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Pan Macmillan Australia

John Marsdens website can be visited at:

First published 1994 in Macmillan Hardback b Macmillan !ublishers "ustralia #his !an edition published 199$ b !an Macmillan "ustralia 1 Market %treet& % dne

'eprinted 199$ (twice)& 199* (three times)& 199+ (,our times)& 199- (twice)& 1999 (si. times)& /000 (,our times)& /001 (twice)& /00/& /001 (twice)& /004& /00$ (twice)& /00*& /00+& /00-

2op ri3ht 4 J5M !t 5td 1994

#he moral ri3ht o, the author has been asserted.

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Marsden& John& 19$09. #he dead o, the ni3ht.

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:. #itle.


!rinted in "ustralia b Mc!hersons !rintin3 7roup

#he characters and events in this book are ,ictitious and an resemblance to real persons& livin3 or dead& is purel coincidental.

!apers used b !an Macmillan "ustralia !t 5td are natural& rec clable products made ,rom wood 3rown in sustainable ,orests. #he manu,acturin3 processes con,orm to the environmental re3ulations o, the countr o, ori3in.

To my brother Sam, a loved and loving man.


Man thanks to: %ean Mc%ullea& 'osalind "le.ander& Melanie %mith& 5aurie Jacob& Jessica 'ussell& John <el,ord& 'ob <in3ad& 2harlotte "ustin& =ric 'olls& 7abrielle Farran& Mar =dmonston& Felicit 'obb& Frank "ustin& 'achel >2onnor& and apolo3ies to those whose names :ve ,or3otten& or didnt record.

2hapter >ne

?amn this writin3. :d rather sleep. 7od how :d love to sleep. ;ut : cant. :ts been a lon3 time since : had a peace,ul ni3hts sleep. 6ot since : went to Hell. %ince : went to that complicated place called Hell. <hen : 3et a chance to lie down : tr ever thin3. : count ;order 5eicesters& Merinos& 2orriedales& %outh %u,,olks. : think about m parents. : think about 5ee. : think about 2orrie and @evin and all m other ,riends. : think a lot about 2hris. %ometimes : tr closin3 m e es hard and orderin3 m sel, to 3o to sleep& and when that doesnt work : order m sel, to sta awake. 'everse ps cholo3 . : read a lot& when theres da li3ht le,t& or when : think its worth wastin3 a bit more o, the batteries. ",ter a while m e es 3et tired and heav & and : move to turn o,, the torch or put down the book. "nd that little movement so o,ten jerks me back into consciousness. :ts like : 3o all the wa down the corridor o, sleep& and just as : 3et to the door& it slams in m ,ace. %o :ve started writin3 a3ain. :t passes the time. 6o& :ll be honest& it does more than that. :t 3ets stu,, out o, m head and heart and puts it on paper. #hat doesnt mean its no lon3er in m head and heart. :ts still there. ;ut once :ve written about it& seems like theres more room inside me a3ain. More room ,or other thin3s. : dont think it helps me 3et to sleep but its better than l in3 in the tent waitin3 ,or sleep to come. ;e,ore& ever one was so keen ,or me to write. :t was 3oin3 to be our record& our histor . <e were so e.cited about 3ettin3 it all down. 6ow& : dont think the care i, : do it or not. #hats partl because the didnt like some o, what : wrote last time. : told them : was 3oin3 to be honest and : was& and the said that was ,ine& but the werent too pleased when the read it. 2hris especiall . :ts ver dark toni3ht. "utumns creepin3 throu3h the bush& droppin3 a ,ew leaves here and there& colourin3 the blackberries& 3ivin3 the bree8e a sharp touch. :ts cold& and :m ,indin3 it hard to write and keep warm at the same

time. :m crouched inside m sleepin3 ba3 like a hunchback& tr in3 to balance the torch& m pen& and the paper without e.posin3 too much skin to the ni3ht air. AM pen. Funn & : wrote that without noticin3. A#he torch& Athe paper& but Am pen. #hat shows what writin3 means to me& : 3uess. M pen is a pipe ,rom m heart to the paper. :ts about the most important thin3 : own. =ven so& the last writin3 : did was a3es a3o& a,ter the ni3ht @evin drove awa ,rom us in the dark Mercedes& with 2orrie wounded and unconscious in the back seat. : remember thinkin3 a,terwards that i, :d had one wish& it would be to know that the d made it to the Hospital and were well9treated. :, :d had two wishes& it would be to know that m parents were still >@& locked up in the 2attle !avilion at the %how3round. :, :d had three& itd be ,or ever one in the world to be >@& includin3 me. " lot has happened since @evin and 2orrie le,t. " couple o, weeks a,terwards& Homer called us to3ether. <e were still ed3 and ma be it wasnt a 3ood time ,or a meetin3& but then ma be wed been sittin3 around ,or lon3 enou3h. : thou3ht wed be too depressed to talk much& or to make plans& but once a3ain :d underestimated Homer. He did so much thinkin3 B not that he ever said so himsel,& but it was obvious ,rom the wa he spoke in our meetin3s. #hered been a time when a thinkin3 Homer would have seemed as likel as a ,l in3 plat pus& and : was still kind o, slow adjustin3 to the chan3e. ;ut ,rom his words that da & when we 3athered a3ain at the creek& it was obvious that he hadnt sta ed in a slump like some o, us. He stood there& leanin3 a3ainst a boulder& his hands pushed into the pockets o, his jeans. His dark& serious ,ace was scannin3 us& his brown e es restin3 on each one ,or a moment& as thou3h considerin3 care,ull what he saw. He ,irst looked at 5ee& who sat alon3 the creek a ,ew metres& 3a8in3 down at the water. 5ee had a stick in his hands and was slowl breakin3 o,, little pieces& lettin3 the bits dri,t awa with the current. "s each bit disappeared into the tumblin3 3ur3lin3 water amon3 the rocks he repeated the process. He didnt look up& and even i, he had& : knew :d see onl sadness in his e es. : ,ound that almost unbearable. : wished : could drive it awa & but : hadnt ,i3ured out how. >pposite 5ee was 2hris. He had a notebook on his knees and was writin3 in it constantl . He seemed to live more in that notebook than he did with us. He didnt talk to it B well& not out loud B but he slept with it& took it to meals&

and 3uarded it jealousl ,rom snoops like me. He was writin3 mainl poems still& : think. #here was a time when he used to show me all his stu,,& but hed been seriousl o,,ended b what :d written about him& and hed hardl talked to me since. : didnt think :d said an thin3 too bad& but thats not the wa he saw it. :d liked his poems too& even i, the ba,,led me. ;ut :d liked the sound o, the words.

#rucks 3rumble in the dark cold& >n the road to despair. #heres no sun& no clouds& 6o ,la3s an where. #he men walk with bowed heads. #he have no love to spare.

#hat was one bit : remembered. 6e.t to me sat 'ob n& the stron3est person : knew. " ,unn thin3 seemed to have happened with 'ob n. #he lon3er this terrible thin3 lasted& the more rela.ed she became. 5ike all o, us& shed been devastated b what happened to 2orrie and @evin& but that hadnt stopped 'ob n 3ettin3 calmer with each passin3 da . %he smiled a lot. %he smiled at me a lot& which : appreciated. 6ot ever bod smiled at me. 'ob n was so brave that in the middle o, one o, our tou3hest times& drivin3 a truck throu3h a bullet storm at ninet ks& shed kept me sane. 5e,t to m sel, : think : mi3ht have pulled over to the slow lane& to let all the enem vehicles overtake. >r stopped at a pedestrian crossin3& to 3ive wa to a soldier with a machine 3un. : drew a lot o, coura3e ,rom 'ob n that ni3ht& and other times too. : just hoped : didnt leave her leeched dr . >pposite Homer& sittin3 with her slender ,eet and her per,ect ankles and her ballerina le3s dan3lin3 in the water& was Fi. %he still looked like shed alwa s done: read to pour tea ,or our 3randmother& and hand it over in a 'o al ?oulton cup. >r read to step onto the cover o, a <estern 'ose clothes catalo3ue. 'ead to break another 3u s heart or make another 3irl jealous or

make our own ,ather 3o red and lau3h and chatter awa like he was twent ears oun3er. Ces& that was Fi: cute& prett and ,ra3ile. #hat was Fi& walkin3 alone throu3h the dark ni3ht lookin3 ,or enem patrols& li3htin3 a petrol9 soaked ,use to blow up a brid3e& ridin3 a motorbike across countr in a wild scramble to escape bullets. :d been aw,ull wron3 about Fi. "nd : still hadnt 3ot her ,i3ured out. ",ter wed blown up the brid3e shed been 3i33lin3& sa in3& A: cant believe : did thatD 5ets do some moreD ",ter @evin drove awa with 2orrie unconscious in the back seat she cried ,or a week. More than an one& it was Fi who was hurt b what :d written about our e.periences. 2hris had been an3riest& but Fi had been hurt. %he said :d broken con,idences& made her and Homer sound like dorks& like children& and that :d cheated her b not tellin3 her how : ,elt about Homer. : know what : wrote had a bad e,,ect on their relationship. #he 3ot reall sel,9conscious with each other& reall awkward. : should have realised that would happen. : dumbed out. Homer had been upset too& althou3h he hadnt said an thin3 directl to me. #hat was a bad si3n& because wed alwa s been able to talk so easil . ;ut hed become sel,9conscious with me too. :, we ,ound ourselves alone to3ether he mumbled some e.cuse and Euickl went o,, somewhere else. : was ver upset about that& ma be even more upset than : was about Fi. >h& the power o, the written word. ;ut thin3s had improved a3ain. :n such a small 3roup we couldnt sta enemies ,or lon3. <e needed each other too badl . Hal, the problem& : think& was that we were tired& and strained like wire in a new ,ence& so we twan3ed at an little thin3 that happened. : just desperatel wished ,or ever thin3 to 3et back to what it had been. >nl 5ee and 'ob n had been prett much una,,ected b what :d written. #he treated me the same all the wa throu3h. M problem with 5ee was di,,erent B it was how he kept disappearin3 inside himsel,& ,adin3 awa in ,ront o, m e es. :t was 3ettin3 harder to 3et him back when that happened. <ell& we started our meetin3& thou3h : dont know wh : call them meetin3s. #he were much less ,ormal than that. "lthou3h Homer seemed to

run them most o, the time& we were all prett eEual and we said what we wanted. ;ut this was our slowest start. :t was obvious that Homer was the onl one with much to sa . "nd he seemed nervous. :t was a while be,ore he pulled the choke out. <e didnt help much& 3a8in3 into the creek as he talked& 5ee still breakin3 bits o,, his stick& 2hris still writin3 in his notebook. : was scratchin3 at a rock with a bit o, bone& but not makin3 an 3reat impression. A7u s& its time we 3ot our brains back into 3ear. <e can either sit here and wait ,or somethin3 to happen to us& or we can 3et out and make thin3s happen. <e can either be like 5ees bits o, wood& 3ettin3 chucked around and battered and drowned b the creek& or we can 3et in and redesi3n the creek& rip the rocks out o, it till theres no more rapids. #he lon3er we wait& the harder itll 3et& and the more dan3er well be in. : know sometimes ever thin3s seemed a bi3 mess. <ere all wa out o, our lea3ue& but at the same time& weve 3ot to remember& we havent done that badl . <e knocked o,, a ,ew sol9 diers& 3ot 5ee out o, town when he had a bullet wound& then blew up the whole damn brid3e. For a bunch o, amateurs& thats worth a ,ew points. A: dont know about ou 3u s& but :ve been sittin3 around here ,eelin3 depressed& onl thats not 3oin3 to 3et us an where. : think its the shock o, losin3 2orrie and @evin& ri3ht at the moment when the ,our o, us were comin3 back ,eelin3 so up and proud and happ . <reckin3 the brid3e ,elt 3ood& and it was a shock to 3o strai3ht ,rom that into a disaster. :ts no wonder we all ,eel sick and unhapp and an3r . :ts no wonder weve all been bitin3 each others heads o,,& thou3h theres no lo3ical reason wh we should. #he ,act is& no ones made an terrible blunders. <eve made mistakes& but nothin3 worth slashin3 wrists over. 2orrie 3ettin3 shot B no one could have picked that. <ell never be able to cut out all risks. #he wa @evin told it& these turke s just came ,rom nowhere. <e cant protect ourselves ,rom all possible attacks& twent 9,our hours a da . A"n wa . Homer shook his head. He looked tired& and sad. A#hats not what : wanted to talk about. <eve all thrashed these thin3s out amon3 ourselves o,ten enou3h since it happened. : want to talk about the ,uture. "nd b that& : dont mean we ,or3et the past. 6o wa . :n ,act& one o, the thin3s : want to sa will show that& but :ll come to it. First& : want to tell ou what :ve been thinkin3 about most. "nd thats coura3e. 7uts. #hats what :ve been thinkin3 about.

He sEuatted& and picked up a dr old twi3 and started chewin3 on it. He was lookin3 down at the 3round& and even thou3h ou could see he was sel,9 conscious& he kept talkin3. More Euietl but with a lot o, ,eelin3. AMa be this stu,, is obvious to ever one else. Ma be ou all ,i3ured it out when ou were knee9hi3h to 3rasshoppers& and :m just stru33lin3 alon3 in the distance tr in3 to catch up. ;ut ou know& its onl occurred to me the last week or so how this coura3e business works. :ts all in our head. Coure not born with it& ou dont learn it in school& ou dont 3et it out o, a book. :ts a wa o, thinkin3& thats what it is. :ts somethin3 ou train our mind to do. :ve just started to realise that. <hen somethin3 happens& somethin3 that could be dan3erous& our mind can 3o cra8 with ,ear. :t starts 3allopin3 into wild terri 9 tor & into the bush. :t sees snakes and crocodiles and men with machine 3uns. #hats our ima3ination. "nd our ima3inations not doin3 ou an ,avours when it pulls those stunts. <hat ou have to do is to put a bridle on it& rein it in. :ts a mind 3ame. Couve 3ot to be strict with our own head. ;ein3 brave is a choice ou make. Couve 3ot to sa to oursel,: :m 3oin3 to think brave. : re,use to think ,ear or panic. Homer& pale9,aced and ea3er to convince us& was talkin3 earnestl at the 3round& onl 3lancin3 up occasionall . A<eve spun our wheels ,or weeks. <eve been upset and weve been scared. :ts time ,or us to take char3e o, our heads a3ain& to be brave& to do the thin3s we have to do. #hats the onl wa we can hold our heads up& walk proud. <eve 3ot to block out those thou3hts o, bullets and blood and pain. <hat happens& happens. ;ut ever time we panic& we weaken ourselves. =ver time we think brave& we make ourselves stron3er. A#heres a ,ew thin3s we ou3ht to be doin3. <ere headin3 into autumnF the da s are 3ettin3 shorter alread & and the ni3hts are sure as hell colder. <eve 3ot to keep buildin3 up our ,ood supplies& stockpilin3 ,or winter. 2ome sprin3 we can plant a lot more ve3etables and stu,,. <e need more livestock& and we have to work out whats practical to keep down here& 3iven that theres no pasture. <eve 3ot enou3h warm clothes& and well never run out o, ,irewood& even thou3h its not eas to 3et sometimes. ;ut the re onl the basic thin3s& the survival thin3s. <hat :m talkin3 about is not just hidin3 in here like a snake in a lo3 but 3ettin3 out and actin3 with coura3e. "nd theres two thin3s in particular : think we should do. >ne is to 3o and ,ind some other people. #heres 3ot to be other 3roups like us& and all those radio reports keep talkin3 about 3uerilla activit & and resistance in the occupied areas. <e should tr to

link up with them and work to3ether. <ere operatin3 in such i3norance: we dont know where an thin3 is or whats happenin3 or what we should be doin3. A;ut be,ore we 3o lookin3 ,or them : want to look ,or someone else. : think we should 3o ,ind @evin and 2orrie. #o an one watchin3 (: hope there wasnt an one) it must have resembled an outdoors ballet class. <e all slowl be3an to un,url and turn towards Homer. 5ee dropped his piece o, wood. 2hris put down his pad and pen and stretched out. : stood and moved to a hi3her rock. Find @evin and 2orrieG >, course. #he idea in,used us with hope and e.citement and boldness. 6one o, us had thou3ht an thin3 about it because it had seemed impossible. ;ut Homers sa in3 it had brou3ht it within the realms o, possibilit & till suddenl it seemed like the onl thin3 to do. :n ,act& his sa in3 it made it seem so possible that it was almost as i, it had happened alread . #hat was the power o, the spoken word. Homer had put us back on our ,eet and 3ot us dancin3 a3ain. <ords be3an to pour ,rom all o, us. 6o one doubted that we should do it. For once there was no ar3ument& no debate about the moralit o, it. "ll the talk was about how& not whether. %uddenl wed ,or3otten about ,ood and livestock and ,irewood. "ll we could think about was 2orrie and @evin. <e realised that we mi3ht actuall be able to do somethin3 about them. : ,elt stupid that it hadnt occurred to us be,ore.

2hapter #wo

"lread & just a couple o, months since the invasion& the landscape looked di,,erent. #here were the obvious chan3es: crops not harvested& houses li,eless& more dead stock in the paddocks. Fruit rottin3 on trees and on the 3round. "nother ,armhouse& the ;lackmores& had been destro ed& ma be b accidental ,ire& ma be b soldiers shells. " tree had ,allen onto the roo, o, the <ilsons shearin3 shed and still la there in a cradle o, 3alvanised iron and broken ra,ters. #here were more rabbits around& and we saw three , which is unusual in da li3ht. %ome o, the chan3es werent so obvious. " 3ap in a ,ence here& a broken windmill there. " tendril o, iv curlin3 in throu3h a window o, a house. #here was somethin3 else too& an atmosphere& a chan3e in the ,eel o, the land. :t ,elt wilder& stran3er& more ancient. : was still com,ortable travellin3 throu3h it& but : ,elt less important. : ,elt that : wasnt much more si3ni,icant than a rabbit or a ,o. m sel,. "s the bush took back the ,armlands& : would become just another little bush creature& scurr in3 throu3h the under3rowth& barel disturbin3 the land. :n some stran3e sort o, wa : didnt particularl mind that. :t ,elt more natural. <e took our time& keepin3 well awa ,rom the road& walkin3 across paddocks in the shadow o, the hills& usin3 the trees ,or cover. <e didnt talk& but there was a new mood in all o, us& a new ener3 pumpin3 throu3h our blood. <e walked all the wa to the ruins o, 2orries house& then took a break there& raidin3 their little orchard ,or a,ternoon tea. " lot o, the apples were nibbled b possums and parrots but there were enou3h whole ones ,or us to stu,, ourselves& and we did. ;ut we paid a price an hour later when we all started duckin3 behind treesF the apples had 3one throu3h our alimentar canals like a ,lood in Henice. %till& it was worth it. <e hun3 around the Macken8ies place until well a,ter dark. <e ,i3ured we were prett sa,e there& because with the house just a pile o, rubble there was

nothin3 much le,t to attract the soldiers. :d thou3ht :d ,eel depressed at the si3ht o, the wrecka3e& but : was too nervous at the thou3ht o, what la ahead. #o be honest (there : 3o a3ain) :d alread stopped dreamin3 noble dreams o, rescuin3 2orrie and @evinF instead : was thinkin3 more about keepin3 m sel, alive. : even had the 3rim idea that m bod mi3ht soon be lookin3 like 2orries house& splattered across the landscape. #he worst thou3ht o, all thou3h B the one : stamped on ever time it reared its dark ,ilth head B was that 2orrie mi3ht be dead. : didnt think :d be able to cope with that. : was scared that ,indin3 2orrie dead would be the end o, me. : didnt know how it would ,inish meF : just had this deep belie, that : could not continue livin3 i, m mate 2orrie had been killed b a bullet ,ired b an invadin3 arm in the middle o, a war. %urel : couldnt survive thatG %urel no one could survive that. :t was too ,ar be ond normal. From the moment Homer had su33ested we 3o into town and ,ind @evin and 2orrie wed banished the thou3ht that either or both o, them mi3ht have been killed. #he Euest ,or them had 3iven our lives meanin3 a3ainF we werent in a hurr to rip that up and throw it awa . "t eleven oclock we started out ,or <irrawee& walkin3 in pairs on the 3rass ver3e o, the road& about ,i,t metres between each pair. <ed hardl le,t the Macken8ies when 5ee& to m surprise& took m hand and held it in his warm 3rasp. #hat was the ,irst time in weeks hed taken an initiative with me. :d been makin3 the runnin3& and althou3h hed responded >@ most o, the time& it had made me ,eel insecure& as thou3h ma be he didnt care all that much. %o it ,elt 3ood to be walkin3 alon3 hand in hand& under the thick black sk . : was keen to sa somethin3& an trivial little thin3& just to let 5ee know how happ : ,elt to be wanted a3ain. : 3ave his hand a sEuee8e and said& A<e could have used the bikes& to the Macken8ies at least. AMmm. ;ut not knowin3 how much thin3s mi3ht have chan3ed ... ;etter to pla it sa,e. A"re ou nervousG A6ervousD :t wasnt just the apples that had me droppin3 m daks. : lau3hed. A?o ou know& thats the ,irst joke ouve made in weeks.

A:s itG Have ou been countin3G A6o. ;ut ouve seemed so sad. A%adG : suppose : have been. %till am. : suppose we all are. ACes ... ;ut with ou it 3oes so deep& and : cant reach ou. A%orr . A:ts not somethin3 to be sorr about. :ts just the wa help that. A>@& :m not sorr then. AHe & thats two jokes. "t this rate <irrawee ni3htclub. oull be doin3 stand9ups at the ou are. Cou cant

A<irrawee ni3htclubG : think : missed that. >ur restaurants the nearest thin3 to a ni3htclub in <irrawee. A'emember how ever one at school kept complainin3 that there was never an thin3 to do in <irraweeG ?e,initel no ni3htclubs. <e had that Cear 9 disco but we never 3ot around to havin3 another one. :t was 3ood ,un& but. ACes. Cou and : had a dance. A<e didG : dont remember that. A: do. He said it with such ,eelin3& and his hand ti3htened so hard on mine that : was startled. : tried to look at his ,ace& but couldnt make out his e.pression in the darkness. ACou remember it that wellG ACou were sittin3 with 2orrie& under the premiership ,la3. Cou were holdin3 a drink with one hand and ,annin3 oursel, with the other. Cou were red in the ,ace and lau3hin3. :t was prett hot in there and oud been dancin3 with %teve. :d been wantin3 to ask ou since :d 3ot there B that was the onl reason : went in the ,irst place B but : didnt have the 3uts. #hen suddenl : ,ound m sel, walkin3 towards ou without even knowin3 how :d started. :t

was like :d become a robot. : asked ou and ou just looked at me ,or a sec while : ,elt like a complete idiot& and wondered which tact,ul wa oud ,ind to sa no. #hen without sa in3 an thin3 ou 3ave 2orrie the can o, drink and ou 3ot up and we had our dance. : was hopin3 ,or a lon3 slow son3 but it was I2onvicted o, 5oveJ. 6ot too romantic. #hen at the end 2orrie dra33ed ou o,, to the dunnies and that was the end o, it. M hand had become damp and sweat & but so had 5ees : think. :t was hard to tell whose hand was providin3 the damp. : just couldnt believe what : was hearin3. Had 5ee reall ,elt that wa about me ,or so lon3G Knbelievable& wonder,ul. A5eeD Coure so ... <h didnt ou tell me all this a3es a3oG A: dont know& he mumbled& shuttin3 all his words in a3ain& as Euickl as hed let them out. ACouve seemed so ... : never know whether ou reall care or not. A: care& =llie. :ts just that : care about other thin3s tooF mainl m ,amil . : 3et so e.hausted thinkin3 about them that theres no room ,or an thin3 else. A: know. ?o : ever know. ;ut we cant deep9,ree8e our lives until our ,amilies 3et out. <e have to keep livin3& and that means thinkin3 and ,eelin3 and ... and just advancin3D ?o ou know what : meanG A: know it. >nl its hard to do it sometimes. <e were passin3 the 2hurch o, 2hrist at the ed3e o, <irrawee. Homer and 'ob n& who were ahead& had stopped and we waited with them ,or Fi and 2hris& whod ,allen a little behind. From now on there would be no more talk o, emotions& and likin3 each other. : had to put awa m ama8ement at the stren3th and depth o, 5ees ,eelin3s. <e had to be completel alert& concentratin3. #his was a war 8one& and we were 3oin3 into the heart o, it. #here must have been a hundred or more soldiers just in little <irrawee& and ever one o, them would want to kill us i, the could& especiall a,ter what we had done to their buddies. =ach o, our three pairs separated& one person to each side o, the street. : was on the ri3ht& 5ee on the le,t. <e waited until the dark ,i3ures o, Homer and 'ob n had been 3one si.t seconds& then we ,ollowed. <e went alon3 <arri3le 'oad& with the Mathers house on the rid3e above us. : wondered

how 'ob n would ,eel as she passed it. <e turned into Hone %treet& as wed a3reed& and crept alon3 the ,ootpath. #here were still no li3hts in this part o, <irrawee and : cau3ht onl occasional 3limpses o, 5ee. : saw nothin3 o, the other ,our& and could onl hope that we were all 3oin3 at the same speed. Hone %treet at least seemed normal enou3h& e.cept ,or a wrecked car crushed up a3ainst a tele3raph pole. :t was a dark blue car& which made it hard to see& and : nearl walked into it m sel,. "s usual m mind started wanderin3: : be3an wonderin3 how :d e.plain it to the cops i, : had a collision with a parked car ... A<ell %er3eant& : was 3oin3 east alon3 Hone %treet& doin3 about ,our ks& when : suddenl saw the car ri3ht in ,ront o, me. : hit the brakes and veered to the ri3ht& but : struck the vehicle a 3lancin3 blow on its ri3ht9hand side ... : had so man di,,erent da dreams ,or when : was walkin3 an where. M ,avourite was countin3 thin3s& like the number o, electrical appliances we had at home (si.t 9,our& :m ashamed to sa )& the number o, son3s : could remember with a weekda in the title (like A5ets Make it %aturda )& the number o, mo88ies whod never be born because o, the one :d just killed (si.t billion in si. months& i, ever ,emale laid a thousand e33s). M problem was to stop thinkin3 about stu,, like that when : was walkin3 throu3h a town crawlin3 with soldiers wantin3 to kill me. :t ama8ed me that even in those situations : still ,ound it hard to concentrate. : was >@ ,or ten minutes or so& but then somethin3 would distract me and m mind would dri,t out in the rip a3ain. :ncredible but true. :t was the same in this battle,ield as it was in 7eo3raph classes at school. : was scared :d dream m sel, to death one da . From Hone %treet we cut across a little park with no name& into ;arrabool "venue. <e met& as a3reed& in the ,ront 3arden o, 'ob ns music teachers house& and had a Euick con,erence under the peppercorn tree. A:ts Euiet& Homer said. A#oo Euiet& 5ee said& with a little smile. Hed watched a ,ew war movies in his time& 5ee. AMa be the ve all le,t& 'ob n said. A<ere a block and a hal, awa & Homer said. A5ets keep 3oin3& just the wa we planned. =ver bod happ G

A5au3hin3 h stericall & 2hris said. 'ob n and Homer tiptoed awa throu3h the trees. " ,ew moments later we heard the little thuds o, their ,eet on the 3ravel as the jumped ,rom the 3arden back on to the ,ootpath. A2an we 3o ne.tG Fi whispered. A>@. <h G A: cant stand the waitin3. %he looked too thin in the darkness& like a 3host. : touched her cold cheek and she 3ave a little sob. : hadnt realised how scared she was. "ll the time wed spent holed up in Hell had pre ed on her mind. ;ut we had to be tou3h when we were out here in the streets. <e needed Fi i, we were 3oin3 to check the Hospital thorou3hl . %o all : said was& A#hink brave& Fi. ACes& thats ri3ht. %he turned and ,ollowed 2hris& as 5ee took m hand a3ain. A: wish Fi and : were as 3ood ,riends as we were be,ore& : said to him. He didnt answer& just sEuee8ed m hand. <e made our wa back out to ;arrabool "venue& separatin3 a3ain to le,t and ri3ht. 6ow at last : had no trouble concentratin3. 5o3icall & the area around the Hospital shouldnt have been more dan3erous than an other part o, town B one o, the points wed been sure o, was that the Hospital wouldnt be heavil 3uarded B but because it was our tar3et& our 3oal& : was now alert and watch,ul and nervous. <irrawee Hospital is on the le,t side o, ;arrabool& near the crest o, the hill. :ts a sin3le9store buildin3 thats been added to over the ears& with lots o, di,,erent win3s& so that now its like a letter H ne.t to a letter #. ;etween us wed had enou3h e.perience o, the place to work out Euite a 3ood map. <e had in,ormation ,rom ever one. 5ee had visited it when each o, his little brothers had been born. 'ob n had been admitted ,or a ,ew da s when she broke her ankle cross9countr runnin3F Fis 3randmother had been there ,or months be,ore she diedF :d had m shoulder L9ra ed& picked up tablets ,or ?ad at the dispensar & visited ,riends when the were in there. Ces& we all knew the Hospital.

#he trouble was that we didnt know how much thin3s had chan3ed since the invasion. #he adult prisoners wed talked to once had told us that our people were still bein3 treated at the Hospital& but we had to e.pect that the wouldnt be in the best private rooms. :n the car park& more likel . ;e,ore the invasion the entrance ,o er was in the crossbar o, the H& with 2asualt and >utpatients and L9'a and all that stu,, on the ri3ht& and the wards on the le,t. :n the crossbar o, the # were the o,,ices& and in the lon3 row behind them were the wards ,or the old people. %ee& our Hospital was as much an old peoples home as it was a hospital: we didnt 3et a lot o, open9heart sur3er and kidne transplants in <irrawee. :t was 1.1$ am when we 3ot there. #he electricit was on in this part o, town& as it had been ever time wed visited <irrawee. #here were no streetli3hts& but there was a bi3 securit li3ht shinin3 on the car park. #he Hospital was lit& but mainl just the corridors and the ,o er. #here werent man rooms with li3hts on. "t 1.4$& as wed a3reed& Homer and 'ob n made the ,irst move. From a belt o, trees across the road ,rom the car park 5ee and : saw the two dark ,i3ures movin3 towards the ,ar end o, the >utpatients section. 'ob n was in the lead& Homer was peerin3 around more as he ,ollowed. : was surprised at how small the looked. #here was a door near that end o, the buildin3 which wed ,i3ured was the least conspicuous entr & and we were hopin3 it would be unlocked. ;ut 'ob n was onl at it a moment be,ore she turned awa and be3an checkin3 the windows alon3 the side nearest us& while Homer disappeared around the other side. " ,ew minutes later Homer reappeared& 'ob n rejoined him& and the moved Euickl back to the trees. %o that was one ,ailed option. Five minutes later& Fi and 2hris came out o, their hidin3 place& behind some sheds a little ,urther up the hill. #heir tar3et was the #9shaped buildin3 B the o,,ices and old peoples win3. :t took them ten minutes& or close enou3h& but the result was the same: the place was ti3ht as a Hacola. 2hris looked in our direction and held out his arms& palms up. He couldnt see us& or so : hoped& but he knew appro.imatel where wed be. #hen he and Fi retreated to sa,et & leavin3 the ,ield to us. 5ee looked at me and rolled his e esF : 3rinned back& hopin3 : didnt look as ,ri3htened as : ,elt. <e waited the a3reed ,ive minutes. :t was /.09 am. : tapped 5ees arm& he nodded& and o,, we went. "cross the crunch 3ravel& up a small bank planted

with stra33l red wall,lowers& and towards a side door in the main win3. <e walked slowl & about three metres apart. : was breathin3 hard& as thou3h :d run a crossie& and : was sweatin3 all over. #he sweat ,elt so cold on m skin& like it was turnin3 to ice. M throat had a lump so bi3 : ,elt :d swallowed a chicken bone. ;asicall & : ,elt sick. : was ver scared. :d almost ,or3otten the emotion that had brou3ht us there: m love ,or 2orrie and @ev. : just wanted to do the job& ,ind them or not ,ind them& and then 3et out o, there. #hat was all. : reached the door& which was in shadows but had an illuminated 3reen si3n above it. : turned the handle slowl and pushed& then pulled. #he result was the same: the door was ti3htl locked. "s the others had done& we separated and be3an checkin3 the windows. #he ones on the corridor side were all closed& but on the other side Euite a ,ew were open. ;ut the were up hi3h& be ond our reach without a ladder. : was 3ettin3 too close to the li3hts o, the entrance ,o er& so : went back& meetin3 up with 5ee a3ain near the locked door. :t was too dan3erous to talk there& so we went over to a shed about ,ort metres awa B a small locked wooden hut B and hid behind it. A<hat do ou thinkG 5ee asked. A: dont know. #hose open windows would be ,or wards. : dont see how we could just drop into a ward. A!lus the re so hi3h up. ACes. #here was a pause. : had no idea where to 3o ,rom there. A: wish the others were here. #he mi3ht know what to do. A:ts onl ten minutes be,ore our pull9out time. AMmm. "nother minute passed. : si3hed and started to stand. : couldnt see an point han3in3 around there& in such a dan3erous place. ;ut as : be3an to move& 5ee 3rabbed m arm. A%hh. <ait. #heres somethin3 ...

: heard it too& at that moment. :t was the sound o, a door openin3. : peeped around one corner o, the shedF 5ee looked around the other. :t was the door that wed been hopin3 to ,ind unlocked. " man in militar uni,orm was comin3 out. <e could see him easil & backlit b the dull li3ht ,rom the corridor. He didnt even look around& just walked alon3 the bank& pullin3 thin3s out o, his pocket. >nl when his hand went to his mouth did : realise what he was doin3. :t was a ci3arette. Hed come outside ,or a smoke. Just like us& these people werent allowed to smoke in hospitals. : 3ot Euite a shock :d been thinkin3 o, them as animals& monsters& but the had rules& codes o, conduct& too. : 3uess it sounds naive& but it was the ,irst time : ,elt an common 3round with them. :t was odd. :t was ,rustratin3 to crouch where we were and look at that open door. #he ellow li3ht ,rom the corridor made it seem as i, : was peerin3 into a 3old mine. : desperatel searched m mind ,or some wa to 3et in there. #hen m thou3hts were interrupted. From awa to our le,t& in amon3 the trees& came a cr & a 3roan& like a bun ip havin3 a bab . M skin 3oose9 bumped all over. : turned and 3rabbed 5ee and looked at him in horror. : know m e ebrows were somewhere up above m hairline& and still risin3. #he cr came a3ain& even worse& and more prolon3ed. #he bun ip was 3oin3 to need stitches. 5ee whispered in m ear& A:ts Homer. "s soon as he said it& : realised ever thin3. Homer was tr in3 to 3et the soldier awa & leavin3 us a wide open door to stroll throu3h. 5ee and : let 3o each other and turned back to our lookout points. <e 3ot a shock. :nstead o, rushin3 heroicall into the trees the soldier was boltin3 towards the door. He 3ot there and skidded throu3h it& pullin3 it shut behind him. =ven at such a distance we could hear him deadlockin3 it& slammin3 a couple o, bolts home ,or 3ood measure. A;lood Homer& 5ee said. AHe thinks its a 3ame. AHope theres not a ,ire in the Hospital toni3ht& : said. A:tll take them hal, an hour to 3et out. A: thou3ht soldiers were meant to be tou3h& ,ull trained pro,essionals. A'emember what we heardG #hat the had pro,essionals& but the also had a lot o, dra,teesG "mateurs. Knwillin3 amateurs& too& b the look o, it. A<ed better 3et out. <e withdrew& meetin3 the others twent minutes later at the music teachers house. Homer looked a bit embarrassed& a bit de,ensive. He hadnt become totall mature and responsible overni3ht. #here was still a bit o, the

wild and cra8 3u lurkin3 inside. A>@& 3o on& ever one have a 3o at me& he said& be,ore : could 3et out more than hal, a sentence. A:t seemed like a 3ood idea at the time& thats all. :, he had come lookin3 ,or us& 5ee and =llie could have 3one strai3ht in and ou 3u sd now be kissin3 me on both cheeks and bu in3 me beers. A<e ou3ht to be kickin3 ou on both cheeks& 5ee mumbled. A"nd ou know which cheeks. A:t was prett dumb& 2hris said. A:, hed had a 3un he could have shot ou. :, he didnt have a 3un there was no wa he was 3oin3 to char3e o,, into the bush in the middle o, the ni3ht to investi3ate. =ither wa it was prett dumb. #here didnt seem to be much to add. <e were all tired& and at our worst. <e nominated Homer ,or ,irst sentr dut and the rest o, us bedded down on the ,irst ,loor o, the house. :t was the sa,est house we knew& because there were so man points out o, upstairs windows& alon3 tree branches. "nd it 3ave such 3ood views o, the road. 6o one could approach without the sentr seein3 them. : 3ot a real char3e out o, bein3 in a bed& in a bedroom a3ain. :t was a beauti,ul& secure& com,ortable lu.ur . : did sentr ,rom si. till ei3ht& then slept a3ain till lunchtime.

2hapter #hree

<e spent the a,ternoon loun3in3 around tr in3 to think o, brilliant wa s to 3et into the Hospital. : was on the ,loor most o, the time& wrapped in a tartan ru3. : remember lau3hin3 at 2hris& who was pretendin3 to watch television. He was reactin3 to the ,lat 3re screen as thou3h there were 3ame shows and sitcoms and action movies on it. :t was stran3e how #H had been such a major part o, our lives& and now& without electricit & the #H had become about the most useless thin3 in the house. Most o, all : ,elt prett happ that da . :t was because we were startin3 to 3et on well a3ain. :t onl showed in little wa s& but those little wa s were m ,ood& m drink& m air& m li,e. #he others thou3ht : was tou3h and independent& but : needed those ,ive people more than :d ever needed an one or an thin3 in m entire e.istence. For all that thou3h& we still couldnt think o, a wa to 3et into the Hospital. 6i3ht started to ,all& then it ,ell& till it was l in3 all over the 3round. "nd we still hadnt thou3ht o, an thin3. ;ut :ll take a lot o, the credit ,or the inspiration we ,inall had. :d been idl thinkin3 about Homers cra8 distraction tactic. :t seemed to me that there were possibilities in the idea. He just hadnt done it ri3ht. %omethin3 was nibblin3 at m brain& like there was a tin mouse trapped in there. :, : could ,ind the ke : could let him out. A5ee& : said& when he was relieved b Fi ,rom sentr dut . ACes& m beauti,ul se. caterpillarG A2aterpillarG A#hats what ou look like& wrapped up in our ru3. A#hanks a lot. 5isten& ou remember that ver Euick conversation behind the shed& a,ter Homer ,inished wailin3G A"nd ,ri3htened a poor innocent soldier out o, his witsG Ces.

A<hat did we sa G #heres somethin3 ,rom that conversation thats bu33in3 me. A2aterpillars are alwa s bu33ed. #hats what makes them caterpillars. AHer ,unn . ;ut :m serious. A<hat did we sa G : dont know. <e were talkin3 about how it was probabl Homer who was makin3 the noise. ACes. "nd thenG A: cant remember. Just watchin3 the 3u runnin3 in and shuttin3 the door. 5ockin3 it so ti3ht. ACes. %omethin3 about ... #he wa he was lockin3 it. ACou said somethin3 ... ACes& : did. : sat there& ,rustrated. A:s this reall importantG 5ee said presentl . A: dont know. :m probabl bein3 stupid. : just think theres somethin3 there& i, : can remember it and let it out. :ts like watchin3 a hei,er calvin3. : can see the head o, the damn thin3 but : dont know what its 3oin3 to look like. : 3ot up and started walkin3 around. <e were in an upstairs sittin3 room& which Ms 5im must have used as a practice room. #here was a beauti,ul black bab 3rand piano ,acin3 the window. Homer had written Heavy Metal across it in the dust with his ,in3ers. ;ut : had seen 5ee with the lid raised& runnin3 his hands across the ke s. His ,in3ers were tremblin3 and there was a look on his ,ace even more passionate& more intense than when he looked at me. :d been standin3 in the doorwa watchin3. <hen he noticed me he lowered the lid Euickl & almost 3uiltil & and said& A: ou3ht to pla the 1-1/. 7et the soldiers to provide the cannons. : didnt answerF just wondered wh he tried to turn somethin3 that he ,elt so stron3l about into a joke. #here were times when : 3ot sick o, jokes.

;ut now : did a tour o, the room& swattin3 the blind cord& spinnin3 the piano stool& rubbin3 out Homers 3ra,,iti& strai3htenin3 the books& openin3 the ,ront o, the 3rand,ather clock& then closin3 it a3ain. A5ets have an instant repla & 5ee said& watchin3 me. A6ot ver instant& : said& sittin3 on the piano stool and ,acin3 him. A;ut >@& lets. A"ll ri3ht. : dont think we said much till the 3u was back throu3h the door and closin3 it. <e abused Homer a bit& thats all. A#hen we talked about how ti3htl he was lockin3 it. A"nd how the must have pro,essionals and amateurs& like we thou3ht. "nd how this 3u must be ... A<ait. : sat there with m hands 3rippin3 m head. %uddenl it was there. : stood. :ve 3ot it. 5ets 3o ,ind the others.

#hat ni3ht& as 5ee and : watched Homer ,rom our hidin3 place& : thou3ht a3ain how there were advanta3es to bein3 the wildest 3u in the school. Homer knew some ama8in3 stu,,. <hile the rest o, us had been stud in3 product di,,erentiation and price discrimination in =conomics& Homer and his mates at the back o, the room had been trainin3 in urban terrorism. : dont know how the learnt some o, the thin3s the did. Homer was creepin3 towards the >utpatients section a3ain& this time with 'ob n ,i,t metres behind& on the lookout. He 3ot to the door at the end o, the buildin3 that he and 'ob n had tried be,ore. #his time he didnt bother with it& but went instead to the little metre9hi3h door under the buildin3& about hal,wa alon3. He had to 3rope his wa throu3h the lavender bushes to reach it& but ,rom the an3le we were watchin3 we had a 3ood view. : saw him pull on the door but it must have been locked& as wed e.pected. He used a chisel then& to tr to lever it open& but that didnt work& althou3h the door seemed ,lims enou3h. :t consisted onl o, ,our vertical white slats nailed to two crossbars. Homer was undeterred& however& and he was well9prepared. His hand went to his ba3 o, tools a3ain and pulled out the screwdriver. He set to work on the hin3es. :t took ,ive or si. minutes& then at last he took a ,irm hold on the

door and li,ted it 3entl o,,. <ithout a backward 3lance he wri33led B hes a bi3 3u & Homer B throu3h the openin3. <e couldnt see him an more but : knew e.actl what hed be doin3. 5ee and : both tensed& knowin3 that it was nearl time ,or us to 3o into action. : could picture Homer& undulatin3 throu3h the cold dark underworld like a bi3 worm. Hed seemed so certain that his plan would work& once :d 3iven him the initial idea. ;ut a,ter all& he was just recreatin3 one o, his more outra3eous school stunts. Hed had a dress rehearsal. He had to ,ind a place to make a hole in the ,loor. #he buildin3 he was in& bein3 ricket and old& seemed a 3ood choice ,or that& and he had a ke hole saw and a brace and bit with him. <ed thou3ht this throu3h ver care,ull . <e didnt want to leave an evidence o, our visit: thats wh we wanted to do it throu3h a hole in the ,loor& rather than the easier method o, breakin3 a window and throwin3 Homers bomb throu3h. %o we watched and waited and shivered& 3lancin3 at our watches& then at each other& then an.iousl back at the >utpatients ?epartment. <hen the action did happen it happened with knobs on. <e hadnt wasted our evenin3& sneakin3 into house a,ter house in ;arrabool "venue to ,ind pin39pon3 balls. Homer had promised us a worthwhile result& as he wrapped the balls in ,oil. <ed watched& ,ascinated& not prepared to cast doubts as we thou3ht back to the evacuation o, the "2 Heron Hi3h %chool just si. months earlier. :t had certainl worked then. "nd it worked now. %uddenl & sharp loud beeps started to emer3e ,rom Homers end o, the buildin3& and almost immediatel & throu3h the clear ni3ht air& came a series o, announcements. #hese were in =n3lish and loud enou3h ,or us to hear. #he seemed to come ,rom all over the HospitalF : think the were pre9recorded and came on automaticall . #he ,irst one was A2ode two& code two& code two& repeated ever ,i,teen or twent seconds. ",ter a minute or so came the ne.t messa3e: AMone ,our& 8one ,our& 8one ,our. #hen: A5evel three. 5evel three. ; now the Hospital was stirrin3 into li,e. 5i3hts were comin3 on ever where and we could hear people callin3 out. " second round o, announcements be3anF the same as the ,irst : think& but b then :d stopped concentratin3 on them. :nstead& 5ee and : were creepin3 ,orward& lookin3 ,or our chance. : couldnt see an smoke actuall emer3in3 ,rom the end o, >utpatients but the people comin3 out o, the wards were all headin3 in that direction. #here were two soldiers& runnin3& then a ,ew men and women in ordinar clothes& then a woman in a nurses uni,orm& and three or ,our people in p jamas. : couldnt see their ,aces& so couldnt tell which ones were ,riends& i, an . ;ut it was Euite a part ,or two

oclock in the mornin3. <e didnt want to do an harm to sick people. Homers smoke bomb was 3uaranteed not to start a ,ire& and we were hopin3 that the sta,, wouldnt rush around evacuatin3 patients. <e had 3ambled that the Hospital would have a ,ire detection s stem that could be tri33ered b smoke& and that it would still be workin3. :t wasnt a ver bi3 3amble: prett much a certaint . "nd the sta,, had reacted as we hoped the would. #he hurried to the site o, the alarm. "nd the le,t doors open ever where. <e didnt have much time. >ut o, the corner o, m e e : saw Fi and 2hris movin3 Euickl to the door into the main wards. 5ee and : had the old peoples win3 as our tar3et& in the lon3 section o, the #9shaped buildin3. >nl one person had come ,rom there& a soldier& and he or she had ,lun3 the door shut& but so hard that it bounced open a3ain. : set o,,& hal, a stride ahead o, 5ee. : was hopin3 we could sneak across the car park& not bein3 noticed& but once we entered that 3reat bare black desert : realised our onl chance was speed. : put m head down and sprinted& hopin3 the ,ootsteps behind me were 5ees. #he ni3ht air was cold on m ,ace& but colder was the chill down m neck and backF the ,ear o, the rippin3 bullets. : 3ot to the door pu,,in3& 3aspin3& and 3rate,ul to be alive. #ime was so short. "ll : could do was stick m head throu3h the door and look to le,t and ri3ht. #he old wooden corridor was empt o, people so in : went& trustin3 to 5ee to ,ollow me. He did& so closel that : could ,eel his breath around m ears. "lthou3h the corridor was empt ou could sense that the buildin3 was ,ull o, people. : dont know what it is: the little sounds ma be& the creaks& the shu,,lin3 noises. >r ma be its the smell o, human bodies and breath& or the warmth that ,ills the place& the close humid warmth that heaters and ,ireplaces can never 3enerate. %o : knew ri3ht awa that there were people ever where& behind all the closed doors alon3 the corridor. : made an instant decision to turn ri3ht& not ,or an reason in particularF : just did it& walkin3 Euickl alon3& tr in3 to decide which door to 3o throu3h& wishin3 ,or L9ra vision. <e passed a small kitchen with an open door. :t was empt and in darkness. #he ne.t room was labelled ;+. 6o li3ht showed under the door. : stopped& looked around at 5ee& and indicated the door b raisin3 m e ebrows and pointin3 to it. He shru33ed and nodded. : took a deep breath& hunched m shoulders& sEuee8ed the handle ti3ht& turned it and opened the door.

:nside all was dark. 6ot onl were the li3hts o,, but the curtains were drawn too. Cet a3ain : knew it was ,ull o, people. :t seemed such a small room& but so ,ull o, people. #here was a lot o, heav breathin3& some slow and deep& some Euaver and lon3. : stood there& tr in3 to 3et used to the darkness& not knowin3 whether to risk speakin3 or not. ;ut 5ee tapped me on the shoulder and : ,ollowed him back into the corridor. A#his is blood risk & he said. He was sweatin3 heavil . <e heard a noise down the corridor and turned Euickl towards it. #he door ,rom the car park was bein3 opened a3ain. %uddenl we had no choice. <e made a dash ,or the nearest door& which was ;-. : tried to open the door as Euietl as possible& but there wasnt much time ,or subtlet . <e ,ell into the room to3ether& makin3 a ,air bit o, noise. 5ee shut the door Euickl behind us as a voice asked a33ressivel & A<ho is itG : ,elt such relie, that she spoke in =n3lish. :t was a womans voice& someone Euite oun3& twent 9,ive or thirt ma be. A<ere lookin3 ,or a ,riend& : said Euickl . #his was the ,irst conversation :d had with an adult since the invasion. A<ho are ouG she asked a3ain. : hesitated& and ,inall answered honestl . A: dont know i, its sa,e to sa . #here was a pause& then in a voice Euiverin3 with astonishment she said& A?o ou mean ou arent prisonersG A#hats ri3ht. A<ell blood hell. : didnt think there was an one le,t. A"re we sa,e in hereG 5ee asked. AHow man o, ou are thereG A>nl two& : said. A<ell& oure probabl sa,e till mornin3. %orr : 3rowled at ou when ou came in& but ou never know round here. %ometimes attacks the best method o, de,ence. 5ook& old Mrs %impson ne.t to me& shes in a proper bed B the onl one who is B hop under there and oull be hidden i, an one turns the

li3ht on. 7awd& : cant believe this. <e 3roped our wa to the bed and wri33led under it. Mrs %impson smelt prett bad& but we tried to i3nore that. A<hats happenin3G : asked. A<ho are ouG <ho else is in hereG A<ell& :m 6ell Ford& used to work at the hairdressers. M husbands %tewart& worked ,or Jack 2ulvenor. <e were buildin3 that new brick place out on %herlock 'oad& past the truck ard. A"re ou a patientG A7awd eah. Couve 3ot to be prett sick to 3et in here. ;ut :m out tomorrow or the ne.t da . ;ack to the %how3round. A%o are all the patients in here prisonersG A:n this buildin3& eah. #he ve shoved us in here like sardines and the ve 3iven themselves the 3ood wards& over in the main section. A?o ou have nursesG "nd doctorsG %he lau3hed& but bitterl . A<e 3et one nurse. !h llis de %tei3er. ?o ou know herG "nd the doctors are allowed to come over occasionall & when the re not treatin3 the soldiers. :, we 3et them ,or hal, an hour ever second da were luck . <e have to look a,ter ourselves& basicall . :ts prett rou3h. AHow man people are in this roomG A%even. :ts a bu33er ,or in,ections. "n wa & what are ou kids doin3 hereG ?id ou sa ou were lookin3 ,or somebod G Knder the dust bed& l in3 ne.t to 5ee& talkin3 in whispers& : tensed m sel,& pressin3 m ,in3ernails hard into m palms. A?o ou know 2orrie Macken8ieG : asked. A"nd @evin HolmesG A>h& so ou were with them& were ouG she said. A<ell& that all ,its to3ether. : know who ou are now. Coure the ones who blew up the brid3e. : was sweatin3 ,uriousl . : didnt know we were so notorious. : didnt answer& and 6ell lau3hed. A?ont worr & she said. A:m not a talker. <ell& :

suppose ou want to know how our mates are. ACes please& : whispered. A@evins all ri3ht now. Hes back at the %how3round. !oor little 2orrie ... %he paused. : ,elt an aw,ul& impossible wei3ht inside m chest. M heart. A<ell& love ... A<hatG <hatG A5ook& shes prett crook& love. "ll : could think was that she was alive. A<here is sheG A>h& shes in here. #wo doors down. ;ut like : said& shes prett crook. AHow do ou meanG A<ell love& shes still out to it& ou know what : meanG Knconscious. %hes been that wa since she 3ot here. %hes not too 3ood. A2an we 3o and see herG A2ourse ou can& love. ;ut just wait a bit lon3er. #he 3uards are due to come round soon. #he onl do one patrol a ni3ht& but there was a ,ire alarm be,ore& so the mi3ht be late. A#hat was us& 5ee said. A:t was the onl wa we could distract them& so we could 3et in here. AMmm. #he sa ou kids have been prett smart.

