: Unhappy medium by CD Richards
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.|
"Hey, that hurt!" Gavin rubbed his shoulder ruefully.
"I don't make fun of your family," Samantha tried her best to look stern, but it didn't quite come off, as she stifled a giggle.
"My mother's aunt isn't a septuagenarian psychic medium with halitosis!"
"You cut that out! She means well, and she was very kind to me and Dave when we were growing up." Samantha's voice grew softer, "It was hard for her to make the trip all the way from Brisbane to be with us."
Gavin decided to push his luck. "So what was that thing with the telegram she read, the one from Uncle Bertie?"
"I thought it was sweet, and he had such lovely things to say about you."
"He's been dead for eight years!"
"Not to her, he hasn't." Sam looked like she might burst into tears.
Gavin reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a small, rectangular package, wrapped in white paper with silver embossed bells, and secured with a neat purple bow. "My guess is a watch — but for me, or you? Or maybe there's one each."
"I hope it's a beautiful strand of pearls. I can't see why she would want to waste her money on someone as heartless as you!" Sam's gaze was firmly fixed on the track ahead, but Gavin felt relief when he saw the corners of her mouth turn up in a faint smile.
Gavin detached the gift tag and read it:
"To Gavantha, Blessings to you both on this special day. Iris."
How sweet, she's even given us a pet name. He tore off the paper, then lifted the lid, before bursting into howls of laughter.
Sam jerked the wheel hard to the right, to avoid the fallen stump that was half blocking the rubble-strewn tracks of the fire trail. "What?"
Removing the shiny object from its container, Gavin held it up for Samantha to see. After settling the Landcruiser back onto the track, she turned her head towards the passenger seat, and saw a silver-coloured metal object about six inches long. It appeared to have a handle formed from two arms. Between them hung a corkscrew-shaped piece of metal. At the other end, the two parts of the handle merged to form a bulbous shape. On one side of this bulb was a small, sharp-pointed hook, on the other a slightly longer, wedge-shaped blade, with a bevelled edge, like a very small knife.
"A can opener?"
"Maybe she figured now that we're officially married—"
"Don't go there!"
"Does she even know that for nearly a hundred years, they've been making these things with little wheels, so you don't cut—" Before Gavin could react, Sam's left hand shot out and ripped the object from his grasp. Her arm flashed across her chest, and she hurled the can opener through the open window, into the scrub.
Gavin's highly developed powers of observation warned him he might have gone too far. "I'm sorry, honey. You know I really love your family, including dear old great-aunt Iris. I guess I'm just a little nervous about this trip."
"You, Gavin Morecombe, the Steve Irwin of Ermington, the Alby Mangels of Annandale, nervous? Oh come on! We're 350 miles from the nearest town, headed for some place that isn't even on the map. Riding in a rusty Landcruiser that's been through two clutches in the past six months, traveling a goat track. The only traffic it sees is a ranger once a week. Why would you be nervous? You sure know how to show a girl a good time!"
Looking at her, in her King Gee shirt, Stubbies shorts and Blundstone boots, with her long brunette hair tied in a ponytail, as she expertly guided the 'Cruiser along the dusty track, deftly dodging the biggest potholes to avoid a broken axle, Gavin knew why she was the only girl he could have married. "When we get to Cassandra Creek Station, you'll see what all the fuss is about. It's the nearest place to heaven on Earth. You can make out every star in the Jewel Box, just with binoculars."
"I miss the dark skies and the sound of—"
The windscreen cracked and fell inwards, as a two-hundred pound boomer leapt out of the scrub straight into the path of the oncoming vehicle, missed the bull bar, and flew into the tempered glass. Instinctively jerking her body sideways in response to the oncoming missile, Samatha yanked the wheel hard to the left, shearing off the wing mirror on the trunk of a spotted gum before careening down the embankment at the side of the trail. Collecting a few saplings and part of a termite mound along the way, the truck finally bounced off a large granite tor. It overturned, rolling twice more before coming to rest a couple of hundred feet down the hillside from where it left the road.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As the fog of unconsciousness lifted, Samantha could feel the warmth of the sun streaming into the cabin from low in the western sky. When she could focus, the first thing she saw was the vacant stare in Gavin's eyes, and the dark red stain that smeared the door pillar and had soaked into the roof lining. There's hardly any on his shirt, that's odd. Darkness returned for a few seconds, and then, That's because we're upside down, stupid. It was another few seconds before the screaming started. It's odd how the brain can react when subjected to severe physical and mental trauma. It was probably a full three or four minutes before the facts had begun assembling themselves inside Sam's head. One — the man I married only yesterday is now hanging beside me, dead. Two — I'm hundreds of miles from the nearest town or phone tower, and most probably won't see another car for days. Three — the searing pain in my right upper arm says it's probably broken. Maybe, if I'm lucky, it's just a dislocated shoulder. I don't feel lucky.
Sam became aware of something dripping onto the front of her shirt. Looking up, she saw the bright red gash in the sun-tanned flesh of her thigh. It was a bad cut. She needed to get out of here fast, and retrieve the first aid kit from the rear. If she didn't, when the vehicle was found, the paramedics would need two body bags. Suddenly it dawned on Samantha why she was not laying in a crumpled heap on the roof of the upturned vehicle. The seat-belt tensioner had jammed, and the belt had her pinned tightly against her seat. She thanked God that her left arm was uninjured as she reached for the seat belt release. Her gratitude turned to despair when she found that the mechanism was stuck, and she could not free the tongue. She struggled to move the sash in an attempt to climb out, but it was too tight. After several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to extricate herself, Sam's shirt was now soaked with blood from the deep gash on her leg, and she was struggling to retain consciousness.
As the last of her strength disappeared with the setting sun, various thoughts flashed through Sam's mind. They were the last thoughts she experienced in this life. If only we'd settled for a honeymoon in Fiji, like normal people... If we'd just chartered a plane to get to Cassandra Creek, instead of driving... If only I had something to cut this stupid sash — like a Stanley knife, or scissors, or even... oh, SHIT!... even a can opener!
* * * * * * * * * * *Iris Fielding sat in her wheelchair on the verandah of her Redcliffe home, watching the sun disappear below the horizon, holding the corsage that had been presented to her at the reception. A single tear formed, and rolled down her cheek.
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