A fantasy story about a dryad in suburban Melbourne. Have a sequel to this story.
Dryadia squatted before the flat-screen TV, doing her best to impersonate a circular cane chair. Over the last five-hundred years, she had impersonated a variety of chairs and other furniture. Usually with ease. But today her attention was diverted too much by the small child sitting on her, bouncing up and down, hammering her toys upon Dryadia’s armrests.
“Mummy, I want presents! Mummy, I want presents!” shrieked pony-tailed Suzie Lomax, banging two metal carriages of a small toy train upon poor Dryadia.
“Quieten down, Suzie, we’re getting your presents now,” said the little girl’s mother, Sandy. She threw a glance at her own mother seated on a green sofa across the lounge room and bent to start looking through a number of brightly wrapped packages.
“Mummy’ll have your presents ready soon, honey,” said Sally Curran, smiling broadly at her granddaughter.
Little Suzie considered this promise for a moment. Then she began banging the toy train on the armrests of the cane chair again. “I want presents! I want presents!” she chanted again.
“You’ll get a...” began Sandy, stopping in shock as the little girl suddenly shrieked and pitched forward to her knees on the lounge room floor.
“Oh enough!” thought Dryadia changing to her true form: a beautiful woman of eighteen or twenty, with long brown hair, piercing green eyes, and pale, almost transparent alabaster flesh.
“What...? Who...?” asked Sandy Lomax, staring in shock at the bare-foot maiden, dressed only in a knee-length white “shroud”. Then, as little Suzie began to cry, Sandy risked approaching the alabaster woman to snatch up her daughter.
As the young woman leapt toward her, Dryadia shrilled a high-pitched squeal, “Eeeeeeeeeiii!” Sounding more forest creature than human being, she span round to race toward the door to the corridor.
“No, wait!” called Sandy, no longer concerned the strange woman was a danger to Suzie.
Ignoring her call, Dryadia raced into the corridor, then looked round frantically for any way out of the long hallway she had suddenly found herself in. At the other end of the corridor she could see a small rectangle of light, leading to a grassy yard behind the house.
Hearing footsteps emerging from the lounge room door behind her, Dryadia started down the hallway toward the lawn and freedom. When suddenly her escape route was cut off.
“Who’s that?” asked a tall, grey-haired man, Deni Curran, starting down the corridor toward her. “Is that you, Sally?”
“No, it’s...” began Deni’s son-in-law, Harben Lomax.
Again Dryadia shrilled her woodland shriek, “Eeeeeeeeeiii!”
“What the...?” said Deni. The two men started down the yellow-carpeted corridor toward the woodland nymph.
Squealing again as the two men started toward her, Dryadia reversed direction and started back toward the lounge room door.
“Look out!” warned Sally Curran as her daughter stood in the doorway cradling young Suzie in her arms.
Squealing in shock as Dryadia raced back toward them, Sandy backed into the lounge room as the nymph raced toward the front door of the house.
“Open! Open!” thought Dryadia, trying to will the front door to release her into the outdoors. She had seen and heard humans entering or leaving the house through the doorway many times.
“How is it done? How is it done?” thought the woodland nymph slapping at the metal lock with her slender hands.
“Who in the world is she?” asked Deni Curran.
“And what is she doing?” asked Harben as the alabaster woman continued to slap-slap-slap her hands against the lock.
Entirely by luck, one of the pale hands slapped the knob on the lock the right way and the door suddenly sprang open.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” squealed Dryadia in shock as the door flew open, almost slamming into her face.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” squealed Suzie Lomax in answer as the strange pale-skinned woman raced forward and out onto the front patio, then beyond, to the lush lawn of the Lomaxes front garden.
For a second, seeing two fern saplings beside the bay window outside the front of the house, Dryadia considered transforming into a sapling. She wondered if the pursuing humans would notice that there was suddenly a third sapling in their yard? But as the Lomaxes and Currans raced out through the front door behind her, the dryad realised she had missed her opportunity and turned toward the front of the yard. Only to be confronted by another obstacle:
Ringing the Lomaxes’ front yard was a two-and-a-half metre high railing fence, designed to keep burglars out. But now possibly to trap Dryadia inside.
“We’ve got her now,” said Harben Lomax, as they raced across the front lawn toward the alabaster woman.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia as the men and women raced toward her.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” responded Suzie Lomax, although now safe in her mother’s arms.
With her pursuers closing on her rapidly, Dryadia leapt toward the wooden fence, intending to climb the horizontal railings like rungs.
Instead she soared skyward.
“Look at her go!” said Sally Curran in shock as the wood nymph soared into the air to land in a crouch upon the splintery top rail of the wooden fence.
“Let’s follow her,” cried Harben. And the two men began more trepidly to climb the horizontal railings.
“We’ll go round to the gate,” suggested Sandy.
From her perch atop the fence, Dryadia watched, perplexed as Sandy and Sally strode across to a section of the seemingly unbroken fence. Sally clicked a spring release and the hidden gate sprang open.
“Come on,” said Harben as his father-in-law lagged behind.
“I’m getting too old for climbing fences,” said Deni. He winced as the rough tops of the unplaned wooden beams splintered, stinging his fingers like sharp needles.
“I can almost touch her,” said Harben. He reached out to where the pale woman still sat upon the top rail.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia as the young man reached up toward her. Standing to her full height, she balanced precariously on the splintery top railing for a moment.
The dryad looked down at Harben Lomax’s right hand as it reached for her ankle. Then she looked over the fence to where Sally Curran and her daughter, Sandy Lomax stood, seemingly kilometres below her, on the concrete footpath.
“Got her,” said Harben, a little prematurely as he reached for the woman’s left ankle.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia again. She tried to step aside and found herself tottering along the wooden railing like a tight-rope walker starting to overbalance.
“Look out, she’s going to fall,” cried Sandy as the woman tottered along the fence top.
“Who is she, a jumper?” asked a tall, skinny man in jeans and a Pink Floyd T-shirt. The man and his girlfriend were among a small group of onlookers who had gathered near Sandy and Sally to watch the excitement.
“Don’t be dumb, Greg” said his girlfriend, Illona, sighing from frustration. “Jumpers jump from buildings, not off fences.”
As a steady stream of gawkers began to gather below her, Dryadia tried her best not to overbalance, as she tottered along the horizontal railing atop the fence.
“Get ready to catch her if she falls,” advised Harben Lomax.
“Who, me?” asked Deni Curran. On the other side of the fence Greg and two other men raced forward to do as instructed, holding their arms out toward them.
“Follow her down the street,” advised Sandy as Dryadia’s tottering continued to take her slowly along the fence top toward the next house.
