By Vita Forest (based on a story of Pemulwuy’s escape)
He came out of the forest, across the river to fight them. They were taking his land. They were killing his country. They had tried to kill him. One time. Two times. And though the muskets had filled his leg with lead (they had seen it) he had gone back into country and re-emerged. Alive.
But now he was locked in their dark cold cave. The iron bands around his feet. The iron bands around his hands. Trapped. They had him now.
He stared coldly into their hooting faces. He turned himself inside. And waited.
The cave got colder, the night got darker, the iron on his wrists, cutting into his skin. They had his death in their minds. They were hungry for it. They wanted it like nothing else. But they would wait for the morning, for the sun to rise and flood the valley with its light. For the whole world to be full of light. Illuminated. They wanted to show everyone his broken body, his broken spirit. They wanted to show his people he was gone.
He closed his eyes and turned himself inside. Made himself part of the darkness. The blackest black, the deepest crevice between the stones. He called up his totem animal, buried into it, danced its dance, sang its song. Whispered its name.
He snapped his beak, clawed at the gritty ground. He breathed and blew the air down through his bones, down to his fingers, flattening, stretching, flicking them into shards of feathers. He jerked his neck and shook out the collar of black across his skull, across his back, drew his claws in, slipped out of the circles of iron. Folded back his wings, rattled out of the chains at his wrists. Unrestrained.
He swivelled his eye, cocked his head, listened to the snoring sentry and the whispered secrets of the moths at the lantern, the crying bats in the fig trees beyond. The world was alive out there. Waiting for him. Waiting for him to leave this place.
With a spring, he was up on the ledge, slipping through the bars, gripping the wall with his claws. The world outside flooded him. He drank it in, breathed it. Rolled back his shoulders and was gone, back into the world, into the night.