“How did you get into the desert, by the way?” Prof. Hurry asked, shoving a corncob into his mouth.
“By way of a magic bottle”, Elfrida grinned.
“I see. My brother wrote about that. And do you know how to get back home?”
“No, we still face problems with the witches in the Magic Forest.”
“What – what? Witches, Magic Forest? You also have witched? The Aborigines – the natives here often talk about dark spectres, riding through the night on brooms.”
“Where do these up-oranges live?” Rosy inquired.
“Aborigines, dear pig, are living in the shrubland. That is, they are living in cottages. Out in the Outback.”
Elfrida was all ears.
“Could we visit them, Profdoc?”
“We’d got to go there by jeep but that won’t work for some time. I sprained my hand at the touch down. Perhaps in a few days.”
“That might be too late.”
“I could drive. Please, please, let me drive!” Rosy had jumped down from her chair.
“Why not. So let’s go.” The professor vanished into his lab and returned after a few minutes with several metal bands. “Takes these along, my latest invention. If you wear these wrist bands, you can communicate with the natives. It’s a translator.”
After they all had put on the wrist bands, the children got up and stormed out into the yard. A green jeep was waiting there and Rosy walked around it to take a good look. Then she mounted the driver seat and listened to the explanations of Prof. Hurry. Curiously the animals living on the ranch came closer to watch.
“Wow, all-wheels-drive with independent suspension and servo steering!” Rosy cheered.
After they all had got in, they set off. The road was bumpy but the car was well sprung. It was just fun to drive in the open jeep in the hot weather. Rosy put her foot down.
They downright shot over the sand and more than once the car jumped into the air when they crossed a ground wave. Now and then they saw curious kangaroos jumping along. Suddenly Rosy screeched and jerked the wheel; in the middle of the road was a giant snake. The car lost course and with a swerve raced towards a tree. The children screamed. The very last moment Rosy jerked around the jeep, it turned off and the rear crashed against the tree. There was some rustling and cracking and some peculiar sound like “O-o-o-ogs!” A moment later Berta screamed her head off. Some animal had fallen into her lap, had a leaf in its mouth and looked bewildered.
“Oh, an eucalyptus-eater”, Prof. Hurry laughed. “That’s koala bear. Rosy, you hit an eucalyptus tree!”
“Do the cough sweets come from it?” she asked, surprised.
“Not directly, but do throw the koala out so that we can proceed.”
“Oh!” Bernie was disappointed. “May we not take him along?”
“No, you’d have to take the tree as well or he would starve.”
After the animal was back on his home tree, they drove on.
“This snake”, Prof. Hurry explained, “was a dangerous python.”
“I want to go home!” Berta groaned but the wild ride went on.
By and by the landscape became greener as they were reaching an area with many shrubs and trees.
“Well, where are these up-oranges?’”
“Be patient, Rosy. I’m sure, they are watching us.” Rosy and her friends quickly looked around. “You cannot see them, they are well hidden.”
Rosy, still looking around, jerked the wheel, the car swerved and crashed into a big bush. When the jeep came to a standstill, they all got out and looked at the scenery when some peculiar figures came creeping out of the bush, groaning. They were a little taller than the children, had a dark skin and wore loincloths.
“How did you know that we’re hiding in this bush?” the tallest of them asked.
Profdoc walked up to him, laughing, and held out his hand. They clearly knew each other.
“Hi, Pooku, these are friends from Germany on witch-hunt. Would you tell them what you saw?”
Pooku put aside his spear and stepped up to the children. After bowing to them, he started to speak in a deep voice. Thrilled, they all listened to his story about starlit nights when he and his tribe had watched the moon.
“When some days ago the moon had the size of the sun, they came. About twenty dark figures, riding through the night on a lance. We watched them but did not get close to them. Once one of them pointed at a kangaroo with a wand. The kangaroo vanished and we found in his stead an animal like we never saw before.”
Pooku beckoned the children to follow him. Through many thick shrubs he guided them to a small village, holding several huts. A wooden case was standing in front of one hut. He opened it and Jenny was the first to look in.
“A toad!” she cried, disgusted. ‘”Those filthy witches changed the poor kangaroo into an ugly toad! Anyway, Mr. Pooku, the toad needs water or she will die.”
The chieftain nodded and passed the case to a tribe member who walked with it to a nearby waterhole.
“We asked the oracle of our ancestors”, Pooku said. “It told us that the black spectres want to make a connection through the big orb.”
Rosy cleared her throat.
“Why does the Ork talk about the Mork?”
“The word is oracle. It can see the past and the future...”
“...and the big orb might be the Earth!” Bernie interrupted the chief.
“Yes”, Elfrida exclaimed. “Now all this makes sense. They want to make a connection from here to the Magic Forest and therefore the Magic Forest has to go!”
“But what in the world for?!”
“No question, Rosy, they want to rule the world!”
They were absolutely dumbfounded and no one said a word. Horror spread and helplessly they looked at each other.
“We’ve got to stop that!” Elfrida looked determined and also her friends plucked up.
“First of all we have to find the other hole. It must be somewhere around here”, Bernie proposed.
“Dr. Einstein-flies!” the budgie croaked, spread his wings and sailed over the bushes to the desert.
Pooku, scared, jumped backwards and Prof. Hurry guffawed.
