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There was a sense of relief having a collective understanding as to the source of the drumming. Jon had been walking to school when he felt a vibration hitting the bottom of his boots. The pulse was in time to the beat of the drums. The rhythmic sounds had dominated his thoughts for most of the morning, so he wasn’t sure whether or not the sensation was in his imagination. He explained to me that he had called out to the twins, Harriet and Sarah while they were walking to school and they confirmed that they could feel the vibration as well. The plan was to go school and continue to act as though we still didn’t have any answers. None of us could say why, but it didn’t feel right telling anyone until we had more information.
Despite the constant insistence from the drums that our attention be given to them, the teachers did their best to carry on as though nothing was happening. No students were absent, which was unusual even on a traditional day of school. Sarah, Harriet and I would later learn that most of the adults in the town attended a meeting that was meant to be kept a secret from the children of the town. At his meeting, Norma-Jean Hansely would tell the mayor that, earlier that morning, she had seen four school students lying on the road with their ears to the ground.
The four of us met under the oak tree on the school oval during second recess and discussed our thoughts about uncovering the source. Sarah and Harriet were not interested, as they were more concerned about the consequences of sneaking away than figuring out where the drumming was coming from or why it was here. For Jon and I, The draw of being the first to uncover some answers was far too great to for us to pass up this opportunity. Before the bell rang to signal for us to go back to class, Jon and I agreed to meet behind the post office in main street just after dark.
The drums had become background noise by dinner time, barely noticeable and in concert with the sound of the wind and animals from the forest surrounding our town. This helped relax my nerves as I peered out of the window, watching the sunset with great interest. At night, the drums appeared louder, though we knew they hadn’t changed their volume. This made sneaking out to the shed easier, and I was able to make it to the town square with my father’s pick-axe without feeling as though I would be leaving Jon alone for too long. We both carried a torch and a digging tool of our choice. Jon tried laughing off his shovel by saying that the last thing he expected was for a girl like me to bring along a pick-axe. We didn’t have much time, so we agreed to make our way out into the street and start digging.
It was easier to move the dirt to the rhythm of the drums. Somehow it made the time pass faster. We took turns to shift the soil. Jon, then me. Jon, then me. The sound of the shovel and the pick-axe driving into the soil adding to the sounds coming from below. It was Jon’s shovel that revealed the hole under the earth where were standing, the dirt falling so far that the light from our torches was unable to follow it all the way down. Once the hole was revealed, the drums became considerably louder. We didn’t have long to process what we were seeing before a series of flashlights forced us to put up our arms to shield our eyes. A deep voice told us to drop whatever was in our hands. My heart was racing too fast for me to consider any other option, so I threw my pick-axe on the ground in front of me. I hesitantly turned my head towards Jon. He was staring down into the hole with a curious look on his face. The voice reminded Jon to comply with the instructions. Instead, he looked up at me before jumping into the hole. I yelled to try to get him to stop, but I was too late. I looked back up at the flashlights that were now heading towards me, my breath trying to catch up with my thoughts. As the adults and I stood around the hole, it took several moments before we realised that the air was now silent. The drumming had stopped.
In the years that followed, I was never sure if it was just a memory replaying itself or if I could occasionally hear the sounds of drums playing in the distance. Either way, no one in the town ever spoke about the drums again. Until now.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
Illustrations by Alisha Towers: FACEBOOK
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