Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Afterflood 7 - Beach Balls Deserve A Life Too

You know how the security goons at a major cricket match get heckled and disparaged when they grab and deflate a beach ball which had been used by said crowd as entertainment during the boring bits?  Well, not even necessarily during the boring bits but after the spectators downed their smuggled rum infused watermelons, frozen vodka-spiked oranges and in my case once, bottle of cheap scotch hidden in a fold up umbrella.  All because the nazis decided that full strength beer was not good for the paying public but those in either the Members Stands or the Corporate Boxes are immune to the "No More Its The Law" and "Responsible Service of Alcohol" ineffectual bullshit. Yeah, you've seen it on the teev or at the ground; the plastic beer cup chains, Mexican Waves and frustrated punters screaming into the Channel Nine effects microphones. Well that's how Heather and I felt when the Rhino safed up his big fuck off cannon thing after crowing about his biceps.  He saw our disappoinment, arched an eyebrow and advised us through a column of jaunty cigar smoke;
"Sorry folks, the fun park's closed. The moose out front should have told you."
Heather didn't miss a beat,
"We paid good money for this ride." She then shipped her rifle, adding,
" And that!",  as she pointed to the unhooked Vulcan, "is part of it Mr Wally. This ain't our first killing."
The pachyderm man admired a particularly well self crafted smoke ring and gave us the facts in a movie style American drawl,
"You folks seem reasonable. Enough for government work anyway's.  Let me cut you into the deal here. What you're entering is what we call a cross disciplinary, multi faceted, inter-nation work up of asset leveraging to defeat threats to our goals as outlayed in the mission statement and expressed by our defined corporate values. We're talking cross-silo optimisation of corporate assets here."
I caught bits of it and recognised some terms from crap, powdered coffee and stale cream biscuits training sessions.  Heather just shrugged and kept her weapon shipped.  Stalemate.  It was up to me to penetrate the clouds of smoke.
"So, what's happenin' Rhino?  Why the fuck are you here?"
 Lame.  I went back to what I knew best while tossing away my cigar,
 " Want a drink?"
"No to the drink this time mate." he did a fair pass at Oz vernacular which is rare with a lot of North Americans. They're not always that good at going 'local' probably because they don't need to, unlike Kiwis who can sound authentic if there's a dollar to be had or local gestapo to be bluffed. Go anywhere in the world and you find that half the issues the locals have are with Kiwis pretending to be Aussies, Brits and Yanks. Hence the Aussies who go stupid at Pamplona. Oktoberfest and Calgary Stampede say they're Kiwis. Pay back for the Bledisloe and wrongly arrested diggers in Munchen and Rio.  Anyway, he went on;
 "Gotta go and scout out the south west approaches. Fact is I was at Richmond trouble shooting some air defence systems when the crap started.  I could have gone back home but the job wasn't finished so I decided to stay. The Agency boys got me this truck, the Vulcan and some offsiders who I'm now going to round up. So if you folks don't mind I'll be on my way." He grinned, puffed another smoke ring and said,
 "By the way,  for the record it is good being the Stuck In Australia During End of Days Rhino."

He strapped his Vulcan to a frame on the big ute, puffed his cigar to a bright glow and blew Heather a smokey kiss before climbing into the truck and heading off to the south west.  I was impressed.
I was also confused and said so to Heather who was busy stubbing out her own cigar.
"Huh? Oh yeah, the search thing. "
I noticed the other teams from our convoy working their ways back to our temporary "Stop, Revive, Survive" spot which was sans Lions Club refreshments but replete with twitchy punters and weary army and cop types.

I tapped her on the shoulder, pointing back where we came, saying;
"Okay Ripley, alien gone, we go thataway."
By fuck she looked gorgeous.  Did I mention that earlier? Didn't say it to her this time. No point in stating the obvious, so I thought.
We watched the Rhino's drive to the south-west, mesmerised by what we'd seen of him.  As we trudged back on our line, getting back to checking the ground, we briefly discussed the pachyderm man;
"I'd love to split some beers and whiskey with that bloke."
 Heather looked back as I went on,
"He's got great cigars and probably some fucking ripping yarns."
Heather nodded and drove a spin off Python riff,
"Well, they certainly wouldn't be about Eric Olthwaite. No shovel embrasure probs there and I'm sure he wouldn't be told that he's a boring tit."
She said with a twistful touch which gave me a slight worry about my chances with this woman. Again. Fuck it, insecurity had held me back way too often and the middle of an apocalypse wasn't the time to go through such crap, like a mashed repeat of old crushes and busted up hope.  I didn't need to mainline another scared bunch of emotional bullshit straight into the "future action" vein.  I wasn't a desparate AFL gambler trying to recoup losses whilst effused by boutique drugs and fashion models.  Although at second blush, chance would be a fine thing.  No, time for wondering being over I asked.
"Okay Heather. Here it is.  I'm really wanting to spend a lot of time with you. I don't know how to put this properly. but ...'
I looked at her straight in the eyes and felt scared.  Really scared about how this would go, She looked back at me also straight in the eyes. It was a look of no bullshit, a demand to say what it is and don't be scared.  By fuck she looked gorgeous but I only touched on it as I went on with my vent,
 "erm,  it's not only that you're way hot and that you're unaffected by it, no. Its also that you're handling all of this better than most." By this stage we were near the convoy. I dragged her back behind one of the buses, like some sort of desparate, kidnapping stalker of hotties. She didn't flinch and came with me.  Hope. Well how much hope was there? She didn't know me. I thought I'd better give her all options for an escape. Hell, in the past that was what I always gone for. She noticed my hesitation and kept on looking into my eyes. This was scary.
"Okay. Truth or dare time I guess."  I swallowed a hit of nerves,
"I really fancy you. I think you're a marvel." I hesitated and with her non-weapon hand she grabbed my shaky wrist and then enveloped my fingers. That did nothing for my nerves.  I gulped and continued,
"There's a heap of shit you may need to know about me and what I've done."  I swallowed remnants of spit, trying to brace for the Big Confession. Her gaze remain locked on target as I continued.
"Last night at Beecroft.  Was a really, really crap night. I did some bad shit..." and I let her know about capping Scooby Doo and screwing Judith The Neighbour. I also backtracked to the first time we'd met and she'd come to my flat for jelly fish sting relief, how I'd noticed her various gentleman callers with a twinge of jealousy, how I'd called her name during the tryst with Judith. I rattled out all of this angsty confession waiting for her response.  She unslung her rifle but before I could think about being stitched by a lead concerto she'd put the rifle down and came up and embraced me. Then kissed me long and hard. A cartoon Terry jumped up and down then did a a Curly back spin on the ground. The real Terry kissed her back with feeling. A lot of feeling. Heather drew back, still holding me and switched on her mega smile,
"Its okay Terry. Last night we weren't together. I must admit it wasn't the best thing you could have done but I'm sure Judith would have stopped you if she really wanted to.  And yes, I think I do have feelings for you as well." We hugged again and I knew what we had wasn't going to be a brief fling. It had the hallmarks of Something Serious and I was no longer scared. I was happy and I told Heather as much.
"I am too." was her low throat murmured response which made me start thinking of bed.  Such thoughts were doused by the ice bucket of a cop.
"Time to get moving," and he John Wayned a "we're burning daylight."
Heather and I had time for a quick kiss and hug before grabbing our weapons and going to our cars.

