Please note this is fiction and any similarity between real people is purely coincidental.
Anna stifled a sob as she lay on the cold ground assessing the damage and the imminent danger.
She was lying face down in the dirt after tripping over some unseen protrusion in her haste to escape the taunting teens whose aura emanated menace.
Anna could feel and taste the rust-like flavour of blood on her face and momentarily wondered if she had broken any bones. She gingerly allowed her tongue to test for chipped teeth.
A new rustle in the undergrowth startled her as she carefully tried to move her body into an upright position.
The noise was too soft to be her tormentors and was probably just a possum or bush rat. Thankfully this country didn’t come with predators such as bears or lions. But unseen forces could be just as deadly.
Shooting pain hit her left knee as she moved and Anna considered for a moment staying put and hoping her stalkers would not see her in the dark.
DARKNESS AND TERROR
The thing about the Aussie bush is the utter darkness. The trees provide a canopy that blocks sparkling stars and shining moons. Though tonight, All Hallow’s Eve, the sky was heavy with clouds through which no light could penetrate.
Anger at a friend’s indiscretion had powered Anna to storm out of the Halloween party and pushed her towards the lagoon. It was a place she often avoided because of the eerie sensation it exuded, even during daylight.
As she neared the little bush track that would take her through the lagoon area on a shortcut to home, Anna noticed the three teenage boys leering at her as they loitered in the street.
It was clear they had been partying for hours and the night of ghosts and goblins had inspired them to cause havoc.
Their demeanour made it obvious their intentions went beyond the simple power trip of inducing fear. Anna’s gut told her she was in trouble and she ran into the relatively safe cover of the bush surrounding the lagoon.
As she lost sight of the little street and its haven of house lights, Anna could hear the young men coming after her.
She thought they may be high on some form of drug, as well as alcohol. But the scary masks they wore in honour of the spooky celebration, combined with the darkness of night, made it impossible to tell.
Their voices and posture made Anna think they were in their late teens – maybe 18 or 19. She knew from experience that the recklessness of youth fuelled with the influence of drugs and alcohol could turn men into monsters. Especially when they were emboldened by the company of peers.
Anna ran further into the inky blackness of the lagoon and an ominous cloud settled on her shoulders, making it difficult to breathe.
She had grown up only streets away from this natural lagoon, once a popular meeting place for the Darug Aboriginal people who treasured the resource of freshwater and the animals and plant life it attracted.
Her aunt used to delight in scaring her with stories of the Kadaitcha man she insisted still haunted the lagoon. Anna was certain it was more than this that made the place seem so sinister.
She was normally practical and down to earth, not prone to histrionics, yet Anna truly believed people had died there in horrifying circumstances. And she could still feel their presence.
Some days she could walk right past the lagoon and appreciate its beauty. On other days the ghosts would call to her and Anna would steer clear.
She couldn’t imagine a circumstance that would have her right in the middle of the creepy spot in total darkness. Until now.
It was easy to understand how people could just step off cliffs when bushwalking. Darkness was not a bushwalker’s friend.
Though this lagoon area was surrounded by streets with homes, the darkness made Anna feel like she was in the middle of the wilderness.
The terrifying teens, getting closer by the sounds of the rustling and their voices, had the advantage of their phone lights.
Anna knew if she dared use hers, it would act as a beacon to her position.
She was almost at the water when she tripped over a rock, propelling her forward until she face-planted in the dirt.
She used to swim and play in that water when she was a kid but these days there were signs everywhere warning that it was dangerous because of poison created by runoff from all the houses surrounding it.
Anna’s long dark hair caught in the spindly branches of a small bush as she carefully got to her feet and some of it stayed with the plant as she wrenched her head away. Another sharp pain made Anna aware her ankle was swollen and painful.
It was obvious the 25-year-old fitness coach would not be able to outrun her pursuers. She had instinctively moved away from the unearthly quality of the thick bushes and trees which provided cover, towards the less threatening water.
Now she wondered what she had been thinking. The men would soon be upon her and her injured knee and ankle would make it impossible to hide before being discovered.
The water seemed less threatening than the trees, now looking like creepy monsters with multiple arms reaching towards her as the moon made a valiant effort to shine through the clouds.
Still, it offered its own dangers. A haven for frogs, turtles, and all kinds of reptiles and bugs, Anna knew the area was home to many of Australia’s venomous snakes.
Contrary to popular opinion, brown snakes (the ones that scared her most as they were bold enough to chase, jump and repeatedly bite) were often active at night in search of food. They were also good swimmers. Then there was the issue of the poison.
Despite that, Anna limped towards the water, remembering that she had read somewhere how the Aboriginals would use the Grey Sedge reeds that grew in abundance as breathing tubes when hunting for ducks in the lagoon.
She stepped into the water, sludge immediately filling the sandals she found too painful to remove.
The mud acted like a suction cup, rooting Anna to the spot as her stalkers came into view, pointing their phone lights towards her face and laughing at her bedraggled appearance.
Anna could hear the fast pounding of her heart as the group made a slow dance/walk in her direction, outlining their intentions in sing-song fashion.
They were nearly within reach of Anna when suddenly all three dropped to their knees, grabbing their heads as if their ears were exploding from the noise of an enormous blast.
There was no noise. The rustling, frog croaks, and insect chirps had ceased and there was only the silent show of the men who were now rolling around on the ground like they were being attacked on all sides.
Ignoring the pain in her ankle and knee, Anna broke free from the mud’s vice-like grip and began to run towards the trees and a track that would lead towards civilization.
When she finally stumbled onto one of the roads surrounding the lagoon, Anna didn’t stop to catch her breath but continued to limp her way home.
Behind the safety of locked doors, Anna took the time to call the police before stocktaking her injuries and trying to clean the wounds on her face.
It was hours later (Halloween is always a busy night for police) that Anna, now being comforted by the friend who had enraged her, answered her door to two officers who explained the stalkers had been arrested.
Anna was not surprised when the police told her the men were still writhing on the ground when they arrived.
“They must have taken some serious drugs,” one officer said.
“We haven’t got the test results back yet but whatever they took had them all sharing the same hallucination that an army of ghosts had pinned them to the ground and attacked them.
“Not one of the men had a mark on them.
“Halloween brings out all the nutters.”
Happy Halloween and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.