Category Archives: Writing

How to Feign Looking Like A Writing Genius

I’m taking time out from my NaNo novel trail blazing to bring you this special account of my outing into the ‘real world’, where strange and magical things happen in the hallowed aisles of the supermarket.

Oh, I felt so compelled to share my experiences I wandered around the shopping centre writing notes as I went, accumulating funny looks along the way. Yes, texting while walking is perfectly acceptable, writing in a notebook, oh ho ho ho. I’m here to shock and amaze people, this is my purpose on this planet.

Any who, my first notation. A young person buying alcohol is much less conspicuous if  purchasing Healthy Start cereal and 100% pure organic coconut water along with her alcoholic purchase. Much less likely to get carded than the tall, blond, young person buying only a bottle of vodka in front of her. Much more likely to be told ‘Oh, yes, I’ve had that cider last night, it was really nice!’, like she is just another fellow middle aged lady, who spends nights alone with her cat, watching Dancing with the Stars and sampling new, fancy flavours of imported cider. So am I old, or have a I just discovered a new fool proof way for underage people to buy alcohol?

Second notation. Closing times in cafes should be clearer. Because they lie, they are straight out liars, people. 9am – 3pm in not accurate. It should be more like 9am – 1:30 we are perfectly happy to serve you, 1:30pm – 2pm we are still happy to serve you, but with every minute encroaching upon kitchen close time we become more and more begrudging towards you. 2pm kitchen closes! Do they mention that on the opening hours? Nah. 2pm-3pm, we want to seem like we have flexible opening hours, but really we’re trying to cram in closing down within this hour so we don’t have to pay our staff overtime, and they can get home before 5pm on a Saturday so they can get ready for whatever social event they had planned, technically you can stay, but we will just casually begin to clean around you, gradually making you feel more and more uncomfortable until you down your tea, ruining your previous tea-induced relaxation, now making you feel all stomach swishingly, overflowing with tea. So why don’t they just do this – 9am – 1:30pm (please feel free and welcome to order your lunch) 1:30pm – 2pm (please only order beverages, but finish them before 2:30pm) 2:30pm – 3pm (get the fuck out).

Third notation. Lines at supermarket cash registers leave me flustered, and brain dead. Which is the shortest one? Self service or normal or express lane? Where the fuck is the express lane?

‘There’s no-one at the express lane,’ some lady attendant says, seemingly annoyed that people are lining up at self service, like it is personally ruining her whole life.

‘I thought this was the express lane,’ I reply, like a bubble headed loon.

‘No, it’s down the end.’

Wellity, wellity, wellity. Maybe no-one’s there because it’s in some obscure, hidden place behind tens of thousands of other unused express cash registers. The rather creepy ghosts of ruthless Supermarket job cut backs, in favour of machines who always get upset if I use my own bags. ‘Unexpected item in bagging area’. I’ll give you an unexpected item, my fist in your face!

Anyways, ‘Thanks,’ replies the ever polite and genial me.

Oo, the register attendant is kind of cute. Did that Lady tell everyone the express lane was empty? These people just seemed to swarm in like flies onto fresh dog shit. But I’m here now. I’ll feel silly if I line up for the third time. Hey, this register guy has really awesome glasses, they look expensive, they make him look like a hipster. Wow, he actually asked me how my day was going. I now bet he has instantly regretted it. I’m babbling I can tell. I make some remark about how everyone was sent here at the same time. I try and give him some change with my fifty so I can get notes back. Oh no. Too much pressure. I can’t add. Why can’t I add? For the love of god why do you escape me now simple maths?! Why?! The humanity! Escape! Just take your odd change and escape.

‘Well that didn’t work,’ I casually remark.

‘Yeah, I was wondering why you gave this to me…’

Walking away, wow do I feel stupid. Hmm, I think, I’ll just write about it in my blog to make myself feel better that I’m such a spaz. You see I do this deliberately for writing material.

Last notation. I should walk around the shopping centre writing shit down more often. I look like a crazy, genius writer person, whose ideas are too fabulous and awesome to be forgotten to the winds of time and a poor short term memory. They must be written down immediately! Also, shopping centre toilet cubicles are strangely inspiring.

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Round Two

Have you ever posted on a forum that appears to be buzzing with back and forth conversation, only for that forum to die suddenly and become paranoid that it was because of you?

No?

Is it just me? Am I that self centered?

It’s even more heartbreaking when the forum you were posting to was ‘one sentence synopsis of your novel’ for NaNoWriMo. Everyone was blasting all over the place with their snappy one sentences, receiving positive feedback. And then I posted. And then the crickets began to chirp.

