by Anneke Haitsma
It was one of those very hot, sultry February days. Over the last week, it had become warmer and warmer, and on this Monday it would be extremely hot. Even at eight o’clock in the morning, the thermometer showed over 30 degrees. The radio weather forecast said it would be way over 40 degrees today. A typical day, that was likely to end up with either a thunderstorm, or a bush fire. Maybe both. Last week there had already been several reports of bush fires, but until now, they hadn’t brought about much trouble. But the caution was still in force. If a thunderstorm comes without giving rain………..
At the base Kate said: “You are really lucky to have your day off today.”
“Yes,” David said. “This isn’t a temperature for work.”
“You planned to go somewhere?”
He nodded. “We are going canyoning, though, not really, just walk along the river.”
“You better get into it when it‘s as warm as today,” Geoff, who just arrived, said.
David shook his head. “Too dangerous,” he said smiling. “But I don’t think we will have many problems with the heat. We will stay at the south bank, near the water, out of the sun’s reach, so it won’t be that hot. They even told us it could be chilly down there.”
“We? They?” Kate asked.
“A friend of mine will catch up with me. He sometimes works for the tourist office, and he’s going to guide a small group of hikers through the gorge.”
“And we have to go on a clinic, somewhere, without water……. in the middle of nowhere…… dry, dusty…..” Geoff said, while pulling a pitiful face, and wrapping his arm around Kate’s shoulders. “Don’t you think we are pitiable?”
David just laughed and Kate pushed Geoff away. “It’s too hot for that.”
Tom entered the base. “Why do they give days like this. Five minutes after I left the shower, I was already wet again…... What are you doing here on your day off?” He asked, when he spotted David.
“Making us jealous,” Geoff answered, before David could. “He‘s going canyoning! Imagine, water….. shadow……” he said, letting his thoughts carry away to such a fairytale like place.
“Well,” Tom said, “I already agreed with a couple of people to go for a swim in the creek after work. Why don’t you come, too?”
Kate shook her head. “We are staying overnight at the property.”
“Oh, yes. I forgot about that,” Tom said.
“Although I don’t like that at all in these weather conditions. I hate those days. You can feel the threat in the air,” Kate continued.
Near the gorge, David, and Tim, his friend, met the other people who would join them today. Tim was a bright smiling, young man, whose ancestors must have had black skin, but whose eyes were steel blue.
“We’ll leave your cars here, so we can pick them up later. This is the place where we will come back to in the afternoon.”
They got in Tim’s ute, and he drove them to the start. They checked their equipment, and went into the gorge. There was something you could hardly call a path, but they followed it, descending to the river, trusting Tim as their guide. Halfway along the cliff, the river could already be heard. It was a nice sound to hear, because they all were very hot, longing to cool down a little, and be in the cooling neighbourhood of the water.
Rick, a rude, arrogant, ‘know everything better than someone else’ man in his early fifties, saw another track branch off, which seemed to go down faster. “Let’s take that one,” he said.
“Not for us,” Tim said, shaking his head. “It’s too steep, and down lower, it’s swept away by the river.”
“But……” Rick tried again, “it looks nicer, too.”
Tim shook his head again, looked at David, and whispered: “He will give us no end of trouble today, I think.”
They continued to follow the main track. When they reached the bottom of the gorge, they all sat down at the riverside for a break. It was really pleasant. Rick took off his shoes, and got into the river.
“Why do we need a guide here,” Rick said to his mouse-like wife Gwen. “It doesn’t seem dangerous here.”
Tim, who heard Rick saying it, looked at David and rolled his eyes.
“Gwen!” Rick called. “Bring me a towel!”
From one of the bags she was carrying, she took one, and handed it over to him.
“It exceeds my expectations that she’s not drying his feet,” Tim whispered to David.
Downstream, an American family, who were on a ‘see Australia in three weeks’ trip all by themselves, visited the river, too. They had been driving along the edge of the gorge, when Joe, the father saw something that looked like a path. He thought the path might lead downward to the river. To play and swim down there, was too attractive an idea to let pass on a hot day like this.
“What about a swim?” He asked smiling, running his fingers through his reddish, unmanageable hair.
July, the mother, looked at him and nodded.
The children immediately yelled: “Yes, yes, yes!”
July turned her head. Her long, almost black ponytail, swept over her shoulder. She smiled at the children, who all looked very much like their father. “Ok. Let’s go then,” she said.
At first, the path they followed, wasn’t difficult to walk on, but after it had made some zig zags, it seemed it suddenly stopped. Joe looked down and saw that, after a very steep part, it continued like it was before: pretty easy.
“Like to do some rock climbing?” He asked the rest of the family.
His 12 year old son Juni, who was actually called Joe Junior, nodded eagerly.
“I’ll go first, prepare your way,” Joe said, and he climbed down the only two meters of very steep slope. After him came Joni, his 10 year old daughter, Jessie, his 9 year old daughter, and Juni. July was on her way down, too, and though she didn’t seem to have any problems with it, Joe suddenly said: “Don’t put your foot on that rock! It’s a loose one, and I won’t like it to come down on us!”
It took them an hour and a half to reach the river. The last part of the slope was the most difficult: it was very steep.
“Glad going up is easier than going down,” was the understatement July sneered at her husband. Though she liked these kind of adventures, she had realised too late, that it could be dangerous, especially for the children. She was relieved that they made it all down there, safely. They weren’t aware at all, that in the gorge, danger also lay in wait for them.
“Look here,” the father said, “the river is gone. We’re going to search the entrance.”
“I found it, I found it,” Jessie yelled after a while, jumping up and down, “let’s try and follow it.”
It seemed a nice game, to try and follow the underground river from above, but, at places were the river grated out holes right under their feet, it was rather tricky.
Geoff and Kate arrived at the property, where the clinic was to be held. The house was built on one of the terraces of a terraced hill, and from the veranda, you could see miles and miles around.
Tim’s group walked along the river. Sometimes the edges almost touched each other, and there was hardly any space left to walk. At those places, they had to go up a little higher along the cliff, or try making big steps over the waterholes the river had grated out. Looking up however, the edges never reached each other, but fell back, leaving a lot of wide open space.
“Look,” Tim said. He pointed at the north slope. “Climbers.”
‘Who on earth would do that on a day like this’, David asked himself, but then again, he also saw the challenge of it.
“Here’s a cave,” Tim said, pointing at a small hole in the rock, walking towards it.
“No way, I prefer the blue sky above me,” Cath, a 40 year old woman with dark blond, curly hair said. “I’m not going in there.”
“I’m not going in there either,” David said.
“Don’t bother with me,” Cath said to him.
“I’m not,” he said, “I also prefer the blue sky.”
“Can I go in, mum?” Phil, her son, who was a head taller than his mother, asked looking down on her.
“Of course you can,” she said looking up at him.
While the others went into the cave, Cath and David sat down next to the river.
“Caves….elevators….. aeroplanes……” Cath said.
“Mines….. tunnels……” David completed her summing up.
“I especially chose this gorge, because they told me one would never feel locked in here,” she joked, and they laughed about it.
“Are you on a holiday?” David asked her.
“Yes, I am. My husband looks after the other children during this week, which gives way to me doing things I like and he doesn’t.”
“And in another week you shift places?” David asked.
“You’re a smart boy,” she said laughing. “And what about you?”
“I only have one day off. Tim’s a friend of mine, and I decided to come with him today.” “So….. you live in the neighbourhood?”
David nodded. “Coopers Crossing. Ever heard of it?”
“Yes, actually I have, we are going there after today’s trip.”
After the clinic, Geoff, Kate and the owners of the house, Michael and Clary, who were both old mates of Kate, sat on the veranda to have a talk amongst themselves. They also relived memories, and had a lot of fun.
Suddenly Kate said: “Look!”
They all looked in the direction she pointed. A line of thunderheads, like big cauliflowers, stood out above the land.
“That’s going to be a big thunderstorm. I hope it brings rain, we’re running out of water here,” Michael said.
When the others finished visiting the cave, they went on walking and reached the spot Tim had in mind for having lunch. It was a beautiful spot. The river swirled around a rock, and the other side hang over it.
“Gwen! Take a picture of me,” Rick said. He climbed upon the rock. Tim, who saw him go, went after him.
“I don’t want you in my picture,” Rick said to him, while trying to find a nice photo pose. He sat down and said to Gwen: “Now.”
Gwen took the picture, and when she was finished, she looked at Rick, but he had suddenly disappeared. Tim, who already knew what kind of bloke he was dealing with, was already on the rock. Rick had fallen off the rock into the water. Fortunately there was a little, not swirling place behind it, and he could hold on to the rock. Tim reached out for his hand, but Rick was just beyond his reach. David, who saw it all happen, reacted immediately. He got hold of Tim’s legs, so he could reach further, and together they managed to get Rick on the edge.
“It doesn’t seem dangerous here, eh?” Tim couldn’t leave asking him. “Are you alright?”
“No, I’m not! Can’t you see I’m wet and cold? That water is like ice!” He only had a little sore wound on his hand, and some little scratches.
“Don’t you see how lucky you are?” Tim asked. “If the swirl had got you, you would have been lost. Within no time you get hypothermia in the cold water………”
Tim stopped talking when David called his attention on Rick again. He sat there, trembling. After all, he seemed not as tough as he acted before.
“We have to go on, otherwise he gets too cold,” David said to Tim, while he noticed Gwen didn’t take any action to help……..
“Where is Jessie?” Joe, asked his wife. “Have you seen her?”
“No… I thought she was with you.”
“And you?” He asked Joni. She just shook her head.
“And you?” He asked Juni. He also just shook his head. They started searching for her, but couldn’t find her. “Jessie…..Jessie…!!!!” They yelled, but there was no answer.
After a while, when all their searching ended up without any results, and they were close to breaking down, July said: “You must go up, ask someone for help. There’s a radio in the car, remember? We’ll stay here in case she turns up.”
Joe rushed up the mountain in half the time they had needed to go down there.
“Help!” He said breathlessly in the radio. “Is someone there….. please…….”
“I receive you. What’s up?” Claire said.
“It’s my daughter, she’s lost in the canyon! Please help us.”
“You must specify your position. What canyon?”
“Oh…..” he said almost crying, “I don’t know. There’s a river and it went underground and…….”
At the base Tom nodded to make clear he knew the place.
“Ok, ok, we know where it is. We’re on our way. Please stay with the radio.”
“Isn’t that the gorge where David went?” Claire asked Tom.
“Yes, but we can’t reach him, so he’s of no use………… Call Will Carter,” Tom said after he did some fast thinking. “He lives near that gorge and knows it as the back of his hand.”
“Shall I call the Nomad, too?”
“No, it can’t land there. We need a helicopter.”
After doing some telephone calls, and a call on the radio, Claire got one.
“Where is it coming from?” Tom asked. “Can I go with it?”
“No, they are going straight to the gorge. It will take less time.”
“Ok, then we just wait here. I wanted to go for a swim, but I don’t think it’s wise now.”
“It won’t be wise anyway since there’s a storm coming our way,” Claire said.
When Tim’s small group almost reached - what looked like - the end of the gorge, they heard voices from above, and saw little stones and dust coming down. Very fast, Will Carter, Alex, one of his station hands, and Joe, Jessie’s father, were coming down, carrying ropes and other equipment. Tim made a small talk with them.
“What’s up, Tim?” Cath asked.
“Downstream, a 9 year old child fell into the water and is missing,” he said.
Now, after Rick’s accident, and what they heard about the child, the whole group was affected. They now minded their steps even better than they had done before.
“Are we going there, too?” Phil asked.
“No, those people were obviously not with a guide. He would never have gone there, and certainly not with children of that age……….” Tim looked back, and saw Gwen stay behind. “Stop for a moment,” he said to the others. He walked back to look if something was wrong with her. After a while, he beckoned David. “Glad you came with me this time. Will you check on her?” He asked.
“She’s got a light shock,” David said after examining her. “I think both of them, Rick and Gwen, didn’t realize what they were getting into, having no experience at all. Rick’s accident, and what they told us about the child shocked her.”
“But we have to go on,” Tim said, pointing to the sky which was slowly turning grey.
“Yeah, I think she can do it. We don’t have a choice. But I’ll stay with her, so you can pay attention to the rest of the group.”
Rick, who came walking back, too, asked angrily: “What are you two up to? Gwen, come on!” He wanted to take her hand, but Tim stood up between them.
“In case you didn’t notice, she doesn’t feel well.”
“Oh, that’s no problem, is it, Gwen?”
“Yes, it is,” David said, wondering at Rick’s lack of interest.
“This man happens to be a doctor. He’s just told me she’s in shock,” Tim said.
Rick shook his head, looked annoyed at all of them, and just walked away. Again David and Tim looked at each other questioningly.
Tim pointed at the place where the men came down. The track, which could hardly be seen, zigzagged along the cliff.
“This is where we go up. We will wait at every corner, until the whole group arrives, otherwise the rocks, which surely will come down, will hit someone,” he said.
They all nodded, Rick shrugged.
The three men vanished almost directly around a hidden corner of the gorge. Immediately they started searching for Jessie. Joe ran to his wife, to see if the girl might have turned up already, but she hadn’t.
“Where can she be and why doesn’t she answer?” Joe said, almost panic-stricken yet.
“No worries, we will keep on searching.”
“But if she has fallen into the river……..” July said with tears in her eyes.
“Don’t give up hope yet,” Will said, dividing the searching tasks among them. He took Alex aside for a moment and told him: “We have to hurry, did you see the sky turn grey? It might already be raining upstream.”
The man nodded, and they continued the search. They called out Jessie’s name, but the noise of the river would drown out their voices, as well as hers in case she did answer. Will entered the tunnel, into which the river went underground. After a while, his eyes were drawn to something that lay on the little edge that was left. It could hardly be seen, but it was a piece of the stone grey dress Jessie was wearing. ‘So she must be here somewhere,’ he said to himself.
“I think I found something,” he told Joe when he got out again. “This is from her dress, isn’t it?”
Joe turned pale and nodded.
“Give me the rope,” Will said. He put it around his waist, and got into the tunnel again. He noticed that the water had already risen a little. ‘So I was right, it’s already raining upstream,’ he thought, and went on searching. Suddenly he spotted Jessie almost at the same place he had found the piece of her dress. She was locked in between two rocks, with a third one lying over them, like a cover. She must have fallen from outside into the tunnel. Fortunately, she wasn’t in the water. ‘Not yet though,’ he thought. “Jessie,” he yelled over the noise of the river, “are you alright?”
Jessie heard and spotted him. “Yes, but I can’t get out! That rock’s too heavy,” she tried to yell back with a small voice.
Will, who was too big to get in there, too, but who could reach her with his hand, had to act fast. Suddenly he got an idea. He took a hammer from his equipment, gave it to her and said: “Put this through that open space that’s left there,” and he pointed at it, “so we can see where you are from the outside. Do you understand?”
She nodded and immediately did what he asked. He gave the thumbs up sign and yelled: “I’m going out again.”
“No!!!!” She yelled back. “Don’t leave me here!” She started crying.
“I have to,” he said, feeling sorry for the brave girl. “I’ll be back in no time above you.”
“No… no…” she yelled, but he had to go.
“I’ve found her!” He yelled, as soon as he was in the hearing range of Joe, who held the rope. Again, he gave the thumbs up sign, to assure Joe she was doing well. “We’ll free her from the outside, hurry, the water’s rising.”
They ran to the place were Will assumed she must be, gesturing to the others to come, too. Immediately, they found the hammer, and tried to loosen the covering rock. In which they didn’t succeed………..
At first, it seemed the track was almost vertical, and they didn’t mind at all waiting at every turn. Gwen was doing rather well, considering the condition she was in.
When they were halfway up, they heard a strange noise. First they thought it was thunder, but, even though the sky was still turning darker and darker, there were no signs of a thunderstorm starting yet. The noise became louder and louder. Suddenly they spotted a helicopter, flying through the gorge, almost at the same height as they were. The sound was reverberated by the edges of the gorge, and it was very scary. Gwen lost control for a moment. She almost fainted, and if it hadn’t been for David being close to her, she would have fallen.
“Gwen,” David said, “go on. I’ll be right behind you. We are halfway there.”
While Geoff and Kate and their friends were talking, the thunderheads came closer. The wind began to blow harder and harder.
“This is exactly what I meant this morning, when I said I hated these weather conditions,” Kate said. “When it’s not going to rain, and something’s struck by lightening, in no time the whole country will be on fire.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that this time” Geoff said, pointing. A curtain of rain could be seen at the opposite hill. A tree was struck by lightening, started burning, but almost immediately the fire was extinguished by the cascade-like rain. After some minutes, it also started raining at their place.
“It’s going to be rough, I think,” the pilot said to his co-pilot. “VCC, can you give me the weather forecast? It’s not looking too good up here.”
“You have to hurry,” Claire said, “there’s a storm coming right at you.”
The pilot nodded to his co-pilot, as Claire acknowledged his suspicion. “Well, we are going to land now. Over and out.”
Before they landed on a wide spot where the river was underground, they saw the people on the ground waving at them, and after they had landed the helicopter, they ran towards them. They shook hands, while Will told them what happened.
“Now we have to move this rock.”
Together, the five men managed to get the rock off, and within no time, they got the girl out. She was still crying, but no longer frightened. She ran into the arms of her parents, and her brother and sister hugged her, happy to be together again.
Will, Alex, the helicopter-pilot and his co-pilot looked at the scene. Four reddish curly-haired heads, and one black together. They were grateful that they had been able to help those people.
“I don’t think you need us here anymore?” The pilot said to Will.
“No, but why are you in such a hurry?”
The pilot pointed to the sky and Will nodded.
“Can you take any of us with you?” He asked.
The pilot hesitated. “I….. it’s going to be bad weather……. I really don’t know what will be more dangerous: going out on foot or by chopper.”
“We will go out on foot,” Will decided. “With four adults on three children we will manage.” The pilot and his co-pilot went to the chopper, and took off. Suddenly the chopper was caught by a hard gust of wind, and it almost smashed against the cliff. Just in time, the crew got it right, and they flew off safe.
“Helicopter to VCC. The girl’s found, she’s alright, but the weather’s turning bad. We almost smashed the cliff just now. We’re heading home again.”
Tom and Claire sighed relieved.
“But they still have to get out of that gorge, and according to what the pilot just said………”
“ I hope they’ll hurry,” Tom said.
When Tim, David, Rick, Phil, Gwen and Cath were almost out of the canyon, a hard wind started blowing. Then, Gwen made a mistake. She put her foot on the loose rock Joe had warned his family for earlier that day. It came down right on David’s head. Her foot slipped and also hit him. For a moment, everything was dark around him, and even though he couldn’t see anything, he managed to pull her aside, saving them both from falling down the slope. Almost at the same time, big raindrops were starting to fall down, at first one by one, but within no time, it had turned into a cloudburst.
