Story telling from Australia
I drive out to the desert most days, park the car on a patch of dirt and set off towards a line of hills. In late afternoon the coming night lurks behind those hills, shadows lengthening as the sun slides lower. There’s a weight and shape to the silence out here. On still days you can feel the air give way as you step through it, gravity pressing close. I’m glad I have Maggie for company.
She saw them first, two emus grazing on the track. Her hackles rose and I reached for my phone to photograph them. The elusive creatures high stepped away, with me following, and in the end I gave up. ‘Let’s go Maggie,’ I said, turning back towards the car. That’s when I discovered they were juveniles. Maggie was creeping up on the full-grown adult male, ten metres behind me and twice my size, her belly pressed to the ground like a cat.
The adult male charged, slamming his heavy feet down in a determined bid to crush the threat. Maggie bolted. My elderly arthritic dingo was suddenly running for her life. How long did it last? Four seconds? Five? They covered an impossible distance, seconds lengthening like shadows as Maggie skidded in the sand. She turned a tight corner and cowered behind my legs. The emu kept coming. My arms lifted, my mouth opened and I unleashed a wall of sound that shocked me as much as it did the emu, a primeval mix of fear and anger that reverberated through the landscape, bouncing off the rocks and pushing the beast away. The emus fled.
Silence returned to the empty desert, broken only by the panting of an elderly dingo and the thudding of my surprised heart.