Chas Adlard, Australian Author
Only one crocodile remained in the muddy
hole. I'd heard the others leave during the early hours and although
in no mind to follow directly behind them I did at least track them
for a short while. The crocs had the option of two places offering
further water in which to see out the "dry" and I had been dependent
on their choice.
I had come to this summer place with the barest essentials - a
survival kit, that's all. With the help of the local people my
transition to a nomadic life had been hard but not impossible. What I
lacked at times in the way of food was made up for by peace of mind.
From where I sat in the rocks high above the water-hole the vista was
splendid. In a sweeping band the evidence of water-washed gorges of
aeons past fused together a mass of colour which seemed infinite.
By mid-morning the temperature had already climbed to an uncomfortable
high and I had drunk most of the water. Although dank and brown the
fluid sustained me, and with the water-bag nearly empty I made my way
down to the water-hole to refill it. The old croc paid me little
attention as I siphoned the muddy water through one of my shirts and
into the bag. The sun had lost its midday intensity when I set off.
After two hours I stopped and set my poncho up in the manner of a
temporary lean-to. I'd entered that dreamworld between awareness and
real sleep - it felt good, until I heard the unmistakable sound of
It took me a further two hours to find the 4WD, or what was left of
it. The cause of the accident was clear. A hidden void, caused most
probably by some previous "wet" had taken the vehicle and changed it
into scrap on the rocks below. The driver had died instantly and his
head had been almost severed by the impact. This macabre scene worried
me little for I'd been privy to far worse many years ago in that place
The CB radio would never work again. The fall had seen to that. A
jerry-can lay damaged, most of its life-giving water lost to the
She lay ten metres ahead of the vehicle and I almost missed her where
she lay in the small clearing. A desert flower quickly loses that
magical quality and so had this broken beauty. The feeble pulse at her
neck proclaimed the life within her but that was all. I knew better
than to move her and instead built a small lean-to above her.
After I had finished this work I returned to the 4WD. I removed the
driver and laid him to rest beneath a cairn of rocks. I did this not
out of respect but to avoid the gruesome smell of rotting flesh that
would soon prevail. When I returned she hadn't moved and her skin felt
cold so I wrapped my poncho around her. Later, after night fell, I
crawled in next to her and allowed my body heat to offer her extra
warmth. My last thoughts before I slept were of total peace.
Her open eyes, green deep, showed all the fear and vulnerability of
the weak. I quickly drew away from her and in doing so threw aside the
poncho. Assuring her that I would not hurt her I busied myself over a
cooking fire and all the time her eyes followed my actions. I checked
the 4WD's radiator and was surprised to find it virtually intact.
Having mixed the coolant with the contents of the damaged jerry-can I
returned to her side. Still her eyes followed me as I cleansed her
body. With the exception of some bruising I could see no open wounds
and, yet, she still remained motionless. I removed one of her boots
and drew my finger swiftly across the sole of her foot. I retrieved my
knife and pricked the surface of her skin on lower legs, torso and
upper arms and still her eyes followed me. That was all. Her eyes, it
seemed, were now her life - her only life.
All that day I stayed near, wetting her lips occasionally from the
water-bag, reassuring her. By the afternoon those beautiful green
pools of light had taken over my existence, haunting my every move,
That night when I lay next to her I started to talk. I told her of my
life, about those months in purgatory, and how the devils had stayed
within me, rotting away my gut in relentless torment, killing me, and
yet allowing me life. I'd broken then, sobbing as confession turned to
truth - realisation that the horror of so many nightmares had been
real. I fell asleep, spent by my final admittance to a life gone
In the early light her eyes showed neither pity or abhorrence, just
sadness - a mirror of my own. I heard the sound of the blades and
later the sound of the chopper's engine and was afraid, for another
time and for now.
The spinifex had nearly burnt out by the time they came. As the blades
cut the air great clouds of dust hid the rescuers from view. I held
the poncho over her head shielding her from harm.
"It's all right, mate, we'll take over." I drew back, allowing them
Later a jeep arrived at the scene and with it members of the police
force. The sergeant recognised me and I was arrested and taken away.
As I boarded the aircraft I heard a rescuer say:
"What's the go, sarge?"
"He murdered his wife and kids back in Adelaide. We've been looking
for him this last seven months."
"Yeah, I know."