The Call

(keywords: clergyman, city, boomerang, homeless person, jealousy)

The desert of Australia is a vast place. It is immensely beautiful, yet harsh and unforgiving.

Father O’Brien wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. Not that it did anything. The heat was so great that his sweat had evaporated before it could form beads. All that happened was Father O’Brien wiping the sunscreen off his face which made his fair skin burn even faster. He looked left and right, but there was no sign of life as far as the eye could see. He pulled at his Roman collar and retrieved his mobile phone from his back pocket. No reception.

“Oh dear,” he said to himself.

The clergyman knew he was in trouble. He shouldn’t have gone out on a whim, but last night, he’d had a dream in which The Lord had told him to go save a lost lamb in the desert. When he’d woken up, he’d hadn’t thought long about it. He had packed a suitcase, thrown it into the back of his car, and had left the city behind. Father O’Brien hadn’t thought about what could go wrong, always certain The Lord would guide him on his way. He always had. Obviously, he didn’t anticipate his car breaking down and hence didn’t bring any spare equipment. Nor did he bring enough water to last him at least a day. The Lord forgot to mention this.

Looking up to the heavenly blue sky, Father O’Brien squinted and spoke again. This time not to himself.

“Alright. I get it. You want me to literally go out into the desert to find this lost lamb. Okay, I’ll do it. You know me. Whatever you say, I will do your will.”

He threw the last empty water bottle through the open window into the car, looked around, and set off into the desert. Father O’Brien didn’t know that not leaving your vehicle when stranded was rule number one in this country. He had arrived only recently from Ireland and wasn’t familiar with the ways of this godforsaken place.

After a few hours of walking through the red dirt and getting stung through his trousers by the tough needles of the grassy-looking Spinifex, Father O’Brien felt the sting of the sun on his scalp. He stopped to tie knots on the corners of his white handkerchief and put it on top of his head before continuing.

“I look ridiculous,” he said to God. “I know you’re smirking up there.”

God remained silent.

Suddenly, a force hit him in the neck. His head felt like it exploded. He lost his balance, losing consciousness before he hit the ground.

When Father O’Brian woke up again, he wasn’t alone. A man sat about a meter away from him on his haunches, staring at him. His light blue eyes were a stark contrast of the dark, almost black skin. The man didn’t wear more than a loincloth. In one hand he held something resembling a spear and in the other a boomerang. Suddenly, fear gripped Father O’Brien. He couldn’t get up. He didn’t know the man’s intentions, and he couldn’t get away from him.

“Who are you? What have you done to me? What are you going to do with me?” His tongue felt like dry leather in his mouth. How long had he been out?

“You’re a dumb man. You walked into my path as I was hunting. Now you’re going to die,” the blue-eyed stranger said.

Father O’Brien panicked. He tried to move again, but still, his body refused to cooperate.

“What do you mean? Why am I going to die? Who are you?” Desperation compelled him to keep the man talking. Maybe he could convince him to seek help.

“My name doesn’t matter. Not out here. You’re going to die because my boomerang broke your neck.” There was no emotion in the man’s voice. He was stating facts, nothing more.

Father O’Brien refused to accept what he was told. He tried to move his arms, his legs, his fingers and toes, but nothing worked. He could feel everything but not move. The only thing he seemed to have control over were his facial muscles. Moving only his eyes, he tried to look around. There was nothing and nobody else here.

“Can’t you get me to your home? To a hospital? I need medical care.”

“You are in my home. You may say I’m a homeless person, but the desert is my home. I cannot carry you anywhere as the movement will worsen the break in your neck and you will die.”

The situation became worse by the minute. Father O’Brien tried to lick his lips.

“Water. Do you have some water for me? I’m terribly thirsty.”

The dark man stared at him for a few seconds before he spoke.

“No water here. Nearest waterhole two hours walk.”

Father O’Brien finally began to understand that he was not going to get out of this alive. His eyes sought the sky as he struggled with what God had asked him to do and the predicament he found himself in.

“Why are you still here?” he asked the nameless and homeless man.

“To offer you peace.”

“Peace? What do you mean?”

“When I leave, many things will happen. Ants will come and crawl over your body, eventually finding your orifices and the remaining fluid in your body. Fluid very precious here. Dingoes will smell you and come. They will start to fight over your body, maybe even eat you while you’re still alive. If they don’t, your organs will shut down, and you will die, but this may take a few days. The vultures will only come after you die.”

The man remained on his haunches after telling Father O’Brian the horrors that awaited him before his death. Father O’Brien closed his eyes and sighed. A pang of jealousy came over him. All his life he had wanted nothing more than to offer people peace, yet murder and suicide was frowned heavily upon in his religion. Suffering was a lesson taught by God. But hadn’t God left him to die here? Or… was this the lesson God wanted to teach him? Was mercy killing not such a bad thing after all? Thinking about what the stranger had just told him, he made up his mind.

“Do it,” he said.

“You sure?”

“Yes. Do it.”

The aboriginal stood up, lifted his spear, and brought it down with all the force he could muster.

The desert of Australia is a vast place. It is immensely beautiful, yet harsh and unforgiving.