The Same Place, Chapter 10: At the Crossroads

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Published on 15.02.10 09:39 Age: 10 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 16288 Words : 3001

By: Cedar

In the end, she decided to wear just her hat and sunglasses. After all, Mungo had brought nothing to cover himself for the entire trip. Granted, he did not have to deal with sore breasts. But if he could go nude the whole trip (and perhaps even his entire life) then she could certainly go a few more days.

She got out of the tent and found Mungo eating some of the snake the previous evening. It made for a strange breakfast to say the least. "It won't do us any good to let this go to waste. Have some," he said offering her a piece.

"You're a bit quiet today," he noted.

At this point, Mungo could read her like an open book. It was a shame that this did not go both ways. So much of his life still remained a mystery to Kylie. "I had another dream. No, wait, it was the same dream. I just remember it more vividly."

"Fisher's Creek?"

"Yes?"

"Have ya worked out its meanin'?" asked Mungo.

Worked out its meaning? What did he mean by that? For that matter, what did the dream mean? That she was fat? That she was ugly? That she had been right to keep her body covered before. Those seemed to be the obvious conclusions that the dream was pointing towards. "No."

"I'm sure ya will," he said confident in her ability to resolve her nightmares.

"Let me get a couple more shots of the campsite." Kylie took out her camera and panned across the landscape. After about a half a minute, the tape ground to a halt. "What the hell?" she said as she opened the casing. She found her answer. She was out of tape.

"Yeah, let's go," she said.

Mungo quickly took down the tent, and they were off. The journey was tougher than it had been in previous days. The grade was steeper. On most days, Kylie had found that her muscle pains would subside after hiking for a while. Today, they were more prominent. Her thighs burned with the buildup of lactic acid that came with the uphill climb. The only good thing about the soreness in her legs, was that it made it easier to ignore the soreness in her breasts.

Once again, Mungo talked to her about the critters that called the Australian outback home. He pointed out the goanna and other lizards that were sunning on the rocks. Yet he also talked again about the birds. In fact, he was covering many of the same species he had the other day. When Kylie asked why he had such an affinity for birds over all other forms of life, he answered that "birds make for the best conversation." That was Mungo for you.

Again, they took turns taking shots with the video camera. Once again, Kylie took most of the footage, but she let Mungo have his turn. This only seemed to confirm her suspicion that Mungo secretly enjoyed using the video camera. As he was taking one of his shots, he suddenly uttered, "Whoops!"

"What? What is it? What's wrong?" asked Kylie a bit concerned.

"I...I think I broke it." He sounded crestfallen, and he wore an apologetic look on his face. "I was just usin' it like you showed me, and suddenly it stopped workin'. I'm really sorry." He handed the camera to Kylie.

Kylie tried to be calm as she took the camera from Mungo. She hit the power button. A telltale red light flashed, and the camera went dark. "You didn't break it. It just needs a new battery."

"Oh, that's good," said a relieved Mungo.

Kylie was less relieved. Sure the camera was in working order, but now she had to deal with the fact that she had only one good battery. Her documentary was more than a third over; it was half over! She had expected more life from that first battery. After all, she had shot barely more than six hours of footage, and the battery was supposed to give nine hours of charge.

Kylie was a bit worried by this development. Was her trip half over as well? That would make her lack of battery power less inconvenient. She doubted that was the case. From now on she would need to be a bit more conservative with her shots.

"I only have one battery left. So we'll need to pace ourselves when using the camera."

Mungo agreed but seemed disappointed that this development would probably limit his time with the camera. They kept hiking, and finally came to the crest of the hill. Kylie was relieved that the trip would start heading downhill. But the relief was only slight. Now instead of the front of her legs being sore, it would be the back of them.

As she looked out over the landscape, there was a prominent feature that caught her eye. "A road?" It wasn't like the creek bed from yesterday's hike. There marking the landscape was a dirt road that seemed to connect two distant points on the horizon. "That's a road," she said.

"So it is," agreed Mungo.

"I did," he agreed.

"So what do you have to say about that road?" asked Kylie.

"That road... won't take us to where we need to go."

"But we could have had Zoot bring us out here instead, and that would have saved a few days of hiking," protested Kylie.

"But then you wouldn't have met Lars, and I wouldn't have seen me old friend." He had a point. Their trip had no finite destination. This was about the voyage; not about getting from point A to point B in the shortest time possible.

"So we'll be crossing that road?" asked Kylie.

"Yeah."