One hour’s climb beneath them, the rock, and all the debris it had dragged along while falling down the slope, almost hit the group of the American family and their rescuers. By a lucky coincidence, they just walked below an overhanging part of the slope. When the helicopter had left, they had hurried, to at least try and reach the easier part of the slope before it would start raining.
David saw light flashes. ‘Were they real?’ He heard the thunder and sighed relieved. They were real, he wasn’t seeing things. He looked at Gwen. Blood, sweat and rain hindered his sight, but he could see her lying next to him, trembling, looking pale and breathing shallow.
Tim, who already brought Rick, Cath and Phil over the edge, came down almost stumbling when he saw them both lying there. His heart skipped a beat. “David, Gwen!” He yelled to get over the noise of a squall. “Are you ok!?”
“Yes, I think so……….. We have to get Gwen up ……. take her to hospital!” David yelled back. He got up, and again everything turned dark around him. He got hold of Tim who supported him.
“You’re sure you’re ok!?”
“Not completely but…….” David yelled back, his words vanishing in a crashing thunder stroke. They carried Gwen over the edge and brought her, fighting against the lashing rain, to Cath’s Land-cruiser. When they got her into the car, David sat down next to it, exhausted and dizzy, soaking wet. When he looked around, everything was hazy.
“You’re bleeding, David!” Cath, who immediately left the car when she saw them coming, yelled. “Let me look at it, get into the car!”
He looked at her cross-eyed.
“I think you’ve got a concussion, too,” she said, and helped him get up. They ran to the other side of the car.
He made a ‘stop’ gesture. “I feel sick … Let me stay…… outside for a moment…..” he gasped. “We must…… get Gwen to hospital………. she’s still in shock.”
“Yes, and you,” Cath said, more to herself than to him.
“Phil, get my bag from the back. Tim?” She yelled through the clashing sounds of the thunderstorm……… “What happened?”
“I don’t know, when I came down they were lying on the edge!” he yelled back.
“Has any of them been unconscious?”
Tim shrugged. “Sorry,” he said.
When Phil brought her bag, Cath got back into the car. She did a fast examination on Gwen, put her on the oxygen, told David to come in now, swathed his head, got out again and yelled to Tim: “I’ll drive them to the hospital, Phil comes with me. You go with Rick in his car, ok?” Tim nodded and ran off through the storm. Even though Rick’s car was nearby, it couldn’t be seen through the soaking rain.
“Phil,” she yelled to the boy, “get in the car. While I’m driving, you check on Gwen and David, warn me if anything changes. Gwen could be worse, but I’m worried about David.” Phil nodded.
In no time, the road had changed into a mudflow. Cath, who was an experienced driver, managed to keep her car on the road, but she couldn’t prevent it from bumping sometimes. David felt a terrible headache, and this ride didn’t help to get rid of it. He looked outside. Everything seemed rather dark and foggy. He closed his eyes for a moment. Suddenly the car stopped.
“What’s up Cath,” he asked, “we must go on.”
“The other car’s stuck in the mud.” She opened the window and yelled: “C’mon … get in the back. We must go on, we’ll pick up that car later!”
Rick got angry. “I won’t leave my car here unattended in the middle of nowhere,” he said to Tim, and when Tim got out of the car, Rick yelled after him: “You …… and that friend of yours…… are the most……… irritating people I’ve ever met! I‘ll stay with my car!”
Tim looked back at him, shook his head, and got into the other car saying: “Let him stew.”
After another time’s drive they got to Tim’s car.
“David,” Tim said, “I’ve got a radio. I’ll call your colleagues we’re on our way.”
And on they went.
In the meantime, the other people had gotten out of the gorge, too. It had been a frightful trip, because it was not only the road above which had changed into a mudflow. Actually, the easiest part had now been the most difficult: it had turned into a slippery, unreliable track.
They had used the ropes to belay themselves, and while Will prepared their way, they had made progress slowly. Despite the frightening situation, Joe noticed that the rock he had warned July about was gone, and he realized that, when they were down there, they had had a narrow escape when it came down.
“We’re up,” Bill radioed the base. “Apart …m be… all soaking wet, and rather …..tened …..ssssszssss….. alright. ……ssssssszsssss……… chopper make it?”
“Are you alright?” Clare asked because she couldn’t decipher what they said. “I can’t receive you properly.”
“…………..alright……….” Clare heard again, so she assumed they were alright indeed.
“……going to Will’s placesssszzsssss……… storm ……. over.”
“Message received, over and out.” Clare said, making a mental note to radio them when the storm would be over, to check if she had understood everything well.
When they arrived at the hospital, all pointed to the fact that Tim, despite the thunderstorm, had managed to radio the base. A stretcher already stood at the entrance.
David wanted to get out of the car to help Gwen when Cath stopped him. “Your colleague and I will support Gwen and get another stretcher,” she said.
“There’s nothing wrong with me, I can walk.”
“Are you always that stubborn?.............. Phil… please help him. He won’t make it on his own.”
David got out of the car. It was obvious he needed Phil’s support more than he wanted them to know. He was dizzy, and something still hindered his sight.
When they were all inside, out of reach from the wind and the rain, he said to Tom: “We were in the gorge and …….. Gwen……… no… trying to get out of the gorge………… she….. she was ill and………” he said, looking at Cath and Phil for help because he couldn’t remember what had happened. When he looked at them, he saw everything upside-down, and he almost lost his balance.
“I’ll look after her,” Tom said, putting his arm around David’s shoulders and supporting him. “You sit down. Can you get me another stretcher?” He asked a nurse who just walked by.
Cath introduced herself to Tom: “Catherine, but me mates call me Cath. We’re colleagues. This is my son Phil.” They shook hands while Cath said: “The woman, Gwen, has a shock but it looks like it’s not too bad. David got, apart from the head wound also a concussion, but I assume you already noticed that. Shall I stay around?”
“No thanks, I think you better go and change, otherwise the rest of the group will end up in hospital, too,” Tom said laughing, because they were drenched and looked as if they’d been swimming. “We’ll manage.”
“Ok, I’ll come and visit you tomorrow,” Cath said to Gwen and David who was already being taken care of by Annie.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me…. I can walk,” David said.
“Where did I hear that before?” Cath asked. “I think you of all people should know, one can’t be too careful with a concussion, so…… do as the nurse says and lie down, will you?....... See ya,” she said walking away.
Outside, they ran into Tim who arrived later. It was still raining and thundering, and a strong wind was blowing.
“Let’s go to the hotel to have a shower,” Cath said to Tim and Phil.
David woke up because there was much activity in the hospital. ‘Strange’ he thought. ‘Who makes so much noise when the day hasn’t even begun.’ He heard someone enter the room.
“I noticed you woke up?” Tom said.
David looked at him, but didn’t give any sign of recognition.
Tom came closer. “David,” he said, “what’s wrong? Do you know who I am? Where you are?”
David felt the pain in his head when he moved a little. He touched it, touched his eyes, too.
He closed them. He slowly started to remember what happened yesterday. The gorge, Gwen, ‘I must ask how she is doing’, the darkness and the rain, the light flashes, the foggy sight……...
David opened up his eyes again. Suddenly he was seized with fear.
“Do you know who I am?” Tom said again.
“Tom……..” David said, trying to grip his hand, “Tom…….. I can hear it’s you, but……… but………. I can’t see you.”
Tom looked at him, astonished. “What do you mean,” he said.
“Just like I said, I can’t see you, I don’t see anything…………...”
“Are you sure you can’t see anything?” Tom asked after a while. “Can you see this?” He said, walking around the bed without making any noise.
“See what?” David asked, panicking, still looking at the place Tom was before.
“See me walk around the bed.”
Tom’s voice came from the other side of the bed. It scared David, because he hadn’t seen him go there. He shook his head softly, not able to believe what was happening to him.
“And this?” Tom asked, waving his hand in front of David’s eyes.
“Yes…… no…… well……. yes…… something seems to move over there.”
“So you can still discern things?” Tom asked.
“I guess so…….” David said. The panic in his voice could be heard. “…….. But I can’t see you…….. or anything else,” he said again.
Tom put his hand on David’s shoulder. “But you’re not entirely blind, the nerve’s still passing on stimuli……. I think your sight will be back within a couple of hours,” Tom continued while walking around the bed, giving David the opportunity to hear where he went. “Just take it easy, ok?”
Tim entered the corridor, looking for David, and ran into Tom who stood there, running his fingers through his hair.
“Can I help you?” Tom asked.
“Tim,” he introduced himself and shook hands with Tom. “I was looking for David.”
“You are the one he went with yesterday?” Tom asked.
“Yes, I am. Can I see him?”
Tom looked at him for a moment. “I’ll ask him if he wants to see you, but first I have to tell you something.”
Tim looked astonished. “I already know he’s got a concussion, Cath told me yesterday. I won’t stay too long……..”
“I won’t beat around the bush,” Tom said. “We just found out that he’s almost blind……”
Tim looked shattered, his bright smile vanished. “You’re sure? Is it from yesterday’s accident?”
“It didn’t look that serious back then,” Tim said.
Tom shrugged and turned his hands open as to say, ‘I don’t know all the answers.’ “Still want to visit him now?” He asked.
“Hey mate, we’re old friends. Of course I want to visit him. I won’t let him down!”
“David, you’ve got a visitor,” Tom said, going into the room.
David looked his way. “Who is it?” He asked tired.
“Ah…….. let him come in.”
Tom left the room and made a gesture to Tim which said ‘go on’. “Talk to him when you’re coming in.”
“David, it’s me, Tim,” he said softly, walking into the room. “What’s the matter with you, mate!”
“Didn’t they tell you?” David asked.
“Yes, they did, but…….” he said, not knowing what to say else. They fell silent for a while “I’m responsible for this,” Tim suddenly said, mournful and hesitantly.
“No,” David said, “don’t say that.” He held out his own hand in the direction he thought Tim was. Tim, who saw what he was doing, came nearer and let David get hold of his hand. “Gwen was my patient, I was responsible for her.”
“But…..” Tim said.
“Leave it, Tim,” David interrupted him sighing while patting him on his arm. “Arguing about it won’t help me.”
“No……. I think you’re right about that.”
After a long silence Tim said, trying to change the subject: “Cath will come, too. Is that ok?”
David nodded and again they fell silent.
“When she comes, I’m going to see Gwen.”
“How is she doing?” David asked.
“I don’t know yet, I came straight to you………. Gwen isn’t the most talkative person I know. They are both weird, Rick and she. Did you notice she didn’t react at all when he fell into the water?”
“Yes, I did,” David said, apparently diverting his attention to something else. “There is more to it than meets the eye.”
“And his anger when she didn’t feel well!” Tim went on talking. “You remember he thought his car more important?”
When he didn’t get a reaction from David he continued: “He wanted to stay there!!! While we were taking his wife to hospital!? When we got back, we asked someone from the garage to go there and tow him out but…….…….”
“Hello David, Tim,” Cath said when she came in.
“Hey Cath,” Tim said.
“You can go and see Gwen now, Tim. I think it’s too busy for David to have both of us here.”
Tim, who actually was relieved he could go now, patted David on the arm and said: “I’ll be back with you later.”
“How are you, David?” Cath asked walking toward him. She looked at him, waiting for an answer.
He looked at the place her voice was coming from and said: “Not too well.”
“I can see that,” she said, and now he understood he looked at the wrong place: she was next to him. “I brought you something,” she said, and reached him a package, but, since he couldn’t see what she was doing, he didn’t try to fetch it.
“You brought me something?” He asked into nothing, because Cath, again, took some, intentionally, steps aside.
“Yes, I did, and I ‘m reaching it to you now.”
“Oh sorry,” he said still trying to keep up appearances, reaching out his hands to fetch it.
Cath laid it into his hands. “You didn’t see me reach it to you, did you? And you didn’t see me either.”
“I don’t see anything,” he said with a quavering voice, leaving his defence.
“I already thought so since you were talking to the nightstand instead,” she said ironically. “Are you completely blind?”
‘Again that terrible word’ David thought, and he nodded…… “Almost.”
“Oh David, I’m sorry,” she said and reached for him to hold his hand.
They fell silent for a moment.
“I already noticed something strange yesterday, so I’m not completely surprised.”
“Well, I am,” David said, trying to control his emotions…… “And you may understand, I’m frightened, too.”
“Yeah, always when it gets to oneself. These things can happen to other people but not to you,” Cath said. “I’ve seen it before, people having a concussion the way you got it, loosing their eye-sight, but I also noticed it almost always came back after some time.”
“Yeah, I know, but for the moment it’s terrifying.”
“I can understand that,” she said while squeezing his hand. “And when I said ‘almost always’, you paid more attention to the word ‘almost’ than to the word ‘always’, didn’t you?” She asked.
David nodded, thinking this was why he immediately liked the woman. She understands people.
“Well…. I can say don’t do that, but it won’t help you, you just have to deal with it now.” They fell silent and just sat there for a while, holding each others hand.
“I’m leaving now,” Cath said, “you need rest. We decided to stay at the hotel, so I’ll come and visit you again tomorrow, probably things will be better then.”
At first he wouldn’t let her go. He liked her company. But suddenly he felt sick and dizzy, nodded and let go of her hand.
He closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on something else. He didn’t hear Tim coming in. “David? It’s me, Tim. I’m going home now. I came to say goodbye.”
“Bye,” was the only thing David could say.
When Cath had left the room, she searched for Tom. She found him, sitting at his desk, hands in his hair, thinking….
“Tom?” she asked.
“Oh hey,” he said.
“I just went to see David,” she said. “Did you check on him?”
“What‘s your diagnosis?”
“Temporary blindness, due to a hit on the head,” he said. “I did a test, and he could discern a little…… very little…….. so to him it must feel like complete blindness, I think.”
“It’s a misery for him but it might be better in a couple of hours, don’t you think?” Cath asked.
“Yeah, I think so, too,” he acknowledged.
“Are you asleep?” Tom asked.
“No, I feel sick and dizzy,” David answered without moving.
“Can I do something for you?”
“No………….. please…….. leave me alone.”
“Here’s the button,” Tom said putting it in David’s hand. “Call when it gets worse.”
When Tom left, he said to the nurse who was on duty: “Keep on checking him every hour…. and no more visitors today.”
“What took you so long!?” Rick started yelling at Nick as soon as he arrived to tow the car out.
“Good morning to you, too,” Nick said.
“I’ve been waiting here all night, in my soaking wet clothes, so it isn’t a good morning!” Rick said, shaking his index finger in front of Nick’s eyes.
Nick shrugged and started to prepare the tow. “Can you give me a hand?”
“Me………????” Rick said. “That’s your job!”
“It only takes longer then, and since you’ve been waiting here all night in your soaking wet clothes……..” Nick said cynically.
“Smart boy, hey?” Rick sneered back. He just stood there, waiting for Nick to get ready. When the car was towed out, Rick got in it and drove off with spinning wheels.
“Thank you for coming,” Nick said to himself. “They already told me he was a nerd, but now I’m sure about it.”
Rick entered the pub and sat down on a barstool.
“I need a drink,” he said to Vic, “a double scotch.”
Vic looked at him, and while handing him over his drink he said: “You look a little upset, what happened to you?”
“Mind your own business,” Rick snarled.
“Not really into talking, hey?” Vic said.
Rick gave him a dirty look, knocked back his drink and asked for another.
“Isn’t it a little too early for more, mate?” Vic asked him.
“Just give me one……… and I’m none of your mates.”
Nancy came out of the kitchen to see what was up.
“Do you have a room for me?” Rick asked, ignoring Vic.
She looked at Vic who pulled a face and said: “Well…… yes……” She handed him the hotel register.
When he had finished his drink, he asked for a bottle as well, and went upstairs to his room, asking himself in what crazy town he had ended up.
Geoff and Kate entered the base early in the afternoon.
“Tom?” Geoff asked surprised. “Yesterday you caught David here on his day off and now it’s you!”
“Well, someone has to watch the shop,” Tom said with a sigh. “You weren’t here and we’ve got a problem with David.”
Geoff and Kate looked questioning.
“He is left with a concussion…… and blindness after yesterday’s trip… He’s in the hospital.”
They looked worried. When something happens to a colleague or a friend, it always feels worse. “What happened?” Kate asked.
“I don’t know exactly, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to him about it, and none of the others of the group seemed to know. He was with a woman who suffered from a shock. She’s here, too.”
“How does he take it?” Geoff asked.
“Hard to say,” Tom answered. “We checked his approachability during the night. When I noticed he woke up this morning, I went into his room. It looked like he was panicking, finding out he couldn’t see me, or anything else. I did a little test. He’s not completely blind but……” he said running his fingers through his hair and shrugging. “He had some visitors from yesterday’s group. I thought it might give him a possibility to divert his attention, but after they left he didn’t feel well. I don’t know whether that’s due to the concussion or to the fear.”
After having had a shower and a nap, Rick went downstairs again. He walked to the door without saying anything to anybody, and ran into Cath and Phil who were just coming in.
“Hey Rick,” she said. “How’s Gwen now?”
“Am I the one who knows that?” He said. “You left me all alone yesterday. I just arrived here.”
Cath shrugged and thought: ‘He’s hopeless’. “Are you going to see her now?” She asked.
“And what if I am? It’s none of your business.”
“Sorry, I was just interested………. And when you get there, you should visit David, too. I think you owe him an apology for your behaviour yesterday,” she yelled after him, angry and annoyed.
Cath and Phil walked to the bar. Phil looked disapproving, Cath rolled her eyes.
“You know that jerk?” Vic asked them.
“Yeah, we met yesterday,” Phil answered. “We went on a trip together. His wife became ill. She’s in the hospital now.”
“But……” Nancy said looking at Vic, “if I was in hospital in a strange town, you would have come with me, wouldn’t you?”
Vic looked at his wife with love in his eyes and said, joking, in his own special way: “Maybe…….”
Nancy gave him a bump and said to Phil and Cath: “What d’you want for drink, luv’?”
After Rick had left the pub, he went to the hospital. Unfortunately, but to him fortunately, they were just busy switching shifts over there, so he could get in without being seen.
Rick and Gwen entered David’s room.
“Gwen wants to apologize to you,” Rick said.
“Apologize for what?” David asked. He immediately recognised Rick, because his voice and steps were as plump as the man was himself.
“For bothering you yesterday.”
“Aha….?” He said thinking the man must be out of his mind.
“It’s her fault you’re in hospital now, though I can’t see why either of you has to stay here…… Bunch of poor souls…….. I’m taking her home.”
“Her fault?” David asked annoyed. “She was ill, she couldn’t help it!”
“She was just trying to get your attention,” Rick said. The disgust could be heard in his voice.
‘That man must be crazy’ David thought and he decided not to discuss with him.
“How is she anyway?” He asked.
“Well, as you can see, pretty well.”