A#ell me more about 2orrie& : be33ed. A#ell me ever thin3. 6ell si3hed. A>h dear. : wish : could think o, some 3ood news. ;ut ou know& the ve been prett rou3h with her. Coun3 @ev drove her ri3ht into 2asualt & and at ,irst the let the doctor have a look at her& but when the ,ound it was a bullet wound the turned nast . #he locked her in a room and wouldnt let an one see her& till the doctors jacked up. ;ut even then it was a3es be,ore she 3ot an proper treatment& and a lot lon3er be,ore the moved

her over here ,or us to take care o, her. #he soldiers kept sa in3 she was a Ibad 3irl& bad 3irlJ. Ma be she was luck & bein3 unconscious. Cou know& better o,,. ;ut the poor kid& she just lies there. #he ,inall 3ot a drip into her& but she doesnt seem to be 3ettin3 an better. <e do ever thin3 we can. %hes the onl one here in a room on her own& but someone alwa s sits with her. :ts Mrs %later toni3ht. Cou know her. #here was a lon3 silence. For the ,irst time : ,elt real hatred ,or the soldiers. :t was such a dark evil ,orce that it ,ri3htened me. :t was as thou3h black vomit was ,illin3 me B as thou3h a demon inside was spewin3 black stu,, into m 3uts. : was ,ri3htened& ,ri3htened at ever thin3: the hatred : ,eltF the state 2orrie was inF the risks 5ee and : were runnin3 b bein3 there. A?o ou know how our ,amilies areG 5ee asked. 6ell 3ave a little 3ur3le. A:ll have to know who ou are be,ore : can answer that& she said. A<as : ri3ht& what : said be,oreG %o we told her. <e didnt know i, she was trustworth or not& but our need to know was 3reater than our sense o, caution. 6ell& like all hairdressers& knew ever thin3 about ever one. M parents were >@& althou3h m ,ather had had a ri,le shoved into his 3uts the ,irst da o, the invasion& when he 3ot too a33ressive& and hed been knocked down a couple o, times since ,or the same reason. :d alwa s been a,raid o, that. Farmers are so used to bein3 their own bosses. #he dont like bein3 told what to do b an one& includin3 their dau3hters. ?ad would have been purple in the ,ace when he realised that these 3u s ,rom another countr were 3oin3 to lock him up and order him around ,or the ne.t ,ew ears B or ,or the rest o, his li,e. 5ees ,amil were all ri3ht too& thou3h a3ain the d had a rou3h time at ,irst. #he d put up a ,i3ht when the soldiers arrived and hauled them out o, their restaurant. Ma be& too& the were 3iven a harder time because the were "sian. "n wa & 5ees ,ather 3ot a broken arm and his mother 3ot two black e es& but the little kids were >@& just shocked. Most o, the others seemed well enou3h& e.cept ,or Homers brother& 7eor3e& slicin3 his hand open when he was cuttin3 ve3etables ,or a meal& and Fis little sister 3ettin3 some bad asthma attacks. ;ut li,e at the %how3round sounded terrible. 6ell said the were too crowdedF the sewera3e

s stem couldnt copeF o,ten there wasnt enou3h ,ood to 3o around. #here were a couple o, showers in the horse pavilion ,or the 3rooms& but no one was allowed to use them& so the all stank and itched. %cratches and cuts 3ot in,ected easil & and there were epidemics all the time. #he current one was chickenpo.F the last one had been mumps. !eople were depressed and bad9 tempered and tired. #here were ,i3hts all the timeF some people not talkin3 to other peopleF a ,ew attempts at suicideF a do8en deaths. Most o, these were old people& some whod been kicked out o, the Hospital& but one had been a bab & and one a 3irl o, twent & named "n3ela ;ates& whod been murdered. 6o one knew much about it: the d ,ound her bod dumped outside the dunnies one mornin3. =ver one was sure it was the soldiers o, course& but complainin3 to them was a waste o, time. #he murder remained unsolved. #here had been some rapes while people were bein3 rounded up and brou3ht in to the %how3round& but none since. 6ell said the soldiers there were well disciplined most o, the time& but the d bashed do8ens o, people whod disobe ed orders. " 3u called %pike Farada & a oun3 cockie ,rom out near 2hampion Hill& had been shot in the kneecap ,or assaultin3 a soldier& and si. people whod tried to escape had been bashed& and dra33ed o,, to the <irrawee lock9up. "nother %pike& a 3u called %pike Florance& a jackaroo& had been beaten up repeatedl because he just wouldnt back down& kept anta3onisin3 the 3uards. :t was all much worse than wed thou3ht. #he little in,ormation wed picked up ,rom prisoners work parties& and the comments on the radio about a Aclean invasion& had lulled us into a ,alse sense o, optimism. #hin3s seemed to be deterioratin3. #here was nothin3 clean about all this. : wanted to 3o and wash m hands. #here were two thin3s 6ell said ,rom her mattress on the ,loor that reall shocked me. >ne was when she told us that a lot o, people were cooperatin3 with the soldiers. : didnt know what to think when : heard that. : hadnt read a lot o, war books or seen a lot o, war movies& but :d alwa s had the impression that the 3oodies in them were all heroes. Cou were on one side or the other B either a 3oodie or a baddie B and ou sta ed that wa ,rom start to ,inish. 6ell said that some people were suckin3 up to the soldiers& real brown9nosers& and whats more& some o, them were activel helpin3& o,,erin3 to do jobs ,or the 3uards& and 3oin3 out o, their wa to support them. >thers were spendin3 the ni3ht with them. <e were both bewildered. A<h G 5ee asked. A<h are the doin3 thatG

6ell lau3hed her little bitter lau3h& that : was 3ettin3 used to. A5isten love& she whispered& A:m a hairdresser& and hairdressers are all amateur ps 9 cholo3ists. <e reckon we know ever thin3 there is to know about people. ;ut :ve seen stu,, at that %how3round that :ll never ,i3ure out& not i, : live to be a million. <ho knows what 3oes on in the brains o, those bastardsG %ome o, them do it because the re scared. %ome do it ,or ,ood or ci3arettes or 3ro3& or even ,or a shower and a bottle o, shampoo. %ome do it because the want to 3et power ,or themselves& : reckon. %ome are such sheep the like bein3 told what to do. #he dont care whos 3ivin3 the orders& as lon3 as theres someone doin3 it. !ersonall : reckon the re mad. #hin3s are 3oin3 to 3et worse be,ore the 3et better. #here was another silence& while we di3ested all this. : didnt seem able to ,ocus on an thin3 e.cept the word Asheep. Most people are so rude about them& but ou wont ,ind man ,armers talkin3 that wa . %o : said& ACoure wron3 about sheep& 6ell. #he dont like obe in3 orders. "nd the re not as stupid as people make out. #he have a 3ood set o, survival instincts ... A>h shut up =llie& came 5ees tired voice. : cant help it i, : like sheep. 6ell started tellin3 us the second thin3 that shocked us. %he said lots o, people B our people B were lookin3 ,orward to what the soldiers called the Acolonisation. <hat this meant was that when the soldiers were satis,ied the had the countr under control the would brin3 in millions o, their own people. =ach ,amil would 3et some acres o, land and the d ,arm that& usin3 us as slave labour& to do all the crap jobs: crutchin3 sheep& di33in3 spuds& cleanin3 houses. A<h are the lookin3 ,orward to thatG : whispered. : was 3ettin3 thorou3hl scared& deep down. :t seemed that ever thin3 was becomin3 too bad& too aw,ul& and there was no hope ,or an o, us. A>h well& 6ell said. %he was 3ettin3 va3ue& and was tired too. A#he just ... i, ou were in the %how3round oud understand. :ts so aw,ul in there& so crowded. <e just want to 3et out. Fresh air& bein3 able to walk around. #hats wh people volunteer ,or the work parties now. %eems like an chan3ed be a 3ood chan3e. :t was while she was tellin3 us this that the soldiers did their check. <e

heard them easil enou3h B the werent makin3 an special e,,ort to be Euiet. #he opened the door to the room and ,lashed the li3hts on& then turned them o,, a3ain& a second later. :t was so lon3 since :d been in a room with electric li3htin3 that : ,elt like :d been bashed over the head. :t was so power,ul. 5ee and : ,lattened ourselves& breathin3 in dust and the smell o, old wood. A#he dont normall turn the li3hts on& 6ell whispered a,ter the d 3one. ACour ,ire alarm mi3ht have spooked them a bit. %till& : was sure the couldnt have worked out the source o, the smoke& or there would have been a much more ,ren8ied search. Homer had carried a sack to throw over the smoke bomb when the burst into the room above him. "ll the would have ,ound was a room ,ull o, smoke& with no obvious cause. Hed been aimin3 ,or the L9'a ?epartment& because with its complicated electrical eEuipment the wouldnt have known what to blame. <e heard the tread o, the soldiers ,ootsteps as the returned down the corridor to their post. "t last the moment :d pra ed ,or had arrived. : wanted it so badl & but wh did : ,eel so ,ri3htenedG : suppose : didnt know what :d see in ;10: m best ,riend& m oldest mate& 2orrie ... or some kind o, unreco3nisable monster& a ve3etable. ACou ou3ht to be sa,e now& 6ell was whisperin3. AJust be care,ul. : didnt reall need that advice. : wasnt about to 3o cooeein3 down the corridor& or pla in3 ?emolition ?erb with the trolle s. <e slithered out ,rom under our bed& like snakes ,rom a blackberr bush. A7ood luck& 6ell said. A<ell come and see ou be,ore we 3o. A'i3hto love. : opened the door 3in3erl & and peered out. #he passa3ewa was Euite dark& and empt . :t was cold& a,ter the close warm human smell o, ;-. "s li3htl as possible : ,led alon3 the corridor& knowin3 5ee was with me. ;ut when we 3ot to 2orries door : didnt have the coura3e to open it. %ince the invasion :d had to reach ,or coura3e man times. %urprisin3l to m sel,& it had alwa s been there& even i, sometimes :d had to dred3e deepl & even i, sometimes there hadnt been much le,t to draw on.

6ow : just leaned weakl a3ainst the door& m head pressed into it. #hat was not a smart thin3 to do& not Euite as bad as ellin3 cooee or 3oin3 ,or rides in the wheelchairs& but not ,ar o,, it. 5ee put his arm around me and : turned and buried m head in his chest. : didnt cr & but : was 3rate,ul ,or his stron3 hold and his silent understandin3. ?eep inside 5ee there seemed to be a place that : didnt think : had. Ma be it was the place his music came ,rom. <hatever it was& : connected with it then ,or a ,ew seconds and 3ained a little stren3th. :t was like a blood trans,usion. A<ould ou 3o ,irstG : asked& li,tin3 m head out o, his nice warm chest. He did& lettin3 me 3o& twistin3 the handle o, the door and openin3 it. He went in and held the door open ,or me. : slipped in there& into the darkness. " ,ri3htened voice 3asped A<hos thereG For a moment : thou3ht it was 2orrie and : too 3asped. : thou3ht it was a 3host& or a miracle& that 2orrie had suddenl recovered consciousness and was talkin3 to us. #hen : remembered Mrs %later. A:ts me& Mrs %later. =llie. "nd 5ees here too. A=llieD >hD 5eeD %he jumped up& knockin3 somethin3 over. <e knew Mrs %later prett well. %he was one o, those people who packed about thirt 9two hours into ever twent 9,our. Her husband had died in a tractor accident ears a3o& and since then shed run the ,arm& raised the kids& written two 3ardenin3 books& learnt calli3raph and Euiltin3& and done hal, an "rts de3ree throu3h the >pen Kniversit . %he even ,ound time to do canteen dut at school: her last kid& Jason& was in Cear 10. %hed said to me once& A#here are two kinds o, people in the world& =llie. #he ones who watch #H and the ones who 3et thin3s done. 6ow she 3ave me the bi33est hu3 o, m career& and ,inall : cried. :t had been a lon3 time since the last tear. ;ut she was the ,irst adult :d seen who : knew& the ,irst one to hu3 me& the ,irst link with m old& loved& happ world. #he ,irst link with m parents& because she was such a 3ood ,riend o, Mums. A>h =llie& she said. ACou poor kid. "nd ou smell terrible. A>h Mrs %laterD %he made me lau3h& and : thumped her in the chest in protest. #hen she hu33ed 5ee.

: 3uess wed been livin3 to3ether so lon3 we didnt notice how bad we smelt. <e took re3ular baths in the creek& but with the water 3ettin3 so cold we hadnt been doin3 it a lot latel . A?ont worr & she said. A#he all smell worse at the %how3round. " lot worse. ;ut we patients 3et a shower ever second da & so we ,or3et. ;ut : wasnt listenin3 an more. :d turned to the bed& where 2orrie la so silentl . #he onl li3ht in the room came ,rom the car park& throu3h the windows. Cou could see where condensation had misted the 3lass. #he room itsel, was ver dim& like a church in the late a,ternoon be,ore the li3hts come on. #he thin3s that stood out were the thin3s that were ver dark and the thin3s that were ver li3ht. " cupboard door was like a dark scar on the wall. #he bedside locker was a white shape crouchin3 watch,ull beside 2orries bed. :t seemed Euite bri3ht. #he sheet that covered 2orrie 3lowed with a Euiet luminosit . Her head on the pillow was a little black patch& an unmovin3 round stone. : could not make out her ,eatures. : tried to see her e es& her nose& her mouth. 6ot seein3 them : was suddenl ,ri3htened o, the black patch& as thou3h it was not human& was not 2orrie at all. : peered and peered& ,i3htin3 to keep the ,ear in m stomach& to stop it comin3 up m throat and into m mouth. <as that her mouth& or just a shadowG <ere those her e es& or just black marks& tricks o, the li3htG : wasnt aware o, 5ee or Mrs %later. 6ot onl were the not in the roomF the had ceased to #here was just me and the shape in the bed. : slowl took three short steps towards it. "nd suddenl & with the di,,erent an3le and the li3ht ,allin3 di,,erentl across the bed& : ,ound 2orrie a3ain. #here she wasF her so,t skin& her plump ,ace& her closed e es. M own mouth was sli3htl open& in wonder& because she looked so di,,erent to the 2orrie o, m past ,riendship& and the 2orrie o, m ,ear,ul ima3inin3s. %he did not look 3aunt and battered and bruised& but neither did she look happ and livel and talkative. %he looked like a wa. doll& a ,ull ,ormed impression o, 2orrie. : could see her lips move sli3htl with each breath in and breath out but there was no other movement. %he was alive& et somehow not with us an more. : was not scared o, her& but : was scared to touch her. : had meant to ask Mrs %later i, : could touch& i, it was sa,e& but now that thou3ht had ,led m mind. %o a,ter a while : leant ,orward with a shiverin3 ,in3er and ran the tip o, it down the side o, her ri3ht cheek. #his was not the 2orrie who : hu33ed and used as a pillow and beat up on& the 2orrie whod sat on m lap so o,ten on the crowded school bus. #hat 2orrie had slipped Euietl awa & leavin3 behind this peace,ull breathin3& pale replacement. : leant ,urther ,orward and kissed

her on the ,orehead& then la m head on the pillow beside her. : didnt sa an thin3. : didnt reall think an thin3 either. Her skin was cool& but : didnt notice that at the time& just thou3ht about it a,terwards. #hrou3h her cheek& ne.t to mine& : could ,eel her breathin3. : sta ed like that ,or some time& a lon3 time. Finall : 3ot up a3ain and whispered in her ear& #ake care out there 2orrie. 5ook a,ter oursel,& and : slipped out into the corridor and waited ,or 5ee. : didnt even sa 3oodb e to Mrs %later& which was a bit rude. 5ee was Euite a while& so : hid behind a laundr basket& but eventuall he came out. : popped up and went ahead o, him back to ;- to sa 3oodb e to 6ell. A"re ou >@& loveG she asked. A?id it upset ouG ;ut : didnt answer that. :nstead : asked her a Euestion that had been bu33in3 me. ACou know how ou said be,ore that @evin was all ri3ht InowJG : asked. A>h& did :G ACes& ou did. <hat did ou mean InowJG %he tried to think o, a reassurin3 lie& but she couldnt. ",ter a minute o, silence she 3ave in and told me. A#he beat him up prett bad =llie. <e snuck alon3 the corridor& towards the <e knew ,rom 6ell where the soldiers would be B at the nurses station near the door. Hidin3 in the little kitchen about twent metres awa & : 3rabbed 5ees head and pulled it down so : could whisper in his ear. A: want to ,ind a kni,e. A<h G A%o : can kill the soldiers. : ,elt his bod 3ive a little jerk& like hed touched the terminals o, a batter . ;ut he didnt sa an thin3 ,or a minute& just stood up strai3ht& while : continued to crouch beside him like the animal :d become. #hen he bent down a3ain and put his mouth to m ear.

ACou cant do that =llie. A<h notG A#hered be reprisals a3ainst the patients. <e didnt speak a3ain& just waited. <e were waitin3 ,or a break in the soldiers routine& a chance to slip past their de,ences. <e could hear them talkin3 occasionall & in their 3uttural lan3ua3e. #here was a kind o, wailin3 music in their voices that was almost attractive. >ccasionall & too& we could hear a 3irls voice& low and husk & usuall lau3hin3& sometimes makin3 a comment that sounded like =n3lish& but pitched too low ,or us to make out the words. ",ter what 6ell had said : had the worst suspicions o, what the 3irl was doin3& and : ra3ed a3ainst her& there in the darkness. >ne soldier walked past our little hide 9hole to 3o to the toilet& but we couldnt tell where the other one was& so we dared not move. #hat was at 1.4$ am. He returned a ,ew minutes later& and there was no other movement till 4./0& when the other one made the same trip to the toilet. %econds later& a tall 3irl ma be about nineteen appeared at our kitchen door and whispered into the darkness& ,acin3 towards us& ANuick& the other ones asleep. ;ut dont make an noise. <e were startled& wonderin3 ,or a moment i, she could possibl be talkin3 to us. #hen we realised that she must be. <e rose and slipped around the ,ood trolle s towards the door. #he 3irl had alread 3one. <ho was sheG How did she know we were thereG : still dont know the answers to those Euestions& but whoever she was& and whatever else she mi3ht have been doin3& : know we owe her somethin3 special.

2hapter Four

Homer was Euite impressed to hear that we were so well9known& so notorious. A5ets show them were still in business& he said& smilin3 his slowest& most dan3erous smile. : shivered sli3htl . ?espite m murderous impulse in the Hospital : still couldnt 3et used to e.posin3 m sel, to dan3er& to standin3 up and wavin3 at death the wa Homer seemed to enjo . ?id he enjo itG : remembered how hed said coura3e was a state o, mindF ou had to think brave& so : tried to do that. :t actuall worked& a bit. : ,ound m sel, joinin3 in the conversation like : was talkin3 about a 3ame o, 6etball or a 2hem test. <e talked about tar3ets& tactics& risks& ideas. :t took us a da and a hal,& but it was Euite stran3e. :n all that time we didnt have a sin3le ar3ument. 6o one shouted or even raised their voices. ;ut there werent man jokes either. :t was somethin3 to do with the description 5ee and : had 3iven them o, 2orrie& and the news wed had o, @evinF somethin3 to do with the news o, the wa people held at the %how3round were startin3 to crumbleF and especiall to do with a new ,eelin3 in us: that as some o, the ,ew people ,ree we should have done more alread . <e had a responsibilit to do more now. %o wed become deadl serious. "nd : mean deadl . <e decided that <irrawee should not be our main tar3et. Much as we loved <irrawee& much as it was the centre o, our lives& we had to reco3nise that the ,ate o, the countr wasnt 3oin3 to depend on our little town. #o hit the enem hard we had to ,ind a more important part o, their operations& and that meant 3oin3 back to the hi3hwa ,rom 2obblers ;a . #he last time wed been there it had been lous with convo sF 2obblers ;a was obviousl a major landin3 place ,or them& and trucks were ,lowin3 ,rom there to the major battle,ields. ;lowin3 up the brid3e must have complicated their lives& as it would have caused them a bi3 detour. ;ut it wasnt 3oin3 to lose them the war. %o we took another lon3 walk out into the countr side. <e le,t <irrawee at /.10 am& when we were at our coldest and most tired& and trud3ed alon3&

3oin3 throu3h the routines that we now ,ollowed ,or sel,9protection: travellin3 in pairs& checkin3 each intersection& keepin3 silent throu3h the streets o, the town. <e went via the brid3e& which none o, us had seen since the bi3 ni3ht o, the petrol part . : walked with Fi this time& as : needed a break ,rom 5ee& and althou3h : was still ver depressed a,ter seein3 how ill 2orrie was& : did cheer up a bit when : 3ot to the brid3e and saw the dama3e wed done. ;asicall it had burnt to the 3round. >r to the river& to be more accurate. :t had been an old wooden thin3& and a,ter the e.plosion it must have burnt so ,iercel that no one was able to do much about it. #here were just a ,ew blackened pillars stickin3 out o, the water and the mud& and no other evidence that thered been a brid3e there. >n the bank thou3h& on the town side& were lon3 rows o, concrete slabs. :t looked like <irra9wee was 3oin3 to 3et the new brid3e people had wanted ,or so lon3& and it looked like bein3 more solid than the one it replaced. Fi and : stood there a while& 3ivin3 each other bi3 3rins& mainl o, disbelie,& but with a bit o, pride. <e ,elt a bit shocked& : think& to see what wed done B at least : did. : cant speak ,or Fi. %o man times wed driven over that brid3e. :d never thou3ht that one da :d destro it. :t seemed stran3e that wed 3o down in local histor as the people whod blown it up. : wanted to be remembered as someone who built thin3s& not someone who wrecked them. ;ut wed done it in a 3ood cause. %o man thin3s had chan3ed as a result o, this war& and one o, the smallest chan3es was that teena3ers could now wander round the countr side blowin3 up an thin3 the wanted& and bein3 praised ,or doin3 it. <hen the 2areers teacher at school& Mrs 7oh& had 3iven us all those ,orms to ,ill out& : sure hadnt put Aterrorist or A3uerilla down. <e crossed the river about a kilometre downstream& where a narrow timber structure carried a lar3e pipe across. !robabl ,or sewera3e or some9 thin3F : dont know& but : ,elt nervous and e.posed crossin3 it. <e went one at a time& but we still would have been completel helpless i, soldiers had appeared and started ,irin3. <hen we 3ot out to the hi3hwa & we ,ound a ,ew chan3es. #here was tra,,ic& even at that hour o, the mornin3. :n ninet minutes we saw two small convo s 3oin3 ,rom 2obblers ;a and one 3oin3 to it. ;ut the were leavin3 the hi3hwa at Ji3amor and 3oin3 down ;uttercup 5ane& past the Jacobs place. #hat was one chan3e& but it was one wed e.pected. <ed ,i3ured that was the most likel route ,or a detour& thou3h it took them throu3h some rou3h countr . #here was a brid3e about ei3ht kilometres down the road that could take heav tra,,ic. A:ll bet the ve 3ot it heavil 3uarded& 'ob n said& with a

little smile. #he other important chan3e was that the patrols were much smaller. <e saw two& both on ,oot& one with three soldiers& one with ,our. <e couldnt ,i3ure out an reason ,or this. Ma be the were con,ident that the now had this part o, the countr under control& althou3h it hadnt been that lon3 since wed blown up the Heron ;rid3e. Ma be the needed soldiers so desperatel in other areas that the d been ,orced to cut numbers around <irrawee. "nd althou3h it sounds like small patrols would be better ,or us& it actuall made thin3s more di,,icult. #he bi33er patrols had been eas to spot& because the made so much noise. #hese two patrols both came close to catchin3 us& because the moved so stealthil . Ma be that was wh the d cut down their numbers. ;e,ore we knew it& dawn was startin3 to nibble awa at the ed3es o, the sk & and wed almost le,t it too late to 3et back to our hideout in <irrawee. <e had to 3o like stink to make it be,ore peak hour. !eak hour in <irrawee was never 3oin3 to cause major tra,,ic jams& invasion or no invasion& but 3ood bo s and 3irls were home in bed b da break& and we were 3ood bo s and 3irls. #he last hal,9hour& 3oin3 throu3h the streets in the ,irst 3re da li3ht& did scare me. <e heard a truck in Maldon %treet and we saw two cars speed throu3h an intersection. ;ut we 3ot back to the house and we had the in,ormation we needed. ",ter wed slept we continued our plannin3& but this time we planned details: times and places and eEuipment. !art o, our plannin3 was to 3ive ourselves a decent ni3hts sleep be,ore we made our attempt. <e were rather pleased with ourselves ,or bein3 so well9 prepared. <e didnt know o, course that ou cant prepare ,or luck and coincidence. <atchin3 the street ,rom an upstairs bedroom& as : did m a,ter9 noon sentr dut & seein3 work parties ,rom the %how3round bein3 driven past in old trucks and buses& wonderin3 i, m parents were amon3 them& : ,elt stran3el peace,ul and con,ident. :t was the sense o, li3htness that we were doin3 thin3s a3ain& instead o, han3in3 sourl about in Hell. "ction is its own kind o, thinkin3. <e had to ,i3ht now: these people were a cancer who had crept into our stomachs and in,ected us all. <e had to be sur3eons& bold and clever& not thinkers and talkers. 6evertheless the ne.t da crept so slowl . :t was like watchin3 an e33timer ,illed with cla . 5ate in the mornin3 : ordered m sel, not to look at the clock ,or

at least hal, an hour& but ten minutes later m e es were creepin3 round to it a3ain. <hen m sentr dut ended : went lookin3 ,or compan & ,or distractions& and ,ound 2hris in the upstairs sittin3 room& 3a8in3 at the 3re television screen a3ain. A7oodG : asked& dumpin3 m sel, on the so,a beside him. AMmm. 6ot bad. #heres not much on& but. A%o& what are ou watchin3G AKm& M#H. A6ew bandG ACeah& its a whole new st le o, music. ;lank rock. :ts ver subtle. A%ure looks it. :ts stran3e& isnt itG :ve hardl thou3ht about #H. : never used to watch it much an wa & so : spose thats wh . A: watched it heaps. #H addict. ;ut : dont miss it that much. He turned to me suddenl & lau3hin3& to sa somethin3. ;ut a moment later& be,ore his words be3an& his breath reached me& and : reco3nised the sweet sickl smell o, alcohol. : was so shocked : didnt even hear what he was sa in3& somethin3 about settin3 up a radio link so he could hear the #H in his bedroom. :t was onl 11.10 in the mornin3 and hed been drinkin3 alread D : stru33led to control m ,ace. 6ow that :d smelt his breath& : noticed other little si3ns too: he was havin3 trouble sa in3 lon3 words& his e es werent Euite ,ocusin3& and his smile was a bit lopsided& as thou3h he couldnt Euite make it ,it his mouth. : muttered somethin3 about havin3 to 3o to the bathroom& and walked out& m ,ace burnin3. : couldnt 3et a 3rip on this at all. :n ,ourteen hours we were 3oin3 to attack a whole convo & and wed be rel in3 on a drunk to help us. For want o, a better place : did 3o to the bathroom& closed the door& and sat on the dunn seat. : leaned ,orward and hu33ed m sel,. : was startin3 to 3et reall scared ,or us all. 2orrie in hospital& @evin a prisoner& and now 2hris drinkin3 on the sl . <e were in bi3 trouble. <e were crackin3 up. >ne or two or si. o, us could 3et shot toni3ht. ; tomorrow& who would be le,tG Five bodies and 2hris with a han3overG #he said 7od looked a,ter babies and

drunks. : wished : was a bab a3ain. : was hu33in3 m stomach now& because thats where thin3s seemed to hurt most. : wondered what would happen i, : 3ot appendicitis. <ould Homer cut me open with a %wiss "rm kni,eG : started bitin3 the side o, m le,t hand& still holdin3 m stomach with the ri3ht. : sat there ,or a lon3 time. ;e,ore& :d been overconscious o, timeF now : had no awareness o, it at all. :n the end : 3ot so cold : thou3ht :d ,ro8en thereF that : wouldnt be able to move a3ain& that i, : strai3htened or stood up m bones would crack and break. ",ter a lon3 while someone knocked on the door& then 'ob n called& A=llie& are ou in thereG "re ou >@G : didnt answer but she opened the door an wa and came in. A=llieD <hats wron3G A: think :ve 3ot appendicitis& : mumbled. %he lau3hed& but onl a little bit& and Euietl & which : was 3rate,ul ,or. A>h =llie& ouve 3ot the panics. ;o & do : know the ,eelin3. Cou start ima3inin3 ever disaster possible& and be,ore ou know it ouve convinced oursel, that ever one o, them is totall and absolutel inevitable. :n ,act& ou think the re alread happenin3. %he sat on the ed3e o, the bath. : wanted to tell her about 2hris but didnt know how. :nstead : asked her& A'ob n& do ou think were ,allin3 apartG %he didnt 3ive a ,lip answer& like a lot o, people would. #hat wasnt 'ob ns st le. %he thou3ht ,or a while& and then said& A6o& : dont think so. <ere doin3 >@. :ts not a normal situation& is itG %o theres not much to compare us with. ;ut : think were doin3 >@. A:ts all so hard. : dont know how well survive. Ma be well all 3o mad. Ma be were mad now& and dont know it. ACou know what it reminds me o,G A<hatG A%hadrach& Meshach and "bedne3o. A<hat the hell are the G A#he re ,rom m ,avourite stor . #he re m heroes& : 3uess.

A#he sound like a 'ussian rock band. %he lau3hed. A6uh uh. 6ot Euite. A%o tell me the stor . : 3uessed itd be ,rom the ;ible. <hen it came to reli3ion 'ob n was rock solid& not that : minded that. "n wa :ve alwa s liked stories. #he three names sounded va3uel ,amiliar to me& but : couldnt think ,rom where. A<ell %hadrach& Meshach and "bedne3o lived in ;ab lon& wa back& wa wa back. #he wouldnt worship a 3olden idol and so the @in3 had them thrown into the ,urnace. #he ,urnace was so hot that even the 3u s who chucked them in 3ot burned to death. 6o one could 3et closeF but ,rom where he was watchin3& the @in3 3ot 3limpses o, the three men& throu3h the ,lames and smoke. "nd the ,unn thin3 was that it looked like there were ,our people& not three. "nd even stran3er was that no matter how hard the ,lames burned& the men walked around as thou3h the were untouched b the ,ire. %o a,ter a while the @in3 ordered the ,urnace door to be opened. "nd out came the three men& %hadrach& Meshach and "bedne3o. "nd the @in3 realised that it had been an an3el in there with them. "nd he also realised that the 3od whod looked a,ter them in his ,urnace had to be stron3er than an 3olden idol& so he was converted. AMmm& thats a 3ood stor & : said. : liked the wa 'ob n didnt preach at me& and never had. ",ter a while : said& A%o whats the connection with usG A<ell& were in the ,urnace. A<ith an an3elG A%ometimes : ,eel that theres someone with us& that were supported. A;ut not all the timeG A: 3uess all the time. : just cant e.plain how certain thin3s happen& like 2orrie bein3 shot. :t seems sometimes that nothin3 can stop the man with the sc the& not even 7od. ?eath comes walkin3 across the countr side swin3in3 that sc the& and he mi3ht 3et ou or he mi3ht not. >r to put it another wa & sometimes 7od saves ou and sometimes he doesnt. : dont know wh he makes those choicesF : just have to trust him and have ,aith that hes doin3 it

,or his own 3ood reasons. AHmm. #here was more knockin3 on the door: Homer. A2ome in& we both called& and he did. AHonestl & he said. A7irls in bathrooms. %omeone could write a #H series about 3irls in bathrooms. He wanted to 3o throu3h his checklist ,or the ni3ht. #here were a ,ew thin3s we needed& that we had to pick up ,rom ,armhouses& thin3s more likel to be ,ound in ,armhouses. <e went down to the dinin3 room& spread his sheet o, paper out on the table& and went to work. 6ot ,or the ,irst time : was ama8ed at the knowled3e o, odd thin3s Homer had picked up ,rom all over the place. Hed had some help ,rom 2hris& who also knew a lot o, weird ,acts& and : had the suspicion that hed been listenin3 in 2hem more than :d realised. :d alwa s known he was a smart 3u & but :d never thou3ht o, him as havin3 much interest in %cience. #he list wasnt that lon3 B there werent man thin3s we needed B but it was obvious wed have to leave town earl & as soon as it was dark. #hat was increasin3 our risks a little& but it was the onl wa we could do ever thin3 we wanted. %o at about nine oclock we went& movin3 with ma.imum caution. <e had a lot o, walkin3 ahead o, us. : knew wed be tired b mornin3. : was just tired o, walkin3 an wa . : lon3ed ,or those motorbikes that wed used to escape ,rom the brid3e& and that were still hidden on our propert . ;ut sa,et ,irst. <e hardl took a step without lookin3 around. <e 3ot most o, what we wanted at the Fleets place& which wed used be,ore as a hideout. #he hardest thin3 to ,ind was nails that were bi3 enou3h& lon3 enou3h& stron3 enou3h. ",ter a bit o, scroun3in3 and a bit o, carpentr and a bit o, improvisation& we le,t there at one9thirt & runnin3 late& but not too bad. "nd an hour and a hal, a,ter that we were where we wanted to be: approachin3 a steep cuttin3 on ;uttercup 5ane. :t was thick bush up there. <ed alread dived into it once when we heard a convo comin3F and just be,ore we reached the cuttin3& Fi& who was leadin3& 3ave the si3nal to hide a3ain. :t had to be a patrol& so : crouched& and scuttled into the scrub as ,ast as : could. ;ehind me a dark shadow that was 5ee dived o,, the embankment

and landed about two metres awa . : couldnt see the others. 2hris and Homer were behind me& and 'ob n ahead somewhere& with Fi. "lmost as soon as : was in hidin3 : heard the scrunch o, the boots: three soldiers in sin3le ,ile walkin3 Euite casuall alon3 the road above m head. : crouched even lower and hoped that the others were well hidden. #he soldiers ,oot 9 steps seemed to be slowin3& and then the stopped completel . : risked a 3lance and saw just the back o, one o, them movin3 slowl awa ,rom me. :t was a woman& : thou3ht& and an instant later she was out o, m si3ht. : didnt know what to do. : couldnt ima3ine wh the d stopped& unless the d seen one o, us& but there were none o, the ur3ent sounds :d e.pect i, the had. ?esperate thou3hts rushed throu3h m head. <hat should : doG <hat could : possibl doG : li,ted m sel, and crept ,orward a metre& ,ri3htened that i, : went an ,urther : mi3ht crawl strai3ht into a trap. #hen suddenl : ,lattened m sel,: a shot3un ,ired to m ri3ht& so close that m ears ran3 with the noise. : la there unable to breathe. : could hear several cries& then a scream& hoarse and horrible. #he shot3un ,ired a3ain& a little more mu,,led this time. : could smell its spic burnt smell now. : hoped that it was a double9 barrelled one and that no one else had a weapon& and with onl that thou3ht in m head : launched m sel, up the bank and onto the road. #he ,irst thin3 : noticed was the sound o, ,ootstepsF someone runnin3 in panic down the road. : couldnt see much& just a dark shape& but it was one o, the soldiers& not one o, us. #hen there was a crashin3 sound ,rom the bushes. : spun round& wonderin3 i, this was m death& the last movement : would ever make& the last si3ht : would see. ;ut it was Homer& stumblin3 towards me& and 2hris just behind him& a little to his le,t& makin3 aw,ul retchin3 noises. : rea 9 lised as Homer reached me that he had blood all down the ,ront o, his shirt& thick and stick . #he others were now emer3in3 ,rom their hidin3 places and rushin3 at us. : ripped Homers shirt open and ,elt around his chest and shoulders but couldnt ,ind an wound. A6o& no& he said& pushin3 me awa . A:m not hurt. A<hat happenedG : shouted at him. : was completel bewildered. A?id ou 3rab their 3unsG He shook his head and waved his arms around. He didnt seem able to answer. ;ut 2hris& who was tremblin3 but becomin3 suddenl and ama8in3l calm& answered ,or him. AHomer had a shot3un in his pack& he said. A%awn9 o,,.

Fi 3asped. <e all looked at Homer in shock. <ed talked about our mea3re little stock o, weapons a ,ew times and a3reed that with such limited ,irepower we were better o,, with nothin3. <e knew i, we were cau3ht with weapons on us we were 3one& one hundred per cent certain. " will 9will o, ,eelin3s stormed up inside me B an3er& con,usion& disbelie,. ;ut : had to postpone them& and : did. : was still holdin3 Homer b the tail o, his shirt but now : let him 3o and shouted at 2hris& A<hat happenedG <hat happenedG A:t was just the worst worst bad luck. #here were three o, them& two men and a woman. #he men decided to take a leak& ri3ht where we were. #he dropped their ri,les and came down into the scrub. #he were about three steps ,rom us and still comin3& unbuttonin3 their daks. #he would have walked ri3ht over the top o, us. Homer had his pack beside him and his hand inside it& holdin3 the shot3un : 3uess. He just suddenl pulled it out and li,ted it up and ,ired. 2hris was talkin3 ,ast& reconstructin3 it in his mind as he went& tr in3 to recall it all& then describin3 it to us as he ran the movie in his head. A#he 3u ,ell backwards. #he other 3u 3ave a shout then dived at Homer. Homer seemed to swin3 the 3un around. He was still l in3 down. #he 3u landed hal, on top o, him& then there was another shot and all this blood was comin3 out and Homer 3ot out ,rom under him and came up here. #he woman ran o,, down the road& but we couldnt do an thin3 about her. :ts a double9 barrel 3un but : dont know i, hes 3ot an more shells& and there wouldnt have been time to reload an wa . %he was runnin3 ,lat out. A5ets 3et o,, the road& 'ob n said. A:n ,act& lets 3et out o, here. =ven as she spoke : cau3ht a 3limpse o, li3hts in the distance: the dimmed headli3hts o, a convo be3innin3 the lon3 climb up the road towards the cuttin3. #he thou3hts were Eueuein3 up in m mind so ,ast that the were crashin3 into the back o, each other. #he convo was comin3 ,rom the opposite direction to the wa the soldier had ,led. How lon3 would it take her to 3et helpG <ould she be able to communicate with the convo G : 3rabbed 2hris. A2heck the road. <here did the drop their 3unsG AJust back here. A7rab them. "nd an thin3 else. =ver one else up to the cuttin3. Fi& ou take Homer. !ut the nails out and be read .

: ran back with 2hris. <e picked up two 3uns& one an old .101F the other a more modern automatic weapon that : didnt reco3nise. <ith them was a small pack. : tore it open and pulled out what :d hoped to ,ind: a small two9 wa radio. 2hances were the wouldnt have more than one radio in each patrol. A<heres our stu,,G Cours and HomersG A%till in there. 2hris pointed to the bush behind us. : 3rabbed m torch and looked at 2hris. A<hat i, the re still aliveG he asked. : paused& then shru33ed& and led the wa into the scrub. <e onl had to 3o a ,ew metres o, course. :n the torchli3ht : could see blood on the 3rass& then some scratched up earth. #hat led me to a bod : a soldier on his back& e es open& but dead. His chest looked like two 3iant hands had taken it and ripped it open. : swun3 the torch around and saw the two packs& and the bloodied sawn9o,, shot3un near them. 2hris picked up the packs as : 3ot the shot3un& tr in3 not to shudder as m hands touched the stick butt. : strai3htened up and at that moment heard the worst sound in the world& a sob and a sEueal. : swun3 the torch around. : could see his boots& about ten metres awa & stickin3 out ,rom under a little acacia. : walked over there& as 2hris backed awa . : despised him ,or that& but wished : could have done the same. : parted the branches o, the bush and shone the torch down on the man. :t was ama8in3 that hed been able to crawl even those ,ew ards. He was l in3 twisted to one side& with his ri3ht hand stretched out to the trunk o, the wattle& holdin3 it li3htl . His other hand was holdin3 his stomach. He was whimperin3 occasionall but : dont think he was conscious. #here was blood all around him& some o, it smeared across the 3round but ,resh red blood pumpin3 out ,rom under his stomach. :t looked thick and treacl . His hand was tr in3 to hold bits o, his stomach in but : could see all kinds o, thin3s& dis3ustin3 thin3s& entrails and stu,,. : walked over to 2hris. : knew how m ,ace must have looked to him: cold and hard& no e.pression. A<hich is Homers packG : asked him. He 3ave it to me and : searched inside. #here were at least a do8en shells rollin3 around loose. : onl took one& loaded the shot3un& and went strai3ht back to the soldier and held it to his templeF then& Jesus help me& without thinkin3 about it& deliberatel not lettin3 m sel, think& : pulled the tri33er. ",ter that ever thin3 was a wild rush. : ,i3ured we had about two minutes.

M ears were rin3in3 with the noise o, the shot3un. : i3nored that and i3nored what :d just done. <e ran like hell up the road to the cuttin3. #he others had put out the nails. : almost trod on one. #he were ,i,teen centimetres lon3& each hammered throu3h a piece o, wood which served as a base and kept them upri3ht. Fi was waitin3 ,or us. %he was so white : thou3ht shed 3one albino. A<hat was the shotG she asked& tremblin3 all over. A6othin3 Fi. ;e brave. : touched her arm and ran up to the other three. A"re we read G ACes& but ... what about the one who escapedG <ont she ...G A: dont think so. : ,ound a two9wa . : cant believe the d have more than one radio. AHope oure ri3ht& said 'ob n. A%hes ri3ht& said 5ee& 3riml . :n one o, those stran3e cra8 ,lashes o, intuition : realised how much 5ee wanted us to make this attackF i, tanks had been rollin3 strai3ht at us : dont think he would have moved. He was ver into honour& and reven3e. Homer looked calmer but he hadnt spoken. He had a bottle in each hand. : could hear the trucks nowF the leadin3 ones were droppin3 a 3ear& so were probabl close to the cuttin3. : 3rabbed m bottles& and ,ished out the ci3arette li3hter. #he dull headli3hts o, the ,irst truck were startin3 to show throu3h the trees. #he convo s alwa s had their headli3hts covered b some stu,, that kept the li3ht down to a so,t 3low. : 3uess the were scared o, air attacks& but we didnt see too man o, our planes these da s& so :d sa these drivers ,elt prett sa,e. <e were hopin3 to chan3e that. 6ow the strainin3 en3ines rela.edF there were several Euick 3ear chan3es and the trucks started to roll& 3atherin3 speed throu3h the cuttin3. <e had placed ourselves on a bank so that as the came out o, the cuttin3 wed be above them& on a curve. <e reckoned the would be travellin3 ,ast& easin3 across the road towards us as the entered the bend. "nd we were ri3ht.

#he sure did accelerate. #he seemed to be there in an instant. #he roar o, the en3ines was suddenl comin3 strai3ht at us& unobstructed b an more trees or banks. : had a 3ood view o, the ,irst three& all o, them trucks& dark 3reen in colour& tra 9tops& with 3ates and tarps. #hen ever thin3 went wild. #he ,irst truck seemed to blow both its ,ront t res at the same moment. :t was like a bomb 3oin3 o,,. #here was an almi3ht e.plosion. : couldnt believe how loud it was& nor how much smoke. ;its o, rubber& strips o, rubber& went shreddin3 across the road. #he truck slid strai3ht across the road at hi3h speed& back t res screamin3& and slammed a3ainst a tree. #he second truck must have missed all the nails& because it kept its t res intactF but in tr in3 to miss the other vehicle it wobbled wildl across the road as the driver ,ou3ht to keep control. :t ,inall strai3htened up a3ain ,i,t metres past us and accelerated awa . : was dis3usted. : couldnt believe that the driver would desert his mates like that. ;ut : was more interested in the ne.t ,ew in the convo . #he third one blew out a ,ront t re with another hu3e ban3& and so much more white smoke poured out that it became hard to see an thin3. ;ut : saw enou3h to satis, me& as this truck ,ollowed the same route as the ,irst. :t slewed wildl across the road and slammed heavil and hard into the back o, the other one. #he ,ourth one blew a rear t re and did a 1*0& endin3 up ,i,t metres awa and in the middle o, the road. #he ,i,th one stopped so hard that it sat there shudderin3 ,or a moment be,ore the one behind it slammed into its rear. : heard a couple more crashes back in the cuttin3& but it was now impossible to tell what was happenin3. #here was so much smoke& and the noise was like the end o, the world. : saw a ,lamin3 torch ,l throu3h the air towards the ,i,th truck& and realised 5ee had 3one into action. : needed that to spur me back into li,e. : lit m ,irst cocktail& waited a second& and threw it in the same direction as 5ees& then ,ollowed ,ast with m second one. #he others had joined in. For a minute the air was ,ull o, hot shootin3 stars. : could see plent o, ,lame throu3h the smoke& so somethin3 was burnin3& but there were no e.plosions. " 3un opened upF an automatic weapon o, some kind& ,irin3 wildl at ,irst& throu3h the trees above us& but 3raduall lowerin3 its aim until it was just above our heads. <e all 3ot out ,ast& crouchin3 low and snakin3 throu3h the tearin3& wild& brambl scrub. Homer was just ahead o, meF : realised he was still carr in3 his Molotov cocktails. He hadnt thrown them. : called out A?rop the bottles Homer& which he did& and ,or a moment : thou3ht :d caused a disaster& because at the e.act moment the bottles hit the 3round there was an

e.plosion so vast that the 3round heaved under m ,eet. :t took me a second to realise that the e.plosion was behind us& and hadnt come ,rom Homers bottles at all. #hen a shock wave hit me& almost knockin3 me over& ,ollowed b a blast o, heat& a dr airless heat. :t ,elt like someone had opened the door o, a steel ,urnace. : steadied m sel,& 3ot m balance a3ain& and started to run. #he others B the ones : could see B were doin3 the same. : heard trees screechin3 as the split and ,ell behind me. <e sure as hell werent 3oin3 to win an conservation awards. : ran on. : wasnt too ,ri3htened thou3h. : knew that the could never and would never ,ollow us throu3h the bush. #his was our natural environment. : ,elt as much at home here as the possums and wombats and 3alahs. 5et no stran3er intrude here& no invader trespass. #his was ours& and this we would de,end.

2hapter Five

: was ,eelin3 prett unusual& walkin3 back across the paddocks. : ima3ined a hu3e shadow o, me was movin3 across the sk & attached to me& and keepin3 pace with m little bod on the earth. :t scared me& reall scared me& but : couldnt escape it. :t loomed over me& a silent dark creature 3rowin3 out o, m ,eet. : knew that i, : reached out to ,eel it : would ,eel nothin3. #hats the wa shadows are. ;ut all the same& the air around me seemed colder and darker& as the shadow clun3 to me. : wondered i, this was the wa m li,e would alwa s be ,rom now on& and i, ,or ever person : killed the shadow would 3row lar3er& darker& more monstrous. : looked across at the others. : tried to ,ocus m 3a8e on them& and 3raduall & b doin3 that& m shadow ,aded awa . #hen& as thou3h :d had a rush o, blood to the e es& : suddenl started seein3 them ver stron3l . : became ver aware o, ever one& o, the wa the all looked. Ma be it was the li3ht or somethin3. %uddenl the were on a hu3e movie screen& with the clouds and the darkenin3 sk behind. :t wasnt like : was seein3 them ,or the ,irst timeF it was like : was seein3 them as others would have. : was seein3 them the wa stran3ers& outsiders would. <e were all wearin3 clothin3 that camou,la3ed well. <e did that as a matter o, course& these da s. : sometimes had a terrible lon3in3 to wear bri3ht and colour,ul clothes a3ain& but there was no chance o, that et. "nd this da : wanted onl m khaki and 3re F : wanted it to clin3 to m bod & to be m mournin3 suit. <e were spread out across two paddocks in Euite open countr . :t was dan3erous but probabl not too bad. #he onl real risk was ,rom the air& but we thou3ht wed hear planes or helicopters in enou3h time to take cover. #here were plent o, trees around. :t had been a lon3 walk. 7od : was tired. <e all were. 2hris had his head down and was trailin3 a bit. <ith m new vision : saw how small and li3htl built he was: a ,air9haired serious bo who looked a bit oun3er than the rest o, us. "cross ,rom him& and ,i,t metres in ,ront& was Fi& who even now in her

e.haustion walked 3race,ull & as thou3h her ,eet needed onl to brush the 3round on each step to keep propellin3 her ,orward. %he was lookin3 around as she walked& like a wild swan searchin3 ,or water. 6ot ,or the ,irst time : wished : had a Euarter o, her st le. <hen ou looked at her ou ,or3ot that her clothes were as 3rubb as ours& her bod as smell and dirt . %he had class without bein3 conscious that she had itF that was her secret& and because : knew that& : would never have it. <ell& that was one reason : would never have it. " hundred metres to m le,t was Homer& almost out o, si3ht amon3 a line o, thin poplars that had been planted as a windbreak. He was bi3 and burl & lookin3 more like a bear than ever as he walked with his shoulders hunched up& his ,ace closed a3ainst the cold wind. :t was hard to tell what he was 3oin3 throu3h. Hed been in trouble so man times in his li,e that he should have been used to it. ;ut this was just a bit di,,erent. : still didnt know whether to be an3r at him or not. Hed broken one o, our a3reements& but m an3er at that was overlaid with m pit and horror at what hed done& and m con,usion because hed probabl been ri3ht and wed been wron3. #hered been no time to check how he was ,eelin3& to see i, he was >@. #hat would have to wait till we were back in the peace and sa,et o, Hell. Meanwhile& thinkin3 about how he mi3ht be ,eelin3 helped me avoid thinkin3 about how : was ,eelin3. >n the other ,lank was 'ob n. 5ookin3 at her : thou3ht o, those old9time heroes. #hose old kin3s ,or instance& whod all had titles to 3o with their names: =dward the 2on,essor& =thelred the Knread & <illiam the 2onEueror. 'ob n was 'ob n the ?auntless. <hen thin3s were 3oin3 Euietl and normall she kept a low pro,ile. ;ut when the 3oin3 3ot tou3h& 'ob n 3rabbed the a.e& swun3 it round her head& and char3ed. :n the most ,ri3htenin3 times& the most horri, in3 moments& she was at her best. 6othin3 seemed to deter her. Ma be she ,elt nothin3 could touch her. : dont know. =ven now she was walkin3 alon3 Euite casuall & head up. : had the impression that she was sin3in3 somethin3 even& b the wa she was tappin3 her le,t hand on her thi3h. #he other one who was prett up was 5ee. #he ni3ht we wrecked the brid3e he was happ & but he hadnt been able to do much because o, his wounded le3. #his time wed done a lot o, dama3e B we knew that B and 5ee had been in the thick o, it. 5ee alwa s moved like a thorou3hbred racehorse when we were out in the open or walkin3 a bi3 distance& and now he moved alon3 ea3erl & head pointin3 ,orward& lon3 le3s coverin3 k a,ter k.

>ccasionall he looked across and smiled at me& or winked. : didnt know whether to be pleased that he was ,eelin3 so proud& or worried that he was enjo in3 killin3 people and wreckin3 thin3s. "t least it made li,e less complicated ,or him. "s ,or me& m mind was so crowded that thou3hts were bein3 sEuee8ed out o, m ears. : wouldnt have been surprised to ,ind them drippin3 ,rom m nostrils. #here was just too much to cope with. :nstead : shoved it all awa and started 3oin3 throu3h French irre3ular verbs. Je vis, tu vis, il vit, nous vivons, vous vivez, ils vivent. Je meurs, tu meurs, il meurt, nous mourons, vous mourez, ils meurent. :t seemed sa,er doin3 that than thinkin3 about our ambush& and it seemed to keep m hu3e dark shadow ,rom hauntin3 me ,or a little bit lon3er. <e 3ot back to m place in the last moments o, da li3ht. : didnt 3o in the house this time. "lread it was startin3 to look un,amiliar& as thou3h it were just an old buildin3 wed lived in once& a lon3 time a3o. Cou could tell it was unoccupied. #he lawn had 3rown wildl & all stra33l and con,used. >ne o, the bow windows in the dinin3 room had cracked ri3ht across& : dont know how. Ma be a bird had ,lown into it. Hal, the 3rape vine had ,allen o,, the trellis and was now dra33in3 across the path and 3arden. #hat was m ,ault. ?ad had told me a do8en times to tie it on better. #he ,aith,ul 5and 'over was waitin3 patientl in the bushes& hidden ,rom pr in3 e es. : drove it to the shed and ,illed it with petrol. <e were luck we had our petrol in an overhead tank& so : could 3ravit 9,eed it to the car. =ventuall thou3h& wed run out o, petrol. : didnt know what wed do then. : si3hed& twisted the hose to cut o,, the ,low& and climbed back up onto the tank to shut down the valve. 'unnin3 out o, ,uel was onl one o, so man problems. >ur work ,or the evenin3 was just be3innin3. <e drove out to a propert ri3ht up in the hills. :t was a small place that :d ,or3otten about& owned b people called @in3& whom :d onl met once& at the !ost >,,ice. He was a part9 time social worker at the Hospital and she tau3ht music at the !rimar %chool two da s a week. ;ut their real interest was in becomin3 sel,9su,,icient. #he d built this little mud9brick place on some land the d bou3ht ,rom Mr 'owntree B poor land too& and the d paid a premium price. ?ad thou3ht the d been ripped o,,. "n wa & the were out there at the end o, a dirt road with no electricit and no phone& runnin3 a mi.ture o, cattle and pi3s and chooks and 3eese and coloured sheep& with a couple o, ver 3rubb & ver sh kids.

