Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2305035-Kimberley-Moon
by Sumojo
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Regional · #2305035
Unexpected encounter on the Tanami Track
Word count 1990

300,000 years ago, a rock hurtled through the cosmos. Was its destination preordained as it headed towards a tiny blue planet far, far away?

No human being witnessed the violence of the impact when it slammed into the deep red earth, creating a crater three thousand feet in diameter and almost two hundred feet deep. However, Australia was home to a range of mega-fauna, large, unique, prehistoric animals; giant kangaroos, wombats, marsupial lions, and huge reptiles. Any of these creatures that did happen to be prowling around the area at the moment of impact, would have been instantly vaporised by shockwaves or flattened when massive boulders landed after being tossed high into the air as if they were nothing more than pieces of confetti.

Wolf Creek sits on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in splendid isolation. Visitors who climb the steep sides are awed by nature’s colosseum. When they absorb the view they surely are made aware of Earth’s vulnerability when they discover the meteorite which caused the crater had been only fifteen metres wide?

One hot day in January there was one solitary car in the visitors’ carpark, for at that time of the year the high temperatures of the Kimberley region of Western Australia deterred sightseers.
However, three figures, dwarfed by the circle of red cliffs, clambered down to the crater’s floor. They slipped and slid, sometimes grasping on to a tuft of tough spinifex with gloved hands to avoid the sharp edges of the grasses, until they reached the bottom.
Two of the trio were white skinned, wearing broad- brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy boots. Their companion, barefooted and dressed heedless of the harsh sun on his black skin, was older, an aboriginal tracker employed by a film company.

“Far out, this place is unreal.” Alex gasped when eventually they reached the crater’s floor. He craned his neck upwards. “That was a bloody rough decent, I hope none of the equipment was damaged.”

His companion, Emma, an English backpacker Alex had employed as his assistant for the weekend, wiped the sweat from her face using her shirtsleeves. “We need to be careful when climbing back up, it’s really dangerous.” She looked for reassurance from their aboriginal guide. “You’re looking worried, Jack. Anything wrong?”

Jack, although in his late fifties, had found the descent much easier than the two younger people. He frowned, “Yeah, Miss, the spirits are not happy. They don’t like to be disturbed.”

Emma gave him her best smile. “It’ll be fine, Jack, it’s just for a few hours. Alex reckons we should be out of here by late afternoon. The film’s director wants him to capture the way the light changes, different angle shots, that sort of thing. Y’know?”

Jack didn’t know. He’d only agreed to bring them here because of the large fee he’d been offered. He looked up at the sky before he spoke, his voice gentle and soft, belying his tough exterior. “Bad time to come here, Miss. Bad time.”

“Are you concerned about the weather warnings, Jack?” Although Alex’s attention was on the task in hand he’d been listening to the exchange between his assistant and the guide. The older man didn’t answer, but the cameraman could tell Jack’s senses were heightened by the way his eyes scanned the rock-strewn surrounds, his head tilted slightly as if listening intently. Emma gave Alex a look which seemed to convey their guide was a little crazy, then began to unpack their gear.

The sun beat down relentlessly, and the crater floor trapped and absorbed the heat. Alex had taken several hours of footage and used all of his film-making prowess to show the isolation, heat, swarms of flies and the other worldliness of the phenomenon. His state-of-the-art cameras captured the colours of the shimmering red earth, an occasional scurrying lizard, and some other unidentified, tiny, desert creatures.

“If the movie actually comes to fruition, this place is going to make the perfect backdrop. In fact, the whole of the Kimberley region is astoundingly beautiful in its own rugged way. Do you know what the storyline is going to be?” Emma asked

“Yeah, I read the script. Some crazy dude, a roo shooter I think, tortures and murders innocent backpackers.”

“Oh, yuk, that’s just gross!” Emma shuddered at the thought. She knew the dangers she’d put herself in many times as she’d hitchhiked around Australia. “That sounds terrifying. I can’t watch horror movies or understand why anyone gets enjoyment out of watching something like that.”

The nighttime temperatures in the desert can get really low, even after the hottest day, Much of the crater was in shade as the sun continued West and Emma rubbed her arms. She wished she’d not left her jacket in the truck parked high above them on the rim of the crater.
A distant rumble warned of a change in the weather. Jack moved from where he’d been sitting with his back to the crater’s walls for the last few hours to where Alex was getting a few last shots. “Did you hear that? Time to get out of here. It’s going to be hard climbing out as it is, but when the rain starts, there’ll be no chance.”

It took them more than an hour get to the top, navigating the steep climb and treacherous loose rocks. Jack carried much of the equipment as the others struggled to climb.

“Oh shit, that was intense.” Emma panted. “I get all the warnings about the dangers now. Anyway there’s no need to risk the climb down, there’s a much better perspective from up here.” She stood there just for a few minutes committing to her memory the beauty of the setting sun casting deep shadows, leaving the crater spirits in peace.

“I’m just hoping I got enough footage, I’m not keen on risking my equipment again.” Alex interrupted her thoughts, checking his cameras for damage.

“God, Alex, forget about the equipment, we could have broken our necks!”

