by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 17

Secret Places, Secret Thoughts

'Our last full day. Any requests?'

'Explore more places.'

'There's an abandoned quarry and a magnificent stand of trees I'd like you to see.'

'Will there be people at the quarry?'

'Never in the dozen times I've been there. The road's closed, it isn't spectacular, and few people bother to go where there are no well-made tracks.'

'If it's not spectacular, why are we going?'

'To see how, in only twelve years, nature has reclaimed what was a stinking, polluted, barren hole blasted from the rocks so the roads in this area could be formed and sealed.'

'What about the trees you mentioned; we don't want to see other people.'

'Not many bother to go. Sometimes schools take busloads of students to see them, but they never stay more than half an hour and it's unlikely we'll coincide. Neither place is far from here, but they're in opposite directions so I suggest we visit the quarry first, return here for lunch, then hike to the ancient trees. Any problems with that?'

There were none.

'Check you've got your whistle because there's an exercise that might require it.'

Packs checked, water bottles filled, feet secure in sandals or trainers, they chose new partners and set off

As if they'd been doing it all their lives Anton and Melvin led the Naked Spies south via a steep ridge, which they followed silently. After about a kilometre a steep and slightly hazardous descent brought them to a disused road that they followed till it entered a gap in what looked like the side of a cliff. Inside, rough stone walls curved away on each side, their contours and definition obscured by rampant vines, trees, shrubs and grasses. Underfoot, the coarse stony gravel was fairly level. Walking was at first difficult due to lantana, thorny creepers and many-stemmed bushes, but as they progressed towards the centre of the 'colosseum', as Arthur had already dubbed the place, vegetation thinned and they had an almost unobstructed view of the extraordinary space.

'What do you think?' Jarek asked when they'd time to take in the view.

'It's hotter than outside,'

'And quieter.'

'There's a sense of—not menace exactly, but that something not very pleasant might happen.' Simon said softly.

Several boys agreed that, although it was obviously silly, they too felt, not exactly nervous, but less at peace than out in the forest.

'And why is that do you think?'

Ideas were tossed around until gangly Anton who had surprised everyone by being just as adventurous and active as the others during the week, suggested it was because the place was so obviously man made. Despite the invasion of nature and the quiet, the walls betrayed it's violent and destructive origins. The young men's new found respect and reverence for nature was affronted by this evidence of destruction.

Jarek, applauding their impassioned adolescent fervour, wisely refrained from pointing out that their normal lives they assumed were natural, even the food they'd been eating all week, depended on the continuing destruction of nature, mostly worse than this.

'What I'd like you to do is have a good drink of water, hang your whistle round your neck, leave everything else here, set off alone to explore for a bit, then find a comfortable spot to sit in silence where you can't see anyone else, and let your mind roam freely. After an hour I'll blow my whistle and you can all come back.

'Why have we got a whistle?'

'In case you fall and hurt yourself. If you think you might be in the slightest danger, blow your whistle hard, is that clear? You are not here to be heroes, but to experience silence and solitude, naked like any other animal, for one hour.'

They stood in the centre, each facing a different direction, then Jarek watched them stride bravely off towards the walls. This was the first time they'd been alone. Not backed up by a partner. Within a few metres they lost sight and sound of the others and a creeping nervousness tingled their spines. Perhaps it was all a ploy? Everyone else was pretending and creeping away, leaving them here to die. Were there giant snakes waiting in the rocks to strangle and inject them with venom? Giant monitors waiting to take a bite? Bull ants, leeches, ticks, poisonous spiders, centipedes, scorpions. And there was no water!

For everyone, including Zeno, the desire to race back to check if Jarek was still there became a gnawing urge. Then reason slowly intruded. They were only a few kilometres from the cabin. The way back was simple, along the old road, up to the ridge, along it and down to the stream and home. And why would the others do that? Little by little irrational fears were pushed back where they belonged in the prehistoric part of the brain, and an interest in both nature and the quarry itself took over. They were not going to disappoint either themselves or Jarek!

With relaxation, enjoyment arrived and each youth inspected, observed, climbed the blasted rocks, found a comfortable spot, sat and unshackled their minds.

Jarek, well aware he was being followed, was wondering how to handle the problem. Leon was fourteen but seemed older. Intelligent, sharp, strong and sexually aware. He hadn't been indiscreet, but there was a new sadness in his manner since last night under the stars, that was troubling. It was essential to define their relationship in a way that would not raise false hopes, but still bolster the youth's self confidence, not undermine it. He led the way through a cleft then up to a ledge, invisible from below, that fronted a smooth-floored cavern several metres deep in which he sometimes spent the night at weekends. Frowning, he turned to face Leon who was only metres behind.

'Should I go?'

'No, Leon. We have to talk.'

Leon's smile faded, he shrugged and sat. 'Yeah, I suppose we do.'

'I thought I made myself clear last night, I like you and want us to be friends, but that's all.'


'Because sex is complicated and too often creates more problems than it's worth.'


