Sunday, October 9, 2011
Three days ago a young bushwalker had wandered away from his group and disappeared. While anxious friends and family waited, the search and rescue teams had combed the dense bushland. Two hours ago the call had come. The coded message from command post, had simply stated,"the bottle is broken."
The lost bushwalker had been found.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The branches of the old eucalyptus sway in the wind. The creaking almost drown out the soft clacking of the wooden wind chime. In the distance thunder rumbles. The air fills with the scent of ozone mixed with wood smoke and winter. Inside the tiny converted wooden shed, Raven sits crossed legged on the floor listening to the soft drone of Wolf's gentle voice. The acrid aftertaste of blue lotus wine still lingers on her tongue. The wine, combined with the smell of burning skullcap leaves and wood smoke, makes her drowsy.
"...in your mind reach out and open the door,” Wolf says as she shuffles the tarot deck, almost absently. She withdraws three cards. She smiles knowingly as she lays the cards – the Empress, the Moon and the Magician – on the floor in front of her.
"Ask her your question," Wolf tells Raven, pointing to the Empress.
Raven thinks about the restlessness that had slowly crept into her life and the insidious fear that she'd chosen the wrong career, before answering, "I want to know if I'm on the right path."
Wolf leans over and hands her the Moon card. It is the card of dreams and visions.
"Now go to sleep, she will find you.”
The cage sways unsteadily in the wind, its metal bars moans in protest, waking Raven from her slumber.
"Where am I?" she asks no-one in particular. Her voice echoes briefly through the cavernous space before being swallowed by the wind.
"You're where you are now," a husky voice answers her.
Standing on a perch the Empress chuckles as Raven turns to face her.
"Who are you?"
The Empress laughs in response. The tinkling sound echoes throughout the cage. Raven looks about her, studying her sparse surroundings. She makes her way gingerly to the edge of the cage. Grasping the metal bars in her hands, she stares down into the black abyss. For the first time since awakening, a slither of fear creeps in, making her retreat from the edge hurried and clumsy. Raven closes her eyes. “This is all just a dream.” She repeats to herself, taking slow deep breaths, until she feels her heartbeat steady again.
Turning around to face the hag once again, she asks, "Am I on the right path?"
"This is the path you've chosen," the Empress replies, sweeping her arms wide.
“But this is a cage."
"Ah, but a cage of your own making.”
“How do I escape?"
"Look around you Raven, there are only three walls."
"But I can't just walk out. I'll fall into the abyss," Raven cries in alarm.
The Empress laughs mirthlessly.
"Then fly out."
"But I don't have wings."
"Oh but you do sweet Raven,” she tells Raven pointing to the card on the floor beside her feet. Raven bends over to pick up the card. She flips it over. It is the Magician.
Raven wakes to the beep of her alarm. Rolling over she hits the stop button, then drags her sleepy form out of bed. The anxiety kicks in as she thinks about the scheduled morning meeting with the regional manager and the inevitable clash of wills. Her footsteps slow as the dread rolls through her body making her feel queasy. Then like a drum beat the words, “Oh but you do sweet Raven,” pulses stubbornly in her head. The queasiness goes away.
In the bathroom, Raven checks herself in the mirror. A familiar stranger stares back at her. It is the Empress.
“Who are you?”
This time she knows the answer.
"Who am I?" she whispers as the image morphs into that of herself. She makes a decision.
“I am choosing my path,” She says out loud and for the first time in a long time Raven smiles at her reflection. Turning away she unclasps her right hand and watches as a black feather slowly floats to the floor.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
It had started innocently enough. The client had a foot fetish, all I had to do was wiggle my toes, and wave my feet around. For the first ten minutes, he blissfully followed my feet with his eyes, turning his head every so often to track their movement. I was bored, so the devil in me asked, "Why not?" I always had trouble resisting that voice.
And so I complied. I placed my bare feet on his bald head and moved them slowly down his face, kneading his cheeks in the process. The client went from blissful straight to foot fetish heaven, on a trail of drool. I moved my feet back to his bald pate, well away from the drool. Not long after, an angry voice hissed in my ear, "Get up. Now." It was my supervisor, the Devil herself.
She marches me back to the change room. She yells and waves her arms around. I tune out for most of it.
"...you do not touch the clients. They are not to touch you and you definitely do not touch them. He has a foot fetish, so rubbing your feet on his face is the same as you rubbing your v -"
I interupt her with the only thing I could think of to stop her tirade, "Um, you need to stop yelling at me. I think you're starting to turn me on."
She huffs in reply, before saying, "One of these days, your smart mouth is going to get you in a lot of trouble."