Okay. It’s probably not me. The thread was long dead by the time I got there.

I’m just antsy that I’m going to be spending a whole month writing something that’s complete and utter crap, and not realising it until I’m half way through and thinking ‘wow, this is complete and utter crap’.

But, I can’t begin the process this way. I’ve chosen a storyline, fleshed out the characters and built the world probably as well as Athens prepared for the olympics. I’m sticking to it goddamn it. It’s going to be the best novel I’ve ever written.

Actually it’s going to be the first novel I’ve ever written. To a stage of completion that can warrant it being called a novel.

I can’t believe November has come around again so quickly.

I’m having flashbacks to last year’s NaNo and the novel writing pain. My brain hurts already. I can feel Miss Crankypants coming on. Yet, still, I’m pretty damn excited.

Maybe I’m a masochist.

All I know is that this year is going to be better somehow. I think it’s because I now have a cat. You’re not a legitimate writer until you have a cat.

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Too Young To Be Bitter

My cat is fixated on something outside the window, but there is nothing there. It must be the ghost of my last university session – because I killed it. ‘Muthaaa Fuckaaa!’  – as the incorrigible Hank Moody would say.

Bring on the holidays! Yes, more opportunity to feel guilty about not accomplishing anything.

Well that’s not entirely true. I am slowly climbing the Karate ranks. I was given Arnis canes the other day to train with. And as I swung them around in my living room, I couldn’t help but make lightsaber noises in my head. I can tell I’m going to go far. I wonder if those new Star Wars movies are looking for extras? That was, after all, a long forgotten childhood dream of mine – to be a Jedi. My makeshift dressing-gown Jedi robe and blue cellophane wrapped curtain rod would testify to that.

Anyhow, I moved onto bigger and better dreams. To be a writer. Quite frankly, I think I’d have a better chance of becoming a Jedi. At least I’m realistic. Bitter, cynical, yes, but realistic.

Like that person in my class, who professed that writing should probably just be a hobby of hers, instead of a career path. I, somewhat guilty, agreed with her. I mean you’re not going to get very far if you’re already tearing down your own writing and telling everyone that it’s shit. That’s not part of the ‘Belief, Focus, Follow Through’ mantra I’ve adopted as my own. Sure I say stuff like: I’d have a better chance making a career of stopping the evil Sith from taking over the galaxy than writing, but that’s just acknowledging that it’s tough out there. And another thing, I’m not going to present a piece of writing to be scrutinized that I think is shit, then pout over the fact that it’s getting constructively criticised, making excuses of why it is the way it is.

“Oh, you meant to write in cliches? Pretty sure that only works if you’re making some sort of clever, satirical comment on the practice, and not just being a lazy writer.”

I’m guilty too! My last creative piece was heavily slashed of cliches and melodramatic writing, so I feel I’m qualified to recognise the error of such things.

I was once too filled with bright eyed and rather ridiculous notions of teenage romance, before I read Twilight and my gag reflex developed. Now I have a full blown cringe factor, especially for male leads who are ‘sensitive and very feeling’ and who bake cupcakes and wear flowers in their hair???

‘Does he also sparkle in the sun?’ I asked. Apparently not. But seriously, this is what young ladies fantasize about?

‘Oh, I get it, what you want in a guy, is a woman…’

That’s cool. There may be someone out there for you like that, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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I Have Been Put to Shame

The bloody woman had eight blogs. Count em. Eight! If she was an octopus her blogs would be like her arms. If she was a mother, she’d have octuplets. Eight screaming babies all vying for a suckle of mummy’s creative teat. But Mummy needs her rest children. Can’t you amuse yourself for five minutes? Can’t I even take a leak in private!

And she wrote everyday, sometimes twice. I sat there in my Writing for Performance class marveling at her, wondering how somebody could possibly have that much to say…

Then I heard her talk.

And then I understood.

The woman was a machine.

An eight tentacled abomination, enrapturing the blogosphere with her many differently themed creations.

I wondered about her competency. She was deathly allergic to bananas, yet for two years worked at The Big Banana. Bad logic? Or delicious irony? Like when someone fashionable wears a really ugly sweater…

Anyways. People. What can I say? I’m intrigued by them. Now to wait patiently for the mothership to beam me back onboard so that I may report my findings.

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I Wrote This With My Eyes Closed

Sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for inspiration to strike, I suddenly notice that for a non-religious household, there sure are a lot of representations of Buddha around the place.

When I was younger, in a previous house, Mum put a statue of Buddha outside the door, hoping it would repel Johos.