The convoy pulled up to a large gate which had been installed at the entrance of the college.  The main buildings sported weapon pits and the roofs were festooned with a number of gun platforms.  The gate was part of a ten metre high wire fence with ports for weapons.  Scorch marks, torn earth and ugly stains told a tale of zed attacks. Inside the fences were hectares of pasture, market gardens, crop fields, storage sheds, and pens for chickens and ducks.  There were small herds of cattle and sheep and a paddock populated by horses. In the distance I could see people on motorbikes and an occasional farm vehicle doing the farm thing.  There were also small towers every hundred metres.  Gotta keep an eye on zed. After being ushered through the gate the convoy drove up to the main building.  Last time I'd been here was to see my brother play in a local soccer grand final. He managed to pull a penalty through some niggling of the opposition's right wing defender who threw a punch in a discussion inside the penalty area and immediately was red carded. That was my bro.  I was looking forward to meeting up with him and his de facto, Diana.  She was a Chilean food technologist who confirmed everyone's stereotype of a bounteous South American beauty.  How Roger had managed to nab her was beyond all human sensibility given that his taste used to be stuck in the desparation of Picture Magazine's home girls.

A couple of orange vest people trafficked us into the parking area.  We were then shepherded into a group meeting where we were told about room allocations, meals, work details, computer and phone arrangements and weapons wrangling.  This was run by the college admin honcho and sounded a well tested recitation. Next up to the mic was an army guy. Had pips on his shoulders, a mess of medals and thinning grey hairline. He also got our attention by thundering,
"You're all dead!" A few children whimpered. Hell, even I almost whimpered and people started looking at each other with 'what the fuck' expressions.  The major calmed down and went on to explain that us fragile beings had just entered a whole new world where free choice had taken a sickie and order and structure had taken its place. We were free to take our chances outside the fences at any time. He then outlined a list of der verboten behaviours which basically amounted to regular common law "don't hurt each other or let each be hurt by your own actions or the actions of others." He also said that current laws of the state were still in force on top of what he'd outlined. Then he finished and handed the mic back to our Admin  M.C. to lay down some more beats. His final tune was to say we were to assemble in the theatre at 8.00 p.m. and to take our work forms along with us. Then we were instructed to check in at the college's reception in family groups, as couples or singles. We were to do this immediately and afterwards could retrieve whatever we'd stacked in our cars, trucks and buses.  I noticed that the cops and army crews had split into different groups and were being approached by senior colleagues. Then Heather and I had time for a quick conference about being a couple or singles. I voted for the former which she didn't want. She wanted her own space to start with, to see how our relationship developed without the daily pressure of wet towels on the floor and dutch ovens. However, we'd still be able to arrange conjugal visits. Reluctantly I agreed but sent a silent prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that our first night would be the opening episode of such visits.

My room had a mid size bed, wardrobe, ensuite, kitchenette, desk with ergo chair, bookshelves, two seater lounge and the stink of decades of skull sweat. Upon further inspection I noticed a small plaque which read, "Peter Toohey, 1974". Well strike me roan and purple I'd stumbled onto a former home of the man who was going to be the next Doug Walters.  My brother had told me about his legendary status at HAC and here I was in the middle of cricketing greatness. In NSW cricket history young Peter had been a promising middle order batsman, playing for his state at a tender age and marked as a future Test player.  Then in the midst of the panic when the World Series Cricket privaterrs stripped the offical Australian team of its top two tiers young Peter was tossed into the maw of the thundering West Indies pace attack on their home soil.  A slaughter from which he never really recovered. During his brief stay in the Australian team he was regarded as the heir apparent to Doug Walters, the heroic figure of beer, phlegmatic card play and brilliant batting. Thus young Pete was afforded the affection of cricket fans across the country. I was impressed with being in his room, hoping some of his aura may seep in.
To break the revery I plugged in my computer and phone and checked the Cloud for messages. My siblings were secure, friends mostly so and Judith was due to go to Penrith, on the way helping to shepherd the final convoy from Parramatta.  She wished Heather and myself well with a few x's and o's thrown in for good measure. That was nice of her and typical of her nature. After filing status reports to all and sundry and a quick sms to Heather I ventured out into the college proper.

I caught up with her outside the college cafeteria.  Some wag had printed up a sign which read "Zed's Dead Cafe" above the serving counter.  Heather and I chuckled at it, grabbed each others hand and went up to order a meal. As I read the quirky menu a familiar and familial voice opened up from behind,

"Don't order the Brainz, bro. Leave the Brainz alone."

Monday, March 14, 2011

AfterFlood - Got A Light?

Afterflood6 - Got A Light?

Our convoy cut across to Pennant Hills Road until the turn off to Dural at Boundary Road. At the back end of Pennant Hills High School we saw abandoned cars, some smouldering piles of zed corpses and no sign of life except a swag of minah birds trying to scare off some crows and currawongs who’d been nosing around the zeds, hoping for an easy take away feed. The aircon in my car was open windows, the inbuilt unit having shat itself a few years back on a run to Louth races. I wound up the windows but not before some of the foul stench of burnt zeds hadn’t crept in to say hello. “Fuck off!” was my response to the visiting stink in the form of a Winnie Blue. A reasonably successful attempt to cover the reeking, burny zed smell. Tobacco Smoke 2 - Zedstink 1.

