I looked at the front of my house, as I stopped the car in the driveway; home at last. I had spent nearly the entire morning being interrogated by a desk clerk at the Adelaide branch of the Department of Social Welfare. He was a young fellow who had chosen to hide his rather pleasant blue eyes behind a pair of those terrible round framed glasses so favoured by Nazi Gestapo officers.
His words still rang in my ears, “We just want to make sure you get your full pension entitlement,” he had told me. Who did he think he was kidding? Then I looked at him again and saw that he probably believed what he said. He was as fooled by the words he had been told to say fully as much as I was supposed to have been. We were both subject to manipulation. I yielded to a sigh at that thought, as I got out of the car and headed to the front door of my home.
I threw the car keys on the hall table, before I noticed the back door at the end hall was open. That wasn’t right.
In stealth mode, I sidled down the hallway until I was next to my bedroom door, which was ajar. I pushed it open and peered around the doorframe. Nothing, so I walked into the room.
I poked my head back out the door and looked up and down the hall, again nothing.
So, I assumed I had left the back door open. I had done that before, old age forgets things like that.
I turned and walked over to the bed, sat down on its edge and undid my tie, but before I could pull it through my shirt collar, I felt another pair of hands grab the tie, pulling it tightly around my neck. Whoever it was spun me over and pushed me face down onto the bed.
“Make a noise and it will be your last,” said a determined male voice.
I was aware that I found the situation interesting, but I felt appalled. I was being attacked in my own bedroom, by a man who resorted to using the cliché about making a noise or it would be my last. I had always hoped that if this sort of thing ever happened to me it would be with original dialog, or at least an interesting proposition. His accent was foreign, which led me to think that the Department of Social Welfare had not sent him to kill me so they wouldn't have to pay my pension.
“You must do what you are told or you will never see your loving ones again.”
I found it difficult to determine if he meant I wouldn't be alive to see them or if they had already been kidnapped. English certainly did not seem to be his first language; that much was obvious.
I immediately imagined my poor boyfriend tied up and tortured in some bloody and filthy cell, with rats and cockroaches running around on the cobble stoned floor, all of them eyeing his juicy dangling bits. He was my only living loved one, the rest of my family having died years ago from inexplicable natural causes. It always amused me to recall that they had warned me I would die from unnatural causes, but that has nothing to do with this story.
Then I remembered that my boyfriend should still be at work and that my assailant's second cliché was directed at the continuance of my health, such as it is.
A sack was pulled over my head and tied into place around my neck. I couldn't see, but at least I could hear and breathe. Then he tied my hands behind my back, with my tie, I suspect. I found it rather uncomfortable.
“Stand up, don't move and walk as I do.”
It seemed reasonable to assume that I was the only one in the room that had difficulty in actually finding any sense in that statement. Luckily my intuition cut in and I decided that when my captor pushed me, he wanted me to walk in a forwards direction.
Sure enough, I soon felt him grab me to guide me down the familiar steps of the front porch, and recognised the walk to where I had parked my poor little 1983 Ford Laser sedan.
“Get in and lay down on the floors of the back seats.”
His accent was definitely foreign, Middle Eastern, at a guess.
Soon I heard him get in the driver's seat and start the car. I hoped he at least fastened his seat belt; as owner of the car I was responsible for a fine if he did not. South Australian road laws are a bit draconian.
“If you know what is good for you, you will not be making any sounds,” clichéd my kidnapper.
“Why are you doing this?” I clichéd back to him, “I am not a rich man.”
“You will soon find out,” he snarled somewhat nervously, I thought, as the car jerked forwards. Does he know how to drive?
I heard a car horn from another car driving past us and then we moved out of the driveway and down the street.
Half an hour later, I stirred and realised I had fallen asleep or passed out. I was too clear headed to have been drugged, but I was being dragged out of the car and then up a flight of steps into what my ears were telling me was probably an aircraft.
“You will be sitting here,” he said as he fastened my seat belt. Did he pat my crotch? No, I must have imagined it.
“I am driving plane now.” Aha, I was right, I am on a plane; 'one for the good guys,' I clichéd to myself.
