Hidden Agenda 2011
Acknowledgements Senior Editor
Rei Barker, Jessica Hall, Shannon Smith, Andrew Maltezos, Emma Ritchie
Document Manager & Contact Liaison
Design & Layout
Paul Katis, Mi Fon Lew
Photos Andrew Maltezos Marketing Shannon Smith Contributors
Joshua Flavell-Blizzard, Andrew Maltezos
Mi Fon Lew
Printed by Holmesglen Media Services.
Thanks to everybody that contributed, and all the talented writers of Holmesglen & the Professional Writing Crew. Much thanks to Deb Vanderwerp, Jessica Hall, and to Daniel Bowd for their necessary contributions.
All characters, corporations, institutions, and organisations mentioned in this publication are the product of the authorsâ€™ creativity or, otherwise used fictitiously without any intention to defame. All pieces remain the property of their authors. 2011 Holmesglen.
CarnivĂ le Bettina Abbott 9 In His Shoes Daniel Bowd 13 Waiting Daniel Bowd 19 The Collector Amy Cornelius 24 Postponed Indefinitely Amy Cornelius 31 Bitches Robert Datson 34 Eyes of the Wolf Shannen Davies 37 I Am a Gun Pointed at Your Head Tayne Ephraim 40 The Seventh Bottle was Empty Liam Jordan 41 A Day in the Life Paul Katis 46 High Voltage Andrew Maltezos 52 A World Without Kevin Henry Pineda 54 The Rolling Skull Henry Pineda 56 Pillow Talk Emma Ritchie 60 Living the Fame Marie Tielmann 62 6
We Stand J. Foxglove 65 Destiny Lois Jessop 66 Tritonâ€™s Might Shannen Davies 67 Mist Henry Pineda 67 Life Tracks Cam Huynh 68 The Ballard of the Cockney Tayne Ephraim 68 Haikus Markie Perdilomatis 70
GAME Wizardry 7: The Crusaders of the Dark Savant Rei Barker 71 GAME Crysis 2 Paul Katis 72 MUSIC Jebediah: Kosciuszko Andrew Maltezos 75 FILM Thor Emma Ritchie 76
Melbourne Mob Central Andrew Maltezos 77 Rising from the Ashes Shannon Smith 81 7
shor stor t y
Carnivàle Bettina Abbott
hair as he walked me out the door.
I hope you’re well, dear cousin. I have exciting news! The carnivàle is coming your way – it said so on a sign. You must ask your mama or papa to take you. I went last week and it’s the most wonderful thing. I had candied apple and fairy floss. If I tell you everything, I’ll spoil it and my hand will drop off from writing. If you’re allowed to go, be sure to keep a look out for the mysterious Petru. You will know him when you see him. Mama is calling me to dinner now so I must go. Ask about the carnivàle - don’t forget!
‘Watch out for the special signs, Jean-Pierre. Something exciting is coming.’ Down in the village I saw the first one, just outside the bakery. It had a picture of scary eyes on it; a man’s eyes. They were bright green, like I’d never seen. Eyes that seemed to follow me as I moved; eyes that knew. Above them were the words: CARNIVÀLE ROYALE IS COMING. IT WAITS FOR NO ONE.
There was another sign outside the butcher and one opposite the village fountain. The last one was just where I thought it would be —in front of those fields, outside our village.
I love getting letters from Lily; she’s my favourite cousin. It’s a pity that she moved away to Paris, I’ve never been there. We don’t travel outside our village much but my aunt has invited me to come and stay next holidays. I hope Mama and Papa let me go.
Walking home from school that afternoon, I didn’t look at the signs. I kept my head down. At the dinner table that night, Papa looked at me and chuckled. ‘I’m surprised you haven’t asked me yet.’
Lily is very adventurous. She’s always delighted in anything new or different. I wish I could be more like her. Petru sounds like an interesting character, so when the carnivàle arrives I’ll be looking out for him. I bet I know where the carnivàle will be. Just outside our village there are two big fields. They’re surrounded by trees with a stone wall in front. At night, the mist blankets them and when the moon shines, the mist comes alive. I think the trees look like guards, always watching for something. One morning before school, Papa tousled my
‘Asked you what, Papa?’ I said, knowing what he meant. ‘About the carnivàle, of course!’ Papa remarked.
I said nothing and kept eating, trying not to think of the eyes on those signs.
‘I will take you,’ Papa said. ‘It will be quite the event in our village.’
‘Thank you, Papa,’ I replied. After all, Lily had said it was wonderful.
The breath caught in my throat as I jumped. I knew this had to be the mysterious man Lily had mentioned in her letter. Staring at me, he said sharply,
A couple of nights later, I woke to noises unusual for our quiet village. I could hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, the low rumble of trucks, tinkling bells, laughter and singing. It seemed to last for quite a while and I knew that Carnivàle Royale had arrived. I fell asleep to its strange lullaby.
‘I am Petru. We of the carnivàle, we are wanderers. There were wanderers on this earth long before us and there will be wanderers until the end of time. Come to Carnivàle Royale my boy, do not miss out. We wait for no one.’
The next morning our village was abuzz. I walked to school with my friend and we saw lots of movement in the fields. There were old grey trucks with ‘Carnivàle Royale’ written on their sides. Small campfires dotted the landscape, their smoke rising. People scurried about and the smell of hay and horse manure filled the air. We heard creaking noises and the echo of mallets as tents and scaffolding went up. We reluctantly entered school, annoyed that we could not stay and watch. When school ended, I had to help tidy the classroom so I walked home alone. That’s when I saw the man with the piercing green eyes.
The sound of his voice made me uneasy and a shiver went down my spine. As I walked quickly by, I glanced at the fields behind him and was surprised to see a Ferris wheel and a beautiful Merry-go-round. I tingled with excitement at the thought of taking a ride. Afraid his eyes would still be fixed on me, I didn’t turn around but ran on home.
That night, Papa told me we’d visit the carnivàle that weekend. Excitedly, I thought of the Ferris wheel and Merry-go-round, candy apples and fairy floss. I also thought of Petru and his eyes. It made my stomach knot but I told myself that Papa would be there and besides, Lily had said it was wonderful. She should know.
I froze. He was a tinker man with long, wiry grey hair and a bushy moustache to match. A ragged, long brown coat partly covered his brightly coloured vest and pants which ballooned out like a genie’s. He wore scuffed purple slippers which showed his bony ankles and his hands were bony too.
The weekend arrived and that night we kissed Mama goodbye and set off. It was cold and dark and I clutched Papa’s hand. Other families were heading there too, chattering with anticipation. As we reached the stone wall, I could see mist swirling around the fields, shadowy figures and the twinkling of coloured lights. There stood Petru with his monkey, who was holding out a hat to accept entry money, blinking its eyes as people threw in their coins. It did not screech this time.
He stood next to a rickety old cart filled with tin pots and pans. They rattled as the breeze caught them. Tied to the side of the cart was an odd mixture of things like scarves, stockings, combs, bottles, woven baskets and brightly coloured bundles of thread. On his shoulder sat a strange little monkey in a striped vest. It blinked at me with its little black eyes, then bared its teeth and screeched.
‘Welcome! What a fine time you shall have! When the carnivàle is done, we wait for no
Once we were on the ground again, I clasped Papa’s hand. The crowd seemed to be closing in on us. I saw two stilt-walkers towering above us in paisley outfits, their faces blank and unsmiling. They threw boiled lollies into the crowd and all the children surged forward to grab them, knocking me to the ground. As I struggled to get up, all I could see were feet and legs. Someone pulled me up and then I got lost in the crowd. I couldn’t see Papa anywhere.
one,’ Petru cried in his booming voice.
Papa and I entered. There were people everywhere, moving helter-skelter, their faces looming and then disappearing from view. I heard many different sounds all at once. The Merry-go-round music, the creaking of the Ferris wheel, a jumble of voices, everything was tangled up together, even the smells.
As Papa and I walked around, we saw statues in different positions. Papa pointed at one and chuckled as he walked me up to it. Its face was painted white, its cheekbones were blood red and it stared outward with its dull eyes. Papa waved his hand in front of its face and all of a sudden, its eyes rolled and it shouted ‘YAAHH!’ Papa chuckled again as he led me away.
My heart started thumping and blood pounded in my ears. I turned around in circles, searching for Papa. Not knowing where I was going, I started to walk. All of a sudden I heard the rattle and roar of the rickety roller-coaster. I looked up and saw the riders. Some were laughing hysterically, hands in the air, but others had pale faces twisted in fear. As I stood and watched, I could see their white knuckles gripping the bars and their screams deafened me.
‘What will it be Jean-Pierre?’ Papa asked. ‘The Ferris wheel or the Merry-go-round?’
‘Ferris wheel, Papa,’ I replied. We lined up and I had a churning feeling in my stomach. There were two little men supervising the Ferris wheel, securing the safety bars on the carriages. They looked strange - like grown ups but not. Their bodies were muscular, their heads looked too big and they had beady little eyes. Papa said they were dwarves.
I ran towards the Big Top, hands over my ears. Please, Papa, be in there! I pulled the tent flap aside and saw a clown with a wide red mouth and yellowed teeth. His eyes glittered in his white powdered face as he pulled me inside. The tent was full of people waiting for something.
Atop the Ferris wheel we saw everything. The carnivàle-goers looked like purposeless ants crawling in all different directions. The mist closed in around us and the coloured lights twinkled through it. Wind whipped in our faces and the tree tops swayed recklessly; the moon casting an eerie glow over it all. ‘Isn’t this wonderful, Jean-Pierre?’ Papa asked, hypnotised by the sights below. I didn’t answer, not wanting to tell him how I felt. He didn’t seem to notice.
A small stage was set with a single chair. To one side a sign said ‘Come Meet the Bearded Lady.’ Then an odd figure in a gingham dress and large brimmed hat shuffled towards the chair and sat down, head bowed. The crowd whistled and cheered. The figure lifted its head and removed its hat. It was a small lady. Her face, arms and legs were covered with thick hair, making the crowd gasp in horror. She just sat there.
‘Jean-Pierre! Wait, it’s alright!’ It was Papa running behind me, trying to catch up. Sobbing, I burst through the front door, straight into Mama’s arms. She stroked my hair and calmed me. Papa joined her and they both took me upstairs to bed. ‘It’s just a carnivàle, Jean-Pierre, what frightened you so?’ Papa said. I could not answer.
All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe and I pushed my way out, still searching frantically for Papa. I ran towards another tent but as I reached the entrance I hesitated, hearing squeaking noises to one side. There was a family of huge black rats, scrounging through food scraps and rubbish.
The next morning, Papa informed me that the carnivàle had left our village. I was glad. A week or two passed by and one morning, after breakfast, Mama handed me a letter. It was from Lily! I took it up to my room. Dear Jean-Pierre,
Shivering, I entered the tent. It was dark inside, except for an orb-shaped light sitting on a round table. A gypsy lady sat behind it. She had long curly hair which was covered by a luminous scarf and she wore big gold earrings and bright lipstick. She was humming deeply. The light shone on the faces sitting either side of her. They all had their eyes closed and their features looked pale, like death. I gasped and the gypsy lady’s eyes flew open. She saw me and hissed loudly between her teeth.
I haven’t heard from you. Did you go to the carnivàle? Did you see Petru? Wasn’t it just the most wonderful thing? Tell me what you liked best; I’ll expect a letter soon! Later, I wrote back to Lily but I couldn’t tell her about my fear. What would she think of me? Dear Lily,
Yes, I went to the carnivàle. You’re right; it really was the most wonderful thing wasn’t it? So much to see. If I tell you what I liked best, my hand will drop off. I’m so glad you told me about it ...
I ran from the tent, shouting ‘Papa! Papa!’ as loud as I could. I had to escape from this place. As I ran, the coloured lights blurred together and the distorted music rang in my ears. The mist seemed lower now, like it was trying to trap me. I cried as I ran, thinking only of home and Mama. As I ran through the stone-walled entrance I saw Petru and his monkey.
That night I dreamt about the carnivàle. The wanderers who wait for no one. Wandering to their next destination, sounding their strange lullaby. The dwarves, the clown, the bearded lady, the gypsy, the screams of the white-knuckled riders, the screeching monkey and Petru. Staring at me with those eyes. §
‘Farewell, my boy!’ he shouted. The monkey screeched as it bounced frantically on his shoulder. I sprinted toward home.
shor stor t y
In His Shoes Daniel Bowd
It’s going to be one of those days…six a.m. start, not a single customer will come in for hours. And of course, Gareth, the manager, puts me on register for the first four hours. Surprise, surprise. Wish I could remember what I ever did to piss him off. Maybe it was that time when my register was out by fifteen bucks. Or maybe it was the time I called in sick and when he asked why, I said, ‘I’m hung over.’ He just hung up on me. Whatever it was, the end result is the same: every Saturday morning, I’m working six to twelve, and I’m always on register for four fucking hours with barely a customer to serve.
you that you can’t always judge a book by its cover – or whatever that saying is.
I know what the ‘bikie-looking-dude’ is here for, too. He always buys the same thing: two Mothers; a four pack of Red Bull; two, sometimes three V’s; a packet of Schmackos; a newspaper; and a six-pack of VB’s. Since I am underage, I am not legally allowed to serve alcohol to people. What I’m supposed to do is call for someone who is of age (who, at this stage, is just Gareth) over the PA system so they can come and serve alcohol. I used to smile when I did this, knowing that Gareth would have to drag himself from the office and come all the way to the front of the store simply to put one item through. But now, this revenge doesn’t seem fitted to the four hours of register every Saturday morning. So instead, I put the alcohol through myself, knowing that I will eventually get caught and Gareth will be fined a hefty sum of money. When that happens, it’ll be Steven two; Gareth zero.
He may think he’s won: Gareth, that is. He may think he’s beaten me, I, mild mannered sixteen-year-old Steven Simms, will just stand here on register, bored out of my mind for four hours straight. Of course, he’s wrong. Little does he know that I figured out how to get Solitaire on the register screen, so at least I’ll have something to do. Steven one; Gareth zero. It’s around seven-thirty when the first customer comes in. I’ve already grown bored of Solitaire so I’ve switched to Minesweeper, an equally frustrating game. The customer is a regular. Not sure of his name; he always wears black and has a grey beard. He has a couple of tattoos on his arm, and when you look at him, ‘bikie’ comes to mind. But when he comes to the register, it’s always a shock just how friendly he is. It just goes to show
‘I dunno how you do it,’ the bikie says as I’m scanning his items, snapping me out of my own little world. ‘Do what?’ I ask.
‘Every Saturday morning, I see you here at sparrow’s fart. Don’t you sleep?’ ‘Sparrow’s fart?’
‘It means you’re always here early.’
In His Shoes
‘Oh, yeah, I seem to be getting dumped with all the early starts. Not sure why,’ I answer, beginning to pack the man’s items into a plastic bag.
from aisle two.
‘Yeah?’ I reply, thankful for some more stimulation. ‘Just a heads-up: Pedo-Evan is here,’ he snickers. I sigh.
‘Can you jump on reg for me then until he leaves?’ I ask, begging really. ‘Not a chance; he’s your problem. Good luck.’ He retreats back to whatever he was doing in aisle two, which is most likely anything but work. He gives me the thumbs up; I flip him off in return. He’s a complete idiot.
I sigh to myself again. Pedo-Evan, Jason the genius came up with the nickname, and I do my best not to encourage it. But still it worries me. Evan is a customer we get on a regular basis; he’s someone who’s not all there. He’s always wearing this suit, which makes us all think he doesn’t have a home; that he actually just lives in the seventies and occasionally visits the future and comes into our shop. He doesn’t bend his knees when he walks, he sort of shuffles, and he seems to always be looking at the ground with his head tilted to the right. He carries a backpack, which he will never have less than one hand on at all times. Probably because he’s paranoid. I don’t really know. Anyway, he’d be at least sixty, I reckon, but the punch line of this story is that he’s regarded as very unfriendly, if not outright rude. Jason said he wished him a Merry Christmas last year, and he told him to fuck off. Yet, for some reason, he’s taken a liking to me, and whenever he sees me, we start chatting, and he asks all these personal questions. Usually, they’re exactly the same questions he asked the last time we spoke, but this resulted in people at work thinking he has a crush on me. Hence the nickname, Pedo-Evan.
‘Haven’t you ever heard that expression?’ he asks with a playful grin beneath his bristly, greying beard. ‘Nope. I’ve heard that when you go to bed, you hit the “Ol’ fart sack”,’ I laugh. ‘Now that’s just un-Australian.’ He laughs, too.
‘Yeah, I guess. That’ll be thirty-two, fifty-five.’ He pays with a fifty-dollar note, and I give him the change, and that’s it. We won’t see each other for exactly seven days, yet we’ll treat each other like best pals. Small gestures such as feigned friendliness are what make people like him shining examples of great men. Life is just that much easier because of such a small courtesy. Ten or so minutes go by; customers come and go though I don’t really notice; all my concentration goes into Minesweeping.
‘Hey, Steven,’ Jason, another kid around my age who works here, calls as he approaches
Sure enough, he shuffles out of aisle three and wanders over to the register, a small grin on his face.
‘Hi, Steven, how are you today?’ he asks as he
In His Shoes
places a can of air-freshener on the register.
predicting is mostly coin (as usual).
‘I’m fine today, and yourself?’ I reply. He always wears sunglasses too, which makes me uneasy. I have no idea where he’s looking.
‘What do you want to do when you leave school?’
‘Be a film editor,’ I tell him for the tenth time. Now he’ll tell me about how he used to work at a recording studio.
‘Not too bad, and a p-packet of Pall Mall amber slims and the receipt too, please,’ he adds, these lines sounding so well-rehearsed as usually he comes in and just buys the smokes, the cheapest smokes we sell. This is the first time I’ve served him and he’s bought something extra. Why, of all things, it is air freshener, I do not know.
‘Oh, that’s right. I went to university and got a Bachelor of music and sound. Then I went to work at a recording studio with my friends, and we formed a band,’ he says, dumping a pile of gold and silver coins on the register.
‘Oh, yeah, that sounds interesting.’ I begin to count the money.
‘Yep, not a problem.’ I turn and grab his cigarettes from the stack behind me, scanning it through and announcing, ‘That comes to twelve dollars-twenty.’
‘So will you be going to university or TAFE to study to be a film editor?’
‘Not a problem.’ Sounds like he’s mimicking me. He gets his wallet out of his backpack, taking forever to do so. This is where he usually starts the conversation.
‘I’m not too sure yet; too early to tell. I assume so.’
‘You should go somewhere close. I had to catch the 327 bus every morning to get to the train station to catch the city train which came at seven twenty because I’m not allowed to drive.’
‘H-How’s Mum and Dad?’ is the first of many familiar questions. I don’t know why he asks this; I don’t think he’s ever met them. ‘Yeah, good, good. No complaints. So far as I know.’
‘Really? That’s a shame,’ I say, still counting and now praying that he doesn’t tell me why it is that he can’t drive. I could pretty much recite the reason back to him.
‘That’s good. Now tell me how school is going?’
‘I s-suffer from delusional schizophrenia, and the medication I take has s-some side effects when mixed with some of the medication I take for psychosis, as well as some anti-depressants and mood-altering medication.’ It’s almost word for word what he said last time.
‘Yeah, pretty good, I guess. No complaints.’ I find myself eyeing his backpack, which now sits on the counter as he fishes for the wallet, taking his time. ‘Is this your last year of school?’
‘I wish. Still got a while to go.’ He smiles so I smile back. He pries his wallet from the anarchy that is the contents of his backpack and searches for the money, which I’m
‘Oh, that’s no good.’ He’s given me thirteen dollars. I press cash on the register and place the money inside, handing him eighty cents
In His Shoes
change and saying, ‘Eighty cents change and here’s your receipt.’ He takes all this and throws it into his backpack, where other receipts I have given him can be seen amongst the rubbish. ‘Well, t-thanks for that, Steven. Y-you have a terrific day and, as always, love and best wishes to Mum and Dad,’ he announces, swinging the bag over his shoulder and heading for the front door.
