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This tale came about because I live close to such a man-made lagoon, as “Mulgara”, with man-made islands for bird sanctuaries. There are very large Python in the area, although it was the traditional Totem statues created by the local ancAu people, on the side of the lagoon, gave me the idea for this tale. Hope you enjoy it 🙂 

Secrets of Mulgara

Prologue:

          Late afternoon, Qld., Australia; A burnt-orange western sky calls birds of all types and description back to the man-made lagoon and surrounds. It’s the safest place around at night with numerous tall bushy native gum trees, and well-lit by electric-light throughout the lagoon’s park area. Mid-lagoon, there are islands made especially for birds with large trees to roost and nest, so no pet or feral-cats can sneak up on them. No dogs can reach them. The ever-present enemy, Snake, will have to swim a long way to and from; And, there are no snakes on their islands – all the birds, from tiny swallows to black-Kite and majestic Sea-Eagle, Ibis and Pelican ensure a snake and water-rat free area.

Night falls gently, like an extra-fine translucent silk-scarf thrown over the entire area. On the largest man-made island, the larger birds finally go quiet. Perching three-metres above the ground and water, they and their nests are always safe at night while the baby-snatching Kite rest in their own tree-home nests. Except for the odd angry flutter, squark of fright, or crash of broken branches from a startled Ibis, their home remains at the usual level of quiet at this time of year. Lower down, ducks perch quietly, full of grain, grass and any unlucky grub or beetle that crossed their path.

Below them again, the stick-thin-legged Oyster-catchers drowse on the ground behind the tree-roots – out of the cool wind blowing across from the sea, a kilometre away.

One thirsty Ibis, unbalanced from its perch by a dreaming neighbour that suddenly leapt into the air and squawked, dropped from its branch down to the shoreline. The big bird dipped its long head down, turned it sideways to scoop water down and – was abruptly gone. There were a few new ripples but no other sign the bird had even been there. The various look-out birds at that spot hadn’t heard or seen anything to make them call danger. The night continued peacefully, minus one large bird.

Half a kilometre away, in a sheltered cove, a shell-duck rested on its perch with several flock-members. The bird swayed with the movement of the tree-branch, moving with the wind half-awake, half asleep. The water against the shore here was glass-still. Now and then it noted its own reflection on the water’s star-shiny surface. Movement right beneath it caught one half-opened eye.

Its reflection seemed to move, break up, then ripple outward like something was rising beneath it. Before the duck could do anything, a giant black head with red maw open wide, emerged like magic from its own reflection. There was a soft liquid sound like a bird had snuffled in sleep, then silence once more. A tiny whirlpool formed below the other birds’ sleep-perching there, though no sight or sound of danger alarmed them; However, there was now a gap in their ranks…

Chapter 1

          No-one in the busy-busy modern world we inhabit notices a few wild creatures going missing occasionally. No-one counted them or kept tabs on the many and various wild birds that inhabited the area season to season. Many were migratory birds, here for a short stop-over and on to somewhere else within weeks or days; And the birds couldn’t talk. However, soon a few local dogs went missing. The locals and the Police assumed they’d been let out at night for a quick run and to do their business – away from home – and been stolen;

“It happens much more often than the public think,” Police said sincerely to the owners. Later, several large ‘Piggers’ – big rough raw mongrels, used for hunting wild pigs – went missing. They too, were written off by the Police as most-probably ‘stolen’ by other Piggers; “A frequent occurrence,” they repeated…

Something this way comes

          Over that year, dogs of all shapes and sizes went missing – infrequently – from around the beautiful lagoon-park and, always at night. One night, or early morning to be precise, a drunken youth – Jamie – was staggering through the park on his way home from a party. He was on his mobile talking to one of his mates about a girl he’d met, when he spotted a huge Roo on the banks of the lagoon.

He was telling a mate who was still partying, how large and well-muscled the Roo was; “Stood friggin taller than me – with bloody huge, bloody massive shoulder-muscles!” he told his friend. There seemed to be some kind of commotion at the water’s edge: And the big muscled Roo disappeared – into the lagoon, he assumed and told his mate breathlessly. Jamie ran toward the commotion and said the last he saw of it, was the silhouette of its legs, kicking upside-down over the shallow water, and then nothing!

