“A fine work of literature.” Dan did not lift his eyes from the comic book that lay on the table.
Cyrus flexed his fingers across the pages, lifted the page Dan was reading. “I’ll spare you middle. The hunters tell the guide to follow the poachers at a safe distance, thinking they’ll lead them to game.” He flipped another page, scanned down at the upside-down images. “And then . . . they . . . oh yes, the poachers do find a herd of gazelle, but then one of the hunters gets anxious and shoots wildly at it, and the herd scatters.” Cyrus then tapped one of the panels firmly, like he was squishing a bug. “There. Start reading there.”
Dan saw an image of the two hunters, one looking frustrated as he loaded another shell into his rifle, ch-chuk. Dammit! Pull the jeep around for another shot, boy! But in the same panel the second hunter was leaning across the front seat, his eyes wide with fear. Get us out of here, before the poachers find us! The driver in the panel looked placid, and continued in the next panel, a close-up of driver’s face. No, boss. It too late.
Dan turned the page. The jeep was surrounded by men armed with rifles pointed at the vehicle. You, get out now! The next panel showed the hunters stepping out of the vehicles, hands in the air, while the driver remained seated, his hands still on the wheel. What’s going on? Were you in cahoots with these guys all along? read the word balloon above the second hunter, whose head was turned to the driver.
No, read the word balloon above the driver and below the second hunter’s. Dese men from my village, but I no know dem. I try warn you boss, but you no listen.
The next panel showed the first hunter, hands still in air, speaking defiantly to one of the poachers whose rifle was aimed threateningly. What do you thugs want? Money? We got money! The poacher’s word balloon was on the same level as the hunter’s. No want money. Food cost too much in Ukulamba. Dan knew the country was fictional, and guessed there was a significance to its name. We kill for food, no money. Dat herd, whole village eat, one month.
The next panel showed a close-up of the poacher, his magnified eye peering through the end of the rifle’s scope. My people hungry. You take food from them. Now — you must give it them.
“No.” Dan looked up at Cyrus, who nodded at him grimly, then looked back down at the page. He no longer read the words, just scanned the images of absurdly drawn African tribesmen wearing animal skins and grass skirts, rushing to the center of the village, where large slabs of meat roasted over an open fire. Another panel showed two thin children tearing red meat from bones; both children wore the hats of the two hunters.