The trip out was through the Cherrybrook McMansion defile, then the semi-rural Dural, then Kellyville until we hit the road out to Windsor, Richmond and the college. Normally the drive out to HAC would have taken me an hour but in the convoy we were only hitting the bottom end of Kellyville after statual trip duration. We cut across on Annagrove Road to Windsor Road. We pulled up in the left lanes to generally chat while the senior cops and army blokes conferred over radios, maps, thermos coffee and cigarettes. I went and found Heather,

“How’s the Barina going? Still got the beep beep mojo? “

Heather shrugged. And what a lovely shrug it was. I had to get over this obsessive crush but I couldn’t help but be drawn to her beauty. Maybe it was an attraction sharpened by the whole disaster, run-for-your-lives scenario but it was there and it was real. Get a grip son.

“Beeping not so much but getting me there. That was a bad stink near Penno High. Always thought that school was a bit more cleanskin than that.”

“Yeah, middle class sensibility meets bush setting and McMansion Gen Y candidates. Wasn’t like that in my day of course. None of these over achiever types back then. Just a bunch of us wasters trying to grow dope in the bush, hassle the girls at lunchtime and generally pretend to be ultra cool inner city types. Massive fail of course but it was a fucking hoot at the time and kept us out Kings Cross junkiedom. For historical reference, we never stunk as bad as those burning zeds. “

Heather backed and filled on her own school days;

“Asquith was pretty much the same ‘çept for that whole all-girls school thing. There were some really fucked up bitches who grooved on hurty bully-chick behaviour. Luckily I didn’t cop it as much, they seemed to leave me alone.” I nodded a sage nod,

“Well, that’d be because you would have out hottied them. Not much they could do about that.”

“Thanks for the job reference but they did try. Luckily my dad used to teach me some hitting moves for when creeps might get a bit too touchy. They seemed to work against bitchy Britney wannabees just as well. Except the crotch kicking thing, didn’t bring that into play. Nevertheless it wasn’t a bad place to go. “

I retrieved my hip flask and offered her a hit,

“Well even Asquith chicks would have learned the benefits of hip flasks.”

She hesitated before taking a quick gulp and handed it back. I took a swig and capped it as I saw a cop approaching. I pocketed the flask, took out a Winnie and lit up. The cop went up to Heather,

“You own the Barina, right?”

“Yeah, what’s up? Rego’s fine and its got no defects.”

The cop frowned slightly,

“No, nothing like that. You seem to be getting a flat tyre.” With that he left us to it. I reckoned it had been an excuse for him to get a close up perv on Heather. Hell, I would have. Had, was doing, would do until her dad-taught hitting of creeps like me started. We both walked back to her car and found the near side rear tyre was lower than the rest. Heather fossicked around the boot and brought out a tyre pressure gauge. A quick check showed that the offending tyre had 12 psi. A minute later it was a tad below. It wouldn’t make it to HAC so we changed it. The spare measured 38 psi. Good girl. We deflated it down to 32. Just as we’d finished stowing the old tyre and tools the sirens whooped a few times indicating time to move out. Before we did the air was rent by a flight of four fighter jets heading towards Richmond air base. In the distance I saw a few choppers and to the east two transport planes, Hercules I guessed, which were heading to the air base as well. It was reassuring that the air base was close to HAC. Nothing like having some military might on tap to soothe the nerves.

We drove up Windsor Road and then at Mulgrave took a left. It was almost spitting distance now. All we had to do was follow Hawkesbury Valley Way, a couple of Golf Courses, the air base then left to HAC. On the home stretch now. As the convoy headed out there were other things lurking. With intent. Well not so much lurking but shambling along working their mouths, zed style, and I’m not talking about a post football match “played to our game plan” presser.

There was a gazillion of the fucks shambling around some sort of resort. The lead cop pulled the convoy to a halt and the army guys started unpacking weapons and ammunition. I got my shottie and hung back, waiting for Heather. She was sporting her assault rifle, looking every bit like one of those chicks in machine gun magazine photo shoots, scarily attractive. We joined the rest of the convoy passengers, shepherded by two of the soldiers and two of the cops into line behind two of the buses which were parked sideways across the road. The truck with the cannon was in front, the other buses angled to the sides. The soldiers advanced in line, scoping the terrain for best firing positions. Eventually they set up four machine guns and deployed in a firing rank. Behind them a squad of ten soldiers set up mortars. Another digger was on top of the lead bus with binoculars, radar and map. I went up to a soldier and offered to join the line but he declined the offer.

“If they get close enough feel free to join in.” He then moved off to the side of the road, taking up an observation point but facing the way we’d come. Another soldier was on the opposite side, also checking the rear. The cops called all us passengers together and explained that there was a zed horde in front. It was milling around but posed a threat both to the airbase further up the road and HAC itself. I asked the question,

“Why not just bomb the shit out of them? The airforce is up the road, they have bombs and stuff.”

The cop responded, wearily, like this had been an argument won and lost many a time.

“We need the infrastructure. Roads, buildings, power lines, pipes, that sort of stuff. If we can avoid blowing it all up we will. We don’t want to spend the next hundred years rebuilding this stuff. And no, not even a few choppers. They’re need up at Penrith.”

We all sat down behind the buses and waited. After about ten minutes I heard a whoomp, a whistling rushing and an explosion in the distance, then some more shouted orders and a few more whoomps. A few more explosions were quickly followed up by a rapid volley of more mortar work. A couple of minutes later it stopped. The smoke from the rounds was clouding above us soon joined by a few bursts of machine gun fire. I was keen to see the action but the cops were keeping us sheltered and low. The machine guns then opened up with nore rhythmic bursts. This was joined by some shots from two rifles, firing rapidly but not on automatic. They sounded more solid than the assault weapons I’d heard at Beecroft. I looked at the copper, raising my eyebrows. Heather answered my question,

“Heavy rifles, probably sniper gear. I’d say the guys using them are just doing it for shits and giggles. Dad used to say snipers are like that sometimes.” She checked and re-checked her own weapon. One of the soldiers came back behind the buses;

“Ökay, those of you with weapons and are keen can come up front now. If you haven’t killed any of these before the idea is to take out their brains. Aim for their heads. They won’t stop until the brain is knocked out. “ He was pointing at his own head, front, centre and side, indicating the best places to aim. “Come on, let’s go.”