Young party-man Jamie was not believed. He was a known drug-user and had been busted for selling and using Ice recently; Not the frozen type. Pretty-well everyone – including the Policeman he’d rung when he got home in near hysterics – believed he’d been hallucinating. There was nothing in the entire area that could pull a fully-grown male Kangaroo into the water. Not in this area. Not within the local man-made fresh-water lagoon. It was only six, or seven feet at its deepest, with most of its large area being just a few feet deep.

There were ‘Saltys’ – salt-water Crocs – around the area on the coast and in mangroves. But they had to breathe air. There was no way a big Salty worth its salt, would ever get enough food or be able to stay hidden in a lagoon of that size, it was believed. When a few more dogs went missing, the Rangers were called in to check the area for ‘any’ danger. The Lagoon was used regularly by locals and tourists alike and thus, the local Council wanted to ensure people that it was as ‘safe-as-houses’. The Rangers found no trace of a Salty, night or day around the lagoon, nor in the tiny creek that flowed on to the sea from one end of the lagoon, which was now dry. “Lagoon: ‘safe-as-houses’!” the Dept., assured Council and public…

The swamp

          Twenty years previous, this lagoon had been a fresh-meet-salt-water swamp; An environment that housed a particular set of creatures that thrived in such an area. Large gum-trees were home to Koala, Possum, Goanna and birds that knew generations of life, death, fights and fear in the high-rise heights of their swaying, windy tree-homes. There were small bushy shrubs down to the reeds and bullrushes that housed all manner of beasts living in a natural harmony with the land. So too, the ancient Australian people that lived around the area and respected all the creatures as they did their own.

A Python family ruled among the land animals. Sea-Eagle, Kite, and all the other Sky-swoopers could, and would take snake young if they showed themselves during daylight hours. But Mom and Dad were far too big for even the mighty Sea-Eagle or Dingo to take on. The local ancient Australians [anc-Au] from the area, held the Python and the Brolga as Totems, because they too had lived – and died – there, for millennia. One family of python had survived through flood, fire and drought, although the coming of the busy-busy two-leg changed everything. Whereas the Python could once go abroad in daylight hours, Kings of the land and swamp. Soon, they slept during the day and only ventured out at night.

Instinct however, was as strong as the largest python’s sinuous body of pure muscle and while the destruction of their home drove almost all other creatures away, including big-brother Brolga, the python family moved away only until the noisy two-legs and their stinking, growling machines were gone. What they found on return was a large man-made, fresh-water lagoon and food aplenty; Only useable at night. However, as more and more of the strange busy-busy two-legs arrived and stayed, with their animals and machines, food became a little scarcer but still enough to breed – and breed they did…

Monster

          Rugunda the scrub-Python, slept the day away – away from the now-dangerous light and busy-busy two-legs. She was waiting patiently for the sun to drop. Dark-time, so she could hunt. It had been over a week since she last ate, but that was a very decent feed. She almost couldn’t fit back in the hole the men had made – perfect for her – when they made the small canal for flood-over-flow and packed the sides with large rocks, so floods would not wash the banks away. That restricting entry was also because she was carrying eggs; A lot of eggs, coupled with a full belly. The temperature in her home-cave under the rocks was perfect for sleeping – and, for raising young.

At present, she had mated and was caring for around forty eggs down in her bunker.

The last feed had been so good, it had sustained her until tonight. The delicacies around the ‘Oasis’, as Rugunda saw it – which others called Mulgara Lagoon – were varied and numerous. Baby Water-hen along the shores were her favourite. Because of the ease of capture. They slept on top of the reeds just above the water in shallow tributaries, where it should have been safe. Her six-metres of sixteen-centimetre-thick pure muscle was made for fast silent movement, in water or on land. Coming up slowly from beneath them gave them no chance to escape her mighty jaws. Tonight it would be duck-delicacy, or failing that, several tender young water-hen.