“As I can see? Is she here, too?” David asked.
Rick pointed with his finger to his forehead. “Of course she‘s here! Are you blind or something?”
“Actually I am,” David said.
Rick fell silent for a short moment. “You’re really weird,” he said, “yesterday I didn’t notice anything of that.”
Gwen wanted to come closer but Rick threw her back against the wall.
David, who heard the rumour and the noise of someone falling on the ground, asked: “What’s happening?”
“Since you were so smart yesterday, you can find out by yourself now, too!” Rick said, and walking away he sighed irritated: “She’s doing it again.”
“Idiot!” David yelled after him, searching for the button for help. He slammed his hand on the bed saying: “Damn,” because he couldn’t find the button and felt helpless.
“Gwen….?” He said, “Gwen……..?” He didn’t think any further, got out of bed and, dizzy, stumbling, felt his way for Gwen. “Sister…..!” He yelled but he got no answer. When he found her she didn’t react. “Sister….!” He yelled again, stood up, and felt his way out of the room in the colourless, foggy greyness which now was his world…………...
He heard footsteps.
“David!” Kate said. “What are you up to? You have to stay in bed, what’s the matter?” “Kate?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” she said softly. “I’m sorry,” she continued, realising that she should have said her name. She took his hand and guided him back to his room. Suddenly she saw Gwen lying on the floor.
“What happened here?” She asked astonished. She took David to his bed and pushed the button.
“Kate? What’s wrong with her, what did he do?”
“That crazy husband of hers,” David said, getting angry again.
They heard footsteps and Geoff, who took over from Tom, and another nurse came in. They looked at Kate and Gwen on the floor, questioning.
“Let’s take her back to bed,” Geoff said, gesturing Kate to stay with David.
After they left, Kate said: “David, I’m still here. Geoff and Nell took Gwen back to bed and they will look after her.”
“That man…….” David said, still angry, “about from the moment we met he gave no end of trouble to everyone…… He needs his head read!”
Kate laid her hand on David’s arm, put him softly back into the bed and said: “Take care of yourself now, lie down, rest, you shouldn’t have come out anyway! Tom told us you were not allowed to have visitors, and going out of bed is worse. We’ll find out how he could get in here and what happened, ok?”
David nodded and his anger was replaced by other emotions…..
Kate, who noticed that, said: “Shall I stay around here with you for a while?”
“I’d like that,” he said because he suddenly felt very tired, lost and lonely in the strange world which surrounded him.
After he had left the hospital, Rick paced back to the pub. He threw the door open, slammed it shut again and paced through the bar towards the stairs, mumbling about everything that annoyed him. In his room he packed up all his belongings, including the bottle of whisky. He stamped down the stairs, paced to the door and holding the doorknob he suddenly stopped, turned around and said: “All of you are either ‘poking your nose into everything people’ or ‘show-offs.” Opening the door he said emphatically, “Good bye!” He slammed the door behind him. Vic, Nance, Cath and Phil looked at each other, speechless.
“He’s got all his belongings, he’s leaving without paying!” Vic discovered suddenly. He started to run after him. When he came outside, Rick was already driving away, twisting and speeding through the main street.
“Damn,” Vic said coming in, “too late.”
Cath, who had followed Vic outside, said to him: “He was alone in his car, wasn’t he?” “Yeah?” Vic asked.
“For a moment I thought he might have kidnapped his wife from the hospital. He’s mad enough for it.”
“Well,” Vic said angrily, “since she’s still here he‘ll be back soon, and I surely ask ‘m for me flamin’ money!”
Cath sighed. She wasn’t too sure that he would be back.
Kate entered the pub. She looked furious. “Is that man here? He’s called Rick, his wife’s in the hospital.”
“He was here,” Nancy said.
“Where is he now?”
“He left, mad-headed, probably drunk, and drove off without paying,” Vic said, getting angry with him again.
“Typical,” Kate said, calming down a little.
“Was he at the hospital?” Cath asked her.
“That’s none of your business,” Kate answered. “Sorry,” she said, seeing Nancy frown upon her, “I shouldn’t have said that but………..”
Cath nodded, understanding, she already knew the effect Rick had on people. She introduced herself and Phil to Kate. “We were with them yesterday, were part of the group,” she explained.
Kate looked at her. “Oh yes, Tom told us about you. Sorry for being so rude.”
“No worries,” Cath said. “What happened?”
“I don’t know, but I ran into David who was in the corridor, searching for help, and when I brought him back to his room, the woman was lying on the floor, almost unconscious. David was very angry with the man, who just left them there.”
“Is David lying in the hospital, too?” Nancy asked. “What’s the matter with him?”
“Yes, he is,” Kate said looking at Cath, who looked worried after she had heard the story.
“He was with us, too, yesterday, but trying to take care of Gwen, that man’s wife,” Cath said pointing to the door and looking rather annoyed, “he had an accident. He’s got a concussion and when he woke up this morning he couldn’t see.”
“Oh…. no….!” Nancy’s face turned into a very worried expression and tears were gathering up in her eyes.
“No worries Nance, it’s only temporary,” Kate said, lying her hand on Nancy’s arm, trying to make sure she shouldn’t worry. “He’s going to be alright.”
“Are you awake? It’s me, Cath,” Cath said when she came in.
David nodded. She came nearer and touched his arm. He turned his head in her direction and squeezed her hand.
“Why don’t you open up your eyes?” She asked. “Still nothing…………?”
“……….. It scares me to open them, and, again, find out there’s …….. as you say……. still nothing,” he sighed. “Yesterday, I felt real sick of it. You know,” he said after a while, “it’s like…… like……….”
“Kinda locked in? … Like in a cave?” Cath asked.
Despite the situation he smiled a little. Again she hit the right spot.
“Hey! You’re laughing,” she said. “Guess what, the day before yesterday, in the pub, we met Nick. We are going for a ride together today. After all we’re still on holiday. We decided to stay here until Saturday. Phil is helping out at the pub or the garage. He found himself a friend in Nick and has the time of his life.”
After a long silence David said softly: “It should have been back in a couple of hours….”
“Or days,” Cath interrupted him, because she immediately realised, her red herring didn’t work at all.
“But what if…….”
“If what?” Cath asked, challenging him to go on. “Still thinking of ‘almost’ instead of ‘always’?”
“Ok,” Cath said, “tell me about your thoughts.”
David hesitated………… “Talking about your fears can make them come true,” he said.
“Are you that superstitious?” Cath asked astonished.
“No…. no, I’m not, but……. If it doesn’t come back at all, I can’t work anymore…… can’t fly… can’t drive... can’t read a book……… miss a huge part of communication………… oh, what a mess…………” he said squeezing her hand, trying not to panic. Tears started gathering up……………. Cath stroked his head with compassion. They became friends, appreciated each other’s company on the Monday hike, and now she felt so sorry for him, she could cry for him, too.
After another long silence she said: “But you never have to be afraid of going into a cave again. Inside it’s the same as outside, and you won’t see the walls.”
Now, David opened up his eyes and looked her way. “A penny for your expression,” he said changing the proverb, slightly shocked by the irony he heard in her voice.
“Ah, ” she said, “you’ve got such beautiful eyes! It’s a shame to hide them.”
“What about beautiful eyes when they’re of no use?”
“Oh David! Stop it now……. remember ‘always’. You’ve had the chance to sketch your feelings. Now they’re out. You should really stop it, otherwise you’re depressing yourself. The chance of getting better is still much greater…….” she said, getting a little despondent with him, though she did understand. She looked at her watch. “I’ve got to go now,” she said. “If you’re still in here tomorrow, I’ll visit you again, otherwise we’ll meet at the pub.”
“Pub?” Geoff, who was just coming in asked.
“Yes, why not?” Cath asked him, gesturing and making faces to tell Geoff to be positive and challenging.
“Tom told me he’s got a concussion, he has to stay in bed for an other day.”
“Don’t talk about me as if I’m not here,” David said annoyed.
“Sorry,” Geoff and Cath said simultaneously. They looked at each other and started laughing. “What’s up?” David asked, even more annoyed.
“We just laughed because we said ‘sorry’ simultaneously,” Geoff said.
But David couldn’t help feeling left out.
“See ya tomorrow,” Cath said and kissed him on the forehead.
“Did that man turn up already?” Kate asked Nancy during lunchtime.
“No,” Vic answered her question, “he didn’t, but if he does!!!! I’ve got a business to run here and if all guests run off without paying……” He said, leaving for the kitchen.
“And?” Nancy asked. “He didn’t turn up at the hospital either?”
Kate shook her head. “Maybe we should ask everyone to look out for him,” she said. “He can’t just run away like that and leave such a mess…..”
“Maybe he wanted to come back, but had an accident?” Nancy asked, still believing in the goodness of mankind.
“Possible,” Kate answered.
Nancy laid her hand on Kate’s arm, came a little nearer, lowered her voice to gossip heights and asked: “There’s something really wrong over there, isn’t it?”
Kate drew back, took Nancy’s hand from her arm and said: “I think so, but I also think it’s none of our business.”
“But that poor woman……… now she’s there alone …..ah…….. Shall I visit her?”
“Thank you, Nancy. Maybe later, but she’s still…”
“Very weak,” Geoff, who had joined them in the meantime, said. “But in good hands.”
“………..And how’s David? We are all so worried ………..”
“He’s gonna be fine, Nance. It only takes some time….” Geoff reassured her.
“And lots of rest….” Kate added.
Cath, Phil and Nick, who brought Annie, too, enjoyed their ride on horseback.
“Where did you learn to ride like that?” Nick asked Cath, after they did a race for fun. “You’re from the city, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” she said laughing, “but I grew up on a cattle station. We had horses, too….. It’s not so far from the city and we go there often.”
They stopped for a while at a billabong. The three youngsters went for a swim and had a lot of fun. Cath sat at the edge and let her thoughts carry away, enjoying creation. She tried to imagine how it would be, not to be able to see all these things, and it almost hurt her.
“You’re far away,” Annie said. She had left the two boys jumping from rocks, throwing stones and that kinda stuff, and sat down next to Cath.
“Yeah,” Cath said, “I love this so much……… the view………… the open spaces…… and I just tried to imagine how it would be, not to be able to see……..”
Annie nodded and they both fell silent, busy with their own thoughts.
“A holiday is too short,” Cath said after a while with a dreamy look on her face……. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my life, but it would make me happier not to live and work in the city…………”
“Why not try and join the RFDS?” Annie asked smiling.
Cath shook her head. “It’s easier to live in the city. My husband has his job there, too, and the children can go to school or uni and still live with us…… That’s the choice we’ve made. Besides…..” she said laughing, “I’m not a big fan of flying…….”
“So….. I don’t need to ask you both to join us on tomorrow’s clinic…………..?” Annie asked a little hesitantly.
Cath looked at her, tempted, shaking back and forth between her air fright and her sense for adventure and for challenging herself. After a while she answered: “Well….. I think I’d like it when you ask me, though.”
Phil and Nick joined them.
“I just asked your mother if you two would like to come with us on a clinic run tomorrow…….” Annie said to Phil.
He looked astonished and said: “By plane?”
“And…….? Will you?” He asked his mother.
“Wow!” Phil said. “Sounds great! When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a pilot……… and maybe I still want it, I’d like to come with you!”
“This is VCC to all receiving. Please look out for a blue Ford Falcon number PHK 168, I repeat: blue Ford Falcon number Papa Hotel Kilo one… six… eight. If you see it, ask the driver to contact us.”
“Can I help you?” Claire asked, putting her glasses off and walking toward the people who entered the base.
“Yes, we’re searching for the radio operator.”
“You’re speaking to her.”
“Oh lovely…… We wanted to thank you………. thank you very much……” the man said while shaking her hand in an exaggerated manner.
“But…” Claire looked questioningly, “what are we talking about?” She looked at the man, the woman, and the three children. She smiled, she thought them funny. The man and the children with their curly hair in different shades between almost orange and auburn, and the woman, who also had a chestnut glow in her dark hair.
“We called you last Monday….. on the radio…..” Joe took Jessie’s hand and showed her to Claire. “My daughter was lost in the canyon.”
“Oh yes…… I remember. How are you?” Claire said squatting before Jessie.
“Very well, thank you,” Jessie said very polite and a little shy.
Claire gave her a pat on the back. “Glad to hear that,” she said getting up.
Juni and Joni had already found the radio and started asking questions about it.
“We don’t have this at home,” Joni said.
“No?” Claire asked. “You’re from the States, aren’t you? Don’t they have radio over there?”
“Yes, of course they have,” Juni said, looking at his sister. “……Twitty!”
“But not like this……. and I’m not a twit,” Joni said angrily.
“You want to learn more about it?” Claire asked them to stop the beginning row.
“Yes… yes…..” the children yelled, and they joined Claire at the radio.
After a while, when Claire had shown and explained something and other, July and Joe looked at each other and nodded.
“It’s time for us to go, we have to do some grocery shopping, and maybe this lady has some other work to do, too,” July said to the children.
Apparently they agreed with her. They started to run to the door…..
“Hey….. ho…….” July said. “Thank the lady and say goodbye before you run off.”
They did what July said, and after that they ran off.
“Thank you…… thank you again…..” Joe said to Claire shaking her hand again.
“Well,” Claire said, “it’s my job…….. but may I give you an advice?”
Joe and July nodded, looking questioning.
“When you ever decide to do something like that again, ask information before you go. In this case, everybody in the whole area could have told you, that the place where you went is known as very dangerous, so…….”
They nodded again. “Was a pretty stupid thing to do, hey?” Joe said with a big smile.
Saying goodbye, Claire doubted if the man had been listening to her warnings. She wondered if they would not put themselves in danger again. His smile seemed too careless yet.
“Can you jump?” Nick asked Phil who immediately nodded. They raced off to a fallen tree with Annie and Cath right behind them. Cath and Annie didn’t take the shortcut over the tree, but Phil and Nick rode straight to it. Nick’s horse jumped over the tree, but Phil’s horse hesitated, and suddenly stopped. Phil flew out of the saddle, made a perfect somersault next to the horse’s neck, and landed nicely on his feet. When Cath and Annie saw it happen, and saw the face he pulled, they started laughing out loud. Nick, who suddenly missed Phil, looked back, saw them shaking with laughter, turned his horse and rode back to them.
If he had taken only a few more steps in the other direction, he would have seen Rick’s car………. And the empty bottle of whisky and other garbage next to it……
That Thursday morning Cath went to the hospital again, but before she went to David, she wanted to talk to Tom.
“How’s David today?” She asked him.
“He’s feeling much better, but there’s still no sign of his sight coming back.”
After she did some thinking she asked: “Can I see his medical record?”
Tom hesitated, but decided that, since she was involved already, she was allowed to. He searched for it and while doing so they were talking about other things. When he had found the record, he handed it over to her.
She started to search for something, and when she found it, she said worried to Tom: “Did you notice this?”
Tom read it, looked at her and said: “Let’s keep this between us and Geoff for the moment. I hope he doesn’t remember it, and it certainly won’t help him if we talk about it now.”
Cath nodded, and gave back the folder with a concerned look in her eyes.
“Hey David,” Cath said when she entered the room, happy that he couldn’t see her worrying about him.
“Hey,” David said.
“It’s me, Cath.”
“Yeah, I already recognised you…...”
She looked surprised.
“…….. Your steps, I’m a fast learner.”
“You look much better today,” she said.
“I feel much better today,” he acknowledged her observation. “I’ve decided to take things as they come, so……… But how are you? Your voice sounds different……….. worried.”
And again she looked surprised, or more astonished, being so transparent to him. Actually, she was happy she had something else that worried her, too, so she didn’t need to talk about what she just found out.
“Before I got here I talked to Tom,” she said. “Gwen is not doing well. Until now, no one could reach her, she seems to be entirely locked in herself. We thought…. maybe…. since you supported her……. and you feel much better today……..”
“You thought I might be able to help her?” David said, finishing her sentence.
Cath nodded. And since David got no reaction from her, he assumed he was right.
“And Rick?” David asked.
Cath shook her head. “Still no sign of him. Yesterday Claire called on the radio to everyone, to look out for him but…… it seems like he’s just vanished.”
Cath and David entered Gwen’s room. When Gwen saw how Cath guided David, and helped him find a chair, she looked at him with big frightened eyes. She shook her head, as if she said no…… no…….. and started crying softly. Cath as well as David realized, this was the first sound they had ever heard her make. David felt to take hold of her hand, but when she saw him doing that, she drew back from him.
Cath put her hand on David’s arm. “She doesn’t want you to touch her; when you reached for her she drew back. What’s the matter Gwen? What’s it you’re afraid of, why are you crying?” Cath asked.
And again Gwen looked at David.
“It looks like she’s afraid of you!” Cath said after a while.
Gwen looked at her and in her eyes Cath could see she was right, but she didn’t understand why.
Suddenly David remembered what happened the day before yesterday, when Rick and Gwen came to visit him. “Oh!” He said getting angry. “I think I understand. He told you….” David said, slowly getting up, his voice raising as he spoke, “……….it’s all your fault, isn’t it?...... You bothered me……….. you tried to get my attention…….”
Just at the moment Cath wanted to stop him, because she saw Gwen shrinking with fear, David lowered his voice, as if he’d actually seen her reaction, sat down again and continued: “And now you’re faced with me, you think this is your fault, too,” he said with a deep sigh.
Cath said nothing, too dismayed about what she just heard. David put his hands open on the edge of the bed, inviting Gwen to hold them, but not trying to take hold of hers. Gwen drew back again, but not as far and as fast as the first time.
“It has nothing to do with you. You did a great job getting out of that gorge considering the condition you were in,” he said trying to get her confidence. “All I wanted to do was hold your hand to make communication less difficult between us,” he explained.
Gwen kept on crying, but calmed down a little.
Cath pitied the elderly woman. Now she understood what happened between Rick and her, and she was sure this was just an escalation of things.
“Gwen,” she said, “we know this must be difficult for you, but give it a try.”
She took Gwen’s hand to help her make the first step, and Gwen let her do it but looked the other way.
When David felt her cold, sweating hand, he realised how afraid she must be. When she felt his warm, dry hand, she realised he was really not angry with her and it comforted her.
“Now I can see you, Gwen….. this is my sight,” he said while squeezing her hand. “Do you understand that?”
Gwen looked at Cath, and David thought he felt some acknowledging pressure on his hand.
“She understands,” Cath said, “but she seems to have difficulties to accept it.”
“Yeah, me too,” David said, “but this is the way things are now.”
Cath looked at them and shook her head. ´In any case she’s showing emotions, that’s what we’ve already won’ she thought.
“Many years ago,” David started telling, ”I had an other accident. It looked a lot like what happened this time, but it was my brother who caused it. He, like you, couldn’t help it. Neither I, nor our parents came to the idea of accusing him. It might even have been my own fault….. not paying enough attention.”
