Her battered brain was paralysed. Maurice couldn’t open her eyes. Unfortunately, feeling returned. Then, Maurice fought to remain in her pain-free, unconscious paralysis. Her cheek pressed against stony ground, her eyes flickered open. The air was clear. She breathed, in and out. Her eyes darted here and there, searching for signs of danger – or life. The world was still scrambled, upside down.
She sat up slowly, her lungs burned, her muscles ached. Carefully, she dusted herself off. A noise made her jump. Like a frightened rabbit, she listened, not even daring to twitch.
“I will never complain again about the flies, or the poo, or the cows, I will move to Walcha, only just let this be another crazy dream,” she prayed. Her voice was hoarse.
Again, a scratching noise. Pebbles crunched, shifted and cascaded, way down in the ravine. Maurice inched herself carefully towards the edge of the promontory. No horizon in the distance at all, just billowing murky clouds of dust with blue veins of lightning. A foul stench of gas. She strained to peer through the fog that swirled above the obviously vertical drop below. Something else was still alive down there, possibly her mother.
She slid on her stomach over rocks to lean out further, desperate hope neutered any possible fear. She hoped for a glimpse of her mother’s face. Disappointment mixed with surprise.
A paw strained to reach a narrow ledge, clawed scratched a sheer rock face. Maurice yelped as it slipped backwards, downwards, towards the perilous fall. The mist parted and Maurice saw bright eyes. Without hesitation, Maurice reached out and clasped his little limb tightly with both hands. They dangled there for a moment. As their eyes locked they became allies, fighting for survival.
“You are heavy-er … than you look,” she grunted.
Finally, she hooked her foot into the crook of a twisted tree (or something ;P ) to secure herself. She caught his other foot and, amazingly, levered it over the top. It fell, splat, on its stomach, panting. Safe. Maurice toppled onto her back, crying and laughing, confused. She fought disappointment. It wasn’t mum. She felt elated, she was not alone. “Hey, dog … we’re alive, I think …”
The blue lightning cut grey fog, whipping through with such blinding speed that the clouds parted allowing a glimpse beyond. Maurice jumped to her feet and froze, shocked. Nothing remained. The entire east coast was gone. Her legs collapsed beneath her. She sank to the ground, unable even to weep. The dog heaved himself onto shaky legs and crept to her, dragging his tail, head lowered. He plonked himself beside her and lay his head on her knee.
“Go away! I don’t like dogs! I hate animals!” Maurice screeched.
But the dog didn’t move. He just gazed thankfully, gratefully, admiringly, longingly into her eyes. Maurice’s despair relented. She rested her hand gently on the dog’s head and stroked him.
The dog’s lips parted into a sheepish grin that revealed pointy teeth far too big for his tiny mouth. She chuckled and sniffed. And the dog gave a wonky wag of his tail and licked her hand.
“Hey there, you are a little comical. And I am not really a dog person. But you seem nice,” Maurice said softly.
The dog yapped. He winced with aches and pains as he got to his feet. And he put on a show for her. He tried to pounce on his tail. He chased his tail round in circles until he fell over dizzy, yapping cheerily. She enjoyed his antics.
“Yappy aren’t you, fella?” the dog squirmed, scratching his back on the ground, rolled, then leapt into her arms and licked her on her nose. The girl’s laughter filled his heart with something he had not felt in a century: happiness. Not since 1948, the year of her living death.
“Ok fella, take it easy. I’m very allergic to dogs,” the girl said.
Suddenly, the dog’s ears pricked up. Frantically, he looked side to side, alert to some danger that the girl could not know was near. He frowned, and nuzzled her to move. But she didn’t.
“What is it?” she asked, looking deep into his eyes. “Huh?” Maurice exclaimed, mesmerised by the message in his eyes.
The code read, ” H – E – L – P — H- E – L – P – — H – E – L – P – — H- …”
Finally, he broke from her gaze and skulked away with his tail between his legs, turning to look at her. He gave a wag of his tail, expecting her to follow. But she just stared into the distance in a stupor of wonder. The dog scratched the ground, fretfully yapping at her. Maurice blinked and looked at him just as he ran off.
“Hey?!” Maurice yelled. “Stop!?” she whined, “wait!”
Without a thought about the risks of stepping in poo, or flies, or being stung by wasps, or even cosmic planet-eating moths, she took off after him. For the first time in her life, nature didn’t freak her out. Maurice was lost and the earth could crack open at any moment, but Maurice had bigger problems. She wasn’t sure but she thought this was one big hallucination. The word HELP had just flashed across the eyeballs of that dog in iridescent code.
“Maybe it was something I ate last night…” she told herself. “Peaches.”
The earth shuddered. “Not again,” she moaned.
Boulders cracked, just crumpled into tiny pieces and floated away creating a murky soup around the planet. This time, Maurice felt the pressure of the air compress her. The air seemed to gain weight fast. It pushed down, compacting, squashing her to the ground. She fast crawled, commando-style on her belly. She couldn’t see where she was going, the dog’s bellows sounded the way like a fog horn, until finally, she saw his gleaming teeth as they grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and pulled her to safety into a … bubble. He licked the dust off her face, leaving a streak. The seasons raged outside, just as they had done in Kapoot in 1948 when Happiness was lost.
“Thanks Yappy!” Maurice sighed, relieved. “Yap, yap!” Yappy replied, ever the clown.
“Yeah … you said it!”
They peeped outside and freaked out. The moon zoomed into the neighbourhood, large as life. They were a new constellation in the Milky Way, floating on a cloud of Earth.