Ten of us followed him to the front line The machine gunners had advanced and reset their weapons further apart. The other soldiers were lying prone in firing positions, taking pot shots at some remnant zeds. About a hundred metres up the road and to the side was a scene of zed devastation. Piles of them were grouped in hideous, stinky piles of zed deaddom. I cheered, whooping and yelling out,

“Excellent capping of zed boys, brilliant work!” I moved to the side, following Heather as one soldier retorted,

“ Äin’t over yet matey. There’s more coming.“ he then let off a burst from his weapon, two zeds falling as a result. They were still out of range of my shottie but Heather was working the bolt on her illegal AK knock off. She raised it, clamping down slightly and fired for two seconds. The barrel swung upwards before she caught the movement and pushed it back down.

“Fucking cheap, communist piece of crap!” she swore, “ Dunno why Dad liked this one. Silly old bastard.” Then she squeezed the trigger again, this timekeeping the barrel down and aimed head high at a cluster of shambling zeds, two of whom fell down. By now everyone else had joined the party and the remaining herd of about fifty zeds were dropped. The soldiers with rifles got up, spaced themselves and advanced We followed behind, wary of stray zeds. I made sure I had both barrels loaded and soon joined the line. It was a mixture of soldiers, try hards like me and Heather. Her proficiency at weapons, self defence and ability to stay cool was starting to scare me a tad.

We advanced twenty metres when one soldier spotted and dealt with two zeds at the side. Soon a few more in the line were taking pot shots at the stumbling filth. By fuck they stank. Heather was in her own world raising the rifle, firing, putting it down, reloading, firing. I noticed a group of three to my right and aimed at the centre one. The shottie boomed my displeasure at ol’ stinky zed and I was surprised when the top half of its head disappeared in a familiar shower of zed cappingness. I swung and aimed for the zed to its right and this time took out the left half of the skull. It collapsed. I quickly reloaded and raised the gun again, only to hear Heather scream a warning,

“Right, to the rear!” A group of a dozen zeds were shambling to the machine gunners, who couldn’t fire as we were in front of the barrels. Similarly we couldn’t shoot because we might hit the gunners. Now that was a whole piece of tactical crap in my book. Should. Not. Happen. Then I heard the solid sniper rifles start popping away. Then a few shotgun blasts as two cops appeared from behind the buses. Maybe not so bad, tactics=wise. Turned out the gunners were still in situ in case we had to make a running retreat. Once we had run back behind them they’d be free to deal, then we’d set up a firing line. That was the theory as explained later over some home brew.

The soldiers fanned out to the side, telling us to stay put and take out anything which came towards us. In the background, directly in front and further up towards Hawkesbury racetrack I noticed a couple of explosions, followed by three more. Big black clouds mushroomed up and a faint echo of really heavy machine-gun fire reported the presence of someone else dealing out misery to zed. The soldiers didn’t falter, kept on their sweep before returning. They then formed us in a line and we approached the piles of zed. Some were still trying to crawl out of the foul mess and we went around capping the lot. Off to the right we noticed a few buildings. Up the road was some sort of hotel resort, no doubt catering to golfers and fly boys. Back towards us on the same side was a weight loss and health resort. Must have been lean pickings for zed in that place, hence forcing him on a road trip. I cracked the joke with Heather who smiled indulgently before satisfying herself there weren’t any more zeds. I pointed out the black smoke in the distance. We both shrugged it off but the soldiers appeared interested. Very fucking interested indeed as they quickly herded us away from dead zeds and back to the convoy. The top soldiers and cops conferred again, there was more radio crackle and then they ordered us to get the convoy moving. This time the truck with the cannon led off, now carrying six extra soldiers stripped from the buses. The cops ushered us into line, two of their cars taking up the rear, each carrying two soldiers. The truck led us through, sometimes off road to avoid a pile of zed corpses, sometimes on the pavement. The thick smoke was billowing to the left if the racecourse, as we pulled up a couple of hundred metres to the side. Two soldiers from the truck dismounted and scoped out the scene. Others moved around the perimeter of the convoy, the machine gunners unloading their weapons and moving to a small rise. To the right and ahead we saw a couple of choppers land at the air base and could now make out a fortified perimeter, piled up against which seemed to be a few thousand zed. I couldn’t see much more out of my side window and windscreen. All passengers were signalled to stay inside their cars. One of the soldiers scoping the explosion site yelled out,

“Cover. Incoming!”

I threw myself out the door and lay down beside the car, not knowing what the fuck to do. Nothing happened, so I stood up and looked to the smoke. Then something did happen. To the right of the fire was a building, looked like a warehouse. Then it blew its top, literally. A massive gout of flame lifted the roof which was then persuaded to turn into micro bits of charred roof, quickly followed by the walls. Another explosion followed its friend on some sort of fiery quest and was quickly followed by its smaller tag along pal, the type that always follows the big kids when there’s a promise of fun and mayhem. To me it looked fan-fucking-tastic. Big rolling balls of fire, billowing smoke and a building being converted to charred pieces of its constituent parts, sort of like what happens when you toss a can of your sisters hairspray onto a campfire, only crunchy. Not that I’d ever consider doing anything of the sort.

The shock wave hit us and knocked me down. Luckily by that stage a lot of its energy had dissipated and there was no physical damage except a few bruises. In summary Your Honour the defence maintains that it was a standout occurrence, not likely to be repeated. I even yelled out a Homer Simpson “Woo hoo”. One of the soldiers, rushing past to check things out looked at me as if I were a loon. I did not care. I watched in awe as the fire rolled out and into itself and the smoke formed a small mushroom cloud. Everyone by now was out of their vehicles, the soldiers were checking themselves for blast injury and the radio chatter started up. A chopper raised itself off the airfield and headed towards the smoke. Maybe this whole thing had been planned and our timing was off. Perhaps something had just cooked off after power and gas had been left on. But at a racetrack? It had me all confused, as it did Heather. The Chinese rifle was starting to look a part of her. Fuck! My shottie! Once again I’d ventured outside without a weapon. Heather noticed my frown,

“Worried about the boom booms now?”

