The story of FRENZY ISLAND kicks off when a small lifeboat full of shipwrecked refugees washes ashore on an unnamed island off the coast of east Africa…
“The boat hit shore at 09:27 EAT. We can be exact on this because it was picked up by the perimeter cameras. It was an old open lifeboat, navy blue, and we counted seven people on board. Eight if you want to include the baby. Most of them didn’t survive more than ten minutes.”
If Cynthia Dowley, who we met in my last post, brings the fun to my forthcoming novel, then sisters Esperance and Godriva Watara are its heart and soul. Esperance is the (slightly) older of the two and is a nurse. Godriva is a schoolteacher and has a baby son called Buki. Back home in Burundi Esperance and Godriva were promising runners. There was even talk of ‘careers’ as athletes for them. But now the only running they are doing is away from the political and civil unrest that has engulfed their country. Their escape leads them to an island of mysteries, horrors and things that should not be, which is where we first meet them…
“So what do we do now?” asked one of the boys.
Despite the fact he was brandishing an assault rifle, Mohamud, who was still young himself, probably no more than twenty-five, looked like a cornered deer. “I don’t know,” he stammered.
Esperance was having none of that. “You’re not allowed to not know,” she snapped. “We paid you to get us to South Africa. You have to have a back-up plan.”
“Smuggling people over borders doesn’t come with insurance,” Mohamud retorted.
“So is that your way of saying no one’s coming looking for us?”
“You’re refugees. I’m a pirate. Of course no one’s coming looking for us. We’re on our own, unless we can attract attention from a passing ship.”
“That’s not good enough,” said Godriva. “I’ve got a baby to look after. We can’t just wait. He has needs.”
Godriva suddenly felt hopelessly exposed on her baby’s behalf. She snuggled Bukeneza, Buki for short, up under her chin, rocking him to keep him from crying. He was looking eagerly around at these exciting new surroundings, blissfully unaware of the desperate situation he was in.
When the ship had gone down in the deep underworld of the night, all Godriva had manage to salvage was the small backpack containing baby supplies she now wore on her back. That and the light dress she had been wearing when the wave had hit. She suddenly remembered that she still had her phone. She handed Buki to her sister, slipped off the backpack and fished it out of the pocket on the side. No signal. Others checked theirs. Same result.
Esperance returned Buki and checked her own phone. With a roll of her eyes she slipped it back into the pocket of her shorts. She had managed to escape the capsizing ship with nothing but those and a vest. She’d even had to ditch her rucksack with the supplies for herself and her younger sister. She had not been allowed to bring it onto the lifeboat as it was too big.
“Do you even know where we are?” Godriva asked, not yet ready to let this Mohamud guy off the hook. “Is this Madagascar?”
“No. We didn’t get that far. Wherever this is, it’s north of Madagascar.”
“If I might interject,” said Leonce, the middle-aged man who was accompanying his mother. “If rescue does come, you really don’t want to be caught waving that thing about.” He nodded towards Mohamud’s assault rifle. “Maybe you should get rid of it.”
Mohamud raised the gun, Terminator-style. “Nice try,” he smirked.
Leonce rolled his eyes. “Oh, for goodness sake! What do you think we’re going to do? Mutiny? If rescue comes and you’re seen with a gun, they might just sail off and leave us here!”
“Or start shooting,” Esperance added.
“The gun stays.”
Godriva snorted with derision. “It’s because of people like you that we fled Burundi in the first place.”
“That’s not my problem.”
“It is now.”
“Maybe we should start a fire on the beach, to attract attention,” suggested one of the boys, whose name was Vital. He was obviously keen to diffuse the conversation.
“Yeah,” said the other kid, Walter. “Maybe we’ll be spotted by a plane or something. We could say we’re tourists heading for Madagascar, or…”
“Tourists, huh?” snickered Mohamud. “So where are your passports?”
Throughout this exchange, the older woman, Yanka, had remained silent, until now. “Shush,” she said. “Can anyone else here something?”
The talking ceased. Everyone tilted their heads to try and listen beyond the surface noise of waves lapping against shore, breeze blowing through trees, birds cawing. There was something there alright, and it sounded like…yelling?
The party of seven, eight if you want to include the baby, broke from their tree cover and stepped cautiously out onto the beach. The wind was fresh and cool, as it usually is after a storm, and it carried the noise their way.
“Over there,” said Yanka, pointing towards the headland.
It was early and the sun was still low in the sky. Framed against it was a pack of men. They were charging towards the shipwrecked survivors, scattering the seabirds that dotted the beach as they neared. ‘Pack’ is the word that presented itself to Esperance because they seemed more like wild animals than people; sprinting, screaming, roaring, grimacing. She quickly counted ten of them, all freakishly tall, completely naked, utterly hairless and…
“There’re blue,” said Leonce.
“Can’t be,” said Esperance, still squinting into the morning glare.
“They are,” said Walter. “They really are blue.”
“They must be like…seven-foot tall, or something,” Vital added.
None of the survivors moved, mostly because they did not know how to respond to a sight as bizarre as this. They were being charged by a pack of naked, blue-skinned giants with penises swinging wildly and faces contorted into visages of rage. But as the pack neared, their bloodlust became impossible to deny.
Godriva was the first to break. “Run,” she simply said. And run they did.
The party scattered. Holding her baby boy tightly against her chest, Godriva made for the trees. Esperance followed as shouting and gunfire erupted behind her. She put herself between the gunfire and her sister with her baby. Even with her son in her arms, Godriva sprinted like a pro athlete; light, lithe and fast. With her identical physique, Esperance kept pace easily. She looked back over her shoulder to see Yanka going down under the pack of blue men in a frenzy of blood and limbs. There was a kind of cool fascination to it, like watching a pride of lions taking down a zebra on a nature doc. Yanka’s son swung punches and kicks in a desperate attempt to save his mother but he lasted only seconds. He died with teeth in his throat.
“Don’t stop!” gasped Esperance. “For god’s sake don’t stop!”
Again there was the rapid rat-a-tat of bullets leaving barrel followed by screaming. Mohamud was down. Three of the blue savages broke from the pack and zeroed in on Esperance and Godriva.
“RUUUUN!” screamed Esperance. “RUUUUUUN!”
Esperance and Godriva have washed up on the very island that a certain Cynthia Dowley monitors from Arizona, which is how their journeys become intertwined. And believe it or not, there is a logical explanation as to why an east African island should be home to a pack of freakishly tall, hairless, blue-skinned savages, but if you want to know what it is you’ll have to read the book.
FRENZY ISLAND is published by Cranthorpe Millner on October 25th and can be pre-ordered now.