He could hear them circling above, waiting for him with an ancient, timeless patience.
His mind started to wander. He was in the cool kirk at Aberdeen, neatly dressed in his
Sunday suit, seated between his two brothers. His sister, Mary, and Annie Cord were
wearing beautiful white summer dresses, and Annie Cord was looking at him and smiling.
Jamie started to get up and go to her, and his brothers held him back and began to pinch
him. The pinches became excruciating shafts of pain, and he was crawling through the
desert again, naked, his body broken. The cries of the vultures were louder now, impatient.
Jamie tried to force his eyes open, to see how close they were. He could see nothing
except vague, shimmering objects that his terrified imagination turned into feral hyenas
and jackals. The wind became their hot, fetid breath caressing his face.
He kept crawling, for he knew that the moment he stopped they would be upon him. He
was burning with fever and pain and his body was flayed by the hot sand. And still, he
could not give up, not as long as Van der Merwe was unpunished—not as long as Van der
Merwe was alive.
He lost all awareness of time. He guessed that he had traveled a mile. In truth, he had
moved less than ten yards, crawling in a circle. He could not see where he had been or
where he was going. He focused his mind on only one thing: Salomon van der Merwe.
He slipped into unconsciousness and was awakened by a shrieking agony beyond
bearing. Someone was stabbing at his leg, and it took Jamie a second to remember where
he was and what was happening. He pulled one swollen eye open. An enormous hooded
black vulture was attacking his leg, savagely tearing at his flesh, eating him alive with its
sharp beak. Jamie saw its beady eyes and the dirty ruff around its neck. He smelled the
foul odor of the bird as it sat on his body. Jamie tried to scream, but no sound came out.
Frantically he jerked himself forward, and felt the warm flow of blood pouring from his leg.
He could see the shadows of the giant birds all around him, moving in for the kill. He knew
that the next time he lost consciousness would
be the last time. The instant he stopped, the carrion birds would be at his flesh again. He
kept crawling. His mind began to wander into delirium. He heard the loud flapping wings of
the birds as they moved closer, forming a circle around him. He was too weak now to fight
them off; he had no strength left to resist. He stopped moving and lay still on the burning
sand. The giant birds closed in for their feast
Novel Book: MASTER OF THE GAME
Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust