Paul Jasper Richards’
Through The World
Text Copyright ©2014 Paul Jasper Richards
All Rights Reserved
Front cover and Illustrations by TYPO
ALSCAR Publication is part of Clerkson Hall Ltd.
U.S. English Version 1.0
Alasdair, Scarlett, Bella
Beneath the ruins of Steven’s house was a hole, wider than a city.
It had been there for thousands of years. A hole carved through the world by a diamond meteor! But on the surface there was no sign, only trees, houses and roads. Somehow, in the distant past, ancient builders had covered the hole and buried its secrets.
Steven was about to rediscover the past…
"A children’s classic story, layered with humour, greed, immortal spirits and an unforgettable story plot that will stay with you forever!"
Part One: The First Journey
The Power Of Gravity
A Trip Through The World
Part Two: The Great Immortal Hole
Aboriginals In Scotland
A Cutting Friend In Wellington
Tribe With No Name
Hunting The Past
The Utter Nutter
The Opening Of The Hole
The Spirit Of The Great Immortal Hole
The Wind Of Change
Mushroom-Head is Dead!
A Trip To The Center Of The World
William The Conqueror
Part Three: The End Of The World
The Concrete Spider’s Web
The Secret Seven
The Final Mission
Part Four: Forever Saved
A Watery Success
The Complete and Utter Ending
Grandma stared down at me with her big, baggy eyes; “Be a good boy for me,” she said, in a droll voice, which was usually a sign she had taken too much medicine.
“I will Grandma, I will,” I promised, as a woman grabbed my hand and forcefully marched me to the getaway car. I was moving to my parent’s home for the first time in my life – They had been discovered.
Father impatiently reeved the engine as I was bundled onto the back seat. He released the handbrake before the car door could slam shut, catapulting us down the street, on course for Daybrook. I scrambled to the window for one last look; one last wave to Grandma, but she was gone.
Holding back the tears, my attention gradually shifted to my unfamiliar hosts: I knew the postman and even the Jab Nurse better than these people! I had started to wonder if my parents even existed! Until now my only image had been a faded photograph, placed next to Grandma’s telephone. It was all I had to look at when they phoned each year: Two strangers, wishing me happy birthday, and recounting their epic adventures from around the world. I so much wanted to join them, but each time I asked, the conversation always ended with another excuse.
The car continued to splutter and backfire, as if it hadn’t been driven for years. The rusty heap was almost as sickly as Grandma who was being moved to a nursing home. My parents had finally been tracked down to a government building, outside of London, but they arrived at Grandma’s house appearing incapable of looking after each other, let alone me!
A worrying smile interrupted my gloom: I had expected mom to arrive in the latest survival gear, but her clothes looked like they had been sown together from old rags! Her dress was a mishmash of colors, with tiny bells, stitched along the seams. Every time she moved her outfit played a tune! There was no escape: Even Mom’s bleached-blonde, pineapple hairdo could be seen from miles away! I watched with amazement as her spiky hair began to move on its own, until I suddenly remembered what Grandma had once told me: “Nothing about your mother is real.” It was the year Mom was isolated from the rest of the world and couldn’t ring on my Birthday, so instead of hearing about her faraway adventures, Grandma burst into a frenzied, character attack, calling her everything from a liar to a thief, from stubborn to lazy; “In fact she’s just like your father,” Grandma had raged.
Father was taller, and much thinner than Mom. He clutched the driving wheel like a chimpanzee hugging a branch, with his back bent and his arms folded around his knees. He was wearing a brown suit, with missing pockets, that had clearly shrunk in the wash: He now looked like a Swiss yodeler, with his white socks pulled up to his knees to meet the bottom of his trousers. Unfortunately there was still a gap, revealing a mysterious tattoo, weaving up his leg. It was not the only mark on his body. As I rested my head against the door I spotted a row of upturned spades on the back of his neck. They disappeared behind an enormous beard, which seemed to sprout as if no blade had ever touched his skin!
“Don’t fall asleep son – we’re nearly home,” father cheered, widening my tired eyes, before swinging the car into a dead-end street.
“Wow – what big houses!” I marveled, winding down the window for a better look. The road was wide; the buildings wider: Sparkling, miniature palaces, with iron gates, manicured lawns, and sweeping drives. “How can we afford to live here?” I asked.
“I won the house in a game of cards – from a diamond geezer…” Father began to brag, before a Texas poke in the ribs, from mom, stopped him talking. Suddenly my eyes caught sight of a building at the far end of the road that stuck out from the rest for all the wrong reasons. Dad drove closer. My heart stopped. It can’t be that house – please, not that house…
“Here we are son,” smiled Mom, putting down the map, “we’re home.”
It was that house!
The yard was so overgrown it looked like nobody had lived in it for years! Tiles were missing from the roof; paint had peeled off the timber cladding and even a bedroom window was boarded up! If this was the outside, what was it like within?
“Mind you don’t step on anything Steven,” Father warned, with good reason.
“I’ll try,” I replied, but it was not going to be easy. The hallway floor was smothered with cardboard boxes and wooden crates, some precariously piled right up to the ceiling!
“What’s in all these boxes?” I questioned, smelling something unpleasant drifting throughout the house.
“This and that,” answered father, who appeared to be unsure himself. But, with further investigation, I gradually discovered ‘this and that’ meant anything and everything! In the living room we uncovered boxes of books, moldy clothes, cups and saucers, and even a box containing an ants nest! “Remind me to throw that out in the morning,” Father groaned, as a swarming mass of biting insects marched up his sleeve!
Upstairs the scene was even grimmer: On the landing stood three giant, glass jars of wine, just visible through a thick layer of black dust – the same dust that covered the entire house!
“How long have these wine jars been here?” I asked, with a horrible feeling it might not be wine inside!
Father rubbed his sock against one of the labels to reveal a date under a picture of Rhubarb. “Eleven years son – I must get around to bottling the stuff,” he replied, bending down to remove the bung and sniff the contents. “It’s been a long while since I smelt that sweet aroma.”
“Is that because of all your adventures around the world?” I asked excitedly.
“Your room,” continued Father, ignoring my question. “The door’s here somewhere,” he decided, shifting an old wardrobe out of the way. “Yes, here it is!” he called with delight, as the wardrobe suddenly collapsed, filling the corridor with a dense cloud of dust. I rushed for cover as my bedroom door magically appeared through the haze!
“You may need a new wardrobe son,” Father laughed. “Go in and check - You never know what you might find inside!” he added, enticing me over. I clambered across and squeezed my head around the blocked door. “Well?” he asked, impatiently, “Is there another wardrobe?”
“No – there’s nothing in here.”
“Not even a bed?” he asked in surprise.
“No – not even a carpet,” I moaned loudly. “And the window’s boarded up!”
“Oh well, you’re lucky to have a roof over your head,” insisted father, prodding me inside with a stick. “It’s your new school tomorrow, so you'll need plenty of rest.”
“But I can’t sleep like this,” I cried. Father looked at his watch and reluctantly nodded in agreement, before an icy draft of air caught hold of the door and slammed it shut. The room echoed as voices filtered through the damp floorboards. I hunched my coat tightly round my body to keep out the cold and awful smell of pigeon droppings! The front door rattled open and the sound of tiny, reindeer bells faded. I raced across to the window and peered through a gap in the wooden boarding. Under the cover of darkness, a tall, thin figure weaved across the road and disappeared behind the house opposite. The building remained in darkness: Nobody appeared to be home until a mattress poked out of an upstairs window and was gradually lowered down to a smaller, brunette figure in the front yard. “Mom? Dad?” I puzzled, watching with fascination as bed sheets, a quilt and even a carpet followed. If this was all for me, the neighbors were the friendliest I had ever known!
“Sadly we have a special boy,” Mr. Bird began, curling his nose like an angry parrot. “He wants to join our class,” he explained, parading me around the room, like an animal in a zoo! My new enclosure had a leaky roof and smelt of mold and sweaty children. The walls were filled with empty display boards and the tables were squeezed together, between a series of buckets, left to collect the rainfall.
"Steven should have been here this morning, but his parents forgot to get him up!" Mr. Bird moaned, to a heckling of “Shame!” from a child at the back of the classroom.
I looked longingly for the friends I had left behind, as the teacher tried to raffle me off. "Who is going to be Steven's friend?” asked Mr. Bird. “He's from THE house!” he added, to gasps of horror.
“I will sir,” bellowed Jake, a muffin-shaped boy, who hadn’t been listening properly. He was leaning his chair against the back wall, appearing friendless, but he hoped not for long.
Mr. bird pecked the end of his pencil as he looked at Jake then again at my second-hand uniform. "Perhaps it’s too soon for a friend. Let's sit you at the broken table, to make you feel at home," he decided, to a roar of laughter from the teaching assistant.
I reluctantly sat down as Mr. Bird continued the final lesson of the day: The power of gravity. He seemed to talk in riddles as he explained how mass is always the same, but your weight can change! Mr. Bird was being deadly serious and only smiled when I told him my parents had travelled into outer space!
For homework we had to calculate the mass of someone we lived with.
“My mom’s fat!” shouted Jake, “and she’s broken our scales!” he added, in a desperate attempted to avoid doing the homework. Mr. Bird perched at the door, trying to ignore him as he waved us home.
"And she won’t move off the sofa..."
Jake looked around for someone else to annoy and noticed I was unsure which way to go. "Steve - I bet your mom’s not fat," he decided, sliding across the table to introduce himself. “My names Jake – Jake the Cake - Let me guide you home,” he offered, grabbing my arm tightly. This was probably because nobody else would walk home with him, and I soon understood why!
“… Did you know,” Jake swaggered.
“No Jake, what this time?” I sighed. He seemed to do nothing but boast and the more I failed to be impressed, the harder he tried!
“Did you know that my Grandma owns the fastest poodle in the world?”
“That’s incredible,” I yawned, as Jake stopped outside his house and removed a photograph from his pocket.
“And my Great Nan is the oldest woman in Daybrook!”
“Amazing,” I replied, unsure whether the photo in his hand was of his Great Nan or the poodle! “Have to go now Jake, see you tomorrow – Bye,” I said, as Jake the Fake, pulled a half eaten, Krispy Kreme from his other pocket.
“But you haven’t heard my world record attempt for eating the most jam doughnuts in one minute!”
“Another time Jake,” I replied, sprinting home before he could stop me.
Mom was lazily reading a crime novel, in a new black dress, as I steamrollered through the front door.
“Hello love,” she called, without lifting her black head of hair.
“What’s on the old television?’ I asked, moving the ants’ nest away from the sofa.
“A plant pot, three moldy cups and your father’s hiking boots,” she replied, with a giggle.
“Err – what?” I puzzled. “Oh – very funny, but what is there to watch?”
“Nothing, it doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for years – There’s a soccer ball in the back yard – go and play with that.”
“OK,” I grumbled, “but when are you going to take me on one of your adventures?”
“Adventures?” puzzled mom, pulling the book slowly over her face. “Life’s one long adventure – have you been outside yet?”
I shook my head and climbed into the kitchen to look through the window.
“Where is the yard?” I asked, as I suddenly realized finding the ball was going to be the adventure! The back yard was more overgrown than the front! I slipped my coat back on and unlocked the kitchen door. A crumbling, concrete slab marked what was once the start of a path. With a brush in one hand and the dustpan, as a shield, in the other, I plunged on to the slab to begin my mission. Slowly I weaved a trail through a thick wall of bamboo, made of towering Japanese knotweed, which made our English garden look more like an Asian jungle!
“I come in peace!” I yelled, like the first explorer, entering the densest, darkest, and wildest terrain in the world! Nobody had ventured along this path for centuries – I was convinced! Suddenly I froze: there was something blocking my paths! A rusty handle had appeared from behind a wall of ivy: It belonged to a door, but a door to where? I began to brush away the leaves. This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me! Perhaps the door led to a secret hideout, brimming with gold, or a lost land full of dinosaurs or even just a secret yard! My heart raced, but then my mind filled with darker thoughts: What if it was a trap or there was a wanted man hiding behind the door? But this was my first adventure and there was no turning back if I wanted to impress mom! I tentatively turned the handle and forced the door. The rusty hinges had almost seized up as a gap formed around the frame. Holding my breath, crossing my fingers and even holding the brush as a secret weapon, I peered within.
It was almost too gloomy to see anything. I stared for a few seconds until my eyes readjusted to the dark. In the corner was the soccer ball, behind an old mattress, which was leaning against the side of a poky, wooden room.
“It’s a storage shed!” I moaned in disappointment, but I had at least competed the mission. I forced the door wider and stepped inside to collect the ball…
CRASH – SMASH – BANG!
A thunderous boom echoed around the shed and out as the ground disappeared under me!
“Help!” I screamed, as a cloud of earth and woodlice smothered my body, suffocating and disorientating my senses. “I’m trapped!” I spluttered, spitting soil and small creatures out of my mouth! I gradually felt around with my hands: I wasn’t dead and I didn’t seem to be hurt – I may even have stumbled upon a secret room! But as the air cleared I could see no signs of lost treasure: I was just stuck in a small, muddy hole! I began to gaze worryingly at my new position: My head was level with the rotten, shed floor!
“I’m trapped,” I blubbered in a sorry state. “Someone help me – please!” I shouted again, but no one could hear me and if I didn’t do something soon I would starve to death! Eventually, mustering all my strength, I wrapped my elbows over the remaining wooden flooring and kicked into the soil to haul myself out.
I leaned across and picked up the ball before tipping over the old mattress to hide the damage. The mattress pushed a blanket of warm air out of the shed as I pulled the door to and scrambled, still shaken, back to the house.
“Mom – It’s OK – I’m alive!” I cried, but she was asleep, and suddenly waking her to say I had broken the shed didn’t seem a very good idea!
“What’s a matter?” asked Father, peering into the kitchen. “Have you been rolling in the mud?”
“Err. Sort of – I’ve completed my first adventure – I’ve found the ball!” I smiled. “Now I need some bathroom scales to do my homework.”
"Homework!" gasped father, as if it was a dirty word!
"Yes!" I yawned, "and the teacher wants me to write about your trip into Outer Space!" I explained, causing an even scarier look of horror from my father!
