Demon of the Outback :
’ve spent a good portion of my life out in the Australian bush, enough time that there is very little left out there that can surprise or scare me. I’ve tussled with massive scrubber bulls and lived to tell the tale and I’ve even come across good sized king brown snakes and funnel web spiders that would send most city people running with their tail between their legs.
I’ve learnt not to be so arrogant about knowing the bush now. The land has proven that it still holds many secrets, most of which aren’t meant to be known.
It started during 2011, right at the end of the wet season. We had only just started work again seeing as flooding and dangerous conditions made most work too risky. There was enough grass and water for the cattle so it wasn’t a concern other than to worry about how much stock we lost to the flood water.
The first thing that indicated that something was wrong was rather innocuous. We started finding dead cattle in the paddocks.
We didn’t think much of it at the time, merely hauled the carcasses away the minute we could get to them. Young stock die all the time after all, whether it was snakes or feral dogs or even just exposure to the elements we weren’t sure. We just assumed it was nothing and continued with our jobs.
Then a pair of horses died, along with one of the cattle dogs. A snake bite could have explained it, after all there are multiple poisonous reptiles in the outback but it was the way we found the carcasses that made us scratch our heads.
They’d been torn apart.
Feral dogs didn’t come near the house where we kept the dogs and horses, even those with a lot of dingo blood in their veins were wary of humans. But what else could it have been? Australia isn’t one for large land predators.
It soon became nothing but campfire talk however as weeks passed without any more signs of the elusive predator. We were starting to get into mustering season and as such had hired a few farmhands and jackaroos to help with the cattle and didn’t have time for idle conversation.
It was on one of these musters that the creature struck again. Not a cow or a horse this time but one of the jackaroos. He went galloping into the scrub to chase out a few stray steers and although the cattle came racing out to join the mob that was starting to form he and his horse didn’t.
We searched for him but never found any sign of him. People were starting to grow worried about whatever it was that lurked in the darkness. We were far from civilisation with nothing but our horses and saddlebags on us.
We heard the feral dogs howling that night. There were a fair few on the station, most with a strain of dingo in them. Pure dingoes were rare now on the mainland but all of us slept with a gun in our hands. We doubted it was a dingo that was causing all the trouble but what else could it have been?
One of the men with us seemed extremely anxious. He was aboriginal in origin and had been raised on the native folklore of bunyips and demon dingoes which he relayed to us over the fire. We laughed it off of course; native stories have always been treated that way unfortunately.
Either way he wanted us to head straight back to the house which was still a few days travel from us.
The following day was silent. We remarked on it as we rode for such silence was unusual in the bush. There were always cockatoos and other birds causing a ruckus along with a multitude of insects. Lizards would sunbathe on red rocks and skitter away when disturbed. There was nothing at that moment, the land appeared dead.
The horse and cattle seemed skittish, tossing their heads as the whites of their eyes showed. One large bull took off from the mob, racing into the undergrowth with a bellow.
As I was the one closest to it I was the one who had to take off after it. I moved warily, not scared of the predator who seemed to be stalking us but of the bull itself. They were dangerous when cornered after all.
I wasn’t the only one after the bull I soon learned as a dingo raced free from the undergrowth and bowled into the bovine. I’d never even seen a pack of feral dogs take down a bull in the prime of its life but here was a single canid doing so without any trouble.
It was obviously a dingo; no dog could ever come close to having the same presence as the rust coloured wild dog that was native to Australia. It was massive though, more than twice the size of a normal dingo.
And its eyes… it looked up when the bull fell limp, eyes the red of the desert sand and burning with the strength of a flame. Its teeth were bloodied as it bared them at me, stalking forward with its tail raised.
I was frozen, staring at the monstrous dingo in shock. Thankfully my horse was less so and with a panicked whinny my mount turned and galloped as if demons were at its heels. I could hear the dingo snarling behind me but didn’t glance back until I was free from the scrub and at risk of out pacing the men I worked with.
The scrub was still, as dead as a grave. Whatever that thing (for it can’t have been a dingo, no dingo looked like that thing had) had given up the chase.
I never spoke of what happened that day, no matter how many questions people plied me with. I also refused to look at the rock art on our property, the ochre pigments worn with age. The yellow was faded but the shape was still distinguishable. It appeared that it had been wrong of me to ignore the native tales.
The rocks proved that with an age old painting of a massive dingo with ruby eyes.