8-am-EST; Edge of the Little Sandy Desert, remote WA. Australia.
[That Brown-land – Down-under]
The daytime life here had been awake since the false-dawn several hours before. In that time they’d hunted, fed, drank, shat preened and cleaned themselves. Now, those early-birds were in a lethargic doze that only the temptation of an easy meal, or practical danger could disrupt. Their nocturnal neighbours were already deep in nest-rest, hiding from the glare and heat of the semi-desert environment after a night of hunter-gathering. Slowly, from out of the warming land an unnatural sound could be heard: a distant drone, muted at first but rising rapidly, it soon became a crunching eerie buzzing, growing ever louder ever closer, echoing erratically through the typically tranquil dry land. The sound grew and grew in volume and soon, a tell-tale dust cloud revealed its passage across the land.
Twenty-five metres above ground in the tallest tree around, the local Wedgetail Eagle mother cocked her head at the sound and rising dust-tower combination. Her senses said it was coming toward them. She leapt from her high perch and exploited a morning thermal to fly high enough to spot the oncoming possible threat to her three-month old chicks. A kilometre above Earth, her superior eyes picked out the shape within the dust. She fell through the sky back to her nest, landed gently and pushed and prodded the three chicks to follow her away to the nearby hills: a final lesson for her almost fully-grown babies, and for her own peace of mind at the oncoming people.
Shortly, a huge thundering metal monster came into view carrying its own dust-storm as it came upon their home. The monstrous beast slowed but was still growling an infernal roar that overshadowed the typical ambiance they’d were used to. It also carried a thick pungent smell that washed across the camp-area and caused each creature instinctively, to want to run from.
This area had been wonderfully bereft of any unfamiliar presence for over half a season. Already the usual comforting sounds of life were overshadowed by the new arrival’s explosion of movement and sound. Within moments of the vehicle stopping, the sunbaking lizards disappeared, while other desert-dwellers scuttled, slithered, crawled or flew away and peered out from hiding: some curious about this strange new thing that had invaded their homelands; some in trepidation of what such activity might mean.
People; A male and female stepped from the now-silent, foul-smelling invader and began unloading things; Lots and lots of things. A collective silent groan went through the local population. Camping-people such as these disturbed the natural flow of life here. For some here, it meant having to search a much wider range for food, while others were pushed out from their homes built within the camping area altogether; Forced to intrude into other’s territories; all of whom would fight viciously for their own territorial rights.
From these creature’s limited instinctive view, the monster-riding visitors also rode roughshod over the normal balances of life: their lives. Worse still – the males mostly – frequently killed the unwary for no reason but to kill something. Kill and laugh as any moving thing became a target for their wasteful slaughter. Men-people chuckling merrily as feared sand-Goanna clung grimly to a branch while they pointed their sticks up at it and fired and hit it again and again. King-Goanna wouldn’t fall however. He was locked-on past death. They would have to climb to get his body. They left him there; T’were easier to find something else to kill or explode to smithereens.
Most of the animals – including birds – had done so, or were moving to their nearest safe fall-back shelter and wouldn’t return until the ‘Ignorant’ departed. They had already scented the bitter drink being guzzled by the male of the pair – scent and actions that often preluded a maddened killer in their home. However, this land was older than all these creatures. It was older than People. Not merely old but truly ancient, and various creatures had always roamed its verdant skin. At this time and place these few alarmed dumb creatures were not the only eyes watching the arrivals…
Lynny and Ben
There was something in the evening air here that made Marylyn Shriver feel slightly uncomfortable. In fact – truth be known – she’d had the same uneasy feeling since they’d begun the hot busy work of setting up. Well, in fact, Marylyn had set up the camp while Ben checked out where he could start gold-hunting tomorrow. But Marylyn knew he just wanted to go off and shoot a few rounds through his new handgun. They carried two weapons: a hand-gun and a rifle; Just-in-case. They were a day and a half’s journey from real civilisation and any local help was probably half a day away. And there were some bad people ‘around the ridges’ of remote Australia, she knew well from her Police-force employment. People disappeared from remote locations annually in Australia, their remains found years later with no idea of when, or what caused their deaths.
Marylyn also knew, from training with her own regulation Glock-22 pistol that what Ben carried was basically a small cannon. The little handgun, a ‘Ruger, Super Redhawk Alaskan’ would stop a Grizzly bear in its tracks. Marylyn hadn’t even attempted to fire the thing. The kick-back could break a wrist if the person firing wasn’t careful and anyway, Ben wouldn’t let anyone touch his little ‘monster-stopper’, as he called it. Earlier today, Marylyn had already been feeling slightly nervous. She’d jerked in fright when she heard the tremendous bang as Ben fired. It actually sounded like a small cannon. Ben said he couldn’t help himself.
“Way out here in the middle of nowhere – should be able to put a few through her, no probs,” he’d said, as he strapped the holster around his waist and put the small lethal hand-gun – now fully-loaded – snugly into its holster. Her husband sauntered off along the ridge like a Cowboy John Wayne character, leaving Marylyn alone.
A long-serving Police-woman, Marylyn didn’t usually fall prey to childish fears, although even though it was daylight, she was not really feeling safe right here, right now, for some reason. It was only a trifling sense of unease, though the hairs on her neck and arms had stood up spontaneously several times while Ben was away. There was no practical reason for such thoughts, she knew. There hadn’t been a hint of another vehicle or person for the entire trip to this site, once they’d left the bitumen highway. And, there were no predatory animals in Australia that would have a go at one adult human, let alone two that were in good shape. Even a starving pack of Dingo-dogs would only attack the very weak and frail, if it was bigger than them.
However, after Ben returned and they’d sat to have a quiet beer with their Sunset-dinner, she’d still felt the strangest – and quite alien – feeling of eyes on them. Marylyn shook her head to kill the odd thoughts. Ben didn’t seem to notice anything strange. He was totally revved-up about using his new you-beaut metal-detector early in the morning, so Marylyn hadn’t mentioned her innate sense of ‘all not being well’ here. She didn’t want to spoil their holiday trip at the start.
It wasn’t a cool night, but as they ate the cold chicken and salad-rolls she’d prepared, Marylyn felt the same creeping sensation take hold. She shivered, noticeably, stopped eating and began eyeing the surrounding darkness outside their lamp’s light; a half-eaten roll midway to her mouth. It was mid-Queensland summer and still up around 30 degrees-C, well after sundown. But the skin on Marylyn’s forearms was covered in goosebumps. Ben paused in consuming his roll to look at her quizzically, unable to miss the slight trembling and the restless glances. He swallowed the huge bite he’d taken and looked at her quizzically.
“Hey? You okay love?” he asked before attacking the rest of his roll. He finished eating and searched her face for an answer. “Look like you’ve seen a ghost! Did ya see something? Out there?” he asked, looking around them. Receiving no response – Marylyn had no idea where to start – Ben laughed at her uneasiness. Grinning stupidly, he pulled the gun from its holster and waved it around them. “Don’t worry me dearest,” he said, full of ‘Dutch-courage’ bravado. “I’ll protect you from the big bad Bunyips in the dark. This thing will stop a bloody Vampire in its tracks. Silver bullets: like the Lone Ranger!” he said, waving it around at the surrounding trees and bush.
Ben had wanted to explore this area of the outback, and the old gold-mines here for quite a while. Luckily, they’d been able to organise their long-service leave together. Three blissful months of no work and travelling, maybe finding some gold was the plan and this, their first camp-site was definitely Outback. There was a dry creek bed running through red rock banks, and one cool clear water-hole close by to wash or cool down. And, there was the possibility of finding gold. There was a myriad of old gold-mine shafts throughout the surrounding land; especially in the slight ridgeline close by where more than 1000 ton of the dull rare material had been dragged out less than a hundred years ago. It wasn’t a good place to wander at night however. Even in the daylight you had to be careful, as the old shafts weren’t signposted and unobtrusive until you were on the lip looking down into darkness.
Across the table, Ben was pooh-poohing her uneasiness. He stood and swung the handgun around in jest. He’d had half a dozen beers since he returned from ‘scouting’, Marylyn knew. That would be almost a dozen since they’d arrived and it showed in his cavalier manner and speech.
