Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 27

Itchy Feet

When the adrenalin surge triggered by the confrontation with Anne Thrope retreated, Frankie felt flabby—mentally and physically. He also missed having people his own age around to chat or swim or go for hikes with. Not that he'd ever got emotionally close to anyone at university apart from Laurent.

A wild storm threw a tree across the path to the swimming hole. Refusing Sylvan's offer of a chainsaw, Frankie set to work with axe and bowsaw and in four days it was reduced to a pile of logs ready for winter fires. Three other prematurely fallen trees followed, and by the time the woodshed was stacked to the rafters Frankie had the shoulders, chest and arms of a young Conan to complement his already handsome legs.

April had arrived and with it the usual influx of pet cats and dogs that had seemed fun at Christmas, but four months later were now larger, messier and hungrier; an inconvenient nuisance to be dumped in and around national and other parks, adding yet more predators to the feral foxes cats and dogs already there.

Frankie set himself the task of eliminating non-native animals in or near "85". At first light he'd strap on his sandals and a full quiver, tie a leather bag with high-energy food round his waist, and set off. He knew all the clean freshwater streams in the area, so didn't have to carry any water. Every day he eliminated at least five ferals, usually dogs and cats. Occasionally hares and foxes. Puppies would approach, tails wagging, so it was easy to put them down with a stone. Kittens were different. Cats are instinctively feral from birth, and being small, made difficult targets. Nonetheless, within two weeks the environs of "85" were at least temporarily clear of ex-pet ferals. Hares and foxes had apparently gone further into the forests, away from noisy humans clogging the visitor areas and walking tracks, so he decided to follow them.

After a week hunting in old-growth forests, Frankie gave up. Wild animals' camouflage, finely tuned senses and their ability to remain completely still for hours, far outstripped his ability to track them. He only saw those that had lost some of their fear, having being fed by day-trippers. So instead of hunting further from civilization he went as close as he dared, discovering that before Park visitors arrived and soon after they left, dozens of cats, dogs and foxes were to be found scavenging in and around rubbish bins.

Frankie would remain in ambush until about ten in the morning, then retreated into the forest. If far from home, he ate and slept until around four when most visitors departed. Then he'd make his way home via other picnic areas in the hope of more prey, arriving back just before it was too dark to see.

Often forced to follow public tracks because of steep terrain, he relied on his ears to warn of hikers and trampers so he could get out of their way, knowing they would never understand his mission. To most people all animals have the right to live, and they think it's cruel to kill one sort to favour another—unless the favoured animal is human, of course.

Certain he had managed to remain an invisible phantom of the forest, it was a shock when Ingenio showed him an iNews photograph of himself from behind, legs apart, arrow notched in bow, standing at the edge of the forest. "Naked Archer roams Blue Mountains National Park" was the headline that sent the image viral. Then several other photos appeared on dozens of blogs and news sites; some had obviously been staged, others equally obviously were Frankie. All were too blurry to be useful for identification, showing him running, squatting, dragging an animal, probably a dog, by the tail. What was very obvious in all of them, was the absence of clothes.

Comments ranged from sexy bum to demands that the State Police find him and lock the pervert away. Few understood his intentions and the good he was doing. Females were warned not to venture alone in the forest because no man would run naked in the Park unless he was intending to rape women and girls. Something had to be done about this creep who posed a threat to visitors, and was slaughtering wild life.

'I guess I was concentrating so hard I didn't realise anyone could see me,' Frankie shrugged. 'But that's where a lot of the ferals are, around those stupid people with their litter and stinking toilets.'

'Perhaps you'd better stop for a while?'


'Next time they'll get a photo of your face and then you're done for.'

'But surely they know that Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate on the planet? That I'm doing them a favour—preserving the animals and birds they've come to see? Don't they know that more than half of all native birds are on the brink of extinction solely due to feral cats? That bandicoots, wombats, possums and other animals are also in danger of extinction because of foxes and wild dogs? And their kids are in danger as well when wild dogs form packs and attack?'

'You can post those comments on the blogs, but no one will read them. They post and go; uninterested in what others think and write because they're only interested in themselves.' Con said calmly. 'Meanwhile, have you considered girding your loins?'

'No. I am an animal and I want to feel and act like one. I will only live and act as a civilized human when forced to do so.'

'Define civilized, oh primal male.'

