The Same Place, Chapter 11: An Unseasonably Hot Day

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Published on 15.02.10 09:40 Age: 10 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 17023 Words : 3129

By: Cedar

Hot.

Kylie wished they had camped near a source of water. She hated to feel sweaty; and hated the smell that went with it equally. Even if their source of water was little more than a puddle, she could still manage to get cleaned off a bit. Alas, there was no water in sight. She would have to wait until later on in the day, or when they reached their campsite that evening.

She was getting awfully sick of having the same damn dream night after night after night. So understandably, she woke up 'on the wrong side of the bed,' or on the wrong side of the tent, as it were.

As she climbed out of the tent, Mungo was there to greet her. "Mornin'!" He sounded cheerful, which did nothing to improve Kylie's mood.

"Morning," she grumbled.

"Didn't sleep well?" It was a question that didn't need asking. She hadn't slept well any night so far.

"I had that same dream again," she said. "This time, I had to watch the whole thing, like I was some sort of spectator. I was wearing clothes I would wear on a news report. They were hot, and itchy, and confining. But when I tried to take them off, I couldn't. If I took off my jacket, another one would appear and take its place. It was...it was just awful..."

Kylie had recalled this particular detail of her dream a few nights ago, but hadn't said anything to Mungo. She mentioned it now only in the hopes that Mungo might say something to make her feel better.

"So what do you make of that?" asked Kylie.

"So you're some kind of Sigmund Freud now? Or should I say SigMUNG Freud?" It was only meant to be a joke, but there was a certain biting sarcasm that lay just below the surface.

"Only tryin' to help," said Mungo cheerfully.

'I know. Look I'm sorry. I know you're only trying to help, but maybe I'm just not in a place where I want help." Kylie made apologies, but her bad mood remained. "Let's just get going. I'll feel better when we get somewhere that I can get cleaned up."

They took turns applying sunscreen to each other; Kylie used ashes on Mungo, and Mungo used SPF50 lotion on Kylie. The sunscreen only seemed to exacerbate Kylie's need for a bath. The lotion mixed with the sweat to create a clammy smelly concoction that was thoroughly unpleasant.

'Jeez, I bet I look dreadful right now,' Kylie thought to herself. Her mood did not improve. "Let's get going."

As they trekked on that morning, the weather only seemed to get hotter and hotter as the day wore on. Kylie soon had a rolling sweat going, and needed to continually wipe her brow with her forearm to keep the sweat out of her eyes.

Getting shots for her documentary seemed hopeless. There wasn't really any good scenery to capture. There weren't any neat plants or animals, which she hadn't already shot. And Mungo seemed especially quiet today. There didn't seem to be anything worth shooting. Also, with her sweaty hands, Kylie was making a sweaty mess of the buttons and the optics of the camera. She decided to put the camera away, and hoped that she would get a few usable shots that evening.

Mungo continued to march on ahead, and Kylie continued to fall behind. "Damn it, Mungo, you know I can't keep up when you go that fast. Can't we at least stop for a few minutes." Her mood had improved little since the morning; if anything it had gotten worse.

"Sure," said Mungo smiling back at her. He had a look in his eyes that suggested he wanted to say something else. Yet he said nothing more.

Kylie took a water bottle from her pack and began to gulp down large sips of water. 

"Go easy. We need to conserve water," said Mungo.

"What? I can't have a drink?" asked Kylie getting defensive.

"Didn't say ya couldn't have a drink," Mungo replied. "We can't take our water for granted. We didn't refill last night, and we might not get to tonight either."

It was sage advice, but it was advice that Kylie did not heed. No water? Preposterous! They would find water tonight. Granted, they hadn't found water last night, but they would tonight. After all, it seemed highly unlikely that in two days of hiking they would fail to find water. This logic seemed flawless to Kylie.

She poured a few ounces of water over her head to wet her hair. Water conservation be damned! And you know what? Getting her hair wet was the best moment so far of this terrible day.

Mungo gave Kylie a stare. He didn't look mad. Rather he looked like someone trying to do math in his head. He looked as though he was trying to recalculate how to better ration their water in light of Kylie's actions.

After a few minutes they continued their walk. Despite Kylie's insistence on being in a foul mood, it didn't seem to affect his mood at all. Mungo was his normal cheerful self. Yet he didn't talk. Rather, he whistled. He kept whistling as they walked. 'Fine,' thought Kylie to herself. 'If you won't talk to me, then I won't talk to you either.' Where had she heard those whistles before? Oh, that's right! They were bird calls. Mungo was making bird calls. Ordinarily, Kylie would have been thrilled at her newfound knowledge, but not today. Today she was in too foul of a mood.

