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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Drackon Ridge
by Warren Roff-Marsh

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Nothing happened. Nor had anything remarkable happened for the past fifty years, by all accounts.

True, the daughter of the local café owner had run off with a passing truck driver a while back, but that hadn't really happened in Drackon Ridge. All that had taken place with Brenda had happened in the big smoke to the south. Drackon Ridge had seen nothing of the excitement, had witnessed nothing of the human drama.

Nothing happened. No breeze stirred the parchment-dry leaves on the dusty trees. No one came out of the café. But there, no one had gone in yet. The general store was hitched up like an old okker's pants, twin windows looking out on perpetual lethargy.

Nothing was likely to happen. There was no reason why Bill Brayden, a ruthlessly tanned grazier who had a scorched patch of dirt along the road a piece, should park his battered ute tidily. Nor did he even attempt to shut its door. That would have meant fumbling with bits of string and jumbled knots the size of his fist. He shrugged apathetically and strode towards the café, ignoring the squadron of flies that buzzed around his face, and disappeared inside.

Nothing happened. Then a lazy wisp of air stirred up the rancid bulldust in the middle of the road, a faint beginnings of a willy-willy. But even that died a premature death, leaving nothing in particular hanging in the listless air.

But there was something. Something that was sensed rather than heard. Something that lingered on the very edge of awareness. A distant roaring of impatient engines.

It was not the steady thunder of a truck that would most likely roar straight through Drackon Ridge without slowing even, but a weaving and surging of several smaller engines, hostile and mean.

No one came out of doors to see what was happening. Why should they? Nothing ever happened anyway.

The sound drew closer. It became obvious to the less refined senses. Had anyone looked, with shaded eyes, they would have detected numerous specks approaching, weaving about with scant regard for logic or road discipline.

There was a short space of time - a magical acoustic hiatus - when the approaching sound disappeared. Approaching sounds always did that. The slight dip in the dusty road hid sight and sound of approaching traffic as if nature were playing a joke on the inhabitants of Drackon Ridge. It just had to be a quixotic surprise. 'We didn't hear you coming, mate,' they always said. And quite truthfully too.

Nothing happened. Until the dip levelled out. And then it was too late. Without warning, a cluster of bikies rode breathlessly leather-clad into town. Twirling, twisting, weaving in and out, totally destroying the funereal calm of the place, riding with revving engines right up to the fronts of buildings as if tempting the people behind those closed doors to come out and protest.

No one did. Nothing happened.

The leader of the gang dismounted and stood in the centre of the road, hands on hips, one leg just touching the tank of his parked bike as if he couldn't bear to be parted from it for even an instant. He was a particularly ugly brute of a man, and even several layers of travel grime couldn't disguise an evil scar that only just missed his right eye, reminding the world of an incident that would be better forgotten.

He glanced round at his followers and shrugged. Much as Bill Brayden had done earlier, but with greater subtle emphasis, with more concentrated meaning. His second in command spat. Noisily. Voluminously. Spectacularly. Someone laughed. A brittle, dry sound that carried no mirth - simply nothing.

The leader pointed towards the café. A stiff, outheld arm with arrogant finger. A regal signification. The gang lumbered towards the café. Not in any sort of formation, just as they had ridden, but as a menacing body of humanity. A phalanx of menace. The door was thrust aside as a thing of no particular importance. A tinny, tiny bell jangled. The dried-out figure of a man behind the counter glanced up at the intruders. They had interrupted his private dreams of success.

Nothing was said. No word uttered.

The leader nodded. One of the gang picked up a box of tablets of chocolate from off the counter and weighed it speculatively in his gloved hand. He appeared vaguely amused. Without warning, he hurled it towards a tired and dusty display of knick-knacks which scattered under the impact. There was an almost silent splatter of falling confectionary that mocked the scattered knick-knacks.

Someone sniffed. Then all was quiet again.

The man behind the counter looked. Seemingly at nothing in particular. He was about to voice some sort of protest when Bill Brayden, whom no one had noticed until now, stood up and scratched the bulging front of his dusty jeans. He was grabbed by a couple of the gang and carelessly tossed through the window. There was no patter of gaudily wrapped chocolate this time, but a splintering crash, a cry and a distant thud of falling body.

This became the signal for the real job of destruction to begin - the first blood that started the battle. But it wasn't really a battle. It was too one-sided for that. The café owner stood helpless and horrified as the gang systematically wrecked the café and everything in it. There was no shouting, no unnecessary noise. Only purposeful destruction.

And that made the carnage even more horrible to witness.

The second window dissolved into shards of glass as the coffee machine hurtled through it. Light fittings were accompanied by showers of sparks as they were cursorily ripped from walls and ceiling. The ceiling fan continued to rotate, but its rotations became erratic as it scythed impassively to the littered floor of the café.

Still the man stood, terror-struck, and watched it all happen.

At last, the destruction was complete. There was nothing more to be smashed. Even crushables had been crushed beneath the heel of the boot. There was nothing left. There was nothing more to be done. The members of the gang stood still and looked impassively around them, as though disbelieving what they had just accomplished.

Silence fell. Nothing more seemed likely to happen.

Then one of the gang stepped forward. Not the tallest. Not the broadest. But a slender figure encased in regulation leather. The café owner tried to step back, but the wall behind his back prevented any evasive movement. His face evinced absolute hopelessness in that tender moment.

The gang member stopped and removed crash helmet with a flourish. Long blond hair cascaded over slender shoulders. 'Just dropped by to see you, dad,' a feminine voice remarked dryly. 'I wanted to thank you for all those years of sexual abuse I suffered at your tender hands.'

'Brenda...' her father gasped, holding out one hand in a gesture of doubtful integrity.

'Don't bother, dad,' Brenda returned with a smile. 'Don't bother preparing a welcome for me. I'm not stopping.' She tossed her hair. A fluid cascade of pure gold. 'I'm just passing through, like.'

'But Bill...' her father questioned. 'He was my friend. Why did you...?'

Brenda glanced over her shoulder to take in the figure that was still lying in the road, appearing to be chewing the dust that cradled his bleeding face. 'You never stopped him either, did you?' she challenged.

'I didn't know,' her father declared self-righteously.

'You knew,' Brenda replied. 'I tried telling you lots of times, but you wouldn't listen.'

Her father said nothing. He simply hung his head. He glanced apprehensively at two bikies who looked as though thy might lay their hands on him at any moment.

'Leave him,' Brenda decided.

And that was the signal for the gang to leave the café. Their job was done. They had accomplished what they had come for. They returned to their waiting bikes.

Engines were kicked into life. There was some weaving about, then they roared off in loose formation. After all, they'd only been passing through.

Bill Brayden lay unmoving in the dust surrounded by shards of broken glass.

Brenda's father surveyed the damage with sullen eyes.

No one appeared to see what the fuss was about.

But there, nothing much ever happened in Drackon Ridge.

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