Origins 2

by Terra Australis

Geoff felt the warm sun on his face, saw the bright glow through his closed eyelids. This was a cold place, this city. Not that Perth wasn’t cold at night during winter, but the days had always been warm. Here in Paragon the summer days felt like winter at home. God only knows how cold winter was going to be! But right now, he was going to enjoy the sun while it peeked out between the clouds.

The people were cold too. Not nasty for the most part, just distant. Mind you, they probably have a reason to be that way. Geoff had seen some crime back home, but nothing like this. Robbery and other violent crimes seemed to happen every day, and those who were unfortunate enough not to have the means to defend themselves lived their lives in constant fear. How had it come to this he wondered? Still, as sad as this state of affairs were, Geoff’s worries were greater for the land itself.

When Kinjapuri had sent him back with the message that the land itself needed a defender, he had not really understood. For a while Geoff assumed that this meant the country of Australia, and so he had done some of the usual capes thing, busting crooks and the occasional rescue. But it never really seemed to sit right; somehow it felt like it was not enough. Somehow he was letting the trout spirit down. Now Geoff had always been a modern man, not paying any credence to his grandfather’s stories of the Dreaming. After all, he had an I-pod and a laptop; he knew what was real and what was not. But after meeting Kinjapuri it seemed obvious that there was more to the world than what was visible to most men. And so he had gone to visit his grandfather, still living on a property close to Fitzroy Crossing. For once, he was going to listen to the old stories.

Geoff was amazed at how close the Dreaming stories told by his grandfather were to those told by Kinjapuri. Surely there must be truth to the tales, maybe I wasn’t dreaming when I saw a giant star fish! So Geoff told his own story, of the cave-in and what had came after. Truthfully, he expected his grandfather to tell him he was full of it. But instead, the old man simply asked him if he would like to look deeper, to know the meaning of the spirit’s words. Well of course he jumped at the chance, and later that night found himself sitting across a campfire from the wizened old man, shadows playing in the cracks of his skin. So it was that Geoff learnt how to let his spirit free from his body, to close his eyes to this world and open them to the twilight world of Dreaming. Timeless and ancient is the land of the Dreaming, alive with all the spirits. Here the recent creations of modern man do not exist. Geoff was at peace, he felt a serenity that he had only felt before in his time with Kinjapuri. For a whole week he caped near that dry river with his grandfather, each night entering the Dreaming to learn more and more. He travelled far and saw much, learnt the truths of the natural world. But it wasn’t long before he began to see places where there was something wrong. Sometimes the landscape would look blighted, diseased. These places coincided with places of pollution in the waking world, the old man said. But these are not the worst places, for they will recover if the pollution is taken away.

On the fourth night grandfather lead him to a billabong hidden in a rocky Pilbara gorge. As soon as he entered Geoff knew that something was greatly wrong. The spirit animals made no sound here, instead there were distant wails and weird unearthly noises. The plants were different too, twisted and bloated in an unnatural way. He felt a shiver run down his back. This is not meant to be here, explained his grandfather. This grove did not exist in the natural world. In the waking world this area would appear to be dead, with lifeless salty soil. Spirits who came to these places did not survive, and such places were beginning to spread. We should leave now, but here was an example of what the trout spirit had been warning of.

Without warning a nearby lantana bush had reared up into a vaguely humanoid shape and lashed out. Grandfather was struck across the chest and thrown to the ground, blood flowing freely from his wounds. On reflex Geoff drew upon the strength of the earth and encased his skin with stone. Stepping between the bush and the old man he began smashing and tearing at the demented plant with his bare hands. Razor sharp thorns scraped across the stone of his skin, so sharp and tough were they that some even pierced through. Geoff felt burning pain in his wounds, like a poison. He tore and tore at the bush, but it simply reformed. Somehow it was healing itself and Geoff was not, despair began to creep up on him.
It was then he noticed, felt the power through his feet. The earth was alive with energy, but this was not his doing. It must be what was healing the bush! Desperately Geoff looked for the source but all he could see was a strange small pile of rocks. It looked like nothing, but as they struggled closer to the rocks the feeling of power grew stronger. That must be it! Tearing free he smashed down on the cairn with all his might, obliterating the mound. Instantly the energy in the earth subsided. Now for the bush. Tearing it apart, this time it could not repair and soon lay on the ground scattered. He had no idea when it was actually dead, but just kept rending until all parts of the plant moved no longer. Gathering up the old man he willed them back to their bodies.

