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.