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The Min Min Light

Tyto Alba

By E MPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 10 min read
Runner-Up in Return of the Night Owl Challenge
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Min Min Lights Sign, Boulia, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Terry wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his tanned forearm and knocked the brim of his akubra hat upwards so it teetered on the top of his forehead, allowing a cool breeze to temporarily waft at his temples. It felt good. Refreshing even.

He surveyed the scene in front of him, his gaze directed to the tree line at the edge of the dry paddock stretching out for miles. After a few moments, he pulled the brim of the hat back down snuggly to sit just above his eyebrows. He settled both his hands at his waist, thumbs tucked into his belt as he looked over his work with pride. A new fence for Mrs Wheeler. That’ll keep the cattle out for now. He thought to himself, as a hearty sigh puffed outward from his lungs, signalling the end of the job and of a hard day.

The Aussie outback was a tough work-yard, even at 47 years of age, Terry, born and bred just a few kilometers from the Wheelers farm, still wasn’t used to the harsh conditions of the summer heat. He’d heard the term ‘sunburnt country’ once from someone down the pub describing Australia and he thought it summed her up perfectly, well at least out here in the bush. He loved it though. He’d been to the cities of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne in his youth, searching for something to fill the void of a young man, but it was only when he returned home to the red-dirt heartland that he realised he was already fulfilled.

As the afternoon sun began to set, he gathered up his tools in his fathers old leather tool bag and walked towards his ute parked under the Bunya Pine tree. He had been moving it every hour or so, avoiding the sun, desperately trying to keep it in the shade all afternoon. Nothing worse than getting into a stinking hot car at the end of the day.

The car started and the local radio station blared loudly out of the dusty speakers. He turned it down immediately to a lower, more respectable level for 5pm. He certainly wasn’t as chirpy as he’d been earlier when he’d had it blaring. His back ached and there was a distinct smell of dirt and sweat, warmed from the sun, coming from his skin. He was tired and needed a beer. With that thought in his mind, Terry headed towards The Billon Roadhouse just out of town for a pint and a meal. He’d decided to head back to the Wheelers for his payment for the fencing job around 8pm when they’d finished their farm jobs and had their own dinner.

The Billon was quiet for a Wednesday. Only a few of the local crew had bothered to come in, probably because it was so hot. 5pm-6pm was ‘happy hour’ but Terry was a favourite of Brenda the barmaid so she pulled his pints cheaper every night. He’d went to school with one of her sons and she felt like a second mother to him. At 67 years old she was nearing retirement but swore they’d have to take her out of there in a box before she gave it up.

“A’right Terry love? Hard day?”, Brenda said as Terry walked to the bar taking his hat off and giving a friendly nod of the head to Allan who was sitting by the window. He smiled at Brenda and grabbed the cold beer she had already poured and took a swig before answering.

“Too right! Gee, she’s a hot one out there, 47 degrees in the sun they reckon”, he said before taking another drink.

“Oh yeah? Well I wouldn’t know, been in here all day. Lunch time was busy but it’s dead in here now for a Wednesday”, Brenda replied as she handed Terry a menu.

She needn’t have bothered though. Terry ordered the same thing he always did when he had dinner at the Billon, chicken-pie, chips and peas.

He scoffed the lot when it came, had another pint and some water and at 7.30pm he got ready to pay Brenda before heading back to the Wheelers.

“It’s the usual $20 love”, said Brenda as she rung up the bill on the old register behind the bar. Terry handed the cash over and took a mint from the bowl beside it.

“You off home now love?”.

“Nah, not quite yet. Gotta head back up to the Wheelers farm for payment for the fencing job, finished it up today”, replied Terry as he picked up his hat and keys to the ute.

“Oh yeah, well careful on the roads, watch out for those Min Min lights”, Brenda said cautiously, in her motherly tone. She said the same thing to everyone who left The Billon at night.

Terry couldn’t help but smile as she said it. The Min Min lights were a phenomenon in these parts of the Aussie outback. Terry had heard loads of stories over the years but was yet to encounter them himself. Brenda, on the other hand, like most of the locals, had had several encounters with the ‘lights’.

