The sun was hot enough to burn skin through clothing. Worse, I could already feel the effects of dehydration. I took a swig from my canteen, choking it down even though it felt hotter than freshly brewed tea. I looked down at my map, rereading the instructions scattered around each point of reference, and let out a slow sigh - I was barely halfway to the next marker and the remaining water was unlikely to last.
The rest of the hike took an eternity as I reached path after path disappearing into the trees. At each intersection, I carefully read the description of my destination path - a tree bent at a right angle; a rock with a love-heart carved into the top and a pair of shoes dangling by their laces from the second highest branch of another, taller tree - and each time find no trace of any indicator. More than once, I concluded that I was lost and resolved to head back after the next path, but never did.
Finally, from a distance, I spied a tree at a right angle, a pair of shoes dangling high above it and a rock sitting below which had, as confirmed by a closer inspection, a heart carved into it. My spirits lifted, I launched down the path, sucking down the last precious drops of water from my canteen. Time was against me now - I couldn't have more than an hour of good light left.
The path weaved, rose and fell until, as my feet were giving out from under me, I spied my destination. It was little more than a shack hidden amongst the trees, covered in cobwebs, the door hanging ajar but stuck fast by a chain and padlock. I pushed my hand into my pocket, feeling for the key which had mingled among the confusion of coins. Drawing it out, I tried the lock without success. It had long since rusted shut. I pulled against it with my full weight, straining the chain, until finally it came loose and let the door swing open, protesting loudly as the old hinges ground against themselves.
It was dark, but I could make out the shapes of shelves and the outlines of long forgotten tools, hoarded here to keep nature at bay. Searching through the darkness, my eyes gradually adjusted and I began to see enough to make out a few items which held a metallic sheen. I knew I was close. Lifting away a blanket from a corner shelf, I displaced an alarmed family of moths, however in so doing I revealed my quarry - a solid silver face, glistening up toward me. It looked almost new, still holding all the allure I recalled having first seen it some fifteen years prior.
Pulling the immensely heavy slab of silver free and blowing off the dust, I summoned up just enough strength to get it onto my shoulder and begin the walk back, being careful to lock up the door and chain just as I found it. It felt like an eternity, that walk. I was exhausted beyond reason, thirsty, ravenously hungry and yet... hopeful. I had reclaimed treasure from the clutches of time and forgetfulness and was determined to have it take pride of place as an object of beauty within my collection.
When I finally got back to my car, it was already night time. The drive home was a solid fifteen minutes, but I was thankful for the air conditioning and the last of an old bottle of water I had forgotten in the glovebox. I dragged the beautiful old Sony out of the boot and into the house, cracked out a Mars Bar, screwdriver set, canned air and some contact cleaner and set to work.
Finally satisfied that I'd cleaned the insides of the unit to the best of my ability, I connected the power and a pair of speakers and risked the power button. The display lit up, illuminating my lounge room with golden light, and I switched through the inputs until I was satisfied I could chance a go with the iPod, plugged into the auxiliary input. Turning the volume up, Neil Diamond gradually worked up to a good shout... and my heart sank.
There was nothing coming from the right channel and the left channel was crackling badly. The amp was done, cooked, finished, kaput.
I buried my head in my hands and reflected. I'd ventured all the way out to my dad's house in search of the old beast, walked halfway across the suburb to his friend's house where it had spent the last years of its life and broken into his shed to claim it. For nothing. I resolved then and there that I wouldn't succumb to the temptation of "vintage" and its promises of "cheap" and "powerful". They were hollow words for me now.
"Henceforth," I said, strangely anachronistically, "I shall buy new or, at worst, ex-demo!" Lesson learned.