The face was there, between the fence post and the eucalyptus tree, just beyond the boundary of the property. When it saw her looking it turned and ran, or drifted rather, without a sound. And so she ran too. She ran as hard as she could and when she reached the fence, with one hand on top of the fence post, she vaulted it and chased.
When her breath finally gave out and she could no longer run as hard and slowed to a jog the one thing she noticed as the silence of the forest surrounded her, was each footfall’s sound, the sound of her feet crunching the leaves that covered the ground all about. But the face, the girl? she was chasing, made no such sound.
As Melissa stopped she listened, she listened as closely as she could, even holding her breath and wishing the pounding of her heart would quieten so she could hear better. The girl, at least she seemed to be a girl, must only have been a short way ahead of her but the forest was silent. Wouldn’t someone as fast as that, and Melissa wasn’t slow, she was known back at school as lightning after winning every sprint and distance there was to win in the district, wouldn’t someone that fast trail crushed leaf and broken stick noises in her wake as she fled?
Exhausted from the pursuit Melissa sat down on the carpet of leaves to catch her breath. She flicked off an ant that had begun making its way up her shin. With ticks about, not to mention snakes, she would normally not wear cut-off jeans into the bush. But she was only out walking in the pasture on an idle Sunday and the summer had been so very hot. Proper jeans would have baked her like a potato in its jacket out in the paddock without shade.
“Well,” she thought “looks like she’s gone. I better get back and get started on lunch.”
Standing and brushing bits of leaves from her shorts she called out, in no particular direction, “You don’t have to run away, I’m pretty friendly really. Come down the house if you’re hungry or anything. It’s ok.”
Only her footsteps could be heard as she made her way out of the forest towards the homestead but she had that feeling you get when someone is near.
She thought to herself, “Is she real or did I just get too much sun?”
As she bounced over the fence back into the property a face that seemed to be a girl, or not, or something else entirely, gazed at Melissa with great, wide eyes, soft as a pink sunset. There was longing in those eyes, a sort of loneliness, mixed with the self-possession of one who is used to solitude. The girl, or not, or something else, licks a few ants off the bark of the eucalyptus tree and turns to walk back into the bush, glancing back once or twice.
~ ^-^ ~
The Australian bush is such a varied and differing set of environments that it’s hard to run out of stories set in and near it. There are so many myths and stories from the original inhabitants and the European newcomers – two-hundred-odd years is new right? – but even so, there is always room for a few more.
This is a beginning, or a part of, or an inkling at least, of one of my own. I hope you enjoyed it.