The attack

2014-10-10 00:00

The boys’ screams of absolute terror sent shivers through our bodies — a soundtrack that still rings in my ears

A SCREAM. The silence of the night was shattered. From my right, a cacophony of wails and shouts followed.

“Get to the top bunks now!” In a dazed confusion, girls scrambled to the top bunk beds. We sat in the darkness, shaking, as we listened to what became the soundtrack of those minutes. A soundtrack that still rings clear in my ears three years later.

We had been in the same class from Grade 0 right through to Grade 7. We sat next to each other in the back row of geography that year.

We would try to make each other laugh at our latest jokes and make scribbles on each other’s notes.

He was the kind of kid who would share his favourite chocolate with you. One of the kindest people I had ever met, which is why it came as such a shock.

The cries of: “He’s bleeding, he’s bleeding!” resonated across the camp. It was the boys’ screams of absolute terror that sent shivers through our tense bodies.

Only when we heard one of the sports interns, a man in his early 20s, shout out for a senior staff member did we realise that what was occurring in the tent next door was a lot more serious than we had initially understood.

We sat in bewildered silence, trying to gather as much information as we could from the pandemonium outside. I felt the warmth of someone pressed close to me, my fingers intertwined with theirs.

A lonely hand searching for some security and a sign that everything would be okay. In the minutes that followed, the canvas walls of the tent would occasionally be illuminated by a passing torch. Footsteps scuffled around us, but it was the smell I remember most. Hyenas.

The weekend had become one of the most anticipated events of the second term. Forty of our good friends packed into four kombis headed for a sports tour up to northern KZN.

Two days playing sports matches before spending the last night at iMfolozi Game Reserve. This tour was almost a commemoration of our junior-school years together, before everyone took different paths to high school.

We all hoped that this would bring the group together for the last time, although none of us anticipated just how close we would become.

The next set of screams erupted not from my right, but this time from the other girls’ tent to my left.

As I caught a whiff of its musty smell, someone screamed: “It’s out the back, pulling at our bags!” The hand holding mine gripped tighter.

Outside, an engine spluttered to life and we squinted as outside was suddenly lit up by a set of head lights. A car sped off, the gravel crunching beneath its wheels. Every sound seemed amplified, sharp against our cold ears. The zip of our tent whirred open and a torch shone onto our group of huddled figures. “It’s gone.” We were all taken to the main tent, where we were handed sugar-laden hot chocolate and slowly began to understand what had just occurred. The group of boys from the tent next to ours sat across the table, their bloodshot eyes did not move from their steaming mugs. They had witnessed one of their best friends being mauled by a hyena.

Throughout the night, we received updates: “He’s in the ambulance, on his way to the hospital”. “He has been rushed in for emergency surgery”. They removed all the mattresses from our tents and piled them into the main tent. Together we lay among the chaos and trauma of that night.

Silence. We watched the sky change from black to pink and finally to blue. The emotions of the previous night still thick in the air.

People fatigued, stumbled from the tent.

The events of the night replaying through drowsy minds.

The soundtrack. The soundtrack that we will still hear for many years to come.

Jasmin Hurt: ‘I am in Grade 10 at St Anne’s College in Hilton and have been a weekly boarder since Grade 8. I have lived in KZN my whole life and currently live between Kloof and a holiday house in Rietvlei. I love spending time with friends and family, and am passionate about sport, namely waterpolo, and also really enjoy art. One of my favourite holiday destinations is the bush.’

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