Authors: George Ivanoff
A high-octane adventure series for children written in partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service
An isolated location and last-minute complications put this rescue in danger!
Sam, Dawson and Emma are taking a road trip with their dad along the dusty Oodnadatta Track. They stop at Farina, an old ghost town full of crumbling buildings â perfect for a game of tip. But as they run through the ruins, their dad seriously injures his leg and it's up to the kids to find help. They manage to call the Royal Flying Doctor Service, but the situation is so bad it's up to Dawson to administer first aid to his dad until the aeromedical retrieval team arrives.
For the Kammelsons, the McGoldricks and the Martin/Trebilcos. Thanks for sharing the drive to Uluru and back with the Ivanovas!
Dawson crept along, heart pounding in his chest. He trod carefully, quietly, his eyes searching the nooks and crannies.
He stepped over rubble and out through the door in the crumbling wall. The sun hit him in the eyes, dazzling him. Squinting, he raised a hand to shield his face.
The noise of rock hitting against rock.
It could have just been a falling brick â the walls and rubble piles were certainly unstable enough. But it might have been one of his pursuers.
And he didn't want to take a chance.
Dawson skirted the old building. His runners sank into the sand baked by the harsh sun.
He stopped at the edge of the wall and peered into the main street. There were people near a bright red car at the very far end of the dirt and gravel road. But, otherwise, there was no one else close by. He took a deep breath, then dashed across the street.
Breathing hard, legs pumping, he made it through to the next ageing building. He surveyed his surroundings.
Streaks of sunlight hit the tired walls, making the shadows seem even darker. Dawson peered into the gloomy corners, looking for movement â¦ for signs of life. Nothing.
He inched forward, back pressed up against the wall.
He looked into the first room. Reasonably intact, it had four almost complete walls; even the window frame was still in place. But the room was filled with debris, where the roof had caved in.
Dawson moved on.
The next room by contrast was barely there. The wall with the doorway was the
only one completely standing. Dawson continued a little quicker.
Another room and he was at the back doorway. Like the front room, it still had its wooden frame but no actual door. He looked out cautiously before stepping forward.
Dawson jumped, stumbled and fell onto the pile of nearby bricks, scraping his knee.
A young girl giggled, ran past him in a flash of pink and disappeared around the corner.
Dawson sighed. This was silly. Why was he scared? It was just a dumb game of hide and seek or chasey or whatever it was.
Then again, it might have something to
do with the fact that he was creeping around an almost deserted ghost town â a
Or should that be a real
, he wondered.
âYo, kids!' he heard Dad's voice echo around the bricks. âFront and centre.'
Dawson picked himself up and dusted off his grimy blue shorts and t-shirt. He clambered up the pile of bricks and looked for signs of his siblings.
Nothing. They were better at games than he was.
Dawson yelped as he slipped down the bricks, landing hard at the bottom. He sighed again. Why had he agreed to play?
He got up and walked through the dilapidated building, along the neat little path out the front and past the sign saying
âExchange Hotel'. Low ropes strung between short wooden posts marked out the boundaries of the building.
Dawson looked back at the partially collapsed hotel. The sun was going down behind it, shining through the glassless windows, empty doorways and crumbling brickwork, making it glow. It almost looked beautiful â¦ in a weird sort of way.
Dad was at the end of the main road, at the crossroads on the edge of Farina, the small abandoned town that they were visiting. As usual, Dad wore blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He
wore jeans, even if he was going out to a fancy dinner. Mum would wear a nice dress and Dad would wear a shirt, tie and suit jacket â with
daggy blue jeans. Not a good look. Dawson thought jeans were a silly thing to wear on their holiday, given the heat.
âComing!' He waved to Dad and started walking. To his left he could see his little sister, Emma, spring out from the building next to the hotel and race to Dad, skipping over debris.
Glancing the other way, he saw his older sister, Samantha, climbing out of a rusted old car shell.