“One thing at a time!" he insisted. "Err. Now let me think… bathroom scales… " Father mumbled, scratching his head as he glanced around the room. "Have you looked behind the settee?” he asked. The back of the sofa was another dumping ground, stuffed with anything that wasn’t in a box! I held my nose and lowered my hand, like it was a pick-up crane in an arcade game, but with every grab I just pulled out the strangest of items – colored wigs, toy guns and even a false nose!
“Dad – It’s not here,” I moaned. “Dad? Where are you?” Suddenly the front door rattled and Father burst back into the room. “Are these what you’re after?” he panted, holding out a set of gleaming, digital scales. I nodded excitedly as he passing them over with his tattooed, right hand, which had the letters A–C–A–B inked across his knuckles.
“What do the letters mean?” I asked curiously.
“Always Carry A Bible,” whispered Father, looking up to the sky and crossing his fingers. “Now is there anything else you would like?”
“A movie size television would be nice!” I cheekily suggested. Father sighed and disappeared again.
“Wait! I need you for my homework,” I shouted, as the door slammed. “Oh!” I groaned, looking around for somewhere to put down the scales. I cleared away a few boxes and laid them flat before stepping on to test they worked.
“That’s odd,” I muttered out loud, “I weigh more on these scales than I do at school!”
“Not to worry son, you don’t look fat,” Mom yawned, as she overheard me worrying.
“But there has to be a reason,” I argued.
“They must be broken,” mom decided, “Who knows where that man got them from!” she laughed, as her eyes almost opened. “Ask your teacher for the answer… that’s what they’re there for…”
“I will,” I replied, looking suspiciously around the room for a box containing extra gravity!
At school I arrived late again to find Mr. Bird, in his wisdom, had sat me next to Jake after seeing us walking home together, but it felt more like a punishment.
“Have I told you that this pen is the longest lasting biro in the world?” Jake continued to boast as he prodded it into my arm.
“No, but I can quite believe it – you don't seem to have written anything: All you do is talk and eat,” I moaned, wiping his cookie crumbs off my work.
“It’s the perfect life!” smiled Jake, showing off a row of fillings. “At least I’m not miserable and boring.”
“That’s not true,” I replied, “I live in an amazing house where gravity makes me weigh more at home than at school!”
Jake, for once, stopped and stared, before eventually spluttering, “That can’t be true: It breaks all the laws of science.”
“What laws?” I asked, but Jake, who clearly didn’t know any laws or follow any rules, decided to summons the teacher.
“Sir – Sir – Mr. Bird, over here Mr. Bird,” Jake pleaded, swinging his arms wildly in the air.
“Yes Jake, what is it now?” sighed Mr. Bird, swooped across the room like an endangered, grey falcon.
“Tell Steve you can’t weigh more in different places.”
“But you can!” replied Mr. Bird, much to Jake’s annoyance. “As I told you yesterday, Gravity can vary: Your weight depends on where you are in the world.”
“Are you sure you’re a real teacher?” asked Jake, slumping back into his seat.
“It’s true! You weigh more at the Equator than at the North Pole and your weight even varies with the density of the ground beneath your feet.”
“Is that why I weigh 5 pounds more at home than at school,” I interrupted.
“No!” laughed Mr. Bird, as his neck quivered like a turkey. “I’m talking minute amounts – your scales are clearly broken. Why don’t you take the school’s scales home tonight to finish your homework,” he offered.
“Yes sir, I will,” I replied, but scales were not the only things I brought home that evening. As I rushed up the drive I couldn’t help feeling annoyed that Mr. Bird had insisted Jake came with me to guard the school’s property!
“What a dump! You don’t really live here - do you?” he asked, with one hand masking his mouth to protect against possible infection.
I ignored him.
“Mom, I’m home.” There was no reply. In the kitchen was a scribbled note, struck above the over flowing, garbage can. It read:
Gone shopping with dad, back at 7, Mom.
“How do you live and breathe in a dump like this?” Jake groaned.
“Quite easily,” I replied, kicking an empty rum bottle in Jake’s direction to make room for the school’s scales. “There you are – I still weigh more on these.”
Jake the bully elbowed me off to weigh himself. “Wow! So do I. There must be something in the house that’s making us weigh more,” he decided. “Let’s explore.”
Jake was upstairs in a flash before I had a chance to stop him, opening all the drawers and emptying every cardboard box. “Look what I’ve found!” Jake suddenly yelled from my parent’s bedroom. “It’s one of those old video cassettes – I found it hidden under some clothes at the back of a cupboard.”
“Put it back. Its private property,” I screamed.
“Nonsense,” Jake roared excitedly, and before I had time to snatch it out of his stealing palms he was scrambling into the lounge, in search of a video recorder. “Where is it? Which box is it in?” he asked impatiently.
“We don’t own a video or a DVD, or even a computer, and the television is so old we’re putting it in a museum,” I joked.
“Well what’s that?” he asked, pointing to brand new, 90 inch television, half hidden behind the curtains.
“I don’t know – I’ve never seen it before,” I insisted, but Jake was sure I was lying and stuck his head back into the boxes to see what else I was hiding.
“Get off! Go away!” he suddenly screamed. “Ants, millions of ants! Let’s get out of here.”
“That’s our petting zoo,” I laughed, but Jake still wasn’t listening; he was too busy wiping the swarm of angry ants off his face! Jake always dived head first into everything!
“Not to worry,” he eventually spluttered, “my Great Nana lives close by. She has an old video recorder,” he revealed, plucking the last ant out of his gigantic mouth. “We’ll watch it on hers,” he added, retrieving the school scales, and stumbling through the hallway.
“No! Give it back,” I protested, but I was wasting my breath. I rapidly found myself chasing him down the street, and shortcutting through a maze of backyards. “It doesn’t belong to you.” I continued to yell, as I reluctantly followed him through the French doors of a Victorian villa.
“Well now you’re here, we can both watch,” Jake beamed, pushing the tape into the video player. I lowered my head: I didn’t want to look. It had been hidden for a reason.
Jake ran the tape past the adverts and the beginning of an old, Britain’s Most Wanted, television program. “There has to be something better – this is boring,“ he moaned, having hoped for a horror movie or a secret film, showing proof of Alien landings!
“I’m still not looking – Give it back – NOW!” I cried, as Jake the Pain picked up the remains of a cream cake, from his Nan's abandoned plate, and rammed it into his mouth!
“Its just a video of people in a post office,” Jake garbled, with his mouth still full, before curiously sticking his creamy nose against the screen. “Wait a minute – one of these villains looks just like your mother!” he announced, with a burst of laughter. I kept my head lowered – I wasn’t about to play his silly games. “And the man in the woman's wig could be your dad! He’s a real gorilla, with long arms and hairy legs - just like you!” Jake giggled.
“You’ve never met my parents!” I suddenly remembered, glanced up at the screen.
“No, but they both look like you, and why hid a copy of this program?” asked Jake, who was smarter than he looked.
“Rewind the tape and play it again – slowly,” I ordered. The woman reappeared with strange, purple hair and dark sunglasses, but underneath the disguise she did have mom’s button nose and tiny scar on her cheek. The man, however, was clean-shaven and looked nothing like Dad.
“Can’t you see? The man could be your older brother!” Jake insisted, as he became bored with the video and decided to weigh himself on the school scales.
“That’s strange,” he puzzled, “I weigh even more here!”
“That’s because you’ve not stopped eating!” I snapped, still staring at the image on the screen: I couldn’t help noticing the man’s long, white socks, his bright blue eyes, and the strange tattoo around his neck: Could it be Father, without his face-masking beard? I was unfortunately being to believe, but it wasn't what it looked like:
"Britain's most wanted is a talent show!" I decided, and in a frantic effort to quickly escape, I flew at the video recorder and tipped it upside down, shaking it violently!
“What’s going on?” Jake’s Great Nan suddenly cried, waking up from a long sleep. I hadn’t noticed her lying behind me on a leather couch! “And who is that?” she yelled, adjusting her glasses, and gradually sitting upright, as if she was ninety-nine! “And what is he doing to my video player?”
“I want my tape back!” I explained.
“Jake – he’s trying to steal my video! Call the police!” Nana roared, who was not great at doing anything for herself!
“It’s OK Nana,” laughed Jake, pressing the eject button. The tape poked its head out of the machine and I gripped it like a vice, before pulling my hood up and escaping through the French doors.
I could still hear the old lady moaning above the delighted voice of Jake the Grass, as I leapt over the fence: “Nan – I can’t wait until school tomorrow to tell everyone about Steve’s dad dressing up as a woman! Ha – ha – ha!”
I careered home. My parents were still out. I replaced the video as best I could at the back of the clothes drawer. My heart was thudding as I took a short cut, dropping through a gap in the floorboards, onto the kitchen table. I held back the tears of shame as I crossed out Mom’s message and wrote.
Gone for good, won’t be back, Steven.
I collected a few vital provisions: A toothbrush, a thick winter coat, and three chocolate spread sandwiches from the fridge. This was it – I was ready for anything!
The shed was just how I had left it – dark, eerie, and with a smelly, old mattress covering the floor! Did I really want to spend the night in a tramp’s hostel? But these were desperate times and besides, Grandma had moved to a nursing home and I had nowhere else to go.
With a deep breath, I stepped inside and crouched on the edge of the mattress. The shed was even smaller than I remembered. I unzipped the top of my coat and pondered how long I needed to wait before returning to the house. Suddenly I realized the mattress was warm and dry: It should have been freezing cold and damp! I slowly stood up and a gush of hot air whistled past my trouser leg! The heat was coming from under the shed! I had almost forgot the mattress was hiding the hole in the floor! I quickly leaned it up against the wall and stared back into the murky pit: It still didn’t look very interesting, but it could be the reason for my weight gain! Perhaps there was an active volcano under the house or a super heated underground lake!
As I stood worrying about what dangers lurked below, a worm wriggled its head to the surface and rolled over a shiny, emerald pebble. I looked again and thought I could see a string of clear stones! I smiled to myself: Could they be uncut diamonds? Was I right all along about hidden treasure? Dad had boasted that a diamond geezer once owned the house, but if they were gems, I had only one way to find out: I held my breath and leapt back in…
CRACK – SNAP – POP – ZOOOOOOOOM…
“Help…” I screamed over and over again. The ground at the bottom of the pit had given way, swallowing me whole!
I was helter-skeltering, tumbling down and down, faster and faster. I was accelerating; I was like a non-stop express train, like a rocket to Mars; spinning, whizzing and hurtling, deeper and deeper. I was as quick as thought, as fast as lightning: Transonic, supersonic, hypersonic, that was me! Hotfooting it faster than a bullet from a gun! Travelling further and further into the hole…
My body stiffened with every muscle wrestling against the accelerating pressures on my frail frame, as if someone had placed a gigantic thumbscrew around my chest and was turning it so tightly that the sound of cracking ribs could almost be heard! In fact my whole body felt like I was being forced through a hot funnel which was getting smaller and smaller!
I had hit something. No time to stop and look, I was still going down, but for how long? Within seconds, when I thought the end was nigh, something very strange occurred: The pressure on my body began to reduce: Somebody, it appeared, was unscrewing the pain!
Was I falling as fast?
What was going on?
All I had hoped, since first plummeting through, was hitting water at the bottom and not turning into strawberry jam, but now other thoughts occupied my muddled mind:
Mr. Bird had made Jake jump off a chair at school to show how gravity pulls you to Earth: It was what made apples fall from trees, and pennies drop down wishing wells. But he also said gravity accelerates you faster and faster the long you dropped! If Jake had leapt from an airplane he would have rocketed to the ground! But I was slowing down! My speed was drastically decreasing! I was undoubtedly coming to a stop!
“I think I’m in for a wonderful, soft landing,” I announced, bending my knees slightly in preparation.
BUMP – SMASH!
I had landed, but it took me by surprise – my whole body crashed against the floor, yet I wasn’t hurt! The landing had been soft, but the ground was rock hard! A split second later;
I was falling back into the hole! I hadn’t landed on the floor at all – I had landed on the ceiling!
I acted quickly – quicker than I had ever done before, snatching a vine that was slipping through my fingertips. “Got it,” I cried in relief, as my body jerked to a halt.
For a moment I clung tightly, happy to hang and catch my breath. Only the damp, hairy vine was saving me from the hole below, or was it above?
I felt around with my spare hand – I couldn’t see anything. The place was as black as coal and touch was king! Eventually my hand stumbled upon another vine. I fastened my fingers around it, in a cast-iron grip, and slowly transferred my weight. I let go of the old vine and felt for another: Steadily but surely I swung blindly forward, like a monkey through a starless forest! But I was no ape and just when there seemed to be no end to this underground jungle, my foot hit something solid! It was rock. I pawed the surface with the tip of my shoe. I was in luck; I could feel a ledge, just big enough to stand on. Now all I needed to do was somehow leap onto it!
I took another deep breath and readied myself.
“One – two – three…” I yelled, letting go of the rope and leaping into the black! My hands sprung against the rocky surface. I intuitively gripped onto a ridge in the wall as my feet fumbled for a steady foothold on the slippery ledge.
I was safe, but for how long?
After a few minutes of recovering my strength and catching my breath, like the end of a marathon, I decided I had three courses of action: one, cry for help; two, eat my chocolate spread sandwiches, or three, move off the ledge.
Crying for help was easy, but no one came: Eating the chocolate spread sandwiches in the dark was harder, but moving from the ledge – that was impossible!
I stood frozen to the spot for what seemed like hours, hoping this was just a bad dream and I would wake up at any minute! My idle mind was beginning to imagine the scenery around me: The black hole below, with its smooth, granite walls, and the long, straggly jungle vines dangling from a stormy sky, like giant tree roots. I rub my eyes and looked again, but the image didn’t disappear: This was no mirage – they really were roots hanging from a rocky ceiling! A tiny spot of light was coming from somewhere above my head, illuminating part of the hole, and where it shone from was my way out!
