Chapter 1: Game for Food

Ginka’s eyes glinted with the moon and flickered to studied the dusty field. The path was clear, but he knew not to rest in its comfort as it might be dangerous, and he learned that in a hard way, that almost cost his life.

No noise could be heard either, just the fluttering whispers of the wind above the roof of leaves.

The sun had just pave the way for the lights of the moon, soon it would be time for bed, and the game would be over.

This was the tenth hide and sought game they had had without the taskmasters interrupting. He had been a ghost, and he wanted to maintain the record.

Having a share of bread from the other children who participated in the game was the prize for anyone who remained a ghost for five consecutive nights.

By just thinking about the bread, his mouth watered, and he swallowed. The taskmaster’s bread was the most delicious food in the whole world.

‘I am sure they are hiding somewhere,’ Ginka thought to himself as he smiled.

Standing his weight on the tips of his toes, he carefully walked out from the mango tree where he had been hiding and made his way to the west side, hoping to make it behind the cashew tree before any of his friends could notice him.

The cashew tree was his favorite spot. The canopies of leaves and the grass which blended well with the night made it the best place to hide till bedtime.

It had worked for the past five nights, except that now, he noticed some movement in the shadows. His heart was about to skip a beat, but he relaxed his troubled nerve when a tiny voice said, “Over here…”

The feminine voice sounded like that of Dodo, who was 12 years of age and two months older than him.

Ginika didn’t need a soothsayer to discern the owner. He could recognize it from anywhere, even from fifteen miles away.

“Hurry!” Dodo shouted, whispered again, and signaled in the dark.

“You are using magic,” Ginika unhappily accused as he walked stealthily behind the grass.

He stooped his slim figure and sat down on the floor, leaning his back on the cashew tree.

Their bodies met, and the coldness on Dodo’s skin made him wonder how long she had been staying there.

“What do you expect?” Dodo sarcastically replied as if what he said was something stupid.

“Tsk. But that’s against the rule of the game. You are cheating,” Ginika grumbled, then he added as he looked at his with narrowed eyes, “Don’t tell me you’ve cheated your way through the last five?”

“Stop waggling your mouth and displaying your foolishness. Chuba, would find us if you keep making a noise like an empty vessel, then it wouldn’t matter who was using magic to break the rules of the game or not.” Dodo warned.

She then went back to studying the veil of darkness ahead, and all this while, she hadn’t acknowledged Ginika with the least of her attention.

“You are unbelievable.” Ginika argued, “I can’t believe you have been cheating all these while.” He mumbled, it was a good thing despite her not playing fair all this time.

“For my tummy snakes’ sake, Gini.” Dodo scoffed, her eyes rolling within the dark. Her gaze then shifted to the boy’s direction, “quiet down, or I would shove your empty head into the sand.”

“I will report you to the chief. You broke the rule of the game.” Ginika said, disappointed, “I am not playing again.” He then stood up to leave.

Dodo gritted her teeth in annoyance, before speaking, “As if you never did anything wrong, Mr. Perfect. Report me for all I care! I heard my mother saying that the taskmasters are on their way. I, for one, would not miss that bread. So you can leave, I will gladly share your portion with the others.”

Ginika’s stomach rumbled, and he found himself stooping back on the spot he had been before. He wasn’t hungry, but that bread of the taskmasters was the best.

“Guys?” Suddenly, someone called from the shadow right next to the point where Dodo lay. “Something is wrong…”

When he heard that, Ginika’s heart sank, and he looked at the kid who had spoken that.  

Has she been there all along? How much of his conversation with Dodo has she heard? 

He lubricated his thumb with his saliva and relaxed the strand of his hair that always blocked his eyes and tainted his appearance. He would want to look presentable when they walk out from the shadows.

“Why do you think so?” Dodo asked. 

“Have you been there all along?” Ginika asked Zahra, but was ignored 

“The playing ground is oddly quiet, is it time for bed already?” Zahra asked with a flippancy that made Ginika to swallow. 

He hates it when the girls treat him like he was unimportant. They were all the same age, with heights distinguishing them.

“No, Zahra. The sun had set only a few hours ago, and the moonlight has not yet reached its peak.” Dodo said, she was on her feet already, making sure Zahra was wrong. 

“I can’t see anybody” The disappointment in her tone sent a shiver down the other two children’s spine.

Ginika nodded his head and stood up. Now that he was sure that the girl was actually using magic for the game, he would gladly report her to the chief, in secret.

The three friends walked out from the shadow of the cashew tree and made their way to the sandy path leading to the village square. 

“What could have caused the departure of everyone?” Ginika asked. 

“Maybe, they thought it was bedtime, you know, with the light of the full moon and all,” Zahra said. 

Ginika stared ahead, he could feel the hands of Zahra’s eyes crawling on his body, but he pretended not to notice. 

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