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Secrets of Mulgara

 

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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“The Believer; the burning man”

Story-lovers/readers of Fiction, Faction and Fantasy: This tale was written about 11-years ago for a friend’s son, at a time when he was becoming an adult. It was to inspire a belief in the power of a strong will. The ‘boy’ is now a man and a Dr.

I have written several ‘short’ stories for various competitions [without winning] and am starting to put them around for free. Otherwise, they’ll be joining Dominic Kirwan’s 1st book of Poetry: “Where Words Go When They Die”. I hope y’all enjoy it…

The Burning Man:

    Burning-burning-burning! Jesus-H! It hurts! Everything’s bloody burning! Me arms, legs, lungs – even me bloody brain’s burning – if that’s even possible! Oh yeah – I know the drill – the whys and wherefores: head spinning in a vacuum of oxygen deprivation, labouring breath coming through a dry throat in rough gasps; more like a fish out of water than a supposedly-fit athlete! Though in fact, this burning pain is just my own – as per – over-the-top training regime. To achieve my goal – run my dream – as it were, I’d become totally obsessed in the pursuit of finding the best method of creating fast, oxygen absorption and spring-strength for my whole body – all linked to the most constructive muscle and tendon spring and endurance ever known!

Champions know that without these qualities, any competitor will only become – and always stay – just a fair sprinter. To be ‘up’ – to literally keep-up with the very best for that few, frenetically calm seconds that it takes to move over the chosen distance, a winner needs that tiny bit extra, which only brutal mind and body training and conditioning can supply.

I stand at the bottom of the huge sand dune, stretched out to the blue sky two-hundred meters or more above me, already breathing hard and perspiring freely from my warm up. Professional trainers tell me to look at the goal’s end, although I find picking spots to pass over – when pushing your body’s limits uphill in soft sand – a much better approach; in training at least.

Now my mind says: stop procrastinating and get going fool! However, my body says: have a break – give yourself some time to re-gather your energy and focus… ‘Ha! Very clever body!’, I think to myself, not listening to its excuses as I lift my right leg and push with the left to begin the drive to piston these poor weak things way past their ‘use by date’: a little joke that my first trainer told me – and one that has stayed with me throughout ten years of breaking the limits of this particular piece of flesh, blood and bone – which I have become so fond of.

There are many ‘good’ sprinters. Some are naturals – some are laborious fanatics. Others use it as a profession and are happy just to gain a meet ‘place’ and keeping on training, while speaking publicly about its benefits – and often making a good living from it. Then there are the burners. This type describes me. I burn to run – and to run very fast. I love competing against very fast ‘burners’ and being pushed to the maximum that my body can give and stay standing – well, running in fact.

For me, it’s not the adrenaline before a race at all: running fast is life itself. I have never given thought to not being able to run at speed and refuse to entertain the concept of ageing and infirmity. Some say it’s my youth and naiveté that burns, although I am uncaring of the what or why – only the doing. Sometimes my fevered, burning mind suggests that perhaps it is youth and innocence, lighting impossible fires of imagination, which are extinguished only by fast, flowing physical movement in my case.

At my chosen halfway point on the dune, I stop thinking altogether as I step and drive and begin to burn. My mind joins with my body – one entity – working together to trick my body’s safety limiter into opening wider instead of closing off and slowing the activity. I don’t ‘see’ anything anymore – my feet guide me more than sight now. They become my eyes as they drive and push and slip, learning to focus on the terrain as they bend and twist, absorbing muscle memory to power forward – no matter the terrain. I believe that it is these small steps of body-conditioning details; like deliberately making each ankle, joint, muscle or tendon become used to springing forward, especially at times of stress that give the edge needed to win – in a ten second foot-race.

In the very best ten sprinters in any country, there may be only one long second between each of the athletes’ best performances. Yet, it is the one whose body has no idea of lassitude or lethargy – that will cross the line first: take the photo, grab the cash and the girl – become number ‘Uno-numo-macho’ – until the next big race. I don’t want to be that man. I just want to run as fast as humanly possible. For me it’s more of a battle with mind against body, than against an opponent as such. The rest: adulation, fame and sponsorship money will come naturally in this society – part of the deal – forgettable really.

I begin to burn now as I feel my body begin to work the magic gained from years of often-wicked punishment. This dune is big! From ground level, it looked impossible to make any body continue to push through the very physical and psychological pain, which comes with pushing your body against a texture and gradient that combined, can break any strong heart. Attempts by weaker hearts could perhaps actually stop that muscle – I consider – as I push and drive, slide and sway, sweat and grunt out my pleasure: that I am burning now. My joined body and mind feel electrified by the energy waiting behind the curtain of doubt and uncertainty that have stopped me -so very close to my thus, unrealised faith – so many times previously.

For now, though, there is no pain. No thought at all. No indication that this hot, sweating, crazy human has bills, worries, cares and concerns that affect every human no matter creed, class, race, gender or color. I manage to lift my head and eyes upward, no easy task at this point in my personal contest, as I feel my feet begin to fly.

This is It! This is the point that I need to reach to be competitive and stay in the top ten! I can feel it! Perhaps now, I will cause some of these great, noble athletes – who had to break these barriers as well, I know – to see me as a genuine threat. Even though I am running uphill and in soft sand, I have persuaded my mind to imagine this speed and strength is possible. Like my heroes: Jesse Owens and Jim Thorpe, Peter Norman, Patrick Johnson, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis and Tyson Gay, my own feet, now only touch the earth to balance my forward motion.

If you were to slow-motion the images of these burning men and watch their feet – as they literally fly over the distance – you would see that these men’s toes only, touch the ground for slightly less time than their opponents. Yet, this tiny difference makes the others look sluggish, almost uncoordinated as they strain in frustration at the backs of such champions. My own belief: that a human could even attempt this ‘burning’ of mind and body in fast, fluid movement, comes from dreams I had when I was a young man.

I often dreamt that I was at the top of a huge mountain… With a steep, bare slope before me – and I would begin running flat out, taking enormous bounds of thirty and forty meters at a step as I caromed down the mountainside in an exhilarating, wild ‘ride’… A dream which gave me the notion that perhaps this type of balance and power, could be achieved through belief and training. Of course, the neigh-sayers and most everyone else, for that matter, told me that I was ‘dreamin’, and that it could not be done in real life. However, a quiet inner voice repeatedly echoed that nourishing belief, can turn the impossible into possible: the ordinary into exceptional – doubt into firm certitude and reality.

Now, as I reached the top and slid over the sharp apex of sand there, I suddenly fell awkwardly, my challenge suddenly transformed from up to down at the dune’s pinnacle: my sand-covered face is looking stupefied back down at the waiting, desert floor – but also realising that I’d finally done it. ‘Probably a tad too much thinking and forgot that there was a top!’ I thought crazily – and began laughing insanely as I began to roll back down the challenge, I had set myself. I realised again that I had done it!

Yes, I was puffing as I rolled over in the warm sand that covered my hot, sweating body and my legs began to cramp immediately from the strain and exertion I had asked of them – but I’d succeeded – and so rolled, still laughing like a crazed, sand-covered madman almost to the bottom: allowing that angry gravity – finally tamed on the upward side – to gulp me down, first slowing, then stopping my descent just above the flat desert floor. The sun was just rising as I sat up covered in sand and sweat, though very much ‘over-the-moon’ at my first ever breakthrough of my mind’s limits – and of my body’s recent, cautious acceptance of its own abilities…

    Ten days left until the next race – and I felt as though I had broken through my own, self-doubt barrier. Now, it was just good foods, proper rest and long walks with stretching only, until I lined up with the other men to see who had done their homework. In fact, most coaches agreed that hard training was only beneficial until a week or ten days prior to the event. That in fact – an athlete would only burn up needed energy and power by pushing your body past that time before a competition.

At home I paid bills, talked to family and friends, walked my dog, went to work, but in my heart and mind, I was limbering up over my blocks: eagerly ready to explode from point A to B. The energy building was unique to me. Never had I felt the need to burn so badly; to run flat out over the hundred-meter distance, touching the ground about 40-45 times over the course of the race – and then for a moment only.

‘Gravity be dammed!’ I thought constantly as the day came closer. My stretching walks had now become a dance – and worship of movement, and my mind wanted to feel those explosive heights once again: now! This hunger was magnificent! I talked to myself silently and relentlessly, promising to allow the wonderful explosion of power and balance out soon. I fed its need, reminding it of the previous hardship and pain it had gone through to get to this point and felt it tug at my muscles, attempting to pry me out of patience and let it out now: but I would not. I felt it build and grow, taking over my mind and body, becoming hungrier and thirsty for release – and although I kept it tamed and docile, I too wanted and needed the release: not unlike a man who craves the two-backed animal and has not been with a lover for many years…

Burn baby burn

    The day is here, finally. For the last few days, I’ve tracked the other men who have entered – via their online bios’ and You-Tube races. Not to see what they do, but to see their faces. So, I’ll know them when I see them at the warm up track prior to the event. Oh yes – you must expect that they will try to bluff and intimidate as they stretch and preen, out of site of the public, where young, future champions – novices now – become so nervous watching the top guys warm up that they lose the race in their heads before they make it through the heats.

