The murder of crows littered the corpse, a coffin of feathers and beaks and blackness. A fresh kill, the kangaroo’s fur still wafted in the breeze. Its face mangled by the car that had skittled him.
The setting sun lit the glimmering bitumen on fire. Stopping her walk to enjoy the last bit of warmth before night fell, Jill watched as the crows squabbled over the kangaroo’s eyes.
Night fell quickly out there in the country, making way for the dusty swell of milky stars.
It was her favourite time of day, the coming of darkness, like the earth’s final symphony.
Looking up and down the empty road, Jill crossed to the opposite side. She’d hate to disturb the crows from their feast. Hunger was her oldest friend and she understood him well.
Sweat itched under the straps of her backpack, tools of her trade a heavy but necessary burden. She considered calling it a day. The summer heat had gone to her head but the hunger was still there.
If she waited the hunger would only grow, but at the same time, feeding it would make the beast grow, its belly swell. Every time the beast raised its hungry maw it would be more ravenous, more insistent than the last.
Jill rubbed her flat, growling belly, trying to decide whether to just walk home or wait for a car that might take her there.
The night birds were starting their choir, just warming up. Jill stood still, listening to their song, facing the setting sun. If it was meant to happen today, it would. And just as she began to think of her calling, Jill heard the distant hush of car tyres.
Sticking put her thumb, she waited till the car came over the crest, illuminating her with the pale white of new LED headlamps.
Not a local. A tourist. Hopefully alone.
The beast inside her groaned and she rubbed her belly again.
The approaching car slowed but Jill knew this didn’t mean anything. Humans generally tended to be sticky beaks.
Holding her breath, she waited.
The beast inside her sharpened its fangs.
The car pulled up. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust but she had already turned on her most brilliant human smile.
A man sat inside the car, alone. Shaggy hair as dark as a new moon sky. Beard edging his sharp features. Inky eyes, deep as pools. Jill found herself lost in them for a small eternity, drowning.
Her belly rumbled, the beast’s mouth watered.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you it’s dangerous to hitchhike?” said the man with the inky eyes.
Jill laid her smile on a little thicker.
“Where you headed?”
“Out Toongi way,” Jill said. “You think you could give us a ride?”
“No problems, I’m heading straight through there, darlin. Hop in.”
She jumped into the passenger seat, never looking away from his dark eyes.
She might have to keep them. She had a jar that would suit them perfectly.
He watched her get in.
She wasn’t your typical sort of beautiful, but she was breathtaking, nonetheless.
Full-figured and firm, thighs you could sink your teeth into.
He tried to control his breathing.
She was better than he’d expected. She was perfect.
Once she was in the car, he could smell her. And it wasn’t like he had expected. Not that stale-sweat, old-food, stench which most humans wreaked of.
She smelled of spice and dandelions and … he took another long inhale … rain.
She satin the seat smiling that smile, the one he had seen in his mind. The one he had dreamed of. The one that had forced him to search for her for so long.
He was sure this one, she, was the one.
“So, where you comin from,” she said in an accent that wasn’t quite right. Her voice had a melody, an inflection he couldn’t place.
The question threw him.
He didn’t know the answer. He had simply woke up one day with clothes on his back and a hunger he could never satisfy. Of course, she didn’t mean it the way he took it. She meant “from where had he driven?”
“Long way from here,” he said. The same answer he gave to anyone who asked.
“You visiting family?” she asked, the sort of question he would normally ask.
He looked at her as the car started. He’d had to get a new one after the last failed find. She definitely hadn’t been the one. And the new car was one of those “turn off at every stop” ones.
The feeding crows scattered as the engine came to life. He felt bad for disturbing their meal.
Her moss green eyes smiled at him. They were beautiful. He longed to taste one. To pop one in his mouth and roll it around in there, like a gumball. (Not that he’d ever been one for human sweets.)
He shook his head. “Nope, no family.”
The girl’s smile grew. “Naawww, a loner like me,” she said.
And he smiled, pushinghis foot on the accelerator.