It already has. Many times.
Has something funny...or embarrassing...or scary...or amazing....ever happened to you?
It wasn't until a few hours later that Harry remembered the object that he'd carelessly thrown into the back seat of his vehicle. He'd found it up earlier that night, when the light from his torch had picked up something shiny.
"Hey guys, what do you think this is?" he asked bringing the object closer to the light of the camp fire.
"Jesus Christ! That's a leg bone," Phil cried in disbelief.
Ranger shook his head, "Why are you carrying a leg bone around?"
"It's not human is it?" Harry asked, feeling a little stupid.
"It's human all right, you doofus."
"Where'd you find it?" Ranger asked, reaching for the bone.
"Behind the depot a few hours ago."
"You've been carrying this around with you for hours?"
"Shit, now we have to call the cops. More paper work." Phil muttered.
"I'll radio it in," Ranger said walking towards the car.
The rest of the skeleton was recovered behind the depot shed the next day. It was identified by the serial number on the metal joints (the shiny bit). The bones belonged to an old man suffering from dementia, who had gone missing 5 years earlier.
It was night, which was not an uncommon habitat for a goth. Jimmy which is an uncommon name for a goth was having breakfast. With his headphones permanently attached to his pale ears (or at least it seemed, for he was never seen without it), Jimmy jerked and spasmed enthusiastically around the kitchen to the musical sounds of Marilyn Manson. Deeply entrenched in the dark rhythms, he failed to notice the sinister pair of eyes watching from the darkness. It waited until Jimmy gave one final show stopping jerk of his pelvis before launching into the air and attaching itself securely onto his pale neck.
It was only 8 am but already the day had turned to shit. It was hot and muggy. The heat from the past few days still lingered in the air and there didn't seem to be any relief anytime soon. The unrelenting heat only added to the tension. Sweat trickled down Ranger's 5'11" frame as he waited for the police to secure the crime scene. He turned to look at his partner Raven and wondered how she always managed to look fresh in all her black leather, while he sweated like a pig. At least the sweat offered some relief from the heat.
"Time to go in," Raven said with a grim smile, pulling on a pair of laced trimmed black latex gloves.
Ranger grabbed his tool kit from the back of the 4WD and followed Raven past the crime scene tape and into the house. The first thing he noticed was the smell. The air was thick with the ammonic smell of urine mixed with the undertones of neglect only associated with bachelor households.
"Where's the body?" he asked.
"Just follow the black rain," answered Raven, pointing to the ceiling space above him.
"Shit! It's raining leeches."
"Yeah, it's raining Quaesitobdella bilineata."
"Quaesitobdella bilineata. See how they all have yellow medial stripes," Raven answered bending down to retrieve a speciman jar from her kit.
"Let's get started. We have to clear the area before they can take him down," she added, moving decisively towards the mass of crawling leeches.
Ranger hesitated for a brief moment before following suit. The whole scene looked surreal. It was almost like the world had turned upside down. Jimmy Palin's pale limp body lay spread eagled, except instead of being on the floor it was stuck to the ceiling. From his face and torso the leeches moved in a synchronised periscopic wave of black and yellow. They covered him like a living jacket, and one by one, they detached themselves and fell like black rain to the floor.
An hour later Raven peeled off her latex gloves and threw them into the bin.
"I think that's all of them,"
With all the leeches safely seeled in the jars, they now had an unobstructed view. Jimmy's vacant hazel eyes stared down at them, while the muscles of his mouth, twisted in a permanent scream.
"There's no smell of decomp, do you think he's still alive?" Ranger asked sniffing the air.
"Only one way to find out," one of the medics commented, as one by one the medical crew pushed passed Ranger. Together they formed a semi-circle, creating a human barrier that effectively blocked any further investigation. With their backs to the pair, they discussed the best ways to remove the body.
"I guess that's our cue," Raven said, moving towards the door.
"Do you think he's still alive?" Ranger repeated as he followed her to the car.
"Did you notice anything strange about the body?" Raven asked, ignoring Ranger's question.
"You mean how the body was stuck to the ceiling?"
"That and the fact that we didn't see any blood. When a leech bites you, you usually bleed. There was no blood, Ranger. On the otherhand, leeches love fresh kills..."
Twilight crept across the horizon, unnoticed by the occupants of the sleepy country town. Ranger, exhausted and desperately missing Raven, was finally on the road and on his way back home. In the past few days, his patience had been tried and tested many times. The environmental management conference had turned into a farce, overrun by the different factions intent on enforcing their own agenda. Mulling over the battles ahead, he almost collided with a lone wombat slowly making its way across the road. Swerving the car, he barely missed the woman standing on the side of the road.
