David Kernot

David Kernot is an Australian author living in the Mid North of South Australia and when he’s not writing, he’s riding his Harley Davidson through the wheat, wine, and wool farming lands. He writes contemporary fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and is the author of around fifty published short stories in a variety of anthologies, magazines, and eZines in Australia and the US, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, and Award Winning Australian Writing.

David Kernot is an Australian author living in the Mid North of South Australia and when he’s not writing, he’s riding his Harley Davidson through the wheat, wine, and wool farming lands. He writes contemporary fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and is the author of around fifty published short stories in a variety of anthologies, magazines, and eZines in Australia and the US, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, and Award Winning Australian Writing.

The Poseidon Stones

Mike Ironbark drove the shovel into the hard dry ground. He glanced at the year-old oak seedling in the pot nearby, and wondered how many years it would take for the tree to shade the farmhouse. “This is for you, Dad,” he said.

Dad had believed that everything is connected, and he died twelve months to the day. They had potted the acorn that night in his memory. Today they’d plant the seedling in the ground and celebrate his life again. Mike’s arms and shoulders ached from the compacted soil. He blamed the early onset of summer. He stood, straightened his tight back muscles and removed his worn wide-brimmed hat. He wiped the sweat off his brow and stared at the small rise of hills in the distance. They marked the edge of the farm and had already turned a deep shade of rusty-brown. In front of them, the heat shimmered above the expanse of wheat. How could it be so hot in the morning? “Curse this heat,” he said and looked around for his crowbar. He stared up at the cloudless, indigo-blue sky, proud of his successes on the land. This was Dad’s farm, his legacy.

He turned at the sound of the back screen door spring stretching. Anna, his wife, stood by the door of their farmhouse, a towel wrapped around her slender body and her long wet hair stuck to her. Mike couldn’t help but smile. She looked beautiful, and he was the luckiest man alive.

“Mike, there’s no water for Maisie Jane’s shower,” she said.

“Have you checked the tank?”

“Yes, it’s dry.”

Mike’s heart skipped a beat and he frowned. Out here, water was their livelihood. Without it everything would die, the crops, the animals… people. Showers were the least of his concern. But it was odd. The bore pump should have automatically filled the house tank overnight. The breaker had probably tripped; it had done that a few times of late. Salt or contaminants became lodged in the pipes that stretched deep underground, into Australia’s Great Artesian Basin.

“Have we got power in the house?”

She nodded.

“Okay, I’ll go check.”

“Daddy, Daddy.” The outside screen door opened wider. Their daughter, Maisie Jane, ran around Anna and made a beeline toward him. He smiled and squatted down. She threw herself into his arms, the spitting image of Anna, except she was tall and her eyes a deeper blue—something she’d inherited from him.

Maisie Jane still looked too pale and thin, but the doctors had said that her leukemia was in remission. He hoped so. “Sleep well, Mouse?” He ruffled her uncombed hair.

The six-year-old nodded. Maisie Jane looked around him, to the small hole in the ground, at his shovel, and the oak tree. “Grandpa’s tree,” she said.

His throat tightened, and he swallowed several times to work it away before speaking. They’d made many promises on Dad’s deathbed, but it had been at Maisie Jane’s insistence that they planted an acorn in his memory.

It didn’t seem a year ago that his father had leaned forward and put his paper-thin hand on Maisie Jane’s cheek. “Mouse,” he said. “You can tell your grandchildren it was Grandpa’s tree because he loved you so much.” She’d nodded. “And by the time the tree is well established, then you’ll have the Poseidon Stones I gave to your dad. Magic stones, like Poseidon, the god of water.”

Dad had chuckled and made one last joke before he passed shortly after, his hand on Maisie Jane’s arm.

Mike’s throat tightened again. Dad had always been bigger than life, and he hoped he’d be the same for Maisie Jane. His hands went to the chain around his neck, to where the three small emeralds were cocooned in silk and their separate hessian bags. Poseidon Stones. Even now they glowed hot as if they had lives of their own. They seemed to call him. Unfamiliar images formed at the edge of his vision, and—

“Don’t cry, Daddy.”

Mike pulled himself from his memories, forced the stone’s images aside; they could wait for another time. He wiped away the tears he’d been unaware of until Maisie Jane spoke and ruffled her hair again. He didn’t trust his voice not to be twisted with emotion and nodded.

“Maisie, come inside and let Daddy check the pump.”

Maisie Jane leaned closer. “Remember?”

He nodded again, and swallowed. “If I see any, I’ll let you know.”

“But don’t hurt them,” she said quickly and held up a tiny index finger in a determined way that reinforced the impression she was such an old soul. At times she seemed years older.

“I won’t.” He stood and watched the young girl run back inside. He smiled and shook his head. There was so much of his mum in her, it was uncanny. He regretted that Mum and Anna had never met, but Mum had passed years before from the cancer. Maisie’s obsession with dragonflies always amused him and especially Dad who had given Maisie Jane his wife’s anniversary gift of an intricate, gilded dragonfly. But Maisie Jane was right; they did tend to dart around near the small, bore pump shed in search of water. They might even be at the header tank, hovering over a broken pipe that fed the farmhouse.

The Sycamore Tree

When I first heard the legend that a sycamore tree stood at the eastern gates of heaven and rewarded those who lived within its shadow, I didn’t realize they meant my tree—the one on the hilltop at Two Rivers. I didn’t believe in the magic until I turned seven and dreamed I’d died.

I stepped outside into the morning shade of the three-hundred-year-old tree. Legend said that if the goddess allowed, anyone born within its shadow could be reborn there. But rebirth was the last thing on my mind, and I rubbed my chest, fresh from the death dream memory of car exhaust fumes, hot engine oil, and grease.

I ran to school because Games Day was the school’s big event of the year, and I was late. I kept to the edges of the oval, away from teachers and sports jocks.

Hugh Wintergreen ran past with a stupid grin plastered over his face. He tugged at my shirt. He said, “Catch me!” and headed toward the main gate.

I gave chase. I caught him and we ran onto the road, into the traffic, where he dared me to follow and play chicken.

I recognized the car and a feeling to stop tore at me. With the death dream fresh in my mind, I froze mid stride, and tried to grab Hugh.

He kept running and dodging cars until the car I’d seen screeched to a stop. Hugh disappeared underneath it.

I screamed and felt every one of his ribs snap.

The smell of hot rubber, car oil, and engine grease, tore at my nostrils. My stomach churned and I threw up into the gutter.

People came running.

Mariana Blackburn, a girl from my class, arrived first. She screamed. “Stu McBane pushed him.”

Her family didn’t approve of my single mum and her birthing clinic. I looked up, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, ready to deny I’d pushed Hugh, but I recognized her voice as the girl who yelled in my dream. The dream had come true, and I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been me who’d died.

The taxi driver was Hugh Stevens’ father, another boy in my class, and he vouched for me, but still, a seed of doubt grew from Mariana’s claim.

Games Day was cancelled, and I trudged home. Mum waited in the kitchen. She’d heard. Two Rivers was a small town.

She checked me over. “You’re fine.” She ruffled my hair. “Go and thank the goddess in the sycamore tree.”

I frowned. “Now?”

She put her hands on her hips.

I nodded and put my boots back on and stepped outside. The door slammed shut on its sprung hinges and I heard her again.

“Take a bag of compost with you and sprinkle it around the tree when you’re there.”

Mum ran a birthing clinic by the tree when the moon was full, and didn’t care what the rest of the town thought. I always thought her a bit crazy, but I loved her all the same.