The ever increasing crowd -- now nearly a dozen adults and twice as many children -- started to sidle along to their right-hand side as Dryadia tip-toed that way along the railing fence.
The crowd was caught off guard though, as the dryad suddenly staggered back to their left.
“Look out, she’s getting away,” called Deni Curran. As though that were possible while she tight-rope walked along the top rider of the fence.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia. Her sudden change of direction toppled her forward and she started to fall outwards toward the street.
“Get ready to catch her, she’s falling into the street!” called Harben, releasing her ankle.
Greg and the other men raced across to their lefts now to catch the toppling woman.
Dropping back to the lawn behind the fence, Harben Lomax tapped his father-in-law on the shoulder, saying, “Come on!”
The two men sped across to the wide open gate and raced out into the street, expecting to see Greg or one of the other men carrying, or struggling with the pale woman. Or at least standing over her prone form on the concrete.
Instead the men were all empty-handed and there was no sign of the mysterious woman.
“Where is she?” demanded Harben. wondering if they had been stupid enough to let her run away.
“Up there, daddy,” said young Suzie, pointing up above her father’s head.
“Don’t be so stup...!” began Harben. However, seeing everyone staring gape-mouthed upwards, he looked up and saw Dryadia floating three metres above the middle of the road.
“How the...?” said Sandy Lomax, as shocked as her husband to see the alabaster woman floating above the road. “How do we get her down?”
“I’ve got a ladder...” suggested Greg, wincing as he realised how dumb the comment was.
“What are you going to do,” demanded his girlfriend, Illona, “prop it against the sky while you climb up and get her?”
Ignoring the gaping crowd below her, Dryadia began to struggle about, rolling over sideways slowly as though she were drowning.
“What’s she doing?” asked Suzie.
“I think she’s trying to figure out how to propel herself along,” suggested Sandy to the young girl in her arms.
Clearly puzzled, the girl looked round at her mother to ask, “Trying to fly?”
“Yes, I think so.”
For more than a minute, Dryadia struggled around three metres above the centre of the road. Then, slowly she began to propel herself through the air, swimming along at first, until starting to gain confidence at this new-found ability.
“After her!” cried Sandy Lomax. And, still carrying little Suzie, she started along the footpath, with the crowd close behind her.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia again, as she started to half-fly, half-swim through the air, heading down toward an intersection three or four houses to the left of the Lomaxes’ house.
At the intersection, the people, many of whom had been running down the centre of the road, raced across to join the Lomaxes and Currans on the footpath.
For a few seconds, Dryadia hovered just shy of the intersection. As though loath to risk heading into the onrushing traffic.
“Which way is she going?” demanded Greg. A big man, he was wheezing already from the few metres he had run so far.
“Down to the centre of Footscray,” suggested Illona, pointing down to the left.
“Oh no,” said Greg, between wheezes. He did not fancy a thirty minute jog along the part-bitumen, part concrete, part dirt footpath along Barkly Street.
Dryadia was looking back over her shoulder at her pursuers, when she was startled by a loud metallic screeching in front of her.
“Look out, it’s going to hit her!” cried Sandy, pointing in front of the dryad.
Looking round quickly, Dryadia shrilled, “Eeeeeeeeeiii!” in terror as the high roof of the truck barrelled down toward her.
Diving in reverse, the dryad swooped fish-like upwards, to soar above the tall roof top, so the truck -- Klaxons still blaring -- whizzed by mere centimetres below her.
As the truck roared down Barkly Street, heading toward the Gordon Street intersection, Dryadia suddenly made up her mind. No longer pulling herself along the air by her arms, now using her feet tightly together like a mermaid’s tail, she began to “swim” above Barkly Street, heading up toward Leander Street, heading toward the small West Footscray shopping centre.
“Come on, she’s heading up toward West Footscray,” said Greg. The big man was relieved he only had a third as far to run as he would have had if she had followed the truck down to central Footscray.
As they started up Barkly Street, the crowd continued to swell as more and more people left their houses to see what was going on.
“What are you all doing?” demanded a teenage boy on a bike.
By way of answer, the crowd pointed toward Dryadia mermaid-swimming through the air above the road.
“Oh my God, it’s Super-Girl,” said the boy, almost riding his bike into a lamppost as he tried to ride while staring up into the sky.
“No, it’s a witch,” insisted Sandy Lomax. “It appeared out of nowhere in our lounge room, scaring Suzie here.”
“Threw me to the floor,” agreed the little girl.
“And heaven only knows what it did to our cane chair,” said Suzie’s grandma, Sally Curran. “It’s been in our family for fifty years. Since my parents came over from Wales. But there was no sign of it after that witch appeared.
“Has anyone rung the cops?” asked the boy. The crowd stopped running for a moment and looked about themselves uncertainly.
“Well ... no,” Sandy finally conceded. “We never thought of it.”
After a moment’s hesitation, half-a-dozen people raced back into their houses to telephone, while the remainder followed Dryadia up toward Leander Street, then on toward Stafford Street, then Dudley and Liverpool Streets, heading toward the treacherous T-junction on the corner of Barkly Street and Summerhill Road.
“Don’t let her get away!” said Greg, at a wheeze after five minutes of lumbered running.
“How can we stop her?” asked Sandy. “She only has to cut over to the left and fly toward Cross Street, and she’d have Olympic Dunlop and half-a-dozen other factories blocking our path after her.”
At first it looked as though that was what Dryadia was planning, as she began to swim toward the opposite footpath outside Dunlop Tyres. But to the relief of her pursuers, the flying woman was merely avoiding the noisy cars and lorries which had been whizzing beneath her as she soared along above the road.
“Let’s get across after her,” suggested the boy on the bicycle.
“With this traffic?” asked Sandy as cars and trucks zoomed past. And as though afraid one of the vehicles might suddenly head for the footpath, the young mother stepped a few paces further back from the roadway.
“Yes, wait till we get to Foodworks,” suggested Sally Curran, pointing toward the supermarket across the road, a couple of blocks further along.
“What if she flies over to Cross Street?” demanded Greg, now almost collapsing from fatigue.
“Doesn’t matter if she does,” said Illona, also starting to pant a little from the running they had done. “There’s no connecting street between Barkly and Cross until just past Foodworks anyway.”
So, now panting from exhaustion, the crowd continued down the right-hand side of Barkly Street, as Dryadia swam through the air, three metres above the footpath, on the left side of the street.
“Don’t lose her now,” called the boy on the bike. Although there was nothing they could do to prevent that from happening while the dryad was flying well above their reach.
“She’s cutting across Sims!” said Sandy, as they ran past Summerhill Road on the way toward the car park across the road from the supermarket.
