Wednesday, January 11, 2017
the girl in the forest
Pepper was floating out in the middle of the dam and Bren and I were chatting about something or other, or nothing, when one of us noticed that our dogs at the top of the hill were barking more than usual. At first we dismissed it and kept talking. But when it didn't stop and we listened closer, we heard another sound in amongst the barking. Bren thought it might have been the peacock that has recently made our garage roof its residence, I thought it might have been someone walking past on a forest track, or perhaps it might have even been a car coming up from our back gate.
But the barking continued and we still couldn't identify the other noise.
So Bren got in his car and drove up to the top of the hill to check it all out. By the time he got there the dogs had calmed down a bit but he could still hear shouting coming from somewhere in the forest and although he couldn't work out what it was about, something didn't feel right. So he went inside the house, put boots and socks on, grabbed his phone, some water and the first aid kit and drove out into the forest to look around.
Meanwhile Pepper and I were still down by the dam when the noise we'd heard amid the barking, suddenly became a very distinct scream. High pitched and terrified and LOUD! It was a girl's voice and she was screaming for help and the immediate phrase that jumped into my mind was blood curdling.
Every single hair on my body was sticking up and my heart was about to jump out of my chest but somehow I had to remain calm for Pepper. And as she screamed I imagined she was a girl who had been kidnapped years ago and held in a dark room somewhere but had now escaped and was terrified and running for her freedom. (Bren thinks I read too many scary books).
Even though the screaming continued, Bren meanwhile was much calmer and more rational than I. Thank goodness for Bren. His first thought was that someone had been bitten by a snake.
He drove out the back gate and slowly along a forest track when he saw the girl wandering through the trees looking quite distressed. He approached her carefully and cautiously. The sun was burning down, she was wearing a sun dress and had scratches all over her arms and legs.
As soon as she saw him with her big terrified eyes she started screaming. She was screaming for help, for her boyfriend, and for all sorts of other stuff too. That's what we must have heard down by the dam.
He told her that she was safe. He told her that he lived close by and had water for her to drink. And he asked her if she was hurt, or if she had taken any drugs, and what her name was. She screamed and screamed. And in between screams she told him that she had lost her friends and her boyfriend, SCREAM! She was 18 and from Melbourne, SCREAM! She wasn't on drugs but had borderline personality disorder, SCREAM!
In the middle of all this I called Bren, he'd been away for far too long and we were scared and stranded and worried about him. I never expected him to answer his phone, but thankfully he did. He briefly told me the story of the girl in the forest. He'd given her some water but she refused to get in his car. I told him I was going to call an ambulance.
In all my life I have never called 000 for emergency before but I'm pleased to report that I stayed calm and even though I couldn't answer a lot of the questions they asked me, I told them what I knew and they told me that they'd call Bren to fill in the blanks.
Meanwhile Bren had been surprised to watch as the distraught girl accepted his phone and using her two thumbs pressed in her boy friend's number. He was sure that her shaking fingers wouldn't have been able to hit their targets, but they did. He called the number twice and no one answered but then tried a third time and the boyfriend did.
The distressed girl was sitting on the ground crying. Bren was on the phone trying to make sense of what her boyfriend was saying, and then the ambulance called him, and then the police, and then just to add another call to all those he was juggling, me.
After he told us that he had spoken to her people and that the police and ambulance were on their way, I got Pepper out of the water and we walked barefoot back up to the house. She was intrigued and wanted to know every question the emergency services had asked me, and what my answers had been. She was fascinated by all the details and didn't seem frightened at all despite the thumping heart next to her, the hand gripping hers tightly, and the tears that streamed down my face as I told her about the poor, frightened girl in the forest.
When we'd been in the house for long enough for me to shower her off and make us both a cool drink, Bren came back home. We threw questions at him fast and wanted so many answers, but it took him quite some time to be able to respond. Poor thing.
The ambulance people had asked him a lot of questions on the phone and then told him what to do. He wasn't to give her any food or more to drink just in case, but he was to keep her safe if he could. When he worked out that the local police woman didn't know the forest tracks as well as he did, he'd made a plan to meet her on the main road. Luckily by this time he'd calmed the girl down enough to get her into his car, but she was very distressed when she learnt that the police were involved. She was worried she'd get into trouble.
When they arrived at the road they were met by three police cars, which is unheard of in this area, and the boyfriend and his family. The police interviewed Bren on one side of the car and the girl on the other. The boyfriend and his family were kept completely separate. She was still pretty upset and had her head in her hands, but they wouldn't let Bren answer for her, even the details he knew.
After a while they helped the girl out of the car and they let him go. Just like that. No one thanked him, or told him what had happened, or even what was going to happen. He just drove away.
Not long after he'd arrived home and finally started telling us his story, the ambulance arrived. Ours was the original address they'd been given but we'd assumed they'd be redirected when the girl had met up with the police. They'd even driven past all the police cars on their way to our place. We gave them all the information we knew and sent them on their way.
Half an hour later when we drove past on our way into town for dinner, all signs of the story were gone.
Had they taken her to hospital? Had this happened before? Where had she come from? Had she run away from them, or them from her?
Later that night as we got into bed my farmer boy couldn't close his eyes without seeing her. The next day when we went back down to the windmill dam to swim we listened for her.
I just hope that wherever she is, she feels safe.