A journey through the Bos van Het Kwaad.
Petra returned shortly after the rain set in with yellow PVC raincoats and took Jamie and me back to the cabin. There we washed the windows, swept the floor and did dusting etc in lieu of the weeding detail.
Shortly after lunch she announced that there was a supply drop off scheduled for two o’clock and asked if we would care to give her a hand. It seemed preferable to sitting around going stir-crazy in the cabin so we both agreed and followed her to another wire-mesh fenced off area about half a kilometre southwest of the Commune Gardens. Within this semi compound sat rustic huts of varying colours; purple, red, orange and yellow.
“This is Education Centre,” announced Petra, retrieving a cellphone from her handbag and announcing our arrival. “It’s where Scallerenes, Teen Serenes and suitably inducted Green Serenes learn the ways of the Fellowship."
“Where is everyone?” I asked, studying the empty playground with interest.
“We only have-ta go to school four times a week,” said Jamie with feigned cheerfulness “That gives us a free-day weekend.”
“Three day weekend, sweetie,” corrected Petra tussling her nephew’s hair. “The first day is Electives where you can either play sports, work of hobbies or participate in outdoor purists. The second is spent doing chores and the third is a general rest day.”
A tall lanky woman with thick rimmed glasses unfastened the gate, ushered us in and closed it firmly behind us. Petra snatched Jamie’s hand firmly and I followed after them as they made their way behind the four huts; where I was surprised to see a fifth one. It was much smaller than the others and its faded blue paint was peeling in places.
Two hundred meters to the east of this hut was what could be probably best described as beach bungalow with a bamboo thatched roof and tinted windows surrounded by a recently painted white picket fence with a red gate.
“They call this place, Dowling’s Den,” uttered Jamie in an ominous tone as Petra opened the gate and led us down a cobblestone pathway to the doorway.
A plump red haired woman in her mid to late thirties looked up from the laptop she was taping away at and smiled at us from behind a small office desk as we entered.
“We’re here to get the key from Mister Dowling,” stated Petra.
“Yes Petra, he’s expecting you. I’ll let him know you’ve arrived.”
“I like the new haircut. It quite becomes you.”
“You think so Petra? Lucas didn’t even notice; typical male, insensitive to a tee.”
“This young man here is Matthew, he only arrived a few days ago and still quite green behind the ears.”
“Hello love,” she greeted, turning her attention to me. “My name is Trudy, I’m the caretaker cum chief cook and bottle washer of the fellowship education sector, as well as receptionist every second Tuesday.”
“I’m only here for a short time at my Aunt’s insistence…”
My sentence was interrupted by shrill buzzing. Trudy answered the phone, spoke quietly into it for a brief time and announced our presence.
“He’ll see you now,” she said cheerfully.
“Mind Jamie and Matt will you Trudy,” requested Petra “I won’t be long.”
“No worries Petra. Take your time, it’s a slow day, and I can do with some company anyhow.”
"You two boys behave yourselves and do as Trudy tells you otherwise you'll have me to answer to."
She gave us both warning glares then made her way through a doorway to the far left of the room.
"So how are you finding it here at our little commune Matthew?" asked Trudy, smiling at me gently.
We engaged in inane small talk for about five minutes until the door reopened. Petra emerged; now accompanied by a lanky boy in an orange jacket whom she introduced to me as Travis, and a short ginger haired girl with freckles, wearing a purple jacket named Adina. They had offered (or probably more than likely been conscripted) to pitch in and help us with the drop-off,
Petra led us to the back of the hut and then further westward toward the far reaches of the Education centre where a 1980s GMC Vandura Van sat; similar to the one that B. A. Baracus used to drive in the A-team, only blue. Jamie politely offered me shotgun and sat at the rear with Adina and Travis.
“The supply drop point is several kilometres away from the Fellowship Compound and we need to go drive through an area called the “Bos van Het Kwaad”” explained Petra once we had exited the Education Centre. “Most of the Fellowship call it “The Kwaad” for short. It's strictly off limits and requires signed permission from the Supreme Hierarchy to enter,”
“Why is it off limits?” I asked.
“’cause of the Bardiff,” replied Jamie, once again adopting an ominous tone
“Big grizzly bear-like creature that lives within. It’s got huge claws that can cut a tree clean in half and fangs that can bite through metal.’’
“Trespassing Teen Serenes and those of higher ranks risk demotion." added Petra; trying her best to negotiate the van along a greasy unsealed road "And in extreme circumstances repeat offenders heve been expelled from the Commune.”
Soon we arrived at what looked to be a Border-Checkpoint, with a lowered barrier arm beside a narrow wooden booth obstructing our way. Sitting on overturned wooden crates were two guards in baseball caps, dark sunglasses, and what Jamie later described to as leather utility belts around their waists; equipped with metallic batons, Hand held RTs, and Flashlights.
“Nash is running behind schedule,” announced the shorter of the two guards once Petra had stopped the van.
“It’s plain Goddam rude, that’s what it is,” grumbled the other “I’ve got better things to do than waste my time waiting for dillydallies.”
“Better to arrive late than dead on time,” retorted Petra “Oh, by the way this is Matthew, a newbie, and of course you already know Jamie and Adina.”
Neither seemed overly interested in my presence and confined their discussions solely to Petra. She gave some pre-signed documents to the guards and waited as they were checked for authenticity, then continued driving when the barrier arm rose.
The roadway twisted for about another half a kilometre then merged with another sealed road, which we travelled along for about five or so minutes before veering sharp left into gravel driveway.
Leaving the van where it was, we made our way through an unlocked farm-gate and across a lush pasture littered with a varying sized sheep and cow droppings. Petra’s long legs and rural upbringing made her difficult for a “soft townie” like me to keep up with and at times I got the feeling I was holding her up needlessly.
Jamie and Adina sped on ahead of us with energy to spare; sometimes running, other times roughhousing and occasionally double-dabble daring the Bardiff to come out and get them, whilst Travis was more content to assume the capacity of Tail-end Charlie. He walked sluggishly with sagging shoulders and hands firmly in the hip pockets of his jacket, showing little if any enthusiasm for the task ahead of him.
We came at last to a large roped off asphalt pad, approximately 100 meters long by 125 meters wide. In the middle of the pad was a vivid white circle with the letters FSHD within. Several other members of the commune were present; some with clip boards, others with trolleys; all looking eastward into the horizon expectantly.
“Riding in a helicopter,” sang Adina waiting impatiently for us to catch up. ”Blades going wokka, wokka, wooka! You can say it too,”
“Wokka, wokka, wooka” added Jamie, stretching her arms out and spinning round; slow at first then faster and faster “Charlie, Tango, Echo, Foxtrot, Poo-poo platter control about to take off.”
“Affirmative good buddy, you’re go for launch!”
“And “go for lunch!””
“Settle down and behave, or you’ll both get a timeout!” warned Petra, in a slightly out of breath tone.
Jamie abruptly ceased spinning and stumbled about in a giddy stupa until he finally lost balance; wincing as he landed hard on his butt.
“Are you alright?” asked Adina helping him back up.
“Rear crash landing,” he giggled, rubbing the seat of his jeans and doing his best to regain coordination.
“Serves you right,” teased Petra without sympathy.
Moments later there was a distant whirring. I looked up and saw what looked to be a helicopter making its way toward our general direction.