My short tale starts in the scrublands of East Point, Darwin, Northern Territory. I’ve gotten lost. It doesn’t help that it’s a moonless night. I can only see what’s in front of me because of the stars. Why am I in the shrubbery of East Point, you ask? Well, I received some terrible news from my ‘boyfriend’, so I did what any mature adult would do: I ran off.
‘Sigh.’ Out of all the dumb things I could’ve done, this was the top of the list.
I’d started at the car park near the lookout. I’d run so fast in a blind rage that I’d bypassed the main road and ran straight into the scrubland. I had forgotten how long I’d been running when I heard a voice.
‘Hey, this isn’t funny. I’m sorry, alright? I should have been upfront about who I was sleeping with. If you come back, we can talk about it. Noah… Noah!’ The voice continues.
I am starting to regret my overdramatic antics. Maybe I should go back to Dennis? I’ve made him feel guilty enough to come after me, and I don’t want him getting lost on my conscience either.
I raise my hands to my mouth, and I am about to call out to Dennis when I notice a silhouette standing under a poinciana tree. The scrublands are dark, but the profile seems to be jet black. It’s like the essence of night. Am I seeing things? I remember in psychology that your senses over-perform in a state of fear. The figure stands there, still as stone. A chill goes up my spine.
‘I am going to leave you unless you tell me where you are right now.’ Dennis’s voice perforates the darkness and out of instinct, I turn naturally towards it. I curse myself for being stupid enough to take my eye off the figure, but when I look back, the silhouette is gone. I was just imagining things.
In any case, I don’t want to wait around and see if that silhouette comes back. I dash through the scrublands, moving and dodging the branches and rocks. I can hear the ocean in the distance. Good to know I haven’t run in the direction of the cliffs. I feel like I’ve been running for ages. I didn’t think I’d run this far into the bushes.
‘Noah,’ Dennis shouts again. I’m not far away at all. He’s probably only 500 metres away at this point. I smile and bolt in his direction. I break into the clearing where I heard him, ready to admit how sorry I am for doing this and scaring him. I imagined his face. He would be so concerned. It would be like when you did something reckless, and your mum found out. Your mother would look angry, but it is only because they were scared you were gonna hurt yourself.
I am in the clearing, searching for Dennis. He had to be in here somewhere. I turn and scan the space, putting my hands around my mouth, ready to call out to him. That’s when I see the poinciana tree again. What do I mean ‘the poinciana tree?’ I am sure there a lot of poinciana trees at East Point. I am being ridiculous. That’s when I notice the dark silhouette again, in the same spot as before. Yep, it’s ‘the poinciana tree.’ My stomach feels like it has descended into bowels and is trying to escape.
I bolt, bashing through East Point scrublands like a mad person. Anything to get away from that thing. I am huffing and puffing, and I feel like my lungs are going to escape, like my stomach tried to do. Next, it will be joined by my heart, which is beating so hard I am afraid I’m going to have a heart attack.
I stop to catch my breath. The most painful stitch has formed in my side. It feels like one gigantic needle is poking me, and it won’t relent until it pops my lungs. I should keep running, away from that poinciana tree and that… thing. I look up to see where I am. This time, I feel like my brain wants to escape because it can’t fathom what it is seeing. Yet again, I am in the clearing with the poinciana tree. To my horror, the figure is still underneath it.
This time, it comes towards me. The silhouette jerks and jolts towards me astonishingly fast for its awkward movements. I get a second rush of adrenaline and make it out of the clearing. I run, more quickly than I have ever run before. All the previous pain is gone. There is no time to think about that. It is all about survival.
I see the lights from the car park ahead. Finally, I am free, I am going to be safe. When I pass the tree line, I am not absorbed into the blinding light as I expect. I am in the clearing with the poinciana tree again.
‘What?’ I say out loud. I don’t understand what is going on. My body is literally breaking down at this point, and I feel like it has given up. What is the point of trying to escape if I keep ending up here? The figure isn’t there this time, in its usual spot under the poinciana tree. Where could it be? My anxiety skyrockets.
‘Just come out and kill me already,’ I scream into the endless night. I believe all hope is lost. I see rustling behind the the tree line. It is that thing, here to kill me.
To my astonishment, Dennis walks into the clearing. He’s fine. A little too fine for someone running around the East Point scrublands. It is just light enough from the stars to notice his clothing wasn’t damaged, and he isn’t sweating. Stuff all that rationale thinking—he’s safe. I run up to him and hug him and grab him as strong as a powerlifter grips onto their barbell. I’m sobbing like a child.
‘I—was—just so—worried,’ I manage to blurt out between sobs. My voice sounds surprisingly guttural. ‘There was this ‘thing’—and it chased me —and no matter how hard I ran, I still ended up in this clearing.’ I continue my monkey grip, not letting him go. I stop my sobbing, waiting for him to confront me, but it doesn’t come. An eerie feeling ascends up my spine. Dennis hasn’t moved or said anything since I’ve hugged him. You’d think he’d be more respectful of the breakdown I just had.
I take a step back to look him in the eyes, but what I see instead is pure horror. It is a demonic woman with hair down to the ground. Her face is indistinguishable behind the tangled mass of hair, her body covered by a soiled white dress dragging along the floor. Her arms are exposed, and at the end of her hands are long sharp nails.
I go to scream, and her hands extend, wrapping around my neck. I gasp and try to scream, but the grip is so tight. The longer this demon stops the oxygen from reaching my brain, the more I feel the life slipping away from me. Her hair moves subtly and what I see behind it is the depiction of death. I see a sharp tongue descending on my face, and it is then I lose consciousness.
Jakeb Smith is a writer who specialises in queer writing. Life is too heteronormative, so Jakeb always tries to liven things up and tell a story from a queer perspective. Whether that be in poetry, short story or any other creative medium, Jakeb always tries to add a bit of glitter and sparkle to each tale he writes. Follow me @jakebsmithlovesbooks