The Perils of Possum Point is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between persons, organisations or events described here and actual persons, organisations or events is purely unintentional.

Pickies in the Dark

The holiday season having subsided, Possum Point began to return to normal. The season, on the whole, had been good, and everyone was in fine fettle. There was even talk of putting a new roof on the village hall, which had been condemned by the local authorities as being unsafe in an earthquake. Of course, to quote Jason, "those little jobbers would flat level the place, first." But, no matter. The Council had reams of policies and procedures and investigations, and it reported to another Council which was even bigger, and that, to the committee of another forum in a Council altogether different. Ned could never get any of it straight, but it was a sure thing that his opinion--being that the building should be made over into a pet mausoleum--would never, ever be heard.

As for Ned, his Christmas tree had graciously committed suicide, and the lights in front of his house had at last been extinguished by a short circuit during the storm that had carried away the last remnants of the garden shed. But he was happy. Summer was on the wane, and that meant that it was time to sort through the weeds in the veggie garden in search of the odd bit of bean or broccoli. Business was on an upswing, and he had been able to sell some very fancy computer viruses to a firm somewhere in the Balkans. The money had been collected in electronic cash and laundered through an American bank. The whole exercise had been great fun, and there was a good profit in it.

Now, living and working in the same place, it was occasionally necessary for Ned to get out to the countryside. He decided to visit some Maori cave drawings. It was said that the Maoris had written some images in a cave a little bit to the north of Rangiora. There is, of course, a well-known set of Maori paintings in the region near Waipara. This was a different set. Jason had told him about these, which were not so famous.

Jason gave him minute directions to the site, which he dutifully wrote down. It was not exactly on the beaten path, and, in fact, it was considerably far into the bush.

He drove out from Possum Point and along the highway. Off the highway. Up some hills, and down some hills. Alongside a dried up riverbed. Past a bunch of cows. Past some sheep. Over a creek. Then, onto an unpaved road. Over a hill. Around a bend, to a dead end, where he got out of the car and walked along a narrow path.

He walked up a hill. Around a corner. Up another hill (Ned began to wheeze). Across a creek. Into a wood. Through lots of mud, slipping and falling, cursing and recovering. Up another hill. Ned wheezed and got a pain in his chest that he thought was probably a heart attack, and for a minute he saw a tunnel with a white light at the end of it, and a partly visible hand summoning him.

At length, there it was...the entrance to a cave, half shrouded in shrubbery!

Ned pulled himself up, and into the dank interior. It was dark, and there was water dripping everywhere. It smelled of mold. He examined the walls, trying to find the Maori drawings, but could see nothing. He lit a match. In the flickering illumination, he saw a trace of pigment at the far end of the cave. These must be the sacred drawings!

Ned moved to where he could examine the precious inscriptions. To think that these had been placed here a thousand years ago, by an unknown hand, with the dark and pagan thoughts of the Polynesian religion! He brought the match closer. The images resolved into what seemed the awkward shapes of animals.

Meanwhile, outside it had begun to rain. Water flooded into the cave. Ned began to wonder why he had ever come. His shoes began to fill with mud. There was a flash of lightning. The cave was lit up for a second--just long enough for him to see all of the Maori cave art. It wasn't animals at all. It was actual lettering of a sort. Recent. And then, the light was gone. But, in the afterimage, Ned could see the words "Jason was here."

The rain continued. Ned was wet. And cold. He tramped down the hill, slipping and sliding in the muck. He cursed. And slipped. Down the hill. Over the creek, to the bottom, to the car, along the road. Back home. Where, once settled, he changed his clothes, went back to the computer and resolved not to speak to his neighbor for at least several weeks.

That was okay. He had plenty of electronic cash. And, in the Balkans, they were still talking to him.

He attached to the Internet and found his favorite chat room. Bridget was there. He told her about the Maori alive the animals had seemed in the matchlight. How it had all seemed so ancient and filled with magic. Bridget, actually a computer hacker named George Greenberg in New York, was quite sympathetic and showed lots of interest.

Ned signed off. There was something to be gained from the excursion after all. He could make up stories about it for all his girlfriends on the Internet.

 Copyright (c) 1996, 1997 Brian J. Dooley