In a 1950s era Australia, Bruce Buckley believes a stone taken from Ayers Rock caused vast magical changes in the wildlife causing Sydney to be placed under siege. The city was saved due to its new allies: kangaroos, wombats, koalas, platypuses and kookaburras - who Bruce journeys between as they try to work out the cause of the crisis.
The sheep started bleating as Bruce opened the door and stepped out back; raising their heads from the lawn, the recently shorn merinos fixed their eyes upon him. A large ram with curling horns bleated loudly then began charging, and the rest of the sheep followed. Bruce began scattering lucerne and leftovers on the ground, but the enthusiastic ram barged into him, knocking him over. He fell into a pile of sheep manure, while more animals moved forward. Racing out of her mud pool, a fat sow pushed him out of the way before a train of muddy piglets climbed over him, squealing noisily. Black orpington hens excitedly ran past clucking, and he almost tripped on one chook as he got out of the manure pile, dusting himself off.
Bruce felt a sharp thump on the back of the head. He looked up to see a magpie flying low, right over him … the black and white bird landed on the Hills hoist, glaring at him with fire in its eyes like it wanted to swoop again. Hoping he could stare it down, he walked backwards towards the door. Suddenly a plum landed on his shoulder, and he saw a family of cockatoos busily ripping apart the plum tree. However he had lost eye contact with the magpie, which leapt off the line, flying straight towards him.
“So why’d the champion want to see me?” asked Bruce, as he and Maru continued past suburban houses in Woolooware.
“Look around my pouch,” the kangaroo replied.
Bruce did so and found a piece of paper, which he took out and realised was his uncle’s letter. “That’s odd, I thought I had the letter with me—it must have fallen out of my pocket.”
“Yes, that’s the note I showed the champion and why you’re now going to meet with him.”
Bruce read through the letter again—the last letter his uncle had sent to his friends before he disappeared:
Many months ago while climbing Ayers Rock, I found the entrance to a mysterious cave. I searched inside, and was surprised to see a dim light at the far end. There I found a small red stone which appeared to be making its own source of light.
The secret power enclosed in stone,
Was hid in darkness all alone,
Within Ayers Rock through ages vast,
Until I found it long at last.
I picked up the stone and took it outside, where a tremendous storm had arrived, though the sky had been clear before I went in the cave. But I did not think much of it at the time and continued on my trip around Australia.
Bruce poked his head out of Maru’s pouch. Thousands of kangaroos were massed below them on the circular ground, right up to the boxing ring in the centre, and there were thousands more in the other stands around the field. Many were cheering and bouncing all over the place, creating a tremendous noise—most of them looked to be grey kangaroos, but there were clusters of reds in various places. In the blue corner of the boxing ring a grey was warming up; scent marking with his chest and making practice punches in the air.
Then he noticed that while the stands were crowded, the pavilion he and Maru were in was fairly empty. They were on a second storey that was covered in grass, and the pavilion sloped downwards to a fancy white parapet that ran along its edges. A red kangaroo was leaping towards them, larger than any Bruce could remember seeing. He looked up in awe, noticing the marsupial had many scars and scratches, and part of its left ear was missing, while it was wearing a decorative belt across its waist adorned with images of kangaroos fighting.
“G’day Maru,” the red kangaroo said, looking over at her.
Bruce followed Outback Jack down the stairs to Town Hall, glad to be getting out of the heat, as it was much cooler underground than it had been outside. They reached the concourse where a main stairway led towards the station’s platforms, with crowds of humans and koalas walking back and forth. Another side passage headed to offices of the mayor and his councillors: this entrance was guarded by a wombat, who the two humans approached.
The wombat’s body was built impossibly sturdy, thick and heavy-set. He had a large nose, which contrasted greatly against his beady eyes and small elongated mouth. He was average size for a wombat now, around fifteen feet long and seven feet high and wide, as wombats had grown to diprotodon-proportions during the Great Changes. This giant wombat was seated on an equally large blanket, reading a newspaper. As they approached, the wombat placed his newspaper down. Bruce noticed the headline said ‘More c’wombat …’ but missed seeing the rest as it had been put away too fast.
“Good afternoon and welcome to Town Hole,” the wombat said, then sighed. “Terrible business, fighting with the earthworms today—the war seems never to end! No matter how hard we wombats try keeping our burrows tidy, there’s always some creeping or crawling creature ready to invade. Anyway, what can I help you two with?”