The story I am about to tell you cannot truly be understood, or visualized unless you can imagine the scene in which it is set. I have set this scene as well as I possibly can in my previous story: “After living in a hospital, we moved to paradise’
If you have not read that story, I suggest you do so first, so that when I begin explaining the strange and scary series of events that takes place in this story, you can see the scenery in your mind, and ‘remember’ it almost as well as I do.
The story I am about to share with you, as all my previous tales, is 100% true and unembellished. Our stories need no embellishment. They are strange enough and scary enough and curious enough as they occurred.
I call this: A very scary story.
Remember those long summers I told you of, where we ran free through mountains, and bush land and swam in oceans so deep and blue and warm under full summer sun?….well, there is something I left out.
Along with the sun and the freedom of school holidays, summer bought the best delight of all. The campers.
Helena Bay School was established on a large flat, green piece of land. With the facilities of the kitchens and bathrooms within the school grounds, the property was perfectly suitable to become a campground for summer, and so a campground it became.
Our tiny little bay would slowly fill up with tents and campervans and camping chairs and BBQs and families and kids our own age but we had no interest in making new friends or playing the role of the friendly local children. No, while other locals referred to these out-of-towners as ‘The Campers’, we chose to refer to them as: Our next victims.
Where did our enjoyment from scaring the life our of innocent people come from I wonder? Was it some dysfunctional reaction to a terrible movie we were accidentally exposed to as youngins? Was it the boredom that did it? Are we just a little bit sick? I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter all that much anyway I suppose. All I know is that Nelly and I have a lust for seeing fear in the eyes of others…fear that we created.
Until that first summer in Helena Bay, when we realised that we would have a constant flow of new prey arriving campervan after campervan in the campground over an entire summer, Nelly and I fulfilled this pleasure by scaring our sisters, and one another. We dabbled in mostly simple scares. You know the whole ‘hide in the closet, wait for the victim to be relaxed, then erupt into the room just as they are on the brink of sleep’
But when that whole gig nearly copped Nelly a bullet between the eyes one night, we changed our tactics.
You see, dad had converted half of our garage into a little granny flat for me to set up a bedroom. It was beautiful. It was lined with lovely wood paneling and mum made vintage curtains and I had old oil lamps and bells hanging from the windows and if you looked out my little windows, you would be looking at a placid stream, bubbling through the land and slinking over pebbles, all under the shade of bushland. It was my place, my home. My safe place. As long as I kept the door locked.
To get into my room, you would need a big, heavy old key to unlock the big heavy old red door. I was militant in my security. The key was hidden in the wall that reached out from my bedroom, the one that was covered in Bannana-passionfruit.
Why lock your own bedroom door? Why the fear?
Reader, if you had grown up with a sister such as Nelly, you too would have had the fear. She loved to scare me, and she had the patience and stealth of a special agent. It was nothing for her to wait, quiet, in the bushes, for hours if she had to, just for the joy in putting the fear into me.
Due to my diligence of locking the door to my room, she had to make do with scaring me outside, via climbing that banana-passionfruit wall and waiting in the darkness until I came out, fresh from the shower, up that little path, and past the apple tree with the wasps and through the garden, until I got to that big old red door, and in the darkness, stretched out my hand into the bushes to find my key.
The brilliance of the scare was in its simplicity. While standing there in the darkness, relaxed from a hot shower, wrapped comfortably in a fresh towel and enjoying my skin breathing in the fresh, cool air of those spring nights, Nelly would simply reach down from above, and grab my head.
Sounds so simple doesn’t it? I made it worth her wait though. I would throw my head back, whipping the damp strands of my curly blonde hair through the nighttime and just lose my mind in a brilliant display of screams and animal like groans… deep guttural noises of pure, soul-deep fear.
Even now as I write, I can remember that strange sensation that you feel in your chest when your heart leaps from 60 beats per minute, to 180, in the space of half a second.
