Down South Night 2: Emma Sees Kangaroos / My Nightmare Unfolds

“Dad really drummed it into me not to drive in the country at this time of day, but there are a few cars around and no roos in sight. Maybe it was just one of those things that parents say to scare you straight…”

Earlier That Day…

“Buddy, in all the time I’ve been here, this is the most I have ever felt like I’m in Australia,” Emma said, beaming. “All I need now is to see some kangaroos…” she continued.

I shuddered.

The horror… the horror…

“You’ve seen plenty of kangaroos before.”

“I know, but not in the wild!”

“What about all the ones at Pinnaroo Cemetery? That was like the first thing we did when you arrived in Australia.”

“They don’t count.”

“Well, you’ve seen the road signs. They’re out there…”

Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned that driving is relaxing, to a point? Well by the end of Day 2, that point had come and gone. Our drive to Margaret River had involved some very narrow single-lane roads, taken at high speeds, surrounded by many a dodgy driver. I could feel my stress levels spike each time I passed another car, and it was taking a lot of my attention just to stay on the road.

Adding a dopey kangaroo or two to the equation could be deadly. My Camry can’t repel firepower of that magnitude.

That Night…

“You know, if we’d gone North instead of South for this holiday, we’d be getting Wolf Creeked right about now…”

After finishing dinner in Margaret River, it was now late afternoon and the colour of the sky was starting to worry me.

“If we leave now we should still hopefully make it back before dark. If we stick to the main roads we should be okay,” I said.

I handed Emma my iPhone, now below 30% charged.

As we drove, my eyes darted constantly from side to side searching for any danger. After about 15 uneventful minutes, I began ever so slightly to relax.

“This isn’t so bad,” I said. “You know, Dad really drummed it into me not to drive in the country at this time of day, but there are a few cars around and no roos in sight. Maybe it was just one of those things that parents say to scare you straight?”

Emma studied the maps on my iPhone. “Okay, you’re gonna make a left really soon, and then it’s straight all the way to Bussell Highway.”

I indicated and started to slow down. “Are you sure about this? It doesn’t look like a main highway…”

“Yeah, turn here, don’t miss it!”

I made the turn, and knew something was amiss. Suddenly the smooth sexy bitumen of the highway was gone; replaced by the loose gravel of my nightmares. The dual carriageway shrunk to a single lane, trapping us on our fool’s course, as the trees and vegetation surrounded us, blocking the receding sunlight.

“Uh oh,” I said. “Buddy, remember what I said about staying away from unsealed roads?”

“I’m sorry, it didn’t look like this on the map. It seemed like it would be the shortest way…”

“You’re using the Whereis app, right?”

“…”

“Because I know I told you not to use the Apple Maps.”

“…”

“Because they’re unreliable.”

“I’m not using the Apple maps, I don’t even know what that is. I’m using Google Maps.”

I sighed. “Buddy, there’s no Google Maps app anymore. They replaced it. That is the Apple Maps. ”

“…”

“Alright, just get on Whereis now and let’s figure out where the hell we are. Does this road actually get us anywhere? For all we know this is the giant driveway of a farm.”

While Emma searched, I drove on. There was nowhere to go but forward; the lane was now so narrow that we couldn’t turn around even if we’d wanted to. My eyes searched in the dim light for signs of civilisation. Every now and then a house or farmstead would materialise in the distance, but there were no lights on. No cars. No signs of life. It was unnerving, to say the least.

“We’re losing reception. It’s not loading anything.” Emma said.

“Okay okay. Let’s not panic.

After about 10 minutes I started to panic.

What if we get a flat tyre? What if the car breaks down? What if another car comes from the other direction? There’d be no way to get around, and one of us would have to reverse in the darkness for kilometres! What if we can’t find our way out?

“How much battery do we have left?” I asked quietly.

“Umm… 14%”

Translation: Doom.

“You know, if we’d gone North instead of South for this holiday, we’d be getting Wolf Creeked right about now…”

“I’m sorry buddy,” Emma said with a sheepish smile. “It looks like the road will take us to Bussell Highway, but it looks a lot different on this app. It’s going to have some twists and turns, but if you keep going you should get a chance to turn right and then get back on the highway…”

“Okay, just help me watch the road…”

What little daylight remained was now wholly swallowed by the trees. I flicked on the high beams and slowed a fraction, my eyes working overtime in the darkness.

“DON’T HIT THE BUNNY!” Emma yelled as I clamped down on the brake.

“I have no intention of hitting the bunny,” I said through gritted teeth, as the critter bounded back into the underbrush.

We continued in grim silence for a while, as the gravel churned beneath us and my heartbeat thumped in my ears. The road stretched on and on, and we seemed to be heading further into the wilderness. In the periphery to my right I suddenly sensed movement.

“Kangaroos!” exclaimed Emma, her voice filled with joy and wonderment.

I slammed the brakes again and we skidded to a halt. The roo didn’t cross the road but continued hopping alongside it, before disappearing into the trees. I took a deep breath and looked at Emma.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she said, her face still beaming. “But it was kangaroos!”

“I only saw one?”

“No there were two or three little guys, hopping along.”

“Well, there you go,” I said, as I cautiously accelerated. “You got to see your kangaroos. They could have killed us all, but you got to see them.”

I stole a glance at Emma who was grinning in the darkness. I tried to keep a scowl on my face and give her a stern lecture but it wasn’t easy. Her happiness was infectious and despite myself, I felt the corners of my mouth start to form a smile. I turned my eyes back to the road, hoping she wouldn’t notice.

Why are the pretty ones always the ones that almost get you killed?

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3 thoughts on “Down South Night 2: Emma Sees Kangaroos / My Nightmare Unfolds

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