‘Not a problem, will do. See ya later,’ I reply, smiling until he is definitely out of the shop. Once he is gone, I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank God it’s another seven days before I have to do that again. Jason emerges from aisle two. ‘Man, I’d hate to be in your shoes.’ ***
Don’t step on the lines, don’t step on the lines, one step, two steps for that square, one step two steps for that square, don’t step on the line, one, two, three steps for that square, there’s a lady coming, don’t touch me don’t touch me. I’m over as far as I can, she has to move over. Please don’t touch me, please don’t touch me, I STEPPED ON A FUCKING LINE! Concentrate, don’t worry about her, worry about the lines, she’ll move over she’ll
move over don’t step on the lines, one-two steps for that square where’s that lady? She’s passed me, did she touch me? Don’t think so WATCH OUT FOR THE LINE! Third step for that square. Someone just tapped me on the shoulder, but I know they didn’t, they definitely didn’t the sky is bright red on fire. No it isn’t, I know it isn’t. Maybe Dr. Lee should give me a higher dosage next session. LINE! It’s okay, it’s okay, I missed it. Am I avoiding the cracks today as well? Not today. Good. Footsteps behind, look over my shoulder, some kid with an iPod. They’re so loud, he doesn’t look at me, doesn’t say ‘Hey, Evan’ like I think he does. ‘How you been?’ he doesn’t say but I answer ‘None of your business!’ because he doesn’t care even if he did ask it. He power-walks past me I watch him speed up almost stepped on that line but didn’t. Where am I going? Is it the dry cleaners? That was yesterday or the day before. Or is it tomorrow? Hope not, I don’t want to go to that place the people all speak about me when I’m not there I know. Work maybe? No, too early for that must be the shops. I think I’m smiling. Something’s biting my foot; look down, nothing there. ‘Free soap?’ a waiter asks, he’s not there I ignore her. FOURTH step! Big patch of pavement. Shops up ahead. Smile comes back. Someone’s coming. Looks real. First step wearing black, second step grey beard. I’ve seen him before. Don’t touch me please, don’t touch me, don’t step on the line, don’t touch me. ‘BULLSEYE!’ he yells I fall over. He’s big. HE TOUCHED ME TOUCHING SEVERAL LINES! ‘What you doing round ‘ere?’ He’s laughing spits next to me. ‘None of your business. you don’t care!’ GET OFF THE LINES! I stand up. ‘Get stepping, don’t let me see ya round here again, fucking freak.’ I walk away; he calls ‘Oh, and take a fucking shower!’ FIRST STEP SECOND STEP FUCKING WAITER WAS RIGHT! Arsehole jerk wish he wasn’t real why can’t he be the
In His Shoes
one who’s not real why am I real? Shops dead ahead, smile. Hope he’s not sick today; hope he is there, second step, entrance, no more lines.
‘Not a problem,’ I reply, throwing my backpack on the counter and looking for my wallet. I can never find anything in here. ‘H-How’s Mum and Dad?” So this is what it feels like –
He’s on register, smile comes back. He doesn’t see me. I need something for my smell, what do we use? Deodorant. I’ll buy some. Move further into the shop; Steven doesn’t see me. Looking for deodorant. Aisle one: breakfast cereal and coffees. Aisle two: chips and snacks and an employee who looks at me. I look away look back, his face looks the same he’s real. ‘What aisle’s the deodorant in?’ I yell he’s right in front of me but he’s the one who wished me a Merry Christmas after he said to me ‘You’re Jewish, right? You guys don’t celebrate the holidays.’ I hate him he did it on purpose. ‘Next aisle,’ he says, then turns and walks away. I go to the next aisle, looking for deodorant, find some and move to the front of the store.
‘Yeah, good, good. No complaints. So far as I know.’ ‘That’s good. Now tell me how school is going?’ How everyone else feels –
‘Yeah, pretty good, I guess. No complaints.’
‘Is this your last year?’ No wonder everyone else is happy; they aren’t trapped like me – ‘I wish. Still got a while to go.’
‘What do you want to do when you leave school?’ Everyone else takes politeness from each other so casually; they don’t know how normal it makes someone feel, how accepted.
Steven sees me and smiles; I smile, too.
‘Be a film editor.’
‘Hi, Steven, how are you today?’ I ask. He doesn’t call me ‘Pedo-Evan’ like the rest of them. I know they do. I know he doesn’t: he’s a good boy, he’s nice, polite, and not rude, never rude to me.
‘Oh, that’s right. I went to university and got a bachelor of music and sound. Then I went to work at a recording studio with my friends, and we formed a band.” They take it for granted; they dismiss it. I am lucky to get it –
‘I’m fine today, and yourself?’ he says. I breathe in and breathe out, anxiety fading, feeling good, mind becoming clearer.
I find my wallet and dump the coins on the counter. It’s not that I can’t count, but my mind wanders around quite a bit. Not when I’m with Steven, though. I’m focused; I’m thinking straight, clearly, normally.
‘Not too bad, and a p-packet of Pall Mall amber slims and the receipt too, please.’
‘Yep, not a problem. That comes to twelve dollars twenty,’ he says. The world slows down completely. I feel better, much better, almost…dare I say it…normal. He’s so nice, so polite all the time.
‘Not a problem,’ I reply, throwing my backpack on the counter and looking for my wallet. I can never find anything in here.
‘Oh, yeah, that sounds interesting.’ He starts counting the money, and I smile. He cares. He actually cares, even if it’s only a little bit. He sees that I’m a person, not a disorder. He’s such a good boy.
In His Shoes
‘So will you be going to university or TAFE to study to be a film editor?’
great, one step, two steps for that square, one step for that crack, don’t step on the cracks, don’t step on the lines… §
‘I’m not too sure yet; too early to tell. I assume so.’
‘You should go somewhere close. I had to catch the 327 bus every morning to get to the train station to catch the city train which came at seven twenty because I’m not allowed to drive.’ I recall these details exactly, to my own amazement. The cloud is gone. ‘Really? That’s a shame.’
‘I s-suffer from delusional schizophrenia, and the medication I take has s-some side effects when mixed with some of the medication I take for psychosis, as well as some anti-depressants and mood-altering medication.’
‘Oh, that’s no good. Eighty cents change, and here’s your receipt.’ And just like that, I know our time is over. I throw the money and the receipt, which I realize he has just given me, into my backpack.
‘Well, t-thanks for that, Steven. Y-you have a terrific day and, as always, love and best wishes to Mum and Dad,’ I say, pulse racing, heart rate elevating. ‘Not a problem, will do. See ya later.’ Steven smiles.
He’s such a nice kid. He’s so nice, so polite. It’s people like him who make the world easier to live in. I pass a bin on my way home, throwing the cigarettes I bought away as I do so. Filthy habit, gave it up ages ago, used to make me think my mouth was on fire, and I’d have to drink some water, is it raining? Not yet but it’s about to, shit there’s a few lines coming up WATCH OUT FOR THAT CRACK! It’s not just lines anymore,
shor stor t y
Waiting Daniel Bowd
‘The next train to depart from Platform One will be the eleven thirteen city loop, stopping all stations…The next train to depart from Platform One will be the...’ The man turned his head ever so slightly as the sounds of the announcer’s voice finally reached him. He glanced briefly at the digital clock that hung from the ceiling a few metres to his left. 11.08, it read. Still, the man had a few minutes to wait. With that his gaze returned once again to his feet.
to go. But never a man in a finely pressed suit that looked fresh from the tailors. Not only that, but also two large suitcases placed by his feet so full that sleeves of shirts and the hems of pants hung carelessly from the zips. All that was missing from this scenario was a sign on the back of the forty-yearold’s overcoat that said, ‘PLEASE ROB ME!’ Alas, there the solitary man sat. Alone and forgotten, beneath the flickering light above the only seat in the whole train station, as the digital clock blinked, ‘11:09.’
At eight minutes past eleven on a Tuesday night, you could only ever expect to find the worst kinds of people lurking at this train station. You could find only one of two kinds of people: those with nowhere else to go and those who prey on those with nowhere else
‘11:10,’ the clock blinked once more, and the man knew that it was almost time. He was sick of waiting. He had been waiting far too long, and he damn sure wasn’t going to waste another moment on just waiting. He fished around in his inner left coat pocket until he felt the envelope between his fingers. He pulled it out and placed it carefully on his lap, before looking around
How out of place that new digital clock looked against the backdrop of such a seedy train station. How foolish it seemed for the clock to be so pristine in condition when the rest of the train station lay derelict and dying. The same could be said of the solitary man in the suit sitting beneath the flickering lamp on the only seat at this particular train station. He, too, was very much out of place or at least seemed to be. His purpose was clear – he was there to catch a train just as the clock was there to tell the time. But why did the clock have to be so new, and why did this man have to be so well-dressed? It was because of these simple facts that the two seemed so oddly misplaced.
A slight breeze wafted through the already cold train station, sending chills through the man. He shivered briefly, retreating into his brown overcoat as much as possible. A sharp intake of the icy air sent him into a brief coughing fit, which was over almost as abruptly as it had begun. His chest was heavy, and he could hear the wheezing behind each breath, just a small sign of the internal struggle of each repetition. Breathe in, breathe out. His gaze moved once again over to the clock, but he was careful to move as little as possible to avoid any more pain.
at the train station once more. Beneath the blanket of the flickering lamp, a sea of cold, unfriendly darkness surrounded him and he knew that there was nothing out there for him.
The single shred of doubt that he had vanished the minute he saw the conductor smile, and he pondered the last question: ‘Are you ready?’ ‘Yes,’ the man said with a grin, ‘I think I’m ready.’ He stood and reached for his two suitcases.
He looked down at the envelope but could not make out his own handwriting on the front of it. For that he would need his glasses. But he already knew what the front of the envelope said, so he didn’t bother. Instead, he peered up at the flickering light, which burned his eyes to look at, before turning to glance at the clock once last time.
‘11:11,’ it blinked once, then switched off completely along with the globe of the lamp, covering the train station in total darkness. For the briefest moment, the man felt the familiar sting of fear, which had been like a lifelong companion to him. He had grown to expect it, welcome it almost as an old friend would, and this time was no different. This time he knew what the fear brought with it.
‘Oh, don’t worry about them,’ the conductor interrupted, ‘you won’t need them.’ Again, the smile from the conductor was all the man needed to wash away any fear or doubt he’d had. He stepped onto the train, leaving his bags behind. The man turned to look at the clock once more, which still blinked, ‘11:11.’
The fear soon passed, and with that the light suddenly returned. The clock went back to blinking ‘11:11,’ and the man peered up at the lamp to see that the flickering had stopped and the brightness no longer hurt his eyes. Smiling, the man turned back towards the platform as he breathed easy for the first time in what felt like an eternity, the wheezing and the heavy chest no longer an issue. And with that the train silently pulled up to Platform One. The doors to the train opened as if all on their own, and out stepped a man, dressed as an old-fashioned conductor. The train, too, seemed to have come straight from a time that had been and gone, with its old, ancient-like design being unlike any train the man had seen before. ‘Evenin’, sir. Are you ready?’ the conductor called out from the opened doors. The man in the suit hesitated, but only for a moment.
‘You’re early,’ he said, brushing past the conductor, who still smiled.
‘No, we’re not. We’re always right on time.’ With no sound whatsoever the train began to slowly pull away from the platform.
The man walked down the aisle of the train, exchanging glances with those who had already found their seats, hoping for that one in a million chance that he might bump into someone he knew. He peered out the window and saw the landscape rush by at a speed unlike any other he had experienced before. The man couldn’t even feel the pleasant hum and vibrations of the tracks beneath the train, as though the train itself was gliding on nothing.
He made his way past two little boys sitting in a set of four seats, who were throwing a tennis ball to one another. Their happiness made the man smile, but he moved on. Still not wishing to take this journey alone, he certainly didn’t want to intrude on the boy’s fun.
‘Not sure yet. Only time will tell.’ The woman chuckled, crossing her legs as she sat further back in her chair. She turned to face out the window once more. ‘You’ve been on this train for a while, you said. How long?’ the man asked. The woman kept her gaze to the landscape outside, but her smile remained.
He came upon another set of four seats; this had a man shackled to the window seat with a different conductor seated beside him. The shackled man did not look friendly, and the conductor nodded his head as if to say, ‘Move along.’ The man in the suit kept moving.
‘Lost track, to be honest. Be at least a good… eight, maybe nine years now.’ ‘Really? H-how long does this trip take?’
‘Relax, it doesn’t take that long. I just never get off at the last stop. I’m riding the train over and over.’ With that she turned to face the man to gauge his reaction. It was probably her favorite part of telling this story to the various strangers she met on each trip, seeing their reactions. The man in the suit was at a loss for words.
Finally, he came upon a woman at the very back of the carriage, who was staring absent-mindedly out the window as if lost in a trance. He chose the seat across from her. ‘May I?’ He gestured to the seat opposite the woman. She turned to him and smiled. It appeared to be a genuine smile from what the man could deduce.
‘Why would you want to do that to yourself? I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I’m just glad it’s all over now. I’d never want to go back.’ The man couldn’t quite tell how much truth was in his last statement. But either way, he knew the end result was the same.
‘By all means.’ She shifted towards the man as he took his seat, now giving him her full attention.
‘I don’t want to intrude if you’d prefer to be alone.’
‘I’m not going back,’ the woman said, ‘I’m just…waiting.’
‘Oh, don’t be silly.’ The woman swatted her hand in his direction, still smiling. ‘I’ve been on this train for a while now. Being alone is overrated.’
‘Waiting.’ She turned back to the window once again, her smile finally fading.
The man smiled, despite not being quite sure of what she meant.
‘Waiting for what?’
‘Where you heading?’ the woman asked with a hint of a smirk.
The man thought about this for a second, not quite sure of how to put it. ‘I’m…going home, I guess. How about you?’
‘My husband; I was ready to spend the rest of my life with him, and I never got the chance. We promised we’d always be together, and I’m going to make sure we spend eternity together, no matter where we end up. I’ve been waiting to meet him here
everyone’s life, is just all about waiting, and I just got sick to death of it. I waited for my high school sweetheart to be ‘ready’ to marry me; I waited very patiently for her. Even after she met that new guy and started a family with him, I still waited, telling myself, ‘She’ll come around, she’ll come around.’ I waited for my dad to pick up the phone and call me to apologise for the fight we had back when I was nineteen. I waited many, many years for that. I waited right up until his funeral. I waited to be noticed at my job so I could get that promotion I’d been striving for, but instead I got laid off after more than twelve years of working there. Finally, I got told I had cancer about four years ago, and ever since then, I’d just been waiting to die. Well, even before the cancer I was pretty much doing the exact same thing. My whole life, all of it, has just been one long wait. And I just woke up this morning and realized that I was sick of just waiting. There was nothing else for me to do but to actually go out and do something about it.’ The man took a deep breath.
ever since.’ The man could sense the history behind the words, how many times she’d relived it through her telling. Yet despite constant retelling it didn’t stop the tears from forming in her eyes. ‘I’m…I’m sorry. That’s…horrible,’ was all the man could offer her. ‘Trust me, there are worse stories. Much worse.’ ‘Yeah.’ Unsure of what to say, the man slumped back in his seat.
‘What about you, huh? What’s your story?’ the woman asked, wiping the tears away from her eyes before they could really get going. ‘My story? I…don’t really have one.’
‘Of course you do. Everyone’s got a story.’ ‘I don’t.’
‘Well, then, how’d you get here? Let’s start there.’
‘Wow,’ was all the woman could say. ‘You know, that has to be one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard.’
The man sighed, not sure when or where his ‘story’ really started. Now it was his turn to look for comfort in the empty landscape beyond the window.
The man grimaced. ‘No way. I’m not the one who got separated from the love of my life and goes back and forth in limbo waiting for him.’ The man could feel the sting in his words, but it was already too late to retract them. The woman just shrugged it off.
‘I just…got sick of… waiting.’ ‘Waiting?’ ‘Waiting.’
‘You realize you’re more alive now than you ever were in life. Tell me, how is that not sad?’
‘Sick of waiting for what?’ To the man the woman’s interest appeared genuine, much like her smile, but he could not help but wonder how many life stories she had heard in her time, so just how interested could she really be? Nevertheless he began to speak. ‘Waiting for everything. My whole life,
The man slumped back in his seat once again, the woman turning to stare out the window once more. With that no more words needed to be said. The truth hurts, the man thought, even more when it came
from your own mouth. He was always in a position to change his life, but…
The man in the suit gave no response and did not even acknowledge the homeless man.
‘It doesn’t matter now,’ the woman interrupted. ‘We’re almost there.’
‘Buddy. Yaw gonna miss yaw train, man.’ Still no response.
‘One minute!’ The conductor called as he strolled down the aisle. The man leant over the armrest and peered towards the front of the train as it reached the tunnel of blinding light. He was almost home.
‘Well, lissen, that’ss my bed faw the nigh’, so you gonna ‘av ta find sumwhere elsse ta go.’ The homeless man stumbled towards the man in the suit as the train doors finally closed.
‘Hey.’ The homeless man grabbed a hold of the man in the suits collar and shook him forcibly, hoping to wake the man up. Instead the man in the suit buckled forwards and collapsed in a heap on the floor beside his two suitcases.
‘Hey.’ The homeless man leant over the man, hiccupping as a failed attempt at a sentence struggled to escape his lips. He picked up an envelope that was placed between the man’s legs. Holding it up to the light, the homeless man was able to read what was written on the front of the envelope: ‘My Last Will And Testament.’ §
‘The next train to depart from Platform One will be the eleven thirteen City Loop, stopping all stations…The next train to depart from Platform One will be the...’
The digital clock at the train station blinked, ‘11:13,’ just as the train rolled into the station. With a hiss and a screech the train slowed before finally stopping at the very end of Platform One. The doors opened, and out stepped a man for whom this station would be his bed for the night, as it had been many nights before. But he was disappointed to see that his favorite bench had already been taken by a rather odd-looking man in a suit who sat beneath the forever flickering lamp above the only seat at this particular train station. ‘Ay, buddy,’ the homeless man slurred through his alcohol-induced stupor, ‘you gettin’ on thiss train?’
shor stor t y
The Collector Amy Cornelius
The hunger had started early, much earlier than last time. It seemed the more she sated her need, the more she craved. Her eyes scanned the crowded, vivacious room, searching for the perfect person. Someone on their own – someone she could sneak away from easily – someone either waiting for friends or staying behind after the others all left. She had been waiting for over an hour, watching everyone who entered and even those who left. She had almost given up hope when her eyes found him. He was standing on the other side of the room, partially hidden in the shadowed corner. He held a glass in one hand and his phone in the other, an uncomfortable smile on his face. She kept watch, determining if he was alone. After a few minutes, her mouth slowly salivating at the thoughts racing through her mind, she decided he was. She sent up a silent prayer and kept her eyes trained on him, willing him to look her way. She would find relief again tonight, if only for a brief period of time. She would be able to feed her addiction. The idea made her smile. He looked her way.
at him. A slow grin grew on his face and he checked behind him, making sure she was definitely looking at him. A moment later her eyes fixed on him again, and this time she didn’t turn away. His grin widened and he squared his shoulders, calling on all the confidence he could muster, before beginning to weave his way through the crowd to where she stood. His gaze roamed the room as he passed by the other sociallyactive young people, but it kept being drawn back to her; the dark beauty in the corner. He barely registered the other females standing beside her, obviously her friends, as he broke free from the last of the gathered mass of sweaty bodies on the dance floor and stepped up to her. Her smile remained and her eyes once more locked onto his. The dark lights made it hard to distinguish their colour, but he pictured them in his head as being a dark brown, like her hair, the long length of which trailed enticingly down her back, stopping just shy of her hips. He dragged in a deep pull of oxygen, realising suddenly that he had stopped breathing as he stared at her. She let out a short feminine laugh, a giggle really, and he took one more step toward her in an attempt to be heard over the deafening music of the club.
It had been a while since he had felt that instant attraction to anyone. And a lot longer since he had actually done anything about it. Their eyes met across the crowded room, and a small smile crossed her lips as she quickly looked down at the floor, embarrassed at being caught out staring
‘Hi. I’m Rick,’ he called loudly, although standing right in front of her. He held out a hand to her and instantly regretted it. What kind of guy shook hands with a beautiful lady? She glanced at her friends and he
yearned to look at them as well, to see if he was getting any kind of approval from them, but he couldn’t physically take his eyes away from her angelic face. She looked back at him and grinned.
‘My first time here,’ he admitted, realising even more just how pathetic his pick-up had been. She nodded, still smiling. ‘So, what do you do?’ She leaned towards him, her chest brushing against his arm as she moved. He sucked in another breath, willing his body to calm down. He was already embarrassed enough; he didn’t need her to notice his hard-on and walk away now, not after all the progress he had somehow made.