One night I had come in late, ready for bed. Again, fresh from the shower, I was relaxed and looking forward to sinking into my bed with a book. Suddenly, I hear scratching.
Great, it was probably a damn water rat in the ceiling again.
My ceiling was lined with black builders paper to cover up the wood and nails of the roof. Now have you ever heard of a creature called a water rat? It is like a regular rat, in that it has 4 legs, a ratty little face and whiskers, but it is unlike a regular rat in that it is the size of a small cat, and it can swim.
The stream in which I slept so close to, happened to be home to many resident water rats and my little room with its vintage curtains and the bells and the lanterns was apparently very appealing to the ratty kind, and so occasionally at night, I would see little paws tip, tip, tip toe on the black builders paper that lined my ceiling. You would see the paper move and writhe under the weight of the monster-rat as it passed from one side of the ceiling to the other.
After quietly sneaking out of my room, I would run and report to dad that we had another rat, and his eyes would light up and his mouth would pull back into a murderous grin and he would grab his weapon of choice. Some nights a broom, other nights a spear-gun, once a brick…some nights a combination of all three. Out to the room we would sneak, and I would then sit on my bed and watch with delight, as dad would hunt that rat down, armed with weapons not designed to kill rats. Eventually after lots of whooping and hollering and cheering, dad would spear the rat, and mum, his assistant rat-killer, would cut the black paper from around that rat and dad would run inside to thrust the dead and bleeding creature into the face of one of his poor daughters.
So on the night in question, after coming in from the family home late at night, and hearing a scratching at the end of the bed, I knew I had a rat in the room. The blankets folded at the foot of my bed were moving, they were lifting and trembling. This was going to be a rat like we had never yet known. This one was going to be a monster.
To ensure I didn’t scare that rat away, I backed out of that room with perfect silence. Running inside I reported to dad that not only did we have another rat on our hands, we had a rat like we had never seen. Dad nodded and stood up to face the monster, and defend his family. But this time he didn’t fetch the spear gun, nor the broom, nor a brick. This time, he fetched the gun.
I stayed on dads tail, ready to point out the location of the offending creature. Sure enough, as we both moved into that room with more hush than a shadow, he sees it with his own eyes. The blankets were still moving, ever so slightly. The scratching on the walls was so subtle, you had to close your eyes to pick it up, but it was there. Dad turned to face me and with the face of a hunter who was seconds away from a mighty kill, mouthed to me ‘you stand back’
I nodded to let him know I understood.
From the time I had entered the bedroom and heard that initial scratching, until now, not a sound had been made. My exit was flawless and perfectly stealth, our re-entry was as a whisper.
Dad stuck to the plan and slowly advanced. With every footstep, which landed upon my carpeted floor, the tension multiplied. I was sure that the only thing that rat could hear was the beating of my own heart, as it was pounding out of my chest.
Shhh. Its happening.
He is reaching out, the gun is at his shoulder now, his finger is trembling over the trigger. His stretched out hand reaches for the blanket. I can see what he is going to do. He will whip back the blanket to expose the rat with one hand, and with the other, quickly aim, fire, and blow that rat into bits and pieces.
His hand is on the blanket now, his fingers slowly closing tight around the corners….in the blinking of an eye it is whipped high into the air, the gun is cocked, his finger flies to the trigger and the kill shot is lined up. But from down the barrel of that gun it wasn’t the furry face of a rat he took aim at that night, it was the saucer sized pupils of my sister Nelly, with a look imprinted on her face that will remain with me for the rest of my days. It was the look of someone who knew they were about to die.
How it even registered to dad in those 3 milliseconds that he had a bullet aimed between the eyes of his own daughter, and not a rat, and was able to comand his reflexes and instincts to pull up on the gun before it shot her in the head I will never know. A miracle I suspect. But in managing to find a way into my locked bedroom, and hiding patiently at the end of my bed, pretending to be a waterrat, Nelly nearly got a face full of lead and after dad spewed forth a song of eff words and ‘shits’ and ‘do you know how close I came to shooting you in the damn head’s’ he stormed out leaving Nelly and I to collapse in laughter on the floor of my room, and then decide together, that we were ready to graduate into a new territory of scaring. Something more sophisticated, something planned and thought through.
