The fog drifted around her. She could barely make out the trees around her or even her feet. She walked carefully knowing if she stepped off the path and into the swamp it could swallow her in seconds if she was lucky or drag her slowly down centimetre by terrifying centimetre as she struggled to free herself. She felt for the next stone with her left foot. As a child she’d been able to run along these hidden paths with her eyes shut but she hadn’t been home in years. She had never wanted to come back but now she was, one careful step at a time. She had to warn them and she was the only one who could that still cared enough.
The Possum is a story that almost wrote itself. I didn’t really know what I was writing until I started. It was a story that started with the writing instead of the idea. I began with the first sentence and that led me to the next idea. As I started to write I pictured the place in my head and although I did not include in the story all the details of the place, I chose some and they became the story. The place had a life of its own once I let myself imagine it.
The idea of an underground house is something that interests me and has interested me ever since I heard about it years ago. In Coober Pedy (in the Australian outback) there are people liveing in ‘dugouts’ old mines that have been converted into modern homes. The temperatures outside can be extreme but the underground home stay at a comfortable temperature. The story is not based there but the idea of the underground home came from hearing about this.
It’s dark and cold but that’s how I like it. It makes me feel safe to be able to snuggle up in blankets. I want to stay like that and never come out. I like the feel of cold air on my face, not so cold it makes my lungs hurt but cold enough to make my nose cold to the touch. I had always wanted to live underground. It means light doesn’t wake me up in the morning. I don’t have to wait for the sun to go down to go to bed. I can have my own schedule. Well it should depend on work too but I work from home so it doesn’t matter.
I stretch and reluctantly crawl out of bed. It’s tempting to stay there all day but I need to get up and put the shade cloths up over my garden. It’s going to be hot and I can’t let the sun fry everything. I pull on shorts and a t-shirt and step into thongs. Outside it’s already starting to heat up even though the suns barely up. I turn on the pump at the tap and connect the sprinklers. I let it run while I tie up the shade cloths. I check the tomatoes and beans and pick the handful of ripe ones. There is a snail on my cauliflower. I pick it up, drop it and stand on it. It makes a satisfying squelchy crunch. I turn off the water and go back inside.
The possum sits staring at me with wide frightened eyes. It’s the size of a big rat, it’s definitely a ringtail. I should have known better than to leave the door open even for that short time. I walk towards it slowly. I get within a meter of it before it bolts. It dashes around my house knocking books, glasses, paper, pictures and stationary onto the floor as it crosses the bench. I quickly shut the door that leads to the hallway connecting to the rest of my house. Now it is at least contained in one room. I open the door that leads outside. I try to chase it towards the door but it has other ideas. It’s on my bookshelf now knocking more books and pictures onto the floor. I make another grab for it but again it evades me.
I stop chasing it. It crams itself into the space above the books on the top shelf and sits staring down at me. I get the stool and place it in front of the shelves. Then I get a cardboard box and a wooden spoon and hop up on the stool. I manage to get it into the box with only a little prodding from the spoon. Then I quickly shut the box, hop down from the stool and carry it outside. I shut the door behind me before opening the box. The possum jumps out and runs up the nearest tree vanishing from sight.
I go back inside letting out a sigh of relief. The temporary chaos and excitement that invaded my house was gone. I could relax again.
This is a fictional short story. Here is the exergesis.