Drawing of a waterfall with a tunnel beside it. Caption reads: "There was a tunnel beside the waterfall."

Green short story by Iris Carden

Five storeys below Brisbane’s Roma Street Police Station, is the headquarters for the Human Defence Unit. Its members are drawn from among the highest performing members of military, intelligence, and police forces throughout Australia, along with select highly specialised members of the civilian population. The Human Defence Unit and its elite staff are neither police, military nor intelligence. They do not exist.

Senior Agent Jo Burns received a phone call from the HDU’s police contact Inspector David Webber.

“We’ve got a lost child for you,” David said.

“When did we become responsible for lost children?” Jo asked.

“When the kid’s green.”


“Green. Green skin. Green hair. Green eyes. Speaks, but not English, and not any language anyone here recognises. Pretty sure it’s one of yours.”

“I’ll be right up.”

She called Agent Marissa Tyler. “I’m going upstairs. Can you look something up for me? It’s not in our records. It’s a story or folk tale or something, from about the tenth or eleventh century about green children in England. I remember reading about it, but can’t recall the details.”

“Green children?”

“I think there were two in the story, but there’s one upstairs. I’m going to get it.”

Marissa looked at Trainee Agent Harry Smythe. “Have you ever heard of green children?” she asked. He shook his head.

In David’s office, Jo found a small girl, about five years old, naked, with a blanket draped over her shoulders. David explained a driver had brought the girl into the police station after almost hitting her on the road past a National Park.

The girl seemed puzzled, but not afraid, by her surroundings and the people she didn’t know. Jo took her in the lift back down to the HDU office.

Marissa had found a Wikipedia article about the two green children who had appeared in Woolpit, Suffolk in England in the early to middle eleven hundreds. She’d followed the links for the references back to the sources, to find many confused and conflicting versions of the story. Some versions of the story mentioned of a tunnel to a possibly underground place inhabited by green people. The Woolpit children had refused to eat anything except broad beans.

Jo called the HDU pathologist Helen Thompson to check the child’s health, and sent both Harry and Marissa out; Harry to buy food and Marissa to get some basic child’s clothes.

The little girl allowed herself to be inspected, and made some distressed noises when Helen took a blood sample, but was otherwise quiet and compliant.

When Marissa returned the women dressed the child, who seemed confused by the process.

Harry had been unable to find broad beans. He came back with fresh green beans, and canned five bean mix. Both were put in a plate and the girl was offered a fork. She looked suspiciously at the food, then carefully picked up a soft canned bean with her fingers and delicately put it in her mouth. After chewing thoughtfully for a moment, she grabbed the canned beans by the handful and ate hungrily.

“So how do we get her back where she belongs?” Marissa asked. “I mean, she doesn’t seem to be dangerous, she’s not really our problem, except to get her back to her family.”

“I guess we go to the area she was found, and look for an entrance to another world,” Jo said. “Hopefully, our visitor will recognise something and help us find what we’re looking for.”

They decided to begin the search by following set bushwalking paths through the national park, thinking those would have been easier for the child to have walked along. Starting from the road, they selected the nearest walking path and began walking into the bush.

After an hour or so of walking, they could hear the roar of a waterfall nearby. The child began to act excitedly, and started to run from the path through the trees towards the sound. The three HDU agents followed.

The waterfall went over a small cliff face. Vines grew over the rocks, but something, possibly recent storms, had moved some of the vines aside, revealing a tunnel.

Following the child, all three agents sloshed their way across the furious turmoil of water at the base of the waterfall, getting soaked on the way. Inside the tunnel, they turned on the torches of their mobile phones to see, while the child simply ran on ahead unimpeded by the darkness.

The tunnel ended at a large open cave. The light from their phones would not penetrate the depths of the cave, but there were phosphorescent drawings on the walls. “They look like Aboriginal cave paintings,” Jo said.

“Except for the part where they glow in the dark,” Marissa responded.

“Except for that,” Jo agreed.

They’d almost lost sight of the child who continued running on into the dark. In the shadows, they saw two adult figures appear, and heard the child squeal with joy as she was picked up by the taller one.

The three agents and the family stood silently looking at each other across the gloom, then the family turned and left, going further into the dark.

Human Defence Unit Stories

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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