The next day, the first of the campers arrived….
We tested the water with these poor holidaying bastards gently at first. We didn’t want to pull out the big guns too early on and then not have any material to throw at them towards the tail end of summer. So our first scare was non confrontational, and simple.
Take one old, white, full-length laced dress. Take a few yards of your mother’s tulle and drape over your head, to create a veil that reaches to the ground. Put a single tea light candle in a small old jar and then walk to the far reaches of the forest that stands tall behind the grounds where the campers are enjoying their night-time wine and chitchat. Light the candle, and simply walk between the trees on the mountain. The effect it creates is that you see the face and silhouette of a small bride, lit up by a small, soft flame, weaving through the misty woods of a place unknown to you, new to you, strange to you. Wait until those poor suckers had knocked back a few wines and you had them hook, line a sinker.
More scares followed. Again, pretty A, B, C stuff, you know, telling the younger campers the small, old, unused church across the road was haunted, and then later that week letting off smoke bombs from beneath the church just on dusk.
And we messed with the campers in other ways too, not just to scare, but to be sick. Once we headed over to the campgrounds around the same time mum was due to have Jodi, with a baby doll wrapped carefully in blankets. You could see the campers swooning from afar ‘Debbie must have had her baby, look, the eldest sister is there taking her for a walk.’
Yes, here I am campers, with this little baby girl, isn’t she the sweetest thing. Then Nelly went down the other end of the fields and picked up a bat. I shouted ‘READY?”
And she echoed “READY’
And I yelled ‘3, 2, 1!!’ and from in those blankets I grabbed the head of that baby doll and hurled it spectacularly straight, right at the swinging arms of Nelly.
CRACK! She hit that baby’s head right out of the field and the reaction of the sweet little mothers was priceless.
That’s the beautiful thing about us human beings. Even when you witness something that could not possibly be really happening as you see it to be happening, such as a 14 year old girl pitching the head of her baby sister to a wild person wielding a baseball bat, the translation of what your eyes have just witnessed by the chief translator: logic, is a few seconds slower than its nemesis: Horror.
Horror reaches the brain first, and we react accordingly, which was, for these poor women, a head-thrown back, knee buckling, hands to face spectacle accompanied by “Nooooo!!’
Of course when logic caught up on the heels of the horror, they went from being mortified, to just really, really pissed. ‘Go on, get the hell outta here you sick little buggers, does your MOTHER know you come over here and belt the heads of baby dolls into the next field? Go on, get the hell outta here.’
We got bored of this child’s play after a while and summer was drawing to a close and we wanted to give them something to remember us by.
It was Nelly’s idea. Or was it mine? I want to say it was Nelly, because I want to be able to pin as much of the responsibility of what happened next on her, in order for the burden the guilt and regret to seem a little lighter.
Whoever it was on that clear summers day, we certainly didn’t bargain for our next scare to end up with a heavy 4WD carrying a family, and towing a boat more expensive than our house, to jackknife across our little country road, nearly writing itself off…. But I am getting to far ahead of myself, I should start at the beginning.
We had noticed that the camper children had taken a fancy to the stream that rushed through the bush, which ran along the school grounds. As we watched them, unseen, from up in the bushes, we noticed that they were trying to cut off the flow of the stream by building a dam out of rocks and sand and sticks. They were doing it all wrong of course. As we had successfully cut that stream off completely several times over the spring-time before, I can tell you that they were building that rock wall 3 meters too far upstream. It would never work. But that’s the thing about city kids, they don’t know a damn thing about cutting off a strong force of water under the canopy of native bush. City slickers.