I could now see the ledge disappearing into the distance. I shuffled along until reaching a kind of ladder, carved into the rock, leading directly towards the light! I cautiously clambered up, rising above the tree roots, into a tiny shaft, but the tunnel was becoming more like a rabbit hole – getting smaller and smaller! My lungs began to fill with fresh air, but I was still trapped in the hole. I was just a finger’s length from freedom. Frantically I scrapped the soil with my nails. Suddenly my hands were through! I shoveled more and more earth away with my open palms, but most of it seemed to be falling back into the hole and covering my face! I gritted my teeth and wriggled forward until I gradually slithered out, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon!
I lay in a sprawled heap, almost hidden by giant ferns. I was too tired to move, only my eyes limped worryingly from side to side: What strange land was this? I thought, watching the hazy, red sun rising in the sky.
Sky-scraping trees crisscrossed a deep blue, ceiling of warm air. The forest’s base was cooler, darker and almost suffocating, with head-high bracken and strange, pounding noises! But among the unknown, high-pitch cries brought memories of vacations at the seaside with Grandma: I could hear seagulls – I think. Was the sea close by? There was only one way to find out. I rose to my feet, unfastened my coat and, brandishing my toothbrush like it was a machete, hacked towards the sound!
Fifty, sixty, perhaps even a hundred stumbling strides later, I suddenly emerged from the forest onto a grassy bank. I was almost blinded by the sun reflecting off a vast expanse of water, flowing silently across my path. Seagulls circled overhead, like hungry vultures. I sniffed the air and could smell the faint whiff of salt and seaweed. The river must lead to an estuary, but which way was the ocean? If I could find it, the coastline might be my best way of finding help.
I sniffed the air once more and pointed; the birds swiftly flocked the other way, causing me to impulsively chase after them!
The grassy bank flew under my feet, while the sun’s rays cooked me like a roasted chicken! I was hot, red faced and extremely sweaty – except for my body odor, this place was nothing like England!
The seagulls, now a just a few dots on the horizon, suddenly about-turned and swooped past in the opposite direction, frightened by a loud bang.
I slowed down and looked around to see where the noise had come from. Both sides of the river were covered in dense forest. A broken branch floated by. I had run up stream, into the heart of the Island! The noise repeated like the sound of a beating drum, quickly followed by howling pipes.
Tribes! The island was inhabited!
I had read about lost tribes: They were probably spying on me at this very moment! I nervously peered through the wall of trees, but the dense undergrowth and overhanging branches, blocked any chance of a sighting.
The pipes continued to bellow, louder and more aggressively this time: They must be sending a message. My imagination was running wild! The deep, low-pitched pipes played.
BOOOOOM – BABOOOOM – BOOM – BOOOM – BABOM
It must mean, ‘The boy is next to the River!’
“I surrender! Please take me alive,” I cried, sticking my dirty hands above my head, but nobody came, and after a few minutes my arms were beginning to ache: Perhaps they weren’t hunting me after all! They could even be friendly!
The rhythmic beat of an accompanying drum was drawing me towards them, like the mystical notes of an ice-cream van! I knew I should be running as far away as possible, but I was slowly stepping back into the enchanted forest!
The drum softened as the pipes played again. Suddenly I could see dancing figures weaved a trail across the forest clearing. I plunged to the ground with a diving belly flop, hiding my body in a pile of red earth. It was impossible to seen who or that they were, so reluctantly I snaked forward until my head entered the clearing.
Sparsely clothed men, with red headbands and white paint-markings all other their dark skins, bleared into vision: Dancing warriors, two of who blew pipes and a third bashed a beat on a pair of tom-toms.
I gasped for breath as my body seized with shock, not helped by the now singing warriors, who appeared to be chanting a war song in a strange, yet wonderful language.
What should I do – retreat or surrender? If I run, where will I go? But if I stay, they might eat me! Both options only managed to keep me pinned to the ground, motionlessly watching; terrified that I would be caught. But after about ten minutes the warriors stopped their war dance and instead collapsed to the ground in a circle. They began talking, smiling, and even laughing! Perhaps these were friendly warriors after all; a fleeting thought that brought me staggering to my feet.
“HEY YOU!” shouted a warrior, pointing his finger and raising his fist: The laughter was over: I had been spotted and they were after my blood!
“Please – please don’t eat me. I’m only skinny and I won’t taste nice,” I sobbed, falling to my knees.
“It’s all right boy,” sighed the warriors, leaping towards me; “Wipe your tears away. We’re are not going to hurt you,” he insisted, holding out a hand of peace.
“You speak English as well,” I gasped, as he led me to the others.
“Of course we do,” replied the warrior. “Have a seat. Would you like a cookie?” he offered, sitting me on the edge of the circle. I nodded.
“Fetch the boy a drink. In fact, let us all have a drink. Will lemonade be OK?” he asked. I nodded again – my tongue well and truly tied.
A plastic container was dragged from behind a bush. The lid unhooked, revealing a bottle of lemonade and a crate of beers. “It’s an esky box – it keeps the drinks cool,” said one of the pipe players as he noticed my puzzled expression, but that of course was not what was freaking me out! Eventually I murmured, “Who are you?”
“My name is Jason, and these are my friends.” He pointed slowly around the group, introducing them one by one. “Did you get lost looking for our act?”
“Act? Is this a play?” I asked in astonishment.
“Sort of: We are the Nhowamttinberie Historical Tribe.”
“But I thought you were real warriors!” I grinned. The men half-laughed.
“We may be Aborigines, but we don’t live in mud huts,” grunted the drummer, who was clearly insulted.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend,” I whimpered.
“This is our job. We are actors, paid by the Muldjewangk Historic Park to entertain the tourists,” Jason announced proudly.
“But your skin’s covered in white paint markings.”
“Have you never heard of soap?” the drummer asked, sniffing the air around me! “I think you had better move on,” he added, noticing I wasn’t wearing a park sticker. “I bet you haven’t paid to enter,” he decided, pulling the cup from my hand.
I shock my head and replied, “No, but there’s a reason. I fall through this hole…”
“In the fence!” interrupted the drummer, rising to his feet. “We thought you had lost your parents in the park.”
“I’ve kind of lost them: I’ve run away from home…”
“I’m sorry boy, we don’t have time for this,” Jason grumbled. “You need to follow that trail out before the Ranger comes and catches you,” he warned, pointing to a red, dirt track. “You'll come to a bridge; continue across and through the forest, until you pass near a wall; climb over and head along the narrow lane until you see the signs to the bus station at Wellington.”
“Thanks,” I replied, not quite listening but quickly realizing I had outstayed my welcome. I turned to retrace my path. I had had so many questions I wanted to ask, but if a town was close by I might be able to find help there.
“Not that way!” shouted Jason angrily, waving at a sign close to where I had first emerged from the forest. It read:
Site of Significance:
Beyond this point lies an aboriginal site of a sacred nature.
Trespassing on a sacred site carries a penalty of $10,000
“Oh, sorry,” I gasped, lowering my head in shame. I about-turned and disappeared down the almost hidden, red, dirt track. I still had no idea where I was, but I had heard of Aboriginals: They talked in a strange accent and used to live in tribes – Perhaps I was near Aberdeen, but I’m sure that’s in Scotland!
The red path rolled over a stone footbridge and deep into the woods. If I could reach the Bus Station I might be able to travel back to Daybrook before my parents realized I was missing! But first I needed to escape the bewitching forest. The path seemed to curve around, like the shape of a slipper, until it finally emerged along side a high, rocky wall, next to a busy, country road. I waited until nothing was coming and climbed over. A truck flew passed, almost sucking me under! There was no pavement, just a raised verge full of nettles and prickly bramble bushes. Reluctantly I trekked through the weeds for about a mile, but my trousers were no protection against thorns and stinging leaves! My legs felt like they were being used as a pincushion until the road suddenly forked into two: A rotting signpost pointed left to Wellington and right to Wellington East. Both names were so similar I couldn’t remember which Jason had said. The Wellington East sign was pointing back to the river, with a picture of a ferry, but the route to Wellington had a pavement, which by now was the ultimate decider!
Pavements are highways for people, but although nobody was insight, signs of life gradually loomed into view: A hen shed poked out from the wood as all the trees began to clear, replaced by the first wooden barn. A horse galloped across a field as mowed lawns and an isolated building replaced knee high grass. One house turned into two, and within a block there was a flood of homes, with the addition of double garages and small side roads. The Bus Station was probably not far away.
A front door slammed shut, breaking the street’s uneasy silence. I swiveled my head just in time to see a girl jumping over a yard gate and hurdle towards me, carrying a heavy bag.
“We’re late. We’re late. No time to waste!” she warned, passing me her bag to carry!
“What do you mean?” I asked, worriedly.
“You are new – aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I answered: I was new and very confused.
“If we don’t hurry we’ll be late for school,” insisted the girl, with slightly floppy ears, as she looked again at her watch.
“What!” I shrieked in alarm.
“School! I saw you walk past – you must be the new boy my teacher was moaning about!” she laughed, brushing my sweater with her hand to remove some soil.
“Hold it,” I snapped, digging my heels into the ground. “School – twice in one day! NO WAY!”
“Sorry? I don’t understand,” puzzled the girl, finally stopping to look at me properly. “Why are you talking in a funny ascent and wearing the wrong school uniform?” she questioned, twitching her nose with suspicion.
“I’m from Mighty Daybrook, and I’m wearing this sweater because I’ve already been to my school today.”
“I’ve never heard of the place, and you can’t have been to school today because it’s only 9 O’clock.”
“Now I know you’re lying,” I insisted.
“I never lie and I shouldn’t be chatting to nongs like you – I’m late.” And with that she grabbed her bag back and sprinted down the lane.
“Nongs? Wait! What do you mean?” I asked, chasing her shadow: Nothing was making sense, but the weather was sunny, the air was unpolluted, and perhaps my journey home could wait a little longer!
“Please slow down. My name’s Steve – Steven Appleby; what’s yours?” I asked breathlessly.
“My father says I should never talk to strangers – especially boys!”
“But you’ve just been speaking to me!” I said in disbelief.
“That was when I thought you were the new boy at school!” she explained, slowing down as we reached the corner of an ugly, metal building.
“I am new! I’m just confused. What’s your name? I really need a friend.”
“I don’t! You’re a boy and you smell like a hobo!” the girl moaned, “but just maybe I could use you – I’m Jane,” she suddenly announced, leading me round the back of the building and onto a water butt.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Shh… Now keep a lookout for the teacher. If she catches me late again, I’m blaming you!” Jane whispered, squeezing quietly through a window.
“Where’s the school entrance?” I asked, dropping down beside her in the corridor.
“Around the front, but the door sets of a buzzer,” Jane explained, looking over her shoulder nervously, before sneaking, commando style, out of the cloakroom and through the back of the classroom towards her seat: It was a long, narrow room, with windows either side, and doors at both ends: One of which led to the entrance hall and another to a room labeled ‘Sin Bin’, but it looked more like a tiny prison cell, with a blond boy standing behind a barred window! I looked around almost expecting to see Jake leaning his chair against a wall, but the tables were in neat rows, with silently working children.
“Jane Cutter – Late again! I can hear your shoes squeaking on my newly polished floor!” screeched the teacher from across the room. “Come to my desk immediately,” she ordered, as Jane stood up and pushed me forward.
“Miss Flatfoot – I have a reason for being late this morning,” she answered, with a smug smile across her face.
Miss Flatfoot, a tall, spotty lady, peered down at us through a pair of thick, dark glasses, perched on the end of her flat nose. “No excuse is good enough: I’ve warned you before – You’re joining Matthew in the Sin Bin and I’m calling your parents,” she bellowed, rattling her keys and pointing at the isolation room.
I lowered my head and gazed at her fluffy slippers, but Jane was staring straight at her. She had a plan and I somehow knew it involved me:
“Miss Flatfoot – I’m late because I had to bring the new boy to school,” Jane explained.
Miss Flatfoot bent her mop-shaped head lower; “Tell me more…”
“It’s like this Miss Flatfoot,” Jane began. “I saw the new boy, lost and lonely, who’s come all the way from…” Jane stopped and nudged me to fill in the gaps in her excuse. “He said he was from…” she repeated, elbowing me to respond.
“England,” I replied.
“England!” gasped Jane with surprise, before recovering her composure. “Yes he’s flown all the way over from England to be with us in Australia.”
“Australia!” I parroted, with total shock.
“He says he’s been to school already today, but I told him nothing compared to your lessons!” Jane continued to charm.
“I don’t believe that’s possible,” shouted the boy from behind the bars, “because the flight from England is more than eighteen hours and even taking the time difference into account…”
“Be quiet Matthew: I’m the brains in this classroom,” roared the teacher, before returning her attention to me. “What is your name? I wasn’t expecting the new child until next month.”
“Steven,” I whispered nervously.
“Steven Apple-Pie,” Jane added, trying and failing to make it look like she knew me.
“That’s a silly name – The boy has a tongue, so let him use it,” hissed Miss Flatfoot, sniffing the air around me, like I was rotten to the core!
“It’s Steven Appleby,” I explained.
“Oh this is awful – another smelly child to teach,” Miss Flatfoot moaned, who already had forty-nine students! “You had better sit next to Jane so she can tell you what to do,” she decided. “But first, here is some soap: Get yourself washed and find some old clothes from the lost property box, because anything is better than what you have on!” she groaned, before returning to finish mopping the toilets.
Within a few minutes I smelt of cheap soap and was squeezing into a white T-shirt and a pair of shorts. No one dare look up as I sat back down next to Jane. The morning’s lesson had already started: It was handwriting and to my amazement every child had a white stick and a rectangle block of black slate.
“What is this?” I asked, as white powder rubbed onto my fingers.
“Chalk, silly,” laughed Jane.
“But this is what the Victorian’s used,” I moaned, “In our school we all have touch control tablets and computers.”
“I don’t know what Victoria uses, but we stopped using electrical devices months ago,” Jane informed, chalking her name across the top of the slate. “Miss Flatfoot says computers are using up all the world’s resources: Slate and chalk are so much more eco friendly.”
I looked around to see if Jane was joking, but even the teacher was using a rotating black board in the center of the classroom! Every time it came into view you had to copy a line from a list of Shakespearean quotes, starting with ‘Two pints, or not two pints’, but with each line I wrote I decided it looked more like Miss Flatfoot’s weekly shopping list!