“No my lovely young rifle wielding jelly fish victim. More like a recurring ‘no pants’ dream.” I nodded at my shotgun lying on the front passenger seat and added,

“Happens too often that I’m leaving a friend behind when I venture out.”

“Hmm. You are a conflicted soul. Try reading some Gurdjieff. He’ll sort you out.”

“Fucking vegan, hippy shit. I’ll stick with my shottie thanks. And an ACDC soundtrack.”

Heather walked to my car, reached in and took my gun. She handed it to me.

“Here’s your penis extension, Angus. Make sure you don’t shoot too early.” I was beaten but had one lame thing to say,

“Don’t tell me to come, I’m already there.”

Our verbal tinkerings were interrupted by the soldiers and cops ushering us all to a meeting next to the truck. The chief cop addressed us,

“The airbase wants us to check this out. They don’t have spare people at the moment, seeing as how they’re dealing with a major stink in Penrith.” He sounded like a football coach who was trying to pep up his team during a half-time speech at Penriff Park. Go the flannies.

“ We need to walk in a cordon a hundred metres south then west. We’ll split into pairs. We’re looking for bits of metal, plastic, anything. Don’t touch it, just jab a flag next to it.” He then pointed to a pile of little flags on the ground. “Those needing armed help see me. We take off in five minutes.

We fanned out, twenty metres between each pair. The idea was we’d cover five metres then walk back like mowing a lawn. It was apparently standard search techniques. To me it was standard boredom techniques. Except that I was still in Heather’s company. Our sector took us next to a small shed, then across a single lane of road. We checked the shack and found nothing except an old bridle, a rusty stirrup and a yellowing copy of Sportsman. It had Vo Rogue as a lead subject . Ancient.

We went further on and heard an engine in the middle distance. I got my gum ready and Heather checked her rifle. The next two pairs were also looking in the direction of the noise and seemed unsure of how to react. Heather called out,

“We’ll handle this!” I looked at her,

“Yeah. Sounds like a fucking big V8. Noice move H baby. We’ll steal it and do a Gold Coast run.”

The car, no truck, no bastard son of big fuck off F100 came towards us. Heather was waving. As it approached I noticed it had but a driver. On the back was a big, ugly machine gun type thing. Looked like the Gattling Gun from “bBattle Wagon”, a western which taught the world never, ever let The Duke get pissed off within reaching distance of a proto machine gun. Thinking of John Wayne reminded me I had a couple of cigars in the box in my top pocket. Small ”Ämandas” , Willem II, but I felt the need and lit one up. Heather looked at me and I gave her the last one. The truck pulled up as we puffed out some smoke. Must have looked silly but I was enjoying the smoke and was very curious as to who was driving this bushpig kiler ute. The driver waited, seeming to fiddle around the dash. He didn’t appear to be dwarfed by the size of the vehicle. Heather went and checked out the back, making humming noises at the cannon thing. The driver opened the door. I eased my shottie into a relaxed yet ready position and stepped back a pace or two. His large frame unloaded, he looked at me, nodded and he went to the back of the truck. Heather stepped back as he approached and cocked her rifle. But she really only had eyes for the cannon. The big man clambered onto the rear tray, unlocked and unbolted some mounts and lay the huge gun on its side. Then he clambered down, not saying a word. I checked out the gun as well. Looked massive, really heavy, probably need a crane to unload it. The big man turned to us, pulled out a cigar from his shirt pocket, smelled it, smiled, clipped off the end and jammed it in his mouth. Being a gentleman I fired up my Bic lighter for his oversized smoke.

“Cuban. Romeo y Julieta if that means anything to you hillbilly love birds.” His American drawl seemed to echo for a brief moment, then he reached out a massive paw and I took it, giving the firm grip as good as I could manage. My right hand welcomed its release.

“Rhino’s the name, trouble’s the game. Solving it that is.”

He arched an eyebrow as he shook Heather’s hand and went to the back of the truck, sliding, then fucking hoisting the big bastard onto his shoulder , the huge gazillion ton cannon. It was a real life Arnie act except his biceps were bigger than the Guvernator’s. I offered to help him with it but he declined, looking at his right bicep, then at us, saying,

“No siree folks, you do not get these from petting kitty cats.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Afterflood 5 - Guilt and Gish

Afterflood 5 - Guilt and Gish

I felt Heather move against my back, wriggling out of bed. I was hungover, sort of tired but happy tired, sated with sex. I rolled towards her and remembered. This wasn’t Heather.

It was Judith, a newly minted widow. She was naked and her body evinced some severe sex recognition in my near consciousness. Despite my wretched guilt the deed replayed itself like some sort of looped youtube clip of real crime.. I hadn’t even asked, I’d just done. This was really bad shit.

I reached for her, grabbing her right hip. She turned around, lines of sorrow and despair reaching down her face to her mouth where they worked her words,

“What happened, it was , was…”

I interrupted her, needing something, focusing on the wrong and driven by a big kick of guilt,

“Rape . I raped you.” Shouldn’t admit it but there it was. The worst thing aside from murder you could render unto a woman. And she’d just lost her husband. The fact that she’d crawled into my bed added no justification.

“ There was no consent, no asking, I just forced the issue when you were in no condition to stop me.” I kept on but not for long, being completely arse at explaining all of this,

“ Fucking hell! This is totally fucked! “ I shuddered, turned away from her, grabbing the water bottle from the bedside table, thus grabbing a second’s worth of respite from the guilt apocalypse..

She turned fully to face me as I put the bottle back down, reaching over to grab it. Her nakedness was a killing reminder of what I’d done yet I couldn’t look away. She swigged down a couple of gulps then leaned back. She seemed composed. I felt like shit and must have looked it.

“What I was going to say was that what happened was wrong and probably mainly your fault. I did contribute by lying against you and when you had that nightmare I felt compelled, no , needed to try and bring you out of it. I just didn’t expect you to call me Heather and work me into well you know. I just , well , needed something, some sort of comfort. Sort of like you did.“ Past Indiscretions decided to jump up and down in front of my lens, just like kids on the boundary at the SCG when Ponting’s getting interviewed. I had the security apes shunt them away, bursting their balloons. Not now, please.

She looked at me, still with that sorrowful look and said,

“But I don’t reckon it was rape. I didn’t stop you. It was shameful for us both and we shouldn’t have. But we did, it’s done and its over. In any case we need to get moving.”