We would sit up there in the bush, Nelly and I, and sometimes Teraza, and we would watch these poor kids working away, picking to bits their technique and holding our hands to our mouths trying not to laugh out loud as they drank from the stream. If you remember from my previous story, this was always the highlight of our day if we saw the city slickers drink from those fresh and cool waters, as we knew that less than 20 meters upstream, there was probably the waterlogged, decomposing carcass of a dead sheep, or dead cow, sitting right there in the flow of water, emptying its deadness into the water.
Hmmmm, tastes good doesn’t it kids? Lovely cow death water. Yes, drink up, have some more, YES, invite mummy and daddy to come down and have a little drink too. Lovely. Yes, Yes, you wont find this rare brand of water pumping from your city taps….
That’s when we got the idea. After they had been playing in those waters and drinking from those waters for several days now, what would be more horrifying that to realize that just upstream had been a corpse all along? What about a human corpse?
We snuck back through the bush and went the long way back home. The plan was developed during that journey. Just over an hour later, the scene was set. I was wearing torn denim shorts, ripped and stained with blood. My white tshirt was also torn and tattered, with blood stains and clots from the neckline to the hem. My skin was quite blue. I was laying in the water, my clothing caught on some branches, keeping me hovering in the water. Nelly later told me that I looked like a corpse, bobbing around in water if ever she’d seen one.
With the camper children 30 meters down stream, and around a bend, we were counting on their pesky little city dog to lead them to the scene. Nelly slinked her way over the fallen logs and through the dense bush until she could see the dog and then began trying to coax him towards the body ‘Pssst, DOG, come-eer, common, come over-eer, pssst.’
Eventually it wandered over and Nelly led the way to where I was floating and then hid high in the bush and watched it all unfold.
The dog played ball, as we knew it would, stupid city dog that it was. It got one look of me and began yapping away, crying out ‘Kids, Kids, COME, COME, there is the body of a human’
And the kids came. Over the fallen tree logs and through the dense bush and around the bend and even with my head half under water you could hear every living thing in that bush suddenly fall silent as a collective gasp of horror came from the city slickers as they lay their eyes on the dead body of some poor, barefoot, bloodied girl, tangled in the branches, taken too soon from life. Oh the humanity!
What was her name? Did God at least have the mercy to give her a quick death? Did she have dreams of being an actress one day? Did her parents know where she was?
Then, after seconds of silence, and at the exact same time, they screamed. And screamed. And screamed. And then turned on their heels and ran back around that bend, back through the dense bush, back over those fallen tree logs and from afar we could here the tangle of words spill from their mouths, all stumbling over one another to the audience of the parents “THERE-IS-A-GIRL-IN-THE-RIVER-ALL-DEAD-SHE-GOT-ALL-BLOODY-SHES-DEAD-SHE-HAS-BLOOD-SHE-DIED-IN-THE-WATER-COME-SEE-OHMYGOSH-GO-LOOOOK-COME-SEEEEEEEE”
And they came.
But we were long gone. Nelly and I were up out of that water and had taken the back way around the grounds, through the pine trees and speeding, head down, no looking back over the bushland littered with pine needles until we got to the bank which rose up along that old country road.
We scaled our way down the brown, clay bank and were finally able to stop and look at each other, and after catching out breath, we erupted into laughter.
With any luck, those kids will be scared for life. Their parents won’t believe them, and they will never come back.
Then, we heard a vehicle approaching. Nelly gave me a quick look and I nodded, and she went bush. I stayed road-side. Around the corner comes a 4WD and I double over, looking damaged, wet, bloodied and blue and the 4WD pulls over. 2 men in the front, 2 in the back. Surfers.
‘Shit kid, you okay? What HAPPENED to you? You got hit or something?’
I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t really know what to do. So I just did the first stupid thing that came into my head and stood up tall, looked they square in the eye, and did a monkey dance and called out ‘OOOH OOOH, AHH AHH’
They sat their with their engine running, blinking their eyes at me, before it hit them and then with the squealing of tires and the smoke of acceleration, they fishtailed up the road calling out in anger ‘F**Kin crazy country kids…….”
