April 13th 2012
"Bloody hell," I cursed, shaking my thumb as if that kind of motion could actually alleviate pain. I threw the mallet down into the dirt and foliage with a scowl.
I stood up and had a look at my progress. The tent was almost fully pitched. All of the poles were in place, but the guy ropes still needed to be secured. The weather had been too windy lately to get lazy with details, but the damned ground was too solid in this area. Pounding the pegs in was like trying to fit a square block into a circular hole. It was possible, but you had to pummel the living hell out of them to get it to work.
I looked at my recently pummelled thumb, which now sported a deep, purple bruise. Such a fine way to begin a camping holiday, I thought. Now all I need is a bloody brown snake to come upon my camp while I sleep.
I knelt down and retrieved the wooden mallet, and got back to work with hammering the pegs in. I hadn't expected the ground to be so hard, or I wouldn't have bothered pitching here. I was stupid not to test the dirt first, but live and learn. By the time I finished securing the final guy rope, I calculated my oversight to have cost me an extra thirty minutes of work. Bollocks.
Careful to avoid tripping over the guy ropes, I made my way towards the tent's entrance and unzipped it. Once I was inside, I quickly zipped the flap closed once more. I tossed the mallet into an unused corner of the tent, stretched, and promptly noticed the large number of insects that were crawling and flying all around.
"Wankers," I muttered. I never understood how they could always find their way inside in droves, regardless of how careful I was in pitching the tent.
I moved to one corner of the octagonal tent where a pile of clothing lay. Tossing shirts, shorts, and socks over my shoulder, I was finally able to find what I was looking for. I picked up the can of bug spray with a devilish grin. Time to die, I thought as I unleashed pressurized hell upon the tiny vermin that had sought refuge in my tent. I was relentless, even chasing the ones that tried to escape to the outside. Within moments, the vast majority of bugs were either dead or dying. I began to sigh in relief, but gagged and had to rush to the tent entrance. I fumbled with the zipper before finally being able to open the flap and escape the gas chamber I had just created for myself.
"Bugger it," I said through gulps of fresh air.
I walked over to where my 2007 Holden Barina sedan was parked, tripping over one of the guy ropes in the process. I pulled my keys out of the front pocket of my shorts and clicked on the little car icon on my key. The alarm turned off with a boop boop, and I retrieved my fishing rod, net, and tackle box from the back seat. I closed the door and locked the car again, despite being alone in the middle of Burrinjuck Nature Reserve. The park rangers were the only ones who knew where I was located, but I had spent years in inner Detroit, and had picked up the habit. I found it to be a good one to have.
It was still fairly early in the day. I had arrived at the site just prior to 11:30 after stopping by a McDonald's on the way there. Consuming the large Fillet-O'-Fish combo with an extra McChicken on the side had ensured that I wouldn't be hungry again for a while. That left plenty of time for fishing, which was to be my main form of entertainment during my week-long stay. I began to make my way toward the four mile-long trail that led to the deeper, better fishing spots along Lake Burrinjuck, where I fully intended on spending as much time as necessary to catch something large enough to eat for dinner.
The tell-tale pull of a fish on the line attracted my immediate attention. I was sitting in a wonderfully comfortable spot by the edge of the lake. Large trees grew on the hill behind me, and shaded me from the harsh Australian sun. My back was leaning against a large rock, upon which sat my tackle box, net, and a small cooler filled with ice and cans of Coke. Two empty cans lay by my feet, to be collected later. I wiggled my toes in anticipation as I waited for another tug.
"Come on," I whispered.
There! I yanked the rod upwards and began reeling in the line. The little devil began putting in some resistance, so I let the line drag out a short distance before locking it in and reeling once more. I stood up and held the rod with one hand as I picked up the net and prepared to haul in my catch. A sudden, desperate burst of energy from the fish forced me to drop the net and concentrate on what I was doing. The line swung back and forth in the water as the fish struggled to pull free from the hook. I began to anticipate fresh fish for that night's dinner as I imagined how large the little beast on the hook might be. Perhaps it was a carp, or maybe a rainbow trout. I hoped it wasn't a Macquarie perch. Those were protected, and I would have to toss it back into the lake if that were the case.
As I reeled my potential dinner in close to the shore, I thought I saw a flash in the sky. My attention had been fully upon the water, so I felt perhaps I was imagining things. There weren't supposed to be any thunderstorms until later in the week, and even then the chances were slim. I decided the flash was unimportant, especially since I didn't hear any thunder afterwards. The sound of thunder would have caused me to immediately pack up and rush back to my tent. Rainfall was notoriously heavy during this time of the year, though April marked the end of the wet season. I turned my attention back to reeling the fish in.
The line snapped.
"Bloody hell!" I cursed for the second time in as many hours. "That was my favorite lure." I was complaining to nobody in particular.
