Lost in the Dreamtime by Ben Waterford - Read Online
Lost in the Dreamtime
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Summary

An outback vacation in Western Australia in the scorching summer of 1955 quickly turns to tragedy when an American family crash their vehicle during a sudden storm. Ten year old Jake is the only survivor who has to endure the heat and isolation of the vast Kimberley region. In search of help, he stumbles across a tribe of remote Aborigines, the Elder of which leads Jake to a hidden sacred cavern. Buried deep within the cavern is an ancient unearthly relic which has become part of the local Dreamtime.

Almost six decades later, a budding journalist named Bradley Chong is investigating the mysterious appearance of young boy found wandering in the Australian Outback. Mystified, Brad travels to the remote town of Halls Creek where events unfold that even Brad could not have imagined. Ignored by the local police and then hunted by federal agents, Brad is assisted by some newly-found friends who join forces to save the boy and fulfil his destiny.

Published: Ben Waterford on
ISBN: 9780994158604
List price: $4.99
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Lost in the Dreamtime - Ben Waterford

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Chapter 1

Bradley Chong had always loved Christmas. It was a happy time that always reminded him of his childhood, where the excitement of Santa visiting his house and the joy of opening presents was always somewhat … magical. You may reason that by the age of twenty-four he would have lost some of that ‘silly-season’ thrill. But no, you could hear him joyfully whistling the ‘Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer’ tune as early as November … but this year, that did not happen. This year had been a year of sorrow and unhappiness. His father had died last August, from a sudden heart attack at the age of just fifty-nine. This of course came as a huge shock to the whole family, but especially to Brad as he had always been very close to his father. Brad, like any normal offspring, thought his parents would be around for ever, never contemplating a world without them. His father was Australian born of Christian Chinese parents who had migrated to Australia in the early 1950’s to escape Chairman Mao’s suppressive and often violent land reforms. He married an ‘Aussie’ girl named Margaret and they had two children, Bradley and Brian, just two years apart. Brad missed his father dearly and thought of him every day. The other situation which saddened him was how his relationship with long-time girlfriend Jennifer was heading. It wasn’t looking good. Although arguments were fairly rare, their closeness had lost its special bond and their time spent together was somewhat strained to say the least.

Brad was just about to attach the last of the red, shiny baubles onto the dark green, tinselled artificial Christmas tree when the familiar signature tune of the six o’clock news chimed from the television. Quickly, he threw the bauble back into its box and swiftly sat down at their small, square glass-covered, dining table where Jennifer had just placed the evening meal on the cork-based tablemats. As Brad took his first bite into a rather over-cooked piece of steak, he spluttered across the table to Jennifer in a rather undignified effort to get her to pump up the volume on his spanking new, way-oversized for the small lounge, sixty-inch television. She vexingly grabbed the remote control lying next to her plate and increased the volume to a more than pleasant listening level. Brad acknowledged with a rather immature ‘thumbs up’ as he directed his attention to the television broadcast. Jennifer frowned, as Brad’s attention was solely concentrated on the headlining news story.

Initial reports from the local police at Halls Creek suggest that the boy was found early this morning wandering without clothes and barefoot along a remote unsealed track, within the Purnululu National Park, which is located in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia’s north. This report was filed by a local farmhand from a nearby cattle station, who had been searching the area for strayed livestock. The vision moves to an edited film clip of a rough-shaven aboriginal man in his late twenties, wearing dust-covered blue jeans and sleeveless tank top.

This kid was just standing there ‘starkers’ in the middle of the track. I slammed on me brakes and just managed to stop … less than a half-a-metre from him I was. He didn’t budge or nothing, but stood staring straight right at me. I reckon he’s lucky I came along as this stretch of bush track is usually deserted at this time of the year, mate.

The early-fiftyish, well-groomed brunette, lady television presenter paused as she waited for an image to be ‘blue-screened’ behind her. An image of a small, slender boy, now dressed in a light-blue tee-shirt and fawn-coloured shorts, was displayed. The image was then expanded fully. It showed him standing next to the local police sergeant outside the Halls Creek police station. A small crowd of onlookers could be seen gathered around. The news presenter then continued with her scripted report, The boy, believed to be aged about ten, and of Caucasian descent, has not spoken since being found and this is making it difficult for police to ascertain how or why he came to be on the desolate track only ten kilometres from the Bungle Bungle ranges; especially at this time of year when travel in this region can be treacherous. If you have any idea who this young boy is, or have any information that can help police trace his family, please contact your local police station. A search is currently underway for any stranded vehicles within a ten kilometre radius. A helicopter from an adjoining cattle station is providing police with an aerial search. More information later as it comes to hand. A male presenter appeared on screen and quickly moved onto the next story regarding home mortgage rates.

