After Ludwig Van Stug returned from the desert he spent two years writing a book called 'Revelations from Amphibia'.
Ludwig fully intended this book to change the world, but a few afternoons after he had finished writing it he simply dropped dead on the footpath outside the shabby Amsterdam boarding house where he lived, and apart from him no one ever even picked it up.
Along with the rest of his meager possessions 'Revelations from Amphibia' was put in box that was packed in a case that was stashed in the basement of a little used warehouse on the wrong side of town.
One hundred and fifty years later the warehouse was burnt to the ground by squatters who can not be blamed. Probably even before they went up in smoke, Ludwig's amphibian revelations were doomed to be forgotten forever.
After Ludwig returned from the desert he could have gone back to his family and their estate, but he chose not to. Instead he rented a room- bare and cold and cheap, and spent every day alone, scratching away at his manifesto obsessively and to the exception of absolutely everything else.
He lived almost entirely on tea and lightly buttered bread. We don't know what killed him in the end, and at the time no one cared, but it could have been as simple as starvation. Certainly the man with the roasted chestnut cart who was standing next to him when he collapsed only needed one look at his gray skin and objectionable moth eaten coat to put him down as some kind of vagrant.
Poor Ludwig. Neither the chestnut seller, nor the squatters nor anyone else could have even started to guess at who he was, or where he had been, or the thing he had made.
At the top of his form, in better days, Ludwig had counted himself as a scientist and explorer. Then he had come with all the trimmings, a dashing set of whiskers, a well traveled microscope in a genuine leather case and the type of blindness you can get from walking round with your studious nose buried in a notebook.
Although history would record him (in the occasional footnote) not as a bringer of amphibian wisdom but as a failed explorer of the Australian emptiness, the awful truth is that the desert journeys he so proudly thought of as exploration were merely invasions of the most clumsy and brutal kind. As a child he had enjoyed pulling the wings off flies, and as an adult he felt he had found his calling in the parched and defenseless places of deepest Australia. He drew maps of the sand and rock, squinted knowledgeably at the unfamiliar stars and was meticulous in jotting down his complaints about the trees- specifically that they were mostly stunted by salt and always the same dull grayish green.
Ludwig had been born in Belgium, and that had bored him. Arriving in Sydney had been almost an accident, but he stayed there because it did not. He was surprised to find he slept better in that place, a starving penal outpost populated mostly by violent desperadoes, than he ever had in his parents country house, and best of all out in the desert, where he enjoyed the silence and the warm aching weariness in his feet.
In Australia life felt more open. The land was there to explore, and so he did. For his willingness to go beyond the mountains and walk into the dark places on the map he found a sort of cheap fame. Even as a child in Belgium he had never had time for stories about witches or that pale ghostly creature, something between a cloud and a devil, that the farm-hands believed would drift out of the swamp at night and could curse your soul forever. The unknown had no fear for him.
This is why, weeks out into the desert and at rest after another day of what he called exploring, in the five raw seconds he had between being woken by the distinct snap of something stepping on a stick and being seized by the legs and swung, blankets and all, over the enormous hairy shoulders of the Yowie, the primary emotion he felt was confusion.
The Yowie, a huge ape like creature, scooped him up so cleanly that he didn't even have a chance to yelp as he came off the earth. Hanging upside down by his ankles against the back of the giant, he was aware of a clinging animal warmth and uncomfortable pressure on his knee caps. He smelt crushed desert grass and saw the camp fire as a blurred red dot rapidly bouncing into the distance.
Silently and conveniently and completely lacking any sort of answer, Ludwig swooned away.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9