A Truck Dreams

Orange streaks across the sky. I’m falling and the dream I always have plays behind my mind.
A world on fire.
I fall and fall until I stop.
The soil here is soft and I pass through it quickly, my impact blasting a crater a hundred metres outward. My systems are offline for approximately half an Earth hour and it is another three until I am in a state where I can walk again. It is night and there are no stars in the sky. Even the moon has turned its back on me, as if shunning my absence.
I begin collecting my samples. In the soil I identify another organic material as wheat. It is dying and I lock a stem in my chest for further analysis.
Further from the crater I find my first living creature. I pick the animal up between two fingers and its six segmented legs thrash as I scan it to memory. Its shell is black and shining and tough for a creature of its size. In my database the scan matches with something called a ‘beetle’.
I let it back onto the ground and it disappears into the soil. I walk forward.
The soil becomes grass becomes wood and I find myself standing on a platform in front of a large human structure. I move to the nearest window and pull a sharp blade from one of my fingers, sliding it in the gap at its base. The blade runs smoothly along the edge, cutting through the metal latch holding down the window.
I lift the window and it screeches loudly, the sound echoing through the home. I make a note of the effect and step inside, immediately scanning the room. There are some soft objects that may be used as furniture and in one corner sits an alcove that could house a holo-display. The cushioned floor is made of several thousand independent fibres hiding a concrete base.
Something creaks behind me. From deeper in the house.
I walk towards the sound and into an adjoining hallway to find a young human female glaring at me. She is wearing a white shirt and pink cotton pants. Her hands are balled into fists and they are shaking.
I ask, “What is your name?”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Why don’t you want to?”
“Because I’m not supposed to.”
“Why is that?”
“Because that’s what dad said.”
“Can I speak with your dad?”
“No he is out ‘relaxing’. He will be back soon.”
“Okay.”
I bend forward at the hip, lowering my face to hers. She takes a step back and looks away as the light from my eyes blinds her quickly. I dim them so the glow is softer.
“Why are you shaking?”
She shoves her fists behind her back.
“I’m not shaking.”
“I can see you shaking.”
“Why do you ask so many questions?”
“I am collecting information.”
“Like a harvest? That’s what dad does.”
I search for the meaning of ‘harvest’. “This is accurate.”
She looks up at me. The light of my eyes turn her cheeks translucent.
“I am scared.”
“Scared?”
“That is why I am shaking.”
“What is ‘scared’?”
“You don’t know what scared means?”
“I would like to know.”
“It’s what you get when you find monsters in your house. Monsters like you.”
“I am not a monster.”
“Do you have a name?”
“Do you?”
She drops her hands by her side. They are no longer fists.
“My name is Elsie.”
I make a note and then turn from her in a swift pivot. I move to the next room to collect further samples.
“Hey come back here.”
This room is more sterile than the other. The floor is a shining white surface, hard and segmented in squares. I run a scan and identify areas of several varying temperatures, including one area that is colder than the house’s average. A container unit in one corner is full of nutritional ingredients and I can smell growing substances in a metal alcove on a raised bench. I head there when I feel a knock on my side. Elsie’s thumping fist echoes up my body.
“What is your name?”
“I don’t have one.”
I move forward but Elsie steps in front of me.
“Everyone has a name.”
I search through my database. “You can call me TRUCK if that helps. It is what they used to call me.”
“Truck is a name for a vee-hick, a vee-hick,” Elsie exhales, “A big car.”
“I am not a car. I was a tool. But not any more.”
“What are you now?”
“I am not sure. But I would like to find out.”
I move to a bench and pick up a perforated yellow object. It is full of living things and an excellent source of data. I take a detailed scan then place it in my chest.
“Where did you come from?”
“Outside of Earth.”
“Did you fall down here? Like a star?”
“I did.”
“Why?”
“I am having dreams about a world on fire and I want to know if I can stop them from becoming real.”
Elsie nodded solemnly.
“Dad says the world has no hope. We have dust-ups everyday now and he says we might have to move.”
“My analysis suggests that is accurate. There will not be another crop next year.”
“How do you know that?”
“The data tells me.”
“The da-ta?”
“Yes.”
I open a cupboard for inspection when Elsie takes me by the hand and leads me to another room. A fine layer of dirt and human skin covers everything in this area. Elsie closes the door and turns on the light. I begin scanning the room as she runs behind a wooden desk and fumbles for something on top of a shelf. She pulls down a key and uses it to open the top drawer of the desk. Curious I move behind her.
There are papers with writing scribbled across them that I scan before Elsie shoves them to one side. She pulls out a metal object I recognise as a gun that she places on the desk slowly.
“Dad says you must be careful.”
I make a note. Elsie then pulls out a wooden rectangle framing a piece of glass and hands it to me.
“What do you think?”
I turn it over before handing it back.
“It is interesting.”
“It is?”
“While obviously a high level of craftsmanship has gone into the object its practical functions are low. The material is flimsy and it would not be useful for long-term applications.”
“But what about this?”
Gripping a side in each of her hands she holds it up to me and I see an image behind the glass. It is a human man standing next to a human woman in a bed. Her face is red and she is holding what must be a human newborn. The woman looks familiar and I point to her.
“Is this you?”
Elsie frowns, “Don’t be stupid. This is me.”
She points to the newborn. I study the scrunched pink face in the picture and compare it to Elsie’s frown.
“This is accurate.”
I feel Elsie’s heart rate rise as she points back to the woman.
“This is my mum. This is the only picture I have of her.”
“Is that normal?”
“I don’t think so. Does it give you good da-ta?”
“All data is good data.”