Brad turned back to face Jennifer from across the table and finally swallowed the piece of meat that he had been holding in his mouth during the news report. Wow Jen, that’s unusual. What would a kid of ten be doing all alone in that remote outback location? He looked at Jennifer as if she was going to have some magical answer.

How should I know, maybe he just wandered off and got lost, she replied without any conviction, simultaneously shrugging her shoulders. She lifted the remote and adjusted the volume back down on the TV.

Hmm, maybe, said Brad somewhat agreeing. But it’s in the middle of nowhere - real desert country I believe. His family will probably be desperate by now. They must be going through hell to think they have lost him out there in the wilderness.

True, agreed Jennifer, but what if they are also lost out there.

Hey, that’s right; their vehicle could have broken down somewhere, but they did mention they were still conducting a search of the area, so let’s hope. He then slowly cut off another piece of meat as his mind simultaneously chewed on the gristle of his immediate thoughts. Brad although of a slight build, was well proportioned where it mattered and at 175 centimetres tall he just matched his father’s height, but left his mother behind by around five centimetres. At twenty-four, Brad was still trying to prove that he was a journalist ‘worth his salt’. His job as a rural reporter for ‘The West Australian’ newspaper based in Perth has seen him travel to many country locations around Western Australia in search of a good story. I’ll call in and see if they want me to head up there, he suddenly decided.

You what? she queried as she narrowed her eyes at him. "We were supposed to be visiting my mother in Mandurah tomorrow as I have arranged a day off work."

She’ll keep, said Brad with a smirk, I’m sure she can wait another week without seeing her darling daughter.

Well, you can ring and tell her if that’s what you think, said Jennifer raising her voice.

Oh, come on - surely you can’t be serious. She’ll chew my ear off for at least an hour. Brad grinned and then quickly released it as he saw Jennifer frown.

You’re the one who wants to take off chasing after some missing boy, so you can tell her, responded Jennifer rather forcibly.

Okay okay, I don’t even know if I’m going yet, and anyway, he’s not missing – he’s found. Brad quickly turned his attention back to finishing his dinner – which he did in record time. He then located his mobile phone and excitedly rang the office, knowing his editor would be working the late Sunday shift ready for the Monday edition. His response put a sudden dent in Brad’s enthusiasm. His editor was not convinced the expense of flying the 2,900 kilometres to Halls Creek was worth such a story … if there was one, and anyway, as there are no direct flights, he would have to detour via Broome.

Well, what did he say? asked Jennifer, hardly raising her head from the best-seller romance novel she was so currently engrossed in.

Brad hesitated, and then trying not to show his disappointment, smiled and said, He’s not convinced it’s worth it.

Really, and maybe he’s right, gloated Jennifer as she gave a smug look and raised her eyebrows, If there was anything in it except for your unchecked imagination, then there might be something to get excited about. Brad frowned. He was not quite sure how to take that comment.

Good, now can I get back to my book?

Sorry, I’ll go and lose myself for a while, and anyway the mutant crocodile in the bath is probably due for a feed, responded Brad sarcastically. He then turned, pulled a face out of Jennifer’s sight, and walked into the small spare room that he had transformed into his micro-office. He glanced back to where Jennifer sat with her head buried in her book once more. Jennifer, slim with short-cropped brown hair and just a year younger at twenty-three, had been Brad’s girlfriend for almost two years, but what started as a ‘match made in heaven’ relationship (according to Brad’s mother anyway), was now taking a downward spiral and at an increasingly faster descent than either would readily admit. Brad knew the spark they once had was all but gone and it was painfully obvious by the increasingly differing interests they now had. Although the romance had since flown and the inevitable split was surely just around the corner, Brad still wanted Jen as friend. After all, they had known each other since primary school days, so it would be a shame to lose that long-term relationship, but living under the same roof and making that final commitment was not what the future held. Brad sighed as he half-closed the study door and entered into his domain.

Sitting at his desk with his laptop perched in front of him, he hesitated as if lost in thought for a moment. He started to tap his fingers on the table and looked aimlessly around the room. A framed print on the wall of Clark Kent dressed in his famous Superman outfit caught his attention. How come you got all the exciting stories, Brad asked the inanimate image, … and dressed like that! Turning his attention to the screen, he wiggled the mouse to bring the laptop out of sleep mode. The hard drive whirred into action and the screen lit up. On the screen was last night’s dinner, well metaphorically speaking anyway. He had ordered a pizza from his local franchised takeaway via the internet and delivery was within twenty-one minutes. That was their best delivery time so far. Saturday had always been take-away night due to Jennifer working until 5pm. She was a shop assistant at a city retro-clothing shop. No way was she cooking after her shift, not that she cooked most nights anyway. Brad started the web browser and then stared blankly at the screen for almost fifteen seconds with the ‘Yahoo’ page waiting for input.

