Drive With Caution

The horizon is flat and blurred in the high midday sun. It rolls onwards, almost featureless; a plain of baked soil gazing mindlessly at the bleached blue sky. The dust is thin and red, spiralling upwards, dazed, towards the barren clouds. In the distance, mirages show misrepresentations of crystal lakes, teasing wantonly, unforgivable and unforgiving. Stunted gums spot the plain like lost punctuation marks, their grey leaves and bark suffocating in the red dust. Between them, a track winds across the plain, tyre marks leaving imprints, breaking cracks and clots in the ground. Two men stand at it's edge, black silhouettes in wide hats. They swat aimlessly at the small black flies droning around them and talk of rain, or lack there of, of failed crops and of dying cattle. They sigh and swear and mention moving south, or north, or coast-wards, and know they won't. Their outlines shimmer and sway in the white light of an angry sun. Their utes wait patiently, hunched over bull-bars like tired mechanical animals, and suffocating like the trees in a plaster-cover of dust. Beyond them, near the track, a skeletal tree passes away, alone and straight, with a sign nailed to its bare branches like the INRI over Christ, a mocking proclamation from days gone by: Drive With Caution - Floodplain.