Rugunda had seen and felt the Rangers probing for brother Crocodile. They’d walked right over her home, her nest. She had kept silent and still in her underground lair while they searched and searched on land and in water. She’d popped her big multi-coloured head out at night to see them spotlighting from a boat; Looking for the tell-tale glow of red eyes gazing indolently back at their spot-lit, smelly and noisy arrival. Rugunda knew Croc well. They gave each other a wide berth when they did run into each other; Both wary of being hurt in a struggle that would cause instant survival issues. Rugunda could drown croc, and croc could instil serious damage if it got hold with their strong jaws and teeth. No! She – Rugunda, was the ‘croc’ here: the monster that show itself rarely, and struck with lethal execution.

Tonight though, the huge serpent was curious as well as hungry. Rugunda was old enough that curiosity would and could take over the hunting instinct infrequently, and tonight, she wanted to visit the hard cold replica of her kind that the modern ancAu people had constructed in memory of their past familiarity. There was something about the spot they were placed on that stirred age-old, instinctive memories. And recently, one of the old-people’s descendants had been doing busy-busy work on and around it. Tonight, that innate curiosity would change her own, and a young man’s life forever.

Johnathan Two-can

          John, Johnathan, Johnny-two-can or, ‘JTC’ as he was called by friends and neighbours, was also a curious being. The missing dogs had woken that curiosity and he’d followed the search for a Croc diligently, only to come to the same conclusions. Any decent size Salty worth its salt would have been spotted by now; Thus, he thought of the fictional Sherlock Holmes famous quotes for Detection work: “start from the beginning by working with the information you have and then begin to work on a reasonable solution. Whatever you find, however illogical the answer may be, you will be on your way to the truth.” It was sound advice and JTC went back through the stories, even talked to party-boy Jamie, who still swore blind he’d seen a fully-grown Roo disappear that night.

“Well bugger-this for joke!” Johnathan thought, after several failed attempts to spot something, anything, from the facts at hand. “I’ll get one of them animal spy-cameras, stick it on trees and posts around the lagoon and see what the hell is moving around there at night,” he thought practically. And, on that night, the spy-camera was on one of the totems Rugunda was curious about. JTC was the ancAu two-leg that had been fussing around the over-size statue of her kind…

Holy-jumpin-white-man!

          What JTC saw when he checked the digital film the next day revved his heart to bursting but shocked his brain to stand-still. The camera had been set at decent height, on one of the totems facing the lagoon shore. It took in 180-degrees and had infrared capabilities to capture Hi-quality video, even at night. The spy-cam had taken a few pics at first: it’s E-senses ‘spotting’ movement from the shore-line.

As the dark shadow of a huge creature got closer, the video-cam kicked in. But as the massive snake – a huge, no! Gigantic scrub-python – came even closer, actually slid up and over the concrete python-totem, it’s bulk obliterated visual meaning. It showed what probably were rippling scales as big as saucers. There was one or two seconds of a multi-coloured head, thrice the size of a soccer-ball and what must have been its long quivering pink-red tongue. Then, it showed a massive dark shape moving away – back to the lagoon-shore where it disappeared into the night.

“What to do?” Johnathan mused, sitting in front of his laptop. “If I go to the authorities, it’ll be bloody ‘snakes-on-a-plane’, all over again,” he assumed from practical experience of most people’s innate fear of serpents. After sifting through the various pathways open to him, Jonathan had an epiphany. “I’ll go and see the oldest Murri fellow round here, and show him the vid, and ask for his and his mob’s help!” he thought, and immediately threw his laptop into its carry-bag and took off like a startled Turtle, to find the person that may be able to help…

Secret lives

          Everyone he spoke to pointed him at an older – woman, not a man as he’d envisaged. But when he met old ‘Aunty Elsie’ for the first time, his entire outlook changed. This old humble person was dignity personified. However, when she saw the video, her eyes opened wide – in pure shock at first – JTC thought. She spoke something beautiful in language. Then tears formed and Aunty reached an old shiny black hand toward the screen they’d watched the footage on. “Buryldanji! Ole-one Nulla,” she whispered breathlessly, turning to look at Two-can with amazement in her suddenly-bright old eyes.