“C’mon out, ye-ole-Bunyip bee-atch! Give my woman the willies, eh! I’ll put a couple of large lead-beans in ya arse if ya come round here lookin’ for trouble!” he called to the surrounding dark land, waving the gun around carelessly. “See!” he said, turning toward Marylyn with a brash grin as he returned the gun to its snug home and sat, looking across at her teasingly. “See me-dear!” he said more condescendingly. “There’s nothing …” he began, when an explosion of sound in the bush directly behind him spun him around and to his feet; Former Monster-killer gone! Marylyn noted, having sprung to her feet also.
Marylyn faced the disturbance directly: instantly petrified and unable to take her gaze from the sudden violent movement and noise. I knew there was something there! her frayed nerves and mind screamed. The straggly bushes and small trees in that area seemed to have come alive. With no wind to speak of, they were suddenly dancing like live wild things, attempting to throw limbs and leaves off and away at any cost. The portable table between them suddenly collapsed under their sudden, instinctive movement. Plates, bread, salad and drinks fell to the ground causing an extra instant jolt of fear.
The crack of limbs breaking and being hurled violently to the ground got Ben moving again. He pointed the gun that way just as the entire area exploded with fury, accompanied by an unholy racket. Mouth and eyes open wide, Ben fired the handgun blindly at the centre of the area but nothing happened! No recoil, no explosion, no shot. Confused, Ben brought the weapon up close to his eyes, but Marylyn guessed what had happened. Ben had forgotten to reload after the earlier shots. Realising that’s exactly what had happened, a red-faced Ben quickly re-loaded from the belt-holster, but before he could swing it back up – it was over. The trees and bushes stopped moving, the noise abated and an instant later the normal night sounds resumed. Ben began cursing as he glared at the area, then back at Marylyn.
“What the fuckin-fuck was that?” he shouted hoarsely, obviously startled out of his wits. Ben’s eyes were wild and wide and Marylyn guessed hers would be exactly the same. In the utter vacuum of normalcy, Marylyn’s Police training kicked in. “We, we need to um? Check um? We should ‘clear’ that area? Honey? Ben?” she suggested softly. Instead of answering, Ben threw his hands in the air, forgetting for a moment that he even had the handgun. He looked at it in surprise, and started shouting, waving the weapon around wildly.
“Fucking bullshit fucking stupid fucking desert!” he cursed angrily and fired a one-handed shot off at the affected area. The recoil threw his arm to the night sky. He brought it down, placed both hands on the weapon, holding it properly and pointed it at the area again. “Fucking mini-tornado freaky shit!” he cried and fired again. Swinging around to cover the area that scared them, Ben almost screamed his fear, anger and frustration out. “Fucking herd of fucking wild fuckin’ elephants stomping through the friggin’ outback?” he shouted, firing again and again until finally: “What the fuckin-fuck!” he cursed, pulling the trigger repeatedly on the empty weapon, now pointed at the sky as the echoes rolled away into the night.
Marylyn was transfixed, frozen by so much weirdness happening all at once. She stood absolutely immobile, hands still over her ears to protect them from the concussion of the powerful weapon being fired so closely. Ben would be bloody deaf, she thought. Then her husband shivered and seemed to come to his senses. He reloaded the gun, checked his torch was working and began to move toward the area that had gone haywire.
“Stay!” he called extra-loud because of his temporary deafness. “Get the rifle outa the truck, make sure it’s loaded, and stay near the truck!” he shouted, as she moved to follow. Marylyn moved like lightning. She snatched the rifle from behind the seat, pulled it from its carry-bag, checked the magazine was full and rammed it home. She levered a live-one into the breech, checked the safety and called softly to him; though stealth was useless after five cannon shots and Ben’s shouted curses, she assumed.
“Um, Ben?” she said hesitantly, then louder as she remembered he was deafened. “Ben! Ben! No! I’m uh, coming with you,” she said, moving around the mess of their dinner, now spread across the ground around the wonky folding table.
“I’ll carry the lantern,” she said, smiling nervously and holding it up. “So we can see more. Okay love?” she said, gesturing at the narrow torch-beam he was poking at the dark with: and not wanting to be left alone after that unholy kerfuffle! ran through her stunned mind.
Still shaken, Ben grunted something incomprehensible as he semi-crouched, peering into the darkness. When he moved, he moved warily, head, eyes and gun constantly moving, attempting to cover the entire 360-degree surrounds. He paused as he recalled his wife’s plea. His face darkened at her dissent.
“No! Fuck-it Lynny; you’re not listening! You fuckin’ stay here!” he said, speaking loudly to enable him to hear himself, while peering at where his torch-beam lit on. “If there is someone out there, we have to protect the truck; it’s our only way out of here,” he told her; still trying to see into the dark by the narrow torch-beam as he moved further toward the ‘shaken’ land.
Marylyn was so scared, she whisper-shouted, stopping his movement. Ben held the gun and the torch pointed out in front but turned his head to her unusual defiance. Marylyn was waiting and ready to stand up for herself. Bone-quaking fear overrode her usual timidity.
“No way Jose!” she hissed, moving toward him. “There’s no way I’m staying here by myself while you go off scared-shitless into the dark with a loaded cannon! Plus; I know you Ben,” she said, brows raised as she looked into his eyes. “If you see something, anything! You’ll go charging off into the freaking night, maybe fall into one of those old shafts, and leave me here by my-freaking-self!” she shout-whispered and continued breathlessly.
“After! After! Mind-you! Something bloody huge, tore up almost fifty square meters of bush, one-freaking-minute ago!” she threw at him. “Uh-uh!” she affirmed, shaking her head side to side emphatically. Before he could answer, Marylyn reinforced her declaration:
“No! No! No! Stop – right – there – mate! I’m coming right behind you; Probably up on your back if anything moves, and that’s it!” she said, moving toward him while her mind went crazy; I’ve seen all the Hollywood teen-horror movies! The poor girl left behind at the camp-site – while the stupid but brave men go off into the dark for help, or to hunt the crazed killer – is the first one killed! Well fuck that for a joke! Marylyn uncharacteristically cursed silently, as she glared at her husband and moved up close to look eye to eye.
“I’m coming dear, and the only way that isn’t going to happen is if you shoot me dead. Okay! Now move it compadre! Let’s have a look at the crime-scene, shall we?” she said, hoping the professional attitude might help them both.
Ben shrugged, turned and began moving again. Marylyn was instantly shadowing him so closely she could smell his sweat – and fear; and my own, no doubt! she guessed. The weight of the rifle was some comfort, but a, false comfort! If she had to shoot something that could tear up trees! Marylyn mused, holding the rifle in one hand and lantern in the other. The area was still quiet, all normal. Except, that as they got closer, they could see clouds of dust yet falling slowly back to ground. ‘Something’ had been there, and it had stirred up a lot of dust in the short violent explosion.
Marylyn moved even closer to Ben’s back, awkwardly holding the rifle out to one side and the lantern to the other for balance. At this moment – personally – Marylyn desperately needed a wary watch, on more area than Ben’s narrow torch-beam showed. To contribute the wider view, Marylyn was basically crabbing along beside Ben, trying to keep an eye on their backs, as well as anything untoward within the entire area ahead. As they got closer Marylyn could see the area looked like it had been hit by a mini-cyclone, or a bomb. Dead sticks, green leaves and broken branches were strewn about haphazardly over a huge area. Some of the trees were stripped bare of leaves. Several of the larger tree-trunks were ruptured lengthways from the unnatural – ‘Let’s twist again like we did last summer’ – ‘dancing’ movement; Their thick bark torn open and bleeding dust-covered sap.
It’s more than just eerie! Marylyn thought, bumping into Ben as she moved as close as possible, without climbing on his back. There had been no wind then; There was no wind now; Yet, there was no creature in the entire country that could do this type and amount of damage in such a short time. As if reading her mind, Ben spoke almost calmly, while searching around with the torch in one hand and the handgun in the other.
“Mini-tornado, I reckon,” Ben said, nodding his head and looking up at the sky as if to spot a weather-pattern that would support his theory. Unfortunately, it was a clear Queensland summer’s night-sky full of stars; not a cloud to be seen. But Marylyn wasn’t even listening to Ben’s comforting explanations. She was looking at the ground off to one side. She thought she saw what looked like huge claw-marks; not defined, but torn into the earth from the violent movement of something? Something big! Much bigger than them. Marylyn’s Spidey-sense jumped again and she reached out to touch Ben for comfort, speaking his name before touching, just in case.