I stared at the snapped line as it blew about in the mild breeze that had picked up in the past half-hour or so. The loss of my plastic prawn lure made me grit my teeth as a scowl appeared on my face. Little Bubba Gump was gone, and all I was left with were generic plastic worms and a few jig heads. Sighing, I turned around and opened up my tackle box. I selected a new hook and sinker, attached them to the line, and jammed one of the worms onto the hook. I then turned back to the water and furiously cast the line as far as I could. I watched as the hook landed in the water with a plop. I almost immediately afterwards had my attention wrestled away from the sight when the sky flashed again.
It had clearly turned pink. The sky had been its normal, slightly cloudy, blue self. Then, for no apparent reason, it had flashed a dull pink color. I sat and stared at the sky for a few moments, my dinner temporarily forgotten. The clouds looked as they had before, and nothing else seemed out of place. My eyes drifted down to the empty Coke cans lying in the sand near my feet. I had never suffered any side-effects from my caffeine addiction besides an occasional headache if I hadn't had any for a while. Could a headache cause your vision to flash? My head felt fine, though.
I quickly reeled the line back in and detached my lure. I could always drive up to the ranger's office and visit either the carry-out that was right beside it, or the cafe across the road. It would mean leaving my tent unattended, but there probably wasn't anyone else around for at least a few miles. I tossed the hook, lure, and sinker back into my tackle box, and snapped it shut. I was just bending down to retrieve my fallen net when the sky flashed again. Twice in a row.
What the balls is this? I thought.
I slowly retrieved my net with my eyes still glued to the sky. It flashed several more times, and each time presented the sky in the same dull, pale pink color. Unlike lightning, I couldn't tell where the pink glow originated from. I didn't feel afraid. I had been fairly close to tornadoes in the past and hadn't been afraid. I was certainly curious, however. I doubted anything strange was occurring, such as an alien invasion or the likes. Still, the strange pink flashing continued as I picked up the empty Coke cans and tossed them into the cooler. I had just picked everything up and was preparing to trek back to my tent when another odd sensation stopped me in my tracks.
Do I smell fudge? I wondered.
I knew fudge had a fairly distinct aroma, and I was certain that was what I was smelling. My mind pondered this new development. What kind of wanker tries to make fudge in the middle of the bush? I decided to find out for myself and started to climb the embankment from the lake shore up to the trail above. Perhaps someone else was out here and could confirm that I wasn't the only one seeing the strange pink flashes in the sky.
Pushing past low-hanging tree branches that partially obscured the trail, I carefully moved along in the general direction of the scent. Soon the leafy canopy of the tall trees above blocked out most of the sunlight, but it was still bright enough to navigate easily. The smell began to grow stronger, and I found myself leaving the trail. This was a very dangerous thing to do while out in the bush, but there was obviously someone else out here, so I felt safe enough. I had two fishing knives available at a moment's notice if it came to that, but I doubted anyone who would cook fudge in the bush would turn out to be dangerous. Perhaps a little nutty, but not dangerous.
I had to move slowly to avoid getting my fishing rod or net caught on the many bushes and branches that grew in the area. I ducked my head under a large spider web. If the web's owner was a red-back or white-tail spider, I could find myself in serious trouble if bitten this far away from help. The bite of a white-tail could cause nausea, and possibly gangrene around the bite. A red-back bite could leave me partially paralyzed without a fast injection of anti-venom.
The smell grew in intensity as I pushed further off the trail until I finally pushed through into a small clearing. I scanned the entire area quickly, but there were no camp fires set up here, and no visible signs of fudge. I frowned, knowing that the source of the smell had to be very close. I crept along slowly, trying to pinpoint it. Climbing over a fallen tree, I saw something that made my heart stop. Two naked, female bodies were lying directly on the other side of the tree.
I fell over backwards off the tree and landed hard on my back. I threw down the net and fishing rod, and frantically opened the tackle box and withdrew both fishing knives. I removed them from their sheaths and pressed my back up against the fallen tree. Was some kind of psycho out here luring people with fudge and then killing them? That didn't make any sense, but it also didn't stop the intense surge of adrenaline I felt. My eyes darted everywhere, trying to determine if I was being watched at that very moment. My hands tightened on the grips of my knives. I realized then that they would be a pretty pathetic defense against whoever had murdered those girls if he or she had a gun.
Several minutes passed, but if there was a murderous psychopath still in the area, it didn't seem ready to kill me just yet. The smell of fudge was also still very strong, as well. I thought about that; I should have smelled decaying flesh instead of fudge. I had been unfortunate enough to stumble upon a body when I lived back in Detroit, and you never forgot the smell. It was entirely absent here.
