Except from the first short story: The Drumming
The drumming was soothing, distant. Like rain in the night. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but Simona was resting in her cabin, tired from the day’s excavations. She’d fallen into that half-sleep, where you have a foot in both the real world and the dream world. The drumming got a little louder, a little closer, calling for her to start a journey. She’d been called many times in her life, but never outside of Costa Rica, and not for several years now.
She let the drumming enter her heart and release her spirit to go outside and receive her message. Her spirit followed the path behind several cabins. There were no animals to guide her, but she felt she knew the right way. At one point she wandered off the track, sensing the dream-world path that others would not be able to see. As she walked, the sky got brighter, yet she knew in the real world it would be nightfall. She stopped in a clearing in front of a small cave. She waited a short time and looked around, hoping to see Armadillo or maybe Turtle. They usually appeared on her journeys.
Something growled in the cave. The animal that emerged was one she didn’t recognize; it was the size of large dog, but lean with a thick tail like a kangaroo’s. Its small canine head and sharp eyes resembled a hyena. As it walked out into the sunshine she saw a patch of black stripes on the creature’s hind legs. A most unusual animal, she thought, but was not frightened. Simona judged it to be a female due to its bowed stomach, but she wasn’t sure.
The animal looked closely at her, as if contemplating her worthiness. Satisfied, it led Simona to the beginnings of a path and started howling. It stopped and lay down by the tree line; Simona understood that she was to go on alone. She patted the animal gently on its head to affirm their connection, and then headed off along the pathway. What did the strange animal want her to do? She walked a little further, but couldn’t find anything. The drumming resumed in the background and the sky darkened. She had lost the connection.
The next morning, Simona awoke slightly foggy, but ready for another day on the excavation site. A leading forensic ornithologist, she was hired to identify some rare bird skeletons that had been found.
On the short ride to the dig, she tried to recall the details of her vision. She suddenly remembered the strange animal bones that had been unearthed the day before. No-one had had time to examine them, but instinct told her they were the remains of the same kind of animal.
At the site, she rushed to her make-shift office, and started looking through the sample collections.
“What are you looking for?” her assistant, Damien, asked.
“Yesterday someone brought in some animals bones, an incomplete skeleton. Ah, here they are!” She set the box on the table and looked at the eight bones. “Any idea what it is? It’s a four-legged animal, lean and …”
“I can tell you what it is. A thylacine, known as a Tasmanian Tiger. They’ve been extinct since the 1930’s.” Damien examined a leg bone, a grin on his face.
“I’ve heard of thylacines, but I’ve never seen a specimen before.” Simona took a closer look.
“They’re a rare find these days, especially in this area. I’ve found some on other digs further inland where they were more prevalent,” he explained.
“So, if they’ve been extinct since the thirties, these bones should pre-date then? Is it possible they’re more recent? They’re in good condition if not,” she said.
“Don’t get too excited. Hundreds of people have tried to prove that thylacines are not extinct, but it’s just a dream. We might learn something interesting from this specimen, anyway. I’ll get the bones cleaned up for testing.” Damien went to work, leaving Simona to wonder what her vision meant. If thylacines were extinct, what was the female trying to show her?
She worked for a few hours on her own tasks.
Richard, an aboriginal field assistant, stuck his head in her work tent.
“Hey, Simona! Smoko’s ready.”
She grinned. It had taken her a few days to catch on that ‘smoko’ meant ‘morning tea’.
“Thanks, Richard! Wait, do you have a second?” she called him back.
“Yeah, sure. What is it?”
“We found bones from a Tasmanian Tiger yesterday. I didn’t know what they were, but then last night I had a dream about seeing one. A female. Do you think it means something?” She hoped he wouldn’t think she was being silly.
“Interesting. I think Tassie Tigers are the keepers of secrets. I remember years ago, my wife kept an important secret from her mother, and when her mother finally found out and asked my wife why she hadn’t said anything, my wife told her that a Tassie Tiger had warned her to keep her mouth shut. Her mother never asked about it again.”
Richard’s story sent a tingle down Simona’s spine. She did have a secret, and she had wanted to tell someone for months now. But the secret had nothing to do with Australia, or this excavation. It was something she’d have to face when she went home though.
Richard noticed her expression.
“Ah! You do have a secret. Well, now you know what to do about it.” He patted her arm and left her alone in the tent.
Simona hugged herself briefly, trying to shake off the creepy feeling that the secret had somehow followed her here to Australia.
Copyright© Kelly Matsuura. All rights reserved.