She then got up and walked out, draping herself in my beach towel. I felt like a right bastard as I watched her do it but immediately processed some sort of justification for what I’d done. It was heaps easier to deal with that way and I was always one for taking a cheap and easy option. I now had an inkling of what went through Warney’s mind each week. I got up, hunted down clean jocks and dressed in the Newtown Jets footy jumper I’d picked up for five bucks at Vinnies, cargo trousers with many pockets, Mac Uni footy socks and my fave steel capped Blunnies. Took five minutes but worth it. Then I realised I should have abluted first. This rape business had me totally out of synch. I declad myself to shorts and Pennant Hills soccer shirt which was getting smaller on me by the hour. It smelt as if I hadn’t washed or worn it for a year and felt a size or two smaller than I remembered. It was correct in its assessment of both my hygiene and girth. Fuck I hate clothes which tell you the truth in terms of incontrovertible scientific method. No matter how often I tried the fucker on, the evidence couldn’t be denied. Fuck science, give me blind faith and I’ll follow Flying Spaghetti Monster as long as he tells me I’m right and inconvenient evidence is evil. Speaking of evidence I encountered Judith in the hall near the kitchen. She still looked calm and now freshly showered.

“There’s still some hot water. You should use it.”

I turned back and watched her walk to the bedroom, my bedroom, wondering when the shit storm of retribution would start. I took the coward’s way out and checked out the hot water taps. My parents had installed a solar hot water system around about when I’d lost my first tooth. It had electric back-up which was flogged remorselessly through the family’s teenage years. I could still remember the first icky unclogging of the shower drain. It had been an element of my dad’s version of hard truth which stood me in good stead in my share house days. What stood us now in good stead was his forethought in getting solar backed up by mains electricity. I was really starting to miss my parents, getting a big hate on for this orphan bullshit. End result was that I climbed up into the roof, checked the solar tank and clambered back down. Then took a shower. A fucking hard beating, wide spraying mother of a shower. Someone with fancy words would have described it in a lot of big phrases about me trying to wash out guilt. Probably would throw in some Shakespeare, maybe even some Dante references but all I felt was that glorious beat down of hot water, pounding on my skin.

I dried, paddled out to my bedroom and reclothed myself. Then I went back to the laundry, clambered back into the ceiling and turned off the switches on the hot water tank. Now it was time to take care of business. I went down to the kitchen, filled the kettle, turned on the gas stove and didn’t shove my head in the oven. Just put on a kettle and a frying pan with some water in it. Still had four eggs and they were getting poached. I was amazed these things like gas and power were still working. Fuck the amazement, crack the damn eggs and get breakfast happening. Mr Toaster obliged himself and the UHT milk, tea bags and a couple of apples meant we had a breakfast under way. Fucking genius. The non genius aspect of my behaviour soon appeared in the form of Judith.

“We have to get the fuck out!” was her greeting to a plate of poached eggs and toast accompanied by a mug of English Breakfast. Her outburst didn’t stop us from eating, slurping down the tea and refilling water bottles. We washed up, stowed the plates and cutlery and went around the house turning off every power point. I switched off the power mains and removed the fuses, putting them in the telephone table drawer, leaving a note for Later Times. By fuck I was good at avoiding important personal shit. Keep busy, pretend the small gear is important even if it’s irrelevant. All the time under the urgent coaching of Judith. Then I remembered she hadn’t been back to her house, her marital home which she’d just enjoyed until yesterday with her champion husband Greg. I checked my old wardrobe one more time. Behind my musty graduation suit, an old hammock and a plywood home -made wave rider was my old hand spear. The rubber was still intact, the three accompanying spearheads were in good order, all thanks to my young nephew who’d stolen, used and refurbished the kit before having to hand it back due to his dad’s insistence that he work for and buy his own. Gotta love the Protestant Work Ethic, especially when you’re thinking ‘mmm …weapons’. Grabbed it, stowed it in the boot.

I walked back into the dining room where Judith was unplugging the chargers, phones, laptop and tapping her right foot against the table. Bail time. We reconned the front, me hefting the shottie and jerkily looking around while we moved into Judith and Greg’s house. Didn’t even check the capped zeds out front. Judith went around the house, picking things up, putting them down, moving from room to room. I followed for a minute or so but it wasn’t happening. I knew what she was doing and waited, keeping watch at the back window then moving to the front, trying to look soldierly proficient amidst a shit storm of angst and loss. Eventually she was finished. She had a suitcase, backpack and overnight bag stuffed full. I took them out to the car, stowed them and waited. Judith walked back out carrying two shopping bags of salvaged food. I wondered whether she’d rescued Greg’s stash of his fave tipple, Wild Turkey. It wasn’t my first choice but would do in a tight clinch cut with dry ginger ale, just as it had on a couple of occasions after I’d wandered in to their house, bereft and still numb after mum had died. Yeah, it was all about my fucking sorrow.

“That’s it. It’s all over, all gone. Get me out of here. “ Judith was dealing.

We drove up to the Beecroft Fire Station past three dead zeds, a couple of trashed Volvo sports wagons and a smashed up bicycle. All that was missing was a few crushed trays of espressos and soy lattes.

The fire station dudes had both of our Evac dockets. We were amongst the last of the stragglers. Aside from a score or so of fellow reffos all that were left of officaildom were three cops, five army guys who manned a fuck off monster special forces truck and ten orange vested SES people, mostly middle aged women with chocolate desire and contempt for blokes like me worn on their souls. They barely acknowledged the cops and soldiers as I sauntered through with my shottie, just looked at me with a knowing and condescending “this wanker won’t last” look. I didn’t notice that but Judith did. I was more interested in the army gear. That truck was the most awesomest machine I’d seen in real life context. It was the shiznettest, fitted with all terrain tyres, big machine guns and cannon type things, a snorkel and a ripping fucking decal of an angry koala which hefted a machine gun, wore killer sunnies and had a caption “Killer K.”

One of the orange ladies brought me back down.

