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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A black comedy/fantasy/horror story using Aboriginal Dream-Time mythology to recreate the Halloween myth to create an Australian Halloween tale (since we don't have Halloween in this country).

Submitted: September 18, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 18, 2011




Ten minutes later he was heading for the front door, with Tony Costa in tow.

Even driving on high beams, on the unpaved road between the two towns, it took till nearly 3:00 AM to reach Broadhurst.

“I hope you haven’t led me out here on a wild goose...” began Des as they drove into town.He stopped in mid sentence as the car’s headlights lit up the porch of the general store where three headless bodies lay.“Holy Jesus!”

“There’s Joey Booker and Mary O’Brien,” said Tony, pointing toward the livery stable across the street.Des swung the Fairlane around to catch the two headless corpses in the headlights -- along with other bodies further up the street.

“Wait here,” ordered Des opening the police car door.

“Can’t I come with you?” asked Tony.He decided that the sight of the corpses all around town wasn’t as bad as waiting alone in the car -- afraid the killer might return while Des was inside one of the buildings.

“All right, come along,” said Des reluctantly, not wanting to waste time arguing the point.

In the street they found seventeen headless bodies.Inside the weatherboard houses and stores they found eleven more.Plus one very frightened, almost catatonic old lady -- Moira Walsh, the local school teacher -- crouching in terror in the broom closet in her house.

“Pumpkin...pumpkin head!” shrieked the old lady as Des helped her to her feet.He led her gently yet insistently outside to the car.

“Well, I guess you were telling the truth,” Des said to Tony as they placed Moira Walsh in the back of the police car.

They had already started out of town again, when the headlights picked up two figures running toward them.

“Oh my God, he’s back!” shrieked Tony Costa.But as the figures approached, they could be seen to be two white men carrying shotguns.

“It’s Larry Stroud and Maurie Cribbins,” explained Tony as the car screeched to a halt.“It must’ve been them chased the bugger out of town.”

The two men were clearly exhausted, having spent the night on the move.

“My God I thought ol’ pumpkin-head musta got you boys,” said Tony as Larry collapsed, panting furiously, against the bonnet of the Fairlane.

“Not a chance,” said Maurie, the least exhausted of the two.“I don’t know if the buckshot even hurt the bastard, but the gun blast sure scared him off.”

“Then where’ve you been all night?”

“Our own stupid fault,” explained Larry.“We must’ve chased the bugger fifteen Kays or more into the outback.By the time we gave up on him, we were well and truly lost.We’re lucky to even get back alive.”

Des and Tony helped the two fatigued men into the back of the car.Then Des drove them to Hoopertown, where Detective Inspector Bill Noonan still had a small task force investigating the Brownville Massacre.


Bill Noonan listened in horror as he was told of the twenty-eight murders in Broadhurst.He peered at the four men sitting in front of the small, worm-riddled desk where he sat at the back of the small office, surrounded by four-drawer filing cabinets filled with the paperwork from the Brownville Massacre -- mainly thousands of photos of the headless victims. ‘My God,’ he thought, ‘we’ll have the federal boys nosing about if we don’t catch this bastard soon.’

Bill listened to the accounts of Tony, Larry, and Maurie again and again, desperately searching without success for anything new, any clue that might allow them to start making headway with the case.Their accounts had been typed up and signed, and Larry and Maurie had already left, when Tony Costa suddenly remembered the metal sheathing he had seen on the blade of the murder weapon.

“Jesus Christ!” cried Bill.Although news of the lost tribe had been pushed off the front page by the Brownville Massacre, he had read enough to recall that the lost tribe were said to be the only wild Aborigines known to sheathe their weapons in metal.


Huntington-Station was halfway between traditional Aboriginal and western lifestyles.Some of the reservation blacks had higher education and were completely westernised.Others were partly westernised but still did traditional Aboriginal crafts such as weaving, boomerang making, and hunting wild animals for food.Also boomerangs, stone carvings, and Aboriginal paintings were produced by many of the inhabitants and sold through a co-operative which shared the profits among all the station’s residents.

Having lectured at Brisbane University Jaffa was used to rising early, yet he couldn’t help yawning at the 5 o’clock start at Huntington-Station.But he had decided that if he wanted to make headway with the lost tribe, he must adapt to their ways, and knew that even the reservation blacks were usually hard at work by 6 o’clock.

Stepping onto the concrete steps outside the main building, Jaffa saw Debbie Mandilalal -- a reservation black -- and two women from the lost tribe sitting together on the dirt weaving a wicker basket.For a moment he couldn’t take his eyes away from the opulent breasts of one of the near naked full bloods.

Reluctantly he forced his eyes away, then blushed deeply as he saw Debbie grinning at him.

Despite his embarrassment, he stopped for a few minutes to ask Debbie how the two full-blood women were fitting in.He was careful not to talk directly to the two women, knowing that by Aboriginal tribal law a single man should not speak to a single woman unless she is his sister, or he is engaged to her.Although the law was no longer enforced by the reservation blacks, he knew it would be among the full blooded lost tribe, and he didn’t want to reverse the progress he had made with the tribe by violating their code of ethics.

After a couple of minutes Jaffa went across to another corrugated-iron-roofed weatherboard building to look for Jackie.His former driver had now become his aide-de-camp in dealing with the lost tribe.

“Looking for me?” asked Jackie tapping Jaffa on the shoulder from behind.He grinned when Jaffa jumped, having not seen the half-breed sneaking up behind him.

“Er...yeah,” said Jaffa smiling himself.He knew that Jackie and some of the reservation blacks took great pride in showing off their stealth to him.

“Where to first?” asked Jackie.

Jaffa ran a hand through his unruly red hair while looking round the half dozen or so large building that made up the reservation.After a moment he said, “The cage.”

As they started across the compound, Jaffa sighed his frustration that he had not been able to get permission to have the barb-wire “prison” torn down.Seeing the lost tribe caged up for no reason made him think of the ongoing nation-wide tragedy of Aboriginal deaths in custody.He wondered when state governments would stop trying to force Western ways upon the Aborigines.‘And stop locking them in cages like animals!’ he thought as they reached the compound.

Since his original encounter with the tribe Jaffa had become friendly with many of the natives.But particularly with a tall, athletic-looking, grey-haired Elder named Julabawali.

Over the last few days they had shown Julabawali how the reservation blacks used a forge to melt and mould iron and other metals. In turn the full blood had demonstrated how his tribe painstakingly extracted metal from ore and melted it to coat the edge of their spears and boomerangs.Which brought them to today’s “lesson”.Using a combination of a pidgin form of the lost tribe’s tongue, and sign language, Jaffa indicated that they would like a demonstration of how the lost tribe hunted with the metal-sheathed weapons.

Julabawali broke into a long string of words -- only a fifth of which Jaffa had any familiarity with -- then eagerly nodded his head to indicate his willingness.

“Here we go then,” said Jaffa as the three of them set out on foot toward the outer limits of the reservation.‘Let’s just hope he doesn’t make a break for it!’ thought Jaffa, knowing that he was taking a risk by allowing Julabawali to stray so far from the cage.Since the return of the Brisbane politician to the Gold Coast many weeks ago and the eventual disappearance of the journalists, Jaffa had had free rein to interpret his instructions regarding the handling of the lost tribe however he liked.But he knew that he would be answerable if any of the tribe escaped into the outback.

As they raced across the dirt plains, occasionally climbing boundary fences, Jaffa started to fear that Julabawali had indeed abused his confidence to make a break for freedom.Before long the redheaded man was more than a hundred metres behind Jackie, who in turn was falling further and further behind the running full blood.

