The Same Place, Chapter 8: Apples in the Outback

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Published on 15.02.10 09:32 Age: 10 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 34556 Words : 6376

By: Cedar

His eyes met her gaze, and yet he acted as though nothing were out of the ordinary. "You can leave them on the bed upstairs," Lars offered. "We don't get many guests who stay in that room anyway. They will be waiting for you when you get back."

"...Thank you, Lars," Kylie mumbled in reply. She shifted back and forth before announcing, "I'll be back down in just a second." She excused herself and went back upstairs. She could hear Lars and Mungo get back to their conversation.

Once upstairs in the guest bedroom, Kylie shut the door behind her. Okay, so she could leave her clothes here, but what exactly did that mean. Her first instinct was to bring everything, leaving nothing behind. After all, they were her things, so why shouldn't she take them with her? It wasn't like they would lighten her load THAT much. She knew all to well that it was the camera and film supplies that weighed her pack down. Still, there was no chance that she was going to leave those things behind.

Yet she was a guest on Mungo's walkabout. And if he could do the whole thing in the nude, she could certainly leave a few articles of clothing behind. Couldn't she? Kylie rummaged through her pack and pulled out her jeans and long sleeved shirt. She threw them on the bed. It hadn't been that cold, and that wasn't likely to change. She wouldn't need those warmer clothes.

But was that all she was willing to part with? Could she really "leave it all behind?"

Kylie removed her shirt, and her shorts and tossed them on the bed next to her warmer clothes. Wearing just her underwear she wrapped her sarong around her. She frowned. The sight of her bra straps coming up from underneath the sarong looked very unstylish. After all, she could go nude under her sarong...

She decided against this. She would take her underwear and her sarong on this trip. They were all lightweight, and would take up very little space in her pack. But what about her hat and sunglasses? Should she take them as well?

The sunglasses were essential. There hadn't been any clouds in the sky, so the sunglasses were definitely necessary. She was conflicted though about whether or not to bring the hat. She had always liked that hat, and was keen to bring it with her. On the other hand, it was covered in dirt, and if she continued to use it, it was unlikely to ever get back to its original colors. Still, she had a very pale complexion. The hat would provide some additional protection from the sun. She would take the hat.

With her pack re-packed and now re-dressed for the day, Kylie headed back downstairs. "I...I'm ready to go," she announced interrupting Mungo and Lars' conversation.

"So you are. So you are," said Mungo. "We oughta get goin' then."

"Take care, Wirinun," said Lars adding, "you too, Miss Burns."

"Thank you Lars," said Kylie. "Thank you for your hospitality."

"You're welcome, Miss Burns," said Lars. "I look forward to your return." He said that with such confidence that it felt good to know that even if no one back home missed her, there were still people who looked forward to her company.

She and Mungo left the farmhouse. There were no hugs or handshakes exchanged with Lars. There didn't need to be any. They would be back again, though how soon Kylie could not say. Only Mungo was privy to that information, and unless Kylie was willing to ask, he was unlikely to share it.

Falling into file behind Mungo, Kylie took out her camera and got a few shots. They were heading east into the rising sun. The sun seemed to be framed between two hills in the distance. It was an impressive shot with Mungo in the foreground and a beautiful sunrise in the background. After getting her shot, she turned the camera off and fell into the cadence of hiking. She found it easier to keep up with Mungo. She didn't know exactly why. Maybe they were hiking at a slower pace, or maybe a night in a bed helped her muscles relax...or maybe she was starting to get acclimated to bush walking. Regardless, it felt good to not have to struggle to keep up.

"So are ya goin' to go nude?" asked Mungo interrupting her train of thought.

"What? Here?" Kylie asked.

"Why not?" asked Mungo. He gestured at the surrounding scenery. Glancing behind her Kylie could see that the farmhouse was just a small dot in the distance. Yet it was still visible. There were a few cattle that dotted the hillsides.

"Are we still on the ranch?" asked Kylie glancing around.

"Yeah," said Mungo.

"...Then let's go a little further," Kylie suggested.

"Do ya really care if the cows see you naked?" asked Mungo pointing to the hillside.