“What can we do, Aunty?” he asked, pleading for an answer that might save the big python from the fate he knew in his heart would occur if the authorities found out.

“Ceremony boy,” Elsie responded after some thought. “My ole ones used to talk to them big fellas – way back!” she explained. “That place where the totems sit now is where they met – there was plenty of food to go round, so no need to kill each other. In-fact,” she told him, “they lived together peacefully; Sharing the bounty, it was said,” Elsie explained. Her old lined face wrinkled in thought. “Mebbe, we catch-im fat-one Wallaby, an’ offer that meal to that big-ole-Nulla-one; Used to be part of Ceremony,” she explained, before looking into JTC’s eyes. “Mebbe, it still knows? Remembers through blood? Mebbe-not… But worth a try, eh boy?” she said, giving the youth some longed-for hope.

“Bloody-oath!” Jonathan exclaimed, and immediately apologised for swearing in front of Elsie. But then his face fell. “But-um, who would we get to, like… talk… um, to the Python… sorta-thing?” he said. Elsie grinned: responded instantly; “You! Boy!” she said. “You the one found it; You the one the Spirit showed!” she said, and laughed at the look on his face. “But! But! I can’t even talk any language!” JTC said, looking seriously at the elder, who grinned at him as if he were a tad ‘slow’. “You really think that them ole snake understand any language, my boy?” she said, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“They understand vibrations very well, my son,” she told him. “Your voice makes the vibrations in any ole language and that what snake feels,” she said. “Big, old fella like that one,” she explained, chin-lipping at the frozen image on the laptop, “E feel your heart-beat, pulse; Know whether you speak true or false even from your scent,” she told him, alleviating this new angst…

Ceremony

          A few short-nights later, Jonathan stood over a small ceremonial fire with six local elders – including Aunty Elsie. On the side closest to the lagoon lay a fresh, road-killed small Roo. At JTC’s suggestion, they had let the Council and Police know that there was a Ceremony occurring at that place on that night. Explained that there would be no danger from fire, as they needed only the smallest of fires for this particular ceremony.

That it was only six elders of the local ancAu people and, that it was important for a healing process and – if possible, to be kept secret from all else. The ceremony – they explained – would last a few hours at most and probably never occur again. The Police or Council didn’t really seem to care – but warned that the area was dry, and that an out-of-control fire would be extremely dangerous to the local properties in the area; Otherwise, ‘go for your bloody lives’, were the similar reactions.

It was a beautiful, quiet, clear night. Twinkling stars above provided some small light and a slight wind blew softly from the south-east; perfect for their small fire placed in a protected area. The same place a small fire had been lit at that place for thousands upon thousands of years for other ceremonies. Aunty Elsie, three elder gentlemen and two more elderly Aunties, sat cross-legged around the small fire; Gender-equity for ‘balance’, they explained.

They’d now seen the incredible footage, and all seemed much more prepared for such a unique meeting than young JTC imagined possible. It came to him that these – and perhaps many of the ancAu elders – knew a great deal of things they never spoke of unless absolutely necessary. Jonathan was already breathing heavily. His palms were sweating as if he was about to go into battle. Although, the elder’s serenity for what was possibly to come slowly washed his angst away.

As soon as the fire was burning steadily, the women began to sing. It wasn’t any song Johnny-two-can had heard before. And, he’d heard a lot, being interested in the different songs for various ceremonies. When they were harmonizing in the old language, the men began to commingle grunts, birds-calls and a deep guttural moaning that sent shivers through Johnathan’s entire body.

Johnathan assumed they’d be there for a few hours at least, trying to draw the beast out, but within twenty-minutes, the elders facing the lagoon sat straighter, obviously seeing movement at the lagoon’s dark edge. JTC was sitting to one side and froze as he saw the starlit, monster-sized head gleaming dully, as it moved slowly toward their small company.