Intimidation can take many shapes. I have watched great young sprinters turn to jelly, from just seeing one of the greats warming up. Standing beside those hard muscled bodies, massive thighs, and toned calf muscles up close, jigging and dancing in front of their eyes and literally exploding those greats out of their practice blocks. It can be an awesome sight for a newbie.

Big, glaring, shiny, muscle mass and overt confidence never faze me though. I saw with my own eyes, when a short Aussie guy with an average build, almost took the win in the 200-meter at the Mexico Olympics in 1968! I will take that second place with me to my sprinter-grave (a joke among burners – who ask to be buried standing in case they can hit the ground running, wherever they end up)…

1968, Olympics, Mexico:

    It was the final of the men’s 200 meters – and as the two Afro-American favourites came around the bend, driving into the final straight, everyone could see it was a no-brainer: these two men had power to burn. They were also using the event to publicise their people’s inequality, in a land that had equality as a foundation stone of their culture and Law. Though alas, for many of the minority (read non-white), groups – that equality was sorely missing any real, or practical application in 1968. Thus, as the two greats saw the finish line beckoning and as one, raised their black-gloved hands in a salute and protest to their countrymen, the little Aussie just kept burning.

He passed the man coming second and in another few meters might have won the race. That race gave me my first great lesson in sprinting: never ever, give up! Run your own race and pump – burn – until you cross the line. Those three great men became fast friends and when Peter Norman died recently, the winner and third place getter from the 1968 Mexico Olympics, 200 meters came to Australia to attend the funeral of a great and fearless man. He was and is a hero of mine and his legacy lives every time I begin to tie my spikes and smell that unique tang of the track, where a normal sized man from a small population in a strange, down-under land, shone his burning Australian spirit to all present…

    I have run against several of the big names in this race before, though so far with places and no wins – as I watched their backs cross in front of me – arms raised in victory – giving out delighted glances to us poor losers. Yeah – they shake your hand and say ‘well done! Better luck next time,’ but in their eyes you see the fire: burning low now, but still banked and ready as if they hoped someone, anyone – would challenge them, now that their confidence, body and mind together are burning.

I am ready. My own fires are banked and waiting deep in the bottom of my feet. Waiting to rise, giving strength and faith to muscle memory and hot blood as it enters my heart and begins the now familiar connection of mind and body that will enable me to burn and fly today.

In tracksuit and Skins, I enter the warm up area. There are around thirty men warming up, but I take notice of only two. The big Jamaican – looking nonchalant as he squats and readies his thighs for the push off from the starting blocks – is hot at the moment, and ran under ten in his last race. The US of A’s up and comer is only nineteen, but has already made a name for himself – and run under ten in several of his last College events. Both men know me and nod to me as I pass, giving me a warm glow as I realize that they have checked my own races and times: a small show of respect for someone who has also run ten flat before.

And, although never having broken that elusive barrier, they understand: it is the burning conflagration of mind, body and spirit that gives that tiny, extra aspect of balance and light-footedness that will break through – and I sense that they are wary. My warm up goes exactly as I planned. I have no twinges, no slight strains or sprains. My mind is clear and my body is already heating up and prepared for the burning seconds. I must get through two heats to qualify for the final and am slightly worried that I won’t control my fire. That it will explode and reveal my newfound confidence before I want it to be seen, which is only at the end of the final – as they watch my back as I cross. That’s the only time I want my peers to witness my newfound, power and fire.

I hear the call for my first race and make my way out into the main track area, where several race officials stand waiting behind the starting line. I know there are people in the stands, because I can hear the buzz of their muted talk echoing around the stadium. I take no notice. I have my number and lane and am only interested in placing my blocks just so, in my lane. This is, as you would have guessed from the run times I mentioned, a 100-meter race. The winner will probably take around 41 – a certain winner – to 45 steps only. Any more than that and you are touching the ground far too often and will be looking desperately at backs – and knowing that you can’t catch them over this distance: unless you burn more than they, then anything is possible: right! Mr. Norman? How many times did the great sprinter and jumper Carl Lewis come from behind and run down the poor guy in front, who was already celebrating his win at 80 meters into the race…

    “Gentlemen – on your blocks!” ‘Ahh! – the sweet sound of the starter’s voice – how I do love those words of challenge’. I crouch in my blocks, feeling the fire begin to work its way from my feet through my rock-hard, trembling calves, up, and on to my heart. Now the starter waits for silence amongst the runners, each settling as they make themselves ready for the explosion that must come to compete at all.

“SET!” The starter says loudly, as he raises his arm with the starting gun to fire. A few seconds of nervous energy while the starter ensures all are ready and balanced and “Bang!” goes the starting gun: and I stick to the blocks – like an amateur! Already a meter behind both runners on either side of me, my mind attempts to break from the mind-body connection and explain why I stuck in the blocks and missed the start!

Abruptly, I feel terrible desperation slowing me further as I fight to run smoothly and keep up with the race while urging my mind to let it go. At five seconds and fifty meters, I’m still running on desperation and can see at least four people in front of me as the final length of track looms in my vision. Then suddenly, all those hours of training and practice take over. The burn takes me over and I am strangely at rest – and then at full flight. I feel the ‘joining’, and my steps become light, barely touching the ground as I pick up one, then two, then three of the front-runners.

My burning body slows and cools as I cross the line in second place. I needed a third at least to go further, but second is an automatic qualification at this event and the relief pours through me as I congratulate the other runners and get my free ticket to the final from the race officials. I am now able to watch the other race heats and rest for the final: a genuine benefit for any athlete, but especially in a race like the 100, which is total explosive grunt for five seconds and ‘touring’ for the final five. That small rest can mean the difference between an under or over ten though – and is always welcomed.

The winning time for my heat was 10.31 and my own time 10.37, which is fair, although the favourites will be very low 10’s: fast burns to shatter confidence – and basically; To kick ass and confidence by the very direct means of lowest, fastest times before the final. The Jamaican is in this next heat and expected to win, but it will be worth seeing how the other competitors handle him for the final.

They’re down quickly and off and running. The Jamaican has literally exploded out of the blocks and is around three meters ahead and already looking around to see if any can stay with him. He is alone and stays there until the end, which he made in 10.17. Great time with no push, although I believe that if I hadn’t ‘stuck’ and had to catch up, I would have made a similar time. I even think to myself that my blunder may have been fortunate, as no one will worry about my poorer time now. With the young American still to race and probably wanting to take the fastest time from the Jamaican, I can sit quietly and prepare to burn.

All is quiet for the start of the final heat, as almost everyone here today has come to see this US junior run. He equaled the Olympic record once and has been consistently under 10 in his last four or five starts. He is also very good looking, sports a well- muscled, beautifully toned physique and plays up to the crowd – as he has done since he exploded onto the scene in his university days, a few short years ago. Once again, the starter has control and my fevered body shudders as the gun goes off to start the race. Another young man, wearing German colours is pushing the young US champion.

They go toe to toe until the German slows for the finish line, knowing he has made his point and probably scared the crap out of the young Afro-American, who probably thought that he would cruise through this heat. The time comes up on the digital clock and says 10.07! The fastest time yet, although I catch the eye of the Jamaican runner and see that we both know, that the young US athlete can and will run faster today.

However, we’ve also spotted a weakness in the American sprinter. He was surprised to find someone keeping up with him from the get-go. His usually fluid stride had a touch of ungainliness, when he realized that he was not going to blow this athlete away immediately. That small crack in his armour had given every genuine competitor in the final a tiny hope; That if any could stay with him in the first fifty-meters, a great finish could do him in today. Maybe he had something on his mind. Maybe he was using this run as practice for another, bigger event. It didn’t matter to me or to any of his real competitors: all we saw, was that he had a weakness that could be exploited and tested in the final.

One hour later I lined up again and this time – against the best here today. Nine men had made the final and I had been assigned lane seven because of my time in the heat. I was not expected to win, in other words. I didn’t care what lane I was given. I was ready to burn and burn brightly. After all – all lanes are exactly 100 meters – although the lower numbered lanes are usually given to the fastest heat time winners and one of those lanes often wins. “Not today mate!” I murmured to myself as I set my blocks.

As we crouched to set ourselves in the starting blocks, I took the time to look across at the men beginning to stretch legs and sway as they settled themselves into their respective block crouch. Then suddenly, in that minuscule moment of silenced time, I had an epiphany. I saw that we were all equal as men under the sun. That this 100-meter race was an extension of how our lives should be. Here, there was no poverty, no colour, no rich and no poor. Stature, status and position in society meant nix here. All present believed that they could win – and all had an equal chance. A strange thought at this stage of the game, but that’s part of my mind also: ‘must let it do its thing,’ I thought rather superstitiously.

Time sped up again and my eyes came back to look at the track directly below my bent head. My hands were now balancing my body – and my trembling legs were burning to drive me out of the blocks and down the track: my mind, now heedless of anything, except the burning desire to smoke this track. At the starter’s call of; “Set!” We moved as one, up and into the drive-out position. Nine strong fit men waiting with almost exploding hearts to jump. To drive out of the blocks and into the spread-legged drive that moves you down the track until you begin to run upright.

