Shadow Of The Night
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
made a disgusted noise with his tongue and pressed the power button on the
remote control. The TV screen faded to black.
"Why did you do that?" I asked. The movie had just got
"These people...they don’t have the faintest idea what
they’re talking about."
I looked over at him. "It’s just a movie," I said. "A zombie
movie. What do you expect?"
"Yes, but even a movie should have some connection to
reality." Rössler seemed really angry, far more so than I’d known him to be. "And
this...thing...is an insult."
"But there aren’t any such things as zombies," I protested.
"Aren’t there?" Rössler asked. It didn’t sound as though he
was expecting an answer, so I prudently kept my mouth shut. Though Rössler was
well into his seventies, he was still a huge man and given to bursts of temper.
"Aren’t there, really?" he repeated.
"Well," I replied reluctantly, "none that I know of."
"Oh, there are," Rössler said. He jerked a contemptuous
finger at the blank TV screen. "Corpses lurching about and eating people, who
all go shelter in a mall – they aren’t like that, of course."
I felt compelled to make some kind of response. "They aren’t?"
"No, they’re much more dangerous." Rössler turned
ostentatiously away and began looking through some books on the table at his
elbow. "And they don’t eat anyone, either."
I sighed, recognising the signs. Rössler was going to make
"So what are they really like?" I asked, knowing it was just
the beginning. Rössler always had to be coaxed into one of his tales.
He opened a book and leafed through some pages. "You aren’t
going to believe me."
"You haven’t told me yet, so how do you know I won’t believe
"Nobody has yet. That’s why I don’t tell anybody anything
anymore about my time in Africa."
This was beginning to get promising. "So it was in Africa,
"Yes." Rössler put the book down and looked at me. "It was a
long time ago, anyway. With the mayfly attention spans of people these days,
what happened last week is already ancient history, let alone over forty years
"Forty years ago," I repeated. That would be during
Rössler’s time as a mercenary, of which he seldom spoke. Unlike other ex-mercs,
he’d resolutely refused to write his memoirs or even to review anyone else’s
for a magazine. "I don’t have a mayfly attention span, you know."
"Yes, but you’re a writer. You’ll want to make it into a
story, and spice it up for the chattering masses. And dumb it down at the same
"I won’t write anything," I said. "Don’t worry, I won’t say
a word unless you ask me to."
He snorted expressively. "The last time a writer told me
that, I had to threaten to sue him afterwards."
"You won’t have to sue me," I said quickly. "But, of course,
if you’d really rather not tell me, then..."
"I’ll tell you," he said, with a dry smile, acknowledging
the game we’d both been playing. "Go make some coffee first."
I rose with alacrity and went to the kitchen.
I don’t know what you recall of the events in Krahania back in the early
seventies [Rössler said]. Nobody nowadays seems to remember much. At
most, if pressed, they’ll say that it was a mess, with warlord armies fighting
each other, and in the end, one dictator was replaced by another. That’s about
Back then, as you know, I was a mercenary. Those days we didn’t hide behind
names like "private security contractors" and the like – we were mercenaries,
pure and simple, soldiers for hire. And we didn’t fight for corporations with
stocks on the market, either; we signed up with mercenary commandos and we
hired ourselves out to some very nasty people, to do their dirty work for them,
so long as the money was good.
[ Continue to page 2 ]