The sugarcane stalks rustled dryly. Zoya had disregarded Bokor’s mild command to get rest. She stood at the crossing between a thin path and the main one back to the village. All of the arteries of the labyrinth through the sugarcane field were narrow out of necessity. The only way back to the village from the tourist area was through this enormous planting, and that had been done on purpose. She stood staring at nothing.
Crunching of dead plants did little to draw her back to reality. Her object was to be seen – not to see. But when the figure appeared, it was so unexpected that she was forced to focus sharply on it. A quizzical look appeared on her face and she cocked her head sideways – birdlike. It was the boy from the house. She knew him. His name was Ralph. He was Maggie’s boyfriend, but Zoya had smelled his desire for her after the change, and she had laughed to herself, scornful of his pitiful ignorance and impending doom.
What a fool. Now he was following her? She perked up her ears trying to gauge the villagers’ approach. They were somewhere in the maze of stalks, but not too close. Zoya reached out both arms at shoulder length to grab the boy – but froze as he drew nearer.
He missed her statue-like figure at first and passed on. Suddenly, nose in the air, he stopped – his back was toward her at first. He turned and she saw his earnest face clearly in the moonlight. He had thick eyebrows that met in the middle of the top of the bridge of his nose, and his ears were low on his head, but other than that, he was a very handsome boy. She stepped back instinctively, pressing into the sugarcane. His eyes bored a hole through her face. There was something about him… He stepped forward. But they both heard the voices of the townspeople coming closer. Ralph swiveled and loped off in the opposite direction.
The field of sugarcane had been Bokor’s idea. The villagers planned the labyrinth carefully and planted the sugarcane right as the tourists began coming to this side of the island. It had been a great success in keeping them away from the natives. How Ralph had known to get this far was something Zoya would have to think about in the future.
They all trudged along, following the elders’ oldest son, Hosea. He turned a corner on the maze-like path, stopped suddenly and let out a yell of surprise. There was no fear. Yet. Zoya stood there. Her eyes were glazed over. Her arms were crossed in front of her. At the sound of Hosea’s voice she came back to earth slowly and stared at him. She smiled, openmouthed, releasing a thin dribble of blood to travel down her chin.
The woman behind Hosea screeched. Everyone behind her panicked and tried to run away. Some fell under their fellow neighbors’ stampede, but got up again and soon everyone had disappeared – everyone except Zoya and Hosea – captor and captive. The fleeing people heard a high pitched squeal, some thrashing and a thud. They ran faster until they ran into another object in the path.
The first few recoiled, screaming, until Bokor shouted above the noise, “Calm down everyone. What is the matter?”
They all talked at once, gesturing wildly behind them. Bokor pushed her way through them and walked until she found the body of Hosea. Blood was absorbing into the soft ground of the bare path, but there was enough of it to still pool around his body. His face had been torn off. The only way Bokor knew it was Hosea was for the clothes that he had been wearing just a short time ago.
The villagers ran. This time, they ran through the stalks, flattening them out, until they could reach another stretch of path. They fled toward the village.
Bokor smirked and followed them. She passed Zoya. “Clean that up, will you dear? Then go back and rest like I told you to.”
tomorrow: The Cleanup