This page will keep a record of all my background story…
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…
Entry 2 – Sunday April 18th, 1982
The gnarled old tree branch was unbelievably heavy, my cheeks, red, puffed out with effort as I strain against its weight. We had been moving debris and branches onto a pile all morning, but this one refused to move.
“Come on lad, it isn’t even that big!” teased Pa as he came over to give me a hand. But despite himself, he was unable to move it. “Bloody hell, she’s a tough one!” he said incredulously. His brow furrowed with confusion. “I’ll get the chainsaw and we’ll cut it up mate. Just wait here.”
Pa began walking back up the hill towards the house. I look down at the log, its rough bark, peeling, leaving a smooth silvery grey behind, like new skin. Then I notice something. It is as if a hole has been burnt in the branch. The edges are singed, but clean, as though sanded carefully. The hole was pretty large, about the size of my fist. I peer through it in wonder. What could have caused this I think to myself? Lighting?
Suddenly, I see something scuttle across the dirt under the branch. I jump back in alarm. The skin prickles on the back of my neck and starts to itch. Working up my courage, I cautiously look under it… nothing but dirt. Hmmm, that’s very odd. I hear the shed door closing, Pa is on his way back. I quickly steal a look through the hole again and feel my eyes widen with curiosity. There it is again! It looks furry, and has a stalk coming out of its body. Kind of like a snail’s eyestalk. It has…
BWWVVMMMM! My body jolted as Pa started the chainsaw.
“Stand back Darwin!” he calls over the mechanical noise.
“Wait Pa! There’s something special about it!” I shout out in panic. “Please wait!”
The chainsaw spluttered to a halt and Pa looked at me suspiciously.
“What do you mean its special?” he asks with interest, his bushy eyebrows raised.
I think to myself quickly, I can’t tell him. I’ll sound crazier than a possum on a hot tin roof!
“Umm, nothing.” I stammer. “It was nothing… I just like the patterns in the bark.” I lied.
Pa didn’t believe me. “What on earth are you talking about Darwin? Move please, so I can get this done before the rain starts again.”
I look to the sky and see ominous clouds, bloated with rain, blotting out the sun.
“Darwin. Move mate!” Pa is getting frustrated. I need to tell him what I saw… SPLAT! A cool, drop of water hits me on the cheek, etching a clean path down my grime streaked face. Could it be? Yes! SPLAT! Another droplet, and then another and another. Within seconds, it is bucketing down and Pa is rushing back up the hill, chainsaw in hand.
“Thanks a lot Darwin! Now we have to wait ‘til the rain stops!” he complained over his shoulder. I feel myself relax as I watch him go, turning my attention back to the hole in the tree…
My jaw drops at what I see… this was going to be the start of something big! I thought as I rushed into my room. Grabbing my sketch book, I started to draw.
Entry 3 – Sunday April 18th, 1982
Entry 4 – Monday Morning April 19th, 1982
“The chainsaw!” my mind screams. Adrenaline rushes through my body as I sit upright in bed, straining my ears to confirm. My eyes explode open and I’m out of the bed in one smooth motion, doona sprawled on the floor, I dash outside.
Muscles tense, craning my neck as I look out over the veranda, down the hill to where Pa is… I open my mouth to call out to him, but I’m too late. The mechanical whir was not the chainsaw, but the mulching machine. The log was gone.
I feel the blood rush from my face as I see the wood chips spinning through the air. “It’s over before it had even really begun.” I think to myself, my eyes becoming glassy.
I see Pa waving over to me. I force a smile and wave back. The noise from the mulcher stops and Pa’s voice echoes up the hill. “Time for some breakfast then!”
Pa winks at me from across the table, quietly munching on his toast. I stifle a laugh. He can tell something has upset me, but he knows how to cheer me up. Besides, its funny watching his grey nose hairs wiggle around – like little worms dancing.
“You gonna take a look around the place today mate?” he asks between bites. “Been a while since you’ve been here – a lot’s changed.” He winks again, mopping up the runny egg from his plate with the last of his toast.
I take a gulp of my milk and shrug my shoulders. “I guess.”
“Might take your mind off things.” Pa responds scratching his chin. “How old are you now anyway Darwin?”
“You know how old I am Pa!” I say giggling.
His face wrinkles up kindly in a cheeky smile. “It’s just you’ve grown a moustache overnight.”
I quickly wipe the milk from my lips and smile. I love that joke. Always have.
Pa stands up and collects the dishes. “You go and get yourself dressed now and go and explore. See what you can find out there. Just be back for lunch.”