‘Why didn’t we take the Land-Rover?’ thought Jaffa as his legs began to cramp up, not used to cross-country running.‘Then at least we could have kept him in sight!’ He had almost given up on ever seeing the native again, when reaching a grove of blue gums he saw Jackie waiting for him.The black had a finger to his lips to shush the white man.‘Easier said than done!’ thought Jaffa, able to silence his running feet more readily than his gasping breath.

He waited where he was till his breathing returned to normal, then followed Jackie through the sweet-smelling eucalyptus grove.On the other side he saw Julabawali’s willowy figure ever so slowly creeping up on a mob of half-a-dozen grey kangaroos grazing on the desert grass twenty metres away.The old man would creep forward a few centimetres, or even millimetres, then stand rigid as a statue at the slightest hint of movement by the roos. Jaffa knew that kangaroos have very poor eyesight and rely on hearing and smell to warn of imminent danger.Fortunately what wind there was, was blowing from the mob toward the lone hunter.So the only danger was of being heard by the boomer, the dominant male roo, who acted as sentinel for the mob while his harem and their joeys fed.

Despite Julabawali’s caution, the old man was still fifteen metres from the mob when the boomer’s dog-like ears lifted and his head span round to the hunter’s direction.The old man roo roared his warning and quickly the two joeys dived into their mothers’ pouches, then the mob took to flight.

Throwing stealth to the winds, Julabawali leapt forward and launched his large hunting boomerang.Unlike the toy boomerangs sold to tourists, a hunting boomerang is not designed to return to the thrower.Instead it is aimed at the head of a fleeing animal, with the usual intention of killing or stunning the animal long enough for the hunter to reach it.But Julabawali’s aim was lower than Jaffa expected.

“He’s missed his shot,” said Jackie, echoing Jaffa’s thoughts as the boomerang sailed toward the neck of a fleeing doe.

But upon hitting the roo, the metal-sheathed boomerang neatly decapitated the creature, sending its head flying off to one side as the headless animal continued hopping forward.

“Jesus!” said Jaffa.He watched in shock as blood spurted from the severed neck of the kangaroo, which still had not stopped -- like a grotesque, oversized headless chicken racing round and round the farmyard.

After half-a-dozen hops the headless carcase finally realised that it was dead and fell into a heap on the red desert sand.

“Holy Jesus!” said Jaffa.He and Jackie raced across to the headless carcase as Julabawali held up the severed head and started to chatter away a mile a minute in triumph at his success.

Too shocked to even listen at first, Jaffa missed most of the full blood’s monologue, but caught enough to realise that the hunter was proud of his achievement and expected them to be impressed.

“My God, have you ever seen anything like that before?” asked Jaffa, knowing even as he spoke that it was a stupid question.

“No way, never,” replied Jackie.

Obviously disappointed by the reaction of the two men, Julabawali went across to retrieve his boomerang.Then he speared the headless roo from tail to neck so that they could carry it back to the reservation.

“Good eatin’ tonight, boss,” said Jackie with a laugh.He took the back end of the spear to help carry the carcase.

Jaffa followed the procession, grateful that the weight of the roo slowed down the two Aborigines enough to allow him to keep up with them.

When they returned to the reservation, Jaffa was dismayed to see the buildings swarming with police and reporters.I’m in for it now! he thought, assuming that they had been called in after Julabawali had taken off into the outback with he and Jackie in pursuit.

“Professor O’Connor?” called Bill Noonan as they approached.He looked a little startled by the sight of the speared kangaroo.The grey-haired inspector introduced himself to Jaffa as they headed toward the main complex building.“I’m in charge of investigating the murders at Brownville three months ago,” he explained.

“What brings you here?” asked Jaffa puzzled as he led Noonan into the redbrick building.Although there were a couple of bedrooms in the building (including Jaffa’s), most of the doors on either side of the grey-lino covered corridor led to recreation rooms where various arts and crafts could be practised when it was too dark outside, or too hot in summer.At the end of the building was a large room which doubled as a library and a school room when it was too hot for the station kids outside.But although Jaffa and Noonan were both sweating from the outback heat, today was regarded by the teachers as cool enough for the kids to sit under the shade of the giant gum trees that ringed the reservation.So the library was free for Jaffa and Noonan to use to talk in private.