Ingenio's request was couched as a joke, but Frankie knew he was serious, so he thought carefully before making an idiot of himself. 'Essentially, civilisation means groups of people living in permanent dwellings in an organised community. Claims that it's more advanced and desirable than what came before, are propaganda lies by those who benefit from civilization. Civitas, citizen, civil, civilization, civilized… all from the same Latin root. I wrote a paper on the subject in my first year and was surprised to learn that cities only survived because of the mass expulsion and dispossession of vast numbers of hunter-gatherers who were kidnapped from their lands and homes and families, stripped of their right to free movement and forced into slavery, so that a growing ruling class could live in luxury surrounded by city walls. It's the same way the sugar industry was made profitable in Queensland, with abducted Polynesian slaves.' He glanced at Ingenio who nodded to continue.

'Towns were kept peaceful by passing laws that declared dissidents were criminals, and prisons kept them away from others. Until just over a hundred years ago, slaves were the machines of production – especially in the colonies. Civilization and wealth were only possible through their unpaid or extremely low paid labour. The romanticised classical worlds of Greece and Rome were, like every ancient civilization, built and sustained by slaves, whom Aristotle defined as people with no rights to stability, political action, speech, or organisation.'

'So there were no slave unions?' Karmai asked softly.

'Definitely not.'

'But citizens were free?'

'In a manner of speaking. No one is totally free. But you wanted a definition of civilized. A civilized man, Ingenio, is one whose spirit has been broken so he remains more or less sane when living separated from the natural world in a small box close to other humans who are not only unrelated, but different in many ways from him. He has been trained to keep to a timetable, to be wary of expressing his individuality, and to accept the will of others. He can tolerate working inside, when it would be healthier to be outside. He will do work that has no relevance to anything essential, that produces nothing of intrinsic value, is monotonous and renders him so bored his brain becomes moribund so he can sit afterwards and watch mindless pap on a flat screen, imagining it's real life. This irreparably debased human will be partially demented and ill by the time he is sixty, and dependent on drugs to stay alive. Although why he wants to live such a demeaning existence beats me. It is an unnatural way for any animal to exist, but because of brainwashing from birth, most think it is worth the sacrifice so they can have the convenience of safety, shops and services.'

'Would you sooner be back in the time of hunter-gatherers?' Sylvan asked with a smile.

'It would be more challenging and real than how most people live now. If I didn't know any other way of living, it would feel good, I imagine. Clean air, land and water for a start. Usually abundant fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. The price of civilization is the extinction of two hundred species of life every single day. The sixth mass extinction event is well underway and rampant civilization is the cause. Apart from cattle and sheep, animal populations are half the size they were even forty years ago. I know there's no going back, and there are too many of us now to live naturally, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.'

'Have you considered that most humans aren't like you? Constantine asked. 'They can't see ahead like you can, and don't want difficulties, challenges, and having to keep fit and healthy and struggle for things?'

'Apart from you guys, I don't think I've met any one like me.'

'I admire what you are doing, Frankie,' Karmai said, slinging an arm around his shoulders. 'But civilisation is an unstoppable scourge, a cancerous growth that's devouring the natural world, so all we can do is take care of ourselves and hope we can avoid the worst before we die. As for your desire to be a natural man; the rule you mentioned about dissidents being criminals still applies in most people's opinion. So choose your places to be natural very, very carefully. Conceal your differences from everyone except the few you'd trust with your life. Humans are not rational animals. They act on emotions, not facts, and whereas you can only seriously annoy another animal by invading its territory or stealing its food, you can annoy humans merely by looking or acting or thinking or speaking slightly different from them. An angry animal stops retaliating as soon as the irritation stops, but humans never want to stop retaliating, and their punishments are cruel. Retribution and revenge that continue for years are human traits unknown to other animals, and the cause of terrible misery and strife.'

'Thanks, Karmai. It's a good warning so I'll try to stop acting first and thinking later.' Pride prevented Frankie from admitting he was actually a bit sick of the early mornings, and anyway it was getting too cold to run around naked, so he pulled a serious face and put away his bow and arrows.

To Con and Ingenio's relief, their impetuous son found plenty of things to do. He took over the cooking and cleaning and joined the others when they went to plays, concerts, the beach and other outings. But he always felt he was the odd man out; the kid they felt sorry for. They didn't, but Frankie imagined they did and became slightly withdrawn.

Karmai and Sylvan liked to go to gay clubs while they still looked young enough, and always insisted Frankie went with them. He loved dancing and danced with many other young men, often being invited back to their place for more intimate pleasures; but he always chickened out at the last minute.

'Why didn't you go with that guy?' Sylvan asked as they drove home one evening.

'When I saw him in the stronger light of the entrance I realised he wasn't that good looking and his body wasn't very fit, and he had sticking out ears… you know? Not really my type.'