Entry 5 – Monday Mid-Morning April 19th, 1982
The smell of the bush drifted into my nostrils – a lovely mixture of crisp air, eucalypts and dried branches. The cicada’s – a deafening roar about the miner birds – crying out against the starting of Autumn, still longing for the heat of summer.
I too missed summer – along with others things… but despite everything I found myself getting lost in the sights and smells of the bush. As the time went on, I began noticing things that I didn’t see before – little skinks basking themselves on sunlit rocks, a Tawny Frogmouth sleeping in the trees… and the sound of running water.
“Pa’s creek” I said to myself, beginning to follow the sound. Pa had told me of the creek many times when he used to visit us back in Melbourne. “Its usually crawling with taddies!” he would tell us, “Great spot for yabbying too”. I didn’t have a line with me, but I thought it would be great to finally check it out.
Moving through the bush quickly, I stop momentarily to listen for the right direction to head in and before long my eyes set sights on what my ears have been telling me. Pa’s creek. There’s quite a bit of water flowing through it. Probably because of the storm the other night I think to myself. I stand at the creek’s edge, looking at the water sliding effortlessly over the smooth rocks.
The sun was high now, its light mottled, filtering down through the high canopy of gums, sparkling against the wet rocks – must be about time to head back I thought… and then I saw it! Another one of those creatures! Another Occulite!
I was puzzled, what was it doing here? I creep towards it… this one is like the first one, but instead of being covered with fur, its skin is smooth and a bluish colour. It turns around to reveal a small fin on its back. I can’t believe it hasn’t seen me.
Closer… closer. Suddenly it darts away. I lunge forward in the direction it was headed – but it doesn’t appear. That’s odd. It went straight behind a rock, but didn’t come out the other side. I quickly look behind, but its not there either.
A brief moment is all it takes for me to forget about lunch. I began to search for it, carefully moving rocks and leaf litter out of the way. It had to be here somewhere! I searched more and more, my eyes frantically darting to and fro. But try as I might, I could not find it. Sighing deeply, I hear Pa’s voice echo from behind a nearby ridge.
I look to the sky, the sun is no longer right above me. How long have I been looking I wonder. Then I see Pa’s face as he comes through the trees… I can tell now by his ruffled eyebrows that it has been a long, long time…
Entry 6 – Monday Night April 19th, 1982
I had been sitting in my room for the past few hours after completely losing track of time in the bush. Pa had been very angry – or at least he was trying to look like it. I knew better though. I could see the relief in his eyes as he came closer, his shoulders relaxing before giving me an earful. He said I had missed lunch. That it had gone cold and he had to throw it away. I think its strange how we bring up unimportant things when we worry.
There is a knock at my door and I quickly shove my sketch book under the doona as Pa walks in.
“You know you don’t have to stay in here Darwin. You can come out and we can play some cards or something.” He looks over to the lump under my doona – my book!
“Unless you have something more important that you’re doing?” he continued, his brow furrowing ever so slightly. He was suspicious. I glance down quickly at my doona, checking that the book was hidden. I couldn’t let him know what I was drawing. I couldn’t let anyone know. At least, not yet…
I shake my head vigorously, feigning innocence.
“No, nothing important. Cards? That would be great Pa, I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I’ll get the cards ready then.” He replies looking out from under his bushy brows, eyes twinkling mischievously before turning and walking out of the room.
I grab the book from under the doona and finish sketching the newest creature. It was certainly similar to the first one, but this looked more like it had fins or flippers. Its skin was covered in what had looked like smooth scales.
After studying my sketch and searching my memory I decided that this was also an Occulite.
“But it lives near water and looks a bit fishy…” I mutter to myself. Then a mini lightbulb goes off in my head. I remember back to school – Mr Hansen told us about what water was made up of. Two Hydrogen and one Oxygen…
“Hydrogen… Hydro… Hydris. Hydris!” I exclaim. With a gleeful grin I proclaim in my notes that this is a type of Occulite species… a sub species I think they call it. Which I am going to call Hydris.
I close my book and slide it under the bed before dashing out of the room.
Entry 7 – Tuesday, April 20th, 1982
I woke up the next morning to a streak of sunlight burning my eyes as the bedroom door opened. Pa’s face poked out from behind it.
“I’m going into the hardware store in town Darwin – do you want anything?” he half-whispered as I rubbed the hardened sleep away from the corner of my eyes.
I stretched, before shaking my head groggily, “No thanks Pa.” I yawned.
