Short Stories

The Sky Above the Well

Would the killer hear me and come back to finish the job

I don’t know how long I had been lying there when I regained consciousness. I was confused as to where I was. All I felt was the pain, it felt like I had broken into pieces. I was too scared to move any part of my body. I was never good at coping with any pain. For a while, I did not dare to make a sound either. I was trying to make sense of what had happened to me.

I was surrounded by darkness. All I could see was the light above me.

A circle of light. Not a very bright circle though. Could it be the light that people talked about – the light at the end of the tunnel? Someone told me once that she saw the light at the end of the tunnel twice but she pulled through and came back to life. Twice, wow. Who told me that? Let’s think. I couldn’t think, the pain was affecting my brain. How could I feel so much pain? Maybe I was already dead!

Oh, I remembered she said she got a peaceful and warm feeling all over. All the pain and feeling of being unwell had disappeared. Aha, I remembered, she was the lady I had met in my bible study classes. She had grey hair with a pair of sad eyes. That’s right, she told us while we had a coffee break.

If that was not the light at the end of the tunnel, what was it then? It was not candlelight because it was not flickering and it was far too large to be candlelight. What was I thinking? That wasn’t any ordinary light, it was the sky above the well.

I remembered I had been standing on the edge of the well, looking curiously into the black hole, wondering how you pulled water from a well without a bucket and pulley or a pump? Suddenly I was hit on my head and lost my balance, falling into the well feet first.

My last memory was screaming on the way down, hoping there was plenty of water to save me.

There was no water in the well. That’s why I was hurting so much now, because I had landed in a dry well.

“Help!” I stopped myself before I started to shout. I had to think carefully before I took any action.

Oh no. I was scared by my last memory. I believed that someone was trying to kill me. I was lying down at the bottom of a well. Where was the killer? If he or she knew I was still alive, would he or she do me more harm? What would he or she do?

“Please God, let someone find me before the killer does me more harm.” God must have been on a break or I was closer to hell than heaven because he couldn’t hear me.

It was a very deep well. Wells were always very deep, weren’t they? I was sure that just another couple of inches down could well be the entrance to hell.

My pain was excruciating. God please shorten your break and come back to save me and stop my pain.

I know you are busy. Millions of people pray to you every second of the day. I was not demanding that you should help me first, but maybe I should remind you that you took both of my parents away a year and a half ago, and made me an orphan. I couldn’t even get up in the morning at one stage. All I did was cry and cry. I am not complaining, but that was cruel, so very cruel. Maybe you could consider me a priority? Please, pretty please?

If my Mum and Dad were here, they would look for me, I know they would, but you took them away. I am not going to tell you how I suffered after they had gone, I am simply asking you to help me.

Was there any way to get up to the top of the well?

If I called out for help, would the killer hear me and come back to finish the job?

Why would someone want to kill me? What had I done to deserve it?

I could touch the wall of the well. My right arm was a bit sore but it was ok. God, thank you, it hadn’t broken into pieces. Ouch, my left arm hurt but it was ok. It was still intact and connected to my shoulder. Oh my legs, they hurt so badly. I couldn’t move, how was I going to climb up to the top of the well?

I had to think, yes concentrate and think. I had to figure out who my enemy was. If he or she came near the well, I had to pretend I was dead.

*        *        *

Who wanted me dead? Why?

Jim? My crippled father-in-law? He was the only one who had nothing to do all day long. A person who has nothing to do usually gets into mischief. His twisted face looked like he held a grudge against the whole world. I couldn’t understand a word he said. He had had a stroke two years ago that paralysed part of his body. He was hardly able to move or walk. He would not be able to hit a fly, how could he try to kill me? Don’t be silly Ellie, although… nah, Jim was harmless.

How about Margarita? She had no reason to want me dead. She should be glad there’s another woman living on the farm. She wouldn’t be the killer. Why would she want to kill me? I gave her a hand and helped her to do some stuff around the house. I would be glad if I was her.

Talk about unhappy, she had a most unhappy face. If I lived on a farm for twenty-five years, never travelled anywhere or did anything, other than the cooking and cleaning for a bunch of men who worked in the dirt, day in and day out, I would be unhappy too. She said she hadn’t been to a cinema since she had had her daughter. Peter told me her daughter had run away with a seasonal worker a few months ago. It was pretty tough for her, I thought!

Darren told me Margarita’s daughter looked like Steve’s sister Tammy. What had he been trying to say to me? That Steve was her father? Oh please!

Well, Darren, how about Darren? I heard Joe say to him, “You should be behind bars. That’s where you belong.”

What had Joe meant? Was Darren a criminal? What kind of criminal was he? A white collar criminal? Violence? Homicide? Had he killed someone? Was he a serial killer? Only killing could satisfy his anxiety?

What about Joe? His body was covered with tattoos. I never even dared to look at them. I read in the paper once that most criminals in jail had tattoos.

I had had my ears pierced once, just one small hole in each ear. I had had an infection for many days. Boy, oh boy, it had been a painful experience. Never ever again would I let anyone use a needle to prick me. Tattoos were all done by needles weren’t they? My goodness, they must really hurt.