Cath looked at him…. So he remembered that accident…..
She looked at Gwen who started crying again. When Cath and David tried to comfort her she let them do it and let herself go. After what seemed at least half an hour, she was only sobbing and that also decreased slowly until it seemed she finally fell asleep, run down by all the emotions.
“David? You got to go back to bed,” Cath said softly, noticing him growing paler and paler.
It was hard to tell whether Gwen was really asleep but in case she wasn’t, Cath continued in a whisper: “Gwen... you should rest now, too. I’ll be back with you later.”
“It wasn’t Gwen you were worried about, er..?” David said when they were in his room again. “It was me.”
“She’s showing emotions now, we’ve already reached a lot!” Cath said.
“That wasn’t what I was talking about, Cath…..! I said you were, and are still, worrying about me.”
Cath didn’t react immediately, again astonished by his ability to see through her.
“Hey….. maybe Rick was right,” David went on talking, a little annoyed. “We really are a bunch of poor souls. She’s dumb, I’m blind and it seems you’re deaf now…..”
“No, I’m not,” she said snappy, “and I almost can’t believe you ‘re blind …. you see right through me.”
“Well…..? Are you going to tell me what’s bothering you then?”
“Nothing….” Cath answered a little confused.
“C’mon Cath…. when we went there and from Gwen I could feel the tension in your shoulder. Remember what I said to Gwen? These,” he put up his hands, “are my sight now. And it’s a real good one!”
“I think you need to rest, too, now, you look pale. Maybe going to Gwen was too much,” Cath said, still trying to avoid the subject.
“That’s obvious, Cath. I’ve been in bed for almost three days, I’ve had a concussion, am faced with blindness…….. That takes the stuffing out of you, but going to Gwen wasn’t too much…… You are too much if you don’t tell me what’s wrong,” he said half-smiling, trying to make the conversation less emotionally charged. But it sounded like a bad joke.
“I’ve been through your medical record this morning…….” she gave in.
“You did what?”
“Look…… when I supported you Monday, you became my patient and, though they took over here, you still are,” she said defending herself, almost stumbling over her words. “No… that isn’t the way it is,” she bettered herself, slowing down. “I was just worried…… Since Tom told me there was still no sign of your sight coming back, I thought maybe I could find a reason for it.”
David looked her way, a question mark all over his face. “Patient?” He asked. “Don’t tell me we’re colleagues.”
Now it was her turn to look surprised. “Didn’t you notice that?” She asked. “Or….. is it customary in this region, people driving around with medical bags, oxygen masks and that kind of stuff in their cars?”
“Did you?” He asked. “I don’t remember it.”
“Doesn’t matter, isn’t important,” Cath said.
“And…… did you find something?” David asked.
“You just told Gwen about it,” she said sighing. “I read what symptoms you had, it was indeed the same…..”
“But it lasted only very short…..” he said.
“Yes,” Cath said, “but that’s what bothers me: since you had it before, there must be a weak spot and the chance of getting better is lessening………”
“Hey…… hey……. what made you such a pessimist?” He asked feeling to put his hand on her arm. “I don’t want to hear this. If you pretend to be my doctor and I’m the patient, you have to cheer me up, not bring me down!”
“I’d be a bad physician if I let you put your head into the sand…….” She said standing up. “You should lie down now and take some rest.”
While he got into his bed Cath said, her voice still sounding a little hesitant: “We, Phil and I, are going out on a clinic with Annie and Geoff this afternoon.”
“You are? It sounds as if you’re not so sure about it……..….. I thought you didn’t like aeroplanes…..?” David asked.
“Yeah……. I don’t….. and maybe when it comes to the crunch I’ll refuse to get in…… but it’s a challenge to complete it without getting sick or something…” she laughed. “And a nice chance for a city doctor like me to see how the RFDS works.”
“Well….” David said, “Maybe you are going to like it so much… you’ll want to join us…… you can replace me….”
“Why?” She asked astonished. “Are you……..” But when she looked at him, she suddenly understood what he just meant to say and asked: “Who’s the pessimist?”
Johnno looked next to him. “You like it?” He asked Phil some time after the take off. But he already knew the answer. He saw the intense enjoyment on the boy’s face. “Never flown before?”
“No, but when I was a little boy I wanted to be a pilot…… and now….. when I see this……”
At the back of the plane Cath, who hadn’t stopped talking since they had been approaching the airfield, fell silent. She didn’t feel well, but it could be worse.
“Mum…? Come over here…” Phil said looking backward with a wide smile upon his face, “look!”
Cath looked at Geoff and Annie. They both nodded to her, encouraging. She unbuckled herself, got up, started to walk to the front…… when the plane suddenly made an unexpected movement. She immediately sat down again, pale and dizzy.
“Did I cause that?” she asked frightened. “I think I’d better stay here during the flight.”
Annie and Geoff could hardly hide a smile, but they nodded at her.
“My mother doesn’t like flying,” Phil explained to Johnno. They looked at each other and shrugged, unable to understand how someone could dislike something that wonderful.
“I thought Doctor Ratcliffe would come here today?” Dean, the owner of the property, who picked them up at the airstrip asked.
“Disappointed?” Geoff said with a supposed offended smile.
“No….. I’m not, but….” the man said putting his hat on the back of his head with a big smile on his face, “the girls might be……. They were very shocked when they found out you got married…… so…”
“Hey…..” Johnno said joking, “what about me……? And him,” he pointed to Phil, “…… We’re still available…..”
They all laughed out loud and Dean looked at Johnno and Phil with an exaggerated inspecting look. “Well,” he said, apparently satisfied with the things he saw, “we’ll see…………..”
When they drove off to the house, Geoff explained smiling: “They have five daughters and one son.”
“Well….” Cath said, “they must be very pretty considering what the father looks like….. He’s a real hunk…….”
“Mum…….” Phil said, ashamed of his mother saying things like that, which made the others laugh out loud.
When they arrived at the property a girl stepped out. Her blond sunlit curls were dancing in the soft breeze like angel’s hair. Phil looked her way, and when they came nearer he saw her beautiful dark brown eyes. He thought her enchanting, and it seemed he almost immediately fell in love with her. His mouth half open he looked at her.
“Close your mouth,” his mother said with a little smile…………
Phil blushed and slowly closed his mouth. He had had several girlfriends, but that was…… just friends. This time he understood what people meant by, what they called, ‘falling in love’. He felt a little dizzy, and butterflies were dancing in his stomach.
Cath looked at him. ‘Little boys grow up’ she thought smiling, seeing what was happening to her eldest, and remembering how it was when she had fallen in love with his father.
The girl looked at them but went on doing what she had to do, making things ready for the clinic. In the meantime, she looked at Phil several times. She noticed his lovely smile and when she had finished her tasks, she walked towards him. His eyes reminded her of the dog she had been very fond of but which passed away some years ago.
“Hey,” she said blushing and a little shy, “I’m Samantha.”
“Hey,” he said holding his breath, caught by her beauty.
She looked at him questioning.
He looked back, not knowing what to say to her, his heart pounding in his throat.
“….And you are…???”
“Oh…….. I’m sorry……. Phil,” he said a little awkward, ashamed for making such a big mistake.
“Would you like me to show you around?” she asked him.
After the first hesitant steps toward each other, they spent the whole afternoon together, walking and talking, and when they had to say goodbye, they promised to keep in touch……..
While cleaning up after the clinic Cath said to Geoff: “It seems so different here. In the city people go to the doctor, demand him to heal them and if he can’t help them immediately, they sue him... Or they come twice a week with al sorts of fancy illnesses….. Over here it seems people are grateful you came, and when they come to see you, they really do have health problems……”
“Yeah,” Geoff said, “I’m from the city, too, and I partly agree with you. But we have our hypochondriacs and short-tempered people over here, too.”
“Oh?” She asked. “Are you from the city? You look like a real bushy to me.”
“Yeah, when you stay around here long enough it seems you automatically become one,” he said laughing.
“I’m starting to like it,” Cath said when they were up in the air again. She sat next to Johnno and felt less uncomfortable than on the way there.
“We are still looking for that car,” Johnno said. “Maybe you can help, too.”
They were all looking down, searching, when Johnno said after a while: “It’s bad for David what happened to him. You’re a doc, too, er..? What d’ you think, will he be alright?”
Cath shrugged, reluctant to talk about it. “I don’t know, we just have to wait. I think……”
“I saw something glimmer!” Phil’s call interrupted their conversation. “Over there!”
“Yes, I saw it, too,” Annie said.
“It might be Rick’s car, mum,” Phil said coming over to the cockpit.
Johnno immediately turned the plane and flew over the place once again. “I can see it, too, now,” he said turning the microphone. “This is MSF to VCC…..”
“We’ve seen something, it might be the car we were searching for. We are going to land.” “How’s the situation?” Claire asked.
“We can land on the main road. That’s the nearest possible spot, but we’ll still need at least half an hour to get there after the landing.”
“Ok. Good luck, over and out.”
“Are you going to land this thing on a road?” Cath asked getting frightened again. This was something she hadn’t taken into account when she decided to come with them yesterday.
“I heard Johnno’s a very good pilot, mum,” Phil said. “No need to be afraid. He told me on the way there about some places he’s landed this aeroplane. This road’s a piece of cake for him. Isn’t it, Johnno?”
Johnno nodded, already concentrating on the approach.
“It’s Rick’s car,” Cath said when they came closer to it, but she fell silent seeing the empty whisky bottle, no…… two empty whisky bottles, a big mess and no sign of Rick.
“It seems like he has slept here……. in any case one of the two nights he’s missing now…. Maybe he ran out of petrol……”
They tried to start the car, but it didn’t work….. They started searching to see if Rick might have stayed near his car. But they couldn’t find him.
“I’m going to warn Jack,” Johnno said. “Maybe he should organise a SAR-party.”
“Is it likely that this man knows anything about surviving in the bush?” Geoff asked Cath.
She shook her head. “I don’t think so, if I remember how he acted…….. no…….”
Geoff made a fast calculation. “Jack can be here within three hours,” he said when they walked back to the plane. ‘………. But by then it will be dark………’ he suddenly realised
“I’d like to visit Gwen again, how is she?” David asked Kate who came to see him.
Kate shook her head. “I still can’t get through to her but it seems she’s calmer…….”
“Ok, let’s go and see her.”
“I think you should know they’ve found Rick’s car……. but no sign of Rick,” Kate said. David nodded. “I wanted to talk to her about him. Let’s just see what comes up.”
In Gwen’s room they sat down and, like that morning, he put his open hands on the edge of her bed. This time she took his hand in hers without any hesitation and squeezed it, though tears gathered up in her eyes. It seemed to him she was happy he was there. Her hand wasn’t cold and sweaty anymore and her squeeze was a lot stronger.
“You look much better than this morning,” he said.
She nodded and even a guarded smile appeared on her face.
“I wanted to talk to you about Rick,” he said after a while. When he mentioned him, he felt the tension in her hand coming back. And it got wet again, too.
She looked at Kate, confused, fright returning to her eyes.
Even before Kate could say anything, David said to Gwen stroking her arm: “Easy….. easy…. he’s not here…… After he left us alone last Tuesday, he went to the hotel, got all his belongings and disappeared.”
Kate looked at them and could do nothing but admire David: the way he communicated with Gwen, how he tried to help her despite his own bleak situation……… Apparently he could feel or sense her reaction.
Gwen calmed down again.
“We are still searching for him,” David said. Her reaction didn’t surprise him. He could only guess what happened all those years they’d been husband and wife, but it was hard to believe they once had been a happy couple.
“They’ve already found the car,” he said after a long silence, “with two empty bottles of whisky next to it.”
Gwen suddenly loosened her hand from David’s and started searching for her bag. When she found it, she started looking for something. ‘Oh no! It’s not there’ said her body language.
“What’s wrong Gwen?” Kate asked. Gwen handed over her bag to Kate who asked herself what it would have been she was looking for.
“What’s happening, Kate?” David asked.
“She was searching for something in her bag, but I don’t know what,” Kate answered. ‘Can I look in your bag?’ Kate asked without words.
Gwen nodded, and at last Kate found a repeat prescription for a tranquillizer.
“Did you have these pills in your bag?”
“Gwen….?” David asked. “Can I have your hand back?”
She did what he asked.
“You think Rick might have them?”
She nodded again.
“David,” Kate said worried, “I found a prescription for a tranquillizer in Gwen’s bag. If Rick had whisky and the drug that’s on this piece of paper……. I’m going to warn the base and see what we can do. Time can be the difference between life and death now,” she said while getting up and walking away.
“Do we have a problem now or are you going to talk to me?” David asked Gwen, now that there was no one left to help them. “I can feel and sense a lot, you know, but………. I miss a lot, too…. can you understand that?” He tried to make it look like it was he who needed to be talked to, but in fact it was she who needed to start talking again.
She looked at him compassionately, but couldn’t get a word out of her mouth.
“…….Please…?” David said. The struggle she had to deliver was readable on her face. He could feel it through her hand and gave her some time to think about his request.
She moved restlessly and sat straight up in her bed, got both David’s hands and said softly: “Yes.”
David sighed relieved. This was a big step forward.
In the meantime Kate phoned the base. After that, she went back to Gwen and David. “The Nomad’s almost here. I’m going back there with Geoff and Jack. If we hurry we might have some time for searching while there’s still light,” she said. “Shall I bring you back to your room before I go?” she asked hurried.
David shook his head. “I’ll stay here, I’ll manage…… We are going to talk…….” he said with a little smile.
Kate looked at him not understanding, but rushed as she was, she let it pass, said goodbye and went away. She picked up Jack at the base, drove off to the airfield and arrived there almost at the same time as the Nomad landed.
When they reached Rick’s car it was still light, but it wouldn’t take much time to get dark. Jack checked the whisky bottles. “This one still smells,” he said to Geoff and let him smell, too, “so it wasn’t emptied very long ago, otherwise the heat of the day would have evaporated it,” he concluded.
They started searching, keeping in touch so no one would get lost. When it got too dark to go on, they went back to the car and lit a fire.
“If he’s still somewhere around here he might see the fire, but otherwise we’ll go on searching at first daylight,” Jack said.
They sat down by the fire. It was a nice night for camping out, but they couldn’t enjoy it. Although they had their objections against him, they were all worried about Rick.
The next morning they started searching again after a quick breakfast. There were quite some tracks, and it was hard to tell which were Rick’s most recent ones. He had definitely not stayed close to the car; in that case they surely would have found him yesterday. So where had he gone?
Every once in a while they called out for him, they followed a track here and a track there, but with no success. Rick seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
At 7.30, Johnno went back to the plane to let the base know how things were going out here, as he had promised the day before. But before he reached the camp on his way back, he stopped dead in his tracks. What was that? He shielded his eyes to look into the bright morning light. Eagles circling!
“Jack!” he yelled out. “Jack! There is something...!” He could only just hold back the word ‘dead’. “There is something over there!”
Jack hurried by his side and pulled out his binoculars.
“There are birds circling there,” Johnno explained to Geoff and Kate coming up behind him.
“Do you think...?” Kate started asking.
“Yep,” Jack sighed. “There is something that caught their attention...”
He went on ahead. Johnno, Geoff and Kate followed him.
“In that little grove, you mean?” Johnno inquired.
Jack nodded. “Well, it might be nothing... Just an animal, but...”
They knew what he meant.
“Okay, spread out a little, so we can cover all of this grove at once,” Jack ordered. He himself pushed his way through the leaves and the thorny branches. They followed his example. The grove wasn’t that large; they should be able to find whatever it was that lay for dead there.
It was Geoff who found the source of interest to the birds. It was Rick, with the empty bottle of pills still in his hand.
“Over here!” he yelled out to the others, and they hurried to his side.
“Is he alive?” Kate asked anxiously.
Geoff nodded while examining the man further. “But barely. We’ll have to get him to hospital as soon as possible. If we manage to get those drugs out of his system, he might still have a chance. But I’m afraid...”
“What are you going to do now?” Tom asked David. He sat on the hospital desk and David sat in a chair behind it.
“Do?” David asked.
“Well…..you seem fit enough to leave the hospital now……… We can let you stay here for one or two days more…… but after that……”
David shrugged. “I have no one……. I don’t know….. I haven’t thought about it yet……… I didn’t want to think about it yet…..... What can I do?” He said desperate and rebellious.
Tom shrugged, too. This was what he liked less about his job: bringing bad news and talk about it, certainly when it concerned your own colleague. “I don’t know either, but you need to think about it. There’s no progression at all, and you can’t stay here for the re…….
“Hey, you’re up,” Cath said surprised to David, leaving Tom’s sentence unfinished. She looked at Tom. Tom shook his head. But even before he did, she had already seen the still strange look in David’s eyes: he was still blind.
“It’s me, Cath,” she said putting her hand on David’s arm.
“Yes, I’m up….. I’m feeling ok, so…. why should I stay in bed?” He said, with an unsteady voice.
“You’re right about that,” she said looking at him, trying to find out what was wrong. She looked at Tom questioningly but went on talking, turning back to David: “And that suits me, because I wanted to ask you…… and you…..” she said looking at Tom again, “to come to our leaving meal tonight.”
“Of course we will, thanks for the invitation,” Tom said, but David shook his head.
“Won’t you come…….?” Cath asked astonished. “It’s you of all people I’d like to come most.”
“I’m stone blind, woman, didn’t you notice that?” He said sadly but little annoyed. “It’s Friday…… there will be lots of people there….. staring at me……”
“That doesn’t matter,” she interrupted him, disappointed by his reaction, “you can’t see them do it.”
“No…… but I can feel it…. sense it……….” he said, while raising his voice.
“I’ll ask Nancy for a table in the corner of the bistro, ok?”
David hesitated for a moment.
“There won’t be that many people anyway,” Tom said. “There’s some big party at one of the stations and lots of regulars go there.”
But David continued to shake his head. “I can’t even cut my own food without making a mess of it………….” he said more angry than sad.
“Take fries,” Cath said trying to shut him up but making things worse. “You can eat them with your hands …….. and since you told me they are a very good sight…….”
Tom looked at her. He was astonished by the way they were talking, astonished by her cynicism. He shook his head, trying to warn her not to press the point any further. But she preferred not to notice.
“Tom will be there… Nick….. Phil…….” Cath said.
“We can go to my place…………. if you insist,” David replied.
“Are you going to cook for us then?” Cath said.
“Are you forcing me to do something I don’t want?” He returned the question.
“C’mon David……” she said putting her hand on his shoulder, “you’ve become my best friend here…… If you don’t come…… It can’t be that bad…… Everyone who’ll join us knows what’s wrong with you…… so...”
He almost gave in at that point, but when she continued, saying: “And you can’t stay away from people and situations for the rest of your life…..” he got really angry.
Tom looked at her, shook his head again but then remembered he was just about to say the same before she came in. Now he understood David’s reaction, too. He was just about to interfere when David started talking again.
