The Tokoloshe by Newton Webb

Updated: Oct 19

A deal with the devil gives Wikus everything he could ever want.

2015 - Johannesburg

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The shaman sat patiently smoking a roll-up as Wikus updated his Facebook status.

Finally, putting down his phone, he looked at the shaman, who seemed nonplussed by his intrusion. “I heard you can get rid of people and make it seem like natural causes.”

The shaman nodded ploddingly as though in a torpor.

Wikus snapped his fingers at the man. “Focus, Christ… Well,” he tossed a photograph of a smartly dressed man. “My brother inherited everything. I need him gone so we can get this fixed.”

A toothy grin gradually spread across the shaman’s face. His eyes remained unfocused.

His voice was deep and slow. “You wish to loose a Tokoloshe?”

Raising his eyebrows, he gave a frustrated sigh. “Whatever you call the serviceman. Demon, assassin, witch, I don’t care, just get him gone.”

The shaman’s eyes focused for the briefest of moments, causing Wikus to jump as they locked eyes with him in a moment of the clearest clarity. “The Tokoloshe must be paid in five years hence, it will find that which you love the most and take it from you.”

Snorting, Wikus said mockingly, “Jokes on you, old man, I don’t love anything. I am untouchable.”

The shaman cackled.

Wikus tossed down fifty thousand rand in front of him, in several stacks of notes. “Perhaps the tokawoka will take cash?”

Hurried gathering up the money, the shaman grew serious. He hid the money in a metal toolbox, looking out of place amongst the tribal aesthetic.

“Get it done,” Wikus said as he turned and left.

2020 - New York

The night sky was black vellum dusted with diamonds. Smooth jazz played as the family sat waiting quietly with a whole roast salmon being portioned in front of them by Jones, their butler.

Wikus surveyed his family with his feet up, smoking a cigar. “Why is everyone so quiet?” They looked down at their plates and refused to make eye contact.

“Tracy, tell me, did you like the dress I bought for you?”

His wife raised her head and managed a wan smile. “It was beautiful. Thank you so much, darling.”

A hard edge crept into his voice, “And yet you don’t appear to be wearing it.”

Tracy froze. “I didn’t want to get any mess on it.”

Wikus laughed, “Now that's what I’m talking about, some respect.”

A collective gasp of relief was released by his family as he reached for his wine.

Spitting his wine out, he yelled, “What was that?” He could have sworn that for just one moment, he had seen a tiny, hairy child facing away from him. Blinking, it was gone.

His family were frozen in terror.

“What are you looking at? Eat your dinner.” Pulling out a small silver pen, he undid the back of it. It unscrewed to reveal a small cocaine spoon laden with the white powder. He snorted it straight up his nose and smiled.

Wikus just needed to relax. His mind was playing tricks on him.

He swore and put his feet up on the table, almost knocking over his wine glass. His family quietly poked at their food and pretended not to notice. Taking a long drag from his cigar, he billowed smoke across the banquet.

Pushing back his untouched dinner, he got up, a sudden wave of paranoia washing over him. As he walked towards the stairs, he looked back. He saw the child again. This time it was sitting at the dining table facing away from him. Wikus ran back into the dining room, roaring, but it was gone. Between blinks, it had just ceased to exist. His family were now absolutely terrified. He kicked the chair and left again to find his office.

Storming up to his safe, he opened it up and looked with adoration at the neatly stacked gold bars and piles of sovereigns. Mentally, he counted the bricks of cocaine as he retrieved his pistol. His mind reflected back to the shaman. Was that a tokowoka? Was that what the man had called it? It had been about five years.

Let it come for his family. He didn’t need them. If it came for him, then he would be ready. He took another bump of cocaine. Wikus feared no one.

“Jones,” he called out, “Get this place in lockdown, nobody in or out. Get the boys looking for intruders.”

Sitting in his office, he waited. Tomorrow he would make the biggest deal of his life. Nothing could be allowed to derail that. He reached over to a bottle of bourbon and poured an inch into his glass. Come on, then he mused darkly.

As he plotted, he drank, eventually even the cocaine couldn’t keep him awake and he nodded off. A sleep haunted by dreams of a shrunken hairy child, with a swollen belly and both its eyes put out with thick iron nails. A bullet hole in its forehead leaked black ichor.

He woke to darkness. He rubbed his eyes. The silence was deafening, no birds, no electrical gadgets, no heaters clanking. Raw silence. “Jones!” The sound of his own voice startled him. The bourbon was sour in his belly as he took two immediate snorts of cocaine to steady himself. He sounded shrill as he called out. Checking the safety of his pistol, he got up. Wikus tried the desk lamp. No power. “Jones!”

The doorbell sounded, the bell blasting through his consciousness and echoing. “Jones, the door!” Cursing, he stumbled towards the front door, feeling his way down the stairs. Where was the power? Where were his men? A cold sweat prickled at his back.

Reaching the front door, he kept one hand on his pistol. Where were his men?

With some hesitation, he opened it. Then exhaled a breath he didn’t know he had taken.

It was Tony’s boys. The deal. At least it meant he had some muscle with him. He coughed to cover his anxiety. “Follow me.”

The men commented on the dark and one of them used his smartphone to shine a torch.

Wikus entered the office and saw the safe open. He froze. It had to be Jones. Nobody else had access to his safe.

“You act like a person who is going to make Tony very upset, Mr Wikus.” The cold voice floated from behind his shoulder.

He snarled and spun, “It is just Wikus.”

The two men were spreading out. They had their pistols aimed at him. “Right now, I get the feeling that we can call you whatever the fuck we want, Mr Wikus.”

Moving behind his desk with his hands in the air, he managed a sickly grin that fell to abject terror. Pointing behind them, he cried, “Look!”

They didn’t look, they didn’t even twitch and as they gunned him down, the Tokoloshe behind them just watched, its hideous face devoid of expression.

* * * * *

Tracy lay in the motel, arms around her two sleeping kids. She was so exhausted, yet sleep eluded her. Was that? Yes, in the shadows. Suddenly she froze with fear, a scream locked in her throat. An eyeless, hairy grotesque waddled towards her. It stood for a while watching her, then placed a wooden box full of gold sovereigns next to her bed and softly padded back into the shadows to disappear.

309 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All