Somehow, I don’t think a little clay monument would deter them from helping us look for Jesus, but no matter. I searched behind my couch, where most lost things gravitate to, but alas, no avail.

Anyways, I digress. It was my first day back at Uni today. I had a midday short story class straight off the bat, my holiday hangover ever apparent as 12 still felt too early to function and my attentions immediately wandered from the teacher to all the new and shiny people. Particularly some Byron Bay alumni, with a floppy, maroon beanie and dead straight, sun bleached hair, compelling me to note down that I don’t like it when guys have prettier hair than I do.

The guy sitting next to him had red rimmed eyes, and I unabashedly assumed he was stoned. When the teacher asked him to define ‘short story’ on behalf of his group, he replied ‘Well, we all agree that they are short.’

Smart ass.

Anyways, he turned out to be some deep thinking, intellectual genius.

Here’s another one. ‘Short story is like a door, opened just a little.’

‘What does that mean to you?’

‘That life is like a door.’

Oh, god.

‘Why do we study short fiction?’

Thinks I, ‘Because it’s impossible to write and mark novel length fiction?’

BOOM.

Smart ass.

Unfortunately I didn’t turn out to be some deep thinking, intellectual genius.

Don’t get me wrong, I like short fiction, so in respect for the genre, let’s keep this post as short as possible.

 

 

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44,514 Words of Paranoid Delusion

Day 26 of NaNoWriMo: November is almost over. We’re on the home stretch, slowly dragging our way to that illustrious 50k finish line, like a dismembered, self-possessed zombie limb creeping up on an unsuspecting ankle.

After all this time writing, the aptly named forum title on NaNoWriMo’s official website : ‘NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul’, is starting to make sense to me. With every Facebook status in November an update on a milestone word count, every WordPress post about the perils of writing on an everyday basis (ha, who am I kidding, I don’t have time to blog…), every request made by my mum answered with ‘but I have to finish my words’… yes, it has happened, I’ve become Nano-hermit. No, I haven’t stopped showering, my personal hygiene is still immaculate, but I have perhaps gone a little stir crazy. Which is to be expected, being cooped up in my own head all day.

I thought a change of scenery would help, so I took my laptop to a cafe – ‘please, monsieur, just keep the earl grey tea coming’ – Ah, yes a date with my laptop and all my screwed up, issue ridden characters – ‘why you give me two pots of chilli soy chai? Do I look like that much of yuppie? And what the hell is chilli soy chai, anyhow?’ – Needless to say that exercise lasted about 2 hours and around 600 something words.

However, it must have put me in good stride, because for the first time ever that stupid little grey bar went past the daily expected average line. Whoop! Yes, a small win, a feeling that perhaps lasted until I realised dinner was a carrot. And that I hate my life. And that I should probably stop checking my Facebook in a state of paranoid delusion that I’ve annoyed everyone. Because that’s what happens when I cut myself off from all normal social interaction. I become weird, and start thinking that the outside world doesn’t like me. Which may or may not be true. But, seriously, look at this face, aww, who wouldn’t love this face.

Stop looking at me.

Ah, curse you NaNoWriMo, you fickle beast. Soon I will slay you, and you will be my floor rug. Or my yoga mat, because I really need to stretch out these cramped up muscles. Eh hem, you’ve also made me fatter, and required me to wear my glasses more often. Luckily for you, I look damn fine in these glasses – they don’t at all draw attention to any unsightly jiggly bits – but that new massage chair your mum’s boyfriend bought does, so let’s just use that in the privacy of our own company, shall we?

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16,314 Words of Mild Insanity.

Day 11 of NaNoWriMo: It’s a Sunday, and I feel like that’s some sort of milestone, being the end of the week and all. A perfect time to consolidate all that has happened in the month of November so far. But, in reality, this is the only day I haven’t felt an immense self-reprimanding guilt for typing words that are un-realted to my novel word count. However, this is important, I feel, to take stock, to see how far I’ve come, what I’ve learnt and to perhaps give myself a little pat on the back for managing to put something down on the page every single day – after all, it’s quite a surprise for someone like myself, a world class procrastinator and all round lazy sod to accomplish such a feat. I’ve seemed to gain some sort of rhythm, yet haven’t quite perfected the illusive ‘maintaining quality whilst producing quantity’ technique. I guess that comes with practice.

Here’s, however, what I have learnt. (Apparently not the difference between learned and learnt…is there a difference? One’s Brit. according to my dictionary. Hmm, learning something new everyday!)

