This bloke needs all the help he can get…

The heavens are on fire, a million, no, a billion milky pin pricks jammed so close there’s hardly room for dark.

A three-sixty-degree blanket of stars.

Who knew there were so many?

The sky’s clearer in the desert.

It’s so flat.

Silent but for the mozzie trying for my nasal passages and the rustle over on the left there that I don’t want to think about.

Nothing but ochre dust and spiny bushes. Tough bastards. ‘No water. So what?’

Easy for them to say.

If I was that bush tucker bloke, this’d be a supermarket. I’d know exactly which branch to tear off and suck the juice.

Which one to chew on.

Which one’ll kill me.

If I last long enough to care.

What the hell am I gonna do?

I can’t lie down.

The prickly stuff. Whatever it is wriggling in the bushes. He’s still at it. The bull ants I whacked off my jeans.

That, and if I lie down, I’ll nod off in a second, and I don’t think I’ll wake up.

The cramps are keeping me going.

If the sun hadn’t gone down, I’d be out of it by now.

The sand baked for another hour, dusty-dry like a bloody sauna. But the UV and the glare had just about done for me.

I’m shivering now.

It’s chilly where I’m burned.

But it’s nerves, mostly.

I was going west. Back the way I came till I bogged the bloody ute.

Nice move that, dickhead.

Pure bloody panic. Going like the clappers all the way from Jigalong. You’d have put your foot down, too, with the Skinners on your arse.

Talking of certain death.

It’s all relative, isn’ it? Gordo Skinner’s gutting knife. Desiccating on a sand hill. All the same in the end.

I’d rather snuff it in a warm bed about thirty years hence, but that’s not looking awfully likely.

So, west. You know, sun rises in the east, sets in the west. If it’s on my back early, on the right in the arvo, then straight ahead late on, I’m heading the right way. Straight ahead as best I can, ducking around ant hills and scrub.

I got off the truck trail smartish. Do you think I’m stupid?

The Skinners.

Yeah, definitely shouldna pinched their stash. But needs must, eh?

Seemed like a good idea at the time. Wasn’t thinking straight.

I’m not now, either, am I?

Losing my shit.

Ha, ha.

If you thump any harder, Mr Heart, you’re gonna break outa those ribs.

That can’t be good.

The big bush. Well, bigger than the others. A bit. That’s where the sun went down.

So, I’m still going west.

I hope.

Oh crap, was it that one?

Where’s north at night? Something about the Southern Cross and three to the right. That’d be south, wouldn’t it? And which one’s the buggerin’ Southern Cross?

Eh, that one’s moving.

A satellite?

A plane?

Lucky buggers. Slugging beers and watching movies.

There goes my stomach again. Don’t bother, mate. Nothing else to puke.

Whoa. Stay on your feet, buddy. Stay on your feet.

That’s it.

Good. Well done.

Bloody hell. Where’s that bush?

Oh. I can get a bearing off the plane.

There you are. Stuff me. You’re a shooting star!

When you wish upon a star.

You’ll soon know where the hell you are.

There you go. You’re a poet.

Make a wish?

Good a chance as any. Have to be.

Get me out of this, Mr Star. Please.

Please, God.

I don’t want to die here.

Over that rise, son. You can do it.

A rest then. Just a little one. Head down. Hands on knees. Don’t sit. You’ll never get up. Ha, ha.

Christ, this sand’s soft.

Where’s that bush?

Where’s the star?

Gone.

Not now, you bastard.

That’s weird.

Scrub doesn’t have straight edges.

Oh, my God! It’s a car! A camp.

Come on legs. You can go faster than that.

Water.

Food.

Come to me, Mama.

Shit.

It’s my ute.

Oh, no. Oh, no. Don’t laugh, mate. It hurts.

I’ve walked the whole day in a bloody great circle.

Good on ya, dipstick.

Bugger it. I’m done. This is it. In the passenger seat. At least there’ll be shade in the morning.

If I can get my bloody leg in. There, done it.

Jeez, I’m tired…

 

What’s that? The horizon’s red. Where are the stars?

You fell asleep.

You woke up.

Steady, Mr Heart.

What’s that bloody rumble?

Christ. An engine!

Musta woke me up.

Someone’s coming.

Get out! Wave ‘em down.

Aargh. The thighs. The thighs. I’m jerking around like a bloody chook. Ha, ha. As if they’d miss me with the ute blocking the track.

Ha, ha. You’ve done it!

When you wish upon a star. 

Thank you, Mr Star. Thank you.

Or God.

Whichever.

You beauty!

Headlights. They’re coming…

Two sets of lights…

Why’d there be two?

Shit.

The Skinners.

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