“Yes but does it tell you anything? Does it tell you where she is?”
I stare at the image.
“No.”
The taste of the air shifts as tears prick up at the corner of Elsie’s eyes.
“Could you find her?”
“I do not know.”
“Why not?”
“I only know what the data tells me.”
Elsie is shaking again. She turns to put the frame back in the drawer but I take it from her, running my eyes over it one last time before handing it back.
“I have scanned each face to my memory.”
Elsie puts it in the drawer. With practice she returns the gun and papers back to their original position before locking the drawer once more.
A red warning light blinks in the back of my mind.
“Someone is at the door.”
I leap in front of Elsie as the entrance to the room explodes, sending wooden splinters flying. I scoop her up in my arms and keep my back to the door as I lower my shoulder and run through the opposite wall back into the tiled room. White dust and parts of the wall cover my face and Elsie’s hair. I duck behind a counter in the middle of the room and Elsie says something muffled into my chest.
“What is it?”
“I can’t hear anything.”
There’s a low whine from the corner across the room and I leap over the counter and sprint to the hallway as white light shoots through the air and cuts a hole in the room where we once stood. In the hallway I pause and scan through my memory for the closest exit. Our assailant steps out in front of us, only metres away.
Their head is covered in a helmet, black and shiny like the beetle’s shell. A red light blinks from their right cheek, matching different light sensors peppered down the side of their body armour. They are aiming a rifle at us and I can see down its barrel a growing white light. I react.
“I have a human child.”
I hold Elsie up to our attacker. There are lines of tears streaked through the dust on her face. The rifle’s light dims and our attacker raises a hand to the side of their head. They say something to someone unseen and I continue my analysis for exits.
Satisfied, the attacker nods and raises the weapon once more. The white light whines and my analysis finishes, giving me one solution.
If we run to the side we can leap through the window that I entered from. With some speed I could dive through and keep Elsie protected against my chest. However in the open we would become easier targets.
Upstairs is unknown and if it is necessary to jump from the second storey my legs won’t support my fall in their current level of damage. I also do not know if Elsie’s body would handle the impact.
Which leaves only one solution. Fight.
The rifle explodes and a white light shoots forward. In one move I throw Elsie to the cushioned floor of the room next door then spin and drop to my knees, bending my back to the ground to allow the destructive blast to burn right above my face. It runs along one cheek peeling back a layer of plastic and removing half of my right eye. I will have to be quick.
As the blast dissipates I stand and run towards the attacker. When close they strike me across the face with the handle of their weapon and I drop with the blow, swinging a leg out to kick them hard in the knee. They cry out but do not fall, instead hitting me again in the back of the head. A sensor is knocked and for a moment everything is black. A damage report comes back alerting me that I am in a critical condition and should report to the mechanic bay immediately.
I punch upwards and grab the barrel of the rifle, knocking it upwards so it is now facing the attacker’s head. The trigger is pushed and the white light builds. The attackers punches me twice in the face but I do not move. They dig their fingers into a tear on my shoulder and my neck spasms, forcing one of my hands to drop. The barrel is pushed away at the last moment, missing the attacker’s head and blowing white light through the ceiling.
The night sky enters the room, a hole now cut through both floors above us. The attacker raises their rifle in only one hand and I knock it from their grip. They reach for something on their waist and I grab their wrist, applying pressure until I feel something soft snap. They cry out and using my other hand I grab their neck, lifting them from the ground and throwing them against the wall. I stamp a foot down on their unbroken hand and grind it to the floor. Each finger takes their own moment to break.
I run a scan over their body to calculate my next move. They reach a finger to the side of their head and I punch them directly in the forehead. The helmet cracks. I grab them again by the throat, lift them from the floor and push them against the other wall. Their feet dangle below.
“What is your name?”
The voice is muffled underneath the broken helmet and I tear it off, throwing it down the hall where it cracks into two halves. The face underneath is human and male, older than Elsie. Blonde hair stained with blood sticks to his cheek and spit runs down his chin. I increase the pressure on his throat.
“What is your name?”
“Screw you metalhead.”
“Who are you? Why are you attacking us?”
“I’m your driver. I’m here to take you back TRUCK.”
He spits and phlegm runs down my forehead.
“I can’t do that.”
“Your our property and you’re coming with me-“
He stops speaking as I squeeze harder.
“I can’t do that.”
The driver gasps and bashes my arm with his fists. I don’t feel it. I apply pressure and something soft snaps.
His body is loud when it hits the floor. My right eye collapses and I lose half my vision but can hear footsteps entering the hallway.
“Did you kill him?”
“I did.”
“Dad says killing is wrong.”
“I will make a note of that.”
I bend the driver’s rifle to test its strength. It’ll make for good parts. I sling it over my shoulder and feel Elsie’s hand on my thigh. I look down at her for a moment then look up at the sky through the hole in the ceiling. The moon appears from behind a thick cloud.
“Elsie. I am scared.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to gather – to harvest information. I must know everything.”
“Does that mean you’ll go everywhere in the world?”
“If I can.”
“If you find my mum can you tell her where we are?”
“I will.”
“And tell her I miss her and to come back soon.”
I nod. “Thank you Elsie. You have provided excellent data.”
I step forward and Elsie drops her hand. I walk from the hall and out the window I came in from. I do not look behind me as I walk away from the house and my crater.
Dreams of fire play behind my mind.