Bang! No time to think, my body, mind and muscle memory are using that robust training to spring and fly; Swinging arms driving everything automatically.

I feel the burn coming on as my body stands to its full running height, twenty-five meters down the track. I see nothing. I have no idea who is beside me, in front, or behind. My mind is exhilarating in the freedom of this fast, free, wind-blown movement. I’m burning and I barely feel my feet touch the track. I have always counted my steps as an indication of how far I have left to run, although my count cannot be right this time. I see the finish line coming rapidly toward me as I stride out, flowing over the synthetic track underneath me. One, two, three steps, before I throw my body at the finish line and I am through: finished. I slow behind the line and look immediately to the time-board – and see: 9.96. Lane 7.

I’d done it! I’d broken the barrier! Now I realised why those winners had that look. I didn’t really care who came elsewhere. My faith in my beliefs had been justified at long last. Finally, I’d made the small number of men who had somehow broken through that elusive barrier of mind over matter. My peers from the race began to congratulate me – and I found myself doing similar automatic shakes and pats, as had the men who had beaten me previously. I was also sure that the fire was burning in my eyes and I found that I really did want someone to challenge me: right now, while I was at my very best.

The Jamaican had run second and the U.S. youth third. For the first time since we had run against each other, the Jamaican athlete came and talked to me. He told me that as we ‘stood up,’ after about thirty meters, he saw my feet begin to fly rather than run and realised that he couldn’t beat me in that state. He also said, that he saw the US youth glance across and miss a beat at seeing that extraordinary, lightly balanced form against him – and then he congratulated me. Though I understood, that it was not on the win itself, but on the great effort to defeat my mind’s doubting nature.

“No one could have beaten you today,” he said. He also told me that if it had been a faster field today, that perhaps a few records might have tumbled. Then he apologised to me, for the lack of solid competition that would have made me go even faster today. We became firm friends after that day, though I never ran competitively again. I had a shocking, debilitating accident soon after and could never find that smooth place again. I was not sorry or angry about it, as I had realised by then, that all things change and pass. I had trusted in my beliefs to prove my theories of faith and mind over body to my own satisfaction – what more could I want.

Now, there was only one thing left to do as far as I was concerned. My final run – before the accident stopped further burning – was back at the dunes where I had learned so much about myself. I found a massive old dune – back in behind the coastline – with vegetation growing on it, which made it solid and stable: stable enough to burn one more time – and pelt barefoot down its dreamscape slopes – while taking the largest, most beautifully balanced running steps in the known world – just as I remembered from my dreams: I burned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A short fictional action tale

Careful what you Wish for  [John M Wenitong aka Pemulwuy Weeatunga]

Prologue:

    Jimmy Starlight Warrener, or ‘Jimbo’ as he was known, knew he was in serious trouble. From what his muddled brain could figure, he’d been drugged, kidnapped and taken from his home in remote Western Australia and woke to find himself in a strange part of his people’s traditional lands. Jimmy knew he was yet in Australia: the birds, land and foliage told him as much, but as to where, he had no idea.

A few short minutes ago – after waking up tied hand and foot – several strange white men dressed in army-camouflage clothes had cut his bonds and led him outside, while explaining that he was there to be hunted; By them – Like it or not. They showed him crossbows and one regular Bow and explained that he had every chance to escape, if he was good enough. And, that they wouldn’t use guns of any kind. Each man also carried a huge Bowie-knife strapped to his side. Jimbo had tried to speak, to ask what the hell was happening – if it were some type of joke? But the men had interrupted all queries and after telling him to “shut your stupid black mouth and listen!”, they said he had a one-hour start, and that if he survived until sun-down – Jimbo guessed it was about seven-am now – he would be set free.

Though having made no effort to hide their faces, Jimbo was quite sure that was never going to happen – win or lose…

    Glancing around as they explained the so-called, ‘rules of engagement’, Jimbo noted the small shed he’d woken in, half hidden in a stand of trees and behind it, a small helicopter. So he guessed that’s how they had all got here, though he remembered none of it at all. Jimbo glanced at the men trying to see some spark of mercy within any of them, but they looked over-excited and merciless. They were having fun.

They had offered no water nor food and his mouth was already dry; like when he’d been in hospital after an operation. He guessed that was from whatever they’d drugged him with. Jimbo abruptly thought these men were probably more than a tad insane and, that there was little point in listening to them rave on about their hunt. While the men were talking at him, Jimbo had a quick glance around and saw a green, thick tree-line to his right. He knew there was some sort of water there and while the men were yet gloating, he thought; ‘well fuck this fer a joke!’ and abruptly hoofed it as fast as he could toward the water he hoped was there. It was going to be very hot very soon and water was his first priority.

There were angry shouts behind him, but no arrows, or at least none that hit him. One fellow even shouted: “Not fair nigger!”, at the top of his voice. Either they were terrible shots, or they were sticking to the one-hour start. Jimbo didn’t care one way or the other. These men were ‘propa-Womba!’ He went as fast as the land and his feet would allow – running a zig-zag pattern just in case.

When Jimmy reached the bank of the river bed and the cool shade of the tree-line there, he found it was almost completely dry; Except for a few small pools under the shade of the trees – right in under the tree-roots, which was enough to have a drink and splash water over his head and shoulders. He sat for a moment gathering his wits and immediately accepting of the insane situation he found himself in. ‘Better grab a weapon next’, he thought, and began a quick search for a club or something heavy that he could injure these fools with – and, a nice straight sapling he could use as a spear. Then he had another thought: “I’m better with rocks,” he murmured to himself, listening closely for the sounds of the men chasing.

‘Why would I trust anything they say’, Jimmy thought regarding the hour start and began looking for some nice heavy throwing-rocks he could use – a fairly silent weapon to use against them when they came for him. At present, there were no sounds of the hunters; just the usual bush sounds he knew well. Jimmy knew that if he kept his ears and eyes open, the local birds would tell him when someone ‘foreign’ was around. He had hunted game for many years and often relied on birds to help his eyes and ears in the hunt.

Jimmy gorged himself with water, doused his body thoroughly and quickly found a secreted spot in the bushes near the river, where even a Roo could hop right past without seeing him. ‘They’ll come one at a time, I think, because it’s also some sort of competition by the sounds of ‘em,’ he thought and hoped he could injure one, and move quickly to another spot to take out each of the idiots as silently as possible.

His watch had been taken, but Jimmy guessed about an hour had passed since he bolted. He settled in a squat within the bush awaiting the first of the hunters, while sweat began pouring out of him from the exertion and the rising sun beginning to beat against the land. Jimmy was used to sweating and he settled his mind and body to surprise the first idiot Miglo he saw. He didn’t have long to wait.

A huge Black Kite gave him his first hint that someone was nearby. It was high in the sky, but suddenly began circling, moving slowly toward the part of the river where he hid. The Kite had obviously spotted something large moving and was following it from on high; not merely out of curiosity, Jimmy knew. Human movement out here often gave opportunity to scavenge on what the humans killed; usually leaving a generous portion of their kills, no-matter the type of creature killed. Jimmy slowed his breathing and gripped the rock loosely; eyes and ears straining to catch any movement whatsoever – ready to launch the heavy missile at the appropriate moment.

Jimmy had chosen his spot well. The bush he was in was man-height, and circular with an open top, so when he stood to throw, the movement wouldn’t give him away by the sound of the bush’s branches and leaves rustling. His target was actually singing to himself – and as he came closer, Jimmy could make out the tune and the words:

“Ten little blackfellas standin’ in a line, one got sent to prison and then there were nine,
Nine black Abos’ ripping off some booze, one got shot and then there were eight..”.

The man sang quietly as he came closer, almost like he knew Jimmy was there. He carried a crossbow, although he held it in one hand swinging by his side as he walked, almost merrily along; ‘like he was a normal person out for a Sunday stroll’, Jimmy thought, as he prepared himself to hurl the rock as hard as he could right at the idiot’s head.

What Jimmy didn’t and couldn’t know, was that they had put a tiny tracker on him and, that this man was merely getting him to move, so his partner-in-crime could spot and shoot him. Which was exactly what occurred. Jimmy waited patiently until the man was moving away from his hide. When the man was past him and searching around in front of himself, looking toward the river-bed, Jimmy stood slowly and raised his arm to throw.

Suddenly he was knocked forward by a silent but powerful force; and pain – immediate strobing pain shut him down. He fell forward into the bush with all his plans come to nought. He felt the bolt as a numbing pain in his back and knew his time was over. Within a minute Jimmy was dead. The bolt from the crossbow, fired from behind had gone right through his ribs and pierced his heart – and Jimmy Starlight Warrener ceased to be…

A real challenge!

    “I won! I won! You owe me a thousand bucks, Tige,” the man who had shot Jimmy shouted excitedly. The man used as bait looked into the bush where Jimmy’s body lie. He poked the body with his crossbow and glanced at his colleague. “Do-ya think we should have put a tracker on him? Might have made it last longer if we didn’t,” the man said, shaking his head at the lack of challenge the prey had offered. The third man arrived and seeing the prey already dead, shook his head at his companions with real regret on his face.

