Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Scribblings #288 - The Call

Back at base camp, Ranger took a grateful swallow from his thermos mug. The coffee was cold, but he didn't care. It was strong and for now, it was exactly what he needed. Ignoring the exhausted chatter around him, he walked to the edge of the clearing. Wearily massaging the back of his neck, Ranger surveyed the rugged terrain before him. It was a deceptively beautiful place. In the distance he could hear the helicopter approaching. It was time to go home.

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 Cage (draft II)

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.
" 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

Sunday Scribblings #141: I knew instantly...(excerpts from the scandalicious memoirs of Lady K)

I knew instantly that I was in trouble. There are many rules where I work but the number one rule is "THERE IS TO BE NO PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH CLIENTS". I was never any good at following rules. My name is Lady Kadaver, Lady K for short and I am an exotic dancer, by choice.

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.
" 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.


Scribble Soup for Writers' Block #30: Anecdote

Interlude V

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.

Goth Nerds Inc.

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
"Quasi what?"
"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..."

Ashes and Silt ...(Episode vii)

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.
"," 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.

Sunday Scribblings: Scandalous

Weddings, Scandals and Everything - Interlude III

Episode xii

The bride looked absolutely stunning in her ivory dress with black stripes and blood red flowers which illuminated her pale skin, giving it a pearly shimmer. The guests all commented and marvelled at how beautiful she looked. Holding a stubby in one hand, Ranger approached the bride. He winked mischievously at her before announcing to the crowd, "I'm going to ask you once, and once only. Can I wear your dress one day?"
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'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?"

Sunday Scribblings #137: Stranger

The Dark Stranger - Interlude II

Raven sat crossed legged on the floor listening to the soft drone of Wolf's gentle voice. The acrid aftertaste of blue lotus wine still lingered on her tongue. The wine, combined with the smell of burning skullcap leaves and wood smoke, was making her drowsy.
" in your mind reach out and open the door. Who do you see?"
"A stranger...with thick long black hair. I can't see her face, but I know she's very old. There's something strangely familiar about her..."
Wolf smiled knowingly to herself, before saying,"Ask her your question."
Raven thought 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."
"Now go to sleep, she will find you," Wolf whispered in her ear.

The cage swayed unsteadily, waking Raven from her slumber. Its metal bars creaked in protest as the wind rushed by.
"Where am I?" she asked no-one in particular.
"You're where you are now," a woman's voice answered her.
Sitting on a perch, swinging her thin legs in the air, the old hag chuckled as Raven clumsily swung around.
"Who are you?"
The woman cackled loudly in response.
"You're the lady in my vision," Raven whispered, walking to the edge of the cage. Grasping the metal bars in her hand, she looked down into the abyss.
Turning around to face the woman once again, she asked, "Am I on the right path?"
"This is the path you've chosen," the hag replied, sweeping her arms wide.
"But this is a cage."
"Ah, but a cage of your 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 cried in alarm.
The hag laughed mirthlessly.
"Then fly out."
"But I don't have wings."
"Oh but you do sweet Raven."
Raven quickly checked herself. To her astonishment she found that her arms had been replaced by a pair of black wings.

Raven woke to the sound of the radio alarm. Rolling over she hit the stop button, then dragged her sleepy form out of bed. She had a meeting with the manager scheduled for the morning. Making her way slowly to the bathroom, she checked herself in the mirror. A stranger stared back at her. It was the hag.
"Who are you?"
This time she knew the answer.
"Who am I?" she whispered as the image of the hag morphed into that of herself. Turning away she unclasped her right hand and watched as a black feather slowly floated to the floor.

Ashes and Silt (cont...again)

Lyrics in this story are taken from the song the dam at otter creek by Live
Episode vi

Raven sat waiting impatiently by the phone. Three hours had passed since she had left a message on Ranger's mobile phone. She needed to do something to occupy herself.
"Okay music angels, tell me what to do," she whispered switching the radio on.

"When all that's left to do,
Is reflect on what's been done,

this is where sadness breathes

the sadness of everyone..."