“Ben? Ben? This is bloody scary, Ben,” she said, grabbing his arm for comfort, as they searched around. They’d moved away from sight of the camp and the damage made the dark bush around look totally alien by the meagre light they had. Marylyn moved even closer to her husband, and was about to point out the marks, when Ben propped and started laughing. It wasn’t a normal laugh by any means.
“Willy-willy, they call them out here,” he said knowledgably, as he looked around at the damage. “Gotta be! Couldn’t be anything else!” he said nodding, reassuring himself with a tangible cause. Marylyn wasn’t so sure. Those scuff marks were from something real; something that could do real damage to a very large area of bush very quickly. That, was no freakin’ Willy-willy, and that’s for goldarn sure! she thought, but kept her feelings to herself from habit.
Marylyn could see that Ben was spooked and totally out of his comfort zone. They Policed in a city. Illegal drugs, drunk-drivers, domestic-violence, low-life city-bred Crims. They’d never really been out in the Australian Outback before, let-alone camping in it. Ben had suggested the camping trip, having read a few adventurous articles on gold-prospecting; with some new ‘you-beaut’ tech for finding it. Knowing the pressure he’d been under at work recently, Marylyn had jumped at his new-found desire to explore and prospect – and, have some quality time alone.
And here they were; except, instead of relaxation, they were both on the knife’s edge of terror. Although Ben would never admit it to anyone – including himself, Marylyn thought nervously, looking around from behind his semi-crouched form. As if to confirm that thought, Ben stood straight. He looked around at Marylyn and laughed again, as he put his handgun away.
“Right then! I reckon it was a freak Willy-willy, that’s all love!” he said, shrugging at her, then turning to head back. Marylyn was instantly close behind him, trying to watch where she was placing her feet, while trying to see behind them as well. Ben was acting so casually that it shocked her to silence. When he turned and spoke again, he had a familiar glint in his eyes.
“Whatever it was it’s gone now Lynny,” he said, the improbable explosion of sight and sound, seemingly already forgotten. His next words reinforced the glint she’d seen.
“So then, we ah? May as well get some shut-eye; Or something? What say ye? Lynny-me-love?” he said, calling her his pet-name: eyebrows raised, and a hopeful leering look on his face, before he turned and headed for the camp.
Marylyn was simply flabbergasted. She spoke while walking close behind. “I saw claw marks Ben. At least I think they were some sort of claw, or large foot-prints – in the dirt back there,” she said finally, pointing with the rifle back to the area. “I think we should leave,” she said to his broad back. “It won’t take long to pack up, and our next camping area is only a few hours from here,” she said hopefully, not having the slightest desire to spend the night here after the day of uneasiness, and then that incredible unnatural explosion of whatever!
Ben headed straight to the cooler, popped another beer and threw himself into his chair. He looked at her sympathetically. “Lynny, my love, my darlin’, I think I might’ve noticed if there’d been footprints of any type there. I’m a fucking Detective for god’s sake! Trained to notice shit. I didn’t see anything that proved man or animal caused all that! It looked like whirlwind damage to me,” he said, chugging half a can, before continuing with a slight whine in his voice.
“Aw, c’mon Lynny,” he said, lighting a cigarette and sucking the smoke deep, before speaking. “You know I’ve been looking forward to this trip, and this spot in particular,” he said, in the little-boy voice he used when they argued.
“Besides,” he said stubbornly, “I’m not letting a little freak-wind scare me off so easily,” guzzling the rest of the tinnie. He crushed the can and lobbed the lump of metal across three meters straight into the small recycle bin Marylyn insisted on bringing.
“Ha! Swish!” he called, celebrating the shot and cutting off Marylyn’s response.
“Bloody wind is trying to keep us away from ole ‘Lassiter’s Reef’!” he said, grinning roguishly. “I’ll probably find the mother-lode tomorrow, and all our worries will be over,” he said, pulling out the bag of weed he’d brought for the holiday.
“Hey, c’mon Lynny? Let’s have a puff and get nasty, eh? What say ye – old hippy Policeman wife of mine? Take ourselves to our little comfy bed in the truck, eh?” he said, as Marylyn automatically began to pick up the mess from the collapsed table. Even as she tidied and cleaned, Marylyn’s newly-awakened Spidey-sense was furiously attempting to ‘feel’ out a kilometre or more radius around them: Someone has to stay alert! she thought, still frightened and more than a little angry.
Ben was oblivious. “You get that love – and I’ll, roll us a nice little ‘scooby-doo’ – to relax us, eh?” he said getting up to grab another beer from the esky, before sitting again and beginning the rolling process. “This is the best stuff too!” he explained and laughed again. “Got it from a ‘Bust’ last week, poor bastard! But we can’t have illegal drugs running rampant in society, now can we,” he said humorously, as he busied himself with the spliff.
Marylyn set the table back up, cleaned up the mess and then glanced toward the water-hole, before sitting down across from her husband of twelve years, as he lit the joint and sucked the smoke in.
“Ben,” Marylyn said, gaining his attention. “I’ve honestly got no idea how you could be horny after something like that!” she told him, and before he could swing the sad puppy-eyes her way, Marylyn continued. “To be honest, I’d rather leave this place right now love,” she said earnestly. “But if you’re determined to stay – and, well… we need a wash; both of us,” she told him. “We’ve been sweating all day and I’m, well? Feeling downright grimy,” she said, glancing toward the water-hole, in the opposite direction to where the action occurred.
“Yeah well, ah? Okay then,” Ben said, a little deflated though resigned to Lynny’s reasoning.
“Tell yer what!” he said, brightening. “I’ll point the car that way, use the headlights while we wash – and, I may as well have a look around with the spotty too, eh? Should keep any ah … animals, away too. They don’t like bright light – unnatural!” he said effusively, the joint working on him quickly in conjunction with the beers. He took another deep toke on the joint, handed it to Marylyn and moved off toward the truck.
While Ben turned the truck around, Marylyn grabbed her toiletries and a towel and sat with the joint: that had now gone out. Lynny was notorious for letting the joint go out. She found a lighter in the ‘cooking-utensils’ box, lit it, took a small puff and wondered what the hell they were still doing here? She could see Ben’s figure standing on the roof of their truck, shining the spotlight around them. He’d turned the truck so the lights were shining at the water-hole and he’d left it running, so the big V-8 engine’s slow throb was echoing around them. The sound was comforting and Marylyn began to relax a little.
The adrenaline rush was gone, replaced by exhausted weariness. In fact, Marylyn felt like she could sleep for a week; Just not here tonight. Sex was the last thing she needed or wanted really, especially while something was all kinds of wrong here. Ben seemed to be treating it as ‘all in a day’s work’, but Marylyn knew; Sensed, something quite inexplicable was happening. She looked down to see she’d allowed the joint to go out again when a strange sound – a ragged voice? Dragged her from her introspective daze.
Back at the area that had come ‘alive’, movement and a noise had her ears, eyes, nose and all the sensitive hairs on her body standing to full attention; once more. It was a voice – of sorts – and, there was something there. Marylyn could see the dark outline of … something?
Just then, Ben turned the truck off, but left the headlights on. The silence was loud. Marylyn caught a movement and what sounded like a warning, from an inhuman throat:
“Washout-Lynny!”, it sounded like; Then the shape and voice were gone. Marylyn almost died of fright when Ben touched her shoulder a moment later. She hadn’t heard him come up, being so focussed on the shape and voice. “Shit! Don’t do that Ben!” she almost screamed, leaping up and knocking the table aside.
“Sorry!” Ben said, hands out and up. “Just wanted to tell you I didn’t see anything. I think we’ll be right,” he said, glancing toward the water-hole. “You wanna wash still?” he asked, noting the shock on her face. “You-okay? Lynny?” he queried. Marylyn tried not to look back at the area, but she couldn’t help herself. Ben followed her gaze and grinned.
“Still thinking about that freak Willy-willy love?” he said, so casually that Marylyn wanted to scream. Instead, she grabbed her toilet-bag and towel and moved toward the water-hole. Ben spotted the joint lying on a tin-lid ashtray on the table. “Better not waste this prime shit,” he murmured, lighting it and following Marylyn’s form lit by the truck headlights.
At the water-hole Marylyn made Ben stand watch as she pulled off her sweat-stained clothes and underwear and waded into the shallow water just off the bank. She washed herself thoroughly and quickly; senses yet straining for any discrepancy in the natural ambience in the night around them, while Ben finished the joint and made wolf-whistles at her naked body.