The next day they spoke of what they had seen as grandfather rested. Such places were becoming more common, spreading like a plague throughout the Dreaming. Spirits were dying, and without the spirits the waking world was slowly decaying. For the rest of the week Geoff travelled alone, and more and more of these sites did he find. But still the question remained, why? What was causing these sites, and how did they spread? Whatever the cause, it would have to be stopped. Once this abomination had spread through the spirit world, it would slowly choke the waking lands and no one would know why. It had to be stopped!

And so Geoff took to travelling, in both the waking and the dreaming lands. Far and wide he ranged, looking for clues. His travels even took him overseas, searching for the source. And gradually his travels led him to this cold American city, Paragon. Here he was close to the source of the evil, he could feel it, sense it. But still he did not understand it. Not yet.

There was so much hurt in this strange city. Anger and violence on a scale he had never experienced. Yet not all people here were bad, there were many who deserved to be helped, they did not deserve the misfortune that life had sent them. So Geoff started on a second mission, helping where he could to ease the pain and relieve the suffering around him. But despite all his efforts, there was one hurt that he could not heal. His own. Geoff could not shake the feeling of homesickness and loneliness, for he had real friends in this anonymous city. He missed Australia; he missed the wide brown land.

Quite by accident he found a place to belong. With nothing better to do Geoff visited the city’s only Australian themed pub, and found himself rescuing a pretty barmaid from the advances of an affectionate Frenchman. His reward was the cutest smile, a free drink and a long rambling tale of derring-do (whatever the hell that means). Twirling his moustache, the man introduced himself as the Breton Bowman, the world’s greatest armchair. Actually, Breton was more than a little pissed, it seemed that the Fosters was a little heavier than his usual drink. But Geoff found himself liking this guy; his stories were bloody funny, if a little difficult to understand. Breton told many tales of a Hero group called the Defenders of the Southern Cross. Apparently they had been a big group in times gone by, but people had moved on and they were now only a shell of their former glory. But he made good drinking buddy, and when closing time came they found themselves standing on the sidewalk. There were some beers in the fridge back at the Defenders base, so that was where they went.

The morning found Geoff crashed out on a couch in the Defenders ready room. A search of the kitchen found a box of cereal in the cupboard, and lots of old pizza boxes and some Vegemite in the fridge. Not much of a breakfast, but he’d lived off worse at uni! The inner demons taken care of, Geoff filled a water bottle and set off to explore the base. He liked what he saw; it was the most luxurious and comfortable place that he had stayed in since arriving in the city. It was also crammed with some of the most amazing gadgets he had ever seen. But more than that, it spoke of home. At some stage there had been quite a few Australians living here, and there were all little knick-knacks and reminders of the wide brown land. Here a poster, here a photo of a family on the beach, and in the cupboard even an old surfboard. Geoff decided to ask the Bowman if he could rent a room here.

He found the Frenchman slouched on a lounge chair in the rec room, flicking through the cable channels. Dressed only in a bright purple pair of boxer shorts and hugging a large mug of black coffee, he looked like he was feeling much the worse for wear. But Geoff pushed on. He told Breton about his experiences in the Dreaming and the corruption that he had found there. He told of his search for the evil that was devouring the earth, and of the clues that had led him across the sea to this strange city. And he told of his conviction to seek out the source and remove its blight. When he had finished his speech he waited for the Frenchman’s reply.

Well, it quickly became apparent that the Bowman had been far to engrossed in the morning cartoons to pay any attention to what he had said. Seemingly unaware of the tale he had been told, the Bowman finally turned to Geoff and told him that if he had nowhere better to go, he may as well stay here. There would be no rent for the short term as the Defenders still had enough money rolling in from endorsements and copyright to keep the base open for a while. “Vous nid a nem, a nom-de-plume” he advised. Or at least, that sounded like what he said. Find some friends, he advised Geoff, and if you fight hard then one day you may dream of being as great as I am. Get yourself a sponsorship deal, and then you can pay rent. Well, Geoff was not so sure about the idea of celebrity, but buried in there was a great idea. He had no idea where to start looking for the evil in this city, but he was going to need friends. He would need a team to help him and to fight with him. And besides, he though as he watched the Frenchman staring into the flickering screen, he probably just needs some company.

Later that day he had gone to Atlas Park and registered with the city as a Hero. A quick call to the local media and he placed an appeal for fellow Aussies to join him. So now, three days later and still there had been no response. But Terra Australis was not worried yet. There were plenty of things to do, like grocery shopping for the base for a start! However, right now he was just going to enjoy the warm sun on his face and the soft grass beneath his back. Paragon was a city where you enjoyed life’s small pleasures when they occurred, it didn’t happen often.

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