sparse desert alien landscape night time

Never Again – Flash Fiction

“An adventure into the unknown,” my friends said, “it will be fun”. They lied.

I’m not sure why I agreed to it. I had lived all of my 41 years in the safety zone, always colouring inside the lines and never straying too far from my creature comforts of home. The riskiest thing I’d ever done was order my jungle curry hot instead of medium – that had been a mistake too.

Maybe it was a mid-life crisis that prompted me to go. Maybe a temporary bout of madness. It didn’t matter how I got here. It only mattered how I was going to get out alive.

The landscape and isolation are completely foreign. A vast, untamed wildness teeming with unseen creatures. Their haunting cries pierce the night. I don’t know what I’ll do if I meet any of them face-to-face. I’ve been warned my protective clothing will do nothing to withstand their stings, claws, or fangs. ‘Protective clothing’ seemed a misnomer considering how ineffective it is against the creatures and the suffocating heat. The exposed parts of my body are red raw from sunburn and insect bites, made worse by my incessant scratching.

We have our duties. Tend to the fire. Prepare meals from long-life packets and whatever can be caught by the more intrepid adventurers among us. Showers are non-existent, as are toilets. It had never occurred to me that I’d have to ‘dig a hole’. It most definitely was not in the brochure.

The dirt, dust and sand insidiously finds its way into every crevice and clings to the film of sweat covering my body. Water is a precious commodity. The oversized bottles are reserved for drinking water and cooking. Not for brushing your teeth I’m told – a wasted exercise since everyone already reeks.

The others seem to thrive in this unforgiving environment. They are enraptured by the land virtually untouched by man. They gaze at the night sky and marvel at the boundless nature of the universe and our insignificance in contrast. 

Not me. I sit closest to the largest guy among us, hoping our carnivorous animal friends will choose him as a meal over me. I count the seconds until everyone is ready to retire for the night, for I dare not venture back to my quarters alone. 

It is the ‘extra hot’ lentil curry that finally tips me over the edge. I’ve already drunk my water ration for the day and my guts are churning. I excuse myself, clutching my stomach, knowing what is on its way. I scramble to find my spade but it is too late. I curse, wondering if washing soiled clothes is an approved use of water. And I pledge there and then, never to go camping or so much as visit the Australian outback again.

Kylie Fennell
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