“Don’t worry, we can follow her down Warleigh Road,” suggested Deni Curran as they ran past Barkly TV and Video Repairs, to approach the pedestrian lights out front of Sims-Foodworks.
Instead of soaring above Foodworks though, the dryad stopped, hovering just above the corrugated iron overhang outside the supermarket.
“What’s she doing?” asked Sandy as they stopped at the lights to watch the dryad. Although the light soon turned green, the pursuers stayed where they were so they could see the floating woman -- which they could not have done from under the overhang.
“Hovering,” replied young Suzie, now standing on the bitumen beside her mother.
“So, who’s got a ladder?” asked Greg, relieved that at last he had a chance to get his breath back.
As though in answer to his question, they soon heard the raucous squall of sirens. And looking round toward the Ashley Street end of Barkly Street, they saw a red fire truck, with two white police cars just behind it.
Hovering above the overhang of the supermarket, Dryadia gasped for breath, having flown a long way from Eleanor Street on her maiden flight. She watched the staring crowd and held her hands up to cover her ears against the irritating eeeh-aaah eeeh-aaah eeeh-aaah of the screeching sirens as the long, red truck with the ladder atop it pulled up, blocking the flow of traffic down Barkly Street.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia, launching herself higher, in a bid to soar out of range of both the ladder -- which her instincts told her boded no good for her -- and of the shrieking sirens.
“All right, where’s this floating woman!” demanded the fire chief, climbing down from the cabin of the truck.
Sandy and Suzie Lomax just pointed, while others chorused, “Over there,” as they pointed.
“My Lord!” said the fire chief, dumbstruck. He had been called out on all kinds of oddities -- wild goose chases and legitimate calls alike -- down the last thirty-two years. But he had never been called out for anything like this.
“Where is...?” began one of the policemen as they ran from their squad cars. But seeing the fire chief’s gape-mouthed expression, he stopped and turned around to stare at Dryadia.
“So, how do we get her down from there?” asked Sandy.
Not bothering to answer the young woman, one of the police officers pulled out a mobile phone, pressed a button and began to speak into the phone, reporting back to D24 in Melbourne, requesting a police helicopter.
Almost as an after thought, a local reporter who had joined the crowd, did the same thing, ringing through to HSV 7 in South Melbourne.
It was eight minutes before they heard the distant whumph whumph whumph of rotors approaching. And when it did appear, it was the gaudy yellow Channel Seven helicopter that arrived first. Although the black and white Huey from Russell Street arrived only moments later.
“How did they get here first?” said the pilot of the police chopper, cursing under his breath. Reaching for the microphone, he intended to ask directions for this mysterious “floating woman”, but stopped and stared as he saw the dryad now soaring just above the top of the supermarket.
“Holy...!” said the policewoman beside him, leaving the expletive deleted. “Get down lower, try to force her to the ground.”
“Okay,” agreed the pilot, Andrew Holt, looking dubious at the suggestion. He had seen the mangulated wreck of a chopper which had collided with a single seagull. Let alone anything as big as a woman.
“Just watch out for the power cables,” advised Policewoman Jennifer Hanley, as they started to descend.
Andrew Holt grunted his agreement, more than a little put-out that she thought he needed the warning.
Dryadia started to soar well above the roof of the supermarket to escape the gaping crowd and eeeh-aaah eeeh-aaah eeeh-aaah of the wailing sirens below. But hearing the whumph whumph whumph of rotors, she looked up and saw the police copter descending toward her.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled the dryad, thinking the chopper was attacking her.
Mermaid-swimming through the air, she attempted to fish-tail around the copter to the left. But she was almost blinded by a strobe-like yellow flashing of the morning sun reflecting off the rotors of the HSV 7 chopper.
Shrilling again in pain, the dryad rubbed at her green eyes with her knuckles and hovered between the two helicopters.
Hearing the driver of the police copter curse, Dryadia looked behind her and saw two more choppers approaching: one red, one white, from GTV 9 and TEN 10, the other two main Australian TV networks.
“Where did those so-and-sos come from?” cursed Andrew Holt.
Jennifer Hanley shrugged, then reached for the mike to be told by D24 that two more helicopters were being sent from Melbourne. But even before the announcer had finished, they heard the whumph whumph whumph of rotors and saw two more black and white police copters approaching rapidly from behind the two TV news choppers.
“At last, reinforcements,” said Andrew, as though they were under attack from the TV network choppers.
On the ground, across the road from the supermarket, Sandy Lomax stood watching in fascination. The circling, dipping, rising helicopters looked like something out of APOCALYPSE NOW as they rose and fell in constant pursuit of the flying nymph, determined to keep her in the general vicinity of Foodworks.
“What are they doing, mummy?” demanded young Suzie Lomax, who was now being carried by her father.
“Trying to force her to land,” explained Harben Lomax.
“It’s looks like a World War One dog-fight,” said Deni Curran. Although the only dog-fights he had ever seen were in movies.
And like an aerial dog-fight, for a while the helicopters seemed more concerned with circling each other, than upon forcing Dryadia down to the metal overhang of the supermarket. But finally, after a lot of cursing from the police pilots, the three TV network choppers backed off a little. So, only having to trust to the skills of other trained police pilots, the three cop-choppers were able to work together as a team for the first time.
Hovering gradually lower, they carefully circled each other, while driving the floating woman down toward the overhang.
“Now what?” asked Deni as Dryadia finally hovered only centimetres above the metal overhang.
“Now they catch her,” Sandy explained to her father.
“How?” Deni demanded, not convinced. “They can hardly land their egg-beaters on the overhang. It’s not strong enough. And if they get too close to her now, they’re likely to come a cropper with the power lines.”
Even as the old man pointed to the cables that ran only a metre or so above the overhang, one of the cop-choppers’ treads dropped within centimetres of the thick, black cables.
“Look out!” cried Jennifer Hanley as the crowd below “Oohed” and “Aahhed” in expectation. But even before her warning, Andrew Holt had recognised the danger.
“Relax,” said the pilot, trying to sound casual, despite the sudden rush of adrenaline through his blood stream as he operated the controls to deftly lift them back to safety with seconds to spare.
“Phew, that was a close one,” said Sandy, crossing her heart with one hand.
“You said it,” agreed her father.
Realising the choppers could not approach any closer, Dryadia dropped lightly to the corrugated iron roof of the overhang. She began to breath deeply, exhausted after her length first flight.
Then hearing a metallic whining, the dryad looked round and saw the power-driven ladder atop the fire truck swinging slowly across toward her. A burly fireman hung nimbly to the ladder as it swung out, looking unconcerned, as though this was an everyday occurrence to him.
