The Kookaburra Girl 

Sarah McLachlan


You must understand, I just loved this coffee. It was one of those fancy ones with the crème and sprinkles on top that have the taste of sweet syrup that could rot your teeth. I knew they were not good for my health, and I just had one two days ago, but they are so good!

The flavour was a new one made from caramel and kiwi fruit, and it had the right amount of sweetness and tangy taste from them both. The moment the coffee slips down my throat, the heat causes a shiver of delight. My frown would turn into a tight smile that stretched my dry skin with my crow’s feet cutting deeper into my skin. My fingers twitched with a delight that I do not know how to explain, and the moment I took my final sip and walked out of that shop I had the sudden urge to laugh.

My laughter followed me down the street each time I had that drink, and I am here to warn you about it. Do not drink it. Don’t. You will end up like me, ruin your life and be blown away like the wind. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you more.

The laughter was loud and heaved every breath out of my throat. It bubbled deep down in my lungs and once I lost breath, I wheezed. That’s when the laughter decided to cease like the passing wind, and once I was calm enough, I sat on the footpath.

My skin began to burn and itch, right after, like fire, each scratch causing the abrasions and scars to bleed. I wept as the itchiness would not stop. At first, my neighbours would run to my aid and guide me back inside of my home, close the door and deliver food through my closed windows. They all felt sorry and wished me well, but by the third occasion they decided they were too busy. No matter how much I cried out for help, they all ran and slammed their doors shut.

I must tell you something: it was a normal reaction. The drink was gripped in my hands, my clothes ripped from my back and my mouth seemed to be stretched right to my eyes. Or that is what it felt like. Whatever they thought, I couldn’t blame them for running away.

I would do the same.

Once I was inside my home on the fourth day, my paranoia kicked in. I don’t know when or why, but the sudden urge of slamming and locking every exit in my home became intoxicating that I started ripping my hair out. They needed to be closed, the curtains must shield the outside and the bright sun with the glances from my neighbours. I sealed every door, window, cupboard, and gap under the beds with thick cardboard and duct tape.

No wind entered and no thought left, only the smell of the week-old coffee filling the air around me. I sat in the corner of my room and scratched at my arms with the feeling of the blood beginning to soften. The laughing fits grew into the night, and the cries of anguish that escaped from me echoed throughout the street during the day. Everything happened quickly. I felt a sharp prick against my back and face. I cupped my cheek from the sensation and stumbled into the bathroom.

The white light dimmed a sterile white throughout the room, and large brown feathers peeked from behind the bathtub curtain. It was the eighth and final day now, and my heart pounded against my chest. That coffee, I needed that coffee. I gripped the sink. I could taste it on my lips, sweat and tears. I needed it right away, that coffee.

I faced the mirror and studied my face. My mouth was dryer than the desert in the summer. It was as if I was pushed into the sand and skin peeled from the corners of my eyes, with tiny brown feathers peeking out of the scars. I pinched the edge and pulled, the burning sensation sending shock waves throughout my body. Usually, it would go without a hitch, but the inky blackness pooled at the corners of my vision, and I fell on the tiled floor.

I woke with the morning light, and laughter bubbled out of me as I stared into the water puddle below my cheek. Feathers replaced scars, brown, white and yellow. My voice sounded strained and unknown, and the fear paralysed my whole body, apart from the laughter. With each heave feathers grew out of my arms and legs and with each strained cry, the puddle beneath me only grew larger.

Please listen to me, do not buy that drink. The police came and it was the last thing they threw out. I was placed under a team of bird specialists for kookaburras, and now I reside in a white room. Each sound bounces off the walls, even the stretching of my skin. I have not seen the sun in weeks but as I write this final note, I must warn you.

Do not drink that drink, don’t bother. Please. It will destroy your life. You will only become the kookaburra deep inside you, and it strips you from any type of you inside you have left. Do not even try it.

If you do, all you will hear is the sound of a kookaburra laughing for the rest of your days.

Author: Sarah McLachlan is an emerging Brisbane writer in her final year of a creative writing major at QUT. Her aim with her work is to add a bit of magic to the reader’s day. You can find her work throughout ScratchThat magazine.

Artist: Jackson is a Meanjin based non-binary poet at the tail end of their writing degree and is making the most of their time on the ScratchThat team before they move beyond the veil. You can find more work from them on the ScratchThat website, in QUT Glass Issue #11, or on their Instagram account @deku.of.dune