‘Holy-bloody-white-man! It’s really happening!’ the youth thought; Pinned to the ground where he sat by a mixture of awe and terror. As it came even closer, Jonathan could see it was an incredibly striking creature. It was so big, its scales looked like armour and its stunning earthy colours were simply mesmerizing as it moved sinuously toward them.

It looked very healthy, although it had a few scars across its head – from fighting something its own size, Jonathan imagined in genuine respect. The monster scrub-Python slowed at the offering; but then stood up until its head was three-metres above the ground. It turned its great head sideways – gazing at those that had summoned it with almost human awareness in its huge, pupil-slit eyes. Jonathan was pulled from his awed reverie by Aunty Elsie’s voice, pushed softly at him.

“Now boy, speak your mind,” she said, as the snake’s huge red and purple tongue flicked out over the Roo. Jonathan naturally stood to speak and the great head instantly zeroed in on him. ‘It’s like being back in the days of the freakin dinosaurs!’ JTC thought, as he gulped, took a deep breath and began…

Serpent talk?

          “Um? G’day ole-um… mate… and er? Welcome?” he began, not knowing what else to start with. Then, haltingly, he began to voice his concerns.

“Ah… See, well… I’m a local Murri, live near here – come from a mob down south, but I saw you on a spy-camera and…” and that was a far as he got, because that huge friggin head with a half a mile of muscle behind it [or so it seemed to Jonathan two-can right then] was suddenly right in front of him. The snake had just moved its head to him in one silent moment of movement; Its huge powerful neck was now above the elders, yet singing, but now so softly, it was a soft drone of voiced music.

The huge forked tongue slid out from between the great jaws – jaws that he could see now, had natural indentations where the various teeth were, inside the maw. ‘Some type of natural toughened protection for its mouth – an armoured mouth fer god’s sake!’ JTC thought, as the wet tongue moved daintily around him without actually touching.

Having ‘felt’ him out, the snake moved its head back over the elders. It gave them the same tongue treatment, then turned its great attention back to Jonathan – as if to say: “Well? Go on then boy.” A huge sigh seemed to come from those huge nostril holes as it waited for the rest of the story, now that it seemed to trust the gathered two-legs. JTC unclenched his buttocks, took a deep a breath as he was able to at this moment of not quite daring to breathe, and started again, without the introductions.

“Um? To make a long story short, you’ve been taking local people’s dogs,” – here, JTC automatically made the deaf-signing for ‘dog’, by tapping his thigh and snapping his fingers though for why, he had no idea except that he was pretty-well shit-scared. “…uh! Dogs from the area, and you’re attracting a lot of attention – and, um? I um… we, don’t want to see you hurt or killed – so, I sought out these elders [he chin-lipped at the elders] and they said, I should tell you – ah? You-know?” he said stupidly, but continued anyway. “And, anyway, that’s why we called to you,” he said.

The monster serpent seemed to regard him silently for a moment. Then, having decided something in that great brain, it moved its head to Aunty Elsie and gave her the lightest of nudges, turned and began to move away, toward the small canal that was once a small creek running into the swamp.

It waited until Elsie got to her feet and began to follow, then slid off toward the rocks on the bank there. Jonathan moved to follow, concerned for Aunty Elsie’s welfare, but one of the other women stopped him with a glance and a tiny shake of her old white-haired head. “Nulla no tap you, boy,” she murmured, and Jonathan sat back on the snake Totem, though he couldn’t help but glance in the direction they’d gone. He could still see their very dissimilar silhouettes in the star-light, but what was happening there he had no idea.

A few long minutes later, Aunty returned by herself; the over-sized scrub-Python gone; Faded into the night from where they had stood together. “She mother – got eggs underground there,” Elsie explained to JTC’s dropped jaw and sudden inability to speak. Aunty Elsie began to dismantle the small fire. “Can’t leave till they hatch,” she explained further. “Eat only birds till then,” she told them, ‘straight from the serpent’s mouth’, it seemed, by the ready acceptance of the other elders who were tidying up any mess – and Her tracks. As they walked toward the cars, Jonathan – yet stunned by ‘every-bloody-thing’ – remembered the Roo-carcass was still there.

