Felix wasn’t sure where he was headed at first – everything seemed unfamiliar. It shouldn’t have seemed so strange, as he’d walked the paddocks of his home at night so many times, but tonight, with the rain pouring and thunder rumbling in the distance, the Australian outback seemed completely reimagined.
He’d snuck out again. Both of his parents were asleep. Well, he didn’t really sneak out, as he didn’t live in the main house – he lived in the dairy on the other side of the house paddock – but he was still outside when he wasn’t supposed to be. Something had called to him, a voice in the back of his mind telling him that tonight was the night to be outside. So he’d listened, grabbed his scarf, jacket and raincoat, and ventured out to the back paddock in the rain.
The cows had been moved a few days earlier, so there were no animals in this paddock today. Felix thought that this was a good thing, because no cows or sheep would wake and announce his presence.
Felix’s feet took him down the paddock, through the gate and down the hill to a huge fallen tree that had been there for as long as he could remember. “The Log”, as he’d always called it. He’d always loved playing down here, whether it be on his own or with friends (usually Ken and Mark, and sometimes Marzia and Mary). He smiled as the familiar silhouette came into view. Finally, something that seemed normal.
But something – that voice – in the back of his mind told him not to smile. He could feel it in his gut: something wasn’t quite right.
He kept walking, pulling up his scarf to cover his mouth and nose. His hand reached out to the Log before he got there, itching to feel the rough bark that he knew so well underneath his fingertips. He stopped, however, when he heard soft whimpers amongst the rain.
Felix tried to locate the sound, but it seemed to echo. Annoyed, he walked along the Log when a strangle blob of white caught his eye.
Was it a dog? Felix slowly moved closer, trying not to make any sudden movements in case he scared it.
When he got closer, he saw that it wasn’t a dog at all – it was… well, he wasn’t entirely sure. It didn’t look like an animal at all, at least not any animal that Felix had ever seen. It was purely white, with two stumpy legs pulled up to its chest and its large white head resting on its knees. Felix imagined that if the thing had arms, they would have been wrapped around its legs. The shape of it was almost like a child, except for the pure whiteness of it. It had one long tuft of hair on the top of its head that drooped to the ground, weight down by the rain. It seemed to be shivering.
Felix bobbed down, staring at it. It raised its head a little bit, and Felix saw that it had two black eyes and a long white line that he assumed was the mouth. It blinked at him, and then stared back.
“Hey there,” Felix said softly. “Are you okay?” It didn’t answer, it just stared and shivered. “I guess you can’t understand me, huh?” Felix smiled a little and slowly lifted his hand towards the creature.
It flinched away and Felix froze. It stared at him, and Felix was sure he could see fear, confusion and pain flicker through the creature’s dark eyes. His heart went out to the strange creature, and he wanted to help it.
“It’s okay,” he said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help, okay?”
The creature tilted its head to the side a little bit, and Felix realised that it could understand every word that he said. The creature relaxed, and Felix reached out again.
This time, it let him gently touch it on the top of its head, and Felix was amazed to see that the creature’s skin felt unlike anything he’d touched before. It was similar to human skin, but had the toughness of a horse’s hide, and it was warm despite the cold rain. His eyes widened in surprise when the creature leaned into his hand, like it was desperate for affection. Its eyes closed slightly, like it was content, but it still looked at him.
It opened its mouth slightly, like it was going to say something. Felix waited patiently, aware that the rain was still pouring down around them both.
It took a deep breath, and its straight-line mouth curved upwards into a small smile. “Sup,” it said in a deep humanlike voice, though its voice cracked in the middle, like it hadn’t spoken in hours.
Felix knew what he had to do. He took his hand away so he could take off his raincoat. It was the creature’s turn to widen its eyes in surprise, but didn’t resist as Felix gently wrapped the coat around it. He zipped up the coat and gently picked the creature up, noting that it was slightly heavier than he thought it would be – about the weight of a seven-year-old. He saw that it had been leaning on a human-sized backpack, and he picked that up too and swung it onto his back as he stood up.
“You’re gonna have to lean against me,” Felix said quietly. “This is going to be a little awkward.” The creature nodded and Felix pulled the hood up over its head before pulling his own jacket hood up over his golden-blond hair. The creature leaned its weight against his chest, still shivering.
Felix managed to make his way up the hill, but the challenge was the gate. He shifted the creature’s weight to one arm and awkwardly used the other arm to unlock the gate and relock it behind him. He did the same with the gate to the house paddock and the door to his dairy house.
Once inside, he shucked off his wet shoes and pushed his hood off, heading straight to the bathroom. He gently set the creature, still wrapped in his raincoat, down on the mat in front of the shower and shrugged the backpack and his own soaking-wet jacket off before getting some towels.
“Jävla helvete,” he shivered, but pushed aside his own low body temperature so he could take care of the strange creature he’d brought back to the dairy.
The creature was still shivering as he unzipped the raincoat and set it aside. The creature’s white skin was dripping with water and he grabbed a towel and started drying it off.
“What are you?” he mumbled to himself as he gently rubbed the towel over the creature’s skin. It tilted its head, and Felix knew that it had heard him. Felix shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen anything like you before,” he said. “I don’t know what you are.”
It blinked, and Felix sighed.
“I do know that you can understand everything I’m saying, though,” he went on. “And I know that you can speak English.” It nodded. “Do you talk much?” It shook its head, and Felix nodded to show he understood. “That’s okay, I probably talk enough for both of us,” he joked with a wink, and the creature smiled again. It lifted up its short, stumpy leg so Felix could keep drying. “Do you have a name, little guy?” Felix asked.
Its smile fell and its head drooped slightly in silence.
Felix smiled. “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me,” he assured. “Okay, I think I’m done.” The creature nodded and smiled. “I have a place you can sleep if you want?” The creature nodded slowly, as if unsure.
Felix went and opened the door out to the hallway. He looked back to see that the little creature was walking quickly behind him, moving its short legs quickly to keep up. Felix grinned – it was adorable. He let it through the door and followed, closing the door behind himself.
The creature followed as Felix led it to his bedroom, and he opened the door to let it in. The creature looked around, wide-eyed, before looking back up at Felix and tilting its head to the side slightly. Confusion?
Felix smiled. “It’s okay,” he said. “You can sleep here if you like. I normally sleep out in the lounge anyway.”
The creature still looked uncertain, and Felix was shocked. This creature was communicating human emotions to him without words, like a human would.
What the hell is this thing?
Felix bobbed down and patted its head. The corners of its mouth turned up slightly. “It’s fine, really,” he insisted. “Like I said, I do sleep in the lounge most of the time over the holidays. Movies and video games, and all.”
Now the creature was smiling a small smile. It seemed to agree.
“I’ll tell you what,” Felix said. “Let’s get you into bed, I’ll go have a shower, and in the morning we can talk if you want, okay?”
The creature hesitated, but eventually nodded.
“Okay,” Felix said brightly. “Come on, then.” He held out his arms, and the creature stepped forward and let him pick it up. He stood up and carried it over to the bed, gently laying it down and pulling the thick doona over it. He touched the top of its head one more time. “I’ll leave all the doors open, so you can come and find me if you need me, okay?” he said, and the creature smiled, its eyes finally drooping closed. “G’night.” Felix smiled and went to gather up some clothes for a shower.
When he returned and peeked into the room, the creature seemed to be asleep. So Felix retreated to the lounge and quietly put on a movie. Nothing gory, nothing horror, nothing too loud, just something quiet that might put him to sleep.
When he finally did fall asleep, the last thing on his mind was the little white creature sleeping in his bed.