'You want someone as fit and healthy as you and at least as good looking?'

'Yeah. That's about it.'

'Laurent wasn't like that. He was healthy and lean, but not sportive, not particularly well built and not what most people would call handsome.'

Frankie frowned and nodded.

'You liked being with him because he liked you. He was interested in you, and you liked and were interested in him, and therefore the sex was also good. Am I right?'

A slow smile spread over Frankie's face and his frown disappeared. 'You're right, Karmai. You're right! None of the guys who invite me back are interested in me. They're only interested in getting their rocks off. I can sense it and it means there's no point in going with them because it won't lead to anything worthwhile.' He grinned. 'But it's nice to know they want my body.' He fell silent as they drove. Then added, 'But how can I meet someone who is interested in me?'

'By doing what you enjoy doing, keeping your eyes and ears open and being ready to pounce on any man who seems to tick all your boxes. Remembering that he who hesitates is lost, and it's better to try and fail than never to try at all.'

'And if you need further advice,' Sylvan laughed, 'Karmai has a platitude for every occasion.'

Despite being constantly busy, days dragged. Frankie realised the cure might be to find useful employment in the real world – strut his stuff among other men. But surely this was the real world? At least it was realer than the smog-drenched towers down along the coast. Ingenio had his ever-expanding Internet Education, Con was kept busy assisting poor kids with court appearances, Karmai maintained all the machinery and tools on the place and Sylvan kept the boundaries and everything natural in top order, but Frankie's work wasn't what he would call essential.

And then the penny dropped. He needed a challenge. A bit of excitement. Despite all the problems in Tasmania and the fears about their dealings with land grabbers, he'd been happy, alert, felt useful and excited. 'I'm bored,' he whispered softly to the trees. 'I thought only boring people got bored.'

He tried meditation again but his mind refused to even pause, let alone stop thinking. The desire for adventure became a deep-seated craving for excitement, danger, challenge… anything to give him an adrenalin rush and stimulate his body and brain. He also wanted sex. But he'd met no one like Laurent, or the easy fun-fucking sex with other students after his performances on the lyre. That had been more like acting and performing than intimate activity. No… sex was a health hazard so had to be taken seriously. It wasn't a pastime. It was about bonding. The ultimate act of intimacy that sealed ties for life. He shook his head at his own pomposity.

Who was he kidding? If anyone even slightly presentable came along he'd have his clothes off in seconds. Fuck bonding. He wanted a sexy, fit naked body to wrestle with. But that was never going to happen if he stayed at "85". He had to get away. To strike out on his own. To make his own life. Not financially as he hadn't the slightest idea how to make money apart from investing, and would starve rather than work in a factory or office. Luckily, he had plenty. But to make life interesting he'd act and behave as if he was poor. What he needed was to be in a position where he had to make decisions for himself, knowing he would have to suffer the consequences on his own, unable to phone Inge to rescue him. He sighed and stared into the forest. It was easy to dream, but how to turn dreams into reality?

As if summoned by his wishes, an advertisement popped onto his Internet screen a few days later while he was watching a yoga demo. It was for a Monastic Retreat where he could "Perfect the Art of Meditation Under the Guidance of an Experienced Master". Frankie took it as a sign that the God-of-the-Almighty-Electronic-Device-for-Spying-on-All-Who-Use-It had singled him out as worthy of its attention and wanted to reward him. He clicked on the links.

The first one opened on a scene of great beauty. A delicately handsome, vaguely oriental young man loosely wrapped in an orangey sheet that exposed his right shoulder and nipple, stood smiling beside a quaint old stone monastery with a crumbling bell tower, on the edge of a precipice with a background of jagged snow-capped mountains and fluffy white clouds in an indigo sky.

"In this environment," the blurb declared, "the dedicated seeker after enlightenment will learn to collect his thoughts, discover the inner man, expand his awareness of the infinite, and experience transcendental illumination in which the mystery of the universe will be made clear."

Wow! The next link was selling the transcendental charms of a half-timbered stone structure clinging precariously to a steep stony hillside, backed by tall poles with flags fluttering in the wind. A wall of giant boulders several metres tall enclosed a rough garden filled with herbs and tough grasses sprinkled with white flowers that, when he saw them, Sylvan reckoned were opium poppies.

Another link tempted him with a square stone tower topped by a reddish roof and fronted by a colour-coordinated doorway into a stone structure that seemed to have grown out of a hillside backed by stupendous snow-capped mountains rearing into a blue-black sky. This was the only one to offer an interior shot of a cosy room with simple wooden floor, two hand-made wooden stools against a solid, wooden, intricately carved bench and table of great age, with a solitary monk sitting in meditation before a vast fireplace jutting into the room, with a hot fire of large logs giving both light and warmth.

