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Listen to those little voices! - The Golden Queen

Where hidden secrets begin to wave their lying little fingers about, and if you're good enough to last the distance... you can come to tea!

By Kelly Sibley Published 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 17 min read

Chapter 7- Let’s go, Country! …It’s nice!

Ben Lee – Big Love / Even- Black Umbrella / The Waifs – People who think they can.

Northcliffe’s deli-come-petrol station and expansive bitumen carpark greeted me as I drove into this ‘last small town’ before my new home. A few supplies like milk and butter were needed. Those perishable items weren’t trusted to last the five-hour trip in my esky.

This quaint 1920s town had a look all of its own! Residents had thoughtfully painted native flowers onto the base of every power pole along the main roads. Not city flair… no major advertising campaign costing millions, just someone’s simple idea to make the town look pretty, stand out and be memorable. And it worked!

The store was nicely set out, containing everything from children’s toys to any variety of alcohol you could think of. Everyone’s needs met! With the local AM radio station playing in the background, I slowly wandered the shop until the delicious locally baked bread was found. From there, Jarrah honey from Pemberton, fruit, milk and butter from Northcliffe and Manjimup made it into my gleeful hands.

After nothing more could be held and the most ‘food-orientated’ nooks and crannies had been investigated, I slowly withdrew from Aladdin’s cave of hidden treasures to pay for all my purchases.

The lady behind the counter was a proud Maori woman who had been discussing local titbits with another grey-haired lady in the adjoining Bottle’O section but turned quickly to me with a smile as I reached the counter. Her long, thick black hair was starting to show signs of silver throughout its darkness, adding to her majesty. With a friendly greeting, she began ringing up my items; the fine-lined tribal tattoo on her lower lip moved gently with every spoken word.

“That’s $98.50; thanks, love.”

She smiled at me as I fumbled in my purse for my card. Her broad Kiwi accent rang out clearly as she spoke.

“So, you down here on holiday?”

It was nice being greeted by genuine interest. Not the corporate questions that most teenage checkout attendants are forced to regurgitate. Her deep, dark, friendly eyes showed the evident difference.

“Ah, no. I’m moving down to Windy Harbour.”

“Oh, right. …It’s such a lovely place.” A dark eyebrow was raised in question. “ …Do you have family there?”

Positively manic happiness rang out from my voice, “No! …No, I’m just the new Teacher.”

The lady’s eyebrows rose quickly on her forehead.  

I didn’t think this was ground-breaking news, but she had stopped all movement, fingers held in mid-air.  Then, ever so slowly, she turned to her friend in the side room, who had been packing wine bottles into a display but was now also frozen mid-action.

They both looked at each other, then back at me as I tried to cope with rising blood pressure and the rushing sound of building fear in my ears. Stiffening nervousness jumped up and waved its red panic flag in my stomach.

“What’s wrong?” came in a stammering rush from my nervous lips.

 “Oh, nothing, love, nothing!” The dark-haired lady snapped out of it, smiling away and processing my payment. “It’s lovely down there.”

The register draw popped open, and she slid the receipt into one of the drawers. Her eyes travelled from my nervous face to that of her concerned companion, two bottles of wine still held motionless and in mid-air.

The chest-thumping re-commenced as the lady with short hair cleared her throat and hissed out in a long vowel drawl, “Mona!”

The now newly named ‘Mona’ looked guiltily at me as she stammered. “It’s…. just… they’ve had a bit of a run of bad luck with their teachers.” She finished her statement with a nervous nod, “…just lately.”

Heat rushed to my cheeks as my stomach quickly turned into a tight, shivering knot.  “What kind of bad luck?”

Whispered recounts of poor graduate teachers being sent to the middle of bloody nowhere on a remote posting, now clambered for my attention. Some only lasted a day or, at best, a week before disserting their posts.  

Imagination scuttled out from behind a shelf and sidled up, whispering nervously into my ear, her 1920s hairdo not matching her 1950s dress, 'Remember at Uni, how we were told…' she looked at me with big doe eyes, 'about those poor young teachers who were…'

Mentally, I scolded her, ‘Yes… shh, I remember!’

She ignored me in her building rant, continuing on in a rush, ‘Remember Trish… remember how she got stalked and harassed …that lunatic parent always standing outside her classroom... doing the gun thing with his hands…’

I swallowed hard. ‘Yeah! I remembered as well how our stupid principal hadn’t done a damn thing about it!’

Trying to keep her fear under control, Imagination covered her mouth, smudging her fire engine red lipstick in the process before wailing, ‘Holy moly, what have you gotten us into?’

On the outside, I must have looked horrified because Mona quickly tried to calm me.

“Nah. …Nah, nothing wrong, love! Nothing awful!” Her strong Kiwi accent rang out clearly as she patted my hand. “Just, they keep sending people down here who aren’t suited to the…” she finished hesitantly, “isolation.”

