The Outback Sends Its Regards
rating: +16+x

Michael had been on the road for hours. His tires had now worn from the stress of gravel pits and broken tarmac. The light from the moon barely made a dent in the environment around him, the headlights from his car the only source for illuminating the road ahead. He was too tired to do this, make another delivery to a school in the north of Queensland by the following morning. It was a near impossible task, not without sacrificing the basic necessity of sleep.

Hey, he loved Australia as much as the next boomerang wielding, slogan shouting, barbecuing bogan. But looking out the cracked screen of his car and seeing the same dry, dusty, uninhabitable land for days on end; it takes its toll on anyone. With at least a small shred of hope and maybe some caffeine, he could make it to Yaraka before the sun rises.

With another swig of coffee mixed with a bag of hot chips, he jerked the wheel to the left, speeding down a road that made dirt feel like a luxury. The car rattled and squeaked with each uneven pile of rocks that laid the track. Michael pushed down on the accelerator, trying to get above 80 kilometres per hour. And if his calculations were correct, which they always are, he could get to Yaraka within the hour.

The night was ending soon, as the cries of curlews and cockatoos echoed past him like the horn of a freight train. No, wait, that was a freight train. Michael rubbed his eye and shook his head, jolting his brain to a semi alert state. God, this lack of sleep was making him worse for wear. He could now see a sign for Yaraka in the distance, with another sign of a kangaroo next to it.

30km to Yaraka
Watch for Kangaroos!

Oh yeah, how could he forget? Kangaroos were a staple of Australia since the early settlers stepped foot on this country. Without them, many people wouldn’t have given Australia the time of day, let alone even want to settle and create a superpower out of it.

“Kangaroos are weird aren’t they? Giant sacks of muscle that hop around to be hit by cars. Target practice more like.”

Michael laughed at his own terrible joke. A coping mechanism he developed from driving the open stretches of road he found himself on, or if he wasn’t driving, just laughing to pass the time. He checked the time on the dashboard, and then remembered that he didn’t have a clock to check.

He sped past the signs with a trail of dust thrown behind him, unaware of the animal corpses that his tires just bumped over, a common sight to be found on roads in the Outback, or so Michael was told. The car began to sputter and wheeze, smoke spewing out of the bonnet and exhaust. Michael ignored it. The car was younger than he was, and was frankly pathetic for its age. Three years after production and it starts wheezing like a pug. Great.

Michael took his foot off the accelerator and tapped the brake. The car rolled to a stop right next to a ditch, a fitting grave for any creature, especially humans. Michael went to unlock the doors. If the prevention of robbery needed the inconvenience of unlocking doors, Michael was all for it. He jiggled the handle and the door made no effort to open. Grunting, he jiggled and pushed the door as hard as he could, and it still did not open. Michael prayed that he didn’t end up permanently trapping himself.

“Stubborn piece of..”

He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself, but to no avail. His laughing technique wasn’t working either, for his breathing rate had become too rapid. He reached over the passenger door and pulled the handle. That door didn’t budge either, like it was stuck with superglue. Michael dug his fingers into his scalp and cursed. If he didn’t call that mechanic a stuck up bastard for overcharging him, then maybe, just maybe he wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place!

He fished for the phone in his pocket and dialed his roadside assistance company, otherwise known as his best friends. Maybe Michael could get them to tow his car when they inevitably pass by. Hopefully. After three rings, the call was redirected to an automated voice message. Michael decided to leave a reasonably firm and somewhat desperate message to have his car picked up. He shoved the phone back in his pocket and laid the side of his head on the steering wheel, thankful that his horn didn’t work.

The view outside was nothing to gawk at though, the barren desert and dull rock formations made the urge to sleep difficult to ignore. How come every time he was in dire situation, it involved a desert? They were so boring for a setting of any plot, hell, even action films knew the desert was a terrible and frankly depressing place. After a few minutes, a small grey kangaroo hopped up to the window, looking like a mindless hitchhiker that ask for rides during traffic jams.

Deciding that he had nothing better to do, and that the tow truck would probably take a few hours at most, he sat back in his seat and rolled down the window. The kangaroo seemed to be tame, at least compared to the ones he saw on TV. Now that he thought about it, Michael had never seen a kangaroo in the wild before, the sight was surreal considering his current situation. Ignoring the pile of smoke surrounding the car, he reached out and tried to pet the furry animal. The kangaroo jumped back with fright and fled, squeaking with each hop. Scowling, Michael rolled the window back up and sat further in his seat, he just wanted to pet it, he wasn’t going to kill it or anything. At least he hoped he wouldn’t have to kill one, the thought of a kangaroo carcass in his bumper grill made him queasy.

A sharp pain prodded the back of his head, like someone had just poked him with a needle. Of course now of all times a migraine would make his life all the more torturous. Taking a small sip of water, he imagined himself beating the ever loving Christ out of the migraine. Was this another coping mechanism? He wasn’t so sure.

The migraine, however, decided to pulsate like a consistent drum beat. Scowling once again, he tried to find some medication to ease the pain. But of course he threw out all his tablets after he cleaned out the car yesterday. Life was kicking him hard in the balls today.

He winced as a pulse of unnatural pain shot through the front of his skull. God, he really needed those tablets, or a cigarette, that would do too. He mimicked the gesture of a smoker for a few minutes; the only time he can experience a cigarette is after he 'quits'. By this time, the first few rays of the sun had started to rise over the horizon, warming up the already humid desert sand.

Figures began to emerge from the sunlight, drenched in shadow. Michael compared them to shadow monsters from those waking dreams people have. Maybe he was having one now, who knows? As he watched the figures grow in number and become more defined in shape, he realised just what those shadows were.

What the hell?

Kangaroos. Kangaroos everywhere. They all faced him. They were behind him, beside him, and even above him! Michael slammed his head against the driver side window a few times to make sure he was sane, and then a few more for good measure. This was too freaky to see, even for him.

“Please tell me it’s just a mirage, for god's sake it has to be a mirage.”

Another pulse of pain in the back of his head threw the man forward, slumping him against the steering wheel. His body was like a rag doll, eyes wide and unblinking. The kangaroos got closer to the car, now baring their teeth and squealing like pigs in a slaughterhouse. Michael tried to move, but only got screams of pain as a result. As the darkness greeted him in his last state of consciousness, a furry claw scratched a long, methodical line down the window, cracking it.

“Oh lord.”

Michael Sends His Regards »

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