Camouflage, James Scully

Driving slowly past his campsite, holding my breath. Frightened girlfriend beside me, likely reconsidering partner. 2 am, chills me to see camo-man reading by lamp-light. Waiting. Big bags on ground.

Outside the camp grounds, hit the accelerator. I drink-drive-flee for my life.

I’ve been best friends with Andrew since we were 8 and my parents would have to collect me from sleepovers because I got scared. He and his wife Heather still asleep in the tent we were sharing, unaware we’ve left, unaware of the danger.

Andrew organised this trip to beautiful, isolated Wiseman’s ferry and we had fun: booze, weed, junk-food, Cards Against Humanity. The bush whispering around us, I relaxed. Until I needed the toilet.

As I’d walked to the bathroom, felt a joy at seeing people living: roasting marshmallows, drinking, a scout group playing spotlight. Then I saw the man in the camouflage pants.

Camping usually scares me: a strange catch-22 where I crave escape from the claustrophobic city but then start to panic as soon as I’m more than five minutes from a Woolworths.

Earlier, camo-man came around every campsite. I was wary of his over-friendliness. He laughed at nothing, needed gentle prompting to leave. Then I saw him getting these two huge black bags out of his 4WD Troop Carrier. Alarm bells. He smiled widely, sat the bags next to his one-person tent. A wannabe army-man camping alone is sinister and terrifying.

Trapped on the wrong side of the river, I thought of that massacre in Norway. Kids confined and hunted down on an island.

Slow-panic walk back to our tent. Campers were going to bed. Small birds sang throughout the forest as if it was day, creating a portentous mood.

I said nothing to my friends but, once in bed, I told my girlfriend.

We’ve only been together a few months. I know I’m risking a lot by letting her in. On first impressions, I seem normal. But we share anxiety and she agreed to run.

I’m gunning it down the narrow road, brooding river to our left in early morning. she says “Slow down. Drive straight.” I can’t. She tells me to let her out by the roadside. I try not to. She insists she’s going to walk back to the campsite, tells me I’m nuts.

Devastated, I drive on, see the lights of the ferry through trees—pray it’s on this side.
Camo-man might have started shooting already and I wouldn’t have heard over the chugging ferry. I wouldn’t mind at this point if he shot me. I pray she doesn’t go back.

I’ve had my moments with weed before. One time thought it was a heart attack, realised it was too much Indian food.

I board the ferry alone, flashing lights breaching the dark.

Wake in the morning parked in front of pub—her knocking on my car window.

Text message from my friend after I tell him where we are: haha. Classic Scully.

Three years later: reader, she married me!

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