She moved my frozen hand, which still contained my card, towards me. Mona’s comforting dark brown eyes smiled out at my quaking soul.

Realisation came, and stood by the counter in her dark business suit, raising one perfectly manicured eyebrow at me and the ‘chanting for calm’ Imagination. With folded arms of an expert investigator, Realisation sceptically drawled, ‘That’s not the reason!’

Clearing my throat in an attempt to hide my nerves, I stammer, “How many teachers haven’t ‘coped’ with the …isolation?”

The last was finished off dryly.

My heart clouted hard in my chest; it would obviously be more than one! Two wouldn’t be too bad. Three’s a concern. Four, well, that would be a big issue! And five… well, that’s just plain and simple panic stations! 

‘Be calm, Cassie, channel calmness…’ became my and Imagination’s mental mantra. ‘Some people have no idea what living outside the city is like. Some people have no idea at all.’

Imagination turned to me with big eyes, bursting with something new to torture me. ‘We’re going to die. We’re going to be grated on the road by nightmare fairies. We’re going to wish we never, ever, ever left the safety of home!’

‘Oh please, not again!’ came from Realisation, who was calmly looking through the magazine display.  ‘Fairies don’t exist. Ask them!' she nodded at Mona and her companion. 'Ask them what happened to the last teacher.’

“Three Teachers.” Mona looked at me guiltily as the other lady approached the counter, greeting me quietly.

Carefully, she continued, “Really, the Windy people are very kind. Their last long-term teacher was there for sixty-eight years. That’s Mrs Hope, she’s lovely! She even lives here now, just down Green Bushes Road.” Mona pointed her chin in the direction of the said Mrs Hope. “They’ve just had a little run of bad luck! You know, …city kids, not used to the bush.” Mona nodded at me, hoping to induce understanding.

I must have still looked a little stunned because she turned to the blond grey-haired lady for support, “Sheryl…”

The blue-eyed Sheryl looked at me with a quizzical eye, trying to work out if I was a city kid or not.

Taking a deep breath, the dissertation began.  

“Well, …born and raised in Bunbury, studied through UWA. Then worked and lived with my younger sister in a remote community before moving to Perth. So, remote’s not an issue.”

I knew I was talking myself into it. Internally reassured that not only had we survived my first position in Warri, but Chloe and I had come to love our time there. Windy Harbour was going to be a walk in the park. Isolation! My new home was only 25 minutes away from Northcliffe and 40 from Pemberton. Jeez, try four hours of hard driving before you even saw a petrol station. That was isolation!

The two ladies nodded in unison. “That’s it then.”, commented Mona positively, passing me my bag of groceries. “Sounds like you’ll totally fit in there!”

The other lady smiled encouragingly.

Realisation waited at the magazines as Imagination, and I tottered towards the door with gathered groceries, nodding back to them my thanks for their help. I was nearly out of the door with my nervous heart starting to slow down when Mona called out hesitantly.

“Just…” she stopped and looked at her friend as I turned. “It’s just… that the last young teacher, he got a bit hurt!”

‘Bingo!’ called Realisation. ‘And now you need to ask what REALLY happened!’

My eyes widened in concern. “What happened? Was it the fairies?”

For a second… you could have heard a pin drop.

Both Mona and Sheryl jumped in with waving, calming hands. “No, no... no! No!”

“That’s just silly talk by silly people. Toby was… well…” Mona swallowed as her words died in transition.

“It was all very messy. He… just didn’t…” Sheryl's thoughts faced the same fate as her companions. “You know how it is. He just didn’t cope with the isolation. He… just drank a bit… too… much and left Windy… when.. he shouldn’t of.” Her blue eyes wandered around the front counter.

‘Liar, liar plaits on fire!’ Realisation didn’t even bother to put her magazine down; she simply kept flipping disinterestedly through the scrag-mag.

“Did the people at Windy Harbour drive him to it?” I couldn’t help it; the thought just popped out of my mind and onto my tongue.

Mona laughed nervously, “Oh goodness, love. No!... Not by the Windy… people!”

Sheryl continued calmly, “He had a car accident in town, you see. It’s just… if you decide not to stay, don’t pack up and leave during the night.”

“When you’re drunk.” Pipped up the helpful Mona.

 “That’s right when you’re a bit… Anyway, just wait till first light, then go. The Windy roads a good road, but it’s…”

Mona looked panicked back at her friend, who again, it seemed, had run out of steam, but then she managed to stammer out a stilted explanation to finish off her friend's thoughts. “It’s… a… bit… dangerous at night.”