“So? What’s me chances then, Lynny?” he asked, pulling off his own clothes and leering at her as she dressed in clean underwear, shorts and t-shirt. He handed the gun in its holster to her before he walked into the water naked. “Just hold it. Don’t shoot it, or me my love,” he said and fell backward into the water and disappeared beneath it. He came to the surface mid-hole, standing neck-deep in the dark water and called to her.
“Hey! It’s nice Lynny, why don’t you come in?” Then unexpectedly, he screamed like a teenage girl, leapt into the air and thrashed back toward the bank where Marylyn waited.
“Fuck! Somethin fuckin’ touched me out there,” he said, looking around at the still dark water where nothing moved.
“Wrapped around me fucking leg! Swear to god!” he exclaimed, snatching the gun and holster from her. He was naked and shaking as he pulled the gun out and put several shots into the waterhole.
“Fuck you! And fuck this fuckin’ place!” he added to the echoes rolling away from them once more tonight. Marylyn looked at her husband’s left leg and saw several red marks snaking around his calf and thigh. No wonder he’d reacted like he did! He wasn’t imagining it. Marylyn thought and; Just another reason to leave this place before something really bad happened to one or the other of them, she continued the thought, watching Ben watching the water’s surface as he dressed more quickly than she’d ever seen before.
“So? We’re leaving? Ben? Yeah?” Marylyn said hopefully, as they moved back toward their camp and vehicle. Ben was walking and rubbing at his leg and thigh where ‘something’ had touched or grabbed him in the small waterhole. Suddenly Ben stopped and propped, standing stiffly. He spoke angrily; although not exactly at Marylyn.
“Fuck’s-sake! Look! I just want one decent freakin’ day here! Is that too much to bloody ask?” he shouted at the sky before propping, to prove the terrible fright he’d had was from something real; Not imagined. He lifted the long-shorts he’d changed into and bent the leg toward his wife.
“Look! See!” he said, shining the torch on the marks on his leg. When she bent to look, Ben used the chance to apologise for scaring the pants off her. Poor old Lynny was scared enough, without him screaming like a girl at a bloody freshwater eel! Still, he mused. It was dark and, I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a lonely amorous fuckin’ Eel, way out here!’ he thought, and laughed to himself before he tried to put things right. Won’t get a leg over, if I don’t try to calm her down either. There is that, Ben mused.
“Geez! Look! I’m sorry Lynny,” he said, as she crouched to see the marks better in the lantern’s light. “Musta been a big freshwater eel,” he said, chuckling at his terror as she touched the skin. “Does it hurt when I touch it?” she queried, looking up his face from her squatting position. “Nah! I’m right now,” he said, looking severely embarrassed. He put a hand on the top of her head.
“Fucking eel wasn’t as big as my eel but, was it love?” he said, suddenly putting pressure on her head to move closer to his obvious swelling crotch. “Um? While you’re down there Lynny?” he said nonchalantly, and made light of it when Marylyn pulled back and stood to face him. “Bad joke-my bad!”, he said, running the words together. Lynny’s face said it all.
“For god’s sake Ben!” she said. Looking up at his 1.82 metre height from her mere 1.6 metre purview, Marylyn felt extra small, confused, and felt some growing anger at Ben’s refusal to even acknowledge the eerie events that had transpired since they’d arrived here. Her fists were clenched by her side as she spoke, looking up to him.
“Was there Viagra in that joint? If there was, it didn’t bloody work on me, over being scared shitless!” she said forcefully. “Or was it in the carton of beers you’ve had since midday? Or did you swallow some stupid-pills that you took from some idiot dealer you guys busted? Or what Ben!” she queried, pulling him with her as she moved quickly toward the lights on the truck. Ben grumbled but moved up beside her until they reached the camp, where he swerved off to turn off the headlights, head down and sulking.
Meanwhile, Marylyn put the rifle on the table where it would be handy and dug out the stronger stuff, to pour herself a good stiff shot. If ever there was a right time! she thought wearily. She swallowed two large nips straight – before Ben returned – which calmed her nerves a tad, though she couldn’t help but peer over at the dark area where the ruckus occurred. Ben had yet another beer when he returned.
He looked refreshed. His hair was even combed, and he smelled of the overly-expensive after-shave she’d bought him for his last birthday. OMG! Marylyn thought, exasperated. The SOB is still trying it on! She couldn’t understand her husband’s insistence on sex; Tonight! Here! Why in god’s name can’t he understand that I would be afraid to even close my eyes here tonight? The thought of ‘something’, being around in the dark out here is just far too spooky to relax enough to open my legs for my drunk, stoned husband, Marylyn thought, but couldn’t say.
“It wasn’t an eel either,” she said quietly but confidently, as Ben stood beside his chair at the table with her and joined her in a chaser. He threw a two-shot down straight and guffawed before answering.
“Oh, no? Well! Newsflash dearest, but native fish and freshwater crawchies don’t grow big enough to wrap themselves around me leg; that’s a freakin’ known fact,” he said, falling morosely into a camp-chair at the table; this incredible day finally having worn even Ben’s well-known vigour to dust. Tonight, Marylyn wouldn’t let it go however.
“An eel that big, wrapping itself around your leg would leave mucus from its skin on you somewhere; And that’s a known fact as well, me-dear,” she said, suddenly weary of the day, Ben, and of being afraid. “It wouldn’t leave marks either,” she told him. “Their skin is soft; soft and slimy from the mucus that protects them from well, diseases and stuff,” she told him. She knew that from her diving days on the GBR. “All eels had the slime, be they fresh or saltwater,” the Reef Guide had explained pre-dive, while answering a question about Moray Eels.
“So does this mean no root then?” Ben said with a cheeky grin. Marylyn grinned an obligatory but weary smile back and spoke slowly.
“The only way you’ll get your leg over this little wifey tonight, is if we pack up and leave here, like right now, my darling Benny-boy,” she said and yawned wide. For some reason though, Ben wouldn’t let it go: the hopeful boyish grin was gone; replaced with what could be observed as a sneer, if I didn’t know better, Marylyn thought, looking back at her husband a little warily. His entire visage had changed. The look on Ben’s face was almost feral. “Ben! You’re scaring me,” she said, unconsciously rising to move back; away from her angry, large-sized husband.
“That’s your trouble,” another suddenly-alien Ben spat, rocketing to his feet and knocking his chair back and over. He kicked backward angrily, whacking the chair away as he towered over her across the table. His face was beet-red and his entire large body was trembling with something akin to rage. “You only think of yourself, Lynny. It’s really fucked up … and … someday … one day,” her long-time lover, husband and friend stuttered, “it’s gonna get you into real trouble if you’re not careful,” Ben – the-flint-eyed-stranger – said coldly, a hand unconsciously straying to the pistol’s butt.
Marylyn went blank: mind, body and soul. This wasn’t her Benny-boy. This was the hard-nosed City Detective putting the fear of God into some ‘street-scum’, as he and his Detective mates termed the hardcases they met daily. But then the cold stranger disappeared, just as quickly and magically as the shape she’d seen in the dark before. Ben shrugged those huge shoulders, looked at her with shock that he’d allowed such an emotional outburst air, and quickly moved to reseat his chair at the table. He plonked himself into it so hard, a ripping sound came from the camp-chair somewhere. Ben ignored the sound. He leant back, placed his big hands on the table gripping each other firmly and looked at her ashamedly.
“Fuck! Fuck! I’m sorry Lynny. Don’t know what came over me?” he said miserably. “You’re right love. I’ve imbibed a few too many beers and drugs – shouldn’t-a mixed em up, that’s all. Making me mind play tricks or something,” he said, peering at her hopefully. Marylyn’s response was to pour another shot, drink it in one hit, grab the rifle and move wearily toward the truck, and bed, leaving Ben at the table finishing his final beer of the day…
And in that sombre mood, the drained, drunk, stoned and emotionally-exhausted couple finally moved to the truck, and the King-sized bed inside the covered tray; Custom-built in to accommodate Ben’s large frame. By now, Marylyn was so exhausted and, more than slightly drunk from the straight shots of spirits – that by the time her head hit her pillow, she didn’t care who or what might be prowling the area. She was unconscious by the time Ben came to bed…
Marylyn was dragged from the exhausted state sometime later by Ben’s large naked body – and his relatively-sized erect hot penis – rubbing against her now – also-naked body?