And we never saw them again.
I turned to find nelly and I spotted her from in the borders of the bush sniggering away and I started sniggering, and decided I wanted to get out of these bloody, wet and cold clothes. I was starting to get a chill, but before I could make the move toward home, there came the sound of another vehicle. And from behind me, around that corner came a monster of a 4WD, towing a boat so white and new and shiny and wide it was a wonder how even a monster truck such as that could bear to drag it through the country as it was.
Then time slowed right down. Seconds felt like minutes:
1 second: I turn my head to see the expensive duo approaching, in the front seat is a male driver, and a female passenger. They went too fast around the bend, and were approaching at speed.
2 seconds: I have an instinctual feeling that something is about to go wrong, but I can’t decide what. I look down and realize for the first time, just how horrific I really do look.
3 seconds: The screech of tires pierces the country skies and bounces off the mountains and shatters the silence. Deep black lines of tire tread appears on the road behind the truck and blue smoke explodes from the undercarriage.
4 seconds: The boat begins to drift on the wrong angle, whipping around sideways so that it is now travelling at high speed, jackknifed and straining the couplings that are holding the boat secure to the truck.
5 seconds: I am about to be in more trouble than I have ever been in my entire life. HIDE. I spin and stick my chin to my chest and run for the fence separating the road from the bush. I clear the fence an a single jump and land hard on my back against the firm, rocky ground, and though the breath has just been knocked from me, I get up and keep running, deeper and deeper and stop only when I know I am well hidden. Then I listen.
The screaming of the tires has stopped now, but is replaced with a different scream. The scream of a woman. She doesn’t let up. Then, the voice of my mother ‘What happened, What happened’ and the woman can’t really talk all that well, so she kind of screams out a mess of words and in amongst it you can hear, clear as day ‘A girl….Blood….hit by a car….where is she?……need help……ambulance……dying……..’
Then the voice of my mother. “NELLY!!!!!!!!!…………..VANESSA!!!!!!!!! Wow. Even I had never heard mum say my name quite like that before, in all my 14 years.
“COME OUT OF THAT BUSH…NOW!!!!!!!’
My mind was racing. Was there any possible way out of this situation? Thinking, thinking, thinking…No. There was no way out.
Through the bush, back towards the road, my head hung low like a dead-woman-walking. The scene that welcomed me was shocking. A woman, face distorted by confusion and shock….
The face of my mother. Anger.
The truck, which had come to rest on an odd angle on the road/roadside/gravel, with the big, expensive, shiny boat at 90 degrees, the whole mess of it taking up two lanes.
The walk of shame. Nelly following just behind me. Again, that human reaction where the logic slowly translates what has just happened begins to take place in the mind of this horrified woman, and as it dawns on her that there was no dying girl, that there was no need for an ambulance, and that her boat was now jackknifed against her big expensive truck because two country children had pranked them. Her face went from ghost white, to bright red. The gravel crunched underneath our bare feet, I dare not look mum in the eye. She was standing at attention, as stiff as a board with one arm pointing straight out from her body, trembling in fury, pointing toward the direction of the house. Two words: ‘GET INSIDE!’
As I passed her, I swear I could feel heat radiating from her presence. Can someone get that angry? Can they get so angry that heat actually radiates from their body? I raised my head ever so slightly and in words as hushed as a whisper I asked ‘Mum?….Are you going……To tell, Dad?’
Did she tell dad? Was the boat ruined? Did we get the life beaten out of us? Did we not only fail to learn a lesson from this experience, but then use the adrenaline to develop one of the most successful scares of our childhood, one that left a grown man, a grown Dutch man stuttering in fear on our doorstep?
I will tell you, but I will have to tell you next time, as this story is getting too long, and I need a break.
So hold tight dear readers, it will make it worth the wait.