Yet Kylie could not go the whole day without speaking to Mungo. She would need his help to reapply her sunscreen. Even though it was SPF50, it did not provide all day protection; not in heat like this, and with her sweating as much as she had been. She summoned up all of her remaining courtesy, and asked for help. Mungo happily agreed.

Yet Kylie was particularly irritable that day. When she thought Mungo was being slow at the task, she really let him have it. "Would you hurry up with that already?" she snapped.

"Just about finished," said Mungo smiling. For every bit of attitude she gave him, Mungo repaid her in kindness. Why was she so intent on stirring up trouble today? Mungo had been a delight to travel with so far, so why did Kylie insist on trying to spoil his mood.

The rest of the hike was spent in complete silence. In spite of her mood, there was a spring in Mungo's step that suggested that he was quite happy to be outside, even if it was incredibly hot.

After a couple silent hours of hiking, Mungo announced that they would be camping here tonight. They had not yet found a source of water, and his choice in campsite provided none.

"What? Here?" asked Kylie incredulously. "There's no water. We should keep walking." It was a suggestion that Kylie did not enjoy. She was tired; probably too tired to keep hiking. But no water? This was ridiculous! She needed to wash off the sweat from the day.

"It'll be dark soon. There's plenty of food here. We still have water. If we keep movin', we still may not find water, and we won't have enough light to find food," Mungo explained patiently.

Plenty of food? And where exactly was this plenty of food. "It's not more snake, I hope," said Kylie.

Mungo grinned and answered. "No, it's not more snake. We'll have orchid bulbs tonight," pointing at some plants that Kylie would have never recognized as orchids. "I'll get the fire goin', and cook up some bulbs."

"Do you want help?" offered Kylie. She tried to sound as unenthusiastic as possible. In the mood she was in, she had no real interest in helping with dinner.

"Nah," said Mungo, who happily went about his business of building a fire and foraging for bulbs..

Dinner that night was incredibly disappointing. Well, it was for Kylie, anyway. Mungo seemed to enjoy the food all the same. Yet without water to clean the orchid bulbs, Mungo was unable to get them entirely clean. Despite taking careful bites, each bite contained trace amounts of dirt. It was food in the loosest sense of the word. It had all the calories of food, and all the taste of dirt. 

When they had finished eating Mungo got back to working.

"What are you doing?" asked Kylie.

"Settin' up the tent," replied Mungo.

"You don't need to do that," said Kylie. "I can sleep outside."

"Nah. Sleep in the tent."

"Really it's fine," protested Kylie. "You don't need to do that."

"Best sleep in the tent," Mungo repeated.

Why was he being so hardheaded? He was dealing with her like a parent would deal with a petulant child. He was trying to diffuse her anger with kindness, but Kylie was not in the mood for kindness.

"I'm going to bed," she announced grumpily after Mungo had finished setting up the tent. She did not bother to thank him. After all, HE had been the one to insist on setting up the tent. She had tried to talk him out of it, but he had set the tent up all the same. She was not going to thank him for going against her wishes.

She did not say 'good night' either...

Mungo just shrugged his shoulders. The walkabout was a physically demanding ordeal. Eventually it broke you down, but it also built you up stronger than before. Kylie had reached her breaking point, and now the rebuilding would begin.

He did not begrudge Kylie her anger. She was angry, but she wasn't angry with him. She was just angry. And even though she had chosen to lash out at him with her pent up anger, he knew that their friendship was as strong as ever.

Even though Kylie was going to sleep, Mungo had plans of his own for the evening. He went to his pack and produced two sticks. The sticks were made from an exotic native hardwood. They had been polished and had ornate patterns. He sat down next to the fire, and began to clap the two sticks together.

From inside her tent, Kylie could hear the sound coming from the sticks. Without aid of a metronome, Mungo kept perfect time. He clapped out evenly spaced quarter notes with the sticks. He would occasionally break from the main beat to improvise sections. Yet he always returned to the main beat and held it in perfect tempo. It alternated between the beat and improvisation.

"How does he expect me to sleep with all that racket?" Kylie wondered aloud. Yet even with her bad mood, she could recognize that it wasn't racket. It was music. The perfect adherence to the beat alone was enough to gauge its artistic merit.

Mungo lent his voice to the music. He sang with a deep baritone that had a remarkably sweet and pleasant sound. His voice shook the very landscape. The trees resonated with the sound of his voice. And Kylie could feel her very soul moved by the music.

It wasn't exactly chanting, but the lyrics most definitely were not in English.