“Hmm? Wha? Ben? Get-off-me! Wha…? How did I get nak… where-are-my-clothes?” she mumbled, dredging up words – when Ben suddenly pushed open her legs with his own, felt down between her thighs with a hand, found her cleft and drove his erect penis deep into her. Marylyn was groggy, confused and dry, and it hurt. Ben was huge and Marylyn could feel it actually throbbing inside her; As if he was so excited his large cock was spasming uncontrollably. The pain dragged her fully conscious and she struggled vainly.
“Ugh! No! Ben! Stop! You’re hurting me! Ben!” she said, trying to struggle him off her. It was useless, Ben outweighed her by a ton. Her husband’s groaned answer was to lift himself off her for a moment, spit on his fingers, force the hand between their bodies to lubricate her. Then he forced his penis into her again. With another groan of accomplishment, he began to piston his thighs, driving his full length in and out; shaking the heavy truck with the violence of his thrusts.
At least – Marylyn thought it was his violent movements. But then, the truck suddenly lifted up on one side and banged back down, bouncing on the wheels and hurling Ben off to slam into the side of the tray. The ‘stranger’ in her bed yelped like a pup, before turning on the light to find his weapon. He found it, checked the load, unlocked the rear swing doors and leapt naked into the night swinging the gun and his stiff member around crazily. A triple-stunned wide-awake Marylyn found her discarded knickers and t-shirt, put them on and crawled to the opening.
In the light of the trillion bright stars above, Marylyn could make out the agitated form of her Ben, strutting around the campsite, armed, bare-ass naked and dangerous. His large Peter, now hung limp and swung around with every jerky movement. Marylyn had to stifle a laugh at the slap-stick comedy routine she saw; Even though it was serious. He was holding the gun in two hands and whirling to cover every imagined enemy. Though at least he hadn’t fired as yet in panic, she thought, relieved for that small mercy. Marylyn found her own torch, which she kept beside her pillow for nighttime trips to do a wee. Once again, Marylyn took the rifle out from its usual place at the top of the bed, when they were sleeping. She rechecked the mag and safety and, keeping a wary eye on Ben’s antics – and where he pointed the gun, Marylyn climbed slowly out of the tray, using the heavy tow-bar as a step.
She looked around the area, but could see nothing untoward. Out of place. Although the trees, rocks and bushes all seemed to be dangerously alive to her right now. She moved around to shine the torchlight on where ‘something’, would have stood to lift the heavy truck like that; as impossible as that seemed, Marylyn couldn’t stop herself from looking. Sure enough, there was similar torn earth to the ‘claw-marks’ she’d seen earlier, over where the trees had come to life and attempted to destroy themselves. Looking further along to their truck’s body-panels, Marylyn discovered the back-wheel panel on that side, above the torn earth was bent; deformed a little. It was right where a friggin’ giant might grab hold, to attempt to lift the truck off its wheels. It hasn’t hurt us, she thought curiously, glancing around as Ben staggered back, looking angry and, not the least shamed by his earlier actions.
“Someone’s been playing a trick on us, I reckon, love,” he said, causing Marylyn’s eyes to almost roll out of their sockets. He stood in front of her naked, and even now – obviously proud of his stature, by the look in his eyes – the gun in his hand hung limply by his side, like his shrivelled cock. He lifted the gun to his head, using the barrel to scratch, as he did with a hand, when something eluded him.
“That’s the only thing that makes any bloody sense? Lynny? What do ya reckon love?” he asked seriously: as if nothing had happened in the dark, in the tray-bed, before this new weird ‘event’, that had stopped him in his tracks. Lynny ignored his idiotic comment. Didn’t tell him about the marks she’d found next to the truck. She stood to her full height and looked him in the eye; even the thought of a Giant shadow monster thing watching, forgotten in her fury, and shame.
“You do remember that No! Means No!”, don’t you Ben?” she said, using one hand to gesture quotation marks for the well-known phrase. Her other hand held the rifle loosely at her side and strangely, Marylyn was glad for its comfort. In fact, it was hard not to lift it, point and shoot him in the foot, or somewhere more relevant to his recent actions; though she would never do it, she knew well. Her dander was up sky-high however, and it opened her mouth and shot off its own bullets.
“I’m starting to think I might be better off with our local tree-smashing, truck-lifting, invisible voyeur, than with my husband of many years! Why is that, Ben? What in god’s name is going on with you?” she quizzed. Then: “Do – not – roll-your-eyes at me! Matey!” she spat, when he did just that. Marylyn had to force her arm down to stop the rifle rising to point at him. She suddenly had an epiphany about her work with domestic violence ‘accidents’, in the heat of a raging argument, while holding a weapon that could hurt the other opponent. Marylyn shook her head to clear it. She took a deep breath and another and another, lowering the rifle toward the ground before speaking.
“Ben? My ‘little sooky-boy’,” she said, using a pet name trying to gain his full and undivided attention to what she was saying. “Like? Hello!” she said flatly.
“I was bloody unconscious from today’s shit-storm of a day and woken roughly to being used like a sex-doll. You were raping me. Me! Lynny, Marylyn, your wife! I could hardly breathe, let-a-alone speak or scream Ben! I thought I might die under you and you wouldn’t even guess until you got your freaking rocks off. So do not roll your eyes at me as if I was some drunk vacuous loose moral-ed slut. You actually forced yourself on me Ben. It hurt, and you knew I didn’t want to. I’d made that pretty clear ever since all this weird shit began today. Right here!” she yelled, throwing her hands out to encompass the entire area. Then, a powerful mix of habit, love and confusion allowed her voice to relent a little.
“Ben my love, I need to know, and I need to know right now; This instant, Ben,” she told him, putting every ounce of her scant size and pussy-power into her voice; if that’s what it takes! she thought angrily. Ben didn’t look up as he spat a few words at the ground.
“Nothing… Everything!” he said morosely, even kicking barefoot at the dirt in frustration like a sulky child. “Ahhh! Fuck it anyway!” he cursed roundly, putting the gun back in its holster, while glaring at the ground. “I’m going to sleep in the cabin tonight. Any fucking thing at all comes anywhere near us, I’ll blow its fuckin’ head off and shit in the stump. Ya-hear-that!” he screamed. “Fuck! You!” he shouted at the landscape. He moved to their tray-bed to grab his clothes, and still couldn’t, or wouldn’t, meet her eye. Marylyn waited, depressed and confused, hoping for some answer – a response that would clear everything up – but Ben was silent and angry. He grabbed his clothes and was outside dressing as Marylyn climbed back into the tray-bed; her questions unanswered. ‘I wonder if he’s taken something? I know many of his Tec mates use confiscated property now and then,’ she mused, suddenly frustrated at almost everything.
She put her Nike swoosh suit on under her old-faithful jeans and nightshirt, suddenly needing the comfort of a firm covering on her bare skin; And, in case she had to get up quickly yet again during what was left of the night. A seriously disturbed Marylyn lay down, the rifle close by her side and the cabin-light on. She stared at the roof above her head as she tried to assimilate the day’s events leading to this awful state of affairs. She heard the cabin door open and felt the truck shift as Ben got in and moved things around to lie on the bench seat.
Being so tall, Ben’s feet would normally be sticking out the open window, although she heard the front windows being raised to closed tonight. I wouldn’t be leaving my feet out tonight either! Marylyn mused, staring at, but not seeing the white ceiling above her head.
Apart from a few nightbird calls, the area around them was quiet. Musing on her husband’s abrupt change of behaviour, and the unknown thing that had made its presence felt in no uncertain fashion, utter weariness began to claim her once more. As she began to follow the Sandman into blessed sleep, the vehicle began to rock ever-so-slightly, once again. It was nothing like before, nothing violent, but it was joined by quiet groans. Marylyn realised that after everything that had happened, her husband was relieving his ‘unfinished business’. It was over quickly, but unmistakable in its sounds and movements, as if Ben wanted her to know, or just didn’t care that she heard him. She couldn’t help it. Marylyn turned over and cried softly into her pillow.
She finally drifted off from sheer mental exhaustion, leaving the light on and with one arm draped across the rifle. It was a troubled respite, filled with disturbing dreams of a gigantic mishappen shadow peering through the truck’s windows. But even more disturbing, was the awful dream of herself trapped in a pitch-black jail-cell, with Ben’s twisted, hate-filled face staring down triumphantly from a bright circle of light…
A loud gunshot woke her from a deep sleep that had finally grabbed her and taken her to real rest in the early morning. Marylyn leapt from sleep to wide-awake in a few blurred moments. She crawled to the swing doors, opened them, to see Ben fully dressed and peering at something – in the area that had scared them so badly earlier last night. The sun hadn’t quite risen yet.
