Drawing of a large rock that looks vaguely similar to Ularu in a red desert. Caption reads: "It's a big lump of rock in the desert."

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Rock short story by Iris Carden

Settle in, dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Paula, who thought her opinion mattered more than anyone else’s.

Paula was famous, mostly for expressing herself very loudly and offensively. Her long-suffering assistant Carol did her best to regulate the verbal diarrhoea that found its way to the media.

Paula’s latest obsession was The Rock. It had had a perfectly respectable English name ever since it had been discovered. Now Aboriginal people wanted to change the name to some made-up word. Worse, they wanted to prevent people from climbing on it, ignoring the tourist industry and the freedom of people like her to do anything they felt like.

“To be fair, they discovered it, and named it, long before any white person did,” Carol said.

“They say it’s some special religious site. It’s not like it’s a cathedral or any building at all really. It’s just a rock. It’s a bloody great big rock in the middle of the desert. It’s nothing.”

“If it’s nothing, why are you so upset about it?” Carol asked.

“You’re supposed to be my assistant, not attacking me!” Paula yelled.

“Just asking what the media will ask when you inevitably say that publicly. So why are you upset about this rock you say is nothing?”

“Right, well. If we’re practicing for the media, then it’s because it’s just another part of this woke culture, taking away our rights. White people are going to be second class citizens in our own country. You know full well I’m not racist, but Aboriginal people have an unfair advantage over the rest of us.”

“Yeah, with their high poverty levels and low life expectancy, who wouldn’t be jealous of their advantages?” Carol needed a break. “I’m taking my lunch break. Going to check out that new sushi place. Do you want me to bring you back some?”

“Sushi? That Asian muck? No. Pick me up some fish and chips on your way back.”

While Carol took a few precious moments of quiet and reflected on the life choices that got her into this awful job, Paula was left alone to think.

Paula, dear readers, should never be left alone to think. She formulated an outrageous plan. She was going to climb that rock. She was going to have Carol call all the media outlets to witness the event. Had Carol been there and not waiting in line for a couple of chicken teriyaki sushi rolls, Carol might have pointed out that Paula was middle-aged, unfit, afraid of heights, and had no idea how different the desert was from her air-conditioned city office.

The day came. The red desert was unbelievably hot. Carol urged Paula to take a water bottle on her climb. Paula told her she could carry it, since she was climbing too. Carol looked at the Rock. At the indigenous people quietly standing in a dignified protest, and the cameras and made a long overdue decision.

She handed Paula the water bottle and said, “I quit.” She walked over to the protesters, and stood silently beside them.

Paula started to climb. After the first ten steps, she knew she’d made a mistake. After twenty steps up the sharply-angled rock face, she started to wonder if there was a way to back out of this without losing face. At twenty-five steps, she looked around, was horrified at how high she was, and yet how little of the distance she’d traversed.

She froze. She started to cry. She struggled to breathe.

Sitting down, she looked back over the gathered journalists and camera people, the indigenous protest, and Carol, standing, watching her make a fool of herself.

Well, she would not give up. She would show them all. Practically crawling, she went on a little further, and fell down a crack in the rock.

Indigenous rangers would fail to find her, because she wasn’t there.

Paula landed in a very strange place. Animals were speaking, not in a sensible language like English, but some garbled sound she didn’t understand. Two groups of giant snakes appeared to be fighting each other. One tail hit her and sent her flying to another place on the rock, where kangaroos or wallabies or something similar were sitting around a campfire, talking in the strange language. A lizard moved languidly from under the shade of an overhang, and spoke to her in what might have been that same language she didn’t understand.

So, dear reader, we leave Paula in her new home. At least she’s safe from all those horrible people who disagree with her opinions.

This is fiction any resemblance to anyone living, dead, or getting sushi for lunch in a television commercial is coincidental.

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

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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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