Landing succeeded smoothly – always a great relief – and the beautiful semi-Polynesian hostesses had made the flight more than bearable. Making my way through customs and quarantine was a breeze. I was a low-risk Australian, apparently.
Once through the maze of partitions, I was met by the Doctor’s apprentice and escorted to a waiting car.
The drive avoided the metropolitan sprawl completely and we ascended from near sea-level farming land into wooded hinterland and then along winding mountain roads. What could have been a very relaxing ride was actually more like a rally drive – being lurched around the cabin of the sedan, it’s harsh bulky plastic trimmings offering even less comfort upon impact than the sharp-edged seat belt. We were in a hurry for some reason.
I stayed mostly silent, pretending a little to be somewhat jet-lagged, even though the flight was only about 4 hours duration – there were few questions and little conversation. This despite the fact that I was a stranger who had just arrived from over the seas and was in New Zealand for the first time, in an Australian car, with an American driver, and another American in the back seat. I never figured Americans driving a Holden Commodore could be so un-talkative…
I guessed that they were sizing me up, assessing my character. I was about to meet the Doctor, after all. And they were protective, I guess. Like protects like, and all that.
I noticed the forest was getting closer to the road, and the hairpin turns becoming more frequent as we continued our ascent. Unfamiliar vegetation, and a surprising abundance of understorey ferns and general green lushness. And wetness. Everything was wet. Dripping.
My observations of the natural world were halted as we braked hard and dived off the bitumen onto an unsealed lane. More like a tunnel through dripping rainforest than anything else. I couldn’t see anything past the trees and ferns, which were now whipping the side windows of the car as we zipped upward.
I was just about to ask how long this lane continued, when up ahead there was a brightness. An opening in the canopy that let the light in. And then a house, big and white. Imposing itself and seemingly winning the battle against the thick forest its builders had displaced. A hand darted across in front of me and popped open the glove compartment, fumbling around looking for the garage door remote. The door lifted slowly and we crept into the dark confines of 2-car garage that was mostly filled with piles of cardboard boxes.
A door from the garage led us up some stairs, carpeted in well-worn burgundy. My bags were placed carefully by an arch, and I was ushered through past a kitchen area and into a large living/dining room.
As I waited to be welcomed into the space further, a large figure rose up from the head chair of the dining table. It was the Doctor.
“Hello, and welcome. Would you like something? Some Lambrusco? You look tired. Perhaps a joint?”
Yours in a fictional kind of way,