"Hold on a minute then." She got her clothes out of her pack; her bra, panties, and sarong and put the items on in that order. She would go nude where it was appropriate, and right now it did not feel appropriate. Granted this stretch of road seemed entirely deserted. But in her mind, she imagined a lone car stopping in that exact location at the same time they decided to cross. The thought of being caught nude by motorists was real enough, that she did not want to take any chances.

Mungo said nothing.

So they continued hiking. They hiked down from the hill, and before too much longer came to the road. Mungo stopped and paused. He seemed deep in thought and did not cross the road immediately.

"Yes?" asked Kylie prompting him to share his thoughts with her.

"What we do at the crossroads defines us," he said sharing a very profound thought.

"That was good. Let me get it on tape," said Kylie. Sure she needed to conserve tape, but the idea of shooting Mungo crossing this road seemed like an artistic juxtaposition of the wilderness being interrupted by the modern world.

Mungo dutifully repeated his line for the camera. To say he was improving as an 'actor' would not be accurate. He wasn't acting at all. But he was getting better about intuitively knowing what Kylie thought made for good footage.

She turned the lens to the 'wide angle' mode and got an impressive panoramic shot as Mungo crossed the road to the other side. He paused and waited for her to cross.

But Kylie was deep in thought. 'What we do at the crossroads defines us.' It was a though Mungo knew all the details about the crossroads she had come to in her career. If this moment was going to define her, then she would make it count.

"Can you get a shot of me crossing the road," she said as she crossed over to Mungo's side and gave him the camera. She then crossed back to the other side so Mungo could get the shot.

Once back on her side of the road, Kylie removed her sarong and undergarments. They had neither seen nor heard any cars on their descent. If this crossing would define her as a person, then she would do it nude, just as Mungo had.

"Ready Mungo?" she asked.

"Hold on," he said frowning. "There's somethin' here."

"It's in wide angle mode," said Kylie. "It lets you get more in frame."

"Didn't know it could do that," said Mungo. His eyes sparkled with wonderment and delight. If he wanted, Kylie would show him some of the camera's more advanced features. She had trained him in the most basic use to keep the training simple. "There's one problem...," said Mungo.

"Which is?"

"I can't shoot ya from the belly up. Yer too close."

"I know," she replied.

"So what should I do?"

"Take the shot." It was an incredibly personal shot. And though it would likely wind up on her cutting room floor, she wanted to document this as faithfully as possible. Mungo hit the record button, and Kylie made her crossing. Her heart was beating out of her chest with nervousness.

"You okay?" asked Mungo who picked up on her nervousness.

"That...that wasn't easy for me to do..." Kylie muttered. That was true. She had come along way since her first trip to the Koala Bares, but the last few shards of body consciousness ran deep.

"I know," said Mungo who smiled deeply. "Let's keep movin'" Kylie agreed that it sounded like a good plan.

They kept moving, and not long after, they arrived at their campsite for the evening. It was a good place to pitch a tent, and the vegetation was lush. But there was no water source. She would have no 'soak' that evening either.

Mungo was about to set up the tent, when Kylie said, "let me help you."

"Nah. Yer me guest. I wouldn't feel right about it."

"Let me help you," Kylie said more assertively. Mungo protested that he wouldn't feel right about it. But Kylie was insistent. And so she helped him set up the tent. She assemble some of the beams, and helped him hook the canvas to the frame. Between the two of them they got the tent set up even quicker than Mungo had by himself.

"I'll get the campfire goin'," Mungo suggested.

"Actually, I'd like to give it a try," said Kylie.

"Ya sure?" asked Mungo.

"Yes." After her time at 'the crossroads' Kylie had made a personal decision; to contribute more actively to the walkabout. She would not hang around his neck like an albatross. She would be more than a guest. She would be a contributor.

Mungo produced his bow and drill. "First thing, ya need to gather up dried grass and kindlin'. Once ya get a coal, you'll wanna have everythin' ready to build yer fire." So they searched the campsite and found everything they needed.

"Pile the grass into a small bed for the coal," Mungo instructed. "Don't pack it too tight. The fire needs to breathe. If ya pack it too tight, it won't get any air."

Kylie did as she was told.

Mungo then showed her how to set the drill bit into the board, and how to wrap the bowstring around the drill. "Draw the bow back and forth. Find a good rhythm. Ya don't wanna press hard or go fast at the beginnin'. Ya first need to build up some sawdust. That'll be the fuel ya need for the coal."

"Like this?" asked Kylie as she drew the bow from side to side.