“Einstein, very good! One of the famous scientists on your side.”
“Yes, and because the bird is so clever, we name him thus”, Elfrida proudly explained.
While Dr. Einstein was out scouting, Pooku showed his village to the children. They saw under which simple circumstances these natives were living and were nevertheless very happy.
“No telly, no electrics, no telephone?” Daisy asked with surprise.
Pooku replied that it was much more interesting to live in harmony with nature. “No telly can show us the real beauty of the world”, he explained. “We do not have thieves or violence.”
The friends said nothing and watched a small child running round the corner with laughter, followed by some odd animal.
“Oh, you have ducks here?”
“Not really, Rosy, that is a duckbill”, Prof. Hurry said. “It is a mammal although it’s laying eggs.”
Suddenly there was a loud rustle over their heads and the children glanced up with surprise. Something crashed through the branches of the eucalyptus tree and landed at their feet.
“Dr. Einstein! O my, the way you look!”
Elfrida took up the very dirty bird while Jenny ran for some water.
“Can’t-go-on-much-too-hot.” The knocked-out budgie closed his eyes and breathed heavily.
“The heat got at him”, Jenny said, sprinkling him with water. “He’ll be better in a moment.”
And really, after a few minutes the bird started to speak:
“Many-witches, many-rocks, long-shadows!”
“We know that there are many witches and rocks all over the place, but what about the long shadows?” Bernie shrugged and looked at Pooku.
“Long shadows, that means high rocks. The longest shadows are in Devil’s Valley.”
“Would go along with witches”, Bernie said. “And how do we get there?”
“No one enters the Devil’s Valley of his free will”, Pooku said. “A place of the condemned. Evil spirits are living there.”
“First of all there are a lot a snakes”, Prof. Hurry added. “And we must take enough water. We best drive back to my ranch. We’ll snatch some sleep and leave tonight. With this heat we’d be roasted in Devil’s Valley.”
“Why do you not stay here, Hurry? You’d spare the way back to your house.”
Prof. Hurry looked at the children. Elfrida nodded and so he said: “Okay, Pooku, so show us your guest room.”
A few moments later Berta was outraged:
“I am to sleep on the ground? Some dirty ground where bugs and beetles will gnaw at me? I want to go back to ranch. I’ll not stay a minute!”
“Do you know, my dear pig, that most people of the world are always sleeping on the naked ground? Much healthier than on a soft mattress. Okay, not that comfortable but we are in the bush and will adapt ourselves.”
“But Mr. Profdoc, it is very dirty which I do not like.”
“Dirt? I don’t see dirt, Berta, I see nature. Nature is not dirty, only what some people make of it, is dirt. Do you see any tins or waste lying around?”
Berta looked at the ground, rather taken aback.
“You are right, Mr. Profdoc, I had not seen that like that.”
“When will be dinner?” Rosy asked.
“How can you think of food in this beautiful nature?”
“Because, dearest Berta, my belly will not get filled with that.”
When Rosy had said so, she was nudged by a little girl who held out a piece of bread to her.
“Corn bread”, explained Prof. Hurry. “Very good!”
Rosy had not to be asked twice and took a bit.
“Yummy! What’s your name?”
“Pajima! Like to play with me?”
“In a moment. I’ve got to take some food or I’ll collapse when playing.”
While they were all busily eating, Berta looked up and saw a bird like she never had seen before.
“Ey, what sort of funny bird are you?” she shouted.
The bird squinted at her and laughed out loud.
Berta rose. “Looking for trouble?”
The bird laughed again, even louder this time. Berta became furious and tried to climb the tree but Pajima pulled her back.
“That’s a kookaburra. That’s the way he sounds!”
“Now, that’s a witty name”, Rosy said. “Fancy to be named Cokeburger.”
“Just a proof that you have no idea, dearest Rosy. Cokeburger – sounds like you all right. The name is Cook-to-bury!”
“Lord, that’s a kookaburra, what we call Laughing Jackass. Never heard that?”
Rosy shook her head and Berta mumbled that they probably would learn it next term.
When they all had eaten, Berta thoughtfully looked at the village children. None of them had the kind of toys every child used to have. Some had a handmade kangaroo or a koala bear of rugs. Several children were playing with a ball made of plant fibres.
“We live in such abundance, that’s why we are often dissatisfied”, she muttered.
“What do you mean?” Daisy beside her wanted to know.
“Think on, at home we get everything. We have so many toys that our rooms are stuffed and we are bored still. Look at these kids. They have nothing and are still happy.”
“Perhaps because of that…”
“Just so, we are overfed, we’ve got everything. There’s nothing we could wish for and that’s the trouble.”
Daisy reflected on Berta’s words for a long time.
“You know, when we’re back home, I’ll put all those toys I never play with into a box. That will leave three of four toys and lots of fun.”
“I’ll take part”, Elfrida said. “I’ll keep Dolly of course, my doll’s house and a few plushies. Then I’ll ask my Daddy to take everything else to the cellar or the attic – he’ll like it! I may pay a visit to all the other things whenever I like.”
“Fancy the space we’ll have then”, Susy cheered. “The silly cleaning will not take more than five minutes.”
“I’ll take part, too”, Bernie said, “but I’ll keep my cars. Them old plushies may move and I mount a highway all over my room.”