Excerpt from Kill Baxter by Charlie Human: A Lesson in Fighting from the Shadow Boer
No one cares that 16-year-old Baxter Zevcenko saved the world that other time, instead he gets shipped off to Hexpoort, a kind of reform school, where he butts heads with the school bully.
Random House Struik has shared an excerpt from Kill Baxter that takes a look at Hexpoort where boys like Baxter learn to fight with magic and fists alike. In the extract the Shadow Boer gives the boys a lesson on life and all the nasties out there:
It’s five weeks after I first stepped through the Hexpoort gates when the Shadow Boer takes us to a field within the school boundaries. In it is a paintball-splotched fake town complete with junked cars with what look like real bullet holes in them. A metal frame on the side of the field holds dozens of black punching bags swaying in the breeze.
The Boer stops us in front of the bags. ‘You are here to be learning Combatives, your real fokken education here at Hexpoort,’ he says, scratching his beard. ‘Listen here, mah sunshines. Mamma Nature, in her favouritest quest to fuck wif the human race, has given us this limp wet rag for a body and skopped us out into the world with beasts and monsters whose DNA has fokken being pumping iron at the evolution gym.’
He walks up and down in front of us, looking each one of us in the eye as he passes. ‘If a bookie looked at us, no claws, fangs, no scaly armour, the oke would have placed odds on us being knocked out in the opening rounds of our evolution. But we didn’t just survive, we fokken rocked the party, ek sê. We climbed to the top of the food chain wif a goddamn stone knife between our teeth.’ He waggles his thumbs. ‘Everyone say “thanks, thumbs”. The point, julle klein naaiers, is give up all sense of romance. Your stupid little spaghetti bodies are not well designed for kicking ass. Too many soft spots.’ He jabs a kid in the neck with his finger and the kid collapses in a heap on the ground. The Boer grabs him by the shirt, hauls him to his feet and pats him on the back.
’The only trick to fighting is to find the soft spots in your enemy and then stab, gouge, crush and bite them until the fokken thing stops moving. And then stamp on his head just to be sure. Any questions?’
One kid raises a trembling hand.
’Ja, you,’ the Boer says.
’Why do we have to learn fighting?’ the kid says. ‘Why can’t we just use magic?’
I grit my teeth and wait for him to get hit in the throat, but the Boer nods.
’The first rule, mah sunshines, is to keep the energy you have like you’re on the last bar of your cell-phone battery. Magic takes energy to use. If it’s easier to club something to the ground with a spade and then stomp on its head, then you do that rather. But the best is a combination of the two.’
He grabs the kid who asked the question. ‘Boom, flash spell to the eyes, grab him by the throat, headbutt. Nighty-night.’ He doesn’t hit the kid hard but he drops too. The Boer sighs, then leans down and pulls him back up to his feet.
’Ja, mah sunshines. Demons, elementals, Treskulls, Obayifo, Nahuda and a thousand other fokken nasties are out there, and these okes are really not nice. I’m going to teach you how to fight them with whatever you have. No offence, but those namby-pamby magic theorist bookworms might be teaching you all that “oooh, let’s get in touch wif our feelings” magic shit, but you meet a demon, they gonna fuck you up six–love if you try to get all philomasophical with them. We’ll do Musangwe boxing, Zulu stick fighting, Cape Flats knife fighting, and street-fighting magic. We’ll fokken do muay thai and you thai and everyone thai. We’ll do ju-jitsu, karate, kung-fok-you and every other fokken chop suey thing you can imagine. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll have a fighting chance against the terrible things that stalk the night, do you unnerstand me?’
’Yes, Boer,’ the class mumbles.
’No, you don’t. Do you fokken unnerstand me?’
’Yes, Boer,’ we shout.
’Ja, well you better. Now start punching those fokken bags.’
I put on a pair of dirty gloves and start hitting the bag half-heartedly. I’m really not in the mood for this.
’You!’ The Boer strides over to me. ‘You’re not giving it a fokken detoxifying face mask.’ He takes the bag between his thick hands and strokes. ‘Would you like a nice massage now, bag?’ he says in a falsetto voice. ‘How about some lekker chamomile tea?’ Then he steps back and hits it so hard that everyone flinches. ‘Ag, ja, sorry, bag. That’s not going to happen.’ He leans across so that his face is right next to mine. ‘Hit it!’ he shouts, so loud that my ears ring.
So I punch and continue punching. I hit the bag until my arms hurt. I picture everyone I hate: Anwar, Hekka, even Basson. My face is streaming with sweat, my T-shirt is soaked and I feel like my arms have been jolted from their sockets. The Boer looks at me with his dark eyes. ‘Better,’ he says with a nod. ‘Now kick.’