“While you’ve been doing you’re military porn perv we’ve sussed out your evac spots. You’re okay in the final convoy to the west, HAC has you listed. Your companion isn’t as lucky. She’s listed for Lorne. Great Ocean Road, just past Bleak City.” She handed me two dockets. I turned around to Judith and gave her hers. This was it and my manning the fuckupingness was not in bulk supply. My memories of the previous night and Greg’s selflessness did pop in, just to zoo me out some more. Judith’s plan had been to go with Greg. His plan was to sort out his Illawarra clan and then head to Lorne in a kitted out Hi Lux he’d worked up. On his way back with that Hi Lux he was caught up in the zed storm at Holy Cross College Ryde, selling his life at the barricades. He was a fucking champion and I hated being reminded of my lesserness. Fuck it. I turned to the SES lady and told her,

“If Judith wants to go there, I’ll go with her. If she wants to come with me, I’ll take her. But I need to find Heather. Need that right now.” I gave her Heather’s evac details at Berowra. I looked guiltily at Judith as she checked her mobile. I’d forgotten that sort of shit, the ’cloud’ , tweetersville, FB, blogs, being all worried about my rape of Judith and being an orphan and all the rest of that crap. Your honour I submit that since I’d been evil I’d seen a mighty military truck and been questioned by knowing women. “ Oh yeah,” the judge said, “well fuck off and sort yourself out son or its hella time for you.”

Judith did one of those tap on the opposite shoulder and watch you react to a supposedly invisible prompt thing. I fell for it being all nerv jangly. I loved the smile of her reaction. She then said she wasn’t going to Lorne, nor was she blindly following me. I decided it was time for a chat. During the chat she explained to me that a few times over the past three years she’d wondered about the youngest son of her next door neighbour. Wondered about his sexuality, his relationships and basically all that crap which makes chicks lose sleep. Then that bloke had blundered into her house a couple of times when firstly his dad had died, (expected), then again when his mother had been ill in hospital (unexpected) and when his mum had unexpectedly died (total shock).

I remembered. First time I’d just stumbled in, embraced by both Greg and Judith and sobbed a minute of mortal realisation. The next time I’d been serious, trying not to garner sympathy. I fell into their arms and Greg’s supply of Johnny Walker and Wild Turkey. Apparently Judith had to tuck me into bed in their sunroom, me being untransportable, even for three metres. I was apparently clingy and gropey and she shrugged it off. The third time was the day after mum had died and Greg came in to the house, slung our family to his house and made us sit in their company with whiskey, beer, gin and wine. Before it went silly I went to the bottle shop and stocked up big time. Top shelf whiskey, gin, rum and beer. Ended up with an unofficial wake including mum’s local church minister, some cousins and neighbours. It was brilliant and summed up Greg and Juidth. Top. Fucking. People. After my siblings left that night Judith took care of me. Laughed off the clumsy groping and allotted one sloppy tongue kiss as fair sympathy comfort. Then another and a breast feel before disengaging. That was old news which I had glossed over. Until zed emergency perspective kicked in.

Judith read me. Chicks always either know or have a good fucking line to SportsBet odds on “Bloke Thought’s” chances. She nailed it,

“I love Greg, always will. What you and I did was what we did. I didn’t want it but somehow, I dunno, it seemed to work for me, to lose myself in trthe moment. I have to deal with that guilt. I think I can and I reckon Greg understands what went on. Those times we pashed and you groped, he laughed off after I told him. He knew there was no threat and it was sympathy comfort. I dunno, I reckon that’s what happened last night but on a grander scale. I don’t think it was rape.”

I looked up from the sausage sanger the orange vested woman had given me and uttered,

“Yeah, look, I have that whole guilt thing to deal with but I’m glad you’re not aiming to have me shot. It does matter to me, a lot. So what are you going to do now. You coming to HAC?”

She looked at me, looked at the women wearing the orange vests, the cops, army guys and the big fuck off army truck then said,

“You go find that girl, Heather. You called her name too much last night not to find out. Lorne’s a non starter for me now. As you are.” She then sniffed, trying to hold back, then fell into me. Well, it was me more falling into her. I shuffled danced her past the crew and sleazed us back into the station garage. Then I kissed her long, hard and thoroughly and she did the same back. I even got me some final groping. So did she. But that was it. No more. No, not again, was not going to happen. But it did. By jingies I’m an arsehole.

Finally we eased ourselves apart. I had only one thing to say and that was,

“Thank you. Thank you from the depths of my rotten heart,”

Judith dialled up the smile by a few giggawatts, saying,

“Now that was totally in order. Also the last time. A nice memory for both of us, of better times ços we’re about to enter the bad times. And I have an idea of how I’m jumping into those.” She then nodded to the orange vesters.

“You need that Heather girl. Go and find her. Go and find your life. “

We hugged and kissed then turned from each other.

I went out and checked my car for fluids and tyre pressure. Topped the tank from a jerry can, topped water, all the time keeping an eye out for Judith. She reappeared in orange vest, sporting a data pad, a machine gun and the look I’d seen just after she’d capped her first zed. The last ten evac cars were occupied by drivers and passengers waiting for a go signal. The senior orange vest gave it as one cop car led off and another waited to be tail end Charlie. The last I saw of Judith was a brief wave, a flick of hair and a smile. I mouthed another ‘thank you’ and drove off.

On the way to Berowra the convoy split. We stopped at the last local petrol station at Hornsby to restock fuel then I turned off to Heather’s place, just out of Hornsby Heights. I was now on my own unless I took the very final convoy option from Mt Kuring-gai tomorrow, heading west. All around similarly outskirted Sydney suburbs the same thing was happening. The city, its suburbs, its dark conflicted soul were going to be cleansed. I headed towards the Berowra Waters turn off and then saw a bunch of zeds. Must have been thirty or fourty of the evil fuckers. I was behind their stumbling march and they hadn’t heard me yet. I checked my ammo, still had a few hundred shells. I figured the zeds were heading down to Berowra Waters. A lot of old people heading that way until you hit the Hawkesbury. I watched them. They went down the main road, not down Heather’s. Three minutes later I pulled up outside her parent’s place. The first thing I noticed was a dozen or so zeds piled up against the neighbours’ fence. Go girl!

Out of the car, shottie in hand I stood a few metres away from her house. And yelled,

“Heather! You’re fucking gorgeous!”

A couple of flickers from front curtains, a slowly opened front door and there she was. She also had a shottie aimed right at me. Fuck, she must have somehow found about my doings with mum’s neighbour. She yelled out ‘Duck!’. I dropped, turning around at the same time, doing an impression of one of those straws which barkeeps falsely believe chicks like to see in crap cocktails.