“Thought I saw something creeping around over there… Sorry! I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said astonishingly to her head poking out of the back of the truck. “It wasn’t you,” she said a tad sarcastically. “It was the cannon shot from a war-zone some-where,” she said, moving to dress. Marylyn threw a t-shirt over the Nike-swoosh bodysuit she wore under the loose nightshirt and climbed out from their tray-bed, to echoes of the shot dwindling outward across the land. Ben came closer, smiling hopefully, though the shadows of the previous night’s events were in his eyes, belying his manner.
“Hey!” he called almost merrily. “I found a really great spot yesterday. Need to show you where I’ll be ‘working’, he said, gesturing with both hands, the V-for-victory sign. “Just in case – you-know? Buddy-system and all that. Let’s check it out before breakfast, eh?” he said to her stony face.
“Are we going to talk about what happened last night Ben?” she asked, leaning back against the truck to emphasise her need to talk, before moving anywhere. Ben came closer, reached out slowly and put his arms around her, slowly bringing their bodies together. Marylyn was stiff. Silent. Waiting for his explanation before even thinking of giving anything back.
“You were right Lynny,” he said to the top of her head, his voice breaking while his large body now held her against the truck; although extremely gently this time. Marylyn felt moisture on her hair and face and realised Ben was crying as he spoke. Her defences began to crumble.
“I had a few.. ah… several tabs we took off a street-dealer. Just to take the edge off, you-know? And start the holidays with a bit of something different. Stupid really, in hindsight love. I think they were high-end Speed; maybe fairly pure Ice. Someone did mention ‘China-girl’… ah? Fentanyl too, but I thought they were joking or bragging,” he said, which actually explained a lot. Marylyn had seen the effects of those street drugs in much of her inner-city Police-work. Ben’s frantic extraordinary actions were right in line with that powerful drug’s effects.
“I shouldn’t have mixed them all. Gawd! What an idiot! Ya’ think I’d know from practical experience? Seeing it with my own eyes. But; I’m tired from the work, Lynny. It’s soul-destroying. Day-in day-out having to deal with sneaky lying scum on the one side and the Law we’re s’posed to uphold… that seems to be so full of justice for all, that all the crims we catch get, is a slap and tickle rather than punished,” he said softly. That sentence telling her more about his feelings and work stress than he had in their entire married life so far.
Marylyn’s resolve melted a little more, although his next admission brought a mote of dread to her heart.
“I… Some of the… Lynny… ah?” he faltered, trying to find the right words. Marylyn almost reacted with: ‘Use your words, honey; Use your words’, a standing joke with them after hearing her sister encourage her eighteen-month-old, to ‘use her words’ to help mum understand exactly what she wanted or needed. But under the circumstances, no! Marylyn mused, relaxing a little against his body as his words finally came out, although stilted and nervously.
“To be honest, it… it would be easy to get into some of the um, bad habits that some of the other ‘Tecs’ are into for the same reasons – our work means nothing, so why not make some money on the inside knowledge we have from working with the filth,” he said, his voice sounding flat as it bounced from the truck’s glass window behind her. ‘Tecs’ were what his Detective mates called each other; she knew.
“Ben? Have you done something? Got… us, into trouble? Ben?” Marylyn asked quietly into his chest. She pulled back and looked up at him. “Is that what’s worrying you so badly? Enough to take street drugs that could have anything in them!” she asked, looking up at the man she’d married and made a life with. Hoping he’d laugh and tell her: ‘of course not!’. But Ben looked away. He moved away, hands hanging loosely by his side.
“Nah! No! We’re all good. It’s okay love,” he said unconvincingly, still not looking at her eye to eye.
“Ben? … If there’s…” Marylyn began, when he interrupted, with a chirpiness that had to be fake. “Hey! C’mon! Let’s check out this spot. Fuck work. Fuck the drugs. Fuck the beers. Get some shoes on. I’m feelin’ lucky girl. There’s gold in them-thar hills,” he said in an American drawl, as he turned away and grabbed a water-bottle to take with them.
Marylyn grabbed her old joggers. While she was tightening the shoes Velcro straps, she glanced across at her husband and sighed. She was resigned to the half-truths, and hopeful he’d tell her more later. She rinsed her mouth with mouthwash instead of cleaning her teeth. Even though her mouth felt like an ashtray, Marylyn didn’t wish to hold Ben up any longer. She grabbed her cap and moved off with him, carrying the new you-beaut gold-finder for him as they moved toward the ridgeline.
“How far is it?” she asked, as they picked their way uphill through the red-rocks. “Not far, just over this ridge,” Ben told her, moving quickly over the uneven ground. At the top, a lovely light wind was blowing. Marylyn stopped for a moment to savour the coolness and the wild scents of the surrounding lands it carried, as Ben got his bearings and literally ran down the rocky slope toward a pile of, what looked like a manmade heap of rocks at the bottom. It seemed Ben had caught gold-fever.
“Washout-Mara-lynny,” she heard again faintly on the wind. Marylyn searched around from the top of the ridge and there again, was the merest hint of a large moving shadow in the briefly, supernaturally-live area. The faint voice came again, restating the; ‘washout’ warning and causing Marylyn to shiver instinctively at the …powerful-unknown, she sensed there. Her trance was broken by Ben, calling.
“Hey! Lynny! Bring the metal-detector down, love. I’ll start while it’s still cool, eh,” he told her, searching around the area like a drug-detecting Beagle on a mission, though Marylyn was fairly sure Ben wouldn’t know what raw gold looked like if it landed on his head.
Still! Let him use his new toy, maybe it’ll help calm him down at least, she thought as she picked a path downhill toward him. A final word of warning from lips unused to talking, pushed at her as she began the downhill walk. ‘Washout, washout, washout’, it echoed and faded as she moved down toward Ben, who obviously hadn’t heard it, or he’d have been over there killing yet more trees and shrubs, she thought. Ben seemed more than a little over-excited, considering he hadn’t even begun looking as yet. And, he was tense, but trying to cover it with child-like excitement, Marylyn saw. She knew him well enough to see through his act, yet still couldn’t fathom why?
“See! This area was worked, but not for too long by the looks of the rock-piles,” Ben expounded. “Most of the others have huge mounds of rocks around them. That means I’ve probably got more chance of finding something around here, I reckon. What do you think, Lynny?” he said, taking the detector from her and setting it up to work.
Marylyn had a quick check around the area; just in case there was a great big gold nugget laying around; not that I’m any better at recognising the real-deal in its raw state either, she mused drolly. Then she saw the semi-camouflaged lip of an old mine-shaft, close-by where Ben was starting from, though Marylyn hadn’t noticed it until she’d got closer. She moved toward it; unable to stop the instinctive need to look down into its maw. Ben was awaiting an answer.
“My darling Benny-boy,” she called him to soften the blow. “Hate to throw a wet-blanket over your reasoning, love. But perhaps there was just more gold at those other diggings?” she suggested reasonably. She’d reached as close as she was game to go to the edge and was stretching her neck out to see more, when she heard Ben’s heavy footsteps rushing toward her. Marylyn spun to see what was wrong, looking around feverishly to see what had got Ben moving, when she felt a solid bump, and then she was falling backward through the air…
Marylyn didn’t have the breath or time to scream as she plummeted down and down into stark-naked terror; then everything went black…
Her confused mind dragged her up from some deep, dark place with questions: It’s night-time again? Where am I? I can’t move! Is that water I can smell? No! It’s mud! Slushy mud, like when I was a little girl and made mud-cakes for my pretend oven – it was the same smell, she thought, unable to fathom the what, where, when, or how of her sudden change from a morning stroll, to this blindly-bizarre, dreamlike environment.
Wait! she thought, a memory resurfacing. I was talking to Ben, and something happened and … I fell! I fell backwards over the lip. Shit! I fell into the freaking mine-shaft? I must be hurt! Am I dying? Dead? Marylyn thought quickly, but then another thought rose. Wait! There’s no pain! If I broke things, I should be in pain; surely! she reasoned. Then, she began to distinguish blurred light – a circle of light. The awful dream rushed back, but Marylyn pushed it away. It was too fantastic for words.