Okay, one: rising levels of commitment  – in the beginning of my NaNoWriMo quest there was food, lots and lots of food. About ten million satay chicken sticks and Vita-Weets with butter and Vegemite, a product of intense, procrastinating hunger, and left over catering food from a wedding waitressing job. As the quest carried on there became less food. I love food, and I love dinner, so when dinner becomes a banana because you just have to reach your word quota for the day, you know you’re committed. Now, when you forget about your tea, steeping on the counter, left to go cold, perhaps you’ve taken it too far. Another sign of your rising commitment is the sore poky outie bits of your wrists that rest on your laptop, leaving you to type from above, like your on some sort of clunky, old school type writer.

Two: imaginative descriptions use up most of my brain juice – As you may have been able to tell from my incredibly knowledgable description of a certain part of my wrists, adjectives are not my strongest suit when it comes to writing. I’m not a very detail-orientated person, which is quite frustrating when you’re trying to create a scene from scratch that doesn’t exist on this planet. Why on earth did I decide to write Sci-Fi, anyways? Everything just ends up being silver and shiny. ‘Would they have concrete in the future, on a distant moon colony half way across the galaxy? Hmm, maybe not, perhaps I should just say it’s a concrete like substance, yes, that will do, I can’t waste precious time agonising over a made up building material…’

Three: Perhaps the literary community is right, when they say ‘write what you know’ – I don’t know anything specific about space travel, paramedics, the laws of physics, military hierarchies, the legal system or whether people would still tile their bathroom showers in the future, which leads me to digress that writing a story which requires much research is probably not the best thing when sticking to a strict schedule. Not to say that I have done absolutely none. I have bugged my Paramedic friend about the procedure of a chest decompression, and she’s probably a bit confused why I’m so obsessed with the specifics of the needle used – it’s just a needle. Ah, yes, but how exactly long is the needle, is it thin or thick, what colour is it, is it like a tube thing or a syringe thing? etc. Ah, that’s okay, just forget about it, we’ll fill that in later, along with another word for space concrete.

Four: The research can actually be more interesting than your story and distract you from your work – Upon realising that Sci-Fi, by definition, actually requires some fiction about science, I consulted the internet about long distance space travel and stumbled upon a genius fellow by the name of Michio Kaku. One reasonably priced Amazon purchase later and I was the owner of his books ‘Physics of the Future’ and ‘Physics of the Impossible’. What I remember from my high school physics class is a diagram of someone pushing a boulder off a hill and some mathematic equations like speed = distance/time (I’m not even sure if that’s right, shows how much attention I was paying). Anyways, if they taught physics in high-school, the way Kaku writes about it, I’m pretty sure I would have at least sat up with a keen interest and not endeavoured to drop the subject quicker than a south-shore Sydney teenager, in the 70’s, drops his girlfriend when she eats his meat pie (Puberty Blues, anyone?).  If any high-school physics teacher talked in terms of the possibility of death stars, lightsabers, force fields, laser guns and gamma ray bursts that can incinerate all life on Earth, I’m certain we’d see more future Leonard and Sheldons walking around the school yard. Because that shit is cool. And being smart should be cool. Why isn’t smart cool? Is it because all smart kids look like Leonard and Sheldon? Anyways, if you can find a way to slice through any material with a glowing hot, plasma sword, you should be rock star.

Five: When the 900 + words you’ve just written in half the time it would have taken to write that amount in your story, makes you kinda depressed, you know you must get out of the house and reclaim your sanity, just a smidgeon.

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You’re The Best Around

I’ve been thinking about something for a while now. Thinking about dreams and why they’re so important to have. You know, life purpose sort of dreams, not the sleeping kind of dreams, like the one I had where I was a Maroon 5 groupie and Adam Levine gave me a piggy back through the snow singing Sunday Morning … well they’re important too, because nothing that awesome would ever happen to me in my waking life … but getting on point.

Big dreams, aka, what you really want to do with the rest of your life, scare the shit out of me. As they probably do for most people. It’s much easier to sit on the sidelines and make excuses why you can’t be or do what is really in your heart. It’s easier to pretend that you’re being realistic, that you’re saving yourself from disappointment, from failure and all those other shitty, ice-cream binging emotions. You may not feel supported, or worry that you won’t actually be very good at thing you most aspire to. There’s a lot of things that seem to clasp on your ankle like a shackle and drag you down with a ball and chain, even though from an outside perspective nothing appears to be stopping you.

So, obviously, in most cases, you are your own ball and chain. All that negative self talk that swirls around your head, telling you that you’re not good enough.