Bill followed Jaffa over to a long, cushion covered wooden bench at one end of the library and sat beside him before answering.“There was a second massacre, at Broadhurst, last night,” he finally said.“Twenty-eight people were killed.All of them beheaded like at Brownville.”

“Jesus!” said Jaffa, not knowing what else he could say.

“The only difference is that this time there were four survivors, so we have a description, of sorts, of the killer.”He went on to describe what Tony Costa, Larry Stroud, and Maurie Cribbins had told him -- so far Moira Walsh was still in too deep a state of shock to be able to tell them anything.

“A pumpkin-headed Aborigine?” asked Jaffa, thinking, ‘He’s gotta be joking!’

“I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what Tony, Larry, and Maurie all claim to have seen commit the murders...”He paused for a moment, feeling a little guilty for not having believed them earlier, “And also two kids, Tommy and Sandy Toohey, who were the only survivors from the first massacre.”

“But what has this got to do with me?” asked Jaffa.Seeing Jackie standing in the library doorway, he waved a hand to call him over.

“I believe...” began Bill hesitantly, “that is I suspect that one of your blacks...that is one of the lost tribe could be the killer.”

“What?” asked Jaffa.Looking toward Jackie, he saw that his second in command was just as astonished.“But why?”

“Because...”Bill hesitated again, this time unsure of his witness, afraid that Tony Costa might have been having an alcohol-induced hallucination.“One of our witnesses claimed that the spear used to behead the victims was sheathed in metal.”

“Yes, but...” began Jaffa.He stopped as a dreadful thought struck him.‘A spear used to behead the victims!’ he thought.

Although he had read newspaper reports of the Brownville victims being beheaded, it had not meant anything special to him.But now he thought of Julabawali’s demonstration of how the sheathed boomerang could effortlessly behead a kangaroo.Looking across at Jackie, he suspected that the half-breed was thinking the same thing. Jaffa wondered if Noonan had noted the headless state of the kangaroo Jackie and Julabawali had carried past him earlier?

“But none of our Aborigines wear a pumpkin, or pumpkin-like mask,” pointed out Jaffa.“It’d be difficult for them to hide something that size from us.”

“On the reservation yes,” agreed Bill Noonan.“But if he’s escaping at night he could hide it in the bush somewhere.”

“But neither Brownville nor Broadhurst are within a hundred kilometres of Huntington-Station,” pointed out Jackie.“It’d take days to walk that far and back.”

“Yes,” agreed Jaffa, “and we’d notice his absence for sure if he vanished for a week at a time then suddenly appeared again.”

“Fair enough, but it might not be someone you have on the reservation.It’s possible the lost tribe might have left some of their members out in the bush when they walked into the reservation three months ago...Or if they knew this bloke was a dangerous psychopath, they may have exiled him from the tribe.”

“All right I’ll speak to them about it,” agreed Jaffa.“But I’d prefer it if I could do it without you looking over my shoulder. They’re used to me and Jackie, but they’re still very wary of strangers.”


Reaching the cage, Jaffa signalled to old Julabawali who ran grinning across toward them from where he had been cooking the headless kangaroo twenty metres away.The old man began chattering a-mile-a-minute, obviously thinking they had come to congratulate him again on his skill in killing the roo.Jaffa waited politely till he had finished, then, hoping his knowledge of the lost tribe’s dialect would not let him down, he asked if they had ever heard of an Aborigine carrying a metal-sheathed spear who wore a pumpkin -- here words failed him and he settled for a “yellow-orange gourd or melon” -- on his head.The full-blood Aborigine stared in wide-eyed horror at the redheaded man.