I ate dirt


I spat out the dirt.

Then I twisted a look behind me. Two zeds. Once again I wondered where the fuck they’d come from. I needed to get a zed Tom-Tom. That was not my next thought as Heather rushed up, stinking of that smoke which shotties give off (oh yeah, acrid stench of cordite anyone? Bueller ?).

I launched into her, our shotties clashing in some sort of mating dance while I just hugged the living bejaysus out of her until she almost died. Oh yeah. That clingy stuff needed to be tempered. Then she launched into me. Took a minute, a long minute for us to disentangle. The shotties needed a bit more time to break away from their blind date passion.

After the mental cold showers we needed to check out old dead zed. I covered while she reloaded. How often do you get to say that sort of shit? Too fucking often as it turned out.

I looked at the zeds. I recognised both faces despite their zed-fucked visages. Alan fucking Jones and Tony fucking Abbott. Ultra right wing shock jock and fear mongering contender for Prime Ministership. In all of the crap we were facing apparently there were some bonuses. Then I noticed a pile of other capped zeds further down the road. All wearing remnants of expensive suits and all adorned with those lanyards worn by VIP’s. Confused was me thinking that cunts like this were gonna be tucked up nicely in secret lairs guarded by hundreds of special forces minions. That’s what was meant to happen wasn’t it? Gladly not.

Maybe not so gladly given that their resources were far greater than mine and they’d ended up being capped by a bikini babe who had a predeliction for getting the frighteners put on by jelly fish. Time for moving, time for action, it’s time for something anyway. Heather looked at me, one of those looks which wants to know the truth but hopes you’ll give a plausible explanation of past events. Well, that’s according to simplistic immature bloke thinking anyway. Basically all she wanted to know was,

“We still on for Hawkesbury?”

I grabbed and hugged her again. Sure it was needy but she was looking really fucking gorgeous.

“You are fucking gorgeous.” I had to remind her and explain my grabbiness. Probably really didn’t need to but did anyway.

“And yes, we’re getting the fuck out of here. Let’s pack it up.”

As we walked past Jones and Abbott I just had to do it. I rammed the butt of my shottie into their ugly zed skulls, making that ugly zed skull gishing sound which was becoming increasingly familiar.

Oh yeah, a lot of that zed skull splacking going on these days.

I followed Heather into her house and we went through each room, making it safe. Turned off the power, the mains, took out fuses and Heather grabbed the last of her cold food from the fridge. She’d already stacked the rest of her food into three cartons. Heather had also stacked a backpack and overnight bag near the front door. She put them in her Barina.

“Not coming in mine?” I asked.

“Two cars is better. Means we have a spare.” I helped her finish packing the car. Then she led me back into the house and gave me a last tour. We checked out the back yard, me taking in her childhood playground for the first time, she looking at it for what could be the last time. She had that wistful, sentimental look which people get when they’re about to leave a holiday house after a fortnight of escape and beachside fun. I got to her just as a couple of tears started leaking out. We clung to each other for a minute or so then checked the Cloud. Everything was as it should be in terms of family and friends. We logged our own updates then locked the house. I hoisted her last bag and took it to her car. It was loaded up. On the back seat I noticed one of those machine gun things which soldiers use, pointed to it and glanced a question at her.

“One of Dad’s. He had a few of them and didn’t hand them in during the gun buy back and amnesty gigs. It’s Chinese, An hour after using it you feel like using it again.”She then laughed at her own joke.

“Remind me to avoid feeding time. Right to go? “ She nodded. I went to my car, stepping around Abbott’s gished zed skull and noticed that Jonesy was still recognisable. I gished him again and got in my car. After reversing back and fronting the way out I waited for Heather’s Barina to line up in my rear vision. She drove straight over Jones. His skull popped as she backed and filled, a gishy zed skull. She gished him again as she followed me up the street. She sure hated shock jocks. The Hornsby Evac centre was at the high school. It had a score of cop cars, another monster army truck, a smaller army battle truck, two army transport trucks and at least fifty army people, thirty-odd cops and a few dozen of the orange vest volunteers. Several machine gun emplacements were up, each manned by a couple of soldiers. Council trucks were lined up in front of ten Hills buses. I noticed more soldiers walking the perimeter in groups of four.

Both of our cars were directed to the oval where we parked in line with dozens of others. Heather and I were then directed to the main building where the set was once again reminiscent of elections. It didn’t take us long to get processed into a small convoy heading to Hawkesbury. It consisted of our two cars, a bus, eight other cars, three cop cars and four trucks. The trucks were filled with tinned, dry and bottled supplies. The organisation of it all was way beyond me. We had ten minutes before our convoy left. I went up to one of the orange vested women and asked if she had contact with Beecroft. I gave her Judith’s name. She pulled out her data slate and tapped a few keys. A minute later she looked up and said,

“She;s still there. She’s volunteered to be amongst the last ones to clear out. They expect that to be in an hour or so. That’s the best we can do. Hawkesbury may be able to get in contact.” She scribbled some notes on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.

“Give that to the HAC team. They’ll do what they can. Now fuck off, we’re busy. Oh, and good luck.”

While this was happening I noticed Heather talking to a young bloke who was wearing bushfiure fighter gear. I walked over and she introduced me.

“This is Scotty, Scotty this is Terry.”

We shook hands. Apparently Scotty was an old family friend and was one of those blokes who had eager beaver written all over him. He also had a couple of fresh bruises and was carrying an automatic rifle, slung over a shoulder. That sort of eager beaverness would come in handy in his role of providing fire expertise. His job was to burn zeds and to that end he was part of a crew in charge of one truck full of flame throwers and another regular fire tender. He wasn’t full of gung ho, just an almost elderly sense of having been dealt a dirty hand and making the best of a shitpile of disaster and madness. His crew ere going with the main convoy to Penrith. Apparently the Penrith panthers complex was now a fortified bastion. Hawkesbury Agricultural College was going to be its food bowl. We said our goodbyes and took our place in the HAC convoy. The lead cop drove off, the second cop was in the middle and the third was at the end of the convoy. The buses were all half full and sported four soldiers and two cops each as security. All of them were armed and one of the trucks had been fitted with an evil looking machine gun. Thus was the convoy tooled up with weapons, zed, for the capping thereof. Oh yeah, a lot of that zed capping going on these days.