I slowly inched my head up to peek over the fallen tree. The area was psychopath-free. I sat back down and put the fishing knives back in their sheaths, then put them back into the tackle box. I left my gear where it was, and climbed back onto the tree. There, just below me, were the two young women. Both were either dead or unconscious. One of them had long, straight hair that was a pale pink color, which reminded me of the flashing pink sky. She was short, and looked rather delicate. Her pale white skin looked entirely unblemished. I guessed her age to be around twenty or so. The other girl also had pink hair, but hers was a bit darker, and was styled in long curls. Her skin was a little darker than the first girl's, but was also perfectly unblemished. She also seemed to be around twenty years old, though I was admittedly terrible at guessing women's ages. I noticed neither girl seemed to have any kind of wounds on their bodies.
I hopped down off the tree and landed beside the first girl with the pale, pink hair. I felt awkward, but I needed to determine if the young women were alive. If so, I knew senior first aid and could possibly provide assistance with whatever had befallen them. I watched as her breasts slowly moved with the motion of her breathing. Checking the other girl's chest, I noticed she was also breathing. I felt relieved that neither of them were dead, though it left plenty of questions as to what they were doing in the middle of the bush with no clothes on. Had they been doing something kinky and been bitten by something? I didn't see any visible snake bites on either of them. A spider bite would be a little more difficult to discover, and would require a thorough examination of their bodies.
I sighed and stood up. Both girls were breathing regularly and seemed in no immediate danger. I began to have a quick look around to see where they may have discarded their clothing. It couldn't be too far, unless they had been running from something. I wondered why they smelled like fudge. Maybe it was some kind of perfume gone wrong. I kicked around the leaves and foliage, but there were no clothes in sight. Bloody great. I walked back over to the girls and bent down beside the one I had first examined. I figured I may as well look for spider bites. I bent close and pulled her long, pink hair away from her neck.
Her eyes fluttered open.
We held each other's gaze for several silent moments. Her large eyes were an amazing shade of aqua that seemed to shimmer, and made it difficult to look anywhere else. Slowly, the girl seemed to shrink away from me and began shivering as if frightened. I realized she must be terrified.
"Hey, it's okay," I said, trying to help her calm down. "Have you been hurt?"
The girl remained silent, and seemed to be trying to curl up into a ball. Oy! Stop staring at her body, you wanker, I thought. I stood up and turned around to face away from her.
"I'm sorry, I kind of found you this way. I wasn't trying anything weird. I was just going to check for spider bites," I said awkwardly. "I couldn't find your clothes, so I really had no choice but to look at you. For bites. From spiders."
I was answered by a sharp intake of breath and a gasp.
Startled by the amount of fear in her voice, and forgetting about modesty and manners, I turned around. The young woman was examining her legs and feet with a mixture of awe and horror. Her aqua eyes moved up to her hands and arms as she wiggled her fingers curiously. She looked down at her breasts with confusion, which slowly gave way to a noticeable reddening of her cheeks. She then looked back up at me, causing me to quickly look the other way again.
"Sorry!" I called out. "I heard you gasp and thought you might be in trouble. Do you mind if I ask you something?"
I was met with silence for a moment before I finally heard a quiet, whispered, "Okay."
"I just... well don't take this the wrong way, but have you been taking anything? Maybe ecstasy or something? I mean, no offense, but you seem a little spaced out there."
Again, a long moment of silence. Finally, "Um, I don't think so."
That voice was familiar. I felt like I'd heard it before, and recently. I had a great many more questions to ask this young lady, and her friend, or partner, too.
"Listen, your friend still seems to be unconscious," I said. "I know this is awkward, but do you mind if I make sure she's okay?"
"Okay," came the whispered response.
I turned around slowly, giving the girl plenty of time to cover up. Strangely, she hadn't made much of an effort at all to conceal anything. I forced my eyes away from her body and back over to her friend's. I kneeled down next to her and began to look for bites on her face and neck.
"My name's Doug, by the way. Are you feeling well enough to tell me your name yet?" I asked as I checked on the curly-haired girl's shoulders.
"Well, um... " came the quiet reply.
"Her name is Fluttershy!" the curly-haired girl yelled as her eyes opened up wide. "Hi, I'm Pinkie!"
After having leapt backwards about six feet, I slowly pushed myself back off the ground. I took in a few deep breaths, trying to settle my heart rate back down to a reasonable, and non-life-threatening, level. I watched with fascination as the one that called herself Pinkie stood up excitedly.
"Wow Fluttershy, we're okay! I guess we were silly for being scared of that big old wave of pink stuff. I wonder what happened to us though, we look so funny! Oh, look at these!" she exclaimed, sticking one leg out, then the other, and wiggling her toes. "Oh look, I have built in balloons!" she continued, grabbing her breasts and squeezing. She let out a high-pitched giggle.
I gawked, slack-jawed, at the scene unfolding before me. Fluttershy. Pinkie. What the hell?