#he scene there was the usual depressin3 si3ht. ?eca in3 buildin3s and ,ences& too man carcasses& a paddock ,ull o, hun3r sheep whod eaten all the ,eed in it and were ver thin and wonk . "t least we saved them b openin3 their 3ates. : hoped the work parties were allowed to ,eed and move stock: a lot o, animals would need hand9,eedin3 to 3et them throu3h winter& and some places should have started alread & i, the wanted the stock kept in prime condition. :d hal, thou3ht the @in3s mi3ht have still been there& hidin3& but there was no si3n o, them. : think Mrs @in3 had some o, her violin students per,ormin3 at the %how& so the d probabl 3one into town that da and been cau3ht. ;ut in the house& and in the shin new 3alvanised9iron shed behind it& we struck a jackpot. ;a3s o, spuds and ,lour& jars o, preserves& a carton o, canned peaches that the d 3ot cheap because the cans were dented. 2hook ,ood& tea and co,,ee& and a do8en bottles o, homebrew& which 2hris ea3erl carried to the car. 'ice& su3ar& rolled oats& cookin3 oil& home9made jam& chutne . #ra3icall & no chocolate. <hen wed ,inished& we 3rabbed all the ba3s we could ,ind and headed o,, to the ,ruit trees. #he trees were oun3 but& despite the possums and parrots& were bearin3 well. :ll never ,or3et the ,irst crunch juic bite o, the ,irst crisp hard Jonathan : picked. :ve never seen an thin3 so white and pure& never tasted an thin3 so ,ruit . <ed eaten the apples at 2orries a ,ew da s earlier& but these seemed di,,erent. :t wasnt reall that the apples were di,,erent o, courseF it must be that : was di,,erent. : was lookin3 ,or absolution and in some stran3e wa the ,ruit 3ave it to me. : know that once ou lose our innocence ou never can 3et it back& but the immaculate whiteness o, the apple made me ,eel that not ever thin3 in the world was rotten and corruptF that some thin3s could still be pure. #he sweet ,lavour ,illed m mouth& a ,ew drops runnin3 down m chin. <e stripped the trees. Johnnies& 7rannies& Fujis& pears and Euinces. : ate ,ive apples and 3ot a bit pooh a3ain& but : ,elt a little better& a little more alive& a,ter pickin3 that beauti,ul ,ruit& that cool sharp evenin3. >ur last pick9up was an impulse. <e were back in the 5andie& bumpin3 slowl down the road& all ver Euiet. : had the parkin3 li3hts on& because we were under a canop o, trees& so it seemed sa,e. ?rivin3 at ni3ht without li3hts is ni3htmarishl ,ri3htenin3. >, all the thin3s wed done since the invasion& that was almost the scariest. :t was like drivin3 in nothin3& in a dark limbo. :t was weird& and no matter how much : did it : never seemed to 3et

used to it. "n wa & in the little li3ht we had& : saw a couple o, pairs o, e es peepin3 curiousl towards us. Most o, the stock we passed these da s was alread 3ettin3 Euite wild and runnin3 awa & but these little critters didnt. ;ad luck ,or them that the didnt. #he were two lambs& about si. months old& black wool& and probabl twins. :d 3uess their mother had died& but not till the were old enou3h to wean themselves. #he were in 3ood nick. A'oast lambD : said& and braked. :t was just an impulse& but then : thou3ht& <h notG : stopped the car completel & and looked around at the others. A?o we want roast lambG : asked. #he seemed too tired to think& let alone answer& but Homer reacted. He showed more enthusiasm than :d seen ,rom him in twent 9,our hours. He 3ot out one side and : 3ot out the other. #he lambs stood there sheepishl . Ces the did& sheepishl & and :m not 3oin3 to chan3e it. 6ow 'ob n and 5ee started to 3et e.cited as the contemplated the thou3ht o, a 3ood meal. 6one o, us are ve3etarians B bein3 a ve3etarian is a capital o,,ence in our part o, the world. <e 3rabbed the lambs and up9 ended them& ,ound some cord and tied their le3s& then somehow cleared space ,or them in the back o, the car. A#he wont eat the potatoes& will the G Fi asked an.iousl & tr in3 to move the heav sack o, spuds ,rom near the head o, one o, the lambs. A6o Fi& and not the su3ar either. 2allousl : went and picked some mint when we 3ot back to m house. #hat short walk to the mint was almost the end o, me thou3h. "s : bent down to cut it : ,elt m 3reat black shadow return& hoverin3 above me like an ea3le& a predator. : was scared to look up. #he ni3ht was dark enou3h an wa & but : knew that however dark the sk ma have been& m ta33in3 shadow was darker. #he mistake :d made was to 3o to the mint patch on m own. :t was the ,irst time :d been alone since shootin3 the soldier in ;uttercup 5ane. :t was as thou3h as soon as : stra ed awa ,rom m ,riends the sk ,illed with this terrible thin3. : crouched there ,or a couple o, minutes. #he hair on the back o, m neck was pricklin3 and : could no lon3er smell the mint& althou3h m ,ace was buried in it. ",ter a while : heard Homer callin3 ,or me& and then : heard his

heav ,ootsteps and his bod brushin3 throu3h the over3rown wall,lowers. :t took him some time to ,ind me& as : didnt seem able to answer his calls& but : could hear his voice 3ettin3 more and more concerned. <hen he did ,ind me& he was surprisin3l 3entle& rubbin3 the back o, m neck and mumblin3 words that : didnt e.actl understand. : went back to the 5andie with him. <ithout a word to the others& and without lookin3 up& : turned the ke in the i3nition. <e at last be3an the slow ascent to the place : now thou3ht o, as home: Hell. <e hid the 5andie in the usual spot& tethered the sheep and 3ave them a bucket o, water& then picked up a ,ew supplies and be3an the walk in. : should call it a stumble rather than a walk. <ed 3one to our limits& ph sicall & mentall and emotionall & and : was 3lad we didnt have to di3 an deeper to ,ind more ener3 . : dont think an one had much le,t. : 3ot into a 3roove& puttin3 one ,oot ahead o, the other& and did it so success,ull that : think : could have 3one on ,orever& e.cept ,or the steep downhill bits& which strained m thi3h muscles too much. <hen we 3ot to the campsite Homer had to prod me in the back to stop me& like he was searchin3 ,or m o,, button. <e stumbled into our tents and mumbled 3oodni3hts to each other& be,ore crashin3 into our private hells o, sleep. : did sleep& thou3h : hadnt e.pected to. "ll ni3ht : dreamt o, someone ver lar3e& ver an3r & hoverin3 ver close to me& and speakin3 to me in a voice so loud that it reverberated throu3h m bod . : woke earl and huddled in close to Fi. : dont know what was 3oin3 on in m head: : seemed haunted b the idea that : had to hide& that : darent be on m own. #here was a sense that doom was overshadowin3 me& and like a rat threatened b an owl : wanted to burrow under somethin3. >nl & unlike the rat& : wanted to 3et under a human bein3& not a thin3. %eems like since that ni3ht :ve done less o, ever thin3: less sleepin3& less eatin3& less talkin3. : ,eel :m less o, a person because : killed a d in3 soldier and that now : do less livin3. : 3ot up eventuall & and washed m ,ace. #he da went 3rindin3 b & hour b hour. 6o one did an thin3 much. 2ertainl no one talked about an thin3 important. <ed le,t most o, the supplies at the 5and 'over. :t was temptin3 to leave them there ,orever. ;ut late a,ternoon& a,ter :d had a nap B one o, those da time sleeps that leave ou ,eelin3 worse than ou did be,ore B : ,orced

m sel, to round up a posse. : was thinkin3 o, the sheep& mainl & and : wanted to prove to the others that : was still use,ul& that : wasnt a bad person& even i, : did kill people. ;ut it was hard work persuadin3 them to come. 2hris just whined& :t can wait till tomorrow& cant itG <ithout lookin3 me in the e e& he slunk back to his tent. Homer was so deepl asleep : didnt like to wake him. 5ee didnt look too keen but he had too much pride to sa no so he put down his book and came without a word. 'ob n 3ave me about twent reasons wh we didnt need to 3o till the ne.t da & then at the last moment& just as we were leavin3& she chan3ed her mind and came. Fi was the best: she crawled out o, her sleepin3 ba3 sa in3& A=.erciseD #hats what : want& more e.ercise. : ,or3ave her the sarcasm because she was cheer,ul& just when : needed some cheer,ulness. <e set o,, at about ,our. #he ph sical movement was 3ood ,or me nowF it seemed to restore some health and ener3 to m mind. <e all knew the track so well that we could talk easil as we walked& not havin3 to concentrate on where we put our ,eet. <e trud3ed up the path as it wound around the cli,,s and throu3h the bush& across the beauti,ull cra,ted hand9made brid3e le,t there b the onl other human to have lived in this wild rock basin. :, that old hermit had popped out as we crossed his brid3e& like the troll and the bill 3oats 3ru,,& he would have swallowed his beard in surprise. How could an one have predicted what had happened& and the use to which Hell had been putG :, we couldnt have predicted that& ma be we would be eEuall ama8ed b the ne.t event& and ma be that event would be the endin3 o, the war. #hat was one nice rational thou3ht with which : consoled m sel, as we slo33ed up to <ombe3onoo. <e didnt talk about an thin3 much. : realised a,ter a while that the others were tr in3 to be bri3ht and cheer,ul& to make me ,eel better. Fi 3ot us pla in3 A: remember ,or Euite a while& which had become one o, our ,avourite 3ames. :t was a 3ood wa to pass the time& and simple enou3h: just sa a sentence startin3 with A: remember& and make sure its true. : think we liked it because it helped brin3 back our normal lives& be,ore the invasion. : was hardl in the mood ,or it this time but : tried to ,orce m sel, to join in. Fi started. A: remember when %all 7eddes parents took me to our restaurant& 5ee&

and : ordered lamb cutlets& because all those 2hinese names looked too stran3e to me. A6ot 2hinese. #hai and Hietnamese& 5ee muttered& then& more loudl : A: remember when m ,in3ers ached ,rom hours o, violin practice& and m teacher told me to do another hour. A: remember when : thou3ht Mr >ates said thered be ,ire crackers a,ter church and : was ver e.cited and rushed outside& and then : ,ound out hed actuall said choir practice. A: remember the ,irst time : saw tra,,ic li3hts. A>h =llieD Coure such a ruralD A: remember makin3 jell & ,ollowin3 the instructions care,ull & and step three was I%tand in ,rid3eJ& and : thou3ht I<h should : have to 3o and stand in the ,rid3eGJ AFiD Cou made that upD A:ts true& : swear. A: remember thinkin3 that all teachers liked me& and then one da in Cear / : heard the teacher sa : was the kind o, kid shed le,t the cit to avoid. #hat was 5ee a3ain. A: remember how in Cear + =llie alwa s saved a seat ,or me and then one da ou didnt& =llie& and : ,elt like it was the end o, the world. : went home and cried. : remembered that too& and ,elt 3uilt . :d just been a bit sick o, 'ob ns compan and wanted to make some new ,riends. A: remember when : was little : was walkin3 past a hei,er that was in a crush& and she li,ted her tail and pooed on m head. A: remember in Cear 1 : told the teacher our cat had been shovelled& and it took a3es ,or her to work out what : meant. A<hat did ou meanG

A:t had been spa ed o, course. Fi 3ave her little li3ht lau3h& like wind chimes. A: remember 3oin3 into the 3irls chan3in3 room at the pool b mistake. A" mistake. %ure 5ee& sure. A: remember when : was in love with Jason and : used to rin3 him up all the time and talk to him ,or hours& and one da a,ter :d talked ,or a while : stopped and there was nothin3& just a lon3 silence& until ,inall : hun3 up& and ne.t da at school : asked him what had happened and he admitted hed 3one to sleep while :d been talkin3. A: remember bein3 so e.cited about m ,irst da at school that : wore m uni,orm to bed& underneath m p jamas. : sure had chan3ed m mind about school since those da s. A: remember m parents wanted to send me to boardin3 school and : went and hid under the house ,or ,our hours& until the chan3ed their minds. A: remember swappin3 m violin ,or a Mars ;ar when : was in Cear /& and when m parents ,ound out the chucked the bi33est mental and 3ot on the phone to the kids parents to cancel the deal. : cant even remember who the kid was now. A: remember& Fi said. A:t was %teve. A#hatd be ri3ht& : said. %teve& m smooth talker. ACour turn 'ob n& Fi said. A>@& :m still thinkin3. >@& : remember 7randpops pickin3 me up to 3ive me a hu3& and he ,or3ot he had a ci3arette in his mouth& and it burnt me on the cheek. A: remember when we were little : watched Homer take a leak and : decided : wanted to do it standin3 too& so : pulled down m pants and tried. :t didnt work ver well& : added& probabl unnecessaril . A: remember the last time : saw m parents& Fi said. AMum told me that just because : was 3oin3 bush didnt mean : shouldnt brush m teeth a,ter ever meal. %teve& m e.& had alwa s been a

A: remember m ,ather sa in3 we were the most disor3anised bunch hed ever seen in his li,e and i, we were jackaroos hed sack ever one o, us& : said& 3oin3 out o, turn. : was startin3 to ,eel dismal a3ain. A#hen he char3ed o,, on the motorbike without even sa in3 3oodb e. A: remember ?ad bein3 so an.ious as : was 3oin3& 5ee said& Aand tellin3 me to be ver care,ul& not to take an risks. A"nd ouve been so obedient& 'ob n said. A<ell seein3 weve 3ot onto this depressin3 subject& :ll tell ou how : last saw m parents. : opened their bedroom door to sa 3oodb e and cau3ht them both in the nick makin3 passionate love on top o, the doona. 5uckil the hadnt heard me& so : shut the door Euietl & waited about a minute& then ban3ed on the door and elled 3oodb e as loud as : could and raced out to the car. 'ob n had achieved the impossible with her stor : made me lau3h. A: wondered wh ou were 3rinnin3 so much as ou 3ot in the car& Fi said& a,ter wed stopped lau3hin3. A: thou3ht it was just the sheer pleasure o, seein3 me. A<ell that too o, course& 'ob n said& as we arrived at the top o, <ombe3onoo. :t was cold on the e.posed summit& out o, the protection o, Hell. #he sk was clear but the wind was blowin3 sharp and hard. " ,ew wisps o, cloud& as li3ht as ,air ,loss& and almost close enou3h to touch& were shill 9shall in3 around. <ed had a lon3 run o, dr weather but the cruel cold o, the wind su33ested it mi3ht be brin3in3 somethin3 wild in. ;e ond the ,urthest mountains we could see the tops o, some thick white cloud. :t seemed to be l in3 in wait. : stood and tried to see as ,ar as 2obblers ;a & an.ious to count the ships& i, there were an & but it was too dark to see. <e sat there ,or ,ive minutes to 3et our breath back& and spent the time admirin3 the ,erocious beaut o, our home& in the last o, the li3ht. : could see wh it had looked so ,ri3htenin3 to me ,or so man ears. =ven now& when we knew it so well& it had the same look o, potential violence that some animals in 8oos mana3e to keep. >r ma be it was me& that ever thin3 now seemed threatenin3. Hell was a vivid mess o, trees and rocks& dark 3reen and reddish9 brown& 3re and black. :t looked like a dumpin3 3round ,or the 3ods& a 3reat smashed mess o, livin3 thin3s that 3rew without help or 3uidance& accordin3

to their own wild rules. :t was the ri3ht place ,or us. <ed brou3ht 2orries radio& which we could use onl sparin3l & as our ,ew batteries were ,adin3 ,ast. ;ut wed learnt where and when to ,ind the news bulletins& and we tuned in now to an "merican one. <e had to keep it on ,or a ,ew minutes& as we were no lon3er the top stor & and hadnt been ,or a ,ortni3ht. #his ni3ht we were down to number ,our. #he world was Euickl ,or3ettin3 us. "nd there was little new to report. =conomic sanctions were in place and supposed to be havin3 some e,,ect. <ed lost control o, all but the most desolate outback and a ,ew o, the bi33er cities. "n "merican "ir Force jet had kindl taken our leadin3 politicians to the %tates& where the were torn between makin3 inspirin3 speeches about coura3e& and passionate denials that their policies had weakened us in the ,irst place. :t was hard to restrain 5ee ,rom crushin3 the radio at that point. 7uerilla activit was continuin3 in some areas but lar3e portions o, the countr were now so ,irml held that the ,irst colonists were alread settlin3 in with their ,amilies. >nl 6ew Mealand was 3ivin3 direct militar help& sendin3 troops and supplies. #here was uno,,icial and private support ,rom elsewhere& especiall 6ew 7uinea& but the !67 3overnment was torn between the ,ear o, attractin3 an attack and the ,ear that the would be ne.t an wa . #he balance o, power in "sia and the !aci,ic had chan3ed so much that people still couldnt come to terms with it. " woman ,rom :ndia& a politician& was tr in3 to broker a peace deal on behal, o, the K6& but all her proposals so ,ar had been ,irml rejected. #he ne.t item on the news was a broken le3 su,,ered b basketball pla er in 2hica3o. a ,amous

#he news depressed us. <e walked to the 5andie in silence. 'ob n and : each shouldered a lamb and the others loaded up with all the could carr . #here was still plent le,t ,or at least one more trip. <ed been luck to think o, the @in3s little hobb ,arm. :t had 3uaranteed our survival throu3h winter and be ond. #he time mi3ht come when wed have to steal ,ood ,rom ,armhouses colonised b our enemies& but like the ,uture o, our ,uel supplies and the ,ates o, our ,amilies and ,riends& wed have to worr about that later.

2hapter %i.

5ee and : were sittin3 outside the door o, the Hermits hut. :n this tin shelter a man whod ,led ,rom a dark and horri, in3 world had ,ound some kind o, peace. Ma be. <e didnt know that. <e had ,led an u3l world too& but we were not able to cut o,, ,rom it the wa he had. <ed brou3ht some o, it in here with us& and we had to keep 3oin3 out into the rest o, it. 6evertheless& : ,elt some peace when : was at the old cabin. #here was no place more remote ,or us to escape the human race. %ometimes :d crawled here alon3 the creek bed& like a sick do3 crawls into the dark bushes to wait until it dies or 3ets better. %ometimes :d come here to reassure m sel, that other human bein3s had ever e.isted. %ometimes it was because o, an obscure idea that : mi3ht ,ind answers : wouldnt ,ind elsewhere. ",ter all& the Hermit had spent a lon3 time here alone. Free ,rom the distractin3 noises o, the world he must have had a lot o, time to think& and his thinkin3 would have had some special Eualit & surel G >r was : just bein3 naiveG :d started cleanin3 the hut& slowl & and occasionall with 5ees help. :td never 3leam like a suburban home in a television ad& but the le,t9hand side was lookin3 Euite neat& and it stood out more distinctl ,rom the bush that had almost en3ul,ed it. :d never been a ,an o, housework durin3 the peace but : was Euite proud o, what wed done here. #his da thou3h& so soon a,ter the attack on the convo & : hadnt ,elt like continuin3 the cleanin3. : just sat& leanin3 back into 5ees warm chest& lettin3 his lon3 arms come around me and his ,ine musicians ,in3ers do what the wanted. : hoped i, he held me hard enou3h and touched me hotl enou3h he would prove to me that we were still alive& and ma be even chase m shadow awa . #he da was cold and 3re F : ,elt cold and 3re inside and out. <ed never reall discussed the attack on the convo F none o, us : mean& not just 5ee and me. #hat was unusualF we normall talked passionatel about ever thin3 that happened. ;ut ma be this had been too bi3. 6ot so much blowin3 up the trucksF that was bi3 all ri3ht& but it was like the brid3e B dramatic& scar & e.citin3. #he hard thin3s were the close9up personal thin3s.

Homer not tellin3 us about his 3un& Homer shootin3 the soldiers& me killin3 the wounded soldier. #he were so intimate that : couldnt talk about them. :t would have been like talkin3 about m own blood. %till& at least that da mattered. 5ee and : did talk about real thin3sF thin3s that

A"re ou >@ since the bi3 shootin3 matchG he asked. A: dont know. : dont know how : ,eel an more. A;ut ou still have ,eelin3sG His hand was under m #9shirt& strokin3 m stomach. : smiled. A>h nowada s. es. Just one or two. ;ut the mostl seem bad ones

#here was a pause o, a minute or so be,ore he asked& A%uch asG AFear. "n3er. ?epression. Hows that ,or a startG A6o 3ood ones at allG A6ot a lot. A6oneG A>h : know what ou want me to sa . 5ove ,or ou and all that stu,,& : suppose. A6o& : didnt want ou to sa that. He sounded hurt. A: wasnt even thinkin3 o, that. : was just worried about ou. A%orr . %orr . : dont seem able to think like a normal person an more. =ver thin3s distorted. 2an ou believe those other countries wont do an thin3 ,or usG A<ell& seems to me there were a ,ew countries overseas who were invaded and we didnt do an thin3 about them. A: thou3ht we were di,,erent. : thou3ht ever one loved us. A: 3uess the onl liked us. #heres a major di,,erence between like and love.

AMmm& tell me about it. <hat is it with ou then& like or loveG ?o ou like me or love meG : asked it li3htl but : was nervous& waitin3 ,or his answer. A#hats a bi3 Euestion. He made circles around m bell button with his middle ,in3er& then went a bit hi3her. M skin ,elt alive at each point where he touched me& thou3h the rest o, me was still cold. #hen he said& ver slowl & A: like ou with all our ,aults =llie& and : think thats love. : was a bit an3r at ,irst& thinkin3 o, all 5ees ,aults B his broodin3 silences& his ,lashes o, temper& his hun3er ,or reven3e. ;ut : knew : had ,aults too B m bossiness& m tactlessness& and the wa : was over9critical sometimes. "nd then : be3an to realise what a bi3 compliment he had paid me& what a bi3 statement hed made. He was ri3ht& theres a di,,erence between the wa ou ,eel be,ore ou know a person and the wa ou ,eel a,ter. :d had those rushes o, heat that :d thou3ht were love& when ou see someone so beauti,ul ou want to ,ollow them ,or the rest o, our li,e& just so ou can keep starin3 at them. #hat kind o, love didnt mean much. :t was like some o, m ,riends at school sa in3 the Aloved a ,ilm star or a pop sin3er. #hat wasnt love. 5ee was talkin3 about ,eelin3s as bi3 as these mountains. For a moment a new world opened in m mind& where : was an adult& workin3 hard& holdin3 a 3roup o, people to3ether& bein3 a leader. <ith a shock : realised : was thinkin3 about parenthood. For3et itD #hat was not on m a3enda. : sat up and peeled 5ees hand ,rom m breast. A<hats wron3G he asked. A: dont want this to 3et too serious. ACes ou do. A5eeD ?ont tell me what m ,eelin3s are. He just lau3hed. A<ell ou dont know what the are& so : mi3ht as well tell ou. A>hD =.cuse meD A%o ou do know what the areG ACesD Ces& o, course. A>@& ,ire awa .

A<hat do ou meanG A<ell& oure so sure ou know how ou ,eel& 3o ahead and tell me. : cant wait to ,ind out. A>hD Coure so anno in3. "ll ri3ht& how do : ,eelG Km. >@. Km& um& um. >@& 3ot it. : ,eel con,used. A%eeD : was ri3htD Cou dont know how ou ,eel. ACes : doD : ,eel con,used. : just told ou that. A;ut con,usions not a ,eelin3D ACes it isD He wrestled me down a3ain. A=llie& oure up to our old tricks. #oo much thinkin3& not enou3h ,eelin3. He kissed me hard& ,or a lon3 time& till : was kissin3 him back just as hard. #hen the kisses became slow and so,t& kind o, mess & but nice. ;ut : was still bothered b a ,ew thin3s. %o when we paused ,or breath and 5ee was nu88lin3 m shoulder : started a3ain. A5ee& : know oure tr in3 to kiss me into silence& but seriousl & : am worried about us& about ou and me. : dont know whats 3oin3 to happen& how were 3oin3 to end up. "nd dont sa somethin3 dumb like Ino one can predict the ,utureJ. #ell me somethin3 : dont alread know. A<ell what else can : sa G #he ,uture is ... : dont know& whats the ,utureG :ts a blank sheet o, paper and we draw lines on it& but sometimes our hand is held and the lines we draw arent the lines we wanted. 5ee said this in a dream wa & 3a8in3 up at the canop o, branches above us& but : was deepl impressed. AFar out& did ou just think o, thatG AMore or less. : mean& :ve thou3ht o, it be,ore but thats the wa it came out this time. "n wa its true& and thats all that matters. AMmm& : suppose it is. ;ut here in Hell we 3et to draw the lines how we want most o, the time B or much more than we ever could be,ore. #heres no adults around holdin3 our hands.

A6o& but weve 3ot our own thou3hts& which do the same job. #he wa weve kept our heads to3ether proves that. : bet a lot o, people would have e.pected us to be into an or3 o, se.& dru3s and chocolate& but weve been prett strai3ht. %o ,ar. A>h esG <hat does that meanG ACou know. A"re ou re,errin3 to se.& dru3s or chocolateG A<ell& : know which one means the most to me& and it sure aint chocolate. ACou think we should do it& dont ouG AI:tJ& he teased me. A<hats IitJG ACou know. A>@& eah& : think we should do it. A: knew ou did& : said& but : wasnt sure i, he was serious or bein3 ,unn . A"nd ou want to do it too. A%ometimes : do& : admitted& 3oin3 a bit red. A#hats what this conversations reall about& isnt itG AMa be it is. : si3hed& and brushed m hair awa ,rom m ,ace. A2hrist& 5ee& : said& turnin3 to him suddenl and 3rabbin3 him b the top o, his shirt& Asometimes : want to do it so badl m skins swollen with it. A?o ou think Homer and Fi have done itG A6uh. Fi would have told me. A7irls are ,unn & the wa the tell each other all stu,, like that. A"nd 3u s dontG 2ome on& 3ive me a break. A"n wa & a,ter she read what ou wrote about them& she mi3htnt tell ou so much.

A",ter what : wrote about them the ve hardl touched each other. ACeah& the did 3o a bit ,unn . He & wait a minute& are ou 3oin3 to be writin3 down this conversationG A:, : do : wont be showin3 an one. ACou better not. %o. He turned to me and picked up m hand and be3an to stroke the back o, it. A%o& whats the stor =lG <hats 3oin3 downG <h are we havin3 this conversationG A: dont know. :m cra8 with worr about so man thin3s. For instance& sometimes : think ma be were with each other just because theres no one else around. :, we were back at school and wed never been invaded& we mi3ht hardl be ,riends. %o& is this meant to be& or isnt itG :t mi3ht be like one o, those summer romances the have in "merican movies& and somehow it doesnt seem real i, thats all it is. 5ee went to sa somethin3& but : stopped him. A>@& : know what oure 3oin3 to sa & : think too much. : admit it. ;ut : 3uess :m dod3in3 the bi3 issue. "nd the bi3 issue& well its sort o, what ou said. <eve been to3ether a while now and weve been prett 3ood. ;ut theres somethin3 in me wants to 3o ,urther& and : dont mean onl ph sical& althou3h theres de,initel that "s : talked : be3an ,or the ,irst time to 3et an inklin3 o, what it mi3ht be. A: think its to do with all the thin3s that have happened to us. #he invasion and bein3 here and 3oin3 out and blowin3 thin3s up and killin3 people. :m sort o, askin3& is that all our li,e is 3oin3 to becomeG Just sittin3 here& spinnin3 our wheelsG =ver ,ew weeks 3o out and kill a ,ew more soldiersG :, thats all li,e has to o,,er ,or the ne.t ,i,t ears& then ,or3et it : want to 3o ,orward& no matter what else is happenin3 around us. <e havent 3one ,orward one space since we 3ot here. <e havent built an thin3& e.cept a ,ew crumm chook ards. <e havent learned an thin3. <e havent done an thin3 positive. A<eve learned a heap& : reckon. A>h& about ourselves and stu,,. ;ut : dont mean that kind o, learnin3. : mean stu,, thats useless ,or its own sake and so its beauti,ul& i, ou see what : mean. 5ike& the names o, constellations and the shapes the ,orm in the sk . 5ike the wa Michelan3elo painted the %istine 2hapel& on his back with paint drippin3 in his e es. 5ike& oh& Fibonacci seEuences or the Japanese tea ceremon or the French word ,or railwa . #he re the kind o, thin3s :m talkin3

about. 2ant ou understandG A: 3uess so. Cou mean& i, we lose those thin3s well be de,eated& no matter what else happens& no matter what militar victories we win. A=.actl . Cou do understandD <e have to do thin3s that sa es& not just thin3s that sa no. !lantin3 all those seeds& that was a 3ood thin3 to do. ;ut we should have planted ,lowers too. #he Hermit understood that. #hats wh he put in these roses& and when he made that brid3e he didnt just shove a ,ew lo3s across the creek. He made it beauti,ull & so itll last hundreds o, ears. <e have to create thin3s& and think in the lon3 term. 5eave stu,, behind us ,or others. 5i,e rulesD CeahD "nd : leapt awa and did a dance throu3h the Hermits dark little house& comin3 back with do8ens o, rose petals that : scattered 3enerousl on 5ees ,ace. ;ut that wasnt nearl enou3h. :d suddenl built up so much ener3 that : could have planted a thousand trees& kissed a thousand 3u s& built a thou9 sand houses. :nstead : plou3hed m wa back down the creek at hi3h speed& ran in 8i38a3s throu3h the clearin3& then jo33ed on up the track to watch the sunset ,rom %atans %teps. <hen it was dark and the ,lies had 3one to bed ,or the ni3ht& Homer and : killed one o, the lambs. : knelt on it while he cut its throat& then : jerked back its head to break the bone and let the blood run out& the li,e ,low awa . <e skinned it between us& Homer usin3 his bi3 ,ist ,or the bell and brisket. : hadnt been lookin3 ,orward to doin3 all this. :d thou3ht that : mi3htnt be able toF that it mi3ht brin3 back the terrible memories ,rom the ambush. ;ut it didnt. : dont know i, the conversation with 5ee had cleared the sk o, m menacin3 shadow& but as soon as : 3rabbed the lamb : automaticall started doin3 what :d done in the old da s. <ed alwa s kept our own killers. Cou never 3et blasO about slau3hterin3 an animalF ,or instance takin3 out the warm heart& which ,eels like the li,e is still held in it& is a power,ul e.perience& no matter how man times ou do it. :t is ,or me& an wa . %o ou dont do it like oure a robot& or like oure peelin3 spuds. ;ut to m relie, : ,ound it went prett much as it alwa s had done B and that reall was a relie,. <e cut o,, its head and chucked it into the pit Fi had du3 ,or the le,tovers. :m not into brains& and that particular ni3ht : couldnt brin3 m sel, to skin its ,ace or cut out the ton3ue. #hen we strun3 the carcass up over a branch to 3ut it. <e were under so much pressure ,rom the others to provide a barbecue that we went ahead and butchered it strai3htawa & even thou3h its

better to wait and let it cool. ;ut we hacked o,, the ,irst chops& with some rou3h bush butcherin3& and onto the ,ire the went. :t was midni3ht be,ore our hun3r mouths closed on the hot pink meat& but it had been worth the wait. <e ate well& 3rinnin3 at each other as our blackened 3reas ,in3ers tore at the ,ood. #he death o, one thin3 can be the birth o, somethin3 else. : ,elt new determination& new suret & new con,idence.

2hapter %even

<hat happened a,ter that was m idea& : admit it. #he buck stops with =llie. :t came out o, bein3 so restless& ,eelin3 that we werent doin3 enou3h& werent makin3 a di,,erence. :d alwa s thou3ht that there must be a route out the other side o, Hell& usin3 the creek as a path. ",ter all& it had to run somewhere& and it couldnt 3o uphill. :n the ne.t valle was the Hollowa 'iver& and 'isdon. : had no idea i, the route would be passable ,or humans but : thou3ht it was worth a tr . : lon3ed ,or new ,ields& new scenes& new people ma be. :t was like wantin3 a holida . ?espite what the radio and our own common sense told us& there was some va3ue ,eelin3 that thin3s would be di,,erent there& that wed walk out o, the mountains into a new and 3reen land& a peace,ul land& leavin3 the u3liness and despair o, <irrawee behind. : didnt tell the others o, m dream. : just said we needed to establish a line o, retreat& and it mi3ht be important ,or us to ,ind out what was happenin3 in the Hollowa . @nowled3e is power& a,ter all. #he were Euite keen. #he didnt need much persuadin3. Homer had su33ested a ,ew times that we needed to ,ind more people& to meet up with other 3roups& and there was a chance we could do that in 'isdon. ;esides& : suppose we all were read to tr somethin3 new. :t helped us ,eel that we were bein3 constructive. >nl 2hris wanted to sta behind. :t was use,ul to have someone sta back& to look a,ter the chooks and the remainin3 lamb& but : wasnt sure i, leavin3 2hris alone was a 3ood idea. He was becomin3 increasin3l solitar & writin3 in his notebook and sittin3 on his own& 3a8in3 at the cli,,s. He drank all the beer we 3ot ,rom the @in3s : think& because when : looked ,or it : couldnt ,ind it& and 5ee said he didnt know where it had 3one. ;ut there was no more 3ro3 then& as ,ar as : knew& and : thou3ht ma be that had put him in a bad mood. >ccasionall he had bursts o, activit B ,or instance& he built us a 3ood bi3 woodshed ,or keepin3 our ,irewood dr . #hat took him three da s and he wouldnt let an one help him& but once hed ,inished it he didnt do much more. <e knew we mi3ht be awa ,or a ,ew ni3hts i, we did 3et throu3h to 'isdon& so we packed proper backpacks& with sleepin3 ba3s and jumpers and

japaras. :nstead o, tents we took a ,ew ,lies and 3round9sheets& which were li3hter& and 3ood enou3h ,or what we wanted. #here was a bi3 ar3ument about how to walk the creek. Homer& who was 3raduall returnin3 to his usual assertive sel,& said we should wear boots because wed be less likel to slip on the rocks. : said we should use bare ,eet so our boots would be dr and warm when we ,inall 3ot out o, the creek. <alkin3 throu3h that cold water ,or a lon3 distance& with autumn comin3 on ,ast& wasnt somethin3 that appealed to an o, us. ;ut that ar3ument at last led into the one we should have had a3es a3o: the one about Homer takin3 3uns on the ;uttercup 5ane ambush. :t went like this. Homer said somethin3 t picall domineerin3& like A<ell :m wearin3 m boots& : dont care what the rest o, ou do. : said& A7reat. "nd when ou 3et blisters well have to carr ou : suppose. Homer& i, we dont look a,ter our ,eet well be 3ood ,or nothin3. ACes mother& he said& ,lashin3 his brown e es at me. :ve alwa s had this ,eelin3 with Homer that : must never back o,, or itll be the end o, me. Hes so stron3 and he intimidates so man people& and then : think he despises them because the re too weak to stand up to him. %o : alwa s stand up to him& and : did it a3ain this time. AHow come when : tell people what : think the should do& ou make comments like ICes motherJ& and when ou tell people what to do ou e.pect them to jump into actionG Cou wouldnt be just a tin bit would ou HomerG #hat was like askin3 a ,ish i, it was a tin bit wet. A=llie& : know ou hate it when ou dont 3et our own wa on ever little thin3 ... A>h esG "nd whens the last time : 3ot m own wa on an thin3G A>h ohD Coure askin3 meG #r this mornin3 at break,ast& when ou stopped 2hris li3htin3 the ,ire. #r two hours a3o& when ou wouldnt let 5ee open a can o, peaches. ACeah& and ou notice somethin3 about both those timesG :m tr in3 to do

the ri3ht thin3 b us& b this 3roupD :m tr in3 to keep us aliveD :, an one sees smoke out o, here& were dead. :, we pi3 out on all the ,ood were in bi3 trouble. :m not just sa in3 stu,, ,or m own sake& because : like to hear m own voice& ou know. ACou ou3ht to listen to others more =llie. Cou keep wantin3 to be a one9 man band. 6ow : was reall mad. A#hanks ver much& :d never want to be a one9 man bandF a one9woman one ma be. Coure just provin3 what : said be,ore. "nd b the wa & this is prett 3ood comin3 ,rom ou. Coure the moron who secretl cut down the shot3uns and secretl took them with ou a,ter wed all a3reed we wouldnt have ,irearms. Cou put our lives at risk Homer& b bein3 a one9man band& and ou did it in cold blood. :ve never done an thin3 like that. Coure so sure oure ri3ht on ever little thin3& ou dont care what an one else thinks. A"nd : was ri3ht& wasnt :G 2hris and :d be dead now i, : hadnt had those 3uns. "ll o, us mi3ht be dead. : saved our li,e =llie. He & :m a hero. A#rust ou to cash in just because ou 3ot a luck call. Cou were so blood luck Homer& ou havent even started to ,i3ure it out et. :, those blokes had taken their ri,les with them when the went into the bush& theres no wa oud have had time to 3et our precious shot3un out. A: had it in m hand =llie. :m not that slow. : was read . A"nd suppose a patrol had jumped usG %uppose wed been cau3ht with sawn9o,, shot3unsG <ed have been put a3ainst a tree and shot and oud have ,ive peoples blood on our hands. A;ut that didnt happen& did itG #hat proves : was ri3ht. A#hat doesnt prove an thin3D #hat was a ,lukeD A6o& because the ,act that it didnt happen proves that wed covered ourselves properl . #heres no such thin3 as a ,luke. :ts like that 3ol,er said& 3ood pla ers alwa s have the luck. "s lon3 as we keep bein3 care,ul& and smart& well keep bein3 luck . : dont believe in ,lukes. : ,i3ured all this out be,ore : decided to take the 3uns.

AHomerD Coure cra8 D "n thin3 could have happened out thereD ?ont believe in ,lukesG Cou dont understand li,e. :ts all ,lukes. Coure actin3 like ou can control ever thin3. Cou think oure 7odD Jee8& even in 3ol,& the ball can hit a tree and bounce o,, into the hole. How do ou e.plain thatG "n wa & thats not the point& : said Euickl & in case he could e.plain it. A#he point is that ouve 3ot to 3o alon3 with 3roup decisions. Cou cant i3nore us and do what ou want. <ere all in this to3ether. ?ont 3o callin3 me a one9man band. Coure not onl the band& oure the roadies as well. A;reak it up& 3u s& 2hris said. #he others had been reactin3 to us in their di,,erent wa s. 'ob n had been standin3 leanin3 on a mattock& watchin3 and listenin3 with 3reat interest. Fi& who hated con,lict& had 3one o,, to our current dunn & ,i,t metres awa in the bush. 5ee was readin3 a book called Red Shift and had not even looked up. 2hris had been whittlin3 a piece o, wood into the shape o, a dra3on. Hed been doin3 a lot o, stu,, like that latel & and was 3ettin3 reall 3ood at it. ;ut he looked upset and an3r at the wa we were ,i3htin3& and a ,ew minutes a,ter he interrupted us he went o,, to the creek& while the rest o, us started 3ettin3 or3anised ,or the e.pedition. : was packin3 in a bit o, a ra3e& throwin3 thin3s around& 3rowlin3 at ever one. :t wasnt till Fi came back ,rom the dunn that : calmed down a bit. <ell& to be more accurate& she calmed me down. %he picked up a stick that :d knocked over& one that we used ,or dr in3 clothes& and tried to put it back in its position. >ne end o, it sat in the ,ork o, a tree and she couldnt Euite reach it& so : went to 3ive her a Euick li,t. #o m horror she ,linched sli3htl as : 3rabbed at her. :t was onl the sli3htest movement& but ,or that second she looked like she thou3ht : was 3oin3 to hit her. A>h FiD : said. : was reall upset. A>h& :m sorr =llie& she said. ACou just took me b surprise& thats all. : sat down on the 3round beside the tent and crossed m le3s. AFi& have : turned into a monsterG A6o =llie& o, course ou havent. #heres just so much happenin3& its hard to 3et used to it all. AHave : chan3ed a lotG A6o& no. =llie& oure a stron3 person and whenever ou have stron3 people around& ou have ,ireworks. : mean& Homers stron3 and 'ob ns

stron3 and 5ees much stron3er than people realise. %o theres bound to be clashes. A=ver ones stron3 in di,,erent wa s. : didnt think @evin was stron3 until he drove o,, with 2orrie to the Hospital. Cou were so tou3h when we blew up the brid3e. A:m not stron3 with people thou3h. A?o ou still hate me ,or what : wrote about ou and HomerG A6oD >, course notD :t was just a shock when : read it& thats all. Cour trouble is oure too honest& and that was the shock. Cou wrote down the thin3s that most people think but never sa . >r else& people write them in their diaries and never show an one. A;ut ou and Homer still havent 3ot it back to3ether. A6o& but : dont know i, that was because o, what ou wrote. Hes so di,,icult. %ome da s hes so lovin3 and beauti,ul and other da s he treats me like : dont :ts ver ,rustratin3. %eemed like : had a lot o, si3ni,icant conversations that da . Ma be it was the ,act that we were on the move that 3ot ever one talkin3 suddenl . #he last one was with 2hris and that was even tou3her than the one with Homer. : went down to the creek deliberatel to ,ind him& because : ,elt 3uilt about ne3lectin3 him latel . #he more morose he became the more : avoided him. =ver one did. "nd : suppose that just made him worse. %o %aint =llie decided to ,i. thin3s& and awa she went& determined to do somethin3 3ood ,or once. : ,ound him sittin3 on a rock lookin3 at his le,t ,oot& which was bare. For a moment : couldnt see what he was lookin3 at but then : saw this nast black bul3e on his skin& like a lon3 u3l blood9blister. : looked at it& shuddered& looked a3ain& and realised it was a leech. 2hris was sittin3 there calml & watchin3 it 3row ,at on his blood. A=r& uk& : said. A<hat are ou doin3 that ,orG He shru33ed. A!asses the time. He didnt even look up. A6o& seriousl & wh G #his time he didnt answer at all. For the whole time we were talkin3 the

leech sta ed there& 3ettin3 bi33er and blacker. :t made it hard to have a conversation. : couldnt take m e es o,, it. ;ut : tried. A2an ou make sure ou check ,or e33s behind that ,lat rockG ;lossoms been la in3 there occasionall . ;lossom was a rather depressed lookin3 red hen who wasnt popular with the other chooks. A%ure. A%o how are ou 3oin3 to spend the time while were awa G A: dunno. :ll ,ind thin3s. A2hris& are ou >@G 5ike& ou seem so cut o,, these da s. ?o ou hate us all or somethin3G :s an thin3 3ettin3 ou downG A6o& no. :m ,ine. A;ut we used to talk& we used to have these 3reat conversations. How come we dont do that an moreG A: dunno. 6othin3 to talk about. A%o much is happenin3. <ere in the middle o, the bi33est thin3 that well ever see in our whole lives. %o much is happenin3. He shru33ed a3ain& not li,tin3 his e es ,rom the ,oul slu3 on his le3. A:d love to see some more o, our writin3& our poetr . He 3a8ed at the leech ,or a lon3 time& but without answerin3. Finall he said& ACeah& : liked what ou said about the other ones. #hen& as i, he were talkin3 to himsel,& he added& AMa be : should. Ma be es& ma be no. He turned and stretched out past me to 3et somethin3 ,rom his jacket& which was l in3 on a rock. Mechanicall : picked it up and handed it to him. "s : did so : smelt a3ain the stale sweet smell o, alcohol on his breath. %o he still did have a secret collection o, 3ro3 somewhere. He pulled out a bo. o, matches. He seemed to be i3norin3 me. : ,elt ,lat and dispirited. :d been in a better mood a,ter talkin3 to Fi but that was lost a3ain. : could hear 'ob n ellin3 ,or meF our e.pedition was read to move out.

A<ell& see ou& : said to 2hris& Ain a couple o, hours or a couple o, da s. He didnt even answer. : slouched o,, up the& hill& 3rabbed m pack and headed ,or the point where the creek slid under the thick 3rowth o, bush& the route to the Hermits cabin and be ond. Fi and Homer and 5ee were alread thereF onl 'ob n had waited ,or me. : took o,, m boots and socks. <ed a3reed on a compromise B to wear boots and keep our socks dr B so : put the boots back on and ,ollowed the others into the cold water. <as this trip a 3ood ideaG : couldnt decide but : didnt care all that much. :t was somethin3 to do& and i, we were care,ul we couldnt come to much harm. =.cept ,or ,rostbite& : thou3ht& as : ,elt the water trickle in around m toes. "nd leeches. : kept 3lancin3 down nervousl to make sure the werent makin3 sneak attacks on me. <e passed the little old cabin and kept 3oin3. <e were in new territor now. :t didnt take lon3 to 3et Euite uncom,ortable. ;ent over& slippin3 on rocks& 3ettin3 pain up m le3s ,rom m ,ree8in3 ,eet& : 3runted and 3rumbled m wa alon3. : kept tr in3 to move the pack on m back into new positions& ,eelin3 more like a tortoise with ever passin3 minute. A#his is a tou3h wa to earn a livin3& : said to 'ob ns bum. %he lau3hed. : think thats what she did& an wa . #urnin3 her head a little she said back to me& AHe =l& do abbies biteG ACeah& count our toes ever time we stop. #he re hun3r little critters. A"nd dra3on,liesG A#hem too. A;un ipsG A#he re the worst o, the lot. <e had to duck even lower then as under3rowth pulled at our hair. :t was the end o, conversation ,or a while. <e went on like that ,or a lon3 time. >nce : 3ot into a routine it wasnt so bad. #heres those ,irst ,ew minutes when oure sweatin3 and in pain& then it becomes a kind o, rh thm and ou 3o with the ,low. :ts happenin3 inside ou and outside ou& but the ,irst intensit wears o,,& luckil . %o : plodded alon3&

,ollowin3 'ob n who was ,ollowin3 5ee who was ,ollowin3 Fi who was ,ollowin3 Homer. %ometimes the creek widened and rippled over 3ravel& which was nice and eas F sometimes : slipped on smooth rocks or ,elt the pressure o, sharp onesF sometimes we had to clamber around deep pools. :n one place the creek ,lowed strai3ht and dark ,or about ei3ht metres& with a sand bottom& and we were able to walk alon3 it with our heads up as thou3h we were on a hi3hwa . :d alwa s thou3ht o, Hell as bein3 a basin& a bowl& but : had no real evidence o, that. From #ailors %titch the ,ar side o, Hell looked to be a rid3e o, rock and trees& a lot lower than #ailors. :t certainl 3ave the impression o, ,ormin3 one side o, a basin& with Mt #urner the onl reall hi3h point. ;ut be ond that was the Hollowa Halle & and the creek had to reach there somehow. <e slo33ed awa ,or two hours& losin3 hei3ht most o, the time. : was wonderin3 i, :d be able to stand strai3ht a3ain or i, :d be locked into this posi9 tion ,orever& a hunchbacked monster ,rom the bush. %uddenl : realised that 'ob ns bum had swun3 around and was 3oin3 awa ,rom meF in ,act it was risin3& leavin3 the creek. : 3lanced up ,rom under m pack. 'ob n was clamberin3 out o, the water to join the others& who were sprawled alon3 the bank pullin3 o,, their boots& 3roanin3 as the tried to rub their le3s back into li,e. <e were in a clear len3th o, bush ,or the ,irst time since leavin3 our campsite. #here were onl a ,ew metres o, ,lat& but it was enou3h. #here was even some warm sunli3ht to lie inF the thick canop o, trees was broken and we could see a clear pale blue sk . AMmm& this is nice& 'ob n said. A#hank 7od it was here& : said. A: couldnt have 3one much ,urther. #hat was one mother o, a paddle. <hose idea was this an wa G ACours& came the ,our voices& on cue. : pulled o,, m saturated boots and looked around as : rubbed m ,eet and le3s. #he creek ,lowed on without us but it chan3ed its tune a little ,urther down. : could hear a wilder& louder& lonelier sound. "nd throu3h the trees was more sunli3ht& a li3ht blue back3round instead o, a thick 3reen and brown one. <alkin3 like a hospital patient on her ,irst da out o, bed : hobbled alon3 to the end o, the clearin3& ,ollowed b Homer. <e went a ,ew metres into the belt o, trees& and stood& lookin3. #here was the Hollowa Halle .

#o a lot o, people : suppose it wouldnt have been beauti,ul. :t had been a dr summer and althou3h the river ,lats were a so,t 3reen& the paddocks be ond 'isdon had burnt o,, into the ochre sameness that seemed part o, m li,e& part o, me. #he lush 3reen o, our sprin3s and earl summers never lasted lon3. : was more used to that dr monotonous ellowF so used to it that at some sta3e it had soaked into me& till : wasnt sure i, there were boundaries between me and the landscape an more. : remember Mr @assar at school sa in3 that hed come home a,ter livin3 a ear in =n3land and his heart had ached with love when he saw the sunburnt plains a3ain. : knew what he meantF bo did : know what he meant. =ven the ellow wasnt all ellow o, course. #here were dark 3reen dots o, trees and lines o, windbreaks& the ,lashin3 o, 3alvanised9iron roo,s like little sEuare pools o, water& the tanks and sheds and stock ards and dams& the endless borin3 ,ences. :t was m countr & even more than the bush and the mountains& and de,initel more than the cities and towns. : ,elt at home in those hot& rustlin3 paddocks. ;ut between us and the valle were a line o, cli,,s and a lot o, bush. <ed skirted around Mt #urner without even realisin3 it& and it was now Euite a wa over to m le,t. Homer and : were standin3 at the brink o, one o, the lowest cli,,s& where the creek trickled over the ed3e in a lon3 thin stream& ,allin3 to rocks ,i,t metres below and then 3ur3lin3 awa into under3rowth a3ain. #he bush down there looked as thick as the stu,, we had come throu3h in Hell. A5uck @evin isnt here& Homer said& 3a8in3 down at it. A=hG How do ou work that outG A?idnt ou knowG Hes terri,ied o, hei3hts. A7odD :s there an thin3 that 3u isnt a,raid o,G "nd he alwa s acted so tou3h. AMmm. 7uess he came throu3h in the end& but. A7uess he did. <e went back to the others and told them what wed seen. <e le,t our packs and went ,or a walk alon3 the cli,,s& lookin3 ,or a wa down. A%hort o, bun3 jumpin3 ... 5ee said& a,ter ten minutes.