“Look out for the power lines,” warned Sandy Lomax. But, unlike the police choppers, the fire truck was well under the cables and could approach much closer to the overhang and to Dryadia than the helicopters had been able to do.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled the dryad in terror as the burly man swung across toward her.
“Now don’t be afraid,” soothed the fireman. Although a huge bear of a man, he was a family man with a heart almost as vast as his body.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia again as he moved inexorably toward her. She looked up quickly to see if she could escape that way. But she saw the three police and three TV news copters had finally joined forces to form an effective cordon, hovering in a tight net just above her.
“Just calm down, little one, no one’s gonna hurt you,” soothed the fireman, Joe Linde, reaching up toward her.
“Look out, Joe,” called the fire chief below him, as Joe’s right hand got within millimetres of the power cable overhead.
Joe Linde started to withdraw his hand. But the ladder was now swinging upwards as well as forward.
The gaping crowd gasped again, at the danger. But their gasps soon turned to screams of horror as the ladder swung up too far and the fireman’s hand touched the overhead electricity cables.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Joe screamed, and with an explosion he was hurtled into space.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” the dryad screamed in answer to Joe Linde’s shriek of agony as he was suddenly thrown high into the air outward toward the street where the crowd gawked in horror.
“Oh, God!” cried Sandy Lomax as the big man was thrown like a tennis ball into the air. As Suzie started to cry, her mother took Suzie from her father and let her bury her face in her chest.
Inside the cabin of the fire truck, the ladder operator screamed also and watched, horrified, expecting to see his workmate crash to the roadway.
Instead Dryadia launched herself into the air as though diving outwards instead of downwards. The onlookers’ screams turned to “Oohes” and “Aahhes” again as the dryad caught the big man while he was still two metres above the ground.
Then, instead of lowering to the ground as the crowd expected, Dryadia soared upwards again, out of reach of the many hands which had wanted to capture her.
“Where’s she taking him?” Sandy asked no one in particular as the dryad zoomed upwards with her human cargo.
“Back to the overhang, I suppose,” guessed Deni Curran, wrongly. Instead she flew diagonally across the street to land on the flat roof of a small newsagency.
“Is he alive or dead?” Sandy called up to the dryad, as though she expected an answer.
Although she had spent most of the last five hundred years disguised as furniture, Dryadia had seen human corpses in her long life. And it didn’t take long for her to realise that Joe Linde was dead.
Kneeling on the corrugated iron overhang, Dryadia lay the fireman down, cradling his head in her arms.
“What’s she doing?” demanded one of the cops on the ground.
No one answered. Instead they watched as the dryad began to run a soothing hand along the dead man’s brow. A greenish aura, like a flame almost, began to flicker around Dryadia and her charge. Slowly she began rocking back and forth on her heels, like a mother wailing over the corpse of a lost child.
For several minutes, the dryad continued to rock on her heels, ignoring the creaking of the rusty metal beneath her. The greenish aura, flickered and flowed like a fire ebbing and waning. It flared up to a bright emerald, then dimmed to a pale lime, before flaring up again. And so on over and over again.
“Well, isn’t anyone going up there to get them down,” demanded the boy on the bicycle. But for almost five minutes no one moved as the dryad continued to rock the dead fireman’s head in her arms. While the greenish flame continued to ebb and flow around them.
Finally the fire chief started to move back toward the fire truck. “I guess we’d better...” he said. But he never finished his sentence. His words were drowned out by the loud murmuring of the crowd.
Surprised, the fire chief turned to look where the crowd was now pointing. At first he saw nothing untoward. Nothing more untoward that is than what he had already seen. But then he realised that the “body” of Joe Linde had begun to twitch, as though in the last belated throes of life. Or as though reliving his electrocution.
The green flames flickering between the dryad and the fireman had now become a raging storm. Although no sound could be heard, emerald flashes, like green lightning, snaked around the aura covering Dryadia and Joe Linde.
“What is it, lightning?” Sandy Lomax voiced the thoughts of everyone watching.
“Green lightning?” asked her husband, Harben.
“Well, that’s what it looks like.”
“Even if that’s possible, why can’t we see the flashes?”
Soon though, they could hear something. A creaky, metallic sound.
“The green lightning?” wondered Sandy. Then she realised, “No, it’s the metal of the overhang creaking.”
Sandy started to shout a warning that the overhang was about to collapse. But then, she realised she was wrong again. “It’s the corpse of the fireman rocking on the corrugated iron roof.”
At first, as the rocking increased in intensity, it seemed as though it was just the green lightning jerking the corpse around, like the nervous reaction of a corpse subjected to electricity. Then, drawing “Oohes” and “Aahhes” from the crowd, the “corpse” suddenly sat up upon the overhang.
Dryadia continued to press her hands now against the back of the twitching man’s “corpse” and the green lightning continued to silently flash within the co-joined aura. But soon the emerald flashes began to fade out and even the aura itself began to dim.
“What...? Who...?” stammered Joe Linde, slowly looking about himself. He could vaguely recall riding the fire ladder as it swung out toward the overhang atop Sims-Foodworks supermarket. But looking round, he saw the billboards advertising the Melbourne Herald-Sun, the Age, the Australian Women’s Weekly, and other newspapers and magazines, and realised, “My God I’ve got myself five hundred metres across the road from where I was before.”
As the crowd of onlookers screamed, fainted, or backed away in alarm, the fireman suddenly remembered his hand touching the power cable and he thought, “My Lord, it can’t have thrown me all this way?”
“She’s brought him back to life! My God, she’s brought him back to life!” Sandy Lomax thought. For the first time, she realised the dryad was nothing to be afraid of.
Hearing a grinding of gears, the crowd looked round and saw the fire truck backing across the road to have another try to capture Dryadia.
“Why can’t they let her alone?” thought Sandy. But like the others, she moved out of the way to allow the fire truck to back up onto the kerb.
This time with no danger of hitting power cables, the truck was able to back right up onto the footpath.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia, realising her pursuers were again trying to capture her.
She struggled to her feet again. But realising what she was doing, the re-animated fireman moved faster, throwing his strong arms around the dryad to prevent her from fleeing.
“Good work,” called the fire chief, now riding the swinging ladder. He quickly climbed onto the corrugated iron roof, followed by two uniformed policemen.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” Dryadia shrilled. She began furiously struggling, wrestling with Joe Linde, to escape his grip. But before she could get free, the fire chief and the two cops had raced across the creaking overhang to help restrain the dryad.