Suddenly, Marylyn realised she could hear a faint voice coming from high above, though it was muted for some reason. My ears are blocked with something, she realised. Without thinking, she automatically moved her arm to clear whatever was there. But she found her hand was weirdly heavy. She put a bit more effort into lifting it, waiting for the pain to hit, but there was none and it kept moving, though slow-motion slowly. Then it abruptly jerked up, as if it had been superglued to the earth. She immediately went to wipe around her ears and felt a sticky wet substance over them, over her face and neck and all over the hand she was using to wipe it off.
She wiped the gunk, as best she could one-handed, on the inside of her t-shirt and stuck a little-finger in each ear to get what she could out. Her hearing returned partially; enough now to recognise the voice from above. It wasn’t God’s voice.
It was Ben’s voice coming down from above – talking to her; Not shouting. Not even panicked. Not telling her that help would be here soon. He sounded … relieved, if anything, Marylyn thought, and wanted to cry. She used her free hand to help free the other arm and once freed, both hands automatically went to her eyes. They too were covered in the gunk, as was her entire face, she found. She used the inside of her t-shirt again to clean the other hand of the sticky semi-solid mess, and using two hands, cleared most of her face and eyes. And, abruptly, Marylyn could see and hear; Not well, but enough. And she suddenly wished fervently that she couldn’t see or hear; and, that time could go backward – just for an hour or so, to stop the awful litany of hate that was pouring down on her from her over-worked Detective husband; From Ben…
The truth shall set some of us free
“…so you see Lynny,” the calm familiar voice was explaining. “I didn’t have a choice. You didn’t allow me a choice, as usual!” Ben said in his little boy’s voice, absolving himself and breaking everything inside her she held dear about them. A sneer entered his voice.
“And look where you’re straight-arrow conscience… Oh-yeah! Let’s not forget your fucking straight-arrow prudishness about sex – has got you now,” he said and giggled. “I asked you about taking a few risks to get ahead… Well, I hinted at it anyway, but you were too stupid, too fuckin’ ignorant. Too wrapped up in your own little world where you were the boss between us – using that precious little pussy to keep me in line in bed. Oh yeah! And, such a shining light for women in the Force. All the Brass love Marylyn! Well you poor dead cunt. Get this! I’m going to be rich. Filthy rich! Bitch! And you’re still going to be dead,” he said and laughed.
At the bottom of the shaft, very much alive, in no pain as such: not dead, or dying, an innate self-preservation switch clicked on in answer to the callous soliloquy floating down to her. A cold reasoning mind took over her body. It struggled and twisted and turned her body, until her head was facing upward. She hadn’t realised she wasn’t facing up. It was pitch-black here. Her hands rubbed viciously against her jeans – still no pain, this new calculating mind explained – until the clinging gunk was just a thin skin on her hands, then they rubbed the film from her face and eyelids. Marylyn couldn’t see anything at all around her, but she realised now that her small body was half-buried in what smelled, tasted and felt like, mud! Glorious, thick, soft, mud.
Being able to tell up from down brought a massive sense of relief. The circle of light meant that was up. And up there, a nightmare come to life some distance above, was a bright circle of light – and, the dark outline of Ben’s head and shoulders as he spat his last words at her ‘body’. At least I can’t see his freaking face like in the dream, Marylyn thought a little crazily. Another calculated thought caused her to move – slowly, without making any noise – it told her. She took her t-shirt off, turned it inside-out and used it to wipe the mud from her face and around her ears, though it didn’t make what she heard or could now see, any better at all.
Up on the surface, Ben loosed an infantile giggle as he continued. “God! I wanted to fuck you so bad last night! A final fuck for old-time’s sake and; So I could remember being between your tight-arse legs for the very last time. Oh yeah! Nearly forgot! This’ll get ya Lynny!” he said and guffawed. “Don’t you worry your little thick head about my being lonely either, my unlucky poor love who had a terrible accident while camping with her shattered, distraught husband,” he said and hooted. “The woman I’m doing the dirty with now just loves my kinky nature; ‘the more the fucking merrier’, she says, and we both mean that literally, ole straight-as-a-die Lynny!” he said cruelly.
The new cold analytical aspect of Marylyn’s mind forced her back against the rough wall, so she was sitting, looking up – and even that small mercy sent hope thrilling through her. Above, in the circle of light, her murdering rapist husband’s shape continued his deathbed diatribe.
“And, I fucking love sharing her, Lynny; Watching her fucked by other men,” he said, sounding eerily lewd even now. “I hinted to you about that too, you know? Gave you every chance. All the other men wanted to have a go at you, but no, not our Lynny! What did you do! You laughed and said it was a ‘great joke’ Ben, and – how long before I was ready to go to visit your stupid fucking sister! That was your prim and proper answer. Well now I got rid of your strait-laced selfish-bitch self. I got the money, the right little slut to use at will, and; Everyone, will be consoling me for the terrible accident that took our bright, happy, ‘lights-up-the-fucking-room,’ Lynny fucking Shriver away… Well fuck you and goodbye, ya stupid tight-arsed bitch!” he threw at her supposed body. The shadow above disappeared, but the voice continued.
“I’ve already made an emergency call, so your precious little body won’t have to lie down there for the worms and flies. I told them you went for an early morning walk and haven’t come back as yet, and that with all the dangerous old mine-shafts around here, I’m outa my mind with worry!” Ben’s voice, full of ridicule, echoed down the shaft. The shadow above returned to say its final words and, as if to seal his deal with the Devil, and revealing an unsound mind – how would he explain that to Forensics? ‘Officer’ Shriver wondered – Ben urinated down into the shaft as he spoke. But although Marylyn could see the stream falling, it was wasted on the side of the shaft and never reached her.
Up on the lip, Ben continued his rant, oblivious to the fact his final insult was a failure.
‘In fact, Lynny mused, ‘his entire plan was doomed to failure because he hadn’t checked the bottom of the shaft at all. But then, who would think she’d fall dead centre without hitting the sides at all. That there’d be thick mud at the bottom of any shaft around this dry land – must be a soak here. And of course! That’s why the original miners stopped working this shaft,’ Marylyn guessed.
‘Ben-the-winner’, was still talking, praising his smarts and his new life. Marylyn wished he’d just piss off to his freakin’ gang-bang loving slut, and leave her in peace.
“Ya see,” an over-excited Ben gushed. “What you – and your fucked-up family and your idiot girlfriends never realised hon, is that I’m not meant for suburbia and the whole suburban hubby – come on over for a BBQ thing. I’m bigger than that; was always meant to be a destiny-maker. I’m a fucking monster! Lynny. A monster of lust for everything this fucked-up world has to offer. And now, with you out of the way, I intend to live the way I want. The way a strong, big powerful man like me should be able to. Take what I want, anytime I want,” it said. The shadow disappeared again and silence returned to her deep, dark, moist and pungent prison…
Morning is broken
A totally shattered and drained Marylyn listened to Ben’s inane contented whistling as he left her there; Supposedly dead or dying, it didn’t seem to matter which. The whistling faded and the area’s normal peaceful silence descended on her prison.
Wonder if he actually rang emergency? she thought and: How long could I survive in here anyway? How long will they take to get here? They’d have to come from… The Copper at Southern Cross would be nearest Police-station around here… About two and a half hours, she guessed. ‘Ye-old Benny-boy bloody Shriver is going to be in for one hell of a shock when they get here! Marylyn thought giddily, until movement at the surface caught her attention.
A few pebbles and sand fell tumbling against the rough side of the shaft. He’s come back! To check his work, Marylyn knew. Without thinking, she threw herself into a broken body pose; head down in the mud, one arm flung awkwardly against the shaft. Moments later, an oblong circle of light lit up the wall of the shaft, before moving down. Marylyn knew it was silly, but she could swear she felt the torchlight touch her. She stopped breathing; becoming an unmoving corpse for his eyes. The light stayed on her for what seemed like hours.
This time there was no chatty news, just an intense scrutiny, which Marylyn could feel across her entire skin; Impossible! Just like the sensation of tangible torchlight, she thought. Although every sense was exploding, both on her skin and within.
Without warning, a large rock landed close beside her, splatting in the mud. Then another and another until one hit her leg. There was so much mud caking that leg, Marylyn didn’t have to flinch; She hadn’t realised it had even hit her until several seconds later. She felt Ben’s gaze on her for what seemed like an eternity, until her lungs were about to explode from the burning sensation of no air – for however long this took. Marylyn clamped her teeth together hard; she clenched her fanny and butt-cheeks as hard as she could; Anything without actual movement that would help her hold her breath; help to keep her alive a little longer.