A<eve 3ot to be able to 3et back up a3ain& said 'ob n& alwa s practical. #he cli,,s were ,ast becomin3 impassable in this direction& crowded b trees& breakin3 awa in a ,ew places& and with some dan3erousl slipper sheets o, rock. <e 3ave up and tried the other wa & passin3 the creek a3ain and strikin3 out across some more bare patches o, shale. <e ,ound onl one possibilit : a tree which had ,allen head9,irst down the cli,, and died there. :ts bare white skeleton now leaned a3ainst the wall o, rockF branches like bones stuck out on all sides& a kind o, natural stepladder. A7oll & said Fi in her 3randmotherl voice as we stood there and 3a8ed down at it. A6o wa & said 5ee. A: dont see wh not& 'ob n said. A: dont have medical insurance& 5ee said. A<e should have brou3ht some rope& Homer said. A<e should have brou3ht an escalator. A: think its possible& : said. A:, someone does it without their pack ,irst& and i, that works we can think about 3ettin3 the packs down. #he all looked at me as : said that& and the kept lookin3 at me a,ter :d ,inished. : started to ,eel uncom,ortable. A<hose idea was it we come on this tripG Homer asked a3ain. #he kept lookin3 at me. : si3hed& and be3an to take m pack o,,. <as it m ima3ination& or did the press closel around me as the escorted me to the ed3e o, the cli,,G %eemed like : had the proverbial two chances o, 3ettin3 out o, this: ;uckle s and none. : 3ot down on all ,ours and be3an slidin3 backwards over the ed3e. AHan3 onto m hands& Homer said. A#heres no point. :, we can onl 3et down here b holdin3 onto people& then what does the last person doG #he top o, the tree was about three metres below& but : thou3ht : could reach it. #he ed3e o, the cli,, was rounded& not sheer& and m bi33est problems were the loose 3ravel and the need to connect m ,eet with the top o, the tree. <ith a ,ew instructions ,rom 'ob n& : lined m sel, up& then hun3 at

,ull stretch ,or a ,ew seconds. : needed to take a leap o, ,aith. " slide o, ,aith& an wa . : took a breath& swallowed& and let 3o. #he slide onl took a second but there was that horrible lon3 thou3ht that : mi3ht miss the tree and slide ,orever. : pressed m sel, into the 3ravel harder and scrabbled at the rock,ace with m ,in3ers. #hen m ,eet hit the broken trunk and almost immediatel m le3s were wrappin3 round it. : let m sel, slip a little ,urther and hu33ed the old white wood with m arms as well& closin3 m e es and restin3 m ,ace a3ainst it. A"re ou >@G 'ob n called. A%ure. : opened m a3ain. e es. A:m just not thinkin3 about 3ettin3 back up

: looked down& searchin3 ,or a place to rest m ,eet. #he spikes o, wood were arran3ed neatl below me& all the wa to the bottom. :t seemed prett strai3ht,orward. : put m le,t ,oot down to the ,irst spike and rested m wei3ht on it& strai3htenin3 a little in relie,. #he branch immediatel snapped. : hu33ed the tree a3ain& as advice started pourin3 down on top o, m head. A@eep our ,eet close to the trunk. A?ont put all our wei3ht on one branch. A#est the branches ,irst #he were sensible enou3h su33estions& but : could have ,i3ured them out ,or m sel,. : could ,eel the sweat startin3 to make m shirt stick and m ,orehead hotF : 3ritted m teeth and searched ,or the ne.t branch. ; keepin3 m ,eet so close to the trunk that the soles o, m boots were twisted a3ainst it& : made pro3ress. ;oots werent ideal ,or this kind o, work& but the were all : had. :t took me ,ive minutes& it ,elt like ,i,teen& but at last : was standin3& wild with relie,& at the base o, the trunk& m back to the bush. A2ome on& : elled. A<hat about the packsG A!ut the ,ra3ile thin3s in our pockets& and chuck the packs down. "nd thats what the did. <e didnt have man ,ra3ile items& torches& radio& a pair o, binoculars. #hen : had to dod3e the ,allin3 packs. :m sure the werent aimin3 them at me. :m Euite sure the werent. "nd : resisted the temptation to set ,ire to the trunk as the 3in3erl worked their wa down it& one b one.

A<ell have to pick up a bit o, rope somewhere& Homer said& when we were all standin3& a bit breathless& at the bottom. AFrom 'isdon ma be. :tll help us 3et back up. #here was no path throu3h the bush& and the trees were packed ti3htl . :t was 3oin3 to be a 3runt. <e went over a rid3e& ,ound a bit o, a 3ap alon3 a line o, rock& and ,ollowed that until it ran out. ",ter that we just had to stru33le on. :t took us about an hour to travel a kilometre. A:d rather be back in the creek& : said to Fi. "nd thats when we heard the voices.

2hapter =i3ht

>ur ,irst view o, Harve s Heroes was ,rom a rid3e o, rock overlookin3 the camp. <ed snuck up on them so care,ull that we could hear their voices clearl . :t was such a relie, that the were speakin3 in =n3lish. <e la there wide9e ed& watchin3 them and 3a8in3 at each other in ama8ement. " month earlier we would have 3one in ellin3 and screamin3 and wavin3 our arms& but now we were so cautious we would have looked a 3i,t horse in the mouth& nose& ears and throat be,ore wed accept it. "nd then wed ask ,or re,erences. %till& there was no doubt that these people were ,air dinkum. %ome o, them were in militar uni,orm& there were ri,les leanin3 a3ainst a lar3e 3um tree in the centre o, the clearin3& and the tents were camou,la3ed b ,resh9cut branches. : could see at least twent tents and in the ,ew minutes that we watched we saw twent di,,erent people& all adults& mostl men. #he moved Euietl around the camp. #he had a rela.ed air that : ,ound attractive. M onl worr was that their sentr s stem was so poor that we were able to sp on them without bein3 cau3ht. A<ell& said Homer& Aare we 3oin3 inG 5ee started to rise but : pulled him back. A<ait& : said. A<hat are we 3oin3 to tell themG A<hat aboutG A<ell ... : hesitated. : wasnt sure what : meant& what impulse had caused me to ask that Euestion. Finall : said the onl thin3 : could think o,. A"re we 3oin3 to tell them about HellG A: dont know. <h notG A: dont know. : just dont want to& ,or some reason. : want to keep it as our secret place. Homer paused. A: 3uess it wouldnt hurt to keep Euiet about it. #ill we ,ind

out more about these people& an wa . : had to be content with that. Homer stood& and we ,ollowed him. <e walked ,orward about ten metres be,ore an one noticed us. " man in jun3le 3reens& carr in3 a shovel& came out o, a tent& saw us& 3aped in disbelie,& then strai3htened up and 3ave a bird call. :t was meant to be an imitation o, a kookaburra but it wasnt ver 3ood. 6evertheless& it worked. <ithin seconds we were surrounded b men and women who came ,rom ever part o, the camp. #here were thirt or ,ort o, them. %ome o, the women& to m astonishment& wore make9up. #he unnervin3 thin3 thou3h was that the were so subdued. " ,ew o, them patted us on the back& but most said nothin3 at all. #he crowded us Euite closel & close enou3h ,or us to smell their sweat and hair and breath. #he didnt seem un,riendl & just war & watch,ul. #he seemed to be waitin3 ,or somethin3. : spoke up. AHello. <e sure are 3lad to see ou. <eve been on our own a lon3 time. " short tubb man came pushin3 throu3h the crowd. He was about thirt 9 ,ive& black9haired& pu,, 9,aced& with his head held at a rather stran3e an3le& sli3htl to one side& and leanin3 back a little. He had a lar3e& sharp nose that 3ave his ,ace a stron3 look. He was dressed in a din3 ellowish93reen militar uni,orm with tunic and tie but no hat. His tie was khaki& as was his shirt. #he others shu,,led back& makin3 room ,or him. #he man 3a8ed at us ,or a moment& then ,ocused on Homer. AHello Harve . oun3sters& he said. A<elcome to Harve s Heroes. :m Major

A#hanks& Homer said awkwardl . A:ts ,antastic to ,ind ou. <e had no idea an one would be here. A<ell& come with me& and well have a chat. <e still had our packs on our backs as we ,ollowed him throu3h the camp. :t was a clearin3 that wasnt a clearin3& as there were so man 3um trees that at times it was di,,icult to sEuee8e between them. #ents were placed in all kinds o, odd corners. ;ut compared to the thick bush around us it was a clearin3. Major Harve s tent was so bi3 b our standards that it was like a drawin3 room. #he ,ive o, us could have slept in it& no worries. ;ut all it contained was

a camp stretcher covered b a mosEuito net& a table and three chairs& and a ,ew and trunks. <e dropped o,, our packs at the entrance. Major Harve walked briskl to the chair behind the table and sat there& leavin3 us to sort out where wed sit. :n the end Homer and : took the chairs and the other three sat on the 3round. #he major cau3ht m e e as : 3lanced at the mosEuito net and 3ave a rather nervous lau3h. A;it o, a lu.ur that& he said. AFact is& :ve 3ot rather sensitive skin. : smiled a stupid lopsided sort o, 3rin and said nothin3. #he major turned back to Homer. A6ow& he said& A,irstl & con3ratulations on still bein3 ,ree o, the enem s clutches. Couve obviousl done ver well ,or ourselves. Coull have to tell me what ouve been up to. : leaned back in the chair. : ,elt tremendousl tired. %uddenl : could hardl sta awake. "dultsD "t last we had adults around us& people who could make the decisions& accept the responsibilit & tell us what to do. : closed m e es. A<ell& Homer be3an nervousl . : was surprised b how nervous he sounded. His con,idence seemed to have le,t him& in the ,ace o, this man who made it so clear that he was in char3e. A<ell& he said a3ain& Awe were campin3 in the bush when the invasion started. %o we missed the whole thin3. <hen we came out we ,ound ever bod had disappeared. :t took us Euite a while to work out what had happened. <hen we did realise& we shot back into the bush in a hurr & and weve been there ever since. =.cept ,or a ,ew raids. <eve done a bit o, dama3e. <e blew up the <irrawee brid3e and we attacked a convo & and weve been in a ,ew other ,i3hts. <e lost one o, our ,riends& who 3ot a bullet in the back& and another o, our ,riends who drove her to hospital& and 5ee here 3ot shot in the le3& but apart ,rom that weve done >@. : opened m e es and looked at Major Harve . He was 3a8in3 thou3ht,ull at Homer. His ,ace was e.pressionless but his e es were alive& brown and sharp. ",ter a ,ew seconds& when it was obvious that he wasnt 3oin3 to sa an thin3& Homer stumbled on. A<ere rapt to ,ind ou. <e just came into the Hollowa Halle to have a look around. <e had no idea thered be an thin3 like this. Cou look like ouve 3ot a small arm . #here was silence a3ain. : couldnt work out wh he wouldnt speak& but m brain was too heav and slow to work properl . <as there somethin3

obvious that :d missedG ",ter all& now that we were back with adults& we e.pected a bit o, praise& a bit o, reco3nition. <asnt that what adults were ,orG <e werent lookin3 ,or medals but we ,elt wed come throu3h some hard times and done the best we could. :d e.pected the major to 3et a bit e.cited when he heard what wed achieved. Ma be he thou3ht we hadnt done enou3hG <hen he did speak : reall did 3et a shock. He said: A<ho 3ave convo sG ou permission to blow up the brid3e and attack

Homer 3aped at him& mouth open like Jonathan Jo. He 3aped at him ,or so lon3 that : ,inall took over as spokesperson. A<hat do ou mean& permissionG : asked. A<e didnt have an one we could ask about an thin3. <eve hardl seen an adult since this whole thin3 started. <eve just been doin3 what we thou3ht was best. A#his brid3e. How do ou know so much about e.plosivesG A<e dont& Homer answered. A<e dont know an thin3 about them. <e used petrol. Major Harve 3ave a ti3ht little smile. A"ll ri3ht& he said. A:m sure ou ,eel ou have done our best. :ts been a di,,icult time ,or ever bod . ;ut ou can hand thin3s over to us ,rom now on. 6o doubt thatll be a relie, to ou. "lthou3h none o, us here are re3ular soldiers& : have had "rm e.perience and this is a militar camp& run to militar standards. From now on oull come under m command. #herell be no more independent action. :s that understoodG ; all o, ouG <e nodded& rather dumbl . He seemed to rela. a bit when he realised that we werent 3oin3 to put up a ,i3ht. =ver one was mentall e.hausted& not just me. <e sat there and listened as he e.plained the set9up o, Harve s Heroes. A#he enem are currentl in control o, this valle & he said. A;ut the troop concentrations here are much less than in the <irrawee area. <irrawee is vital to them because as lon3 as the control <irrawee the control the road to 2obblers ;a . "nd we believe 2obblers ;a to be one o, their main landin3 points. A>ur job is to harass the enem as much as possible& causin3 ma.imum

inconvenience to him and disruptin3 his activities at ever possible point. <e are severel outnumbered in terms o, manpower and severel disadvanta3ed in terms o, ,irepower. 6evertheless& we have made a di,,erence in our own small wa . <e have sabota3ed a number o, enem vehicles& destro ed two power stations and in,licted si3ni,icant casualties. He 3ave a ti3ht little smile. A: think : can sa that the enem is more than aware o, our contribution. <e smiled back and muttered polite comments as he continued. A:n a ,ew moments : will introduce ou to m two ic& 2aptain @illen. : let out a 3i33le at this name& but the major looked at me blankl . A%orr & : said. He continued to talk& without lookin3 at me& and it took me a moment to realise that :d seriousl o,,ended him. A<e are a combat unit on active service& he said. A"nd ou have just had a per,ect demonstration o, wh ou will not see man members o, the ,airer se. amon3 our numbers. " tendenc towards levit at inappropriate moments is not somethin3 we encoura3e. M little 3i33le was replaced b cold violent an3er& mi.ed with disbelie,. >nl Homers Euick hand on m knee stopped me sa in3 somethin3. #he ,airer se.G 5evit at inappropriate momentsG Jee8& all :d done was lau3h. : didnt notice the rest o, the speech& just sat there smoulderin3 until the two ic& 2aptain @illen& came in and was introduced. >nl then did it strike me that the major hadnt even asked us our names. "t least the captain seemed harmless enou3hF a tall thin man with a so,t voice. He had a prominent "dams apple which bobbed up and down as he talked& and he kept blinkin3 all the time. He was a man o, ,ew words thou3h. He spent a minute with us outside Major Harve s tent& pointin3 out the la out o, the camp& then said hed show us our sleepin3 Euarters. He led us throu3h the camp a3ain& to the western ed3e& and stopped outside another bi3 tent. A#he two bo s& he said& pointin3 at the openin3. Homer and 5ee hesitated& and looked at us. Homer raised his e ebrows& rolled his e es and disappeared into the tent. 5ee& his normal impassive sel,& ,ollowed. 2aptain @illen was alread walkin3 awa and we three Euickl cau3ht up with him. <e threaded our wa alon3 a row o, tents& steppin3 across ,l 9ropes. ;e ond that row was a brush ,ence& a rou3h bush job& about a metre hi3h& and be ond the ,ence more tents& all 3reen coloured.

#he captain stopped and called out AMrs Hau,,D :t sounded like a cou3h& the wa he said it. From the ,ront tent Mrs Hau,, emer3ed. %he was a bi3 woman& about ,i,t & and heavil made up. %he wore a black sweater and blue jeans. %he looked at us a bit like a shop assistant looks when oure tr in3 to e.chan3e a top ou dont like. A%o oure the 3irls :ve 3ot to ,ind room ,orG she said. A"ll ri3ht& just come with me. #hank ou ;rian& she said to 2aptain @illen& who nodded and turned on his heel. 6ervousl we ,ollowed Mrs Hau,,. %he allocated us to separate tents& me to one ne.t to Fi& but with a sleepin3 ba3 in it alread . 'ob n was ei3ht metres awa . A6ow we havent 3ot an 3irls our a3e& Mrs Hau,, said to us as she pointed out the tents. A"nd we dont want an nonsense. :ve raised three 3irls m sel, and : know what 3oes on. Coull pull our wei3ht the same as ever one else. ?ont waste our time e.pectin3 it an other wa . : was too subdued b all these adults to sa an thin3. : crawled into the tent& pushin3 m pack ahead o, me& and un8ipped it. "ll : wanted to do was sleep. : moved the sleepin3 ba3 that was alread there& be,ore pullin3 out m own one and la in3 it down the ri3ht9hand side. %tu,,in3 a ,ew clothes into a shirt to make a pillow& : la down slowl & like a tired old lad with arthritis. For a ,ew minutes : was too wear to think about an thin3. : watched the li3ht 3lowin3 3reen throu3h the sides o, the tent. #he da was endin3& and as : la there the li3ht chan3ed Euickl & to a darker& dimmer shade. " shadow& lar3e and distorted& passed across the ,abric as someone went past outside. : shrank awa ,rom it& rememberin3 the shadow that had clun3 to me a,ter :d shot the soldier. "s m mind be3an to settle : asked m sel, what : was thinkin3& what : was ,eelin3. %lowl : realised it was relie,. : didnt care how stupid these people were& how unreasonable& how prejudiced. #he were adults& the could do all the worr in3 and make all the decisions. : could leave it to them. : didnt have to ,i3ht with these aw,ul choices an more. :d just do what the told me: be a 3ood 3irl& shut up& ve3 out. M e es were closed b then and : welcomed the slow dri,t into sleep. : was woken b someone bumpin3 around in the tent beside me. : opened m e es abruptl & but unwillin3l . :t was too dark to see an thin3 e.cept ,or occasional 3limpses o, a ,i3ure stru33lin3 with the bits and pieces scattered around the tent: the boots& the toilet ba3s& m pack.

A%orr & : said& reachin3 out sleepil to move m jeans. #he 3irl didnt look around& just said& ACoull have to be a lot neater than this i, ou want to sta in this tent. A%orr & : said a3ain. %he sounded older than me& and irritated& but it must have been a dra3 ,or her to ,ind a stran3er suddenl sharin3 the little tent. : la there watchin3& as m e es adjusted to the li3ht. %he was arran3in3 ever thin3 in neat lines. %he pulled o,, her jeans& ,olded them& and placed them so the were sEuare to the base o, the sleepin3 ba3. AJee8& : thou3ht& A:ll have to li,t m 3ame. "ll these weeks without Mum had le,t me prett slack about stu,, like that. : slept a3ain and woke at da li3ht. :t was shiver cold outside but : 3ot up an wa and dressed Euickl & hopin3 to trap as much heat in m clothes as possible. "s : dressed : kept 3lancin3 at the 3irl in the other sleepin3 ba3. :n the dim dawn li3ht it was hard to pick out the details o, her ,ace. %he had red hair& which immediatel reminded me o, 2orrie& but the didnt have an other ,eatures in common. #his 3irl looked about twent 9,ive and had a small& thin mouth& with her lips pressed to3ether even in sleep. %he had mascara on& or the remains o, mascara B it could have been just the dark circles o, tiredness& but : didnt think so. #he idea o, make9up still seemed ama8in3 to me. First Mrs Hau,,& now m tent9mate. :t had been a lon3 time since :d seen an one with it& or even thou3ht o, it. #his place was a beaut parlour. : le,t her to her sleep and hopped outside to a cold damp lo3& to ,inish puttin3 on m boots. :t was alwa s such a stru33le to 3et them on but once the were on& the were com,ortable. #he mornin3 wrestle was worth it. : did them up and went ,or a walk around the campsite& past the brush ,ence and alon3 the tent lines. : could see Major Harve s tent and as : cau3ht ,urther 3limpses o, it throu3h the trees : saw him sittin3 at his desk in ,ull uni,orm& head over a pile o, papers& writin3 steadil . He didnt see me. : headed on down throu3h the trees& where there seemed to be more li3ht. : was curious to see what la be ond this bush& to 3et another 3limpse o, the Hollowa Halle perhaps. : went a hundred metres but althou3h the bri3ht li3ht 3ave the impression that at an moment : would burst throu3h into the open& that didnt happen. #he trees continued& as thick as ever. ",ter ten minutes : stopped and 3a8ed around. %ometimes the bush seemed like an ocean& the same in ever direction. !erhaps i, : had a better sense o, smell : could have noticed more di,,erences. #he earth smell o, soil rich with moisture and 3rowthF the must

smell o, mistF the ,aint eucal ptus tan3 ,rom the 3um leaves: : knew these varied ,rom tree to tree& ,rom place to place& but : never seemed to have the time or patience to e.plore them properl . %uddenl curious& : 3ot down on all ,ours and snu,,led at a heap o, damp leaves. : ,elt like a wombat& and started wonderin3 i, : mi3ht turn into one. : scuttled across the slope ,or a ,ew metres& tr in3 to imitate the rh thmic trot o, a wombat on a mission. : du3 m snout into another pile o, brown and black wet leaves. #here was a cou3h behind me& unmistakabl human. :t was 5ee. >@& : ,elt reall stupid& but :m sure people do stu,, like that all the time when the re on their own. ;ut ma be not pretendin3 to be wombats. Ma be not sni,,in3 at lea, litter either. >@& ma be the dont do an thin3 like that. <e sat on a lo3 and he put his stron3 lean arm around me. A<hat were ou lookin3 ,orG he asked& tr in3 hard not to lau3h. A>h& the usual. 'oots& shoots and leaves. <ere ou lookin3 ,or meG A6o& oure a bonus. : wanted to 3et awa ,or a ,ew minutes& to think. :ts 3ood earl in the mornin3& isnt itG AMmm& i, ou can talk oursel, into 3ettin3 up. <e watched the li3ht 3ettin3 stron3er and harder as the da 3ot drier. A<hat do ou make o, this mobG : asked. AHuhD %ome o, them are weirdD #he entertained me ,or two hours last ni3ht& tellin3 me what heroes the are. %eems like their bi33est thrill was settin3 ,ire to a truck that had broken down. #he d seen the soldiers leave it there and drive o,, in a ute& so the dan3er level was about two on a scale o, nou3ht to a hundred. A?id ou tell them what weve doneG A6uh& the just wanted to talk about themselves& so : sat there and listened. Homer was the smart oneF hed 3one to bed. : dont know wh : didnt. ?idnt have the ener3 & : 3uess.

A#he women wear make9up. ACeah& : noticed. A: 3uess livin3 on this side o, the mountains& its not the same as <irrawee& where ever thin3s so ti3htl held. :ts like Major Harve said& this is not an important area& militaril . %o Harve s Heroes probabl havent had to be too heroic. AIHarve s HeroesJD :ts such a sterile name. A: reckon. A<hat does it make usG Homers HeroesG "n hour later we wandered back to the camp& and ,ound ourselves in trouble. <e were 3reeted b m tent9mate& who came marchin3 towards us as soon as we appeared out o, the trees. %he didnt look at 5ee& just at me. A<here have ou beenG she asked me. A"nd what are ou doin3 with himG AHimG Cou mean 5eeG A5ook& oud better 3et a ,ew thin3s strai3ht. Cou dont 3o outside the boundaries without permission. Cou dont 3o into the mens camp. #he onl place ou can mi. with the men is at the camp,ire and in the cookin3 and eatin3 area. #here are jobs to be done here& and oure meant to be helpin3. A%orr & : said sti,,l . A6obod told me an o, that. : knew : was bein3 a wimp& but : didnt have the stren3th to stand up to her. #he ,i3ht had 3one out o, me. :t had ,led& the moment we ,ound ourselves surrounded b adults. :d 3one back to bein3 ei3ht ears old. :ts not so surprisin3. For some time now wed been runnin3 at hi3her revs than we were built ,or. "t last : could turn m en3ine o,,. : just wanted to 3et into a hide 9hole and sta there. %o : didnt mind makin3 a ,ew compromises to sta with these people& and : certainl didnt want to 3et on their bad side. : winked at 5ee and ,ollowed the 3irl to the cookin3 area& where she thrust a tea towel at me. %eemed like :d missed break,ast& and the si3ht o, bits o, ,ood ,loatin3 in the 3reas 3re washin39up water made me ,eel nauseous. ;ut : did the dr in39up without complaint& and hun3 the tea towels out on a line behind the tent. #hen : went lookin3 ,or the others.

2hapter 6ine

#wo da s later we were at a meetin3 called b Major Harve . : was sittin3 towards the back& separated ,rom Fi b m tent9mate& %har n& and Fis tent9 mate& ?avina. 'ob n was two rows ahead o, me and the bo s were ri3ht up the ,ront. "ll the males sat in the ,ront section o, the meetin3 area and the ,emales at the back. Major Harve stood on a stump& with 2aptain @illen at his ri3ht hand and Mrs Hau,, at his le,t. For those two da s m onl conversations with the other ,our had been brie, and unnatural. <e were made to ,eel that we were doin3 somethin3 wron3 b talkin3 to each other. %har n seemed to hover around me all throu3h ever da . : ,elt like : was a sk diver and she was m parachute. :n one wa : hated it& but in another wa it was addictive. : was startin3 to depend on her ,or ever little decision. A%har n& do ou think : should sleep with m head up this end o, the tentG A?o these jeans need washin3G A%har n& will : put the potatoes in the blue dishG %he was a bi3 3irl& %har n& and alwa s wore black jeans which were too ti3ht ,or her. 5ike man o, the women& she wore a lot o, make9up. "lthou3h she tried to 3et me to put some on : couldnt brin3 m sel, to do it. :t seemed too unnatural& wron3 ,or our environment. #he onl decision Homer and : made& a,ter a Euick conversation with the other three on our second evenin3& was that the two o, us would 3o back the ne.t mornin3 to 3et 2hris. >nl an hour a,ter wed made the decision : happened to see Major Harve slippin3 throu3h the trees towards his tent. : thou3ht it would be a 3ood idea to tell him what we were 3oin3 to do& so : intercepted him. A=.cuse me Major Harve & could : see ou pleaseG A: was under the impression that ou alread were. A:m sorr G

ACoure lookin3 ri3ht at me& so : assume oure seein3 me. >r perhaps its darker here than : realised. : 3round m teeth. His sharp e es 3lanced at me& then looked awa a3ain. A<ell could : speak to ou ,or a minute pleaseG A7o ahead. A<ell its just that weve 3ot one other ,riend& 2hris& who we le,t back at our campsite& and so tomorrow mornin3 Homer and : thou3ht wed 3o and 3et him. :t shouldnt take lon3. <ell be back b tea time. #here was a lon3 silence. %uddenl it seemed like it had 3ot much darker. : could hardl make out the Majors ,eatures an more: his e es had become just little black sockets. "t last he said somethin3& but it wasnt much. "ll he said was AFollow me& as he turned on his heel and walked Euickl awa . : ,ollowed& all the wa to his tent& then stood in ,ront o, his desk and waited as he seated himsel, and lit a candle. He didnt ask me to sit. #he ,lickerin3 li3ht o, the candle made shadows dance on his ,ace. >ccasionall & as he moved his head sli3htl & thered be a 3lint ,rom his e es& but most o, the time he didnt move at all. >nl when the candle was burnin3 steadil did he speak. A<hat was it : said to ou and our ,riends in this ver spot& just twent 9,our hours a3oG AKm& well& ou said that thin3s werent as bad here as in <irrawee& and& um& that oud blown up some power stations& and all about how this was& um& a militar & : suddenl realised wh the Major was so mad& Aa militar operation. A=.actl . " militar operation. "nd what does that mean& in practical termsG A<ell& that we have to obe orders and stu,,. A=.actl . His voice stren3thened. A?o ou know whats wron3 with this countr G ?o ou know wh weve been invadedG 6ow he moved. His head came ,orward like a snake thats heard a dan3erous noise. A:ll tell ou whats wron3 with this countr . <eve become

slack& weve become so,t& weve lost our wa . :, ou ask me& these people have done us a ,avour b invadin3. <e can learn a lot ,rom them. #he re a disciplined or3anised ,orce o, well9led soldiers. Cou wont hear an talk o, consensus ,rom them. Cou wont hear an talk o, Iindividual ri3htsJ& or Ipersonal ,reedomJ. #he know whats what. :, we can sti,,en the spine o, this countr we mi3ht end up with a nation to be proud o,& instead o, a sel,9 indul3ent bunch o, whin3ers. #he candle ,lared& and showed ,or a moment the dark an3er in his ,ace. A:ll tell ou what we want here. :ll tell ou what people need. He was startin3 to shout now. : just stood there numbl . A#he need stron3 leadership& leaders the can respect. #he need leaders the can look up to. #his countr took a wron3 turn ears a3o& and its time to put thin3s ri3ht a3ainD Kh eah& whatever ou sa & : was thinkin3& backin3 awa a little. #he major sat back in his chair and picked up a ,ile o, notes. A6ow& he said& talkin3 in a calm reasonable voice a3ain& A: am prepared to consider our reEuest. Cour oun3 ,riend& : assume he has adeEuate ,ood and shelterG A>h es. A#hen there is no 3reat ur3enc G A<ell& we didnt want to leave him there on his own ,or too lon3& thats all. ACou should have thou3ht o, that be,ore ou set out. Cou people who just make thin3s up as ou 3o alon3 have a lot to learn. Cou ma make a written reEuest to me ,or permission to 3o back to our camp to collect him. :nclude a detailed map& estimates o, the time reEuired& and the supplies and personnel ou will need. #hat is all. Cou ma dismiss. : le,t& ,eelin3 a little shak . : didnt have the ener3 to cope with this. ;ut the other thin3& almost more disturbin3& was the relie, :d ,elt when he turned down our plans. : knew we had to 3o back and 3et 2hris& but that was the onl reason : was doin3 it& because : knew we had to. %ecretl & : had no enthusi9 asm ,or the 3ruellin3 trek& and no enthusiasm ,or 2hris either at the moment. : ,elt reall 3uilt about that& because : knew how :d ,eel i, : were back there on m own& and : also knew how important it was ,or us to han3 to3ether& the si. o, us. " lot depended on that. #hen& the ne.t mornin3& the mornin3 o, the meetin3& :d had another u3l session with the major. %har n had 3iven me a bucket o, cleanin3 materials

and told me to 3o clean his tent. 5ookin3 back now : can see it was a set9up& but : didnt realise that at the time. :nstead : trud3ed o,, to his tent ,eelin3 resent,ul. : was thinkin3 about Harve s Heroes& and thinkin3 that their problem was that the were tr in3 to pretend there was no war. Knderneath all the militar dis3uises was just a 3roup o, ordinar middle9a3ed townspeople who were tr in3 to live out here in the bush the wa the had alwa s lived in their nice brick9veneer houses in 'isdon. #he 3ossipedF the swapped 3ardenin3 tips and talked about their childrenF the cleaned or cooked or pottered around doin3 odd jobs. >ne o, them had asked me the da be,ore i, : pla ed brid3e. >nl Major Harve was di,,erent. He was driven b some lust that the others didnt have. : think he enjo ed his power over them but at the same time was ,rustrated b the ,act that the werent combat9 hardened troops whom he could throw into the ,ront line o, some hu3e battle. #hinkin3 all this& : be3an m cleanin3 job in a mood o, resentment& hostilit . :t just seemed too ridiculous to be dustin3 and sweepin3. "nd : ,elt humiliated that :& =llie& who blew up brid3es& should be at the beck and call o, this little imitation Hitler. "33ressivel & : swept out the leaves that had blown in& pulled down a cobweb in the back le,t9hand corner o, the tent& and polished the two visitors chairs. : didnt even look at the bedF there was no wa : was 3oin3 to touch that. : moved around to his side o, the desk to start work there. : saw a pile o, papersF the top one a manila ,older with Confidential written on it. : didnt hesitate. <ith no real ,ascination& just a casual thou3ht o,& #his should be 3ood ,or a lau3h& : opened it. #he top pa3e was an "4 sheet headed Report of Po er Station !tta"#, and ,illed with small writin3. : bent over so : could read it properl & but as : be3an the ,irst line : became aware o, a presence in the tent. : looked up Euickl . #here was the major& standin3 in the doorwa & head tilted to the ri3ht& ,ierce dark e es starin3 at me. #here was nothin3 : could do o, course. : was completel in the wron3& or at least thats what : thou3ht at the time. "nd : knew alread that he had no sense o, humour& so it was no 3ood tr in3 to make a joke o, it. A%orr & : said apolo3eticall . AJust lookin3. He ,olded his arms but said nothin3. #hat was an anno in3 habit he had. : knew m ,ace was red but there was nothin3 : could do about that. Finall : shru33ed and turned back to the table& and be3an polishin3 it. #hats when he spoke.

A:t seems that ni3ht.

ouve remembered nothin3 ,rom our conversation last

: didnt answer& just kept scrubbin3. ACou have a lot to learn about discipline& oun3 lad . %crub scrub. AFor3et the cleanin3. 7o back to Mrs Hau,,. : dont want ou in this tent a3ain. M skin was burnin3. : picked up m 3ear and walked towards him. #here was a problem when : 3ot there thou3hF Major Harve was blockin3 the doorwa and didnt look like he was 3oin3 to move. "nd there was no wa known that : was 3oin3 to shove past him. %o : stood and waited. ",ter a minute he turned to one side and stood there& still with arms ,olded. #hat was obviousl the onl concession he was 3oin3 to make& so : sEuee8ed throu3h the 3ap and out into the ,resh air& without lookin3 at him a3ain. :t was a relie, to 3et back to %har n. %he could be rou3h and boss and bad9tempered& but : wasnt scared o, her. %he wasnt sinister. : didnt have time durin3 the a,ternoon to write the application to 3o and retrieve 2hris& and when : told Homer he said to leave it till the ne.t da & when Harve mi3ht have calmed down. %o : went to the meetin3 instead. Major Harve s meetin3 wasnt much like our meetin3s back in Hell. :t consisted o, Major Harve makin3 a lon3 speech. #he ,irst part was about the threat to our countr and the need ,or coura3e. A#hese are terrible times& he said. A5ike man brave people be,ore us& we ,ind ourselves havin3 to de,end our shores& to protect what is ri3ht,ull ours& to sa,e3uard our women and children. <hen he said that : ,elt m ,ace 3oin3 red a3ain& ,rom the chin up& like it onl does when :m reall an3r . :t was the last straw. >bviousl all the brave people he had in mind were male. : swallowed& then breathed out hard throu3h m nose. Ma be it was another lesson in discipline ,or me. Major Harve added a ,ew words about patriotism& then went back into histor a little.

AMen like <inston 2hurchill chan3ed the course o, histor . >, course : would not put m sel, in the same class as <inston 2hurchill. ;ut : will do m best to lead ou. Cou can be sure : will not let ou down. He moved on to the second part o, his speech& about militar action. #his was more the stu,, : wanted to hear. :d had enou3h housework. A<e will shortl be strikin3 another blow a3ainst the enem & he announced. A: will be speakin3 to some o, ou later about the details. 2aptain @illen and : have identi,ied a number o, important strate3ic tar3ets. "s ou know& we are ver low on numbers and weapons and we are up a3ainst an enem who is hi3hl trained and well eEuipped. %o we must proceed with the 3reatest care. ?espite our mani,old disadvanta3es& we have done a lot o, dama3e to enem ,orces and made a contribution that is well out o, proportion to the si8e o, our 3allant little band o, Harve s Heroes. <e can indeed be proud o, ourselves. "s ou know& two power stations and a number o, vehicles have alread ,allen victim to our ,orces. Most o, this& and a lot more o, the same stu,,& twent minutes more in ,act& was like the comments Major Harve had made when we ,irst arrived. :t was hard ,or me to concentrate. : was 3ettin3 hot ,lushes o, deja vu that went even ,urther back than our interview with the major& so : concentrated on tr in3 to identi, them. :t took me ,ive minutes& but at last : worked it out: : ,elt like : was back in a school assembl . Major Harve moved on to the third and last part o, his speech. A>nce a3ain : ,ind m sel, pa in3 tribute to Mrs Hau,, and her band o, helpers. #he campsite continues to be maintained in immaculate condition and meals are served on time and beauti,ull presented. "s 6apoleon said& I"n arm marches on its stomachJ& and the present 3ood morale o, Harve s Heroes is in no small measure due to Mrs Hau,,s 3irls. Mrs Hau,,s e.pression didnt chan3e but : ,elt as thou3h a wave o, approval was slowl ripplin3 throu3h her lar3e bod . : continued to prickle. : hadnt seen an males doin3 housework. For two da s :d done little else& scrubbin3 pots and pans& washin3 sheets B no joke in cold water B and darnin3 socks. #he 3u s were occupied doin3 3u thin3s B di33in3 drains& collectin3 ,irewood& and makin3 a small wooden cabin which was meant ,or Major Harve s headEuarters. #he thin3 that pu88led me most was that ever one seemed so happ with these arran3ements. =ver one e.cept us

,ive& an wa & and : wasnt at all sure about Homer. :, we hadnt constantl bullied him back in Hell& hed have had his slippers on ever ni3ht and sat in ,ront o, the ,ire waitin3 to be served. AFinall & said Major Harve & Awe welcome our ,ive new recruits. :ts a pleasure to have some oun3 people join us& and :m sure the will soon 3et used to the discipline o, a militar operation. "s : have said on a number o, occasions to the lon3er established members o, Harve s Heroes& I<hen told to jump& our onl Euestion should be AHow hi3hGJ He beamed strai3ht at me as he said this& as thou3h it was a line hed thou3ht o, himsel,. He seemed to be in a better mood& so : smiled weakl back. #he meetin3 broke up and : walked o,, with a lad o, about thirt & a plain9 lookin3 brown9haired woman& who alwa s seemed tired and e.asperated& no matter what she was doin3. Her name was >live. %har n watched us 3o& but didnt tr to ,ollow. : think she thou3ht : was sa,e with >live& but : decided to take a risk and sa somethin3 irreverent. A: was tr in3 to think what that meetin3 reminded me o,& : said. A"nd : worked it out. :t was like bein3 back in a school assembl . %he lau3hed& then looked around 3uiltil . A?o ou know what Major Harve did be,ore the invasionG she asked. A:s that wh ou said thatG A6o. :snt he a soldierG %he lau3hed a3ain. ACou must be jokin3. He was the ?eput at 'isdon Hi3h %chool. A>hD : ,elt cheated. "ll this time :d thou3ht he was an "rm superstar. A%o whered he 3et his militar knowled3eG : asked. A<hat militar knowled3eG #his out,its as militar as a bowlin3 club. Harve was in the "rm 'eserve ,or ei3hteen months. #hats about it. A;ut all that talk about blowin3 up power stations and enem vehiclesG A#alk& eah& theres a lot o, it 3oin3 around.

A%o is that all it isG #alkG %he shru33ed. A<ell& the blew up two power stations& sure. >ne was the power 3rid ,or %outh 'isdon and the other was the telephone e.chan3e ,or ?ucklin3 Flat. #here wouldnt have been an enem soldier within ten kilometres at the time. #he re neither o, them nuclear reactors. >ne was the si8e o, an outdoor dunn & and the other wasnt much bi33er. A"nd the vehiclesG <hat about the vehiclesG A#he ,irst one was a troop carrier that had broken down and been abandoned. #he set ,ire to it. 7old medals all round. #heir other vehicle attacks have been the same. #he just look ,or disabled trucks& and cars that have been deserted& then the set ,ire to them. A: cant believe it. : reall was shocked& and an3r . "ll the risks wed taken& all the dama3e wed done& all the terrible thin3s wed been throu3h& and all that time these ,at little men& and the women in their lipstick and make9up& had sat around tellin3 each other how 3ood the were and 3ettin3 ,atter still on their sel,9con3ratulations. "nd the wa Major Harve spoke to me& as thou3h : were a bit o, do39droppin3 on a new carpet. :d done ten times more than he hadD How dare the G : went o,, to ,ind 'ob n and Fi and tell them but the were with their minders. #hen %har n saw me and dra33ed me into the cookin3 area to peel potatoes. !eelin3 potatoes when oure an3r is not a 3ood idea. "s : started m third spud : cut deep into m le,t thumb and bled heaps& which made me an3rier still. >live came and banda3ed me: shed told me that she was a nurse and she banda3ed me as i, she was. :t was a neat job. ;e,ore : could talk to an o, the others there was a sudden chan3e in the atmosphere o, the camp. 7roups o, men came past the washin39up area where : was teachin3 %har n to make a rack ,or drainin3 dishes. <ithout a word she put down the pole she was holdin3 and ,ollowed the men. : dropped m bits o, wood and ta33ed alon3 behind. 6o one was sa in3 an thin3 but there was an air o, e.citement& ever one leanin3 ,orward as the walked& as thou3h that would 3et them there ,aster. : noticed that Euite a ,ew o, the men were armed& carr in3 automatic ri,les. #he had much better weapons than we did. <e assembled a3ain in the area where wed had our meetin3 earlier.

2aptain @illen 3ot on the stump this time& to address us. : wondered what hed been be,ore the invasion: an accountantG #here was no si3n o, Major Harve . A>peration !hantom is read to be3in& he announced in his thin dr voice. : could hardl hear him& thou3h : was onl twent 9,ive metres awa . A"lthou3h just a small number o, men will be reEuired ,or active service& others who wish to watch the operation ma do so ,rom a vanta3e point on the ,irebreak above the 2unnamulla road. %pectatorsD AHow much will we have to pa ,or our ticketsG : wanted to ask. ;ut : still had enou3h smarts to sta silent. : looked at Homer& tr in3 to catch his e e& but he was 3a8in3 e.pressionlessl at 2aptain @illen& and re,used to look around. A>peration !hantom will hit the enem at his so,t underbell & 2aptain @illen continued. A<e will wallop him where it hurts most. #his will be the bi33est operation ever undertaken b Harve s Heroes& with the most important militar tar3et et attacked. #he ,ollowin3 men have been selected to take part: >lsen& "llison& ;abba3e ... #here were a do8en names alto3ether. "pparentl that was 2aptain @illens de,inition o, a small 3roup. 6either Homer nor 5ee was amon3 them& : was 3lad to hear. "nd there was no chance o, 'ob n or Fi or me bein3 chosen. 7irls didnt rate with Harve s Heroes& e.cept ,or cookin3 and cleanin3. ;ut : didnt hesitate when %har n asked me i, : wanted to 3o and watch. :t seemed Euite comical to me& but %har n and the others werent lau3hin3: there was a serious and silent air throu3h the camp as people made their preparations. >, course it was serious& : reminded m sel, an3ril B an contact with the enem was serious B but : just wished the d stop actin3 like characters in an "merican war movie. =ver thin3 seemed so di,,erent to the wa wed done thin3s. >ur violent ,i3hts with the enem were startin3 to seem like bad and impossible dreamsF so much so that : was havin3 trouble believin3 the had happened at all. #here seemed to be no reason ,or spectators& e.cept to make 2aptain @illen and the other heroes ,eel bi3 and important. ;ut that didnt bother me. : ,i3ured : could 3o and watch without havin3 to accept these 3u s as le3ends. %o : joined the 3an3& hopin3 that Major Harve wouldnt notice me there and stop me ,rom 3oin3. #here were about ,i,teen o, us& includin3 Fi and 'ob n

and Homer and 5ee& but o, course be,ore we could leave we had to be 3iven the ;i3 #alkin3 #o b 2aptain @illen. A6ow& he said& lookin3 at us severel & as thou3h we were 3oin3 on a school e.cursion to a museum ,ull o, ,ine porcelain. A: want it clearl understood that we are on active service. #hose o, ou allowed to accompan us must understand that ou are to obe orders :nstantl . Cou must sta Euiet& not 3et in the wa & and keep all conversation to a minimum. 'emain under cover at all times. "nd ou kids& meanin3 us& : realised with an an3r ,lush& A ou kids in particular& : dont want to hear a word out o, ou. %ta out o, the wa & and behave ourselves. : dont know what he e.pected& that wed start pla in3 hide and seek& or sin3in3 7irl 7uide hikin3 son3s. : didnt dare look at Homer this time. He must have been seconds awa ,rom meltdown. : was waitin3 ,or Major Harve to appear but then the others started movin3 o,,& and : had to hurr to catch them. >nl then did : realise that the Major wasnt comin3. : was so an3r : started 3rindin3 m teeth. : didnt trust m sel, to speak. %ome leaderD : despised him. "ll he could do was talk. #he do8en 3uerillas were led b 2aptain @illenF the soon branched o,, and went down a dr creek bed that took them strai3ht downhill. >ur leader was a serious lookin3 older man with 3lasses. His name was #err . He didnt sa a word& but he seemed to know his wa around. He took us alon3 a rid3e throu3h the trees. : hoped he knew the wa well because it would be dark b the time we 3ot back. : walked with Fi and her minder& ?avina. >live was just ahead o, us& and 'ob n at the rear with her tent9mate. %har n hadnt come. !h sical e.ertion wasnt her scene. Homer and 5ee were up the ,ront& behind #err . <e walked ,or about an hour. : enjo ed it& once : 3ot over m an3er. : like the bush and : like bein3 ,it& and : was sick o, han3in3 round the camp all da & with %har n as m main budd . : had no sense o, dan3er& so m mood wasnt spoilt b ,ear. 2aptain @illen had told us wed be a lon3 wa ,rom the action and a,ter m conversation with >live : was sure thered be a minimum o, contact with the enem . 7raduall the bush thinned out and we started to 3et 3limpses o, the valle . Far below : saw ellow pieces o, a dirt road& like one o, those tracks ,or

batter 9operated racecars when ou break it up to put back in the bo.. %oon we could see Euite lon3 stretches o, road& as the valle spread out into wider and ,latter countr . 6ow we had to avoid open 3round and hu3 the line o, trees ,or cover. : spent most o, the time walkin3 with m head tipped back. :t was nice to see lots o, clear sk a3ain. #hered been a bit o, conversation as we walked throu3h the thicker scrub& but out here people were Euieter& so : didnt have to listen to an one an more. #hat was ,ine b me. #he ,irebreak was a lon3 u3l stripe down throu3h the bush: a bulldo8ed trail o, cla and weeds and some re3rowth& beside an old post9and9rail ,ence& #err made us cross the ,irebreak in pairs& runnin3 with heads down& which was sensible. #hen& with ever one over the other side& we climbed the hill. #he sun was startin3 to dropF the air was 3ettin3 colder Euickl and the shadows o, the trees were so lon3 that the were lost in the bush on the other side o, the trail. ;ut the hard e.ercise kept us warm. #he hill was steep and b the time we 3ot to the top we were all red9,aced and pantin3. :t was worth it thou3h. <e ,ound ourselves lookin3 at one o, the 3reat views. #here was some 3ood land around <irrawee& but these river ,lats were as ,ertile as ou 3et in our part o, the world. #he picked up more rain,all than we did B because o, the shape o, the mountains or somethin3 B and a lot o, people irri3ated as well. Cou could see a lon3 row o, pipes on one place& lookin3 like science ,iction machiner . Further across was an orchard with white screenin3 over the trees& a kind o, outdoor sculpture. =ven at this time o, ear a lot o, the nearer paddocks were 3reen& thou3h the probabl hadnt been irri3ated since the invasion. :t was onl in the distance that the 3reat dr ellow be3an. #he settin3 sun was like a 3reat watch,ul creature& 3uardin3 its kin3dom. #he land looked so tranEuil& so old& so calm and peace,ul& as i, these pathetic sEuabbles b humans ,or the ri3ht to live on its sur,ace were o, no interest. :t reminded me o, a line ,rom one o, 2hriss poems: A#he ocean i3nores the sailor& the desert i3nores me. : was startin3 to worr about 2hris now& and to ,eel 3uilt . #he trip back to Hell was 3oin3 to be such a 3rind. : made a resolution that :d 3o and see Major Harve earl the ne.t da and make him see how important it was we 3o back. : knew i, it were Fi back in Hell& instead o, 2hris& :d have 3one back two da s a3o. Ma be : should 3et Fi to 3o and see the major in the mornin3. 6ow& however& it was Homer who ,ound his wa over to me and drew me to the other side o, the hill. <ithout a word& he pointed down to the road. "nd there was 2aptain @illens tar3et. :t was a juic one too& i, eas . %lewed across the road with its 3un barrel pointin3 into the bush was a lar3e 3reen

tank. AKnbelievable& : muttered. =ven ,rom our hei3ht ou could see that the tank had met with some sort o, disaster. :t was tipped to one side and : thou3ht : could see 3ou3es in the road where it had 3one out o, control. #he top was open and there was no si3n o, li,e around it. AJust like their troop carrier& : said. A<hat do ou meanG Homer asked& onl hal, listenin3. He was 3a8in3 down at the tank& probabl with jealous & : thou3ht. A<ell& the ,irst enem vehicle Harve s Heroes wiped out was a troop carrier& abandoned the same as this. "nd all the others since then& too. He started pa in3 more attention then. AHow do interrupted b a so,t call ,rom 'ob n. A#here the are. <e looked down. #he 3uerillas were comin3 alon3 the road about a k ,rom the tank& walkin3 in sin3le ,ile under the shadows o, the trees& but not takin3 an 3reat precautions. <e reco3nised 2aptain @illen leadin3 the wa . A#he re prett con,ident& : said. A: 3uess the ve sussed it out& 'ob n said. A: hope so& Homer said. A%o what was that carrierG ou said about the troop ou meanG <e were

A<ell& >live told me. #hese 3u s are just pussies. #he dont attack an tar3et unless its totall sa,e. #he 3o ,or vehicles that have broken down or run o,, the road& like this one. #he ve knocked out a whole series o, trucks like that. <e were talkin3 in whispers& thou3h there was no need. Homer was 3ettin3 a stran3e& worried look on his ,ace. ACou mean the do this re3ularl G

A: dont know how o,ten. ;ut >live 3ave me the impression that all their attacks are the same. Homer started 3ettin3 Euite a3itated. A;ut ou mean the ... ?o the think the enem s 3oin3 to let them keep walkin3 up to vehicles and wipin3 them outG He twisted round and stared down at Harve s Heroes& an.iousl & an3ril . <e could just see some o, them throu3h a canop o, trees as the started round the curve in the road. A?o ou think ...G : started askin3. A: think the re mad. :, the ve done this be,ore ... " tanks worth millions. He led us ,orward a ,ew metres so that we were Euite e.posed ourselves& but more directl above the tank. AKse our e es& he muttered. A<atch ,or an thin3. #err was awa to m le,t in thicker scrub& where he was talkin3 to >live. 6ow he called to us in an ur3ent whisper. A2ome in under the trees. : ed3ed a ,ew steps to the le,t but Homer and 'ob n sta ed where the were. 5ee and Fi had been watchin3 the tank ,rom behind a patch o, rock on the other side o, the ,irebreak& but now the turned towards us. A<hats wron3G 5ee called. A#hereD 'ob n said& at e.actl the same moment. " sharp ra ,rom the settin3 sun had suddenl ,lashed on somethin3 in a tree wa down near the road. :t was a 3un barrel. "nd all at once : saw ever thin3. : was astonished that : hadnt seen it be,ore. Ma be m e es had needed all this time to 3et used to the li3ht. >r ma be it was like one o, those ambi3uous pictures& where oure starin3 at it ,or a3es and all ou can see is the oun3 womans bod and then our vision adjusts and all ou see is the old womans ,ace. 6ow& wherever : looked& : saw soldiers. #he were hidden behind trees and amon3 rocks& spread in a hal, moon above the road& waitin3 ,or 2aptain @illen and his men. :t was an ambush& a trap ,or ,ools. A#ime spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.

'ob n was a second ahead o, ever one else. A2>>>>>>>>9================D %he was on her ,eet& hands to her mouth& and her call rolled around the hills like the cr o, a 3iant bird. #he e,,ect was dramatic. :t reminded me o, times at home when :d shaken a tree to send the bron8ewin3s rattlin3 out and beatin3 awa into the distance. ;ut now there wasnt just movement ,rom one tree. #here was sudden scramblin3 movement ever where. %oldiers started standin3 and : saw 3uns turnin3 towards us. #he obviousl hadnt known the had an one behind them. #err came runnin3 out ,rom the scrub like a demented sheep. He had no idea what was 3oin3 on. He must have thou3ht 'ob n had 3one mad. >r else that we were the stupid irresponsible kids that 2aptain @illen had thou3ht. ;ut : hardl noticed him or the soldiers. M e es were on the 3uerillas. <hen the heard 'ob ns call the were alread around the bend and must have just come into the view o, the soldiers. <ith ever shred o, m bod : was be33in3 them A'unD 'unD For 7ods sake& run. ;ut the seemed trans,i.ed. #he were starin3 up at us. : could see 2aptain @illens ,ace and could ima3ine the e.pression on it. He was probabl alread composin3 the speech that he would make back at camp. ;ut that was a speech no one would ever hear. 6ot one o, Harve s Heroes had even unslun3 his ri,le. #he still hadnt seen the ambush. #he three o, us started screamin3 at them& pointin3. " couple o, them started to look around and one actuall li,ted his ri,le. #hen the shootin3 started. #he men be3an to dance like mad puppets& just ,or a moment& turnin3 in di,,erent directions& takin3 a ,ew steps& then jerkin3 and shakin3 as the bullets hit them. : didnt see an o, them ,all& because b then some o, the soldiers had started ,irin3 in our direction. <e had about a second& because the were still movin3 themselves. #he hadnt 3ot themselves into 3ood positions& and the didnt have the ran3e or the aim worked out. <e three went to our ri3ht& towards 5ee and Fi. #he distance ,rom our positions to the ed3e o, the ,irebreak was probabl a bit 3reater than i, wed 3one to the le,t& but our instincts attracted us to our ,riends. "lso& the camp was to the ri3ht& and to have the ,irebreak between us and the camp was not a com,ortable thou3ht. : covered the last couple o, metres in a dive& as bullets chopped branches ,rom trees above me with sava3e ,erocit . : think one bullet must have ricocheted ,rom a rock& because it whined past me with a sound like a distant jet. : landed in 3ravel and some scratch kind o, dark 3reen plant& crawled a ,ew metres& then was up and runnin3& just takin3 a moment to 3lance around at the others and check that the were all ri3ht. Fi was on m heelsF she 3asped A#he re >@& so : kept 3oin3.

