This microfiction piece was published in the 2015 Spineless Wonders Anthology ‘Out of Place’
Evie lies on her back. The noise-cancelling headphones squeeze her skull. Her surging thoughts press from the inside. Everyone reminds her she has to sleep. The relaxation CD plays but the bewitching voice and tinkling new-age music heighten her frustration.
It isn’t the baby. She’s pretty good, doing what’s expected.
Everything is amplified. At night, through closed doors, she can still hear the dog breathing in the hallway. Drifting doof music competes with her heartbeat. A skateboarder sounds like a freight train on the footpath. Fruit bats arguing in the fig tree sound like pterodactyls.
He brings the baby in for a feed.
Afterwards father and daughter sleep again. Evie doesn’t.
The first train triggers the boom gate’s bells at 04.52 and every twenty minutes thereafter. It heralds the morning cacophony: wattlebirds choking, lorikeets shrieking, magpies gargling.
Every sound shoots an arrow of adrenaline through her body. Her vision is in pixels. Kaleidoscopic windmills twirl under her eyelids. Her chest may explode with her trapped breath.
She finds an eagle on a highway verge—a wedge-tailed eagle. It lies with its eyes open next to a stinking kangaroo carcass. It has been struck by a vehicle; must have been recent as every other predator and scavenger, including its own kind, haven’t yet discovered it. Such is life in the outback—cannibalism is an accepted form of survival.
You stand on gravel the size of cricket balls. She accelerates off in a cloud of ochre. You watch the back of the silver Monaro as it fishtails along the road, if you can call it that. You’re sure she shouldn’t do more than fifty on this surface, but it looks like she’s pushing double that.
My family and I were holidaying at Lake Toba in Sumatra. It’s a huge lake, formed by a massive volcanic explosion over 70,000 years ago, perhaps the largest the world has ever seen. Legend has it that Lake Toba is so deep, people and boats have disappeared into its inky depths, only to be washed up weeks or months later at the opposite end of the lake, up to one hundred kilometres away. It’s said there are strange currents that suck you down under the water, even if you are a capable swimmer.