The Harper Vale Hornets,
strolled behind the Archery Center.
Steele kept a wary eye on the competitors.
“We shouldn’t have watched The Crossbow Killer last night”,
Ron, the wiliest halfback in Hornets history laughed.
Steele seethed with rage as he gazed at
a statue of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt,
who appeared to be aiming her arrow at his throat.
“You know it’s a statue don’t you?”
Ron remarked, only half-jokingly.
“Coming, ready or not”,
Woodville Warriors fullback, Shannon Parker, bellowed
as he leapt from the team bus
like a horror movie clown.
The Hornets kicked off into a gale.
“Coming, ready or not”, Parker yelled,
as he zig zagged by the Hornets five eighth,
goosestepped past their full back
and accelerated to the line.
Coming ready or not, Parker mocked
as he swerved past the outside backs
and set his sights on the corner.
Ready or not, he taunted,
as he stepped inside the cover defenders
and somersaulted to four pointer territory.
“Parker caught the kick off deep in goal
and raced to the ten.
Steele Knox drove him backwards,
dislodged the ball and fell on it.
He converted the try as unceremoniously
as a power lifter raises a dumbbell.
“I’m not ready” Knox roared
after back slamming Parker over the dead ball line.
“I’ll never be ready” Knox raged
as he flung his obnoxious foe over the sideline.
Parker made the mistake of mentioning the score.
Knox caught the kick off,
crashed through the front row
like a dune buggy through a sand castle,
swatted away the cover defenders
as though they were anaemic mosquitos
and dragged Parker to the try line.
24-22, coming ready or not,
Parker skited at full time.
“You don’t know what you’re saying” Knox replied.
“Coming ready or not” Parker repeated ad nauseum.
“Ready or not” he taunted after punching Steele in the jaw.
Knox’s teammates watched the sardine
versus a tiger shark scenario unfold.
Being trapped in an armbar swiftly erased Parker’s smirk.
“Come on man, let me go”
he panicked like a lamb in a slaughterhouse.
“First, a story” Steele insisted.
“When I was eleven I was abducted,
from the semi demolished shopping center
I called home that winter
and taken to an isolated property.
Vivid memories of the flora and fauna
and a marble statue of Agnes of Rome,
hidden beneath the Red Boxes,
is how I’ll find that forest.
I was one of dozens of children there.
Among the visitors were priests, nuns,
politicians, police officers, teachers
psychiatrists and wealthy business people.
Coming, ready or not, they said.
We thought it was a game of hide and seek
until we saw the compound bows
beneath cold, menacing stares.
I had no idea why that priest told me to strip,
but I soon found out.
Twelve children were shot in front of me that day
and left screaming and writhing on the ground.
Parker had gone as white as chalk.
“I’ll listen to your story voluntarily” he interrupted.
“The dogs between the barbed wire perimeters
were busy tearing smaller children apart.
I sprinted along the fence,
searching for loose or broken wire.
The nuns on the edge of the killing zone
could’ve shot me,
but that wasn’t how they wanted to see me die.
Eventually I reached an open paddock.
The riflemen in the distance
weren’t stalking foxes or rabbits.
I reached the reeds, by the creek,
before they could take aim.
Frightened of disappearing in the mud,
I searched frantically for deep water,
thrashed my way across,
clambered up the hill
and hid in a wombat hole.
Exhaustion overcame me.
I awoke before sunrise.
A track was visible from the summit.
The Red Bellied Black Snake infested shrubbery was safer.
“Coming, ready or not”
yelled the mother of the children in the nearest farmhouse.
I fled. Dizzy from thirst I didn’t get far.
It was months before I spoke again.
My social worker didn’t know what to make of
my drawing of Satan dancing on a crucifix,
or the picture of parliament house
with demons floating over it.
She assumed the story in my diary was fiction.
The copy was disguised as a cook book,
with entries hidden beneath the illustrations.
I spent year six in a children’s psychiatric unit.
The doctor who called my memories psychotic delusions
looked disturbingly familiar.
He would’ve planned my “suicide”, if my story
had sounded more historical than Hansel and Gretel.
Lucy, my psychologist, gave me a
‘Just because I’m paranoid,
doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me,’
T-shirt for Christmas.
I framed it and put it on my bedroom wall.
Parker dry retched for an eternity.
Finally he was composed enough to speak.
“My father was a sculptor,
he specialized in ancient Roman history.
He often told me bedtime stories
about trolls kidnapping homeless Goblins,
taking them to a forest
and hunting them with crossbows.
I’ve got photos of his sculptures
of Agnes of Rome being dragged to a brothel.
Show me which statue you saw.
That killing field might be as easy to find
as the Sydney Harbor Bridge.”