by Merryana Day
I run as fast as I can. My heart’s pounding in my chest and my breathing is short and strangled. Every step is painful but my time is almost up. I need to find somewhere to hide. I spy a large Fig Tree. With the speed and agility of a monkey I scramble up as high as the thinning foliage will still hold me and sit in the crook of a V-shaped branch. Finally, I allow myself to rest. I take long deep breaths and slowly my breathing and heart beat return to normal. But I can’t risk relaxing. I need to be ready to move at any sound or risk being found. I’m almost invisible from the ground dressed in full camo clothing, mud smeared over my skin. I am covered by thick green leaves but still, there’s a chance that I can be seen. My ears are strained for any noise but over the squawking of the cockatoos I doubt I’ll hear anyone until it’s too late. I nervously pick at a twig, a big mistake…
Off comes the twig bringing a whole branch down with it. It crashes on the ground sending the birds into a flapping frenzy. Over the racket of the birds I hear pounding feet drawing rapidly closer. I estimate I have around 10 seconds until they arrive. With my leaf coverage gone and my hiding place revealed I am in clear view from the ground. I drop from my branch, a two metre fall, and land skilfully, my knees bent, letting my body absorb the power of the drop. Quickly I sprint towards a field of dry brown grass which will give me some cover until I can find a better hiding spot.
I plunge into the mass of grass and lay silently praying that my pursuer won’t look over here. I don’t dare lift my head but I can hear the footsteps drawing closer. I can’t move or I’ll be found for sure, but if I stay here I won’t stay hidden for long. I need a diversion. There’s a muddy pond about ten metres away. It’s a long shot, but if I can throw a rock into the water they might turn around and go back in the other direction to investigate. I edge my hand towards a stone. Pick it up. I inhale deeply, concentrating on my task. I raise my arm, and throw.
The seconds are long and painful until with a loud splash the rock hits its target. Quickly the footsteps speed up and fade away. Phew, that was close. I’ve got to find a better hiding spot. A few yards away there’s a tree with a decent cave like hole between the roots where the ground has eroded away. If I can get over there I can squeeze between the roots and I’ll be almost unseeable. I crawl commando style over to the tree and push myself between the thick roots. It’s a squeeze but I fit.
It’s full of spider webs and dust but I can hardly be seen from the outside. I close my eyes and allow myself a few short minutes of rest. My throat is dry. I reach for my water bottle which is strapped to my belt, disturbing the thick dust. It tickles my nose and although I try my hardest to contain it, I sneeze loudly. The noise echoes through the bush. I hear the snapping of twigs as my tracker runs towards me. The footsteps stop in front of my tree, but unless you knew I was hiding here I’d be almost impossible to see.
“I’m sure it came from here,” says a voice. “She must be around here somewhere,” they grunt as they peer through the grass trying to find me. They give up and start to walk away. I let out a sigh of relief. I’m safe but, oh no, I can feel another sneeze coming on. “Achoo!”
“What was that?” Oh no I’ve given myself away. They run back. A sweaty hand reaches in and touches my arm. I emerge knowing there’s no way I can escape this. “Found you!” yells my triumphant friend. “You’re ‘it’ next.”