“Catherine…..” David said warning, annoyed and dangerously tranquil, “you’re going too far now. Let’s go to the office. I think we need to talk. Privately.”
He got up, very slowly, and started uncertainly but determined to find his way towards the office. Cath took his arm to guide him, but angrily he shook it off.
“I can manage. I know my way around here,” he snapped. “I used to work here, you know!”
They went into the office and Cath closed the door behind her. “Now what’s the matter with you,” she said annoyed.
David nearly exploded. “What’s the matter with me?! Can’t you see, woman? I am blind! And I‘m sick and tired of you bossing me around, telling me what I should and shouldn’t do! I’m not a little child! Just because I’ve lost my eyesight doesn’t mean I’ve taken leave of my senses! If I don’t want to go to the pub tonight, that’s my decision. You could at least respect that!”
“I’m not bossing you around! All I meant was...”
“Yes, you are!”
“All I meant,” Cath started again, “was that you can’t hide here forever! You have to take the first step sometime, so why not now?”
“No!” He yelled back at her. “I know I can’t stay here and I know I have to face the crowd again! But I’m just not ready, so stop pushing me!”
“The sooner you get that first time over, the better. Now this dinner with friends to end my vacation is a perfect opportunity. It is very important to me that you are there, and...”
“Yeah, that’s alright for you!” He sneered. “You go back to the city tomorrow and you can just get on with your life and if I’m lucky, I might end up being some vague holiday memory in your mind.”
“That’s not true!” Cath interfered undignified.
“It is true, that’s always how it goes with friends made while on vacation. But I’m stuck here, trying to pick up the pieces of my life! I am stuck in this foggy, grey and lonely world, and I...”
“You’re not lonely, David! You have lots of friends!”
“No, I haven’t! I will never again have any real friends, for people will just want to be my friend because they think having a blind mate is interesting! They will want to be my friend because I’m blind, not because of me! Or because they feel sorry for me, or want to deceive me... I can’t trust anyone anymore! Don’t you see……?!”
“Will you stop pitying yourself?! That is not true!” Cath yelled back at him.
“I am not pitying myself!” David roared. “But if there ever was reason to do so, it would be now! You don’t know what I’m going through! You don’t know what it feels like for me! Have you ever seen all your dreams being crushed in one single blow?! Without even the remotest hope of any new ones? I can’t do my job anymore; my studies are useless; I am useless...! Totally dependent on others. I can’t do anything! I’ll have to live on welfare for the rest of my life, just waiting to die in this scary misty world….. And all alone, for no girl will ever want to get really involved with a blind man. But even if they would…….” his voice trailed away, “how could I tell whether a girl really loves me or not when I can’t even look her in the eye?!”
Cath put a soothing hand on his arm. “You’re right, I didn’t realise what you were going through,” she said softly.
David heaved a sigh.
“But even though I do sort of understand now what you’re going through, I don’t agree with you. There still are lots of things you can do. And at least from your old friends you know pretty well how they think about you. In general, I mean; about the person David. That won’t change now that you can’t see.”
“Easy for you to say,” he muttered rebelliously. “I am the one who’s blinded, not you.”
Cath let out a deep sigh. What could she do to get him out of that depressive way of thinking?
“I know, but at least you’ve got one friend here who likes you, whether you’re blind or not. So… how about coming to dinner tonight and get your mind off your troubles for a while? It will do you the world of good, I’m sure.”
Obviously that attempt overshot its mark, for instantly he pulled back his arm and snapped: “Are you starting again? I said no!”
Cath sighed. “David, I care for you. I just want to help you,” she pleaded.
“Oh, you do, do you? Well, don’t! I don’t want to go to your dinner, so you can just leave me alone, for I’m not coming.”
“So that’s what you want…. that I leave you alone?” Cath asked, at last a little offended. “I am trying to help you here, to be your friend in this scary world of yours, and all I get is a ´just leave me alone´?! Well, if you intend to treat all your friends like that, I am sure you will end up all alone, just as you predicted. And not because you’re blind, boy, but just because you treat them like garbage!”
It didn’t take that much to infuriate him again. “Get out!” he shouted fiercely. “Just leave me alone! I don’t want your lectures!”
Cath shrugged in resignation. “Well, if that’s what you want...” She opened the door and looked back at him, with sincere concern. His eyes - blinded as they may be - flashed fire in her direction, but he didn’t say another word. And with a last sigh she walked out of the office.
Or so she thought....
“What...? Cath, what’s happening?” She heard David worriedly behind her.
“Oh, nothing…..” She rubbed a fast growing bump on her forehead. “I wanted to leave the room, but instead of going through the doorway, I just bumped straight into the edge of the door itself.” She grimaced. “I suppose I’m turning blind, too...”
“Well, then you have at least some idea what it’s like for me,” he grumbled.
Cath chuckled; she just couldn’t help it. He shot her an indignant look, but all of a sudden his mouth started twisting too, and before they knew it they were both roaring with laughter.
Annie walked by the desk and heard the laughter. She looked back at Tom, who just got back there, too, and asked: “You know what’s happening over there?”
Tom shrugged. “It’s Cath and David. They had a row, but it seems they’re having lots of fun now.”
“Oh my...” was all Cath could manage to bring out from time to time as she leaned against the door for support. “Oh my...”
David stood doubled up with laughter against the desk, now and then brushing the laughing tears from his face. But it appeared to be a real case of ´laugh till you cry´, for pretty soon his tears simply took over.
Cath’s laughing died away when she saw him sobbing over the desk. She brushed the last of her laughing tears away and went over to him.
“Hey, it’s alright,” she soothed as she put her hand on his back.
He came upright and Cath felt there was just one thing to do. She took him in her arms and hugged him tight.
“Oh boy... oh boy...” she whispered now and then, stroking his hair and his back.
“I... I just can’t...” he finally stammered. “I just... I just can’t cope with this, Cath.... I’m scared... Frightened... What’s going to happen to me...? What if I’ll never be able to see again........?”
Cath sighed with compassion. “I don’t know, mate, I don’t know. It’s going to take a lot of adjusting, but you’ll manage. Somehow. I have faith in you. You are a brave one.”
For a long time they stood there, just holding each other. But in the end David looked up and said with a tearful smile: “Now I do want to come to your dinner tonight, but I’m so exhausted that I don’t think I’ll be able to..”
She smiled. “We’ll just take it one step at the time. So how about putting you to bed, and then we’ll see tonight whether you feel up to coming or not?”
He nodded gratefully. “Thank you, Cath,” he sighed. “Thanks for being here. For being a friend.”
“This is MSF to VCC, Claire come in,” Johnno said.
“Yes, Johnno?” She asked.
“We are on our way back. We’ve found the man……….. He didn’t make it.”
Claire phoned the hospital. “Tom, Johnno just called. They’ve found Rick but he didn’t make it.”
Cath and David came out of the office. When Tom saw how they looked, especially David, with perspiration on his forehead, and so exhausted that he could barely walk, he decided not to tell yet what he just heard. He also decided he should better not ask questions about what happened in the office, too……. Actually, he didn’t need to: he could guess……….
“David…… I’ll take you back to your room……. You wait here for me, Cath,” Tom said concerned.
She looked at him gratefully and sat down with a deep sigh.
When Tom came back he looked at her with an inquiring look. “Hey…. what happened to your head?” He asked.
Cath started giggling again….. “Is it that visible? I was a little confused just then, and bumped right into the door.”
“Oh, well,” he said with a smile, “yes it’s rather visible, but…… purple blue’s a nice colour…. looks like a big pearl………”
“Claire just called,” Tom said going on to another subject. “They’ve found Rick.”
Cath looked at him questioning and he shook his head.
“He committed suicide,” Cath said softly with tears in her eyes.
“Are you ok?” Tom said putting his arm around her to comfort her.
She nodded. “But I’m not made of steel. At this moment everything seems to be a big mess…. Nice holiday….” she added with a cynical laugh through her tears. “I should have seen the signs you know,” she continued. “The way he acted……. the way he treated Gwen……. It was all an expression of his own uncertainty and unhappiness. We should have seen it……..”
“Don’t blame yourself, Cath. You were just one of the group he was with………You couldn’t have known……”
“Yes, I could have,” she interrupted him. “Certainly after what happened here. And besides, you know as well as I do, that, if one chooses a profession like ours, one acts according to it, no matter if you’re on a holiday or not……”
Tom nodded, thinking about the time he had tried to be just a station hand……...
“Who’s going to tell Gwen?” She asked when she got herself together.
“I think you should,” Tom said. “Actually I think David should, but I don’t think we can ask that from him now.”
“Hey Gwen,” Cath said.
Gwen looked at her, with a worried and enquiring look on her face.
“You want to know why I came alone?”
“Well,” she said, “David and I had a bit of a row earlier this morning. We made it up, but it took the stuffing out of both of us.”
Gwen nodded; she could see it in Cath’s face.
“You know, he’s got more problems than we thought. All those days he was waiting for his sight to come back and all of us thought it would have been back by now………….. But to be honest…….. I don’t believe anymore that it will.”
Gwen looked at her, grabbed her hand and whispered: “Don’t give up hope, he’ll be alright.”
Cath looked at her. Surprised. Did Gwen talk to her? She had heard she had said some words to David yesterday but……… Again tears gathered up in her eyes and this time it was Gwen who comforted Cath.
After a while Cath said: “There’s something else…… about Rick…….” Cath grabbed both Gwen’s hands and said: “Gwen, I’m sorry, but he didn’t make it.”
Whatever she would have expected Gwen’s reaction to be…… not this one. Gwen drew back her hands, looked at Cath with a blank expression, and turned back into herself again. Not like the weak, mouse-like woman she was before, but as a strong, unattainable one.
“Gwen……..” she said shaking her shoulder trying to reach her. “Gwen….. He’s dead!” Gwen didn’t react.
Cath let her thoughts carry away home to her own husband. She just couldn’t imagine how she would react when someone would tell her he was dead. But she loved him so much. Gwen seemed to have hated Rick. Or at least she hadn’t loved him. Or had she….? ‘What’s the difference between love and hatred’ she thought……..
Gwen didn’t let her in anymore this time, and after a while Cath left, leaving Gwen behind. Locked up in herself again.
Cath and Phil were sitting at the bar talking with Nancy. Vic came in, his arms full of groceries for the pub. He looked at them, looked again and asked: “Hey Cath, what happened to your head?”
“Vic…… I already asked her that…..” Nancy said looking at him as if he just asked a very stupid question………. “She walked into a door instead of going through it. Didn’t you, luv’?”
“Haven’t you heard this question before today, mum?” Phil laughed.
“Yeah… and I have such a strange feeling it won’t be the last time, too,” she answered quasi annoyed.
Suddenly Nancy froze; her facial expression changed to one of disbelief, she nudged Vic and motioned to the door. Cath and Phil turned around.
“David!” Cath said when she saw him come in with Tom. She ran toward him and hugged him. While she guided him to the bar she said: “I can’t tell you how happy I am now……”
“Well,” he said laughing, “I’ve slept like a baby, almost since you left until now, and when I woke up I felt like a meal.”
She hugged him again and asked him what he wanted to drink.
“An orange juice for David, thanks Nance, and one for Tom, too,” Cath said.
But Nancy didn’t take any action and just kept staring at David until Vic nudged her.
“Oh, yes,” she said. She poured the glasses and put them on the bar. Cath put David’s hand on the glass.
“Thanks Nance,” he said, and again she stared at him.
When Cath and David went to sit at the table, Nancy said offended, more to herself than to Tom, Phil and Vic: “Someone could have told me he would come, too………..”
“It wouldn’t have added anything to the situation, would it?” Tom asked.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Nancy answered, visibly affected by what she regarded as a rejecting answer from Tom.……. “But I care for you all, so…..” she said, defending her reaction, her eyes filling with tears……..
“Hey Nance, I didn’t mean to insult you,” Tom said.
Nancy just nodded and looked at Cath and David again. ….
“And he’ll be alright. It only takes some time.”
Nancy looked at him as if she didn’t believe what he said, and went to the kitchen.
In the meantime at the table Cath wanted to tell David about Rick, and about what had happened when she visited Gwen.
“Tom already told me,” he said.
“Ah,” was her response, “so you know she’s emotionally blocked again? You must be proud of me, ruining all the work you did yesterday.”
“She’s our problem, not yours,” David said putting his hand on her arm.
“Yeah………… maybe….. Look, I wanted to tell you something else. When we were at that property yesterday, Phil met a nice girl. I asked her to come, too……….. I hope you don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind? It’s your party!”
“Well….. yes…. but I promised you this morning there would only be………”
“Acquaintances…….. yes…… but I don’t care about that now…. And…… maybe I do know her? Where have you been?”
“At the Evans’………….”
David started laughing when he remembered the place and especially the people who live there.
“What…….. why are you laughing?”
“I’ve been there once, just after Geoff and Kate got married. It was obvious back then, that the oldest daughter had a crush on Geoff…….. and two of the other girls joined her in that. They cross-examined us about his marriage, what happened, why it was on the radio……… and they looked very disappointed.”
Cath laughed, too. “Well, at least one of them has a crush on Phil now.”
Nick and Annie entered the pub.
“Hey,” a voice said behind them, and to Phil’s big surprise Samantha came out. “Sam………..!!!” They hugged each other. Then Phil turned to his mother and asked: “Did you……….?” He didn’t need to finish his sentence, because in her smile he could already see she was the one who organized this.
“Don’t forget Nick. He managed to get her here,” she said.
His answer was a big smile to Nick, who already walked to the bar with Annie to get some drinks.
After she got her glass of orange juice Annie walked to the table where Cath and David were sitting.
“Annie is coming towards us,” Cath said to David.
“Hey,” Annie said and she looked at Cath…… especially at her head.
“Hey Annie,” Cath and David said, and Cath continued, shaking her head….: “Don’t ask!”
Annie nodded. “Ok,” she said, but David inquired: “Don’t ask what?”
Right at that time the others joined them at the table and Nick, who already had looked at her twice said: “Hey Cath, what happened to your head?”
Cath let out a deep sigh. She put her hand on David’s arm to let him know that, what she was about to say, was an answer to his question and not to Nick’s.
“What Nick asked me……… that’s what I’ve heard all day when I met other people, so I told Annie not to ask,” she explained.
“Well,” he said, “and what was it that happened?”
“Don’t you remember I ran into the edge of the door this morning?”
He nodded. “But I didn’t know you hurt your head so visibly that everybody asks you about it,” he said smiling....... “Can I see it, too?”
Even before an embarrassing silence could fall after that question, Cath took David’s hand, as if it was the most normal thing to do, and let him feel the big bump on her forehead saying: “Careful, careful…...”
“Wow……” he said after he had seen it, “nasty door…..”
They all laughed out loud and the tone for the rest of the evening was set. They spent the rest of the time enjoying each other’s company, eating, chatting and laughing.
When it was around ten Annie said: “I have to go to the hospital, thanks for the nice breakfast.”
Some of them looked at her, not quite understanding what she meant.
“Nightshift,” she explained, which caused renewed laughter.
“Can I come with you?” David asked her. When he had woken up late that afternoon it had seemed like he could face the whole world, but during the past hour he hadn’t felt very well and he had broken out in a cold sweat several times. He realised that, if he would stay here now, this party might become too great a strain on him. If it hadn’t already…………………..
“Sure…” Annie said nodding.
“What time are you planning to leave tomorrow?” David asked Cath. “I’ll come to see you out.”
“Well…. we don’t know yet …. It will be around nine, I think, but I wanted to say goodbye to Gwen, too, so…… I can meet you there.”
“Ok, see you tomorrow,” David said. But he thought: ‘I will be there before they leave.’
That night, Gwen couldn’t sleep. She felt much stronger than she had felt for months, maybe years, but her thoughts were fighting a heavy battle. She was rather confused about her feelings toward Rick’s death and all the other things that had happened last week, last month, last year……….
Maybe she had fallen asleep for a while, but suddenly she was wide awake again. She got out of bed and went to David’s room. When she got there, for a moment she just looked at him. Then, a faraway look appeared in her eyes, as if she suddenly remembered something. She put her hand on his head, but after a while, she shook her head and drew back her hand. With one final look she turned around and went back to her own room. She grabbed her bag and left. Unseen.
The land was empty. The sky was empty, except for one bird that glided on the wind. The colours were of an astonishing brightness. The red of the earth stood out sharp against the blue of the sky.
Suddenly a misty cloud surrounded him and he couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face. He panicked: the bird was Gwen, he had to save her....... But then again it wasn’t Gwen.......
He had to get out of the cloud and started running, but it seemed his legs couldn’t carry him........
As fast as the misty cloud had appeared, it disappeared again, but it left everything sallow, almost grey........
The bird grew bigger and bigger, and turned into some undefinable thing that was chasing him....... It was as bright as the sun, but he was forced to look at it.........
“No........!!!!” he yelled putting his arms before his eyes......”No........!!!!”
“David……?…… David….!?” Annie said. She came in because she noticed him tossing and turning in his bed. She put away the torch with which she checked the patients at night, and put her hand on his head. He felt very hot, glowing with fever. “This is not good,” she said to herself.
David woke up, slamming the hand away as if it were a dangerous animal that attacked him. “Easy……Easy……” Annie said. “David…… it’s me, Annie….”
He looked her way, confused……… lay back again……. and fell asleep immediately…….
At least, that’s what it looked like ……..
Annie took his pulse. His heartbeat was superficial, irregular and way too fast…….
“Tom?” Annie said. “……….Yes, I know it’s the middle of the night and you’re not on duty, but Geoff lives too far away. I need someone here, right now!” When she told him the reason for calling him, he really woke up, rushed into his clothes and rushed to the hospital.
They were all there. Cath, Phil and Sam, Geoff, Kate, Tom, Nick, Annie, Johnno, Tim, and to his astonishment even Rick and Gwen. They were having a meal together at a large table on a small plateau half way a cliff. He asked himself why they were doing this in a tight mist at such a strange place. He felt the heat of the sun on his skin and remembered that the fogginess was only his world, not theirs. Strangely enough he saw all the faces of his friends very clearly, very marked, just before all of them dissolved into thin air................
Tom, who arrived very fast after Annie had called him, looked at David who, at first sight, was sleeping. He noticed his shallow breathing. He tried to wake him up, but didn’t get a single reaction.
“How long has he been like this?” He whispered rather touched.
“Just before I called you it seemed he woke up, though not really, but he surely noticed me laying my hand on his head. That’s when I felt he had such a high fever………….” she answered softly.
He heard whispering voices, but they spoke a language he didn’t understand. He felt alone, left out and very cold in the chilling mist.................
It was getting too hot to stay, he was terribly thirsty and wanted to go away, but again it seemed his legs couldn’t carry him...................
