Gabe Matthews was out on his dirt bike hooning through the bush tracks across the road from his house with his best buddies, Emanuel, Grey, and Johnny. The rain had finally let up for a moment, it had been pouring rain for three solid days now and the four of them only had one more week left before they all headed off to the police academy, down in Goulburn, to start their chosen career paths.
There was more rain predicted for that afternoon, but they had already organised that the minute that it stopped the four of them would go out and have some last-minute fun on the now muddied tracks. His mother, Lori, had yelled at him as he’d headed out the door not to bring mud into the house when he came home, he’d grinned at her and sped off. Knew he was going to come home covered in mud today.
It was awesome fun out there sliding into the sticky watery mud puddles that had only a week ago been dry cracked earth. The four of them were all trying to make the biggest water fans they could with every slide into the tight bends of the tracks and massive splashes off the jumps they themselves had created years ago as younger teenagers wanting to hoon about on their dirt bikes. Landing in the muddy puddles and hoping not to come unstuck and stack it was the challenge. It was a good hour and a half of fun for the four of them before the rain started to fall again. In yet another downpour, each of them turned back and headed for their homes before the real storm began again.
Gabe was a good ten kilometres from home but it wouldn’t take that long to get there, for he knew these tracks like the back of his hand, he had grown up with them, considered them as a part of his back yard, as did all his friends and so many other kids around town.
Halfway home, Gabe saw a huge puddle and gunned the engine, a wild grin on his face, it was on a bend in the track and he fully intended to slide his back tire right through it, causing a muddy fan to spray everything around him.
Only the puddle was deeper and stickier than he had thought it looked, for his back wheel didn’t slide across the shallow looking puddle, didn’t even get the chance to for his front wheel hit the puddle and sunk down a good foot, bogged down and the bike threw him clear as it stood on its front end.
He was thrown into the bush, rolled over and over, finally coming to rest with a hard thud against a tree that jarred his whole body. Gabe lay there for a full minute dazed face down on the wet soggy ground.
Nothing felt broken to him, but his left shoulder hurt like hell, he pushed himself up and on to his feet, yanked his helmet off and then sagged back down on to the fallen tree he’d smacked into. Looking over at his bike he sighed just knowing it was going to take a mighty effort to dig that thing out of the mud, for the entire front wheel was bogged in, the thing was still standing up right.
The back wheel was still spinning around. It amazed him at how the bike just held there like that. Gabe expected it to have fallen down, “Ah crap!” he muttered, and pushed himself up off of the tree. The sooner he got started, the sooner it’d be done.
He’d only taken two steps when he saw her, a girl just lying there on the wet ground, his foot stopped in midair, he must have rolled completely over her, possibly knocked her down. Although he did not recall that at all. He hadn’t seen her out here, there was no one out here that he knew of other than him and his mates.
The girl lay so still that his heart hammered inside of his chest. She looked lifeless; Gabe swallowed hard and briefly wondered what that would do to his career plans for the future, but taking a breath in, he pushed those thoughts aside and he snapped himself into action, dropped down to the ground beside her and checked for a pulse. It was there though it seemed slow and weak to him, she was also breathing and the breaths were even and regular, another good sign. Though she was covered from head to toe in mud and grass, her skin was pale and she was freezing cold to the touch. It scared him, she could be suffering from exposure for all he knew, but there was always that possibility that he had rolled right into her and knocked her unconscious.
Had she been out here unconscious before he’d come along and stacked his bike? or had he been the one to hurt her? Gabe shook her gently. “Hey, can you hear me?” he asked, but got nothing in return. “Damn it.” He cursed, shook her once more, a little harder this time “Hey wake up.” Still he got no response.
Gabe leaned back and unzipped his jacket, found his mobile phone and prayed that there was service in this particular area, the service out here was spotty at best, cursed the stupid thing when there wasn’t, and jammed it back in his pocket.
The girl didn’t look to be more than 13 or 14 years old and he didn’t recognise her, and doubted that she was from around here. So just what was she doing out here in the bush? She was thin with dark hair, or at least he thought so, who could tell with all that mud on her and caked in her hair.
He looked back over at his bike, even if he could dig it out in record time and high tail it back to town to get the ambulance and police, who knew if she’d live that long or stay unconscious, she might wake up and wonder off getting lost in the process, though he already guessed that she was lost now.