A Quick Word From Our Sponsors:

Tokyo, Japan. 2018.

Live your best Pre-Life!

Once a day for a randomly assigned minute you get to see your future. This is what we guarantee, this is what we promise.

Sounds too good to be true right? Not with ChronoCorp’s new Pre-Life implant.

Pre-Life what now?

Once a day an alert from the future gets sent straight to your mind. Utilising new Time Loop technology we take a picture of whatever your future self can see in front of them and send it back in time for your viewing pleasure. We call them Pre-Pics.

You get a full minute to see what you’ll be seeing in one, five, a hundred years. The potential of Pre-Pics is endless.

Imagine, seeing your children that don’t exist yet, countries you haven’t visited yet, food you haven’t eaten yet. These are all experiences and sights you can experience and see right now.

Hold on, what is this implant?

The Sequential Memory Image Line Enhancer or S.M.I.L.E. is the latest and greatest piece of time technology ChronoCorp has yet to present on a commercial scale.

It is a small expandable antenna that we insert in the base of your skull through a painless, simple and free procedure. It is calibrated and unique to your DNA and only picks up information beamed to it from your identical implant in the future. Think of it as a television that only picks up channels that are about you.

Transparency and honesty are key to our ChronoCorp ethos. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of each product before determining their suitability.

Alright but surely that’s going to be expensive?

Not at all! Here at ChronoCorp we believe everyone should be able to see through time. We’ve made it so the implant and installation of the implant is free* with no extra costs in store.

*In-app purchases mandatory.

This sounds incredible! Where do I sign up?

Send us a vial of your preferred bodily fluid and a comprehensive list of your family and friends (including social security numbers) and we’ll contact you in the next three business days if you are an eligible candidate.

FAQ:

Why are all my Pre-Pics blurry?

If the implant is not calibrated properly you may receive blurry images from the future. Please read the troubleshooting section of our instruction manual or contact your closest service professional if this doesn’t resolve itself.

I started getting headaches behind my ear when I first installed my Pre-Life implant. Is this normal?

Yes this is perfectly normal. Most subjects will experience side effects based around their implants including but not limited to:

⁃ Headaches (mild)

⁃ Headaches (extreme)

⁃ Nosebleeds

⁃ Hair loss

⁃ Itchy and irritated skin

⁃ Hallucinations

⁃ A sense of isolation and inconsolable loss

⁃ Piles

What happened if I don’t receive an image?