<e ran throu3h the bush ,or twent minutes. : could hear people blunderin3 alon3 on m le,t and m ri3ht& and Fi pantin3 hard behind me. #hen : heard 'ob ns voice to m le,t callin3 dan3erousl loudl . A%top& ever bod D ; then : needed to stop. : pulled up& whee8in3& and 3rabbed Fi to stead m sel,. 'ob n came runnin3 heavil up the hill towards us. A"re ou >@G she asked. ACes& : said& thinkin3& A: hope : dont look as bad as ou. %he had blood on the side o, her head and more comin3 out o, her nose. Fi went to touch her ,ace but 'ob n pushed her o,,. A:ts nothin3& she said. A: hit m head on a branch. :t was alread Euite dark. #here was a snappin3 o, under3rowth and rattlin3 o, 3ravel as someone came up the hill. : turned an.iousl & tr in3 to see throu3h the 3loom. :t was Homer. A"re ou >@G we all said simultaneousl . He just nodded. A<heres 5eeG : asked. A:snt he with ouG Fi asked Homer. A6o& he was with ou. A6o& Fi said& Ahe jumped strai3ht down to where ou were& just as ou 3ot into the trees. A: didnt see him& Homer said. #here was a sudden silence. A<e cant ell out& Homer said. A#oo dan3erous. : turned on Fi& lookin3 ,or someone to blame. ACou told me ever one was >@& : said ,uriousl . A<ell& she snapped back& Athe wereD He was. He was in the treeline and runnin3 and he hadnt been shot. How much more >@ can ou beG : wasnt 3oin3 to sta and 3ive him a medical. Fi was shakin3& and : ,elt bad ,or havin3 attacked her. ;ut there wasnt

time ,or apolo3ies. A5ets think this throu3h& Homer said. A<eve 3ot to 3et back to the camp and warn them. "nd weve 3ot to ,ind 5ee. :, hes >@ hell be headin3 back to the camp. :, hes not >@& well& weve 3ot problems. A#he others can warn the people at the camp& : said. A#err and them. A;ut the mi3ht be on the other side o, the ,irebreak& Homer said. A#he mi3ht be trapped. A#he mi3ht be dead& 'ob n said. A<e have to split up& : said. A"3reed. A:ll 3o lookin3 ,or 5ee& : said. A:ll come with ou& Homer said. A>@ 'ob n said& Awell 3o to the camp. #hen well come back and ,ind ou 3u s. A#hats not 3oin3 to work& : said. A<ell never ,ind each other in the dark. Homer and :ll 3o back to the ,irebreak. :, theres no si3n o, 5ee there& and no trail we can ,ollow& we wont be able to do a lot ourselves till dawn. :, we cant ,ind him we mi3ht as well 3o back to the camp too. "nd thats what we decided. <e all thou3ht we could ,ind the camp a3ain& even i, it meant 3oin3 ri3ht up to the base o, the cli,,s and lookin3 ,or the rid3e. Homer and : hurried back the wa wed come. <e werent too worried about makin3 some noise& because we werent e.pectin3 to be chased throu3h the bush now that it was nearl dark. ;ut we had to tr to calculate when we were 3ettin3 close to the ,irebreak. "s it turned out we overestimated and crawled alon3 at the speed o, an erodin3 rock ,or about hal, an hour. #he ,irebreak was like a pale hi3hwa in the moonli3ht& compared with the dark o, the surroundin3 bush. <e la behind a bush ,or twent minutes lookin3 at it. Finall Homer whispered: A5ooks >@.

A:ll 3o. Cou sta here. ;e,ore he could object : stood and started creepin3 down the side o, the scar. Funn how with a 3roup o, people Homer nearl alwa s took the lead& and with Homer : took the lead. : went almost the whole wa down to the road. #here was nothin3 worth lookin3 at. 6o bodies& no soldiers& no 3uns. 6o tank either. ;o & had Harve s Heroes been stupid to ,all ,or that one. ;ut& : had to remind m sel,& :d ,allen ,or it too. :d thou3ht we were 3oin3 to see a ,ree bon,ireF instead :d seen a ,ree shootin3 3aller & a sickenin3 useless massacre. : ed3ed alon3 to the ri3ht& till : was nearl at the corner. : could see dark patches on the road and stared at them with a kind o, 3ruesome ,ascination& not sure i, the were patches o, blood or shadows ,rom the trees. Had ever one been killedG : started wonderin3 what would have happened to survivors& and that be3an a chain o, thou3hts that sent me scramblin3 back up the hill to ,ind Homer. A5isten& : panted& as : came round behind his bush. A%upposin3 the werent all killedG %uppose some were onl woundedG A<hatG <hat are ou talkin3 aboutG A<ell& whats the ,irst Euestion the d ask an one the cau3htG A<hatG >h. Ces& : see what ou mean. I<heres our campGJ A"nd i, the had to torture them to ,ind out ... A#he d do it. 5ets 3o. He stood Euickl & then mused a3ain. A<hat about 5eeG A<hat about 'ob n and FiG :, the ve 3ot 5ee& : said& and the skin across m ,orehead prickled as : said it& Athen the ve 3ot him. :, hes hurt and l in3 in the bush we could search all ni3ht and not ,ind him. :, hes >@ he would have headed back to the camp too. #he three o, them could be there and the place could be 3ettin3 attacked ri3ht now& while we sit here havin3 a talk about it. <e were on our wa as : ,inished that sentence. Cet another blunderin3& panickin3 run throu3h the bush& 3ettin3 scratched and hit. "t one sta3e we had a 3ood clear run ,or some minutes& with no blackberries or rabbit holes or ,allen lo3s& then : suddenl slid on a moss rock and ,ell heavil & jarrin3 m

knee. : nearl brou3ht Homer down with me. A"re ou >@G he asked. A<h d : know ou were 3oin3 to sa thatG A<ell are ouG A: dont know. #hen& tr in3 ,or that mental tou3hness Homer talked about sometimes& : said& ACes& : am. Just 3ive me a sec. : took about three& then said A>@ help me up. : stood but : was a bit wobbl . :t wasnt so much the knee& just that :d 3iven m sel, a shock when : ,ell. A#ake it eas & Homer said. AHow can :G 5ets 3o. <e ran and limped ,or twent paces& then stopped a3ain& abruptl . #his time it was the sound o, 3un,ire that brou3ht us to a halt. :t was some distance awa & but there was the ,ri3htenin3 ammerin3 o, machine 3uns& and in the back3round the dull thuds o, shot3uns. Homer and : stared at each other wildl . : wondered i, he and : and 2hris would end up livin3 to3ether in Hell ,or the rest o, our lives. :t seemed horrible& 3ruesome. <hat i, none o, us 3ot back and 2hris was le,t there on his own ,oreverG 6either o, us seemed able to think o, an thin3 to sa . : could see Homers mouth tremblin3 as he tried to come up with some brilliant su33estion. : opened m own mouth& not sure what would come out. A5ets 3o to the treeG A#he treeG <hat treeG A#he tree we came down the cli,, on& ,rom Hell. >ur ladder. A2an ou ,ind itG ACes& i, we just 3o up to the cli,,s and work our wa around. #hats where the ll 3o& surel . A>@.

<e knew there was nothin3 we could do at the campsite now that the soldiers were there. <e had no weapons. ;are hands dont stop bullets. <e hurried on. : was still leadin3& travellin3 ,airl well. : ,i3ured i, : kept the knee hot it mi3htnt be too bad& and althou3h it 3ave me the occasional sharp sudden pain& it was bearable. <e kept 3oin3 uphill& 3ainin3 3round all the time& to pass well above the campsite and strike the cli,,s. #here were still occasional bursts o, 3un,ire& punctuated& now that we were closer to the camp& b screams and hoarse shouts. : had no trouble keepin3 m knee hotF : was hot all over and sweatin3 ,ranticall . <e were back in dense trees and runnin3 soon became impossible& but : plou3hed on. #he combination o, dark& tiredness& panic& and thick bush made ever metre a miser . : was hittin3 thin3s& cr in3 out in pain and ,rustration& pan3in3 m knee a3ain and a3ain. : 3ot to a point where : came to another ,allen tree and couldnt 3et over it B : had no ener3 le,t B and : just stood there makin3 stupid little cr in3 noises like a three9 ear9old. A2ome on& Homer said& stumblin3 up behind me and 3ivin3 me a prod in the back& not ver s mpatheticall . : think he was too tired himsel, to be s mpathetic. : came on and climbed over the lo3& which wasnt even a bi3 one& and kept 3oin3. :t was another hal,9hour be,ore we hit the cli,,s. :d 3ot to the point where : was convinced that wed missed them& even thou3h that was 3eo3raphicall impossible. ;ut : hadnt realised how slowl wed been travellin3. : 3reeted the cli,, like an old ,riend& leanin3 a3ainst it ,or a moment& ,eelin3 the cool stone on m cheek. #hen : slowl & wearil & stood a3ain& like an old lad & and pushed on. :t was hard 3oin3 still& as in a lot o, places the trees 3rew ri3ht to the ,ace o, the cli,,. ;ut at least we knew we were on track ,or a de,inite tar3etF the knowled3e 3ave us some sense o, purpose& even thou3h there mi3htnt be an one at the end o, the journe . "t about 1 am we came to the old white tree& 3leamin3 like a 3host in the thin moonli3ht #here was no one there. : sat on one side o, it& leanin3 a3ainst itF Homer sat on the other side. <e didnt sa a word& just waited.

2hapter #en

#here was a hint o, li3ht in the eastern sk . >r was it m ima3inationG :d looked ,or dawn so man times alread & but with no satis,action. Homer was asleep on m le,t& mouth open& snorin3 sli3htl . M e es ,elt heav and dullF as thou3h the would look 3la8ed and opaEue to an one starin3 into them. 5uckil no one was starin3 into them. : looked around listlessl . " ,aint bree8e tickled the leaves o, the trees& made them move and whisper and pla around. :n the bush ahead o, me a branch cracked and ,ell. :t sounded surprisin3l loud& thou3h : didnt hear it hit the 3round. " lar3e bird& a white owl : think& ,lapped across the top o, the cli,,. #hen came the unmistakable sound o, human ,ootsteps. >nl a cow sounds as heav and purpose,ul as a human& and there wouldnt be cows in this dense bush. : ,elt sick with ,ear and hope. : 3rabbed Homer b the shoulder. "s he stirred into li,e& : leant over ,urther and clamped m hand on his mouth. He 3ur3led a bit& then& as : could tell b the sudden tenseness o, his bod & he woke. <e both sat there waitin3& paral sed. <e couldnt move without makin3 a lot o, noise. "nd the ,ootsteps kept comin3. #he were acceleratin3. : stood& crouchin3& to be read . : could see a ,i3ure weavin3 throu3h the trees. :t was Fi. : held out m arms but she didnt even look at me. A#he re ,ollowin3 me& she said. #here was a horrible sick pause& then Homer asked Euickl & AHow man G A: dont know. :t mi3ht onl be one. :m sorr . <e turned our ears back to the bush and immediatel heard the ,ootsteps& li3hter than Fis& less certain& less purpose,ul. A:m sorr & said Fi a3ain. A:ve been tr in3 ,or a3es. Her voice sounded thick and dead& with no emotion. %he was all in. : sEuee8ed her arm& Euickl . Homer had picked up a hunk o, wood. : wished now that he had his sawn9o,, shot3un. : looked around ,or a weapon. #here werent a lot o, choices. : 3ot a rock& about the si8e o, a baseball& and 3ave it to Fi& but : dont think she

re3istered what it was ,or. %he just held it loosel & without li,tin3 her arm. : 3ot m sel, a rock too. 6one o, us was sure what to doF we were just actin3 instinctivel & but instinctivel we looked ,or weapons. <e could have scattered and run& but with the cli,, behind us and thick bush in ,ront& there werent man options. "nd one look at Fi made it clear wed have to stand and ,i3ht. %he was leanin3 a3ainst the tree& the one we would be usin3 as our ladder back up to Hell. Fis head was down& but she kept holdin3 the rock. "s : 3lanced at her she suddenl retched and vomited. #he sound attracted her pursuer: : heard the ,ootsteps accelerate a little. <hoever it was came strai3ht at us now& with more con,idence. : looked ,or Homer but he had vanished& thou3h : could 3uess which tree he was behind. : ducked behind another one. : saw the shadow ,i3ure o, a soldier slippin3 between the trees& just ten metres ,rom me. >nl one soldierF : couldnt see or hear an others. He had seen Fi and was 3oin3 strai3ht ,or her. His ri,le was over his shoulder still. :t must have been obvious that Fi wasnt 3oin3 to 3ive him a ,i3ht. "nd : think he had more on his mind than just capturin3 her. He moved in Euickl & like a ,o. on a lambin3 ewe. He wasnt a bi3 manF a bo reall & probabl about our a3e& and with 2hriss slim build. He was hatless and dressed in li3ht uni,orm& summer 3ear rather than autumn or winter. He didnt seem to have an thin3 with him but his ri,le. "s he went ea3erl towards Fi& : came out ,rom m tree and ,ollowed him. : ,elt ,ull o, wild terror and still didnt know what : was 3oin3 to doF couldnt believe what : was 3oin3 to do. : was 3rippin3 m rock but : noticed that Fis had ,allen to the 3round. #he man was onl ten steps ,rom Fi. : was ri3ht behind him& but : couldnt brin3 m sel, to act. :t was as thou3h : was waitin3 ,or somethin3 to tri33er me o,,& somethin3 to ,orce me to do more than ,ollow him helplessl . #hen he provided the tri33er himsel,. He must have heard me because he suddenl started swin3in3 round& raisin3 his hand as he did so. : saw his e es startin3 to widen with terror& and : ,elt m e es re,lect his. : raised m arm and& as thou3h in a dream& be3an to brin3 it down on his head. : had a stran3e Euick memor ,lash: a horror stor :d been told& about how a murder victim retains the ima3e o, his murderer on his retina. #o look into a corpses e es was like lookin3 at a photo o, its killer. : was brin3in3 m arm down& thinkin3 about that& then realised : wasnt hittin3 with enou3h ,orce and at the last moment struck harder. #he soldier 3ot his arm up enou3h to de,lect and so,ten the blow& but the rock still hit him prett hard on the side o, the head. M arm jarred badl & but luckil : didnt drop the rock. #he man took a swin3 at me and : ducked& but 3ot a stin3in3 smack on the side o, the head& which made me 3o a bit numb. : saw his dark sweat ,ace. His e es looked hal,

closed and : wasnt sure wh & but : thou3ht ma be :d hurt him more than :d realised. : poked at his ,ace with the hand holdin3 the rock& but he pushed m hand awa . #hen there was a rush o, ,eet behind him. For the second or so that wed been ,i3htin3 :d completel ,or3otten about Homer& ama8in3l . #he man swun3 around ,ast and swerved his head awa . Homer was takin3 an almi3ht swin3 at him with his branch but missed his head and 3ot him on the shoulder instead. #he man sta33ered at the knees and lost his balance. "t that moment : li,ted the rock with both hands and brou3ht it down on his head& hard. #here was a terrible dull thud& like hittin3 a tree with the back o, an a.e. #he mans e es rolled up in his head& and with a ,unn little snorin3 noise he dropped to the 3round as thou3h pra in3: kneelin3& with his head bowed. #hen he ,ell to the 3round& sidewa s& and la there. : 3a8ed at him& horri,ied& ,or a moment& be,ore throwin3 the rock awa as thou3h it were contaminated. : ran to Fi and 3rabbed her b the shoulders. : dont know what : wanted ,rom her& but : didnt 3et it. %he just stared into m e es like she couldnt remember who : was. #hen : realised the man could wake up a3ain at an moment. : shook m head hard& to tr to 3et some sense back into it& and went back to him. Homer had his back turned and his ,ace pressed into a tree& havin3 his own private meetin3 with the devil. : bent over the soldier& not knowin3 whether to hope he was dead or hope he was alive. He was alive& breathin3 ver slowl & with deep shudderin3 3roans. #here was a lon3 pause between each breath. He sounded terrible. : realised then that it would have been better ,or us i, he was dead& thou3h : was shocked at m sel, ,or thinkin3 that. : pulled his ri,le o,, him and threw it a ,ew metres awa . "lmost immediatel : heard another lot o, ,ootsteps comin3 throu3h the trees& Euite brisk and sure. : slid across the 3round and 3rabbed the ri,le a3ain& tr in3 to cock it& but it was an automatic one& too complicated to work out. : held it up desperatel & as thou3h pointin3 it at someone would ma3icall protect me. ;ut it was 'ob n who was walkin3 towards me& lookin3 as calm as ever B until she saw the weapon. A=llieD ?ont shoot meD : lowered it. A<hered ou 3et that thin3G A>ver there& : said& pointin3& 3ettin3 the shakes a bit& but puttin3 the ri,le down care,ull . 'ob n seemed so controlled& and : ,elt like : was on the brink o, completel losin3 control.

'ob n lost her smile suddenl F she ran to the soldier and knelt beside him. A<hat happened. ?id ou shoot himG AHit him. <ith a rock. "nd a branch. A7od& : think hes prett bad. AHe has to die& 'ob n& : said& tr in3 to keep m voice stead . A:, he doesnt& hell 3et his ,riends and the ll come lookin3 ,or us. "nd the ,irst thin3 the ll do is to climb that tree. #he could track us ri3ht home& into Hell. %he didnt answer& but le,t the soldier and went to Fi. A"re ou all ri3htG she asked. Fi stared at her too ,or a moment& as she had at me. #hen she nodded. : was relieved that she was at least ,unctionin3 that much a3ain. AHas an one seen 5eeG A6o& Fi said. : e.plained how Homer and : had 3one back to the ,irebreak but hadnt spent time searchin3 the bush ,or him. A:m rapt to ,ind ou& 'ob n said. A:t was just a sudden brainwave to come here. :, ou hadnt been here ... : dont know what : would have done. : didnt have an other ideas. %he paused ,or a ,ew seconds& as i, thinkin3 o, somethin3. #hen she took char3e. A2ome on 3u s& she said. ACou can have our nervous breakdowns later. 5ike :m 3oin3 to have mine& ,or callin3 out at the men on the road. ;ut ou cant have them now. :m not bein3 ,unn about this. <e simpl have to keep ourselves to3ether& i, were 3oin3 to make it. A<hat happened back at the campG : asked. "s 'ob n was talkin3 wed 3raduall moved in to3ether& into a huddle around the unconscious oun3 soldier& who was still l in3 on the 3round& breathin3 his slow breaths. A:t was a disaster& she said. AFi and : just didnt 3et there in time. <ed

been lost ,or nearl an hour. #hen we saw them at last& throu3h the trees. <e were so close to it. <e could actuall see the tents. : still cant believe how it happened. #hen this ,irin3 suddenl started all around us. :t was so loud& like standin3 in the middle o, a whole lot o, construction workers with jackhammers. " soldier stood up ri3ht in ,ront o, us and started ,irin3. <e could have taken one step ,orward and touched him. :ts a miracle he didnt hear us& he FiG Fi just nodded& dumbl . 'ob n was tr in3 to humour her into talkin3 a3ain but : think she was too ph sicall e.hausted& i, nothin3 else. A<ell& 'ob n went on& starin3 at her boots& Awhat can : sa G :t was horrible& dis3ustin3. %ome o, the bullets and shells the used were like ,ireworksF the 3lowed& the were so bri3ht. "nd then the chucked in a ,lare or somethin3. #he people ... the were runnin3 in di,,erent directions. #he didnt know which wa to 3o. :t was a massacre. : was backin3 out ,ast so : didnt see much. "t least it was so nois that the couldnt hear me. 6ot just the 3un,ire& but the screams. : dont know how man people :ve seen killed toda . %he blinked ,uriousl . Her ,ace seemed to crumble ,or a moment. Her lips twisted and she put her knuckle to her mouth& stru33lin3 to keep control& until 3raduall she was able to speak a3ain. ;ut all she said was& A"n wa & : tried to ,ind Fi& and there was no si3n o, her. %he looked at Fi& invitin3 her to take over. : think she wanted the spotli3ht o,, her ,or a ,ew minutes. A: just ran& Fi whispered. A:m sorr 'ob n. : lost m head and ran. ",ter a while : realised someone was ,ollowin3 me. : hoped it was ou but it didnt sound like ou. : called out but there was no answer. #he kept comin3& so : kept runnin3. : tried to lead them awa ,rom here and then lose them& but : couldnt. ",ter a while : crawled under some blackberries and hid. : waited ,or hours& until ,inall : thou3ht the must have 3one. : hadnt heard them 3o but : thou3ht no one could have just sat there waitin3 in the darkness ,or all that time. %o : came crawlin3 but a3ain. "nd as soon as : did someone came run 9 nin3 at me. : screamed and ran o,,. : just kept runnin3 around the bush. ",ter a while : 3ot so tired. #hen : hit the cli,,s a3ain. : thou3ht :d better come here. : hoped there mi3ht be someone here. ;ut :m sorr . : made it so dan3erous ,or ou& doin3 that. : shouldnt have done that. <e all made soothin3 noises: A>, course ou should& ACou did the ri3ht thin3& A#hats e.actl what : would have done& but : dont know i, it had much e,,ect. :n the middle o, all m own mess o, emotions : shuddered as : thou3ht o, the terri, in3 ni3ht Fi had spent& tr in3 to shake o,, those ,ootsteps in the dark

bush& headin3 at last ,or the tree& but not knowin3 i, she would ,ind onl the silence o, the ni3ht there& knowin3 onl that she was too tired to 3o an ,urther& knowin3 that when she reached the tree she mi3ht have to turn and ,ace her death. #his had been a terrible ni3ht ,or all o, us& but perhaps ,or Fi most o, all. #hat was assumin3 5ee was >@. 'ob n started speakin3 a3ain. A:ts still prett dark. <hat are we 3oin3 to doG <eve 3ot 5ee missin3 and this 3u unconscious& ri3ht at the ,oot o, our ladder back to Hell. Homer ,inall stirred into a little li,e a3ain. :t was an e,,ort ,or all o, us. <e were tr in3 to think normall & to talk normall & but the words seemed to come out slowl & like toothpaste slowl sEuee8ed ,rom its tube. A<e can wait a bit lon3er& he said. A!ut ourselves in their minds. #he re not 3oin3 to be wanderin3 round the bush at this hour lookin3 ,or survivors& or even ,or one o, their own people. #oo dan3erous ,or them. "nd the probabl think the 3ot ever one an wa . #his 3u chasin3 Fi& he was a one9o,, : think. A<hat happens ... : said. : had to clear m throat and start a3ain. A<hat happens i, a,ter another hour or two this 3u is still aliveG Homer didnt look at me. Hoarsel he said& A<hat ou did to that 3u back in ;uttercup 5ane& the one : shot ... A#hat was di,,erent& : said. A: did that because he was 3oin3 to die an wa . :t was euthanasia. A5ook at this bloke& Homer said. AHes not 3oin3 to live. >r i, he does hell be a ve3etable. ACou dont know that. ;ut : tried to e.plain the real di,,erence. A#hat was in hot blood& : said at last. A: dont think : could do it in cold blood. >ne o, the thin3s : ,ind stran3est and hardest is that we were havin3 such conversations. <e should have been talkin3 about discos and electronic mail and e.ams and bands. How could this have been happenin3 to usG How could we have been huddled in the dark bush& cold and hun3r and terri,ied& talkin3 about who we should killG <e had no preparation ,or this& no back3round& no knowled3e. <e didnt know i, we were doin3 the ri3ht thin3&

ever. <e didnt know an thin3. <e were just ordinar teena3ers& so ordinar we were borin3. >verni3ht the d pulled the roo, o,, our lives. "nd a,ter the d pulled o,, the roo, the d come in and torn down the curtains& ripped up the ,urniture& burnt the house and thrown us into the ni3ht& where wed been ,orced to run and hide and live like wild animals. <e had no ,oundations& and we had no secure walls around our lives an more. <e were livin3 in a stran3e lon3 ni3htmare& where we had to make our own rules& invent new values& stumble around blindl & hopin3 we werent makin3 too man mistakes. <e clun3 to what we knew and what we thou3ht was ri3ht& but all the time those thin3s too were bein3 stripped ,rom us. : didnt know i, wed be le,t with nothin3& or i, wed be le,t with a new set o, rules and attitudes and behaviours& so that we werent able to reco3nise ourselves an more. <e could end up as new& distorted& de,ormed creatures& with onl a ,ew ph sical resemblances to the people we once were. >, course& in amon3 all this we had moments B da s sometimes B when we acted in wa s that were Anormal& va3uel like the old da s. ;ut it was never the same. =ven those moments were warped b what had happened to us& b the horrible new world that wed been ,orced into. #here seemed no end to it& no clues as to what we would become& nothin3. Just da 9to9da survival. Homer had leaned over the oun3 soldier on the 3round and was 3oin3 throu3h his pockets. He 3raduall accumulated a little pile o, items as we watched in silence. :t was hard to see details in the dark& but there was a wallet and a kni,e and a couple o, ke s. #hen& ,rom a breast pocket& he pulled out a little torch& no bi33er than a pen& and switched it on. :n its li3ht : saw just how badl hurt the soldier was. #here was blood comin3 out o, his ears and nose& and his scalp was matted with blood& so that the hairs o, his head were wet and stuck to3ether. : also saw how oun3 he was. He could have been oun3er than us. His smooth skin looked as i, no ra8or had ever touched it. : had to remind m sel, ur3entl & harshl & that he was a potential rapist& a potential killer. "t the same time : knew : couldnt kill him. A<e could move him a lon3 wa o,,& said 'ob n doubt,ull & Aso that the wouldnt connect him with the tree and the cli,,. A"nd i, he wakes upG : asked. A<ere not doctors. <e dont know what mi3ht happen. AHed at least have concussion& 'ob n said& even more doubt,ull . AHe

probabl wouldnt remember where he was or what happened. 6o one bothered to point out all the ,laws in the plan. <e sat there Euietl watchin3. ",ter about an hour : be3an to realise that the oun3 soldier was 3oin3 to solve the problem ,or us. : realised that his li,e was slowl ebbin3 awa . He was d in3 on the 3round in ,ront o, us& as we looked on without a word bein3 spoken. <e made no move to save him& thou3h : doubt i, we could have done much an wa . : ,elt sad. :n the short time wed been 3athered around him :d come to ,eel that : knew him& in a stran3e sort o, wa . ?eath seemed so personal& so close& when it came slowl & almost 3entl & like this. :n touchin3 him it touched us all. =ver Euarter hour or so Homer switched the torch on& but althou3h it was still dark under the trees& we didnt reall need it. : could see each rise and ,all o, the uni,ormed chest& could ,eel each stru33le to draw the ne.t breath. : be3an to hold m own breath as he ,inished e.halin3& willin3 him to ,ind more air. ;ut 3raduall each breath became li3hter& and the pause between each one lon3er. " ,eather restin3 on his mouth mi3ht have ,luttered a little as he reached ,or another moment o, li,e& but the ,eather would not have li,ted at all. :t had been a cold ni3ht& and it was a cold mornin3& but ,or once : didnt ,eel it. Fi was huddled a3ainst me& her ,ace turned awa ,rom the soldier& and she helped keep me warm. =ver so o,ten she shook& with a spasm that mi3ht have been caused b the cold. 'ob n sat beside the soldiers head& watchin3 him calml . #here was somethin3 beauti,ul about her ,ace as she 3a8ed at his. Homer sat behind his head& also watchin3 calml & but there was a dark shadow on his ,ace and an impatience in the wa he sat bent ,orward& like a cocked ri,le. :t made me nervous to see him like that. #here was a distant crack throu3h the trees& like the ,allin3 branch :d heard earlier. #hered been noises all ni3ht o, course& as there alwa s are in the bush: the owl o, possums& the howl o, a ,eral do3& the win39beatin3 o, owlsF a bree8e throu3h the trees and m sterious rustles in the under3rowth. : was used to all that and didnt respondF hardl noticed it. ;ut this was di,,erent somehow& and : sat up a little and turned a little towards it. "nd then heard the shout. A=llieD HomerD "re ou thereG <ild relie, ran throu3h me.

A5eeD >ver hereD <e heard his blunderin3 ,ootsteps then& runnin3 and crashin3 towards us. : stood and moved a ,ew steps in his direction. He came clumsil throu3h the tall trees& sEuee8in3 throu3h a narrow 3ap ri3ht in ,ront o, me. : held out m arms and he 3rabbed me and hu33ed me& but all : could ,eel were the bones o, his bod . : didnt ,eel love or a,,ection or warmth ,rom him& just an u3l rou3hness& and relie, perhaps. He pushed me awa and looked around him. A"n one 3ot an ,oodG :m starvin3. A6o& 'ob n said& Anothin3. A<eve 3ot to 3et out o, here& 5ee said. His e es had passed over the soldier on the 3round& but he hadnt shown an surprise. 6ow he ,ocused on him. A<hats he doin3 hereG AHe ,ollowed Fi& Homer said. AHes still alive& 5ee said. ACes. A<ell& what are ou waitin3 ,orG : wasnt sure what he meant. A<e were waitin3 ,or ou& : said. A"nd we didnt know what to do with him. ;ut : think hes close to d in3. A<eve 3ot to 3o& 5ee said a3ain. His e es scanned the 3round. %uddenl he bent down and picked up the soldiers kni,e ,rom the sad little pile o, possessions. "t ,irst : thou3ht hed then overbalanced and ,allen on the bo . : even 3asped and started to sa A5ook outD ;ut : realised at once that it was deliberate. 5ee had landed clumsil with his knees on the bo s chest and at the same time had buried the kni,e in him& aimin3 at the heart. #he bo 3ave a terrible 3asp and both his arms li,ted sli3htl & with the ,in3ers ,lailin3. Homer switched on the torch and in its sharp& ,ocused li3ht& like a scalpel& : saw the ,ace 3o ver white& and a rush o, blood pour ,rom the mouth as it slowl opened. :t sta ed open. #hen somethin3 le,t the ,ace& a spirit or somethin3 ,led ,rom it& and he was dead. His ,ace became the colour o, water& no colour at all. Fi was screamin3 but then she took a bi3 3ulp and stopped hersel,& as thou3h shed swallowed the last scream. %he put her hand to her mouth and

3ave a little hiccup. Her e es were wide open and she was starin3 at 5ee as thou3h he were a monster& Jack the 'ipper. : was scared o, him m sel,& wonderin3 i, hed chan3ed ,orever& i, hed become a devil. 'ob n was h perventilatin3& with her hands to her throat. Homer backed awa & e es starin3& his hands behind him as thou3h lookin3 ,or support. #here was no support there. : just stood with m mouth open& lookin3 at the oun3 bod on the 3round. Homer had dropped the torch and : bent down and picked it up. 5ee stood and walked awa a couple o, steps& then came back. A5ets 3et rid o, him& he said& but all the an3er and harshness had 3one out o, his voice. He sounded almost normal& e.cept that : didnt know i, hed ever be normal a3ain. A<e cant bur him& : said& m voice shakin3& on the ed3e o, h steria. A#heres no time and we havent 3ot tools. A<ell move him down to the 3ull & 5ee said. 6one o, us moved& until 5ee shouted at us& A2ome on& dont just stand there. Help me. : took his head& which was ama8in3l heav & and 5ee picked up his ,eet. 6one o, the others was in an shape to help. <e stru33led alon3 with the bod & tr in3 to pick a wide enou3h path throu3h the bush. ",ter wed covered onl ten metres : was sweatin3. : couldnt believe how heav this li3ht 3u was. : was startin3 to drop him& but then 'ob n arrived beside me and helped. A<ed better not dra3 him& : said& A>r the mi3ht see the tracks& : was shocked at m sel, ,or sa in3 somethin3 so cold9blooded& but neither o, the others reacted. <e limped on& each o, us reluctant to be the one to sa stop& until somehow wed reached the head o, the 3ull . <e swun3 our arms as much as we could and rolled him heavil into it. AHe sure didnt help much& : said& shockin3 m sel, a3ain& but : was tr in3 to make ever one ,eel better& to dra3 us back ,rom madness a little. <e stood there& lookin3 at him. His bod was all arms and le3s now& a sprawlin3 broken doll& with his head tipped back at an aw,ul impossible an3le. <ithout a word 5ee turned awa and went into the bush and came back towin3 a branch in each hand& which he then tossed over the soldier. 'ob n be3an to help him& then : joined them. <e spent ten minutes throwin3 rocks and branches on the bod . :t wouldnt stop the smell& and it wouldnt stop the

,eral do3s and other carnivores& but we had to hope that i, there was a search it wouldnt last more than a da or two. #hat seemed a reasonable hope. %oon we seemed to arrive at an a3reement that wed done enou3h. #he 3re amon3 the trees was li3htenin3 Euickl as the da spread into the bush. <e stood there ,or a moment. : ,elt weird& like : didnt want to walk awa without sa in3 an thin3. : 3lanced at 'ob n& and althou3h her e es were open and her lips werent movin3& : ,elt certain she was pra in3. A%a it out loud& : ur3ed her. %he looked at me in surprise. : said it a3ain: A%a somethin3 out loud. A: cant& she said. %he wrinkled her brow ,or a minute& then said& A7od& look a,ter him. #hen a,ter a pause she added in a stron3 voice& A"men. A"men& : said& and a,ter a moment 5ee said it too. "s we walked back to the others he said to 'ob n& A:, oud seen what : saw last ni3ht ou wouldnt be pra in3 ,or an o, them. "nd ou wouldnt be wonderin3 i, weve done the wron3 thin3. #he re ,ilth. #he re vermin. : understood then wh hed pushed the kni,e into the soldiers chest& but : was still scared o, him ,or havin3 done it.

2hapter =leven

%o o,ten its the little thin3s that are the hardest. <ed had a ni3ht o, death and horror& o, ,ear and panicF wed seen man people die and wed seen one die at the closest o, Euarters. <ed lost man o, our possessions B an thin3 wed had in the tents at Harve s Heroes campsite was 3one ,orever. ;ut tr in3 to climb that tree to 3et back into Hell was the hardest thin3 o, all. ;e,ore that thou3h : ,ound : hadnt lost ever thin3. <e were standin3 waitin3 at the base o, the tree ,or 'ob n to return. %hed taken the odds and ends ,rom the soldiers pocket and 3one back to his bush 3rave to throw them in. %hed even picked up the kni,e& all stick and red. :t made me think o, pickin3 up Homers blood shot3un at the ;uttercup 5ane ambush& and : shuddered in memor when : saw 'ob n reach ,or the kni,e. #he onl thin3 we kept was the torch. %o there 5ee and Fi and : were& waitin3 ,or 'ob n& watchin3 Homer& who was usin3 a small branch to sweep the 3round and conceal our tracks. <e had to avoid drawin3 an attention to our stepladder. "nd as we watched& 5ee ,elt ,or m hand and put a small object in it. :t was warm and ,urr & and ,or a second : thou3ht it mi3ht have been somethin3 horrible. : looked down with m mouth sEuirmin3. :t was m little chocolate brown tedd bear& "lvin& onl the si8e o, a ci3arette packet& one e e missin3 and both ears chewed& a bi3 worn patch on his bum& but m "lvin& m bear. A>h 5ee& : said& m e es ,illin3 with tears. A: thou3ht :d lost him. : also meant: A"nd : thou3ht :d lost ou. He just shru33ed& but : knew he was pleased. AHowd ou ,ind himG >h 5ee& : was 3ettin3 scared o, ou. Cou seemed like oud chan3ed so much. He i3nored the last part o, what : said& and answered m Euestion instead.

A: 3ot him ,rom our tent. A<hatG How could ouG A: was just sneakin3 in the back o, it& to wait ,or ou. Cou were the onl person : ,elt like talkin3 to& a,ter what happened on the road. #hen the shootin3 started. "lvin was on the 3round& at m ,eet& so : 3rabbed him and 3ot out o, there. A<hered ou 3oG A"lon3 the 3round. #hen : ,ound some cover. AHowG <hereG A;ehind some bodies. A;ehind some bodiesG A#here were ,our people whod been sittin3 to3ether in the eatin3 area. #he d ,allen in a row when the were shot& each one leanin3 on the ne.t one. : hid behind them. A>h 7od. A: sta ed there till the soldiers started comin3 throu3h the camp. #he had a ,ew prisoners. =ver one else was dead. : saw what the were doin3 to the bodies and : saw what the were doin3 to the prisoners. %o : ran. A?id the see ouG 'ob n had returned and althou3h we should have been 3oin3 up the tree we were all too h pnotised b 5ees stor . ACes& but the couldnt shoot because the would have hit their own soldiers. #he werent ver or3anised. #he ,ired a ,ew do8en rounds in the bush a,ter : was out o, the camp area& but : was e.pectin3 that and : was dod3in3 round and keepin3 ,lat& and usin3 the trees. 5ast : saw o, them the d started burnin3 tents. #he didnt ,ollow me. A#he ,ollowed me& Fi said in a small voice. ACes& but oure a 3irl& 5ee said 3riml . A: saw how the were treatin3 the

women the d cau3ht. Homer started climbin3 the tree. A<hat happened ne.tG : asked ur3entl . A: just ran and ran. ; the time :d calmed down a bit : didnt know where : was. =ventuall : ,i3ured out that ou mi3ht be here& i, oud survived& but then : had to ,i3ure out how to 3et here. 'ob n be3an to ,ollow Homer up the tree and Fi moved into position to do the same. A<hat happened to ou back at the ,irebreakG : asked. A<ell& : ran like mad when the started shootin3 at us. <hen : realised :d lost ou 3u s : thou3ht : mi3ht as well 3o strai3ht to the camp. A#hank ou ,or m bear& : said. : 3a8ed at the cli,, ,or a ,ew moments& thinkin3 all kinds o, thou3hts& wonderin3 how lon3 this wall o, rock would stand here and what else it would see and hear. : wished : could write its stor & do somethin3 lastin3& somethin3 3ood. : turned to Fi. A2ome on& Fi ,rom <irrawee. Make like a koala. Make like "lvin. : slun3 the dead soldiers ri,le across m back and watched the three o, them. Homer was now at the top& which was the thick base o, the old white tree& because o, course it had toppled ,rom the top. 'ob n was ri3ht behind him. Fi started slowl ed3in3 up towards them. A: told ou we should have 3ot some rope& Homer called down. A'emember that >utward ;ound stu,,G 'ob n said. ACouve 3ot to di3 our toes in and use our ,in3ertips. #hat was the e.tent o, our knowled3e about rockclimbin3. Homer abandoned the sa,et o, the tree and be3an workin3 his wa up the last stretch o, cli,,. =ven ,rom the bottom : could see the tension in his arms and le3s as he searched ,or holds. His head was sidewa s and he looked like a 3i3antic insect crawlin3 up the vertical rock,ace. <e watched nervousl & knowin3 that we would soon have to ,ollow him. :t was onl a ,ew metres but the cost o, ,ailure was prett hi3h. ;ut then he ,lun3 an arm over the top and with a last 3i3antic e,,ort pulled himsel, up& rollin3 out o, our si3ht ,or a

moment be,ore reappearin3& standin3& at the top& lookin3 down and smilin3. A!iece o, cake& he said. 'ob n ,ollowed& doin3 it ver Euickl & 3oin3 up in one continuous burst till she too rolled over the top. ; then Fi was at the top o, the tree and lookin3 up an.iousl . A2ome on Fi& : called ,rom the bottom. 5ee started up the tree as Fi be3an tentativel to reach out and ,eel ,or a handhold. Homer and 'ob n were like stereo speakers& ur3in3 her on. %he went ver slowl & usin3 the sides o, her shoes instead o, her toes& and hal,wa up she ,ro8e. : could see her le3s shakin3. A2ome on Fi& we were all callin3. A: cant& she cried. A2ome on Fi& 'ob n said ur3entl . #he soldiers are comin3. #he werent& but it worked. Fi 3ained another metre with a little scramblin3 movement& then ,lun3 her arm up and 3rabbed at 'ob ns. 5uckil she cau3ht it. : hate to think what would have happened i, she hadnt. =ven so 'ob n had to haul and haul be,ore Fi& han3in3 like a dead wei3ht& was dra33ed over the top. Fi had been brave so man times& shown such stren3th& but it seemed like shed been wiped out b the last twelve hours. 5ee 3ot up Euite easil . :t was a de,inite advanta3e bein3 tall. : was at the last branch b then and watchin3 him. : worked out m route& a bit ,urther to the ri3ht than 5ees& and with a bi3 3ulp o, pure ,ear : le,t the securit o, the tree and started out. #he main thin3 was not to panic. =ver time : started 3ettin3 the wild ,eelin3s that : would ,all& must certainl ,all& : told m sel, to think brave& to 3et control o, m mind& to be stron3. ;ut : ,ound m sel, 3ettin3 ph sicall tired. : was hun3r & m knee was hurtin3& and : was takin3 too lon3 to make the climb& usin3 up m ener3 . : accelerated a bit& 3lanced up& and saw Homers hand outstretched towards me& just within reach. A: dont need an help& : said crossl . "t that moment : ,ell. :t was so Euick& without warnin3. M ,in3ers all lost their 3rip simultaneousl . : knew : was too ,ar across to catch the tree and : knew Euite clearl that : had two choices: to use m hands to brake m sel,& and rip up m hands doin3 it& or to 3o into ,ree ,all and break m le3s. : used m hands. : was so close to the cli,, ,ace that : could deliberatel press into it& 3rabbin3 at it& scrapin3 a3ainst it& usin3 an point o, contact possible& knees&

toes& chest a ,ew times& and hands& all the wa down. : landed at the bottom without ever havin3 reached out9o,9control speeds& but : hit heavil & jarred m knee a3ain& and rolled across the 3round till : ,etched up a3ainst a rock. : la there 3riml & hatin3 ever thin3. : didnt dare look at m ,in3ers. : 3ot up and shook the dirt o,, m clothes& then walked back to the tree. "n3ril : started climbin3 it a3ain& i3norin3 the stin3in3 in m hands& the dull pain in m knee& the ache in m back. #here were cries o, distress above me& the other ,our leanin3 over and callin3 out& like lonel cockatoos. A:m >@& : muttered& knowin3 that the couldnt hear me. : 3ot to the top o, the dead& white trunk a3ain and paused there ,or a minute& hu33in3 it& shakin3 a bit. A2huck up the ri,le& Homer called. : realised the automatic weapon : had slun3 across m back was still there. #hat was the ache in m back. : was luck the ri,le hadnt started ,irin3. : clumsil slipped it o,, and held it balanced in m hands ,or a moment& then ,lun3 it hard and hi3h up over the top. :t onl just 3ot there& but 'ob n 3rabbed its butt as it started to ,all a3ain& and hauled it up. " minute later she reappeared over to m le,t. A2ome this wa =llie& she called. #here was an eas led3e over there but it didnt lead an where& so none o, us had used it. ;ut : saw what the were tr in3 to do. #he d ,ormed a human chain. 5ee was holdin3 'ob n and she was dan3lin3 over the cli,, holdin3 the ri,le. : couldnt see who was holdin3 5ee. : ed3ed m wa over there and reached up. : could just 3rab the barrel o, the 3un. A>h =llie& our poor hands& 'ob n said. A: hope ouve unloaded this thin3& : said. ACes& we have actuall . 2an ou hold onG ACes& 3o on. ACoure sureG AJust do it. %he be3an to shu,,le back& as we both held on 3riml . For a moment she had all m wei3ht but then : was able to use m ,eet to help her& walkin3 up the last wall o, rock. #hen Homer and Fi were 3rabbin3 me under the armpits& haulin3 me over the top. : landed on top o, 'ob n& then crawled o,, and col 9

lapsed b m sel,& utterl done. Fi took m ri3ht hand and ,ussed over it. : li,ted m head and looked curiousl . #he hand was shredded and blood . #he ,in3ertips were red raw& all the pads 3one& e.cept on the thumb. #he le,t hand looked almost as bad. #he more : looked at them& the more the stun3. #here was nothin3 an o, us could do& e.cept cr & and so we did that. A6othin3 like a 3ood cr & : remember m 3randmother sa in3. <e were cold& we were ravenousl hun3r & we all had aches and bruises and cuts& and above all we were shocked and desperatel unhapp . :t was probabl onl about seven9thirt and the sun was not et stron3 enou3h to li3hten or warm the terrible darkness that had ,illed us durin3 the ni3ht. %o we sat there& in under the trees B we were still securit 9conscious B and bawled like little kids. M e es ran& m nose ran& and when : tried to wipe all the drips awa & m hands hurt too much to use them. Fi la with her head in m lap and cried until m jeans 3ot damp. =ventuall : dried up a bit. : li,ted m head and looked around. <e were a miserable si3ht. 'ob n had dried blood all over her ,ace& 5ee had a swollen e e that was startin3 to darken. <e smelt like we hadnt washed in months. >ur clothes were torn and dirt . <ed all lost wei3ht since the invasion& which made our clothes loose and shabb . : looked at 5ee. He stood there with the bush behind him& 3a8in3 calml back at me. 5ike a lot o, tall people he usuall stood with his head down a bit& so ou could see the back o, his neck& the wa it arched. He wore a 3re #9shirt with a li3htnin3 ,lash across it& and the words A;orn to 'ule #our. : knew what was on the back& the name o, his ,avourite band& :mpunit . His jeans were 3one at the knee and one boot had a lace which had been broken and retied so man times that it was hard to tell which was the bow. "s alwa s he wore the #9shirt out& not tucked in. :t was torn o,, the ri3ht shoulder& torn a3ain at the heart& and had a hole burnt in it under the world A'ule. #he bottom o, it was like ribbons& it was so wrecked. ?espite all that& he was so 3race,ul& so di3ni,ied& that : ,ell in love with him completel at that moment& in a wa : never had be,ore. : 3ave him a little weak 3rin and li,ted Fi o,, m lap. A2ome on 3u s& : said. A5ets 3et out o, here. A?id ou know thats the most commonl used line in moviesG 5ee said. He had his head on one side as he looked at me. : had the uncann ,eelin3

that he knew e.actl what : was thinkin3. ;ut all : said was A<hatG 5ee just shru33ed. A#hats the most commonl used line in movies. :ts used in si.t per cent o, movies& or somethin3 like that. He came over and li,ted me as the others stirred into action. <e limped over to the creek to start the trip : was dreadin3: the lon3 uncom,ortable stru33le back upstream& hunched over& with the cold water constantl tu33in3 at our le3s. #he onl 3ood thin3 B and bad thin3 B was that we no lon3er had packs to wei3h us down. : spent Euite a lot o, the trip takin3 inventor o, the thin3s :d lost. :t was depressin3. <ed had so much taken awa alread F it seemed un,air to keep losin3 more all the time. Ma be wed lose ever thin3 eventuall . >ur happiness& our ,utures& our lives. Ma be wed lost two out o, three o, those alread . : cried a bit more as we battled our wa up the creek into Hell. #he ,unn thin3 was that it was still onl mid9mornin3 when we stra33led into the campsite. :t ,elt like lunchtime at least. ;e,ore the invasion our da s had hardl started at 9 am. <ed be sittin3 in a classroom& our hair rumpled& rubbin3 our e es and awnin3. 6ow we had been throu3h more B had su,,ered more B be,ore break,ast than we had a ri3ht to e.pect in a li,etime. "nd that was another thin3 : had to learn& that e.pectations meant nothin3 an more. <e didnt have a ri3ht to e.pectations. =ven the thin3s we took ,or 3ranted B we couldnt take them ,or 3ranted because those were e.pectations too. For one thin3 it had never crossed m mind that 2hris wouldnt be there. #hat never crossed m mind. ;ut he wasnt there. "t ,irst we didnt 3et too e.cited& just tore at ,ood held in both hands while we called out ,or him. "t least& thats what the others didF : ,elt too sick and m hands hurt too much. :d thou3ht : was hun3r but suddenl : couldnt eat. : sat on a lo3 watchin3 'ob n wol, down baked beans and cheese& 5ee 3et into biscuits and jam& Fi eatin3 an apple and dried ,ruit& and Homer attackin3 the muesli. <ith her mouth still ,ull 'ob n went and 3ot the ,irst9aid kit and brou3ht it over to me. AHow are our handsG she asked. A"ll ri3ht. : think m knee hurts more.

:d let m hands trail in the water Euite a ,ew times as wed laboured up the creek& so the 3ravel and dirt were washed out. 6ow the skin around m ,in3ertips looked so,t and tender& but the pads on the ,in3ers were the dark strawberr red o, blood& and little shreds o, skin hun3 o,, them. ;asicall :d sandpapered the pads o,,. : had 3ravel rash on both palms& which stun3 too but didnt look as bad as the ,in3ertips. 'ob n smeared cream over all the bloodied bits& then care,ull bound each ,in3ertip in 3au8e and banda3es. "t the same time she ,ed me& like a mumm bird with her chick. "lthou3h : must have looked prett sill b the time she ,inished& sittin3 there with m ei3ht ,in3ers stickin3 up in the air& each wrapped neatl in its own little white beanie& : did ,eel better& especiall with some dates and sweet biscuits in me. A<here do ou think 2hris mi3ht beG : asked her as she ,inished wrappin3 m last ,in3er. A: havent 3ot a clue. <eve been 3one Euite a while. : hope hes all ri3ht. A:t must have been lonel here alone. ACes& but : dont know whether that would worr 2hris. AMmm& hes a ,unn 3u . ",ter our meal we started lookin3 ,or him in earnest. #here wasnt ,ar to look& in Hell. <e knew he wasnt in the Hermits Hut because wed passed that on our wa back to the clearin3. Homer and Fi checked the path all the wa back to <ombe3onoo& while the rest o, us started searchin3 the bush& in case hed had an accident. : walked around holdin3 m hands in the air& ,eelin3 useless. ;ut there was no si3n o, him in the bush. <hen Homer and Fi 3ot back with the same report ,rom <ombe3onoo our ,ear and tension levels started risin3 a3ain. :t seemed so cruel& a,ter what wed been throu3h. ;ut cruel didnt mean an thin3 eitherF :d learnt that a3es a3o. <e met a3ain in the clearin3. A: dont think hes been here ,or a while& Homer said. A#he ,ire looks like it hasnt been lit since we le,t. AMa be he didnt bother to li3ht it& Fi said.

A:ts been cold at ni3hts. A"ll his stu,,s still in the tent& 'ob n said. A"s ,ar as : can tell. His sleepin3 ba3s there& and his backpack. : went and had a look in the tent too. : was lookin3 ,or 2hriss notebooks. :, ,or some e.traordinar reason he had 3one awa ,rom Hell& : was sure he would have taken them. ;ut the were all there. He had ,our. : peeked into the one on top and it was onl hal, ,ull& so : assumed it was the current one. %urel he wouldnt have le,t that. : came back to the 3roup. Fi was lookin3 scared and sa in3& ACou dont think an ones been here do ouG A6o wa & : said. A6othin3s been disturbed. 5ee had checked the chooks and the lamb. A#he ve 3ot water and ,ood& he said. : went and had a look there too& not because : didnt trust 5ee& but because : knew that as a townie there mi3ht be details he wouldnt notice. : came back to the others and reported& A#heir waters a bit stale. Hasnt been chan3ed ,or a couple o, da s. <hat else could we doG %eemed like wed alread immediate possibilities. <e sat there lookin3 at each other. e.hausted the

A: dont think we can do an more toda & Homer said. A:, hes le,t Hell he could be an where between here and %tratton. >r be ond. AHe could have ,ollowed us into the Hollowa Halle & : said. Fi 3asped. A?ont sa thatD A5ook& 'ob n said& Alets not ,reak ourselves out. #here just isnt an thin3 we can do ri3ht now. <e need sleep desperatel . 5ike Homer said& he could be an where. :, there was one speci,ic place we could walk to and have a chance o, ,indin3 him& well& : 3uess wed shake ourselves up and 3o there. ;ut were not in an shape to have an emu parade throu3h the whole <irrawee valle . 5ets 3o to bed. A=asier said than done& 5ee said. A<e dont have an beds. He was ri3ht. >ur sleepin3 ba3s had 3one& probabl burnt b the soldiers b now& in the wrecka3e o, Harve s Heroes.

