I’m startled awake at 5 am as the sun rises over Western Australia, causing me to sit up too quickly and smack my head. As I try to work out why the ceiling is so low, I realize I’m clutching my iPhone to my chest like some kind of plastic security blanket.
The iPhone screen shows I’ve typed in “000” on my keypad and left it there, presumably waiting for me to hit the “call” button.
I’m confused by the “000” until a vague memory creeps into my consciousness of a dream I had about being on a boat in a storm as the camper swayed to and fro in the wind, playing with my imagination. Then my boat dreams morphed into scenes where big, hairy men with outback hats and enormous hunting knives tried to break into the camper van.
Don’t ask me how I knew they had hats and enormous knives from inside an unlit camper van; that’s just how dreams work.
I remember being half asleep and groggily Googling “Emergency Number Australia” in the middle of the night, arguing to myself that if something bad were to happen, I should have the local equivalent to 911 handy on my phone.
I know this is just a dream and I’m being completely ridiculous, I remember thinking, in a state of almost-sleep. But what does it hurt to look up the number?
I must have woken up half a dozen times to consider the problem of Crocodile-Dundee-look-alike bandits outside our door, resulting in scenes that played out in my subconscious like an Australian “Groundhog’s Day,” where each time I got to try out a new defense tactic against the imaginary robbers.
Me (calling 000): Hi there. I’m trapped in a camper van in the desert and there are big, hairy men outside trying to kill me.
000 Emergency Responder: And where are you exactly?
Me: Um. Somewhere between Perth and Adelaide?
Me (calling 000): *whispering* Hi, can you hear me? I’m whispering so the men trying to kill me won’t know I’m calling. I need your help.
Big, hairy robbers: I CAN HEAR YOU! Open the door and we won’t kill you!
Me: *still whispering* Did you hear that? I’m like an hour outside of Perth. How long before you can get to me?
000 Emergency Responder: Like an hour.
Me (shouting out the window on the other side of the van): Hey robbers! I’m over here!
As footsteps are heard scampering away from the camper door and towards the other side of the van, I unlock the door and, crouching down, bolt towards the front cab to open the driver-side door. Except when I get there, I discover I’m not in the U.S., so what I think is the driver-side door is actually the passenger-side door. I have to act fast, so I open the door and jump into the passenger seat just as the big, hairy robber jumps into the driver’s seat and snatches my keys off me.
Me: Damn it, foreign cars!
Me: Ryan, wake up! There’s robbers outside our camper van!
Big, hairy robbers: Come out now! If you don’t come out, we’ll come in and get you!
Ryan: It’s just a dream. They’re not real, go back to sleep.
Me: How do you know? Shouldn’t we put up a fight in case it’s not a dream?
Big, hairy robbers laugh maniacally as they slash through the camper door with their enormous knives.
Anticipating the arrival of robbers, I grab my pillow and leave Ryan sleeping peacefully as I crawl silently in the dark to the opposite side of the van and into the driver’s seat. I lock the doors, lay down on the front seat and wait for the big, hairy men to strike.
Big, hairy robbers: Come out now and give us all your money!
Me: Not so fast, you bastards!
Turning the key in the ignition, I floor the gas and speed away, kicking dust into the faces of the big, hairy robbers as they run after the camper van, shaking their knives menacingly.
I stretch my arms and wipe cold condensation off my nose while looking around for Ryan. The sun is peeking through our miniature window shades as I hear clanking and shuffling and cheerful humming outside.
The door pops open and Ryan climbs into the camper with a cup of coffee in his hand. “Oh, you’re awake! How was your first night sleeping in the Outback?”
“Not so great,” I say, showing Ryan my iPhone screen.
“That’s Australia’s emergency phone number,” I explain.
“What were you calling that for?”
“I had a dream we were being attacked by murderous robbers that looked like beefed up versions of Crocodile Dundee.”
“That wasn’t a dream,” Ryan says. We were attacked by murderous robbers. I fought them off with an army of drop bears.”
“That’s not funny,” I say. “I’m totally traumatized.”
“LOOK OUT!” Ryan says, pointing up and laughing.
I glare at Ryan. “You have no appreciation for my heroism. Clearly.”