A wheelbarrow awaited the couple in the carpark. They filled the tray
with their bags and led by torchlight winded their way through the
forest. The corrugated cabin sat in the center of the clearing. Aside
from it was a sole blue gum and a fire pit.
The couple slid their bags under the bed. The man turned on the heater.
He took out the box of groceries they had brought. He salted eggplant,
chopped mushrooms, mixed mirin and soy in a saucer. He boiled soba
noodles on the stove while the woman showered. She came out of the
bathroom with a face mask on. It was the color of coagulated blood.
They ate to the sound of field recordings on cassette tape. After
dinner, the man took a bag of kindling from behind the cabin and started
the fire. Smoke sidled up to the branches of the blue gum. A bat lifted
The woman joined him outside with a duffel bag in her hand. The man
added larger logs to the fire while she unzipped the bag, unspooled
rope, and fastened a series of knots: lark’s heads, Prusik’s, cross
hitches. She clipped carabiners to the snarls and tied them around the
The man took off his clothes. He knelt on a patch of decomposing leaves
between the tree and the fire. He closed his eyes and listened to
distant echolocations. The woman crouched to meet him. She moved through
each part of his body, tying limbs to limbs and his arms behind his
back. She hooked him to the ropes that circled the tree and pulled on
loose thread that was fed through one of the carabiners until the man’s
feet were dangling in the air. He exhaled a muffled moan that made small
ghosts in the air as she raised him higher and higher, his body curving
into a stiff parabola. The fire illuminated his exposed skin. His penis
reddened in the heat.
The woman went to bed with a book. She sipped ginger tea and nursed a
hot water bottle while reading about the consolations of philosophy,
finding no consolations at all. Before turning off the light, she wiped
condensation from the window to view her husband suspended between moon
and embers, the internal strictures of his body yielding to those she
In the morning, she woke to a vista. The amorphous black copse revealed
its iniquities in the half light. She drank coffee on the cabin steps
surrounded by shards of frost. An echidna waddled near her feet, unfazed
by the human intrusions, its soft body occluded by spikes. She
photographed the creature in its habitat—the image she would later
share with her friends as evidence of their night away—and then turned
to take the photo she would keep to herself: her husband’s limp but not
lifeless body in suspension.
The woman tidied the kitchen, packed their bags, and brought her husband
down. She wrapped his body in cashmere blankets and folded him into the
wheelbarrow. Halfway through the drive home, he began to stir, revived
by the heat coming out of the ducts. But when he tried to speak, his
voice slurred. His teeth chattered. His nose ran. He braced at every
sudden movement. His body was rubbed raw from the jute.
The couple’s home was perched on a corner block, the city outstretched
ahead, the forest visible in the east. The woman pulled into their
driveway, flanked on both sides by cream stones and cacti. She pressed
the button that opened their garage and, once inside, the button that
raised all the windows. Sunlight illuminated the parquet floors. All
eighteen rooms were austere, spotless, sterile. Except for that which
had been their son’s room. His posters were still blu-tacked to the
wall. The floor was strewn with school uniforms, with trash, with cum
socks gone moldy. His phantom pubescent scent lingered like incense
around an altar.
This is where the woman led her husband, where he curled up under the
duvet and shut his eyes. Once he had slept some, she brought him water
and food on a tray. She sat beside him as he ate. When he was done she
brushed his hair, humming homespun melodies as she looked into his
ice-clear eyes, searching for some sort of surfeit in the void.