The Malaan Monster for Mobile and Tablet

Atherton Tableland, Far North Queensland. 1981

As feelings go, it was one of the creepiest – the sense of being watched by someone you couldn’t see. Seth listened to his feelings: they’d got him out of trouble more than once. Looking around, he scanned the wall of rainforest around the high-country dairy farm. The thick bush watched him back.

It was remote up here. From the farm’s southern edge, it was basically jungle for the next fifty or sixty kilometres, the forest riven by the ancient Tully Gorge, hundreds of metres deep, its deep booming chasm a few kilometres from the great brooding mass of Koombooloomba Dam. To the west it was a whole lot more of the same − a few hundred square kilometres of the roughest jungle in Australia; stretching in a rugged wilderness almost to the coast; jagged massifs tumbling a thousand metres or more down to deep hidden creeks and boulder-strewn rivers.

Blokes vanished in there; hard-core bushwalkers from overseas and interstate; local fellas on the run or just off their heads. Totally uninhabited and without roads, the area was mostly unexplored; by white fellas anyway, and the triple-canopy rain forest sheltered a lost world of extraordinary flora and fauna.

With his ex-army mate Les, Seth had hiked into this area, scaling the green giants of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker − the highest mountains in the state, and with their eight-metres plus annual rainfall, probably the wettest places on the planet. It was dense cloud-forest nearly all the way up Bartle Frere; the last part near bloody vertical, before a seriously hairy scramble over a slippery boulder-field to the summit.

They’d been lucky − the nearly year-round cloud-cover was absent, and the mile-high views of the shimmering agricultural patchwork of the Tablelands, and the rainforest peaks and sugar cane fields running to the Coral Sea coast had elevated them to a reverent silence.

Seth looked around the dairy farm again: the neglected old homestead, a tractor and nearly done-in ute parked by the rust-pocked farm shed; thirty or so cows gathered listlessly in a holding paddock near an ancient milking shed. It all looked a bit bloody sad.

He’d got the phone call yesterday: a Mr. Reg Kempsey, his impatient, foghorn of a voice demanding investigative help. He’d been reluctant, as clients sometimes were, to get down to brass tacks on the phone, but without a single paying job in the last month, Seth agreed to make the two and a half hour drive up to the Tablelands. Kempsey got stroppy when Seth told him that he couldn’t get up there til late afternoon, as he was helping a mate move for most of the day. It hadn’t been a good start.

Now a distant yell alerted him − a man visible in the furthest paddock. It must be Kempsey. A horse-fly of irritation buzzed Seth’s brain. First the drive and now this. It’s a good job I wore boots and old jeans. He set off, striding through the paddocks, opening and closing dilapidated gates, and dodging cow-shit. As he got closer, he saw the bloke was holding a rifle. What the hell?

As feelings go, it was one of the creepiest – the sense of being watched by someone you couldn’t see. Seth listened to his feelings: they’d got him out of trouble more than once. Looking around, he scanned the wall of rainforest around the high-country dairy farm. The thick bush watched him back.

It was remote up here. From the farm’s southern edge, it was basically jungle for the next fifty or sixty kilometres, the forest riven by the ancient Tully Gorge, hundreds of metres deep, its deep booming chasm a few kilometres from the great brooding mass of Koombooloomba Dam. To the west it was a whole lot more of the same − a few hundred square kilometres of the roughest jungle in Australia; stretching in a rugged wilderness almost to the coast; jagged massifs tumbling a thousand metres or more down to deep hidden creeks and boulder-strewn rivers.

Blokes vanished in there; hard-core bushwalkers from overseas and interstate; local fellas on the run or just off their heads. Totally uninhabited and without roads, the area was mostly unexplored; by white fellas anyway, and the triple-canopy rain forest sheltered a lost world of extraordinary flora and fauna.

With his ex-army mate Les, Seth had hiked into this area, scaling the green giants of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker − the highest mountains in the state, and with their eight-metres plus annual rainfall, probably the wettest places on the planet. It was dense cloud-forest nearly all the way up Bartle Frere; the last part near bloody vertical, before a seriously hairy scramble over a slippery boulder-field to the summit.

