by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 16


It rained quite hard during the night, topping up the drinking water tanks. Although the morning air was slightly cool, and water droplets sparkled on leaves and a myriad of spider webs, nothing could prevent the early morning skinny-dip. By the time breakfast was underway the temperature was back in the high twenties and rising.

'Who's too tired to go on another hike?'

No hands raised.

'Good. Today's jaunt will take us up stream to a spectacular waterfall—at least in the wet season it's spectacular, at the moment it's probably not much more than a trickle. It's a popular spot so there's a car park only a kilometre away. Sealed walking tracks lead to a lookout and the falls, and there's a loop to rock pools at the bottom of the waterfall. Several thousand people visit the site every year, so if the tracks weren't provided and maintained by National Parks there'd be irreparable erosion. Do you want to hike along the tracks and meet with other walkers, or would you sooner plan alternative routes to avoid them?'

'No tracks!'

'We don't want to meet other people!'

'This is our forest!'

'We'll find our own way there.'

'OK. Get your maps, I'll show you the spots I think you'd like to visit and we'll plan the route.'

After a lengthy discussion they pencilled in a route that required wading through a semi swamp, traversing two steep ridges, then following a stony creek bed up a valley to the pool beneath the waterfall. After that they'd ascend a rock face nearly as steep as yesterday's escarpment, to reach the top of the waterfall, and then climb another hundred metres to the lookout platform. Their route would cross three tourist tracks and run parallel to another for about a hundred metres.

After replenishing their backpacks and filling up all empty spaces with sandwiches in place of lunch as they'd be away for most of the day, they chose new partners and prepared to depart.

'Are you sure we won't meet other people?' Melvin asked with a sly grin.

'That depends on you. If you're silent, listen for their approach and remain still when they pass by, you'll be invisible. No dogs are allowed in the parks so they won't smell us out.'

'Good, because I know how to make it really exciting,' Melvin said with a challenging glint in his eye.


'Leave all our clothes behind so we have no choice but to be super careful.'

Jarek and Zeno weren't convinced it was sensible, but were overruled by ten excited young men determined to prove their invisibility and tracking skills.

With Joseph and Henry in the lead, the courageous little band set off into the forest.

Every half hour as the pairs changed leadership, Jarek could scarcely conceal his astonishment at their ability to already read maps, understand contours, take compass readings and maintain a reasonably true course, allowing for unforeseen obstacles.

Again they fanned out to leave no lasting tracks; anyone following would only see what looked like traces of a family of kangaroos.

They'd been hiking for about an hour when Robert, who was leading, raised his arm. About thirty metres away across a grassy clearing was a large grey male kangaroo at least two metres tall and alarmingly powerful. His female, about the same size and colour as Jarek, with her youngest joey's legs sticking out of her distended pouch, was sitting on her haunches beside him. Directly behind them grazed an older joey about the size of Robert. Everyone stood stock still. The kangaroos' ears twitched as they straightened up and stared directly at the invaders.

'Stand absolutely still,' Jarek whispered. They won't attack, but we don't want to frighten them. To be polite and prove you're not aggressive, look away—it's as rude to stare in the natural world as it is in the city.'

From the corners of their eyes they could see that the kangaroos also turned their heads away as if unconcerned, but their twitching ears and sensitive noses were as good as eyes.

'You can look now,' Jarek whispered.

The family, having decided the visitors were no immediate threat lowered their heads and nibbled a few blades of grass to demonstrate their right to be there, then hopped gracefully off into the trees where they immediately disappeared.

'Stay still and turn your heads slowly. Can you see them?'


'That's because they're totally still. They're there all right, but they're not looking at you, and their colour blends. Time for a demonstration I think.'

Five boys turned their backs while Zeno and the other five walked twenty metres into the sparse, dry sclerophyll forest and disguised their outline by standing or crouching with legs slightly apart, arms bent, grasping a branch. With only a few twigs, clumps of grass and brushwood between them and their audience they felt totally exposed as they lowered and turned their heads sideways, slitting their eyes until they could just see the others.

'OK,' Jarek ordered when he was satisfied. 'The observers may turn round. Can you see them?'

They stared but saw nothing; the play of sunlight and shadow on both flesh and vegetation confused outlines and everything blended into nature.

Jarek clapped softly and the concealed boys moved, lifted their heads and looked at him. Instantly, all were seen.

'What gave them away?' Jarek asked.


'Their eyes. When they turned their faces towards us I could see it was a head.'

'Exactly. Humans are very clever at noticing heads. Any oval shape with a pair of dark dots is instantly seen and recognised. To be invisible, simply place your limbs in unusual positions, remain utterly still and keep your head turned away a little with your eyes almost closed. You'll be able to see sideways, but the shape of your face is altered and there'll be no reflections from your eyes. You mustn't close them completely though, because you'll become nervous, won't know if it's safe to move, and if you're not aware of what's happening you won't be able to escape if they happen to notice you.'