When Tom and Annie saw him move again, they looked at each other.
“I’ll take his blood pressure,” Tom said, “you get the drip and the oxygen…… this is going to take a turn for the worse…..”
There was that bird again............ It was friendly beckoning to him to come............. Fly away........
The fog lifted, but left a complete emptiness behind. No earth below, no sky above, no bird, nothing..............
“Annie…..! ……. Annie…… come back!” Tom yelled and at the same time he pushed the button for help because David had, after a sudden deep sigh, stopped breathing. “We might need the emergency unit, hurry!”
Her face turned pale……. “No……” she said, and while running away she said a short prayer…………
“Help me............! .....Help me..............!” The bird yelled.
“I can’t........... I can’t see you.............. Where are you!” He tried to yell back, but his strength gave out............
He felt something cooling on his head and it was so refreshing............ He got new energy.
Behind his back the bird started to laugh a mean laugh. He used his new energy to run away from it.................................
With a staggering speed into a staggering depth he fell and fell.......... and with a breathtaking bang................ he hit his bed. Wide awake.
A sharp, sickening pain crossed his head. In a flash he saw glaring light and dark shadows before he had to close his eyes.
Tom heaved a sigh of relief when he saw him wake up.
“…..The light,” David whispered, still gasping for breath after all the efforts he had made in his dreams……
He felt the cooling wetness again. It was Annie, who had come back with the emergency unit, and now put a new cold wet cloth on his head. Oh how relieved she was that it didn’t come to the point they would have needed the unit……
“I saw light …….. I can see something…….” David whispered.
Annie glanced at Tom and bended over to David. “You can see? You can see the light? And me and Tom?” She whispered with both relief and astonishment in her voice. “David, that’s great!”
“That’s the best news I’ve heard in years!” Tom added a little reticent, because of what just happened. He couldn’t be glad with him; he was just very worried at this moment since he didn’t know yet what caused the high fever and the irregular heart rate.
David tried to smile and nod but he almost passed out with pain….. He moaned……. “Such a headache…..”
Annie swallowed a sudden lump in her throat. Although she was very happy for him that he could discern things again, she was rather worried about what had happened the last couple of minutes before he woke up……
“You just take it easy now, we’ll give you something for the pain,” Tom said while preparing the drip, of which David didn’t seem to be aware at all.
When David managed after a while to open his eyes again, he could still discern the two people, even in the faint light of the night. But his joy and happiness, his relief of being able to discern things again, was almost entirely overshadowed by the awful headache. He tried to say he was terribly thirsty, ask for some water, but his strength gave out. He was even too weak to speak now, but he looked at Annie. His eyes, almost as black as charcoal, lay sunken in their orbits.
“You seem to have had very bad dreams,” Annie said, “I think you better go try and get some sleep again……..”
David nodded and while doing so his eyes rolled and he passed out……
Tom and Annie worked fast. When Tom was finished with the drip, Annie had already put David on the oxygen and connected him to the heart rate monitor.
“I’m going to look at the blood samples. You stay here and try to cool him down.”
After some time Tom came back with the results. “Nothing,” he said, “no high leuko’s…
I don’t know…… How is he? Did he come to?”
Annie shook her head. “But it seems the fever is subsiding and the heart rate’s slower and stronger.” “Ok. Then we won’t add anything to the drip yet, just fluid and continue cooling him down.”
Tom left the room thinking, and still thinking, he sat down at the desk. What could have caused those symptoms? Different possibilities ran through his mind, but every time he shook his head, because all of them needed high white blood cell rates. And that just wasn’t there. All of a sudden he thought: ‘Is this possible? It looks like it, but…….. he’s been here in the hospital all those days….. We have taken good care of him, so……….´
Just when Tom entered the room again, David regained consciousness.
He looked at Annie and Tom, heard the bleeps of the monitor, looked in that direction, too... He tried to sit up, in which he didn’t succeed of course. Confused and bewildered he asked: “What...?”
“Easy….. easy…..” Annie said. “Lie down….. you’re very ill ………..You understand that?”
“………… Can feel it,” he moaned.
“But you’re a lot better than you were half an hour ago,” she said. She looked at Tom to see if he noticed what she just said.
Tom nodded, encouraging her to continue.
“You’ve been unconscious. You had a very high fever, and your heart rate was irregular, too. At a certain point you even stopped breathing. In between, you came to and told us you could see. And that you had a terrible headache. You remember that?”
He looked at her, still confused, and nodded slowly. “…….. I can see you………”
Tom laid his hand on David’s head once again and took an extra look at his eyes. And while saying: “Glad you can see me again, mate,” he pulled up and released the skin on the back of David’s hand. Everything he saw and felt confirmed what he already thought.
David looked up at Tom. There was something he wanted to ask. What was it again? All that talking had really exhausted him. And thirst... Yes, a drink was what he... But he was too tired to even finish the thought: his eyes fell slowly shut...
Tom saw him nod off again, and quickly checked on him. He sighed with relief. “It’s ok, he’s just fallen asleep...”
He beckoned Annie to come with him. “We will hear the monitor bleep outside, too, but I think the crisis is over….”
Annie looked at him questioningly while walking out of the room.
“I still need to know one thing,” Tom said. “Did he use the bathroom after you returned from the pub?”
Annie shook her head a little dumbfounded. “No, I’m sure he didn’t,” she said with a question mark all over her face.
Tom nodded. “I think you’ll find it as hard to believe as I do, but…… there is every indication that he suffers from dehydration!” He said.
Annie looked at him, slowly nodding, thinking and recognising the symptoms but…… “How on earth could that have happened?”
Tom shrugged. “Dunno, but the most important thing is, if it’s dehydration, he will be alright again very fast.”
Annie went back to David’s room to look after him once more. Suddenly she remembered last night, when they went back to the hospital together, his hand heavily on her shoulder. She had noticed that the walk back had cost him a lot of energy. When they had arrived at the hospital she had helped him change and when she had taken hold of his shirts, they had been wet through…….
After a while Tom joined her again.
“I don’t think we need to be around anymore,” Annie told him. “He’s sleeping quietly, and though he’s still a little feverish, his heart rate’s almost back to normal. I was really frightened, you know,” she added with a deep sigh. “I was so glad you could come here so quickly.”
Tom put his arm around her and said: “You did a very good job. We were just in time.”
After checking David once again, and finding his condition satisfactory, Tom went home to have at least some sleep during the little that was left of the night.
During that short time Annie’s nightshift ended as quiet as it had begun.
That morning Cath, Phil and Sam, who had stayed overnight at the hotel, too, had had an early breakfast when Cath said smiling: “I’m going to say goodbye to Gwen and David now; enjoy yourselves during the time that’s left. I’ll be back too soon.”
She went to the hospital, leaving Phil and Sam to themselves. On her way there she thought about all the things that happened last week. Though she was happy to go home again, she felt sad because she had to leave. She promised herself to keep in touch with David, and support him wherever she could.
When she entered David’s room, and saw him lying there, connected to a heart rate monitor, a drip and the oxygen, her mouth fell open and she put her hand over it, holding her breath. “Ohhh…” She backed away right into Kate’s arms, and turned around, her eyes filling with tears. “What‘s wrong with him?”
Kate put her arm around her and together they walked to the corridor where it was quiet enough to talk. Different thoughts were running through Cath’s mind.
“He’s been very ill last night……” Kate started to tell her.
“Things like that can happen when someone forces you to do something you don’t want,” Cath interrupted her with an ironical laugh through her tears.
Kate looked at her, not understanding.
“I pushed him to come and have dinner with us last night,” Cath explained. “Now you can see the results.”
“I don’t think that has anything to do with this,” Kate said trying to comfort her.
“Oh yes, it has…. When I saw how he looked when he left yesterday….. so tired………..” she said, while one single tear trickled down her cheek. “Ohhhh …what have I done?”
Kate stroked her back saying: “Don’t blame yourself. It was his own decision to go there.”
“Yeah….. after I forced him to……”
“Hey…. he’s going to be alright… The crisis is over………and …. want to hear some real good news?” Kate asked elated.
Cath looked up at her, questioning.
“He can see again, Cath.”
“No……..” she said amazed.
“Oh Kate,” Cath said while hugging her, “that’s really good news.”
“You care a lot about him, don’t you?” Kate asked after a while.
Cath nodded and with a pensive look on her face she added: “It’s strange, from the moment we met, we’re……. kinda soul mates…… but on the other hand, when I saw him lying there like that, it felt like…… as if he were one of my own boys. But….” she said looking at Kate again, “tell me……. what happened last night.”
Kate filled her in, but when she told her what Tom’s diagnosis had been, Cath interrupted her. “Dehydration????” she asked shaking her head in astonishment. “How is that possible for heaven’s sake………………..! Does he know what happened and what was wrong?”
“When he came to, Tom and Annie told him he was ill, but….”
“There’s a big chance he doesn’t remember,” Cath interrupted Kate, “I know.”
“He didn’t wake up yet.”
“Well, I think I’ll go there. I think he would like it when someone’s there when he wakes up. It might be all rather confusing to him…..”
Cath made a motion to leave, but Kate held her down.
“First I have to tell you something else,” Kate said. “It’s Gwen…….. She’s gone……. We found her bed empty this morning……..”
Cath shook her head in disapproval. “One could have expected something like that,” she said after a while. “Did she take all her belongings?”
Kate shook her head. “Only her bag. At the base they’re already trying to trace her.”
Cath sighed and with an apologetical smile she said: “This time I’m glad we’re just on a holiday. This whole case is getting rather complicated. But now I’m going to see David,” she said getting up.
When David woke up, the first thing he thought about was water. Drink something, he was terribly thirsty. He tried to sit up a little, but even the slightest movement caused sharp shoots of pain, and his whole body felt like concrete. When he looked around he saw everything hazy. But at least he could see something. He heard the bleeps of the monitor, felt the bandage on his arm which held the tubes of the drip in place, and he asked himself what on earth that meant, why he felt so heavy and tired. On the bedside table he saw something that might be a mug filled with water. When he tried to reach for it, and had to come up a little higher, he got terribly dizzy, and terribly scared, too, because the foggy view disappeared and turned into a complete nothing……..
“What d’ you think you’re doing?” Cath asked frightened while running towards him. She came in just in time and caught him before he fell out of his bed. She wanted to help him lie back again, but he held on to her in, literally, blind panic.
“No………!!!!!” He yelled, but only a rasping sound could be heard. “No…….”
“Easy….. easy….” Cath said trying to unfasten herself. But he held on to her even tighter.
Suddenly she felt him weaken in her arms, gliding away in unconsciousness.
After she had laid him down she stroked a lock of hair from his forehead. Although she didn’t understand why he had panicked that much, she knew the fainting was only caused by getting up way too fast, and that he would come to within a couple of minutes.
“Stupy,” she said concerned and friendly, still stroking his hair and waiting for him to come to.
When he, within a minute, opened up his eyes, she saw that he tried to focus on her. She reached for the water mug, and noticed him following her with his eyes.
“You must be very thirsty,” she said.
He nodded gratefully and wanted to sit up again but Cath held him down. “Don’t…….. We’re going to do this very slowly….”
After he had drunk some water he looked at her again. “Cath?” He asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” she said. “You can see me, can’t you?”
He nodded, still confused, and closed his eyes. After a while he opened them again and asked: “What’s happening to me, Cath?”
“You’ve been very ill last night, don’t you remember?” She asked.
He shook his head. “Have been………? I still feel terrible.”
She smiled and said: “Yeah, you still look terrible, too, like you went to the nearest watering hole, didn’t sleep for ages, and have a big hangover, mate!”
His answer was a weak smile.
“What made you panic so much just now?” Cath asked. “Or don’t you remember that either?”
“Were you there?”
She just nodded supposing he could see her do that now.
“I saw nothing………was so frightened…….. thought this would be the end……..”
“Oh David,” she said, “you just got up way to fast!”
“Yes………….. I understand that now………………. but it was very scary.”
“And now? Can you see clearly now?”
He shook his head. “Still rather foggy.”
“But much better than the days before?”
“It must be all very confusing to you,” she said compassionately.
“Hey David, Cath,” Tom said when he came in.
“How do you feel?” He asked David.
“Crook,” he sighed.
“I can imagine that. Oh boy, you scared us last night, being so terribly ill suddenly. If that’s your way of letting us now you like it here, want to stay a little longer……..”
“And how you scared me when I came in this morning, knowing nothing about what happened last night!” Cath added.
David just smiled a weak smile and closed his eyes.
While Tom checked David’s chart, Cath realised she had to go now. She looked at her watch. “Oh,” she said more to herself than to the others, “I’ve stayed here way too long. If I don’t hurry, we won’t reach home before midnight tomorrow!”
But she hesitated: she didn’t want to go. Though she knew now David would be alright at last, she also knew, he still had a long way to go. She found it very difficult to leave him there, just like that, but after she convinced herself that the others would take very good care of him, she said to David and Tom: “I have to go now. We have a long drive home ahead of us.”
David opened up his eyes, looked at her, grabbed her hand and said softly: “Thanks.”
Oh how she hated this. Saying goodbye had never been her strongest side, and this time…… She bend over to David, and while tears gathered up in her eyes she kissed him goodbye. His sight was still too foggy to notice her tears, but when he heard her sniffing, and felt a tear falling on his skin, he reached for her face to wipe them away. This made things even worse for her. But she pulled herself together, took the hand that wiped away her tears, squeezed it and said firmly: “See ya, mate. Please take good care of yourself………. We’ll keep in touch.” With a hesitant smile she added: “And stay away from gorges……… and mothering women. They only cause problems……”
David smiled and said: “No worries, Cath, I’ll be alright. Have a safe trip……”
And still Cath held David’s hand.
Tom, who was watching the scene, understood how difficult it was for her to say goodbye. He put his arm around her, made her let go of David’s hand, and led her gently out of the room, saying to David he’d be right back.
“He’ll be alright,” Tom said to Cath when they were in the corridor.
“I know,” she answered, “but I’m just not good at saying goodbye……”
She also kissed Tom on both cheeks and left the hospital, knowing it was much later than she’d planned. She wondered if Sam and Phil had forgotten the time, too. But then again she realised that, being in love, makes you forget about everything.
When Tom came back, he examined David.
“What is it, Tom…………….? What makes me feel so bad.”
“I think it’s both…………… All the things that happened to you last week, and now this ……..” Tom hesitated to tell David. He felt guilty of letting him get up too soon, though it had seemed right at that moment. He also blamed himself for not paying enough attention and for putting on too much pressure.
David started looking a little panicky because he noticed Tom’s uncertainty. “This………….???????”
“You were dehydrated,” Tom said when he noticed the beginning panic.………….. ”Seriously…….. Very seriously,” he added.
David shook his head in disbelief and his face turned into a sort of cynical smile: ‘That’s really something to happen to me again.’ He thought, still shaking his head.
“But this time I won’t let you set one step outside, before I’m completely sure you’re fully recovered,” Tom continued. He freed David from the monitor and the oxygen, but kept him on the drip.
“I don’t feel like going anywhere……… and I’m thirsty.”
Tom picked up the water mug and reached it to David. He looked at him once again, suddenly staggered, watching his clumsy motions. When he got the mug back, he asked after a while, with a pensive look on his face: “Last night…………. you told us you could see again…… but…..”
“You’re sure? But what happened just now with the mug?”
“I can discern people, and some dark things, but it’s all very foggy.” He sighed.
Tom looked a little disappointed. Last night he and Annie really thought everything was alright again, and for a single moment the thought crossed his mind that the dehydration had caused other damage.
“Ah…. well…… now there’s the start of full recovery.”
“I guess so,” David said tired and closed his eyes.
Tom patted David on the arm, not knowing what to say more about it, and left the room.
When Cath opened the door of the pub and entered, she met nothing but silence. No one was there. She shrugged and walked to her room to pick up her things.
When she came downstairs she saw Nancy standing in the doorway, looking at something outside. On hearing Cath, she looked back with a dreamy look in her eyes and turned her head again. Cath also stepped in the doorway and looked the same way…… There they were, her son and his new girlfriend, heavenly in love, holding each other’s hand, and not aware of anything around them. Nancy and Cath looked at each other and they smiled.
“Young love,” Nancy whispered content, as if she herself had brought them together.
“Yeah…… it’s a pity I have to interfere……..” Cath said. “But if we don’t leave now….”
Suddenly Sam sensed their presence. She nudged Phil….. They looked at each other, got up and started to walk as slowly as possible toward the pub entrance.
At the same time someone parked a car before the majestic. Out stepped Dean, Samantha’s father. Cath looked at him and her heart skipped a beat. “Oh oh,” she said to herself. “Come on, guys, hurry. We haven’t got all day!”
After the usual farewell rituals, Cath drove the Land-cruiser through the main street. “Did we have a good time here?” She said, smiling when she realised this was a rather rhetorical question.
After a while Phil said with a deep sigh and a big smile: “Yes, we had. But it seems like you always have to do with people and get involved in cases……”
“Look who’s talking……… involved……… who’s involved?” She asked him laughing.
He blushed and then they high-fived. When they reached the end of the street, she kicked down the accelerator a little extra for the long, two days’ drive home.
In the afternoon Geoff came to the hospital. He kissed Kate who was sitting at the desk, catching up with some paperwork when he came in. She looked surprised.
“Shouldn’t you be at home? Doing some gardening or cook me a nice meal?” She teased him.
He wrapped his arms around her. “Yeah……… but I suddenly missed you,” he said while kissing her again.
“Oh, you don’t feel like cooking today?” Kate asked.
“You doubt my honesty?” he said, smiling a pretendedly indignant smile.
“Actually….. yes! I do,” she said still teasing him.
“Let me prove it,” he said, and with a naughty laugh he led her slowly to the office.
But right at that moment Jack appeared at the desk, and they both looked a little guilty. As if they were children caught in the act.
“Jack……….” Geoff said innocently.
Jack looked at them smiling and laid something on the desk.
Putting his hand on it he said: “Did someone find the woman already? We’ve brought their car over here, have gone through it, but the only thing that can give us some indications about their whereabouts is this.”
Kate shook her head. “No, no sign of her yet. But what is this?”
“It’s a map,” Jack said while unfolding it.
Geoff and Kate looked at it. “There…. there’s a cross, but…. what would that……..” Suddenly Kate looked up and stopped talking. They looked at her.
“No…….. I thought I heard something,” she said shaking her head and turning back to look at the map again.
She didn’t know what to do with it, but when she looked at Geoff, she saw his countenance change from normal, into something like confused recognition.
“I know this place……..” he said absentmindedly. You could see he was thinking very hard…… “We know this place…. Usually I’m not that good at map reading,” he said while running his finger from the cross to the north unto Medlow Vale, “but this time I’m pretty sure………. Here!” He exclaimed. “The cross is between Benton and Coornagie. Do you remember, Kate?”