“What am I doing here?” I yawned, but I was too tired to think straight and copying the words seemed to be all I could manage:
‘O Chocolate, O Chocolate, three bars of Chocolate,’
‘Two crates of true lemon and milk smoothies.’
‘Pie and mini eye…’
“Steve – Steve – wake up,” shouted Jane into my ear as the school bell rang.
“Where am I? What’s happening? Who are you?” I slurred, lifting my head off the desk.
“We have to go. You can’t sleep here any longer,” Jane panicked. “Miss Flatfoot is already wiping the tables!” she added, dragging me out of the classroom.
“How long have I been asleep?” I asked, as I slowly realized I was still far away from home.
“All day! It’s the end of school,” Jane replied, “but don’t worry; I have your homework in my bag.”
“Homework!” I cried, not quite believing my ears.
“Yes – It’s to finish all the work you should have started in the lessons,” Jane explained. “Miss Flatfoot is really angry with you for falling asleep.”
“But why didn’t she wake me?” I asked, as Jane marched me out of the school.
“She tried, but you were so jet-lagged you didn’t respond, and she eventually gave up trying and decided to clean the sink instead!”
“But it’s my first day and I already have homework from my other school!” I continued to argue as I followed Jane along the road and back to her house.
“If you don’t do your homework tonight Miss Flatfoot will call your parents!” Jane warned, as we reached her yard gate.
“That will be hard!” I laughed; “My parents don’t have a telephone or a cell phone, and they don’t even know I’m here!”
“What do you mean?” asked Jane.
“The truth is I’ve run away from home!” I admitted, taking a deep breath. “I’m hungry and don’t have anywhere to stay.”
“Have you stowed away on an airplane?”
“No, but it’s a long story,” I said, “and you will never believe me.”
“Try me!” insisted Jane. “Come inside and tell me more!” she beckoned, with a slight look of disbelief and nosiness all rolled into one! “My parents always leave a key under the mat if they're going to be late,” Jane explained, jumping over the gate to look. “Yes, it’s here. They must still be at the cafe,” she added, opening the door and waving me through to the kitchen.
The bungalow was even hotter than outside, with an American size fridge helping to circulate even more heat around the kitchen.
“Now tell me: What’s going on?” Jane asked, pouring me a glass of ice-cold lemonade in exchange for some answers.
“What do you want to know?”
“Firstly – why have you runaway from home?” she asked firmly.
I stayed silent for a minute, pinching myself once more to check I was really awake, before finally asking, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes – why? Have you murdered someone?” Jane fretted, stepping back from the table.
“No – Nothing like that. I was upset because I don’t know my parents very well and they seem to do very strange things so I decided to hide in the storage shed and then…”
Over the next quarter of an hour I warily recounted my incredible story in as much detail as I could remember. At the end Jane just stood up and stared at me in disbelief. Eventually she said, “Are you telling me you’ve travelled all the way through the World!”
“I’m not sure. Where exactly is Australia?” I asked, as the ice in our drinks melted into water.
“My father has a new globe in his room; I’ll go and fetch it,” Jane muttered suspiciously. The globe was quickly conjured up and placed in the middle of the kitchen table. “Here’s England and here’s where we are,” Jane explained, pointing from one side of the world to the other. “Wellington is too small to be marked on, but it’s next to the Murray River, close to Adelaide, on the south coast of Australia.”
“So I did smell the sea.”
“Yes.” Jane nodded.
I peered more closely at the strange globe. All the countries were upside down and looked smaller than I remembered. “Why is Australia at the top? And since when has Florida been an Island?” I questioned, spinning the globe slowly around.
“This is the brand new, Australia Eco globe. It shows the predicted coastlines of the future, caused by rising sea-levels!”
“What rising sea? ” I panicked.
“Don’t you know anything,” Jane sighed. “Human’s are warming up the Earth and the ice caps have begun to melt!”
“But Grandma says it’s not happening.”
“Your Grandma’s living in the past,” Jane groaned.
“But I don’t understand – since I fell through the Hole, the world has changed!”
“What do you mean?” asked Jane, even more confused than me.
“One minute it’s winter, and the next its summer and the icebergs have melted!”
“Yes, but Australia is the opposite way round to England: When we have night you have day and when you have Winter we have Summer…”
“But how do I get back home?”
“Not the way you came!” Jane joked, “but you will need a lot of money to pay for a flight back – England’s the other side of the world! Are your parents rich?”
“No! They keep borrowing from the neighbors,” I admitted, “and I need to fly back quickly, because Grandma’s ill!”
“Don’t get upset – I’m sure she’ll be fine – most people now live until they are at least a hundred!” Jane promised, as she heard her parents arriving. “Now sit in the living room and leave the talking to me.”
Mr. Cutter was first to step into the house, carrying a dirty white, chef’s hat and a double-breasted jacket, embroidered with the words, ‘Mavis and Gilbert’s Palace Cafe’.
“G’day guys!” Jane called, as her mother followed with a bag of shopping.
“Hello sweet heart,” she replied in a strong, Australian ascent, planting a kiss on Jane’s forehead. Mrs. Cutter was naturally beautiful, with legs as long as a fashion model, but Jane’s father was short and ugly, with a face that looked like it had been boiled in a pot!
“Who’s your friend?” asked Mr. Cutter, noticing me almost hiding at the other end of the sofa.
“This is Steve. He’s a new boy at school. He’s come all the way from England to visit his Aunty,” Jane explained, as I stood up to shake his hand.
“Oh,” grunted Mr. Cutter, “He’s a Pommy!” he added, turning his back and disappearing into the kitchen.
“Is it alright if he stays for dinner?” Jane begged, turning to her mother for help.
“Of course it is darling. Daddy can put another shrimp on the Barbie!” she replied, leaning over to shake my hand, “And you can ask your Auntie to come over and bring a plate.”
“Pardon?” I asked, not understanding a word she had said!
“Mom’s inviting your Auntie over for a barbecue, if she brings a plate of food to share,” Jane explained, nudging me to decline the offer.
“No… Err… thank you Mrs. Cutter,” I stuttered. I was not good at lying and Grandma always said a classic sign of a liar was a person who gave too much detail, which I suddenly found myself doing! “Auntie doesn’t like to leave the house, and she doesn’t like children very much either!” I explained. “I try to keep out of her way as much as possible…”
Mrs. Cutter smiled sympathetically, before following her husband through the kitchen door and out into the yard.
I sat back down again and heard my stomach rumbling: I was unbelievably hungry and while waiting to eat I began to tell Jane about my parents, their cooking, and the state of the house I had been left behind!
“Wow,” Jane gasped, “My parents are so average compared to yours!”
“Yes!” I laughed, at first agreeing, but later, around the picnic table, I decided they weren’t quite as normal as Jane described: Her father was a typical, red faced chef who had large, round eyes that appeared to bulge out their sockets every time he got angry! Jane’s mother, though lovely and sweet, was completely helpless in everything she did! Mr. Cutter kept exploding with rage, as she repeatedly knocked over drinks, dropped food, and swung a sharp knife so close to his chin, that his stubble was being sliced off and sprinkled over the salad!
After dinner Jane cornered her mother in the kitchen to have a private chat, before excitedly pushing me along the hallway to her bedroom.
“This is huge!” I marveled. The room was filled sky high with toys, most of which were new to me. Jane looked slightly embarrassed by her teddy collection as she threw Jasper Koala off the bed to make space for me to sit.
“I have brilliant news!” she quickly announced, “Mom has agreed to call Miss Flatfoot and tell her I won’t be in school tomorrow because WE are going on a archaeological expedition!”
“For what?” I asked, as Jane opened her wardrobe to choose an outfit.
“The Hole of course! I said you and your imaginary Aunt were taking me to see one of the greatest wonders of the world!” Jane explained, who was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of seeing through the world!
“But it’s not that simple,” I sighed, as Jane held up a prom dress, “the Hole entrance is somewhere in the middle of a forest, on Aboriginal land.”
“So?” asked Jane, “If it’s muddy I can wear jeans.”
“No! I’ve already been caught once, and if they catch me again we could both be fined $10,000!”
“O.K,” Jane mumbled, turning to her double screen computer for a way round the problem. “Some one else must know about the Hole, or at least be looking for it,” she decided.
“Perhaps, but I first need to contact my parents: They’ll be really worried about me,” I insisted, as Jane began searching for information about a hole through the world.
“You can use my cell phone or I can social network them,” Jane offered, while opening up a street map on the other screen.
“Thanks, but as I told you earlier, they don’t own a telephone or a computer!” I admitted. “I think Dad’s convinced people are listening to his conversations!”
“But you do have a house – with an address – don’t you?” Jane checked, zooming into a map of Daybrook, like a private detective!
“I think we live on Wordsworth Road, but I can’t remember the number,” I replied.
“No need: I’ve found your house, and you won’t lying!” Jane gasped, enlarging the street view of my home. “I’m surprised you even have a bed in there!” she laughed as my house looked even worse on the screen than I remembered.
“Are you helping me or not,” I asked angrily.
“Yes – you’ll have to contact your parents using my friend’s latest craze – It’s called Letter Writing and you send your message through the post!”
“Why do you do that?” I asked.
“It stops your family and the police reading your secrets!” Jane explained, “I’m surprised your Dad doesn’t do it!” she smiled, pulling open a bedside drawer and taking out a pink, watermarked sheet of paper and a ribbed, black envelope.
“I don’t think he can read and write very well,” I sighed.
“Well I hope someone can read this letter, because this is expensive stuff, so don’t make any mistakes,” she said, handing over a sheet. “I’ll put my address in the corner, and you can find your house number from the street map,” Jane decided.
I jotted a quick message to my parents explaining I was safe, but stuck in Australia, and warning them not to enter the shed! Jane returned to searching for the Hole as I began to worry about sending a letter; “How long will this take to get to my parents?”
“It could be weeks,” Jane replied, as she eventually gave up searching the Internet.
“But I can’t wait weeks! I’ve got nowhere to stay and Grandma’s ill,” I cried, not knowing where they had taken her.
“Stop worrying. I know a great hiding place for you to sleep,” Jane grinned, “It’s Grandfather’s bedroom.”
“Does your Grandfather live with you?”
“No – not anymore – he’s dead!” Jane announced, “And the room’s been locked ever since he died in his sleep!” she explained, causing my face to turn pale. “It’s OK – I often secretly go inside to play – you just have to force open the window.”
“But don’t you think it would be simpler if I told your parent’s the truth?” I asked.
“No – that’s crazy – you don’t have a passport or a visa – they’ll call the police and lock you up!” Jane insisted. “But if this Hole is real, it would be the greatest find ever, and could be your passport home!”
“It would make you famous and you could get a reward, and perhaps even money to buy a ticket home!” Jane decided, pricking my ears with interest. “If we talk to the right person, they could get us into the forest so you could show me the Hole!”
“The local News Channel or perhaps the newspapers,” Jane suggested, with a beaming smile, as if she was already practicing for the prize photograph!
“And who is going to believe my story? They’ll probably say I'm a stupid child telling fairy tales!”
“OK – so what do you suggest?” asked Jane, as she sulkily put away her prom dress.
“I can’t be the first person to find the Hole – As you said, there must be others,” I replied, standing up to think.
“I’ve just searched and there’s nothing there.”
“Yes, but the Hole is in the middle of an Aboriginal sacred site, so surely the Aboriginal dancers must know something about it,” I decided.
“Possibly, but even if they knew, they wouldn’t say; they’re very protective of their culture,” Jane insisted.
“O.K., but this Hole is old. I’ve seen chisel markings in the stone walls and carved drawings, and they were all done before the computer was invented!”
“I think we need to visit an ancient library. There’s bound to be a forgotten Aboriginal book with the answer,” I announced confidently.
“There’s a old Library at Murray Bridge,” Jane remembered, “But if that doesn’t have any information, you’ll have to take me to the National Park at night and SHOW ME THE HOLE if you still want to sleep here!”
Reluctantly I agreed and, as the sun set, I said my goodbyes to Jane’s parents, before circling the house and forcing open the window. It was too dark to see anything and once I found the bed, my sleepy head touched the pillow and within seconds I was out like a light!
The window crashed open, shooting me out of the bed and back to reality!
“It’s only me,” called an innocent voice from the yard.
“Jane! You almost scared me to death,” I panted, my heart still racing.
“Don’t you die – no one would ever believe how you got here!” she joked. “And the room’s not been cleared since grandfather croaked!”
I suddenly looked around: In the light of day I could see the walls were totally covered with paintings, photographs, maps and even stuffed animals! The room was like an explorers attic, with more strange boxes that my own house!
“You can have a proper look late,” insisted Jane. “My Parents have gone to work and we need to hurry,” she added, disappearing around the house and down to the front gate. I quickly followed in hot pursuit – I found Grandfather’s room creepier than a haunted house!
“So how do we travel to this Murray library?” I asked. “Is it by a Tasmanian devil buggy, with night vision, conveniently parked in a bush?”
“No, actually Steve, we are catching this bus!” she huffed, sticking out her arm to flag it down. “Not everything in Australia is different!”
* * * * *
The library was not easy to find. It was hidden down a side street, like a forgotten relic. The entrance was built to impress. It was shaped like a castle moat, in a time when size meant everything. Below the portcullis were checkered tiles which guided you to the ‘Desk of all knowledge’ and a giraffe of a man, who looked down at us with suspicion. The librarian was all legs and grey Afro, and must have been over eight feet tall! He had not seen a child enter the library alone in years and backed away to get help.
I stared at his size in disbelief as he continued to spin a book on one finger!
“Librarians are picked for their height, like basketball players, so they can reach the top shelf!” Jane whispered.
“But can't they use ladders?”
“Don’t be silly – they were banned years ago! Ladders are far too danger!”
“And what can I do for you – young children?” interrupted another giraffe size librarian, who’s head was almost touching the ceiling!
“Have you any books about a bottomless hole?” I asked.
“Is this a children’s story?” she inquired, “because I don’t think we have any little people bottom books.”
“It could be an Aboriginal story,” Jane suggested.
“Strange. Are you sure its not a fairy tale?” she half asked, before calling yet another Librarian to help. “Doreen – these children are looking for a story about a bottom hole. It could be Aboriginal!”