"Kind of. Yer speed is good, but ya press a little harder," said Mungo as he critiqued her technique.

Kylie did as Mungo instructed. Her arms began to get tired. "How much longer?" she asked.

Mungo removed the drill bit. There was only a miniscule amount of sawdust where the drill had been. "Ya need to do it longer than that," said Mungo.

Kylie was disappointed to hear that. Her arm was sore from fatigue. Just how much longer did she need to keep this up?

"I've got a flint to strike, if ya like," offered Mungo.

"Is that easier?" asked Kylie.

"Nah. Not really," said Mungo. "It's easier to make sparks with a flint, than a coal with a drill. But it's much harder to start a fire with just sparks. A coal really is better."

Kylie went back to the bow and drill.

"I'll go find us some food," said Mungo as he got up to leave Kylie to her task.

"Okay, but one of these nights I want to help with dinner," said Kylie.

"Oh you will," said Mungo reassuringly. "You will..." He gave her a knowing wink, and went off in search of food. Kylie continued to work the drill and bow. Her arms were exhausted.

Later Mungo returned with an armful of fruit. "Let's see how yer doin'," he said. He looked at the sawdust she had amassed. "Good. That will make a good coal. Now comes the hard part."

The hard part?

"Ya need to press hard and saw fast to ignite the coal," said Mungo. Kylie began to increase her speed and pressure. The pain in her arms went from a dull soreness to a prominent fatigue. "Harder...faster," said Mungo. How much harder and faster could she go? At the point when Kylie was about to give up mentally, a small puff of smoke came out of the firing board.

"Good. That's a beaut coal," said Mungo inspecting her work. The pressure and friction had worked the sawdust into a small coal. "The next part can be tricky. Gently transfer the coal to the nest of grass."

Kylie did this as gently as possible. She was not about to lose all her hard work to clumsiness. She gently poured the coal into the center of the nest.

"Blow on it gently. The coal needs air. Don't blow too hard or you'll put it out." Kylie did this step just as carefully as she had transferred the coal. With a few minutes of gentle blowing the dried grass caught fire in a small blaze.

"Excellent!" said Mungo clapping his hands together. "Now use the firewood. Start with the smallest twigs, and build the fire larger and larger until yer usin' the largest pieces." This step proved to be a bit easier. Kylie had built many fires in her fireplace at home. She built the fire up until she had an impressive campfire.

"Very good," commended Mungo. He was right. It was a good campfire.

It seemed like a small victory, but that made it no less enjoyable. In an era of strike-anywhere matches, lighters, and fire starters made of compressed sawdust and gelled petroleum, Kylie had produced fire using little more than sticks. She was proud. Building the fire had not been easy, but she had done it. She now felt capable of conquering any challenge that lay before them. Little did she know what lay before them would be tougher still...

By the light of their campfire, by the light of her fire, they ate their dinner of berries and fruits that Mungo had collected. The dinner that evening was a quieter affair than it had been the night before. This was mostly because Kylie was more tired, and she was usually the one who initiated most of the conversation. That evening Kylie gained a newfound appreciation for Mungo. Helping to pitch the tent, and building the fire by herself had been physically exhausting. Yet every night so far Mungo had set up the tent, made the fire, AND found food without ever complaining of being tired.

"I think I'm going to bed," Kylie announced after dinner.

"Already?" asked Mungo. The sun had just barely set.

"Yeah. I'm really tired, and I need to get my beauty sleep. Good night Mungo."

"See ya in the mornin'."

Kylie went to bed that night with a feeling of accomplishment. As her head hit the canvas of the tent, Kylie hoped she would have dreams that evening that did not involve Fisher's Creek. She hoped this in vain.

That night she recalled the dream with a clarity that had exceeded the previous nights. The event at Fisher's Creek played out for her yet again. It had been the same dream every night since they had started their walkabout. Kylie was now sure of this as fact.

She was forced to take part in the scene as a younger version of herself. And she was forced to watch without being able to interact, without being able to change events, as 'older Kylie.' In her dream 'older Kylie' was dressed as a news reporter, which seemed an especially cruel given the recent loss of her job.

Her clothes were hot and uncomfortable. Yet she was unable to remove them. Or, rather, each time she removed an article of clothing a replacement article would take its place. She yearned to be free of her clothes, yet in her dream they imprisoned her. They were hot and oppressive.

When she awoke, she understood her sweatiness in the morning as a psychosomatic reaction to the stress in her dream.

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