The experiment was repeated for the others with the same results, and everyone felt less apprehensive about concealing themselves from wandering tourists as they approached popular spots.

'Fuck I've an itch!' Joseph whispered, showing a red spot on his arm with a tiny black speck in the centre.

'Try not to scratch, it's a tick; a present from the kangaroos most likely, although bandicoots and echidnas, birds and other animals also have them. They're small at this time of the year so you can't dig them out, and anyway, like leeches it's always best to let them release their hold and fall off in their own time.' Jarek took a tiny plastic flask of kerosene from his pack and applied a drop to the spot. 'That will kill the tick in seconds and after a while it'll fall off. The redness will go away and the itching will stop for today. Then tomorrow it'll start up again for a while as the infection ticks carry has go at you. After that you'll be fine. Remember, scratching doesn't help.'

Five leeches were assassinated during the traverse of the swamp, and a dozen more ticks were dowsed in kerosene before they reached the top of the first ridge, which they ascended without difficulty. A clump of invading lantana gave them scratches as they crossed the valley to a difficult climb over loose rocks to the second ridge and beautiful views back down the valley.

Leon, who was leading the party, suddenly stopped and held up his hand.

Laughter, voices, the loud beat of a Heavy Metal band.

They felt defiled, shocked. Their sanctuary had been invaded. The voices came closer. Leon pointed and suddenly they realised they were slightly below and only about ten metres from a pathway. What they'd taken for a natural clay bank ahead was the cutting that enabled the path to be level and wide at that point. It was a corner and they could clearly see the trampers walking directly towards them. With no time to squat or lie on the ground, not that anyone wanted to risk lying on an ant nest, they slipped behind narrow trunks, brushwood stands, clumps of tall grass, and froze. Far from invisible, they were perfectly noticeable to anyone walking silently and alert to life and nature.

Predictably, the six young people, three men in baggy shorts, T-shirts and loudly flapping rubber flip flops, and their girlfriends in abbreviated shorts, flimsy sandals and loose blouses, were neither silent nor watchful. A ghetto blaster competed with the females' shrill screams, loud laughter, arguments about what song was playing, whether it was worth going on as they'd already been walking for ten minutes, and how pathetic it was that they couldn't drive the car right to the falls.

The noise passed and the boys watched in dismay as the six invaders wandered round the bend and disappeared.

'Are they going to the pool?'

'No, the lookout on top.'

After checking the coast was clear they crossed the track and continued over the ridge and down to a stony creek bed which they followed silently until the sound of water splashing, children shouting, and a woman yelling, forced another halt.

'Where are we, Anton?'

'According to the map the pool is just behind that rocky outcrop. The splashing must be the waterfall, and it sounds as if there's a family swimming. What'll we do, Jarek?'

'Eat a sandwich, drink, and wait to see if they leave.'

'After that, if they're still there can we scout around and watch them?'

'You know you can do as you want as long as you keep in pairs and don't endanger the rest of us; so make sure you remain invisible.'

Fifteen minutes later, twelve refreshed and fully alert youths encircled the pool, clearly visible to each other, invisible to the two adults who were becoming increasingly irritated with their recalcitrant children. The father waded into the pool and dragged the two young boys roughly out of the water, holding them while their mother gave each a resounding slap that would have knocked them to the ground had their father not been holding them upright.

'When I say come here I mean come here! Do you understand?'

Muffled sobs.

Another vicious slap. This time the father let them fall and writhe on the ground, blubbering and begging not to be hit again.

'Get up!' the father ordered, nudging the shivering heaps with his toe.

They stood, took the shirts and shorts from their mother, hurriedly dressed then set off at a trot up the path, followed by arguing parents.

'I told you this was no place to bring the kids.'

'It'd have been OK if you were stricter! You always….'

The watchers had just decided it was safe to swim when a nasal voice broke the stillness and a young man and his girlfriend appeared.

'Wanna swim?'

'You're joking! There'll be all sorts of bugs in there. I never go in water that's not filtered and chlorinated. You go.'

The man removed his T-shirt and dropped his shorts, revealing a pale belly twice as large as it had seemed when clothed. In baggy underpants he lowered himself into the water, declared it too cold, clambered awkwardly out, lay on the rock beside the woman and shoved his hand up her skirt. She giggled and told him to stop it.

'There's no one here. Those people with the yowling kids were the last visitors and ours was the last car in the car park. Stop worrying.'

'Well don't take too long, someone might come.'

