A Story where the past and present, and vast distances in space intersect…and Boris does what he always does…
Eastern Europe, 1848
Prussian War raged, and the Wends as a village, left their homeland, with plans to set sail for Australia. From the Eastern edge of Prussia, they journeyed on a barge destined for Hamburg’s port, where they hoped to catch a cheap fare in the cargo-hold of a ship destined for the Promised Great South Land.
These villagers, never made their Australian destination. No one ever noticed, nor missed them. The neighbouring villagers assumed they had arrived in the Great Southern Land, and considered them so far away, and too distant to maintain contact. In Adelaide, also, the city for which they headed, the inhabitants were blissfully unaware of their existence. Migrating Prussians had taken their place in the over-flowing cargo-hold, and were sailing across the Atlantic to Australia.
On this barge, headed by a man, Boris Roach, the Wends sang hymns of praise to God for their liberation from religious persecution, and the war. They looked to the promise of prosperity and freedom to worship God according to the Word. Their hope that their children and their descendants may thrive in their faith in the Promised Land of South Australia.
Lost in the Desert
Central Australia, July 2016
For once in her life, Amie abandoned her iPad. She peered around the Land Cruiser door. The Mission stirred up in a frenzy of people, milling, gawking, and pacing across the red sand. She raced through the metal gate, and noted a television crew focused on a small huddle by the church in the historic village. She paused and stared. In the middle of the flurry, a pale woman shook. Her hair was tousled like a bird’s nest. A man with greying hair, draped his arm around her shoulder. He also was shaking. She recognised them as “neighbours” from the caravan park in Alice Springs.
‘Dad, what’s going on?’
‘Come along, inside. This is nothing to do with us.’ Dad barged through the gate and guided Amie to the house.
A helicopter hammered above the house. Amie could see Dad’s mouth move, but did not hear the words. ‘Pardon? What did you say?’
Dad’s face turned crimson, he opened and shut his mouth through his black beard, and waved his arms around.
‘What? I can’t hear you!’
As the helicopter noise faded into the distance, Dad snapped, ‘Where’s Adam?’
‘Adam? Adam?’ Amie jumped up and ran through the house opening every door. Her search unsuccessful, she returned to the living room. ‘I thought he came in. Where is he?’
‘No, he didn’t come in.’
‘He was in the Land Cruiser.’ Amie became worried. ‘We didn’t leave him in Alice Springs, did we?’
Dad pushed aside a tattered curtain and looked through the dust in the window. ‘No, I don’t think so. We would’ve noticed if Adam wasn’t there.’ Sirens wailed. A megaphone blaring with distorted words echoed over the compound. ‘Mmm! Typical Adam! It’s just like at Uluru. He’s lost again!’
‘Shall I go out and see if he’s out there?’
‘No, it’s alright. You don’t want to get caught up in all that. I’m sure Adam’ll be alright. He’ll come in when he’s ready.’ Dad tapped the keys in his pocket.
Pots and pans clattered in the kitchen signaling the presence of their host and family friend, Walter Wenke, ‘Dinner’s ready in half an hour. Don’t mind the excitement—just another lost tourist.’ Plastic rustled as the balding Walter ferreted for food. ‘Tourists! Can’t trust ‘em! Well, at least it’s some excitement for the locals. We’ve had half a dozen offers to track already.’
Amie slipped outside and into the fray. On the edge of the crowd, she detected Adam’s bleached mop of hair glowing in contrast to the charcoal faces.
As she approached the red gum tree where Adam was, an Indigenous man appeared out of the dusk. He muttered to Adam. The man’s fingers stroked the beard on his chin. Adam mimicked him stroking his own imaginary stubble.
‘They want me to go tracking for the lost fella. Must be careful. There’s a bad spirit out there. An evil spirit. He kill people. Or take people away. I don’t wanna go to faraway spirit land. I wanna stay here.’ The man had a slight German accent, which surprised Amie.
The whites of the man’s eyes gleamed reflecting the halo of Adam’s hair. Spotlights shone on a policeman taking notes and nodding while the couple shook theirs. Amie hugged her bare arms. The sun had set and the cold had set in. Goosebumps made her skin feel rough as she rubbed her forearms. She stamped her feet, sifting the cool sand between her thongs and toes.
‘Hey, Adam, what’s going on?’
‘You know that boy you were friendly with at the caravan park back in Alice—’ Adam smirked and stifled a giggle, ‘he’s got himself lost in the desert. Stupid tourists, they have no idea.’
‘You mean Joseph?’ Amie’s heart pounded. ‘He’s just a friend. Anyway, it’s no laughing matter.’ She’d first noticed Joseph at Emily Gap when his old man was bugging him to get out of the motor home and Joseph refused. They then got in an argument about his dreadlocks and how embarrassing he was to the family. Amie had thought then, his father just made the situation worse by criticizing his son’s hair style. Then to her amazement, Joseph and his family’s motor home was next to theirs at the caravan park.