‘Alana,’ she replied easily, reaching out and taking his hand. Their hands held for a moment longer than necessary until he finally pulled back, wiping his damp palm discreetly on his pants. His eyes scanned her face, tracing down her body quickly, landing on her pert breasts and stopping. His breathing ceased once more. He tried to think of something to say, anything to break the awkward tension, but nothing came to mind. His brain was intoxicated by her beauty and little else mattered. Not even the embarrassment he was sure he would feel tomorrow at staring at her chest instead of face. He had grown up with his mother and two older sisters, and they had told him to always respect a woman by maintaining eye contact at all times. You can check her out when she walks away or you walk towards her, but when you are face-to-face, be faceto-face with her, the words ran through his mind and he blushed, suddenly glad for the darkness.
‘I’m, um...I’m a carpenter,’ he murmured, feeling her lush curves slide against his arm once more.
‘Hmmm, a tradie. I’ve never been with a tradie before.’ She was practically purring, and he was sure he wasn’t imagining it anymore. She was hot for him. He couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t even understand it. He’d never had a problem with women, and he’d been told by most of his girlfriends how good-looking he was, but he’d never had anyone react to him this way. Maybe she was wasted. Drunk as a skunk or high as a kite. Either way, he wasn’t sure he was interested. He didn’t do that crap, and damned if he’d be with a chick, granted a hot chick, just because she was gone with the wind and wouldn’t even remember him in the morning. It just wasn’t him. But she didn’t look high or drunk. Maybe she did just really like him. He grinned suddenly, his ego inflating at the mere thought of this goddess being attracted to him. And it wasn’t the only thing that inflated. He reached out a shaking hand, placing it on the small of her back.
‘So, do you come here often?’ he tried to stop the words, but couldn’t. It was such a lame pick-up line, but it was all he could muster. He was certain that she was going to laugh at him, then turn to her friends and ignore him until he walked away. He was already preparing to turn and bolt when she smiled at him once more. ‘Often enough; but you mustn’t. I’ve never noticed you here before.’ He wasn’t sure through the music, but her voice sounded deep, seductive, and a shiver raced up his spine.
‘Did you want to go outside? It’s a bit crowded in here. And hard to hear properly.’ He tried to sound confident, but knew he didn’t pull it off.
‘Why don’t we go for a drive?’ she replied and took his hand, practically dragging him out the door. She began leading him toward the car park and Rick didn’t hesitate. He kept step with her, not seeming hesitant by lagging behind, but not overeager by rushing ahead. She reached a dark car, sporty and sleek, and stopped, turning to him. His breath caught again at her beauty, and a ripple of surprise raced through him as he realised her eyes were actually a deep green. She placed both of her hands on his shoulders, clinging to his jacket, and pulled him towards her, her mouth opening slightly. He needed no further encouragement, moulding his lips to hers and slamming his body against her, pushing her against the side of the car roughly. He worried briefly that he was being too forceful, but the thought disappeared as soon as he felt her tongue in his mouth. She was giving as hard as he was, and it sent thrills through his entire body. After a minute she pulled back and he grudgingly stepped away. She grinned again, moving her hands across his chest before resting them on his hips.
wheel. Before starting the engine she turned to him with a seductive smile. ‘Did you drive here?’ she asked quietly.
‘No, I caught a taxi. I was supposed to meet a friend here, but they messaged me at the last minute to say they weren’t coming. That’s when I saw you.’ He reached over, lightly stroking her cheek, moving a section of hair that had fallen across her face back behind her ear. She smiled wider; he hadn’t thought it possible. ‘Perfect!’ she cooed, starting the engine with a roar and pulling straight out of the car park. Rick closed his eyes as she weaved expertly through the late-night traffic. He had never considered himself lucky, and yet tonight he felt he had won the lottery. His heart pounded as his imagination took him on a joyride, flashes of images crowding his mind as he considered all the sexual positions he wanted to try with her. Fifteen minutes later, his imagination still racing, he cracked open one eye to peer at her. A smile played about her lips, and her eyes were focused on the road in front of them, but there was a stillness to her that made him frown. What was she thinking to make her look so serious? He opened his other eye and looked around for the first time since they left the club. The suburban streets were gradually being replaced by city blocks, the buildings slowly growing taller and more opulent. He had guessed as much. Glancing at her, he considered her once more. The way she looked, the way she dressed in designer clothes and high-heeled shoes; hell, even her car screamed city-chick. He wanted to know where they were going, wanted to ask, desperately, but he held back. The last thing he needed was for her to change her mind about him.
‘Do you want to come back to my place?’ she asked breathlessly, squeezing his waist playfully. Even God couldn’t have stopped the smug grin that crossed his face.
‘Absolutely.’ He watched as she pulled keys from some unseen pocket and pressed the button, unlocking the car. The flashing lights seemed too bright against his eyes, and he ignored the voice in the back of his mind telling him she was too keen. He’d never done anything reckless in his life and had only slept with women whom he had dated for weeks, if not months, before. If this turned into a one-night stand, he knew without a doubt he would not regret any of it. He walked around to the other side of the car and climbed in as she slid behind the
She finally pulled up into a hotel car park. He scanned the area and frowned once more, confused. She clearly had money, and yet she had brought him to one of the cheapest, nondescript places in the area. He wondered if he should offer to pay for the room. But again, he held back. This was her idea, and he wouldn’t deviate from her plans. Maybe she was coming here out of privacy. Maybe it was so they could spend more than a night together. Maybe she wanted him to stay for the whole weekend. It was Friday after all. The start of what could be a long 48 hours together. The thought of spending more than one night with her filled him with desire and he instinctively reached out and placed his hand on her leg, rubbing gently. She instantly reached down and pulled his hand up off her, dropping it back in his own lap.
‘Yes. I own it. My father left it to me when he...died. I grew up here, and I love it. You can scream to your heart’s content, and no one would hear you. The walls are thicker than lead,’ she answered automatically.
‘And you...um, like to scream?’ he swallowed hard. Her grin widened. ‘You have no idea.’ Her hand landed on his leg and she squeezed tightly. ‘Ready to go in?’
‘Um...’ he trailed off, his nerves shaking his resolve.
‘Come on. Where’s your sense of adventure, Rick?’ she purred as she spoke his name quietly. She was on him then, her hands reaching for him, trailing all over him. ‘This is supposed to be exciting. Don’t you want some excitement?’ Her hand moved to his crotch and he groaned as she cupped him gently. ‘The only problem is this car. It’s way too small for any real fun, don’t you think?’
‘Not while I drive,’ she spoke sweetly, but again he could almost hear a hint of...what? Aggression? He had to be wrong. She looked the same as she had in the club; sweet and sexy. He shook his head, trying to dispel the thoughts. He was just being paranoid. It had been way too long since he’d gotten any. He looked out the windscreen and smiled: the waiting was just building the tension in his already taut body. Maybe that’s what she’d had in mind all along. She executed a couple of quick, tight turns and parked the car. He had to admit he was impressed by her precision driving. No one else was in the parking lot, the area ominously quiet. A few rundown vehicles sat in wide spaces; all of them looked as though they’d been untouched for the past decade. He turned to her, uncertain, and she slowly looked across at him, grinning. ‘Where are we?’ His voice wavered and he bit his tongue, hoping to grow some balls before he tried again. ‘Do you live here?’ He sounded slightly stronger this time. Slightly. She grinned.
‘Um, yeah. Maybe we can go back to my place, though? I don’t live too far from here. And I live alone.’ He swallowed hard as he felt her mouth on his neck, roughly sucking on his skin.
‘Uh-uh,’ she murmured. ‘I don’t think I can wait that long. Not anymore. Do you have any idea how hot I am for you?’ She breathed into his ear and a shiver ran up his spine, hardening him almost painfully. ‘Have you ever had sex in a shower? There are huge showers here.’ She moved her hand as she spoke, stroking him. ‘It’s very intoxicating.’ Without another word she opened her door and stepped out from the small car, walking to the boot and removing a duffel bag. She went to his door and pulled it open.
‘You in?’ She grinned. He smiled lightly, trying to slow his heartbeat, to calm his nerves and focus on the gorgeous woman standing invitingly in front of him. He stepped out of the car and reached for her bag, but she pulled it back out of his reach. ‘It’s okay. It’s not heavy. Just some tools to make tonight more...enjoyable...’ she practically whispered. Rick swallowed again, his mouth suddenly dry. He pushed the door closed before grabbing her hand.
his wrists and pulled them above his head, running her hands slowly along his biceps and his forearms, bypassing his hands completely. She leaned up momentarily before he felt something pull against one wrist, then the other. She pulled back from him then, climbing off the bed and collecting his clothes from the floor. His eyes looked up at the straps binding his wrists to the bed. No wonder she needed the four-poster bed. He looked across and she was dumping his clothes into a large box in the corner.
‘Let’s go.’ He smiled. She pulled him through the deserted car park to an almost hidden doorway before leading him up three flights of steps, keeping far enough ahead of him so her derriere was directly in his line of sight as they rose up the inside of the hotel. She unlocked a thick door as Rick looked around. Were they on the third or fourth floor? Or even the fifth? He couldn’t tell. There were no signs, no nothing. He followed her inside and his gaze travelled around the room. He frowned at the decor. It was completely white. Everything. Even the floor. The room was compact, containing nothing but a bed. It was a high-posted monstrosity that he would never even dream of owning, even if he got it for free. He was about to comment when she pulled on his shoulder, spinning him around. He had no time to think as she launched herself at him, smothering his mouth with hers as she pushed him towards the large bed. His arms wrapped around her waist as he allowed her to take control, falling onto the bed. She crawled on top of him and immediately started undressing him, throwing his clothes to the floor as she removed each item. Her eyes widened as she removed his pants and boxers and a devilish grin crossed her face.
‘You like tying people up?’ His voice sounded weak, and he tried to convince himself he wasn’t scared. He’d just never done anything like this before, and he definitely hadn’t thought she was the type who did. She glanced at him and smiled. ‘Sure. It adds to the pleasure, don’t you think? Completely losing all control? Having to trust me implicitly?’ She turned and sauntered over to him, pulling her small top over her head as she did. Despite his fear, his body reacted and he moaned softly at the sight of her. ‘God, you’re beautiful!’
‘Thank you, Rick. It’s always a nice thing to hear.’
‘I’m betting you hear it often.’ He ached to touch her, to hold her, and he pulled on the restraints, testing their strength. He couldn’t move his arms at all. He glanced up at them again, trying to see what he was being held with, but her hand trailed up the inside of his leg and his attention went back to her. ‘Quite often, yes, but it’s still nice to hear.’ Her voice had gone low, the small almostpurring sound that turned him on. ‘So, what would you like me to do first?’ She leaned towards him, her breasts, still encased in a
‘I chose well, didn’t I?’ she asked, not giving him a chance to answer as she started mauling his mouth once more. She grabbed
thin lacy bra, almost brushing his chest. He swallowed as he hardened more, and his eyes locked with hers.
then turned and walked back to him, in nothing but her panties and bra. After only a minute his voice began to waver and then dropped out completely. She climbed on top of him, straddling his hips and placing the tools on the pillow beside his head. His eyes, the only thing he could still move, looked over and widened as he saw the large hunters’ knife and smaller surgical scalpel. He looked back up at her face and the fear in his eyes made her smile once more.
‘What...what do you want to do?’ he stammered.
She grinned. ‘I was hoping you would ask.’ She turned slowly and reached out, picking up something at the foot of the bed. His gaze was locked on her arse as she moved, until he felt the new restraint that was placed around one ankle. His brow creased, confused as to why she would want his legs bound as well. Without a word she walked to the other side of the bed and slid the last strap on him.
‘Do you want to know what it was that drew my attention to you in the end?’ she purred, leaning down against him, moving her hands along his arms. ‘It was those beautiful baby blues.’ She was practically humming as she aligned their bodies so she was staring him in the eyes. He felt his heart falter and then speed faster as terror etched its way into his whole being. His gaze instantly moved across the room to the two small jars. She pulled her arms back as she leaned up once more, roughly dragging her long nails down his forearms, drawing blood in a couple of spots. He tried to move, tried to moan, tried to do anything; but in the end it didn’t matter. All he could do was watch as she picked up the large knife and started cutting.
‘There now, you’re all mine.’ Her voice had dropped so low he strained to hear her clearly, and her words sent a shiver of unease through him. ‘Do you want to see the...toys?’ She grinned wickedly and his heart accelerated dangerously. She turned and walked back to the box where he could see the bag she had taken from her car. She unzipped the large duffel and pulled out two small jars, setting them aside. They weren’t much larger than a golf ball, and Rick wondered what she would use them for. She pulled out a new item, keeping it hidden, before walking back to him, both hands behind her back.
‘Okay, surprise number one.’ She pulled one arm from behind her and instantly jabbed him in his upper thigh with a large needle. ‘This will help you relax,’ she murmured lightly and he immediately started struggling against his restraints, yelling loudly for her to let him go. She walked back to the box, taking off her tight skirt and placing it inside, pulling a couple of glistening tools from the bag. She placed the lid on the box, securing it tightly,
Her hunger was sated temporarily. She sat in a bright room: her trophy room. She had added her newest acquisitions to her collection, and now she leaned back in her chair, finding a more comfortable position, as she settled in for the night, staring at her prizes. Cold, lifeless blue eyes looked back at her from the top of the collection. Next to them a set of dark honey-coloured irises, and another set, a deep, deep brown, also looked down upon her. They were her earlier masterpieces. Perfect in their entirety, and yet she knew she needed more. The other two sets were complete. Eyes, ears, hands
and feet, each and every body part flawlessly sealed and stored, then put back together like giant jigsaw puzzles upon her wall. Her latest was only half-complete and she felt the distant hunger rising within her again as she considered all the remaining pieces she still had the opportunity to collect. ยง
shor stor t y
Calvin couldn’t believe he was doing this, didn’t even know where the idea had come from, yet here he stood, staring at the seemingly never-ending display of diamonds and gold. Who the hell even knew there were so many different types of gold? White, yellow, rose, platinum… 9-carat, 18-carat, 24-carat. He had no clue which was the best although going by price alone seemed to imply platinum as the winner. And if that wasn’t enough to make his head spin – then there were the diamonds. Big, small, clustered, banded, princess-cut, solitaire, even different colours that he struggled to believe were diamonds – weren’t all diamonds clear? Despite all the confusion, he couldn’t keep the grin off his face. He was actually going to do it; he was going to propose to Jazmyn.
‘Do you? Love her?’
‘Of course I do. Why else would I wanna marry her?’
‘I’m not sure, Cal. Maybe I need you to explain it to me. I’m just not convinced that you’re not doing this because you’re scared.’ ‘Scared? Scared of what?’ His temper was rising. ‘Of being alone.’ ‘Oh, please!’
‘Well, you’re 35 this year. Maybe you feel like you NEED to get married.’
‘Look, Jen, I’m not being impulsive or irrational. I love Jaz. I wanna spend the rest of my life with her. And I don’t know why you’re being so weird about this. I expected you to be happy for me, to congratulate me, and then to tell me how exactly I’m supposed to go about this…you know, buying a ring.’ Jenna laughed lightly.
His mind drifted back to his sister and the conversation they’d had only an hour prior: ‘Are you sure you want to do this, Cal?’ Concern etched her face. ‘Of course I am. Why?’
‘Well, they used to say the standard, or expected, thing to do was to spend 10% of your yearly salary. But that’s just a guide. And besides, you earn A LOT, so you don’t need to go with that…’
‘Well, you’ve only known her a short time…’ ‘It’s been 12 months.’
‘But you’ve only been dating her for six months…’
‘Nine months, Jenna. Besides, what does that matter if I love her?’
‘10%. Got it. Thanks, sis.’ He hugged her quickly, then rushed to the door, eager to get to the shops before he lost his nerve.
‘Oh, and Calvin?’ Jenna yelled out before he left. He turned toward her. ‘Congratulations.’
She looked like herself, but much more seductive. The LBD – little black dress – she had squeezed into hugged her slim figure tightly, the low V-neck perfectly presenting her ample chest. Her hair was piled on top of her head in an intricate mess. It had taken her nearly two hours to ready herself for tonight, but she knew it would be worth it. Although if she was honest with herself, she knew he’d never even notice the effort she’d put into her appearance. And if she was really, truly honest, she’d barely let him. She had every intention of having the flimsy dress ripped from her body within minutes of his arrival, hence why she hadn’t bothered putting on any lingerie underneath. She had spent such a long time on her hair only because she’d had to find a way to get it all up with as few hairpins as possible. The make-up would get ruined, but who really cared?! Not her.
He grinned. ‘Thanks.’
His gaze caught on a large solitaire surrounded by smaller stones, all set in a whimsical platinum setting. Just looking at it reminded him of Jazmyn – she was so unique and free-spirited. He smiled when he saw the price. Perfect. 20% of my yearly salary. If the average woman deserves 10%, then Jazmyn definitely deserves more. He lifted his hand and signalled for the saleswoman to tend to him, pulling out his wallet and credit card as she hurried over. ***
Jazmyn stood in the bathroom, staring at her reflection as she painstakingly applied her make-up. She fluttered her lashes after curling them and then added the mascara that would make them appear twice as long and twice as thick. She tried, without success, to keep her mouth closed as she applied the eyeliner, her mouth opened in an inviting ‘O’. Next was the eye-shadow, a combination of sparkly white and smoky grey. Finally, the lipstick – a deep yet subtle red. She took a step back and admired the end result.
The thought tilted her mouth into a wicked grin. She loved being with him, loved who she got to be when she was with him. They were insatiable together, and it drove her mad with lust. Fire and ice. Her and him. She was wild, carefree. He was calm, controlled, and powerful. Her pulse raced at the thought of seeing him, as it always did. It hadn’t even been a full 24 hours since they’d last seen each other, yet it felt like time dragged ever so slowly when they were apart. She still found it hard to believe she had fallen in love with him so quickly. It was like they’d had barely enough time to get to know each other, and yet they did in every way you could know another person. She could already imagine spending the rest of her life with him, if only he would ask. She knew without a doubt that when he did, she would say yes. She heard a gentle knock at the front door to her house and smiled at her reflection one last time, before moving toward the love of her life.
Once the movement and sounds ceased, he pushed the slowly deflating airbag out of his face and only then noticed the deep dent in the windshield. Blood coated the outside of the glass, and a few long dark strands had caught on the almost-shattered glass. He realised the dent was the perfect shape of a head and looked at the bonnet. He couldn’t see anything beyond the grill, yet blood streaked across the hood, down to the floor in front of the car. He sat in the car, listening to the eerie silence that had filled the room. Finally the sound of sirens echoed in the distance, and he let out a deep sigh, loosening his grip slowly. The jewellery box slipped from his hand and landed on the floor of the car. §
Calvin’s eyes bulged as he took in her fancy hairstyle, now beginning to trail down onto her sleek, bare shoulders. Her face, always so beautiful, was stunning with the added make-up. The thin, black material that had once been her dress was strewn across the bedroom floor. And the look of complete rapture on her face would have made him fall to his knees and cry out in joy, if not for the equally naked man between her legs, thrusting up into her, over and over, oblivious to Cal’s presence in the doorway. Jazmyn, however, knew he was there. She was straddling the stranger, but facing away from him, towards the door. Facing Calvin. Her eyes focused on his shocked expression, and a deep, satisfied grin crossed her face. Cal sucked in a breath, and then let it out slowly, turning away from her without a word.
He walked to the front door and outside, calmly climbing into his Mercedes, sucking in another deep breath as he forced the tears he felt welling inside to cease. He pulled one hand out of a pocket, then the other, looking at both palms. His car key lay flat in one hand. The sleek, black jewellers’ box in the other. He pushed the key into the ignition and started the car without further thought, automatically shifting the vehicle into drive and pressing his foot on the accelerator angrily. The engine roared loudly, blocking all other sounds around him. It took him a moment to realise the car wasn’t moving, and his hand pushed the handbrake down hard. The car jolted forward, bouncing on the driveway before bucking into the house, crashing easily through the front window. The bedroom window. He realised belatedly that the airbag had deployed. His head pushed into the material, then back into the headrest, his body jolting in the seat, no seatbelt to hold him in place.
shor stor t y
Bitches Robert Datson
‘Love is not everything.’
want a girlfriend.’
‘It’s not. Stay here. You can’t come to school with me.’
