AntipodeanSF Issue 307

By John Davis

Sometimes, you witness something so bizarre that it shifts your perception of reality forever. For me, it was seeing a kangaroo turn into a man.

It was the middle of summer. I sat on the quadbike, following the cows down the lazily winding track, their black patches like continents, empty udders dangling, small puffs of dust rising from their hooves. Flies snarled around my face, burrowing into my ears and nose. I shooed them away. Sweat and sunscreen stung my eyes. The only positive thing I can say about dairy is that you mostly deal with cows instead of people.

Movement to my left drew my attention. Far away, at the back of a paddock, a kangaroo bounded along the fence. Even from this distance, I could tell he was a big boy.

The kangaroo stopped.

Then it stood.

At first, this was not unusual, then he kept standing, straightening, changing, seeming to unfold, limbs lengthening and thickening and shedding their hair. His face flattened as his ears shrank and migrated to the side of his head.

In moments, the kangaroo became a naked man.

His head turned, tracking me.

I stopped the quadbike and stared. Cold sweat.

The man stood perfectly still, like a statue planted out there at the edge of the paddock. Though I couldn’t see his eyes, I could feel them burning into me like the sun.

After what felt like aeons, he slowly turned and melted into the trees like a shadow.

My heart slammed against my ribcage as my mind raced to make sense of what I saw. The mind has an incredible knack for rationalising things that don’t make sense. The boys upstairs started working overtime…

Heatstroke. A trick of the light. Yeah. That was it. Just my imagination.

Feeling suddenly freezing and my stomach churning, I locked the cows in the paddock. When I returned to the dairy, Ian, my boss, looked at me like I was a ghost.

“You alright?” he asked. He had big leathery hands and a round red face. A bit of spittle flecked his cracked lips when he talked. “You’re pale.”

“I don’t feel too crash hot,” I admitted. I couldn’t stop thinking of kangaroos turning into humans.

“Get some rest, mate,” he said.

I thanked him and drove home in my dusty Holden Rodeo. Home was a weatherboard house at the end of the truck track, screened off by mirror bush and purple and white agapanthus, with a microwave on a post for a mailbox. Once inside, I filled a glass at the kitchen sink and drank, my hand shaking so much that the water sloshed out.

That kangaroo turned into a man!

I tried to shut out the voices, but with no success.

Someone knocked on the flyscreen door.

I jumped and whirled towards the sound. A visitor? Christ, not now. What did I have to do to get some peace around here?

The knock came again, more insistent this time.

I put the glass in the sink, shuffled to the door and opened it.

On the other side of the flyscreen door stood a man I’d never seen before. Then, gradually, like being pulled from a dream into cruel reality, I realised I had. Cold recognition slid into my brain.

He stared at me, eyes burning. At least he was dressed this time. Jeans and a grey tee, both grass-stained and dusty. His beard was blonde and wild. It looked like he hadn’t showered in weeks, and he smelled like it too; a musty animal stink wafted from him.

“You saw me,” he said.

I blinked. “Sorry?”

The man yanked open the flyscreen door and barged in, forcing me to step back. I wanted to protest, but the words lodged in my fear-clenched throat.

Still looking at me, he slammed the door shut behind him. “Have you told anyone?”

I shook my head.

He bunched my shirt in his fist. His breath was like a hot wind on my face. “Have you?”

“No,” I blurted.

His face came closer to mine. “Positive?”

“Yes.”

He searched my eyes, looking for the lie, then he let me go. He paced, staring at the floor. When he raised his head, his eyes had softened. “Sorry, I… you weren’t meant to see…” He sighed. “I need a beer.”

Deciding that I needed one myself, I went to the fridge and took out two beers. I moved in a floating, dreamlike state, still unable to fully grasp what was happening. We sat on the leather couch facing the tv. I twisted off the bottle cap and sipped.

The familiarity of the moment and the taste of beer helped to dispel some of my fear. Though I wasn’t too keen on having a kangaroo man in my house, I was bursting with questions. After learning his name, which was Kev, I got to the question I was burning to ask.

“How’d it happen?”

Kev sighed and sipped his beer. “Went out roo shooting a few months back. Had a bit to drink. Thought it’d be funny to wrestle one.”

“What happened then?”

He turned to me and lifted his shirt, revealing three scars across his abdomen. He let the shirt fall. “One morning I woke up and… well… I was Skippy.”

“Can you… control it?”

He shook his head. “Wish I could.”

By now, I’d had enough weirdness, my need for solitude reasserting itself.

I opened my mouth to tell him to leave, when he said, “I’ve missed this. Talking to people.”

My mouth snapped shut. I sat picking the label off my beer bottle with my thumb, my guilt making me hesitate.

Out of nowhere, Kev laughed and shook his head. “You’re the only person I’ve told about this.”

Despite myself, I laughed. He finished his beer, plonked it on the coffee table, and stood. “I better go…”

Suddenly, I stood too. “You want another one?”

He paused. Then he smiled at me. “Sure,” he said.

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About the Author

John Davis 500John Davis is an education support worker from Simpson, Victoria.

He loves writing speculative fiction, and enjoys reading from all genres, including non-fiction.

Some of his favourite authors include David Morrell, Cormac McCarthy, and Mark Lawrence.

He is fascinated by the strange and dark, and likes to incorporate these elements into his writing.

aus25grn

Issue Contributors

The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

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Meet the Narrators

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    His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

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  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

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  • Alistair Lloyd

    alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

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  • Emma Gill

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  • Mark English

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    All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his

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  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

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  • Michelle Walker

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    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.

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  • Tim Borella

    tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

    He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

    Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far

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  • Laurie Bell

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    Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of "The Stones of Power Series" via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: "The Butterfly Stone", "The Tiger's Eye" and "The Crow's Heart" (YA/Fantasy).

    She is also the author of "White Fire" (Sci-Fi) and "The Good, the Bad and the Undecided" (a

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  • Sarah Jane Justice

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    Among other achievements, she has performed in the National Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam, released two albums of her original music and seen her poetry

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  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

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  • Sarah Pratt

    sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

    She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

    Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting

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  • Marg Essex

    marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

    She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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