"It's not that," said Kylie. She wasn't afraid of the cows seeing her naked. Stockmen, however, were another matter entirely. While they were still on the station, she would still stay dressed. She would go nude where it was appropriate, and right now it did not seem appropriate.

They kept hiking. Soon the cows on the hills were no longer visible. The vegetation was thicker, no longer showing signs of grazing. They looked to be in feral country now. "...Are we...are we still on the station now?" Kylie asked cautiously.

"Nah, we've been off for a while now," Mungo replied. How could he tell? The property line was not clearly marked. There had been no fence to go around or over. How did he know they were no longer on the station?

"Can we...can we stop here for just a second?" she asked.

"No worries."

Kylie took off her pack and set it gently on the ground. She unwrapped her sarong from around her torso and put it in one of the outer compartments of her pack. She might need to retrieve it at a moments notice. It seemed a bit odd to be standing out in the wilderness in just her underwear. She pulled her sports bra over her head, and tucked it into her pack. Now topless, she turned to Mungo. "Hey Mungo?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Why did Lars call you Wirinun?" She was quite curious as to why this was. In their whole stay, she never once heard Lars call him Mungo. Up until now, Kylie had been certain that Mungo was his name. Then again, she had never really asked. Hearing someone else call him 'Wirinun' cast some doubts as to his true name.

"Wirinun--now that's an old word," he mused. "Means medicine man. It's been ages since anyone's called me that..." his voice dropped off, and he appeared to be deep in thought.

"I'm sorry, could I ask a quick favor?" Kylie interjected.

"Yes."

"Could you say that line again?" asked Kylie getting out her camera. "I want to get that on tape. I just think it would make a good shot, that's all..." She hated to ask him to repeat himself, but so far it seemed that every time he said something profound, she failed to get it on camera.

"No worries," said Mungo. With Kylie steadying the camera on her shoulder, Mungo looked into the lens and repeated the line verbatim; neither changing nor adding a single word.

"Thanks," said Kylie keeping Mungo in frame. "So does that mean that I should call you Wirinun?" she asked. Frankly, she had gotten used to calling him Mungo, though the description of medicine man described him quite well.

"Nah. Mungo's fine," he replied.

Kylie put the camera back in the pack. She slipped off her panties and tucked them into her pack as well. It felt good to be nude once again. In fact, she had been looking forward to it since they had first left Zoot at the start. With the last signs of civilization left behind, she could go nude free of the constraints of a more conservative society.

Kylie couldn't help but feel a little out of her element. Sure she would go nude at home in the evening, and at the Koala Bares, but this was something very different. When she would go nude at home, it was always with the shades drawn and the doors locked. It was a solitary activity, one to not be disturbed by other people.

Going to the Koala Bares was a social activity. She liked to talk with Willow, Dr Geena, Loxie, Fred and Janet, and, of course, Mungo; though to some extent wearing her hat and sunglasses helped to cut down on people who would recognize her as a celebrity. But in that context, nudity was completely acceptable. The Koala Bares was private land set aside for people to go nude on weekends or on holiday. When she was nude, so was everyone else.

This was something completely different. Out here nudity was not necessarily tolerated, though it was also not expressly forbidden. If they encountered anyone else out here, they would likely be clothed. That was difficult to deal with. She could be nude in the company of nude people. She could be clothed in the company of nude people (and indeed had been when first on assignment at the Koala Bares). But could she be nude and interact with a clothed stranger? Kylie did not know the answer.

Hopefully, that opportunity would not present itself. After all, in the past 24 hours, the only person they had come across was Lars. This was uninhabited, feral, country. They probably would not encounter anyone else.

And even if they did, she could get her sarong out in time. Couldn't she? Her sarong hung from an outer pouch on the pack. It was easily accessible, and she could get it in a hurry if she needed it. If anyone came along, she could get dressed in time. Kylie convinced herself that this would be the case.

At any rate, Mungo's nudity helped Kylie feel more comfortable with her own. Even if they did happen to be surprised by other hikers, she would not be alone in her nudity.

Kylie felt safe whenever Mungo was around. She felt secure.