It was said that the Min Min could be one or multiple lights, usually white in colour although some appeared red or blue. People always said they felt the lights were following them on purpose and there had even been reports of early European settlers back in the 1800 and 1900’s shooting at them and the lights retreating, only to come closer when the gun was put away. Modern day witnesses would say they were UFO’s or spirits that watched over the land. Terry honestly hadn’t thought too much of it, but did enjoy the stories he heard on occasion in the pub.

“Yeah righto, will do”, he said with a smile and a nod before turning to walk out, waving at Allan, who was still by the window, on the way.

It was only a 20 minute drive back up to the Wheelers farm. As soon as Terry rounded the top of the hill he could see the start of the boundary to their land. It was dark now, the sun had set a few hours ago and the night sky was inky black. It was clear like it normally was out there, there was no moon and the stars shone in the sky but not brightly. It was dark-dark in the outback. Farm houses were kilometres apart and of course there were no street lamps on these roads.

Terry drove along in silence, he knew the road well and enjoyed the peacefulness and nothingness around him. It was like he was the only man on Earth at that moment in time.

After a few minutes more of driving his eye was caught by something. A white light had appeared in the distance off to his right. He was expecting the Wheelers farm house on the right so assumed it was the house and that the turn off must be coming up, although he questioned this in his mind as he felt it was still a few kilometres up the road. He was right. He drove on but no turn off appeared where the light was.

By this time the ute was parallel to the light so Terry could look out the drivers window and see it rather clearly.

He stopped the ute. A small, orb-like bright white light was hovering over the fields. He squinted his eyes to see if he could make out a silhouette, he couldn’t. He put his hand on the door handle to get out of the ute to investigate but he stopped himself. He looked in his rearview mirror, then out the front window and he suddenly felt very alone in the dark with this light. It was just him and it. He couldn’t get out. He started up the ignition and drove onwards to the Wheelers. The light moved with him, side by side, level with his car but still over the fields. Terry sped up, the light sped up. Terry slowed down, the light slowed down. He was starting to get that uneasy feeling in his gut as the turnoff to the Wheelers farm approached.

As he turned onto their long driveway towards their house, Terry noticed the light stopped and hovered at the entrance gate. It was like it was perched on the fence post keeping watch of Terry and the ute travelling towards the house. He kept his eye on it in the rearview mirror every couple of seconds and when he got to within a few meters of the house, the light seemed to dart off quickly and disappear completely in the direction it had come from.

Terry let out a deep sigh and wondered why he had been so effected by the light. Sure it was strange, but why had it felt that it was watching and actively following him. Although he was spooked, he shook it off and walked up the steps to the Wheelers and knocked on their front door.

“Hey mate! Good to see ya. Come on in”, said Mr Wheeler as he opened the door. Terry entered the warm glow of the house and took a seat at the kitchen table at Mrs Wheelers insistence.

“Cuppa tea Terry? I’m making Jim one anyway”, asked Mrs Wheeler, her back turned to Terry as she fiddled with the kettle.

Mr Wheeler had taken a seat beside him at the table and had a grin on his face.

“What’s up mate? You look spooked”, said Mr Wheeler, patting Terry on the back with his left hand. Terry turned towards him.

“I think I might’ve just seen a Min Min light”, said Terry. It fell out of his mouth before he could even think about what he was saying.

“A Min Min light eh? Where’ bouts?”, said Mr Wheeler interested.

“Down the road a bit, heading up this way to your turn off. Followed me along the road then disappeared when I came up the drive”, said Terry as he looked from Mr Wheeler to Mrs Wheeler who was putting the tea cups on the table.

“Oh well you do hear about that every now and then don’t you Jim”, said Mrs Wheeler, now sitting down to join them, holding her tea cup up to her lips, elbows leaning on the table.

“Yeah, ya do, but perfectly explainable”, said Mr Wheeler as he took a sip of his tea.

