After being woken at 3am to the sound of a howling cat (or possibly a hunting bunyip – you never know in rural Australia), I was bleary-eyed and irritable. To divest myself of this cloak of darkness, I decided to go for a walk.
As soon as the sunlight brushed the treetops, I was pounding the pavement. Well, actually, I was dragging my feet along the track-side in the mounds of eucalypt bark, listening to the satisfying crunch underfoot.
I was alone and enjoying the simple beauty of the warm morning. So busy was I, that I almost walked into the most enormous snake I had ever seen. Everything inside was screaming at me to run, but my legs wouldn’t obey.
I stood staring at the thing, sweat pouring off my body for about half an hour. Surely my family would come looking? But half an hour turned into an hour. Then two. If I didn’t get home soon, I’d be late for work and school dropoff.
The snake and I were frozen, waiting for one of us to make the first move.
Relief came in the form of a man on a bike, with a long grey beard that trailed like smoke behind him.
“You ‘right? Look like you saw a ghost.”
“Snake? Crikey! You been bitten?”
I shook my head and pointed. “There.”
He approached the thing as I gurgled a warning. Then, after a brief hesitation, he picked the thing up.
“Lady, you just get yourself home. Ain’t nothing but a piece of old piping.” He offered it to me as proof, but I declined.
He tied the pipe to the back of his bike, heroically shook my hand without laughing and sent me on my way.
I made it back home to find my husband and daughter just starting breakfast.
“How come you didn’t come find me?” I said.
“Why would we?”
“I was gone for ages.”
“Only twenty minutes, love. Thought it was best to leave you be.”
As I toddled off in search of coffee, I realised that’s what happens in rural Australia. Magic bunyips who ride enchanted bikes morph into wizards, turn snakes into piping, and then take you back in time a few hours so you don’t run late.
Yep, that’s absolutely what happened.