“Well! This was downright boring! Useless black cunt!” he said, poking his Bow roughly at Jimmy’s inert body, as if he might rise up and fight. “We need a real challenge and – I think I know how to come by such prey,” he said, stepping back and suddenly firing an arrow into Jimmy’s body. “Locked-an-loaded and no fuckin prey!” he shouted angrily, beginning to drag the body out of its hiding place to re-take the arrow and bolt and then burn it thoroughly, as they’d done to other victims before.

As they began to ready the body for total cremation, the man called Tige, asked: “So pray-tell ‘Ender’, he called his smirking companion, “Where are we going next then? We’ve had ex-soldiers, SAS drop-outs, hippies, survivalists, even a marathon runner and none have given us, or our clients much of a fight at all?”.

The man called Ender threw the cigarette he was smoking onto the body, now dosed with a diesel and petrol mix and moved back as the gasses exploded and the fuel began to eat flesh and bone.

“Ever heard of the Kadaitcha Man? – One of those Aboriginal legends from the fuckin Dreamtime?” he asked them both as they watched the body begin to melt from the terrific heat. Tige guffawed: “That’s the best plan you can come up with?” he said mockingly and continued. “A mythical witchdoctor from ancient Australia? You’ve gotta be joking – my erstwhile friend!” he said laughing.

“Believe it or not Snake,” Ender said, standing back to throw yet more fuel on the body. “There are still, what they call medicine-men or witchdoctors alive today – and they are, from all accounts, experienced bush-men and hunters that have no rival, and – I’ve found just such a one, my fellow hunters,” he explained proudly. “Also, we have a client – a very rich client being groomed as we speak – and to hunt a traditional hunter, someone with real bush skills would be worthwhile, I’m saying,” the man stated. The man called Tiger was still all sarcasm.

“And now that we’ve finally found a worthwhile prey, you’re going to give it away to a fucking rich-bitch client?” Tige said, eyebrows raised as they moved away from the smoke and smell. “Oh no!” Ender said with a grin. “We would have to be there – to ensure the safety of said client against such a worthy foe,” he said with a wink.

“And if we have to help, of course we’d be in on the kill – that what you’re saying, Ender?” Snake said, looking halfway excited again. “Ahh! You know me far too well,” Ender said as he poured more fuel onto what looked more like a desiccated Mummy, than a human body now…

    Far above the scorched circle, yet more Kites circled lazily around the black smoke that rose into the mid-morning sky, patiently waiting on the humans to leave before they dropped closer to view any remains…

Chapter 1

    Cedric Hunter was Hunter by name and by nature. The same C.D. Hunter, The 3rd, was one of the net-rich billionaires created by the ever-hungry, three and a half billion Gamers across the world. CD – as he was familiarly known – had created several of the most popular shoot-em-up, single and multi-player games being used worldwide for several years, and his personal fortune – said to be in the top ten richest in the world, showed as much. Not that CD was IT-brilliant. He was granted ‘old-money’ while young, and he had looked ahead and snitched the best bright young game code-writers available – paid them exorbitantly and gave them an open scope and budget to create new, longer games, with HD Graphics that would stun the world’s players.

CD’s instantly-popular, “Homestead #1, 2 and 3”, had exploded onto the market to the point where the business had trouble keeping up with demand. The Marketing said that single, or multiple players had to defend their frontier-homestead against all comers; “Keep your women and children safe from single murderous hunters, bands of roving marauders, wild animals…”, and several amazingly-crafted mutant creatures that were extremely difficult to kill – without the correct weapons, which of course could be discovered, bought or taken/stolen from the Homestead property and its dwarf-like, native inhabitants.

CD’s new Sci-Fi game – where the alien enemy’s language could be accessed and ‘interpreted’ for player/s after a certain level – were launched immediately sales began to drop on the “Homestead” series. CD had over thirty games out now, with more and better quality and new stories to come as the hardware and software were granted ever-expanding tech-progress.

Nevertheless, CD was, or had been bored out if his ever-lovin mind with success, easy women and money. He was with his fourth wife in ten years and the magic was almost gone from his current relationship. Affairs had become simply boring. He could burn a house-full of money and make it back within the hour; Thus, having it and making more seemed like an automatic transaction. CD was almost at wit’s end when he met Mr. Slocum and his associates. Slocum had contacted him via several very rich friends that CD knew, or knew of.

He was absolutely certain that Slocum would never steer him wrong; introduce the wrong type of person into his high-flying – sometimes ‘illegal-ish’ – lifestyle.

The meeting he’d been invited to was face-to-face and absolutely private. The convenors made certain that only the members and those few invited ever knew about such a shadowy group. On the day of the meet, CD was checked for wires or any recording devices by what looked like a rough-rugged mercenary type man three times, before being allowed to enter. Even his vehicle was checked over by the same man, he saw as they moved to the Mansion.

On entering the private mansion, CD found only four men awaiting him, and only him. Slocum was there already, and the names he was given for the others were nick-names, or obviously, not the men’s real names. He knew none of them but the mansion, vehicles outside and their dress-code shouted both power and money; ‘Big money’, CD thought.

Slocum introduced them as; ‘Tiger’, ‘Snake’ and ‘Ender’, though the aliases were never explained. CD had an inkling of why he’d been invited, though he wasn’t sure of anything yet and while he was so un-informed, he wasn’t about to ask or suggest anything as to why he’d been invited to meet this obviously powerful group of men. He’d wait for them to explain…

Hunters

    “Sit down CD, take a load off and make yourself at home,” Tiger said, throwing a casual arm toward the only free chair, in what must have been the smallest room in the house, CD assumed, having glanced around at the massive interior and expansive furnishings as he was taken through the waiting room and hallway. He noticed the door they went through was very heavy, solid, and when it closed all exterior noise disappeared. On a small table in front of his chair were the alcoholic drink – with a full ice-bucket – that CD preferred; revealing they knew somewhat of his likes already. CD made his drink – wondering what else they knew – sipped, nod favourably and waited for the men to speak first, out of a business-practice habit he’d created over the years of running his company.

“We won’t waste your time nor beat about the bushes, CD”, Slocum said, glancing at the other men there, before turning his attention back to CD. “We know your dollar-value, we know of your many and various talents and we know that you’re a decent hunter; That you’ve killed big game all across the world and, often at great risk to your personal safety,” he said, reinforcing what CD thought the meeting may be about. CD’s pulse rose for the first time in several years, and as the man that called himself Tiger continued, CD sat straighter, leaning toward the speakers…

“We are all hunters – of one sort or another,” Tiger said, grinning at what he saw in CD’s eyes and posture. “We have hunted all over the world and, like yourself, we don’t lay two or five-hundred meters away and kill without the prey even knowing of our presence,” the man said.

“So, CD; Why do you take such risks?” Slocum asked, interrupting the flow of conversation. “Why hunt Lions with a spear and a Masai guide, when even the Masai take several hunters with them?” he asked, while the others await his response.

CD didn’t have to think about that question and responded instantly. “It’s not a hunt if one uses big game rifles, native beaters and a telescopic sight,” CD said simply. “To be honest, it’s become lame,” he admitted, and dropped his bomb. “I need something, more ah..? sentient? Um?.. Something that can plan, can fight back, although it’s mostly only man that has that ability, and that’s ah? Shall we say: morally and ethically wrong; And illegal,” CD said, hoping to god they understood his reference, without saying it outright.

The man called Snake moved closer. He stood over CD looking down at him directly eye to eye; a challenge in his own. “And what would you do, Mr CD Hunter, if the chance to um? Hunt something… ah? More substantial let us say… came along?”, he said, folding his arms as he waited and watched CD’s face closely.

“This room we’re in is completely sealed from the outside world CD,” Slocum assured him noting his hesitation. “No wireless, no signals, nothing can penetrate this little room we’ve created for this purpose,” he explained. CD glanced around at the men and seeing only dead-serious faces, responded. “If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, I’m interested,” he said, once more waiting for more solid information before committing himself further.

“You realise that what we’re about to tell you could land us all in prison for a very long time – if anyone outside were to find out about our little pastime games,” Slocum said with some gravity. “We have a charge for our services as you’d understand, but we know money isn’t much of a concern for you,” Slocum said, smiling. CD glanced around at each man again and decided mere insinuation was pointless. They were waiting on his mind to catch up with the seriousness of what they offered. He gulped his drink, poured another shot, tossed ice into it and stood, forcing the man called Snake to back off. Snake moved back to stand with Ender. CD had made up his mind already.

“Correct!” he said, “Money isn’t an issue, and for what I think you’re offering, any amount would be worth the costs involved. So then,” he said, looking at the men there. “Who, what, where and when?” he asked with raised brows, glancing at each man again, as he swallowed the new drink in a gulp and waited, again. The men glanced at each other and seemed to come to agreement. Tiger nod, Snake grinned enthusiastically, while Ender gave a casual lip-nod. Slocum broke the silence.

“It’s $300-K cash. No records of transactions of course. And as to who, you’re a lucky man CD. Some of the prey we’ve had previously have been – how shall I put it?” Slocum said, looking for the right words. “Fucking clueless terrified idiots that was like ducks in a fucking barrel!” Ender interrupted. Slocum looked to Ender as if he were a slug crawled out of a sewerage drain and continued.

