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Aotearoa Homeschool Anywhere
I groped around for a torch. In the dark, I had no idea which way I was facing. The thing I'd had on my neck felt substantial. I could either have thrown it against the wall or through the gap opposite. In which case it could have landed on one of my colleagues below.
I shone the torch against the wall and all around. There was nothing there. Near the top was a square ventilation hole. Maybe it had flown or hoisted itself out through that aperture I thought. I was looking for something at least as big as a bat.
Next, I started to explore the rafters above my head, slowly, thoroughly, when, suddenly, I saw it. "Oh, my God!" I exclaimed. I'd never seen anything like it before in my life.
But there it was all right. The creature looking down at me truculently was about four inches long. Its body appeared to be a mixture of blue and brown. Its head was round with a phosphorescent glow and its great eyes were watching my every move.
The beast was uncanny. It had great saw-toothed legs and hideous feelers at the top of its head like radio aerials. I had no choice. I yelled Ughh! Ughh! and rapidly made my way down the ladder to my friends below.
Suddenly the place was in tumult. I'd woken the lot with the last Ughh! as I had hoped. Now I was shuddering dramatically as I picked my way over their startling figures.
"What the hell's going on?" yelled one of them. I explained as coherently as I could. Then they were all up, curious to discover what this strange object was.
The soundman was the first to tackle the ladder. A no-nonsense lad, Hammond Peek was a true grit Kiwi. As brave and adventurous as they come. He took a big torch with him though I noticed he went no further up than the third step from the top.
"There you are you little bastard," he was speaking to the thing. "It's a weta, haven't you seen one of them before, Hanafi?" He was talking in the same tones that parents use for backward eight-year-olds.
"Not from Mars, no!" I retorted sharply. I was in no mood to discuss comparative entomological knowledge at that time of night. Certainly, I'd seen wetas before. But nothing to even vaguely compare with that grotesque arthropod squatting above my now vacant sleeping bag.
"Where is it! Let's have a look at the swine?" Hamdani the cameraman was now on the ladder as Hammond came down.
"Give us the torch, where is it?" Mr. Milas was searching for the rafters. "Jesus!" he exclaimed. It was becoming a very religious experience. Now Hammond was back on the ladder, this time armed with an axe. It would have been hilarious if the monster above hadn't been such a shock.
As soon as he was in striking distance, Hammond lashed out, egged on now by a fervent cameraman. "Kill the bastard. Go on Hammond. Smash the bastard!" he screamed as the steady thud, thud of the axe against wood shook the little Aframe.
Finally, Hammond descended victoriously. He held the crippled creature limply by a leg, then opened the door and threw it outside. We all relaxed.
Meanwhile, Ramzi, the unit manager, who was the only one to claim the wooden couch for a bed, had laid low, I noticed. Alert, watchful, encouraging even but from a very low profile. How he was up on his feet. "How about a cup of tea, then lads?" He had the excuse he needed.
We had our tea, joked about my cowardice and returned to our sleeping bags.
The next morning, the Vos family was curious indeed. They'd heard all the rumpus and wondered what on earth had happened. Apparently they weren't too keen on the local variety of wetas either.
Anyway, by the end of another hard day of filming in the bush, we'd forgotten all about it. Until after tea.
I think I was washing up at the time. A careful balancing act in those cramped quarters it was too. Hammond was struggling in the pallid light, cleaning and fussing with his sound equipment. Hamdani was loading film into a camera magazine and Ramzi was in bed, on the couch.
He'd complained of not feeling too well and decided to lie down in his sleeping bag. He was trying to read by the light of the oil lamp. Everything was quiet until he moved.
The unit manager, that is.
Suddenly, with nothing more than a gasp, Ramzi had moved from lying down on the couch to standing up in the furthest corner from it. Still in his sleeping bag.
"Take a look at that bloody thing. There, just above where my head was," he cried. We did.
Sure enough, there was another of those aliens. Just sitting vibrating on a crossbar of the wall, looking at us.
"Jesus, it's even bigger than the last one!" Someone said.
"Hammond!" I uttered. He knew exactly what I meant.
Again the axe went into action. Again my man from Picton demonstrated his complete fearlessness. Four powerful strokes from the axe and he had the four-inch creature on its knees. The coup de grace followed swiftly and out the door it went, straight into the jaws of one of the dogs.
"Maybe we should have a little look around, boys, "I suggested. "If there are any more of those little fellows around I think I'll sleep in the back of the care."
"So will I." Ramzi was right there with me.
The inspection proved to be a very prudent move. We discovered an enormous spider, just above where the cameraman would be sleeping, and another weta. It was of the same genetic strain as the two extra-terrestrials we had disposed of. Worst still, it was upstairs where my bed was.
"But not tonight, friends," I said, as I took my sleeping bag down, grabbed a torch and left for the care with the unit manager. I would be extremely uncomfortable in the back of the station wagon, but at least I wouldn't be harassed by monsters.
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