“Sounds a bit rude to me,” blushed Doreen, who was a giant, lollypop shaped lady, with long, thin, spidery legs and a bulging belly! “Have you tried the Aboriginal Legends section? There may be something about bottoms in that!” she added, pointing to the far corner of the library.
Jane started to giggle uncontrollably as Doreen decided to wobble off to have a look herself.
“I don’t find it funny: She must think I’m odd!” I whispered angrily. “And why is that librarian walking as if she’s on stilts!”
“She probably is: People will do anything these days to be an eight foot librarian – They never have to do any work!” Jane laughed, as Doreen returned carrying a pile of dusty books.
“This is all we have,” Doreen explained. “And I’ve given you a couple of books about the human body – just in case!”
“It’s a BOTTOMLESS HOLE,” I insisted, as Jane dragged me away to the reading corner.
“That does sound painful,” Doreen winced, as I finally just nodded in agreement.
“We’ll split the pile in half: You look through those books and I’ll have these,” Jane decided, lifting the first into view.
I quickly flicked through, searching in vein for information about the Hole. “This is like looking for a needle in a hay stack,” I moaned.
“Try using the index. I’ve found something interesting: Page 125 – the Immortal Hole,” Jane quickly announced.
“Brilliant, what does it say?”
“Nothing much, just that it is believed to exist,” Jane surmised. “Do you think your Hole could be the Immortal Hole?”
“I suppose so – Why?”
“Because Immortal means you live forever,” Jane explained, with a long, hard stare and a sharp prod into my arm, as if to discover whether I was real or not!
“Of course I’m not immortal,” I laughed nervously, but I was worried; I needed to know more – much more. I picked up the thickest book I had, by a Professor Marsh, and followed Jane’s advice; scanning through the contents page until I stumbled upon the words, ‘The Great Immortal Hole’.
“Jane – Look – I’ve found a whole chapter!”
“What does it say?”
I wedged open the book at the final chapter and read out the opening passage:
“The Great Immortal Hole was the ancient burial site of the even greater Nhowamttinberie people: An Aboriginal tribe, who’s dead were ceremoniously dropped into the Immortal Hole. But the departed would magically reappear over the next few hours, days or even weeks, for just a few second each time, glowing with life, before falling back in again! Relatives of the dead would camp by the edge and not leave until they could no long see their love ones spirit returning in the depths of the Hole.”
“Wow,” said Jane, pushing me out the way to look.
“It all fits,” I decided. “This must be my Hole, because it affected me in a similar way!”
“How?” Jane asked.
“Because falling through the Hole must be like being on the end of a pendulum; swinging from one side of the world to the other!” I explained.
“But why did they stop reappearing?” Jane quizzed.
“Because, like a bouncing ball, you don’t rise as high each time, and eventually the dead must have come to rest in the center of the world!”
“So if you hadn’t climbed out when you did, you would still be in the Hole, falling backwards and forwards until you finished in the middle of the Earth, with all those skeletons!” Jane shrieked with horror.
“Yes!” I relied, shivering at the thought.
“But wait: Why would the dead be glowing with life when they returned?” Jane asked.
“I don’t know everything: Perhaps the pressure of falling backwards and forwards, hour after hour, warmed up their body and made the skin glow bright!” I suggested.
“So what do we do now if you’re sure this is your hole?” Jane asked excitedly.
“I think we should start by finding the author of this book and telling him we’ve found the Hole,” I decided.
“Good idea,” Jane agreed, turning to the back of the book. “There’s an address for sending Aboriginal legends. It could be the Author’s house and the book’s not very old, so he could still be living there.”
“Is it far?” I asked.
“20 miles. It’s near Adelaide,” Jane explained, scribbling the address onto the back of her hand.
“Can we catch another bus?”
“Not to this remote place, but I’ve got a solution.” Jane smiled, with a glint in her eye. “Follow me,” she instructed, before shouting out, like a Town Crier, “Make way for the great bone finder!”
“Shh…” ordered Doreen the librarian, as we returned the books. “Someone might hear you and come into the library!” she worried, as Jane continued to chant. “And I thought you children were looking for books about bottoms – not bones!”
“No, my friend has found bones in his bottomless Hole!” Jane laughed loudly.
“What’s so special about that?” asked Doreen. “If you didn’t have bones in your bottom you would be a jellyfish!”
“Now that’s funny?” I laughed, but as we pushed by Doreen, the librarian lost her balance and crashed to the ground with a gigantic bang!
I had been right – she was wearing stilts!
“I can’t ride to the Author’s house on a horse!” I moaned, as Jane lifted me onto the back of Joey.
“Why not?” Jane asked.
“Because I can’t ride!”
“You don’t need to,” she insisted, “just put your arms around my waist and hold on tight – I’m doing the riding – Giddy up boy,” Jane ordered, with a sharp pull on the reins. The black stallion leapt out of the stables and galloped across her Uncle’s field, which was only a couple of block from Jane’s house.
“Won’t your Uncle mind?” I asked, as I felt my bottom hit the saddle with every stride!
“Joey’s mine. Uncle bought him me as a present, because he says horses are going to be the transport of the future!”
I quickly hoped Jane was joking because the journey soon became the longest hour of my life! We eventually arrived at a rambling farmhouse, next to a large paddock and waterhole, surrounded by roaming countryside. Jane dismounted and tied the stirrup to a white fence post. An old, grey mare raced across the field to greet us. The last thing I needed was another horse, after the most uncomfortable ride of my life! I tried to shoo it away as I lowered myself down and strode, knees bent, legs ajar, and backside protruding, up the shale drive: I now knew why old cowboys walked so strangely!
Jane hurried ahead to ring the rusty doorbell; and again; once more and a few times for good luck, but still nobody answered.
“Don’t tell me we’ve rode all this way and they’re out!” I complained, leaning in pain against the wooden porch.
“Don’t get angry with me because you’ve got a sore rump. It’s your Hole we’ve come about!” Jane insisted, rotating on her heels to leave. “Ahhhhhhh...” she suddenly shrieked, “It’s a croc!” she bawled even louder.
I turned in disbelief and froze with fright as a huge, frenzied crocodile waddled towards us. Its large, spiky tail swung excitedly from side to side, like a dog after a bone! Its back arched and its scaly skin stood to attention. Its lifeless, beady eyes glared, like daggers of ice, and its mouth seemed to curve around at the lips, as if it was smiling: Smiling because dinner was about to be served!
“We’re trapped!” I screamed. The crocodile had cornered us between the porch and the front of the house.
“Stop screaming – you’re sending him wild,” Jane insisted. “If we keep quiet it may just go away.”
I tried to reduce my shaking but I couldn’t help noticing Jane looking more frightened than me! Luckily the crocodile seemed to be loosing interest and slowed its advance: Only its head now moved, gliding from side to side, sniffing the air like a Komodo Dragon! I grabbed hold of Jane’s hand and whispered, “It’s working!” But I had spoken too soon: The crocodile lifted its front leg and moved in for the kill!
“Ahhhhhhhhh...” we now both screamed together, unable to control our fears. In desperation Jane threw one of Joey’s sugar mints into the crocodiles widening mouth. The crocodile swallowed it whole. Jane desperately threw the whole packet at the crocodile, missing its mouth and hitting it right between the eyes! The mints ricocheted into the air as the scaly creature instinctively swung its tail and clobbered the sweets right over the farmhouse chimney! But even this slight distraction didn’t stop it from continuing to waddle closer and closer: Its tail beating even harder on the ground: It was having fun! But fun can have its drawbacks, and in all the excitement the crocodile had left a gap between itself and the porch.
“Now’s our chance – run,” Jane shouted, pushing me forward. “I’ll follow,” she vowed. I leapt to safety, but there was no one to push Jane as the gap continued to shrink!
“Just jump,” I yelled.
Jane hesitantly dived forward, but her jeans caught on the doorstopper, sending her tumbling to the ground! The crocodile swung its slender snout within a whisker’s length of Jane’s face! It turned boss-eyed as it tried to focus on her terrified features!
I rushed back and started kicking the crocodile’s tail as it widened its mouth to the width of Jane’s head! Gradually, almost in slow motion, it rolled out a dry, yellowy tongue, and brushed it across her face!
“STOP KICKING GUMMY!” shouted a furious girl’s voice from the side of the house. The crocodile performed a death spin and galloped towards her. “You poor thing!” cried the young girl, stroking the crocodile on the head. “I hope that horrible boy didn’t hurt you,” she added, staring at me like I was a big bully!
“What about us!” I stormed, helping Jane to her feet. “What do you think you’re doing letting a dangerous creature like that run wild? It should be caged up before it eats someone!”
“Dangerous creature? Gummy? He’s my pet,” defended the girl.
“But it was going to kill us!” cried Jane, wiping the putrid crocodile taste off her face.
“I thought you realized – he’s doesn’t have any teeth! He was only giving you a friendly lick,” the girl laughed.
“Well I’m not laughing!” I said. “How were we to know?”
“Yes,” Jane agreed, still shaking, but starting to see the funny side. “What’s its name again?” she asked, moving closer to feel its skin.
“Gummy,” replied the girl, “because Mommy had all its teeth removed after it tried to attack her!”
“That’s gruel!” Jane moaned.
“It was either that or he became a handbag!” the girl winced, as she lead Gummy around the house to the back yard.
“What’s your name?” I asked, following from a safe distance.
“I’m Emily, daughter of the world famous Professors,” she boasted.
I thought she sounded rather posh and self-important so I tried to reply in my best English accent. “I am Steven, and this is Jane. We have come to talk to Professor Marsh about important matters.”
“Oh well, Mommy is inside working and cannot be disturbed until Daddy arrives home in an hour or so: You could wait at the porch until he arrive?” Emily suggested.
“What are you doing?” Jane asked, noticing some skittles in the yard.
“I’m playing ninepin bowls. You can join in if you wish, as long as you don’t mind Gummy playing!”
“Why not,” Jane shrugged, I reluctantly followed suit.
An hour and a half later, the sound of car wheels, pounding the pothole drive, announced the arrival of Emily’s father.
“He’s home. We will finish the game later,” announced Emily, who left Jane to total the scores.
“Emily’s winning with 95, I’m second with 70, Steve, your third with 67 and Gummy’s last with 2!” Jane read aloud.
“Never mind Gummy, better luck next time,” smiled Emily, feeding him another marshmallow. Gummy seemed to be treated whether he won or lost, but his technique was ingenious: He swung his long snake like tail at the ball in the same way as he had clobbered the packet of mints, but the direction the ball travelled was anybody’s guess!
“Mommy – Daddy’s home and there’re some children to see you,” shouted Emily, leading us through the back door into the dining room.
“Hello,” came a voice room the kitchen. “And what can I do for you children?” asked Professor Marsh, pushing her head through the serving hatch.
“We are sorry to bother you Professor; I know you’re busy, but we have discovered the whereabouts of the Great Immortal Hole,” I announced excitedly.
“Drink of milk any one?” asked the Professor.
“The IMMORTAL HOLE,” I repeated loudly.
“You have the wrong person: My husband is the one you need to speak to. Perhaps you would like a drink of lemonade?” she offered.
“Yes please,” Jane replied for both of us.
“Did I hear someone shout Immortal Hole?” thundered a giant of a man from the hall, who seemed to be as tall as he was wide! “I’m Malcolm Marsh – History Professor,” he announced, colliding into the room. “You look confused! I take it you’ve already met the old fossil!”
“My mommy’s a professor of archaeology,” Emily added proudly.
“Yes, yes, but what do you know about the Great Immortal hole?” he asked, rubbing his curly black hair, and removing his suit jacket and tie.
“I’ve found it! I know the exact whereabouts of the Hole,” I spoke quickly.
“If I fetch a map could you point out its position?” he asked, like it was some sort of test.
“I can try Professor,” I replied.
“Call me Mr. Marsh – Professor is such a stuffy old title!” he joked as he left the room to recover an ancient map, from a locked cupboard near the hall.
“I bet your hole leads into the Koonalda caves,” groaned Mrs. Marsh, placing a tray of drinks onto the table.
“Move them away,” ordered Mr. Marsh, “this map is priceless!” he added, unrolling a giant thunderbird skin map across the dining room table. I nervously studied it closely, before gingerly pointing to a forest next to the river.
“About here, I think.”
“I knew it! Close to Lake Alexandrina. I told you it was around there,” roared Mr. Marsh to his less than impressed wife.
“I still think it’s no more than an old mine shaft.”
“It’s no mining entrance: There’s more to this world than studying old rocks! This is a sacred Hole said to have even swallowed a monster!” bellowed Mr. Marsh excitedly.
“A monster!” I sputtered in surprise.
“Yes – you must have read in my book about the Nhowamttinberie people and the legend of the Muldjewangk Monster that lived in the lake!” he grinned.
“It was a big book,” I remembered.
“You mean a thick book, for thick people!” interrupted Mrs. Marsh, sarcastically. “If you’re really going to take these children seriously you will need permission to enter that part of the Historic Park, because the forest is on sacred aboriginal land.”
“I know – I know. I’ll collect a permission certificate from the court in the morning,” insisted Mr. Marsh.
“But why would they give you one?” asked Jane.
“Because I’m a Professor at the university doing historic, aboriginal research!” Emily’s father replied, pushing his huge chest out with pride. “Now this calls for a celebratory drink!” he added, heading towards the fridge for a pack of beers.
Mrs. Marsh shook her head: “You had better find some unusual rocks for me to study, because that is all you will discovery,” she scoffed.
I sat slightly uncomfortably for a moment while Jane scribbled down her address and arranged a time for Mr. Marsh to collect us in the morning.
“We need to go now – it’s getting late,” I said, as Mrs. Marsh hovered suspiciously around us, asking more and more questions about where I had come from!
“Are you sure you don’t want a lift home?” Mr. Marsh again asked.
“No thank you,” insisted Jane, “my beautiful stallion is waiting outside.”
I sighed loudly; I wasn’t sure if my body could take any more punishment: I was feeling horse sick at the very thought!