Those who don’t feel pain have less feeling for the suffering of others, right? Why would he care what I felt falling down the well? I was just another woman. A generation or two ago, women were merely there to run a household. Country people may still have that attitude.

Peter seemed quite an honest man, but how would I know? I shouldn’t assume anything, I should consider all possibilities.

He was friendly, liked to talk. I didn’t mind him. He had given me lots of information about the farm, making me aware of things that happened around us. He had been born and raised in the city but had chosen to live in the country. He said he couldn’t cope with the hustle and bustle of city life. He loved to get his hands dirty.

I didn’t think that gentle soul would hurt a fly but I would keep my antenna up till I was safe and well.

Michelle’s brother David was opposite to Peter. He was so…I didn’t know, so weird? He often stared at me, his eyes like an eagle’s, cold and emotionless. When I looked at him, he would close his eyes or turn his face away. Talk about unfriendly. He was not like Michelle at all.

Pity! He was probably the best looking man on the farm. Tall, clean, walked like he was the king of England. Steve spoke very highly of him.

Oh Steve, my husband!

I mustn’t think that way, it could not be Steve! No, I refused to suspect him, anyone but not him.

My sweetheart Steve! How I remembered our love at first sight. It had been instant fireworks when we met, hadn’t it? Everyone could see the sparks bursting into the air. We only had eyes for each other. The rest of the world had nothing to do with us.

He wasn’t your average farmer. He was clean shaven, dressed like a modern city bloke with polished shoes. He was outgoing, polite, funny and incredibly handsome. Yes, he was!

We talked and talked. Like long lost friends, we couldn’t stop. I never knew anyone who had as much in common with me as Steve. He knew my favourite song “Move On” as well as me. It was so incredible how he knew all the lyrics and could sing the whole song too:

Draw away the curtains, let the light in

Let go of the past, sweep it into the bin

Compromise can be a good thing, but not at the cost of one’s value and belief

One should change the negative atmosphere into positive relief

Shake off the old emotion

Get moving in a new direction

Move on

Life is great, move on

Keep that flood of emotion under control

Fine promises take their toll

Green lights are everywhere

Why get stuck at the red and go nowhere

Shake off the unwanted emotion

Get moving in an improved direction

Move on

Life is great, move on

Keep the engine running and steady

While the windshield looks a bit cloudy

Once the windshield is clear

Kick the motor into gear

Shake off the rejected emotion

Get moving in a fresh direction

Move on

Life is great, move on

Initiate the action

Thoughts being acted upon

It’s like re-charging your internal battery

Stop losing your dignity

Shake off the unwanted emotion

Get moving in a better direction

Move on

Life is great, move on

Make a real effort

Head towards the exit

One’s efforts will be rewarded in the long term

Do not hesitate to choose and stay firm

Shake off the unwanted emotion

Get moving in a better direction

Move on

Life is great, move on

How about that? So cool, wasn’t it?

Once when I had been singing the song, Jason had said “Change to another tune would ya? Did ya make it up? Keep ya day job. Ya aren’t going to make it as a singer or song writer.”

What had I ever seen in him? I had totally wasted years of my life with him. Dad had been right. He was always right and he had not been worth my affection. Two years of my life I’d never get back. Why had I done it to myself?

*        *        *

Ah, God, help me, I couldn’t take the pain any more…

Listen! Someone was calling me. Mum, is that you? Dad?

Mum, Dad, do you remember the last time I visited your grave, I told you that I met Steve through Michelle? I took him home and the next day he proposed.

We got married at the birth and marriage registry.

Steve said we could have a reception later when the farm was not so busy. He wanted to do things the right way. He didn’t want others to look at me as his defacto wife. He wanted to introduce me to others as his wife.

On our way to the registry, Steve told me that he had made an appointment with his lawyer after the wedding. He wanted to make me his beneficiary if anything should happen to him. That meant the 800 acres of farmland would be mine.

He said his father’s future arrangements would be taken care of if he outlived him. His sisters would have their share of the property from their mother’s inheritance.

I was so touched and cried.

Steve said, “Don’t cry. I hope we have children. When that happens, you and the children can live comfortably. I am not ready to go just yet. I have lots of happy times to share with you before I am ready to go.”

When we were in the lawyer’s office, I told the lawyer I wanted a will drawn up as well, leaving everything to Steve – my house, your Toorak house, the Sorrento house and all the company shares. Mum, I left your jewellery to Aunty Dot. She was your closest friend and she would like that.

Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t have done that.

Steve had taken over the responsibility of the farm ever since his father had had a stroke.

His mother died when he was quite young. His older sister was married and lived in Perth with her husband. The younger sister moved away from the farm, seeking opportunities in Sydney.

Steve told me that droughts and flooding rains summed up the difficulties of being a farmer in Australia. I didn’t understand why people wanted to be farmers; it was all hard work. The only thing separating a good year from a bad year was the luck of having the right amount of rainfall at the right time. If it didn’t rain, the wheat wouldn’t grow that season, as simple as that.