‘Evil spirit got him. They won’t find him. Der boy’s not here.’ The man waved a hand past his curls. Kamikaze beetles darted at the blonde highlights in the man’s hair and bounced off.
Amie slapped her younger brother. ‘Told you, no laughing matter. What’s wrong with you?’
‘Amie’s in love,’ Adam said in a sing-song voice while rubbing the welt on his cheek.
‘Shut up!’ Amie snapped. ‘Dad’s looking for you. Let’s go!’
Adam waved to his new found friend and followed Amie to the house. ‘Maybe that lost guy Joseph could eat bugs if he’s hungry.’
‘Stop it, Adam Fleischer.’
Inside Dad was deep in conversation with his teacher friend, Walter. Walter Wenke had joined the education department in his forties after the GFC had blown apart his career as a physicist. He hoped to join the Fleischer family as they journeyed out West.
Walter and Dad had come to an agreement; Walter supplied the accommodation at the Mission, and Dad would supply the means of travel way out west to his favourite mountain and spring in that area. Amie and Adam’s Dad, Arthur, had taught in the Mission many years ago, and the Indigenous owners of the land treated him like family. Before all this chaos with the lost tourist, Arthur Fleischer had arranged guides for the family in exchange for a few favours.
Roast chicken aroma wafted through the pastel-green kitchen and over the polished pine table. Walter and Dad discussed the excitement gripping the small town.
‘Lost. The boy is lost, out there on the way out West,’ Walter said.
‘How did they get out there?’ Dad asked. ‘I thought you need a permit.’
‘Yeah, well, they’re scientists. Mr. Smith is a geologist and commissioned to survey the unusual rock formations in the area out West, and some minerals found there. His wife’s a botanist. She’s interested in the rare plants found in the area.’
Amie interrupted. ‘What about their son?’
‘He wandered off while his parents were busy and got lost.’
‘You can say that again,’ her father said and then wagged a finger at her. ‘Now, Amie, don’t you go off and get lost.’
Amie glanced up at the ceiling. ‘I won’t. Anyway, that’s the sort of thing Adam does.’
Adam squealed. ‘I don’t!’
‘And now we’re going to have trouble getting a guide. They’ll be all busy looking for the boy and there’ll be no one left for us,’ Dad muttered.
‘Oh, no! What a pity. I’m really looking forward to going out there. Well, no use fretting. Let’s talk about something different.’ Walter turned to Adam. ‘Have you heard of the Wends, Adam?’
Amie rolled her eyes. Here we go, Walter’s other great passion, family history.
Adam looked up from his mobile phone with which he’d been discreetly playing under the table. Amie gave Adam a knowing smile and murmured, ‘Here we go.’ The siblings mused how the resident family historian Walter would do it this time—especially since he’d been out of circulation in this remote part of the world for six months. Still, by the size of the satellite dish on top of his home, Walter had internet.
The chair creaked. Dad rose and paced toward the oven. ‘I’ll just check how the chicken’s going.’
‘Bet the boy was taken by evil spirits,’ Adam said, ‘that’s what Nathan told me.’
‘Who?’ Dad wrestled with the roast tray between his floral mittens and an oven door snapping shut on his arm.
‘He’s my new friend. Nathan told me there’s a ghost hanging around the old town, a boy about twelve.’
‘Ah, little boy lost!’ Walter launched into his dissertation. ‘It reminds me of this Wend village. They were heading for Australia and vanished off the face of the earth.’
The Fleischer family exchanged glances, as Walter prattled on. Tonight, they would have Wend for dinner and dream of lost Wends before heading out West. Better than quantum physics, Amie thought. She liked a bit of history. And if they couldn’t get a guide, she wouldn’t mind a few Wend tales as they sat around the house or wandered the unsealed roads around town. Although some Dreamtime stories or tales of the pioneer missionaries would be nice for variety. Truth be known, Amie was not keen on “roughin’ it” way out West. After all, already she had to endure virtual starvation at Kings Canyon because the meat in the cool box went off. Trust Dad!
‘Perhaps we might find the lost lad,’ Dad said. ‘We could offer to go out West and help search.’
Amie poured lime cordial into her glass. ‘Who knows, we might even find some Wends, Walter.’
Mr. Wenke tightened his lips. ‘I don’t think so.’ He then stood up, emptied the scraps into the rubbish bag. ‘I’ll take these for the compost,’ he said, and left the kitchen. The laundry door banged. It banged again as Walter returned, his mission to save the earth, accomplished.
Amie and Adam took a stroll while their elders discussed physics, wormholes, and of course Wends. Outside the bright lights from the film crew were being dismantled and the crowd of drama-hungry onlookers had disbanded. The search teams had been dispatched, leaving the expanse beyond the cyclone fence dark and still. Joseph’s parents stood trembling by the crumbling wall of the cemetery. Careful not to invade their not-so-private trauma, Amie and Adam crossed the road and continued their walk of the town.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photos: (1) Endeavour Replica © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2012
(2) Sunset on Mission © C.D. Trudinger, circa 1955 (from slide)