The cacophony of birds before dawn makes it impossible to sleep. The humid air has condensed on the pile of leaves that I’ve heaped on top of me, but I’m dry and warm beneath. I can hear the bugs crawling through the pile, but as far as I can tell they haven’t bitten me all night.
The morning light intensifies and the birds calm down. I sweep away my pile of leaves to reveal all the little itchy lumps on my legs. I was mistaken – the bugs had a feast! The spots will itch furiously later, but at least I survived the cold of the night. I shake the twigs out of my shoes and start walking. The soft sound of the leaves under my feet is soothing.
There’s supposed to be a road directly to the East of here. It’ll make a good “catching feature” or “handrail” because it runs perpendicular to my path of travel. It means even if my bearings are way off, I’ll still hit the road eventually. I head towards the rising sun.
I’m sticky with yesterday’s sweat and I’m hungry, but I’ve got to keep going. I can deal with a little hunger, but there comes a point when the mind won’t let you advance. I’m determined not to let my thoughts defeat me.
With the sun up, the birds are silent. I know that the bush is brimming with life, but there’s no trace. Even the gum trees look dead in the heat that’s beginning to rise. Like hunched hermits with thinning hair that doesn’t provide more than a little shade. The air is still and silent. I feel so alone.
A branch falls in the distance. The echo confirms the sheer emptiness of this place. I’m completely alone. The ground is crunching under my feet now. My thirst is beginning to set in.
Am I really walking East? Is there really a road there? Will there be anyone on the road when I get there? It’s not even midday and I slump in a heap. I’m defeated.
I listen to the bush. The silence is palpable. Suddenly “Thunk!” It’s coming from the direction I was headed.
I know that sound. I dash up the hill knowing exactly what I’ll find. I run up and embrace my saviour. It’s just about midday now and I scald my face as I lovingly press it to my hero. The galvanized steel guard rail does not return my affection.
I sit beside the road listening to the symphony of the guard rail groaning in the heat as I scratch my bug-bitten legs. Help is on its way.