'Jealousy and suspicions; deep feelings of hurt when one wants to stop and the other doesn't. I don't want to go there. I want to have gay friends without being expected to have sex with them.'

'I've never had a friend I could share secrets with.'

'Neither have I until a couple of weeks ago when I met Zeno. And now I have you too, so I'm lucky.'

'You have sex with Zeno.'

'Scarcely more than cuddles, and it isn't serious. We're friends - not in love. We both eventually want a lover of our own age.'

'So do I. But couldn't we…?'

'No, we couldn't.' Jarek was finding it difficult to remain calm. 'Sex with you would put me in prison, and friendship won't, so that's the way it's going to be. Believe me, you need a gay friend much more that you need a lover.'

'Not much chance of that in this town.' Leon gazed off into the distance then turned and bared his perfect teeth in a grin. 'So, you're not just a sexy hunk, there's a brain as well.'

'Cheeky bastard.'

'As you're such a philosopher, what do you think about bum fucking?'

'Not my choice. It's interesting that most straights think that's the only way gays have sex, when only a percentage do. I suppose it's because for most men, sex is only shoving their dicks into holes. They think gentle touching and caressing isn't manly or something.'

'That's a relief. I don't fancy it either.'

'Good, there's less chance of disease, and it saves on condoms.'

'Do you believe in karma?'

'As in reincarnation, or destiny?'


'I think we all make our own with what's available to us.'

'Good. So do I. You'll be here for another five weeks, with weekends free. Who knows what might happen.' His smile was enigmatic.

Jarek returned the smile but remained silent; slightly worried about the intentions of this young man who seemed too clever, knowing and experienced for his age.

On their solitary rocky eyries, nine young men luxuriating in the sensuous, still heat, shifted both gaze and attention from their surroundings to themselves. Naked. On a rock. Open to the sky. In what felt like voluptuous delirium they stroked thighs, chests, nipples and erections while fantasies of heroism and lovers fuelled natural impulses resulting in grunts of ejaculatory rapture.

Jarek and Leon returned by different routes. Jarek blew his whistle and a few minutes later was joined by the eleven youths, Leon inconspicuous among them. All slightly bashful until Melvin defused the situation as usual.

'I'll bet we've all been wanking!' he laughed.

'It was the heat.'

'The solitude.'

'The silence.'

'The sight of my own sexy body…'

Jarek laughed with them and the last barrier between adult and young men fell. They were as equal as humans can expect to be with each other.

After returning to the cabin there was time for a quick swim before lunch, then another very brief map session to plan the route to the giant trees. This time there was a well-used road and several popular walking tracks to avoid, a small ravine to cross, a bluff and two very steep ridges. The total distance was only five kilometres but it would be slow going and they'd have to keep up the pace to arrive back before dark.

Packs replenished, they set off as usual in silence, making excellent progress up the ridge, along the top and down a vertiginous slope that managed to graze several incautious buttocks.

The ravine presented them with two choices, cross it by a fallen tree placed there by the Ranger for hikers, or clamber down four metres then up again. It was only five metres wide but seemed much further.

Everyone was determined to cross the bridge, so they removed shoes and sandals, tied them to their packs and practised walking along another similar log nearby until they were used to the feel of it underfoot, didn't have to peer down at their feet, and felt confident. Jarek crossed first, Zeno last. No one even wobbled, although all were secretly shuddering at the thought of what might happen if they fell. The bluff posed no problems and the descent, with plenty of foot and handholds dropped them straight into the densest and most ancient rainforest they'd seen.

'This magnificent patch of old-growth forest was only left standing because it was too difficult to get the trees out—people in the past cared as little for nature as they do today. Humans don't change, unfortunately. This is the sort of forest that used to cover almost all eastern New South Wales and Queensland from the Great Dividing Range to the coast, so be impressed.'

They didn't need to be told. Trees forty metres tall with great buttressed trunks. Giant lianes as thick as their thigh. Stands of tall palms. The dense canopy of dozens of other varieties of eucalyptus and other species created a golden twilight through which they moved in awed silence over a leaf-littered floor almost devoid of undergrowth.

After crossing both walking tracks without incident they slipped round the edge of the empty car park then hugged the rocky sides of the narrowing valley that led to their goal. For the last few hundred metres they were forced to jog only five metres from the path, padding over roughly mown grass dotted with spindly shrubs that offered little concealment.

Jarek, who was leading, stopped. They'd all heard it. A bus pulling into the car park behind them. Seconds later the air was filled with high-pitched chatter and laughter, excited calls and the sharp tones of an older woman. Sasha ran back to see what was happening. He returned in despair.

'It's a bus with about fifty Catholic cows from Saint Vestal's College. They're already coming along the path.'

It was too late to climb to safety.

'Turn yourselves into rocks and use whatever cover you can find.'

'They'll see us.'

'No, they won't. Females aren't hunters. They focus on what they're expecting, and are mainly interested in what other women are doing, and what their husbands or boyfriends are looking at. They're going to the large trees so won't be looking at anything else.'