Kate looked at him, astonished and questioning, trying to remember. But she shook her head.
“We asked a place for the night when the plane broke down…………. The house wasn’t on the map…… The fire….”
Kate nodded. Suddenly she remembered and with a still astonished look she asked: “But……… what on earth can they have to do with it……..?”
“So you know this place?” Jack asked.
Kate and Geoff nodded and Kate said: “It’s creepy weird over there. I wouldn’t like to go there again.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, those people are pretty weird, too, so maybe that’s the connection,” Jack said.
“That,” Geoff said, “we will never know unless Gwen turns up again.”
“But was that all you could find?” Geoff asked Jack. “No address, no relatives etc.?”
Jack shook his head. “But we have to bury the man. We can’t keep him above the ground too long.”
Geoff held up his hands to show he didn’t know either what to do now, and said: “We can wait some longer…… The woman can’t be that far away….We should be able to find her.”
“Ok. I’ll take this with me. If anything changes, call me. You know where to find me,” Jack said.
“Yes….. in the pub,” Geoff replied. At which a laughing Kate gave him a well-deserved push...
Jack gave him a semi dirty look and shook his head in reject. Though, when he walked away he smiled. When he came outside, he had a feeling that someone was watching him. He looked around, but there was no one to be seen. He shook his head and went on.
“That’s really weird,” Kate said to Geoff.
“Yeah……” Geoff said still a little absentminded.
“Before some half year the place didn’t even exist, and now this is the second time we‘re confronted with it……..” she continued musingly.
“Actually,” Geoff said turning to an other subject, “I was here to visit David, and I came here to tell you that we are going to have dinner together at the pub tonight. You were right, I didn’t feel like cooking today, but I was right, too, when I said that I missed you.”
He stroked her cheek and kissed her with a smile on his face. Then he went off to see David.
Kate continued with her work smiling. She always liked it when Geoff surprised her…….
Suddenly her face turned worried because, completely uncontrolled, and with a lot of noise, Gwen came in. Trembling all over with big, very big frightened eyes.
“Gwen!” Kate exclaimed. “What happened to you?”
But the only thing Gwen did was standing there, staggering on her legs.
Kate hurried toward her for support and led her to a chair.
Geoff entered David’s room. “Hey,” he said.
David looked at him as if he were a total stranger, but he said: “Hey.”
“It’s me …….. Geoff.”
But David still looked the same. Only a little surprised perhaps. And while turning his head and looking down he muttered: “I know that, I’m not completely blind.”
“No…… but it seems to me you are not……………..”
“Geoff…. It’s Gwen. She’s back, but it doesn’t look good……..” Kate said in a hurry, looking round the corner of the entrance to David’s room.
Geoff looked at David, patted his hand and said: “I’ll be right back.”
They both hurried back to Gwen who was still sitting there. She seemed to look at something behind them and was extremely frightened, totally focused on it. Kate tried to reach her, talked to her, waved her hand in front of her eyes, but she gave no reaction.
Geoff examined her, and after that he looked at Kate.
“Her bed ‘s still free,” Kate said.
Geoff nodded and they went off to take Gwen back to bed again.
At the pub the telephone rang.
“Jack? It’s Kate from the hospital,” Vic said while holding up the receiver.
“Yes, Jack here…..” He listened and nodded. “I’ll bring it over to you.”
He put down the receiver.
“We can stop looking out for the woman; she has turned up at the hospital.”
“Oh,” Nancy exclaimed, “is she doing well?”
“I don’t know,” Jack said cautious, “but I have to go there now…….. see ya Nance, Vic.”
He walked to the door greeting another local who just came in.
When Jack had left, Nancy shook her head. “It’s all very strange………. what do you think Vic?” She said in a conspirational tone. “Such an evasive answer from Jack, and earlier this week from Geoff and Kate………. What’s going on there…….? I think,” she continued, lowering her voice and coming closer to Vic, “….she killed him.”
Vic looked at her. Astonished. “He was already dead when she disappeared!” He said.
“Yes……. but….” Nancy insisted, looking puzzled.
Vic laughed. He patted her on the shoulder and said: “If you want to play detective, join Jack, otherwise it might be possible to give that man a beer,” he said pointing at the man who had just arrived at the bar.
“I don’t want to play detective….. I was just wondering,” Nancy said insulted. “And you are the one who usually pulls the beer over here.”
Back at the hospital Geoff had gone back to David. He had been astonished by David’s reaction when he came in before, and the second time it wasn’t any better. He told him why Kate had called him, but David didn’t seem to have any interest, neither in him, nor in his talking.
“I think I need some rest,” was all he said.
“Yes…. Just tired.”
In the meantime Kate tried to talk to Gwen. She had been given something to calm her down, but not too much, for they needed her to tell them what she wanted concerning Rick’s send off. But, though she was calmer now, and she didn’t look that frightened anymore, she gave no reaction.
Kate told her to get some rest. “I’ll be back after dinner. Maybe you feel like talking later.”
She went back to the desk where she found Geoff already waiting for her. “She won’t speak now. Maybe we should go and have dinner, and come back later when she’s had the time to settle and sort things out.”
“Yeah,” Geoff said absentmindedly, apparently thinking about something else, “let’s do that.”
They walked to the pub silently, both busy with their own thoughts.
Geoff and Kate were talking over dinner when Kate suddenly said: “Gwen has talked to David last week………. Maybe we can ask him to try again?”
“Talking about David……… How has he been today? To me, he seemed rather depressed. Didn’t you notice something?”
“Now that you mention it….. Most of the time he has been sleeping, and he didn’t eat or drink properly, but………. less than 24 hours ago we almost lost him, so I wasn’t surprised. I thought he just needed some time to come to.”
Geoff nodded. “But I don’t think it’s wise to burden him with Gwen. I talked to him about her, but he wasn’t showing any interest.”
“You’re right. I just felt so sorry for Gwen that I didn’t think about it.”
“Maybe when you don’t succeed, we can ask him, but let’s first try ourselves.”
“So that woman’s back?” Vic asked when he came to take away their plates.
Both Geoff and Kate looked at him questioning. Why would Vic be interested in her?
“Her husband still owes me something, but the dead don’t pay……….” He said with a meaningful look.
After dinner Geoff and Kate went back to the hospital. Though both of them weren’t on duty, they wanted to sort things out with Gwen. Jack had brought the map. Kate took it, and leaving Geoff at the desk she went to Gwen. When Kate showed her the map, Gwen’s mind went astray even more.
She saw herself sitting in the car in front of the house marked by the cross on the map.
“You stay here,” Rick had said.
But after some half an hour she had been worried and had walked to the entrance of the house. There, she had seen Rick sitting on the floor on his knees, crying and shouting: “Forgive me, please............. please...........” while pulling at his hair and hitting himself on his chest, completely desperate. She had been shocked, because she had no idea what was happening or what had ever happened here, but she thought it would be wiser to go back to the car and wait for Rick to return.
When he had come back he had looked beaten, and for a moment she had felt sorry for him and had showed some affection. But he had slapped her in the face and had said: “Don’t you ever do that again! Mind your own business.”
And he had driven off like a madman.
Kate saw Gwen draw back at the moment she remembered the slam in her face. But the next moment she was looking at something behind Kate and got that frightened look in her eyes again. She panicked. Kate looked over her shoulder, too, but there was nothing there.
“I must bury him there, otherwise he’ll keep on haunting me,” Gwen suddenly whispered. She really saw Rick, standing there, laughing out loud with a satisfied, mean smile on his face. The next moment he was gone, and Gwen was exhausted.
Kate realised that she wouldn’t get any more information out of Gwen today. And with a compassionate look she left her.
“And?” Geoff asked.
“She wants to bury him there,” Kate said while shaking her head and waving with the map. “Or maybe I should say he wants her to bury him there, otherwise he threatened to keep on haunting her.”
Geoff looked at her questioning.
“She sees him……… he’s talking to her. To her, he is still as real as when he was still alive. And just as frightening.”
Geoff shook his head. “Let’s go home now. We can’t do anything anymore now. And we’ll see what tomorrow will bring.”
It was a usual quiet Sunday morning at the hospital. David sat straight up in his bed, ready to have some breakfast, but he wasn’t hungry at all. After some time he pushed himself to get at least one bite of food. But when he reached for it, he accidentally knocked down the fresh cup of coffee -he had let the first one grow cold- because he couldn’t see the white cup against the white bed table. He felt the warm liquid seep through the sheets. Suddenly, he let his frustration coming out, and with one angry gest he swept the whole breakfast off the table. Then he lay back with a deep sigh.
A nurse, alarmed by the sound of falling stuff, came running in. “What happened here?” She asked astounded.
“Nothing,” David answered.
After she cleaned up the mess, the nurse went to Kate to talk about the incident. Kate shook her head when she heard the story. She told the nurse she would take care of the case, and went straight to David.
“What’s the matter with you?” She asked more angry than concerned.
He didn’t answer, but looked at her as if she were an alien and spoke an alien lingo.
“Answer me! What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing………! Why do you all keep bothering me; just leave me alone!” He answered angry and tired.
“No, we won’t…… Just look at yourself: you’re still on the drip, though we could have released you from it even yesterday! ….. If you’d only eat and drink.”
“I know,” he snapped.
“Then why don’t you?”
David shrugged. “I’m not hungry.”
“There’s no talking to you,” Kate said irritated.
“Then don’t ……….. I need rest,” he said closing his eyes.
Kate shook her head again. She left him, looking back once more as sincere concern slowly replaced her anger and vexation.
“Gwen,” Kate said, “we might come with you to bury Rick at the place we talked about yesterday. Remember? But before that, I really need to know some other things. You look a lot better. Didn’t Rick bother you last night?”
Gwen shook her head.
“Are you ready for this?”
Gwen looked at her and nodded affirmative.
“Are there any relatives or friends we need to get in touch with?”
Gwen shook her head.
“Why does Rick want you to bury him there? I mean ………. it seems such a strange place to me.
“Have you ever been there before?”
“Once? Last week?”
And again she nodded.
“You know, I’ve been there before, too, and my husband has been there twice. It was………. kinda strange…………When you where there……. were there any people? Living in the house?”
Gwen shook her head.
Gwen shook again.
Kate sat down on Gwen’s bed and started to tell.
“Our plane broke down and we were searching for a place for the night. We had seen the house from the air, and we went there. Everything seemed so…………. unreal…….. so……… hard to understand…….. Lots of strange things happened. There were two women and a man. They wore old-fashioned clothes and one of the women was seriously ill. During the night there was a small fire, but to a patient, who was with us, it seemed like the whole house was burning down.
“Back in town someone told us there had been a big fire over there, some 45 years ago. At least three people died back then. They had buried them in a grave, marked ‘persons unknown’. When Geoff, my husband, went there the day after, to ask the sick woman to come with him for treatment, the house was abandoned and there was neither a trace of the people nor of the fire…….”
When Kate mentioned the grave, she saw some recognition in Gwen’s face.
“Did you see the grave?”
“And that’s the place you have to bury Rick?”
“Did he have something to do with that fire? Or were those people his relatives?”
With a pensive look on her face Gwen shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said.
Kate had taken the phone and she was speaking to Geoff who was at home.
“Hmmm,” she sighed……….. “Easy for you to say….. I’m stuck here with two patients: one who won’t talk and another one who refuses to eat and drink.”………….. “No, she doesn’t know, but I think we just go there and……”……. “Yes, I know I wouldn’t, but I think my curiosity is starting to prevail,” she said smiling.……… “Shall I tell her?”............... “David? Hopeless case… I don’t know what to do. Maybe someone else can talk some sense into him”…………… “No, he shows no interest at all”……... “Look, I have to stop now: Johnno is coming in.” Kate made a kiss sound in the receiver and hung up.
“I came to see David. I heard what happened yesterday night. How is he?” Johnno asked.
Kate shook her head. “He’s not doing well, he seems depressed……… but maybe a visit of a friend will help,” she continued smiling slightly, patting Johnno on the shoulder.
“Any instructions, nurse?” He said as his countenance changed from worried to light-hearted.
She smiled. “Just be there, that will do.”
Johnno entered the room a little hesitantly. But when he saw what David was doing, he continued more determined.
“Nice book?” He asked.
“What?” David asked annoyed and absentmindedly.
“The book,” Johnno said pointing at the book in David’s hands. It was the book Cath gave him last Monday and that was left on the bedside table, untouched until now.
David looked at it. “Don’t know what it ‘s about.”
“I thought you were reading.”
David shook his head. “That’s past tense.”
“What do you mean?”
“Past tense…….. that belongs to the past……… I can’t read and I won’t be able to…… never ever………”
Johnno took a chair, turned it around the wrong way, and sat down.
“It won’t be that bad, will it? They told me you could see again!”
“Yes, I can. Oh, I’m getting tired of all those questions. Yes, I can, but not enough! Way too little, way too little,” he muttered.
Johnno fell silent. He couldn’t think of anything to cheer David up. Actually, he himself felt rather unhappy with the whole situation. He looked at David. ‘He is not feeling well, but he doesn’t look good either, so pale and small and tired’ he thought.
“Shall I read you something from the book?” Johnno suddenly asked, thinking that must be a good idea to divert David’s attention.
David looked at him, saying nothing. Suddenly he threw away the book almost at Johnno’s head and said annoyed, even angry: “I’m not a little child that needs a bedtime story. I’ll sleep anyway. I’m tired and I don’t need anyone around.”
“Was this an attempt on my life?” Johnno tried again, jesting.
But David didn’t answer anymore. His behaviour made clear that he wasn’t interested in company. So Johnno left with nothing achieved.
Exactly one week ago the heat had been chased away by the abundant rain of that Monday afternoon and evening. But it had come back. And this week started even more hot and sultry than last week.
“Oh, what have I done,” Kate sighed, “when I decided to come with you on my day off!”
“I’m very grateful,” Geoff said smiling wryly.
“Don’t tease me, you know I hate this weather. Oh, I’ve regrets ……..”
“Last week it was the same and nothing happened, did it?”
“No…….. nothing happened,” she said, nodding with a special disapproving look. “Go and look at those two in the hospital ………..”
“That… had nothing to do with the weather,” he said, and while pointing to Kate, he added: “But your mood does!”
She gave him a dirty look.
“Why do they give days like this? Five minutes after………” Tom suddenly stopped talking. “Hm…. Déjà-vu. Only this time I have to ask you,” he pointed at Kate, “what you are doing here on your day off.”
“Accompanying Geoff and Gwen on her quest. We are going with a weird woman to bury her weird husband on a weird place,” she said annoyed.
“Oh!” Tom said giving Geoff a meaningful look. “That sounds….. ehm….. weird.”
They all laughed out loud and Kate said: “Ok, ok, it’s my own fault. I’ve convinced everyone that we should go there, so………” she said while collecting the things she had to bring with her. “I’m going to pick up Gwen at the hospital, see ya at the airfield.”
In the hospital Annie had helped Gwen to make everything ready for her to leave.
They shook hands.
“I wish you all the best,” Annie said when Gwen got in the car with Kate. Then she went back inside.
“Still not hungry?” Annie asked David when she noticed the untouched breakfast.
David shook his head.
Annie looked at him, not knowing what to say or to do, or how to deal with him.
“Are you staring at me?” David asked.
Annie nodded. “Last time I saw you, you were terribly ill. Now you’re better, but you still look like death.”
David just looked at her.
“You’ve been hit rather hard, haven’t you?”
“Twice,” Annie added muttering. “Did you get some sleep last night?”
“I just can’t stop worrying,” he answered shaking his head.
“Maybe Geoff can give you something. Things can’t go on like this. Shall I take your brekkie back to the kitchen?”
He nodded and grabbed her hand. “Thanks.”
He shrugged. “For understanding.”
She looked inquiring. She didn’t understand what she might have understood, but she didn’t say anything. She patted him on the arm, took the breakfast, and left.
After they had dropped off Tom for a clinic, Geoff and Kate, Johnno, Gwen, and with them the coffin with Rick’s body, continued the journey to Rick’s final resting place.
“So you made it!” Rick said to Gwen when they were near the house, and with a condescending laugh he added: “You exceed my expectations!”
He was standing in the doorway of the house, but the only one who saw him, and heard him speak, was Gwen.
Geoff and Kate saw how scared Gwen looked that way. When Geoff entered the house, however, nothing stopped him, and he found it as abandoned as it was last time.
They buried Rick. After a long silence they looked up. They saw four people walk away in the heat blistering air on the land. Geoff and Kate immediately recognised the three ‘travellers’, who had lived there the first time they were there, and they also recognised Rick.
They looked at each other and at Gwen. It was obvious she saw them, too.
The three of them kept looking until the four ‘people’ vanished in a fata morgana-like dam at the horizon.
Johnno looked questioning when they arrived at the plane again. Geoff only answered the look with a ‘leave us to ourselves’ gesture and they got into the plane to pick up Tom again and go home.
“Where are you going when we’re at the airfield?” Kate asked Gwen.
And to her big astonishment Gwen answered: “I’ve hated this country ever since I set foot in it. I’ll take the first plane to Sydney and the first one to Europe. My son lives in Scotland.”
Geoff and Kate looked at each other, and when Gwen noticed that, she added, looking out of the window: “My son, not his.”
“Help, help us!” a man yelled, entering the hospital, supporting another man.
Annie ran toward them and also started to support the other man who could not lean on his right leg and who obviously was in a terrible pain. When they reached the examination room he even passed out.
“What’s his name and what happened?” Annie asked while trying to make the man come to.
“Ding……. we call him ‘Ding’. And I don’t know what happened. He suddenly screamed, but I don’t know if he has fallen or something. Is his leg broken?”
“Eh……..” she said looking at him.
“Ok Buck, stay here with him. I’m going to search for a doc.”
Annie walked out of the room and stopped, thinking what to do now. Tom and Geoff weren’t here and she didn’t expect them to be back soon. From what she saw and felt during the quick once over she gave the man, she was sure this was an emergency.
“David! David!” Annie said shaking his shoulder.
David was very deep asleep, but after a while he opened his eyes and looked at her, dazed.
“David…. We have an emergency!!!”
“Geoff…. Chris……… Tom…… I’m ill… I’m blind…….. I’m useless…”
Annie looked at him as if she doubted his intellectual faculties. Then she realised he might be half asleep, maybe wandering in the strange world between sleeping and being awake.
“Chris doesn’t work here anymore and Tom and Geoff aren’t here,” she said trying to bring him back to reality. “David…. wake up,” she urged him. “We have an emergency.”
“Emergency? What emergency,” he asked, suddenly wide awake.
“A man... They don’t know what happened….. His leg hurts. He passed out with pain…. I don’t know if it’s broken, but I need you to examine him……..” She continued, because, though wide awake, he gave her a strange distracted look: “I’m sure you can do it. Even if I have to get you there with your bed…… It’s serious!!”