‘I don’t know why. Men, we just do. Something about companionship. Yes, you make a good companion, but it’s different. It’s sort of hard to say the difference. But a girlfriend listens and talks and cuddles...’
‘Quit with the barking.’
The dog lifted its head, and the boy ruffled its ears.
The boy stood next to the picket fence at the front of his house; the dog scampered around him, in and out of the open gate. The boy’s bag lay in the dirt beside the footpath.
‘I know you listen, and cuddle, and you’re sure talking a lot this morning. It’s just, I don’t know, a huge difference. It’s hard to explain. When I first met Penny, she sort of took my breath away. That doesn’t happen with dogs. I saw her in the yard on the first day at school, surrounded by her friends. Man, she was pretty. I just had to speak to her, but I couldn’t. You can’t just walk up and say “Hi.”’
‘I know you’re worried about me, but I’ll cope.’ ‘Woof.’
‘I will. You know what they say. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.’ ‘Woof. Woof.’
‘Stop prancing around. I know you never liked her. Never thought her good enough. But I liked her. She was, you know, cute. Don’t cock your head like that – I know there’s more to life than good looks. But it sure helps.’
‘I know you could. Dogs can get away with a lot. She’d probably lean over and pat you. Not me, I had to wait weeks before she touched me. Weeks and weeks. She never noticed me. There she was, her school dress just a little shorter than it needed to be, prancing around in the yard. It was beautiful the way it would kick up when she ran – not showing anything – just nice the way it flounced around.’
The boy slumped to the steps outside the gate. The dog leaned against him and rested her head in his lap. ‘I know you’re a pretty girl too. But I do
‘No, we’re not going for a walk. I have to get to school. I promise, we’ll go for a walk tonight. Sit! Good girl. If only – anyway – she remembered the presentation from the day before. She was impressed. You should’ve seen her. Big brown eyes. Just like yours. And so sad. Her mum had been sick, and she had to cook meals for her dad. She’d fallen behind on her homework and wanted me to help. Me! She wanted me to come over to her house. I wasn’t going to say no, was I?’
‘Yep. You look good too when you race around chasing a ball. You never stop, always wanting to play. Anyway, it was weeks later. She was in some of my classes, but she was always with her friends, the ’in people.’ They didn’t hang out with me and my mates. We weren’t cool enough. Derro and Spaz and me. Might not have been cool, but they are great. Derro, you should see how fast he can send an SMS. Geez, he’s quick. And Spaz, he can bang a PowerPoint together like no one else. I guess that’s what caught her eye. The presentation. Neither Derro nor Spaz would present. They did all the hard work with getting it together – it was the least I could do. And – you’ll laugh at this – if dogs could laugh – I don’t mind getting up and speaking. What’s the difference to speaking to a girl? Huge difference. It’s so different... So I got up to speak. Subject: Using Differential Calculus to determine the speed of an Easter Egg to crack it! Derro made me throw a few in class to demonstrate. Even Mr Jenner thought that was ok.’
Brown eyes studied the boy, deep pools of knowledge.
‘So I went. I never knew. Her house – it was a mansion. Two floors. Her bedroom was upstairs. She took me to her bedroom. I met her mum. Penny just said, “John’s here to help with my homework.” Her mum didn’t say anything. I guess she’d been ill. Her room was so girly. Everything pink. Lucky Spaz couldn’t see me. He’d be sticking his fingers down his throat and retching. She jumped on her bed. No, that isn’t the word. She flounced on the bed. Boy oh boy. You should have seen her. Like a cat stretching out.’
The dog turned away to watch a car go past. She trembled, thinking about chasing it.
‘Alright. I’m getting off the track. But the next day, I’m sitting in the yard, and she walks right up to me. And sits down. I could hardly breathe. For weeks, I’d just looked at her, and now she’s sitting next to me. I tried to think of something funny to say. I couldn’t think of anything to say. The day before I stood in front of the class, in front of her, and cracked eggs and jokes – the ones Derro wrote. I’m sitting there, opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish, and then she speaks. “Hi John,” she says. She even knew my name.’ ‘Woof.’
‘Yes. I should have guessed.’ ‘Woof. Woof.’
‘Yes. I know now. You’re the only one I can tell. Derro and Spaz – they’d fall about laughing. They’d tell me to stick with them in the future.’
An old man tottered past on his walking frame, nodding at the boy and his dog,
returning to the old person’s home around the corner. The boy rubbed the side of his dog and waited for the man to move on a few steps.
cook dinner, even on Saturdays. I could have pushed it, could have said we would go after dinner, but all I could hear was that laugh.’ ‘Woof.’
‘Bloody hell. So clever. Not. Two weeks later and all I ever did was her homework. Every second day, she’d slip me a note saying, “Meet me at my place?” She told me it would be our secret, our little rendezvous. She said she didn’t want to share me with her friends – if they found out – they would all want me. Geez. What an idiot. We never spoke in class, or in the yard, or at all really. And the instant we finished her homework, it would be time for her to go and cook dinner, so I had to leave.’
‘No, that’s not the end. I told her I remembered a mistake in her homework. Asked her did she mind if I checked over it one more time. She watched over my shoulder as I showed her a string of mistakes I made, in nearly every question, and corrected them. She won’t be asking for help again.’ The dog put her front paws on the boy’s lap and nuzzled his face. ‘Woof. Woof.’
‘So, Saturday night. You going to come walking with me? We won’t be catching a movie. Girly film anyway. Don’t give me those big brown eyes. Worked once before, but not this time.’
‘What can I say? So two weeks later, I asked her to come to the movies on Saturday night. This Saturday night. I planned to ask after we finished her homework, just ... it took forever because I was too busy rehearsing the words. “Would you come to the movies on Saturday night.” Should have got Derro to write me some one-liners, and Spaz to prepare a powerpoint.’
‘You’re right. Girls are different to dogs. Get inside before I’m late for school.’
The dog licked the boy’s face and obediently trotted inside the front gate. The boy lifted his bag onto his shoulder and set off at a trot for school. §
‘It’s not funny. Don’t even try to laugh with that shaggy head of yours. I’m not even sure she heard me the first time. It was sort of a mumble. She said, ’What’s that?’ I had to ask again. Far out, making a bloke repeat himself. ‘She tried to stop herself. But she couldn’t stop all of it. She laughed. Not in a happy way. I might be an idiot, but I could tell you that. She laughed, in a way that says, ’No way am I going out with you.’ I heard it. She tried to get out of it. Laughed a bit more. Said she was flattered. But her mum, she was still sick, and she had to stay home to
shor stor t y
Eyes of the Wolf Shannen Davies
The rain pelted down from the void above. It hammered against Rayne’s skin as she sprinted through the trees. She held her arms out before her, guiding her through the wall of water. She couldn’t stop, had to go, had to run. Adrenalin fizzed through her.
Rayne jolted up in her bed, her hair and nightshirt clinging to her skin. With a sigh she brought her hands to her face; the screech of her alarm was welcomed to her ears. ‘Just a dream, it was just a dream,’ she breathed.
She slammed into a tree, arms wrapping either side. The bark scratched at her skin. Rayne’s chest was heaving; her hair stuck to her in clumps. She leant into the bark, her shaking limbs barely supporting her. ‘Breathe...Just breathe,’ she told herself.
For the past three years Rayne had been having these dreams. Each one was different and yet the same; and each as confusing as the last. Lately they had grown too vivid for her mind to handle. Reality was blurred. With a thump she shut off her alarm and climbed from her bed; stepping over her already packed suitcases.
‘Owooooo,’ the pack’s call echoed off the trees. Without another thought Rayne pushed her small frame away. ‘Move,’ she urged herself. ‘Move.’
Later when she was seated on the plane, hundreds of kilometres above the ground, the howls returned to haunt her. A shudder ran down her spine, yet eventually they lulled her to sleep.
But her limbs couldn’t take the abuse any longer. They buckled; she collapsed. Rayne landed hard against the ground. Her face and clothes were smeared with mud; her hands couldn’t hold her. A low rumble, no growl, forced her up. Rayne landed on her knees again. Even through the rain she could she them. The pack had her surrounded.
Rayne opened her eyes, back in the woods. The sun reached her through the leaves; she fanned herself. Something cracked; twig or leaf, Rayne didn’t care. She was already off through the trees. Stopping was not an option. Rayne could hear footsteps behind her, gaining on her. She had to make it home.
Slowly Rayne looked them over as best as she could in the dark. One stepped forward: the alpha. Rayne tried, but she couldn’t look away. His golden eyes had locked her into a trance.
On the final stretch she turned down a path only her family knew of. Rayne skidded to a halt. ‘How?’
Eyes of the Wolf
He was standing there, his golden eyes invading her soul. Neither of them moved. He studied her, and she him. His shoulder-length hair, his exposed chest and painted-on pants.
Stars shone brightly in the cloudless night sky, and with the moon they easily illuminated Rayne’s path. Trees blurred around her; a mixture of black, brown and grey. The same fear kept her moving.
His lips curled into a smirk, and with the one simple word that came from them, Rayne’s heart seemed to stop.
Slowing, Rayne rested against a tree, her breathing nothing but shallow gasps as she tried to force air into her lungs. ‘Just for a minute,’ she promised herself.
Rayne’s clothes were torn, and she was bleeding from where branches had scraped her. Yet the pain, like her skin, was almost numb.
‘Miss... Miss,’ one of the attendants called. ‘Miss, we’ve landed.’ Rayne’s eyes shot open and darted across the cabin. There was no sign of him.
With one final breath Rayne forced herself from the tree. Home wasn’t far.
‘Are you alright?’ the attendant asked.
A single howl bounced off the trees towards Rayne. She paused and craned her neck. ‘Stop, please...’ Rayne mirrored the words. She shook it off. There was no way that could be true. She picked up the pace.
‘Yes.’ Rayne nodded as she collected her things. ‘I’m fine.’ She just had to be home before dark. ***
Rayne had barely covered another ten metres when a body slammed into her own and sent her to the ground. It knocked the air from her, and her head crashed into the ground. Rayne saw double.
The taxi door slammed shut, and Rayne gave the driver her address. With one glance he pulled out from the curb. He seemed to know where he was going. Rayne settled down into her seat, her mind focused on her latest dream.
In a daze, Rayne felt a cold, wet nose sniff the nape of her neck. She jumped when it howled in her ear. The wolf sat down next to her, guarding her like a prize.
It was way too real. That word he had said struck every corner of her mind. What did it mean? Rayne shook her head. Nothing good would come of trying to decode her mind. She’d drive herself mad.
Rayne began to crawl away, not liking the almost nonexistent gap between them. The wolf growled in warning; Rayne cursed under her breath. She rolled onto her back and stared up at the wolf. It stared back. The pack howled in the distance; the wolf threw his head back and replied. Rayne didn’t think twice; she bolted.
When she arrived home, only a layer of dust greeted her. It clawed its way up Rayne’s nose. She left her bags at the door. She’d unpack tomorrow. ***
She didn’t even make it two feet before the wolf was upon her. His claws and teeth
Eyes of the Wolf
ripped through the skin of her back and thighs. Rayne screeched in pain, tears spilling from her eyes. Thankfully, the assault was over as quickly as it had begun. The silence that followed was soon filled with bones snapping. Rayne jerked her head to her left. The wolf’s bones were twisting to unnatural angles, his fur and tail disappearing, while his nose morphed back towards his face.
Rayne forgot to breathe. There was no longer a wolf standing before her. In its place was a very tall and naked man. Rayne felt her heart flat-line as she shook with fear. The man looked down at her; golden eyes met hazel. ***
Screaming Rayne fell from her bed; covered from head to toe in a thick layer of sweat. ‘Just a dream. Only a dream...’
When she moved to stand, Rayne noticed a foreign material encircling her. She lifted up the blanket. Bandages. They were wrapped tightly around her thighs and middle exactly where the wolf’s claws had struck her. Rayne’s heart pounded against her ribs.
Breathing deeply, she pulled herself off the floor. She braced for pain that never came. ‘It was a dream.’
Rayne walked over to the window, her eyes scanning the woods. A figure snagged her gaze; then two bright golden eyes caught and held her own. §
I Am a Gun Pointed at Your Head
shor stor t y
You’ve seen me before, but never like this. You’ve seen me being flashed about on the television, striding the hip of cops on the beat, maybe even hiding in your Daddy’s bottom drawer. But now that I’m being shoved into your face, the perspective this time is a little different.
clear as this moment, with a clearness like clouds swept away before the face of the moon, you understand: you are going to die. Are you ready? Of course not. No one ever is. Time in this moment has ceased to exist. Your entire universe has contracted into a single quivering point of fear.
You’ve often imagined what it would be like to have my weight in the palm of your hand, turning me over slowly in your fingers, imagining what it would feel like to slide in a clip and cock me like they do in the movies. Maybe you’ve toyed with the thought of pointing me at the face of your enemy and relishing in the pleasure of their trembling supplication as they grovel at your knees, and inwardly it made you smile. But you’re not laughing now. Not now that I’m pointed directly at a fixed point between your widening eyes. Oh, no. You never expected this. When you opened that door, you were crossing a line, stepping into something that could not be stopped. And I was waiting. For you. And now that I’m here your stomach has dropped away and all the saliva in your throat has receded like the waters before an oncoming tsunami. Your limbs and jaw are aquiver with a life of their own, and your bowels are no longer under your control. You thought you’d felt fear before, but this is something else entirely. This is the face of death. My face. And now, for the first time, you’re feeling what true fear is, because nothing has ever been so
Fear. It fills me with such joy, such life, to be in this position of absolute, undeniable power. In this moment I am God, giver of life and death, and I am unmovable. My voice is the last sound you will ever hear, my hand is death. And for you, pitiful little you, your life ends tonight. The final image you will take from this world is a sharp flash of fiery light, reflected in the silent eyes of your murderer. There’s an explosion you feel not just with your ears and body but with your entire being, and just like that the lights go out. §
The Seventh Bottle was Empty
shor stor t y
If I can offer you one piece of advice, buy good shoes. Ones with grip. And don’t spend more than eighty bucks, then you’re into prestige pricing schemes and you’re just handing them extra money. That’s the sum total of my wisdom, use it well. I learned a lot of other stuff, but that’s probably the best and most universal way to express my views on how to survive contemporary society. If you’re going to walk away from it all, make sure your feet are comfy. When you spend three years working graveyard shift at a petrol station you have to learn how to keep your mind active or risk becoming a “lifer”, one of the growing legion of dead-eyed 34-year-olds who are really excited about acronyms and charts. It’s not the hours, the repetition or the regular threats to your personal safety that will get you, although those things are also a concern, it’s the boredom. Read everything you can, memorise the names of all the chemicals in the anti-dandruff shampoo and organise them in your head by quantity. Methoisothiozolinone. Metholisomeathiozoline. Colours 221, 223 and 537. Look at the numbers under barcodes and after long enough you’ll figure out that the first three digits are universal for Australian products, the next three to five will indicate the corporation and business and the remaining numbers the specific product. After a while, you start to see patterns everywhere.
Most people, for reasons I’m sure advertisers have already figured out and written many successful papers on, when buying two things from the confectionery or the chip aisle, will get two things of the same colour. People who buy Sprite usually buy peppermint crisp. Passiona with cheese and onion. Lime solo with chicken. I mentioned this to a customer once. He’d bought diet coke, maltesers and chilli and sour cream chips. He just looked at me strangely, like I’d told him the sky was actually purple and had been all along. People don’t like it when you point things out, it makes them feel stupid for having not noticed. I can’t really help it now. I think people do that because they’re on autopilot when they come in, they’re not really thinking about what they’re doing. Once, I just said gibberish instead of the usual spiel and the other guy didn’t even notice. So I did it again. I had to stop when I got to an hour, it was kind of depressing.
Still, there’s a lot to keep track of, which if you get all OCD about it can stave off the boredom. That sort of thinking can lead to becoming a lifer, but in order to retain what little sanity remained to me it was a necessary evil. Out the front there was a stack of firewood and a cage of portable gas bottles for sale, which I made sure to keep as tidy as humanly possible. The gas bottles were particularly annoying.
The Seventh Bottle was Empty
What was supposed to happen is that people would be bring in empty ones to put in the back of the cage for refilling, and take a full one from the front. The thing is, people are lazy, so this almost never happened, then every few hours people would come in and complain that there weren’t any full bottles left. And, typically, every time I went out to demonstrate that there were, in fact, quite a few for sale sir or madam, the drunk who delivered the new bottles would be late and I’d have to make up some lie to explain why I was wrong. One year at the Christmas party, a manager on three-too-many sherries told me that the gas bottles were deliberately placed on the other side of the station’s safe to discourage theft. This did not surprise me.
a priceless crystal vase and telling them to leave it alone. One night while I was reading the brochures people shook out of the newspaper I was interrupted by a sound like the biggest pigeon in the world slamming into a truck. A guy had run in and promptly fallen over the Coke display, taking the time to drink from a burst two litre bottle as he slowly got to his feet. Actually, I have a second piece of advice: if you’re drunk, or high, and you’re in a chain store (not an independent, those poor bastards get theft taken out of their pay) feel free to steal whatever food and drink you like. Somebody in accounting did the math and figured out that the profit they’ll lose from however many bags of Doritos a week that get stolen is less than the money they’d have to pay if they encouraged employees to chase shoplifters down the road and one of them got hit by a car. It’s almost sensible. Don’t do it at 7-11 though, those guys will break your kneecaps. I’ve seen videos.
A petrol station is one of the few places most people are forced to go on a regular basis, but have absolutely no desire to do so. Coupled with the fact that the entire business model is to force people to buy things they don’t want, while they’re in a place they don’t want to be, meant that my day-to-day interactions with customers were, at best, terse. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of a hospital. Nobody wants to be there, the lighting makes your skin fall off, the food is overpriced and horrible and it’ll always cost more than you think. Unlike a hospital, nobody is well paid. I earned about 0.43% of the total earnings for each shift. I once got as high as 0.58% once, when we ran out of Diesel. They should just have me shut the shop the minute I turn up, that way I’d be the most productive.
The second hour on Thursday nights was the most dangerous. The bar across the street closed at one am and company policy said that employees don’t need extra security until two, so you got sixty minutes that was like Thunderdome with product placement. I’d tried in the past to keep up some sense of order, but that was like handing chimps
The guy was still sprawled in the bottles, and I was going to go over and help him but he was still having difficulty figuring out up and down. The cameras were out (again), so I made a few notes in case I had to identify him later. He wore jeans covered in what I hoped was paint, a grey T-shirt and a scuffed blue baseball cap balanced precariously over one ear. What I left out of my description was his cartoon-huge pupils and enough toilet paper stuck to his right shoe to have been the guest of honour at the world’s worst ticker-tape parade. He was, in so many words, a drug-fucked lunatic.
People are often wary of addicts, and with good reason - some of them will try and stab you for a bus ticket. Most won’t though, and all you have to remember is that most people who are way too high to function normally are like frightened children,
The Seventh Bottle was Empty
and you have to treat them that way. No big concepts, no sudden movements. Use small words, and remember they’re easily distracted by flashing lights and novelty. Also like children, they have a preternatural sense of when things are about to go wrong, so on no account tell them something bad is happening.
grabbed all three and ran to the back of the shop where he perched on the car battery display to claim his prize. So I left him be, who am I to deny a hungry man?
‘Good thanks, been out this evening?’ I replied with a smile, making sure not to indicate that anything unusual was happening.
The Hyundai belonged to Charenjeet, one of the guys who worked the day shift. He went to night school, business training for something or other, and he always came in after class for a coke and two loaves of white bread. He paid on credit, as per usual, and while we waited for the machine to kick over he told me about what he’d learned in class that week. He never mentioned the guy on the battery cabinet, he was so used to shit like that he may not have even noticed. His card was rejected, and while he looked through his wallet to find his other card three men appeared in the line behind him.
As if on cue, I heard the cacophony of the breaking glass, screeching brakes and hurled abuse that meant the pub was closed. A battered Hyundai pulled up by the front door, and at the same time three men who could’ve been sausage roll guy’s cousins were walking across the lot towards me. Maybe they were his cousins, I never bothered to check.
‘Awwwhowwrerthefuckyagoin?’ he said, wandering down the aisle. The thin wires in front of the console were close enough to prevent access by an adult of his size, projectiles however are another matter.
‘Yeh,’ he walked over to the deli fridge, where he found the boxes of defrosted pies and sausages rolls ready to be cooked over the next day or so. He reached in and pulled out a sausage roll, then stood for a moment, trying to figure out what was missing. ‘Ssssfuckincold,’ and with a frown threw it back into the fridge.
