, and he trembled as if he’d been lifted from an icy sea and dumped naked onto a cold windy beach. He had involuntarily pissed and shat himself, and the stench assailed his senses and the remnants of his dignity.
There was absolute certainty in Mason’s mind that this night he would die; and he was so unprepared for it. A thousand thoughts and images, events and people, raced through his mind. So much left incomplete, so many thoughts unspoken, so many dreams and desires cut short, like pages left permanently and unalterably blank between the covers of a half written book. The present reality held him helpless and his fear blended with a deep sense of profound sadness as he pondered sudden and final oblivion.

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Ian Mackenzie

Randburg, south_africa

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