“Let’s just say our previous choices were limited, so now we’ve decided to use a more capable quarry,” Slocum explained after Ender’s snorted response. The man called Snake grinned at his colleague’s critical response and explained much more clearly.

“Mr. fucking “Ender here,” he said sarcastically, using fingers as quotation marks for Ender’s nickname, “thinks we need an active trained soldier, merc, or SAS-type or the like, because others, including ex-servicemen have been less than challenging,” he told CD.

“Snivelling fuckin pussies more like,” Ender mumbled. Slocum almost laughed before continuing. “The problem with Mr Ender’s suggestion, is that such a person would likely be missed soon after disappearing and various law-enforcement agencies and whichever Service they belong to, would have to do a fairly comprehensive search; The very last thing we want,” he explained, staring at Ender with what looked like genuine malice. Then he grinned easily and turned his attention back to CD.

“So then, the who, this time is a semi-traditional ‘Abo’, whom we have in our sights and ready to grab when the time comes. This fellow’s a tracker, hunter and reputed to be one sneaky, capable son-of-a-bitch and, if he’s as good as his reputation, well, even the boys here might have some trouble, though I doubt anyone is that good myself,” he said glancing at the three very capable looking men. “To answer your other questions, the when is within the next month, giving us time to prepare everything. As to where, we keep that secret until the day, for everyone’s safety. We don’t want to be disturbed after all,” Slocum said. The four men watched CD carefully.

“As I said, money isn’t an issue and my time is my own but, I would like to know where I’m going,” CD said. “I don’t think it’s probable with you guys, as you seem to have done this before without any ah? Issues. But I have to be careful, you understand. There are plenty of undesirables who would kidnap me for ransom after all,” CD explained.

“Understandable,” Slocum responded, “I can tell you that our hunting grounds are in the Northern Territory, in such a remote location that we have never seen blacks or anyone else there in all the years we’ve been hunting such um… prey, and I’m afraid that’s all we can tell you at the moment,” Slocum said, gaining nods of agreement from his colleagues.

“I can tell you it’s like no hunting you’ve ever had before,” Snake said, grinning, “there’s just nothing like hunting a thinking creature like man, and I’ve hunted everything from bear to Lion, Crocs and Tigers,” he told CD. “Some run and never stop until they’re exhausted. Some make plans to ambush the hunter. Some just cry and give up. Others have made weapons from out of nothing and attack at first chance, though none have beaten us or our clients ever!” he said. “But, just in case, we’ll be there with you, as we do with all our clients,” Ender explained.

“Just as back-up in case a client gets injured – or the prey is so good at hiding the client can’t find them,” he told CD. “So, are you in for the hunt of a lifetime, CD?” he said, while his colleagues remained silent waiting on CD’s final answer.

“I’m in,” CD said. “You know how to contact me. And I’ll be ready,” he said sincerely. “There’s one more thing,” CD said standing. “I only want my knife, although I’ll be carrying a small pistol in case ole ‘Murphy’s Law’ comes into play. Any issues with that?” he asked glancing around at the men offering this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“A man after my own heart! Up close an’ personal,” Tiger responded and clapped CD with some force on his shoulder before offering a high-five. “I’m looking forward to working with someone that knows his own mind, my hunting friend,” he said warmly…

Chapter 2 Taken

    Buryldandji Djungari came to his senses slowly. He opened his mind and senses but not his eyes, as he waited for his body to catch up with his mind. He could hear several voices speaking – white-men’s voices – he was sure. His hands and feet told him he was bound and the muddle within his mind had to be from a drug of some type, he reasoned. The voices – four – he heard, were not attempting quiet; In fact they were tensely excited as they spoke to each other.

‘Budani’, as he was commonly known, lay perfectly still – unmoving, while he ‘felt’ out the place he was bound within. He sensed the small room he was captured within was old and dusty – part of an old settler’s hut most probably. His ears told him the men were in another part of the old shed-come-shelter he was in. Bird sounds told him he was yet in-country and the weather’s ambience said he was close to the desert; his home country. His nose told him the room he lay in had lots of fuel close by. Petrol and diesel the strong scents said.

The last thing he remembered was a man and woman tourists asking him how to get to the main highway, from where they’d found him off the dirt road, just out of Tanami East, near his beloved home country, where he’d been searching for a yet another pair of lost tourist-explorers. He remembered standing near the big four-wheel drive, resting an arm on the front doors open window, explaining where they were and to keep going east to get back to the highway; to go south to Newcastle Waters or north to Birdum and Daly Waters, when the woman had briefly touched his arm in a thank-you gesture. He remembered a slight stinging sensation – like being stung by a bee or wasp, and then nothing until he’d woken here.

As he lay still and began to feel his body come to life again, Budani heard the men move to the outside of the shack. As they left, he heard them talking excitedly about a previous hunt. It seemed three of the men were experienced kidnappers and possibly man-hunters, while one was a newbie to the whole thing – whatever this thing was? He heard the twang and thump of what sounded like the crossbow he’d got for his nephew last year, then the twang and thump of a normal bow and arrow. The men were cheering and insulting each other as they fired at some target that his senses told him was about fifty or sixty meters away. Now at least he could open his eyes.

He was bound with heavy ‘leccy’s ties – hand and feet – good solid heavy plastic ones that were almost unbreakable, but Budani almost laughed out loud at the bindings. They were so sure of themselves that they’d tied his hands to the front rather than the back – but then he guessed they wanted him alive, not in danger of dying from suffocation, which could happen if he was unconscious with his hands tied behind. Budani had used his teeth as a tool since childhood and his jaw muscles were as strong as a croc’s bite. His teeth were strong and healthy because he only ever ate bush-tucker. He’d seen what processed foods had done to his family and clan’s teeth and overall health – and his ‘work’ necessitated being fit, strong and healthy to complete his various ‘missions’ for his secretive Clan.

There was a small open window in the room he was in. The old push-out type held with a stick and through that, he could hear the men boasting about how good or bad each was with the weapons. Glancing around he saw an old clear-glass bottle near one wall and some old material lying near it on the floor. Budani brought his hands to his mouth and bit and chew through the plastic binding and within minutes his hands were free. Then he rolled to the wall and grabbed the bottle and the old pair of pants there. He put the bottle in the material and smashed it on the stone floor as quietly as he could, then used a sharp piece of glass to saw through the binding on his feet and was free. He took a moment or two to get the circulation going again and to listen to the men outside, yet arguing over who was the best shot.

It was still early morning and he guessed they’d brought him here last night or very early, and were now preparing themselves for whatever they had planned for him. He slid silently across the floor to check out the land, the men themselves, and whatever vehicle they come here in. From the open window he saw the four men standing together about sixty meters from a bullseye target they’d set up and as he glanced around, he saw a small black helicopter to one side of the clearing made for the shack. It was modern and looked extremely expensive. ‘That made sense,’ Budani thought. ‘A chopper could land and take off from anywhere, while a plane – even a small one needed a runway – and choppers were the usual transport for rich white people and landowners up here.’

Two of the men were using crossbows, one using a bow and arrow, but the man standing a bit apart had nothing except a huge knife strapped to his side and a holster with a handgun. As he watched, the knife-pistol man walked closer to the target and the others stopped their shooting competition to watch him. He was dressed in expensive safari gear; lightweight and camouflaged to this land’s colours. The man stopped ten meters away and abruptly threw the big knife in one flowing natural movement; It hit with a solid thunking sound that echoed up to where Budani stood inside the hut. ‘Obviously done that before’, Budani mused. Then the man pulled the pistol from his holster and without seeming to aim, let go several loud shots at the target, which surprisingly exploded around the knife. ‘Explosive rounds’, Budani guessed. All that was left of the target was the centre-piece bullseye that had the knife in it – and dead centre, if what his spy’s eyes were telling him was correct.

The other men began clapping and cheering as the sound of gunfire echoed through the land. ‘Good time to leave’, Budani thought, and grabbed the one small can of fuel that stood beside the 44-gallon drums of fuel, in what could loosely be termed the kitchen. Even the smaller fuel can was camouflaged. ‘Tanks-very-moochius!’ Budani thought cheekily. He slid through the small window opening like his Totem – the Desert Death Adder: a small desert-camouflaged, serpent predator with fast-acting and quite lethal venom. Once on the ground, Budani moved like his totem, sliding slowly away from the men’s sight to the corner of the shack: so slowly against the wall, along the ground that the men wouldn’t catch movement in their periphery sight.

Once around the corner he stopped to look back at the group of men, and realised he could probably have stood and run while singing hail bloody Mary, because then men were still thumping the knife-pistol guy’s back and staring in awe at the damage done by his small pistol, and probably half-deafened by the explosive rounds.

‘You fellas ain’t goin nowhere; Welcome to my world!’ Budani thought grimly, as he kept an ear to the men’s boisterous activities and ran his eyes across to the sleek little chopper. He moved down on ground like a Goanna, sliding silently and slowly out into the sparse trees and shrubs encircling the shack. Moving slowly and still at ground-level, Budani moved around until he was close to the helicopter. He heard another loud boom and looking across from underneath the chopper, he saw the other men were now taking turns shooting the pistol at anything that stood out. While they were so entertained, Budani opened the can of fuel and sloshed it over the motor and fuel-tank. Then he looked around and gathered the makings of fire.

