Inkster of the Week: Skylar Peters

Friday 30th June 2023

Here's a piece from Skylar, packed with evocative imagery and rich in imagination for your reading pleasure!

The Seven Seas of The Catlins

The vast, dry, yellow landscape of Central Otago whips past the glossy window, which prevents my heavy head from falling out of the car. My head feels like TV static as the vibrating window sloshes my brain around my skull, occasionally punching me in the forehead at every laceration in the dry road.

"When are we gonna get there?" my thoughts are interrupted by my sister, asking for the third time.

"Soon, just another hour to go," Dad replies in the type of tone you would use to reassure a 6-year-old. The soft rumbling engine of the black ute is enough to help me slowly drift to sleep.

Thanks to the lack of movement and the sharp creak of the handbrake being pulled to a stop, I sit up in my chair, awake. I rub my eyes and groggily open the car door, stepping out into the blinding, dry sunlight of the Catlins. The sky is completely clear, subjecting us to the burning glare of the sun.

"There's no rain whatsoever, it's time for some sunscreen!" Mum exclaims. Amongst the clear sky, the only visible cloud is a dark storm of foreshadowing in the mind's eye.

I rather messily slop on sunscreen, only half rubbing it into my skin and carelessly leaving patches of white all around my face. Around me is another generic campsite commonly found around the South Island. We found a secluded little spot away from the bustle of the center of the campsite, and the air is rich with the smell of the shrubbery that surrounds us. The grass is dry yellow from the harsh sun, and the ground is in need of rainfall. Peering through a split in the forest, a vast ocean stretches beyond the fields of yellow grass and white beach. The Catlins' signature rocks pepper the ocean with sharp shades of gray, stabbing through the deep blue hue of the water. The waves slowly crawl up the white beach, water continuously coming closer and closer as if trying to reach the campsite. The burning presence of the midday sun still lingers on the back of my neck, held back by the protection of the trees. If only we could get some of that ice-cold water.

Our old canvas tent slowly rises as if it were inflating with air, making it hot work for all of us. The skeletal inner poles of the tent frame form a ribcage. Sweat cools us down like the cold fall of rain that we desperately need. I can hardly wedge the tent's pegs into the crusty, dry ground, and when I do, the dirt erupts into a pyroclastic flow of dust. "Better make sure we remember the waterproofing this time, haha," Mum jokes. "We are going to make sure the tent doesn't leak again." We spray the tacky waterproofing onto the old canvas of our tent, seemingly useless in the dry, rainless weather.

Dusk is arriving, but we still await the much-needed coolness that should arrive with it. We finish inflating air mattresses, blown up like lifeboats ready for deployment. Our sleeping bags are rolled out like mini red carpets, guiding us to a land beyond our dreams, and pillows provide a landing pad for our tired heads, incoming at Mach 1. With no regard for time, the shackles of exhaustion clamp around my ankles and guide me to sleep.

Flickering awake with the sense of movement, a large drop of water hammers me in the forehead, defibrillating my brain into action like an electric shock. Water drips from the roof as the firing range of rain can be heard from outside. I survey the situation. We are lost vessels in the vast ocean that floats our air mattresses a good toaster’s length from the bottom of our tent. I sit up, careful not to capsize my half deflated lifeboat, and paddle my way back to my senses.

“Mum…” I call, “Dad? We’re floating…” My parent’s lifeboat is almost sunk from the weight of my father, who had been putting on a distinguished dad-bod in recent times. “Alright,” Dad grumbles, “get everything out.”

Navigating the mighty seven seas that is now our tent was no easy task. Eventually, after erratically unzipping the rusty door, we wash up on the grass shore outside, looking back at the portal to the stormy high seas, roaming with the galleons and brigantines of the 17th century. We have to retrieve our vessels, hoist the riggings, and retrieve our booty from the flooded dimension. A lot of damp clothes, sleeping bags, and the effort of dampening Dad’s frustration ended in the black ute once again. This time, the wheels slosh through the wet, muddy road, and the soggy grass of Central Otago whips past the window. My head is comforted by the vibrating window now, and every slosh in the muddy road leads to the memory of our adventure through the seven seas. I slowly start to drift off, dreaming of plundering and manning the cannons…

“Are we there yet?”