Raven stood rooted to the spot as the words echoed loudly throughout the silent house.

"Just like when the guys built the dam at Otter Creek
and all the
water backed up
Deep enough to dive

We took the dead man in sheets

to the river flanked by l0ve...."

From the corner of her eyes she caught a flash of movement. Turning towards the window, she watched mesmerised as a murder of crows flew noiselessly towards the house. One by one, they came to a rest on the eucalypt tree. They sat and watched in eerie silence. Then as one, they rose up into the air, and flew away in the direction of the dam.

Raven sprang into action. She ran out the back door and jumped the fence. She stumbled a few times, tripping over rocks and fallen branches as she hurriedly made her way down the hill towards the dam . The crows were waiting for her at the bottom of the hill. They sat perched on a branch waiting and watching. They waited patiently as she caught her breath, before rising again as one.

Raven followed, running as fast as her legs could carry her. All but one of the crows finally came to a rest on the eastern side of the dam wall, the lonely side as it was known because it was hidden away from the picnicking crowds. The last crow stood alone, perched on a large boulder. It watched her approach through crimsom eyes, before releasing a loud warning caw as it swooped towards her. Raven screamed, eyes closed she flung her arms out in defence as she twisted away from the cawing crows.

Silence. Raven cautiously peeled her eyes open. A single black feather rested on a boulder. She stepped cautiously towards it. On the boulder, next to the feather was an inscription. She ran her hands gently over the words as she read:

"In loving memory of Jeremy William Otter

Sunday Scribblings #136 : Change

The Seed of Change - Interlude I

Episode xiii

Raven lay beside Ranger on a blanket on the grass, staring at the moon. It is their last night here, tomorrow the removalist will come and take away all their belongings and then they too, will be gone . She cradles her belly protectively in her hands. Earlier that night Ranger had told her that he wanted to try for a baby. She wasn't sure if she was ready, if they were ready for this kind of change. They were moving to another state to another job. She whispers a little prayer to the moon, "Please, show me the way," before sleep finally claims her.

Raven is visiting Wolf, the Wood Witch as she is known to her friends. They sit in silence by the fire, sipping chai.
"Mmm, nice," Raven says, as the chai makes its way down her throat, warming her insides deliciously.
Wolf looks up from the cards spread out before them and smiles.
"You have a message here from the Moon Goddess."
"Ah, She who dwells in dreams," Raven muses.
"You must go outside and pick a fig from the tree," Wolf tells her.
Raven does as she is told, and returns with a fig in her hand. She gives Wolf the fig she has chosen. Raven sits in silence, patiently waiting as Wolf passes the fig over the flames, while she chants praises to the Moon Goddess. Finally she takes out her athame and cuts the fig in half. Inside the fig is a single seed shaped like an almond. Wolf smiles.
"You're going to have a baby," she says, taking a bite of the flesh.

Raven wakes with a start. There is something stuck in her mouth. She spits it out onto her hand. It is a seed, shaped like an almond.

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Ashes and Silt (cont...)

photo by Mr T.

Episode v

Raven sat on the porch watching as the goanna stealthily stalked its prey. She wanted to talk to Ranger about all the strange things that had occurred. She loved the house - isolated and surrounded by bushland with scenic views of the mountain ranges in the distance - but there was just something about it that made her uncomfortable. From the first moment she'd set foot in the house, she could feel it, that whisper of sadness in the air.
She'd often wondered if Ranger could sense it too. Sometimes she'd catch him gazing outside the window, his brows drawn in confusion as the sadness descended upon him. He'd shake himself out of his thoughts and turn and give her a shy guilty smile, like he'd just been caught eating the last piece of cake. She'd often asked him about it, but Ranger's response was always the usual, "It's just cabin fever."

