Nick Roberts 2013
It was real cold when I woke up. The air was frosty and my toes were freezing. I was alone in the bed, soda and Darry must have left for work or something. There was an icy breeze blowing from the open door, so I cuddled up in the doona, like a caterpillar in a cocoon. I lay there for what seemed like hours watching the sun rise through a window in the corner of the room. The bright, early morning sun was sitting just above the horizon, its warm rays peeling across the vast area that was my home. It wasn’t much but it was home. As the sun became increasingly brighter, so bright I had to look away, I thought of my buddy Johnny. I hated thinking of Johnny, remembering him being crippled in hospital and all. But I had to today. It was Johnny’s funeral.
I shifted position in an attempt to get out of bed, but I was exhausted and my knees hurt. I’d been training tirelessly for the last two weeks for the state track and field comp. I never really had to try that hard though, it kinda just comes naturally. I guess I’ve always been pretty good with my running. The day of the comp passed by real quick and I won my race, but I was stuffed all last night. I stared up at the ceiling for a while. I thought about Johnny again, thinking about him getting crushed under the roof at the church made me want to cry but I knew I couldn’t. I knew I had to hold it together for Johnny. I had only ever been to one other funeral before, my parent’s funeral. I was young though and all I could remember was that everybody was so sad, miserable and depressed I wanted to die myself.
I had to get up, the day was upon me. Taking my time I rolled over and threw the doona off me, embracing a biting chill that slowly crept over me as I lay uncovered on the bed. I sat upright and stretched my back, gently twisting it one way then the other, relaxing as I loosened up. I swung my legs around and sat on the edge of the bed. Making my way to the kitchen I searched for Soda and Darry. As I thought neither of them were home. I cracked open two eggs and stuck two pieces of brown bread in our rusty, worn out toaster. As I started cooking the eggs I saw a note on the kitchen table.
Me and Sodapop left ‘round seven thirty to help out with Johnny’s funeral down at the cemetery on 5th street. We’ll be there until ‘bout two this arvo if you want to come down. There’s a pair of clean jeans on the couch and a white collared shirt I ironed for you to wear tonight. Oh and for god sake Pony don’t get the shirt dirty or I’ll knock you to the ground.
I am a yellow solar sun and my mission is to help nature strive. I want to do this by helping species of animals that are near extinction flourish again.
I looked around me. Jeremy. Luther. Maddy. James. Sarah. Where was Luke?
The cluttered hustling sound of the people in the airport was starting to overwhelm me. I couldn’t think clearly. Luke always wandered off, where is he now?
“I think I see him, Mr Roberts, over there in the tax free shop, trying on the different perfumes”, Sarah said pointing to my left. Everyone looked over to where she pointed and quietly laughed to them-selves, a smirk on their faces as they did. I walked over to the tax free shop, weaving my way through the maze of people on the way. I reached Luke and brought him back to the group, although he seemed to hesitate a little as I tugged on his arm. I had become aware of Luke’s lack of contribution to the group. Of all the people in the group he was the one who wanted to be here the least.
Still, I was confused. After all, we were going to India to study the Bengal tigers and find a way to stop them from becoming extinct. It’s a chance of a life time. Who wouldn’t want to come?
We boarded the plane, handing our tickets to a tall, elegant woman with tidy clothes and way too much makeup.
Her voice was sweet, she greeted us with a warm welcome, “How are we today darlings, isle 2, seat numbers 23A to 29A, have a great flight on Tiger Airways”
The cabin was quite crowded, with everyone finding their seats and all. I slumped in into my chair and relaxed for the first time in weeks. Within minutes flight attendants began handing out headphones, which usually meant that we were taking off soon.
My group was to the left and right of me quietly enjoying each other’s company. It put a smile on my face to see how thrilled and excited they were about going on this trip. As the plane began to take off I pulled out a bag of lollies and passed them around to the others. I always make sure I have some lollies when I’m on a plane. I find it helps keep my ears from popping.
The moment the plane landed I unbuckled my seat belt and jumped out of my chair, banging my head on the overhead storage compartments.
Right, planes have roofs.
I was so eager to see the magnificent beasts we had come so far to see.
We took two buses, one train, and hired two off-road jeeps. Where we were going was well away from any town. We were going deep within the Indian jungles.
It was a rough and bumpy road with pot holes everywhere we went. Every now and again we had to drive through a fast flowing creek, which got the guys excited. It was a narrow track, with trees and ferns hanging over the road the whole way.
“Mr Roberts, when does this track end?” Luther asked.
“Umm…… Well…… I’m not too sure Luther, can you get the map and check it out”, I replied with a worried tone in my voice, although I hadn’t lost all confidence in my navigation skills.
“We’re not lost are we, Mr Roberts?” Maddy shouted, over the loud, rickety engine.