She got her sunscreen out of her pack. She didn't want to burn, and would need to protect her fair skin. Taking a handful of sunscreen, she began to rub her face and arms.

"Good idea," Mungo remarked.

Holding out the bottle, Kylie offered, "Want some?"

"Nah. I'll me own." He took out a piece of fire pit charcoal and began to use the ashes to cover his skin. He had explained earlier that ashes could be used to protect the skin from the sun's harmful rays. Still, Kylie could not imagine using ashes when she had a perfectly good bottle of sunscreen. That was typical Mungo.

As she rubbed the lotion in, Kylie couldn't help but notice her skin. While it was soft, it was still too pale for her taste. This summer had been more stressful than usual. She had spent less time at the Koala Bares and it showed. She had a few tan lines. They weren't especially pronounced given her fair skin, but they were still noticeable. "Maybe later I could do a little sunbathing..." she said aloud. She immediately regretted saying it. Subathing? This was a walkabout, not a holiday. There wouldn't be any time for sunbathing. Would there?

"...Maybe..." said Mungo. He had an amused tone in his voice. He didn't say 'no' outright, but the tone in his voice seemed to indicate that given the amount of walking he had planned, it was very unlikely.

"Would you mind getting my back," she said offering him the bottle of sunscreen.

"Sure," he said taking the bottle from her. He put a large dollop of lotion in his hands, and began to rub her back.

Kylie could feel the tension leaving her muscles as he rubbed the lotion on her back. He had magic fingers, as Kylie could attest to from time spent on his massage table. "Mmmm," she said relaxed. "Maybe you could give me a massage later?" she said aloud. Again, she regretted speaking. This was his walkabout after all. Did he think her a nuisance for making all these requests?

'...Maybe..." he answered again. He had that same amused tone, but this time he seemed a bit more optimistic; as though it were more likely to find time for a massage than time to sunbathe. He finished with her back. "Could ya get me back?" he asked handing her a piece of charcoal.

"Oh...okay," said Kylie. Truth be told, she wasn't crazy about the idea of getting her hands all sooty, but then it would be rude not to return the favor. She broke off pieces of the ash and rubbed them all over Mungo's back. The oil from the sunscreen on her palms mixed with the charcoal to make a black oily mess. "There you go," she said once she had finished.

Her hands were oily and black. She wanted to clean them off. She was about to reach for a water bottle, but decided against it. Water needed to be conserved, and using it for hand washing was wasteful. Instead she ended up wiping her hands on her hips. This didn't work as well as she had hoped. Her hands were still dirty, and now so were her hips.

"Ready?" asked Mungo.

"Just a second," said Kylie. The bugs were starting to come out, so Kylie got out her insect repellant. It was an aerosol spray. She gently misted the spray over her body, being extra careful on her face. It would burn if she got it in her eyes, and had a horrible bitter taste if she got any in her mouth. She already had the first hand experience to prove it. Putting the canister back in her pack, she said, "Okay now I'm ready."

Again, Mungo took off in the lead, and Kylie followed closely behind. With her hands dirty, she had a bit of a problem. She didn't want to get Carl's camera all dirty. Unfortunately, this would mean not getting any shots. Kylie hoped they would find water soon, so she could wash her hands.

If there was an incredible shot, she would use the camera, but was otherwise unwilling to get it dirty.

They hiked in silence for a few hours. Kylie was the first to break that silence. "Mungo?"

"Yeah," he said stopping, and turning around to face her.

"Are you sure you want me with you on your walkabout?" she asked. "I'm not trying to be a nuisance, but I can see how I might be. If you want," she offered, "I can head back to the station, and you can keep going." It was a difficult thing to say. If she gave up now, she would never get her story together. She could pretty much kiss her chances at getting back to anchoring goodbye, and accept the assistant producer job to toil in obscurity. However, this was a spiritual journey for Mungo, and if her presence was intrusive in any way, it was time to leave.

They did not stop for lunch. It seemed that Mungo was not keen on the idea of lunch. He would eat larger meals for breakfast and dinner, but seemed to be content to hike most of the day taking smaller snack breaks. Kylie would have preferred a third, midday, meal to a series of smaller snacks. They found some bushes of something Mungo had called "lillypilly" to eat as they walked. It was a tart, pinkish berry.