The early morning sun shone through the brown and orange patterned curtains. The rusty, wind-up clock showed seven-thirty. Jane’s parents had not yet left for work. I sleepily stared at the largest photograph on the wall. It was of a young man, with a hunting dog. He was standing at the edge of a waterfall, below a range of snow-capped mountains. Around it was a group of smaller pictures, displayed like prized trophies. In each, something or someone had been hunted, chased or snared, and held up like a new outfit! My eyes slowly closed as towering pine trees surrounded the bed. I could smell the powder of gunshot; I could hear the dogs barking and see the animals scattering, but where was I? My feet began to sink into the mud, anchoring me to the ground, as diamond shaped rain droplets cascaded through the branches. The barking, the shouting: They were getting closer. Puddles formed around my ankles; puddles intended for wellington splashing. But too many puddles become a stream as gunshot rained above my head! I ducked down as the stream rolled into a river, with the power to shape twisting canyons and giant boulders. A harpoon flashes across my bow: I was being hunted! I dived over the waterfall and plunged deeper and deeper as the river continued to flow out into the ocean, where there was no way back...
“No way back! No way back!” I repeated over and over. I sat up suddenly. A giant trout, in a glass box, appeared to gulp for water as I gulped for air! I needed to find the Hole: It was my ticket back or I would be stuck here forever!
I lay down again and tried to mentally retrace the path: The dancers to the river; the river to the forest; the forest to the Hole, but where exactly? I just couldn’t remember…
“Are you OK?” asked Jane, as I quietly finished my cornflakes.
“I’m just worried about finding the Hole.”
“Oh, I thought you might be missing school,” Jane smiled, which was the last thing on my mind! “Because Mom is backing me all the way! She thinks I’m going to be an explorer like my Grandfather, and she can’t wait to meet Professor Marsh!” Jane added, before dipping a gingerbread man into her cereal bowl to use as a spoon!
“The forest is huge, and the hole I came out of was tiny!” I fretted.
“Don’t worry; I’m from a long line of adventurers,” Jane boasted, but by talking to me, she left her cookie in the milk a second too long. Half of it broke away and began to float to the surface – a ginger head and stretched out arms bobbling in a milky lake.
“Using a cookie as a spoon is an art form,” Jane revealed, “You have to judge how many scoops of cereal you can do before you have to eat it!” she laughed, lampooning the helpless gingerbread man with a fork, before shoveling the soggy remains into her mouth.
“I think I’ll go and make the sandwiches for lunch,” I announced, after suddenly loosing my appetite.
“You should try it,” insisted Jane. “It might quickly improve your memory,” she added, after hearing the clattering of the front gate.
Mr. Marsh had arrived, but he was not alone: Emily, who we discovered was home tutored, arrived with a clipboard and pen, like it was a school field trip!
Within minutes we were driven to a small, stony parking lot, next to the Historic Park Tourist Center: It was a tiny wooden hut, with a gift shop and an outside toilet.
“This way,” I called, noticing a signpost pointing to the ‘Dancing Aborigines’.
“It’s like looking for lost treasure,” Emily bubbled, “X marks the spot!” she growled, like an old pirate, as her father paid the entrance fee.
“Yes, but we don’t have a map with a cross on!” Jane sighed, “Only Steve’s shaky memory and my explorer skills,” she added, but this made me even more determined to remember as we reached the dancing circle.
Jason and his friends weren’t yet at the site, but a group of Japanese tourists were already waiting patiently. We quietly sneaked by as I led the way towards the ‘No Entrance’ sign. The river was not far from here and somewhere, further along, was the Hole!
“Don’t we need to show our permission certificate to somebody?” Emily asked anxiously.
“I’ve already shown it to the park warren,” Mr. Marsh revealed, “and he’s given us a year’s free entry to find the Hole!” he laughed, handing us each a ticket.
I smiled nervously as we followed a trail of trampled fern that was still visible. It weaved through the forest, emerging next to the riverbank. The sun reflected off the water’s surface; it was another hot, summer’s day.
“Is it here?” asked Mr. Marsh, with a wipe of this brow. Walking was something he only did when it was absolutely necessary. If it had been possible Mr. Marsh would have driven through the trees!
“The Hole’s further along the river – down here – I think?”
“Think?” cried Mr. Marsh, “I haven’t got time for this: Walking is for poor people, like hanging washing outside on a line!”
“Just a bit further,” I promised, but I couldn’t remember how long I had marched beside the river. Everything had been a daze that morning.
“What’s he doing?” asked Emily to Jane as I began to chase after the seagulls to see if they stopped and turned as I remembered.
“Shh… let him think,” whispered Jane.
“But if the Hole’s in the forest, why are we walking by the river?” moaned Mr. Marsh, who had difficulty moving with a belly the size of Jane’s American fridge!
“I could start looking in the forest if it helps,” Emily offered, who was sketching our route on a piece of paper and making a movie of our journey!
“Only a few more steps – around this bend,” I promised, as the river veered behind the edge of the trees. Emily, who was too impatient to wait, raced ahead. We eagerly followed.
“It’s Lake Alexandrina!” Emily cried excited. The river had opened out into the vast fresh water lake, and the Southern Ocean was in the distance, behind a manmade lagoon. I spun around and groaned, “I never saw that before!”
“You mean we’re lost!” yelled Mr. Marsh.
“Well not exactly.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“We now know the Hole is somewhere between here and where we started!” I half joked.
“Very funny: My wife and the park warden were right all along. Why have I wasted my time listening to two silly children? I should have known better!” Mr. Marsh sighed, despairing. “Come on Emily: Let’s drive home,” he added, leaning on her shoulder as if she was walking stick!
“But it’s here – somewhere,” I pleaded, but Mr. Marsh had already disappeared.
“Come on Steven; let’s catch them up,” Jane chirped, aware of the need for a lift home.
“What’s the point? You heard what he said,” I sighed, picking up a flat pebble off the sandy bank and skimming it across the lake.
“We need to get back,” Jane again nagged. The pebble disappeared into a watery hole, spurring my enthusiasm once more:
“The Hole is close to here. We don’t need Mr. Marsh to help us find it – You said you were an explorer!”
“I know, but we do need him to drive us home,” Jane argued.
“We can walk – once we have found the Hole.”
“What Hole? I don’t believe you anymore,” Jane snapped. “In fact I feel stupider than Mr. Marsh for letting you into my home!”
“But it’s true!”
“If you’re telling the truth, why haven’t you told Mr. Marsh you fall through the Hole?” Jane asked angrily.
“I’m going to – eventually. But he believes in all these old legends and the Immortal Hole is not a hole through the world!” I tried to explain, but Jane just turned and stormed after Mr. Marsh.
I lowered my head and slowly followed, but after clearing the bend in the river, Mr. Marsh and Emily were nowhere to be seen! They had vanished, causing panic in Jane’s stride, elevating a trot into a gallop.
“Jane – We’re here!” shouted Mr. Marsh from behind a bush, as she flew past.
“Have you found something?” I shouted eagerly, as Jane stopped running and crept back, towards his voice.
Mr. Marsh pointed, with his spiritual nose, into the dark forest. “If you look very closely you can see someone has recently been through here.”
It was almost impossible to see the trodden path. The ferns at the edge of the forest had weaved together like a barbed, willow fence, stopping anyone entering!
“Is it this way?” Mr. Marsh asked, closing his eyes for a moment and feeling the ground for divine clues.
“I don’t remember, but it must be. Let me see,” I said, trying to take a closer look.
“If it’s down here we do it properly,” announced Mr. Marsh, pulling a red flag from his seemingly bottomless suit pocket and forcing it into the ground as a marker. “OK, lead the way,” he continued.
Cautiously I kicked a path through the ferns and led Mr. Marsh’s missionary expedition. The track became clearer as I tiptoed along, weaving blindly through the sky-scrapping trees. Suddenly the trail vanished into a dense wall of bushes.
“The Hole must be just here,” I began to fret.
Bang ... Plonk ... Plunk.
Mr. Marsh had found the Hole!
Somehow I had stepped over it, but he hadn’t! He was stuck like a cork in a wine bottle! His skinny, long legs had slipped down the Hole, but his oversized belly hadn’t! It held him up like a wedge holds a door! A homemade life jacket, because that’s what it was – a lifesaver!
“Don’t just stand there – pull me out!” he screamed, causing a frantic scramble of grabbing hands and a group tugging of his immense body. Gradually, with a chorus of moaning, he wriggled free.
“Four flags,” Mr. Marsh eventually huffed, lying on the floor like a beetle on its back! Emily slipped the flags out of his pocket and knocked them into the ground to form a cordon around the Hole.
“Find me a stone,” Mr. Marsh ordered, as he rolled onto his belly and carefully nudged his head nearer to the hole again. “The time it takes for the stone to hit the bottom of the hole will tell us how deep it is,” he explained.
“Will this do?” asked Jane, digging out a half-buried, crystal shaped boulder, almost hidden behind a tree.
“Isn’t that a special rock?” asked Emily, as Jane passed it over. Her father took a closer look.
“You’re right – It has strange markings on it! I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life!” he marveled, pulling out a cloth to wipe away the dirt. The rock caught the sunlight, reflecting a rainbow of colors in a million directions! “This is VERY special indeed!” he added excitedly, but as Mr. Marsh tried to read the markings, it slipped from his hand and dropped down the hole, like a star in the sky falling to Earth!
“Silence,” ordered Mr. Marsh, as he forced his ear to the hole. The crystal rock whistled out of sight, leaving Mr. Marsh waiting, and waiting, and waiting to hear it hit the ground, until, after a few minutes, he stood up and mumbled, “No sound? How strange! Did any of you hear the stone hit the bottom?” We shook our heads. “I think we may have something here. This is a VERY, VERY deep hole,” he announced, “and it needs further investigation,” he added, removing an infrared image camera from his pocket.
Jane, overjoyed, threw her arms around me and said, “We’ve found your Hole – haven’t we?”
“Yes,” I replied, with a sigh of relief.
“Daddy, what about the special rock you dropped down?” Emily worried.
“There will be others,” insisted her father, heading back to the river. “All we will have to do is look.”
“We need more permission?” I questioned, surveying the deserted courtroom.
“Yes – permission to excavate the hole,” Jane repeated.
“But it’s already a hole!” I half-joked in frustration.
“Listen – It’s sacred land – You’re not even supposed to move a stone without the agreement of a Judge,” she explained, as we perched on the edge of the viewing gallery. Jane usually had swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, but her mom had agreed to take us to the courthouse instead. Mr. Cutter stayed in the car while is wife quickly introduced herself to Emily and Mr. Marsh with an overly friendly kiss!
An usher suddenly ordered us all to stand, before an old judge strolled into the court, wearing an even older grey wig, full of dangling dreadlocks, silver trinkets and even colored beads! After she sat down, so could we.
Mr. Marsh was hastily called to the witness stand.
“Why oh why would you ask for permission to excavate aboriginal sacred land?” asked the judge, unrolling Mr. Marsh’s animal skin map. “And make it snappy,” she added, squinting her eye on a black cross he had carefully marked near the middle of the map.
“It’s like this your worship: I believe the X marks the spot of the legendary Immortal Hole. It may hold the secrets of ancient aboriginal life and…“
“Stop – I’ve heard enough,” interrupted the judge, who had far more important cases to hear. “I take it the excavation will be carried out professionally.”
“Yes your Worship. The university archaeological team, headed by my wife, will do the work.”
“Good, but this dig can only happen if nobody here objects. I take it NOBODY objects?” growled the judge, menacingly.
“I DO!” shouted an old man, staggering from a doorway at the back of the court. The judge peered again at her watch. Eventually, after muttering something under her breath about salted meat sandwiches, she bellowed, “OK. Help him up. He looks even older than me!”
Mr. Marsh sat down as the wrinkly, grey haired man was helped to the stand.
“I am the Aboriginal Chief of the great Nhowamttinberie tribe that has walked this land for thousands of years,” he loudly and proudly announced.
“Yes, Yes. What is your objection?” asked the judge, as she removed a dagger from her handbag and pointed it at the chief to try and hurry him along!
“The Hole is Karajarri and Dieri!” the Chief preached in a supernatural voice, which sent a shiver down my spine.
“Could you make yourself a little more clearer?” asked the judge, sharpening her knife. “I have three murder trials on Monday!”
“The Hole is life and death!” he roared. “We used to bury our dead through a small opening to the Hole, which until today had been lost for hundreds of years,” he began. “Great legends, however, tell of the Hole being gigantic – as wide as an ocean! But this Hole tried to destroy the world and it very nearly succeeded! NEVER MUST THE HOLE BE REOPENED,” he passionately cried.
The courtroom plunged into a sudden silence, broken only by the chiming of the judge’s silver pocket watch: It was lunchtime.
“Professor Marsh, how much of this Hole do you intend to reopen?” asked the judge, wisely.
“Just a yard around the entrance,” replied Mr. Marsh, standing up once more. “My wife thinks it’s probably just an old mine shaft of some kind.”
“Chief, will that satisfy you?” asked the judge. “Chief – Chief – are you OK?” she panicked as the old man collapsed to the floor clutching his heart!
“I beg you – leave the Hole alone – It will destroy the World!” gasped the Chief with almost his very last breath of life! The court erupted into chaos as the alarm was activated and the Chief was hurriedly carried out on a stretcher.
“Settled down,” ordered the Judge, tapping her wooden leg onto the floor to bring order to the courtroom. “I need to ask again: Does anybody object?” she bellowed, looking around the gallery with her one good eye. “So be it – Dead men can’t speak – so no one objects – the dig can begin!” she announced, with a loud hammer blow to a block of wood, and an order to clear the court for lunch.
“Is the Chief really dead?” I asked Mr. Marsh, as he chauffeured us home.
“I hope not – he was a good man. He told me many legends for my books – he even believed I was related to his Great Grandmother!” replied Mr. Marsh, who was clearly upset and wishing he had never started this quest.
“Daddy, is it possible the Hole is as enormous as the chief says?” Emily asked.
“They’re only stories and primitive drawings passed down the generations, and even if the Hole was the size of an ocean, we haven’t the time or the money to reopen it,” he explained.
“When do you start digging?” Jane interrupted.
“Maybe tomorrow. If you are interested you can come and watch,” he offered.
“We will,” I answered.
The next day we wasted no time in travelling back to the hole on a couple of old bikes Jane’s Grandfather had left behind, but to our surprise Mr. Marsh had been replaced by Mrs. Marsh – Professor Elizabeth Marsh, as she liked to be known.