How did she get all the way up there?
He shook his head. She must have climbed through the car's window to get inside. He had looked at the automobile when they'd first arrived and its doors were rusted shut. There were lots of sharp edges on it. She could have cut herself. Not for
the first time, he marvelled at her reckless behaviour.
âWhat happened, son?' asked Dad, pointing to Dawson's knee, where a small trickle of blood was already drying.
âI scared him,' said Emma, proudly. âAnd he fell over.'
âNo, you didn't,' protested Dawson. âI was just startled, that's all.'
âI scared you,' repeated Emma, grinning broadly.
âHa,' Samantha mocked as she jogged over. âIs poor little Dawsy-Wawsy spooked by the ghost town?'
âHey,' interrupted Dad, âenough of that! I thought I told you guys to be careful. It's so easy to get hurt in amongst all the rubble and broken building bits.'
Broken building bits.
Alliteration. Ever since he'd learned the term at school, he'd noticed how often Dad used it, stringing together words starting with the same letter. âVile voluminous vomit.' Those had been Dad's most used words when Emma had gastro a few months ago. He glanced at Samantha. She looked back, trying to keep a straight face. And then they both burst out laughing. It was an ongoing joke between them.
âOi,' said Dad. âThis is no laughing matter. If you get hurt, there's no doctor around. All we've got is a first-aid kit.' His hands were on his hips now as he slipped into full-on Dad Mode. âAnd if you get seriously injured, what then? Do you see a hospital nearby? Huh?'
The kids looked blankly at each other and then back to Dad.
âNo! Of course not,' continued Dad. âWe'd need to find some way of contacting the RFDS.'
âR â¦ F â¦ D â¦ what?' asked Emma.
âRFDS,' said Dad, smiling now. âThe Royal Flying Doctor Service. They're doctors and nurses who fly around in planes to help people in the middle of nowhere.'
âWow,' breathed Em. âDoctors who fly.'
Dad turned his attention to Dawson's bloodied knee. âYou need a bandaid for that?'
âNah,' answered Dawson. âIt's just a scratch.'
âAnyway,' continued Dad, âno running around in the collapsed buildings. It's dangerous. Got that?'
âSure,' Samantha said, a gleam in her eyes.
âBesides which, if you're running around you're not looking at the sights properly. And there's so much to take in â¦' He turned around. âBut we'll see more of it tomorrow. Come on. We better get back to camp and start dinner.'
As he headed along the dirt road, Dawson looked back at the town of Farina. It was a ghost town. But that didn't mean it was full of ghosts. Farina was abandoned. No one lived there and it was literally falling apart.
Bathed in the golden light of sunset, the place did look supernatural. Dawson imagined spirits of the past hiding in the buildings and pacing the deserted streets.
He remembered the
video game he liked so much. There was a deserted town in that. All he needed now was an ecto-blaster to hunt ghosts with. He smiled. Ghostly video game images floated through Dawson's mind as he turned and followed his family.
Dinner was baked beans on fried bread. Dawson was sick of camp food. Dad wasn't a great cook at home, but his camping menu was even worse. You'd think that as a stay-at-home dad, he'd be able to cook better. Sadly not.
If they camped anywhere near shops, they had sausages in bread. If not, then
whatever they ate came out of a tin. The bread was fried because it had gone stale in the heat.
âYou can revive anything by frying it in butter.' This was Dad's cooking motto. Dawson wasn't so sure about it. He imagined buttery bush ants and witchetty grubs popping and splattering in a frying pan. He grimaced. But he was hungry, so he shovelled beans and butter-sodden bread into his mouth.
Dawson looked around as he chewed. The campground was nestled in amongst a scattering of trees, about a five-minute walk from the town itself. The glow of their lantern lit up their immediate area. In the distance was another circle of light. Campers who had recently arrived â probably the same
people who'd been hanging around earlier, judging by the red car.