Heart beating a loud tempo in his chest, he climbed out of the 4WD.
"Christ, are you alright."
"I... need... to... go... home," she whispered staring vacantly ahead.
"Hey, it'll be alright. I'll give you a lift," Ranger said, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.
"I...need...to...go...home," she repeated.
The woman was obviously suffering from shock. Her mud stained black dress accentuated her pale face, lending a fragile beauty to the otherwise harsh features. Surveying the isolated landscape and noting that there were no other vehicles in the vicinity, he briefly wondered how she had gotten to this place.
Taking her cold hands in his, he gently guided her into the car.
The soft light of dawn was beginning to creep across the landscape, when with a frustrated sigh, Ranger gave up on the radio dial. Nothing in the car worked, not the radio which had played static for the last thirty minutes nor his mobile phone. Now all he had to listen to was the strange woman who kept repeating the same line. It was starting to creep him out.
Ranger checked the clock again. It wasn't working either. It was still showing 4.30 am. Hearing her gasp, he turned to look at her, before quickly returning his attention back on the road. From out of nowhere a man appeared. Slamming on the brakes, Ranger tried to manoeuvre the car away from the man but it was too late. There was a sickening thud as the car made contact, before skidding out of control. It hit the embankment and flipped on its side rolling five times before coming to a stop.
Time moved slowly. Ranger watched as if from afar, as the car flipped upside down, crushing the roof of the cabin. As the car began to roll, a clump of grass wedged its way in between the opening in the window.
Bothriochloa macra, he thought a little hysterically, correctly identifying the species as the vehicle came to a stop on its side. There was a deafening silence before awareness slowly returned. He looked for his strange passenger but she was nowhere to be seen. He stared nonsensically instead at the single black feather which had buried itself in her seat.
In a half daze, he tried to open the door. Finding it stuck, he climbed out the window instead and staggered around in confusion.
"Are you all right?" a voice called from behind him.
"Yeah, I think so," he replied collapsing to the ground.
"I saw the car roll from up that hill. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah," he replied regaining his feet.
With unsteady steps, Ranger walked around the scene of the accident.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for the man I hit and the woman in the car."
"What man and woman?"
"The man and woman!" Ranger exclaimed as panic set in.
He marched wildly around, looking about him, while the stranger looked on in confusion. There were no trees nearby to hide any bodies.
"Listen mate, the medics and cops will be here soon, so why don't you just sit down and rest for a bit."
Ignoring this advice, Ranger walked back to the car with the man following worriedly behind him. He checked the front of the vehicle. There was mud splattered on the bumper and windscreen.
"Strange, it hasn't rained here in months," the man observed running a finger through the fresh mud.
Everyone laughed, including the bride who let out one of her famous donkey brays. This set everyone off again.
In one corner of the room Raven was busy chatting to her friend Lady Kadaver, an ex-stripper.
"I want to know who that guy is," Lady K said, indicating with a casual wave of her hand, to a group of smartly dressed people standing in the centre of the room.
"Why?" Raven answered glancing behind her at the group.
"I think he's an ex-client. He's been avoiding eye contact with me all night. His wife, or whoever she is, has been giving me the evil eye."
They looked at each other before saying in unison, "Let's go mingle!"
"If that's who I think it is, he's got a foot fetish. So show some leg," Lady K added wickedly.
Outside, the Purple Professor was one step closer to 'picking up'. According to him, weddings were the best places to meet women. He'd manage to convince Dina to come outside with him. They sat on the bench talking, though the conversation didn't really make any sense. They were both well past sobriety. He briefly registered movement to his right as another couple sat down on the bench next to them. He made his move.
The Purple Professor and Dina were deeply absorbed in their face sucking marathon when the bride stepped outside for a breather. At first she didn't notice the couple making out noisily on the bench near the entrance. She was busy talking to Ranger and Dave who had followed her out. It didn't take her long to notice though.
"Um, what is going on?" she asked taking a stunned step towards the oblivious couple.
"Shit. Double shit," Dave said.
"You've got to do something," the bride cried.
"What's going on?" Ranger asked confused.
"The Purple Professor's making out with Dina and her very recent - as in two days ago - ex, who is sitting on the next bench watching," Dave explained."The boyfriend is the wedding photographer, their best friend," he added pointing to the bride.
"On one hand I think we should do something, but on the other...it's been a long time since The Professor's gotten any..." he added.
"You guys have to do something now," the bride said between gritted teeth.
"I guess we should try and separate the two. Dina and her ex came in the same car as the bride and groom. This is going to make the trip home pretty awkward. Got any ideas?"