Sweetheart

By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP student

“Hey- HEY!”

You hear something- like repetitive snapping, and slowly crack open your eyes. As you blink the first thing you focus on is what is far above you. It’s dark, and reddish, like black rust. But then you focus on what is much closer, the tan hand snapping their fingers right over your head. You reach one hand up to swat it away. Quickly, the hand is replaced by an equally tan face. You blink a few more times.

“Wake up, come on now, we gotta move if we’re gonna make it before dark, sweetheart.”

“Wha-what?”

Wow, your voice is very scratchy, and very, very weak. Not only does your throat feel dry, but it feels like you’ve broken it by having a screaming match followed by restless sleep and a migraine. The words you managed to say were barely a whisper, even if you meant them to be full volume. The person above you gives you a sad smile.

“I know sweetheart, you’re probably very confused, just as much, if not more so than I am. But we gotta move. Do you need some help up?”

You nod, a little, if only because they’re being so nice. The accent definitely helps. You don’t want to move, the more you begin to regain feeling the more sore your limbs become. But you take their offered hand, and pull yourself up.

“Ah!”

You suddenly grasp at your chest, it aching like never before. You fall to a kneeling position on the ground, no doubt bruising your already weak knees. The person in front of you swears, and drops with you. They quickly begin to feel around your chest and torso, and for once you can only yell in pain instead of protest.

“Ah, shit, definitely bruised. What happened to you, boxing match with a kangaroo? If so, ya definitely lost.”

“I- I can’t remember. My head- oh, fuck- it hurts.”

They begin to feel around your head, seeming to understand you despite how weak your voice really is. You yelp when they find the noticeable bump. They cuss again, but begin to fiddle around wherever you are, after setting you down, leaning against a rock. Or, more like sandstone, as you take the time to feel it to ground yourself.

As you look around you can see you’re in a formation of sandstones that almost make an arch. It makes sense why you saw the ceiling first. There’s not too much light in the arch, but as you look to the side you can see that’s because the sun is nearly set. They weren’t kidding when they said it’d be dark soon.

“Alright, here we go. Hang tight sweetheart, I’ll try to be gentil.”

They begin to- what the fuck! They begin to strap an actual pillow to your chest. You give them an exasperated, tired, and confused look. They give you a shaky smile.

“We’re gonna need to travel, and it ain’t like you can walk. You’ve got bruised ribs, a concussion, and what looks like a sprained ankle-”

You look down- and yup. Your ankles swollen.

“So I’m gonna have ta carry ya. I imagine piggyback ain’t gonna be too comfortable with bruised ribs, so this oughta lighten the load for ya a bit. Now, come on, hop on.”

They turn around, and present you their back. You lean forward – painfully – and loop your arms around their neck. They loop theirs under your knees, and up you go. It’s painful, yes, but not more so than standing up that is. They hoist you up a bit more, but then stop at your pained sound. They begin to walk, in a direction you don’t know.

“What’s your name, Sweetheart?”

“Don’t remember.”

“Bugger. Don’t suppose you remember much of anything then?”

“Nada.”

They go quiet after that. So you ask the next question.

“Where are we going?”

“Alice Springs if I can help it, but that’s over four hundred kilometers away, so we might have to take some stops. Don’t worry, we’re near Uluru, so we might be able to get some help there.”

“Why are we going to Alice Springs if Uluru is so close?”

“Man, you really don’t remember where ya are, do ya sweetheart?”

“No, I thought that was very clear.”

“Uluru’s a rock, Alice Springs is a town.”

I’m sorry, you’re headed for a rock? This is not going great. Don’t know your name, got more injuries than you can count, a guide you don’t know, and you’re headed for a rock.

“Where are we?”

“The bush.”

“The what?”

“Sorry, sorry, you really don’t know where you are at all? You’re in Australia sweetheart, the outback, the bush. We’re in a national park- I was doing a camping trip, stargazing and all that, and I found ya in the sandstones! I didn’t know what ta do but wake ya up! We gotta get to Alice, but it’s not gonna be a fast trip.”

“You didn’t bring a car?”

“Ruin the beauty, sweetheart, wanted to enjoy nature. I hiked out here to Uluru, now I’m bringing you back. At least my campsite will be a little more comfortable.”

You go silent after that, and just contemplate your life. For whatever reason you can’t remember, probably the concussion, and now you’re in a country where you don’t know how you got there. Why were you under the sandstones? Why are you injured? What the fuck is your name?

“Chin up sweetheart, thing are lookin’ down now, but I’m sure they’ll be an up.”

Deciding to be petty to the universe, you take their words at verbatim, and look up.

What you see dazzles you. It’s a tapestry of stars that you don’t know if you’ve ever seen before. The sky is clear, there’s no light hiding them, and the milky way is in full view. It’s full of twinkling lights, clouds of stardust, and more colors than you expected from this red desert. Your guide speaks one more time.

“Everything’s gonna be alright, sweetheart, I’ll make sure of it.”

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