“I hope not”, I shouted back, as Luther stuffed a metre long map into my face.
I panicked, “Luther I can’t drive with that in my face, we’re going to crash!”
I couldn’t see anything! I didn’t have time to think. I slammed my foot, hard on the brakes, “Screeeeeeech!”
We skidded to a stop. I jolted forward. I couldn’t breathe. The force of the impact had winded me.
“Is everyone alright?” I called out. No one answered.
Then I saw it.
It crept silently through the long, reedy grass just metres before. Large and muscular, the epitome of a male Bengal approached with calm, graceful steps.
Such a monstrous but still every bit a majestic creation of nature.
He was a dark-faded orange with streaks of black,, dark as the night sky. His paws were the size of my entire face, made for only one purpose. Killing his prey. Taking his time he turned his massive, bulky head towards me. His royal white mane rippled in the calm breeze. Two menacing blue eyes stared deep into my soul.
I could look at those eyes for all eternity.
At that moment in time, I knew, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this breath taking species and do whatever I could to save them. I dropped my arm into my backpack searching for something, anything, to capture this moment with.
His ears suddenly twitched.
He was eyeing my every movement. I froze, petrified. If I made any sudden action it could intimidate him and he would surely pounce and attack. I was absolutely terrified, but so excited at the same time.
A herd of spotted deer pranced through the jungle behind me, grunting and bleating, loud enough for the whole of India to hear.
The tiger let out an earth shaking raw, deafening everyone around him, then sprang off his hind legs and sailed right over my head. I gazed at his white underbelly as he soared through the sky above me, missing me by mere centimetres. “Thud!” He landed behind me on all four and raced off into the jungle in pursuit of the deer, his tail whipping frantically.
Did my hair look good enough?
Was it pulled back far enough?
Was it neat enough?
Is my dress to long?
Does it look too bleached?
Is my bow to tight?
Do I have too much makeup on?
Are my feet to far apart?
All the other girls were looking at me, waiting.
My knees were shaking.
The teacher played the music.
Lady Gaga, my favourite.
The music flowed into me like a rushing river.
My limbs were moving by themselves.
The song was fuelling their every movement.
I flew through the air with elegant grace.
I was in another world
I was in my world.
I opened my eyes.
This was the day.
This was the day I had been forever training for.
The air was frosty and crisp, like it always is here. I threw the covers off and made my way to the kitchen. I was stiff as usual after a long day of training yesterday. I had been training tirelessly for the last 10 years for the ‘Solar Sports Championship’. Nine people from each planet all come together and are involved in a series of sports from dirt biking to snowboarding every 10 years.
I was in the Snowboarding event. This year it was being held on the snow planet. Neptune.
My home planet.
I was ready now more than ever and there was nothing going to stop me from winning. Drinking a hot cup of Jo I took my snow gear out of the cupboard and laid it on the bed. I pulled my green–blue snow pants on and drew the waist band to a comfortable tightness. I slid into my black thermal top and tucked in the edges. On my way out of the lodge I picked up my blue snowboarding boots from under my bed and grabbed my green snow jacket.
I zipped up and strapped on. Had a quick glance at our red sun rising over the horizon in the east and our blue sun rising in the west. I tied my black and silver Burton snowboard to the rear of my skadoo or at least that’s what I call it, most people call it a snow mobile which I think is rather stupid. “Vroom!” I gave the engine a loud rev, snuck into my bike helmet and left for the icy peaks of Europa.
As I approached the base of the massive hill climb, which led to the top of the peaks, I got a call coming from my cousin on Saturn. I slowed to a stop and took of my goggles.
“Hey, Tommy, are you at the peaks yet? Cause I’m on my way now bro”.
“Wait…. are you still there…… Tommy……. my connections………. breaking up. I’m probably……. gonna be a……. little late……… so I’ll see you there…….. cool?”
That was my cousin, always being late to things, especially the important things.
“Yeah Chris, that’s cool, I’ll be there in about an hour but I’ll tell them to wait for you ok”.
“Thanks man, appreciate it”.
Then the connection broke. I put my goggles back on and started up the track to the peaks. When I arrived I saw only the representatives from Jupiter, Venus and Earth, 27 in all.
The other eight, from my planet, still hadn’t arrived, so I took this time to have a moment of relaxation. I cast my dreary eyes, slowly over the jagged horizon, only to see my teammate, Neeko.
“Hey mun huw ya duwin, did ya hear the noows?”
Neeko originally came from Hawaii, on planet Earth, and was brought here by his parents, when he was very young.
“What news, Neeko?” I asked wondering what could have happened.
“Your coosin, Chrus right, yuh wull peoples found hus ship in peesus near Burn coast on plunet Uranus”.
“Did Chris survive it?” my voice broke as I spoke.
“They huvent found a body yet, Surry mun”.