This means one of either two things. In the future you have ceased to exist or in the future you have removed your implant. Customers should note that improper removal of implant will result in a fatal solution.

Do the implant come in different colours?

They certainly do! As well as your standard primary colours we are proud to announce our new metallic range as well as our collaboration with the Democratic Republic of Disney to bring you a whole new way to express yourself.

Live your best life with Pre-Life!

Worth.

IMG_5423 2
New York, U.S.A. 2017. (Artist credit below)

His phone was dead and the dirt and rubble didn’t allow sunlight to reach him. How long had he been down here? Something hard and cold was impaled through his side and it was difficult to breathe. The ground above and below had him pinned looking down so his face was in the dirt and he couldn’t move.

He couldn’t move.

How long had he been down here?

He knew if he didn’t starve first he would bleed to death. Rock and broken glass was bunched up around his face, neck, ribs, stomach. His lungs and stomach were coated in a thick layer of dust, every inhale turning his insides into mud. Dust and dirt and rocks and glass. He was dissolving into the rubble from the inside out.
He was cold. He couldn’t think. He was cold. He couldn’t move. He had to do something.
He couldn’t think.
He was told in situations like this humans were supposed to gain some sort of inner magical strength. In the face of certain death his survival instincts were going to kick in more potent then ever before. Adrenaline would pump. Muscles would strain. An unstoppable force would fill him and destroy an immovable object.
But he had tried.
He had strained.
And he was still trapped.
He shouldn’t have been shocked. Getting out from underneath an entire office building was always going to be difficult and the earthquake had been thorough. He tried to remember how many floors were above his own when the building collapsed. Maybe if he knew he could figure out how deeply he was buried.
But he couldn’t. Think. Do. Move.
Blood from a cut on his forehead pooled at the sides of his eyes. Now that he had stopped crying the blood had hardened making his face tight. He struggled to keep his eyes open.
He never imagined much of a future but what he had hoped for was far better than this.
He shut his eyes.

Then.

A shift above him.