And so it turned out. Clutching notebooks and cameras, forty-four young women, neatly encased in brown shoes and socks, pale blue tartan skirts, beige blouses, blue blazers and sun hats, chattered and gossiped their way along the path. A severely dressed middle-aged woman led the parade and a nun brought up the rear.

'They'll be about twenty minutes so we might as well relax. Follow me.'

They scaled the cliff and found large, flat sun-warmed slabs of granite on which to lie, barely suppressing giggles of nervous relief.

Jarek stretched out on his back, arms under his head. He felt as if he hadn't relaxed in four days because everything depended on his remaining at full alert to prevent accidents, arguments, problems… He looked around and automatically counted everyone. Zeno was awake and talking quietly. It was safe. He lay back and was instantly asleep.

He woke in the middle of an erotic dream but kept his eyes closed. Listening. A slight rustling. Was it wind in the trees? The gentlest of tickling on his penis. Suppressing the urge to slap it off in case it was a snake, he remained absolutely still. The tickling continued and he realised he was fully erect.

A whisper. 'I dare you.'

Something stroked his penis. A finger? Surely not!

Jarek opened his eyes and stared into bright blue eyes.

Simon froze, his finger seemed glued to Jarek's erection and everyone erupted in suppressed laughter.

'Thanks, Simon,' Jarek said lazily, stretching the blood back into his muscles. 'You caused me to have a delightful dream, but you can stop now.'

As if stung, Simon pulled his hand away and stuttered an apology.

'What're you apologising for?'

'For touching you.'

'No need; people touch each other all the time. I pushed your hand into a more suitable spot when climbing the last rock face. Someone grazed my shoulder when they squeezed past me going into the quarry.'

'But he was touching your cock.'

'So? It's just skin, Henry. In some early Australian desert clans, men used to grasp each other's penises on meeting in the same way we shake hands, to prove they were carrying no weapons and came in peace. I also read that in some tropical countries instead of a written contract, men would cup each others balls while swearing to honour the agreement, and that made it binding. I agree it's a very special organ that needs protecting, but forced to make the choice between having it or my hands cut off, I think I'd prefer to keep my hands.'

'Must've been a great dream, you're still stiff.'

Jarek wondered where this was heading. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that it was he who wanted them to treat him as an equal. They'd talk to each other like this, so he now had to accept the consequences. 'Thank you, Anton for pointing out the obvious. It was.' If only there was a pool handy to dive into and cool things, he thought. Instead he was surrounded by eleven curious, friendly young men, all smiling, all wondering how far they could go. Ah. It was subsiding. However, before he could relax….

'Are you cumming? There's a clear syrup dripping out of your cock. My cum's thick and milky.' The question was a sincere request for information from a frowning Robert. Everyone was genuinely interested and no one was laughing.

'So is mine, Robert. This is what people call pre-cum. It's a lubricating fluid that some men like me produce in copious quantities when they're aroused, some only a little, and some not at all. It makes intercourse easier by smoothing the entry, especially if the woman's vulva is rather dry or tight. If you buy condoms then you'll notice they're lubricated. Any more questions?'

'How many women have you fucked?'


'Did they like it?'

'Presumably, since they came back for second helpings. But it's always difficult to tell. Women want the men to tell them they are wonderful, but they think men who like compliments are vain and so they seldom give them.'

'How come you're so easy about us seeing your boner, and talking about sex and stuff?'

'Because erections are as normal as breathing; we all have them—they're nothing to be ashamed of. I'm sick of the stupidity of a society that thinks children don't need to know the truth about the beginning of life, and the end. How babies are made and born, and death, are the two big events in everyone's life, but they're sidestepped by parents and schools. The sexual urge is the strongest instinct and one of the most important things you will have to think about and deal with in your lives. Sex is a completely normal activity like eating and shitting, so why can't we talk about it sensibly? The safest and least aggressive societies with the fewest rapes and family violence, teen pregnancies and child abuse are those in which sex is treated as a natural thing and young people like you feel free to ask questions and experiment when they become interested.'

Everyone, including Jarek, was slightly disappointed when the discussion was interrupted by the distant chattering, laughing and screaming of the girls clattering back to the bus. By the time it drove away in a fog of stinking diesel, they were standing in stunned silence in front of four forest giants. Holding hands it took eight of them to encircle the smallest, and all of them to reach right round the largest. The silence encroached and Sasha began to weep silently.

'Sasha? You OK?'

'I just feel so sorry that all the forests have gone. I know it's stupid, but it feels as if my heart is breaking. I love it so much here, and to think it was like this everywhere...and now….' His voice trailed off.

No one laughed. Simon put his arm round Sasha's shoulders and murmurs of agreement from everyone calmed the distraught youth.

It was almost dark by the time they reached their swimming hole and plunged in to relieve the grazes, cuts, ant bites, and other irritations endured without realising it during their trek.

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