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Image by David Clode

Terror in the Bush

(c) Linda Hutchison March 2020

He pressed his body hard against the gum tree. He could feel his heart beat against the timber as he tried not to move.
That noise again! What was it!?
His eyes flicked rapidly in all directions searching for movement until they hurt. Nothing.
The deep, guttural sound reverberated through him, and he knew he couldn’t stay where he was without being detected. He glanced at a clump of bushes about 300 metres away and saw his chance. Sliding slowly down the tree trunk, he positioned himself ready to spring.
“Roooaaaar, roooaaarr…”
He leapt with everything he had and dashed to the bushes, throwing himself into the leaf litter below. He rolled over and looked back from where he’d come. Still no sign of his tormentor and no movement. His heart was deafening in his ears, thumping hard against his ribcage. He tried to slow his breathing and closed his eyes. Four seconds in, hold, four seconds out, hold. Then he felt pressure on his ankle, spreading towards his knee. He opened his eyes to see a broadly-banded black snake easing its way over his leg. He froze, and the crazy thought crossed his mind that the snakes he knew didn’t make loud growling sounds. He mentally shook himself then swore involuntarily and shot to his feet as a sharp stab of pain burned through his wrist. He turned to see that his hands had been resting on an ant nest, and an enormous soldier ant was vigorously attacking him. The snake disappeared rapidly into the scrub as he wrenched the ant off and stared wildly around him.
“Roooaarrrr, roaaarrr, roooaaarr, rooaaarrr…”
With all his senses heightened, he realised that the sound was coming from above. Some fiendish beast was stalking him from the trees. His mind raced back over the research he’d done before he came and all he could think of were suspected sightings of ex-army black panthers. As the gloom of the evening settled in, he was pretty sure he was done for unless he could get back to his campervan. He started moving slowly, as silently as he could. Crack! A twig snapped under his oversized walking boot. He paused, shivering in a cold sweat.
“Roaarrr, roaarrr, rooooaaarrrr….”
Scenes of his open fire, with his faithful dog and a nice glass of red flashed into his mind. If only he could make it back! He started moving again, this time with great care and control, rolling the soles of his chunky boots over the sandy patches of soil.
“Roaaarrr, rooaaarrr, roooaaarrr, rooaaaaar…”
It was so close now. The leafy canopy above him started to shake and the thick branch reaching over him swayed. He stopped breathing, his eyes opening wide in absolute terror. The leaves parted as a handful of claws appeared, and he felt a gush down the inside of his jeans. The gap widened to reveal a dark snout. He was paralysed with fear.
His daughter danced brightly into the clearing, pretty in her pink sundress.
“Nooooooo!” he screamed.
“What’s wrong Daddy?” She ducked, looked up and then pointed. He followed her gaze, trembling, then with a massive sigh, sank to his knees.
“A bloody Koala! A bloody Koala!” He repeated it over and over, rocking backwards and forwards in disbelief.
“Oh, I hate this country.”

Terror in the Bush: Work
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