Jack was already busy loading up the four-wheel drive. He turned when he saw Emma and Alex approaching. “We need to get going. As soon as the rain starts, the road out of here will become impassable.” He frowned at the looming, black clouds and caught a flash of jagged lightning strike the ground about a mile away.

Alex glanced at his watch. “We should make it back to Halls Creek just after dark.”

They’d travelled barely half of the hundred mile journey along the unsealed Tanami track when the thunderstorm broke, bringing strong gusts of wind which threatened to force them off the road. Alex leaned forward in the driver’s seat in an attempt to see through a heavy curtain of rain, the visibility almost non-existent. He pulled over to the edge of the track and stopped. “Christ! This rain is incredible. “He caught Jack’s eye through the rear-view mirror, “How long do storms like this last out here?”

“There’s no telling. We need to keep moving, mate. It’ll be a lake out here in half an hour.”

Alex continued to drive cautiously, headlights on full beam. Emma remained silent, not wishing to distract him as he attempted to navigate in the darkness, but she took an intake of breath each time a lightning bolt hit the ground, illuminating the harsh landscape.

“How much further to the turn off to The Great Northern Highway, Jack?” Alex asked.

“We’re not even halfway there, mate.”

“Shit! I don't want to be stranded out here all night. Try your phone, Em, see if we’ve got reception yet.”

“No, nothing yet.” Emma clicked off her phone. “I feel as if we’re in our own horror movie, it’s as if the Wolf Creek Crater doesn’t want us to leave!”

Alex risked taking one hand off the steering wheel for a few seconds to grasp Emma’s. “We’ll laugh about this once we’re back at the hotel.” He immediately grabbed the wheel again with both hands but the vehicle began to slide off the road and ended up in a deep ditch. Emma screamed in panic as the car tipped on to its side.

They were trapped, but their seatbelts held them firmly in place. Alex hung precariously, his hands still on the steering wheel, but Emma in the passenger seat and Jack in the back were both pinned painfully against their doors. Water poured in through Jack’s broken window, it filled the cabin at an alarming rate, the level rose steadily. As the vehicle settled on its side in the flooded ditch, Emma’s panic turned to desperation. She screamed, thrashed around wildly in the darkness and rapidly deepening water.

Alex managed to undo his seat belt with his left hand, his right hand gripped his open window, which was now facing the dark sky, and somehow he was able to climb through. Emma was almost submerged by the ditch water. “Hold on Emma, I’ll get you out!” He yelled to make her hear him above the noise of the storm and the rapidly rising water which threatened to cover her face.

There was no sound from Jack.He’d been knocked unconscious in the impact. There was nothing Alex could do to save him but maybe he could help Emma. He lifted open his door and slid back into the car on his stomach, his hands reached down through the water and released Emma’s seatbelt, then grabbed her under her arms and pulled her free moments before the water covered her mouth and nose.

They lay exhausted in the red mud, hardly able to believe what had just happened. Neither spoke for some time. Emma curled into a fetal position and sobbed quietly, before she whispered, “Thank you, Alex.”

Eventually they were calm enough to talk about the accident, about Jack, and what they were going to do next. The storm had abated, the rain ceased as suddenly as it had started and a bright, Kimberley moon lit up their predicament. Alex went back to the car to make sure Jack really was dead before they left to walk to the turn off over fifty miles away.

The going was tough, almost impossible in places. Thick red clay stuck to their shoes making each step harder than the last. Waist-deep water lay on the track which they had to wade through.

“I’m exhausted, Alex. I can’t go on. Let’s wait until first light, maybe someone at the hotel has realised we didn’t get back.” Emma’s face and hair were covered in mud which even her tears couldn’t wash away.

“Jack’s mob might wonder where he is.” Alex suggested, to make Emma feel a little better, to provide hope that someone would come and rescue them, but he knew no one could, not in those conditions.

The reality of their situation was beginning to sink in plus the realisation they may not get out of there alive, when they saw a spotlight in the distance. It was closing in on their position. Emma called out into the darkness, “Over here! Over here!”

From out of the darkness loomed a large black vehicle. Blinded by the light, Alex and Emma shielded their eyes from the glare. “Thank god, it’s a roo shooter, Em.”

Dozens of kangaroo corpses were strung up on a bar welded to the flat bed truck. Blood oozed from single shot bullet holes in their heads. The macabre scene caught in the light of the full moon.

They waited until the truck stopped within a few metres of where they’d been shouting and waving to attract the driver’s attention but now they were silent. Their relief at what they’d thought was their salvation faded, something didn’t feel right. So they waited a long while for the roo shooter to appear.

The driver’s door eventually creaked open. “You folks got yourselves in a bit of trouble?” The soft voice of the man pointing the rifle directly at them enquired, with a predatory grin.

Written for
Journey Through Genres: Official Contest  (E)
Write a short story in the given genre to win big prizes!
#1803133 by Writing.Com Support

Genre Prompt for September 2023: Regional
The task is simple: Write a short story that prominently features a particular regional setting. Make the reader feel like they're really there, even if they've never been!

Authors note: This references the Serial Killer who murdered backpackers in the Kimberley Region. A film, Wolf.Creek was made about him.

© Copyright 2023 Sumojo (sumojo at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2305035-Kimberley-Moon