"You're too chicken to go in there. No way on earth."
"Oh yeh, wanna make a bet?"
And so it was set. My uncle declared that we kids, in a group of three, wouldn't dare go into the forest at night. No torch, just the light of the moon to show the way, to retrieve a note promising $500 that had been left in there. Somewhere.
Mum was shaking her head, clearly used to these kinds of things happening with her brothers, but this was the first time any of us kids had got in on the action. I stood as the eldest, all of 14 years, looking along the bush track into the dense forest beyond. My sister, alongside me, well regarded as easily scared, was biting her nails and muttering something about being crazy. My cousin, younger still and the son of the uncle in question, was showing a lot of bravado for someone so clearly petrified. There is discussion around the validity of the bet - would he actually pay the $500 if we did it? What are the rules of engagement? I am silently supporting the lone voice concerned about our safety and wellbeing, though this is soon silenced and all eyes are on us.
Assurances are made, hands shaken, and as the adults kick back around the fire, we agree to stay together and set off down the path into the blackness.
This is when I remind myself that we live in Australia. There are no bears or tigers in this forest. Our deadliest creatures are in the ocean or under a rock in the garden, and nobody worries about them. You'd likely startle a kangaroo, or a possum or two, but otherwise it's just the dark to contend with, and whatever you can cook up in your imagination. That's the scariest thing of all.
Less than fifteen minutes later, we emerge in a group. A hush falls over the adults as they wait to hear our story. I reach into my pocket and pass over the crumpled paper, onto which is scrawled, $500. Signed, Uncle Dom.
Every person erupts. Laughter and backslapping, cheering and elbowing, all eyes settling on us for our victorious tale. Our uncle is smiling under the glare from his wife and ribbings from his siblings, as he reaches into his wallet.