“What’s the matter?” asked Jaffa.Instead of answering the old man ran toward the other end of the compound shouting, “Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!” as he ran.

“What the hell?” said Jackie, obviously as puzzled as Jaffa.

Reaching the other end of the cage the old man began to chatter to the other full-bloods without stopping.By the time he reached the back of the cage the other full-bloods had began wailing “Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!” also, in obvious terror.But the old man did not stop, he merely took a running jump and landed nearly two metres up the side of the cage then began furiously trying to scale the barb wire fence.

After a few seconds other Aborigines joined him.Ignoring the barb-wire gashes in their arms and legs the Aborigines climbed toward the top of the four-metre tall fence shrilling “Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeh!” as they went.The sound of the fifty-odd wailing natives was almost deafening.

While half the Aborigines tried scaling the barb wire, the others seemed intent on trying to push their way through it.Men, women, children ran screaming about the enclosure, some suffering horrible tears to their legs and arms in their bid to flee the barbed-wire fence that held them on the reservation.

“What’s going on?” shouted Jaffa.But Jackie was busy calling to other reservation blacks to run to their assistance in trying calming down the rioting full bloods.

“My God, what’s happening?” asked Debbie Mandilalal, the first person to arrive.She was closely followed by Bill Noonan who had been waiting by the redbrick building.

“They went berserk when I mentioned a pumpkin-headed Aborigine,” Jaffa shouted to Bill.

It took more than an hour to calm the fifty full bloods, then to attend to their self-inflicted injuries.Two men and two women had to be rushed by flying doctor to the nearest hospital 120 kilometres away for treatment.

“What’s wrong?” Jaffa tried to ask Julabawali.The old man had been taken to the library at the back of the redbrick building to have his injuries dressed.

At first the full blood ignored the question.Lying back on the wooden bench where Jaffa and the grey-haired police inspector had sat earlier, Julabawali’s eyes roved round the metal shelving housing thousands of textbooks, Aboriginal history books, and novels for both adults and children.As the old man’s gaze stopped at a cardboard poster of Bart Simpson, advertising the children’s section, Jaffa thought, ‘Anyone would think he’d never seen books before!’Then he realised that it was probably true.

Jaffa started to repeat the question, wondering if he had got the Aboriginal syllables wrong, when he was cut off by Julabawali.“Sanarn!Sanarn!” shouted the full blood.

Jaffa and Jackie braced themselves in case the old man was about to run off in panic again.But he made no move to leave the bench.

“Sanarn?” asked Jaffa.“What is that?Is that the name of a person?”

“Sanarn!Sanarn!” repeated Julabawali.With a little encouragement from Jaffa and Jackie, he accepted a pen and notepad from a police constable, and with difficulty (not used to handling the implements), began to scribble.He drew a stick figure man, with what was obviously meant to be a pumpkin on his head.

For the next eight hours Jaffa attempted to question the old man about “Sanarn”, trying his best to translate questions thrown at him by Bill Noonan. Jaffa only wished he had a stronger grasp of the dialect of the lost tribe.After twenty-five years’s study, he was acknowledged around Australia as the greatest living white authority on Aboriginal languages.But now he felt like a high school student vainly trying to come to grips with some incomprehensible European language.After three months of hard work he still had only the most tentative understanding of the dialect and felt frustrated that for every word he understood there were half-a-dozen others that flew over his head.

By nightfall they had learnt little more, except that Sanarn seemed to be a Dream-Time monster, rather than a modern man.By the time that they gave up questioning the old man Jaffa, Jackie, and Bill Noonan were all mentally exhausted and very frustrated.

“But wouldn’t Jackie or the other reservation blacks have heard of this Sanarn, if it’s a Dream-Time legend?” asked Bill as he followed Jaffa down the yellow-walled corridor toward his bedroom-cum-workroom.