“Handcuff her,” ordered one of the cops, Sergeant Aaron Powell. He grabbed hold of the flying woman by the arms, while his constable, Les Arnold, reached for a pair of handcuffs.
“They won’t fit her, Serge,” said Les, unable to get the cuffs to close enough for the nymph’s slender wrists.
“Don’t tell me you only brought male cuffs,” said Sergeant Powell, sighing from frustration.
“No, they’re F-23’s,” said Les, referring to the twenty-three notches on female handcuffs to allow them to close tighter than male M-17 cuffs, with only seventeen notches. “But her hands are too dainty.”
“Then, just hold her hands behind her back until I get back onto the swing-ladder,” said Aaron. Then, with the teenaged constable holding Dryadia and the sergeant and the fire chief both helping the re-animated Joe Linde, the small party moved back toward the swing-out ladder.
“Now here comes the tricky part,” thought Sandy, half expecting one or all of them to fall as they attempted to descend to the ground. However, the police and firemen were all highly skilled, and -- despite the occasional expectant gasps from the staring crowd -- managed to descend first to the back of the fire truck, then to the bitumen footpath with a minimum of hassle. Firstly, taking Joe Linde down the ladder to where an ambulance was waiting. Then, by passing Dryadia from hand to hand, the fire chief and two policemen managed to get her to ground level despite her struggles.
At ground level they managed to get the dryad into the back of a squad car with little difficulty. Then Sergeant Aaron Powell returned to ask the crowd who had first sighted the flying woman.
“We did,” explained Harben Lomax.
“Yes,” agreed his mother-in-law, Sally Curran, “it seemed to destroy our cane chair. Well, actually Sandy and Harben’s chair now, we gave it to them. But it had been in our family for fifty years.”
“Chair turned into flying lady,” explained Suzie.
“The cane chair turned into that creature?” asked Sally, not sure if the little girl was telling the truth.
“Chair turned into flying lady,” insisted Suzie, nodding her head for emphasis.
“Sounds like we’re dealing with a manitou. That’s like a woodland poltergeist,” explained Aaron Powell, getting his legends a little confused.
While the helicopters returned to Melbourne, the sergeant and three other cops meticulously collected the names and addresses of all the gawkers, then set off down Barkly Street toward the Maidstone police station.
Walking into the small police station in Short Street, Maidstone, Constable Les Arnold looked toward the reception desk on the right-hand side and asked, “So, how are we going to write this one up, Serge?”
“Just write what happened and what we saw,” said Sergeant Aaron Powell, a tall, thickset man whose nose looked as though it had been broken more than once in the line of duty.
“They’ll lock us up in a nuthouse,” protested the seventeen-year-old constable, whose freckled face made him look fourteen.
“Not with the evidence of whatever film the TV choppers took and the testimony of the other cops and witnesses on the scene,” insisted Aaron, leading Dryadia through the small police station to the metal-doored holding cell at the rear.
Three hours later Aaron Powell and three senior officers from D24 in Melbourne were standing outside the small holding cell. Aaron pulled a peephole open so they could look into the cell.
“Well, where is she?” demanded a police lieutenant, gazing into what at first seemed to be an empty cell.
“Up there, sir,” said Aaron. He pointed to where the dryad was floating a metre or so below the ceiling of the cell.
“My Lord, so it’s true,” said the lieutenant.
At the sound of the voice, Dryadia slowly descended to the floor, like a hovering helicopter landing.
“Now, perhaps...” began the lieutenant. But before he had finished, to his amazement, Dryadia had vanished again. This time by transforming into a small, circular cane chair.
“My God, the cane chair,” said Aaron Powell. “That’s what the Lomaxes said she started out as.”
Seeing their puzzled looks, the sergeant related what the Lomaxes and Currans had claimed and put into their written statements.
“Looks like we’ve caught a hamadryad,” said the lieutenant, a little more familiar with occult legend than the sergeant.
“What’s that, sir?”
“In legend it’s a maiden who lives in forests and is either the spirit of a tree or has some kind of symbiotic relationship with trees. She can shape-shift to look like any wooden object, and reportedly dies if the tree she is symbiotically linked with is chopped down.”
“Er, yes,” said Aaron Powell, understanding little of what the lieutenant had said. “Will you be transporting her to the lock-up in Melbourne?”
“No, best to keep her here. The press have got Russell, Collins, and Williams Streets all staked out, hoping to see us transporting her.”
“Can we go into the cell for a closer look?” asked a bespectacled inspector. “She’s not dangerous is she?”
“No, she’s harmless,” said Aaron, reaching for a key chain on his belt.
“How long can she hold that pose?” asked the third Melbourne cop, a senior sergeant, looking up from a transcript of the Lomaxes account which she had been skimming.
“According to the Lomaxes, indefinitely.”
Inside the cell, disguised as the cane chair, Dryadia watched the gaping eyes through the slit in the metal door. Although logic told her they now knew she was not a chair, her instincts told her to adopt the pose in the hope that they would all go away. But hearing the metal door start to swing open, she realised that they were not fooled.
Shrilling, “Eeeeeeeeeiii!” in terror again, the dryad shape-shifted back to human form. Then instantly shape-shifted again.
“Is it safe to try sitting in the cane chair?” asked the policewoman.
“Well, the Lomaxes claim they used her as a chair for fifty years,” explained Aaron Powell, stopping in surprise as they entered the cell.
Instead of a small cane chair, a large wooden desk now took up most of the floor space in the cell.
“She can take more than one shape,” said the lieutenant, stating the obvious.
He leant forward to place a hand on the yellowing desk. But in a blink of an eye it transformed into a high-backed wooden chair. Then into a small coffee table. Then a small Louis XIV Louis Quatorze chair. Then back into the large desk. Then back to the circular cane chair.
“What is she doing, showing off?” asked the lieutenant as Dryadia continued to shape-shift from chair to desk, to coffee table, over and over again.
“Trying to show us her full repertoire, I guess,” suggested Aaron Powell. He shrugged, not really certain what she was doing.
“She’s scared,” guessed the female senior sergeant, fascinated as Dryadia continued to shape-shift in quick succession from one object to the next. “She’s obviously had a very stressful day.”
“Tell me about it!” Aaron felt like saying. Instead he shrugged and said, “Maybe so.”
“I don’t think she likes being in this tiny cell.”
“The Lomaxes said she was in the lounge room, or the lounges of their relatives for fifty years.”
“Yes,” agreed the policewoman. “But a lounge room is a lot bigger than this cell. And she would have had a window to let her see the outside.”
“I guess so,” agreed Aaron Powell, dubious.
Over the next couple of weeks, Dryadia was kept in the holding cell, while Aaron Powell, Les Arnold, and a procession of police from Melbourne watched her through the slit in the metal door.