Finally, the idea of searching for missing people – especially in the remote Australian outback, came to mind. Brad tapped away trying a variety of phrases for the search engine to digest. As Brad poured over a number of semi-useful websites, it took over half-an-hour before he suddenly fell back into his chair and yelled, Whoa! His first thought was to rush out and tell Jennifer what he had discovered, but felt compelled to read more of the article before getting overly excited. He magnified the page of a news report from a January 1955 archived image of the now defunct ‘Western Mail’ newspaper. The heading stated ‘Young boy lost in the Outback’ and the story continued, ‘A young boy believed to be aged ten is missing near Turkey Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia after wandering away from his parents Land Rover which had crashed on a remote stretch of unsealed, dirt road. Both adult occupants were found deceased at the scene. The vehicle, discovered only a few days ago, and almost three weeks since it was last seen refuelling at Halls Creek, has now been towed to the local police station. The garage owner clearly remembered the family, as they were American and driving a recent model Land Rover, which is rare in those parts. He said they told him that they had recently visited the meteorite crater at Wolfe Creek and were anxious to continue their adventure after a good night’s sleep. He then warned them that they expected an early ‘wet season’ this year compared to last year’s drought, and that it can be treacherous to travel when the rains come. The burly American seemed to shun my advice and said ‘Nothing my little baby can’t handle’ as he tapped on the side of his vehicle. The garage owner also stated that he had advised the driver that thunderstorms were forecast and that he should turn back if the rains became too heavy, as the dirt roads can quickly turn into quagmires. It’s obvious now that he didn’t heed my warning. I also feel for the young lad who has perished in this unforgiving country. Photograph page six.

Brad clicked the webpage arrow and located page six. He was flabbergasted. There as clear as day was the image of the same boy he had seen earlier on the news. Surely it can’t be? he said under his breath. Feeling his scalp tighten and the hairs on his head raise, he leapt out of his chair and raced into the lounge room where Jennifer was still deep into her book. You won’t believe this! he shouted. Jennifer startled, jumping with fright.

Oh for Christ sake - don’t frighten me like that. What is it now?

Hang on, said Brad as raced back into the study. Jennifer shook her head. He hit print on the laptop and immediately a copy of the page emerged out of the adjacent printer. He grabbed the copy and raced back.

Look, here. What do you notice? He shoved the printout under her nose.

It’s a black and white photo of the boy that was on the telly tonight, so what?

This photo was in a 1955 newspaper! Brad seemed to have finally grabbed a little of Jennifer’s attention away from her novel.

You sure this is from 1955?

Yep

Well I suppose it is a good likeness, she agreed. But seriously, this kid would be … um, Jennifer calculated some numbers in her head and used some fingers to assist. He would be almost sixty, she said, still not sure what his exact age was. Arithmetic was not her best subject.

Yeah … responded Brad slowly, Yeah that would … be right. He began to feel a tad stupid and realised that perhaps he really had not thought things through enough. He tried to cover his tracks a little and exploded with, Well, what if it’s the same boy and he’s still the same age?

Then it would be a bloody miracle, and you, would make headlines around the world, and be famous, and we’d have lots of money, said Jennifer as she tried her hardest not to burst out laughing and pop Brad’s bubble that he had wrapped around him so tightly.

I know … I know it sounds a little crazy. Nevertheless, the facts are that the incidents have happened in almost exactly the same location, about the same time of the year, and the boy looks the same in both photos – even though they are almost sixty years apart. I have a gut feeling that there is a connection. I can’t put my finger on it but I seem drawn to this. Brad felt some of his reporter adrenalin start to flow once again. He felt proud of his journalistic instinct.

Then go and do some more research and let me know if you find any more miracles. Jennifer smiled wryly as she shook her head in dismay, and then turned the next page of her book and fell back into it. Brad, not deterred by this response, felt even more compelled to prove his worth.

Chapter 2

Jake’s head was still spinning with the enormity of the Wolfe Creek crater which they had explored earlier that afternoon. It had been a pleasant relief to finally stretch his legs after being cramped up so long in the back of the vehicle. His father had taken him down the roughly-defined rocky path that led into the crater. His mother was happy to remain with the vehicle. She planned to read and maybe have a short nap. As they traversed the crater’s flat basin, Jake was amazed that there was a large central, circular area within the crater that was dense with trees and bushes and lusciously deep green, in stark contrast to the red, stone-strewn edge of the crater. They managed to walk to the edge of the fertile area, but time was of the essence if they were