Okay, have I thoroughly depressed you yet? Well, the good news is, and I think I’m saying this for my own benefit, as I do need a regular kick up the ass, is that if it’s all in your head, you have the power to change it.

I like to constantly tell myself ‘hey, you’ll soon be dead’, not in a morbid kind of way, but in a ‘hey, you really have nothing to lose’ kind of way, to put things in perspective. Yeah, it helps, but that doesn’t mean that going after my dreams still doesn’t make me want to crawl back into bed and hide beneath the covers. Let’s just say I’m working on it.

I would quite like to grab the bull by the horns and shake the hell out of it. Put on that theme from Karate Kid or Rocky or whatever cliche you can think of, because it’s time to get motivated.

I’m going to enter freakin’ NaNoWriMo and try to finish a 50k novel in a month. Why not, I need the practise and obviously a reason to drive myself insanely mad. Yeah, I feel better about it already.

OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE.

Frack it. Put the needle back on that ‘You’re the Best’ record, because I’m going to do it.

Now, perhaps having images of myself with unwashed, unbrushed hair, severely neglected eyebrows and a piddly bank balance from having spent hundreds of dollars on Osteopathic appointments for my badly compressed spine and rounded ‘laptop’ shoulders …

Did I tell you to stop playing that ‘You’re the Best’ record? No, I didn’t, because I need it, and maybe you do to, so, onwards children, go frolic in the field of unrealised dreams. You may end up looking like a hobo, but at least at the end you won’t be saying this …

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Shelter from the Reign: A Short Story

So, I’ve decided to post my first assignment of my creative writing degree. I figured I spent so much time on it, I might as well. But, I must admit showcasing my ‘serious’ writing is giving me a slight anxiety attack.  It’s kind of like one of those dreams where you’re suddenly naked, or you really, really need the bathroom but everybody’s watching and the door won’t close. It just won’t close!

Eh hem, anyways. For my short story assignment I submitted something that was originally part of a much larger story. Upon some positive feedback I’ve decided to expand on it. So, here’s Part 1 of my first attempt at dystopian SF.

Oh, yes, and … Disclaimer – this post does contain infrequent coarse language.

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‘Shelter from the Reign: Part 1 – Sacrifice’

Clutching a high-powered, automatic weapon in your hands in a post-apocalyptic town is worlds away from holding a hunting rifle back on the farm. This thing wasn’t made for culling feral roos, or keeping rabbits away from your crop. It would damn near blow them to bits – a tail here, a fuzzy little foot there – no, this thing was made by the Confederates to cut through the armour of the enemy. Red State armour. The cool weighted metal across my lap, my finger poised over the trigger, inspires the same feelings in me of a kid hugging their teddy close when mum turns out the bedroom light. Slouching against the paneled stainless steel wall of the observation deck, I listen to the steady breathing of my sister, her body curled in a foetal position a few feet away from me. Still there, to my reassurance, high as a fucking kite, seeing swirling patterns in the white and grey linoleum floor, but still there.

The stuff mellowed her out and it sure beat the hell out of her screaming at every splayed corpse littered throughout this silent grave of a power station.

“The view’s not bad,” I mumble, trying to rise something out of her, but she just makes little circles on the floor with her pinky, round and round, her sparkly purple nail polish chipped on a broken nail. She’d normally freak out about that, go ballistic looking for nail clippers. She’s not quite the same without the complaining.

“Not bad,” I sigh, staring out the twelve-foot seamless glass window, that only four days ago I was showing as one of the technological highlights in my guided tour. It was the perfect vantage point to look out over hectares of outback country and the small mining town purpose built for the employees of the highest energy-producing plant of the 22nd century … And the most obvious site for military attack. Especially in a world energy crisis … Why wasn’t that part of my tour guide speech?

Now, outside the plate glass everything is flattened to the earth, as if a massive harvester came along, ripped it all out and dumped it. The buildings are burnt skeletons in the distance. I can almost make out the pub, the fuel station, the Hypermarket, even though they’re rubble. They’re the biggest piles. The sky is a haze of red dust – blood smeared across the horizon. There’s not patch of blue, or a speck, or even the hope of a speck. It’s suffocating. Lifeless. Pocket fires burn, their orange glow illuminating parts of the destruction – the street where Lil and I used to play, the footy field where I smashed Luke Jones for calling me a little girl and not letting me join in with the boys, the school where all twelve of us students learnt algebra and all that other crap that’s about as helpful now as a fly-screen in a submarine. Gone. All gone. Out there is completely fucked, because of one little thing in here.