There was a grinding sound as rock moved against rock and he felt dust fall against his cheek. He opened his eyes and watched cracks of light split the darkness above him, gasping when moving rubble grazed his nose. The light that dripped through cracks now poured. Temporary blindness from the sudden light gave way to tears and then to a dust-choked,
“Thank god.”
Lifting his head was ecstasy. He couldn’t keep the grin from his face as he looked up, squinting as his pupils contracted and adjusted to what was in front of him. He could see a floodlight pointing down at him from far away. It was bright enough that he couldn’t see past it, couldn’t see the sky. At least not yet. And that was okay. Soon. He was safe, he was-
“Good evening.”
A black shape moved and blocked the light. His pupils widened. With the light behind the figure he couldn’t make out the features of who it was that was in front of him. He could make out shoulders, a neck and a head but that was it.
A silhouette.
He didn’t mind. He was safe, he was-
“Do you prefer sir or madam or other?”
He laughed, then groaned.
“You can call me whatever you want.”
“Sir or madam or other?”
He laughed, quieter.
“Sir is fine.”
The silhouette turned and pulled a transparent clipboard out from behind their back. On the surface of the clipboard swirled different colours. He watched dark purples and bright greens shift and change, mixing and separating seemingly at random. He could make out letters and numbers briefly but they disappeared as soon as they came. Whatever they were he didn’t care. He only wanted to know one thing.
“Can you get me out?”
“Yes.”
The silhouette ran a finger over the glass. Colours moved and he watched as two brighter swirls darkened and spun a little tighter.
“Perfect, let’s do it.”
“Depends.”
“Depends on what?”
The silhouette cleared its throat.
“How would you describe yourself in ten words or less?”
“What?”
“How would you describe yourself in ten words or less?”
His smile froze then fell.
“I don’t understand.”
“Do you have a family? Any children?”
“No I don’t. Please I think I’m badly hurt.”
“Age?”
“Twenty-seven.”
“And would you describe yourself as lower, middle or upper class?”
He stared at the silhouette, confused. He searched for a pair of eyes or a mouth, something to understand but he couldn’t see either. Black fingers spun across the board and colours spun with them.
“I don’t know. I’m losing a lot of blood.”
“Let me simplify that. What is your yearly income?”
“I-I’m on casual rates. I’m not sure. What is this?”
The silhouette made another mark against the clipboard. The colours respond, pooling to the corners of the screen. Their spinning slows.
“I need a hospital.”
“Where did you go to school?”
“What?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“What do you mean?”
“Was it a public or private institution?”
“What is this for?”
The silhouette tapped the centre of the board. His neck was hurting from looking upwards and for a moment he lets his head drop back to the dirt. When he lifted his head back he gasped as the movement shot pain up his side.
“What is your sex?”
“Get me out.”
“Answer the question. We don’t have much time.”
“Please.”
“Answer the question.”
“Male.”
“Gender?”
“Male?”
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. How would you describe your sexual orientation?”
“Please I need help. I think I’m dying.”
“Sir, the faster you answer the questions the sooner we can decide what we need to do.”
“We need to get me out of here.”
“Not until you answer these questions. We must determine your worth.”
“My worth?”
“How much society needs you sir.”
His chest tightened. He felt nauseous.
“Can we proceed?”
“I’m dying.”
“Can we proceed?”
“Get me the fuck out of here.”
Fingers tapped against the glass of the clipboard. Colour swirled and tightened.
“Are you religious? Muslim? Buddhist? Atheist?”
“Does it matter?”
“That’s up to you sir. Hot tip, the Pope has tweeted that he is ‘Praying for all the Catholics in the area’ which could boost your average.”
“My average what?”
The silhouette sighed.
“We can’t keep going over this. I have other people to save.”
“You’re not saving anyone at the moment.”
“Pro-life or pro-choice?”
He was crying again.
“Liberal or labour?”
“I don’t know. I don’t vote.”
The clipboard darkened.
He could feel himself slipping.
“Socialist or capitalist?”
“Whatever you want me to say I’ll say it. Just get me out of here please.”
His mind was foggy.
“Black or white?”
“Wh-white.”
The shadow paused and looked down before bringing out a torch and shining it in his eyes. It hurt.
“There is no point in lying sir, you’re only slowing things down.”
“I don’t. I don’t have long.”
“Where are your parents from?”
The silhouette’s voice was fading.
“What are your opinions on climate change?”
His eyes close.
“Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?”
His mouth falls open.
“A genocide occurs. Do you celebrate it?”
Spit dribbled out of his mouth and he could feel it. He could feel it drip warm over his lip. A singular blob slowly stretching as gravity forced it over the edge of his mouth and down towards his chin. He felt it cool and stick to his face, falling no further as it mixed with the dust in the air and became mud. Something shone in his face and his eyes opened.
“Sir we are almost done. Please watch this short video.”
His head droops forward. A hand lifts his head back up and his eyes meet the outstretched clipboard. An advertisement for the new half-chicken half-beef Maxi-Splosion burger from McDonalds plays.
“Sorry about this, it’ll be over in thirty seconds.”
The main video begins.

A crowd of protestors chant something unheard then scatter abruptly as a van plows through the centre of them. A woman is struck and she is seen spiralling through the air, crashing into the camera. Smash cut to a man with a swastika tied around his arm, shouting in the face of a person in a large grey hoody. The person in the hoody throws out a fist and knocks the Nazi to the floor.

The silhouette chuckles.
In the dirt he shuts his eyes.
Without an audience the video continues.

A politician stands at a press pedestal and flips off the camera. A house is on fire. A family can be seen on the top floor staring out the window. A crucifix stands in the front yard and the family waves it goodbye.
Smash cut and the whole world can be seen as if from space.
It is on fire.

The silhouette chuckles again.
“I love that. Now you have a choice of four answers to give in response to this clip. Do you either A. Comment below, outraged. B. Report the vid-Sir? Sir are you paying attention?”
The silhouette moves their hand from the man’s chin to his neck. He doesn’t react. The man’s head is dropped, slumping into the dirt. The silhouette makes a note and the clipboard goes black.
The rubble is replaced.

She didn’t know how long she had been down there. Her chest ached. She couldn’t feel anything below her stomach and she was scared. Something shifted above.
Dust fell.
Light broke through.
A shadow of a face loomed over her, a colourful screen swirling next to it.

“Good evening.”

IMG_5424

Leeches

IMG_3751
Adelaide, Australia. 2017.

