Saturday, June 24, 2006

How to Survive a Serial Killer.

On watching the Aussie horror flick "Wolf Creek" about the serial killer picking off tourists in the outback, I was reminded of all those people who have disappeared from the Pacific Highway, which I myself have hitched up a thousand times and a few times come close to oblivion, only I kept a wary eye out, and escaped by a hair's breadth. There was one time I really nearly flunked the survival test, a classic horror ride from which I learnt extra caution.

Me and my longtime friend, the Wood Nymph Sylvia, had decided to sleep on Byron Bay beach, like hippie funsters, we couldn't be bothered trekking back to Lismore where she had a house. It was getting past midnight and we were just snuggling into our blankets when this nerdy 30 something guy showed up and plonked himself on the sand, rousting us up with a tale of woe and lonliness, his wife and kids had left him and he was distraught to the point of madness. He asked us to save his sanity and come spend the night with him on his property in the hills not far behind Byron Bay. The guy gave off loonie vibes and I said "No thanks" but he whined, pleaded, cajoled and enthused, promising us hot -meals and warm fires, I continued to say, "thanks but no thanks!" maybe 21 times but he went on and on inveigling us. Cheapskate Sylvia, always with her eye to a free meal, finally gave in and agreed, me holding out sceptically, the guy was insisting too much, it was freaky/creepy.

"Why not?" Sylvia shrugged, she was born a punk and was scared of nothing, defying the world to beat her own manipulative machinations, and had gotten herself raped several times because of it, yet she was always up for new, outrageous adventures. She kept agreeing with the guy and against my intuition I went along for the experience. He bundled us into his beat-up car and then drove maniacally thru the dark with his headlights switched off, careering round dangerous bends and into black mountains with us having no clue where we were being taken. We roared past a lit-up gas station and I should've demanded him to stop there and let us off as the no-headlights fast driving was terrifying and disorienting.

But he kept up a bullshit friendly patter and so we swept on till we crawled up a dirt track in the middle of nowhere and parked in front of a wood cabin. Inside there was only a kerosene lamp for dingy light and the musty smell of a lone soul's empty life. He pawed a yellowing photograph of a woman and child and sobbed how he couldn't live without them, life had no meaning for him any more, on and on, me and Sylvia poking faces at each other when we thought he wasn't looking. After a bitter cup of tea, which I only pretended to drink, he suddenly pulled a shotgun out from under the kitchen bench and rambled on about what a keen hunter he was and guns made him feel safe and powerful, he waved it about and aimed it at pretend enemies just above our heads. I freaked and glared at Sylvia a sign language of readiness to escape for it seemed we were in the clutches of a true nutcase. He saw me edgy and tense and laughed as he put the gun away, announcing it was time for bed. I made a note of where the gun was hidden and determined to come between him and it if he made a move towards it again.

He went into his bedroom and we relaxed for a moment, whispering about how we could possibly find our way out of there on our own. I took my attention off his rumaging about in the next room and suddenly he came thru the door carrying a huge mattress and dumped it directly on top of me so that I was smothered and helpless under it's volume, with him pressing down on top. If he'd had a knife and started stabbing me thru it I was finished for I could hardly move for the restriction it imposed, I was buried alive for all my threshing about. Sylvia, a wildcat from the punk era of the '70s and no easy push-over, crouched ready to spring, her claws bared, he couldn't fight both of us off and laughing impishly he got off the mattress and allowed me out from underneath it. I was trully freaked out of my brain at this point, the guy had got me even tho I was ready for him, such an easy ruse, the manky mattress trick. He encouraged us to sleep peacefully and crept back into his own room, closing the door between us.

Sylvia has always slept like a crocodile, snoring and floundering, but I stayed alert the whole night, stiff as an armoured samurai warrior, my eye glued to his door, imagining him waiting to spring upon us, Halloween knife slashing thru the dusty murk. I was creeped out, ready to fight to the death, no fiend was gonna sneak up on me again. The night wore on and dawn finally sparkled thru the torn curtains. Exhausted I got up when creepo came out all smiles and good cheer in the safe morning light, my fears of the night seeming to be foolish. He gave us breakfast and took us to a swimming hole behind his hovel and he came across as sane, innocent, normal, but I looked out over his back-paddocks and shuddered at the idea he might indeed have buried many a silly hippie out there for who would know or care, hippies go missing all the time.

Eventually he drove us back to Byron Bay and thanked us for keeping him company thru the cold, deadly abysmal night. I returned a tight smile and thanked my lucky stars, and my ability to stay awake thru the wee hours, for our escape. Months later I was in Nimbin town in the Cafe smoking ganjha and drinking coffee when I eavesdropped on a conversation a hippie girl was having with her friends, telling them about a weird guy who picked her and her boyfriend up and drove them recklessly thru the night without headlights and then brandished a rifle in their faces, moaning about how desperately lonely he was, scaring the shit out of the peaceniks. I threw in my 2 cents worth and we all shuddered, nogod knows what demons work the highways of the Pacific Coast, so many trusting types have gone missing.

The next time we were hitching and about to get into a car, Sylvia got in the front and me trying to get in the back, the guy took off before I was in, me hanging onto the door for dear life, Sylvia screaming for her door had been automatically locked, she demanded exit, and I hung in there yelling, so that he screeched to a halt, opened the door and she fell out, me on top of her, him zoomin goff without a look back. We were never again going to trust anyone acting even slightly suspicious, not listen to sob-stories, accept drinks from strangers, go to unknown backwoods hovels, or get smothered under manky mattresses, not ever again. It's a dangerous world out there for hitch-hikers, even in mateship Australia, it must be the cannibal apeman coming out in some cross-wired types and us friendly, compassionate souls are soft targets. But I survived to tell the tale, here in my dotage, it's even kind of a laugh, gallows humour in old convict Auz.