Awoken by a slap to the face. Sam winced at fierce sunlight. His body buried up to his chin in dirt. ‘What the….’ Sam’s heart pounded, unable to move. Lungs, mouth, nose and eyes filling with choking red dust.
‘Bout time you woke up,’ said Ren, squatted down in front of Sam.
‘Ren, game’s over – let me out!’
‘Why? When it took me hours just to getch’ya in there.’
‘You’ve had your fun! Take your photos and drag me out of ‘ere!’ Spying Ren’s Ute and small fuel container close by and realised they were in Ren’s backyard. Which was anywhere to nowhere. ‘You’re hurting me,’ struggling to get free, but the earth just gripped tighter.
‘Bull dust!’ And leant in closer to the buried male. ‘You’re in no pain. I know you’re not.’
‘I can’t breathe,’ heaving for air and tasting hot dry desert dust.
‘You’ve been peacefully nappin’ these past coupla hours in that hole.’
‘Why are you doing this? You swore to our mother on her death bed last week…’
‘That I did. An’ I honour me promises. Unlike you, bro.’ Pushing up his well-worn wide brimmed hat, tilting his head, still in a crouched position, resting his workmen’s hands on his dusty jeans. ‘Ya know, as a kid, you had that look of them cherubs, with ‘em puffy cheeks an’ blonde curls. Now, you look like a sunburnt melon-head.’ Messing up Sam’s hair. ‘But – this is me keeping my end of the bargain.’ Raising himself upright and reached for the fuel canister.
‘Get me out of here Ren,’ struggling to free himself.
Ren poured fuel onto the red dirt that evaporated into fumes from the burning sun. Coming full circle, he keenly surveyed the endless flat Australian desert. Satisfied they were alone, he pulled out a box of matches from his shirt pocket and a plastic spoon. ‘Here-’ tossing the spoon that landed just in front of Sam’s face. ‘You can dig yourself out if you want?’ Lighting one of the matches. ‘But I reckon you’ll be dead shortly,’ and threw the lit match to the fuel-soaked ground.
Flames burst upwards surrounding Sam’s head with hundreds of trapped ants that scrambled towards him.
‘Ren, don’t do this!’
‘It’s already done ‘n dusted.’ Ren’s head tilted and watched the circle of flames burn towards the talking head trapped in the desert. ‘As promised, I’m not gonna hurt ya. But the wildlife might?’
The intense heat from crackling flames close in. Ants crawled onto Sam’s neck and face, up his nose, in his ears and hair. Their bites stinging, making their way down his body. ‘Please Ren, I’m begging….’ Spitting out ants from his mouth.
‘I’ve kept my promise to our mum to not harm a hair on ya’ head,’ watching the ants move like a suffocating black blanket swarm over Sam. ‘But I promised Dad on his deathbed that when mum died – you died for not bein’ his son.’