Still they pressed on. Kylie could feel her pace beginning to slow. Mungo seemed to have as much energy as when they had left this morning, but she was getting tired. How long had they been hiking anyway? For that matter, how soon until dinner? Kylie was really beginning to regret not having packed a watch. "How much further?" she asked. She did not want to be a bother, but she was really getting tired.

"Just a bit more," he said. She took him at his word, and continued to follow. Her feet hurt. They were not blistered, just sore. She wondered to herself how Mungo's feet could take the punishment of walking barefoot.

Sure enough they turned a corner and came to a small meadow with a creek. It looked like a good enough place to camp. "Are we camping here?" she asked. She was relieved when he answered 'yeah.'

Kylie took off her pack and placed it on the ground. She went over to the creek. She was disappointed to find that it was only ankle deep. Granted, a campsite with water was always better than one without. But it meant that she could only drink and fill up water bottles in the creek. Bathing was out of the question. Still, she could at least get a little clean. She ran her hands through the cool water to wash off the soot from the ash. She then rubbed her hands on her hips to wash them off as well. She wasn't especially clean, but she was cleaner than she had been that morning.

She turned around to see Mungo already working to set up the tent. Here she was already taking a break, while he was still hard at work. She had meant to offer to help him set up the tent, but it had slipped her mind when they got to camp. She was about to go over to help him, when something on the other side of the creek caught her eye. "What is that?" she said aloud.

"Ya find somethin' interestin'?" asked Mungo.

"I'm not sure. Is that...is that an apple tree?" she asked. Kylie didn't know much about plants, but it sure looked like an apple tree to her.

Taking one look at it Mungo said, "Yep."

"A bird probably carried it here," said Mungo. Kylie was about to protest that there was no way a bird could carry an apple out this far, when Mungo added, "probably carried the seeds in its belly." That seemed plausible.

"I'm going to go pick some," said Kylie wading across the creek. "I'll get enough for both of us." She went over to the tree and picked a few low hanging apples. When she had gotten an armful she walked back over to Mungo. He had the tent set up now. Beaming with pride she announced, "I think we've got enough for a nice meal."

She set the apples on a clear patch of ground. Keeping one for herself, she polished it off with her fingers. With a rumbling stomach she took a bite. "Ugh!"

"No good?" asked Mungo.

"It's bitter," said Kylie with a disgusted look on her face. She spit out the bite she had taken.

"Bitter? Lemme try," he snatched the apple from her and took a bite. He took a bite from the same spot she had eaten from. Most people would have bit the exact opposite side of the fruit, but not Mungo. He chewed and looked pensive. "Sour. Not bitter."

"What's the difference?" asked Kylie, not really understanding the distinction.

"Sour means it's not sweet; there ain't enough sugar," he said. "Bitter is the plant's way of defendin' itself. Bitter makes ya sick." It was a subtle distinction, but nevertheless an important one.

Looking disappointed, Kylie asked, "so what are we going to do for dinner?"

"Apples."

Kylie frowned, "but they're too sour," she protested.

"No worries, I'll take care of that," said Mungo. "But first we need to build a fire." He gathered up some small twigs and dry straw from grasses. He took out a bow and drill from his pack. It occurred to Kylie that she had not actually seen how Mungo started his fires. The night in the park, she had gone to sleep before the fire. The night at the farm house she had seen the smoke from a distance, but had never seen him light a fire.

"Hold on, let me get my camera." She had never seen anyone start a fire without matches, and doubted most of her viewers had either. She got her camera ready.

To start the fire Mungo drew the bow back and forth in a sawing motion, which turned the drill against a fire board. After a few minutes the board began to smoke. Mungo stood aside to let Kylie get a closer shot. Sure enough in the hole where the drill had been there was a small coal. It was about as small as a pencil eraser. Mungo took the coal and put it in a nest of dried grass. With a few minutes of tending to the coal Mungo had worked up a nice sized fire.

"Maybe by the end of the trip you'll be able to start a fire like this," Mungo suggested.