'I'm the only one coming, woman,' he laughed, pulling the front of his underpants down to expose a raw-looking erection somewhat less impressive than Melvin's. With a bored sigh the woman took off her panties and spread her legs while her partner rolled on a condom, lifted her feet onto his shoulders, positioned his penis and rammed it in and out while she gazed into the distance. About thirty seconds later the quivering white buttocks clenched in spasm and he collapsed.

'Get off you great fat lump!' she complained. 'You weigh a ton.'

'Only ninety-two kilos,' he retorted, rolling onto his back and removing the condom from an unrecognisably shrunken appendage. After tossing it into the bushes he pulled his underpants up without wiping himself, dragged on his shorts and T-shirt, stuffed her underpants in his pocket, then pulled her to her feet.

'That was real, you know? Out in the fresh air? We should do it more often.'

The woman sighed and said nothing as she followed the unremitting drone of her boyfriend's voice back up the path.

Twelve increasingly fit, already slightly tanned, alert and silent young men emerged from their concealment only a dozen metres from the pool, and silently slithered in, dived, swam, and sat under the trickle of water that fell in a drop of about thirty metres from a cleft in the rocks above.

'This is the magicalist spot I've ever swum in,' whispered Robert, to the nodded agreement of everyone else.

Before returning to the trees to climb to the lookout about a hundred metres further up the ridge, they found a discarded plastic bag and filled it with chocolate wrappers, cigarette butts, a yoghurt tub, the recently used condom, five partially eaten meat sandwiches and an old ballpoint pen. Zeno carried the rubbish in his pack and, together with Simon, plotted their path to the summit.

The rock wall directly beneath the lookout—a platform cantilevered out over a vertical drop, at first glance seemed impassable, but it was one of Jarek's favourite climbing spots and by carefully following the placement of his hands and feet everyone discovered the joy of hauling themselves up using the muscles of both legs and arms.

They were squatting directly beneath the platform; visible through the slatted floor above, when voices alerted them to approaching visitors. In the shade and relative comfort they finished their sandwiches and most of the biscuits and water, intending to replenish it in the stream later, unworried that anyone above would think to check what lay beneath their feet.

'We're the Invisible Naked Spies,' Anton whispered.

There seems to be an unwritten law that in the open air most people think they have to shout, or at least speak louder than usual, so as the youths silently munched they learned that Greg would be pleased when his mother went home. Susan confessed she hated her mother in law, because she said Susan wasn't good enough for her son. Greg foolishly defended his mother, causing Susan to fire off a litany of grievances that ended with Greg telling her to shut the fuck up or he'd knock her lights out. Instead, it was Susan who launched into an attack.

Looking up through the slatted decking they could clearly see Susan pounding her fists into Greg, scoring a beauty on his nose, causing it to bleed. He grasped her wrists, apologised and begged her to calm down. She kicked him viciously on the shins and in the crotch, causing him to let go and grab his balls in agony. A mighty swing with her handbag caught Greg on the side of the head and he dropped to the deck. Blood from his nose splashed on the rocks only centimetres from Arthur's feet. Susan's feet marched angrily off the platform. Greg dragged himself to his feet and staggered after her, still apologising.

At a signal from Zeno, Sasha emerged to check, signalled the all clear, and twelve bodies clambered over the side of the platform to stare in wonder, transfixed by the vista that seemed to go on forever till it merged with the sky. A view made infinitely more significant now they'd tramped, waded, clambered and sometimes crawled over and through it, getting scratched, bitten and stung in the process. Tree-covered hills receded in size and tone from warm greens through pale green-grey to distant blues under a cloudless sky in which raptors wheeled. Pride was perhaps the dominant emotion as they retraced with their eyes the ridges and valleys they'd tramped over and through to get here. Just as the rock pool below the waterfall was the most idyllic spot they'd swum in, so this view eclipsed all others and it was only the sound of distant voices that forced their departure.

After depositing the bag of rubbish in the bin provided, they stood silently among the trees a few metres from the path as five young men in motorcycle leathers stumbled noisily past. All five were laughing and swigging from beer bottles. The leader finished his and casually tossed it over his head. It landed at Zeno's feet, smashing on a rock, covering his toes with shards. Fortunately, none caused cuts and once the louts had passed everyone followed Adrian down the easier, far side of the ridge, then along a densely rain-forested valley to a spring where they drank and refilled their water bottles. From there it was simply a matter of retracing their steps, increasingly tired, but maintaining silence and leaving negligible traces of their passing.

A quick swim in the pond removed the worst of the dirt and dust that had accumulated, and after disinfectant had been liberally applied to a multitude of scratches and grazes, they made their evening meals, which they took to the recreation room, away from buzzing beetles.

