Entry 1 – Saturday, April 17th 1982
The branches scratched and tore at my window, as the wind screamed and howled. I pulled the covers tighter around my chin. My heart thumped in my chest and I drew short, sharp breaths. My eyes darted around the room, jumping at every noise, every creak. My mouth was dry and I couldn’t swallow, my palms, warm and clammy as beads of sweat trickled down my furrowed brow.
The rain drops pelted angrily against the tin roof. I imagined them leaving dints in it, punching through the thin parts and smashing against the ground like mini explosions. CRACK! My room lights up momentarily as a bolt of lightning splits the sky. The shadows move in closer. My room darkens again, the shadows surely eeking their way towards me as the thunder rumbles – nature’s stomach – hungry for food… hungry for me!
“Mum!” I shout out in terror, throwing the doona aside as though it were on fire. I leap out of bed and sprint down the hall, gasping for air, trying to breath through the unadulterated fear grasping at my neck. Up the hallway I run, the echo of the wooden floorboards barely audible over nature’s temper tantrum outside… I see a thin ray of dim light coming from the end room. Pa’s face peeks out from within. Pa’s face? And then I remember…
Screeeeeee! The tyres sliding roughly on the hot bitumen. The sound of twisting metal, the car’s radiator exploding, steam and glass dancing swan lake through the air, the smell of petrol, the dizziness of spinning and…
“Darwin?” Pa called gently.
I shook my head and the memory was washed away – as if a splattered bug on a windscreen – unpleasant and always in view. Mum and Dad were dead.
“Darwin?” Pa called again, stepping out from his room. “Are you ok?” His eyes searched mine, creases of concern etching their way across his face.
My heart beat slowed as I took a deep breath. Wiping my hands on my pyjamas, I looked down at the floor. Ashamed to have been so scared.
“I’m fine Pa. Sorry to wake you.” I went to turn around, to walk back to the shadows, back to the fear, back to the terror. My legs were wobbly. But Pa put his hand on my shoulder.
“How about a nice mug of hot milk? Might settle your nerves a bit.” His eyes were kind, but a sadness lurked deep within.
I felt my lips quiver and the corner of my eyes scrunch. “That would be great Pa.” I managed, holding back tears.
As Pa poured the hot milk, the storm that once raged outside began to subside… and with it, so did my nerves. The mug was warm in my hands and I held it close, borrowing its warmth, converting it to courage.
“Gonna be a lot of damage out there tomorrow Darwin.” Pa said quietly as the steam rose from his mug. “I might need some help cleaning up around the place? Do you think you’d be up for it?”
Tomorrow was supposed to be my first day of school holidays, but up here in the forest, I had no one to spend them with. Pa was all I had left in the world. On one hand it made me feel so very alone. But then Pa had been alone for almost a year now since Gran had passed away, so in reality, we had each other… and that comforted both of us.
“I think I could manage that.” I said, feeling my cheeks rise as a smile crept across my face.
Pa laughed and ruffled my hair affectionately. “You’re a good lad Darwin. Your parents would have been very proud of you.”
I see the sadness sneak back into his eyes as he looks over at a series of photos resting peacefully on the wall. He takes a deep breath and with a huge sigh, looks back over to me. The sadness retreats and his eyes danced joyfully.
“You know Darwin. I always thought this place was special.” His voice became softer, more distant. “There was a connection here that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I…” he shook his head as if waking from a trance. “I… I must be boring you lad. Better run off to bed. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the morning.”
He was right, I thought. Besides, the storm had passed and my eyelids suddenly felt like lead. I hugged Pa and thanked him. As I shuffled back down the hallway, I couldn’t help but wonder what he had been talking about. To me it was just an ordinary place in the forest…