With a chuckle, he backed out of my room and quietly closed the door. I could hear his footsteps becoming fainter, the jingle of the keys and the closing of the door. The faint rumble of the car’s engine starting…
Screeee! The tyres sliding roughly on the hot bitumen. The sound of twisting metal…
I shook my head and sat bolt upright in bed. The painful memory faded and I felt my shoulders relax. I anxiously run my hands through my hair, before sighing deeply. It was hard to get rid of those sounds from my memory. It was as if they were etched into my brain. As Pa had said… it will take time.
I sidled out of bed and glanced at the clock on the wall… Pa would be gone at least three hours. His place in the bush was fantastic, but a long way from anything really. The major town was at least an hour’s drive away. There was the general store about fifteen minutes from here, but they didn’t have much besides the basics, so I had time to explore…
I grabbed some toast, my backpack and sketchbook and leapt out the backdoor. My heart was high in my chest and the fresh dew sparkled on the ground. I was going back to Pa’s creek. He had told me the quickest way to get there over our game of cards the night before. He said that if I was going to explore, I might as well know some landmarks.
Pa had mentioned quite a few, but it was the creek that I wanted to get back to. It didn’t take me anywhere near as long this time. The sweet ring of the Bell Birds echoed through the gums, complementing the soft bubbling of the creek. There was less water today than yesterday, but the fern branches dangling into the water didn’t mind a bit.
I found a nice mossy rock a little way from the edge of the creek and sat down with my sketch book. It was peaceful and relaxing.
I had been sitting there, sketching the creek for a good half an hour when I was startled by a heavy rustle in the branches behind me. I swing around in fright and slip on the moss, falling backwards into the branches. I see the cause of the rustle, a small Wallaby, bound away in the bush. As I go to get up, a glitter of red light catches my eye in amongst the leaf litter.
Kneeling down, I carefully brush away the debris… but I do not believe what I see. A small flat rock, about the size of my hand, ordinary in every way, except for the large, smooth edged hole in the middle… it was just like the one in the branch the other day.
I peer into the hole – it is like looking down from the sky. I pick it up in amazement. Everything through the hole is smaller, out of proportion with everything else around it. I pass my hand under the rock, but cannot see it through the hole. The hole is like a window to somewhere else. I peer through it with wonder. The red glint is a small, red, crystal like object embedded in the window’s ground.
I stand up and the landscape through the window becomes smaller, like mum’s old camera when you zoomed right out. I can see at the edge of the window a small creature running through what looks to be undergrowth… its another Occulite! But this one looks a bit different again. My mouth is wide, my eyes like saucers. This is utterly mind blowing!
I quickly experiment with the rock, holding it lower to the ground – the landscape inside the window becomes larger. It seems the closer to the ground I hold it, the more it zooms in, the further away I hold it, the further it zooms out.
I move the stone closer to the ground and move it to the side until I can see the creature. It is just like the first one I saw, but this one has petals around the base of his snail like eyestalk. Just like a Frilled Lizard! I follow the creature as it dashes through the undergrowth, making a bee-line for the crystal. After a few moments it reaches it and pries it from the ground, tucks it under its arm and dashes off back the way it came.
Am I really seeing this?! Or am I dreaming? Still in bed, dozing soundly.
I watch as the creature disappears into a small cave opening and is gone. I can see a soft red glow emitted from the cave entrance – a similar colour to the crystal… that’s odd.
I decide to explore, moving through Pa’s bush, while looking down on another land as it rushes by. Forests, wetlands, waterways, mountains, even lava flats come into view as I make my way back to the house. A whole other world encased in a simple stone… I decide I must be dreaming and sit on the veranda, looking down on what appears to be an Occulite similar to the first one I saw, running across a vast wetland through the stone.
Behind it I can see another creature, one like I have never seen before, chasing it down. The Occulite’s eye is wide with terror. It is scared… I am scared, it is horrifying to watch, but I can’t look away. The creature is going to catch the Occulite, it just can’t move fast enough. I don’t want it to be captured, so I quickly go to put my finger in the stone hole to try and help, but – BANG!
There is a sound like thunder and a spark springs from the stone’s hole. A searing pain rips through my finger. I scream out loud, wrenching it from the stone. I hold it up to my face and see the top of my index finger has been badly burnt. I drop the stone and rush inside to run it under cold water, not seeing a group of four Occulites leaping from the wetlands to ambush the predator and save their friend.
I thought I was dreaming… I was wrong.
Entry 8 – Tuesday, April 20th, 1982
Through salty tears I tended to my finger. It was throbbing like it had a heart of its own and that’s when I heard Pa’s car rumble up the long driveway to the house. Dashing into my room, I quickly hid the stone away under the bottom drawer of my bedside table. I didn’t want to look at it again. I was shaken. Upset. I could hear Pa’s footsteps crunching on the gravel driveway. Unable to wipe the tears away from my eyes, I ran to the bathroom and jumped in the shower. That would hide the tears. Pa wouldn’t know.