The first time I saw the station’s core power cell, floating there in this clear tube container, it reminded me of a special clear marble I had as a kid, one of those with the streak of colour suspended in the middle, swirly, like the surface of Jupiter. Even though I was pushing nineteen at the time and had long grown out of marbles, I felt the same unadulterated fascination of my younger self when I looked at that power cell. A tiny fragment of energy-sucking material, storing what was left of whatever they could drag out of the ground. Even though mining has long been inactive in this area, the cell has gathered enough energy to be self-sustaining, my chipper, tour-guide voice reverberates through my head.

Gees, you’d think the government would invest more in protecting something that important. You’d think the Confederates would be freaking smart enough to stop something like this happening. Maybe they were all nuked too? Caught off guard. Who fucking knows. I hit my skull against the wall with a clamour that echoes through the silence. Lil stirs. My head flops over towards her like a rag doll’s, exhausted from keeping all my frustrations inside and smothered by a fog of dope. Lil’s eyes are red-rimmed and bloodshot. She sits up, her vintage Justice League t-shirt clinging to her skin with sweat. The goofy, cartoon smile of Superman makes me grin painfully, with dry, cracked lips. He must be something pretty freaking special to still be idolized, but I guess that when the world’s turning to shit, people wanna hold onto symbols for good. Even if they’re are a fourteen year old know it all, who should be obsessing about boys and not comic book heroes.

“You coming around?”

Lil nods and grabs her head with a quiet moan. “I feel sick…”

“Ya gonna chuck?”

“I don’t think so…” Lil scoots her back up against the wall. She stares at me with her usual ‘what the hell are you looking at?’ face and I know my lil’ sis is still in there.

If I hadn’t shut us away in the basement after work to get high, she probably wouldn’t even be here at all.  The weed is wearing off now. Its comforting haze clears and bleak reality presses on my chest like a hundred kilo weight. Images of the lifeless faces twisted in terror I saw when we first emerged from the basement, creep their way back into my mind and I wish I were still stoned. I pat myself down, searching for a fix. Plastic crinkles beneath the khaki material of my right pant pocket and I feel the cylindrical shape inside. A medical grade applicator housing a drug far more serious than weed, and so far I’ve been hesitant to use it. At least I know for sure what weed does to me – this stuff I can only go by what I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard.

The soldier boy I took it from hadn’t the time to use it. Poor bugger would have died screaming. From what they say, just a little of the drug would have saved him all that pain, and with the whole syringe he’d have flown out of this world quicker than a startled chicken flying the coop from a big nasty goanna. I guess you can tell the ones who took the lot: they’re the ones you can still recognise. The ones the Red Coats wouldn’t waste bullets on. The ones that don’t have their brains spilled out onto the floor, limbs missing and broken bones poking out of their skins.

I picture my sister suffering the same fate. I’ll be fucked if I let any Red State pig touch her. Lil questions me with her blank glassy eyes. I want to give her a reassuring smile, one that says ‘don’t worry kiddo, we’re gonna be alright’, but I don’t believe it myself. When we passed the reactor chamber the bitch was still glowing, and I knew someone less than merciful was going to come back for it.

I need a fix, bad. The last thing Lil needs is to see me wuss out.

Just suck it up. Lil will need the stuff more. You don’t even know how long it will last. 

My sister reaches out for me. Her hand is clammy and cold, on her finger is her gold signet ring, the one mum and dad got her for her tenth birthday. I remember because that same year, for my seventeenth, I got my first air rifle.

That thing barely left my side for a whole year. I could shoot a clothes peg off the line at a hundred meters or so. That was then. Now, the gun in my hands is completely foreign to me. I tried my best to wipe it clean, but it still has specks of blood, stained into the metal. I’ve never shot one of these before. You know, never wasted a guy. Except in virtual. I bet it feels heaps different in real life. I bet it’s one of those things you can never recover from. I can’t be certain whether I’d have the gall to fire if it came down to it. Yet, just holding it, just knowing I have it. I dunno. A big-ass gun can certainly give you an ego rush to the head, and I know Lil feels safer with it around.

“What’s taking so long?” Her voice is hoarse and it falls from her lips in a parched sigh. “They should’ve come already. Aren’t they checking for survivors?”

I hesitate. Longer than I should, but what can I tell her? I want to believe that the Confederation is going to come as much as she does, but we’ve been looking out this goddamn window without seeing a Green Stripe for days now.

The silence drags, then, fortunately, she lets out one long sigh. “Are you gonna shoot that thing?”

“What, this?” I notice the tightness of my grip on the gun and release a little. I raise it, bringing the butt under my right armpit. The thing is freaking heavy. My arms quiver, so I rest it on my lap. “If I have to.”