"I...I have to film this," Kylie whispered to herself. She quietly got her camera and climbed out of the tent.

The sight of Mungo playing by the firelight was ghostly. The light flickered and danced across his skin, and the ashes that he wore from earlier that day made him look like an apparition. The sound of the music had her shaking. She was not afraid; she was deeply moved. Here in the heart of the outback Mungo played a concert for an exclusive audience.

Still her anger had not fully subsided. "You didn't think to mention this to me? With everything I've been doing to make this documentary, you don't think I'd have the slightest interest in filming this?" she asked accusingly.

Mungo gave her a look that informed Kylie that he had indeed heard her. But his focus was on the music. He did not lose a single beat, and continued to sing his ghostly lyrics.

"Fine," mumbled Kylie. She turned the camera on, and fumbled for the night vision mode. She stared through the lens and frowned. The shot looked poor. The night vision ruined much of the ghostly effect. With everything bathed in a phony green hue, the shot looked terrible. Kylie switched off the night vision mode and tried again to capture the music. That didn't work either. There wasn't enough natural light to get the shot in focus.

"Well this was a waste," Kylie grumbled. "I don't suppose you'd play some music tomorrow? You know, when it's light out? When I can actually film it?"

Mungo broke from the music for a second. "If that's whatcha want. I'll play for ya in the daylight no worries. But this music's best saved for the night."

Kylie was about to go back to her tent, but Mungo stopped her.

"Kylie?"

"Yeah?"

"Ya worry too much about my story. If ya don't find yer own story, yer never gonna be able to tell it properly."

Kylie was not in any mood to hear more of Mungo's 'storytelling' mumbo jumbo. She rolled her eyes sarcastically. "Thanks. I'll take that under consideration." Her voice was thick with sarcasm.

Mungo resumed his music, and Kylie went back to her tent.

Climbing back inside the tent, Kylie did not put the camera back in her pack. She held it at a distance with her arm, and kept herself in frame. She did not turn the camera on, but spoke into the camera as if it were running.

She spoke softly. She did not want Mungo to hear what she had to say. Yet the sound of his music provided enough background noise. Mungo would not hear her.

"So Mungo wants a story? I'll give him a story! Attention world, this is Kylie Burns with an exclusive story. I am a 38 year old jobless loser. I have lost my job. I haven't had a boyfriend in years. I have an abrasive personality. I have no friends. And I'm traveling with a senile old fool who seems content to march the both of us until our legs fall off. THAT is my story."

Kylie was shocked at the malice that came forth from her mouth. It was incredibly hurtful. It was incredibly vindictive. She could only be glad that Mungo could not hear her tirade.

She slumped over, but still kept the camera on her face. "What's wrong with me? I mean really, what's wrong with me. Why is it that everyone else seems to have life figured out except me? Why can't I keep it together?" These were not questions that had easy answers, and they had made her so upset that she began to cry. She used her sarong to dab away her tears.

She had been in a bad mood all day. Maybe now was time to change that? Think positive thoughts.

She hadn't been fired from her job, so much as let go. If anything her employers were willing to retain her as an assistant producer. Most employers would not be so generous. And, to be fair, they had never once been critical of her work. She always got her yearly raises and bonuses, and her performance evaluations had been favorable. She may no longer be a reporter, but that didn't mean she hadn't done a good job during her tenure.

And boyfriends? Well, that was easy to explain. She had a few unsuccessful relationships in her 30s. They had been with nice guys, but none of them had been 'the one.' They only seemed to reinforce her view that she would not settle for anything less than true love. Given her string of boyfriends, she had just decided to stop looking for a while and to focus on her career. If she took the assistant producer job, perhaps she could give romance another shot. When she had been on the dating scene, she certainly had no lack of gentlemen callers.

Her personality? Her friends? In all fairness, she had a nicely sized group of friends; friends who were able to see past her ...professional personality. And the quality of her friends was remarkable. When things had seemed the most hopeless, her friends were there to help her out. Mungo's presence outside the tent was proof of that.

In retrospect, her life wasn't that bad after all. She had her friends. She had a job, if she decided to accept it. Things really weren't so bad. She had had a bad day, that's all. It had been a bad day, but tomorrow would be better.

"I think..." said Kylie addressing the camera, "...that I should get some rest." She jokingly added in a faux-sign-off "more on this later as details emerge." She put the camera back in the pack, and laid down to go to sleep.

The sound of Mungo's ghostly singing filled her tent and lulled her to sleep.

Unbeknownst to Kylie, she had accidentally hit the power button on the camera. As she slept, the battery, the second and LAST of the two batteries, waned throughout the night. It was dead by the next morning.

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