‘Those are for cooking later. There should be some hot ones in the oven just to your left,’ and with that he shuffled three steps over and saw the full pie warmer ready for the pub rush. He picked up a sausage roll, and looked at me. I said nothing. He took it out of the wrapper, slowly at first, and stared at me as he pulled the roll from the plastic wrapping. I said nothing. He took an enormous bite, then proceeded to eat the whole thing in front of me, making a great show of how much he was enjoying himself. I said nothing. He looked back at the pie warmer, and saw three more sausage rolls on the top shelf. He glanced at me once more, squinting as if to test me, then
They’d just come from the pub, but even if I hadn’t spotted them earlier they all bore the key indicators that they›d just been drinking across the street. These included anything from light to profuse bleeding, clothes stained with a melange of beer, vomit, and grass, and a general inability to use full sentences or walk in straight lines. Their most prominent and devious feature was that look, the one I’d heard described as ‘a shit-eating grin’. It wasn’t until that night that I realised what that really meant. It was somebody who was going to stand there and make you eat your own shit, and would thoroughly enjoy the whole process.
The Seventh Bottle was Empty
‘Hey! That’s a lot of bread you’ve got there.’ This is the skill of all grinning Australians, to be threatening in a way that’s just polite enough that they can act offended if you accuse them of being dicks. That way they always win. Charenjeet swiped his second card through, and we did our best to ignore them as we waited for the old machine to rumble through its tasks.
building, slipping in the mix of soggy bread slices and fast-solidifying coke as he went. The grinners were less enthusiastic about leaving and one hurled a sandwich loaf straight for my head. This is why I told you about the shoes.
At the back of the counter was an automated cigarette machine. It must have weighed a good 30 kilos, and had to be bolted to the wall. Its advantages were that you just pressed a button on a pad next to the register, and out come the smokes you wanted. That’s about it. It takes up a lot of space, is a bitch to fill, and the reason management gave for its existence is that it was intended to “reduce theft”. The assumption was made that they meant us. It opened like a fridge from the 60s, and for some reason I could never get it to close right. There was always an extra corner or two poking out where there shouldn’t have been. And it was one of these new magic corners that met the back of my skull as I slipped on the rubber mats with my cheapas-shit discount business shoes. For a second everything stretched out, like the split second between channels on an old TV set.
‘You gonna make a big old fucking sandwich huh? It’s pretty late for that isn’t it?’ said another. Again, I regrettably said nothing. I could see they were impatient. ‘Hurry the fuck up you paki cunt,’ said the third. Charenjeet had had enough.
‘First of all I am not Pakistani I am Indian, so you are showing your own god damn ignorance. Second, I’ve been studying for the last six hours and if any of you could read you would know that it’s pretty hard fucking work, and all I want to do is get my fucking credit card to go through so I can get the fuck out of here and go the fuck home ifthatisallrightwityou.’ The three men looked at each other, waiting to see who would react first. Then I politely asked them to leave. That was a mistake. ‘Here’s your bread you fuck’ the third said, grabbing a loaf off the shelf and shoving it in his face to try and smother him. The other two followed, each grabbing a loaf and hitting him around the face and neck. I was no good in a fight and my only hope was to distract them long enough to allow Charenjeet enough time to get up, then get him behind the console for safety. The door would be difficult, but I trusted that he was fast enough. ‘Get the fuck out of my store!’ I screamed, and the sausage roll guy hurriedly picked up all his wrappers and ran out of the
As I stood up slowly I could feel something warm going down my spine, a bottle of vodka’s worth of wooziness coupled with the intense desire to lie down. The grinners hadn’t expected the throw to go so well, and one leaned over the counter to see what had happened. I pressed myself against the back wall to avoid his arms, and it was then that he saw the safe. From ten to six it was company policy to have no more than a hundred dollars cash in the till at any one time, so all the excess cash had to be deposited in the automatic slot on the front. No store employee could get it open. The safe could carry around a hundred grand when full, and the cash was collected twice a
The Seventh Bottle was Empty
week by three men in an armoured van.
impression, and all I could think about was television prices.
‘That’s your safe yeah?’ I replied that it was.
I tried to make calculations, figure out how fast the car could get from there to here, how long it would take to open the locks to get to the storeroom, how big the explosion would be if on the off chance all the bottles in that cage were full. The back of my eyes stung as they turned on the high beam, and as they sped towards the cage I couldn’t think of a damn thing that might save me.
‘Open it,’ I explained why that was impossible.
‘What about we just take the whole fucking thing?’ I could feel everything going grey, so I told him the safe was welded into the foundations of the building. It sounded like a convincing enough reason to make him give up. It wasn’t. The grinner looked back at the other two, and they let Charenjeet stand. He very quickly and very wisely ran for the storeroom and locked himself inside. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. I leaned against the counter, trying to keep my breathing steady so I wouldn’t pass out. The grinners had seen the blood stain on the cigarette machine, and they knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
For once, I hoped the truck was late. §
‘Hey Ash, look what I found’ yelled the tallest of the three, helping himself to the skittles. He held up a pair of car keys with an enthusiastic rattle. Charenjeet’s. ‘I’ve got an idea,’ he said, and the three grabbed a few snacks from the shelves, climbed into Charenjeet’s Hyundai and reversed it to the other end of the pumps. Then they turned the lights on full beam and began revving the engine, laughing at their own good fortune. Emergency services would never get to me in time, and even if they could I barely see the phone, let alone work out where the numbers were and what you had to do to press them. But I understood what the grinners were doing, they were going to ram the shop to get the safe.
I dragged myself over to the window, and everything seemed to stretch way out to the horizon. In a tiny red car three specks were about to do their best Dukes of Hazzard
shor stor t y
A Day in the Life Paul Katis
Robert Muffrey woke up in a coughing fit; his mouth covered in small particles of vomit and saliva dripped like constant raindrops down his chin. He reached over to his plastic bin and spat into the plastic bag inside it and forced himself to expel the remaining vomit residue out of his mouth.
long running addiction to heroin. Agnes was supportive, but her support was dwindling day by day, especially since Robert came home daily, off his head, scattered. Agnes gave him an ultimatum; get clean, or move out.
Robert was freezing like never before on that Sunday morning, and he cursed the small heater that took hours to do just an average job of warming up the room. His cold, blue eyes focused on the TV although there was nothing of interest showing. Dazed, he tried with real intent to block out the cravings and his brain’s demands for him to cave in. No, not today. It’s my third day clean and there is no way I’m gonna run out and get on. Nope, not me.
The rain and the wind battered the walls and roof of the small apartment, vibrating the windows. The chill of the air whisked through the bedroom with a silent, yet sinister breeze that imposed itself onto Robert’s body, forcing him to shiver back to bed. Fucking hell, I must have forgotten to close the bloody window, thought Robert, clutching his blanket to his chest.
He looked at the small analogue clock in the corner of the room. 6.48 am, shit, it’s too early. Pounding the pillow in frustration, Robert tried to get back to sleep, but a burning pain rushed through his back and neck as he closed his eyes. By 7.23 am, he was trembling under the covers, shaking in the frosty atmosphere of the room. Frustrated, he got up and turned on the small portable heater that his sister had bought. Switching the TV on, he sunk down onto the sofa in the corner.
It was a month to the day that Robert’s sister, Agnes, had let him move in to her apartment in Carnegie, on the condition that he get off the drugs, most importantly to kick his
Positivity was the key, and Robert knew that. It was not the first time he’d decided to clean up; he had done it three times before, each time using the same methods, positive thinking, and a bit of help from a friendly, local GP. The only downside was that all three times, though initially successful, he had fallen back into old and dangerous habits after being clean. The first time, he was clean for six months. The second time, fourteen months. And the last time, for nearly two years. Therefore, Robert’s confidence in his ability to kick the habit was high; it was the period after that that he was worried about, falling back in with old friends and the like.
A Day in the Life
After making a strong, hot coffee, Robert made it back to his room and switched on his trusted companion; the Super Nintendo. Rubbish Sunday morning telly: time for some Mario. Just as the thought passed through his head, out of the corner of his eye he saw the half finished packet of Codeine Forte. It’s too early... but it will help with the cough. Quick as a Jamaican sprinter, his mind was made up, and he was soon tearing through his sock drawer looking for the Valium bottle that he’d hid from his sister.
“Until I saw my fucking sleazebag boyfriend getting it on with some tramp slut, on the couches at the back! Dirty dog, male slut, dog bastard...” “I never liked him. What’s his name? Matt?” “Mark,” Agnes corrected him.
“Mark... I remember his face. Don’t worry sis, I’ll give the dog a hiding if I see him,” Robert clenched his fists. “Don’t worry about it Robbie. Leave it alone, I broke it off with him. Never again. Don’t stress though, I’m a big girl, I will be fine,” she said with a loving smile and kissed her brother on the cheek.
Robert usually took the Valium together with the codeine because he found the combination to be effective: not to mention that he also enjoyed the feeling that it produced. He knew that the codeine was an inferior alternative to morphine and other opiates, but it did the job when he needed it to.
Robert believed Agnes when she said she was fine. Agnes was the eldest of three, and the only female, but she was the toughest of the siblings, mentally and emotionally.
Swallowing the pills with a mouthful of cold coffee, Robert put his feet up and played Super Mario until midday, chilling out and relaxing to the MIDI tunes of the Nintendo classic.
Agnes glanced at the bottle of Valium on the floor as Robert tried to kick it out of view, and shook her head. She was disappointed, but didn’t say anything. There were times when she spoke up about his drug abuse that turned into ferocious arguments, and invariably left one or both of them upset and angry.
At 12.04 pm, his sister knocked and opened the door. Robert knew by looking at her that she was upset. “What’s up sis?” Robert asked.
As soon as Agnes walked out, Robert felt a terrifying pain shoot through his abdomen. It felt like a stab to the guts with a rusty knife, and he keeled over onto his back and let out a piercing scream. His mind flashed of images of a needle and a rock of heroin; knowing that was all that was needed to make the pain go away.
“How are you little brother?” Agnes sat down next to him and hugged him tight. “You feeling alright?” She stroked his hair. “I’m fine... how are you? You look like you had a big night,” enquired Robert.
Agnes turned away and looked up at the ceiling, “Yeah, it was. Went out with the girls to Bar Open and we were having a ball...”
Upon hearing the scream, Agnes rushed back in the room. “Fuck off!” yelled Robert, the strain showing on his face.
“What can I do?”asked Agnes, worry written
A Day in the Life
still in there. It was. C’mon, what will one more hit do? Go on, just one more taste. It’ll make the pain go away...
all over her pretty face.
“Nothing... please, I’m okay, just piss off,” replied Robert, reaching for the codeine tablets.
Head in his hands, Robert began to cry. He cried tears that he knew no one cared about, for everyone thought that the hell he was going through was of his own choosing. In a way, it was, but in many other ways Robert felt he had no choice; he became a slave to addiction, not because he wanted to, but because he needed to. He needed the needle in his arm, he needed the rush, and he needed the pain to go away: it was unbearable.
“How many of those have you had today, Robbie?” “I said fuck off!”
Agnes stormed off. “Piss off then you ungrateful shit!”
Robert guzzled down four tablets in the hope the pain would cease, washing the codeine down with another four Valium tablets.
The physical and mental anguish trapped Robert into a never-ending cycle of use and abuse. He was not a bad person. He never robbed little old ladies on the street like some heartless crook. The cycle never ends...
By 3.00 pm, Robert’s craving for the narcotic kicked into top gear. The Valium was barely working and the pain was now seeping throughout his body, he stank of sweat, and he was experiencing the fabled hot and cold flushes of withdrawal.
As his tears dried up and he stopped feeling sorry for himself, Robert got up to go to the kitchen and bumped into his sister, on her way to the shower.
After eight years of full time heroin use, his brain was accustomed to the release of the endorphins; the pleasure cells, on a daily basis. When his brain demanded a fix, he could not help but be nothing but a slave to its insistence.
“Hey hun,” she whispered, “how you doin’?” “I’m alright,” he lied.
“Look, I’m heading out to the supermarket after my shower, do you need anything? Wanna come for a drive?” Agnes asked.
Super Mario Brothers was struggling to hold his attention, as was the case more often than not after hours of playing the game and in fact he enjoyed playing it much more when he was off his head, stoned and nodding off to the 32-Bit graphics.
“Nah, it’s cool. I’m just gonna sit back and watch a DVD or something.”
“Sure? It would be good for you to get out of the house.”
He looked at his wallet. His brain was kicking off proceedings in trying to make him score, but Robert stayed strong and positive. I said no... piss off... not today, not ever, no. He grabbed his wallet and checked that the fifty dollar note that he kept for food was
Fuckin’ oath it would be. Robert began to plan his next fix from that moment. Stuff it, I’m not fighting it no more. That’s it, my mind is made up.
“It’s all good,” he smiled, “I’ve got a few
A Day in the Life
things to do anyway.”
Agnes was calling. For fuck’s sake!
He didn’t see it, but Agnes shed a tear.
“What the fuck are you doing, Robbie?” Agnes yelled into the phone. “You took my grocery money, Robert. Where are you? I’ll come pick you up, don’t worry about the money, please, just come back,” she begged.
Agnes hugged him and as she did, he felt like a dagger plunged straight through his heart. Sorry, sis, I have to do it.
He waited until he heard the water flow in the shower, and went straight to Agnes’ bedroom. Locating her knock-off Prada handbag, he dipped his hand inside, searching for some money. I got fifty, all I need is another fifty to score a hundred.
“I can’t sis. Look, I’ll pay you back. Don’t stress, I’ll be back soon, okay?” Robert hung up and turned his phone off. Agnes screamed in frustration and cried for her baby brother.
Finding the fifty-dollar note, Robert noticed a one-hundred dollar note staring at him from the depths of the purse. I’ll put the fifty back, take the hundred, and then I can hook up a half gram. Yep, that’s the plan.
4.10 pm, and Robert got off the train at South Yarra. As he stepped off the train, he saw the tram for Victoria St, Richmond, stopped at a red light on the opposite side of the road.
With not a moment’s hesitation, he stole the hundred and sped out of his sister’s room. Rather than feel bad about stealing from his flesh and blood, Robert felt elated at the prospect of him scoring some good smack. Gotta get out of here before she finishes her shower. All hell will break loose if she finds out...
He ran and knocked on the tram door as the light turned green, and at first he thought the driver knocked him back, but after a second realised the driver was telling him to hurry up and get in.
Happy and relieved that he was in time, Robert was eager with anticipation, like a child at the drive thru of McDonalds; he knew that soon he would get what he craved. Sitting back in the uncomfortable seat, he closed his eyes and waited until the tram arrived outside the Richmond Commission Flats.
Outside, the wind swept into Robert’s face as he jogged to the tram stop around the corner from his sister’s apartment. He called his dealer on the way, and ordered half a gram.
“Hey, man, can I come see you? Cool, same place? I’ll be there in forty, just leaving Carnegie now.” Awesome! I hope it’s good shit. The tram for South Yarra arrived at 3.48 pm, and Robert was brimming with excitement. Sitting down in the tram, his mind wondered. I could have been something, I mean really made my oldies happy and proud. Look at me; I’m a useless junkie, a user of people, a manipulator, and a thief... His phone interrupted the train of thought.
The tram stopped at the corner of Victoria and Church St, and Robert disembarked, ready for his mission. First thing first, he walked towards a small group of bushes beside the playground in front of the highrise flats.
They have to still be here. I stashed them two weeks ago, surely nobody pinched them. He fumbled in and around the prickly bush where he last stashed a pack of syringes.
A Day in the Life
It took him a few minutes, and he received some negative glances from passers-by, but he eventually found the brown paper bag.
“Nah, don’t have any on me man. If you asked when I called I could’ve brought you some,” said Robert.
Looking in the bag to make sure the syringes were not used or broken, he pushed the bag into his jacket pocket and stormed off towards the flats.
“Anyways, I gotta jet,” said Tranh, “remember man, don’t use it all in one hit. Okay?” “Okay, okay. Cool. I won’t. Thanks, T. Speak soon, and next time I will swap you for some pills.”
Switching his phone back on, he called the dealer again to let him know he’d arrived. Lighting up a Winfield cigarette, Robert stood beside the entry doors to the flats. Since 2004, the local council enforced new rules for people and visitors that wanted to enter the flats; visitors had to sign in to a visitor’s book, and the new security guards asked for the name of the person you were visiting, and their flat number. At least they’re trying to stop this shit.
They shook hands and went their separate ways. Tranh walked back into the flats, while Robert rushed around the corner to a deserted concrete staircase that was always deserted, apart from other addicts using it. I’m so excited, so excited. Robert rolled the small piece of foil around his fingers. It feels like a good size. It better be as good as he bloody says it is.
So, Robert stood puffing the cigarette until the door swung open, and his dealer, Tranh, smiled and rushed over to shake Robert’s hand. In that moment of shaking hands, the deal was done; Robert held the money in his palm, Tranh held the heroin wrapped in foil, and as soon as their palms touched, they made the exchange. If anybody was watching, they would not have noticed that a drug deal occurred.
On his arrival at the staircase, Robert felt glad that nobody else was occupying the space: it was a favourite spot for addicts because it was under cover and the concrete walls blocked the wind, which was getting stronger by the minute.
He made himself as comfortable as he could, unwrapped the foil, and smiled at the sight of the rock of heroin in front of him. Trusty Tranh! Fuckin’ legend! It’s that nice beige shit too!
“Hey, man, it good stuff man,” Tranh said in a thick Vietnamese accent. “You not take whole thing, it strong stuff. Beige, best shit aroun’, from Afghani,” proclaimed Tranh.
Nothing but the heroin focused his mind, he had work to do, and if he trembled too much the gear would spill all over the grimy concrete stairs. He crushed the heroin and divided it roughly into half-and-half. He placed half of it back into the foil, and the other half onto a spoon that he brought from home, Robert began the ritual.
Yeah right, that’s what you guys always say. Good shit, best shit.
“That’s what you always say, T. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
“Serious, man. Some people already drop from that gear. Easy to OD. Anyways, you got some pill for me? I swap gear for some Vals or Temaze’s,” said enquired Tranh.
Nerves on edge, all the pain and mental anguish were replaced by adrenaline and the excitement of the ritual. Step by step, he
A Day in the Life
cherished the preparation. I reckon it’s true what they say about using heroin. Half of the rush is about getting the cash for it, chasing it, scoring it and then cooking it. But the best bit...
Motherfucker... sorry sis, I’m so sorry. Robert knew that he was crying, but he could not feel the tears. His heart and soul cried out for his family, but in response, his brain sent the signal to shut his heart down. Choking on his own saliva, the chemical taste overwhelmed his mouth and he exerted himself to throw up, to no avail.
He rolled up his sleeve and plunged the needle into his arm. His arms were bruised and scarred with track marks and small scabs. He fiddled with the needle until the syringe drew some blood back. Not wanting to lose the vein, Robert pushed the plunger down. Oooh, fuck that’s nice...
I love you Mum. Please forgive me...
Robert’s heart stopped beating less than one minute after he took his fix, at 5.05 pm. Body slumped over the grey concrete, syringe still lodged in his arm, it wasn’t until a young boy saw the body on the steps that an ambulance was called, and by 6 pm, the paramedics arrived. §
On entering his bloodstream, the speed at which the heroin travelled to the brain was instantaneous. All of the pain that Robert’s body felt, disappeared in a matter of seconds, and he felt a slight tickle on the back of his neck, though the taste in his mouth was stronger than usual. The medicinal flavour pushed itself into the back of his throat, and Robert felt like throwing up for a fleeting moment. The heroin coursed through his veins, shooting through his bloodstream at a rapid rate, satisfying all the cravings and demolishing all mental and physical anguish that he felt hours earlier. His neck leaned back, his torso followed, stopped only by the small concrete wall at his back.
Oh, shit... what have I done? This shit is strong, too strong. I should have listened to Tranh. Robert tried to yell for help, but no sound escaped his mouth, which began to froth around the lips. Please, someone, help me... I can’t go like this. Robert tried to force his eyes open, but like a person in an uncontrollable nightmare, his eyelids stayed shut. His attempts at moving his legs were in vain, there was no chance of him moving from the cold, concrete staircase.
shor stor t y
High Voltage Andrew Maltezos
‘No No No! You have it all wrong, you can’t get away with doing it like that.’