The dryad gradually became accustomed to the gawkers from Melbourne. She didn’t mind keeping them entertained by her shape-shifting and her levitation tricks.
First though, there was the problem of what (if anything) to feed her.
“Do hamadryads even need to eat?” asked young Les, after the three Melbourne cops had departed.
“Well, of course they...” began Sergeant Powell, stopping as it occurred to him, “Maybe they don’t, if they’re some kind of supernatural spirit of the forest, or whatever!” After a moment’s consideration, he said, “Surely they do?” But it was more a question than an answer to the teenager’s query.
“Well ... what?” asked Les Arnold. When Aaron Powell stared at him, the seventeen-year-old elaborated, “What do they eat?”
“Well, meat, I suppose,” suggested Aaron. “They’re forest creatures, right? And forest creatures eat other forest creatures, right?”
“Well ... okay,” agreed Les, thinking, “She’s not quite the same as a lion or a wolf or something!” But keeping the notion to himself, the junior constable went to prepare some lamb chops for their unusual inmate.
Inside the small cell, Dryadia went through her “tricks’, shape-changing from human form to cane chair, to coffee table, to large desk, to Louis XIV chair, and so on in turn. All the while she was watching Aaron and Les through the small peephole, as they continued to watch her.
From time to time she also levitated. Either in human form, or a little more unsettlingly while disguised as furniture.
“I don’t know why,” said Aaron as Les returned with a small plate of lamb chops, “but watching a desk levitate is even spookier than watching a woman flying.”
“’Cause it’s like being at a seance where they levitate furniture,” suggested the teenager. He wondered, “Is that how mediums really do it? By trapping a hamadryad, then getting her to impersonate a table and levitate?”
Dryadia watched with interest -- now back in her preferred form as a cane chair -- as the metal door opened, then Les Arnold entered the cell and held out the plate of chops toward her.
“Well, put it on the bunk,” advised Aaron Powell.
The freckled-faced teenager moved to do as instructed. But before he could, the small plate had piqued Dryadia’s interest. So, after a second’s hesitation, she changed back to human guise.
Les pushed the plate toward her, making the dryad squeal and back away at first. But then, realising he was not attacking her, she moved forward again and tentatively reached out for the plate.
Her hand stopped millimetres shy of the plate for a second or two. Then, a little more confidently, she accepted the plate from the redheaded teenager, who smiled broadly at her.
Les mimed lifting a chop to his mouth and taking a bite. “Yum, yum,” he said.
Dryadia stared, dumbstruck at the youth for a moment. Then as he repeated the gesture and said, “Yum, yum,” again, her brow wrinkled in understanding.
Tentatively she raised a chop to her mouth and took a bite.
“I think she’s going to...” began Les. But then the dryad grimaced and looked sick. She spat out the meat which hit the constable then fell to the cell floor.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia, shape-changing back to the cane chair.
Les reached for the small plate, missed, and watched it fall to the concrete floor of the cell and shatter.
“Looks like lamb chops aren’t her thing,” said Aaron moving into the cell to help Les to clean up the mess.
“Suppose we’ll have to try again,” suggested Les as the two officers departed the cell.
Over the next few hours they tried feeding her pork, beef, chicken, rabbit, venison, plus various salamis and other types of cold meats. Each time her reaction was the same: she took one bite, grimaced and spat out the meat and shape-changed back to the cane chair, or one of her other disguises.
By the end of that day both policemen were tired and frustrated and felt like knocking off for the night. The small police station’s tiny budget made no provisions for overtime, so anyone incarcerated in the small lock-up usually had to make do as best they could overnight. But professional pride and human curiosity prevented either of them from abandoning their unusual inmate.
“What now?” asked Les Arnold, as the dryad spat out the latest offering and shape-shifted into the large desk.
“Now, I suppose we try her with fruit and vegetables,” suggested Aaron Powell.
“Fruit and vegetables it is then,” said Les. He picked the car keys up off the front desk as they went to the reception area, knowing he would have to drive to the nearest supermarket, since none of the local green groceries would be open so late in the evening.
A short time later Les returned with two brown paper shopping bags full of fruit and vegetables, which they tried one at a time with Dryadia over the next few hours.
By midnight they had tried all the fruit in the bag and it had all been spat or dropped onto the floor of the holding cell by the dryad.
“Now what?” asked Les Arnold watching Dryadia who had shape-shifted to the Louis XIV chair, which now hovered a metre above the concrete floor.
“What’s left?” asked Aaron Powell, thinking aloud.
“Nuts and berries? Lollies?” suggested Les.
“All right, let’s try her with nuts and berries first.”
The dryad’s reaction to the nuts and berries was the same as that to the meat, fruit, and vegetables. For a second it looked as though she would swallow some raspberries, but after considering for a moment, she finally spat them out over Aaron Powell. The other nuts and berries met with much shorter shift.
“So, much for that,” said Aaron, looking at the red juice stains on his pale blue shirt, despite his best efforts to wash them off with a sponge.
“Now what?” asked Les, helping his sergeant to try to clean his uniform shirt.
“I suppose we try her with lollies,” said Aaron out of desperation.
Boiled lollies met with the same result as previously, making the two policemen duck for cover as she spat them out in their direction. But after a second’s hesitation she began to chew and finally swallow a piece of a Snickers bar.
“She likes chocolate,” said Les, grinning as though he had just won Tattslotto.
“Well, try her with the others,” suggested Aaron. Over the next few days they found that the dryad would eat Snickers, Mars, Bounty, Picnic, Cherry Ripe, Twirl, Chomp, and Time Out bars. However, her favourite by far were Mars bars.
“Now at least we know she’s not going to starve to death in here,” said Aaron Powell. Although he could not help wondering what she had eaten in the forest. “She must have eaten meat or fruit of some kind,” he thought. “After all Mars bars don’t grow on trees, as the saying goes.”
“Well, that’s one thing,” agreed young Les. “But what are we supposed to do with her now?”
“Wait till the powers that be decide what to charge her with, I suppose.”
“But what has she done?” insisted Les. “Flying in a built up area without a plane? Eluding people chasing her? Saving that bloke’s life after he was electrocuted?”
Aaron Powell shrugged. “I don’t know. Attacking that Lomax girl, I suppose.”
“We don’t know for sure she did attack the Lomax girl.”
And the next day Sandy, Harben, and Suzie Lomax came down to the station to correct their original statement.
“It seems she didn’t actually attack Suzie,” explained Sandy Lomax lifting her daughter up so the little girl could sit on the front counter of the station.
“Hit her with a twain,” explained Suzie.