Last night wasn't the first visit she'd had from the shadow man. A few weeks ago, Ranger had taken her swimming in the dam. They'd come back to the house, laughing and covered in mud and had quickly hosed themselves down in the yard. Ranger teased her about the streak of mud still stuck on her forehead. With a saucy look over her shoulder and a flick of her long wet hair; she had informed him that it was there on purpose, a new kind of facial mask she was trialling; before shutting the door in his face. Shrieking with laughter she ran to the bathroom with Ranger following closely behind her, and barricaded herself in. Retribution was always swift. This time, it was interrupted by the ring of the phone. She could hear Ranger's muffled conversation through the locked door while she quickly undressed.

The warm water felt like heaven as it cascaded over her naked body, washing away the last of the mud. As was her habit, she said a quick prayer of thanks and protection to the universe while she watched the water drain away. With a blissful sigh, she got out of the shower and wrapped herself up in a towel. She could still smell the rich earthy scent of the mud, as she towelled herself dry. She must have missed a spot, she thought to herself, stepping towards the mirror. She paused in mid step. On the mirror was a muddy hand print.

For a split second her heart stopped beating as fear slammed into her chest. She moved towards the door. It was unlocked. Then it hit her, Ranger must have somehow unlocked the door. This was his way of getting her back. She stuck her head out the door and said, "Ha, ha."

Ranger was listening intently to the person on the other end of the phone. He smiled absent-mindedly at her, before turning away. Raven hastily threw on her bathrobe and then set about scrubbing the mud off the mirror, humming softly to herself as she went to work. She stopped suddenly when she felt someone gently caressing her hair. A single tear slowly made its lonely journey down her face. Her heart felt like it was being torn into a million pieces. She closed her eyes against the onslaught of emotion. When next she opened her eyes, she was lying on the bed. Ranger stood beside the bed, prodding her awake, "Wake up sleepy head. You've got mud stuck in your hair."

Ashes and Silt

photo by Ben C

Episode iv

It was late by the time Raven crawled into bed, alone. Ranger was away at one of his environmental management conferences. It surprised her how much she was enjoying the solitude. Distance did make the heart grow fonder, or at least it provided the breathing space for it. With a satisfied sigh, Raven buried her head deeper into her pillow. For a brief moment she contemplated getting out of bed to shut the window. The wind which had begun as a soft purr had now worked its way into a frenzied howl. It carried with it the scent of the wilderness, that dry volatile perfume of the Australian bush. Raven let the sounds and smells lull her into sleep.

Sometime later that night, she awoke with a start. Something had pulled her from her slumber. A noise perhaps, or a feeling of being watched. She tried to move, but her limbs felt heavy and insubstantial. She fought the feeling and managed to turn her head slightly towards the window. Moonlight filtered through the curtains, casting shadows in the room. She didn't notice him at first; the shadow man, standing beside the bed, silently watching her. When she did finally see him, Raven felt no fear, only a sense of sadness. It was a strange kind of sadness - like a borrowed emotion - someone else's grief. He smelt of ashes and silt, reminding her of the dam below the house. She watched him for a while till sleep finally claimed her once again.

Raven's internal alarm clock went off at the usual time of 6.30 am. She got out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make herself the requisite cup of lemon myrtle tea. She loved this morning ritual. Tea cup in hand, she headed out to the back porch to sit and watch the sun rise over the horizon. She missed Ranger. She loved dragging him out of bed every morning. She'd often bribed him with breakfast in bed, food was one of the few reasons he'd even consider opening his eyes at this 'ungodly hour'.

Despite the soothing cup of tea, she was feeling anxious and on edge. Something important had occurred last night but the memory remained tantalizingly elusive. It was her day off today, so she decided to catch up on her reading in bed. Besides in her current state, she wasn't up to appreciating the view. She walked back into the kitchen and made herself another cup of tea before heading to the bedroom. Once she'd settled herself comfortably in bed, she opened her book and began to read. Five minutes later, she gave up. She couldn't concentrate. She'd give Ranger a surprise wake up call instead, she decided. Reaching blindly over to his side of the bed, she made several attempts to find the phone through the chaotic mess on his bedside table.
"Shit," she cried, as an awkwardly balanced pile of books tumbled to the floor. She rolled to his side of the bed, and flopping her torso over the edge she started to gather the books from the floor. Her hand stopped in mid action as something caught her eye. There was a set of muddy footprints on the carpet. She hauled the rest of her body out of bed, and bent down to inspect the prints. The mud was fresh and a silty brown colour. It looked like it had come from the dam.