‘C’mon you saw the sparks fly out of the fuse-box upstairs, if we hadn’t turned that off when we did we would have had a stadium full of 60,000 fans walking around with no lightning.’
‘But I’m just following instructions, this has to be the right way.’ Both figures stood alone in the dark fumbling amongst the fuse box illuminated only by an old dolphin torch. The torch flickered on and off incessantly only adding to their frustrations.
‘I’m just saying it was completely unnecessary, you saw from the control centre everything was in fine working condition.’
‘Bloody Melbourne weather.’
‘Look buddy there’s a reason why I get paid a good $10,000 more than you.’
Just thirty minutes prior to the city’s hour of mayhem commonly known as peak hour traffic Mother Nature had decided to brew her own form of mayhem. Heavy rain had flooded the city’s streets, complimented by a boisterous thunderstorm belching its way across the concrete landscape. Conditions had subdued to a gentle pitter-patter of rain but the dark clouds still purveyed an ominous mood about the city.
‘Well, I still don’t see it.’
‘Because I make the decisions that you won’t, because I have the balls to do something.’
‘Look I don’t have all the years of experience you have touring on the road, the only thing I know for sure is that if we don’t do something right now we will both go down in history as the two idiots who inadvertently pulled the plug on an AccaDacca concert.’
From where these two assailants were standing no rain could be heard, only the out-of-time clapping of 60,000 fans.
‘Both our asses are on the line here unless one of us has the balls to do something.’
The crowd grew louder and the chant ‘Angus, Angus’ was becoming more frequent and threatening by the minute. It only made the team leader’s heart beat faster and faster. The sweat dripping off the tip of his nose was not from the muggy weather but more so the immense pressure he was feeling right now.
‘Really? If I remember correctly this was your call, your decision.’
‘You’re the one who panicked at the first sign of a storm and decided to manually override the stadium’s mains supply.’
High Voltage Andrew Maltezos
‘Oh well, here goes nothing.’
The team leader clasped the lever and pushed. Suddenly the stage became illuminated. The roar from the crowd increased by ten-fold and the band, unbeknownst to them took it as their cue to walk on stage and play. §
A World Without Kevin
shor stor t y
Kevin knew how to be invisible. He was always by my side but no one ever recognized him. I always had to reintroduce him to everyone. So when I stood below him with the back of my neck tightening, I knew that no one would care.
‘Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, but I got a business to run here and I don’t want you hanging around at the front. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’ ‘You don’t understand. I can’t leave him alone.’
His legs dangled over the edge.
‘I’m not telling you to leave your friend, just don’t stand in front of my store.’
‘Don’t try to stop me!’ he shouted to the street below him. I looked around at the people who walked by. They didn’t hear a thing. I heard someone approach from behind and turned to see a shop owner. I had made some eye contact with him before the whole spectacle began. His store was on the other side of the street from where Kevin was. He frowned at me as he got closer. He looked at me and then up at where Kevin was. His eyes looked around and then he raised a brow as he turned back to me.
I crossed the road in no big rush. It was a Tuesday and nowhere near peak traffic. Kevin stood up as I approached. He paced up and down the ledge. ‘Kevin, why are you doing this?’
‘I have nothing to go back to, Andy. This is the end.’ ‘What are you talking about? I’m here.’
‘What’s the problem? You’ve been here for half an hour. You spyin’ on my store?’
‘You could never understand!’ He flailed his arms as he spoke. Kevin was always so dramatic. ‘No one cares about me! Look at everyone around you, they think you’re crazy!’
‘No,’ I answered quickly. ‘My friend is up there.’ The store owner looked back up at the building.
I lowered my face to ground level and looked down at an old lady who eyed me from my shoes to my face. She scowled and clutched her bag to her chest. A mother hurried her girl along. The little girl stared at me, then looked up at Kevin and pointed. Her mother pulled at her arm to pick up the pace.
‘I don’t see anything. What’s he doing?’ ‘He wants to kill himself…’
The store owner raised half of his mouth as he squinted into the sun’s direction. He couldn’t see Kevin.
A World Without Kevin
‘Go home Andy, you’re wasting your time.’
He stretched out his arms and leaned forward. My mouth opened but nothing came out. I watched his figure fall. The world was silent around me. Sound returned when he landed with a crunch against the concrete. His body didn’t move. It lay there as if it had always been there.
‘Kevin, I’ll admit I don’t understand, but at least try to tell me why.’ ‘Okay, fine. But when I finish I’m jumping.’ ‘No!’
No one stopped to see if he was okay. Everyone walked over him. Some slowed down, but only to stare at my mouth that hung open.
‘Yes! Just listen!’
I sighed helplessly and could only watch him from the footpath as the sun set to Kevin’s back.
I leaned on my knees on the concrete until even I was invisible. §
‘I’m holding you back, Andy. Remember all those times when we would break things? You would always cop the blame, even when I tried to confess. At school people would bully you because of me. You were always defending me even when you didn’t need to. You could have walked away from any fight but you never did. I never asked to be saved. Every time a nice girl came along you always picked me over her. That was really stupid, Andy. You should never have let Erin go. You lost jobs because of me. You’ve lost friends over me. You’ve missed out on so many chances, Andy. Maybe you don’t care, but I do. It kills me inside to see you doing all of this. I can’t be part of it anymore. If this is the only way for me to do anything good for you then this is the way it has to be.’ ‘What are you talking about? I haven’t missed out on anything. You’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. No one on Earth can say the same. C’mon man, you mean a lot to me. I would rather have you in my life than any other person—in a totally non-gay way.’ ‘What are you, straight?’ he joked. I couldn’t help smiling. It was an old joke we shared. ‘You can’t hold onto me forever. It’s for the best, Andy. Goodbye.’
shor stor t y
The Rolling Skull Henry Pineda
The walkway between the houses isn’t big enough to drive through. I have to leave the car at the entrance. I hate walking through. It’s been a couple of weeks since I visited my wife at the end of the walkway. The humidity is the same as anywhere, and the green backdrop never changes in thickness. The smell of a carcass nearby gives the same feeling of being stationed at a compromised battle post during the night. On those nights I would lean my sweaty cheek on the warm metal of my rifle, as silent as if I were already dead. Not even insects would chirp in those moments, and come to think of it, I don’t hear them now either.
my ammunition is not an option. It is also a common thing for people to place broken glass on the ledges, and if I could get over I’m not sure whether these buildings have already been taken. The wall I’m leaning against is supposed to be the property of a witchdoctor or something like that. I don’t fear men, but the things they play around with, the things I have seen in the darkest hours of the night… they make me wonder whether I really should be afraid. Celia, my wife, warns me about this house. She is afraid of many things; sometimes they can be irrational, but I don’t blame her. Civil war will do that to a person. You walk past dead bodies like you would walk past a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. It’s considered stupid to help someone who’s still alive because you never know what side they’re on. You can die by association alone.
Green blades of grass split the concrete beneath my boots, almost as if they were clawing for my life, unable to wait for time to send me below. The concrete doesn’t stretch beyond the street. The walkway is a dirt path. I turn back to my Valiant and hope that I didn’t leave anything visible inside that could give away who I am. There are people here who would kill their own mothers if they were on the wrong side of the war. This area is safe for now, but I’ve seen comrades kill our superiors in the exchanges of death, just because they didn’t like them.
I don’t hear anything at all, not even from the street behind me. I loosen the buckles on my satchel as I make my way to stand against a white wall. There is no point in trying to jump over for cover. For starters, I am carrying too much weight, and abandoning
I’m not sure whether I prefer urban combat to the jungle. At least in the jungle you can be invisible, but between buildings you have to hope there is always someone to cover you. The good thing about urban combat is support from unexpected people; people who are fighting for a lesser evil. I’m glad it’s midday. In the dark you don’t know what you’re shooting at. The FML aren’t trained like I am. I trust myself when I am against them, but right now I’m not wearing my uniform and any armed forces that may enter could mistake me for a guerrilla. The cruel reality of my situation is that I don’t
The Rolling Skull
have a choice in wearing my uniform to visit Celia. She told me I can never come in uniform. She isn’t sure whether there are guerillas living in that same walkway. Anyway, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to go through any populated area in uniform when I’m off duty. On any other day I will be wearing a green beret, which says that I’m trained in guerilla warfare, part of an elite force with a feared reputation. Guerillas usually retreat when they see us. But today, as far as anyone knows, I have clothes in my satchel, not a rifle with enough magazines to take down a small outpost.
path, and without losing any momentum, it rolls into some bushes on the opposite side. I’m not sure how to react. I keep staring at the spot where it disappeared, feeling the deadly silence come back as soon as it left.
‘Good day, my son,’ says a voice beside me in Spanish. He has a country, lower-class accent, which is rare in this area. Somehow I’m not startled by the sudden appearance of this person. It feels like I was half expecting it. I take a good look at him and realize he must be the witchdoctor. He isn’t wearing anything ridiculous, but his eerie presence is enough for me to know. His sun-dried brown face is smiling widely. I look around me in the walkway and realize we are completely alone.
Leaning on this wall now has my hand twitching at the opened zip. I have to be ready to fire through the bag. I can’t take it out of the bag because that split second could be all I have, and I won’t put my hand inside the bag with my finger on the trigger. If there really are people around, I wouldn’t want them to think I was armed, especially if they see me before I see them.
‘Good day,’ I respond with a sudden calm that draws my hand away from my satchel. I’m not going to ask about the rolling skull. I’m not sure whether there is some kind of rule on speaking with witches or witchdoctors. There are stories of them cursing people, but those stories never really explain why the people have a curse put on them. This kind of stuff sounds ridiculous to the Americans that come here to train and supply, but they don’t realize this is nothing to do with superstition. There is an evil that fuels this war. Believe what you want, but everyone in my company has seen things in the jungle. In the darkness under the canopy of the jungle, you hear things. Not scratching or rustling of leaves. You hear whispers. You smell a stench and you know you buried all your dead ones a mile back. You feel things gently stroking you down your back. The shivers never end.
Even my breath is silent. My temples are pounding already. I keep looking in the direction of Celia’s house at the end of the walkway. I’m on the left side, five houses away. I can’t keep moving. Silence is when you know something’s up. In the jungle you hear the wildlife around you. In the streets you hear cars, people, flies, cicadas, and rabid dogs. The birds aren’t around anymore; they don’t go anywhere where there are gunshots… or something else. So right now all I can hear is my heart.
Finally I do hear something else. It’s only a few feet in front of me, coming from the entrance of the witchdoctor house. I can’t see around the corner to the front door. I will have to wait until they come out. A crunching sound echoes from the entrance. From around the corner comes a small, pale human skull. It keeps rolling onto the dirt
On one occasion our man on watch woke us up. He pointed to a clearing through the jungle. There were twelve of us there. All of us were already killers trained to a dangerous level, and I can tell you with
The Rolling Skull
confidence that everyone was scared by what we saw that night. First we heard something around the area where the moonlight was streaming through the open canopy. It sounded like something was crunching bones between its teeth. We threw a stone to see if whatever it was would be startled and run away. The noise stopped, but we didn’t hear anything run away. A second later, something moved under the light. It was taller than any man, seemingly four-legged, and dark as the jungle around us. It moved without touching the ground as if it was gliding. We saw a small head poke out from what could have been its neck. We all felt the hair on our skin shoot up. We were paralyzed. Before us was a black, wrinkled face with milky-white, emotionless eyes. It stared at us with its mouth open. El Diablo, someone whispered under their breath as it began to chew, making that same terrifying crunching sound. We rushed to wake everyone up and ran as if the Devil really was chasing us. No one questioned the people who woke them up. When someone wakes you in that jungle and tells you to run, you know instantly that it isn’t any guerilla or wild animal. You get up, and you run.
‘Well, thank you for letting me know…,’ I say. The witchdoctor catches my indifference and speaks again. ‘Don’t ignore this, son; you will see. You will see.’
I make it to Celia finally. I drop the satchel in a corner and embrace my baby girl, Maria. She closes her fingers around my thumb, and I kiss her as many times as I can. I only have two days off duty to spend with her. In the morning I see Celia crying. The plain concrete walls keep the house cool in the morning heat, but I still find it odd how I have shivers, almost as if it is something else that is giving me chills. Celia just got a call from her mother. Her aunty, from a few houses down the walkway, has been found dead a few streets away.
After three weeks in the jungle, I’m back again, parking the Valiant at the entrance of the dirt path. I rest my head on the steering wheel for a minute. It’s been a hard three weeks. Fresh death is on my mind, and the pain from a knife wound aches in my thigh. I get out with the same satchel and start limping toward home. There is no one around, and that unsettling silence still hangs in the air. Something tells me I’ll see that old man again. My heart jumps as a rolling skull crosses the path and goes into the bushes. The moment ends much quicker this time. Before I can start walking, I hear that country accent again.
The witchdoctor had a grave look on his face now.
‘My friend, I know what you do for a living, and you have to be very careful. You see, every time a skull rolls through my house, that means that someone is going to die. And because you are passing by in this moment, I thought I should warn you: someone in this walkway is going to die.’ I’m annoyed. I know not to completely disregard these things, but I will never accept them. Seeing monsters in the dark is one thing, but having someone make a prediction about my life is not appreciated. I make my own end.
‘How are you, my friend? Did you see what happened? I told you someone was going to die. And now the skull is rolling again! Another person in this walkway will die.’
I ignore him this time and start limping again. Why does it have to roll when I pass?
A neighbor knocks on our door at sunset to
The Rolling Skull
give bad news. There is a crowd around the house next to ours. Celia’s sister lives there. She isn’t living anywhere anymore. Before leaving for my next confrontation in the jungle, I hold Celia and Maria for longer than usual.
a few seconds. I walk, not looking back, and hope to God that his death was enough.
I watch Maria as she sleeps. By the morning there is no news of any death, except that of the witchdoctor. How ironic, that someone who practices those arts could kneel over and die so easily. I guess a practitioner of these things is never really in control. To dance with evil is to dance with that wrinkled, black face in a jungle. I depart from the walkway a few days later with no additional news of death.
I was away for four weeks this time. I thought about the skull while I was away at work. I’m parking the Valiant again, but this time I’m not going to waste time. The limp is somewhat better now so I should be able to walk fast enough to avoid another encounter. As I get closer to the white wall, I pick up the pace. I almost make it when that crackling sound starts. I stop, knowing I won’t be able to avoid it. I watch the skull come out for the third time, and I sigh in frustration. I move forward and kick it as hard as I can against the white wall, shattering it into pieces. I stare at it for a while, half wondering if it will miraculously come together again.
I was in the jungle for two weeks. More fresh faces and more aches plague my mind as I step out of the Valiant. I am partly anxious at passing the witchdoctor’s house. As I get nearer, the throbbing in my temples gets louder. In my mind I’m praying, wishing that there was no such thing as evil. Even after all I have seen, I am hoping so badly that this is not a reality. I had shattered the skull, but these things are beyond physical limits. I know that, but I don’t want to.
‘Hello again, my friend,’ says that unsettling voice that comes with the unsettling silence. ‘Did you see what happened again? I was right. The skull has come out again, and this time it is still the same message.’
A crackling sound resonates in my heart and mind, and that sickly image of a skull rolls past yet again. This time no witchdoctor appears. The unsettling silence is begging something from me. It whispers something to me. Finally I understand. Monsters attract monsters. I think of the faces that plague my mind. I think of that skull passing only me. I think of Celia and of my Maria. I think of the black, wrinkled face and milky-white eyes.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I say impatiently, noticing that he hasn’t paid any attention to the shattered pieces. ‘But how do I know you’re not the one setting all this up?’
‘I only feel it is my responsibility to warn you because I worry for your loved ones.’ I feel my face change as he says this. So far the two people who have died were related to me, not strangers. There are only two people left. If his words are as true as he says, then I will make this end now. He watches me silently as I take out a gun from my satchel and point it to his head. His eyes widen in fear, and before he can say anything, I pull the trigger. His body drops and twitches for
Even through welling eyes things become so clear. §
shor stor t y
Pillow Talk Emma Ritchie
‘What are you thinking?’ The question seemed innocent enough, but Linden knew better. He inhaled, and exhaled, her head moved up and down with his chest. Her long dark hair spilled across his shoulder, and onto the white sheet underneath them. The warmth radiating from her body flowed into his, like water.
across his face, as each touch of her skin brought with it a memory of this night. Moments flashed through his mind, her skin on his, the sound of their hearts beating as one, bodies moving in synch. For years he had longed to hold her, to feel her, and now he had her, for however long this moment might last.
‘Really, what are you thinking? I want to know,’ she pressed him further. He knew how persistent she could be.
‘Gold fish don’t live in the ocean.’ Linden played with strands of her hair.
‘Nothing, really,’ he sighed.
‘Think of a little goldfish, in the ocean.’
‘You’ll live in the ocean if you don’t shut it.’ She sat up, and tried to crawl out of the sea of blankets. He wrapped his arms around her and threw her back on the bed, propping himself up on his shoulder, he gazed down at her. He traced his hand across her cheek, her porcelain skin seemed so fragile in the gentle moonlight.
‘What do you want me to think?’ Linden brushed a few loose strands from her face. She pulled herself up from his body, and leaned over him. The long hair fell down from her face and past his, like a curtain blocking out the world. That was what he wanted. No world. No work. Just her. She kissed him gently on the lips, and his heart fluttered like a trapped dolphin, aching to leap into the unknown.
‘Ok, ok. Goldfish in the ocean. Continue, please...’ He kissed her forehead gently.
‘The ocean is dark, and you’re just a little goldfish. But you’re not scared, even though there are sharks, and whales, and stingrays…’
‘I want you to think of…’ She bit her lip, and lay back down. She rested her head on his shoulder; the dip of his collarbone was a perfect fit for her. She stretched her leg over his, and her arm over his chest. ‘I want you to think of fish.’ ‘Fish?’ He tried to hold back his laugh. Her hand sought for his in the dark of his room. She tangled her fingers in his. A smile crept
‘Whales are harmless, and sting rays are basically harmless.’ He laughed
‘Linden!’ She whined, turning away from him. Gently he tilted her head back towards his and gazed into her deep brown eyes again.
‘I’m sorry.’ She pushed him back, and tried once more to leave the bed. Linden pulled her back in to him, and held her tight around the waist, savouring the feeling of her smooth skin on his. ‘I’m sorry. Please, go on.’
‘Because I think it’s a dream,’ he finally answered her. ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘Doing what?’ She tilted her head to the side. ‘Talking. Can’t we just enjoy the peace while we can?’
‘All around you are creatures so much bigger than you. And you know they could, would kill you. A whale swims past you, and you get pushed through the water because of the ripples he causes. A shark swims so close to you that you feel its rough skin scratch at your little golden scales. When you look up at the bright sky, you can’t see it, because schools and schools of stingrays block your vision as they glide overhead. But you’re not scared.’ Linden looked at her, and smiled. He eased his hold on her waist, and she slid down next to him.
‘What? Do you think this won’t last?’ She pulled away for him, and he pulled her back once more. ‘Do you?’ She held her face close to his, the tips of their noses touching. ‘Why is it a dream?’ she asked again, her voice barely above a whisper. ‘Which part?’ he asked softly.
‘The fish, the ocean, everything,’ she said to him, breathing heavily.
‘I’m not scared?’ He smiled at her, as she trailed a million small kisses down his neck.
‘It’s a dream,’ he paused, and pulled her down to him, kissing her passionately. ‘It’s a dream,’ he whispered in her ear, ‘because in a world like this, it could never be real.’
‘No, you’re not scared. Why are you not scared?’ She settled herself back down against him
They shared another kiss, before she pulled herself away, crawled over him and out of the bed. Holding back the salty tears, Linden resisted the urge to pull her back to him one last time. §
‘It’s your story, you tell me why.’
‘No, I told you what to think, now you tell me why.’ ‘I’m not scared…’ he began, tilting her head upwards and looking into her dark brown eyes, ‘because it’s a dream.’ He tried to kiss her, but she pulled her head back and stared at him with a slightly hurt expression. ‘A dream, is it?’ she scoffed.
‘Yes, it’s a dream. It’s all a dream, and I know it. That’s why I’m not scared.’ Linden ran his fingers through her hair, watching the dark silk flow through them like sand on a beach. ‘Why is it a dream?’ she asked him. Linden took a moment, and closed his eyes.
shor stor t y
Living the Fame Marie Tielmann
Congratulations, you are a popstar! Are you kidding? Am I really? Hell, yeah! You better believe it, baby! But how can I be?