“Hello, what can I do for you children?” she asked, in between sips of lemon tea.
“Just looking,” I replied.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” The Professor offered. We smiled in acceptance. Emily’s mom ordered a reluctant student to reheat the kettle on the gas burner: She had a whole gaggle working with her, or rather the students slaved while she sat and watched!
“What’s happening?” I asked, noticing a pile of metal bars and planks scattered around the site.
“They’re building a climbing frame around the Hole’s entrance,” she explained.
“But why?” I asked.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” the Professor sneered. “The ground could give way under our feet while we dig, sending everyone plummeting down the shaft.”
“Shaft?” questioned Jane.
“Yes, a mine shaft. That’s what you’ve found, and they won’t make you famous for that,” mocked the disbeliever.
“But if you think it’s an old mine, what are you doing here?” I asked angrily.
Professor Marsh suddenly dragged us away from the students and whispered; “The puzzle is: What were the aboriginals mining?” questioned the Professor, with a slow wink of her green eye. “You see Emily says Mr. Marsh dropped a rock down the Hole which looked like a giant diamond!”
“What did Mr. Marsh say?” I asked.
“My husband won’t answer!” she moaned, “Mr. Marsh has decided to become an Aboriginal Chief and has left home to seek forgiveness!” Professor Marsh scoffed. “So is Emily correct? Could it have been a giant diamond?”
Jane began to shrug her shoulders as I whispered, “Yes… definite… A rock so big you could cut a thousand diamond rings!”
“That’s what I thought,” dribbled Marsh with excitement, before racing back to the Hole to work the students even harder!
“How did you know the rock was a diamond?” Jane asked, as we decided to spend the afternoon watching the dig.
“I didn’t, but if it encourages Professor Marsh to quickly open the entrance to the Hole, then all the better!” I laughed, but to our surprise the students continued to work so painfully slow, using such silly little ‘Knife and fork’ tools. At one point Jane offered to fetch her father’s spade, but Professor Marsh insisted it was the professional approach. In fact the only person who was now sweating heavily was the Professor herself, who had taken over the job of sieving the bags of red earth that the students dug from around the Hole. Every few minutes she would find something glittering in the dirt and slip it into her pocket without the students noticing.
“Professor Marsh! I’ve found something,” suddenly shouted a student, with an organic mop of hair.
We climbed over to look.
“What is it? What is it Mushroom-head?” yelled the Professor impatiently.
“I think I’ve found the handle of an ancient Aboriginal Vase!” Mushroom-head replied.
“Is that all? You stupid boy!” thundered Marsh, “There’s nothing magical about you – the ground’s full of broken pottery!” she complained, pointing to a pile of clay fragments she had tossed into the bushes!
“Jane. I think we should leave,” I suggested, moving away from the Professor, who had now decided to give poor Mushroom-head the job of gluing all the broken pottery back together again as a punishment!
I glanced once more at the other nervous students. I could see the dig was going to take at least a week to complete and as we said our goodbyes, Professor Marsh gestured with her hand that she would ring as soon as anything exciting was discovered.
We spent the next seemingly endless week at school – waiting. Miss Flatfoot was almost disappointed to see us back: I think she thought we were lost in a jungle! Jane’s parents were also seeing too much of me: They were now calling me the lodger, because I was always at their house. If only they realized how true that was! Yet still Professor Marsh had not rung. Jane convinced me that no phone call meant ‘no progress’, and besides she said, “It’s a long bike ride just to see students dangling like monkeys, and moving slower than a Koala!”
Our evenings were taken up trying to find Grandma’s Nursing Home and searching for the cheapest flight back to England. Jane even had me rehearsing my amazing story for the expected reward! But there’s a limit to how long you can wait and, when the weekend arrived, Jane eventually agreed to my plea to revisit the Hole.
We packed some lunch and quickly cycled to the Historic Park Tourist Center. The tiny wooden hut had disappeared, replaced with a shiny, glass box building! Through the tinted windows I could still see the old gift shop, surrounded by new, interactive screens and a café only the very rich could afford.
We chained our bikes inside a brand new, horse and bicycle rack. Jane waved our park season tickets to the warden before we breezed along the path, but something was wrong. The place was swarming with people and it was impossible to get lost because a dozen new signs pointed towards the Hole via the river. The riverbank was now busier than the New York Subway and Mr. Marsh’s single red flag had been replaced by a blue ribbon and a seemingly endless crowd of smarty dressed people. We politely slipped through as a Policeman and even an Army General chatted to some very important looking ladies. They were sipping champagne from ludicrously large, goldfish glasses! We swiftly ducked under yet another ribbon barrier that was blocking our path, but still there were yet more people! These individuals, however, were wearing cheap suits or charity dresses and intent on stalking Professor Marsh! She was standing on a platform, holding an unusually shaped vase, covered in prehistoric drawings!
“Jane, they’re attacking Professor Marsh!” I yelled, as two anxious policeman tried in vain to push them back!
“Calm down; they’re only reporters,” Jane explained.
“Oh, but what is the news?” I asked, looking around for clues: Through the student climbing frame I could just spy the Hole, opened to the size of a well, before a camera clicking photographer pushed us out of the way for one more enchanting shot of Professor Marsh standing on the scaffolding, with the priceless vase balanced on her head!
The reporters quickly filed their story then piled, on mass, into an enormous hospitality tent, erected close by. Thirty or more trees must have been cut down to make room for it!
“Jane – now’s our chance,” I yelled, as Professor Marsh was left without an audience for a split second.
“Professor – What have you found?” Jane hurriedly asked.
“Shush children. How dare you come here,” whispered the enraged Professor, jumped off the frame and almost breaking the vase, which looked like it had already been made from a thousand pieces!
“But what are all these people doing here?” I asked.
“Have you found the large diamond?” Jane quizzed.
“Too many questions, all at once, and no time to answer them!” the Professor insisted, beckoning a police officer for help.
“But please tell us – have you found the Immortal Hole?” I begged, tugging on her black, velvet cloak.
“Get your hands off me! You know there’s no such thing!” she hissed, removing a chocolate spread sandwich from out of the vase, like a magician pulling a white rabbit from a Top Hat! “P.C. Gretton – escort these children home immediately,” she ordered, before biting a perfect hole in the sandwich!
A tall policewoman towered over us, with an inspecting eye. “Certainly Professor Marsh,” the officer replied, tightly gripping our hands and swiftly returning us to the park entrance.
A flashing blue, police motorcade led us back onto the main road as we cycled behind, like the lead riders on the Tour de France!
“Everyone’s staring at us,” Jane blushed with embarrassment.
“They should be – we found the Hole!” I crowed.
“But why has Professor Marsh sent us away? And why is she talking in riddles, and eating chocolate spread sandwiches?” Jane asked suspiciously.
“That’s what I ate in the Hole! She must have found my chocolate-covered bread crumbs on the carved, stone ledge!”
“So she knows you’ve been in the Hole!” Jane spluttered in surprise.
“Perhaps, but why didn’t she say something?” I puzzled, like a bumbling Dr. Watson.
“The professor could just be hungry and tired: She’s having a very busy day!” Jane replied. “We need to go back tomorrow and speak to her when it’s quieter,” she decided, but unfortunately there was no need, because the next morning’s newspapers said it all. Jane burst through Grandfather’s window, foaming at the mouth:
“Just look!” she hissed, dropping her newsreader on the bed. “There’s no Immortal Hole because she’s given it a new name!”
Typed in big, black, bold letters were the words:
Below was a picture of Professor Marsh standing next to the Hole, with the lead story announcing:
‘Yesterday Professor Elizabeth Marsh announced possibly the greatest discovery of human kind. She has uncovered a hole of such colossal size and depth that no ruler can measure it! The Professor believes only a massive meteorite hitting the earth could have made a hole of these gigantic proportions. Dating’s of the rocks found at the site have yet to be carried out, but it is believed the meteor hit the earth two and a half million years ago; this would link it to the start of the ice ages! The Professor has only opened a small part of the hole, but has already uncovered a prehistoric vase dating back some 40,000 years! It would appear that large boulders have somehow now blocked the rest of the entrance that has, over time, been covered with forest. Professor Marsh says she wants no reward for her discovery…
“She wants no reward for her discovery!” I squealed. I too was now hopping mad. “We discovered it. She didn’t even believe us in the first place!” I moaned, as a painting suddenly slipped off the wall and landed on the bed.
“But Mr. Marsh isn’t mentioned either,” Jane noted, “and what can we do?” she asked, picking up the picture.
“We can do what I should have done in the first place, and tell the truth about how I first found the Hole,” I decided.
“But tell who?” Jane asked, as she rehung Grandfather’s painting of a boat leaving port.
“We can start by telling the newspapers our story!”
In the center of Adelaide stood a shining, glass skyscraper, with a huge illuminating sign above the entrance:
THE ADELAIDE STATE TOWER
“Which floors are the offices of The Evening Post Newspaper?” asked Jane to the doorman.
“Sorry – they moved out last year. Try the Writers Charity Shop on the old High Street,” suggested the man, lifting his top hat and pointing back towards the bus station, where we had just arrived.
“Thank you,” we replied, stepping back onto the pavement.
The shop was only minutes away, but a world apart from the sparking mega tower.
“This can’t be it,” I moaned, looking through the window at piles of second hand clothes and plastic toys.
“We haven’t come all this way not to find out,” insisted Jane, pushing opened the door and forcing a path to the counter.
“Can I help?” asked a young man, named Miller. “Every penny raised goes to needy Journalists.”
“We need to see a journalist about an important news story,” Jane announced.
Miller reluctantly led us to a storeroom door at the rear of the shop, with the word ‘Editor’ scratched into the paintwork. He put his ear against the door and gently knocked.
“Yes, what is it?” grunted the Editor, as Jane barged her way in. The Editor’s cigar slipped out of his mouth in surprise when he saw our two young faces staring down at him in his chair.
“What do you want?” he growled, causing me to shake in my shoes. “Well?” he repeated impatiently.
“Are you a reporter?” asked Jane.
“No, I’m the Editor! Can’t you read the sign? I’m in charge of the newspaper. All the reporters work on the streets – Just look in the dark corners and you’ll find them!”
“We need to tell a reporter that Professor Marsh didn’t discover the Hole – it was us!” Jane announced, nudging me to continue. The Editor rotated his eyeballs out of sight and stubbed his cigar on the desk as I stepped forward to speak:
“You see the real story is I fell through the Hole from England and met up with Mr. Marsh who told Professor Marsh, who told everyone else that she discovered the Hole,” I frantically explained.
The Editor spun his bloodshot eyes back into view and shouted, “Miller. Miller. MILLER!”
“Yes sir,” came a squeaky voice from behind the door.
“Get these kids out of here!”
“But why don’t you believe us?” Jane demanded to know.
“Because darling, you’re the second person to say they discovered the Hole this morning!” he announced, taking us both by surprise.
“So we must be telling the truth,” I angrily responded.
“NO! You’re all the same: Whenever anything new is discovered, vermin, like you, come out of the woodwork and try to take a bite!” the Editor spat. “If you knew before, why didn’t you tell me first? Instead I get a couple of kids and a Nutty man all claiming to have crawled out of the Hole the same morning we publish the story! NOW GET OUT! You’re wasting my time.”
Miller, a very junior journalist, dragged us to safety, as the Editor began to throw sharp pencils across the room, as if we were dartboards!
“You shouldn’t have gone in there without permission,” whispered Miller.
“We are so sorry,” said Jane sarcastically, but her tone suddenly changed as a scheming smile transformed her miserable face: She had had an idea. “Mr. Miller would you do us a great favor?” she begged.
“What favor might that be?” asked Miller nervously, returning to help an old lady choose the perfect painting for her son’s underground apartment.
“Could you tell us who else knew about the Hole?” Jane asked, as the old lady inspected a bright red picture.
“I don't recall and I’m sure I’ve thrown the details away,” Miller apologized. “Have a look in the garbage can, next to the counter,” he suggested, as the slightly deaf lady bellowed an order for him to hold the painting down below his knees.
Jane tipped the garbage out onto the counter and among the screwed up messages, four soggy tea bags and a banana skin splatted across the glass!
“What a mess!” I cried, as Jane began to search through the notes. I wiped the glass as the Lady kept Mr. Miller busy with her loud demands for the red painting to be more sea blue!
“I don’t paint them myself – I’m a trainee journalist,” Miller insisted; “they are donated.”
“It’s not here,” Jane moaned, scraping everything back into the can as the Editor burst out of his room.
“No Madam,” Miller began as the Editor stormed across, “I can’t turn gold into lead, I can’t turn wine into water, and Madam, I’m not Claude Monnet – I can’t turn 21st Century Modern art into a bridge over troubled water!” he apologized, as the Editor snatched the painting out of Miller's hand and punching a hole through the middle with his fist, before slamming it on the counter and returning to his room!
“I think we should leave,” Jane decided.
“I remember now,” Miller called, as the old lady opened her purse. “It’s the Nutty Traveller you want: He has a shop just up the high street, but you won’t learn much from him: He madder than the Editor!”
“Thanks,” we said, drifting silently out of the door, as the old lady decided to buy the painting, which Miller had promptly retitled; ‘The Hole through the red mist!’
The shops on the high street were nearly all boarded up, but we didn’t care; we weren’t buying – we were plotting! Jane decided the nutty man was the answer to our problems: “I think he calls himself the traveller because he has travelled through the Hole like you,” she decided, “but no one believed his story, and thought he must be Nutty!”
“But falling into the Hole is almost a death sentence: It was a miracle I escaped!” I insisted.
“But what if he’s a brainy scientist who has travelled through the Hole in a machine!” Jane pondered.
“But how would he have got the machine in?” I questioned.
