I jump back as a black feline shoots across the path in-front of me. I catch a glimpse of its matted fur; a screeching hiss pierces the night air as it encounters a mammal in the undergrowth. They say a black cat at night is bad luck, but I honestly doubt my luck could get any worse in light of recent events. “Get out, you don’t belong here anymore”, “Just looking at you makes me sick. Leave now and get out of our lives”. It’s funny how the ones who are meant to love you the most, can turn on you so easily. My adolescent legs strain as I continue along the path aimlessly, my stomach rumbles in emptiness as I realise I left without food.
How can one think of such things at a time like that? I most certainly didn’t, and now the only thing dwelling in my gut was the sore pain that was the increasing hate for the cruel beings that raised me. Lost in my thoughts my melancholy walking pattern is disrupted as my foot catches on a thick branch and I fall swiftly face first into a small jagged rock. Dazed, I lift myself up from the ground and dust myself off; my left eyelid closes automatically as blood rolls down the top of my face. Cursing, I wipe my face with my sleeve, soaking the cotton a blackish-red instantly.
The shock dissipates and pain sets in, sharp agony mixed with a strange tingling sensation on my forehead. I forcedly push the pain to the back of my mind, and go to take my next step just as a small blue spherical object reflecting the moon catches my eye on the edge of the track. Interested, I walk over to it, and pick it up in my hands. After examining the dirt caked ball, images of my younger brother flash through my mind. Times spent together, kicking a ball in the backyard, taking him to his first movie, and then screams of pain, blood, oh god the blood is….
The ball drops to the ground as my hand trembles from the horrible images. I kick it far away off the trail in anger as Im reminded of the situation Im in. The smoky scent of a campfire fills my nostrils as a noticeable change in wind direction suddenly takes place. I see the source of the aroma, flickering light blended through the trees, and notice a side-trail leading in its direction. I weave myself through the animal-made track, slipping on loose stones and running into the occasional webbed trap. Eventually, I make my way to a clearing with scattered belongings and a stool sized log surrounding a scrap wood fire.
A twig snaps behind me and I swing around, instincts putting me in a fighting mindset. Instead of a threat, I am greeted by a grey haired man with shabby clothes and a dirty beard. He stares at me for a few seconds as if evaluating me as a risk and then speaks to me in a calm voice. ““howdy stranger, can I help you with anything? ”” I try to reply but still surprised my words fail me. Instead, he continues to speak, ““that’s a deep looking cut you’ve got on your forehead”. He moves towards me, limping a little, reducing pressure on his left leg naturally.
I step back warily, but he swiftly covers the ground between us and grabs my shoulder with his left hand. His unclean breath blows in my face for a moment, and a shiver of fear and disgust runs down my spine. The shiver leaves as he turns his head to the side, seemingly searching for something on his belt. Out of a small bag attached to his belt he produces a plastic packet. After tearing open the package with his teeth he pulls out the prize, and dabs the alcohol soaked swab on my wound. I flinch as the alcohol seems to burn my unprotected flesh.
I grab my forehead in agony and cry out in pain, replied by a chuckle from the man. The agony settles to a mild throbbing, and from past experience I acknowledge the boost in the healing process this man has provided. Thanking him, I walk over to the camp fire while he holds me steady. “So what brings you out here friend? “. Hesitantly, I sit down on the log by the toasty flames and begin to explain my story. However, I am quickly interrupted when he passes me a nicely cooked chicken leg. Feeling like I’m on the brink of starvation I devour the meat.
The bone bounces away into the darkness as I toss it over my head, thanking the unnamed man yet again. Having finished the piece of food, my stomach yearns for more, but I stay respectful to obviously poor mans kindness. I spill everything, about what happened to my brother, the investigation, my parents mistrust and eventual rejection towards me and of-course leaving my house. In between sections, I find out about drew williams’ life story. He had lost everyone and everything important to him, eventually depression resulting in him being fired from his job and having no money to pay the rent.
When he was evicted he went straight to spending his days on the street until the violence became too much for him and he moved out to this bushland. It was well past midnight by the time we had finished exchanging stories. He offered me a sleeping bag for the night and I gratefully accepted. As I wrapped the insulated down filled cover around me the freezing winter-night air began to penetrate my skin. The light from the fire was dying. I woke to an unsettling feeling in my stomach, like something inside me was warning me to hide, just get away, but from what?
Dawn’s first light was creeping over the horizon and exotic birds started to sing their songs. My left foot steps on a solid metal object. Curiously I look down and spot the end of a sharp metal blade. A knife? I frown and look confusingly at it, why would a homeless man need a knife? I stretch my muscles by walking further around the camp, inspecting the items strewn randomly in the short grass further then last night. A metal box with an opened padlock lies under a tattered coat. It opens with a slight expression of its rusty hinges and inside I find a pile of leather wallets, it hits me.
There is more to this man then I first thought. He is not just a homeless man struggling to feed himself, but a thief. I open the wallet on the top of the pile randomly. A wave of nausea hits me and images start to appear in front of me, stronger than before. Me and my brother, walking innocently down an alley, a homeless man, jumping out of nowhere with a knife, the screaming of my brother as he is stabbed, the fear as I run for my life, turning back to see him taking my brothers belongings.
Treating him like a mere container for cash. His body in my hands, picking up the knife and throwing it away. The police report, “Wallet missing… brothers prints on weapon”. The courtroom, the verdict: not guilty due to lack of evidence, the horror on my parents face. Mistrust, not belonging at ‘home’. I stare at my brother’s innocent face in the wallet, I mutter “what does it matter anyway” as I throw the wallet back in and lock the box.