Sheryl was nodding at me again as Realisation, who stood by the cheese deli, called out in a long sing-songy drawl, ‘Bullshit! What was it, make up your minds, liars?' She finally looked up from her mag and caught my questioning look. 'Was he driving to or going home from the pub? Was he drunk on the way to the pub or on the way home? Jeeze, I wish people would keep track of their crap and keep their stories straight.’

“I thought he got drunk in the Pub, and the accident happened on the way back to Windy.”

Silence roamed the deli, drawing attention to any little sound.

“Oh… Ahh, well, not… quite… um.” Sheryl continued nervously, “Just don’t drive by yourself at night down that road. It’s the moon!”  She was getting edgy as I looked at her with growing concern and raised eyebrows.

Mona took over once again, her tone light and easy-going. “Yeah! They say it’s the stones used in the road. Makes it shine terribly bright on full moons. Brings out the Roos and Emus and makes …the lights… look funny… Best to just wait till morning. Don’t be like Toby.”

Smiling my most - well, I smiled weirdly at them and left, saying, “Thank you. See you soon.” They both looked and waved anxiously as I toddled outside, my head spinning with trepidation.

‘Holy Moly’, what was I getting myself into? Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Please no!

Sitting in my car, looking at all my possessions stuffed up to the roof and in every available crevice. My wide, worried green eyes stared back at me from the rear-view mirror.

“Well… choice time, my girl! What do we do? Turn around and go back to Perth? Back to our old, unhappy, empty life?” …Hmm? Resilience and Realisation, who uncomfortably shared the front seat, desperately shook their heads in unanimous agreement. 

No! Going back with my tail between my legs wasn’t an option. I stared back at my reflection whilst thinking about how I would be explaining to everyone I hadn’t even made it to my destination before backing out and bolting home to Perth.

“Nope, too much to bear!”

The image of Carl’s smirking, condescending face when he found out caused a heart thump.

“Well, not an option then. The tail doesn’t go between our legs, and we don’t skulk our way home. We boldly go into the unknown, come what may!”

Nodding in agreeance with Resilience cheered, “Sounds like a plan!”

Back to the rear-view mirror for self-affirmation time.

“We can do this, Cass! We’ve been through worse and survived! We can do this, Cass! Yes. Yes, we can! Be brave! What was that we said to the trees? …We’re free! Don’t give that up in a hurry!” Nodding to my reflection whilst murmuring, “Celebrate the day. Enjoy the night. Live, love and have a bloody good time doing it.”

 A polite cough outside the car drew my attention.

An old lady sat on the white bench beside my car, looking straight at me through the driver’s window. A walking stick lay across her delicate floral dress-covered lap. Sensible white low-heeled shoes covering old feet with stocking legs. Her wrinkled skin hung from a strong square jaw. Snow-white hair cut short at the back and then brushed firmly off her forehead, framed by a healthy pink blush on each cheek. One of her delicate grey eyebrows was raised over a piercing blue eye. She stared as if trying to make her mind up. Was I insane… or not? 

Quietly to myself, I mumbled, “Just great!” as I wound down the window.

“Ha!” escaped my nervous lips as I stared into her steel gaze.

She didn’t look amused; her eyebrow continued to travel up her forehead.

Anxiously beaming, the explanations continued. “Hi, I’m Cassie …Salvador. I’m the new Windy Harbour teacher!” 

Internally, I thought, ‘Goodness, I’m such a nut case! Why do I keep embarrassing myself like this? Three times in one day, not quite my record, but getting close!’

The old lady looked at me and nodded slowly as if being a teacher was all the explanation she needed for my strange behaviour. In a slow drawl, she questioned, “How long have you been teaching?”

Jauntily, I replied, “Six years. …Two in a remote post, and four in a northern suburbs school.” Once again, the moronic grin plastered my face.

She looked me up and down and then at my over-stuffed car. “Oh, …just starting out then! Leafy Green?”

My ire rose at her dismissive response. “No. In the suburb of Walgar! Probably as far away from Leafy Green as you can get. But good solid people!”

“Hmph!” She smirked and stubbed at the ground with her stick, which looked like a branch purposefully grown in the shape of a walking stick. Steel blue eyes flashed directly back. It was all I could do to meet their cobalt gaze.

“If you’re going to run, then run in the day. Don’t be stupid and run at night. If you’re any good, stick it out; it’ll be exactly what you’re looking for. It’ll be the making of you! But you’d better be good!”

Her blue eyes blazed the seriousness of her intent deep into my mind.

“Otherwise, you’ll end up like the other… frightened, stupid little mice who ran and got their tails chopped off!”

Oh, my good goddess!  What is it with this road fixation and not driving at night? How parochial are these odd people? But It was all I could do not to nod and say, …yes Miss, …no Miss, …I will Miss... Instead, what came out was a simple monotone…

“Yes, Mrs Hope!”

That startled her! The grey eyebrow was raised a little higher.