“You know when you’ve got nothing and they take that too, what’s that called?”
“You’re so boring.”
“Fuck you.”
“Whatever Nietzsche.”
I punch him in the shoulder and he laughs so I punch him again. He ignores me and pushes between my knees, leaning his chest against mine. His weight presses me against the shower wall and I gasp because the tiles are cold. We made the water extra hot so it stayed warm by the time it reached us on the ground, but I can’t feel it with him in the way. He has to lift his feet up so he can fit laying down on the shower floor and now he looks like a seal.
“You look like a seal.” I say.
“I won’t clap for you.”
I try to push him off me, “A fat seal.”
He frowns but I’m grinning and I refuse to apologise. After some awkward slipping and sliding he moves himself off my body and stands, his back to me. I roll my eyes and he turns the tap off.
“Hey!”
“There’s a drought on.”
He opens the shower screen and doesn’t close it, letting all the cold air in. I groan. The water’s still warm on the floor and I let it spin around me as it drains away. My skin has goosebumps.
Without towelling myself off I run naked out of our ensuite and tackle him onto the bed. He’s clothed and manages a quick shout before I wrap my wet arms and legs around his belly and torso. He’s my branch and I’m a bedraggled sloth. He slaps my thigh hard enough to leave a mark.
“Get off.”
“No.”
“You suck so bad.”
I kiss the back of his neck.
“You love me.”
“No I don’t.”
He loosens in my grip. I kiss him again.
“Yeah you do.”
“Void.”
He links his fingers in mine and I bury my nose in his shoulder. It’s soft.
“Yeah. That’s it.”

It’s garbage night. Fuck, did we put the bins out? Mark’s wearing my new sweatshirt and I’m annoyed that it looks better on him than me. I take my frustration out on an innocent wheelie bin with a spinning ninja kick.
Mark doesn’t laugh, “Dick.”
“Did you put the bins out?”
“No, that’s your job.”
“Shit.”
I jog to catch up to his side. I loop my arm through his and lean my head against his shoulder. I can feel him stiffen and I pull away.
“Come on.”
“What?”
“It’s 2017, we’re fine.”
“Sorry, it’s just…I don’t know.”
“Whatever.”
“Don’t be like that. You’re drunk.”
“So are you.”
Mark stops walking and sighs. I force myself to keep moving. A voice says.
Don’t give in.
Now it’s his turn to catch up and he grabs my hand. I don’t look at him.
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to.”
“But I do want to.”
He grips my hand a little tighter. It’s sweaty and I slip my hand away.
“No you don’t.”
We walk the rest of the way in silence. I’m not sure why I’m angry anymore. I wish I remembered the bins.