"...Maybe..." said Kylie. He sure made it look easy. Still, she doubted that she would be able to ever make a fire like that.

"Let's go get dinner," he suggested. "Gimme yer sarong..." he asked.

"To collect the apples," he replied. "I need to keep me hands free." He took the sarong from Kylie, and they both waded across the creek to the apple tree on the other side. Kylie kept the camera at hand to get a few shots.

Approaching the tree, Mungo tied the sarong into a makeshift satchel. He grabbed a low hanging branch and hoisted himself up. He was about to climb higher when Kylie spoke.

"What are you DOING?" she asked.

"Climbin' the tree to get apples," he said as if he did this sort of thing all the time.

"But you don't need to climb the tree to do that," said Kylie. "There are plenty of apples within reach." As if to prove her point she plucked a low hanging apple from the tree. "See? Apples."

"Be careful," Kylie warned as she stayed planted on the ground. That was the last thing she wanted to happen. Mungo was her guide to the Outback. If anything happened to him, she would be completely helpless. She had only recently come to understand just how harsh the Outback was. She had visions of him falling from the tree and hitting his head on a branch or a rock. She put those thoughts out of her mind. There was no sense in worrying.

She focused her camera on Mungo as he ascended the tree. It was at that moment that she realized that all of her shots to date had framed Mungo from the waist up. This shot however required that his whole body be in frame. She knew that to some extent she would need to edit his nudity for broadcasting. Yet framing him from the waist up seemed to be ignoring his nudity; acting as though he weren't nude at all. That was not honest journalism. His nudity was part of his journey, and to ignore it was to ignore an important part of that journey. She resolved from then on to use more artistic vision in documenting his nudity.

Mungo climbed to the top of the tree, picked a few apples into the sarong, and climbed back down unharmed. Pulling out one of the apples he showed it to Kylie. "See? A bit redder. It's also a bit softer. These should be sweeter."

They went back to the fire which was now burning nicely. Mungo took a sharp stick and skewered one of the apples. He held the apple over the fire.

"What are you DOING?" asked Kylie. After all the work he had done to get the apples, he was going to ruin them?

"Roastin' them."

"I...I didn't know you could do that." Kylie had never heard of roasting an apple. Was such a thing even possible?

"Sure, you can roast anythin'," said Mungo. He added, "not everythin' tastes good roasted..." This was a part of Mungo's charm. Even when speaking seriously, he had this amazing sense of humor and wit about him at all time. It was that same wit that Kylie hoped to capture on camera. If she could capture just a fraction of his vivacious personality, her report would be a success.

Kylie steadied her camera and filmed the apple roasting. Chances were good that if she had never tried a roasted apple, her regular viewers probably hadn't either. It was interesting to watch. Mungo held the apple over the flame; not in it. She had expected the skin to blacken, but instead it turned a darkly tanned brown.

"Here," he said offering her the apple.

"Oh, that's okay, you have it," said Kylie. Truth be told, she was quite hungry. But he had done all the hard work in starting the fire, getting the apple, and roasting it. Then again she had found the tree...

"I insist."

She took the apple. It was warm to the touch, but not hot. She took a bite. It was quite pleasant. The roasting had caused some of the sugars to caramelize. The apple had a warm and smoky flavor. It was evocative of the flavor of apple pie, despite the absence of cinnamon and other spices. "Mmmmmm."

"Good, eh?"

"Very," she said taking another bite. It was quite tasty.

"I'll make another," he said. He prepared another apple in the same fashion. This one he kept for himself. They sat around the fire eating apples and roasting them. Kylie found her own skewer, and gave roasting a try. She burned the first two, but after that she began to get the hang of it. It reminded her of roasting marshmallows over the barbeque. It was fun.

"So what do we do with the extras?" asked Kylie. They had picked more apples than they had eaten. Even though it was a simple meal, Kylie was quite full. They may not have been eating on her schedule, but she would certainly not go hungry. Though, in all fairness, she hoped tomorrow's menu included some meat.

"Leave 'em on the ground," he suggested.

"Are you sure?" asked Kylie about to dump the apples onto the ground.

