The Drug Dealers
At the end of the week, Honey felt so good she decided to let him go. She had promised to do so and also wanted to go back to her old life with just herself and the animals. Thus, when the time came to say goodbye, she was filled with mixed feelings. She loaded Billy up with gifts to compensate for wanting him gone. Berries, nuts, gingerbread cookies and six jars of her special honey cream.
‘Rub this on every night and all the cells you spent during the day will be replenished, making you like new again,’ she said.
‘Wow, thank you, Honey. This will save my life, I’m sure of it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,’ he said, leaning forward to hug her.
Honey felt the warmth of his hug and shed a tear. ‘It’s the least I can do,’ she said.
Woofie didn’t trust Honey. She was prone to mood swings and could change her mind without warning, so he jumped into the buggy before she could give him a hug goodbye and hid behind the front seat.
Honey pulled back from hugging Billy. ‘Where’s Woofie?’ she said.
‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Billy looked around then noticed Woofie tucked away behind the front seat. ‘Looks like he’s keen to get moving. Don’t be offended, Honey, he’s not really a hugger.’
Billy climbed into the driver’s seat and put on his seatbelt.
‘Goodbye Woofie,’ Honey crouched down to look the dog in the eye and snarl under her breath, ‘Goodbye you moody unsociable little mutt.’
‘Good riddance to bad rubbish,’ cried the three little dogs in dog language, as the buggy rolled out of the driveway and onto a bush track that led to the open plains.
What a relief to be on the road again, thought Woofie.
After some time, they came to a fork in the road and were faced with the decision of which path to take. The wedgetail eagle came into view, and again seemed to be indicating for them to follow him.
‘Follow the eagle,’ Woofie said with confidence.
‘Sounds like a plan.’ Billy swerved the buggy to the right. ‘All we have to do is keep the eagle in our sights. That’s your job co-pilot,’ he said to Woofie, who was now buckled up in the passenger seat.
‘Which means …’ he muttered to himself, ‘we can slow down, relax and enjoy the scenery.’
After living ten years underground and believing during all that time the environment had been destroyed to the point where man could no longer live on the surface, the discovery that this was not quite true, reassured him there was no need to hurry. Why not just amble along and enjoy this newfound paradise? thought Billy.
They stopped whenever they saw something of interest and as Billy had not practised his yoga, nor played guitar since they had left the colony, he thought it a good time to get reacquainted with his two favourite practices. They ambled along for three days, driving, stopping, snacking on the nuts, berries and gingerbread cookies Honey had given them, doing yoga in the morning, and playing guitar at night. The eagle cruised overhead, flying backwards and forwards as master of the sky. Billy had decided not to use the cream Honey had given him and put two jars in the glove box and hid four under the front seat. Billy focused on breaking bad habits, clearing the mind, and cleansing the spirit and at the end of the three days felt revitalized.
‘The air is cleaner here,’ he told Woofie as they sat around the campfire one night.
‘It’s the trees,’ the wise dog replied. ‘They make oxygen. Without the trees we are nothing. HH Holdings chopped all the trees down to use for fuel and construction and now they have to make oxygen in the laboratory on Level 6. Why didn’t they just leave the trees alone?’
‘Money and power at any cost,’ Billy said.
‘All I know is it’s a lot nicer living here than there. But it’s obvious the environment is declining here too. Don’t you think, Woofie? The bald patches where nothing grows seem to be getting more prevalent by the day. The race is on to save all this before it completely disappears and ends up like the place we came from. We’ve got to stop the total destruction of the environment before it’s too late!’
‘Hear, hear,’ Woofie raised his paw to do the clenched fist salute.
The next morning they were determined to discover a clue as to what they needed to do next. It took all day but finally, as the sun was setting, they saw the silhouette of date palms in the distance and drove towards it. They came upon a small settlement comprised of two old people, several dwellings, and a spring that was barely flowing. There was a huge campfire burning in the front yard and a man and a woman sat on a chair each, sipping tea. They stayed seated when the buggy pulled up and greeted Billy and Woofie as if they were expected.
‘Have a good day, mate?’ the man said. ‘Did you find anythin’ out there to eat? Any meat, nuts, fruit?’
‘Vegetables?’ asked the woman.
Billy sighed. ‘We have nothing. I’m sorry. I thought you might have something for us to eat.’
‘Nothing here lad,’ said the toothless old man, ‘and if you ain’t got nothin’ then I suggest you git!’ The man pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at them.
‘Woo up.’ Billy raised his hands in surrender. ‘Let’s not be rash. We come in peace and … we’re not completely empty handed. We do have this honey cream given to us just the other day by the Honey Lady. I’m sure you’ve heard of her?’
The woman eyed Woofie and licked her lips. ‘Can we eat it?’
‘No, you can’t eat it, but if you rub it on your skin, it will take away the cravings for food and water.’
The man lowered his gun. ‘Sounds very interesting. I’ve heard about that woman but can’t say I’ve ever met her, nor tried any of her products for that matter. Have you, darl?’ he said, turning to his wife.
‘What do you think?’ she replied, rolling her eyes.