“Well, even if he doesn’t think so, that’s a tick in the right box. …Surprising!”

Mrs Hope looked at me again, this time with both eyebrows knitting together in thought. In her opinion, it would only be a short matter of time before I high-tailed it out of Windy Harbour.

What can I say… it really grinds my gears when someone who doesn’t know me judges me!

Revenge, whispered from somewhere in the cramped back seat, ‘Smack her in the moosh, then drive away really fast!’

“Any more advice… Mrs Hope?” By my tone, I was being rude. But… so was she!

Her blue eyes blazed in response, “Yes! Never say please, but always say thank you!”

Mrs Hope pushed her way off the bench and turned as if to walk away, then stopped and nailed me with a cobalt blue stare. 

“If you survive the first month, you can come and have tea. …If you survive!”

As quick as that, she was striding down the concrete paver pathway towards a group of timber houses nestled happily together in the encroaching bush; her walking stick tapped ferociously as she moved.

Before my brain engaged itself and shut my mouth, I called out, “Thank you, Mrs Hope!”

That didn’t satisfy Revenge, who wrestled control over my vocal cords and called out as sweet as vinegar, ‘I’m a Vegan, though!’

Without bothering to stop, Mrs Hope gruffly called over her shoulder, “You’ll eat my lamb and love it!”

Now that I had managed to regain ownership of my vocal cords, “Thank you!” was called back politely.

The striding Mrs Hope waved a dismissive hand behind her as if to brush away this ridiculous person she was forced to talk to. I was a pain in the arse. It was obvious; this was precisely what she thought of me!

This was the usual behaviour amongst older teachers towards younger ones, especially in challenging schools. You were given advice and told how to survive. If you were smart, you listened and followed the free counsel to the letter! Then, after they saw you were good enough to endure, they’d help you a bit more. Until one day, you were helped into the fold, becoming a member of the sacred staff room!

Don’t listen. Don’t pay attention to their first advances. Try and tell the senior, more experienced teachers how it’s done, and they will leave you to it! If they’re polite people, the teacher nearest your class will release you from your storage room before everyone goes home. That’s right, the one you got locked into by the sneaky little devil’s spawn! The ones they call the Year 2’s.

“Right at the back there, Miss! See the art paper. …Right back there! Right in the far back corner! That’s the one we’d love you to get.”

I must say, though, if you’ve ignored and devalued the experienced teacher’s advice and really pissed them off as a collective, then it will be left up to the cleaners to let you out. Once that happens… Everyone knows, and nobody’s got time for the idiot who got locked in! You don’t survive a school where no one respects you. And having the respect of your experienced colleagues, as well as that of the cleaners, …is very, very important!

Mrs Hope made me feel very single-minded. I was no clueless graduate who didn’t know where anything was. I always listened to advice and never got locked in my storage room! Locked a kid in there once to prove a point, but I never got locked in myself! And as far as the cleaners went, in my opinion, they were some of the nicest people you could have the best whinge sessions with!

Driving down Windy Harbour Road, the realisation that I had something to prove grew inside. Prove it to all my abandoning friends, Mrs Hope, my family, Carl and Chloe. But most of all, I had to prove it to myself! I was not weak. I was tough. I had gotten through the last three months and survived. I was not going to run like a little blind mouse and end up having my tail cut off! I was going to pick up the carving knife and chase anyone who gave me a hard time. I was not weak! A little crazy chick with a big heart… yes, but not weak!

Admittedly, …I was slightly worried about my sanity. Especially with the; ‘Picnic table incident.’ ‘The shadow in the forest incident!’ ‘The eyes incident.’ ‘The almost being killed incident.’ ‘Feeling like I was being watched.’ ‘Talking to trees.’ But hey, I wasn’t talking to myse... Yes… I was talking to myself, but at least what I said made sense!

Never say please to a class, but always say thank you! I knew exactly what she meant!

And if you want to listen to something else! - My horror stories performed by Wilhelm Presents; Frightening Tales.

Never be afraid to put yourself out there; you never know who's reading.

Thank you for taking the time to read my work.

I hope you've enjoyed it.

Thanks to those who are subscribing!

And many thanks to Editor in Chief - Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock - who has a much cooler last name than I do! (Many thanks for your kindness and close eye.)


About the Creator

Kelly Sibley

I have a dark sense of humour, which pervades most of what I write. I'm dyslexic, which pervades most of what I write. My horror work is performed by Mark Wilhem / Frightening Tales. Pandora's Box of Infinite Stories is growing on Substack

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock3 months ago

    This is some more marvelous work here, Kelly. The story becomes more & more compelling with each passing word, sentence, paragraph & chapter. I can't wait to find out what it is about the road at night. Thanks for the shoutout, btw. You are far too kind.

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