"We'll share 'em with our camp neighbors," said Mungo. He could see a look of confusion on her face, "the birds."

Kylie did as she was told and dumped the apples on the ground. The last little bit of sun was disappearing beyond the horizon. She wouldn't be able to get any more shots tonight. That was okay, she had gotten plenty of footage today. "I think I'll go to bed," she announced. She wasn't particularly tired, but she wanted to rest up for tomorrow's trip.

"No massage?" asked Mungo.

"Hmmm, maybe tomorrow," said Kylie. She didn't want to be any more of a bother. He had really done a lot today. It would be better if he didn't tire himself out anymore. "Good night Mungo," she said as she climbed into the tent.

"See ya in the mornin'," he said taking a seat next to the fire. He stirred the fire gently with a small stick and sat cross legged on the bare ground.

Once inside the tent, Kylie realized she had a small problem. In her haste to get rid of her clothing at Kurrajong, she had also gotten rid of her makeshift pillow. Her sarong was the only thing of any real use. She could either ball it up and use it as a pillow, or use it in place of a sheet. She decided to do the latter.

The problem was the sarong was simply too short. It was designed to be worn, not used as a sheet. As a result, she found it impossible to completely cover herself. She pulled the sarong up and over her shoulders, while her legs from the knee down were completely bare. 'Well, this is just great,' she thought sarcastically. 'How am I supposed to go to sleep like this?'

It was a rhetorical question, but it was answered quickly. Despite her concerns over her sleeping arrangements, she fell asleep quickly.

She awoke the next morning. Once again, she was covered in a cold sweat. She had had another nightmare; the same nightmare. She couldn't shake there had been someone in her nightmare watching her. She was awake, but still very afraid. Clutching the sarong to her breasts she sat up and said two words.

"Fisher's Creek."

The incident a Fisher's Creek had haunted Kylie for many, many years. When Kylie was nine years old she had gone down to Fisher's Creek with some friends. They had not planned to swim, and so they had not brought bathing suits. Yet the summer heat and the comfort of the water proved too tempting. Her friends went skinny dipping, and after finally getting over her fears, Kylie had joined them. It had been fun.

That was until some older boys had showed up. They came on their bikes; and the sound of their bike horns remained clearly etched in Kylie's memory. Hopping off their bikes they descended upon the unsuspecting swimmers.

They called her names; chubby, fat, ugly. They had called her friends names too. They shouted names back; mean, stupid, dumb. Kylie however said nothing. They boys had even threatened to take the girl's clothes.

Kylie remembered getting dressed in shame. Leaving her friends at the creek she had run home crying. Those horrible names haunted her for so many years. She had expected her mother to be sympathetic. She wasn't. She told Kylie that the whole thing had been her fault; that proper young ladies didn't go running around naked.

For years that memory had haunted her. For years she had lived under the belief that she indeed was fat and ugly. It had only been on assignment at the Koala Bares Resort that Kylie had finally made a breakthrough. Thanks to the help of Dr Geena and Mungo, Kylie had opted to go nude that day; and, indeed, many other days afterwards.

Fisher's Creek. She had dreamed about Fisher's Creek.

She sat up still clutching the sarong to her chest. After the nightmare she had just had, she felt a little bit ashamed of her nudity. She wished that she had not left her clothes back at the station. It was only a dream. Dreams couldn't hurt her. Could they? That was all in the past. Wasn't it?

As she held her sarong to her chest, she felt a slight pain. It wasn't a shooting pain; more of a soreness. Spending yesterday hiking without a bra had left her a bit sore. Her breasts weren't swollen, but there was a muscular soreness that persisted. Perhaps she would wear her bra for support today.

This had never really been a problem for her in the past. This was probably because she spent most of the time wearing a bra. Sure, she would go nude at home in the evening, and at the Koala Bares. But those were far less strenuous activities; spending time on her couch, or on a sun chair, or in the pool. It did not put the same strain on her breasts as yesterday's hike had.

Yet that didn't seem to be in keeping with the theme of the walkabout. Mungo had been nude the entire duration, so couldn't she do the same for a few days? It was, after all, only going to be a few days. Wasn't it?