‘Well, I think we should let them exchange some of that honey cream for some of this delicious stew you just made in the camp oven, darl. That’s what I think.’
Billy tried to remain calm as his stomach gurgled.
‘How much of this magic cream have you got?’ the woman said.
Billy went straight to the glovebox to retrieve the two jars he had placed there and returned to give them a jar each.
‘Interesting.’ The old man turned the jar in his hand and put it up to the light.
‘Thank you for that, young man, I’ll take it. I reckon you should pull up a chair and have a cup of tea while we discuss the terms of this arrangement. Mother, pour,’ he ordered.
The old lady grabbed a tin cup and filled it with steaming hot tea. Billy accepted the cup of tea and after drinking it collapsed as Woofie watched on. The old man grabbed Woofie and put him into a cage the moment Billy went down. They found the other four jars of honey and vandalised the buggy. They hid the cream in the kitchen, put Woofie in the kennels out the back with all the other dogs and locked Billy in a room in the main house.
Billy fell into a deep sleep and found himself in the dream realm.
A hallway stretched out before him with doors to the left and right. He swirled around like an essence in the candlelit darkness of the hallway, passing spirits as he floated through the misty air. He saw a woman at the end of the hallway and was captivated by her piercing green eyes, streaming hair, and friendly smile. She jumped onto a bicycle to cycle off the edge of the hallway through the streets of a silent village at night.
‘Come,’ she called to him as he floated behind her struggling to keep up. Finally, she stopped and dismounted from the bicycle in front of a small ramshackle house that looked something like the one the old people lived in. He hesitated and, in that moment of hesitation, she disappeared behind a red door and was gone.
He awakened to the sound of sawing.
‘Don’t cut the trees down,’ he screamed from his cell.
‘Someone’s awake, Mother,’ said Father as they approached the captive.
‘What do ya know? Tell us all about yourself young fella and we’ll let you go,’ the old man said.
Billy told them everything about his life, the colony, and the subsequent escape but deliberately left out all references to the legend. They rewarded him with another cup of tea and again he fell into the dream, swirling around the hallway as an essence, doors to the left and right with the same dripping wax candles and menacing spirits, then, she appeared again. She had the same smile and again implored him to follow her as she cycled off the end of the hallway and into the silent village, weaving through the streets under the hazy yellow lights. She returned to the cottage, dismounted from the bicycle, and invited him to follow. This time he did not hesitate. He kept her in sight and followed closely as she approached the red door. She knocked, it opened slightly and when he thought they were about to go in, she turned and ordered him to stay where he was.
Billy woke up and again his captors grilled him about the world he had left behind. Then they told him the truth – that he was a wanted man and there was a big reward for his capture. They gave him another cup of tea and told him to follow the girl in the dream if he wanted to escape.
Meanwhile, Woofie was holed up in the kennels where the top dog, Bully, told him about the devious couple. The old people were related to Lord Fang and had adapted his model of business into the modern enterprise of moving contraband from one side of the country to the other. The dogs did all the work, as they had done in the past.
‘Where did you all come from?’ Woofie said.
‘We were all just like you. We stumbled in here with our masters looking for a bed and a bit of tucker, then bang, a kidnapping and a hostage situation, just like you and your master. All these dogs here have been through the same thing, mate, so don’t feel like you’re alone. We know how you’re feeling right now.’
‘Where are your masters?’ Woofie moaned.
‘They gave them a cup of tea with some magic potion in it and after three nights, the masters disappear into thin air without a trace. It’s all very strange, but as we’re locked up, we don’t know everything for sure. What I do know is it’s your master’s third night and I dare say it’s the last time you will ever see him again. Welcome to the drug runners club.’ Bully put his paw out to shake on it.
Woofie frowned. ‘Hey, hey, hey, not so fast. What makes you think we can’t help him now? It may not be too late. Guys, we have to try at least to help Billy.’
The dogs cheered and decided to pool their escape weapons. Woofie found a nail file, opened his cell then ran along and opened all the other cell doors. The pack of dogs ran out of the barn and knocked the old couple over just as Billy was about to walk through the red door.
‘Stop that,’ he called from his drugged sleep. ‘Stop, stop, stop,’ he wailed.
‘Wake up, Billy,’ cried Woofie, furiously tickling Billy’s feet as the other dogs jumped all over him. ‘Wake up, Billy. P-l-e-a-s-e wake up!’
Billy roused. ‘You’re a pest. I was about to go off and live with the most beautiful woman in the world, and curse you mutt, you woke me up.’
Woofie explained everything and Billy thanked him for saving him again. The old people, fearful of the dogs exacting their revenge, agreed to give the dogs their freedom and to stop cutting down trees. The dogs, in return, agreed to stay and help them build a new and better world.
On the way out Billy asked the old people if they could spare him one jar of the honey cream.
‘Of course, take two,’ said the old man, much to everyone’s surprise.
‘And … we cleaned your buggy too,’ the old woman added with a smile.
‘Thank you.’ Billy reached out to shake their hands.
A cheer went up and a crowd gathered to say goodbye as the boy and his dog climbed into the buggy.
‘Adios amigos,’ they shouted as they drove out of the settlement and onto the open plains.