“Damn it.” He knew where he was and just how far it was back to civilisation, approximately five kilometres, and he didn’t want to be the one to move her. If she had serious injuries, he could make them worse, a lot worse and he knew it, but what choice did he have.
Gabe tossed his helmet over towards his bike and wiped his hands on his jeans, not that it was going to matter anyhow, for he was just as filthy dirty as she was, rolled her over slowly supporting her head and then he slipped an arm under her shoulders, knowing he couldn’t risk leaving her there alone so cold and weak, possibly seriously injured.
As he slid his other arm under her knees, her eyes fluttered open and he relaxed a little, his heart skipped a beat at the sight of her brilliant jewel green eyes which looked up at him. She was going to be okay. He just knew it.
“Please.” She murmured softly before her eyes fluttered closed once more. He couldn’t rouse her again, though he did try for a full minute, preferring that she stay conscious, but no such luck, finally he gave up on trying and scooped her up from the muddy ground where she had lain seemingly lifeless for who knew how long.
Pain seared through his shoulder at the weight of her, it was agony and Gabe very nearly collapsed back to the ground himself, but somehow managed to stay on his feet and bite down on the pain searing through his shoulder and down his back. He turned and headed down the track for home and civilisation, where help would come from, could carry her until he got service on his phone and could actually call for help.
He couldn’t believe that for such a tiny little scrap of a girl she weighed a tonne, or so it felt like to him. The rain poured down on him and on her and washed away some of the mud from her body. He could see now as he carried her, that her shirt was ripped and torn, that she was bare footed, something he hadn’t noticed before, and her blue jeans were ripped at the knees. He doubted that his knocking her down would have done all of that, she looked as though she had been out here in the bush for some time. He could see a graze on her cheek though it looked a day old, maybe even more, and her fingernails were broken and chipped, she had what appeared to be old blood stains on her torn jeans and though he hadn’t inspected her feet, he was willing to bet they too were covered in cuts and bruises like the rest of her.
'Christ, five kilometres is a long way.' he thought as he carried her, his feet sticking in the muddy track with nearly every step that he took, “not as fit as I thought I was.” He muttered down to the unconscious girl in his arms.
She didn’t stir, just laid there lifeless in his arms, her head at such an odd angle that it scared him a little, and one of her soaking wet arms kept sliding off her body to dangle down. He’d stopped trying to keep her in a comfortable position 10 minutes ago. She wasn’t feeling it, so, what did it really matter?
Gabe sagged to the ground as he heard his phone chime to say he was in a serviced area. He knew logically that he shouldn’t stop for anything just in case he didn’t have the energy to pick her up again and carry on. How on earth could she weigh so much, he thought miserably. He was certainly not used to carrying such a weight for such a long time.
He was about to dial 000 when his phone rang. Glad to see Emanuel's name on the screen, he hit the talk button and said “Hey, do me a favour, call an ambulance and the police out to my place or to the track out to my place.”
“You come off hard?” Emanuel asked and Gabe heard the laughter.
“No and yes. I found a girl injured and unconscious. Just get them okay.” He was too exhausted to put the urgency in his voice, but Emanuel got the message loud and clear.
“You alright buddy?”
“No, hell no.” Gabe muttered and hit the end call button, putting his phone away safely from the rain once more. Gabe just knew that if he knelt here any longer he wouldn’t get up himself. Although he knew that help was now on the way, he knew that every minute would count, knew that he couldn’t just sit around and wait for it to arrive. It wasn’t who he was, he needed to keep going to get this girl to a hospital and get some medical attention.
So once again he bit down on the agony that screamed in his shoulder as he picked her up yet again and struggled to his feet under her weight, once more, so that he could continue on down the track towards home.
He could see his house 30 minutes later and hear not only the sound of sirens close and getting closer by the second, he could also hear the sound of dirt bikes racing through the bush behind him now. A very tired smile touched his lips, trust that lot to want to see his stack, come out in the rain even just to see it, probably stopped to take some pictures too. Ah, it would make for a good memory, he’d have done it himself if he’d not found the girl.
The ambulance pulled up right in front of him and the two paramedics jumped out heedless of the pouring rain. One grabbed the gurney and the other hurried to take the information he had about the girl in his aching arms.
Gabe didn’t let go immediately, just stared down at her seemingly lifeless body for several seconds before finally releasing her onto the gurney that was brought to him, and then just sagged on to the muddied ground himself, exhausted and in some serious pain himself.