“A twain?” asked Les Arnold, writing out their statement, before realising she meant a train.
“A toy twain,” agreed Suzie.
“It was Suzie’s birthday and she was impatient for her presents,” explained Sandy. “And she was sitting on our cane chair....”
“That is that creature ... that woman disguised as a cane chair,” said Harben.
“Yes, so anyway, she must have been injured or scared when Suzie hit her with the train, and changed back to human form.”
“So, what are we holding her for now?” asked Constable Les Arnold after the Lomaxes had signed their new statements and departed. “If she didn’t even attack the Lomax girl?”
“Observation, I suppose. The big brass are obviously as puzzled by her as we are.”
“Hanger 13 all over again,” said Les cryptically as he went over to the vending machine in the hallway to buy a couple of Mars bars to take in to their prisoner.
“Hanger what?” asked Aaron Powell. After six months he was still not yet used to the junior constable’s obscure references.
“Hanger 13.” The constable dropped a fifty-cent coin into the slot. “It’s where they keep the alien babies and crashed UFO parts at Beale Airforce Base in California. So, the U.S. government can watch them at their leisure and keep them hidden from general public.”
The sergeant rolled his eyes to the heavens in frustration. “Yes, of course, why didn’t I think of that?”
Ignoring the obvious sarcasm, Les continued to roll coins into the slot, pressed button four three times, then bent to pick up three Mars bars at the tray of the vending machine.
As he stooped, Les heard the door behind him open. Looking round he saw the lieutenant from Melbourne and two senior officers walking into the police station.
“Just in time, sir,” said Aaron, going round the counter to greet his superiors, “just as we’re about to feed her.”
“What, with Mars bars?” asked the lieutenant, sounding sceptical.
“Yes, sir. Chocolate bars are the only thing we can get her to eat.”
“Oh,” muttered the lieutenant, a little embarrassed.
Over the next two weeks, Melbourne and interstate cops continued to visit the Maidstone lock-up to watch Dryadia eating candy bars. And to marvel as she went through her tricks: shape-changing and levitation. They were particularly impressed when she levitated while in the form of furniture. Especially the guise of the large yellowing desk, which seemed much too heavy to be lifted by two men, let alone levitate on its own accord.
At first Dryadia did not mind performing for the staring cops. They fed her well: she loved both the chocolate bars and also potato chips which she had acquired a taste for. Although she was inclined to spit out Salt-and-Vinegar or other tart flavours.
Soon though, she grew bored and started to long for her freedom. She knew enough about human society to know she was being held prisoner. And also to know she had done nothing to justify being held in custody.
Although she had willingly demonstrated her shape-changing and levitation skills to Les, Aaron, and the big city cops, she had been practising another skill, which she had been careful to keep secret from her audience. And after two weeks’ captivity in the small holding cell, she had decided that it was time to put this new “trick” to use to make her escape.
“Breakfast time,” said Les, walking into the holding cell one morning. He was not immediately concerned when there was no sign of the dryad, since he knew she could be levitating near the ceiling, or disguised as a small wooden object. But after a slow scan round the cell at both floor and ceiling level, he dropped the Mars bars in shock and ran back to the metal door shouting, “Oh my God, she’s gone!”
As he raced out into the corridor, Dryadia covered her mouth with one hand to stop herself from crying out in terror as they almost collided.
The dryad side-stepped quickly to allow the teenager past her, then ran out of the cell behind him, for fear of being locked in the cell if he slammed the door shut. But in his haste to alert Aaron Powell, the constable did not bother to even shut the metal door, let alone lock it.
Out in the corridor for the first time in two weeks, Dryadia looked about herself, trying to decide which way to head. She knew she could only sustain her invisibility for a minute or two at most, and did not want to fade back into view while still in the police station.
“Oh Lord!” cried Aaron Powell at the front counter.
Hearing running footsteps approaching, Dryadia decided to run in the opposite direction. Only to find herself unable to get out through the back door of the police station.
Knowing she could not maintain her invisibility much longer, the dryad waited till Aaron and Les ran into the holding cell, then faded back into sight.
She knew it could take five minutes before she could fade out again. So, hearing Aaron Powell order Les to lock the police station, she decided to risk levitating to a few centimetres from the high ceiling of the corridor, so she could fly-walk along the ceiling toward the front of the police station.
Dryadia reached the doorway seconds before the constable. However, she was unable to levitate back down to ground level before the teenager grabbed a key chain from the front counter and quickly locked the door.
“Eeeeeeeeeiii!” shrilled Dryadia in dismay as the lock clicked shut.
Hearing her cry, Les Arnold looked up. However, by a concentrated effort of will, the dryad had managed to fade out of sight again.
“All hell will break loose if she’s got away,” said Aaron Powell, running across to the front counter, to ring through to Melbourne.
“I don’t think so, I think she’s still inside,” said Les. “I thought I heard her a second ago, but she was gone when I looked about.”
“Well, just make sure all the doors and windows are locked, while I ring through to Melbourne.”
“Okay,” said the teenager, running to do as instructed.
Doing her best to stay invisible -- which still required a great deal of concentration -- Dryadia levitated down toward the front door to start trying to unlock it. She had seen humans lock and unlock doors many times down the years, but had never managed to unlock a door herself. She had seen people tap the door with their hands and peered down to look more closely at the lock.
Seated at the front counter, Aaron Powell peered across at the front door, as though sensing that the dryad was there, even though he couldn’t see her. After a second, he got up to start round the counter.
Hearing footsteps behind her, Dryadia span round and saw the brawny sergeant bearing down on her. Somehow restraining the urge to squeal in terror, the dryad began to levitate, half-thinking she had become visible again.
As Dryadia floated, unseen toward the high ceiling, Aaron walked across and examined the lock. Unaware that half a metre above his head the dryad was intently watching his every move, hoping to pick up some clue how to tap the door open.
“Looks all right,” Aaron said to himself. He grabbed the door handle and rattled the door furiously.
Overhead, Dryadia was poised, ready to soar forward if the policeman managed to tap-tap the door open. But, to her dismay, he seemed as baffled as to the lock’s mechanisms as she was.
After a few seconds, Aaron Powell turned and strode back to the front counter. He picked up a black clipboard and pen and made a few notations upon a form. Then dropping the clipboard again, he turned and started toward the back of the station to look for the redheaded teenager.
Hovering just overhead, Dryadia waited till the sergeant had closed the door to the back room behind him. Then she levitated downward to check the door’s locking mechanisms again. Raising both hands toward the lock, she began slap-slap-slapping the lock as though slapping someone’s face. Recalling that Aaron Powell had not been able to slap the door open, she realised this must be an unusually difficult door to open.
