[Episodes 23 & 24 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and
‘Where are they?’ He hurled his arms around with force.
‘I don’t know. They are gone,’ she whispered.
‘They couldn’t have just gone! Karl can’t even walk yet.’ He clenched his fists.
‘I’ve been looking for them all day.’
She wandered around the little cottage, from room to room, lifting cushions, and opening drawers as if searching for an orphaned sock.
‘I don’t think they are in the house. Have you thought of the woods? Perhaps you left them there,’ he snapped.
A solidly built man walked through the open door. ‘Tails, have you news?’ Fahrer asked the man.
Tails’ expression was the stiff upper lip variety, and his news grim. ‘Two infant bodies ‘ave been pulled up from the lake.’ One of those stiff upper lips curled, sneering.
In the middle of the room, Minna paced wringing her hands.
A woman with red hair hung in the background of shadows. ‘You killed ‘em, Minna,’ she said.
‘No, I didn’t, Maggie.’
‘What were they doing here?’ I muttered.
That pair, the blonde man, and the red-headed partner stood, hands folded, by the lake. In silence, Fahrer, his eyes swollen and red, nodded at the bodies. A nun, a pale Sister Salome, restrained Minna who writhed in her arms and wailed; an eerie keening cry.
I stroked the hollow in the back of my neck trying to smooth the hair that seemed stiff and icy. ‘Oh, my God!’I rasped. The tragic scene continued…
Later, it must be later, for they were standing in a small dark room. The cottage again. Minna stepped towards Gunter. He turned from her. She touched his back and mouthed a voiceless, ‘Sorry…’
‘I can’t deal with you right now. I don’t know who you are any more.’ He stormed out the room slamming the door.
Minna curled up on a mat in the middle of the darkened room. Rocking, she watched the coals in the fireplace turn from red to cold black.
* * *
A sharp stone dug into my thigh. ‘Ouch!’ I woke with a start.
‘That was not the Fahrer dream I expected. My brain’s really working overtime to figure this one out,’ I muttered. ‘I did not like that dream at all! Must’ve been the rock bed.’
I stretched and scanned the scenery. Day was breaking. The sun sang as the solar winds whistled an eerie echo peculiar to this planet. Was that sound the keening cry I heard in my dream?
‘Good morning Holly. What have you been up to, my dear?’ Liesel squatted by the coals. She placed dry twigs to ignite the flame.
‘Having nightmares of this place.’
‘Sleeping rough again, Holly. You look like you have acne scars.’
‘I know. I know. I like the fire, you know. I was watching the coals and the next thing I am asleep, having nightmares about those poor little children and getting pebbles stuck to my face.’
‘This planet has that effect on people.’ Liesel then leaned forward. ‘Tell me what really happened to those poor little children?’ Liesel expected my empathic powers to extend into the spirit world and the ghosts of babies.
‘That is what I am trying to work out. I am not a medium, though.’ I resisted the urge to tell Liesel of my association with Minna, the bond we had formed in the hospital in Melbourne, in case it coloured her perception of me.
‘So what was the dream about?’
‘Those poor little boys in the lake, you know. Oh, it was awful!’ I shuddered.
‘You must stop taking your dreams and everything, so personally. Just confirms Minna’s guilt, if you ask me. Here, have a cup of coffee.’ Liesel poured boiling water from the billycan into a cup with instant coffee, and then handed it to me. ‘And another thing,’ Liesel slurped her brew, and continued, ‘Whatever you do, don’t tell Fahrer. Got me? Trust me on this, don’t tell Fahrer. What did I say? Repeat after me: Don’t tell Fahrer.’
I repeated Liesel’s mantra. ‘Don’t tell Fahrer’. In the same breath, ‘By the way, speaking of the Fahrer, where is he?’
‘I suppose he’d be in the tent with Fritz and Smith.’
‘No, he isn’t,’ Smith piped up from the tent. ‘His sleeping bag’s empty and hasn’t been slept in all night.’
Fritz burst out of the tent. ‘We have had a—a message from Nathan. We are to return to the Ship immediately.’
‘Can Nathan wait a few minutes? We must find Fahrer,’ I yelled. Without looking back, I collected a survival pack, charged into the vegetation, and sprinted towards the hill in the distance.
‘Don’t tell Fahrer!’ Liesel called after me.
I navigated my way up the mountain. Smith did mention the mountain was a regular haunt for Fahrer.
Tufts of what I would call ‘button grass’ dotted the base of the mountain. A stream of golden liquid trickled down the steep gully. Was it me or did this place resemble the central highlands of Tasmania? Even the mountain sticking up like a sore tooth, reminded me of Cradle Mountain. I looked below, there, sparkling blue, Dove Lake.
But this was the Pilgrim Planet. Boris had blasted the mountain with his nasty nuclear bomb. And in that lake below, two babies had drowned.
Must not think about that.
I gazed at the plain below and marveled at the blend of blues, greens and purples of re-vegetation; a testament to the IGSF’s (Inter-Galactic Star Fleet’s) effort to effectively neutralize the radiation. In anticipation for the increased radiation levels ahead, I donned my radiation-protection suit and air-filter mask.
Half way up the slope I detected a cave perched near a ledge.
Upon reaching the cave, I scrambled in. Near the entrance were remnants of a campfire, some rusty pots, and fragments of burnt paper. Fresh boot prints confirmed my suspicions. I was on the right track.
I hiked up the gully to the summit. As I ascended, the landscape grew more barren like a lunar landscape; the result of that nuclear blast. Queenstown, a mining town near Strahan came to mind.
I slipped. Rocks crumbled like chalk. Although strong like a mountain goat from the IGSF fitness regimen, every few steps now, I was forced to stop and gasp for breath. My air-filter struggled with the tainted air. Had the radiation sucked the oxygen out of the atmosphere? How could the air become thin so quickly?
This trek seemed to be taking longer than I expected. No sign of Fahrer yet. Was I on a wild goose chase?
The false summits teased me. Each undulation tempted me with hope, only to dash it when I reached the crest and saw another one ahead. How many of these bald rises do I have to endure?
I staggered over yet another rise and stopped. Just in time, my arms wheeling to maintain balance. I stared at a steep drop on the other side. The cliff face stood one thousand meters from its base to the top. My body had the urge to jump but resisted with counter-balancing.
Surveying the rocky plateau, I admired the spectacular view. The second more distant sun had risen and bathed the mountains and valleys in a glow the colour of salmon. I walked towards the sun rising on the northern horizon. The climb had caused me to almost boil in my protective suit. I sipped water using a tube from the supply in the emergency back pack. With the panoramic view, I hoped to spot Fahrer.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake ©L.M. Kling 2009
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