“I should have one.”

“No way,” I reply.

“Come on. I’ve gone skeet shooting with dad heaps of times.”

“This is way different, Lil.” She’d never killed anything breathing before. Every time Dad or I had to shoot a lame cow between the eyes, she’d run to her room, crying, then turn up some crap Top 40 song to drown it out.

“It’s not like I’m gonna hurt anything. This place is a dump.”

“Lilly.” I never use her full name unless she’s grinding on my last nerve. It usually shuts her up.

“Fine,” she huffs.

Fighting with my sister comes naturally even at a time like this. The familiarity appears to sooth her and it distracts me from the cruel wrenching of my insides.

Darkness falls like mum turning out the light and I hold my teddy bear closer. The narrow beam of the LED light from my sight torch pierces through the night.

The torchlight reminds me of camping out in the backyard. Lil and I laughing and writhing around in our sleeping bags, making stupid shadow puppets on the walls of Granddad’s old tent. I could only do the duck. Lil managed something that looked like a dog. Then we’d just name everything we could think of that looked like a hand … a five-legged spider, grass blowing in the wind, I dunno … stuff like that. We’d stay out there in the middle of winter. You couldn’t keep us inside. Even now the only thing stopping us from wandering out into the ruined remains of our town was choking on some noxious gas.

It’s getting cold. We huddle. Lil shivers and I sling my arm around her. She buries her head in the little nook between my shoulder and collarbone and I rest my cheek on her strawberry scented hair.

My eyelids droop, heavy like the headlock on a cattle crush. My body loosens, sinking into the floor with exhaustion. The world begins to slip and time melts into nothing. But then a flicker of light dances past the inside of my eyes, again and again until a flood of bright white bursts them wide.

Lil stands completely still, silhouetted against the giant glass window. The sound of blades continuously chops the air: ticka, ticka, fwoom, fwoom. I pray to see a telltale green stripe on the chopper tail. Shit. The crows are as black as the township they burned to the ground, and there must be at least ten of them in the air, a whole murder of them, ready to swoop down. The searchlights pierce through the window, sweeping the entire observation deck. They flash over my face like the strobe at the underground rave.

“Come on,” I scream at Lil over the chopper’s thrum. Lil’s transfixed and I have to drag her away.

As I shoulder through double doors and sprint the long hallway, Lil flails out behind me. Our slapping footsteps on the floor are not alone. Heavier, more synchronized ones are marching on the metal grating of the upper floor.

You can run…

We fly down the steps of the stairwell and burst out into another long hallway.

I run until my breath escapes me, then I keep on running. Stairwell after stairwell, the footsteps are getting closer. Hallway after hallway and those stomping Red State boots still get closer.

I barge into the basement and bolt the door behind us. We disappear into a maze of high-stacked boxes. I drag Lil down beside me. We crouch. Hearts in our throats, we wait. Just maybe if we’re quiet enough they won’t find us. Lil’s eyes are wild. My gun rattles in my shaky hand.

How the hell do you shoot this thing? I was too shit scared to even practice in the whole freaking four days I’ve been holding onto it. Who am I kidding? I’ll probably drop it and wave the white flag first thing. Maybe they do take prisoners. Lil trembles beside me, her breath shallow and erratic.

“Listen to me Lilly,” I breathe out in barely a whisper. “We’re going to be fine…Look at me… If they come in here, we’ll take ‘em out. We’ll take ‘em all out if we have to.”

She nods. She wants to believe me, but I can see the cracks starting to form. Hysteria’s going to grab hold. It’s going to rip her apart.

What the fuck can I do? She’s gonna die screaming. 

My hand instinctively goes to my pocket. The applicator is unbroken. Steadying my jittery hands, I take out the implement.

“What does it do?” my sister asks, wide-eyed and innocent. I’m reminded of when she was eight, and I was about to put antiseptic on her skinned knee. I got her talking about her favourite cartoon and it distracted her from the pain.

“It will make you invincible,” I say, ripping the plastic pouch with my teeth. “So nothing can hurt you.” I nod down at her T-shirt, “just like the Man of Steel.”

She looks to the doorway. The footsteps aren’t far away. She’s not buying it, I can tell, but then she looks to me, the corner of her mouth creeping up.

“Faster than a speeding bullet?”

I nod, shaking the applicator out of the bag.  “Faster.”

Lil smirks. “Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?”

Even though she’s trembling, even though she may be scared out of her brain, she still gives me one of those sarcastic teenage smirks I’m so fond of.

