Trangie, NSW Australia
May school holidays, 1979
Back when there were only three school terms per year in Australia, I would stay at my cousin’s house every May school holidays. He lived in Trangie, which is the next town west of my home town, Narromine. Incidentally, it was around this time in my life when my grandmother (who lived next door to my cousin) told the story of The Water Tank to us.
My cousin’s name is John. The age difference between us is three weeks, him being the elder. Back then I considered him my best mate, but he probably didn’t think the same.. looking back, I guess the relationship was a bit like an older brother, who was slightly intolerant of the younger, but it was a good relationship nonetheless. I guess I admired him for his charisma (he had lots of friends, played football, swore and spat like a 18yr old), and he admired my brains and drawing ability (I was a clever little bastard, always drawing and inventing projectile weapons).
Anyway, at the age of 8, together we were a bit of a handful. Day after day, without telling anyone where we were off to, we would disappear from sunrise to sunset, riding old beat-up push bikes, making slingshots, making bow and arrows (“Let’s make a barren arra!”), chuckin rocks, climbing things, getting bitten by things and walking all day. Every day we did something different, and come home in the afternoon covered in sweat, dirt and scratches. It’s times like those that, as an adult, you look back thinking that they were the best times of your life.
Now over the years, both of our families have seen a lot of strange stuff, and through the generations we’ve all told each other stories of weird lights, ghosts, crazy people, injury and death. On the odd occasion that the whole family gets together, I love to soak up all the stories as they fly out of everyone’s faces. Well like many others in the family, I have a few stories of my own, and for John and I, this one belongs to both of us.
One day during the May school holidays, it was getting late in the afternoon and being Autumn, the daylight was beginning to fade. John and I were walking toward his house and we shortcut through a laneway. One of the buildings that backed onto this laneway was the Trangie Town Hall, and built onto the back of the Hall was a kind of storage shed on stilts. We jumped the fence (back then, fences were made for jumping) and decided to find out if we could see what was in the shed. There was a short flight of old wooden stairs that lead up to two doorways: a rear door to the Hall, and the shed door beside it. We crept to the top of the stairs and found both doors locked. There was a big padlock on the Hall door, but on the shed door, a keyhole.
We couldn’t see through the keyhole because it was blocked with thick spider webs, and within, I could see a chunky little black spider waiting. I found a piece of fencing wire under the stairs, cleared the keyhole and looked through. Beyond the keyhole was a room which, despite the low afternoon light, was quite well lit by a curtainless window on the facing wall. The room, the window and all the room’s untidy contents were covered in dust and spider webs.
There was an old bed with some sort of a basket on it, a few squat trunks, some clothes racks, a chair or two and a few pairs of big old black leather shoes. There were other things that didn’t seem too out of place for a locked room full of dust and spiders.. but something caught my eye. At the foot of the bed, between some boxes lay a head covered in grey hair. It may be hindsight playing games with my memories, but as I looked at it, I distinctly remember it shifted slightly, and even now I’m certain I heard a little dragging noise at the same moment. I grabbed John’s shirt. He looked through the keyhole and saw the head, and we both ran.
When we arrived home, we were laughing our heads off.. I suppose at that age we didn’t really understand what we’d seen. I told my parents, John told his parents, and we both told our grandmother. We’re not sure if anyone believed us.