Air, thick with cicada-song, rises from the veld. The three men recline on the sun-heated rocks, staring into the fire. Herb-scented smoke hangs heavily in the purple dusk. They are the tiniest specks in the timeless universe, each smaller than a newly-hatched mantis, in this, the place of the ancient ones.
Darkness closes in and the great African she-moon rises; pin-prick stars stab the violet-thick night. Still no one speaks. The older brown-skinned man carefully feeds the fire which crackles in the desiccated air.
A night-bird shrieks and, on the other side of the koppie, a hyena cackles. The young man, still fresh from the sprawling city, stares around warily. His companion turns from the fire: ‘Be still, my brother.’ The young man settles back.
The night wears on. Trance-like they stare into the fire. The young man’s eyes are heavy; he closes his eyes and tries to imagine an ancestor he’s never known.
A shadow appears on the far side of the fire. The two older men sit up, their faces bright in the firelight. The San Man has come. He lays his stick aside and squats by the fire, resting his chin on his folded hands, staring onto the flames. Still without acknowledging them, he starts to hum. The sound swells, its vibration filling the air.
Abruptly it stops.
The figure stands, takes up his stick, and beckons to them. They try to rouse their young companion, but he sleeps on.
The San Man motions them to follow.
/… to be continued