âWhat are we doing tomorrow?' asked Samantha.
âI reckon we can spend a little over half a day here,' said Dad. âWe'll have a late lunch and then get moving. It's about fifty-five kilometres to Marree, which is our next stop.'
âIs that another spooky town?' mumbled Emma, her mouth full of beans.
town,' Samantha corrected.
âNah,' said Dad. âMarree is an ordinary town â people still live in it. Nothing special, though. It's just a place to camp before we move on to Oodnadatta.' He scooped the last of his food into his mouth but continued
talking, spitting little bits of food in his excitement. âThere's lots to see before we go. Aside from the buildings of the town itself, there's parts of the Old Ghan railway, some carriages, water towers and other stuff to the east. Then there's the cemetery â¦'
Dad was now in full-on Dad Tourist Mode. He loved adventure and seeing things. He was always bursting with stories of overseas travel that he and Mum had done before they had kids. This trip, driving to Uluru and back, was supposed to be a test. The first big holiday the whole family did together, now that Emma was old enough. And if things worked out, they would consider an overseas trip the following year.
But things hadn't quite worked out. Mum hadn't been able to come with them. She
was stuck back in Adelaide, finishing off a case. She was a lawyer, and the company she worked for needed her to stay an extra week. So the rest of the family had started the trip without her. She intended to fly to Uluru later and meet them there, then they would do the trip back by car.
As Dad droned on about the history of Farina and what they would see in the morning, Dawson's thoughts drifted to his family, the Millers. They were a bit annoying, but not too bad. He guessed that he loved them, even though they drove him crazy sometimes.
Samantha was his older sister. She was twelve.
Sam loved exploring, so Dawson knew this trip was right up her alley. She was
adventurous and daring. Dawson admired the way she just did things, no matter what anybody else said â¦ but it also scared him a little. He sometimes wished he could be a bit more like her.
Emma was his younger sister. She was seven.
Everyone loved Em. She was cheeky but cute, mischievous but kind, and the baby of the family. She often made Dawson laugh â even when she was being irritating. For her, everything was a game. No wonder she was so good at hide and seek.
At almost eleven, Dawson was stuck in the middle. Em and Sam always called him Daws. But Em, with her little-kid way of saying things very carefully, made it sound like âDoors'. Dad always called him âson',
almost like an acknowledgement that he was a boy trapped between two sisters.
Dawson sighed. His sisters were enjoying this camping holiday more than he was. He didn't mind camping usually, but the thought of doing it all the way to Uluru and back didn't thrill him. Especially since they had to pack and unpack every day or two.
He would have liked it better if Mum was with them. Dad was a bit intense with the touristy stuff, wanting to stop and examine absolutely everything. (âLook, there's a historic building.' âLook, there's a cultural landmark.' âLook, there's a brick that might have been part of an important structure a century ago.') Mum was more reasonable. A bit touristy, yeah, but in a fun way.
Dawson also missed his Xbox. Not that he would admit it. Dad was always going on about how he spent too much time playing video games.
Dawson tuned back into the conversation. Dad was now prattling on about the animals they'd seen so far and others they might encounter on their trip â kangaroos, emus, lizards, echidnas and something called a thorny devil.
âHey,' said Dad. âWhat's the collective noun for a group of emus?'
âHerd,' said Sam.
âFlock,' said Dawson, looking at his sister as if she knew nothing. âThey're birds.'
âNope,' said Dad.
Sam poked her tongue out at Dawson.
âCrowd?' said Em, hopefully.
âActually,' said Dad. âThat's pretty close.'
Em smiled proudly.
of emus,' Dad finally revealed.
Em giggled and Dawson smiled at her.
âA marauding mob of elegant emus.' Dad was putting on his radio announcer's voice, while extending his neck back and forth with a strange movement that he obviously thought made him resemble an emu. He was wrong. It just looked silly. âCasually cruising for cacti across the desolate desert.'