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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native animal rescue, Vic. Oz

“It’s almost a conservation utopia — but even Mt Rothwell can’t get rid of the rabbits. Their numbers got as low as 12 almost a decade ago, but when the drought broke the population exploded to around 17,000. “For many of those years it was just a dust bowl,” Ms Rypalski said. “Then when the rain came and the vegetation went past our knees the rabbits just exploded.”https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-29/mt-rothwell-geelong-saving-endangered-australian-native-animals/11751012

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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…