<e started scroun3in3 around. <e had a couple o, blankets& hal, a do8en towels& and Euite a lot o, warm clothin3. <e all 3ot warml dressed& wearin3 balaclavas and thick socks& and& ,or the other ,our& 3loves as well. Fi had to dress me like : was a shop dumm . #hen we dra33ed ourselves o,, towards the tents& carr in3 all the e.tra bits wed ,ound. A6o ones allowed to make an noise ,or the ne.t ,our hours& : called& as : waddled alon3 on m jarred knee. ACes mother& Homer called back. Fi and : crawled in to3ether. : la down while Fi spread towels and a blanket over me. #hen she did the best job she could o, coverin3 hersel,. <hen shed ,inished we just la and looked at each other. <e were ,ace to ,ace and onl about a metre apart. 6either o, us spoke ,or a lon3 time. #hen : just said A>h Fi. ACes& she said. A: know what ou mean. A5ee doin3 that& : said. A:t was horrible. A?o ou know& Fi said& Awith the soldier just l in3 there all that time& : sort o, 3ot to like him. : thou3ht : knew him& sort o,. : started ,or3ettin3 how hed been ,ollowin3 me. A%o did :. AHow old do ou think he wasG A: dont know. 6o older than us. Fi shivered. A<hats this doin3 to usG <hats 3oin3 to become o, usG A: dont know. A:m scared& Fi said. A: dont know whatll happen. A:m scared too. A;ut ou never look scared. A?ont :G ?ont : reall G 7od& : sure ,eel it. A<hen ou ,ell down the cli,, ... A: was scared then. ;ut theres no time to 3et reall scared when thin3s like

that happen. AMmm. A"n wa & that was m own dumb ,ault. Homer o,,ered me a li,t up and : wouldnt take it. ACour ,in3ers looked terrible& when ou did 3et up. ACou ou3ht to have seen them ,rom m e es. A?o the hurt muchG A" bit. A: wish : could be brave& Fi said. ACou are& Fi. Cou dont realise. Couve done so man thin3s. Couve never let us down& not once. A#hose people on the road& 2aptain @illen and the others. <e just saw about a do8en people killed& do ou realise thatG ?ead& killed& dead bodies. "nd %har n and ?avina and >live& : bet the were killed too. :d never seen a dead person be,ore this started. #he onl dead thin3s :d seen were animals on the road. "nd our class 3uinea pi3 in Cear / B 7! he was called B he died& and : cried all a,ternoon. 6ow it seems like its all death. A: wonder where 2hris has 3one. A:ts weird. A?id ou know he drank a lotG A<hat do ou mean& drank a lotG A<ell& an time he could brin3 3ro3 in here he did& and then he drank it all himsel,& : think. A<ell that wouldnt add up to much. AMm& but the ni3ht we went out and attacked that convo he was prett pissed then : think. "nd the da we le,t& he was into it& at ten oclock in the mornin3.

A%o what are ou sa in3G A: dont know. Just that : didnt like it : suppose. #he wa he was doin3 it behind our backs. A"re ou sa in3 hes an alcoholicG A6o& not that. ;ut : think hes 3ot some kind o, problem with it ma be. "nd : think hes a stran3e 3u and 3ettin3 stran3er& and we dont seem to be 3ettin3 on with him like the rest o, us do with each other. ?ont ou think hes 3ettin3 harder to talk toG ACes& but :ve never been able to talk to him that easil . He was so out o, it at school. AHes interestin3 thou3h. He writes so well. : think hes a bit o, a 3enius. A7od es. ;ut :ll never understand him. A:, ou could choose one person to have here& who would ou haveG AM mum. A6ot countin3 relatives. A<ell& 2orrie and @evin o, course. ACes& but apart ,rom them. A: think "le. 5aw. A"le.G %hes so two9,aced. A6o she isnt. Cou just never made the e,,ort to 3et to know her. A%he hates me. A6o she doesnt. Cou think ever one hates ou. A6o : dont. Just ever 3irl in the school. "nd ever bo . "nd ever teacher. 6o one else. A%o Mr <hitelaw likes ou& huhG

Mr <hitelaw was the school janitor and he reall did hate me because :d dobbed on him once ,or pervin3 on the 3irls chan3in3 room. He was luck he hadnt 3ot the sack& that time. A>h sorr & : ,or3ot about him. A<ho would ou haveG AMeriam. AMmm. %hes nice. : was enjo in3 this conversation. :t seemed like the ,irst normal conversation wed had ,or a3es. :t was like wed 3one back to the old da s ,or a while& be,ore the invasion. A<hat did ou think o, Harve s HeroesG : asked. Fi thou3ht ,or a bit. A:t was stran3e& wasnt itG <as Major Harve reall a ?eput !rincipalG A"pparentl . A<hered he 3et the uni,orm thenG A<ho knows. !robabl out o, the costumes cupboard. Hed been in the "rm 'eserve& >live said& but not as a major. A: liked >live. ACeah& she seemed >@. A<hat about %har nG : considered ,or a moment. : remembered a3ain that %har n was probabl dead& and that made it hard ,or me to sa what : reall thou3ht. A%he wasnt too bad. : mean& ou wouldnt choose her out o, the whole world to be our best ,riend& but : 3ot to like her. : sort o, depended on her. AMmm& Fi said. A:t was stran3e bein3 round adults a3ain. 7ood but stran3e.

A:t wasnt all 3ood. #he thou3ht we were so immature. #he didnt 3ive us a chance. #he were so anno in3. : mean& weve done twice as much as them& and the treated us like we were barel capable o, dr in3 the dishes. ?o ou know& Mrs Hau,, wouldnt let me heat water in a ,r in3 pan to clean it& because she said : mi3ht burn m sel,D "nd all that time Major Harve s sittin3 around talkin3 about how short o, men and weapons the wereD <eve 3ot si. people and practicall no weapons and weve done reall bi3 thin3s& weve made a real di,,erence. AMmm. ;ut adults. #he re alwa s like that. A?o ou want to 3row upG ACes& o, courseD <hat do ou meanG A<ell& :ve been thinkin3& adults o,ten look so unhapp and depressed& as thou3h li,es so complicated and so much trouble. "nd the seem to have stu,,ed the world up ,or us. : know bein3 our a3e isnt alwa s ,un& and we have problems too& but : dont think the re as bad as adult ones. A<e just have to do a better job& thats all. AMmm& but thats probabl what the said when the were our a3e. ACou 3et so cau3ht up in our own li,e. A<e should have taken more interest in stu,,. 'emember when @evin was askin3 about what treaties we had with other countriesG 6one o, us had a clue. <e shouldnt have le,t ever thin3 to politicians. A!oliticiansD Fi said. %uddenl slime. she was an3r . A#he re scum. #he re

: 3i33led. A<ow& Fi& thats prett radical ,or ou. A#hose broadcasts. #he make me sick to m stomach. : knew what she meant. 5istenin3 to our political leaders broadcastin3 ,rom <ashin3ton& their lies and e.cuses and promises& made all o, us so an3r that wed a3ree to turn the radio o,, when the started talkin3. A: thou3ht ou wanted ,our hours silence& 5ee 3rumbled at us ,rom the ne.t tent.

A%orr & : said 3uiltil . Fi was awnin3& and shi,tin3 to a more com,ortable position. A:m 3oin3 to sleep& she said. A>@& 7ood ni3ht. >r mornin3. %he seemed to 3o to sleep Euite Euickl a,ter that. : didnt. : la there all mornin3& dri,tin3 occasionall into a drowse& but wakin3 up a3ain almost strai3htawa . %leep had been the last escape open to me& but even it was startin3 to close its doors. :td been a problem to me ever since the ;uttercup 5ane ambush. For all : know itll be a problem to me ,or the rest o, m li,e. For all : know the rest o, m li,e wont be lon3 an wa .

2hapter #welve

#he ne.t two weeks passed slowl F actuall the didnt so much pass as crawl alon3 in the 3utter. #here was not the sli3htest si3n o, 2hris& not the sli3htest clue as to where he mi3ht have 3one. #he others went out o, Hell three times searchin3 ,or himF the ,irst time just to m placeF the second time to @evins and HomersF and the third time a lon3 bike ride at ni3ht to 2hriss own house. #he took a calculated risk and le,t a note there to sa the d been& because the thou3ht that i, he was an where that was the most likel place. A:, he was an where. >, course he was somewhere. =ver bod s somewhere& arent the G : ,inall sat down and read his notebooks& turnin3 the pa3es awkwardl with m man3led ,in3ers. : didnt like doin3 it& but :d asked the others what the thou3ht& and the a3reed it was >@& in the hope that it mi3ht 3ive us an idea o, where hed 3one. : thou3ht it was Euite ominous that he hadnt taken his notebooks. #he were so precious to him. ;ut perhaps he had taken someF perhaps hed had more than ,our. 2hriss notebooks were so di,,erent to mine. His were more creativeF all kinds o, jottin3s and ideas and poems and stories and thou3hts about li,e& like this: A<e kill all the caterpillars& then complain there are no butter,lies. %ome o, the pa3es :d seen alread & but none o, the later ones. #here were a lot o, re,erences to Hell& but : couldnt alwa s tell i, that were our Hell& the one we lived in& or the other one& that we sometimes lived in too. %ome o, it was prett depressin3& but then :d alwa s known that 2hris could 3et depressed easil .

" bad black horse %teals into m head

"nd moves across the landscape >, m mind& while : sleep. He does what he likes in there. 6e.t da : ,eel #he dama3e.

:n the Euiet mist : watch her 3o. :t ,eels like snow. #heres a ,eelin3 that : 3et. : walk back home %ad and slow.

;ut the werent all depressin3.

#he ,oal burst into li,e: " slither o, wet limbs "nd startled e es amon3 the straw& "nd the rich wet smell o, birth. #hen it was dawnF it was #he li3ht o, li,e.

#his one : remembered ,rom when hed shown it to me in his ,irst week with us. :d liked it a lot. He o,ten wrote thin3s about horsesF : 3uess because the 5an3s had Euite a ,ew on their place.

Mares and ,oals %tumble :n the mornin3 mist 'unnin3 ,rom the dark <here their shadows remain.

: live in the li3ht& ;ut carr m dark with me.

#his seemed to be the most recent one. : hadnt seen it be,ore.

#he will carr me to the ,ield #hrou3h the wreaths o, mist Moist on m ,ace& "nd the lamb will pause For a thou3ht,ul stare. #he soldiers& the will come. #he will la me in the dark cold earth "nd push the clods in upon m ,ace.

A5i,es harder& the deeper ou ,eel thin3s& was all : could think as : put the books awa . AFeelin3s& who needs themG %ometimes the re like a 3i,t& when ou ,eel love or happiness. %ometimes the re a curse. %eemed like ,or 2hris the were more a 2urse than a blessin3. : wondered a3ain how 2orrie was 3ettin3 on& and @evin. !oor @evin. : could ima3ine him sittin3 inside the %how3round& lookin3 throu3h the wire and picturin3 us in Hell& still with our ,reedom. He probabl envied us& wished he was here. ;ut we werent so well o,,. :d alwa s been tau3ht that ,reedom was ever thin3& but it wasnt. ;etter to be in chains with the people ou love than lonel and ,ree. : was thinkin3& we should have an honour roll& a list o, the people wed lost B 2orrie and @ev and now ma be 2hris. Ma be thered be more names on it soon. : suppose it was thinkin3 about this that made me so wild with an3er when : ,ound Homer makin3 a di,,erent t pe o, list. He was standin3 b a bi3 old 3um tree& care,ull carvin3 vertical marks on it. A<hat are ou doin3G : asked. A@eepin3 score& he said. A@eepin3 scoreG <hat o,G A#he casualties weve notched up. : could hardl believe m ears. A?o ou mean the people weve killedG ACes& he said& but the ,ur in m voice had alerted him& and he looked at me nervousl as he said it. ACou must be blood jokin3D Cou are blood jokin3D Cou absolute stupid blood idiot& do ou think this is some kind o, ,ootball matchG A2alm down =llie& its no bi3 deal. AHomer& ou dont even like sport& ou never have& and here turnin3 the worst thin3 o, our lives into some blood 3ameD ou are

A"ll ri3ht& all ri3ht& calm down. : wont do it i, it 3ets ou that worked up. He

was lookin3 3uilt as he started to realise that it hadnt been such a smart thin3 to do. : was so upset : couldnt trust m sel, to speak. : went stormin3 o,, on m ban3ed9up knee towards the track. Honestl & Homer could be so clever and such a leader& and then hed 3o and do somethin3 like that. :t was the stor o, his li,e& and even thou3h hed been 3reat since the invasion& he was still capable o, losin3 it completel & as hed just proved. : was so upset about all the death and destruction wed seen and taken part in that : couldnt ima3ine an one else seein3 it di,,erentl . : dont know. <hen someone intercepted me at the start o, the track : was too upset to notice who it was. He 3rabbed m arm and said& A<hoa& =llie& calm it& calm it. :t was 5ee. A<hats wron3G he asked. A>h& just blood Homer& bein3 more anno in3 and juvenile than normal. He was still holdin3 m arm and : turned a little more so : was pressed into his chest. : had a bit o, a snu,,le in there& then asked the Euestion Fi had asked me. A<hats 3oin3 to become o, us& 5eeG A: dont know. A?ont sa that. #hats what ever one sa s. : want ou to be di,,erent to ever one else. A<ell : am. :m a murderer. : ,elt a tremble pass throu3h his bod as he said it. A6o oure not& 5ee. A: wish : could believe ou. ;ut words dont chan3e an thin3. A?o ou think it was wron3G He waited so lon3 : thou3ht m voice must have been too mu,,led in his chest ,or him to have heard. : started to repeat the Euestion& but he cut me o,,. A6o. ;ut :m scared at what there is in me that can make me like that. A%o man thin3s happened that ni3ht. #he mi3htnt ever happen a3ain. "n one would have 3one a bit cra8 & a,ter what ou saw. A;ut ma be when ouve done it once& ou do it more easil the ne.t time.

A:ve done it too& : said. ACes. : dont know wh & but it seemed di,,erent when ou did it. 2hris told me how blown apart the 3u was. "nd somehow& usin3 a kni,e is di,,erent to a 3un. : didnt answer and he continued a,ter a while. A?o ou think about it muchG : reall cried then& sobbed like m lun3s were comin3 out o, m mouth. : couldnt stop ,or a3es. #he ama8in3 thin3 was& 5ee just kept holdin3 onto me& like he could wait ,orever. Finall : 3ulped out m da time ni3htmare. A: ,elt like there was this bi3 shadow up in the sk & hoverin3 over me. :t made ever thin3 dark& and it ,ollowed me ever where. <hen :d calmed down a bit we went ,urther down the track. : held on ti3htl to 5ee& even thou3h it made it di,,icult to walk alon3 the narrow path. <e sat on a rock ,or a while. " tin spider was on m arm and : ,ound the thin line o, cobweb that connected him to me& so : could lower him to the 3round. A%pider bun3 9jumpin3& said 5ee& watchin3. : smiled. A?o ou think what : did was wron3G 5ee asked& still watchin3 the spider. A: dont know. "sk 'ob n. "sk Homer. "sk an one& just dont ask me. A;ut ou alwa s seem to know whats ri3ht and wron3& 5ee said. A<hatG <hatG : held him at arms len3th and looked at him in disbelie,. ACou said whatG A<ell& dont ouG A5ee& : have as much idea o, whats ri3ht and wron3 as that spider does. A>h. "re ou sureG Cou alwa s seem so con,ident. A7ood 7od& do :G "nd Fi said a while back that : never look scared. : thou3ht ou 3u s knew me prett well. %eems like we mi3ht have to start a3ain. #he onl thin3 :m con,ident about is that :m not con,ident about an thin3. : a3onise about ever thin3 we do. ?o ou remember that time : slept with ou and ou never knewG He lau3hed. >ne ni3ht :d 3ot back to the camp late and thered been no one there but us two. 5ee was asleep and :d crept into his tent and slept

there beside him. A<ell& that ni3ht& on the wa back into Hell& : stopped ,or a while on #ailors %titch and sat there lookin3 at the sk and tr in3 to ,i3ure a ,ew thin3s out. ACes& : remember. Cou told me. A: onl ever did ,i3ure one thin3 out& but it was prett important to me. : realised that the onl thin3 : had 3oin3 ,or me was m lack o, con,idence& that it was a sort o, 3i,t. AHow do ou meanG A: mean that the more con,ident people are about their belie,s& the more likel the are to be wron3. :ts the ones who are so certain& so black and white& the ones who never consider that the could be wron3 or that an one else could be ri3ht& the re the ones who scare me. <hen oure not con,ident at least ou keep checkin3 what ou do and askin3 oursel, i, oure on the ri3ht track. %o ou 3ave me a hu3e insult just now. He lau3hed. A>h. %orr . ;ut ou were certain back at the camp that Homer was doin3 the wron3 thin3. A>h dear. Ces& but he was. >h& sometimes : wish li,e was all black and white. A'acismd 3et even worse. AHer ,unn . A<hat was he doin3& an wa G A?ont worr about it. He just re3ressed to childhood ,or a ,ew minutes. A2ome on& lets 3o down to the ,lat rocks. #he ,lat rocks were at a point where the creek emer3ed ,rom the bush& its ,irst 3limpse o, open air since its birth in a sprin3& up near #ailors %titch. #o 3et to the rocks ou had to leave the track and bush9bash a bit ,rom the ,irst o, %atans %teps to a little clearin3 in some scrub. Here the creek spread out and washed over a series o, lon3 ,lat stones& that were o,ten nice and warm ,rom absorbin3 the suns heat. :t took a bit o, e,,ort to 3et in there but it was worth it. : limped in on m sore knee& till we ,ound ourselves a nice rock and

stretched out side b side& listenin3 to the so,t shushin3 o, the water& and the 3ur3lin3 o, a ma3pie. #he two sounds echo each other& : thou3ht. AHowre our handsG 5ee asked& holdin3 me b the wrist. A>@. #he banda3es. dont hurt as much. :ts just a nuisance that the still need

5ee moved a little closer and put his head ne.t to mine& so that we were cheek to cheek. His skin ,elt as warm and com,ortable as the rock underneath me. : realised he was in a romantic moodF : wasnt sure i, : was or not& but decided to 3o with the ,low& just like the creek. %o when he kissed me : kissed him back& till his ,irm lips and his ton3ue did start to 3ive me nice tin3l ,eelin3s. : wanted to hold him more closel & but couldnt because o, m banda3ed ,in3ers. :t was a kind o, cra8 position to be in and : 3rinned as : pictured how it would look to an one watchin3. ;ut : kept the 3rin to m sel,& not wantin3 to upset 5ee. : realised 5ee was pushin3 m #9shirt up& then trembled as his hand rippled across m stomach. #hese were ,in3ers that were made ,or the violin& not ,or attackin3 and killin3. He touched me so li3htl & et his ,in3ers were ,irm& not so,t or weak. ; luck or e.perience hed ,ound one o, m most ticklish and sensitive spotsF : love bein3 stroked across m tumm . He had m #9shirt up to m bra& which didnt worr me& but : wondered what he had in mind& how much ,urther he hoped to 3et. He put his head down and blew raspberries on m skin& above m bell button& then used the tip o, his ton3ue to make little circles in the same spot. : hadnt been ,eelin3 turned on at all& but he obviousl was& and he was workin3 prett hard to 3et me 3oin3. :t didnt take lon3. : started ,eelin3 better& then best. 5ittle ripples o, nice ,eelin3s were spreadin3 under m skin& Euite deepl & and the met other ripples that were spreadin3 ,rom ,urther down. :t was all nice and warm and slow and la8 & l in3 there on the warm rocks& with 5ee so hot beside me. He was on his side& leanin3 on one elbow now& usin3 the other arm to touch me. <ith the ,lat o, his hand he a3ain made circles on m tumm & bi3& wide& slow ones. A>h that ,eels 3ood& : said& closin3 m e es. #he onl uncom,ortable ,eelin3 : had was that : needed to 3o to the bathroom& but : couldnt bear to 3et up& so : thou3ht :d wait a bit lon3er. 5ee used the tips o, his ,in3ers& then rolled his hand over and used his knuckles. : ,elt so tired and la8 that : hoped

he would just keep doin3 that ,orever& and althou3h : knew it was sel,ish& : hoped : wouldnt have to do an thin3 in return. ;ut when he undid the top button o, m jeans : ,i3ured :d better not lie there ,or too lon3. : rolled lover and embraced 5ee with m elbows and ,orearms& clumsil workin3 his #9shirt up at the back& holdin3 him as closel as : could. His knee was between m le3s and : kissed him hard and lon3. : did have in mind that holdin3 him like that mi3ht stop him ,rom 3ettin3 too ,ar with m buttons& but he 3ot his hands inside m waistband an wa B at the back B and his warm hands rubbed slowl across m warm skin. AMmmm& : si3hed& lon3 and slow& like a bee on tranEuillisers. 5ee wasnt sa in3 an thin3. ;ut the more pressure he put on the small o, m back the more : needed to 3o to the loo. 7raduall : started pushin3 him o,,. A?ont& he said. A?ont stop. A>h& : have to. : kept kissin3 him ,or several minutes& then peeled m sel, awa . : was on m knees beside him& still holdin3 m stupid banda3ed ,in3ers up in the air. : leant over and 3ave him a series o, Euick kisses ri3ht on his lips. ;ut he turned his head to one side and said A<here are ou 3oin3G He sounded Euite cross. : lau3hed. A#o the loo& i, ou reall want to know. A"re ou comin3 backG A: dont know i, : can trust m sel,. "nd : know : cant trust ou. He 3ave a reluctant smile. : stood up and lin3ered ,or a moment& lookin3 down at him. A: do like ou& : said. A;ut :m not sure ... 5ivin3 down here& thin3s could 3et a bit out o, control. >ut o, m control& an wa . : wasnt certain i, he knew what : meant. ;ut he would have to be satis,ied with that& ,or the moment. : limped o,, into the bush to ,ind somewhere to sEuat. "t least b the time : 3ot m jeans unbuttoned and down& with no one to help me& hed have had plent o, time to cool o,,.

2hapter #hirteen

2racklin3 static ,rom our radio almost drowned out the voices. 'e,lectin3 the static was the rain& steadil beatin3 awa at the roo,& drippin3 throu3h the 3alvanised iron in a ,ew places& runnin3 down the wall in others. :t poured down the chimne in a stead shower& splashin3 ,rom the ,ireplace out onto the bare wooden ,loor. ?ressed in all our woollies we huddled around the little black transistor. #he batteries were tired and althou3h ,or the ,irst minute wed heard the voices Euite clearl & the were alread 3ettin3 distorted. %till& what wed heard had been encoura3in3F the ,irst encoura3in3 news wed had since ,orever. #he "merican voice had promoted us to the third most important item. AMuch o, the southern coastline has been recaptured. :n ,ierce ,i3htin3 around 6ewin3ton& air and land ,orces ,rom 6ew Mealand are believed to have in,licted heav casualties on a battalion o, enem troops. " success,ul landin3 b troops ,rom 6ew 7uinea has been made in the north o, the countr & in the 2ape Martindale area. "nd in <ashin3ton& %enator 'osie %ims has called ,or an ur3ent review o, K% ,orei3n polic & in the li3ht o, new power ali3nments in the "sia9!aci,ic area. %enator %ims is sponsorin3 a hundred9 million9dollar militar aid packa3e to support the belea3uered countr & and althou3h the %enate is not e.pected to pass the %ims ;ill& public sentiment in support o, indirect intervention appears to be 3rowin3. #hen we heard the voice o, our 7reat 5eader& the !rime Minister& whod jetted out o, the countr in a wild hurr when he realised the war was bein3 lost. A<e continue to ,i3ht to the ,ull e.tent o, our powers& he said& Abut we cannot do ... #here was a rush ,or the radio as three o, us& encumbered b blankets& dived ,or the button. <e 3ot it o,, and then la to3ether on the ,our old mattresses that wed pushed into a line alon3 the wall& we watched the water drippin3 around the shed. <e were at @evins& sleepin3 in the old shearers Euarters& which an3led o,, at ninet de3rees ,rom the shearin3 shed. :t was nice to sleep in a wooden buildin3 a3ain& even one as leak and

drau3ht as this. #wo weeks o, relentless rain had 3ot on our nerves so badl that wed ,inall packed up and moved out o, Hell. =ver thin3 we owned had become damp& then bedra33led& then soaked. <ater had run out o, our drains and into tents. :t didnt seem worth 3ettin3 up in the mornin3s& knowin3 that we couldnt 3o an where or do an thin3. %o& wed made ,eeders ,or the chooks& which meant we could leave them ,or lon3er periods o, time& and at last& wei3hed down b the wet clothin3 in our swa3s& our improvised packs& wed sEuelched out o, Hell. <e were thorou3hl sick o, each others compan and desperate ,or a touch o, normalit . :t had taken three ni3hts o, surreptitious ,ires to dr our thin3s out& but at last : was startin3 to ,eel human a3ain. #heres somethin3 reassurin3 about havin3 all our clothes and blankets clean and dr and or3anised& even i, the ,ive o, us were sleepin3 on ,our old thin mattresses that were sheddin3 more o, their insides with ever passin3 hour. "ctuall & bein3 dr and normal had put us in a sill mood. Homer and 'ob n had been pla in3 :9sp ,or hal, an hour be,ore the news started& but the 3ame had de3enerated once 'ob n be3an thinkin3 o, impossible words. %omethin3 be3innin3 with : had turned out to be Ainde,inable ,utures& and somethin3 be3innin3 with = was Aerotic da dreams& which 'ob n claimed we were all havin3. ",ter the news we pla ed han3man& then charades. : kept them 3uessin3 ,or ten minutes with m dramatic re9enactment o, The $ffe"t of %amma Rays on Man&in&the&Moon Marigolds, which no one else had ever heard o,. :d seen it on video in Cear - when :d had a real Mindel cra8e& but the others nearl killed me when the at last 3ave in and : told them the answer. #he rain stopped and 5ee went ,or a walk. He wanted me to come but : couldnt be bothered. : was hal,wa throu3h a romance called Send Me 'hite (lo ers. : was three9Euarters o, the wa throu3h it& with Fi watchin3 ,rom her mattress to see i, : was 3oin3 to cr or not& when 5ee slipped Euietl back in throu3h the door. %huttin3 it so,tl behind him& he said& A#here are soldiers comin3. : jumped up& droppin3 the book& and ran to the window. : stood behind it and tried to peer out& but it was too dan3erous. %o : did what the others were doin3 and ,ound a crack in the wall& and stood with m e e pressed a3ainst it. <e watched an.iousl . #here were two trucks 3rindin3 their wa up the drive& one an "rm one with a tarp over the back& the other a small tra top ,rom

<irrawee Hardware. #he pulled up to the west o, the house& near the machiner shed& parkin3 neatl side b side. %oldiers started to 3et out& two ,rom the cab o, each truck. A>h 7od& Fi moaned. A#he must know were here. : hadnt noticed Homer leave his position& but suddenl he was beside me& handin3 me a ri,le& the one :d taken ,rom the dead soldier at the ,oot o, the cli,,s. He 3ave Fi the .410 shot3un& 'ob n a sawn9o,, .//& and 5ee the sawn9 o,, 1/ 3au3e. He kept the other automatic ri,le ,or himsel,. 'ob n accepted the .// but : saw her look at it ,or a moment and then la it care,ull on the ,loor beside her. : didnt know what to think o, that. 2ould we rel on her i, it came to a shoot9outG :, she did re,use to shoot& was she ri3ht or wron3G :, she was ri3ht& that made me wron3. %weat was pricklin3 m skin& as thou3h :d rubbed a3ainst a stin3in3 nettle. : wiped the moisture ,rom m ,ace and looked a3ain throu3h the lon3 vertical crack. !eople were 3ettin3 out o, the covered truck. #he soldiers were loun3in3 around& watchin3. "lthou3h the had ri,les the hadnt bothered to unslin3 them. #he were Euite casual& Euite con,ident. #he people were obviousl prisoners& ten o, them& ,ive men and ,ive women. : couldnt reco3nise an one& thou3h : thou3ht one looked a bit like 2orries Mum. #he prisoners seemed to know what to do without bein3 told. %ome took ba3s ,rom the back o, the hardware truck and set o,, ,or the ,ruit trees. " ,ew went into the house& and two to the machiner shed. " soldier accompanied each 3roupF the ,ourth soldier sta ed at the trucks and lit a ci3arette. : looked across at Homer. A<hat do ou thinkG A:ts another work part . ACes. 7ood chance to 3ather some in,o& ma be. A5ets just watch ,or a while. A#ime spent in reconnaissance& huhG >ne o, them looks like 2orries Mum. A: dont think it is& Fi said. A:ts just the silver hair. %hes too thin. "nd too old. <e returned to our holes and cracks& and kept watchin3. : saw 3limpses o,

the people in the orchard& but there were no si3ns o, the ones in the buildin3s. ;ut a,ter ten minutes the soldier whod 3one into the machiner shed came amblin3 out and joined his mate b the truck. He was obviousl tr in3 to bot a ci3arette. :t took him a ,ew minutes but ,inall the ,irst man pulled out the packet and handed one over. #hen the both 3ot in the cab o, the bi33er truck and sat there to have their smokes. A<ed better 3et out o, here& 'ob n said. A<eve 3ot these 3uns with us. <e dont want an more trouble. A>@& Homer said. A?o a clean9up ,irst. <e can 3o out the end door and up throu3h the trees. ACou 3u s do that& : said. A:m 3oin3 down to the machiner shed. #he others looked at me doubt,ull . A: dont think ... 'ob n started. A:ts a reall 3ood chance& : cut in swi,tl . A<e havent heard an thin3 ,or weeks. : want to know how 2orrie is. "nd our ,amilies. 'ob n& can ou take m stu,,G %he reluctantl nodded. A:ll come too& 5ee said. : was tempted& because : would have ,elt more con,ident with some compan . ;ut : knew it wouldnt work. A#hanks an wa & : said. A#wod be a crowd. 5ee hesitated& but : wasnt in the mood. : wanted to do somethin3& to prove to m sel, that : still had some coura3e& that the terrible ni3ht in the Hollowa Halle hadnt turned me to junket. "nd all those weeks o, rain had made me impatient. #he last time :d tried to be independent and stron3 :d lost m ,in3ertips. 6ow : was an.ious to tr a3ain& to do better& to 3et back some sel,9 respect. Ma be some respect ,rom the others too. #he other ,our be3an packin3& movin3 Euickl and Euietl . : went out o, a window at the side and hurried deep into the 3um trees& to 3et around the

sheep ards. #here was a belt o, trees runnin3 all the wa down the hill that 3ave 3ood cover& and : sta ed in its shadows till : had the machiner shed between me and the trucks. #hen : started ed3in3 closer to the shed& usin3 it as m shield. M problem was that there was no entrance to the shed e.cept the eastern side& which was all entrance: it was completel open. : had to come out o, the trees and creep alon3 the side o, the shed& aimin3 ,or the onl cover le,t to me& a water tank at the corner. 'eachin3 the tank was nerve9rackin3. #he hard thin3 was to calm m sel,& to stop m chest takin3 on its own li,e and breathin3 like a set o, ba3pipes. : had to clench m ,ists and ell at m sel,& silentl & in m head& to 3et control and calm down& to 3et read ,or the tou3h part. : went down on m hands and knees and wri33led under the tankstand. #hen& with a3onisin3 slowness& a millimetre at a time& : put m head out land peeped around the corner. : dont mind sa in3 it was one o, the braver moments o, m li,e. " soldier could have been standin3 a metre awa . ;ut there was no one there. ;are 3round stretched awa & brown and wet. : could see the trucks about ,i,t metres ,rom me& lookin3 hu3e and deadl ,rom m position. : wri33led out a little ,urther& twistin3 to the le,t as : did. From there : could see into the deep& dark machiner shed. #here was a tractor and a header& and an old ute. Further back was a stack o, wool bales. : couldnt see an people& but : heard a clink o, tools and a murmur o, voices awa in the ,ar corner. : hesitated another ,ew seconds& then took a breath. : steeled m sel,& like : was at the %chool %ports waitin3 ,or the 3un& then took o,,& runnin3 silentl ,or the wool bales& usin3 the tractor as cover. :, :d had a bit o, white ,lu,, on m bum : would have passed ,or a rabbit. ;ut : 3ot there sa,el and waited& tremblin3& pressed a3ainst the smooth skin o, a bale. #he voices kept talkin3& risin3 and ,allin3 like a river. : couldnt make out the words& but it sounded like =n3lish. : started sidlin3 alon3 the bales& 3lancin3 at the entrance all the time so : could see i, an one came in. "t the corner o, the bales : stopped a3ain. 6ow : could hear the voices clearl . : trembled and sweated& and tears smarted in m e es as : reco3nised one o, them. :t was Mrs Macken8ie& 2orries Mum. M ,irst instinct was to sit down and bawl like a little kid. ;ut : knew : couldnt 3ive in to such weaknesses. #he were ,or the old da s& the innocent da s& when we lived a so,t li,e. #hose da s were lost& alon3 with paper tissues and plastic supermarket ba3s and jars o, moisturiser B all the useless lu.uries that we took ,or 3ranted be,ore the war. 6ot onl had we taken them ,or 3ranted& wed even thou3ht the were important. 6ow the were as ,orei3n and ,ar awa as the lu.ur o, cr in3 with relie, at a ,amiliar voice.

2orries Mum. Mrs Macken8ie. :d had a thousand cups o, tea and ,ive thousand scones at her kitchen table. %hed tau3ht me how to make to,,ee& how to 3i,twrap 2hrissie pressies& how to send a ,a.. :d told her about m cat d in3& m crush on Mr Hawthorne& and m ,irst kiss. <hen m parents 3ot especiall anno in3 or ,rustratin3 :d pour it out to her and shed soak it all up& like she understood e.actl how : ,elt. : peered around the side o, the bales. : had a 3ood view o, the back corner o, the shed. : was lookin3 at the workbench& with the tools neatl arran3ed on the walls above it. <ith no power connected& the area was dark and 3loom but : could see the two people workin3 at the bench. " man with his back to me was tinkerin3 with somethin3. : didnt reco3nise him ,rom his back& and : wasnt so interested in him an wa . M enthusiasm was all ,or Mrs Macca. : looked at her hun3ril & and ,elt at once the disbelie, in m stomach. %he was side9on to me& cleanin3 out a carburettor with a toothbrush. " shadow was on her ,ace& but : could hardl believe she was Mrs Macken8ie. #his person was old and thin& with silver hair& lon3 and stra33l . Mrs Macken8ie was middle9 a3ed and nicel plump& red9headed like her dau3hter. : kept starin3 at her& m disappointment 3ivin3 wa to an3er. : reall thou3ht it wasnt her a,ter all. ;ut 3raduall & as : looked& : be3an to see traces o, Mrs Macken8ie in her ,ace& in the wa she stood& and in the wa she moved. #hen she put down the toothbrush& wiped her hair awa ,rom her e es& and picked up a screwdriver. "nd in the movement o, her hand as she brushed her hair aside& : saw 2orries Mum. :n shock and love : cried out& AMrs MaccaD %he let 3o the screwdriver& which ,ell to the ,loor& bouncin3 and clatterin3. %he spun round& her mouth and chin droppin3& which made her ,ace even lon3er and thinner. %he went ver white and clutched her throat. A>h. =llie. : thou3ht she was 3oin3 to ,aint& but she leant Euickl and heavil a3ainst the bench& puttin3 her le,t hand to her ,orehead and coverin3 her e es. : wanted to 3o to her but knew : mustnt. #he man& 3lancin3 out at the trucks& said to me& swi,tl & A%ta there. : was anno ed& because :d worked that out ,or m sel,& but : didnt sa an thin3. : alread knew : shouldnt have called out. Mrs Macken8ie bent down and picked up the screwdriver& but it took her three tries and she seemed like she wasnt seein3 it properl . #hen she looked across at me& earnin3l . <e were hal, a do8en metres apart but it ma as well have been a hundred ks.

A2orrie& are ou all ri3htG she asked. : was shocked that shed called me 2orrie and hadnt seemed to realise it. ;ut : tried to act naturall . A<ere ,ine& Mrs Mac& : whispered. AHow are ouG A>h& :m just ,ine& were all ,ine. :ve lost a bit o, wei3ht& =llie& thats all& but :ve needed to do that ,or ears. AHows 2orrieG : ,elt that aw,ul dread in m heart a3ain& but : had to ask& and now that Mrs Macken8ie had called me =llie a3ain : thou3ht it was >@. ;ut she took a lon3 time to answer. %he looked hal, asleep& stran3el . %he was still leanin3 a3ainst the workbench. A%hes >@& =llie. %hes lost a lot o, wei3ht too. <ere just waitin3 ,or her to wake up. AHow are m parentsG Hows ever bod G A#he re all ri3ht. #he re ,ine. ACour parents are in 3ood shape& the man said. : still didnt know who he was. A<eve had a bad ,ew weeks& but our parents are ,ine. A" bad ,ew weeksG : asked. #his conversation was takin3 place in ur3ent whispers& with man 3lances at the trucks. A<eve lost Euite a ,ew people. AHow d ou mean IlostJG : almost choked on the Euestion. A#he ve 3ot a new bloke& the man said. AHow d ou meanG A#he brou3ht in an "ustralian bloke ,rom out o, town. %ome chalkie. He keeps pickin3 people out ,or interro3ation& and a lot o, them 3et taken awa a,ter hes ,inished with them. A<here toG AHow should we knowG #he wont tell us. <e just hope to 7od it isnt a ,irin3 sEuad. A<ho does he pickG

A>h& ,irst it was all the people whod been in the "rm 'eserve. He knew who the were. #hen it was the cops& and ;ert Hea3ne & and a couple o, our teachers. "n one whos a bit o, a leader& ou know what : meanG He doesnt know ever one& but he knows a lot o, people. He does about ,ive a da & and were luck i, three o, them come back in the evenin3. : said& A: thou3ht there were in,ormers at the %how3round alread . A6ot like this bloke. #heres people who suck up to them& but the dont do this kind o, thin3. #he dont help with interro3ations. 6ot like this mon3rel. #here was so much an3er in the mans voice at the end o, his answer that his voice rose sharpl in volume. : cowered down in the shadows ,or a moment& but no one came. : knew :d have to 3o soon& but : wished Mrs Macken8ie would sa more. %he seemed so 3aunt and tired and washed out. AHows 5ees ,amil G : asked. A"nd Fis& and HomersG How are 'ob ns ,olksG Mrs Macken8ie just nodded. A#he re 3ood& the man said. A<hat do ou have to do hereG : asked. A7et it read . #herell be colonists movin3 here in the ne.t ,ew da s. Cou kidsll have to be care,ul. #here are work parties out ever where now. <ere e.pectin3 hundreds o, colonists soon. : ,elt sick. <e were 3ettin3 hemmed in. Ma be one da :d have to accept the unthinkable& the un,aceable& that wed be slaves ,or the rest o, our lives. " ,uture that was no ,uture& a li,e that was no li,e. ;ut : had no time ,or thou3ht. : had onl time ,or doin3. A:ve 3ot to 3o& Mrs Macca& : said. #o m horror she suddenl burst into wild sobs& turnin3 awa ,rom me and ,allin3 ,orward onto the workbench& droppin3 the screwdriver a3ain as she wept. %he was sort o, screamin3 and cr in3 at the same time. M scalp ,elt like :d had two9hundred and ,ort volts applied to it. :t was like :d been 3iven an instant crewcut. Fri3htened& : backed awa ,ast& scurr in3 to the ,ar end o, the wool bales and duckin3 behind them. : heard a truck door open and a soldier come walkin3 into the shed.

A<hats wron3G he asked. A: dont know& the man said. He sounded Euite convincin3& like he didnt reall care. A%he just started cr in3. :ts those blood %wedish carburettors& : reckon. #he d drive an one to tears. : almost 3rinned as : crouched there in the darkness. 6othin3 seemed to happen ,or a while. #he onl sound was Mrs Macken8ies sobbin3& which had now become Euieter. : could hear her 3ulpin3& as she tried to 3et some air in her lun3s& 3et some control back. A2ome on& love& the man said. : heard more ,ootsteps& which sounded like the soldier a3ain. #he went out o, the shed and ,aded awa towards the house. A7o ,or our li,e =llie& the man said in a normal conversational tone& as thou3h he were talkin3 to Mrs Macken8ie. : had to rel on his jud3ement& so : took o,,& without sa in3 an thin3& slippin3 around the corner o, the shed& past the water tank& and into the bush. : 3reeted the trees like the were m ,riends& m ,amil . : hid behind one ,or a while& embracin3 it while : 3ot m breath back. #hen : toiled on up the hill& to ,ind m ,riends.

2hapter Fourteen

<e saw our ,irst colonists onl two da s later. More rain had blown in and wed retreated to the shearers Euarters ,or protection& huddlin3 there as the timber creaked and whined and muttered. #he rain came in sEualls& rattlin3 on the 3alvanised iron as thou3h we were bein3 roo,9rocked. <e took it in turns on sentr dut & keepin3 a twent 9,our hour watch& but the weather was so bad that the work parties didnt return. <e went and inspected what the d done: the house was clean and tid and the beds made. :t was all read ,or stran3ers& aliens& to move in and take over. :t scared and upset me& tr in3 to ima3ine these people sleepin3 in the Holmes beds& eatin3 in their kitchen& walkin3 their paddocks and sowin3 their seeds in the Holmes earth. : supposed that our ,arm would 3o the same wa soon. ",ter two da s the rain had stopped& thou3h the sk was still 3re & the air cold& and the 3round wet and mudd . <ed decided to walk to 2hriss place a3ain when we 3ot a chance& in case hed turned up there. %o at dusk& and despite the cold rotten weather& we took our 3ear and marched o,, across the paddocks. 'oads were too dan3erous& so earl in the evenin3& but we knew we could b pass <irrawee and strike Meldon Marsh 'oad without much trouble& and that would put us close to the 5an3s. :t was a silent walk ,or a while. ;ein3 cooped up ,or two more da s hadnt improved our tempers. ;ut the open spaces were 3ood: it was nice to be able to breathe a3ain. : ,elt m sel, rela.in3 a,ter the ,irst couple o, ks. : held 5ees hand ,or a while& but it was too hard to walk alon3 in the dark like thatF we needed both our hands ,or balance& a,ter our ,reEuent stumbles. : dropped back and le,t 5ee on his own& and talked to 'ob n about movies wed seen: which ones we liked and which ones we didnt. : had a 3reat lon3in3 to see a movie a3ainF to be able to look up at a vast screen in the darkness and watch beauti,ul people& beauti,ull dressed& sa in3 clever and romantic thin3s to each other. : supposed that in other parts o, the world people were still makin3 these ,ilms and other people were still watchin3 them& but it was a hard thin3 to comprehend.

<e skirted around <irrawee and 3ot onto Meldon Marsh 'oad. :t was now well a,ter ten oclock and we thou3ht we were sa,e on the road. :t was a relie, to be able to walk on it& and we made much better time. ;ut about two ks ,rom 2hriss we saw a house with li3hts on. :t was a shock to usF it was the ,irst we knew that power was bein3 reconnected to rural houses. <e stopped and looked in silence. :t wasnt a welcome si3ht at all. :n one wa it should have been com,ortin3: to see somethin3 that was so like old times. ;ut li,e was di,,erent now. <e were used to bein3 ,eral animals& used to roamin3 the dark countr at ni3hts& used to runnin3 wild in the wild. :, the colonists spread throu3h the ,armlands& reclaimin3 them with their li3hts and electricit and their own ,orm o, civilisation& we would be ,orced ,urther and ,urther out to the ed3es& havin3 to skulk in caves and burrows& amon3 the rocks. %till without a word bein3 said& we moved towards the house. <ed become human moths. #he house wasnt one : knew& but it was a com,ortable lookin3 place& solid brick& with bi3 wide windows and at least three chimne s. %hade trees 3rew around it& and a neat 3arden with brick borders made a 3eometric pattern at the ,ront. #he borders nearl proved m down,allF : trod on one o, the bricks and ,elt a spasm in m knee& which had been ,ree o, pain ,or several da s now. ;ut : recovered m balance& and when : tested m knee it ,elt >@. : cau3ht up with the others& who had bunched behind a tree and were lookin3 towards one o, the lit windows. ;ad strate3 & : thou3ht. " soldier with a 3un could wipe them all out in less than a second. : whispered that to them when : 3ot to the treeF the looked startled& but Euickl spread out to the cover o, other trees. : went around the eastern side o, the house and ,ound a peppercorn tree with wooden slats nailed to it& leadin3 up to a kids cubb & a treehouse. : scaled the ladder and sat in the ,irst ,ork. :t 3ave me a dress circle view o, the kitchen. : watched 3riml . #here were three women workin3 in there. #he looked Euite at home. #he were reor3anisin3 ever thin3. #he had all the jars and plates and saucepans and cans out o, the cupboards and spread across the tables and benches. #he were wipin3 thin3s down and puttin3 them awa & stoppin3 ever now and then to take a closer look at somethin3& or to draw the attention o, the others to it. #here was a 3ad3et with oran3e plastic handles made ,or 3ettin3 the lids o,, jars& and that seemed to ,ascinate them. : 3uess the couldnt work out what it was ,or. #he were puttin3 their ,in3ers throu3h the hole in the middle and wavin3 them around& then tr in3 to screw each others noses o,, with it. #he were lau3hin3 a lot. : could just hear their voices throu3h the wall& soundin3 thin and hi3h9pitched& almost a little

nasal. ;ut the looked like the were havin3 a lot o, ,unF the seemed happ and e.cited. : ,elt such a mi.ture o, ,eelin3s& watchin3 them: jealous & an3er& ,ear& depression. : couldnt bear to see an more: : slipped down ,rom the tree and went and ,ound the others. #hen we stole awa throu3h the 3arden and back to the road. 2omparin3 notes as we walked alon3& we worked out that there were at least ei3ht adults in the house. :d been assumin3 that the d put one ,amil on each ,arm& but perhaps the thou3ht we were e.trava3ant& havin3 so much land between so ,ew people. !erhaps the d build houses all across the <irrawee valle & till there was one ,amil in each paddock& ,armin3 the land intensivel . : didnt know how the earth would cope with that. ;ut then& ma be we hadnt been makin3 enou3h use o, it. <e trud3ed on& each Euiet with private thou3hts and theories and dreams. :t was a,ter midni3ht when we 3ot to 2hriss place. #here were no li3hts on& but we were bein3 terribl care,ul& in case there were colonists asleep inside. ;ut b then : was sick o, tiptoein3. A5ets rock the roo,& : su33ested& thinkin3 o, the rain on the 3alvanised iron o, the shearers Euarters back at @evins. #he others looked at me pit in3l & but : was in a dan3erous mood& ,ed up with hidin3 and runnin3 and skulkin3 around. A6o& lets& : insisted. A<hats 3oin3 to happenG :, an ones in there& the re not 3oin3 to rush out into the darkness with 3uns bla8in3. #he wouldnt be that stupid. #heres plent o, cover around& so we can 3et awa ,ast i, we have to. M powers o, persuasion were better than :d realised& because within thirt seconds :d talked them into it. : wasnt sure that :d wanted to talk them into it B :d been hal, jokin3 B but to turn back now was to lose too much ,ace& : re,lected rue,ull & pickin3 up all the stones : could carr . <e a3reed on a place to meet i, we 3ot chased& then surrounded the house. "t the si3nal B a lon3& ,ri3htenin3l loud A2oooeee ,rom Homer B : let ,l . :t was Euite e.citin3. " sEuadron o, possums wearin3 ,ootball boots and wheelin3 de,ective supermarket trolle s at hi3h speed mi3ht have made as much noise& but the d have had to work at it. : backed awa ,ast& bitin3 m bottom lip in ama8ement& and almost bitin3 throu3h it when : tripped over a 3arden seat. M shins and ankles certainl took a lot o, punishment on these ni3ht9time e.cursions. >ne lone rock& an une.pected a,terthou3ht ,rom someone& suddenl clattered across the roo,& a ,ull minute a,ter all the others. #here was still not a murmur ,rom inside the house. :t was impossible that there could be

an one there a,ter that. <e 3athered a3ain near the ,ront door and sent Homer to 3o and look throu3h the kitchen window& a,ter he admitted to throwin3 the e.tra rock. A:ts too dark to see much& he 3rumbledF then& a,ter lookin3 a bit lon3er& he said A: think its the same as when we le,t that messa3e ,or 2hris. : dont think an ones been here. "nd thats the wa it was. :t was a disheartenin3 discover . <e checked the old pi33er where 2hris had hidden immediatel a,ter the invasion& but there was no si3n o, li,e there either. %o we 3athered around the dust table in the must kitchen& ,eelin3 tired and unhapp . #he rush o, e.citement ,rom the roo,9rockin3 had Euickl 3one. <e were so upset about 2hris& et so helpless. #he onl 3uesses we could make about his whereabouts were depressin3 ones. : was anno ed with m sel, that : hadnt thou3ht to ask Mrs Macken8ie and the man in the machiner shed i, the knew an thin3 about him. ;ut :d been too con,used and nervous. M onl consolation was 'ob ns comment that i, 2hris had been cau3ht and taken to the %how3round& the two adults would have mentioned it. A<ell& no news is 3ood news& Fi si3hed. AHonestl & Fi& : snapped& Athats a 3reat help. #hat must be one o, the most stupid e.pressions ever invented. Fi looked hurt. :t was a,ter one oclock and we were all tired. 7ettin3 cold too. A#heres just nothin3 more we can do& Homer said. A#o tell ou the truth& the most likel thin3 is that hes ... : hate to sa this B that hes dead. <e all sEuawked at Homer in outra3ed voices. <ed all thou3ht o, the possibilit & o, course& but to talk about it was to commit an obscenit . :t was too ,ri3htenin3 and horri, in3 to hear an one sa it out loud. !erhaps we were scared that our sa in3 it mi3ht make it real& mi3ht make it happen. :d alread learnt a lot about the power o, words. A<ell& what are we 3oin3 to doG 5ee asked. A<e cant sta here. ACes we can& Fi said. A: dont think its too sa,e round here& Homer said. A#hose colonists are just

up the road. <e dont know how ,ar the ve spread& this side o, town. #he could be at the 5an3s tomorrow. A;ut its so late& Fi said. A"nd :m so tired. "nd cold. :m so sick o, ever thin3. %he put her head down on her arms as she sat at the table. 5ee patted her hair s mpatheticall & but the rest o, us were too tired to do an thin3. A<e could sta here ,or a ,ew hours& Homer o,,ered. A;ut wed have to 3o a3ain be,ore dawn. :d rather have a 3ood sleep later than have a lous sleep now. #here was a silence as we all sat lookin3 at Fi& hopin3 shed 3ive in 3race,ull . A>h all ri3ht& she said at last& crossl & shakin3 5ees hand o,, and 3ettin3 up. A<here are we 3oin3 thenG A5ets 3o into <irrawee& Homer said Euickl . A<e havent been there ,or a3es& and we ou3ht to have a look and see whats 3oin3 on& see i, theres an thin3 we can do. :, we leave now well make it b dawn. <e were too tired to ar3ue. 6o one had an other ideas an wa . : was Euite pleased to 3o to <irrawee. : wanted to be as close to civilisation as possible. : didnt want to see Hell ,or Euite a bit lon3er. :t started rainin3 a3ain ten minutes a,ter we le,t 2hriss. #he smart thin3 to do would have been to turn around and 3o back and ,ind a dr shed& but no one even su33ested it. : think that havin3 started& we couldnt contemplate makin3 another decision. %o we plodded on in silence& 3ettin3 wetter and wetter. :t was ver dark but we could sta on the road with no ,ears o, 3ettin3 cau3ht& so we ,ollowed it easil enou3h. : dont think an one spoke a word between our departure ,rom 2hriss and our arrival in <irrawee. <e 3ot to the music teachers house at da break ;ut the 3re wet li3ht in the eastern sk was little di,,erent to the darkness o, the ni3ht. Four o, us stood shiverin3 in the 3arden& hidin3 behind trees& wet and drippin3& while Homer searched the house to make sure it was empt . : wondered where he 3ot his ener3 . He seemed to have more than me& more than an one. ;ut at last he si3nalled us in. <e sEuelched inside miserabl & ,ound towels and blankets and stripped o,, in the upstairs bathroom. Homer o,,ered to do 3uard

dut and no one 3ave him an ar3ument 'ob n and Fi snared one bed and : took another& in the ne.t bedroom. 5ee disappeared down the corridor to the end room. : just hoped the house wouldnt 3et raided while we were all undressed& but there was no si3n o, an one havin3 been here since our last visit. : la there and as so o,ten happened& havin3 waited all ni3ht to 3et to a bed and 3et some sleep& now that : was in bed m e es wouldnt close. : had never ,elt more awake. #he coarse woollen blanket prickled m skin& but in a nice wa . :t ,elt rou3h and primitive. For a lon3 time : couldnt 3et warm& and : pressed m le3s to3ether and huddled ,urther under the blankets& tr in3 to hot up. =ventuall the blankets covered me completel . : crossed m arms and put m hands into m armpits. M skin tin3led as the blood started to circulate a3ain& until onl m ,eet were still cold. : put the ri3ht one on top o, the le,t& willin3 them to thaw out. "t last the warmth& the snu3ness& the cosiness that :d been needin3 ,or so lon3& spread throu3h me& till : could rela. all over. : la there& ,eelin3 lu.urious. #hen : heard a whisper. A"re ou awakeG : popped m head out in shock. : ,elt like a possum comin3 out o, a tree trunk& and : know m e es were starin3 and m hair was all mussed up ,rom the blanket& so : probabl looked like a possum too. :t was 5ee. ACou look like a caterpillar a3ain. A6ot a possumG ACes& that too. 2an : 3et in with ouG He was standin3 there wrapped in a blanket& shiverin3 with cold. His brown e es looked at me pleadin3l . : ,elt a slow warm burn o, e.citement& but tried not to show it. A6oD : said. A:m onl wearin3 blankets. A#hats what : was hopin3. :ts all :m wearin3 too. A5eeD A!leaseG

A6o. <ell& ou can lie on the bed : suppose& but thats all. "nd dont think& : added as he started Euickl hoppin3 over to me& Athat oure 3oin3 to sweet9 talk me into an thin3 else. A;ut m charm and personalit ... ACeah& eah& : know all about that. He la beside me with his head restin3 on his ri3ht arm& lookin3 at me thou3ht,ull . He had the trace o, a smile. A<hat are ou thinkin3G he asked presentl . A>h. Hed cau3ht me b surprise. :t was too e.citin3 havin3 him this close. : was 3ettin3 hot under the blankets. A: dont think : want to answer that. A7o on. A:ll answer part o, it. : was wonderin3 wh ou were smilin3.