Kylie wondered how people managed in the times before clothes; how women managed before the invention of corsets and bras. Did they go around with sore breasts all the time? That didn't seem likely. Maybe the soreness was like starting up jogging for the first time? You would probably be sore for a few days, but after repeated activity, the soreness would subside.

She decided that she could go without her bra for today. But could she go without clothing at all? After the dream she had? That seemed much scarier.

She had to summon all her courage to not wrap the sarong around her body. Mungo. Mungo would help her put this in perspective. After all, if anyone else knew about Fisher's creek, it was Mungo.

She climbed out of the tent. Mungo was already awake and covering up the remnants of last night's fire pit. There were several small birds picking at the discarded apples from last evening's dinner. Mungo took one look at Kylie and could tell something was wrong. "You okay?"

"I...I had a nightmare," she admitted. "I'm still a bit shaken up by the whole thing."

"Wanna talk about it?" asked Mungo.

"I dreamed about Fisher's Creek," she blurted out. She was surprised how easily the words came out of her mouth.

"Oh..." Mungo replied. Kylie was not sure how much Mungo knew about the Fisher's Creek incident. Everything he claimed to know, he also claimed to have learned from a bird, which isn't the easiest thing to believe. Still, Kylie had to believe that he had a generally accurate perception of the event, even if he didn't know all the details.

"It just brought back a lot of bad memories," Kylie confessed. "I know I'm not fat and ugly, but there's still a part of me that's a bit hung up on that whole thing. It just...it didn't make me feel good...that's all."

"No worries," he said reassuringly. "It's just a dream. There ain't nothin' to be scared about..." His voice cut off.

"What? What were you going to say?" asked Kylie seeing that there was something more he wanted to say.

"This is part of the walkabout," he explained. "it...it shows ya things. They may not be things ya WANT to see, but they're things ya NEED to see. They'll help ya on yer journey."

"Wait, what?" asked Kylie. "You mean I was somehow supposed to dream about Fisher's Creek? That waking up terrified is supposed to help me?"

"Can't say for sure. Yer visions may come to ya in dreams, or they may come to ya while yer awake. But you'll have visions," he said that with certainty.

So what was the point of these visions? Why did she see Fisher's Creek in her dreams? What did it all mean? That she was fat? That she was ugly? If that's what these visions meant, she didn't want any part of it. "Mungo, this all sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo."

Her words sounded spiteful. This is what he honestly believed, and she had just dismissed it as 'mumbo jumbo.' "I'm sorry," she said apologizing. "I'm just still a bit on edge after my nightmare." She tried to take the conversation in a different direction. "So have you had any visions yet?" she asked.

"No," he admitted. "Not yet. Not yet." There was a sense of lament in his voice. It was as though he wanted a vision, and was disappointed that one had not appeared. "We oughta get goin'. We'll have breakfast later. Pack up yer things."

He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry. He quickly went to work collapsing the tent. Was he mad at her? Kylie couldn't really tell. Truth be told, she had never seen Mungo mad; he was usually so genial. She felt bad for snapping at him earlier.

"Ya ready?" he asked, calling attention to the fact that he was packed and ready to go, and she still needed to pack.

"Just give me a second." She began to pack her things. Actually, there was remarkably little to pack. She had packed up her camera the night before, so all she needed to pack was her toiletries. She quickly gathered them up and put them in her pack. This just left her sarong. Kylie held it tightly in her fist. Should she pack it away? After the dream she just had, she wasn't as keen to go nude as she had been the previous day. Reliving Fisher's Creek, even in a dream, made her want to wear her sarong. She stood there in a moment of indecision.

"Kylie?"

"Yes?"

"There ain't no reason for ya to worry about yer appearance. You ain't fat. You ain't ugly. Yer beautiful."

"...Thanks." It was a sobering compliment to get. She may not have been fat, and she may not have been ugly, but she was not beautiful. She was not beautiful. Though she did not agree with him, she did not decline his compliment. She slipped her sarong into a pocket of her pack. She could see him giving her a supportive smile.

"Let's go then..."

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