I stare at the applicator. It has one of those little red buttons. It couldn’t be simpler. Just point and shoot.  A single harsh clamour fills the air. Metal on metal. The basement door heaves, resisting.

“A lot of the physics in Superman are wrong, you know,” Lil pipes up, like she knows.

“Is that a fact?” I ask, gently taking her forearm and facing it towards me.

An accented Red State voice commands, loud and violent, through the door.

“Yep. If he actually held out his arms to stop a train, he’d actually go right through it, instead of stopping it…”

The basement door is resisting the barrage. I’m shaking so hard, I’m afraid I’m going to miss the vein. What’s wrong with me?

Just point and shoot … point and shoot. 

Steadying my breath I pick my spot. The automated needle pierces Lil’s baby-soft skin right on target. We look at each other. I press the button, half way. I feel her body relax.

She smiles. “Just like Superman.”

“Like Superman,” I smile back. The needle is still in her arm whenthe basement door finally surrenders, crippling off its hinges. There’s a flash of sight torches, yet I keep looking at Lil. Her eyes are serene, blue as a sunlit sky. She’s somewhere peaceful, where nothing can hurt her.  She’s free. I can’t let them take that away from her. I won’t. The whole syringe is hers.

*****

To be continued …

Now, could somebody please pass me that paper bag? And perhaps a defibrillator as well.

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Just a little bit ridiculous…

Hurrah! Back at University. That didn’t sound completely believable did it? I don’t mean to come across as sarcastic, because there is a subject I am studying this semester that is actually of interest to me. Introduction to Creative Writing. Yes. Creative Writing. They still managed to squeeze an essay into the assignments, yet I’m still mildly excited. In class we had a writing exercise. It took me back to grade seven, with my favourite teacher ever, Mrs. Rowley, an actual author, and the brainstorming sessions we would have, writing in our journals, just letting our imaginations run wild. For some reason a lot of people had images of ‘pools of strawberries’ in their heads. I don’t know why, but is seemed to be a reoccurring theme. Perhaps it wasn’t an inherently twelve year old thing to think about, perhaps my classmates just thought it sounded ‘artsy’ and copied each other. Anyhow, in this particular writing exercise we were asked to complete this sentence: When I write I feel…

Hmm, I thought, thinking back to my most recent blog post. When I write I feel like I’m unlocking the gate to a mental asylum, letting all the crazies out to wreak havoc on the page. Painting green hair and bright red smiles all over priceless artwork, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in a Gotham art gallery, yet my paintbrush is my keyboard and the art is the relative credibility of the blogosphere.

I didn’t write that exactly, but something along those lines.

And I’m secretly quite proud of my ability to smear countless, irrelevant words on to my internet page, yet a little worried how that translates into my story telling ability.

I like to write fiction, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m any good at it. I’ve written many words, yet the quality may be a little iffy.

My motivation also leaves a lot to be desired when writing fiction. Which is a shame, because there is a kick ass movie rolling in my head, and if I could only find a way to translate it to the page I’m sure I’d be winning. I sometimes wish I could just project what ever I’m thinking on to a screen, then it wouldn’t look like I was just staring out a window for two hours with no reason, like some sort of decrepit old lady who had lost her marbles long ago…

There are many movies inside my head. I imagine my mind would look, not so much like a sleek stack of shelves with neat, ordered DVD cases, but more like an old, dusty, dimly lit room with rolls of film shoved in draws and on rickety wooden shelves. Everything creaking, because that’s what my bones do…gosh, you 21 year old old woman you, go on crack your neck then, just move your shoulders back a bit, cccrriickk…sigh. Yes, I already feel old. I have already experienced the look of confusion and ignorance on younger people’s faces when they do not get references in my jokes or conversation.

“Have you actually ever seen Jack Nicholson’s Joker?” (I don’t know why that reference keeps popping up, let’s just say with my recently acquired Bat-mobile key ring, Batman seems to be on the mind.)

“Who’s Jack Nicholson? Isn’t that other guy the Joker, the one that died?”

“…sigh”

Dammit, I wasn’t even born when Tim Burton’s Batman came out, but kids today, seriously… Soon no one will get my pop culture references and then what will I do?

Noooooooo…

But surely, surely my Simpsons references are still relevant?

Well no, not always. And, if I may say, that’s just ridiculous, or as I like to say redonkulous, or because I’m Australian and Australians like to shorten everything, just redonk, or if I want to add a little pimp/gangster flavour, redonk-y-donk, or to just mix things up a bit, redonkey-kong…

Okay, I don’t really use these turns of phrase, because they, quite frankly, are just a little redonkey-kong.

Toodle-oo.

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