Please was obviously something he didn’t say very often. Mum
looked exasperatedly between the chubby, red faces of the difficult
children and me.
She breathed in slowly. “Off you go then. Helen will take you.”
I led the way through the bush and the two boys stomped behind
me. The weight of their feet sounded like sacs of potatoes dropping
against the ground. When we arrived at the hidden sanctuary, the
eldest instantly pushed his brother into the swamp, disturbing the
quiet and muddying them both in the process. Aunty Norene came
to pick them up and was not impressed with their state. As she
yelled, mum sighed and defeatedly accepted all blame.
That night, mum didn’t tell me any ghost stories. Instead, I
heard the dull thunder of harsh words at the other side of the house.
When I woke up in the morning, my arms and legs felt itchy and
uncomfortable, dotted with red. I was mad at the apparitions for
making me feel this way.
I stayed at the swamp all day, fantasising about a life beyond the
bush. I imagined salty waves lapping against my feet, washing away
the mud from the swamp. I’d float in the surface of the cold, ocean
water, feeling connected to the countries beyond. But I’d never
learnt to swim and I was too old now. All sorts of dangers lurk in
unknown waters for a girl who can’t swim.
A tiny, black bug buzzed around my head, pestering me. I
watched as the insect landed on my arm, pierced my flesh with its
nozzle and began to suck. In one fell swoop, I slapped the bug dead
underneath me. All that was left was a smear of a red, crushed body,
and later an itchy, round bump.
Dad arrived home late and I could feel the unhappiness between
the two. Doors were slammed with a little more force and eyes
never met. I could almost touch the tense, unsaid words that hung
in the air. Hiding in my room, I watched as the blood, red sun crept
below the horizon, slowly swallowing us into blackness. I could hear
angry murmurs for a brief moment before I tried to block
As the dusky night approached, moths began banging on my
window trying to enter the light. Trapped in the dark bush and
looking for something better. I thought of the fading figures of
apparitions lurking in the labyrinth of dense vegetation. I hid a
torch under my pillow and put my jacket in the corner in preparation.