I wondered what was in store for me, and stopped myself from imagining what horrors were planned for me. Was I to be punished for my sinful ways in a suicide plane crash? Was I going to be set up as a madman who dive-bombed the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney? From the sound of the engine I doubted this plane could have flown from Adelaide to Sydney without refuelling and it certainly wasn't sophisticated enough to have in-flight refuelling. I could tell I wasn't on Air Force One.
Thinking about refuelling brought to mind that I was feeling quite thirsty. I was willing to bet that there wasn't a steward on board with coffee and cake.
A few moments later, I felt the long forgotten tilt and lift off the ground as the plane swept up into the sky. The little plane tilted from side to side and climbed to an altitude where it levelled off and, except for a few rough spots, it was an uneventful flight. I was relieved when we set down without incident.
“You may call me um…Ishmael,” I heard a voice say, with a hesitation that made me suspect it was not his real name. “I am sorry for your inconveniencing but I had to take every precaution. You stand up now, pleased.”
He unfastened my seat beat and I was indeed pleased to stand up.
“If you promises to not run away I will undo your hands.”
I readily agreed and he untied my hands and even removed the sack from my head. He led me to the door of the plane and after he opened it and swung down the ladder, he told me to climb down and wait for him. I was surprised to see that he was not armed. I guess I had expected to see some kind of an assault rifle at least.
As I watched him climb down the ladder, it was obvious he was fairly young, in his early-twenties and definitely of Middle Eastern origin.
“I am not evil Middle East man,” he asserted with large pleading brown eyes.
“I'm sure you are not,” I said to reassure myself as much as him. In reality I don't agree with painting all people of a race as being good or bad. I prefer to accept the good in individuals.
“Oh kewl,” he replied, quite out of character. “I thought you’d be understanding.”
He was clean shaven and wore Western clothing. His lithe body was hugged by a loose fitting T-shirt, over which he wore a backpack. His dark blue jeans hugged his thighs; it was obvious I was abducted by an individual at odds with his heritage.
“This way,” he told me, and after we walked for about ten minutes he led me towards a hole in the ground with a ladder sticking up from it. As I followed him I realised I was in Coober Pedy, the opal mining town in northwest South Australia. It isn't possible to get much more isolated from the outside world than one of these homes beneath the ground.
I followed him down the ladder into what was a deceptively comfortable and well furnished surrounding. At least it was unlikely to be my burial chamber. He beckoned me to sit down on a chair while he went to the refrigerator, returning with two bottles of beer. I was so thirsty I risked throwing up and began drinking.
“You are being DesDownUnder?” he asked.
Well I was probably more down-under than I had ever been at the moment in that home beneath the surface, and I could find no good reason to deny it; indeed it was probably wisest to admit it, so I nodded, “Yes, I am.”
“And you are the Administrator of The AwesomeDude website?”
“Yes, I am.” I felt like I was being interrogated for the second time today.
“That is very good,” he said, “I am so happy to meeting you.” He gave me a huge smile which I realised had put me at ease.
“Yes well, it's nice to meet you too,” I said, thinking it was best to play it cool, or perhaps I should say ‘kewl’.
“My people do not approve of gays.”
“I know,” I said, my mind wondering where this conversation was going. Was I going to be tortured or… No, I didn't want to consider the possibilities. He moved closer to me and looked me directly in the eyes as he spoke.
“So I want you to let all the Dudes know that I love the stories at AwesomeDude.”
“You kidnapped me and flew me here to tell me this?” I asked. To say I was astonished would be putting it mildly.
“I have to be very careful. My people are watching everywhere. I have to leave in few days to go back to my country, and I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to you and all the Dudes.”
“I'll be sure to tell them,” I said, “And thank you.”
“No, it is I who am thanking you.” He then pressed a very small opal into my hand and kissed me.
After we finished our beers, we returned to the plane and he flew me back home to Adelaide. I felt somewhat stunned.
Several months have passed now and I’m realizing that I will never see my abductor again, but I have an opal that reminds me of a very special young man, and a new awareness that we Dudes should never doubt that our stories are appreciated and helping people, even if we do sometimes wonder.