“There could be another entrance! I’m sure he will tell us everything!” Jane bubbled as a convoy of diggers and giant cranes swept down the High street. The buildings shuddered and the endless rows of charity shops moved a step closer to destruction. Most of their front windows had already been broken and replaced with plywood, painted in a rainbow of colors by the housing project to make the street appear an exciting place to visit! One shop, however, looked very unappealing: It was painted a gloomy grey and brown, and stood out from the rest on the street, with its heavily grilled windows, and pealing sign, which read,
NUTT ’S RAVE S
‘Dangerous Sports Specialist’
“This must be it,” I said, as a nurse, with a black beard, walked out with some empty medicine bottles and a cell phone hooked under his chin:
“...And nobody can remember how he got here,” the nurse continued to gossip to a friend, “or where he travelled from…”
“Children – Come inside. You look like you need a vacation,” insisted a little man, dragging us both into the shop. “Hi, I’m Frank – Frank Nutty, the owner of Nutty Travels,” he explained, offering his hand out to shake.
He was slightly younger than I had expected, with just a splattering of wrinkles, but dressed in the oddest manner I had ever seen: In the heat of summer he was wearing a large, red, woolly hat, tight trousers and carrying a surfboard, as long as his body, which was strapped to his back!
“If you’re thinking danger I have the vacation for you!” he boasted.
“Have you?” I asked, not really knowing what else to say.
“Yes I certainly do! You can Hand-glide, Shark dive, Parachute jump, Ski jump, Surf the big one, Hunt the big one, Fire walk, Sky walk, Cliff climb, Mountain climb, Bungee jump, Speed Jump, Pot hole, Cave Roll…”
“Stop! We just want to know about the Hole – the big Hole,” Jane interrupted.
“Are you from the newspapers?” Frank asked excitedly.
“Sort of,” Jane lied, thinking quickly.
“What do you need to know?” he grinned.
“How did you find the Hole?” I asked eagerly.
“Well I’ll have to take you back a hundred years to when I was a young lad. Now let me think; It was my first vacation – could have been my second – yes – I like my vacations…”
“In England?” interrupted Jane.
“England?” parroted Frank. “Where’s that? Anyway, back to my story. I hope you are writing this down. Like I was saying, I was jumping from an airplane… or was I leaping from a bridge… It could have been a sky scrapper…” Frank rambled.
“You jump from building?” questioned Jane.
“And trees – The higher the better – the further the drop! And I dropped down this big hole!”
“How did you get out?” I asked, excitedly.
“I don’t remember. It was too dark to see anything, or was that afterwards? Did you know I’ve never been the same since?” Frank boasted.
“Really – but where did you find the Hole?” I asked.
“I don’t remember. I woke up in hospital with teddy by my side!” he recalled, leaning over to stroke my hair, like I was his long-lost, fury toy!
“That’s sad, but what about the Hole?” I asked, stepping away from his wandering hands. “You must remember something!”
“I think I’ve always had a love of danger: Would you like to see the lump on my head and the scars on my body?” he asked, removing his hat to reveal a bald head, shaped more like an alien! “I’ve been searching for my lost hole ever since… I think I’m related to the platypus because Mommy says I floated on the water – But the platypus has a bill and webbed feet...”
We started to back out of the shop as Frank decided to go behind a curtain and look for some flippers!
Jane’s face said it all, but it was up to me to say it:
“He’s a raving loony.”
“An Utter Nutter,” Jane replied.
“He’s not so much a Frank, rather a Frankenstein!” I joked.
“He never found your Hole,” Jane moaned.
“No, he must have fallen down an old well. The water at the bottom must have broken his fall, but it still managed to knock him senseless!” I laughed loudly.
“So what do we do now?” Jane asked.
“Don’t worry – We’ll just have to wait for my parents to write back, then everyone will believe us. I promise.”
“Children – Children,” shouted Frank excitedly, “I haven’t finished the story about my hole – I’m organizing a reunion trip if you want to book!”
“Quick – let’s get home,” Jane panicked. “He’s after us!”
The Friday evening barbecue pots had just been left to drain when the doorbell unexpectedly rang. Mr. Cutter peered suspiciously through the window as his wife went to investigate: Emily was perched on the step; alone and crying like a monsoon!
“Come in you poor dear,” Mrs. Cutter insisted, opening the door and carrying Emily into the lounge. “What’s the matter?” she asked, as Emily rubbed her zombie eyes and crouched on the end of the sofa.
“I’ve been walking all day to get here: You were so lovely when we met and I didn't know where else to go…It’s… it’s… my mommy and daddy!” she sobbed uncontrollably.
“Where are they?” asked Mr. Cutter, opening the window and leaning out into the dark.
“I don’t know!” she blubbered even louder at the thought. We all circled around as Emily finally began to explain what had happened: “Daddy decided to leave first, then Mommy began to spend longer and longer at the Hole, until eventually she stopped coming home altogether!”
“Have you been abandoned?” asked Jane in horror.
Emily blew a loud trumpet on her sleeve before crying, “YES! I’m just not interesting enough: Mommy doesn’t love me anymore: The Hole is like a new baby to her!”
“How long have you been left on your own?” asked Mrs. Cutter, rubbing a tissue under Emily’s nose.
“Almost a week,” Emily sobbed again. “I’ve run out of study-work, the milk’s gone sour, the bread’s turned moldy, and now even Gummy has left home!”
“I’m sure your mother hasn’t left you,” insisted Mr. Cutter firmly.
“You don’t know her: All she wants is fame and money and nobody is allowed to get in her way – including me!” Emily cried even louder. “I feel like a pet you have for Christmas who everyone loves as a puppy, but once it grows up you loose interest!”
“You mean you’ve turned into a dog!” I joked.
“Be quiet,” ordered Mrs. Cutter, as her husband began to make barking noises! “Why did your father leave?” she asked.
“It’s all to do with that Hole! Daddy was already upset about the death of the chief, but then they argued about Mommy taking all the credit for the Hole’s discovery. He was furious when she changed its name to hers! But the real bust-up came when Mommy said she wanted to open the entire entrance to the Hole!”
“But she can’t do that! The great aboriginal chief said the world would end if that was done!” I panicked.
“That’s exactly what Daddy said,” agreed Emily, “but Mommy said it was all a load of garbage and if my daddy believes it, he was a bigger idiot than the newspaper Editor, and he’s the craziest person in the whole town!” she wept.
“What hole?” Mr. Cutter interrupted.
“Marsh’s Hole – In your newspaper,” Jane snapped.
“Has Professor Marsh made a hole in my newspaper?” roared Mr. Cutter, who still had a weekly newspaper delivered, but hardly ever bothered to read it.
“No Dad! Marsh’s Hole is the new name of the sacred aboriginal hole we discovered! It's the reason we went to the courthouse!” Jane sighed as her father’s fire was swiftly extinguished.
“Emily, I think we need to find your Daddy. Where is he staying?” asked Mrs. Cutter.
“I don’t know – Perhaps he's sleeping rough at the University?”
“If that’s the case, you could stay here tonight, in Grandfather’s old bedroom,” Mr. Cutter offered, "and tomorrow I'll drive you to the University to find him.”
I froze – I had been treating the room like it was my own and had stopped making the bed! If Mr. Cutter unlocked the door I would be in big trouble! But to my surprise Mrs. Cutter was also panicking: “She can’t sleep in there… it’s not safe.”
“Why?” we all asked.
“Your Grandfather had one or two old … flares left over from his adventures and they really aren’t safe to touch,” she half explained.
“But I thought we kept the door locked out of respect,” Mr. Cutter puzzled.
“Yes, that too – but if you move his old boxes it might start a firework display!”
The blood drained from my face: I couldn’t remember seeing any fireworks, but I did pull out an old crate, labeled ‘DANGER’, from under the bed to use as a step up to the window!
“Steven – it’s time you went home,” Mr. Cutter decided as he continued to glare at his wife.
“Right sir,” I replied.
“And you, young lady, it looks like we’ll have to drive you to the University tonight!”
I quickly said my goodbyes as Jane's mom continued to fuss, and silently followed the path to the Grandfather's bedroom. I usually climbed through the window and dived straight into bed, but tonight, after what Mrs. Cutter had said, I just sat on the windowsill, unable to move, staring into Grandfather’s past. Suddenly a hand from the present pushed me in! I toppled into the room and landed, with a thud, right on top of the wooden box! A silhouette face appeared at the window, giggling at my fall.
“It’s only me!” Jane bubbled, as her brown eyes sparkled in the dark.
“Don’t do that again – you could have killed me!” I roared, sliding carefully off the box.
“Kill you?” she laughed, “I’ve come to help! Mom and Dad have only just taken Emily to find her father.”
“I don’t need your kind of help,” I grumbled.
“So what’s in the crate?” Jane asked, bouncing into the room like a kangaroo!
“The lid is stuck tight.”
“Let me help,” Jane offered, tipping the box on its side.
“Be careful,” I warned, “The box says Danger on the front and the flares are probably inside!” I added, scanning the room for something flat to lever the lid off. But from every wall all I could see was Grandfather staring down at me, and in almost every picture he held a weapon; from a spear to a sword, a club to a axe, a shotgun to a riffle, and even a giant crossbow, all seemingly pointing at me!
“This dagger should open it,” Jane decided, but before I could ask where the razor sharp hunting knife had come from, the lid popped open and dozens of old, red cylinders rolled across the floor!
“Quick – out – they’re not flares – they’re dynamite!!!” I yelled, scrambling through the window and diving for cover.
“Steve! What are you doing?” asked Jane, as she packed the dynamite back into the crate and replaced the lid. “You have to remove the safety pin and press the timer to cause an explosion!”
“But they’re old and dangerous,” I flapped, poking my head out of the bushes.
“Not as dangerous as the opening of the Hole,” Jane thundered, pushing the box under the bed.
“But Professor Marsh will never get permission,” I insisted, edging back to the window.
“That’s not a problem now the Great Aboriginal Chief is dead, and Emily has just told me the government has ordered in the Army and half the country’s construction workers!”
“We’ve got to stop them,” I panicked.
“I know, but Emily’s sure her father’s planning something,” Jane revealed. “Its just her mother we have to worry about!”
“If the Army is in charge, they’ll have sent Professor Marsh packing!” I insisted: That, I was sure of!
The next morning I was awake early: I had barely slept a wink. I had dreamt the room was booby-strapped and primed to explode the moment I touched one of Grandfather’s treasures! Even now, looking under the bed at the box of dynamite, I still wondered if the dream was real! I needed to get home, or at the very least, find somewhere safer to sleep!
I slipped on my shoes and tiptoed through the window: The Palace Cafe was closed at weekends so I had to crawl around the house, through the bushes, and knock on the front door without being seen, but almost instantly I became aware of two figures marooned on the yard path! I anxiously lifted my head to discover a very puzzled Emily and a strange man staring down at me! It was Mr. Marsh, but I hardly recognized him: He was wearing grey sandals and an old T-shirt, with the words, ‘Save the Planet’ faded on the front!
“What are you doing?” asked Mr. Marsh, as I sheepishly stood up to join them.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later,” I insisted, before asking, “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been on a journey, searching for answers…”
“And its not good news,” interrupted Emily. “There’s a Supreme Controller who has take charge of the Hole and is secretly organizing its complete opening for this afternoon!”
“But that’s impossible. It took Professor Marsh a week to dig a tiny hole,” I insisted.
“Its no longer an Aboriginal site: The government has reclaimed the land and are hoping to make the Hole a world famous tourist attraction – to rival Uluru!” Mr. Marsh explained.
“What’s Uluru?” I asked.
“It’s a giant sandstone rock near Alice Springs. The Australian’s used to call it Ayres Rock, until they were forced to return it to the Aboriginal people,” Mr. Marsh explained.
“But the Hole is aboriginal,” I insisted.
“No!” Emily moaned, “The old Chief was the only living person who knew about it, and the entrance to the Hole is now suddenly outside the park boundary!”
“But we need to stop them!” I cried.
“Don’t worry – I have everything organized,” smiled Mr. Marsh smugly. “They think by opening the Hole quickly no one will have time to object, but they are so wrong!”
“Yes, Daddy has an army of students descending on the site, ready to chain themselves to the machines!” Emily bubbled excitedly.
“So what do I have to do?” I asked.
“Nothing, but for some strange reason Mushroom-head and a few of the other students want to meet you to discuss their love of chocolate spread sandwiches!” Mr. Marsh laughed. I smiled nervously as we collected Jane and headed to the Hole to help with the demonstration.
Emily had made a placard, attached to a stick, with the words ‘Stop the Hole!’ quickly painted in bright red letters, but as we neared the Historic Park we began to pass row upon row of police vans filled with handcuffed students!
“Hide the sign!” shouted Mr. Marsh, as he saw Mushroom-head beginning dragged across the road by four jubilant policemen. “This is not good,” he panicked, as Mushroom-head’s hair parted and two black eyes reflected defeat and humiliation to their commanding officer! “We are being crushed!” cried Mr. Marsh, “I’ve never seen such a show of force! They must have drafted in the whole of the South Australia’s Police department!”
We lowered our heads as the car passed a police checkpoint. The Historic Park Tourist Center was back to being a tiny, wooden hut, with an outside toilet. Jason and the aboriginal dancers had been moved closer to the entrance. They appeared to be performing behind a wire fence, like animals in a zoo, but nobody was watching anymore, or feeding them tips: There was a new attraction in town and the gleaming glass box had migrated a hundred yards west, where it was being rebuilt as a circular gatehouse to a new park! Workmen were busily erecting a sign. It was covered with a red curtain, but you could still see the outline of the letters protruding through:
The National Park of Marsh’s Hole!’
“They could have thought of a better name,” moaned Jane.
“There’s nothing wrong with Marsh!” Mr. Marsh joked. “It could have been much worse – they could have named it after a British Royal!” he grinned, reversing the car on to a grassy bank. “Leave the placard – they’ll only arrest us!”
“Where are we?” asked Emily, stepping out of the car and spinning aimlessly around. It was almost impossible to know our exact location because straight in front of us was nothing! The beautiful, ancient forest was gone. All that remained was a level plane of tree stumps for as far as the eye could see!
“Murder!” Jane shrieked.
“I think they’re going to build a road through here, all the way to the Hole,” Mr. Marsh explained.
“It’s not fair,” I said.
“It’s a massacre!” Jane continued to bleat.
“This is just the beginning,” Mr. Marsh preached. “It will be the end of the world if they open the Hole!”
“What can we do?” asked Jane.
“While we still have our freedom, we still have a voice!”