Wake and Walkabout
Walter groaned. His head throbbed as though a giant cockroach had clobbered him. Then he remembered. A giant cockroach had clobbered him over the head.
He jerked and wriggled on the slab. Someone had bound his feet and hands with ropes. Probably the giant cockroach.
He writhed on the slab. He rubbed the rope on the stone.
The rope held fast.
Walter squirmed. Why was it so dark?
He teetered on the edge. He wriggled some more to keep balance. He teetered some more. Wriggling, squirming, it made no difference.
He crashed to the floor, the impact stunning him.
He woke. A thread of light shimmered.
Walter heard breathing. Feet scuffled on the dirt floor.
A human form shifted into the light, blocking it. Then black again.
Pain racked Walter’s body in waves, and he moaned.
Morning: Arthur spoke to his wife on the CB Radio.
‘Carol—dear, I have some—um—bad news.’
‘Oh, no, it’s one of the children.’
‘Well, um, yes.’
‘Amie, she’s missing.’
‘Oh God!’ Carol paused. The radio crackled.
A tear trickled down Arthur’s cheek.
‘Where?’ Carol asked. ‘When? How long?’
‘Out West—near The Spring. She’s been missing since yesterday—I mean, two nights.’
‘Two nights? But it’s so cold. She could’ve got hypothermia.’ Carol raised her voice. ‘And you didn’t think to call me earlier?’
‘We didn’t want to worry you—if it was just overnight…’ Arthur’s voice trailed off. He was in deep—doo doo—burying his whole being in it.
‘Right. I’m flying straight up,’ Carol said. ‘I’ll be at The Mission this afternoon, if I can. Tomorrow at the latest. Okay?’
‘Yes, dear.’ Arthur trembled as he replaced the receiver. Amie’s absence was all the more real now he’d told his wife. He stared at Adam bunched up in the front seat of the four-wheel-drive. Adam played his mobile phone game, so dealing with the crisis by losing himself in the digital world.
Arthur Fleischer sighed. If only it was that simple. However, he knew he must stay focussed on the here and now—the real world missing Amie.
Fleisher scanned the horizon. Even at eight in the morning the atmosphere shimmered with heat and a haze of flies.
By the way, what’s happened to Walter Wenke? Arthur wondered. He hadn’t seen him this morning. Hadn’t seen him most of the day before, come to think of it. He last recalled Walter had gone “searching” after breakfast yesterday and that was the last he saw him. Not that he missed Walter—That bloke has become just a little too slimy. I don’t like the way he sidles up to Adam—just a little too close, he thought.
Never-the-less, Arthur asked Dan Hooper the policeman. ‘You haven’t seen Mr. Wenke have you?’
Officer Hooper shook his head.
‘That’s another one we have to look for, a third lost person.’
‘Hmmm,’ Hooper said. ‘This place is becoming the Bermuda Triangle of Central Australia. How can three people just vanish?’
‘Not to mention the busload of tourists,’ Hooper mumbled.
‘Er, nothing, nothing to be alarmed about. Happens all the time—break-downs, going off the beaten track—that sort of thing.’
‘Oh.’ Fleischer looked around the campsite. No Nathan. ‘Where’s the tracker?’
‘You mean there’s a fourth?’ Dan said, then shrugged. ‘No worries. With him, it’s probably just walkabout, or he’s been tracking through the night. They have a different sense of time.’
Fleischer raised one eyebrow. ‘Really?’
‘You don’t think they look at their watches and say to themselves, ‘Oh, dear, we’re late, we’ve been out all night, we better get back now,’ do you?’
‘So, you’re not worried about Nathan, then.’
Hooper chuckled. ‘Why should I be? He’ll be right. I know Nathan, he’s the sort that doesn’t give up.’
‘I hope so.’
Hooper placed his hand on Fleischer’s arm. ‘You need to get some rest, Arthur. You’ve been up all night.’
‘I can’t, I’ve gotta do something.’ He tore away from the officer and then marched up the gorge ripping plants in his way left and right. ‘She has to be here—somewhere—she can’t’ve just vanished.’
‘Let the experts…’ Hooper followed and called after him.
Arthur staggered up the slope and then collapsed under a ghost gum. He sat on a large stone, his face in his hands, and his whole body shaking.
Dan Hooper put his hand on Arthur’s shoulder and guided him back to camp.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photo: Dawn in the Centre © C.D. Trudinger 1981