A memory of darkness and sorrow stirred at the edges of her mind. She stood motionless, staring without seeing at the window, trying to chase the memory to the surface. An image of shadows in the dark started to form, then realisation struck with a loud bang. Time moved slowly as Raven watched the crow fly towards the closed window, like metal drawn to a magnet. With a deadly bang its body slammed into the window. Raven could only stare helplessly as the body dropped lifelessly to the ground.

Time moved forward again. Now she remembered the sad apparition in the dark. The shadow who watched her while she slept. She also remembered that the window was open last night, she hadn't bothered to shut it this morning.

Ashes and Silt - Darkly Dreaming

Episode ix

Darkness settled in the room, like a thick blanket. It smothered the sleeping occupants, pushing them further into unconsciousness. Then into the darkness she danced. In her long black dress, and her tiny black heels laced to the knees. It was her hour. It was her room. Tonight she had company. The men she ignored, but the female - the one with the pretty long black hair - she detested. With a flick of her hand she summoned the light. In her hand it glowed like a ball of lightning. She floated about the room, searching.

Raven wasn't sure what woke her, but something was calling her from the darkness. She opened her eyes. I must be dreaming she thought to herself. Not daring to breathe, she watched the woman float towards the empty fireplace. Dressed in old fashioned mourning black, a glowing ball of light in her hand, the woman moved from one end of the fireplace to other. Searching. Then suddenly as if sensing herself being watched she turned. There was a flash of light, as she hurled the light directly at Raven. Then oblivion.

Raven woke to the sound of the pounding rain as it hit the tin roof. She needed to go. She was desperate for a pee. But the cold held her back. She moved her body closer to Ranger, who lay snoring gently beside her. Wrapping her arms around his sleeping form, she snuggled in deeper. He was burning hot. A thought occurred to her, maybe the hot water bottle was stuck somewhere in between them. With her eyes closed she fumbled about in the dark trying find it. Success, then she realised she was patting Ranger's soft bottom. The heat was coming from him.

She really needed to pee now. Raven opened her eyes slowly. There was a soft glowing light coming from outside the window. Strange she thought to herself sleepily, we didn't leave any lights on. Then from the shadows outside something moved closer to the window. Raven stiffled a gasp, willing herself not to move a single muscle. Staring intently into the dark room, her faced pressed against the glass window, the woman waited. The rain only fuelled her anger. With a knife in her hand, she watched the room like a prison guard and waited. Raven squeezed her eyes closed against the apparation, willing sleep to reclaim her.

She must have dozed, because the next time she awoke it was daylight. With daylight came the sense of relief. It must be late, she thought to herself rolling onto her side to face the empty bunk bed across the room. The boys had left her to sleep, she could hear their voices outside. Now she could pee. Raven swung her legs off the bed. With a half yawn she made her way to the door. Her steps were slow and lumberous. She swung open the door. Wow, it was beautiful outside. The air was fresh and crisp with just a hint of moisture. They had arrived at the homestead in the late evening. In the darkness it was difficult to appreciate the beauty and isolation of the landscape surrounding the house. Raven took a few moments to take in the sight before her.

Something was wrong. She could hear Marcus and Ranger talking, their voices close by. But where were they? Then she saw her. Calmly, with the hem of her black dress dragging silently behind her, the woman glided towards Raven, hands hidden behind her back. Rooted to the spot in fear, Raven could only watch as the woman came to within whispering distance.
"I'm going to murder you," she whispered in Raven's ear as she plunged the knife into her heart.

With a gasp, Raven woke. She was surrounded by darkness still. Shit, she thought to herself, placing a hand on her chest close to her pounding heart. She was dripping wet with sweat and exhausted. She needed to pee. This time the feeling was urgent. With shaking hands she reached out to Ranger and shook him awake.