#o m surprise he didnt sa an thin3 ,or Euite a while. ;ut the smile had le,t his ,ace. He looked ver serious& like he was in church or somethin3. A2ouldnt ou sleepG : asked him. A6o. : dont sleep so well these da s. 6ot since that ni3ht b the cli,,. : shuddered. A2han3e the subject. He suddenl moved a little closer and kissed me hard. : kissed him back& possibl even harder. :t was so ,resh& but : didnt know where it mi3ht end& or where : wanted it to end. 7raduall his kisses chan3ed ,rom hard and sava3e to so,t and teasin3& makin3 little li3ht contacts with m lips in one spot a,ter another. :t was e.citin3. <e did that ,or Euite a time& then la with our heads on each others shoulders. His blanket had slipped down a bit& thou3h : was makin3 sure that mine didnt. : ,elt the smooth hollow under his collarbone& his skin warm and alive. : nud3ed it with m lips& makin3 little murmurin3 noises to it& and rubbed m hands up his arms. : ,ound a little pulse under the skin and concentrated on kissin3 that. He was hummin3 Euietl & : thou3ht& but : wasnt sure i, it was his skin or his voice. He pla ed with m hair and the back o, m neck& strokin3 me with surprisin3 con,idence. <ith his lon3 ,ine ,in3ers he teased m hair out& unravellin3 a ,ew knots and lettin3 the strands slide across his hands.

A6ice hair& he said at last. A:ts so oil & : complained. A: like it. :t ,eels natural. :ts se. . A#hanks. : lau3hed. He must have taken that ,or encoura3ement& because he moved his hand down under the blanket ,or the ,irst time& ,eelin3 ,or m shoulder blades. >h help& : thou3ht. <hat do : do hereG ?ad alwa s used to talk about the thin ed3e o, the wed3e& and : was a,raid that this was it. : didnt want to stop& but : thou3ht ma be we should& and : thou3ht : mi3ht re3ret it i, : didnt stop him soon. ;ut it ,elt so 3ood. ?amn him& : thou3ht& how does he know what : likeG : wondered i, : was havin3 the same e,,ect on him with m hands& and : e.perimentall ran m ,in3ers down his side as ,ar as : could 3et& which wasnt ver ,ar. His skin seemed to come out in 3oose pimples as : touched him& which was Euite e.citin3. : li,ted m sel, a little and touched his le,t nipple. %teve had tau3ht me that bo s nipples were as sensitive as 3irls. 5ees were di,,erent to %teves thou3h. %teves had been pale and wide& like ,ried e33s on his chest. : liked 5ees more. #he were little and dark brown& like press studs. <hen : pla ed with the le,t one it hardened strai3htawa & so : could strum it and tickle it with the tip o, m ,in3er. A"i& ai& ai& he said. A:s that #hai or HietnameseG A6either. Kniversal. AHa. M blanket was holdin3 up at the ,ront& just& but was well down at the back& as 5ees hands kept roamin3. : la still ,or a while& ,eelin3 3uilt that : wasnt doin3 more but enjo in3 his touch too much. M skin had become so heated that : thou3ht his hands would catch ,ire. : moved back o,, him a little& but couldnt help pla in3 with his ri3ht nipple ,or a minute& just like : had the le,t. #hen : ran m hand lower& in a lon3 sweepin3 movement& kissin3 him warml as : did so. A"re ou 3oin3 to be able to stopG : asked him.

A%ure& sure. ACoure a terrible liar. ; movin3 back o,, him that little bit :d 3iven him more room. #r in3 to look casual& he put his hand under the blanket that was just coverin3 me at the ,ront& at the same time kissin3 me hard to tr to distract me. "nd : was easil distracted. : let him run his hands over m skin& thinkin3 that what had been ,air enou3h ,or him was ,air enou3h ,or me. : rumpled his hair& ,eelin3 m ,ace redden as he e.cited me more and more. <ould : be able to stopG <ould : want to stopG : alread knew the answer to that& as : had done since he ,irst came into the room. A>h 7od 5ee& : said& but couldnt think o, how : should ,inish the sentence. M own hands went ,urther than the should have& down to his waist and be ond. :t was as thou3h the had a li,e o, their own. #he hell with it& : thou3ht. :ll do it. 5ast time wed been in this house :d spent a lot o, time wrapped in a tartan ru3: thats when 5ee had ,irst called me a caterpillar& a Abeauti,ul se. caterpillar. 6ow& a caterpillar a3ain& : was emer3in3 ,rom m cocoon o, blankets. 5ees hands were at m bum and he was rollin3 me over a little. : ,elt up inside his le3s as hi3h as : dared& but not Euite touchin3 ever thin3. : sneaked a little look thou3h. :t was ,ascinatin3F such a wild lookin3 thin3& so 3reed & so determined. : knew 5ee was lookin3 at me too& and : was a bit embarrassed. 6ot ver & thou3h. :t was obvious that he liked what he saw& and : secretl enjo ed the e,,ect : was havin3 on him. AHave ou 3ot a ..G : asked& turnin3 m head awa a little. : didnt want to sa the word. A" whatG he asked. ACou know& a condom. A>h noD he 3roaned& A=llieD 6ot thatD 6ot nowD A>@& >@& : said& Athats cool& just as lon3 as ou have the bab ,or me. AJesus& 5ee swore. A?o ou have toG ACesD 2an ou ima3ine i, : 3ot pre3nantG He sulked ,or a minute& then said& A: think Homers 3ot some.

AHow man do ou think oull needG : asked& 3i33lin3 into m pillow. He started 3ettin3 up. A<aitD : said. A<hat are ou 3oin3 to doG Cou cant just 3o and ask him ,or them. A:m not that stupid& he said& still 3rump . A#he re in his wallet& and his wallet should be in his trousers and his trousers are in the bathroom& dr in3. He disappeared out o, the door& shu,,lin3 alon3 in his blanket& and : la there& smilin3. : couldnt believe : was actuall 3oin3 to do it. : hoped : wouldnt muck it up and that it wouldnt hurt too much and that it would ,eel ,antastic. : was nervous& but : was still achin3 all over with the need ,or him& the lon3in3 to ,eel him a3ainst me a3ain. His warm hands had ,elt ,antastic. : 3ave a little lau3h out loud& a lau3h o, ama8ement and disbelie, and e.citement. :t seemed a3es be,ore he came back& but at last he shu,,led in and ,lun3 himsel, on top o, me& clutchin3 a couple o, the little packets in his hand. <ith a sh 3rin& tr in3 to do it as modestl as possible& he 3ot himsel, out ,rom his blanket and in under mine. #o ,eel our two naked bodies to3ether& skin to skin& was the wildest ,eelin3 o, m li,e. : thou3ht :d been ,ired up be,ore& but now it was like sparks were shootin3 o,, me. 5ee had calmed down with the walk to the bathroom& and had cooled down too& but : warmed him b rubbin3 a3ainst him& and ,elt him Euickl react. A!ut it on& : said at last& noddin3 at his clenched ,ist. He peeled one open and li,ted himsel, o,, me& lookin3 down so he could see what he was doin3. : watched curiousl . A?ont look& he said& blushin3 and tr in3 to put his ,orearm over m e es. A>h& : said& A oure so cute when oure sh . <hen he was read : hu33ed him to me and nibbled his ear ,or a minute& be,ore wrappin3 m le3s around him. ",ter that it went >@F not 3reat& but >@. 5ee 3ot a bit clums & just ,rom nerves : think& and that made me a bit nervous& which didnt help. : wanted to be the 3reat lover& the per,ect partner& and : 3ot worried that : wasnt bein3 that. ; the time he was reall in me he couldnt hold on an lon3er& and a,ter that he wasnt as passionateF he just wanted to lie there and hold me. : made him be a bit more creative& until :d had enou3h too. : didnt know

what : ,elt then: a mi.ture o, thin3s. : was pleased that :d ,inall done it without an disasters& sorr that it hadnt been better& wonderin3 i, :d be completel di,,erent ,rom now on. ;ut : enjo ed the cuddlin3. For about hal, an hour we la to3ether& e es closed& scratchin3 each others arms and backs with lon3 slow la8 strokes& dri,tin3 in and out o, sleep. <e were interrupted b a so,t knock on the door and Homers whisper. A=llieD :ts our turn ,or sentr . A>@& : called. A:ll be there. : waited a ,ew more minutes& then eased 5ee o,, me. : pulled up a blanket ,or coverin3& plannin3 to 3o downstairs and 3et some dr clothes ,rom m pack be,ore : relieved Homer. ;ut as : 3ot to the door& : suddenl realised somethin3. Homer had knocked on the door& then called his messa3e throu3h it. Hed never done that be,ore. He alwa s just crashed in and shook me awake. <ed known each other so lon3 we didnt bother with too man polite customs. : turned and looked at 5ee& l in3 there on the bed. A5ee& : said& Awh did Homer knock on the doorG A=hG he said& onl hal, awake. A<h did Homer knockG <h didnt he come bar3in3 in like he usuall doesG %uddenl he was awake. He looked at me 3uiltil . A;astard& : said coldl . A: couldnt ,ind the condoms& he said. A: had to ask him. : threw the door open and stormed out& spoilin3 the e,,ect a bit b trippin3 over the blanket. : was ,urious. : didnt want Homer to know what wed been doin3. >nce Homer knew& ever oned know. #he onl 3ood thin3 about 5ee tellin3 him was that it kept me awake throu3h m whole sentr turn. : spent the time havin3 ima3inar conversations with 5ee& tellin3 him what : thou3ht o, him. "n3ers 3ood like that.

2hapter Fi,teen

: calmed down eventuall with 5ee. : could see how it would have happened& his tellin3 Homer& althou3h : still wished he hadnt. ;ut : Euite enjo ed the wa he hun3 about& lookin3 so embarrassed and 3uilt & ,or a little while an wa . He deserved to su,,er a bit. "ll in all thou3h& : ,elt prett 3ood. " bit sore occasionall when : moved the wron3 wa & but prett 3ood. : was watchin3 m sel, all da & wonderin3 i, : had chan3ed& i, : was a new person now. ;ut nothin3 ma3ic seemed to have happened. :n one wa : was relieved& but in another : was sorr that :d never be a vir3in a3ain. :t was one o, those steps: once ouve taken it& theres no 3oin3 back. >ne thin3 that : hadnt e.pected was the sense o, bein3 alive that : ,elt all da . :t was stran3e but nice. : think it was a reaction to all the death and deterioration that had surrounded us ,or so lon3. 6ow :d done somethin3 positive and lovin3& that wasnt destructive. #hat made a bi3 chan3e ,rom the wa wed been livin3. : know babies are a nuisance& and havin3 them is meant to be eleven on a pain scale o, one to ten& but : did have a little da dream about ma be havin3 a ,ew& one da & in ,i,t ears or so. : just had a ,eelin3 that people like us had to keep li,e movin3 ,orward. #he time was to come thou3h when : ,ound m sel, doin3 somethin3 cold9 bloodedl destructive a3ain. Fi and : were havin3 a prowl that ni3ht throu3h the streets o, <irrawee. <e were headin3 ,or Fis pace. %he wanted to see her house& to pick up a ,ew thin3s& and to make hersel, ,eel 3ood (or bad) b walkin3 throu3h its deserted rooms. Fis parents& bein3 solicitors& had heaps o, mone & and the lived in the best part o, <irrawee& a bi3 old house in a street o, bi3 old houses up on the hill. <e didnt hurr to 3et there. <e must have been in the mood to take risks. :t was earl to be out& but we wanted some ,resh air. "lthou3h it had been rainin3 all da a3ain& and althou3h the streets 3leamed with puddles& it wasnt rainin3 when we le,t the music teachers house. #he cloud was low and

that kept the temperature up a bit. <e sneaked alon3 ,or a ,ew blocks& 3oin3 ,rom 3arden to 3arden& so we didnt have to spend much time on ,ootpaths. <hen we 3ot to Jubilee !ark we settled into the band pavilion and talked& lookin3 out across the unmown 3rass and the weed9ridden ,lower beds. #he ,irst thin3 that was obvious was that Fi knew what :d done with 5ee. AHowd ou knowG : said. AHomer told me. A>h& he wouldD : was so burned o,, at 5ee ,or tellin3 him. "n wa & : thou3ht ou and Homer werent havin3 too man intimate conversations these da s. AMmm& well& its not like it used to be. ;ut we still 3et on >@. : dont think hes into lon39term relationships. A: hardl seem to have talked to him ,or a3es. Most o, m conversations are with ou and 5ee. AMust have been a prett 3ood conversation with 5ee this mornin3. A7et out o, itD :t just happened& >@G ?ont 3ive me a hard time. A%ounds like 5ee 3ave ou a hard time. A>h& e.cuse meD A<as it 3oodG AMmm& not bad. %ome o, it was ,antastic. #he actual ou know& was a bit awkward. :tll be better ne.t time. A%o therell be a ne.t timeG A: dont knowD <ell o, course there will eventuall . ;ut :m not sa in3 that :m 3oin3 to do it ever ni3ht. A?id it hurtG A" bit. 6othin3 too terrible. A:t sounds so mess & said Fi& who alwa s wanted li,e to be like a ma3a8ine. A<as there heaps o, bloodG

A6oD :t wasnt& like& a3on . %ome o, it& the ,irst bit& hurt& and : was nervous& but a,ter that there were some nice ,eelin3s. 5ee didnt last lon3. ;ut : still think its better ,or the 3u & the ,irst time an wa . A"re ou sure it was his ,irst timeG ACesD He didnt know much. A:s he ... Fi went into heaps o, 3i33les& di,,icult& as we were talkin3 in whispers& surrounded b the damp Euiet darkness. A:s he ... how bi3 is heG A: knew oud ask thatD : didnt 3et out a tape measure ou know. ACes& but ... AHes bi3 enou3h& believe me. : dont know what the avera3e is& but hed be up to it. <e both 3ot the 3i33les then. "t ten oclock we snuck on up the hill towards #urner %treet. :t wasnt till we 3ot to the last corner that we had an idea thin3s had chan3ed. #here were about twelve houses in the street and all had li3hts on. #here were even ,our streetli3hts. #wo houses seemed to have li3hts in ever room but the others were onl showin3 one or two. Fi stood there makin3 little whinin3 noises in the back o, her throat& like a pupp thats been hurt. : couldnt believe it. :t was like comin3 on a scene ,rom ?isne land& or walkin3 into %ideshow "lle . :t seemed like a kind o, ,air land. #he onl trouble was that ,or us this was no ,air land. #his was dan3erous. : pulled Fi back& and we retreated behind a tree. A<hat do ou thinkG : asked her. %he shook her head& tears in her e es& a sob in her voice. A: hate them. <hat are the doin3 hereG <h cant the just 3o back where the came ,romG <e watched ,or nearl an hour. >ccasionall a soldier came out o, one house and went into another. <e were 3oin3 to move in closer and have a better look& but as we started we heard a vehicle comin3 up the hill. <e ducked back behind our tree. " lar3e& late model Ja3uar cruised past and turned into #urner %treet. :n its headli3hts : noticed somethin3 else: that there

were sentries posted inconspicuousl outside a couple o, the houses. <e were ver luck that we hadnt 3one sneakin3 alon3 there. #he Ja3uar stopped outside Fis nei3hbours& a bri3htl lit two9store white wooden house with a hi3h 3able. "s it stopped& a sentr came trottin3 out o, the bushes and opened one o, its rear doors& salutin3 a man in uni,orm who 3ot out. "lthou3h this man wore jun3le 3reens like ever one else& his peaked cap distin3uished him ,rom them. He was an o,,icer& and we be3an to realise what the houses were bein3 used ,or. #his was the =.ecutive %uite o, <irrawee. %nob Hill was still %nob Hill. <e retreated to the music teachers house to report to the others but Homer was asleep& and so was 5ee& to m secret relie,. <e were so wrecked ourselves that we didnt wake the two bo s. 'ob n& who was on sentr dut & was awake& so we talked to her ,or a ,ew minutes& then headed ,or bed. : slept with Fi& which saved me ,rom havin3 to make an di,,icult decisions about m love li,e& and it wasnt till nine oclock the ne.t mornin3 that we all sat down and discussed what the two o, us had seen in #urner %treet. <e sat in a bow window& where we could watch the street& and we talked. :t was a 3ood conversation& one o, the best wed had as a 3roup ,or Euite a while. : was l in3 with m head in 5ees lap& and ,rom there : told the two bo s what wed told 'ob n the ni3ht be,ore. ",ter Fi added her bit& 'ob n started talkin3. A: deserted m post ,or a ,ew minutes last ni3ht& she said. A#he onl wa : could keep awake was to 3o ,or a walk. %o : went down to the park at the end o, the street and came back a3ain. :ts ,unn & theres somethin3 there that : must have been past a thousand times and never noticed. ;ut : noticed it last ni3ht. #here was a pause. A>@& Homer said at last. A: 3ive up. <as it animal& ve3etable or mineralG 'ob n made a ,ace at him. A:t was the war memorial& she said. A>h that& Homer said. A>h es& Fi said. A: knew that was there. : had to put a wreath on it when : was in Cear *.

A;ut have ou ever looked at itG 'ob n asked. A: mean& properl G A6o& not reall . AMe neither. ;ut : did last ni3ht. :t was sad. #heres so man names on it& with asterisks ,or the ones who died. #heres ,our wars alto3ether& and theres ,ort men who died& just ,rom this little district. "nd down the bottom theres a messa3e& ,rom a poem or somethin3. :t sa s ... 'ob n looked at her wrist and with some di,,icult read the lines o, tin writin3 that shed jotted there: AI<ar is our scour3eF et war has made us wise& I"nd& ,i3htin3 ,or our ,reedom& we are ,ree.J A<hats Iscour3eJ meanG Homer asked. A:ts when somethin3 bad happens to A%omethin3 reall reall bad. ou& isnt itG Fi said to me.

AMmm& "ttila the Hun& the called him the %cour3e o, 7od& : said& with a va3ue memor o, a Histor lesson in Cear +. A%a the thin3 a3ain& 5ee said. 'ob n repeated it. A: dont know i, its made us wise& 5ee said. A"nd : dont think its made us ,ree. AMa be it has& : said& tr in3 to 3et m brain enmeshed in the idea. A<ere a lot di,,erent to the wa we were a ,ew months a3o. AHowG asked 5ee. A5ook at Homer. "t school he was like "ttila the <o3. : mean& honestl Homer& ou have to admit& ou were hopeless& just loun3in3 around all da with our shirt out& makin3 smart comments. #he da this started& ou chan3ed. Couve been a bit o, a star ou know. Couve had all the 3ood ideas and ouve made us do thin3s we wouldnt have done without ou. : think ouve lost a bit o, steam since the ambush o, that convo & but : dont blame ou ,or that. :t was an u3l scene. A: was wron3 about those 3uns& Homer said. A: shouldnt have had them on

me without ou 3u s knowin3. #hat was dumb. Homer was Euite red in the ,ace and lookin3 over our heads. :t was so rare ,or him to admit he was wron3 about an thin3 that : bit back the joke : was 3oin3 to make. :n ,act he hadnt been entirel wron3 about the 3uns B hed convinced me o, that when wed ar3ued about it in Hell. ;ut he had just proved how much wiser he was these da s. : 3ave him a wink and ,elt ,or his hand& 3ettin3 a 3ood 3rip on it. : was now touchin3 the two bo s : loved most in the world& and : thou3ht how luck : was. A#hen theres 5ee& : continued. A;e,ore& ou seemed so bound up in our own li,e. Hiolin and schoolwork and the restaurant and not much else. 6ow& well& oure still a ver complicated 3u 5ee& but oure much more out3oin3& and oure ver determined and stron3. A"nd horn & Homer added Euietl . : 3ave him a hard slap on the hand. : think 5ee 3ave him a dirt look too& jud3in3 b Homers e.pression. A'ob n& : said& A ou were alwa s stron3 and ou were alwa s smart& so : suppose ou havent chan3ed much. Cou still stick to what ou believe in thou3h& and : think thats ama8in3. Cou seem calmer and surer than the rest o, us. : think ouve 3ot the wisdom that it talks about on that memorial. 'ob n lau3hed. A:m not wise& she said. A: just tr to ,i3ure out what 7od would want me to do. : didnt know what to sa to that& so : moved on to m last subject. AFi& : think ouve become more ,ree in a wa . : mean& ou think about our li,e be,ore& livin3 in that bi3 house& 3oin3 o,, to our piano lessons& mi.in3 with the rich and the ,amous. 6ow ouve been campin3 in the bush ,or months& ,i3htin3 in a war& racin3 round blowin3 thin3s up& lookin3 a,ter chooks and 3rowin3 ve3etables ... :t is a kind o, ,reedom compared to what ou used to have. A: could never 3o back to that li,e& Fi said. A: dont want to keep livin3 like this either& o, course. ;ut i, the war ended tomorrow& : couldnt suddenl start worr in3 about ,lower arran3ements ,or Mums dinner parties& and havin3 the ri3ht paper ,or answerin3 invitations. : dont know what :d do& but :d tr to ,ind somethin3 use,ul& somethin3 that would stop this stu,, happenin3 a3ain. A6ow its our turn& =llie& 'ob n said.

A>h eah& >@& whos 3oin3 to do meG : askedF then& realisin3 what :d said& 3ave Homer m best A?ont ou dare look. : was just in time: his mouth was alread openin3 to sa the obvious. A: will& 'ob n said. %he thou3ht ,or a moment& then be3an. ACoure better at listenin3 than ou were. Coure more sensitive to other people. Coure brave. :n ,act : think oure the bravest o, an o, us. Coure still a bit pi39headed sometimes& and ou dont like admittin3 when oure wron3& but ouve been a tower o, stren3th& =l& ou reall have. : 3lowed with pleasure. :m not used to compliments. :ve never had a hu3e number o, them. A:ve been braver since that bi3 speech o, Homers a3es a3o& down at the creek& : said. A: think about that now& when :m in a scar spot. A<hat speechG Fi asked. ACou know. <hen he said that its all a mental thin3. <hen oure scared ou can either 3ive in to the panic and let our mind ,all apart& or ou can take char3e o, our mind and think brave. : a3ree with that. A%ee& thats wisdom& 'ob n said. A<ell& what are we 3oin3 to do ne.tG Homer asked. He sat up a bit strai3hten A:ts time we did somethin3 a3ain. <eve had a lon3 holida . <e did nothin3 with Harve s Heroes& and its time we 3ot a move on. #hose radio bulletins have been Euite encoura3in3. #heres lots o, places where people have been ,i3htin3 back& and the @iwis have made a di,,erence. <e cant let <irrawee become a stron3hold ,or these scum& and were about the onl people who can stop it happenin3. %o whats it to beG ACou tell us& : said& 3rinnin3. : knew Homer would alread have an idea. A>@& he shru33ed. A<hat Fi and =llie saw last ni3ht 3ives us our ,irst real chance in a lon3 time. :t sounds like the mi3ht be usin3 those houses as a headEuarters. #hats lo3ical enou3h B the re the best places in town. <e need to check it out more care,ull thou3h& till we know whats 3oin3 on. : su33est we sp on them ,or a couple o, da s& or however lon3 it takes. "nd Fi& can ou draw up maps o, the houses& usin3 ever thin3 ou rememberG "nd then well add to those maps whenever we can.

<e decided that wed sneak into %t Johns& the church dia3onall opposite Fis& and use the tower ,or our lookout post. #hat was 'ob ns churchF she knew it as well as m mother knew her kitchen. %he was sure she could 3et in there& throu3h a small window in the vestr that she said was held in place b a brick because the church hadnt had the mone to ,i. it. Ksin3 the tower was an unattractive deal in a lot o, wa s because wed have to 3o in at ni3ht and sta there till the ne.t ni3ht. <ed have to take ,ood and drink and& because there was no toilet& wed have to take a ,ew containers ,or emer3encies. : dont know what 7od would have thou3ht o, that. Homer and 'ob n wanted to do the ,irst shi,t and we decided Fi and : would do the ne.t one& then Homer and 5ee. ;ut we all went up there that ,irst ni3ht to install 'ob n and Homer. <e waited till ,our oclock. #hat was hardl a problem ,or us now. <e were so used to ,unctionin3 at ni3ht that : no lon3er ,elt tired durin3 1 am and 4 am operations. <e came up to %t Johns ,rom the rear& climbin3 over the ,ence ,rom ;arrabool "venue. :t was sa,er that wa & protected ,rom pr in3 e es in #urner %treet. 'ob n 3ot the vestr window out with no problemsF in ,act it had ,allen backwards and was restin3 a3ainst its brick. ;ut 3ettin3 throu3h it was a problem. 'ob n had ,or3otten how small it was. Fi was the onl one who had an hope& so Homer li,ted her and ,ed her throu3h& head ,irst. <hen it came to her hips she had to turn and twist and wri33le. <e could hear her 3i33lin3 and pantin3& then a thump as she hit the ,loor head ,irst. A>uch& : sEuealed. A"re ou all ri3htG A%hhh& Homer went. ACes& no thanks to Homer& Fi whispered back. %he opened the door. <e tiptoed in. :t was ver dark o, course& but the thin3 that struck me most was its smell. :t was so must and dank and cold. 'ob n led us out o, the vestr and into the main bod o, the church. #he stained93lass windows looked like dark etchin3s& but some li3ht ,rom the lamps in #urner %treet li,ted the 3loom. : havent spent a lot o, time in churches in m li,e B we live too ,ar out o, town& thats m e.cuse B but : like the atmosphere in them. #he re alwa s rest,ul. : looked around this one& narrowin3 m e es to tr to see the details. #he altar& up in the distance& did look kind o, hol . :t made me nervous. #here was a cruci,i.& too& on a pillar near me. " sEuare o, li3ht ,rom a window crisscrossed the cruci,i.. : peered

closer to tr to see the ,ace on it& but it was turned awa ,rom me& and in shadow. : didnt know what that meant. 'ob n called us to come into the tower. : walked down the aisle with 5ee& wonderin3 i, we mi3ht do it properl one da . : didnt know what m parents would think o, the idea and : knew ,rom somethin3 5ee had said to me a3es a3o that his parents would never want him to marr an "n3lo. "s we 3ot to the back o, the church 5ee surprised me b sa in3 A: hate these places. A2hurchesG ACes. A<h G A: dont know. #he smell o, death. #he re like dead places. AMmm. : Euite like them. Homer and 'ob n ,ound little windows hal,wa up the staircase& which the could use ,or sp in3. #he made themselves as com,ortable as possible. : couldnt help a little nast thou3ht& which had snuck into m mind like a worm& that ma be the reason Homer had been so adamant about doin3 this ,irst da was 'ob ns comment that : was the bravest o, our 3roup. Homer wouldnt have liked that. :n his thinkin3& 3u s were alwa s the heroes& alwa s that little bit better than 3irls. Ma be that was wh : made sure : never let Homer 3et the better o, me. <ed brou3ht paper and pens& to write down what we saw durin3 the da . <ed been a bit nervous about doin3 this. Just like with the 3uns& a lon3 time earlier& we knew the di,,erence between a 3roup o, teena3ers hidin3 in the bush and livin3 o,, the land& and a 3roup o, armed 3uerillas collectin3 and recordin3 in,ormation about enem movements. <ed seen enou3h war movies and read enou3h books to know how that worked. ;ut we ,ound a 3ap in the stonework o, the church tower where we could shove the bits o, paper i, we 3ot busted& and once dropped in there we ,i3ured the d sta lost ,orever. <e did want to 3et a 3ood idea o, the movements in and out o, the houses& to see what was reall 3oin3 on in #urner %treet. "lthou3h no one

had spelt out details& we all had in mind that we were in the ,irst sta3es o, our ne.t attack. :t would be a tou3h one& our most di,,icult and dan3erous et& and we had to plan with ma.imum care. "t ,ive oclock Fi and 5ee and : le,t the other two to it. #he would have a cold and borin3 and uncom,ortable da . Just like Fi and : would have the ,ollowin3 da . ;ut back at the music teachers house we had a prett borin3 time an wa . >ne o, us had to keep watch there too B it was just unthinkabl dan3erous doin3 it an other wa B so most o, the time we hun3 round with the person on sentr & pla in3 #rivial !ursuit and stu,, like that. <hen Fi was on sentr & 5ee and : went o,, to the sittin3 room and made out a bit. : wanted to 3o ,or it& ,ull on& but 5ee seemed distracted. : think the knowled3e that we were buildin3 up to another attack on the enem & another chance to 3et injured or killed& put him on ed3e. 6o blood wonder. : was nervous too. ;ut : seemed able to put it out o, m mind better than him. :t was stran3e: back in the old da s : 3ot nervous waitin3 to pla 6etball or 3ive a prepared speech in =n3lish. 2ompared to that& what we were doin3 now should have had me in a straitjacket. Homer and 'ob n stuck it out till midni3ht& which reall was heroic& as : realised when : moved in there a ,ew hours later with Fi. ;ut the came back with some interestin3 stu,,. :n ,act& their notes were so dan3erous that it proved how care,ul wed have to be not to be cau3ht with them. #hese houses were hives o, activit . #here was a ,leet o, e.pensive cars B two Ja3s and three Mercs B and the were comin3 and 3oin3 at all hours. "t least si. di,,erent H:!s used them& all in o,,icers uni,orms& all treated with 3reat respect b the sentries. :t seemed as i, one house mi3ht be used as a headEuarters and two as livin3 Euarters ,or the senior men and women. #he other houses& includin3 Fis& seemed to be used onl b the sentries. #he sentries 3uarded all the houses& but it was the one used as a headEuarters that the 3uarded most heavil . #he chan3ed shi,ts ever ,our hours. #here were ,our o, them 3uardin3 the main house& and two each ,or the others. #he soldiers were a real mi.ture& Homer and 'ob n said: some smart and slick& some slopp and uninterested. AMost o, them dont look like ,ront9line troops& 'ob n said. A:ts like those patrols. #he oun3est ones look about ,ourteen& the oldest could be ,i,t . Fi and : settled into the tower just be,ore dawn. :t was ,ree8in3 in there: we had to take it in turns to 3o ,or walks round the church ever hal,9hour. <e were wearin3 so man clothes that we looked like Michelin men. Fi made me

do aerobics ,or a ,ew minutes& to warm me up& but it was too hard with all the clothin3. #here was no action in the street until ei3ht oclock& when the chan3ed sentries. Fi wrote it down: A-.00& sentries. ACou should write 0-00& : pointed out. A#hats the militar st le. :n each house hal, o, the sentries took up positions at the ,ront and the others disappeared around the back. <e could see some activit startin3 inside the houses too. >n the upper ,loor o, the place ne.t to Fis& a man came to the window dressed onl in jocks& and stood there lookin3 out ,or a minute. Fi collapsed in 3i33les as the man li,ted one arm& then the other& spra in3 his armpits with deodorant. " woman dressed in a 3reen and white tracksuit came out o, another house and jo33ed o,, down the street. :t seemed that the o,,icers kept o,,ice hours. Ma be thats wh the were called o,,icers. "n wa & at ,ive to nine& people started comin3 out o, the houses. %ome were just dressed in ordinar soldiers clothes& but si. looked like bi3 shots. >ne o, them was the one Fi and : had seen in the Ja3uar. #he all conver3ed on a bi3 old brick house hal,wa alon3 #urner %treet. A?octor ;ur3esss place& Fi said. A6ice house. "s the mornin3 wore on it was hard to remember that we were doin3 an thin3 dan3erous. :t was like watchin3 a normal business in ,ull swin3. 2ars came and went& people hurried in and out o, houses& we could even hear phones rin3in3 sometimes when the street was reall Euiet. 5unch started at 1/.10& when people wandered back to di,,erent houses. %ome sat out in the street in the weak sunshine& eatin3 ,rom little plastic ?elicious smells wa,ted ,rom kitchens& makin3 our mouths water and our tummies make little snorin3 noises. Mourn,ull we turned to our own lunches: Hita ;rits spread with jam or He3emite or hone . :t wasnt bad& althou3h : missed little lu.uries like butter and mar3arine. : lon3ed ,or hot ,ood& and ,or somethin3 with meat& like the meals the soldiers were preparin3. 6ot a lot else happened until 4.1$& and then we saw somethin3 that made us nearl swallow our ton3ues. : was watchin3 while Fi did a ,ew laps o, the church to warm hersel, up. %hed just returned and was leanin3 a3ainst the wall beside me& pantin3 hard. A>h Fi& nobod ll bu our ,itness video i, ou dont li,t our 3ame& : said. AHello& here comes another car. Fi turned towards her window and watched with me as the car pulled up. :t

was one we hadnt seen be,ore& a 'an3e 'over. A#hats the 'id3ewa s car& Fi said indi3nantl . %he sounded Euite outra3ed& as thou3h this was the most serious crime committed durin3 the whole war. A7o and make a citi8ens arrest& : said& still watchin3 the car. #here was a driver& who looked like an ordinar soldier& and two people sittin3 in the back. >ne was another senior o,,icer& wearin3 a peaked cap& and with 3old pipin3 on his uni,orm jacket. : couldnt see much o, the other one. #he car pulled up outside Fis nei3hbours& and the two men in the back 3ot out. "n archwa covered with a lea, creeper topped the ,ront 3ate o, the house and be ond it a windin3 path throu3h the 3arden led to the door. #his meant that once people went throu3h the 3ate we onl had one more 3limpse o, them. #o make matters worse& the 'an3e 'over had pulled up ver close to the ,ront 3ate. #he man in the ri3ht9hand rear seat had to walk around the back o, the car& so we 3ot a 3ood look at him. ;ut the other man was out o, the vehicle and throu3h the 3ate without us havin3 an view. #here was just that moment when he was walkin3 alon3 the path towards the door and would pass between two red9bud trees. : craned to 3et a 3ood look. #hen& with a horri,ied sEueal& : clutched at Fi& who was just be ond clutchin3 ran3e. A<hatG she said. A<hatG %he hadnt been lookin3 ver hard and alread it was too late to see the man. A>h 7od& : dont believe it. >h m 7od. A<hatG Fi asked a3ain& 3ettin3 impatient& and ma be a bit scared too. A#hat was Major Harve D A>h =llie& dont be ridiculous. AFi& : swear. : swear to ou& that was Major Harve . A"re ou sureG ACes& : think so. A<ell are ou sure or do ou just think soG A:m ninet per cent sure. 6o& :m ninet 9,ive per cent sure. Fi& honestl & it was him. ?idnt ou even 3et a 3limpseG

A<ell& just a 3limpse. :t could have been him& : suppose. He was about the ri3ht si8e. : leaned a3ainst the wall& tremblin3. AFi& i, it is him& what do ou think it meansG A: dont know. >h 3osh =llie. Fi started to realise the implications. A?o ou think ...G >h noD Ma be ... ma be hes just pretendin3 to be with them so he can sp on them. : shook m head. <h did : know instinctivel that there was somethin3 in Major Harve that would make him incapable o, that kind o, coura3eG How did : know that he had some ,atal weakness that would alwa s ,ind him out& like water ,ound the weakest spot in a tank& and sheep the one hole in the ,enceG : knew thou3hF as surel as : knew that we had un,inished business with Major Harve . <e kept watchin3 on into the evenin3& but the man did not come out a3ain. From ,ive to si. oclock& people seemed to ,inish work and dri,t back to the other houses. "t ei3ht oclock we saw our ,ourth sentr chan3e and at ten oclock we withdrew& slippin3 out throu3h the vestr door and tiptoein3 throu3h the 3rave ard. : couldnt wait to tell the others what wed seen. 5ee and Homer were asleep but we woke them strai3htawa . "nd the ,ive o, us spent hours discussin3 the possibilities. <e a3reed thou3h: the ,irst thin3 we had to do was con,irm that the man :d 3limpsed reall was the e.9commander o, Harve s Heroes.

2hapter %i.teen

<e didnt see an one who looked like Harve ,or two da s. "s ,ar as we could tell the man didnt leave the house ,or that time& but on the third da & when 'ob n and : were in the tower& we saw him Euite clearl . #he 'an3e 'over pulled up about ten metres short o, the 3ate& so when Harve stepped into the street he had to walk that distance to the car. "s he emer3ed throu3h the 3atewa & we 3ot a per,ect view: a small tubb man in a dark suitF the onl person wed seen in #urner %treet who wasnt in militar uni,orm. 'ob n 3a8ed at me in ama8ement. A:t reall is him& she breathed. :d been startin3 to doubt m own e esi3ht and m own memor & and it was e.citin3 to be proved ri3ht. : was so pleased with m sel, that : just stood there 3a8in3 triumphantl at 'ob n. #he 'an3e 'over K9turned and be3an to accelerate slowl awa & still in ,irst 3ear. : 3lanced out the window a3ain. Major Harve & sittin3 on the le,t side o, the rear seat& as be,ore& was chattin3 to the driver& an in3ratiatin3 smile on his ,ace. "s the car turned out o, #urner %treet : leaned a3ainst the wall o, the tower and stared at 'ob n. A#hat bastard& : said. A#hat ... A?ont swear& =llie& she said& lookin3 uncom,ortable. A6ot in a church. A"ll ri3ht& : said& with a bi3 e,,ort. A"ll ri3ht. ;ut wait till we 3et out o, here. :ll swear like ouve never heard. :ll swear like a bullock driver with a team o, camels. : tell ou what& were in the ri3ht place bein3 in a church& because Judas :scariot is in the ;ible& isnt he& and this 3u is a ,air dinkum honest9to9 3oodness Judas :scariot. A;ut surel he couldnt have ... he wouldnt have betra ed Harve s Heroes ... would heG 'ob n asked. A: dont know. : tried to think& but : was too tired. A: just dont know. : dont think he would have set that ambush up at the tank& Acos i, he had& he

wouldnt have allowed the spectators. : mean the soldiers obviousl had no idea we were above them in the bush. "ll :m sure is that i, he was on our side be,ore& he isnt now. :t wasnt till ne.t mornin3 that : ,i3ured out the vital clue. : suddenl remembered the conversation with the man in @evins machiner shed& when :d had m reunion with Mrs Macca. :n the middle o, break,ast& ,ruit juice dribblin3 down m chin as : choked on m cereal& : e.citedl asked 'ob n& A5isten& whats a chalkieG A" chalkieG : dont know. A<heres a dictionar G A: dont know. A#hanks ,or our help. : rushed o,, to the sittin3 room& where : ,ound an >.,ord dictionar and a MacEuarie dictionar . ;ut the were no more help than 'ob n had been. "ll the said was that chalk meant havin3 the consistenc o, chalk. : had a stron3 suspicion o, what it reall meant but : needed con,irmation. Homer supplied it that ni3ht when he 3ot back ,rom sentr 3o. <e were sittin3 on our own& in the bow window. A" chalkieG :ts a teacher o, courseF ever one knows that. A:s itG :s it reall G <ell there ou 3o then. #he man in @evins machiner shed said there was a bloke who used to be a chalkie puttin3 the ,in3er on people at the %how3round. He said people were bein3 taken awa on his sa 9 so. : 3ot more e.cited as : remembered somethin3 else. A!lus& whoever it was& he knew all the people in the "rm 'eserve. #hats a per,ect ,it ,or Harve . " per,ect ,itD <hen we told the others the all reacted in di,,erent wa s. Fi sat there white with shock& unable to speak. :t was like shed never dreamt that people could do such terrible thin3s. 5ee jumped to his ,eet& eEuall pale9,aced& his e es burnin3. He slammed his ,ist into the wall. AHes dead& he said. A#hats it. Hes dead. He walked across the room and stood with his hands tucked into his armpits& starin3 out the window& his whole bod tremblin3. Homerd had a while to 3et used to the idea. He seemed almost 3entle about it. A:t does all ,it& he said. A:t makes a lot o, thin3s clear.

A<here do we 3o ,rom hereG : asked. A:, were 3oin3 to attack these houses in some wa & then what do we wantG ?o we want to destro the houses and all the stu,, the ve 3ot in themG ?o we want to destro Fis houseG ?o we want to kill peopleG ?o we want to kill Major Harve G ACes& said 5ee& without turnin3 round. A"ll o, the above. Hed plun3ed strai3ht back into his ps cho state& like when hed stabbed the soldier. He scared me when he was like that. A: hate them livin3 in our house& Fi said. A: ,eel like well need it disin,ected when the leave. ;ut : dont want to wreck the house. Mum and ?ad would kill me. ACour nei3hbours wouldnt be too impressed i, we burnt down all the houses e.cept ours& Homer said. A:td be a bit un,air. Fi looked even more miserable. A: saw 2orries house 3et blown up& she said. A: saw what it did to her. A5ets worr about that side o, it later& Homer said. A5ets see whether we can attack these places ,irst. :, we cant ,i3ure out an wa to do it& then theres no point Fi 3ettin3 upset. ACou mentioned burnin3& : said. A: dont know i, theres an eas wa to do that. A:ts just the ,irst thin3 that came to m mind& Homer said. A"re we 3oin3 to kill peopleG 'ob n asked. ACes& 5ee said a3ain. A5eeD 'ob n said. A%top talkin3 like thatD : hate it when ou talk like that. :t scares me. ACou didnt see what the did at Harve s Heroes campsite& 5ee said. A2ome back and sit down 5ee& : said. ",ter a moment he did at least do that& sittin3 ne.t to me on the so,a. A: think theres a di,,erence between settin3 ,ire to the houses& knowin3 people mi3ht die& and deliberatel settin3 out to kill people& Homer said. A;ut the ,act is& i, we kill Harve and some o, their senior o,,icers& well help our

side a lot in the war. <e could be savin3 other peoples lives. #hats a ,act& and theres no point even ar3uin3 about that. #he real Euestion is& do we have the stomach to do itG <e disappeared into our own thou3hts ,or a minute. : ima3ine the others were doin3 what : was doin3: searchin3 inside m sel, to see i, : had the 3uts to kill in cold blood. #o m surprise : decided : probabl did. "lthou3h : hated how this war was brutalisin3 me so Euickl & : also ,elt that it was e.pected o, me& that all the people held prisoner at the %how3round B m parents& our ,riends& our nei3hbours B would e.pect it. "ll the poor harmless nice people whod belon3ed to Harve s Heroes would e.pect it. #hrou3hout the countr people would e.pect it. %omehow : would just have to do it& and worr about the e,,ects on me a,terwards. %tran3el & ,or once : didnt think about the dan3er to me& about m own sa,et . A:ll do what : have to do& : said. A"nd i, that means deliberatel killin3 peopleG Homer said. ACes. A2ould ou put a 3un to one o, them and pull the tri33erG Homer asked. A:m talkin3 in cold blood now. <e know what ou can do in hot blood. 'ob n started to protest but Homer cut in Euickl . A<e have to ask these Euestions& he said. A<e have to know. :ts no 3ood 3oin3 in there and ,indin3 at the critical moment that someone cant do what we planned ,or them to do. #hat wa well all end up dead. A7od& sometimes : wish wed been taken prisoner like ever one else& : said. A<h do we have to be the ones who have to do all thisG : dont know what : can do until :m in a particular situation. ;ut : think : could shoot one o, them. A>@& Homer said. A5eeG A: wont let an one down& 5ee said. A<hat does that meanG 'ob n lost her temper. A?oes that mean that an one who wont kill people is lettin3 the side downG 7et real 5ee. %ometimes it takes more 3uts not to do somethin3 than to do it.

5ee didnt sa an thin3& just sat there broodin3& i3norin3 m hand rubbin3 his le3. Homer watched him ,or a minute& then si3hed and turned to Fi. AFiG A:ll do ever thin3 : can& she said. A=ven i, it means wreckin3 our house& : suppose. ;ut honestl & : dont see wh we need to. #he onl seem to be usin3 it as accommodation ,or the peasants. 6one o, the H:!s seem to be usin3 it. A2ould ou shoot someoneG Homer asked. A6o. Cou know :ve never ,ired a 3un in m li,e. :ve practised loadin3 them and aimin3 them and ever thin3& but : dont want to have to ,ire one. A<ell >@& Homer said. A;ut could ou push one o, them o,, a roo,& or could ou stab one& or could ou throw a radiator in their bath to electrocute themG A: think : could do the last one& ma be. A%o ou could kill someone i, it didnt involve ou havin3 to come into direct ph sical contact with themG ACes& : suppose that makes the di,,erence. : could probabl even shoot them i, : was used to 3uns. A'ob nG A<hat =llie said made me think& 'ob n said& une.pectedl . A<hen she asked wh we were the ones in this position& wh we hadnt been taken prisoner like ever one else. Ma be this is a kind o, trial ,or us& a test& to see what were made o,. %he stood and walked to the window and turned to ,ace us. A"t the end o, it& ma be well be jud3ed to see how weve handled ourselves. "nd : think well onl pass that test i, weve acted with honour& i, weve tried our best to do the ri3ht thin3. :, we dont do thin3s out o, 3reed or ambition or hatred or a lust ,or blood& i, we keep testin3 all our decisions a3ainst our own belie,s& i, we tr to be brave and honest and ,air ... well& : think thats all thats e.pected o, us. <e dont have to be per,ect& as lon3 as we keep tr in3 to be per,ect. A%o& what are ou prepared to doG Homer asked. A: cant answer that in advance. 5ets work out a plan and then :ll do all :

can to make it work. For the time bein3& oull have to be satis,ied with that. A<hat about ou& HomerG : asked. His voice was as stead as his 3a8e& and he answered: A:ll ,i3ht. : wont back o,, ,rom an thin3. @illin3 women soldiers& well& thatd be hard ,or me to do in cold blood& thatd be the hardest thin3 ,or me. :ts not ver lo3ical but thats the wa it is. ;ut : think : could do it i, the need was there. <ed each made our statement. <e knew now& rou3hl & where each o, us stood. #he ne.t sta3e was to make some plans. <e talked and talked. Fi hadnt done the maps she was meant to have& so instead we asked her a thousand Euestions. <here are the back doors in these housesG <here are the staircasesG ?o the have verandahs at the backG How man bedrooms are thereG <here are the ,use9bo.esG <hat kind o, heatin3 do the haveG Fi answered all the Euestions she could but a,ter a while she 3ot muddled and couldnt remember which house had a wine cellar and which had a coolroom. ; then it was time ,or the ne.t pair to 3o to the church& to do a da s watchin3. <e a3reed that we had to keep up our surveillance& that we needed more in,ormation& as much as we could 3et. <e maintained the same routine ,or another three lon3 da s& and in the end luck& rather than some 3rand plan wed spent the time care,ull puttin3 to3ether& seemed to 3ive us the break we wanted. >ne mornin3 5ee and : sat and watched as a ,urniture van pulled up in #urner %treet. :t came ,rom %tratton 'emovals B <irrawee was too small to have its own removal business. :t drove up the hill and turned around& and parked outside the house at the top end o, the street. #he soldier9driver le,t it and wandered o,, to another house. #he truck sat there ,or a ,ew hours without an thin3 happenin3. ;ut towards lunchtime an o,,icer came out o, the house that we now called the headEuarters& and ordered the sentries to him. #he obe ed& but the didnt look too e.cited. He 3ave them a little talk& then marched them into the end house. <ithin a ,ew minutes : realised that some serious lootin3 was 3oin3 on. #he started b carr in3 out a beauti,ul old dark dinin3 table& that shone in the lukewarm autumn sunli3ht. 6e.t came si. chairs o, the same dark timber& with bur3und coloured cushions. ",ter that was a series o, paintin3s in bi3 heav 3olden ,rames& each needin3 two people to carr it. #he o,,icer ,ussed around& supervisin3 but never doin3 an actual work. :t took a lon3 time& because he was an.ious ,or ever thin3 to be handled with the 3reatest care& but when the d loaded the paintin3s he let them 3o to lunch.