She heard a shout; more of a frightened yelp of shock and surprise. Then Ben’s voice sounding angry and terrified in equal measure. Marylyn finally let go and breathed like she’d never tasted fresh-air before. And while the angry fear-filled voice of her husband screamed blue-murder on high, Marylyn gulped air in as fast as humanly possible. Then she began to listen to the uncanny shouting above her.
“No fuckin’ way! Not fuckin’ even! Wha-the-goddam-fuck! You fuck! You’re the fucking nasty beasty that’s been prowling around then eh? Well fuck you and your mama bitch, coz I got a lead lesson for you. Let’s see how ya like them bickies; Eh bitch!” he screamed at something up there with him. Five evenly spaced shots rang out, echoing loudly down to Marylyn. Then Ben’s voice again, incredulous this time; intense fear beneath his curses.
“Wad-the-goddam-fuck! That cunt must’ve loaded blanks! Fuckin’ bitch! This thing’ll stop a Grizzly!” he yelled to no one; no-one that cared anyway, Marylyn thought and wondered what in god’s name was happening up there? Who… or what, was with Ben?
Then big, strong, powerful, manly Ben – Detective 1st-class – now; ‘Single’, illegally-rich, sexually-satisfied, and severely over-confident of his awful plans, began to panic. It seems, Marylyn thought with a tinge of crazed hilarity, that whatever was there with him – it wasn’t a Grizzly and, either Ben’s aim was shit, or the small-cannon’s five large projectiles hadn’t hurt it. Ben’s abrupt panic was almost music to Marylyn’s ears; she pushed herself up until she stood, mud up to her thighs and leaning her head back against the rough wall behind her to look up, and to hear better.
“Fuckin’ stay away! I’m warning you! You! You? What-the-fuck-ever you are! Get the fuck away from me! I’m an officer of the Law! A fuckin’ detective, 1st-fuckin’-class!” he screamed at the top of his voice. His next words revealed that whatever was with him had no big respect for his litany of threats, or of being a Lawman.
“Stop! Oh my god! Fuck-me! Please! Someone! Anyone! Help! For fuck’s sake, help me!” he cried. Then his voice changed again. Disbelief and shock rose with its volume. “Stay away! Get the fuck off me! Nooooo!” she heard him cry out in desperation. The sounds of a struggle, accompanied by groans of effort from Ben began, but were quickly cut off to an awful gurgle, then an impossibly loud, awful snapping sound and a terrible groan; both that portended nothing good for Ben’s health; And then nothing. Silence reigned again…
A massive dark shadow blocked the light above, and when she looked up, there was Ben. He was broken – in two; A few moments earlier with the world at his feet and an accidentally-dead wife, now dead himself. From where she was, he looked like a little puppet without strings; held aloft by the Puppet-Master. A Master with gigantic misshaped hands so big, that Ben’s body draped either side of the one giant hand that held him. Then it and they were gone. Marylyn whooshed out the breath she’d been holding and slid down the wall; exhausted, drained, confused and yet extremely happy to be alive…
She must have slept – something splatting into the mud near her woke her from a dream of ancient Australia; When all manner of beasts roamed the land; before men, in the Before-time, she knew; abruptly gaining a deeper understanding of her country’s first-people and their Dreamtime. She also guessed that one of the large, naturally-camouflaged, elusive to look at, ‘beings’ she saw there, within her dream – was somehow here still; in today’s world. Here and freaking now! And, though they looked monster-ish, they weren’t savage creatures at all, she’d sensed in the dream that was more than a dream. They were long-lived, large, hard to kill, and obviously had a thing about wife-killers, she thought crazily again, but couldn’t help giggling a little hysterically.
Marylyn shook herself fully awake and felt for the object thrown down. It was her own small carry-bag from the camp, and by the feel of it, there were still some of her things inside it. Her muddy hands tore at the top and felt inside. Her torch was the first thing she felt. She took it out and shivered, certain her torch was left inside the truck, near her side of the bed.
Gratefully she turned it on to see the contents of the bag. To her utter amazement, she found a full 2-litre bottle of spring-water and several protein bars, still cold from their esky; and an old well-used, but clean face-towel. Then she shivered again. Her I-Phone was included. It had been in the glovebox of the truck, turned off on Ben’s orders. Marylyn abruptly burst into tears and stood up, tilting her head at the opening high above, sobbing as she spoke.
“Who… whatever you are? Thank you! Thank you from my heart!” she cried to the being that had saved her life. “Please! If there’s ever anything that I can do for you, or yours in fact, let me know… Oh! Somehow… if possible, and I’ll help however I can,” she sobbed out, never ever in a million years expecting a response. But the being surprised her again. The large shadow cut out the light again, and the being attempted to speak more clearly its earlier warning.
“Waa-washt out, Lynny,” it said roughly and slowly, and finally the penny dropped for Marylyn; ‘Watch out!’ it had been saying, somehow sensing her ex-husband’s intent. But then it added almost clearly, in a sort of Pigeon English: “Bad thing with you. Gone now,” its garbled voice said. Then; “Lynny… baby… Lok after baby,” it said. Marylyn was confused, but it tried again.
“Lynny… got… babe,” it said, and Marylyn suddenly felt a stir in her belly that she hadn’t taken any notice of when it began last night, with everything else going on. I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant! she thought in shock; suddenly knowing that was correct. But Marylyn’s doctors had told her she couldn’t get pregnant; That there was something wrong in her womb or tubes. Yet another thing Ben had held against her, even though he didn’t want children cluttering up his wonderful uncomplicated life. ‘Where-now bitch!’ Marylyn mused, thinking of Ben and his plans – and, astonished at how life could turn on a pin – or in a night.
“Oh. My. God! I’m pregnant! I’m really pregnant! I’m going to have a baby!” Marylyn yelled joyfully to the sky. A deep grinding sound that could have loosely been called a chuckle fell down to her ears. She looked up to see the massive hand that had held Ben like a toy – now empty – wave; Then it was gone… And Marylyn felt a sudden loss; as if an old friend had left and she wouldn’t ever see them again.
She sank to her haunches – at least as far as the mud would allow and drank some of the water, then used some to wash and clean her face with the towel provided by the thoughtful creature. Crap! I shoulda married it; more of a thoughtful gentleman than most freakin’ men I know! she thought and couldn’t hold back a strangled laugh as she began to eat some of the protein bars and await the rescue.
In fact, she suddenly realized, she could call them herself if she had a signal. God only knows if Ben had told the truth about calling anyone, she thought. Maybe he was going to after he’d made sure I was dead? She grabbed her phone and turned it on to see a full battery and a weak, but one-bar signal. She licked her thumb clean, wiped it dry and jammed her thumb over the print-identifier and – it sprang to life. Marylyn rang triple zero and burst into tears once again when a sweet female voice picked up and said; “Emergency. What is your emergency please? Do you need ambulance, fire or Police?” she asked, as if the world were normal…
Just another mystery in the remote Australian outback
The Daily Mercury. Police-beat: Perth. WA.
‘Mystery of missing Detective and husband remains unsolved,” the headline read.
‘The camping trip of a lifetime for a Policewoman and her Detective husband turned to dread and mystery when Policewoman, Marylyn Shriver and her husband Ben Shriver, decided to head into the Australian outback for a camping and gold-prospecting holiday.
According to Police reports, Marylyn and Ben Shriver were at the first stopover of their trip, somewhere west of the old Golden Loch mine, when off-duty Officer Shriver fell into an abandoned mineshaft that incredibly, was filled with mud from a local underground soak. Although falling almost ten meters down the old mineshaft, Ms Shriver, miraculously wasn’t hurt badly, but when she came to and called for her husband, Ben, there was no response.
Marylyn Shriver was also extremely lucky in that she was carrying her travel-bag, which had food, water, a torch and her phone in it. Ms. Shriver called emergency from the bottom of the mineshaft; “Yet another miracle,” the Police officer who saved Ms Shriver from the hole said. “I couldn’t get a signal at all when I got there, and yet Mrs Shriver’s phone worked for her ten metres below ground!” he told reporters. “Look, I know she lost her husband but still, she is one lucky, blessed woman to be alive,” the officer said.
Detective Ben Shriver has not been seen or heard from since that day and Police are baffled as to what happened to one of their best Detectives and a highly-rated, highly respected Police officer. The investigation is ongoing…