The presenter thrusts the microphone closer. You realise it’s a direction, rather than a question. How can you sing? You barely know where you are, let alone words to a song. You want to say no. Obviously you can’t. You’ve been placed on the spot and what would the audience think if you disagreed? This was the whole point of it, right?
Everyone is staring at you. You can barely make out faces in the crowd. Why am I here? How did this happen? Your subconscious tells you that you just won a national TV Music Competition. It doesn’t register. You want to smile, jump for joy, but if you do, you can’t help but think it’ll disappear. This is too good to be true, right? Isn’t being a popstar like winning a lottery ticket?
You grab the microphone. You’re glad you’ve managed that without dropping it. Sweat drips from your forehead; your heart races as the music begins. You inhale and shut your eyes. What were the first lines of the song? Arrrgh! Then suddenly, words come out of your mouth. You don’t know where they came from, how you remembered them. Maybe adrenaline kicked in and somehow did it for you. You sing:
Popstar? Why would you call yourself that? You’re like everyone else. What makes a popstar? You figure the word ‘popstar’ strikes you as someone superior - so you prefer to call yourself a ‘Musician.’ You take a deep breath. Part of you is shaking from the vibe, a feeling you are being lifted off the ground.
Have to change my feelings for you…
‘Do you want to sing your winner’s single?’
But my instincts tell me I need you…
You stare at the presenter, who hands you the microphone. At first you don’t know what to do with it. Stupid, right? Not when you’re in your own world, trying to register everything. You close your eyes. Will reality change if I open them again? Though, even with your eyes shut, you can feel the essence of the stage, the lighting striking your skin, the yells and screams of the audience. You want to escape and face it at the same time.
You know the feeling being with someone who cheats. You’re reliving the moment. In your world, that person is in front of you again, begging for forgiveness. You furrow your brow and bite your lip. You want to keep that person because you don’t want to be alone; at the same time you know you deserve better. Your voice demonstrates the pain you have been through. It’s a relief you were able to create the lyrics yourself.
Living the Fame
doing. Fake it till you make it. Get in touch with your ‘wilder self.’ Never give up.
There’s more to a performance than just mouthing words - it’s not karaoke after all.
The TV finale ends, but a new chapter of your life begins. You walk off stage. Cameras blink everywhere. Part of you feels blinded from the light. You don’t know where to look, what to do, what to think, but you also want to absorb it.
You stare at the audience. Those are the people that got you here. Wow! You’re not sure what expression to put on your face. Your face will probably crack if you smile. If tears spill, people may think you’re sad about it. Then again, it wasn’t so much about what other people thought, it just didn’t seem real. You could be staring at yourself on the front of a CD cover and look at it as though it’s someone else. You continue the song, playing a role of ‘ Your old self.’
‘We have to go to the Press Room to do an interview,’ your publicist tells you. ‘You’re going to have a very busy 24 hours.’
No kidding. Nodding your head, you open the door to more press.
After a while, you’re curious how long the song will last. You wonder why you’re not jumping yet, like in that Toyota car commercial or screaming until you lose your voice. You pictured yourself yelling so hard that the room may even vibrate, that perhaps some papers would fall from some shelves. You try to let it sink in, dare yourself to, but your mind won’t let it. Perhaps it’s a survival mechanism.
How do you feel about winning this competition? When will your album be released? Do you have a girlfriend? A boyfriend? Nine microphones surround you, as you make your way to the stand. You open your mouth, attempting to answer each question, but your publicist stops you. ‘Let’s do this properly.’ You sigh in relief. You want to be friendly, but you also want space.
The song finishes. You can’t believe three minutes went by so quick. Confetti falls from the ceiling. Your family members rush to your side. You thank everyone. The crew, fans, judges. You know it wouldn’t be right if you don’t. That’s when you realise part of the setting was made for you. Is reality setting in? Maybe you are just on auto-pilot, going along with your instincts. You turn towards the screen behind you. It shows flashbacks of your time, during the competition. You reminisce about the work it took to get you here. You never worked so hard in your life. The pressure of believing in yourself was unlike anything you could ever imagine. Even in times of doubt, you told yourself, ‘you can do it’ and it always got you through. Even though it was half-heartedly, you pretended you knew what you were
Finally, you reach the stage. This time, each press member takes turns. First question comes your way.
‘Did you think you would win this competition?’ A bold, middle-aged man in the front asks. Well, duh, what do you think? You don’t say that, but you wonder why he asks. It’s inevitable. Who trying out for a competition, with thousands of others would expect to have it in the bag? Part of you wants to joke and pretend it was fate. Instead you laugh nervously and say you hoped so. Are you afraid of handling the instant fame? How will you keep down-to-earth?’
Living the Fame
You figure you wouldn’t have to worry yet, since the news hasn’t sunk in. You tell them that writing lyrics and keeping a journal helps keep things real. As for the fame, you are dealing with it one day at a time. You will try to spend as much time with family and friends as possible.
the better, and if that’s what they want to do, then who are you to stop them? But you wonder if they have respect for their dignity. You communicate that showing confidence as an individual is sexier. Being naked doesn’t have to show that. The interview wraps up. You shake hands and thank the press for their time. What they do with the information is out of your control. What you can take care of now is your music.
‘Do you see yourself as a role model?’
That was a strange question to ask. You’d like to think so. But you aren’t perfect. You figure you’ll try your best and learn from your mistakes. Though really, you don’t see yourself as a model for anything; you just love sharing your music.
You’re on the way to the studio. You wiggle in your seat, at the same time jumping up and down. This is what you are looking forward to most. As you record your song, you hope people have more to gain from your music than just the beat. You want them to gain inspiration through the lyrics, appreciate the therapy it can give them through tough times.
‘How are you going to deal with the haters and rumours that come your way?’
Rumours that you guys make up? You know it comes from the press. Though what can you do about it? Try to beat them up? Then go to rehab? They’re not worth getting your career ruined over.
You want music to set people free, whether it’s through dancing or feeling motivated to create music of their own. You live music. You breathe music. You cannot live without it.
You’ve prepared yourself for this. You’ll focus on the positives. Fake stories only distract you from being your best self. Sure, you’ll listen to constructive criticism. You’ll even welcome it…because you see it as a way to prove them wrong. But why give consideration to comments that have no benefits? Especially to name-calling when the person doesn’t even know you. Obviously, they don’t take the time to think of something constructive and intelligent, so why should you? Why sink to their level? Not that you’d have the time anyway. ‘Do you feel pressure to put out a sexy image? How do you feel about artists that pose nude in magazines like Britney Spears?’ You wonder why the press cares. You know you will never do that! You say you don’t want to copy anybody else nor will let anyone change you. Sure, for some, the less clothes,
Poetry We Stand J. Foxglove looking out, looking down Safe from harm and trouble you are smiling as we stand and watch But I donâ€™t think youâ€™re enjoying the view so I clasp your hand and whisper words of comfort
We stand with the world burning we stand tall and proud, looking out As buildings crumble and people decay ash to ash and dust to dust But we stand while the world burns because with you by my side I know my world is safe
To your deaf ears while holding your cold hand knowing that my world died with you and that as the world outside burns and tumbles into the black it is a fitting way to say goodbye like a pagan pyre the night burns to say goodbye to you my love
I know my world is here by my side but I wish you would whisper my name once again Reach forth your delicate hand to caress my tears once more Silently you stand by me while the rest of the world burns Bright flames, greedily reaching higher and higher like the tower of Babel But we stand here safe you and I As the world crumbles and people scream below I know we are safe up here
As we stand here saying goodbye for the last time while we look out as the world burns and chokes
Destiny Lois Jessop Vast hallways of grey-green eucalypt trunks darken beneath, where one man treads —a rugged man by the name of Dan— whose boots crush the carpet of greens, golds and reds. With force his axe cracks the bark like gunshot— his victim jerks again and again, receiving the blade in its hard wooden guts— a tree, Dan thinks, feels no pain. Its girth now hacked and cavernous, the tree starts to lean; and insects a-scud; dense bulk atop causes splinters to pop and spray out upon Dan as though blood. This is the part that Dan likes the most, feeling superior, he smiles as it wanes— This king, now inferior, weak but not down has survived all those years through fires and rains, nurturing creatures, harbouring nests with limbs clothed in foliage, hosted millions of guests— now lists on the pivot, the remains of its trunk— and Dan likens it to an unbalanced drunk. But unlike those lives wasted as such this tree will be useful as shelves for a hutch or better still—it makes greedy Dan gulp— this timber could end up as valuable pulp.
A roar from the heavens makes dreaming Dan queasy for should this wind be vengeful toward him, The tree could fall backward, escape won’t be easy and songs of the angels would be all to award him. The whirlwind whips the limbs of the tree, finally gaining full control; and it stays and it plays and the tree in its grasp, lurches and turns and sways.‘Piss off, wind!’ Dan yells; shakes his fist but the tree now has power of its own and its timber rips as its sharp branch-tips spear into Dan, impaling his hips. The heavy boughs follow; they crush the man more, As though to complete an unsettled score— Thus it rests, its revenge eventually quelled; its leaves gently waving—Dan’s soul is farewelled.
There’s a spell on the sea. The wind is laced with ice. It steals the heart of me.
When a night no longer has stars —shaken off by fear— look beyond the mist. Honey will seep, my love and drip dreamy drops on you, sweetening a bitter hour with a drink to empower. Let the gold melt into spots of warmth. A face splashing beauty quenches a mist-drunk moon in a silk sea night sky.
The ship, it churns madly, as waves begin to slice. There’s a spell on the sea. I send a silent plea. The sea is its own vice. It steals the heart of me
Sirens call, beckons me; Black waters rush, entice. There’s a spell on the sea.
With black-margined eyes release the silver down your cheeks and over your chocolate smile— to polish— and shine like the jewels they are.
From Triton’s might we see, to all there is a price It steals the heart of me.
You see— the night will end soon with the mist-drunk moon, and you will see I have always been near —I will always be here.
Whale’s song sets you free; tune strong and precise. There’s a spell on the sea, It steals the heart of me.
The Ballad of the Cockney
Can you lend me some coin for a brother? Can you lend me some coin for a shrew? Will you reach out your hand for another? That’s all I’m asking o’ you, mate.
and years gone?
They left their marks
Could you fill up me plate with some coppers? Could you fill up me mug with a brew? Would you let me go hungry in the gutter? All I’m after’s a wee bit o’ stew.
on this once young face.
I’ve soiled me pants in the rubbish, I’ve stitched back together me shoes. Me nails are broken and grubbish, The tips o’ me fingers are blue.
Don’t walk me by and avert you eye, mate. Don’t treat me as less than a Jew. Won’t you look at me rags and sigh, mate. Just a smile is all that would do. But you turn up your nose at me sorrows, And you belittle me feverish rue. You without a care for the morrow, A haughty and elegant beau.
(Photo provided by Cam Huynh.)
I see your high-fashioned tether, I see your dev’lish hue. Your booties are shiny and leather, But nothin’ of mine, mate, is new.
I’m hungry and broken and peppered, I’m sick o’ crying boo hoo. Your arrogant steps got me heckled. And the camel’s straw, mate, is you.
Your days are done and gone, Your body lying broken askew. A bloody mess so sad and forlorn, It makes for a terrible view.
I get to me feet from the gutter, I get to me feet quite askew. I’m a shadow that’s pullin’ a cutter. I’m a shadow that’s comin’ for you.
I smile you a crooked bloody smile, I smile at you now that I’m through. I’ve been dreamin’ o’ this a long while, And me spirit is feelin’ renewed.
I follow you out from the alley, I follow you out o’ the blue. You dawdle and dither and dally, I’m stalkin’ you all the way through.
But me rev’ries are quickly broken, Me fun is to end all too soon. For nary a thought have I spoken, And the worst o’ me fears has come true.
You’re takin’ me over the river, You’re leadin’ me under the moon. You hug yourself tightly and shiver. For what’s comin’ you haven’t a clue.
It’s the cobbers! Comin’ out o’ the shadows! It’s the cobbers! Comin’ straight for yours true! If they catch me I’m doomed to the gallows, Me plans o’ retribution are blew!
On the path underneath the alder trees, On the path underfoot are leaves strewn. I’ve crept up behind on me knobbly knees, I jam in me knife straight and true.
Dark fate, your grip so cold and tight,
Dark fate—oh, if only I knew! How this story would end on a cold winter’s night. Now this poor wretched cockney is doomed.
You let out a cry to the black o’ the night, You cough up your blood on your shoes. And fall to the dust, wide-eyed in fright, Now look who’s cryin’ boo hoo.
It’s the gallows for me, mate, me days are done. It’s the gallows for me, mate, I’m through. But at least ‘fore I go I’ve had me some fun, Yeah, I’m a cockney for sure, mate, it’s true.
I’m stabbin’ away at your belly, I’m beatin’ you down black and blue. Your face is pulped to a jelly. It’s a hell of a hullabaloo.
Haikus Markie Perdikomatis My queen of my love
Dragon golden eggs
Golden nest in golden tree
You are the heart of my life
Passionately, your king
Mountain sky in air
Pick you up again
To be in my arms again
Top of the world—Om
French kiss me again
Lovers in passion
I am made of clay
Marriage house on top of cliff
Your fiery love cooks me
Until I’m rock hard
Sweet dear, have no fear
I will promise not to hunt
What the heck is in my mind?
Sweet dear, come to me
Try the veal—it›s swell!
Fiddling is my calmness
Gods and goddesses
You’ve got to believe it, man!
Heavenly, soft clouds
Stopping me is futile!
Plucking golden harps
My cats’ eyes glow green
So they can hunt in the dark It’s fascinating
There’s another beat
It senses better than the cats Eye of the tiger
Reviews GAME Wizardry 7: The Crusaders of the Dark Savant reviewed by Rei Barker
This review is a good 19 years late. Wizardry 7: The Crusaders of the Dark Savant is a fantasy RPG that ruled my life when I was about ten. You control a party of up to six space travellers on a quest to find an ancient artefact which has the power of life and death. The Dark Savant is some kind of evil space wizard; a real cheery bloke. He is after the same artefact as you, so naturally you have to stop him, thus saving the universe. The character creation system is incredibly complex. You choose from ten races and 15 character classes. You ‘die roll’ your attributes, Dungeon and Dragons style. It is very thorough, but a little frustrating at times, because to be any of the good classes you have to roll high attributes. Once you begin creating a character, you have to finish creating it. This, and deleting the dud character you just made, takes about two minutes, so acquiring a powerful team can take hours. The gameplay is incredibly deep and immersed in story and flavour. You dive straight in, with pretty much no idea what
to do and are left to fend for yourself. It can be overwhelmingly confusing, but once you figure out the rhythm of the game, things get a lot easier. It took me about 100 hours to finish this game, and that was with a lot of help from online playguides AND not even finishing all of the optional dungeons and puzzles. I think doing so would be nearly impossible without some sort of help as Wizardry 7 has puzzles so fiendish they would make Link wet his pants.
The graphics are abominable, by today’s standards. 16 colour EGA(Enhanced Graphic
Adaptor) is probably the kind of thing that would turn a lot of people off, but it didn’t bother me too much. My only issue with it would be that you get sick of looking at the same dungeon or tree image for hours on end. The sound has as much range as a pocket calculator; I ended up muting it for most of the game. It isn’t vital or relevant to gameplay so I didn’t bother.
Wizardry 7 is pretty hard to find. I had to scour eBay for hours to find one that wasn’t actually a scam or just nonsense. When I did find someone who would ship the game to Australia, it was cheap, but it took a lot of time to find and three weeks to get delivered. I was thrilled when it arrived though; I felt like I had just bought a piece of my childhood.
GAME CRYSIS 2 reviewed by Paul Katis
If you like RPG’s, then this game will not waste your time. Once you get past the awful graphics and sound, there is an amazing game with incredible depth. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and I give my personal guarantee that you will have a lot of fun. A lot has changed since 1992, but I think that Wizardry 7 is amazingly imaginative and stands up pretty well to the test of time. I really enjoyed playing it when I was ten, and I got a lot out of it recently. Check it out!
When Crysis hit the streets in 2007, the whole gaming world took notice. Crytek, the developers, had achieved success with their previous game, Far Cry, but it was Crysis that really put them on the map. Ever since, the original Crysis has been held as the benchmark for FPS games on PC, and even for consoles. It’s 2011, and the long awaited sequel, Crysis 2 is upon us. This time around, all gamers can check out this nugget of gaming heaven, as it has been released as a multiplatform game. But the real question is: does it hold up to the modern crop of FPS like Call of Duty, etc, and can it live up to its high pedigree?
I give it 85%, but I am biased. §
The crux of the story goes something like this - there is a virus that is similar to Ebola (but not quite) that has hit the streets of New York in 2023AD, which is killing people in droves. There are reports that it is an alien virus, but a private corporation seems to know too much, and its military arm, C.E.L.L,
are trying to cover it up for some reason.
relatively large and comes with an amount of freedom that is not seen in most games in the genre. The level maps are large enough, and the environments vary, so you will enjoy the freedom and scenery pretty much wherever you go. Rather than go for an open-world where the protagonist, Alcatraz, can go wherever he pleases on the map, Crysis 2 is a more streamlined affair that may upset Crysis purists, but as mentioned, this should not deter any FPS fans from trying it out.
You play as Alcatraz, and are introduced to him as he and his team of marines are sent to NY to seek out a certain Dr. Gould who holds vital information regarding the alien virus. While attempting to disembark from a submarine, the sub explodes and you have to escape. As the team escapes, an alien mech rises out of the water and kills your team and wounds Alcatraz; then Prophet enters. Prophet was the protagonist from the original, and here he saves Alcatraz and takes him to a safe warehouse where he proceeds to give a little spiel about how he is ‘infected’ and that he needs you to complete your mission of finding Gould. Prophet then gives the Nanosuit to Alcatraz and bonds it to him. Prophet then simply kills himself.
The world, at first seems to be an open sandbox, with large open spaces, huge city buildings, parks, and a harbour and port area. All this pseudo-freedom is just a cleverly developed illusion, because each time you venture too far, a wall or wire fences or something similar blocks your path and stands in defiance of you going further. But in all honesty, it doesn’t even really matter as the intelligent level design grants you freedom to tackle missions in a variety of different ways.
Without spoiling too much, it turns out that an alien invasion is taking place nationwide by a particularly aggressive race of aliens known as the CEPH, and it is only as you progress through the game that you gain knowledge regarding all of this mayhem and destruction. To make matters worse, you have to fight against the PMC, CELL, as well as the CEPH, throughout the campaign. Both sets of enemies require differing tactics in order to defeat them which is a bonus as the gameplay doesn’t get stale due to ‘samey’ enemy confrontations.
There are multiple paths you can take Alcatraz, you can play stealthily, or you can go in all guns blazing. You can avoid combat (if skilled enough), or you can use the tactical options that become available for nearly every situation; you want to snipe that nest of marines? Go ahead. You want to use stealth and take out our enemies silently? Check. You want to take the path under the city and through the sewers? Yep, that too. So where the game world may seem closed off to hardcore Crysis fans, the truth is that Crysis 2 lets the player retain a special type of freedom that is not seen in many games of the genre.
It may come as a disappointment to fans then, that Crysis 2 is not an open-world game in the vein of Far Cry and the original Crysis. However, this is no reason for disappointment though, because it is still a killer title that deserves all the love that it gets... and then some.
The game is set in New York in 2023AD. The great city of NY is recreated well, with instantly recognisable landmarks littering the streets and the periphery. The setting is
So, with that out of the way, let’s get to the meat and bones of the Crysis 2 experience.
The story takes a little while before it
makes much sense, especially if you haven’t played Crysis; but as you progress enough information about the major characters and some exciting plot twists enter the scene soon after.
The Nanosuit grants some pretty amazing abilities, the most useful and probably most important being the cloaking ability, which is part of the suit’s stealth mode. The suit has 3 categories: Stealth, Power, and Armour, and these are pretty self-explanatory. As you progress, you unlock better and more useful abilities like energy re-generation. You can also customise your weapons, and this customisation is more in-depth than most FPS. For instance, you can put a silencer on a shotgun, a sniper scope on a pistol, and many other combinations that all end in a huge amount of diversity and fun.
the environmental detail is extensive, but the character renderings aren’t too impressive, although the Nanosuit and other mech soldiers look fantastic. The soundtrack is a mixed bag; the dramatic score and the voice-acting is impressive, although sometimes the volume dips in and out. The worst audio glitch I encountered was during a vital conversation between Gould and Alcatraz, when Gould’s dialogue cut out completely. I had the subtitles on, so I didn’t miss the information, so it is recommended that you play with subtitles on. Otherwise, the dramatic score underlines the tension and adds to environment.