It can’t be true, Chris, my own cousin could be dead. Just like that. I instantly put the thought aside.
“Oh wull mun, one less pluyer to beat yuh,” Neeko said sarcastically, trying to lighten the moment.
“We have to go help find him!” I began, “we can’t just sit here doing nothing”.
Now I was beginning to get frustrated, I have to do something, anything.
He’s my only family left.
“Hey mun relux the gov’s have it sorted, even if ya went ya wouldn’t know where ta start looking, plus ya wouldn’t be back in time for ya race”.
“But”, I protested, then shut my mouth realising the sense in what Neeko had said.
“I think I found something sir” one of the government inspectors cried over the echoing wind that had formed around the crash site.
“What is it Josh?” the head of the group asked.
“It’s the eject seat, it’s not here sir”.
“Do you think this Chris guy could have ejected and somehow survived the crash?”
“Well, yeah, it’s possible sir”
The general paced around the demolished ship, thinking about what to do.
He stumbled on a rock and nearly tripped himself. He grasped a branch before he fell, but cut himself on the branch as he stumbled.
Ohh! Branches aren’t usually that sharp, are they? He thought.
He retraced his steps, until he found the branch he was looking for. It was broken, snapped almost right off the tree. There was also a trail of broken and destroyed trees, leading down into the forest that lay next to Burn coast.
“Hey Josh come and have a look at this”, the general called out to the inspector.
“Are you thinking, what I’m thinking sir”, Josh exclaimed bewildered at what he had seen.
“If you’re thinking that the trail has been made by an eject seat crashing through the trees, then yes, you are thinking what I am thinking”.
The two of them called over the other inspectors and started down the trail. After about one hundred meters the trail began to bend around to the left towards Shard Cliff.
“I have a bad feeling about this”, the general sighed.
The tracked continued for a while longer until it stopped right at the cliffs edge. They cautiously looked over the edge into the mouth of the canyon.
There he was.
Dangling by a tree that was growing out of the side of the cliff, a few hundred meters below. Attached only by the thin fabric of the parachute.
As the general got harnessed up they started hearing distress calls coming from below. Chris had obviously noticed someone was there and was calling for help. He slowly but calmly made his way down to Chris and brought him safely back to the top of the cliff.
“I’m officially retiring” the general muttered sarcastically as he flung himself over the top of the cliff, exhausted.
The loud speaker sounded, “Tommy Ryans make your way to lane four”.
I froze. I was about to explode with butterflies. The nerves were hitting me hard. Where was Chris, I still didn’t know if he was alive or dead. My head spun. Should I go to my lane?
Rob, one of my teammates, gave me a nudge, “Tommy, what are you doing, your race is about to start, you gotta get moving mate”.
“Right, yeah, I’m going now” I mumbled as I picked up my board and made my way to lane four.
Strapped my right leg on. Strapped my left leg on.
My board was ready.
Took three long deep breaths, one, two, three. As I looked out over the mountains, there was a purple eclipse with the two suns.
I was ready.
The gates were open and we were away, nine of us in total. We all held a steady, even pace around the first right hand bend. Snow was going everywhere. Vooosh! Snow spat out behind my board as I skidded across the icy layer of snow beneath me. One the second turn I had the lead, but only by seconds.
It wasn’t going to last long.
I was right, Jimmy from Earth shot straight past me, spraying ice cold snow right in my face. “Whoa!” I cried almost losing my balance. Concentrating, I bent my kneeing as low as I could and steadily began to gain some speed. Georgia from Uranus was ahead of me now.
Third. I can do better than that.
There was a hard left turn coming up. I swung my back foot out as far as I could and drifted around the corner grinning at how easily I had been able to do that. The momentum of the corner sent me flying down the next straight and right past Georgia.
Second. Now we’re talking.
This was the section of the race with jumps. I went for the second jump on my left. I hit it well. Soaring so high in the sky, all weight dropped from me and I felt ever more determined to win this race. Getting good air on two more jumps I caught up to Jimmy.
One more turn and I was but meters away.
Another turn, I was on his tail.
The last bend was in our sight. We both hit it hard.
Jimmy was a great snowboarder. But I was better. I was ahead by a nose out of the bend. The finish line was 500 meters away now, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50! We were neck and neck. Couldn’t breathe I was focusing on nothing but the end of the straight. We raced across the finish line not knowing who had won. I was silent. Jimmy was silent. The whole crowd was soundless.
The loud speaker echoed though the valley, “Tommy Ryans, has won the snowboarding event of this decade’s Solar Sports Championship.
The crowd roared and then they were upon me, cheering and screaming congratulations. “Yes!” I yelled on the top of my voice, “I did it!”
That’s all I had to say. I looked around and pinched myself, making sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Who is that? There was a scrawny looking man up the back with a great big smile on his face.
It was Chris.