“Only having a shower now mate?!” Pa called through the door. “Talk about a slacko!” he joked.
When I finally turned the shower off and got dressed, it was time for lunch. I could smell fresh bread and my stomach grumbled as I walked into the kitchen.
“So he emerges” Pa announced smiling. But it only took a moment for him to see my burnt finger. His eyes flickered down to his own hand for a brief moment before he surged forth. He didn’t ask me how it happened, which I thought was odd. Grabbing the frozen peas from the freezer, he simply said “It will draw the heat away.”, before turning back to the sandwiches. I watched him look out the kitchen window to the bush, chuckling to himself.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, my feelings almost hurt. “It’s really painful!”
Despite him not turning around, I could tell he was still smiling. “It’s all part of the journey mate. Now, can you grab us some drinks?”
Entry 9 – Wednesday, April 21th, 1982
The clock had barely struck two in the morning when I jolted awake. Beads of sweat flew from my forehead as I gasped for air. Another nightmare… my muscles were tense. My hair, wet, poked insistently at my eyes. Brushing it away brashly, my breathing slowed, shoulders carefully dropping down as a sense of calm came over me.
It was then that I noticed something in my other hand. Something cool and smooth. I curiously look down to it, a soft red glow emanated from between my fingers. It was the stone. Dropping it in fright, I lurched backwards, hugging the wall as if a huge spider had dropped down in front of me.
I couldn’t bear to look at it. The memories of the terrified Occulite flashed in my mind. I shake my head, trying to dislodge the thought. Suddenly the room feels tiny, like it is shrinking. My chest is tight. I can’t breathe. Grabbing at my throat I wildly stumble out of the room, down the hall. The air is heavy, the only sound I hear is that of my heart beating faster and faster. Onto the veranda and then out into the cool night air I go. Gradually my breathing ceases its shuddering and I notice the earth between my toes. Wiggling them deliberately, eyes closed, I breathe in deeply, arching my back, head tilted to the heavens.
When my eyelids part, the velvet black sky is gracefully revealed. A shimmering fabric of time and space. A light breeze catches the sweat on my forehead, sending a satisfying chill up my back. The stars, tiny pinpoints of light, shining down on me from afar. The Southern Cross emblazoned in all its glory, hanging there with pride. Somehow instilling courage. Instilling peace.
It takes a while, but curiosity of the stone begins to creep into my mind. Looking back to the house – a silhouette against the moonlight, the curiosity grows and by the time I reach my room again, I feel an unnatural pull towards it, glowing softly in amongst my doona.
Carefully taking the stone into my hands, I peer down into the window. It is still daytime in their world. The swamplands I saw last time are covered in a mottled light, insect-like creatures flitting to and fro. The drooping tree branches sway softly in a breeze. Everything is calm and tranquil… and utterly beautiful. The flora is similar to earth’s, with green reeds dotting the landscape. I crouch down to get a closer look at one of the insect-like creatures and am pleasantly surprised with how close I can get.
A single, large, deep yellow eye darted left and right. Its slender, elongated body, brown and rough, like bark on a tree. Its wings reflected the rays of light, glittering a brilliant blue. I try to move around to see it better from the front, when all of a sudden I can hear frogs croaking loudly and the wind in the trees. Startled, I drop the rock. The sounds stops instantly. Could it be? Could I have actually heard the other world?
I picked up the stone again, caressing it in my hands… nothing but the faint sounds of our own frogs and crickets outside. I think carefully, turning the rock in my hands. For a brief moment, the sound comes flooding back. It must be the way I was holding it!
Slowly and deliberately I turn the rock in my hands, trying different angles and positions. After a few minutes, the stone was resting in the palm of my right hand. The thumb and forefinger of my left hand nestled in against the side of the rock and the sounds surged back. A cacophony of nature. What sounded like an entire army of frogs sang out, the soft breeze rustling through the reeds, sending delicate ripples across the pools of shallow water.
None of the frog calls were familiar to me. Some were close to what I had heard on Pa’s land, but always slightly different. One in particular sounded out loudly. Resonating through the air like a Pobblebonk Frog, but deeper and more alien.
Suddenly a flurry of mud is sent flying as an Occulite bursts forth from hiding. I couldn’t be totally sure, but I thought I saw a long tongue shoot out of its mouth, ensnaring one of the large insect-like creatures. He must have caught it, because after landing, I could hear the Occulite chewing. Crunching like it was eating Cornflakes.
