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Bloodwood by Em Starr

Come on, love. Let’s go camping and listen to the curlews scream. 

We’ll pretend we’re nineteen again, and sleep under the stars—forget that the years have bled out. You can bring the marshmallows and I’ll bring the swag, and we’ll singsong the rhyme of the Bloodwood Nymph like we used to. I know you remember the words.

(it sees, it smells, it creeps)

My old Zippo works, and these crooked fingers can still flick a flint wheel, and you do love to hold those balls of sugar-goo to the flame till they blister and split. So, let’s go camping. We’ll find our spot under the Bloodwood tree, and I’ll build a fire, and you can point out the Canis Major, as the marshmallows burn and the dingoes howl.

(it relishes the scent)

I’ve got the tent and Esky packed, so let’s go camping, love. We’ll pretend our friends are there, if it helps, slugging their VB bullets and slurring ghost stories between drags of Winnie Blues. They haven’t aged a bit, and their skin is not so charred. You can comfort yourself with the silliness of drop-bears and haunted billabongs and tales of Matildas that waltz. Maybe you’ll laugh when Belinda finds a blue-tongue lizard in her sleeping bag. Maybe you’ll whisper when you say the rhyme, this time.

(from sap and bark it seeps)

You seem detached and nervous, love, so let’s get back to the basics. We can immerse ourselves in dirt and dust and go where the landscape is writhing—let’s visit the site that stains your grey matter black, realise Bloodwood Nymphs exist only in minds that are overwhelmed and remembering wrong, invoked with careless words made real by haze, and shadow, and trees that bleed.

(to eat you in your tent) 

Come on, love. It’s time to go bush for a bit – let’s escape the blurred buzz of the city and breathe in that eucalypt air. It’s been too long since we were amongst the snakes and spiders. I’ll hold your hand beneath the Aurora Australis, watch the colours refract from the wetness of your eyes as they close—devour you when the campfire smoke turns black. 

About the author
Em Starr (she/her) is an emerging Aussie horror writer, living in Melbourne on Boon Wurrung land. Her work has been published alongside some of Australia’s best dark fiction authors, and her short stories have won and placed in several literary contests. Check her out at