“Oh! We’d better move that Roo before we go, eh?” he said, turning to retrace his steps back to the Totems. “What Roo?” Aunty Elsie said, turning with him. JTC searched but there was no Roo carcass lying on the ground!

“How! When? What-the…?” the youth said, turning back to Elsie.

“Let me put it this way, boy,” Elsie said to him, as they headed toward the cars and the grinning elders waiting. “If mama wanted to eat ‘You’, you wouldn’t know it till you-fla was halfway down her throat – head first,” she told him, to various sounds of agreement from the others gathered around one of the cars. “She’s a hunter; Not a gammin snake from the movies and, she’s been here for quite a while – unseen; Except for you, my boy,” she said with a wink that caused a giggle from the others.

“I think she likes you boy,” Elsie said slyly to more laughter, before she continued. “So, if you’re curled up in your bed – what? Half a kilometre from here? One night you might think all your dreams have come true, with someone cuddling up to you – open your eyes propa-quick boy!” she said to an explosion of laughter from the group…

Dreamtime

          Jonathan went to bed that night mentally and physically exhausted, but incredibly relieved. It seemed like a dream – all that had happened and; ‘What’, was living and having babies – basically, just across the road from where he lived. In bed, he looked once more at the video of the giant beast – just to assure himself it hadn’t been some wild dream; But there it was in living colour. JTC turned off the light and began to drift off…

The dream came on instantly. One moment, Jonathan was falling comfortably into blessed sleep; The next, he was back at the Totems. The totem creatures – the statues a man had reproduced, were now alive. They were dancing. The Brolgas were bobbing and weaving, and intermittently throwing their huge wings out wide.

First one, then the other leapt up over their own height into the air and used those huge wings to land softly in the Brolga dance. Though there was no sound, no music backing them, JTC thought he could hear click-sticks and spears being used to keep time. The huge concrete Python was in its right place but now, it was swaying in time with the bird’s dancing. It’s large snake-eyes were twinkling like the far-away stars above.

Jonathan suddenly realised he was not alone; not one, but three, stunning bare-breasted ancAu women – thighs covered in… ‘Starlight’, was the closest Jonathan could describe – were there, gazing back at him with love, knowledge and understanding. He looked to their bare feet and noted happily that none were touching the earth. Suddenly ‘everything’ became much clearer. JTC found a weight – he hadn’t known was even there – suddenly lift, move out and away from him. Then he too was weightless; floating seamlessly within the sparkling atoms that made everything solid and; ‘Unsolid’, he abruptly realised.

Together now – including this new incredibly wide-seeing, all-encompassing Jonathan – they sway with the dancing motion of the Brolga and Python. And now, Jonathan could hear the backing beat clearly. He felt like going absolutely crazy – dancing like a wild-eyed madman; Then he was. His feet were stomping like pistons at ninety to the minute. His hands and arms wanted to explode in joy and exhilaration. Off-beat hand-clapping took control and every-time his hands came together, sparks flew from their fast, powerful meetings.

Suddenly, Jonathan remembered the where and why of tonight’s meeting. He slowed, looking to see ‘the other spirits?’ There with him – that he’d absolutely, totally forgotten about, ‘for God knows how long,’ he thought shamedly as he came to himself. The others gathered had actually stopped to watch his outrageous, athletic performance, he saw now. But what greeted him was wonderful warm smiles, some small mirth from the women, and delighted bobs from the big birds, while even the giant Python’s large yellow-slitted eyes seemed to be spinning in time from merely watching his antics.

One of the Brolgas stepped and bobbed closer to Johnny. Then it spoke in what JTC ‘knew’ was an ancient ancAu language, although tonight, this special night, Jonathan understood it clearly. “When your circle finds its end and beginning, you will join us here; Man of empathy,” it said and bowed. “And; Of fervent dancsssssss,” the great concrete Python added…

End-dreams…

 

 

 

 

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