The flick of a light switch and the soft thud of feet down the hallway echoed into my mind. Pa must be up! I panic, shoving the stone under my pillow before far too eagerly throwing my bedroom door open.
Startled, Pa grabs at his chest. “Good lord Darwin! You scared the stuffing out of me mate. What do you think you’re doing?”
Trying to look innocent, I leant against the door frame. “Couldn’t sleep – sorry about the noise Pa… I…”
“What noise?” Pa cut me off, his brow furrowed.
He really hadn’t heard it? Wow, that was lucky I thought to myself.
“Oh, nothing. Was just going to get a glass of water. Thought it might help me sleep.”
Pa sighed. “Me too actually mate. Tossing and turning all night. Must have too much on my mind.”
As we stood in the kitchen drinking our glasses of water, it was the first time that I actually wanted to tell him about the stone. And the creatures…
“What’s wrong?” asked Pa as he placed his empty glass in the sink. “Looks like you want to tell me something.”
I paused for what seemed like a very long time.
“I’m glad you’re here Pa.” I said hugging him tightly.
I could sense the smile on his face as he hugged me back. “Me too Darwin. Me too.”
Entry 10 – Saturday, April 24th, 1982
A few days had passed since I had thought about telling Pa. But as much as I had wanted to, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it… not yet. There had been so many new developments since the storm – all happening so close together, it had become overwhelming. Besides, it could wait. I wanted to find out as much as I could before showing him.
I looked out over the bush from Pa’s veranda while I munched on my Vegemite toast. I could hear the bell birds chiming happily from the trees as a lone cloud, fluffy and white slowly shuffled across the blue sky. I glanced at Pa, sitting on the other side of the table and smiled.
Winking at me, he took another bite of his toast. “Are you up for a picnic today mate?” he asked between chews. “It looks like it will be a great day for it.”
I gulped down the last of my glass of milk, then nodded. “Sounds good Pa, whereabouts?”
He relaxed back into his chair, “I thought I could take you up to the ridge today. I don’t think you’ve seen that yet have you?”
I hadn’t been to the ridge, let alone even heard of it. “No, I haven’t – where is it?”
“Well, instead of heading towards the creek…” he explained. “You head north through those trees for a few clicks. It’s a solid walk, but worth it. You up for it?”
I nod enthusiastically. “That would be great thanks Pa”
He takes a sip of his tea, his eyes going glassy as he wistfully looks through the trees, the creases at the edge of his mouth crinkle and his cheeks rise. It was obviously a special place to him.
“Alright. It’s settled then mate. I’ll make some sandwiches, get some lamingtons ready and we’ll head off around eleven thirty. You should bring your sketch book. It’s a great place.”
I stand up, taking the empty plates with me. “I will, thanks Pa.” I reply, walking inside… the window rock weighing in my pocket as I move. “Let’s see what we can find.”
The ground was becoming a bit steeper and the path we had been following was becoming narrower and more overgrown with every step. Greyish rocks began to litter the landscape, peeking out from the ground, watching us walk with ancient eyes.
Pa walks strongly, without hesitation, despite these impediments and I have to take a few quick steps every now and then just to keep up. He knows the land well, striding ahead confidently. He speaks little, but at one point I think I spot the sunlight reflect off damp eyes.
“Are you ok Pa?” I ask, trying to catch my breath.
He comes to a stop, but doesn’t turn around. “I used to come up here with your grandmother. I haven’t been up this path since she passed away.”
I don’t know what to say. My mouth opens, but no words escape. My brain fumbles for what to do, but to no avail. Without thinking, I move up next to Pa, who is staring ahead, lips trembling and hug him tightly. His eyes twitch, trying to stem the flow of tears. But to no avail. My eyes fill with tears too as memories of my parents flood back.
We stay there hugging for a moment until Pa breaks the silence with a huge sigh.
“Stuff the sandwiches… I feel like having some lamingtons.” He laughs, rubbing his eyes with his sleeve. “Let’s get going. We’re almost there.”
Looming in front of us was a broad rock face several meters high. Moss clung to it like a mother to a babe and ferns burst forth from cracks and crevices. We followed the path to the left as it curved up and around the side of the rock face. It was steep, and the path was muddy, but there were strong grey stones dotted along the path which made it easier.
Without stopping, Pa calls out from ahead. “I put the stones on the path after your grandmother broke her arm in sixty four.”
As I rounded the last corner, the path opened out onto a large plateau covered in small ferns, moss and rocks. Two large rocks, firmly embedded in the earth sat next to each other, as if nature was providing seating for the view down the hill.
“The ridge.” Sighed Pa, sitting down on one of the rocks. “Now, about those lamingtons.” He smiled opening his bag.
To be continued…