Writer's Retreat – Chapter 5
My sleep has become irregular. Time and again I wake with a start as if someone has just shouted my name. Then by day, I’m groggy and fuzzy-headed. Literally, if I look in the mirror – which I try not to do. Straggles? Medusa isn’t even in the running.
The bathroom is mildewed, the walls constantly slimy, as the extractor fan isn’t up to the job. Not much incentive to linger; many days I skip the shower altogether.
Bob and Trisha come over to check on me. Trisha wrinkles her nose, surveys the kitchen and cocks an eyebrow at the boxes of empty bottles next to the dresser.
‘Haha. I missed the last recycling collection.’
‘Bob will take that lot away for you.’ Trisha never was much of a drinker, even in our student days or the six months we spent together travelling Europe, young backpackers out to see the world and have fun. She has always been mildly disapproving of my ‘red wine habit’, as she calls it.
The man himself charges in from the courtyard, puffing, shaking his big shoulders in the Driza-Bone like a hairy, ungainly dog, dripping puddles on the floor.
‘Shit, this weather’s lousy. Never known it like this for so long.’
He’s concerned about the condition of the barrier dune. There’s a big blow-out a kilometre to the east which is getting rapidly worse, undercut on the seaward side by the storm surge.
‘If the dune goes, it could get a bit damp around here.’
‘Damper than it already is?’
‘Ohhhh yes.’ He promises to keep me up-to-date. ‘If the worst comes to the worst, there’s always room for you at our place.’
‘Daddy says you should go home now.’ Martha is standing next to my bed.
‘Martha, sweetie, what are you doing here?’
I jolt awake. Blink in the darkness. There’s a figure in the corner of the darkened room. A shadow blacker than the black around it.
‘Daddy says you should go home now.’
I wake, heart pounding. Martha’s dark eyes, pale face. Her breath on my cheek.
‘Daddy says it’s time to go home.’
I claw my way to consciousness through layer upon layer of nightmare, click on the bedside lamp, and lie gasping.
Then I smell it.
The stench of a thing once living, at the bottom of the sea for a hundred years. It fills my nostrils, clogs my throat with its rotting. Indescribably awful. It draws me to my feet, gagging. I stumble into the hallway, into the kitchen, drawn ever onward. There.
Sitting hunched at the table. Massive, gelatinous. Dark and glistening in the firelight. Empty sockets turned towards me.
‘Daddy has come to take you home.’
I turn and run. Out the front door. Water swirls and grabs at my ankles in the darkness. Branches scratch and tear at my nightclothes as I stumble up the dune.
Severe storms are battering the Southwest Victorian coast with hurricane-force winds, causing flooding in low-lying areas. Residents are advised to avoid travel if possible and to take shelter indoors. In Belfast Reserve near Warrnambool, a storm surge has breached the coastal dune and inundated farmland. A woman was airlifted to hospital after spending the night stranded on the dune. She is believed to be in a stable condition. Stay tuned for updates.
Coast FM, 3 August, 8.06 a.m.
Thank you for reading ‘Writer’s Retreat’. I hope that you enjoyed it. Next week, we’re off on another adventure with Steve Fendt’s Tall and Tiny Tales …