Frankie tossed a coin and attempted to make a booking for the first one, in case the handsome young monk would be available as tutor. They offered six-week monastic retreats for up to three hundred people in nearby dormitory blocks with all modern facilities including Internet access. He would have to share in the burden of preparing food and maintaining cleanliness and working in the gardens as well as meditating, but he had expected that. He hadn't expected to share the solitude with hundreds of other wannabe acolytes.

He felt a meditation coming on, so pressed the button to make a reservation, and was relieved to discover it was fully booked for the next three years. As were all the others when he investigated.

Another search turned up three more Buddhist retreats, also in the mountains, all in large, well serviced modern establishments that looked more like budget hotels than monasteries. He selected the least unattractive and gave far too many personal details, including address, next of kin, educational qualifications, previous transcendental experiences and… he baulked at giving his Debit Card number, which was fortunate as it was fully booked. As were all the rest. Clearly, Buddhist Meditation Tourism had taken off. Maybe he wasn't meant to meditate with stunning views across deep valleys to the jagged, thrusting, craggy, snow-clad mountains of the Himalayas.

He was on the point of shutting his computer down when an email arrived inviting him to "…flee the cares of the modern world and recharge his spiritual batteries in an environment of spectacular beauty and isolation, far from the maddening crowd and the constant surveillance of modern society." Frankie sat back and contemplated the email. Where had it come from? Very odd. Perhaps Google sent instant information to businesses, about people who were looking for something similar but unable to find it, and that triggered an automatic email. Creepy, but possible. And very clever. Personal emails are much better sales tools than open links. Makes the recipient feel special. There was no photo, and no link. That was strange. But perhaps the sender was the real thing, a monastery of simple Buddhists who wanted to make the world a better place, not make money out of it.

He replied to the email asking for further information, and received the name, "Sankturi", and a screenshot of a simple map showing how to get there from the nearest village; enough info for him to check Satellite images. Sankturi appeared to be a collection of stone buildings perched among ravines, snowy peaks, sparse vegetation, and rocky, mountainous hills in Northern India, almost on the border with Tibet. Zoomed images were too blurred to be very useful, but he clearly saw a track leading up from the nearest village. Excited at the absence of road access and modern dormitory blocks, he responded with a request to stay for a month, arriving in the middle of August.

Three minutes later his booking was confirmed, together with a request that on arrival he transfer five thousand U.S.A. dollars to the monastery account. Not exorbitant, but not cheap either. He supposed they had to survive, and it was not much more expensive than the other places, and looked far more exciting. Paradoxically, the amateurish approach to business compared to the other monasteries seemed to be evidence that it was genuine. Definitely odd, but didn't odd mean exciting?

The others weren't so impressed.

Ingenio cautioned against leaping in where angels feared to fly and agreed it looked amateurish. But to him that meant it was probably a scam. However, 'Internet Maps' proved it really did exist, and it was almost in Tibet, so nothing was certain. And scams usually wanted money up front. Ingenio checked for links to references, past successes, famous people who'd spent time there, but found none. However, as most such things were usually self-referencing and total fakes, it didn't mean anything.

Ingenio then accessed Indian court and police records of the area and found no reference to Sankturi. No proof of anything, but nothing bad either. And the satellite views certainly looked adventurous. If Frankie really wanted to go, then of course he should, he was his own master. But he must promise that at the first indication things were not as they should be, he would return to a safe place, and he must keep in regular contact.

Frankie willingly promised to escape from anything that looked like trouble, but baulked at keeping in constant contact. 'I want to feel independent, not tied to a string that you're holding onto back here. I'm not even taking a mobile phone. I want to experience the world as it was when you couldn't just call up a rescue team if you got a splinter in your foot. You're going to have to wait and see if I survive. It's a bit like Prudence wanting to know if she was able to have a child, so she went out on a limb and tried. As a male I have a very powerful urge to know if I can face risk and danger and new experiences with no safety net other than my youth, health and fitness.'

'And a hefty bank balance,' Con said somewhat tartly.

Frankie sighed. 'Thanks Con. And my money. But I'm going to live as if I'm on a shoestring budget.'

Having a little more than a month to fill before leaving, he decided to pay a visit to Prudence. It was over six months since their dance and, having heard nothing apart from receiving the video, he wanted to make sure she had kept her end of the bargain and aborted their zygote, if there'd been one. He obtained her address from the university and set off, intending to be back the following day.

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