“Ok, Annie……. Slow down, give me a couple of minutes to regain myself. In the meantime, go back to the patient, give him something for the pain………… ehhhhhh 500 mg pethidine, and try to trace what happened. Is it his lower leg……….?”
Despite of the rather serious situation Annie started to giggle nervously.
David looked at her and asked: “What?”
“We don’t have a horse over there!”
David gave her a inquiring look; he didn’t understand.
“You can sedate a horse with 500 milligrams!”
“What are you talking about?!”
“You told me to give the patient 500 mg pethidine……” she said now serious again because she noticed his confusion. “I think I’d better give 50!”
Did the things she said get through or didn’t they?
But he said: “…….Yes…… yes, you are right. After that, come back here. I need your help, I can’t make it on my own.”
David motioned Annie to go now.
“I’ll be right back,” she said hurrying away.
Sighing like a deflating air-bed, David lay back for a moment, but then got up slowly.
When he stood next to his bed his legs felt like jelly, but he had to admit, his sight was better than it had been earlier this morning.
Annie came back in, and when she saw him staggering, she asked: “Are you ok? Shall I get you a wheelchair?”
He waved her idea away and shook his head. “Just support me, that’ll do.”
They were about to go, but were held back by the drip.
“Oh, you’re still on the drip,” Annie said.
She didn’t know why, but David got angry and pulled the thing out of his arm, uncontrolled.
“Ok, that problem’s solved, too,” he added impatiently.
The first steps he took were rather staggering, and he really needed Annie to support him, but as they walked on it was getting better and better. He entered the examination room without any support.
Though the man had come to, he was still in agony in spite of the painkiller he was given. David examined him.
“Annie.” He motioned his head to the door. Annie followed him, and when he staggered once again she supported him. He sat down on a chair, his head in his hands.
When he looked up at Annie, with a pale and tired face, he said: “He needs a fasciotomy.” And he laid his head in his hands again. Suddenly he looked up. “Why did you call me, where are the others? I can’t do this!”
Annie shook her head. “Tom’s on a clinic, and Geoff and Kate are with Gwen……. to bury her husband. Even if we call them it would take at least two hours to get them here.”
David shook his head. “We don’t have that time………… And Chris, where’s she?”
“She left weeks ago to stay with her father in Sydney……..”
David looked at her. His expression was a mixture of astonishment, incomprehension, disbelief. It made her wonder, for the second time this morning, if he had taken leave of his senses. “She doesn’t work here anymore!” Annie added.
He kept on staring at her. Then, he looked at his hands and at his watch. He shook his head. “I……….. I can’t see what I’m doing….. I can’t……….” He uttered his thoughts muttering, while putting his head back in his hands.
Annie squatted before him, laid her hands on his shoulders and said: “What’s the risk……. what will happen if we wait?”
“He will loose his leg.”
“Yes, if we wait longer the tissue will get necrotic……….”
“An amputation, yes,” he said, looking down on her.
When their eyes met, you could see horror in her eyes, and she saw despair in his.
She took her hands from his shoulders, stood up and sat down next to him.
“So, you have to do it. Whether you’re blind or not, it has to be done.”
David nodded slowly. “But I’m not blind anymore, I just can’t see enough, yet, to perform such an operation. I feel limp and confused.”
“You should eat something……. Maybe that will take away some of the weakness.”
He looked at her and nodded. “Do you realise that you have to assist me and, if the worst comes to the worst, you even have to take over?”
Again you could see horror in her eyes, but also resignation. She nodded hesitantly, as if she just started to understand what he just told her.
David laid his hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure you can do it,” he encouraged her.
She sighed. “It isn’t a difficult operation, is it?”
“No, usually it isn’t, but if you can’t see what you’re doing…………” He shook his head. “Don’t think……. just do it,” he said more to himself than to her. “Ok, let’s make the preparations.”
“What’s the matter with that doc?” Buck asked Annie. “He…….. doesn’t look too well either.”
Annie nodded and said: “He has been very ill and he can’t see properly. But your friend needs an operation on his leg and there’s no other doctor available at the moment.”
“Why don’t you wait then? Until there’s someone else?”
Annie shook her head. “It’s serious, Buck, very serious. If we wait, there’s a big chance that Ding will loose his leg.”
Before they started, David said to Annie: “I think it only affected the superficial compartment. But if I have to go to the deeper ones we might run into nerves and blood vessels…………”
Annie shook her head. Suddenly the responsibility she would have became very clear to her. She thought it scary. She realised, that she had to pay attention very closely, and had to warn David if something was about to go wrong. “Maybe it’s better that I do it,” she muttered to herself. But then again she knew she couldn’t either. “Actually this is a crazy situation. We never have an emergency over here and……. right now when there’s no one………” She shook her head again.
“I’m here and you’re here. We will manage,” David inspired themselves with courage.
To his own surprise his view on the operation area was almost clear. But after he had made the first incision in the skin, he felt dizzy and his sight faded. He screwed his eyes shut and opened them again. It didn’t work.
“David………. are you alright?” Annie asked, afraid that he wouldn’t manage and that she had to take over…………
He looked at the ceiling, took a deep breath and when he looked at the operation area again he sighed relieved: his sight was almost clear. Clear enough, at least.
He didn’t answer Annie’s question but just went on. He found the place where he could make the incision in the fascia where the pressure would be relieved best. Fortunately, he didn’t have to go into the deeper compartments and he was able to finish the operation without any real troubles.
When they told Buck the operation had been successful, Annie was in a an elated mood, glad that troubles lay behind them now. “Your friend has a strange name,” she said to Buck.
Buck started laughing. “Wait until he’s regained full consciousness……” he said. “When he starts laughing………… I tell you…….. I warn you….. you will surely think you‘ve got a howling dingo in here….. Can I see him?”
David nodded. “He will still be somewhat drowsy, but you can go and see him.”
“Don’t make him laugh,” Annie joked when Buck went out. “He might give someone a fright.”
She looked at David. “I think you better go back to bed. I’ll do the aftercare…..”
There was that look again. During the operation, and right afterwards, she had thought she had been wrong in thinking he didn’t have his head screwed on right. But now she thought she might have been jumping to conclusions.
“Do I have to support you?”
Still that look.
“I’m going home, I’m tired,” he said distracted.
“I don’t think so,” Annie replied.
“I’m alright, just tired, and a little bluey, but……”
“I’d like you to stay here for a while,” she tried to hold him back. “What about lunch?”
He looked at her and slowly nodded, smiling, as if it took some time for him to understand what she just said. “Yes…… good idea….. Actually, I feel like I could eat a horse!”
Annie sighed relieved. He seemed to be back again.
At first Geoff entered the hospital absentmindedly, still dealing with the things that happened this morning. Suddenly he stood still, his mouth falling open with astonishment. He rolled his eyes and went on slowly. He cleared his throat. “Ehhhhhh… I think I missed something.”
On the hospital desk stood two plates, almost empty, and behind the desk Annie and David were hugging each other.
Geoff got no response.
Finally they looked up, and when he saw their faces, all of a sudden he understood this wasn’t a love scene. They had both broken down after all the tension, and were just comforting each other.
Annie supported David back to the chair and they both looked at Geoff. His countenance made them laugh.
“What happened here for crying out loud!” He pointed at David. “Shouldn’t you be in bed……….? You look a lot better though…….” he added muttering. He looked at the plates. “Did you eat?”
“He did a lot more than that!” Annie said, and she told Geoff what happened. David was rather silent and now and then, he still seemed distracted, but apparently he knew exactly what she was talking about, because sometimes he completed her story.
Geoff said: “Good on you, both. I will check on…………. what was his name again?”
“Ding,” Annie said.
“……. On Ding. In the meantime I think you better go back to bed and have some sleep,” he continued to David.
“No,” David said.
Geoff looked at him. “Beg you pardon?”
“I’m going home. I’ve been here for almost a week now and it makes me sick.”
Annie stood behind David, she looked at Geoff and shook her head.
“…..Ehm, well…… Actually….. I don’t think that’s a good idea. By the way……. What happened to your arm?”
David looked at him as if he had spoken Spanish.
Geoff took David’s arm and showed him the big blue bruise on it. David looked at it and looked back to Geoff with an empty view.
“It’s from the drip,” Annie said. “We were in a hurry and he pulled it out without paying further attention…… and I didn’t pay attention to it either.”
Annie gave Geoff a sign that she would take care of David and that he could go and do what he needed to. Geoff raised his eyebrows to ask if she was sure. She nodded, and he left for Ding.
Annie sat down on the desk, in front of David. She let out a deep sigh. “I’m beat,” she said, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were, too. You did a hell of a job.”
David looked at her and nodded slowly.
Annie took his hand. “Come on then. I’ve got work to do and you need some rest.”
He didn’t start talking about going home again. He just went back to his room with Annie following him.
“I don’t need help,” he snapped when she wanted to support him. “I’m just tired, I’m not an invalid.”
“Ok, ok,” Annie snapped back, offended. Actually she had had enough of him and his fickle behaviour, and she was glad he finally just went to bed without making any more objections, so she could get on with other things.
Geoff walked through the corridor and looked at the desk. “Where’s David?” he asked Annie.
“Back to bed.”
“But he didn’t want to… and I know him…… it’s a rather pigheaded guy…..”
Annie smiled playfully, “It’s my touch,” she said, but got serious right away. “He seems physically alright now: his sight is almost as clear as it was before the accident and he’s been eating and drinking again,” she said pointing to the plates and the glasses that were still on the desk. “But…….”
“…….You have your doubts,” Geoff completed her sentence.
“Yes, that’s why I gave you that sign.”
“I’ve seen it, too, but I’m sure it’s just a reaction on all the things that happened last week. Don’t forget what even a light concussion can do to you. Not to mention the idea of being blind, and the terror of staying blind for the rest of your life…! And like that hadn’t been enough, he suddenly, out of the blue, got deadly ill…… It’s rather a lot. I don’t know how I would feel………”
“Yes……… you are right, but going home…… with no one to talk to and no one who can take care of him if necessary…….. I think it’s too early for that.”
Geoff shook his head. “No, that won’t be wise.” Suddenly he looked up and said: “I’ll see what I can do……”
He went to the office and Annie went back to work.
At the pub the phone rang. “No, she isn’t here,” Vic said, “she left a couple of minutes ago……….. but she seemed……. well, I don’t know how to put it….. a little upset.”
At the hospital Geoff hung up the receiver. He knew what Vic had meant. He still felt the same about their adventure with Gwen and Rick at the ‘traveller’s’ house.
When he walked to the desk Kate just came in. “I just wanted to see you,” she said. “I can’t let go of those strange things that happened over there. What did we see? I thought it scary the first time and I still think it scary.”
“I know, I do, too,” he said walking towards her and putting his arm around her. “But there’s no explanation for it…… I think. It seemed alright after all, they all left…. It seemed like the others had been waiting for Rick all those years, but we will probably never know what really happened over there……….”
After a long silence Geoff said: “I just tried to call you at the pub, but you were already on your way over here.”
“Well...” he said hesitantly. “It’s about David.”
“What about him,” she said slightly snappy.
Geoff noticed she was still in the same mood as she had been this morning. It made him more careful.
“Can he stay with us?” He saw her face grow angry. “I mean……… you have some days off and……”
“Are you crazy?” She angrily shook off his arm. “This was my first day off, but it was heavier than two nightshifts, and you want me to spend the other days, taking care of a man who is not only blind, but who also managed to dehydrate himself and now tries to starve himself to death………….? I won’t……….. no, I won’t.” She took a deep breath after that long sentence and wanted to start again.
Geoff looked at her. Astonished. “Aren’t you judging a little too hard on him?” he interrupted her.
At first Kate looked astonished, too, but when she became conscious about what she just accused David of, she said: “Oh……. I’m sorry….. it’s just…… you know……”
“I know, I know, maybe I shouldn’t even have thought about it, but he’s not any longer in such a bad shape as you describe.”
Kate looked at him, a question mark all over her face.
“When we were out there, there has been an emergency over here. David did a fasciotomy. Annie assisted him. And I have to admit they did a very good job. Afterwards they had lunch together. When I came in, the plates and glasses were still on the desk, so………….”
“I don’t know if that changes anything,” she said, still slightly annoyed. “Why can’t he just go home then when everything’s alright?”
“He’s been hit hard,” was Geoff’s plain answer.
Kate looked at him. The irritation ran away from her face and was replaced by concern. She nodded. “Did you already talk to him about this?”
Geoff shook his head. “No, of course not, I first wanted to ask you! When I told him to go back to bed he said he wouldn’t, he wanted to go home. Later, when Annie had made him go back to his room, she told me that - though he had been very concentrated when operating - she had asked herself where his mind went, in what world he was, before and after the operation. He was absentminded, and sometimes it seemed like he didn’t notice what was being said or done. It seemed she didn’t get through to him. I’ve seen it, too,” he added.
“I’ve seen it, too,” she acknowledged. “Ever since Friday night.” Suddenly she said concerned: “You think…………..”
Geoff shook his head. “No……. it’s just been too much, though he will probably never admit it. He needs some time, and I think it’s better having someone around then. He will manage, he can take care of himself, but…… just to keep an eye on him and keep him some company to help him get over it………...”
Kate looked at him. She nodded. “Ok then……. but if he bothers me I’ll sent him right back to you,” she warned him, pricking her finger into his chest. “But…… what if he doesn’t want to………?” she asked.
“No other choice, it’s either stay here or come with us.”
“How are you?” Kate asked David. “I heard about what happened here today…….. good on you.”
He just looked at her.
“I expected you to be asleep after……..”
“I’m tired, but I can’t sleep,” he grumbled. “And I’m getting sick of being here …… I want to go home.”
He got ready to get up again. He cursed his tiredness, his weakness. No…… he didn’t want support but…….. everything he did now seemed too much. He became desperate, tried to gather all his energy to get up, in the meantime asking himself how he was going to manage at home. But anything was better than staying here.
“Hey?!” Kate said, getting angry. “Don’t put yourself out like that!” And she immediately regretted the promise she made to Geoff. ‘He will be a constant pain in the neck’ she thought.
He gave her a tired look that touched her and made her change her mind again.
“Actually……” she said, “I was here to ask you if you would like to stay with us for a couple of days.” …….Oh……..! There was that look again! The look they talked about. The same look that annoyed her yesterday. She couldn’t help getting angry inside but tried to keep cool. “David?..........did you hear what I just asked?” She was inclined to shake him for that absentminded, distracted, indifferent look!
“I’ve heard you……” he said softly, lying back. And after a while he continued: “And I think I will.”
Kate was astonished by his fast surrender. But his look wasn’t distracted anymore and he seemed fully aware of what he just said.
“Ok then. Take your time, we will pick you up after Geoff finished his work here……… around half past four, I think.”
David fetched his watch from the nightstand and looked at it, to see how much time he had to get ready.
“Can you see that?” Kate asked surprised.
David shook his head slowly but suddenly stopped. He had closed his eyes and had opened them again. He looked at Kate and said astonished: “I can!”
He turned his head away from her and looked at his watch again, but to his disappointment his sight wasn’t clear.
He lay back. “No, I can’t,” he said, but he wasn’t satisfied and tried again. “Concentrate,” he said to himself. A small, astounded smile ran over his face. He nodded. “I can,” he sighed closing his eyes.
“Aren’t you happy then?” Kate asked, though she had seen his struggle.
He opened his eyes again and looked at her. His look was tired and absentminded again.
Kate shook her head. There was no sense in getting angry and she even asked herself why his indifferent attitude annoyed her so much.
David didn’t answer her question, so she touched his arm saying: “See ya in an hour.” She left the room.
It was around five that afternoon, when Geoff, Kate and David walked through the hospital corridor to go home. Suddenly they stood still like rooted to the floor. An all-penetrating noise came from one of the rooms. They looked at each other and ran to the place the noise came from. Around the corner they ran into Annie who was easy going, as if she didn’t hear the noise.
“What the hell was that?” Geoff asked her.
“What?......That sound?” Annie laughed, while the other three continued walking in the direction the noise came from and Geoff pulling her with them.
When Geoff saw the laugh on her face he suddenly stopped, causing Kate and David to walk into him.
Oh…… there was that scary sound again! The horror on their faces made Annie laugh even more. She pointed at them. “Look at those faces,” she laughed.
They all looked at her, not understanding. They had almost reached Ding’s room when Annie said: “Didn’t you ask yourself who on earth calls his son Ding?”
Geoff looked at Kate and David, then looked back at Annie, a question mark all over his face.
Buck, who had heard them talking, looked around the corner with a big smile on his face. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said to Annie.
Annie, still laughing out loud said: “I won’t…….. but I didn’t warn the others.”
Buck chuckled and went inside again.
“Are you going to tell us now……..” Kate started to ask, but suddenly the penny dropped. “Ding….. ding …… dingo, yes, it sounded like a howling dingo!”
Geoff and David looked at her. Geoff with an ‘I begin to see the light’ smile on his face, David with an empty view.
Geoff, Annie and Kate started to laugh out loud, and it seemed to affect Ding because the dingo sound started again, too.
Still laughing they left the hospital. Thanks to this event Kate had gotten back her good mood. She patted David on the shoulder and, standing before him she said: “Smile!”
He did what she asked him.
“Ok,” she said. “Let’s go now.”
They got into the car and drove away, waved goodbye by a still smiling Annie.
At Geoff and Kate’s David went to bed immediately. He didn’t wake up before the next morning was already halfway. Kate and Geoff had talked all evening about the things they’d been through, and Kate had again given vent to her doubts of having David around.
In the end, she needn’t have worried about that. After the long sleep he had had, David had felt like reborn. He didn’t show that absentminded look anymore and he seemed perfectly able to find his way around the house. In the afternoon Kate noticed he was having problems again and she told him to go and have some sleep. He went without any objections. In the evening, when Geoff came home they had dinner together and afterward, David went sleeping again.
The next day, David and Kate did a lot of talking and actually, she had to admit, she thought him good company. She almost felt disappointed that he had recovered so fast, and that he was about to leave. Nothing more changeable than a human mind………………………….
Two weeks after the unfortunate canyoning adventure David was back to work again. When he was getting too tired, his sight was still fading a little, so the first days he had to take it easy. And he knew that, in the future, he should take care. Things like this should better not happen again………….
Geoff and Kate had tried to get more information about the house and the people who lived there, and of course about what happened. They didn’t get any further. Vic seemed to be the only one who remembered anything about it, and he couldn’t tell them more than they already knew.
At the end of that same week though, they had to cease their research, and David, too, was forced to let go of his taking easy. For the fears Kate had had for the past two weeks were about to come true: she found herself at the base that was turned into the crisis centre of Fire Control. The bushfires, which had been all over the country, had reached their region, too.
She was happy that she didn’t have to go out there. But Geoff, David and Annie had to.
And it became……….. a day to remember………..
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