6o one touched the truck ,or the rest o, the da . <hen 5ee and : took ourselves o,, dut and trud3ed wearil back to our house& : put a plan to the other ,our. %ittin3 there all da watchin3 that truck perched at the top o, the hill had 3iven me the idea. A5isten& : said& Asuppose one o, us 3ets in the truck& lets the brake o,,& puts it in neutral and jumps out a3ain. #he trucks pointin3 down the hill. :t should roll strai3ht down #urner %treet and hit that house at the end. 6ow at that point ever man and his do3& and ever woman too& comes runnin3. <e take advanta3e o, the distraction to sneak into the houses and start our ,ires. <e can take one house each. <e should be able to do a bit o, dama3e. "nd when the ,ires start& thats another distraction& and we 3et awa in the con,usion. :t was a hi3h9risk approach& but wed all reached a state o, such boredom and ,rustration that we decided to tr it. #he bi33est advanta3e was that i, it seemed too dan3erous in the earl sta3es we could sneak awa into the darkness with no harm done. >nce the houses started burnin3 it wouldnt be so eas . <e set to work. <e 3rabbed all the in,lammables that we could ,ind that would ,it into our pockets. #urps& kero& metho and ,ireli3hters& and o, course matches. <e packed all our possessions and hid them in the 3arden where we could pick them up easil . >ur 3etawa plan was to head ri3ht across town and meet in Mrs "le.anders& near the %how3round. 5ast time wed been there :d seen two cars in her 3ara3e& both with ke s in the i3nition. : assumed the d still be there& which would be use,ul i, we decided that a car was our best means o, escape. <e s nchronised watches. Fi had the job o, unleashin3 the removal truck. #he rest o, us took one house each& and worked out di,,erent routes to 3et into the back 3ardens. : chose Fis nei3hbours B the house where Major Harve seemed to live. Fis place was spared& onl because it wasnt one o, the ,our busiest houses& and we onl had ,our people ,or the attacks. <e le,t ourselves plent o, time so we wouldnt be under too much pressure: almost an hour and a hal, ,or a 1 am attack. #hen& with a Euick e.chan3e o, hu3s& we le,t. :t wasnt until : was 3ettin3 over the back ,ence o, Fis nei3hbours that : reall ,elt ,ear. ;e,ore that& ever thin3 had been chaotic& disor3anised. ;ut out

here& in the cold darkness& knowin3 that a soldier with a 3un was standin3 somewhere between me and the buildin3& the chill that : ,elt in the 3round seemed to run up m le3s and throu3h m bod . : 3ot the shivers or the shakes& :m not sure which& and spent a ,ew minutes tr in3 to will them out o, m s stem. <hen that didnt work : knew that :d just have to 3o ahead an wa . : 3ot over the ,ence easil enou3h B it was an old brick wall about a metre and a hal, tall B and ,ound m sel, on a mound o, compost in a pit in the rear corner o, the block. #he owner was a ver e,,icient 3ardener B there was a row o, pits& each containin3 di,,erent soils and compost. :d sunk up to m knees in m pile& so : pulled m sel, out& shook the stu,, o,, m le3s& and started movin3 cautiousl towards the house. #here was a dim li3ht inside somewhereF just a ni3ht li3ht& : thou3ht. : had about an hour to make a journe o, ,ort metres and that suited me ,ine. : trained m sel, to take one step ever ,ew minutes and then wait. :t was incredibl di,,icult& even with the ,ear o, a bullet rippin3 throu3h me. #he temptation was to sa Awhat the hell& and take hal, a do8en Euick steps. ;ut : kept a ti3ht control on m sel,& and continued to inch alon3. :t was scar & but it was also ver borin3. : ,inished up outside a room that had a laundr look about it. : dont know wh laundries alwa s sa laundr & but the do. Ma be its a smell that ou notice unconsciousl . : huddled there& tr in3 to read m watch ,ace in the darkness. :t took a3es to work it out& but eventuall : was satis,ied that it said /.4$. >nce : was sure o, the time& : spent ,ive more minutes stud in3 the object beside m le,t shin. :t was& : decided& a 3as meter and 3as tap. #en minutes to 3o. : checked out the ve3etation beside m ri3ht ,oot. For3et9me9 nots. 6ot ver interestin3. : was shiverin3 badl b three oclock. ;ut this time it was de,initel ,rom cold more than an thin3 else. : was 3enuinel keen ,or Fi to 3et the truck rollin3F unusual ,or me. : normall was in no hurr to risk m li,e. #hree oclock ticked slowl past. AHurr up Fi& : cursed. : was a,raid : was 3oin3 to start 3ettin3 cramps. Five past three and the road was as Euiet as a ha shed. #en past three& and nothin3. : couldnt believe it. : wondered how lon3 : should wait be,ore 3ivin3 up. <e hadnt worked that out. 6ew sentries& ,resh& wide9awake sentries& came on at ,our oclock& and : wanted to be well 3one b then. "t 1.1$ : stood slowl & hearin3 the little clicks in m knees& ,eelin3 the strain in m hammies. :d decided 1./0 would be m deadline and at 1./4 : acted on that& be3innin3 a retreat that was almost as slow as m arrival. ; the time : 3ot to the back wall it was 1.40. : paused in the compost pit ,or a ,ew seconds& wonderin3 i, : was doin3 the ri3ht thin3& then scrambled

over the wall and set o,, at a jo3 ,or the music teachers house. Homer was alread there& in a ,ren8 o, worr . A<hat the hell do ou thinks happenedG he kept askin3. A<hat do ou thinkG A: dont know& : kept answerin3& ver help,ull . A?o ou think an one would 3o strai3ht to Mrs "le.andersG A6ot without their swa3s. Just a,ter ,our 'ob n arrived. A6othin3& no si3n o, an one& she reported. "t 4.10 came 5ee& and at last& at 4.4$& came Fi. %he was distrau3ht. A#he truck was lockedD she blurted out as soon as she saw us. A:t was lockedD : lau3hed. #here was nothin3 else to do. %uch a simple thin3& and wed never thou3ht o, it. : hadnt seen an one lock it durin3 the da & but : hadnt been watchin3 especiall . A: couldnt thinkD Fi sobbed. A: couldnt smash the window because o, the noise. : kept waitin3 ,or one o, ou to come& but nobod did. <e were all e.hausted& probabl emotionall as well as ph sicall . <hen : said we had to keep watch ,rom the church ,or another da : 3ot no support at all. A>h no& Fi 3roaned. A:ts too much. A<eve done enou3h ,or one ni3ht& 'ob n a3reed. A?o it oursel,& 5ee snapped. :m 3oin3 to bed. A"ll ri3ht& : will. : was sure it was important. #he watched sullenl as : 3ot m 3ear to3ether. 6o one said a word as : le,t the house. ;ut : could hear them throu3h the window& startin3 to ar3ue about whod do the ,irst sentr dut . : pushed the window up and put m head in& to 3et the last word. A@eep it to a whisper& 3u s. %ound travels a lon3 wa at ni3ht. : knew itd be a lonel da in the tower o, %t Johns& but : didnt mind. : had a sleep ,or an hour or so when : 3ot there& which le,t me ,eelin3 sti,, and sore&

but when :d recovered : spent the da just watchin3 and thinkin3. 6ot a lot happened in the street. #he truck was moved down to the ne.t house and had a bab 3rand piano loaded on it& and then to the ne.t& where it collected a couple o, ru3s and a dresser. ; then it was too ,ar down the hill to 3ive us an hope o, tr in3 to stampede it a3ain. <e had to come up with a better idea. : saw Major Harve emer3e ,rom his house at 9.10. #he 'an3e 'over had arrived and was waitin3 ,or him. He 3ot in the back o, the car& on his own e.cept ,or the driver& and the 'an3e 'over K9turned a3ain and drove awa . : wondered i, he was 3oin3 to the %how3round. Ma be it was m parents hed be interro3atin3 toda . <hen he returned& just a,ter ,our& he 3ot out o, the car and went into the house& but this time the driver 3ot out too& and went to another house& leavin3 the 'an3e 'over parked in the street. :t was still there when : 3ave up and stole back throu3h the darkness alone& at about ten oclock. ;ut b then m knowled3e o, the sentries habits& and the smell o, cookin3 ,ood which had been makin3 me drool all evenin3& had 3iven me an idea. #hat time spent crouched behind the house in the cold earl mornin3 hadnt been wasted. #he others ,ussed over me when : 3ot back. : think the were ,eelin3 3uilt . : was so tired that : accepted it without protest. "nd when : told them m idea the accepted it& almost strai3htawa . :t was like the previous ni3ht: we were desperate ,or somethin3 that would work and so were clutchin3 at an old straw. <hat : wanted was to cause an e.plosion that would rattle windows in 5os "n3eles& that would make the %an "ndreas Fault seem like a minor mistake. M idea was based on the memor o, our 3as heater in the #H room at home. #here was one thin3 :d learnt in in,anc about that heater B i, ou turned the 3as on and it didnt i3nite strai3htawa & ou had to 3et it o,, a3ain ,ast. :, ou waited a ,ew seconds& then lit another match& oud nearl lose our ,ace. :t was ama8in3 how ,ast the 3as poured out. :, that could happen so ,ast& what would be the e,,ect o, leavin3 on three or ,our heaters& ,ull bore& ,or thirt minutesG "nd then strikin3 a matchG " hu3e& hu3e ban3& thats what. %o that was the main part o, the plan. ;ut Homer and : made them 3o throu3h ever thin3 care,ull and closel . >ne thin3 had made me nervous

durin3 our ,ailed raid and that was the ,eelin3 that we hadnt spent the time plannin3 that we normall did. <ed le,t too much to chance. %o this time we worked out care,ul timetables& based on our succeedin3 or our ,ailin3. "nd we decided to collect ,ive bikes and take them with us& so we could 3et to Mrs "le.anders 3ara3e ,aster i, necessar . #hat le,t us with just one problem to solve. :d known all alon3 it would be our bi33est one. #he problem was the ,use. :d su33ested la in3 a trail o, in,lammable liEuid& like wed done when wed destro ed the brid3e with the petrol tanker& but :d alwa s known that was the weakest part o, the plan. "nd sure enou3h& the others ruled it out strai3htawa . A#he sentriesd smell it& Homer said. A<eve alread 3ot one risk with smell& althou3h the should have their windows shut on these cold ni3hts. ;ut we dont need another risk. 5ee solved the problem. Hed been sittin3 in silence ,or hal, an hour but he suddenl leapt to his ,eet& 3ivin3 me a shock. He didnt actuall ell A=ureka& but we 3ot the 3eneral idea. A7o into an houses ou can ,ind open& he commanded& Aand brin3 back toasters. "nd electric timers. ?ont come back till ouve 3ot one each. "nd dont ask Euestions. #here isnt time. <e can still do this toni3ht i, we hurr . A"nd while were at it& 3et the bikes too& Homer said& as we stirred our tired bodies into li,e. :d lost track o, the last time :d had a proper sleep but : was operatin3 on autopilot now. : went with Fi. <e were movin3 a little more con,identl around the town. #here were two other areas& apart ,rom %nob Hill and the shoppin3 centre in ;arker %treet& that were lit each ni3ht. <e assumed people were livin3 there and we kept awa ,rom them. ;ut the rest o, the town& the dark streets and silent houses& seemed to be le,t alone these da s. <e never saw patrols in them. :t seemed like the soldiers were con,ident that the had <irrawee under control. #he d probabl cau3ht ever one e.cept us. A<ell& : thou3ht 3riml & Ai, we do what we want to do toni3ht& we wont be sa,e in <irrawee ,or a lon3 time. Fi and : 3ot into ,our houses& 3ettin3 ,our toasters easil enou3h& but havin3 trouble with the timers. ;ut in the last house we struck a jackpot. #here were timers in almost ever room& each controllin3 a radiator. %eemed like a

ver or3anised person lived there. ; two oclock we were back at the house& each with our little collections and each wheelin3 a bic cle. 'ob n had a pump& which we all needed& as most o, the t res were Euite ,lat. 5ee hadnt been able to ,ind a timer& so Fi and : solved that problem ,or him. ;ut 5ee did have a pair o, pliers& and with those he 3ave a demonstration o, what he wanted us to do. :t was ver simple and ver clever and had a ver 3ood chance o, success. <hen we were satis,ied with his plan he used his pliers to cut the ,ilament in each toaster and made us practise settin3 the timers. ; then it was three oclock and time to 3o. <e set our timers& Euickl repacked our swa3s and saddled ourselves with them. <e were takin3 them with us this time& so we could make ,aster escapes. <ed chosen the same houses as the previous ni3ht. : had Fis nei3hbours& 'ob n had the ne.t one& which we thou3ht was also bein3 used as o,,ices& then 5ee took the ne.t B ?r ;ur3esss house B which was obviousl the main headEuarters. >pposite that was a bi3 new brick house where a lot o, o,,icers slept& and Homer had chosen that. 6ow that Fi didnt have to take a truck out o, 3ear she was ,ree to attack a house too. %he bravel o,,ered to do her own but we talked her into 3oin3 to the one at the top o, the hill& which seemed to be more heavil used. >, course there was ever chance that hers was 3oin3 to be dama3ed b the blast& as she knew. : ,ollowed the same course as the previous ni3ht& climbin3 the brick ,ence and trekkin3 throu3h the compost pit. : was clutchin3 m toasterF a timer was makin3 a bul3e in one pocket& and a torch in the other. <e had to be in our positions b ,our oclock& so a3ain : had enou3h time to be able to move slowl and care,ull . ;ut : 3uess : was sick o, bein3 so care,ul& so disciplined all the time. ",ter takin3 ,ive minutes to move si. steps : ,inall lost m cool and moved ten metres in one rush& to hide behind a lemon tree. : thou3ht b doin3 so much itd make the rest o, the trek less monotonous. ;ut it nearl killed me. : was just about to leave the tree and take m ne.t step when : heard a snap o, wood. :t sounded horribl like the tread o, a human ,oot. : hesitated& then crouched and waited. %ure enou3h a moment later a beam o, li3ht shone across the 3arden. :t traversed the plants in deadl silence. : crouched even lower& scrunchin3 up m e es& waitin3 ,or bullets to come tearin3 into me. ?o ou hear the bullets be,ore ou dieG : wondered. >r does it all happen so ,ast that ou ,eel them and die without even hearin3 the noiseG : ,orced m sel, to open m e es and twist m head sli3htl & to take a

little look. : hal, e.pected that the sentr would be there& lookin3 down at me& with ri,le poised. ;ut there was onl the torch beam& continuin3 to e.plore& at this moment Euite a wa ,rom me and shinin3 on a rose bush. #hen it was turned o,,. : realised strai3htawa what a stupid position :d put m sel, in b m impatience. :, : moved an time between now and ,our oclock : risked bein3 heard. :, : didnt move :d le,t m sel, Euite a distance to 3et to the house when ,our oclock came. #ime was 3oin3 to be ti3ht enou3h an wa . : thou3ht about it ,or ten minutes and decided on a compromise. :d move to a position where : could see the sentr & and then decide m tactics. : moved with e.cruciatin3 care. <ith e.cruciatin3 pain too& a,ter bein3 curled up like a ,ri3htened 3uinea pi3 ,or so lon3. : nearl 3ot the 3i33les when : wondered how :d e.plain the toaster i, : were cau3ht. A: had a sudden cravin3 ,or toast& and : was lookin3 ,or a power point. : kept shu,,lin3 alon3& takin3 little sneak looks ever step or so& until at last : could see the sentr . He or she B it was too dark to tell B seemed to be ,acin3 out into the 3arden still& as thou3h watchin3 and listenin3. Just m luck to 3et one o, the e,,icient ones. : tried to 3et a look at m watch but it was too dark here to tell the time. <e had arran3ed ever thin3 ,or the sentr chan3e at ,our oclock and now : didnt know how close ,our oclock was. M onl hope was that :d hear the new sentries arrivin3 out the ,ront& ,or the chan3eover. #here was Euite a little ceremon that took place ,or the chan3in3 o, the 3uard. :d watched it so o,ten now that : knew the script. #he new ones marched up the street to the ;ur3ess house and halted there. #hen the person in char3e blew a whistle and the di,,erent sentries emer3ed ,rom their positions& made their reports& ,ormed a line and marched o,, to their Euarters& while the new ones split up to 3o to their di,,erent posts. :t onl took a ,ew minutes& but it was those ,ew minutes we depended on. : thou3ht that i, the sentr could hear the whistle then : should too& so : sta ed ,ro8en where : was and waited. : thou3ht that :d be there ,or a3es but a,ter onl ten minutes : heard the scrunch o, marchin3 ,eet ,rom the road. #he sentr heard it as well& and suddenl lost her attentive attitude and walked o,, to the corner o, the house. %he paused there& waitin3 ,or the whistle. Cou could tell she wasnt allowed into the street until she heard it& but she was han3in3 out ,or the si3nal. :d 3uess that ever house had a 3uard poised at its back corner& waitin3 ,or the moment o, ,reedom. Four hours o, borin3 dut in the middle o, the ni3ht would have that e,,ect. : heard the distant trillin3 o, the whistle& and the sentr was 3one& without a

backward 3lance. : didnt have time ,or an more caution. : stood strai3htawa and walked Euickl to the back door. #hese sentries were 3oin3 to be in a heap o, trouble tomorrow& i, the survived. M bi33est ,ear now was the door itsel,. :, doors were locked wed a3reed to use our discretion: either to 3ive up& or to wrap a hand in our jumpers and punch a pane o, 3lass out. ;ut Fi was sure the wouldnt be locked. Her theor was that most o, the people who lived in #urner %treet were so securit 9conscious that the d all have deadlocks& like on her house. For the soldiers to 3et into these houses in the ,irst place& the d have had to break in. #hat meant& that unless the doors had been repaired& the d still be unlocked B and unlockable. :t was a ver lo3ical theor and ,or once lo3ic worked. <hen : turned the handle o, the door and pushed& the whole door nearl ,ell o,,. :t had been smashed open& then stood up a3ain and propped a3ainst the door,rame. A>n a FiD : 3rinned& hopin3 the others were 3oin3 as well as me. :t was so dark that : had to use the torchF : ,ished it out and put m hand over its lens and switched it on. :n the dim pinkish li3ht : saw a row o, boots and knew : was standin3 in the back porch. :t was just the wa Fi had described it. : moved ,ast& strai3ht throu3h to the kitchen. <ith a tin thin ra o, torchli3ht : ,ound the stove. >ne 3lance was enou3h to make me ,eel sick. :t was electric. #hat meant :d have to search ,urther& take lon3er. : hurried throu3h into the dinin3 room& sweat startin3 to rush out o, m pores. Here : ,ound what : wanted: a 3as heater. : turned it ,ull on& and jammed the timer and toaster into a power point& throwin3 the switch on. :d set the timer to an appro.imate time& as we all had& in case we were too rushed to ,ine9tune them. 6ow& : didnt know i, : had time or not& but : was too scared to think about it& and to be honest& too scared to care. ;ut : did check the broken ,ilament in the toaster i, the two broken ends werent close enou3h to3ether thered be no spark and all this would have been ,or nothin3. 7as was 3ushin3 into the room and : was tr in3 not to breathe it in. #he smell was terrible. :t was ,ri3htenin3 how Euickl the 3as rushed out. : moved the ends o, the ,ilament a little closer to3ether& put it down 3entl & and ran into the sittin3 room. "nother heater here& 3ood. #urn it on. :s there time to check the rumpus roomG "nd the stud G Ces. <ell& one an wa . #he rumpus room. :nto there on ,ast ,eet& and another Euick search with the covered torch. "nd es& luck luck & a third heater. : switched it on and scrambled ,or the back door& desperate to 3et awa & ,ull o, desperate ,ear that the new 3uard would be in position. : could smell the 3as even at the back door. : couldnt believe how it was spreadin3. : 3ot to the door and took a Euick peek out. : couldnt a,,ord to

take an more time& to show an more caution. : propped the door up a3ain behind me and scurried ,or cover. %crunch& scrunch& scrunch. #hat was the sentr s boots on the 3ravel& comin3 around the side o, the house. : dived like a ,ootballer& landin3 under a bush with tin leaves and tin ,lowers& but ban3in3 m knee on a rock as : did. >h& that poor knee. =ver time : hit an thin3 it seemed to be with that knee. : stu,,ed m ,ist in m mouth in a3on and la there with tears smartin3 m e es. "t the same time : couldnt help noticin3 how sweet and ,ra3rant the bush smelt. :t seems cra8 to have been aware o, that& but : was. : let m sel, have a ,ew seconds under the bush& but : knew : had to move. <ith the rou3h job :d done on the timer& the whole place could 3o up much earlier than :d planned. : crawled out ,rom m cover and be3an another interminabl slow hike throu3h the 3arden to the back wall : 3ave m sel, ten minutes& but : was terri,ied thered be an e.plosion be,ore that. %weat was streamin3 down m ,ace& as thou3h :d run ,ive ks. : kept picturin3 the timer suddenl throwin3 its switch on& the rush o, electricit into the toaster& the sparks ,l in3 ,rom the end o, one broken wire to the other& the 3as eruptin3 in a sudden hu3e blast ... "t the compost pit : i3nored m knee and hauled m sel, over the wall& then did a kind o, limpin3 run down the lane. : went strai3ht to the bikes and with wild jo saw Fi& holdin3 a bike with each hand. A<hat are ou doin3G : hissed. A:ts too dan3erous to wait here. ;ut : 3rinned at her. A: know& she said. A;ut : couldnt bear to 3o o,, on m own. "nd : saw her per,ect white teeth 3leam back at me ,rom her 3rubb ,ace. : 3rabbed the bike and without another word we pushed o,,. "s we did : heard runnin3 ,eet behind me. : looked round& startled& but hope,ul. :t was 5ee& pantin3 hard. A5ets 3et out o, here& he said. A7ood line ,or a movie& : whispered. He 3ave me a pu88led 3lance& then remembered& ,lashed me a smile& and took o,,. :nside a second he was ,ive metres ahead o, me. Fi and : had to pedal hard to catch up. :t took us a3es to 3et to Mrs "le.anders. <e had to 3o such a roundabout wa & and most o, it was uphill. ;ut as we were ,inall dismountin3 outside her

3ara3e& the hill opposite seemed to catch ,ire. :ve never seen a volcano& but : ima3ine thats what itd be like. #here was a kind o, Awhoosh and ,lames shot into the air like a 'oman candle. " moment later a thunderclap o, sound hit us. "t e.actl the same time there were two more eruptions. <e couldnt e.actl see the houses but : saw the roo, o, one li,t into the air and disinte3rate& and the ne.t moment all the trees around them cau3ht ,ire and were bla8in3 ,iercel . A7oll 3osh& Fi said& 3a8in3 in awe. #hat was about the stron3est e.pression she ever used. #he roar o, the ,ire was so loud we could hear it ,rom our possie. " wind o, ener3 ,rom the e.plosion suddenl came throu3h the 3arden like a wall& bendin3 trees and plants over and bu,,etin3 us. %mall dark shapes blipped past me. #he seemed to come ,rom nowhere: birds ,leein3 ,rom the blast. #he whole o, one side o, <irrawee was 3raduall bein3 lit up. #here was a hellish red 3low in the sk F : could almost smell the burnin3. ANuick& 5ee said. A5ets move it. <e rushed into the 3ara3e. "t least this time we had some li3ht& ,rom our torches& unlike the last time :d been in that 3ara3e& 3ropin3 around lookin3 ,or matches& and in desperate dan3er. A: hope 'ob n and Homer were well out o, that& : said. #here was no time ,or more talk. : threw open the door o, the nearer car& clambered in& and turned the ke . #here was a wear 3rindin3 sound. A>h 7od& : said. AFlat batter . 5ee leaned into the other car& a ute& and tried that& with the same result. "s he stood up a3ain 'ob n came burstin3 into the 3ara3e& pu,,in3 and wild9e ed. A"re ou all hereG she asked. A6ot Homer. "nd the cars wont start. A>h help& she said& and disappeared outside a3ain& to look ,or Homer& : ima3ined. : tried the ,irst car a3ain but the wear noise 3ot more and more tired& until

it became just a ,aint murmur. A:tll have to be the bikes& : said to 5ee. <e ran outside and retrieved our bikes ,rom behind a shed& where wed dumped them. : couldnt help stoppin3 to look at the ,urious ,ires ra3in3 on the hill. #here were li3hts on in ever occupied part o, <irrawee& and we could see the headli3hts o, man vehicles conver3in3 on #urner %treet. "nd : could see two ,ire en3ines trundlin3 out o, the %how3round. A<eve 3ot one thin3 3oin3 ,or us& 5ee said. A:, weve wiped out a lot o, their o,,icers the mi3htnt have an one smart enou3h to take char3e or 3ive orders. : nodded. A5ets take advanta3e& : said. A<hat about HomerG 2an we leave him a noteG 'ob n came over& out o, the darkness& wheelin3 her bike. A:ll wait ,or him& she said. A6o& 'ob n& no& its too dan3erous. !lease 'ob n& dont do that. %he paused. #hen we were all saved b a voice out o, the ni3ht. A"n one ,or toastG said Homer. A%ta on our bike& : said Euickl . A#he cars are both stu,,ed. <heres FiG AHere& came her little voice. A5ets 3o& ,amous ,ive.

2hapter %eventeen

?a li3ht came too ,ast& catchin3 us when we were still a lon3 wa ,rom m place and ,rom the ,aith,ul 5and 'over. <e made an emer3enc decision& to swin3 o,, the main road and into the nearest propert & the Macken8ies. :t was onl the second time :d been here since a jet had destro ed the house& in our ,ull view. <ed watched ,rom the shearers Euarters as the house had e.ploded& so man weeks a3o. %eein3 it a3ain& in the cold& 3re & miserable li3ht o, dawn& made me ,eel better about blowin3 up hal, o, #urner %treet. : ,elt sorr ,or the owners o, those houses& but : knew wed probabl done the enem more dama3e there than in all our previous operations put to3ether. "nd it was at least a little repa ment ,or the wa these people had smashed the lives o, the Macken8ies& bombin3 their house and shootin3 their dau3hter 2orrie& their dau3hter& m ,riend. #he others went strai3ht on up to the shearin3 shed but : wandered throu3h the ruins o, the house ,or a ,ew minutes. "lread some little weeds had taken root and were startin3 to spread. "n3ril & : pulled them out. Ma be : was wron3. #he were li,e& in their own wa . #here was little else o, it around. 6othin3 amon3 the ruins was undama3ed. =ver piece o, crocker was smashed& ever saucepan warped and bent& ever piece o, timber splintered and scarred. : looked in vain ,or somethin3 that was unmarked. "t least m tedd bear "lvin& a little scrap o, love& had survived the Harve s Heroes massacre. : did ,ind one thin3 thou3h& as : turned towards m bike and started walkin3 awa ,rom the house. !okin3 out ,rom under a brick was somethin3 that 3leamed silver. : pulled it out. :t was a letter opener& lon3 and thin and sharp& with a short crossbar as a handle. : pocketed it. Ma be one da :d be able to use it. : thou3ht o, it as a weapon. :t never occurred to me that one da : mi3ht use it to open letters. ;ut : did hope that ma be one da :d be able to return it to its owners. A=llieD a voice screamed.

%tartled& : looked up. 'ob n was wavin3 at me ,rom the shearin3 shed. A!laneD she screamed. : realised then that there was a low bu88in3 noise in the back3round that : hadnt consciousl noticed. Ma be :d been too tired. ;ut e.haustion was pumped out o, m s stem b adrenalin as : ran ,or m bike& stumblin3 over bricks& ,eelin3 the ache in m knee becomin3 a sharp pain a3ain. : i3nored the pain& ,umbled to pick up the bike& wondered i, : would lead the planes to the shed b ridin3 towards it& but realised at the same time that there was no other cover& and so pedalled like mad strai3ht at it. "s soon as : was in its shadows the others 3rabbed me and hauled me into the old buildin3. : la on the ,loor sobbin3 ,or breath. #he noise o, the plane swept strai3ht over our heads and kept 3oin3. : la there& m ,ace in the dust& wonderin3 i, it had seen me& i, it was 3oin3 to return. : thou3ht o, it as an evil creature with its own e es and its own mind. : couldnt visualise the humans who were sittin3 at its controls& directin3 it. #he roar o, the plane ,aded a3ain and : let 'ob n help me to m ,eet. #hat was the start o, a terrible da . <e were proud o, what wed done& but be,ore lon3 we were scared too. <e be3an to realise that whatever and whoever wed blown up must have been bi33er& more important than wed ever dreamed& ever thou3ht. !lanes and helicopters prowled the sk constantl . #heir endless bu88in3& like an3r chainsaws& seemed to seep inside m brain& till : didnt know i, the were in m head or in the sk . ",ter a couple o, hours we were so nervous that we le,t the shearin3 shed& hid the bikes& and went up throu3h the trees into the hills. 6ot until we were holed up in thick bush did we ,eel sa,er. <e had no ,ood& e.cept ,or a packet o, dr biscuits that Homer had brou3ht& but we pre,erred to starve than 3o into the shootin3 3aller o, the open countr . "s we sat there we at last had a chance to tell our stories. :t was e.citin3 to compare notes& and it helped take our minds o,, the endless snarlin3 o, the aircra,t. : told them m e.periences ,irst& then 'ob n described hers. %hed taken the ne.t house to me& which wed thou3ht was a less important o,,ice buildin3. ;ut she hadnt been able to 3et in. A#he door was locked& she e.plained& Aso as soon as the sentr marched o,, at ,our oclock : broke a window. : tried to do it 3entl but it was Euite a wa above m head& and the whole pane ,ell out and smashed onto somethin3

inside the house. #he noiseD :t was unbelievable. : was startin3 to panic but : thou3ht : still had time& so : tried climbin3 up to it. #here was a drainpipe runnin3 down the wall that ,orked in opposite directions& so : 3ot up on that. : started stretchin3 to the window to 3rab the sill& and the pipe broke under me. #hat made even more noise than the window. :m sorr & but : chickened out then. : 3ot the shakes and convinced m sel, that : didnt have time to 3et in. 5ookin3 back& : think : probabl could have done it& but all that noise had ,reaked me out. #hen : realised the broken pipe was leakin3 water all over the 3round. :t just seemed like ever thin3 was a3ainst me. : propped the pipe up and set o,, ,or the place ne.t door to see i, : could help =llie& but : ended up 3ettin3 cau3ht between the two sentries comin3 back& so it took me a3es just to 3et awa to the lane. %o& : didnt do an thin3& :m a,raid. Cou 3u s can have all the credit. 5ee had also met a locked door. Ma be the d locked the buildin3s the used as o,,ices but not the ones the used as residences. ;ut 5ee had one advanta3e: Fi knew ?r ;ur3esss house almost as well as she knew her own& so shed been able to 3ive him a 3ood detailed plan. <hen he ,ound the back door locked he ran strai3ht to the coal chute& opened it& slid down into the cellar& and ,rom there up into the house. A?r ;ur3ess was alwa s talkin3 about puttin3 a lock on that& said Fi lookin3 smu3. AHe was hopeless about securit . ?ad alwa s said thats wh hed never 3et bur3led. 5ee had ,ound a 3as stove and three 3as heaters& so with those on ,ull blast he would have caused Euite a ban3. : asked him i, hed had an problems 3ettin3 awa & and he just shru33ed& looked up into the trees& and said A6o. : didnt know what that meant. <h couldnt he look at meG : had a horrible ,eelin3 that there mi3ht be more blood on his hands& on those lon3 3race,ul musicians ,in3ers. Homer had 3ot into his house easil & but had ,ound no 3as appliances at all. <hen he le,t he decided to wait a ,ew blocks awa & to see i, an thin3 happened. ACou love doin3 that& Fi said. ACou did it when we blew up the brid3e. AHes a mad bomber& : said. A#his was even better than the brid3e& Homer said. A:t was massive. #here

was one e.plosion& then another one& a hu3e one. Ma be the had e.plosives stored there. Cou should have ,elt the shock wave. :t was like this 3ale suddenl hit me. <owD "nd the noiseD : cant believe it. #here were a lot o, secondar e.plosions too. <e did somethin3 3reat this mornin3. <e took on somethin3 incredibl hard and brou3ht it o,,. <ere heroesD : thou3ht how stran3e it was that to destro somethin3& and to kill people& was a 3reat achievement& and : thou3ht how much easier it was to destro than to build. AHowd ou 3o& FiG 5ee asked. A>h& : just burrowed awa throu3h the 3arden like a little rabbit& Fi said. A: took ,orever 3ettin3 to the house. "nd when : was ,inall about a metre awa ,rom the back wall : realised the sentr was asleep. %o : could have walked in whistlin3 and she wouldnt have woken up. : was a bit worried because it was ten to ,our& and : thou3ht shed miss the chan3e o, shi,t. ;ut she had one o, those watches with an alarm& so just when : thou3ht :d have to 3o over and wake her up& the alarm went o,,. #he whistle was onl a ,ew minutes later. %he sta33ered to her ,eet and marched awa . : think shed been drinkin3& because she had a bottle that she put in her pocket as she went. "s soon as shed 3one round the corner : shot into the house. : did the 3as stove in the kitchen and a heater in the break,ast room& but : was too scared to do an more. "nd : didnt check the timer& just plu33ed it in and hoped it was all ri3ht and le,t it there. A%o did :& : con,essed. :t turned out that 5ee was the onl one whod checked his timer. A#he would have been all ri3ht& Homer said. A<ed set them prett care,ull back at Ms 5ims house& and ever thin3 ran accordin3 to the timetable. #he houses did all e.plode so close to3ether& so ma be one set the others o,,& or ma be there was an ammo store& like : said. :n the middle o, the a,ternoon a 3round patrol came throu3h the Macken8ies propert . #he were in two ,our9wheel drives& a #o ota and a Jackaroo. : reco3nised the Jackaroo. :t belon3ed to Mr @assar& m drama teacher at school. Hed been proud o, that car. "lthou3h we ,elt sa,e enou3h ,or the moment& in the thick bush& our 3reat ,ear was that the d ,ind some clue to show wed been there& and then the d call in back9up ,orces. <e

watched intentl as the searched the area. #he ,unn thin3 was that the were so nervous. #he kept their ri,les in their hands& the stuck close to3ether in little 3roups& and the kept lookin3 an.iousl around them. A:ts onl us& : wanted to call out. A<ere onl kids. ?ont 3et too carried awa . ;ut o, course the didnt know that. For all the knew& we were pro,essional soldiers& hi3hl trained killers. For all : knew& we were. Ma be thats what wed become. >ne thin3 was ,or sure& i, the ever cau3ht us& and could identi, us as the ones whod done all this stu,,& we were 3one. <e were dead. : dont mean that just as a sa in3. : mean that it would be the end o, our bein3 alive& o, our breathin3& o, our seein3 and thinkin3. <ed be dead. #he soldiers went on up to the shearin3 shed. #he approached it just like in the movies& movin3 ,orward in little rushes& coverin3 each other all the time& kickin3 the door open. :t made me think how luck wed been to beat them so man times. <e did seem so amateurish& compared to them. : dont know thou3h& that could have been an advanta3e. !erhaps we had more ima3ination& more ,le.ibilit o, thinkin3& than them. "nd the were just emplo ees& carr in3 out someone elses orders. <e were our own bosses& able to do what we liked. #hat probabl helped a bit. :t reminded me o, a da dream :d had o,ten when : was oun3er. :t was the world9without9adults da dream. :n m dream :d never Euite ,i3ured out where the adults went but we kids were ,ree to roam& to help ourselves to an thin3 we wanted. <ed pick up a Merc ,rom a showroom when we needed wheels& and when it ran out o, petrol wed 3et another one. <ed chan3e cars the wa : chan3e socks. <ed sleep in di,,erent mansions ever ni3ht& 3oin3 to new houses instead o, puttin3 new sheets on the beds. :td be like the Mad Hatters tea part & where the kept movin3 alon3 the table to the ne.t place& rather than doin3 the washin39up. 5i,e would be one lon3 part . Ces& that had been the dream. 6ow : would have been h stericall happ to hand over the reins o, the world to adults a3ain. : just wanted to 3o back to school& to stud ,or uni& to mess round& to watch #H& to do the bottles ,or the podd lambs that : used to whin3e about when : was ,eelin3 la8 or was on the phone talkin3 to 2orrie. : didnt want all this worr & all this responsibilit . Most o, all : didnt want this ,ear.

:n m da dream we werent chased all over the countr side. <e didnt spend our time lookin3 over our shoulders. <e didnt have to kill and destro . #he soldiers ,inished in the shearers Euarters and ambled back to their vehicles& lookin3 more rela.ed. : assumed the hadnt ,ound an 3iveawa clues. ;ut ma be that was just their tricker . Ma be the knew now that we were nearb & and the were just actin3 casual& to put us o,, 3uard. : dont know whether the others thou3ht that too. <e didnt discuss it. <e just sat there all a,ternoon& starin3 throu3h the trees& out across the paddocks. 6o one spoke. 6o one slept& either. <e were all tired& tired in a bone9achin3& sore9e ed wa that made me ,eel a hundred ears old. "t last the li3ht started to ,ade. #he rabbits came poppin3 out o, their burrows& lookin3 around nervousl & hoppin3 a ,ew steps& nibblin3 their ,irst mouth,uls ,or the evenin3. : was shocked a3ain at how man o, them there were. :t made me worr about the land& that no one was lookin3 a,ter it properl . : hoped the colonists had a ,ew clues about how to do it. ;etter to have them look a,ter it than to have no one. "s the rabbits spread out we be3an to talk. #here was a little stirrin3 o, relie,& that we looked like survivin3 the da & that we should be >@ ,or another ni3ht. <e talked Euietl & without emotion. : think wed run out o, ,eelin3s ,or the time bein3. <e talked about what we should do ne.t& how to keep ourselves sa,e& how to act ,or the best. <e were all ver calm. <e a3reed that be,ore we returned to Hell we should pick up more supplies. #he more the better& as this could be our last chance ,or a while. <e could tr to replace thin3s wed lost when Harve s Heroes were blown apart& and we could tr ,or more ,ood and clothes. "s lon3 as the heat ,rom our #urner %treet attack was on& we wouldnt be able to come out o, Hell. #here was a propert that we hadnt et visited& about ,ive ks south o, Homers place. :t was a place called A#ara& that belon3ed to the 'owntrees. Mum and ?ad didnt like the 'owntrees much B Mr and Mrs 'owntree had been more interested in parties than ,armin3& accordin3 to Mum and ?ad. #he d separated a ear a3o and were in the middle o, a divorce. :t was a bi3 propert & three times the si8e o, ours& but : didnt think the colonists would be there et. :t was too ,ar ,rom town& and in some hill countr that would be hard to de,end. %o& at ten oclock& we cranked up the bikes and cranked up our le3s and rode over to m place. <e picked up the 5and 'over there. <e still had a

Ford care,ull hidden up on #ailors %titch& which we used occasionall & to keep it tickin3 over. ;ut : pre,erred the 5andie because :d been drivin3 it ,or so man ears. :t was like an old ,riend. "s usual it cou3hed into li,e. :t alwa s sounded tired& but it alwa s started. <e chu33ed over to A#ara& 3oin3 slowl & because : didnt know the road. #here was a mana3ers house which we thou3ht wed check later& i, there was time& and the main house& about a k awa at the end o, the drive. :t was closer i, ou took a short cut across the paddocks& but a3ain& because it was dark and wet& : didnt do that. :nstead we crept up the drive& between the two rows o, hu3e old pine trees& until we were hal,wa alon3 it. #hen 5ee and 'ob n walked on up to the house to make sure there were no intruders. <hen the si3nalled us ,orward& with a wave o, torches& we drove up and parked at the ,ront door. :t was Euite ,un& in a stran3e sort o, wa & to stick beak around other peoples houses. : liked seein3 how the lived& what the owned& how the arran3ed each room. %o Fi and : had a 3ood poke around. :t was a nice place. #he had beauti,ul ,urniture& all bi3 old dark antiEues. Must have been worth a ,ortune. #he soldiers would be here one da with their removal trucks& no doubt about that. >, course the d been here alread thou3h. #he d been ever where& e.cept Hell. ?rawers were open in the bedrooms& and thin3s chucked around. :n the sittin3 room the 3lass cabinets had been emptied and one o, them was broken. #here was 3lass all over the ,loor. %omeone had 3one throu3h the 3ro3 cabinet& leavin3 it bare. #he music s stem had been looted too& because the speakers were still there and ou could see where the pla er had been. #he hadnt bothered with our old record pla er& back at m place. >urs must have been worth all o, twent bucks. #he 'owntrees one would have been somethin3 special. Food was our main interest& and we were rapt to ,ind hal, a do8en bi3 salamis in the pantr . <e were alwa s han3in3 out ,or a chan3e o, diet. #here were two cases o, !epsi& loads o, chocolate& and some chips that were 3ettin3 a bit stale. #he 'owntrees seemed to live prett well. 6ot man cans& e.cept ,or soup& plus three o, salmon& which : dont eat. ;ut there were plent o, odds and ends& like two9minute noodles and packets o, smoked o stersF enou3h to ,ill a couple o, overni3ht ba3s. <e searched the other rooms Euickl & 3rabbed a ,ew pieces o, clothin3 and some sleepin3 ba3s& and Fi and : ,illed our pockets with e.pensive toiletries. M old da dream had almost come alive ,or a moment. 5ee came

back ,rom the stud with a pile o, bi3 ,antas novels& and it was time to 3o. : jumped in the drivers seat. Fi was sittin3 beside meF Homer and 5ee were in the back seatF 'ob n was stretched out in the back& havin3 made a bed ,or hersel, with blankets and clothin3 wed taken ,rom A#ara. : had the ,eelin3 ever one would be asleep be,ore : reached the bottom o, the drivewa . A"ll aboard ,or Hell& : said. A!lease ,asten our seat belts and e.tin3uish all ci3arettes. <ell be cruisin3 at an altitude o, a metre above road level& and at speeds o, up to 40 ks per hour. <eather conditions ,or Hell are e.pected to be wet and cool. A=.cept in 5ees tent& where itll be hot and steam & Homer called out. AHe hopes& added Fi. : i3nored this childish behaviour and put the car in ,irst. "wa we went. "s we neared the bottom o, the drive Homer called out a3ain. A#heres somethin3 ,unn over there& he said. AFunn peculiar or ,unn ha haG AFunn peculiar. : slowed down a bit and tried to peer across the paddock in the direction he was pointin3. :t was too di,,icult to do that and drive at the same time& so : asked him& A?o ou want to stopG A6o& doesnt matter. ACes& stop& 'ob n called out suddenl & in a stran3e voice& like someone was twistin3 her throat. : hit the clutch and brake and the 5andie rolled to a halt. 'ob n was out the back door and runnin3. A<hat is itG Fi asked. A>ver there& Homer said. A6ear the dam. : could see the re,lectin3 water o, the small earthen dam& and the dam wall itsel,& but that was all. !erhaps& thou3h& : thou3ht : could see an odd dark shape to the le,t o, the dam and sli3htl below it. #hen : heard a stran3e

sound& a weird& unearthl sound& that brou3ht all m skin out in bubbles& in an instant rash o, ,ear. M scalp burned. : ,elt like small insects were crawlin3 throu3h m hair. A>h sweet Jesus& said Fi. A<hats thatG A:ts 'ob n& said 5ee. #he sound was not a screamin3 or a cr in3& more a wailin3. #he sort o, keenin3 that ou hear in documentaries about other countries sometimes. : jumped down ,rom the 5andie and ran round the back o, the vehicle towards the dam. <hen : was about ,i,t metres awa : be3an to reco3nise that there were words to the noise she was makin3. A#oo much& she kept sa in3. A#oo much. :ts too much. :t was almost like she was sin3in3 it. :t was the most horri, in3 sound :ve ever heard& : think. <hen : reached her& :d intended to 3rab her& to hold her& to calm and com,ort her. : could hear the others comin3 a bit behind me& but : was the ,irst one there. ;ut when : did reach her& and m e es saw what she had seen& : ,or3ot about holdin3 her and instead stood wonderin3 i, an one would hold me& or i, :d just have to com,ort m sel,. ;e,ore the war :d seen a lot o, death. Cou 3et used to dead bodies& workin3 on a ,arm. Cou never like itF sometimes it makes ou sick& sometimes ou ra3e a3ainst it& sometimes ou mourn ,or da s a,terwards. ;ut ou 3et used to the ewes killed b , as the re 3ivin3 birthF the lambs with their e es picked out b crowsF the dead cows who are bloated with 3as till the look like the mi3ht ,loat awa . Cou see m .od rabbits& roos cau3ht in ,ence wire& tortoises that ouve run over with the tractor when oure down at the creek ,illin3 the ,urph . Cou see u3l death& dr death& Euiet death& death ,ull o, pain and spit and blood& and intestines torn out with ,lies la in3 ma33ots in them. : remember one o, our do3s that took a poison bait and became so ,ren8ied with pain that he ran ,ull speed into the side o, a parked truck and broke his neck. : remember another old do3 that was blind and dea,. <e ,ound his bod in the dam one hot da . <e think he went in to cool o,, and couldnt ,ind his wa out when hed ,inished his swim. 2hriss bod was di,,erent. :t should have been like the others& like the corpses o, animals. Hed been there a ,ew weeks& like the o,ten were be,ore an one noticed them. 5ike them he had been attacked b predators: , ,eral cats& crows& who knowsG 5ike them the earth around him told the stor o,

his death: he la ten metres ,rom the overturned ute& and the rain had not been able to rub out the marks that his hands had made as he 3ou3ed at the soil. Cou could see where hed been thrown& how ,ar hed crawled& and ou could tell hed lain there a da or more& waitin3 to die. His ,ace still stared at the sk F his empt e e sockets 3a8ed up as i, searchin3 ,or the stars he could no lon3er seeF his mouth was locked open in an animal snarlF and his back was arched in a3on . : wondered i, hed tried to write an thin3 on the 3round beside him& but i, he had& it was no lon3er readable. #hat would be so like 2hris& sendin3 messa3es that nobod else understood. :t was hard to think thou3h that ,rom this bod and inside this head had once come wonder,ul messa3es. #his stinkin3 u3l bod had once written A%tars love clear sk . #he shine. ;eside me 'ob n had stopped wailin3 and was now on her knees& sobbin3 Euietl . #he others were still behind me. : dont know what the were doin3& just watchin3& silentl : think& too shocked to move. : looked over at the wrecked car. :t was eas to see what had happened. :t was the Ford ,our9 wheel drive that :d thou3ht was sa,el hidden on #ailors %titch. :t had tipped on the slope beside the dam. :t had slid downhill as it rolled. Hal, a do8en cartons o, 3ro3 had spilled across the 3round. ;roken bottles and empt were scattered ever where. %ome o, the bottles still looked intact. : couldnt help thinkin3 what a stupid thin3 it was to die ,or. "nd : couldnt help wonderin3 what ,i3ure 2hris would have blown in a breathal ser when he took that short cut across the paddocks. :t seemed like ever time we came back ,rom a major hit a3ainst the enem we lost one o, our ,riends. >nl this time the enem hadnt had an thin3 to do with it. 6ot directl & that is. "nd 2hris had been dead Euite a while be,ore wed 3one and attacked #urner %treet. " lot o, thin3s had killed 2hris. Ks leavin3 him alone in Hell was one o, them. <e stood there some time without sa in3 an thin3. %urprisin3l & without bein3 surprisin3& it was 'ob n who at last took char3e. %he walked back to the 5and 'over and returned with a blanket. %he still hadnt said a word. %he spread the blanket out beside 2hris and be3an to roll him onto it. %he sobbed and hiccuped as she worked. " constant shakin3& like a wind& was blowin3 throu3h her& and made it hard ,or her to do it neatl & but she wrapped him up Euite ,irml & not 3entl or nervousl like : would have done. ;ut her actions& so deliberate& caused us to start to move. <e 3athered around the bod and helped 'ob n ,inish her task& wrappin3 2hris securel & tuckin3 the blanket in

at his head and ,eet. #hen with Fi holdin3 a torch to li3ht our wa & 'ob n and Homer and 5ee and : took a corner each and carried 2hris back to the 5andie. <e made room in the back and dra33ed him in& clumsil & knockin3 and ban3in3 him around& althou3h we were tr in3 our best. <e were just too tired. #hen we 3ot in the car& wound the windows down because o, the smell& and drove on. 6o one had said a word. <e hadnt even discussed what to do with the bod o, our ,riend.


<e havent le,t Hell ,or about a month now. :ts hard to be sure e.actl B :ve lost m sense o, time a bit. : dont have a clue what da it is& ,or instance& and : wouldnt know the date to the nearest week. :ts cold& : know that much. #he planes and helicopters kept comin3 over ever da a,ter we 3ot back. : think the suspect were hidin3 up in these mountains& because the choppers seemed to spend a lot o, time patientl searchin3& movin3 slowl backwards and ,orwards& like 3iant dra3on,lies. :t was hard on us. <e had to be ver sure that ever thin3 was concealed ,rom the air and we had to keep under cover all da . :ts been >@ the last week or so thou3h. : cant remember e.actl when the last one came over. :t 3ives me Euite a thrill to think what dama3e we must have caused in <irrawee that ni3ht. " thrill thats three9 Euarters ,ear& but de,initel a thrill. ;ut we ma have had one ,ailure. : didnt realise until Homer said somethin3 esterda that there were no vehicles parked in #urner %treet when he snuck across it to 3et to the house he tried to blow up. "s ,ar as he can remember& an wa & but he sa s hes prett sure. #hat leaves just a little doubt in m mind about Major Harve . #he 'an3e 'over had been sittin3 in #urner %treet when : le,t the church. : did want to 3et Harve & and at the moment theres no wa we can check whether we did or not. <e brou3ht back some ,resh batteries& so weve been able to listen to the radio a bit more. #hin3s have bo33ed down a bit in most areas. <e dont seem to have lost an more 3round& but we havent won an back eitherF and in lots o, the best ,armland& like our district& the seem prett con,ident. #he radio sa s a hundred thousand new settlers have moved in and theres heaps more with their ba3s packed& just waitin3 to come. #he "mericans dont talk about us much on their news now& but the ve 3iven us a ,air bit in the wa o, mone and eEuipment. !lanes in particular. #he send all the stu,, to 6ew Mealand B thats where ever thin3s bein3 or3anised.

#he @iwis have been prett 3uts . #he ve sent landin3 ,orces over and the ve ,ou3ht hard in three di,,erent places& and the ve won back some important areas& like 6ewin3ton& where theres a bi3 "ir Force base. #he havent been near us thou3h. #he onl action around here was at 2obblers ;a . <e heard a lot o, planes 3o over three ni3hts a3o and 5ee and 'ob n both thou3ht the could hear bombs wa in the distance. :n the mornin3& when : snuck up to #ailors to take a look& there was a lot o, smoke han3in3 over 2obblers. %o that was 3ood. :ts not over et& thats how : look at it. : 3uess well have to tr to help out a3ain soon& too. : hate the thou3ht& but theres no choice reall . :ts 3oin3 to scare the crap out o, me& because its 3oin3 to be so much harder. : hate to think what chan3es well ,ind. More colonists and tou3her securit & ,or two. :ts a worr . 5ast ni3ht was the ,irst time an one mentioned it. 5ee said& A<hen we 3o out a3ain we should have a crack at 2obblers ourselves. 6o one else said an thin3. <e were all eatin3 and we just kept our heads down& shovellin3 the ,ood in. ;ut : know what its like. >ne cockatoo takes o,, ,rom a tree& and suddenl the airs ,ull o, white birds. 5ee just became the ,irst cockatoo. 5ee and : are like an old married couple these da s. <ere so used to each other& : 3uess. <ere 3ood mates. ;ut were not like an old married couple in some wa s B : like m space too much ,or that. : pre,er sleepin3 alone B not that : sleep much. :d ,eel a bit su,,ocated sleepin3 with someone ever ni3ht. ;ut weve made love ,ive times now. :ts nice. : like the wa m bod starts o,, ,eelin3 tin3l and e.cited in one spot and then 3raduall it spreads and spreads until :m ,reakin3 out all over. #he onl worr is those condoms. #he re not that reliableF ninet 9somethin3 per cent : think. <hen this is all over : sure dont want to roll up to Mum and ?ad and hand them a bab . "nd another thin3 : dont know what well do when 5ees suppl runs out. #heres onl ,our le,t. Ma be thats the real reason he wants us to take another trip out o, Hell. Fi told me this mornin3 that she wants to do it with Homer& which had me chokin3 on m 2ornies. : never thou3ht Fi would be 3ame. : think its more that shes jealous o, 5ee and me ma be& because she and Homer reall dont

have that kind o, relationship an more. ;ut theres not a wide choice o, partners down here. "nd shes not havin3 5ee. #he onl other thin3 : have to write to brin3 this up to date is about 2hris. "nd what : put wont be ver lo3ical. :m so mi.ed up in m ,eelin3s about it all. <e brou3ht him down here and buried him in a nice spot: a hollow between some bi3 rocks& about hal,wa between our tents and the spot where the creek runs into the bush. #here was a so,t piece o, 3reen 3rass there& almost like tur,. >, course when we started di33in3 we ,ound that the so,tness didnt 3o ,ar down. :t was just a sur,ace so,tness. :nside was all hard and rock . :n the end it took us three da s to di3 the deep hole that we wanted. <e werent too or3anised about it. <henever we ,elt in the mood wed wander over and do a bit more. <e put him in there at dusk and covered him up strai3htawa . #hat was the worst part. #hat was just aw,ul. : still 3et weep when : think about it. <hen it was ,illed in we stood around ,or a minute or two but no one seemed to know what to sa & so a,ter a while we dri,ted awa to our private spots& to sit on our own and think. <e werent able to do ,or our ,riend what wed been able to do ,or the soldier wed thrown in the 3ull in the Hollowa Halle . #heres alwa s a ,lower or two on the 3rave thou3h. =ver time an one 3oes ,or a walk the brin3 one back and stick it there. #he problem then is to keep our last lamb ,rom eatin3 it. :t makes me wonder i, the Hermits bod is here somewhere in Hell too. :td be ,unn i, the were both here& because : think the were probabl alike in some wa s. "n wa & thats not the illo3ical part. #he illo3ical part is the wa : ,eel about it all. "bout 2hris. : miss him and : ,eel terrible that he died like that and it seems so un,air and such a waste. ;ut : ,eel other thin3s too& 3uilt especiall . 7uilt that we le,t him on his own& that we didnt tr harder. <hen he was in one o, his moods we usuall 3ave up and didnt make an e,,ort to humour him out o, it. : think we should have done more. "nd : ,eel an3r & an3r at him. "n3r that he was so weak and didnt tr harder. "n3r that he was such a 3enius but didnt do enou3h with it. %ometimes ou just have to be brave. Cou have to be stron3. %ometimes ou just cant 3ive in to weak thou3hts. Cou have to beat down those devils that 3et inside our head and tr to make ou panic. Cou stru33le alon3& puttin3 one ,oot a little bit ahead o, the other& hopin3 that when ou 3o

backwards it wont be too ,ar backwards& so that when ou start 3oin3 ,or9 wards a3ain ou wont have too much to catch up. #hats what :ve learned. #heres a rustle in the 3rass to the le,t o, m tent. %ome little ni3ht creature& probabl hopin3 to raid our ,ood. %ame as us& : think& searchin3 around the countr side& tr in3 to avoid the predators& just ,indin3 enou3h to keep ourselves 3oin3. : can hear Homer snorin3& Fi callin3 out in her sleep& 5ee wri33lin3 into a new position& 'ob n breathin3 steadil . : love these ,our people. "nd thats wh : ,eel bad about 2hris. : didnt love him enou3h.

#he will carr me to the ,ield #hrou3h the wreaths o, mist Moist on m ,ace& "nd the lamb will pause For a thou3ht,ul stare. #he soldiers& the will come. #he will la me in the dark cold earth "nd push the clods in upon m ,ace.

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