'What're we doing tonight?'

'Relaxing. The sky's clear, the moon won't rise until late, so I thought a little stargazing might be in order.'

'Where? Aren't the trees too close to get a wide enough view?'

'A few hundred metres past where we soap ourselves, there's an open area large enough to see most of the sky. There are three tarpaulins in the storeroom we can spread out and lie on to keep ants at bay. Sasha's an amateur astronomer and says he will be happy to point out the constellations. But if you're too tired we can play games like last night.'

It was no contest. Twenty minutes later they were on their backs on tarpaulins, peering into the sky as Sasha pointed out the constellations that they checked off on their maps by torchlight. Having identified the South Pole of the sky using the Southern Cross, they understood how navigation could be accomplished at night if you had no compass. Despite their interest, tired muscles reclaimed their attention and they headed back for supper and bed.

Jarek, more tired than he realised from the strain of responsibility, decided to lie a little longer in the warm night and was half asleep when someone lay beside him and gently stroked his arm and chest before leaning over and lightly brushing his lips in a delicate kiss.

He relaxed and let himself be caressed; light grunts of pleasure escaping his lips as an adventurous tongue explored nipples, navel and erection until with a groan of ecstasy Jarek arched his back and ejaculated.

'That was perfect,' he whispered, wrapping his arms around the man who had given him such pleasure. He froze. It wasn't Zeno! This body was very lean and the arms slightly hairy. He could feel an erection and a bony pelvis pressing against his thigh. Carefully he extricated himself and said softly, 'Leon?'


Jarek was too tired to panic. Technically he'd been raped by a fourteen year-old. But of course it wasn't rape. He'd enjoyed every second. Bindi's efforts at fellatio had been very unrewarding; nothing like this. Even Zeno lacked Leon's fervour. Perhaps it was the warm night, starlight and fresh air, but he didn't have the energy to worry about something that was now done.

'How did you learn to do that?'

'Watching videos.'

'Was it your first time?'


'Shouldn't you have asked me first?'

'Would you have let me?'

'No, you're underage and no one would believe I was not the instigator. No matter what you said, they'd all assume it was the other way round and I'd end up with life imprisonment for child molestation and be murdered by the other inmates in prison. Is that the future you want for me?'

'Of course not! I really like you and wanted to show you how much, so when I realised you'd stayed behind I came back hoping we could talk, but you seemed to be asleep and I just… I couldn't help myself… sorry.' He sat silently, obviously very distressed.

'I enjoyed it,' Jarek said simply, unable to be dishonest, 'and I like you too, but it's not love. I'm twelve years older than you and if I ever have a serious relationship it will be with someone my own age.'

'I didn't expect you would love me or want to have a relationship, I just wanted to show you how much I like you and appreciate what you've done for me.'

'The risk, Leon! I might be a rabid homophobe and kill you for daring to touch me. You took an enormous risk. I might have a sexually transmitted disease!'

'I've seen you naked for three days, even your ring, and there's not a blemish on your body, no sores, warts on your penis, nothing. You're far too fit and healthy to be ill, and you're far too nice a guy to run around naked if you had a sexually transmitted disease, for fear of accidentally infecting someone. I knew you wouldn't be seriously angry because you have sex with Zeno.'

'How do you know?'

'From the way you look at him and the way you both act together. I overheard you telling Melvin to try it on with Sasha. I could have told you they weren't gay, they just like acting sexy to shock people. It's not the first time Melvin's flashed his boner. He was trying to see if you were gay, but you didn't tell him and he doesn't guess. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.'

'You still shouldn't have done it,' Jarek said with a sigh.

'Do you still like me?'

'More than ever, but don't ask me why.'

Leon's deep laugh was infections and they both ended up smiling into the night.

'Will you tell Zeno?'

'Of course not. This is our secret. But we'd better get back before tongues start wagging.'

'Can I hold your hand as we walk?'

'Your Honour, I am not a paedophile; the child just sucked my cock while I wasn't looking, and then asked if he could hold my hand, so clearly he hasn't been adversely affected by the experience.'

'Yeah, it does sound a bit weak as a defence.'

'Come on.' Jarek picked up the tarpaulin, folded it then grasped Leon's long, lean fingers. Hand in hand they wandered back through the balmy night to the cabin where everyone else was either in bed or nearly there. Another first. He'd never walked hand in hand with a man before.

'You're late, what happened?'

'Fell asleep under the stars.'

'Hasn't it been a great day?'

'The best ever,' Jarek said, meaning ever word.

'Where've you been, Leon? We were just about to report you lost.'

'Stood and looked at the stars again, then desperately needed a crap.'

'Wasn't it an excellent day?'

'The best ever,' Leon replied fervently.

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