Wait, I’m not going to launch straight into the story; I want to say Hi first, and set the scene. Remember that 4-day off-track bushwalk in Kakadu I survived? While there, I was struck with inspiration to write about the adventure, and scribbled sentences into my tiny notebook one dreadful evening while being attacked by mosquitos (the only time we were hassled).
I sat down 2 months later to draft 500 words at least, for a short story competition with looming deadline (I can only work under pressure it seems). Again I was grabbed by the muse, and spent all day pouring 1500+ words around the competition theme ‘Earth’ onto my computer (such a good feeling).
Edit, edit, exaggerate, edit etc, and voila: ready just in time. Weeks passed with no word, so I assumed I’d slipped into the discard pile… then last week got an email to say I was shortlisted (another really good feeling).
Alas, I heard on the weekend that I didn’t win, but I don’t really care. I don’t care because I already won just by finishing it; I knew myself it was good; and I re-connected with my short story writing muscles (which are definitely different to blogging muscles).
So here it is for you, dear Readers, in 3 parts; please let me know what you think.
In gratitude for the Muse, G xO
‘EARTH’ (c) GG 2019
The escarpment snaked beside the 4WD on the remote highway, arching its back as though to strike. Bush fire scent smudged the air, while skinny gum trees and sand palms looked more vulnerable without the usual messy groundcover of grasses and fallen leaves.
‘The turn’s coming up soon on your phone map,’ Kelly said, frowning at the blue pulsing dot. ‘Actually, right now!’
The car shuddered as Sam swung it hard onto a narrow red road, disturbing birds of prey. More blackened eucalypts scattered along both edges of the track, with pops of green grass tufting through the ashes.
‘Look at those kites, Kel, circling for food,’ she said, lowering the electric windows. ‘We can probably hear them whistling… yes… such a Darwin sound, and now you’re hearing it at last, at the ripe old age of fifty-three. Better late to the Top End than never hey?’
They both smiled, then Sam shifted into low gear, as waves of corrugations began to shake every nut, bolt, tent peg and trail snack they had.
Two hours later, bouncing in the passenger seat, Kelly asked, ‘Isn’t there an optimum speed to cross these ruts on? Didn’t I read it somewhere?’
‘Look it up honey, while I just navigate them.’
‘Very funny. You know there’s no more reception, only the emergency beacon if we need it, and we’d better not need…’
Kelly snatched back the rest of her words, as they mounted a dirt rise, swung down the peak like foolhardy surfers, churned through a creek as high as the door bottoms, and bounced out the other side of the trough with water streaming off the car panels as fast as the fine red dust could powder them again.
‘We’re here,’ Sam said, skidding to a halt beside the tenth crocodile warning sign they’d seen. The adjacent Welcome to Country sign announced that they were on Larrakia Land. ‘I want to be hiking in thirty minutes, so let’s cram breakfast as quick as we can; it’s already nearly ten, and that sun’s only getting hotter.’
By noon, with twelve-kilo packs each of camping supplies, toiletries, spare clothes, and dehydrated food, both women were sweating and quiet. Birds complained about their intrusion, darting among shrubs as if warning the earth to brace herself for unfamiliar feet. The river along which the pair travelled was flowing fast through the gorge, as centuries of natural energy carved a path of least resistance.
Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance.
‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again…’
… TO BE CONTINUED