6.27 pm, 22 April 1972.
The Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia.
Lizards crawled, bugs scuttled and birds raced for shelter. Howling winds peppered red sand against the tough black skin of five middle-aged bushmen. Their eyes stung. Their throats were parched and dry. Nothing could bring relief, not now.
The men, related only through tribal law, sat huddled together, and covered their heads with fresh kangaroo skin, waiting for the abrasive desert winds to subside. Each man sat motionless, concentrating on the sound of the wind.
They each had walked for several weeks from distant lands and yet were familiar with one another’s language group. The tallest and strongest, Gingga, from the Jaru nation, calmly pronounced, ‘It’s time. It has begun.’
Ryder, only one year Gingga’s senior, straightened his back, pushed his chest forward, rolled his shoulders back and lifted his head. Vivid colours swirled through his mind. A picture began to take shape.
Gingga heard the distant screams of a woman—painful, terror-stricken screams. ‘Who you?’ he sang into the sky.
‘It’s a nuringar,’ Ryder said, ‘gudiar nuringar.’
‘Hmm,’ each responded, frowning, feeling disappointed that they should be remotely interested in a white woman.
Ryder continued, ‘I can see her.’
‘With yabba yabba!’ Gingga stated, definitively.
‘Mm,’ Ryder muttered, nodding his bloodied skin-covered head in response. ‘Almost. He’s still coming. I can see his head.’
‘He’s coming. He’s coming.’ The men repeated in unison.
The woman stopped screaming.
Jugarie spoke softly, ‘He’s here. Look on his arms.’
Gingga smiled, repositioning himself. ‘Now we must wait for the child who carries the snake and the woman.’
Silence followed—deathly silence. Nothing moved, not even the infinite miniscule grains of sand, which had been pelting anything unlucky enough to be caught without adequate protection.
‘You tell your elders what happened here,’ Ryder commanded the other men.
‘Mm,’ each nodded, removing now gritty kangaroo skins from their heads.
Ryder leaned forward, placed the palm of his right hand down onto the sand, signifying completion. The men promptly rose to their feet, turned their backs on one another and began their journeys towards their own lands.
This is a sacred place, a hill rich with history. This is where the wisest of men meet. Only fellow countrymen comprehend this. Many, many years have passed since anyone was summoned here. The gudiar will never understand.