Budani quickly found the tools needed and watched the yahooing men while he spun up fire from wood and soft crushed bark-dust. The tiny spark caught and he picked the kindling up and tossed the small sparking fire directly onto where he’d poured the fuel on the chopper, turned and ran like the devil was behind him…

Chapter 3 Run-away!

    As the whoosh of the fuel igniting and a small fire-ball and thick black smoke leapt into the morning sky, Budani moved, again in a Goanna-like away further into his beloved homelands.

“Well, that seems to have stopped the fun altogether, guess I’m just a born party-pooper,” Budani murmured softly. ‘They would be panicking about now,’ he guessed. ‘Their escape plan was on fire, and with any luck the chopper’s fuel tanks would explode soon,’ he mused, grinning darkly as he moved still further away from the burning chopper; moving backward this time to keep his eyes on the stunned men. He stopped again to watch the men – who were suddenly running toward their ride out – weapons hurled to the ground in utter surprise and disbelief.

Budani looked shocked and murmured. “Hmm? I wouldn’t be doing that if I were you, my ignorant imbecile friends. In fact,” he murmured from his position on the ground, “I think that old term; “Run-away, run-away!” would be a much better plan than running toward a burning helicopter, to be honest fellows,” he said quietly.

One of the men had reached the burning chopper, and for some unknown reason was attempting to put it out with dirt scraped from the ground with his hands. Budani guessed the fellow had lost his mind for a moment – in the shock of such a wild, crazy thing happening to him, right here and now. And then there were three. The fare-thee-well expected explosion blew up and out, basically disintegrating the hopeful fireman and blowing two of the three left, completely off their feet as they too had run toward their ride home. The newbie had wisely hung back and, Budani noted, he still had his big machete-sized knife on one side and the pistol in its holster on the other. The newbie was not to be taken lightly…

Shaken, battered and now filthy, the two injured men dragged themselves to their feet. The fellow with the knife and pistol wandered up to them casually, as if wide-scale death and destruction were a normal occurrence. He glanced at the shredded, smoking body and the burning chopper and looked back to the ragged men.

“So, ah? Was this all part of the show here boys?” he asked semi-seriously as he reached them. “If it was,” he said with big grin, “I’m impressed beyond belief. If it wasn’t, please don’t tell me your mobiles – and our only contact with the outside world, were in the chopper?” he queried politely. One of the injured men pulled a knife from somewhere on his body, yelled some type of curse and abruptly attacked the newbie, while his colleague attempted to stop him, but he was having none of it.

“Stranger and stranger!” Budani chuckled as he watched the violence unfold.

As the angry man rushed in, the newbie swayed to the left and somehow turned the man’s own knife against him. The attacker stopped dead, stumbled backward and turned to his friend. His own knife was sticking out of his chest. He looked down at the knife and then searchingly at his friend in shocked amazement. “I … I… not like this! Not like this!” he said, while looking up at the sky as if talking to God. Blood gushed from his mouth and he dropped like a stone; Terrible shock showing on his now very pale face on the ground. And then there were two.

“He was going to kill me,” Newbie said placidly to the man left standing, who also looked as if something was wrong with the entire world; His world at least. “I… he… we – we’ve never had anything like this happen before,” he mumbled to himself, because the newbie was gone; Sliding toward the shack, gun drawn and moving as if he were now hunting, or being hunted. He disappeared into the shack but appeared mere moments later, walking quickly to the only other live friend he had there.

“He’s gone,” he told the stunned man, yet recovering from the explosion. The statement took more than a few seconds to sink in. Then the stunned fellow took a wobbly step toward the shack, hands out, as if he could change everything with open hands, hope and wishes he held there. CD explained what he’d discovered. “He chewed the freakin ties from his hands and broke an old bottle that was there to cut his feet free,” he told the semi-stunned man with him, with some obvious sarcasm.

“Well, you guys were certainly right,” newbie said sarcastically. “You found a decent challenge all right. He’s probably watching us right now,” he told his companion, searching the surrounds for signs of life or movement. But his companion couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it.

“Nah! You’re wrong! Did you look in the right room?” he said, as if the shack were a ten bed-room house. “The fuckin black couldn’t have… done all this,” he said in disbelief. “A fucking wolf couldn’t chew through those things; I know! We’ve tried it!” the shocked man uttered as if a biblical truth. The fellow turned a circle, still in shock at the incredible carnage and death around him. He turned to say something to the newbie guy, but the man was down on the ground, gun out and turning slowly, searching for a target. The standing fellow heard the sound of wind moving a moment before something heavy hit him directly on the temple; dropping him as fast as his just-knifed companion. Dead before he hit the ground. And then there was one.

“Well fuck my brown dog and call me Alice!” CD swore uncharacteristically, as he stood in shocked awe and looked around him at the battle-ground scene and bodies for a split-second, before his survival reflexes took over.

CD scrambled toward the shack. In his haste, he hadn’t re-strapped his pistol into the holster and it fell out as he scrambled in pure panic toward the only decent cover in the entire area. “Faaaaark!” he screamed in frustration, but there was no going back for it he knew. The black might have one or more of his companion’s weapons by now for all he knew. As he threw himself through the open door, something hit him; Hard! Something thrown with real force.

It hit him in the back and drove him flat on his face into the kitchen and onto the floor; but inside the shack at least. From his supine position on the floor, he saw a rock about as big as his closed fist lying in the doorway. That’s what he had heard before Snake went down. Just the whisper of something hurtling through the air toward them and he had dropped instantly; but it hadn’t been aimed at him anyway. And it hit dead centre of the rock-thrower’s target; Snake’s temple.

“Faaarck! I think the one that hit me might have cracked a rib or two,” CD mumbled, abruptly feeling the pain start; and already, just breathing was becoming difficult without a sharp pain coursing through his body.

CD crawled to the door and kicked it shut, but it bounced against the door-frame and flew open again. “Double fuckin fuck!” he shouted in anger and frustration. He crawled to underneath the kitchen window and began to yell out to the blackfellow out there.

“Hey! Mate!” he called breathlessly, with each shout causing instant awful pain. “Look! I don’t know what’s going on here, I just came out with these fellows to do some hunting!” he called as loudly as he could.

“There’s no need to shout,” a calm modulated voice, unmistakably an aboriginal voice however, said from outside the kitchen window. “So then, you’re not into the manhunt like your friends; Snake, Tiger and ole Ender there eh mate?” the voice said, and CD understood the man had been listening to them talk since he was conscious again. ‘How much has he heard?’ CD thought back quickly on the various conversations they’d had, while believing the man to be unconscious for a lot longer than he obviously had been.

“There’s no point in lying mate, or should I say, CD?” the voice said, shocking him with the knowledge of his moniker. CD took in a ragged breath, while the voice came again: “How many hunts have they done out here? Ten? Twenty? More? I heard pretty well everything mate, and I know you were about to do your first manhunt, with me as prey, which is pretty bloody awful from this side mate,” the voice said and abruptly stopped; Except for a few bird calls that had started up again after the explosion and gunfire, silence reigned.

Suddenly, CD could hear the miraculous sound of a helicopter – coming closer. He pushed himself up to take a quick look and as he did, he felt a terrible shocking pain on one side of his face. Then the scent of burning flesh hit him and he realised it was his flesh burning. The shock sent him to the floor once again. This time the pain of cracked or broken ribs and the searing pain on his face took CD away to the blackness where nothing matters…

Chapter 4 Saved by the Bell [helicopter]

    When CD came to there was an older white fellow, face lined with his time in the land and sun sitting over him and looking worried. They were in a helicopter and flying.

“Gosh, thought you were a goner mate, like them other fellas back there,” he said, squeezing a syringe to get any air out. “We gave you a shot before we moved you, didn’t know what was broken, but every time we tried to lift you – well, you screamed. This is a pretty strong painkiller – keep it on the farm for injuries and the like,” he told CD as he put the needle into a vein with practised ease. “Don’t worry mate – done this plenty of times before. Hafta learn how to do everything yourself out here mate – no bloody doctors for miles,” CD heard him say as he slipped back to that dark, dreamy world of darkness and no pain.

The old fellow’s son was flying the chopper and he turned to his father, once the drug kicked in and knocked the poor bastard out again. “Ere, dad, watcha rekin bout that burn-mark on is face there? Eh-da? That’s the Emu foot totem if I’m not mistaken,” he said turning back to the front to make sure they were heading in the right direction.

“Hmm, looks like it right enough,” his father said, turning CD’s face to see better.