The new technologies and economic factors have a huge impact on the rural existence. It was vital for farmers to continue to operate sustainably and profitably.

Peter said farmers in this area had been doing badly over the past five years. He said lots of farms had shut down. The farmers walked away from them empty handed because no one wanted to buy them. Suicides had occurred a few times. Sometimes the whole family went together because no one helped them.

Dad, do you know what I was getting at? Maybe Steve was desperate for money. When he found out I had the money he needed…

How did he find out?

Through Michelle of course. Michelle told David about me, David told Steve.

Think about it. Steve was almost too good to be true. His cooking was divine. He could sing so many songs. How many men in the world were like him? Could cook and sing?

Look at the homestead. It was situated in a postcard setting, had wide verandas on all sides, with views out over the long established gardens, with a very long tree lined driveway. Inside, the homestead had magnificent high country stylish finishes, the country charm complemented superbly by modern comforts. All of this showed he also had artistic talents. He was more like a wife than a husband.

You guessed it. Perhaps Steve and David were gay. Now I knew why David gave me that stare. He couldn’t wait to get rid of me.

Steve showed me I was his beneficiary but it all meant nothing. It was just a trap to get me to leave everything to him in my will.

How stupid could I have been? Believing in love at first sight? Really? I had been so nice to Ben. After three years of dating, he heartlessly married another woman. Ben was not even half as good looking as Steve. Who was I kidding?

I really believed that Steve loved me. Why would a man like Steve love a woman with big hips? Ellie, you are such an idiot. Love at first sight was for beautiful princesses in those fairy tales, not for a plain girl like you.

We all believe what we want to believe, see what we want to see. When I was lying on the bottom of the well, the sky above was small. That’s all I was able to see. Even though the sky is unlimited, I was not able to see it.

What was I going to do…?

*        *        *

Who put a cover on the well? I only dozed off for a moment. I couldn’t see the sky anymore. Who had done that? The killer?

Steve was calling me. I could hear him. What should I do? I was not going to answer, that was for sure. I would wait till some other people came to rescue me, then I would have a chance to survive.

I had that nightmare again.

I could see myself walking in the paddock, trying to explore the farmland. I saw a huge hawk dart down from the sky and attack the ewe below.

Both my hands were in the air waving. I called out loud to scare the big bird off. My legs couldn’t run fast enough.

Again I was too late, the ewe had just given birth to a lamb and she was too weak to get up from the ditch in the paddock. The hawk took the opportunity to dart down and take both her eyes out.

I was horrified to see such a thing. The ewe cried out in pain, the lamb struggled without its mother’s help. I rushed back to the house crying for help. I had cuts and bruises because I had fallen so many times while I was running.

The lamb was saved but became an orphan like me. The ewe had to be put down. I couldn’t eat meat for a couple of weeks.

The nightmare kept repeating in my dreams. I tried to wake myself up. Instead I saw the hawk open its wings widely, flying directly at me.

I screamed out: “No!”

*        *        *

“She’s awake.” I heard the cheers.

When I opened my eyes, I saw white colour surrounding me and bright light and I didn’t feel any pain. I thought I must have joined my parents in the afterlife.

“Hi sweety!” Instead I saw Steve’s face above mine.

I was scared stiff.

Steve looked tired. He held my hand and said, “You came out from surgery five hours ago. You’ll be ok. The doctor said you are pretty lucky you fell down with your legs first. Broken legs are far better than a broken skull…”

Steve’s tears trickled down from his red eyes.

“We didn’t think you were in the well. It was so dark but Steve insisted on going down himself to check. Lucky he did,” said Peter. “I came here to give Steve a hand. He’s been here since we found you. That’s more than a day ago.”

Steve wiped the tears away. “If you feel the pain, push this button. The nurse said it will release some morphine into the drip. Don’t worry about a thing. The doctor said in less than six months you’ll be back to normal.”

“Go to a hotel and have a shower, eat a decent meal and have some sleep.” Peter picked up the travel bag he had packed for Steve.

I couldn’t wait for Steve to leave. I needed to find out some things from Peter.

“I’ll check into somewhere, have a shower and change into some clean clothes, then buy some take away and come back here and celebrate our success.”

As soon as Steve walked away, without me asking any questions, Peter started to talk.

“I’ve never seen Steve cry. He was really worried about you. I guess he saw his mother die so maybe he was worried he’d lose you too. Poor bugger!

You know you’d better be careful around the farm. City chicks don’t understand how dangerous the farm can be. When I was first working on the farm, I had plenty of accidents. Look, I almost lost this arm.

You know this morning while you were still in the theatre having the operation, Steve received a called from SNG increasing their next order. Lucky bugger, other farmers are suffering terribly. We’ve been doing really well for the past ten years because of SNG.

Are you ok? Are you in pain? Poor thing, a hawk took a big chunk out of your forehead. Lucky it was your forehead and not your eye. You have to watch them you know. Remember when you first came to the farm, you were shocked by the hawk that took away the ewe’s eyes? See, it tried it on you yesterday. Did it attack you? Is that why you fell into the well?”

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