They’d been lucky − the nearly year-round cloud-cover was absent, and the mile-high views of the shimmering agricultural patchwork of the Tablelands, and the rainforest peaks and sugar cane fields running to the Coral Sea coast had elevated them to a reverent silence.

Seth looked around the dairy farm again: the neglected old homestead, a tractor and nearly done-in ute parked by the rust-pocked farm shed; thirty or so cows gathered listlessly in a holding paddock near an ancient milking shed. It all looked a bit bloody sad.

He’d got the phone call yesterday: a Mr. Reg Kempsey, his impatient, foghorn of a voice demanding investigative help. He’d been reluctant, as clients sometimes were, to get down to brass tacks on the phone, but without a single paying job in the last month, Seth agreed to make the two and a half hour drive up to the Tablelands. Kempsey got stroppy when Seth told him that he couldn’t get up there til late afternoon, as he was helping a mate move for most of the day. It hadn’t been a good start.

Now a distant yell alerted him − a man visible in the furthest paddock. It must be Kempsey. A horse-fly of irritation buzzed Seth’s brain. First the drive and now this. It’s a good job I wore boots and old jeans. He set off, striding through the paddocks, opening and closing dilapidated gates, and dodging cow-shit. As he got closer, he saw the bloke was holding a rifle. What the hell?

As feelings go, it was one of the creepiest – the sense of being watched by someone you couldn’t see. Seth listened to his feelings: they’d got him out of trouble more than once. Looking around, he scanned the wall of rainforest around the high-country dairy farm. The thick bush watched him back.

It was remote up here. From the farm’s southern edge, it was basically jungle for the next fifty or sixty kilometres, the forest riven by the ancient Tully Gorge, hundreds of metres deep, its deep booming chasm a few kilometres from the great brooding mass of Koombooloomba Dam. To the west it was a whole lot more of the same − a few hundred square kilometres of the roughest jungle in Australia; stretching in a rugged wilderness almost to the coast; jagged massifs tumbling a thousand metres or more down to deep hidden creeks and boulder-strewn rivers.

Blokes vanished in there; hard-core bushwalkers from overseas and interstate; local fellas on the run or just off their heads. Totally uninhabited and without roads, the area was mostly unexplored; by white fellas anyway, and the triple-canopy rain forest sheltered a lost world of extraordinary flora and fauna.

With his ex-army mate Les, Seth had hiked into this area, scaling the green giants of Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker − the highest mountains in the state, and with their eight-metres plus annual rainfall, probably the wettest places on the planet. It was dense cloud-forest nearly all the way up Bartle Frere; the last part near bloody vertical, before a seriously hairy scramble over a slippery boulder-field to the summit.

They’d been lucky − the nearly year-round cloud-cover was absent, and the mile-high views of the shimmering agricultural patchwork of the Tablelands, and the rainforest peaks and sugar cane fields running to the Coral Sea coast had elevated them to a reverent silence.

Seth looked around the dairy farm again: the neglected old homestead, a tractor and nearly done-in ute parked by the rust-pocked farm shed; thirty or so cows gathered listlessly in a holding paddock near an ancient milking shed. It all looked a bit bloody sad.

He’d got the phone call yesterday: a Mr. Reg Kempsey, his impatient, foghorn of a voice demanding investigative help. He’d been reluctant, as clients sometimes were, to get down to brass tacks on the phone, but without a single paying job in the last month, Seth agreed to make the two and a half hour drive up to the Tablelands. Kempsey got stroppy when Seth told him that he couldn’t get up there til late afternoon, as he was helping a mate move for most of the day. It hadn’t been a good start.

Now a distant yell alerted him − a man visible in the furthest paddock. It must be Kempsey. A horse-fly of irritation buzzed Seth’s brain. First the drive and now this. It’s a good job I wore boots and old jeans. He set off, striding through the paddocks, opening and closing dilapidated gates, and dodging cow-shit. As he got closer, he saw the bloke was holding a rifle. What the hell?