Although Jaffa’s room was one of the largest bedrooms on the reservation, there was very little furniture.On the right looking into the room, was a double-door wardrobe, then a few metres away a single bed and small dressing cabinet.On the left was a long, wooden bench holding Jaffa’s personal computer, a telephone, plus various computing software and hardware.There was also three or four ergonomic chairs around the table.

“Not necessarily,” answered Jaffa, as they both pulled up chairs before the PC, which he switched on.“There are basically three types of Dream-Time legends,” he said, sorting through CDs in a drawer of the computer table.“Large scale legends, such as the Great Rainbow Snake, that are believed by Aborigines right around the continent.Medium scale legends, which might exist in one or two states only.And small scale legends, that may exist only in a single tribe.”

“So it’s possible no one outside the lost tribe has ever heard of Sanarn before?” asked Bill as Jaffa found the CD he was looking for.

“Quite possibly,” admitted Jaffa.He loaded the disk into the CD-ROM drive.“I put together most of this information myself over twenty-five years, so I have to tell you I’m pretty certain there’s no Sanarn on file.But with luck we might be able to find the basic legend under another name.”


By midnight they’d had no success and both men’s eyes ached from the strain of staring at the computer screen for so long.Jaffa had already started to pack up his equipment for the night, when they heard shouting outside.

“What in the world?” said Bill.They ran across to the window near the bed to look out into the compound.

Hearing running footsteps behind them, Jaffa turned round as Jackie raced in from the corridor to announce, “They’ve made a break for it!”

“What?” asked Jaffa, not understanding.

“The lost tribe, they’ve broken out of the compound and done a bunk toward the bush.”

“Jesus, they must know more than they’re telling, us!” said Bill.He almost knocked over Jackie in his haste to get outside.

When they reached the cage, they saw where a large hole had been cut through the wire at the side furthest from the reservation buildings.“Must have used their metal-coated spears like wire cutters,” guessed Jackie.

“You’ll never catch them now,” said Jaffa.

“Who says I won’t!” insisted Bill.He ran across to his police car parked a few metres away.In the distance they could make out lights bobbing about like angry fireflies and Jaffa and Jackie realised the other police (and reporters) had taken off after the fleeing blacks, without waiting for the police inspector to arrive.

Bill spoke on the mike more than a minute.Then he called to Jackie and Jaffa, “They’ve got them well in sight.Want to come along?”

The two men leapt into the back seat even as the car took off.Although Jackie had to get out again a dozen metres later to open the first of half-a-dozen livestock gates between the reservation and the bush.

Finally they reached the open dirt road, where the Fairlane raced along at a terrifying speed.Instinctively Jaffa crouched down covering his head each time he saw a great gum or pine tree bob up in front of them.“Watch out!” he started to warn for the umpteenth time.But before the words were even out of his mouth, Bill Noonan had effortlessly veered the car round the tree, making Jaffa realise the policeman had obviously been trained in high-speed night pursuits.

Seeing a group of running blacks in the headlights of the car ahead of them, Bill called over his shoulder, “Told you we’d get them.”

Jaffa realised the fact that they had tried to run away gave Inspector Noonan a legitimate excuse for now regarding the lost tribe as prime suspects in the Brownville and Broadhurst massacres.‘If only I could have learnt more of their language, more about the culture, taught them to trust me!’ thought Jaffa, feeling that it was his own fault the lost tribe had panicked and made a run for it.

So lost was he in his thoughts that Jaffa hadn’t noticed that they had stopped.Until he saw Noonan and half-a-dozen other cops highlighted in the cars’s high beams running hither and thither almost colliding with sweet smelling eucalyptus trees, and trampling Mulga bushes underfoot, as they concentrated on nothing but pursuing the panicked natives, catching and handcuffing them to low branches of gum trees, or anything else that was strong enough to hold them.

“Jesus!” cried a young constable as a frantic Aborigine kicked and writhed against the grey-barked tree he had been cuffed to.After nearly a minute the thick bough broke with a great crunching and the native took off again, still cuffed.“Bastard!” shouted the constable taking off after him.

