Chas Adlard, Australian Author

Walkabout Country

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 fracturing metal.


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 of hell.
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 ground.


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, saddening me.

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 wrong.


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 room.

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."

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