“Hmm,” he said again. “Looks like someone used a bit of wire-fence as a branding-iron,” he said, grimacing at the thought. “On trees or stump, or carved into rock it stands for someone’s territory out here,” he said. “But on a man’s face, it means he’s been a very, very bad boy,” he said, wondering what the hell had happened out there and, what this fellow had done to deserve that. “And – a marked-man for some future retribution,” the young pilot said, shaking his head at the vagaries of city-folk…

NT NEWS-FLASH! NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA: THREE DEAD IN POSSIBLE HELICOPTER CRASH – ONE SURVIVOR.
In a bizarre incident on Wednesday morning, a local cattle-farmer discovered a burnt-out helicopter, three bodies and one man seriously injured but alive in a remote area of the Northern Territory. While checking fences from his private helicopter, Cattle-farmer, Mr. Eddie Warburton noticed black smoke rising from an area near his property about mid-morning that day. “I knew it wasn’t a bushfire because of the heavy black smoke,” he told the NT Police when his son and copter-pilot Jason, called them as they ferried the man to their small airfield on the property. Where an air-ambulance met them to take the man to Darwin Base Hospital. The surviving man’s name has not been released by Police as yet, as they are waiting on his injuries to be ascertained by medical staff.

Mr Warburton’s son, Jason, told the Police: “We didn’t touch any of the bodies, as we could see the men were past… um? Any sorta help like, ya-know?” he explained. “It was like a bloody war-zone out there!” he added. NT Police have not released any names as yet, explaining that the identities of the deceased and their relatives had yet to be found.
NT Police have sent a forensics unit to the spot to carry out their investigations, although our reporter Jim Davies, who talked to Mr Warburton and Jason said that all three bodies showed signs of explosive fire and shrapnel, and at least one of the men had been stabbed.

“The bloody knife was still in his chest,” Jason said, and thus, questioning the helicopter crash as possible reason for the deaths…

Chapter 5 Don’t tell me yer worries; I got enough of me own!…

    In his 5-star hotel room in Darwin, NT., Mr Slocum, the official client-contact and instigator of the group was a worried man. He was waiting for CD’s Doctors to allow visitors, so he could find out what the hell had happened with his three hunter-friends and business colleagues; Their very expensive chopper! For God’s frigging sake! He was also fairly certain that the forensics team would explore the area, and; That could be the start of a major investigation. The ‘boys’ hadn’t attempted to bury any proof, he knew. They burned the bodies with diesel and petrol and, though Slocum had warned them to ensure they scatter any remains, he couldn’t be sure they had listened. Once their blood was up, they often turned into childlike idiots, he knew first-hand.

But as many archaeologists could tell you – Slocum knew – even the hottest fire often left clues that today’s modern forensic investigators could bring back to life. Slocum was sure he had no links to either of the men, but CD knew him and his name, and that was a definite problem. CD seemed like the type that knew to keep his trap shut, but who knew how the man had come out of the absolute fiasco. And, what about the ‘black’? The prey? Nothing had been said about an Abo corpse or survivor. ‘Perhaps’, Slocum really, really, hoped, ‘they’d killed and burned the black before whatever shit had gone down’. Nothing was certain, ‘but getting to see CD would be a bloody good start!’ he thought, and rang the hospital once more…

Chapter 6 Intruder

    The man Slocum wanted to see so badly came awake and conscious again in crisp white sheets and fluoro-lighting above. “Hospital,” he mumbled and almost choked from his dry throat, and immediately felt his ribs flare in red-hot pain. A small hand appeared with a plastic cup of water. “Don’t try to sit up just yet, um? Sir? You’ve got a broken rib and two cracked ones. And um, we think you were in a terrible accident,” The nurse said – which she’d been told was all she could say – by the Head Doctor, and the Police – while bringing the drink to his parched mouth.

“Where am I?” CD groaned, but the nurse was already on her way out. She turned to him; looking at her watch and recording the time on his record. “Just lie still and be patient, the Dr. will be with you in a moment. You’re quite the celebrity it seems and Doctor will be with you in a moment. Okay?” she said, not waiting for an answer but sweeping out of the room the way nurses in a hurry do.

“What the goddam fuck!?” CD swore and grimaced as his ribs flared again. An awful voice CD had hoped he would never ever hear again, abruptly spoke from behind his head, behind the curtain that could be pulled around the bed for privacy. Ice ran down his spine; cold enough to freeze out the pain.

“A name, cuz!” it said, taking CD straight back to the shack and the black man they were going to hunt for fun.

“Give me a name, or you-fla dead, right now. Say good bye to all that money – your fourth-wife will be happy anyway… Only need one,” the voice said coldly. To reinforce the threat, CD felt a sharp prick on his neck. “Name – now – CD,” it said again, as the needle was pushed through his skin into his flesh. CD’s mind thrashed. It came out before he could stop it. “Slocum,” he whispered and felt the needle withdraw. “Watch yer back CD, you’re now a liability,” the voice whispered in his ear. CD felt he was in double, or triple-shock. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t think at all…

“Was that filthy half-wild black-fellow in the room?” A stentorian voice said, breaking the spell CD was under, as a Dr. entered, followed by several others, including a Policeman and ‘probably a Detective,’ CD thought warily. CD’s nurse half turned to the door, but spun back immediately. “I think he was just a local, probably got lost while looking for a relation here, Dr.” one of the nurses said. “They’re always getting lost in the hospital, everybody does,” she told him off-hand. The group moved closer to CD’s bed, forgetting the incident entirely. Only his nurse noticed how pale her patient suddenly looked. ‘He looks like he’s just seen a ghost,’ she thought, and stood back to give the Dr. room.

“So? How are you feeling Mr. Ah? I don’t think we have a name yet. Do we Sister?” the Dr. asked, looking straight at CD, brows raised?

“I… I – um? Can’t sort of remember!” CD lied and groaned as if in real pain again, though the shock of the black man turning up at his bedside was yet over-riding any mere body-pain.

“That’s perfectly normal my friend,” the Dr. said blithely, looking at CD’s chart. “These fine gentlemen from the Police would like a word, but I think you might need a good night’s rest, before the ahh? Inquisition as it were,” he said, expecting a chuckle from those around him. None were forthcoming. “Right then gentlemen!” he said, continuing a little huffily. “Shall we leave our un-named guest get some rest, and you fellows can speak to him in the morning perhaps; After Rounds, shall we say?” he said, making a note on CD’s chart before he handed it to one of the nurses to put back at the end of his bed.

It was plain to see, the Detective was impatient, but in such cases, the attending Dr. had the final say and nothing he could do or say would change that, he knew well. He gave CD a searching glance. “We’ll be back tomorrow – after Rounds then, and I do hope you’ve remembered your name by then – Sir,” he said, unable or unwilling to hide his sarcasm and doubt. It seemed the Police were suspicious of some type of foul play having occurred and to them, the yet nameless CD was right smack, dead centre of whatever had occurred…

And, they were apparently finding a lot more questions, as the Forensics team began a more thorough search of the entire area, the Detective knew. They left him alone to rest…

Chapter 7 Sly-boy Slocum

    In Darwin, Slocum had arranged a meet with his ‘girlfriend’, confidante and pretend-wife when needed – in the very lucrative business they were involved in; They were the top dogs in fact, and money from their daring exploits had rolled in like a spring-tide. They each had enough to disappear, and that was why they were to meet and arrange how and where to meet up later; much later – both agreed.

The meet was to be at the end of a dirt road, right on the ocean, behind the Military Museum on Darwin’s coast. It was an isolated spot, especially at night, which they’d decided would be safer all round – considering recent events beyond their control. Slocum was already there when his partner-in-crime arrived. Or at least his car was, the middle-aged woman found to her surprise. Slocum wasn’t the outdoor type; he loved his car and sound-system. He was always skiting about its clarity…

…Ms. Janice “Fuck-me!” Werribone, thirty-four, presently of No-Fixed-Address, had literally fucked the brains out of Mr. David Earl Slocum, and that’s how she had become a partner in the ‘game’, as she called what she did to help grab victims – prey – as the boys called them. Janice got her lovely nick-name for using those unique words on men she wanted to have some control over. It had worked on ninety-nine percent of the men targeted. She did have specific targets of course, but it was a wide range of ‘employment’, as she saw it. She had big firm ‘magnetic’ tits and she used those words with genuine lust in her eyes, posture and voice.

As she tried his car door, a voice came from the dark near the water’s edge, where soft waves were splashing behind. A form materialised from the rocks and beach as it rose like a spectre. It was dressed in dark clothing, down to its shoes, with a hood over its head. But Janice recognised the voice instantly and wished now she’d brought her little man-killer pistol from the car. She’d started to trust him instead of using him: ‘a fatal mistake considering the circumstances. I only wish I’d thought of it first!’ Janice mused, stunned to immobility.

“Fuck-me! … Janice!” Slocum said, pointing what looked very much like a pistol with silencer attached at her. “You taught Me! Not to trust “anyone,” he said, using hand gestures to accentuate the word. The pistol came down, pointing at her again. “Hey!” he said with a chuckle. “What about a final blow-job? What a way to go eh?” he said grinning again.

“I could manage that,” Janice said, affecting a sly, sexy grin; a glimmer of hope in her eyes at thought of getting that close to his manhood.

‘Fuck-you! Not Fuck-me! I’ll give you a slow-cum you’ll never forget!’ she thought, suddenly having one small chance to get out of this alive. She walked suggestively toward where he stood; ‘that freakin smirk on his face even now!’ she thought, trying not to grin or giggle at the thought of biting his fuckin penis right off and going for the gun. ‘He was that stupid after all,’ Janice mused as she bent to squat and undo his fly. She felt a blow that knocked her senseless and to the ground. Her body wouldn’t respond, so she tried to speak. But Slocum just grabbed her feet and began to drag her toward the rocks, the small beach and the water. Janice felt sudden acute pain almost everywhere on her body. But she was alive.

