Mother

Mother is a psychological horror inspired by:

… a notorious Adelaide Hills firebug who was sentenced to 13 years prison in 2007 for the deliberate lighting of 21 fires around the town of Harrogate using customised mosquito coils.

$7000 damage was done to fencing and the largest blaze blackened 180ha of land. Residents describe the year before her arrest as a period of terror.

Links to news reports: The Australian, ABC, Adelaide Now,

My partner was witness to one of these fires at his family home in Oakbank. He remembers waking up during the night and seeing the fire at the end of the driveway to the property. During interviews with the CFS and the police, he learnt the incident was one in a long string of suspicious fires intentionally lit that summer.

It was believed, at first, that the culprit was male and from Harrogate. Many meetings were called by the local town council to discuss and condemn the terrorising actions of this individual.

The incidents became so serious that locals took to taking shifts, sitting in their cars and monitoring the entry to the town and recording suspicious vehicles passing through.

When White, loving mother of two and one of the most vocal advocates for catching the perpetrator during this time, was convicted, it sent shock waves through the community.

White told the court she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress due to an incident in her childhood, post-natal depression and anxiety.

She remembered watching the blazes but didn’t remember lighting the fires.

She was released on bail in 2016.

 

[excerpt]

 

Mother didn’t bother finding out my sex, so sure she was that I was a boy. ‘Gave a kick like a ginger hare in a ferret’s mouth,’ she told me once at Christmas, saluting with her empty scotch tumbler. ‘Near broke me ribs.’ As she laughed, the smoke from her Winnie Blues choked the tiny square space of kitchen.

Mosquitoes, a black storm cloud of them, rush the porch, blocking moonlight, wings beating a sound like static, angry humming becoming murderously loud. Once inside, I can hear the pebble bulk of their bodies battering the windows and doors, catching on the thin wire mesh of the fly screen.

‘There’s something wrong with my baby,” I say.

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Leaden Heart

My mother grew up in Hobart before moving to Adelaide as a teenager. During a very special trip to Tasmania with my partner last year, I got to visit my mother’s old neighbourhood and home as well as experience some of the most beautiful Australian landscapes, wine, food and festivities (such as the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race).

We also made a day trip to Port Arthur, infamous convict penitentiary for some of the hardest criminals of the 19th Century, and also the site of more recent tragedy (Port Arthur Massacre, 1996). I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the natural surrounds, juxtaposed against the stories of horror and brutality that had been experienced there.

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This short story was inspired by this spirit of place, and

…the infamous escape attempt of George ‘Billy’ Hunt, travelling actor and self-proclaimed ‘mad man’, who tried to jump across Eaglehawk Neck to freedom in the the carcass of a kangaroo.

[excerpt]

The crack of the whip cut the frosty dawn, sending feverish shivers along the lines of sleeping men. Exhaustion kept them at a doze, although the sound pierced their flesh and settled in their bones. They had all endured the whip—but none had seen it ring so many times and with such ferocity as they did now…

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The Moon and The Sundarban

Sundarban: ‘Beautiful Forest’ (Language: Bengali)

This short story was inspired by a documentary I saw on the BBC UK channel in 2013 entitled, ‘The Man-Eating Tigers of the Sundarbans’. The documentary was about the Bengal Tiger living in the tidal mangroves of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh—the only place in the world where tigers actively seek out human prey (up to 300 people are attacked and killed each year). While it is a phenomenon that continues to stump ecologists, it has been loosely attributed to global warming (rising tide levels leading to a decrease in tiger’s rainforest territory). This is a concern for both the villagers and the tiger conservationists, who have seen a rise in poaching and ‘revenge killings’ of the endangered creature as a response.

The most fascinating part of the documentary was the conservationists’ innovative plan to train local stray dogs as a pack to warn villagers when a tiger is near. The bravery, intelligence and instinct for survival of these previously mistreated strays was what inspired me to write this story about Dukhe, a stray dog from the streets of Khula, Bangladesh, who finds his leadership of the Chadpai pack threatened by a mysterious creature lurking on the outskirts of the forest. He goes to investigate, and in the course of a single turning tide, changes the hierarchy of the forest forever.

 

[excerpt]

Dukhe lifted his shaggy brown head and sniffed. The villagers were at it again – burning incense, beating rapid footfalls on the hard clay earth and chanting in low, guttural voices as they did on the eve of each shrinking moon. Dukhe was so used to these strange monthly rituals that he let his eyelids grow heavy and stretched his forepaws towards the campfire flames, soaking up flickers of warmth. But as he was about to rest his head again, he caught a whiff of something heady, pheromone rich, skirting the opposite bank of the river just beyond reach of the firelight. The scent may have eluded a lesser nose, but it set the coarse hairs of his haunches bristling and exposed his canines to their root. Years living on the busy streets of Khulna in the far North—where the slightly rancid scent of another stray’s breath could carry with it the wide-eyed craze of the frothing sickness—had taught him never to trust a scent he couldn’t immediately define.

The sound began in the hollow of his chest, hitching a couple of times before bursting forth in a wolfish pitch. It was a sound that called to the heart of any dog whose breed had not yet been tamed, and for a second, the forest stilled, listening. The breeze held its breath. The tittering nocturnal creatures ceased their midnight rustlings. The tiger rose, hair bristling, the tip of its tail agitating left and right as though to swipe away the sound. When its attention shifted towards the village, Dukhe slipped beneath the tangle of roots and swum back to the banks of the khal where he rose, bloody and dripping.

 

To read full short story, order your copy of Pencilled In Magazine, Issue 1, ‘Fear and Hope’ here : http://pencilled.in/product/issue-1-fear-hope/  – A new literary magazine dedicated to publishing works from Asian-Australian artists and creators.

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