“Oh yeah?”, asked Terry. “‘Cause I’ve heard stories down the pub and most people think they’re UFO’s or ghostly spirits or something”, Terry continued.

“Ah forget all that bullshit!”, Mr Wheeler said as he flapped his hand in the air. “I’ll tell you exactly what it is. Tyto alba”, he said matter of factly.

“Tyto alba?

“Yeah, or more commonly known to you and I as the Barn Owl”, said Mr Wheeler.

There was silence for a moment before Terry grinned and questioned Mr Wheelers explanation.

“A barn owl? Mate, what’ve you been drinking! Last time I looked, barn owls don’t glow in the dark!”, said Terry teasingly.

Mrs Wheeler looked at her husband as he shifted in his chair and began to explain.

“Yes mate, a common bloody barn owl. It’s true! Ask the young Aboriginal fella that works in my shearing shed. He told me all about it. These Min Min lights everybody goes on about, the Aboriginals have been telling stories about them for thousands of years, it’s in their ancient Dreamtime stories. The barn owls have developed luminosity over all these years from eating luminous fungi! There’s scientists doing research on it and everything”.

“Well that’s the first I’ve ever heard of it”, said Terry in somewhat disbelief.

“It’s true Terry. Well at least I think so. I’ve seen them out the back here when I’ve been bringing in my washing and they do have the characteristics of an owl stalking prey in the fields at night. Heard a few hoots here and there too haven’t we Jim?”, said Mrs Wheeler truthfully as Mr Wheeler went to the living room to get something.

Terry thought about it and he supposed it could’ve been an owl, but a glowing owl from luminous fungi seemed a bit far fetched, even if the alternative was a UFO or a ghost. Mr Wheeler walked back into the kitchen with a book in his hand. He passed it to Terry with a page open reading;

In a number of rare observations a bird has been seen in association with the light. Some descriptions of the bird identify it as the Barn Owl Tyto alba.

“Here you go mate, there’s even a book been written about it”, he said to prove his point. “Take it home with ya and give it a read. Explains everything I reckon, then you can go down the pub and tell all that lot the truth!”.

The Min Min Light: The Visitor Who Never Arrives' by Fred Silcoc

Terry finished his tea whilst listening to more of Mr Wheelers Min Min Light stories and he shared some he’d heard from people down at the pub too. The whole time Mr Wheeler continued to vehemently insist the barn owl theory to be true. Terry still wasn’t convinced though and was feeling uneasy about all this talk. He still had a 20km drive home alone in the dark.

When it was time to leave, Terry stood up holding the black book with the white glowing barn owl on the front cover in his hand and got his fencing job money from Mr Wheeler.

They walked together to the front door and said their goodbyes. As Terry got in his ute, he waved at Mr and Mrs Wheeler standing at the threshold and he headed back down the driveway to the dark main road.

Low and behold as he approached the gate, there waiting for him was the light. Terry turned left onto the main road back into town and as he did the light followed him. Always parallel with the ute. When Terry sped up, it sped up. When Terry slowed down, it slowed down. He rolled his window down and listened for some owl-like noises to put his mind at ease. A screech or hoot but there was nothing. Just the hum of his engine speeding to get home and the fast beating of his heart.

Mystery
3

About the Creator

E M

Hey there! ☺️ Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you enjoy some of my work!

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Outstanding

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Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (3)

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  • Jyme Pride2 years ago

    I read this the other day and liked it so much, thought I'd read it again. You don't give yourself too much credit when you say you're not a pro at this. You know all the forms of usage and the style and flow--even with an energy that causes it to read smoothly and with clarity. I can understand why you win awards. (Smile)

  • Suzanne 2 years ago

    EM. This is wonderful. So creative and a perfect way to utilize the barn owl. I would have given you first prize! So very happy you were a runner up, you aced this. BTW. Have you watched the series:The Staircase? At one point there is a very interesting connection to the barn owl.

  • Nicely done! The Min Min Lights are comic book kitschy while the characters are down to earth and relatable even in the Outback.

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