“You stupid slut! I wouldn’t have shot you – too many questions,” he said, struggling with her weight while dragging her roughly over the rocks and down to the rough shell-sand beach. “This way, it’s a terrible lone drowning for unknown reasons on a deserted beach miles from anywhere. Suicide, will be the obvious finding,” he grunted out, while dragging her limp body with the strength of a madman or desperate creature straight out into the waves…

‘I’m sorry mum…’ Janice thought sadly, as Locum held her head underwater for the required time for death to occur. Janice tried to stop it, but her lungs overrode her will and sucked water in and down. She couldn’t see… There was sand being forced into her mouth and eyes, because Slocum was holding her face-down and – when the darkness came; it was a relief…

Chapter 8 Hunter or hunted? That is the question…

    “One down, one – maybe two, to go,” Slocum said, ensuring the body stayed face down for several minutes. When it was done, he wiped his hands dry on his pants and pulled the mobile from his pocket and touched the dial-pad. He touched a name and the phone on the other end began the monotonous tone of the man’s phone. It was picked up quickly.

“Slinky Dawson ere, job’s done mate,” he said in an affected Australian drawl. “Put the rest in the usual acct and – I fuckin really ‘ope never to see youz’ ever again, ole mate,” it said, before cutting out.

“One more down – one to go, if I can find the black bastard,” Slocum mumbled to himself, as he stumbled his way back up to his car in the dark. Thoughts of his escape plan ran wild in his mind and, he abruptly changed direction to check on Janice’s vehicle – noting she’d left the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked. “Suicide for sure!” he said to himself, rubbing his hands together in glee for the extra money he’d made tonight, by ‘cleaning up the trash’, as he thought of tonight’s ‘work’.

Slocum leapt into his car in a sudden and almost jolly mood. He hit the music-player On-button, and selected some Benny Goodman Jazz – a live concert. He took out a small packet of white powder from a hidden compartment under the dash-computer, as music coming from an obviously-expensive sound-system drifted absolutely crisply within and without the car. He carefully laid a ‘line’ on the dashboard. This was the good stuff – which he was used to. “The initial hit was like the big ‘H’, the ‘White-King’”, he joked with genuine business colleagues whom partook. He had a bamboo straw secreted with the Cocaine and took a generous snort that instantly threw him back into the lush seat, his nose, tongue, brain and eyes all tingling with the sweet sensation he had grown to love.

Slocum was suddenly and deliriously happy; and it wasn’t just the Snow rushing through his blood. ‘Slinky’, for a respectable price – had taken care of CD: an unfortunate ‘accident’ – something to do with a mix-up of the routine painkillers while in hospital it seemed. ‘He will be missed!’ Slocum mused happily, smiling an idiotic grin that he just had to turn the rear-view mirror to see.

At first, he focussed only on his own relieved, stupid-grinning face, and grinned even more widely at his drugged appearance, but then – he noticed two dark orbs in the mirror that looked a lot like eyes; eyes in a black face his churning mind explained. Which would put the person that owned the eyes directly behind him; In his back-seat! He realized in a panic. Slocum scrabbled for his weapon, which he’d placed into the glove-box but his body abruptly failed him. He watched in growing amazement as his arm reached out in slow-motion, then fall to the console between the seats. There it stay. A lump of dead meat. He tried to turn his head, but only achieved a minute movement, as hard as he tried.

“Hey mate, ow yer goin?” a voice said, as if they were meeting at dinner or somewhere ‘normal’. The eyes had a voice! “Well of course!” his drugged mind said quite loudly, causing another round of giggling. The voice behind him was so casual, Slocum began to giggle from the effects of the snow, yet working its magic. Slocum tried with all his might but still couldn’t turn his head, but then, he suddenly remembered the rear-view mirror and swung his eyes to that small view. The eyes in a black face were right there, still.

“You, Sir, have been a bad, bad boy,” the eyes voice said quite sadly from behind him.

Slocum was slowly becoming terrified; an emotion amplified by his drug of choice. Sweat broke out on his forehead at first, but slowly moisture began to run from every pore in his body until his entire wardrobe was wet and soaked through.

“What’s happening to me? Why can’t I move?” he asked, his voice being the only thing that seemed to work at this moment.

“One of your recent choices for your lucrative game was a relative and friend of mine – he disappeared – and now, I know what happened to him. And you Davy, began the operation, or ‘business’, if you prefer,” it told him flatly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Slocum said sincerely, trying for indignation but failing badly; even from his point of view. He giggled uncontrollably and tried to stop without success. The voice ignored the giggling.

“You’ve been judged and found wanting, Dav,” the voice told him. Guilty of slavery and murder; Of man, woman and child,” it said matter of factly – “You are a ‘Shameless’, and I bin sent to ensure your swift departure from this earthly abode, ole mate,” it said, as if it was giving the time of day. Before Slocum could speak the voice continued.

“That white stuff you like so much was not your usual pure sample old mate,” it told him. A cold, trapped sensation ran through his body as the voice continued.

“It’s a mix of old and new and, in case you’re worried for me ole mate, only the ‘snow’ will be found in your blood when they pull you two, ‘star-crossed lovers’ from the ocean. I’m sure ole fuck-me Janice is lonely out there, mate, bobbing around in the ocean in the little gentle waves all alone. Now, be a man finally! Dav, and help me get you down to the water – as you did to your friend there; She’s waiting for you Dav,” the voice said mockingly.

Strong hands grabbed hold of Slocum like he was a bag of toys; They ripped him from his car and began to walk him – shoulder to shoulder – and ever-so-slowly, down the rocks and toward the sea and waves. “The dead-man’s walk,” Slocum murmured to himself and urinated down his leg. The black-fellow didn’t seem to mind the smell at all – in fact, he seemed to slow down even more.

“At least you get to see the ocean and sky and stars before you go ole mate,” the black said casually, obviously having seen his struggles to get his unlucky accomplice into the water.

“Take a good look Mr. Slocum, coz it’s the last time you will ever see such magnificence; You-fla bin propa lost your right, one-time, to share such wondrous things,” the man, holding him up easily, said, as they reached hip-height in the small waves.

“Don’t even try,” the black man said before Slocum could get a word out about how much money he had, and was willing to share. “I have enough money to live my life the way I wish,” he said, seeming to stare up into the heavens. “Ya-know Davy,” he said, bringing his attention back to earth. “They say the brain lives for up to twenty-minutes after physical death. And that thing you call a brain is about to get hot-wired; enjoy the trip,” he said, and slapped something onto Slocum’s back – something heavy, then he let Slocum go.

He sank immediately and instantly turned over. He could see the stars twinkling through the waters above his face. The black had stuck a weight to his back to keep him face-up and his head just under the water. At that moment, Slocum thought that there could be worse ways to die. But he didn’t die, not right away; He lay face-up, underwater and looking up through the moving water at the sky. Slocum guessed that it was something in the drug mix that held his lungs from acting as they normally would in this scenario; And then the rest of the mixture hit his brain, and each tiny precious moment of time, stretched and warped into an irrelevant structure. Images of victims streamed through his mind in glorious colour and fine detail…

To the ancient Australian watching and talking to the stars above him, it was a mere few minutes of peace and quiet, while ensuring his duty was carried out; To Slocum, it was a living nightmare that went on and on and on, until the avowed, suddenly former-atheist, began to pray to God for the darkness to come…



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Anthony (The Man), Mundine [Choc] – Angry? You need FfC:)

The attached pic of an excerpt from ‘letters to editor’, in a FNQ hardcopy newspaper [yes, they’re still around] carried one of the best promotions I could get for my FfC [10 X book] series. However, [Choc Mundine] I’m guessin’ you have to be fairly angry to even compete in that game, & I’ve seen your $-standings in the boxing-world’s $$$-list. It’s impressive to say the least & I’m sure PT Barnum would have been proud of your efforts.

I’m also extremely happy that readers are getting the gist of my books (I’ve had several wonderfully insightful personal messages from readers recently), as a foundation stone of the Fethafoot warriors training, is to solve issues without violence: nor fear or favour.

Following the Dreaming laws of/for balance. However, if the ‘shameless’ [always humans/language-creatures] are unable to smell the rotting stink of their corruption & be willing to practically repent; they are put down quickly and painlessly, if at all possible – though sometimes the Mother or The great spirit may intervene for the victims in these pages.

The FfC series is fiction; however, my unique descendants in this formerly ‘sacred’ land had a lot of lived experience to share with the modern world & unfortunately, in the rush to ‘own’ this once-sacred land & its riches, much has been lost & wasted. And it is only now, after the western world’s busy-busy, self-centred culture has been seen to deform us & our world that we look back & wonder how our 1st people survived for so long – within a political system covering the entire lands and peoples; though many spoke languages unheard-of at each end of the country. No slavery, no civil wars & an extremely healthy environment; in fact, it seemed that the land & environs was more important than an individual in that society. What a wonderful way to foresee a solid future for the children; those little dreaming things that come from the Mother & Spirit & return to whence after a long walk.

Angry? You need FfC…