Frustrated still by his lack of fluency at their native tongue, Jaffa did his best to calm the Aborigines, and convince them to co-operate with the police.He was afraid the Queensland police -- never noted for their subtly in handling Aborigines -- might resort to violent tactics if they had too much trouble subduing the lost tribe.

After the Aborigines had been locked in the back of the police car, Bill Noonan used the car mike to find out how the other cars were doing.He cursed and said, “So far only a dozen of them have been caught.But they’re running down the rest of them gradually.


The chase took them many kilometres into the outback and lasted until dawn.After an hour or so a great beam of light suddenly shone down on them startling Jaffa.Until he heard the whutta-whutta-whutta of rotors overhead and realised it was a spotlight from a police helicopter.

“Luckily we still had one chopper in Hoopertown, to help search for the Brownville murderer,” explained Bill Noonan.

With the help of the helicopter it became almost impossible for the running Aborigines to escape.Yet when the chase was called off an hour after dawn only forty-five of the fifty lost tribe had been tracked down. Looking disgruntled, Bill Noonan reluctantly conceded, “The others must have had too much of a head start.”


Back at the reservation they had to weld the cutaway section back into the cage wall.Then, at the insistence of Bill Noonan, they set up a series of lights facing the furthest sides of the cage, so that the natives could be observed all night.

“And I’m placing a twenty-four-hour watch on them,” Bill said.“At least until the two slaughters are cleared up.After that they’re free to go as far as I’m concerned.”

Then it was up to Jaffa to explain to Julabawali why they had to bring them forcibly back to the compound, and why they must not try to escape again.Then, thinking, ‘I just hope they don’t blame me for taking part in their recapture,’ Jaffa tried to get the old man to explain why the natives had broken out en masse.

To his relief Julabawali accepted that Jaffa had only been doing his job.But he was reluctant to explain why the lost tribe had panicked.

Over the next two months Jaffa interviewed the full blood every day and slowly began to piece together the legend of Sanarn and why the Aborigines had taken to flight.The gist of what he had learnt was: “Sanarn is a demon which followed the Aborigines across the land bridge from Malaysia to Australia more than fifty thousand years ago.

“Sanarn was at heart a merciless and very proficient killer.But thousands of years ago the Aborigines devised chants and tribal dances that made Sanarn powerless to harm them.They subjugated the demon and forced him to help them with their hunting.

“Unable to hunt humans any longer, Sanarn adapted his skills to become a champion tracker and huntsman.Skills which he passed on to the Aborigines.Allowing them to become so adept that they could roam the length and breadth of the Australian continent tens of thousands of years ago, whilst white settlers even in the 1990s cannot stray far into the searing deserts of outback Australia without fear of death by dehydration or starvation.That’s why virtually all of Australia’s modern cities are built within a small strip around the coastline.Eighty Percent of the Australian continent is regarded today as uninhabitable desert.Yet fifty thousand years ago the Aborigines knew how to survive and flourish right across that ‘desertland’.All thanks to the skills they learnt from Sanarn in hunting, digging for herbs, edible roots and tubers, and locating water in the desert.

“Sanarn also taught the Aborigines how to build spears, boomerangs, and woomeras.As well as how to build lean-toes, humpies, miamias, and other crude dwellings, so necessary to survive the midday sun in central Australia.Thirty thousand years ago, he also taught a small number of Aborigines the art of mining iron-ore, smelting it and coating the blades of knives, spears, and boomerangs, to give them a lethal edge.

“But before many Aborigines could learn the art of mining and smelting, disaster struck: a dispute over territory led to a war between two Aboriginal tribes.The war quickly escalated into a full-blown tribal war, reaching right across the continent.Over a hundred-year period two-thirds of Australia’s native population were killed in the tribal war, leaving only five million Aborigines to populate the mainland.But apart from the millions dead, the real tragedy was that in this time all of the chant-masters were killed.So that the Aborigines forgot the sacred chants and ritual dances that allowed them to subdue Sanarn....”