Nevertheless, she continued to furiously slap-slap-slap the lock with both hands for more than two minutes. Until hearing the sound of approaching footsteps in the corridor behind her.
Knowing she had lost her invisibility again, Dryadia span round to look about for somewhere, anywhere to hide. Seeing nowhere, as she heard the knob of the adjoining door rattle, she stepped backwards, hoping they would not be able to open the door to enter the front room.
As the door began to open though, she realised this was a forlorn hope. So, with nowhere to hide, she hurriedly stepped across until she was in a corner beside the chocolate vending machine. Seeing it had recently been restocked with Mars and Snickers bars, she licked her lips, feeling a pang of hunger.
Then realising escape was more important than feeding her hunger, she quickly shape-changed into a small, triangular, blackwood table between the wall and the vending machine.
As they stepped into the front room, both policemen thought they saw movement near the vending machine. But when they ran over to check, there was no sign of Dryadia.
“Where could she have got to?” asked Les Arnold rhetorically.
Aaron Powell shrugged. “Who knows. Maybe she can walk through walls without breaking them.” Then when his constable stared at him, “It’s no wackier than her being able to fly or change into chairs and tables at will.”
Les Arnold considered this for a moment. “In which case she could be long gone from the station?”
“Possibly, but for now let’s assume she’s hiding, disguised as a chair somewhere inside the station. Lieutenant Smithers will be spitting chips as it is when they tell him what’s happened. Without us unlocking again and giving her a second chance to escape.”
Right on cue the telephone on the front counter began to shrill. The two policemen exchanged a troubled look, then Aaron reluctantly went across to speak to the lieutenant on the phone.
For nearly ten minutes the sergeant did his best to placate the angry lieutenant, while Constable Les Arnold and Dryadia both listened on.
Hanging up at last, Aaron rubbed his left ear as though it was sore. “Okay, let’s turn this place upside down before they get here, in the hope we can find her again.”
“Okay,” agreed Les. He went across to a grey cabinet beside the front counter and took out two copies of the equipment stock take. Which the Victorian government required them to do once a year to list every chair, table, cabinet, calculator, hat wrack, et cetera, owned in the small station.
“I never thought these stupid annual stock takes would come in handy for anything,” said Aaron Powell as the two policemen started toward the rear of the station to begin a systematic search for the missing dryad.
Over the next three-quarters of an hour or so, Aaron and Les meticulously checked everything within the station that wasn’t bolted down. In the hope of finding Dryadia in disguised.
At first Dryadia had not been overly concerned that they would find her. She had been too relieved to be out of the claustrophobic holding cell. But as the two men worked their way toward the front of the station, she had started to realise what they were doing. And she knew it was only a matter of time before they tracked her down.
The dryad considered trying to become invisible again. But she was unsure if she could fade out while in the form of a wooden object. So, far she had only gone invisible while in human form.
So, rather than risk giving herself away, the dryad waited where she was as the two policemen took inventory in the front reception area.
Finishing behind the front counter, Les Arnold looked around the front room slowly. Pointing right at Dryadia, he asked, “What about that small three-cornered stand?”
“Let me see,” said Aaron Powell, walking around the reception desk toward where Dryadia squatted now in terror that she was about to be discovered and locked away in the small holding cell again. When she had first fled the cell she had thought she was home and free. Now after barely an hour in the outer office, she might be about to be recaptured and returned to the dingy cell at the rear of the station.
The sergeant had almost reached the disguised dryad, who was on the brink of a panic attack now, only just restraining herself from squealing in terror, when there came a hammering on the outside of the front door.
“Open up in there, damn it!” came the strident voice of Lieutenant Smithers.
Aaron and Les exchanged a dismayed look. Then they strode across to open the door for their superior from Melbourne.
Calming down slightly at this reprieve, as soon as the two policemen strode past her, Dryadia changed back to human form. Then, before they could turn round and spot her, she quickly faded into invisibility, then levitated across toward the front door to be ready to make a bid for freedom.
“Try to ease round the door,” Aaron Powell started to advise his boss. But before he could finish, Leonard Smithers burst into the front room of the station, almost knocking over Aaron and Les.
As the front door swung wide open -- to the dismay of Aaron Powell -- Dryadia floated outside and quickly soared across to the opposite side of the road.
For a moment she was content to enjoy her freedom, for the first time in two weeks feeling a cool breeze on her flesh. The breeze reminded her of her childhood five centuries earlier in some faraway northern land.
Feeling her belly rumbling, the dryad realised she had not eaten since yesterday evening. She wished she had waited till after her breakfast to make her escape. Or had thought to grab the Mars bars from the floor as she fled her cell. But after a moment she shrugged, realising there was no point grieving over lost opportunities.
Inside the police station Aaron Powell felt a rush of wind pass him as Dryadia zoomed out to freedom. But not seeing any sign of her, he was confident that they had managed to keep the dryad hiding somewhere in the station. Until turning round to look into the front room, and seeing the blank space near the wall beside the chocolate vending machine.
“Hey, what happened to the three-cornered stand?” said Les Arnold, pointing toward where the sergeant was already looking.
Groaning as he realised that they had been outsmarted, Aaron looked out at the pavement through the doorway. “No chance!” he thought. “We’ll never catch her now!”
“Three-cornered stand?” demanded Lieutenant Smithers. “What is all this talk about a three-cornered stand?”
Aaron Powell exchanged a troubled look with his constable, then started to relate what had happened in the last few minutes. Leonard Smithers quickly lost his bluster as he realised it may have been his fault that the dryad had escaped from the police station.
Across the road, Dryadia watched the small station for a moment, then turned away to hunt for nourishment to soothe her mounting belly pangs.
Ignoring the sound of sirens as other police cars arrived from Melbourne, Dryadia flew unhurriedly down Short Street toward the corner. She looked both left and right for a moment uncertain which way to go next, before turning left into Ballarat Road.
Knowing she would become visible soon, she levitated four metres from the ground and flew down Ballarat Road, heading toward Melbourne. She floated past Eleanor Street, then all the way down to the major intersection at Gordon Street, where she turned right.
As she flew down Gordon Street, her belly rumbling told her to look for a source of food. She saw a pizza place on one side of the street and Barracuda’s fish and chip shop on the other side. But neither tempted her to stop. She flew past cake and pie shops until reaching Footscray Hospital, then the shops gave way to the hospital on the right-hand side, and houses on the left.
At the corner of Barkly Street she stopped again, undecided which way to continue. But knowing she had become visible again, she realised that she had no time to ponder and started up to the right.
© Copyright 2013 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia