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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2316030
A Sunbird (Phoenix) arrives in Glen Hartwell and starts burning people to death
Ophelia and Winnie Linden stood around the dark green circle in the sweet-smell pine and eucalyptus forest outside Glen Hartwell in the Victorian countryside. As members of the Werribee to Willamby Alien Investigation Bureau, they were in the area investigating claims from sick colleagues: Garvin Goodbody, and Gerda Muggins that radioactive aliens had recently been in the area, irradiating to death their companions: Gracy Goodbody (Garvin's wife), and Bertha Muggins (Gerda's twin).

According to Garvin and Gerda, the aliens had left a large burnt circle on the forest floor, where their craft had landed. But when the Linden sisters had arrived, instead they had found a large green patch, suspiciously planted with wild grasses amongst the dry pine needles and gum leaves which covered the rest of the forest floor.

"A cover-up!" said Ophelia, a tall, wispy blonde.

"Definitely," agreed Winnie, an equally tall and thin, freckled brunette.

"How could they think anyone could fall for this?"

"They're loony!"

The two sisters were still debating the obvious cover-up when the small glowing light appeared in the night sky a few kilometres away.

"They're back, the aliens are back!" insisted Winnie. The two women raced toward their second-hand maroon coup.

They started the car with some difficulty, then drove at a snail's pace toward the glowing yellow light. However, the object was also sailing slowly toward them.

"Here we come, aliens," said Ophelia as they headed toward it.

When they were perhaps a hundred metres away ( it was hard to tell without knowing how big the U.F.O. was, or how high above then), they stopped and got out of their car again.

"Better don our radiation suits while it's still a safe-ish distance away."

"Got you," said Ophelia.

She went to remove their two suits from the boot of the coup: two shiny silvery suits, that looked like they were made from aluminium foil. They then placed crash helmets, covered in aluminium foil, on their heads.

"Now we're both safe," said Winnie as they stepped in front of the car to watch the approaching light.

The light hovered directly over them, at what they took to be a great height since the circle of light looked no bigger than the bonnet of their coup.

"Must be a long ways up," said Ophelia as the light kept descending, without increasing much in size: "If it's as huge as Garvin and Gerda said."

Until it became obvious to the disappointed sisters that it was far too small to be a flying saucer.

"What is it then?" said Winnie, gasping in shock as she finally saw the object clearly: "It's some kind of a large bird."

"But what the Hell kind of a bird glows like a U.F.O.?" asked Ophelia.

Then as it got closer the two sisters started to back away from the Hellish heat that the huge bird seemed to be generating!

"Dark forces stalking

"Right across the Earth,

"Right across the land

"An evil monster stalking,

"From the U.S.A.

"The Orange Face Man.

"His twisted followers say

"He is our only hope, yet,

"He's the only son of Satan

"Insane psychotics claiming,

"He is the one messiah

"Bringing us back to Christianity.

"But all the time they're drivelling

"And drooling like imbeciles

"Talking banal inanities!" finished Sheila Bennett as they sat around the dinner table at the Yellow House in Rochester Road, Merridale: "It's the latest song by the Devil's Advocates. It's called 'The Orange Man Cometh'."

"It sounds more like a poem," said Colin Klein, a tall redheaded man of forty-eight. A former London crime reporter, who had retired to the Victorian countryside, where he now worked for the Glen Hartwell Police Force. And who now shared a room with Terri Scott.

"Well, it is a spoken song, like the Doors' 'Horses Latitude'. With just a little singing at the end," said Sheila. At thirty-five the orange-and-black-haired Goth chick was Chief Constable and second in charge of the police force from BeauLarkin to Willamby: "So I guess it's a poem set to music. That doesn't take away from the fact that it's brill!"

"It does sum up the Orange Man for sure," said Terri Scott. Also thirty-five, she was a beautiful ash blonde, who was the top cop in the entire BeauLarkin to Willamby area, Sheila's boss, and Colin's lover.

"Absolutely," agreed Natasha Lipzing. A tall, grey-haired old lady, who had spent the last thirty-five years at the Yellow House.

"Yes, the man's almost as big a lunatic as Albanese," said Deidre Morton, owner of the Yellow House. So named because lemon was her favourite colour, so the house was painted yellow/lemon inside and out. A short sixty-something brunette who should have hosted her own cooking show.

"Maybe bigger," suggested Freddy Kingston. A recent retiree who was tall and stocky, with a Larry-fine style ruff of curly black hair on his otherwise bald head.

"Do you know where I can get that song on CD?" asked Tommy Turner. Also a recent retiree, a short obese, blond man.

"I streamed it from YouTube," said Sheila: "I can give you a copy."

"Sheils, Tucks, you know streaming has murdered both the recording and film industries! That's why most of today's pop stars were stars fifteen years or more ago. Since Taylor Swift came along in fact."

"Likewise," said Colin: "It's why most new movies are moronic sequels of equally moronic, infantile super-zero movies. Because ninety percent of original films don't make their cost back anymore due to streaming."

"If you're trying to make us feel guilty...?" said Sheila.

"It won't work!" finished Tommy.

"I should arrest them both for copyright infringement,' said Terri. Only half joking.

"Let's get out of here!" shouted Ophelia, and the two sisters started running back toward their maroon coup.

Slamming the doors behind them, they started the coup with difficulty, then began slowly driving through the forest. Unable to get enough traction upon the carpet of pine needles and gum leaves to move faster.

"Can you see it, Win?" asked Ophelia, who was driving.

"No, I think we've left it behind," said Winnie.

"Thank God..." said Ophelia.

Stopping as there came a loud bang on the roof of the coup as the Sunbird landed heavily upon the car.

"Drive! Drive! Drive!" shouted Winnie in terror.

But as the roof of the car began heating up, and the inside became overheated, Ophelia cried:

"We have to abandon the car."

"But it's out there!"

"Maybe it can't follow us through the trees," hoped Ophelia. She grabbed the door handle, then shrieked as the handle had become red-hot.

Taking an oily rag from the glove box of the coup, Winnie grabbed the handle on the left-hand side and slammed against the hot door. Almost breaking her left shoulder as the heat-expanded door refused to budge.

"It won't open!"

"Let me try," said Ophelia. Taking the rag from her sister, she slammed her shoulder into the right-side door, crying in pain and terror as she suddenly realised that they might die.

"Let's try the back doors!" shouted Winnie.

The two sisters climbed into the back seats as, with a whoosh, the entire top of the car started on fire.

"We've got to get out!" shrieked Ophelia.

The two sisters lay on their backs and started kicking at the doors with all of their might. Although the doors buckled a little under the barrage, they still refused to open.

"Let us out!" shrieked Winnie.

Then the windows of the car began imploding; covering the two women with hot, half-melted glass. Blinding poor Winnie, as molten glass splashed across her face.

As Winnie began shrieking in agony and terror, Ophelia forgot her own plight and spun around to do whatever she could for her sister.

Which turned out to be nothing much, as the metallic roof began melting, dropping white-hot metal upon them.

A way to get out! thought Ophelia as a large hole began to appear in the roof, as more and more of the molten metal fell into the car.

Then the large glowing Sunbird fell through the hole on top of them, gouging them both with its talons, asphyxiating them with its weight.

"Oh no!" mumbled Ophelia. Finally forced to admit that they were going to die. Unaware that her sister, Winnie, was already dead!

As they, sisters and Sunbird alike, were consumed in the white-hot flames the large bird settled down ready for its own demise. Seemingly smiling a Cheshire Cat grin as they all burnt like overcooked beef.

Suddenly the Sunbird started cawing, in a contented way like birds at sunset, as though enjoying the all-devouring heat. A heat that soon reduced the car to molten slag; Ophelia, Winnie, and the shining yellow bird to ashes.

As they finished their dinners, Terri sighed and said: "I'm just grateful we've finished up that 'gater business." Referring to a recent case.

"Yeah, things have been a little hectic lately," said Colin, unaware that their next case had already started: "But not as bad as last year, when over the last ten weeks we must have had thirty or so cases."

"Yeah, it's certainly slowed down this year," agreed Sheila: "So who's up for watching a few episodes of 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman'?"

"No thanks," said Terri, as she and Colin got up and headed toward the stairs: "We're ready for bed."

"Ho-ho!" said Sheila and Tommy as one.

"And I'll have no ho-hoing from you two," said Terri as they started up the stairs: "It's nearly Easter, not Christmas!"

"Christmas comes but once a year

"And thank God, it's bloody dear," sang Sheila, before getting up to go into the lounge room to watch DVDs.

For breakfast the next morning Deidre Morton had made them waffles with strawberries and cream, or cherries and cream for Terri. As they were seated at the table, Sheila was filling in a four-page form.

"Whatcha doin' Sheils?" asked Tommy.

Ignoring him, Sheila asked: "Tare, does the police budget run to buying a motorbike?"

"At the moment it doesn't run to buying a kiddie car. Why?"

"I was thinking of trying out for next year's edition of the World's Stupidest Stuntman. Next season is Stupidest Stuntman Down Under, and they're holding tryouts in Melbourne soon."

"Sheils, you're not a stuntman," pointed out Colin: "In fact, you're not even a man."

"You don't have to be, they allow Sheilas too. As long as you're prepared to take stupid risks, and hopefully can ride a motorbike. They provide the bikes for the tryouts, but I was hoping to get in some practice first. I've got nearly two months rec. leave coming to me, so I thought before a new case comes along, I could practice up, then get up to Melbourne for the tryouts."

As though in answer to her words, the phone in the hall rang.

"Now who could that be?" asked Deidre, going to answer it.

"Someone trying to crush my dreams," said Sheila. Before going on to start wolfing down strawberry waffles.

A few moments later, Deidre returned to announce: "Greta Goddard and Drew Braidwood have found something weird at ... what they called 'the grass circle'."

"What's the grass circle?" asked Natasha Lipzing.

"Um ... police business," said Terri, as she Sheila and Colin rose to go out to Terri's police-blue Lexus.

"Is it anything like a crop circle?" asked Tommy Turner. Almost causing Sheila to choke on her strawberry waffle.

"Nothing at all," lied Colin, unconvincingly.

Less than forty minutes later, the Lexus pulled up where Greta Goddard: (a tall, shapely silver-blonde; aged sixty-nine but still fit and happy to help out on a pro-rata basis), and Drew Braidwood (a tall gangly constable with long stringy blond hair, almost sixty, but still looking like a young man) were standing over a strange pile of metal slag and indeterminate ashes.

"So what have we got here?" asked Terri.

Shrugging, Greta admitted: "Damned if we know. But it's strange enough that we thought we'd better call it in."

"We were checking on the crop circle," teased Drew: "When we found this ... whatever the Hell this is."

"Well there's definitely some metal..." started Sheila, shrieking and falling backward... onto the forest floor of pine needles and dry gum leaves, as the melted metal began shaking violently.

"What the Hell!" said Terri.

Suddenly the metal slag went flying and out from underneath crawled a large, shining yellow bird, at least as large as a full-grown cassowary. The beautiful Sunbird stood on top of the slag for a moment, ignoring the five police officers.

Giving out an almost raven-like caw-caw-caw, it spread its wings wide and began sailing straight up into the air. Seemingly without even flapping its wings.

"What the Hell kind of bird is that?" asked Greta.

"A pretty one," said Drew: "But how the Hell did it get under that melted mess without hurting itself?"

"Did anyone think to take a picture of it?" asked Colin.

"No," said Sheila. Then she crawled forward and took something from the ashes: "But I've got one of its feathers."

"Good girl," said Terri. She took the gleaming yellow feather and photographed it with her mobile phone: "I'm sending a picture of this to Totty Rampling at the Melbourne Wildlife Safari Park."

"Betcha she squeals like a schoolgirl when she sees it," said Sheila. But from experience, nobody took the bet: "She'd flap her arms like wings to fly down here if we had a pic of the bird to send her."

As expected, Totty squealed from excitement and promised to be in Glen Hartwell the next morning.

An hour later Elvis Green, the local coroner, nicknamed due to his obsession with Elvis Presley was poring through the mess. With the assistance of Ed Bussy, a tall powerfully built man. The local motor mechanic, car wrecker, and car expert.

"So what are the remains?" asked Colin Klein.

"Well..." said Ed, not keen to commit himself: "There's definitely a lot of melted metal here. Possibly the remains of a car, but don't quote me on that ... Since I can't imagine how a car could melt down this thoroughly in a forest, with no sign of any blast furnace or heavy machinery having been anywhere around here."

"So, Elvis?" asked Terri.

"There's plenty of ashes, which could be human remains, but they've been incinerated to a level that would require thousands of degrees."

"Like being cremated?" asked Sheila.

"Yes," agreed Elvis: "But do you see a crematorium anywhere nearby?"

"Since you mention it, no!" she agreed.

Later that afternoon, not far from Wilhelmina, a few towns from Glen Hartwell, the Rockwell family were seated upon an Essendon Football Club black and red blanket, eating a picnic lunch.

"Pass the pickles," said Roscoe, the father of the family. Using the American term to bug his family. At forty-seven he felt ready to retire, but still had twenty years to go by Australian law.

"Gherkins!" they all corrected him.

"How can you eat those foul things?" asked Bradley, his twelve-year-old son. Fiercely blond like his mother, but otherwise the spitting image of his Celtically dark father.

"Yeah," agreed Gina, dark like her father. The ten-year-old passed the gherkin jar to her father, then wiped her hands as though they had been soiled by even touching the jar.

"Yes, they're right," agreed Maggie, Roscoe's wife, two years his senior.

"No worse than your pickled onions," insisted Roscoe.

"Pickled onions are nice," insisted Bradley.

"Are not, they're as foul as gherkins," protested Gina.

"Are not!" said Maggie and Bradley as one. Each grabbed a pickled onion to crunch loudly in front of her.

"Oh, gross," protested Gina.

"You tell them Genes," said Roscoe.

"You're just as bad with your gherkins," insisted Gina. Taking a jar from the picnic basket, she undid the lid and said: "I prefer green olives!"

"Oh, gross," teased Roscoe, Bradley, and Maggie.

"Is not!" replied Gina, helping herself to some olives.

As they were eating, the sky began growing much brighter, and the atmosphere noticeably hotter.

"Looks like the sun is finally coming out," said Bradley, pointing to where the Sunbird was approaching them.

"That's not the sun, Brad," said Gina, knowing Bradley hated to be called Brad. Pointing behind her brother, she said: "That's the sun."

"Then what the heck is that?" asked Maggie pointing to where the Sunbird was descending towards them.

"I don't know, but let's get the Hell out of here," said Roscoe.

For once everyone agreed with him. Maggie grabbed the picnic basket, the kids the plates and cutlery, and Roscoe his beloved Essendon Bomber's blanket, before they raced across toward the red-striped, black Ford Fairlane of yesteryear that was their family car.

Seeing them running for the car, the Sunbird caw-caw-cawed and changed its angle of descent slightly, to continue after them.

After throwing their bundles into the boot, the Rockwells leapt into the car, Roscoe and Maggie in the front, the kids in the rear. Roscoe turned the key and the engine whir-whir-whirred but failed to start.

"You flooded it, Dad!" said Gina, almost shrieking the words out.

"Calm down!" cried Maggie, not remotely calm herself.

"I did not flood it!" insisted Roscoe, turning the key again.

This time the motor turned over and the Fairlane started forward.

Seconds before the Sunbird crashed into the roof of the car, making everyone inside scream.

"Calm fuckin' down!" shouted Roscoe.

As the car began to heat up, the two kids tried pushing open the doors, which were already too heat-buckled to open. However, Gina managed to wind down her window before it could implode and squeezed out of the Fairlane, to run screaming away from the now-burning car.

The Sunbird watched the fleeing ten-year-old indifferently. It had wanted to kill all four of the picnickers but would settle for three.

Inside the Fairlane, Bradley Rockwell was less fortunate than his younger sister. As he tried to wind down his side window, it imploded into his face, cutting open his nose so that it hung half off his face. And destroying both of his eyes.

"Bradley!" screamed Maggie, matching her son's screams.

Then the front windscreen imploded. Blinding both Roscoe and Maggie, who otherwise would have had an escape route.

"Help me!" screamed Bradley

The outside of the Fairlane suddenly whooshed into flames, raising the inside temperature of the car, despite the broken windows. Which would have allowed cool air into the car, except that there was no cool air around the car. The Sunbird's body temperature and heat from the fire it generated, had heated the air inside and out to over eighty degrees Celsius (around one hundred and seventy-six degrees Fahrenheit).

"I can't breathe," gasped Maggie.

Bradley continued to scream from the mutilation to his eyes and nose, until, he mercifully passed out. Sleeping through his own death!

"Help me!" cried Maggie.

Beside her, Roscoe's face and neck had started on fire. Soon burning away his face and tongue, removing his chance to even scream in agony as the car began to burn inside as well as out.

With a loud crunch, the roof caved in, knocking out Maggie, and killing Roscoe. Then the weight of the Sunbird on the roof broke Maggie's neck, finally killing the last of the car's three occupants.

If it had been able to, the Sunbird would have gone after Gina Rockwell, to make a clean sweep of the family. However, the shining yellow bird was already burning furiously itself and was unable to move anymore, let alone fly. Still, the Sunbird caw-caw-cawed in satisfaction at its latest casualties. Happy to be dying alongside the Rockwells. Knowing that, unlike them, it would soon arise from the ashes.

Perhaps an hour after the attack upon the Rockwell family, young Gina finally made it into Glen Hartwell. Despite being exhausted, she managed to stagger down Mitchell Street to push open the door to the police station, before fainting into the station.

"What the hell?" asked Sheila, racing across to help the ten-year-old girl.

Colin Klein gently splashed some water on the child's face to awaken her, then carried her across to place her on the large oaken desk that he shared with his boss, and lover, Terri Scott.

"Big yellow bird!" shrieked Gina.

"Big yellow bird?" asked Terri, cradling the child's head.

"A big yellow bird! A shining yellow bird attacked my family! Killed everyone except me."

"How did it kill them?" asked Sheila.

"Generated enough heat to set our Fairlane on fire ... burning them to ..." At that point, she burst into tears.

"We'd better take her to Glen Hartwell Hospital," said Terri, letting Colin pick up Gina again: "Then I want to go and talk to our local expert on myths and legends."

Less than an hour later, they were standing inside the local grocery shop in Chappell Street, Harpertown. After greeting their close friend and sometimes colleague, Bulam Bulam, Elder of the Gooladoo tribe, they told him what had happened so far.

"We saw the bird itself when it climbed from the ashes of what we've now been assured by Elvis Green and Ed Bussy was a car," said Sheila.

"How big was it?" asked the grey-haired elder.

"You've heard the old joke about the one-armed fisherman who holds up his arm and says, 'I almost caught a fish that big'?" asked Colin: "Well that's how big it was."

"Sounds like what my people call a Sunbird! It's the Dream-Time equivalent of what in European legends they call a Phoenix. The Sunbird kills for pleasure, enjoying its own death; knowing that unlike its victims it will return from the ashes. It willingly sacrifices itself each time for the joy of killing!"

With the help of Bulam Bulam's tracking skills, in an hour or so, they managed to reach the site where the Rockwells had been burnt to death within their car. Fairlane, Rockwells, and Sunbird were all reduced to molten slag and ashes incinerated to crematorium level.

"Now what?" asked Sheila.

"Now we..." began Terri, stopping as the pile of ashes began to move.

Without needing to be told, everybody started to slowly back away from the slag and ashes.

More and more the pile moved, shuddered, and shook, until a large section of melted metal fell away, to reveal the shining yellow Sunbird in all its glory.

"Kill it!" cried Terri Scott.

All three cops drew their handguns. However, again the Sunbird raised its wings wide, and then without flapping its wings, the great bird rose vertically into the sky.

Aiming upward they began firing wildly at the soaring bird.

"Firstly, you're wasting your time," said Bulam Bulam: "Bullets won't kill the Sunbird. Secondly, have you ever heard the saying, 'what goes up, must come down'?"

At which, Terri, Colin, and Sheila all backed away further to minimise any danger of being hit by their returning bullets.

"We still didn't get any pix of it, dammit," said Terri Scott.

"No, but I got some film footage of it," said the grey-haired Elder. He held out his mobile phone to show them.

"You crafty old booger," said Sheila.

"I've told you before, Sheils," said Bulam Bulam: "I'm a crafty middle-aged booger, since sixty is the new forty."

"Keep telling yourself that, Pops," teased the Goth policewoman, patting him on the back.

"Well, we'd better send for Elvis, and Ed again," said Terri: "Then I'm sending a copy of the Sunbird footage to Totty. If you'll email me a copy, Bulam Bulam."

"No sweat," said the Elder, emailing them all copies.

"Tots'll piss herself with excitement."

"Sheils, how dare you, I'm sure that Totty has better bladder control than that," said Terri: "But she'll squeal like a schoolgirl again for sure."

"That's for sure," agreed Colin.

The next morning at a few minutes to 9:00 Terri, Sheila, and Colin were at the railway station in Theobald Street, Glen Hartwell, awaiting the arrival of the never-reliable Melbourne-to-Willamby train.

When the train pulled into the station, sixty or so people alighted. One of them was a tall, leggy thirty-something brunette, who looked around the station for a moment. Then spotting Terri and co., she strode across to them.

"Tots," said Sheila Bennett giving her a big hug: "Not much time, long see."

"Yes, I may have to move into Glen Hartwell," teased Totty: "It's become my second home since last October."

As they headed toward the exit gate, four people and three children, all dressed in Hawaiian shirts and shorts, or summer dresses followed them outside. Where a tall dark-haired man was waiting, holding car keys.

"Weatherly-Cooper Party?" he asked Terri and co.

"'Fraid not," said Sheila.

"Weatherly-Cooper Party?" he asked again and again. Until finally Hawaiian-shirted/summer-dressed group said:

"That's us."

After checking their receipt, he handed them the keys and pointed to where a cream-coloured minibus was parked across the road.

"Enjoy, your holiday," said the tall man, walking off.

"Okay Weatherly-Cooper Party," said the leader of the group, a tall fifty-something dark-haired man, Harrison Weatherly: "Time to start having fun."

"Hold hands as we carefully cross the road," insisted Harrison's wife, a tall shapely fifty-year-old brunette Carol.

"So much for starting the fun," said a redheaded girl of six, Talia Weatherly.

"Don't be like that, Tals," said her mother: "As soon as we get going we can have a fun picnic in the forest."

Sniffing the air, a dark-haired boy of ten, Hermie Cooper, said: "Pine forest by the smell."

Sniffing along with his son, Henry Cooper, a dark-haired, short chubby man of forty-five said: "Plus gum trees, son."

Soon father and son were sniffing the air loudly, to the embarrassment of their wife/mother and daughter/sister.

"They've both got bad sinus trouble," lied Lolita 'Loli' Cooper, a seven-year-old ash-blonde like her mother, to the staring passersby.

"That's right," lied Genevieve 'Genny' Cooper.

"Who's got sinus trouble?" asked Henry as they reached the minibus.

"No one," said Loli as they finally climbed into the bus.

"Who wants to sing 'Michael Row the Boat To Shore'?" asked Harrison as he climbed behind the steering wheel.

"Dad, we're on land, heading into the forest," pointed our Talia.

"All right, who wants to sing 'Michael Row the Boat Through the Forest'?"

"Oh Gawd, I betcha he does," said Loli Cooper under her breath.

"Michael row the boat through the forest," started Harrison, with Henry and Hermie joining in lustily, in between still sniffing at the air.

"Oh God!" said Carol, trying to sink into the seat.

Please, God, beam me up now! thought Talia, wondering whether it was blaspheming. But then she decided that if God could hear the hideous caterwauling he would forgive her.

After ten minutes, the men changed to singing, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Through The Forest". At which Genny said:

"If they start singing, 'The Boat That I Row Won't Cross No Ocean', I vote we strangle all three of them.

"Second the motion," said Carol, Talia, and Loli.

Finally, the minibus pulled up, about forty kilometres from Glen Hartwell township, deep in the pine and eucalyptus forest.

"Here we are kids," said Harrison climbing out of the minibus.

"Here we are, where?" asked Talia, looking about the forest in dismay: "Where's our hotel or motel?"

"Who needs a hotel or motel?" asked Henry Cooper.

"Me!" said Talia, Loli, Carol, and Genny.

"Come on girls, you'll love camping!"

"Camping! Oh no!" said Talia.

"Oh boy," said Hermie. He and his father started sniffing at the air again.

"It's a bloke thing!" said Carol, sighing: "Loving the great outdoors!"

"Yeah, they all see themselves as big White Hunters," explained Genny.

"But I'm just a little indoors-loving girl," complained Loli.

"Girls!" said Hermie, and the three males started chortling.

"Just pray they all choke on their smugness," said Carol: "Or worse stub a toe or see a daddy longlegs. Then they'll be running to us for help!"

"Men!" said Genny, and the females all laughed.

"Out of the way, girls we have to attach the tents to the side of the bus," said Harrison.

"Tents! You mean we'll be sleeping outside?" asked Loli.

"Darn tootin'," said Henry.

"No way, we're sleeping in the minibus," insisted Talia.

"It might be best if all the females sleep in the bus," said Carol: "The girls might need their mums."

"Darn straight," said Genny, winking at Carol.

"But we've paid for the tents," said Harrison.

"That's all right, the boys can all sleep outside, while the girls sleep inside," said Carol.

"Well ... okay," said Henry reluctantly.

By noon they had set up the tents outside, pulled down the pullout beds in the minibus, and were sitting around the campfire ready to have their lunch of steaks, cooked on sticks in the fire. While the males sat on a fallen log, the four females sat on deck chairs provided with the minibus.

"Today steaks," said Harrison: "Tomorrow whatever we can catch to eat in the forest."

"God, they do think they're White Hunters," said Genny.

"I don't think you're allowed to kill Australian wildlife without a special licence, honey," said Carol: "Let alone eat it."

"Special licence acquired," said Harrison, holding it up: "Henry and I both got one."

"Oh Gawd!" said the four females.

"You the man, Dad, Uncle Harry," said Hermie, forgetting that Harrison Weatherly did not like to be called Harry.

"In the meantime..." said Henry.

He stopped as he saw the glowing white light a few kilometres away, rapidly approaching them.

"What the Hell is that?" asked Genny.

"The Starship Enterprise," said Hermie: "Boldly going..."

"Don't be stoopid!" said Loli, embarrassed that her older brother was less mature than she was.

"It can't be the moon, it's too early," said Carol.

"Besides it's racing toward us," said Loli.

"Maybe we'd better get out of here," suggested Genny.

"But we've just," started Harrison, before deciding: "Maybe you're right. Grab your stuff and all aboard the minibus."

He started to undo the tents, before deciding that there was no time. instead, he helped the others into the minibus, then leapt into the driver's seat, and started the vehicle.

"Which way to Glen Hartwell?" asked Henry.

"Back the way we came," said Carol. She pointed to their tyre prints through the carpet of dry pine needles and gum leaves which covered the forest floor.

Almost rolling the minibus, making the girls squeal and Hermie shout, "You Hoo!", Harrison spun the bus in a hard U-turn to get it headed back toward the imagined safety of the country town.

"I think we're losing it," said Carol. Shrieking as the Sunbird crashed into the top of the minibus.

"It's on the roof!" shrieked Talia.

Harrison braked hard, hoping to throw the Sunbird off the roof of the bus. However, its great weight held it in place. Its soaring temperature soon had the paint on the roof of the minibus melting, further helping the Sunbird to adhere to the spot.

"Christ, it's getting hot in here!" cried Carol. Forgetting her rule of never swearing or blaspheming in front of the children.

"Mummy, it's too hot in here!" complained Loli.

"She's right," said Hermie. For the first time in memory agreeing with his younger sister.

"Time to abandon the minibus," said Harrison braking: "If we all run off in different directions it can't chase us all." Having come up with the rational solution, however, too late to save any of them.

"Everybody out!" cried Carol. She tried to pull the sliding side door open, only to find it wouldn't move: "The door won't open!"

"Damn, it must be heat-warped," said Henry.

He climbed from the cabin to the rear of the minibus and tried brute force to slide the door open. But had no more success than Carol. Finally, Henry, Carol, and Genny all pulled together on the heat-warped door. But still could not budge it a centimetre.

"We'll have to get out through the front doors," cried Henry.

However, while he and the women had been struggling with the side door, Harrison had been bashing against the side doors trying to get them to open, without any success.

"No good!" called Harrison just before the outside of the minibus burst into flames: "Try the back door!"

Henry lay on his back to kick at the back door with all of his might. After more than a minute, he managed to force the rear door open a few centimetres. Just enough to allow two thousand-degree heat and scolding flames to whoosh into the minibus, instantly killing everyone in the vehicle.

Outside the Sunbird grinned a toothless grin as though knowing that the four adults and three children inside the bus were all dead. Just as the Sunbird itself soon would be.

Having established Totty Rampling at the Yellow House in Rochester Road, Merridale, they preceded to tell her what Bulam Bulam had told them about the Sunbird.

"So it's sort of like the Australian version of a Phoenix?" said Totty: "Just like an emu is ..." She thought for a moment: "Australia's largest flightless bird."

"Except the Sunbird can fly," said Bulam Bulam: "And is much larger than an emu, or even an ostrich."

"So how do we kill it?" asked Sheila.

"Well killing animals isn't my forte," said Totty: "Even evil animals. However, I did a Google search for how to put out a three thousand degree Celsius fire, and it told me..." She took a printed page from one of her cases: "That kind of temperature counts as a Case D fire. They go from A to D, then mysteriously jump to K. Anyway, you need to dampen the fire, or Sunbird, with a special dry powder solution, which hopefully Tilly and Jesus at the GH&DCH can mix up for us."

"What does that do?" asked Colin Klein.

"It absorbs the heat by removing the oxygen that is needed to maintain a fire at that kind if temperature. As a result, it smothers the flames.

"Then you need some kind of super freezer unit, which can have the oxygen sucked, out to contain the Sunbird!"

"All that seems vaguely plausible," said Terri: "But how do we get the Sunbird to come to us and not to attack others."

"You have to keep everyone else indoors. Have Tils and Jesus put out a plague warning, saying a spate of Covid deaths have occurred and everyone should stay indoors till further notice.

"Then you have to set up a stakeout site, with a car and dummy passengers. Then you need a way to drop a few tonnes of whatever Tils and Jesus come up with on the Sunbird. Then, wearing fireproof suits and some kind of lifting apparatus, you transfer the bird to the storage unit. Then pump out the air to keep it safe ... ish."

"What if Russell Street finds out?" asked Sheila.

"You'll need to get their permission first," suggested Totty.

"Great," said Terri, expecting another rollicking from Melbourne: "First let's find out if Tils and Jesus can help us."

"No way," said Jesus: "It's beyond us. You'll need a chemical company to produce it for you."

"Your best bet would be to ring Russell Street for help."

"I was afraid you'd say that," said Terri.

Nonetheless, she used her mobile to ring Russell Street Melbourne, to explain their dilemma. From time to time she held the phone away from her ear when her superior's shouting almost deafened her. Finally, she disconnected.

"So, do I get your job after they sack you?" teased Sheila.

"No! They've authorised the fake plague alert and are arranging to send us the rest of the stuff," said Terri: "Until then we sit and wait."

"And solve other goofy cases as they come along," said Colin Klein.

"What did they say about the final resting place of the Sunbird?" asked Totty Rampling.

"All they said was it was best for us not to know."

"You don't think they're going to ship it off to Putin, in an attempt to incinerate him?" asked Sheila.

"One can only hope," said Tilly Lombstrom.

By the next morning, the plague alert was in place and there was a permanent lockdown in place from BeauLarkin to Willamby.

It would be three days before an eighteen-wheeler arrived at Glen Hartwell, pulling a special container that could have the oxygen sucked out. Along with a second container full of a dry chemical powder with chemical symbols that meant nothing to Terri and co.

Not far behind the eighteen-wheeler came a military helicopter beneath which hung a VW Kombi van.

When it landed, they found the van had six live pigs inside.

"What are they for?" asked Sheila.

"The flaw in your plan," said the pilot, a Captain of Police: "Is thinking the Sunbird would be attracted by dummies. Pigs have the closest meat-to-fat ratio to humans, and smell almost as bad as we do. So hopefully these porkers will do the trick."

An hour or so later the Kombi van had been placed in the forest outside Glen Hartwell, with the freezer container nearby. Overhead at a great height hovered the chopper, with the dry powder in its bomb bay.

For four days it seemed as though their plan would come to nothing. Then finally the helicopter pilot saw the yellow light approaching from thirty kilometres off and alerted Terri and the others upon the ground.

As the Sunbird approached, Terri pressed a button on a remote control device to start the Kombi moving forward, since all three cars had been in motion when attacked. So the Sunbird might smell a rat if the car did not start.

"Can I have a turn?" asked Sheila.

"Sheils, it's not a toy," said Terri, before handing her the remote: "All right, but don't roll the wagon."

As the Kombi approached it, the sunbird caw-caw-cawed and swooped down to land on top of it.

Then Colin phoned the chopper to lower and drop the chemical powder upon the Sunbird. Which caw-caw-cawed again, this time in distress as the powder doused its flames.

Then three Melbourne cops in fireproof suits raced out with a heavy lifting device to grab up the Sunbird and quickly transport it to the container compartment. Before starting the pump to suck all of the oxygen out of the compartment.

After the helicopter had landed, the Captain of Police said: "Melbourne said to tell you that they're getting sick of all of these wacky cases that you keep sending their way."

"You could always promote us to Melbourne," said Sheila: "I could see myself in a captain's uniform."

"Not unless you join the Royal Australian Navy," said the Captain: "But I'm guessing the last thing that the RAN needs is a sudden spate of sea monster attacks."

"How dare you, sir," said Terri: "It's Colin who's the monster magnet, not Sheils and me."

"That's true," agreed Sheila, getting glared at by Colin Klein.

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
© Copyright 2024 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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