“So Sanarn began to slaughter the Aborigines?” asked Jaffa one day.He checked that his tape recorder was stiff recording Julabawali’s story.

“Yes,” agreed the old man.“But in particular the ones you call the “lost tribe”.The Aborigines whom he had taught to smelt and sheathe their weapons with metal.”

“But why?” asked Jackie.He placed a hand against the metal gate to the barb-wired cage, but quickly pulled his hand away from the metal which burnt from the heat of the noonday sun.

“Partly because he thought we had used our control over him to take from him by force his most precious secrets.And partly because he resented the twenty thousand years of servitude to the Aborigines that he had suffered at the hands of the chant masters.

“So Sanarn ruthlessly hunted down the Aborigines, forcing them to continuously flee, thereby becoming the nomadic race they are today.Originally the Aboriginal walkabout -- when tribes suddenly pick up all their belongings and flee into the outback without warning -- was no more than Aborigines running for their lives at the first hint of Sanarn’s presence in their vicinity.

“By the 1780s, only a million or so Aborigines survived on the mainland.Then the first white settlers came to this country and showed themselves to be even more adept at slaughtering blacks than Sanarn had ever been.It had taken the demon thirty thousand years to reduce the Aboriginal population from five million to a single million.But over the next two hundred years the white settlers reduced it from one million to barely three hundred thousand.So by the year 1900 Sanarn began to leave the slaughter of the average Aborigines to the whites, concentrating all his energies on eradicating the lost tribe.

“In fact for more than a hundred years we have known of the white settlement of this continent, but have avoided your society for fear of bringing the demon Sanarn’s wrath down upon you.

“At the turn of last century there was more than a thousand of us remaining.But Sanarn’s raids have been so successful that the fifty or so of us who fled to this reservation in desperation are all that now remains of our tribe.Originally we had hoped to blend in with the Aborigines at the reservation and become anonymous.Hopefully eluding Sanarn.But we had not realised how Westernised the settlement blacks had become.Or that we would attract so much attention in your news media that instead of concealing ourselves, we were more exposed than ever to the demon pursuing us.”

“Is that why you tried to escape?” asked Jaffa.He turned over the cassette in the tape recorder.

“That and the fact that when we heard of the slaughters at your two towns, we knew Sanarn must be responsible.We felt guilty that we had caused so many deaths, and hoped to lead the monster back into the outback far away from white society.”

‘Jesus!’ thought Jaffa.He felt even more guilty than ever about the way the lost tribe had been treated: locked in a cage like animals, then hunted down and dragged back to the reservation by the police.‘They weren’t running from guilt, but trying to sacrifice themselves to protect us!And this is how we rewarded them!’

“Why was there so long between Sanarn’s attacks on the two white towns?” asked Jackie.“Three months?”

“Because Sanarn is a little wary of white society.He has lived for tens of thousands of years, so it is possible that he cannot be killed.But for most of that time he was only confronted with spears, knives, and boomerangs.He is still wary of modern weapons, afraid of the booming rifles and shotguns he had never encountered in most of his existence.”

“Bill Noonan said that in the second slaughter Sanarn was scared away by the sound of shotguns fired at him,” pointed out Jackie.

“Yes, like all bullies, Sanarn is a coward at heart.But if the shotguns themselves cannot harm him, eventually it will become difficult, if not impossible to drive him away,” explained Julabawali.“That’s why you must convince your police inspector to allow us to return to the wild.”

‘If only I could!’ thought Jaffa.Having worked with Aboriginal tribes for a quarter century he had built up enough respect for their laws and lores to instinctively believe the old man’s tale of the avenging demon, Sanarn.But he knew that he could never convince the policeman that the story was anything but native superstition.


© Copyright 2019 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.

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