The AI (artificial intelligence) of the enemies in the game is a mixed bag, and has been the subject of much criticism since the game came out. I found the AI to be pretty challenging, even on the Normal difficulty, as they are in constant contact with one another, and also use a wide array of tactics against Alcatraz. They flank you, they smoke you out from hiding places, and they actively seek you out and hunt you down. There are certain bugs and glitches regarding the AI, none of them are game-breaking, but actually rather humorous. Both console versions contain these glitches. The original Crysis is known for its graphical prowess and the sequel is no slouch in this regard. At first the graphics seem underwhelming, but look closely and you will find the amount of rendered detail, especially in objects like buildings and shopfronts, amazing. The vehicles and tanks look great, as do the enemies, though in case of the latter, the closer you get the worse they look, particularly the CEPH. In short,
Overall, Crysis 2 is a must-play; if you pride yourself on your superhuman twitch reflexes, it is the perfect game for you. If you dig a good tactical shootout, then this game will not disappoint you. If you come in expecting an easy, run and gun FPS in the vein of Call of Duty, then it is more than likely not for you. Crysis 2 prides itself on being a thinking man’s shooter, and is one for the armchair strategists and tacticians that love to think and plan their attacks. If you come into the game expecting to just blast away and kill everything in sight, you will be rage-quitting plenty in Crysis 2. For those that want a challenge, there is no better choice in the genre. §
Control he goes for a far more pop sensitive melodic approach. However, other elements from the bands past are still prominent in these new recordings as the band themselves have said it’s ‘quite different, but exactly the same.’
Songs such as Oxygen, She’s Like A Comet and High [Horse] sound refreshingly upbeat and give the album radio friendly feel. Then there are more high-energy songs like Lost My Nerve, Control and Under Your Bed. Instrumentally, the band have barely strayed from their previous albums. They have always had poppy and melodic elements in their music but in this case they are more prominent.
Songs such as Freakin Out and Lash give the album a darker feel, whilst To Your Door, Battle Song, and Are We Okay? round out the album with a slower, moodier tone that gives a more personal feel.
reviewed by Andrew Maltezos
Overall, Kosciusko is a gradual and rocky climb between songs that slow down, speed up and dramatically change in feel. There is no gradual change of pace with each song. There is only a mish-mash of slow, fast, and dark that makes the album as a whole, frustrating to listen to.
Released 15 April 2011. After seven years since the band’s last studio release, Jebediah are back. The new album Kosciusko is a triumphant return to form for the local four-piece who were basically shelved to the side after the success of front man Kevin Mitchell’s solo stint under the alias of Bob Evans. The first two singles Lost My Nerve and She’s Like A Comet are great precursors to what essentially is a solid, poppy alternative rock album with depth and a few surprises along the way.
In the music industry today where most music is single driven rather than album driven a structural problem like this is easily overlooked but not forgotten once noticed. Whilst Kosciuszko doesn’t reach new heights of musical endeavour for this now legendary Aussie band, it does maintain their reputation for making solid home-grown alternative rock. §
Out are the somewhat whinging and nasally vocals from Mitchell that contributed to the band’s unique blend of grungier alternative rock from the late 90’s. It is a more versatile display of vocals from Mitchell. On the opening track Lost My Nerve his vocals are a lot grittier and raw whilst on tracks such as
Some can argue 3D is a joke in itself, but this review isn’t about whether 3D is a viable addition to film. Another character annoyance is Loki. Again it’s a motivation issue, as his plots just keep changing and changing. First he’s out to ruin his big brother, then he wants to be king, then he’s going to kill the king (his adopted father), and finally he decides to save the king by killing his biological father, King of the Frost Giants, practically screaming, ‘Look at me, Daddy! I’m better than Thor!’ If they were trying to go for the whole ‘hidden agenda’ motive, they haven’t done it quite well enough.
In terms of character analysis, one character in particular, Darcy, is – quite frankly – pointless. She serves no point to the story or to other characters, apart from a few oneliners in the first half hour of the film. Then she just disappears and becomes a blemish on the background.
As far as my knowledge goes, the movie does stick to the original mythology, with a few creative changes. Though I never read the original comics, some research tells me that they sum up the whole comic series in this movie. But from the perspective of an outsider who has no real knowledge of the mythology or the comic book, it is a good movie.
reviewed by Emma Ritchie Thor (2011), directed by Kenneth Branagh, does exactly what it sets out to do. It entertains. A true action/adventure film, it depicts Norse god Thor’s banishment from his kingdom and his being stuck powerless on Earth, after a misguided attack on the Frost Giants. Here he meets Jane Foster, and a beautiful romance is thrown into the mix. While the audience can clearly see why Thor falls for Jane, I felt that Jane’s motivation for the romance was little more than, ‘Thor’s a sexy beast.’ Overall the movie is quite well-written and shot well. It’s clear it wasn’t shot specially for 3D, and that 3D was thrown in as a last minute decision. So the 3D version is a waste of money; just see the normal version.
Final opinion? As a straight-up action flick – awesome. As a correct representation of Norse mythology – maybe not. If you want something to entertain you, but not wow you, Thor is perfect for you. §
FEATURE: Melbourne Mob Central Bizarre scenes are taking place all over the city’s famous landmarks as mobs of people gather, perform, and disperse. By Andrew Maltezos The time is 1:15pm. It’s a cold day in spring. Running through Melbourne Central to make my rendezvous at the front of the Melbourne State Library, I suddenly stop in my tracks. A group of people, no less than fifty, are performing a choreographed dance routine under the giant Seiko watch. The group takes on a few more dance formations before suddenly dispersing as if nothing had ever happened. To the uninformed this is nothing more than a group of strangers performing a dance routine. I know it to be none other than a flash mob. The Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English defines a flash mob as “a group of people who organise on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse.”
A horde of pirates lay siege to the Queen Victoria Gardens. (Photo by Andrew Maltezos)
It is a bizarre activity to say the least. Participants convene on the internet, make scenes in public, weird people out. Who are these people? Some of these groups have agendas, some are doing it for fun and some just want to make a difference in the world.
People of all age groups except the elderly have taken part in the event. Most have adopted a pirate accent for the day and pirate-specific music has been chosen by the individual who brought music along.
The event I am late for? “The Melbourne Pirate Parade Project 2010”, an event no less kookier or random in nature. The event’s highlight was a parade of people dressed as pirates walking down Swanston Street. The group of over 150 now congregated at Alexandria Gardens is well and truly a sight to behold.
It’s not long before people start to dance and the event becomes all the more unifying for these strangers when a conga line takes formation. Aside from the fact that it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it still intrigues me to know what inspires people to take part in such an event.
FEATURE: Melbourne Mob Central
“I’m actually quite shocked and very happy that there are people out there that are as random and as spontaneous as I am. Every time I organise an event, I freak out thinking, ‘Oh crap, I’m going to be the only one here.’ But I never am, and I have the wonderful people of Melbourne to thank,” says Stephanie.
I’d like to think that creating these random events help people forget their problems for a little while and smile. If I’ve achieved that in any of my random events, then I dare say I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”
Her personal favourites include “The Bride Stampede Project” where twenty brides chased one sorry groom down Swanston Street. Another is the “Melbourne Banana Phone Project”, where you guessed it, people congregated in the city posing with a banana and talked into them like it was a phone. The term “B.Y.O Banana” was an appropriate anecdote for the event’s Facebook page.
Stephanie Chin is the sole founder and organiser of Stefasaurus Productions. As well as the Pirate Parade, she has organised several other flash mob events in Melbourne under the Stefasaurus moniker. Like many other people who have become aware of flash mobs, she too saw her first one on the Internet, thanks to the infamous Grand Central Station flash mob freeze, a viral hit on YouTube.
“In the end it was a lot of fun to see people do a second take wondering, ‘Is she talking on a banana?’ One poor guy was from New Zealand on his first day moving to Melbourne. He approached me and asked me, ‘What is going on?’ I replied with, ‘Oh, we do this here.’ Oh, the expression on his face after receiving my answer was priceless.”
“My friend Jodie showed me a YouTube video of a freeze event, and I thought how amazing an event like that would be to attend.
I tried searching on the Internet for a freeze event in Melbourne. I couldn’t find anything. I ended up getting frustrated and just decided to make the event myself. I didn’t have my group back then. It was just my contacts on Facebook and that’s it. I had nobody to ask for help.”
Origins of the quirky pastime date back to 2003. Senior editor of Harper’s Magazine Bill Wasik first organised and created flash mobs as a social experiment. Some were as simple as a group of 200 people meeting on a hotel lobby floor applauding and then dispersing as if nothing had ever happened. Others were more elaborate such as invading a boutique shoe store with willing participants who would pretend to be tourists from a tour bus.
It still seems like no mean feat being able to organise hundreds of people to converge in the city and perform a flash mob.
Stefasaurus events are non-exclusive, open for anyone to attend. Asking Stephanie what motivates her to run these flash mobs, her inspirations are simple and just.
“Every time I hold an event successfully, I’m achieving a mission. It’s good to know that even in this crazy day and age, with all the horrible things happening in this world with money, power, depression, poverty, war.
Before the heavy use of social websites such as Facebook, Wasik employed the use of an anonymous moniker to send chain emails to people in order to organise these flash mobs.
His original flash mobs were only ten minutes in duration. Participants were told in the emails to meet in a public place
FEATURE: Melbourne Mob Central
such as a bar or pub in order to receive further instructions from the organiser before heading off to a nearby destination to perform the flash mobs.
Charity flash mobber Aishwarya, along with a few fellow uni students has taken the initiative to organise their own flash mob to raise funds for a charity.
In a more bizarre twist, it wasn’t until 2006 that the self-proclaimed viral culture enthusiast publicly outed himself as the creator of flash mobs.
They have garnered a small group of at least twenty people to stand outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Swanston Street to perform a flash mob freeze. They stand along one side of the footpath, fixed in frozen poses whilst befuddled commuters on their way home from work walk by with confused looks on their faces.
Just seven years after its inception into the psyche of viral media, the term ‘flash mob’ has grown exponentially in popularity.
One classic example of this was the Worldwide Pillow Fight Day on March 28, 2008. Mobs of people in 25 cities around the world simultaneously took part in a pillow fight. This event is still known to be the world’s largest flash mob created thus far. Cities such as New York City alone had over 5000 participants. Among the 25 cities that took part in the event was Melbourne.
Some people simply smile and chuckle to themselves as they walk past, some stop to take a photo, and a rare few stop by to ask the volunteers with donation tins what charity they are raising funds for.
“I believe that flash mobs are an effective way to reach and move an audience or show them an idea, but in terms of how that converts into money raised, the link is not as strong.”
Popular sites for flash mobs around Melbourne seem to include Federation Square, Flinders Street station, and Melbourne Central. There’s no telling when you’ll see one. The best chances you have of ever seeing one is to participate in or organise one yourself. Or you can take your chances surfing the net. It’s up to you.
Although Aishwarya and her friends were successful in attracting participants, the use of flash mobbing in this case wasn’t an effective way to raise money. However people who took part in the event thoroughly enjoyed it.
For a pastime that originally started off as a social experiment, it has ballooned to encompass so many other motives behind itself. The ever humble and quirky flash mob is taking on several different incarnations. One such incarnation is what’s known as a charity flash mob. “Flash mobs have a social coolness appeal in that, if a friend sees that I’m going to a flash mob for a cause, others viewing their Facebook activities are likely to visit the site and maybe sign up too.”
Another quirky example of flash mobbing for a cause is the Melbourne public transport complaints choir. And yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. ‘LOVEPT’ is a Melbourne based group dedicated to improving the conditions of Melbourne’s heavily criticised public transport system. They are a passionate group of volunteers who believe in advocating for the democratic right to an equitable and accessible public transport network.
FEATURE: Melbourne Mob Central
After compiling complaints about public transport from a previous event, they proceeded to compose a song titled ‘Why?’
However successful they are at getting people to participate, two of them share the same point of view with the effectiveness of using social networking sites.
After weeks of practising, the passionate group of volunteers headed out to locations such as Flinders Street, Southern Cross and the Melbourne Town Hall for their impromptu performances. On September 19, 2010, the same day as the Pirate Parade, members of ‘LOVEPT’ took part in flash mob of a different kind.
“Yes, the internet or social networking sites such as Facebook, single-handedly enables mass proportions of the public to learn about and sign up to events such as these,” says Aishwarya.
“When it comes to my flash mob events, they wouldn’t be as big or as successful if it weren’t for social networking sites these days. So Facebook has been an essential tool for me with my events, and lately Twitter as well,” says Stephanie.
As part of a worldwide initiative among other groups concerned with public transport standards, the volunteers staged a flash mob on a train carriage. Members were told to bring a few possessions of their own to one carriage on a specific train line, to make themselves at home on the train.
It may have been thanks to the original founder of flash mobbing, Bill Wasik, for starting off this worldwide craze. But at the end of the day it’s the people who organise and participate in flash mobs that make them the phenomenon they are today. Without their ideas and inspiration behind whatever cause they are mobbing for, whether it’s for a charity or just for fun, mobs like these just wouldn’t happen without them.
According to the media release for the flash mob, the idea was to ‘Show that we love Public Transport and we want to make it as comfortable and attractive as if it were our own home.’ The volunteers did just that, bringing possessions such as rugs, blankets, photo frames, kettles, even a clothes line cord to hang clothes from. A few people decided to cosy up in their blankets whilst they did some knitting, whatever it took to make them feel at home on the train.
So the next time you see a flash mob happen in public, don’t be startled or annoyed by these hooligans dancing around in public, just sit back and enjoy the show and heck, why not join in? Flash mobbing is for anyone, so why not you? That’s right, you. Go on get out there, join a cause, make a scene, but most of all—have fun! §
Of these three groups of people who organised and participated in flash mobs it’s interesting to find that the two groups who did it for a cause had significantly less participation than that of Stephanie’s group.
Is this indicative of today’s youth? Do the youth of Gen Y prefer to frolic around parks and streets dressed up as pirates than mob for a cause? It could just be that Stephanie is a lot better at networking.
FEATURE: Rising from the Ashes Julie-Anne Withall tells her incredible story of survival to Shannon Smith and shares how she remembers the friends she lost on Black Saturday. ‘In our first week [in Marysville] we had a house fire and lost everything. I was devastated. The whole town rallied around us. I knew it was a beautiful place, but I couldn’t believe how beautiful the people were,’ Withall explains.
son Doultan in their house, trying to fight off the fire. She left behind her husband and daughter,’ she says, the words catching in her throat. On their way home from the pool, they bumped into their neighbour Debbie, who became instrumental in saving their lives on two occasions. ‘She urgently told us to get down to the oval at Gallipoli Park.’ Most of the townspeople were already there.
Moving from Seaford to Marysville had been a dream fifteen years in the making for Withall, her partner Darren, and daughter Jasmine. Little did they know fire would profoundly affect their lives again.
Within minutes of arriving, the fire was already dangerously close. ‘We could see the tops of the mountains burning. Embers were sparking fires across the road. A CFA worker who had been fighting the fires was there. He said “It [the fire] was alive; it was evil; it was roaring”.’
On the day of the Black Saturday bushfires, Withall planned to take her family to Chirnside Park Shopping Centre. ‘On our way the wind picked up, and broken branches fell down around us. It was like dodge the branch. So we turned around and went back. Had we gone, our dogs would have perished. It was like a message,’ she says thankfully. Back in town Withall and her family went to the local pool. ‘It was about 4pm. The fire chief’s wife, Lizzie, was there. That’s when the smoke cloud came over like an atomic bomb mushroom cloud. We all thought we were safe, thinking the fire was in Kilmore. Lizzie looked up and said “No, that looks closer than Kilmore,” and ran off to get her mobile. That was the last time we saw her alive. She was so beautiful. She died with her
Soon after, the police and the SES arrived. The people of Marysville were to be evacuated to Alexandra. ‘They didn’t know if the road was clear or not. It was a gamble if they were sending us into a fire or saving our lives.’
Unprepared for the evacuation, Withall had no fuel in her car. ‘Our friends said we could car pool with them. Then we realised there was no room for me. That’s when Debbie saved our lives for the second time. She pulls up with her three-year-old son, their pet bird and an empty seat for me.’
Like a funeral procession, headlights on, they left Marysville. Now it was Withall’s turn
FEATURE: Rising from the Ashes to save Debbie and her son. ‘As soon as we started the convoy, Debbie started to cry. She kept saying, “I’ve got to pull over. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” I told her, “We can’t stop, we haven’t got time. Our families are in the car behind us. We need them and they need us.” I talked her all the way through town,’ Withall explains.
in order for the whole of Victoria, Australia, and even overseas to join together in a common experience. To give from the heart.’
To help with the grief of losing eight of her close friends, Withall remembers them in her own unique way. ‘They were all special, amazing, creative forces in the town. Marlene and David were real estate agents; they lost their lives trying to defend. Kirsty and Isaac died leaving their three children orphaned. They were texting their Mum all night, not knowing their Mum and Dad were gone. Rodney and Elizabeth gave us jobs after our house fire to help get us on our feet. Rodney got burnt, but his wife and two sons died. Nicole and her fiancé died. She was due to have their first baby a week after the fires. And, of course, Lizzie and her son. They’ve gone to do greater things that we’ll never know about. That’s how I reconcile it.’
Conditions were less than ideal when they arrived in Alexandra. ‘The smoke was horrific. You couldn’t see far in front of you, and our eyes were stinging. It felt like 60 degrees inside the hall with three to four hundred hot, crying, stressed people,’ she says.
The following day the roads into Alexandra were intermittently opened and closed with little notice. Withall was anxious to get her family out. ‘I rang Dad and asked if he could come and get us. I didn’t talk the whole trip home. I looked out the window, keeping my eye out for fire. When I could see the city, I asked Dad, “Do you think we’re safe now?” He said, “Yep, we’re safe now.” I was never so happy to see the city.’
Shortly after the fires Withall wrote her own submission to the Royal Commission. ‘I felt strongly that all the lives lost in Marysville were due to the “stay and defend” policy and the lack of a town evacuation plan. It’s one thing to have a Royal Commission; it’s another to implement something that works for the safety and security of future generations in Marysville or anywhere,’ she says.
It didn’t take long for Withall and her family to relocate. Just four days later they were in Rosebud. ‘We hit the ground running. We already had two chances. That’s why we’re not going back there to live. Three strikes and you’re out.’
More than two years after the fires, Withall is still adamant about one thing. ‘We are bushfire Lush forest of Marysville a month after the fires. survivors, not victims. That one word makes all the difference.
Within ten days of the fires, Withall had enough donated furniture to fill a home. ‘We got a call about an appointment at Lyn Fox’s warehouse in Clayton. We were given a pallet and told to fill it up. When we had our permanent address, they delivered everything free of charge,’ she says gratefully. For all the tragedy Withall had experienced, she is determined to focus on the positive. ‘We were very lucky to be part of the human kindness. Everyone that donated was part of that, too. Those who lost their lives did so
‘You can’t look back at what you’ve lost. The only thing that matters is your life, your family and friends.’ § All photos courtesy of Julie-Anne Withall.
The People Are
look at revolutions-real or imagined, internal or external, personal or glob
Sexual, Industrial, Technological, Political, Cultural, Violent, Historical, Familial, Spiritual, Recreational, Em Relational, Sexual Orientation, Artistic, Occupational…
A look at revolutions‐real or imagined, internal or external, personal or global. There are many kinds of revolution… Social, Sexual, Industrial, Technological, Political, Cultural, Violent, Historical, Familial, Spiritual, Recreational, Emotional, Relational, Sexual Orientation, Artistic, Occupational… Which means something to you?
There are many kinds of revolution… ople Are Revolting is the book project for Small press Publishing 2011. We need submissions in any style o Articles, fiction, poems, drawings, photos, or any damn thing. Submission deadline 19th July. Which means something to you?
All queries, requests for style guide and submissions should be sent to email@example.com
The People Are Revolting is the book project for Small press Publishing 2011. We need submissions in any style or genre. Articles, fiction, poems, drawings, photos, or any damn thing. Submission deadline 19th July. All queries, requests for style guide and submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.