The land stretched to the skyline and beyond. Everywhere he looked he saw dead and dying plants. It was hard to understand what was happening. Had a blight suddenly appeared from somewhere? He continued his march. He had once thought it would be a journey of a lifetime to cross the continent of Africa. Whether it was wanderlust, or disguised hopes of adventure or the closer reason to the truth his need to escape from the confining life he had led that brought him into this land. Now all he could see was death.
His background was not in plant physiology, but even with the minimum knowledge he had in biology he knew he had discovered something sinister and deadly. He had skillfully avoided regional troubles and becoming a victim in some of the local wars. Each country it seemed was either run by military powers or some discontented minority or majority was trying to wrestle the reins of power for the other. He had seen people left to rot in the sun. He had heard the laughter of the hyenas as they were drawn to an easy source of food. In some of the drier places he had seen the desiccated bodies of men, women and children. They had been caught either in the crossfire or were pawns that one side used to terrorize others. But now he was looking at a different scene.
Maize was a staple of life here and for some strange reason each plant was yellowed, desiccated and void of any signs of life. If this plague was as virulent as it appeared to be, then the whole country and the neighboring countries might soon become a desert.
Without maize and some other vegetables people couldn?t survive. The few cows and goats would not be able to survive on the native vegetation because from what he saw it too was being affected.
He looked at his watch and then checked his topographic map. It was nearly thirty miles before he would see any town of size. Oh, he might stumble on a few huts here and there, but that wouldn?t help. He had to warn the authorities! Here in this valley the start of a plague, like the ancient plagues of Egypt was building up its strength to take vengeance on the world that man had in its wisdom conquered and converted into his breadbasket and application of a monoculture based society.
The sun enjoyed its position far overhead as it tried to burn and bake both his body and his brain. He had not done poorly; he had covered over 1,000 km in all sorts of weather and terrain. He had survived floods, and drought, lions and elephants and the culture shock between the Western society and its pursue of money and a society that was so close to the beginnings of man that the massive extremes between one and the other made his mind ache. Somewhere he was hoping to find the answer to his life. He had hoped that he would see in his journey a place or a person that could help him choose his role in life. So far he had lost 20 pounds, tightened up his stomach muscles and reduced the start of a paunch, strengthened his leg muscles and learned to appreciate the divergence of nature. He had never started his trip thinking he was an example of the elite of the human race and knew everything. Others might assume that man was at the top of the evolutionary tree, but he knew that was as likely a lie as believing that just beyond the horizon he would find paradise and a book with all the answers to all of the problems of the world. Even with his clothing that reflected most of the sun’s rays, he found that he was sweating. It was a long hike up the next slope but he needed to get to the village where he could find help.
There it was, a small gathering of huts in an oasis of shade trees. Here was the first sign of habitation he had seen in many a mile. Even the area where the community cattle and goats were kept looked inviting. He descended from the hills that surrounded this village. It would only be a matter of time to reach the sanctuary of the village. At least they would allow him to find some shade.
Whether it was the unusual quiet or the vacant eyes of the cattle that made the skin on the back of his neck crawl or something else. He should have listened to that protective little voice inside shouting its warning. Something unusual had happened here. No villagers were around; no excited cries of children greeted him.
As he stepped through the entranceway the scene that greeted him was so shocking that he stopped. He had to. He couldn?t have taken another step because his path was blocked.
Within the little village, the square was covered in bodies. Bodies of men, woman and children were scattered like chaff. Some of the women had been used before death had greeted them. The men had just been hacked to death. The children had also suffered the affects of machetes and clubs. No one was alive. The only sound was the occasional tinkle of bells that hung around some of the granny goats.
He didn?t know what to do. He turned thinking it was wise to escape from this carnage. He didn?t see the blow and then everything went black as he too fell to the ground and lay among the other bodies. His fall only disturbed the squadrons of flies that had settled on the cuts, and open sores of the villagers. But at that moment he was no longer capable of understanding.