I refresh the page again. Blue and white stares back at me. No red. Everything sucks. Mark’s asleep at the other end of the couch and his legs are on my lap. I throw a pillow at him but he doesn’t move.
I refresh the page again. I change my cover photo. I delete it. I put it up again then log myself out and shut my laptop. Three minutes later I open my phone and delete it. I grab my coat from the armrest and stand quickly enough to push Mark’s feet to the floor. He snorts then mumbles.
“Where are you going?”
“For a walk.”
“Can I come?”
“No.”
I tell myself not to slam the door. I do it anyway. There’s broken glass on the pavement and it crunches satisfyingly underneath my shoes. The train tracks are close by and I head towards them. A car drives past and for a moment I see myself step in front of it. In my mind it clips my shoulder and hip, throwing me to the kerb. It’s not a hard enough collision to be fatal but I can still swing some sympathy votes online and a few days off work which is tempting. I just don’t want it to hurt. I faint at the sight of blood but I bruise well.
The car goes past and I walk forward unscathed.
No trains at this hour so I take a seat on one of the slats. It’s uncomfortable and my back hurts but I know I look brooding and mysterious so I sit here anyway. With this in mind I light a cigarette then immediately start coughing. Hope no one saw that. I hold the smoke far enough away from me that I can’t smell it. Gross.
I put my phone on the track next to me and play ‘Leeches’ by Velociraptor. It’s good. I get the lyrics wrong but pretend I don’t. Something crunches through the glass behind me and I twist around. I sigh. There’s palm sized rocks between each of the slats and I pick one up, gripping it hard enough to hurt.
“You’re looking particularly gloomy.”
“I want to be alone.”
“You slammed the door.”
“I want to be alone.”
“Are you mad at me?”
I sigh again.
“No.”
“What’s going on?”
I don’t answer. I hear Mark walk closer but I don’t look at him. A voice says.
Don’t give in.
I look at the ground.
Don’t give in.
Sitting like this folds my belly in half. I think about my fat rolls and feel the urge to vomit. I throw the cigarette away. That car is sounding more appealing.
“Come back.”
“No.”
“You’re a child.”
“Fuck you.”
I’m acutely aware that there’s only enough room on this slat for one person and I don’t move over. Mark mutters something under his breath.
“I’m sorry?”
“I said fuck this.”
“Whatever.”
Mark groans violently and pulls at his hair before exhaling. I don’t show it but he scares me when he gets angry like this. I keep looking down and scratch the rock in my hand against another on the ground. The noise it makes reminds me of the curb-stomp scene in American History X.
“Holy shit.”
He stumbles back from me and falls over. I look up at him, eyes already rolling.
“You’re such a dickhead.”
But he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at the sky. He’s looking behind me. There’s a glow in his eyes, a growing glow that spreads across his face down his body and then everywhere. It reflects off the rocks, the tracks and the glass behind us. I’m confused and scared and don’t want to turn around so I focus on Mark, who’s face is splitting open as his mouth yawns wider and wider in horror. The glow spreads viciously and from behind me there’s a crackling noise mixed with a whining, like someone screaming has been thrown into a fire. It keeps getting louder and louder and louder and I try to yell something to Mark but even I can’t hear what I’m saying. The light becomes so bright it hurts and I shut my eyes and twist to the tracks in a ball, throwing my head to the ground. Even with my arms over my face and my eyelids screwed shut I can still feel the immense glow burn into my eyeballs. I scream and get thrown into the fire.
There’s impact. Then silence.
When I open my eyes, I can only see white light. It’s burnt into my skull. For a full minute I weep and yell, thinking I’ve lost my sight. Slowly darkness creeps back in. I blink and try to push myself up but I’m only stable on all fours. The ground feels hot and I feel weak. The metal tracks are the first things that come into focus. I breathe out, then in and attempt to stand. I’m shaking.
“Mark?”
I can’t hear anything.
“Mark?”
I can’t. Hear. Anything.
“Mark?”
Something brushes my shoulder and I twist around in panic.
“Mark.”
I grab his shoulders and hold him to me, pressing his body hard against mine because if I let go I’d fall back down again. He feels warm and is shaking too. We stay like this for what could have been an hour before he carefully pushes me away. I loop my hand in his and he holds it tight. With the other he points to the other side of the tracks.
Where there was once a crop of bushes and gum trees there was now a hole. And while the darkness of the night had returned, from the hole beamed a floodlight of yellows. At its core a brilliant white.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
My shins feel like splinters but hand in hand, we stepped forward.
“Should we be doing this?”
“I don’t know.”
We shouldn’t have been. I knew we shouldn’t. Logic raged inside me, told me to run. It bashed its head against my brain and screamed danger, screamed escape. But the light was so alluring, so wonderfully spectacular and we are moths, and we are deers. We are frightened animals wandering towards something we don’t understand. It was overwhelming and it drew us in.
We teeter on the edge. The heat from below dries my mouth so I have to roll my tongue around my teeth before repeating.
“What is it?”
“It came from the sky.”
“What is it?”
“I think. I think it’s a star.”
He grips my hand tighter and I grip his back. We are hurting each other because we need to. It’s the only way to stay present without losing our minds. To be able to comprehend the pureness of what we were staring at. There was no discernible shape, just blinding beautiful pain and the most glorious light. My eyes ache and I gasp. I do not look away. I cannot. I will not.
Mark shifts next to me and I feel him wobble, I feel it as he falls to his knees, my hand still fused to his.
“What are you doing?”
He is crying and so am I. The tears barely make it out of my eyes before they evaporate straight off my cheeks. Everything is drying out. I can feel the dead layers of skin on my body cracking. The only sweat is between our palms and we are slipping.
Mark’s grip loosens and when he falls forward he slips from my grasp. I don’t leap to catch him. I don’t move at all. Only watch as his body falls to the light.
I watch as he floats down. Floating. Like the light is carrying him gently downwards. Supporting his body and cradling his spine and neck. He twists so he’s facing up to me, and he’s smiling. And I’m smiling. His mouth opens and he says something I can neither hear or interpret. I sit down on the edge of the hole and watch his body drift ever so softly into the light.
I close my eyes but I can still see. A voice says.
Give in.

And I fall.

I don’t want to be fooled by you.
I just want to be turned to stone with you.

‘Leeches’ – Velociraptor