The chill of the wrought iron gate handle cuts through my fingers. I struggle to release its wedged latch. Above me, iron spearheads pierce the smoggy haze in search of the full moon. The moon flickers like the turning lamp atop a lighthouse. It flickers less often than expected though, as if faulty. Teardrops, the colour of black night, appear and slither down the spears’ bars. Through the bars, I can barely make out the shadowed outlines of Cali’s grey stone house. She could have at least left one light on. That’s Cali though; I find her indifference desirable. I have no choice but to push harder. The latch finally releases, keeping the skin off several of my knuckles as a memento. Best leave the gate open.
No form of light, not even moonlight, ever reaches the dank entrance to Cali’s. She says the old prison is built of bluestone but never once have the stones been that colour. I knock on the hulking iron-clad door only to hear a dull sound instantly dissipate as if it just got lost. I wonder if the sound made it through to the other side, to Cali. Cop this door. I bang as if I’m angry till my hands lose feeling but I’m still left with no clue as to where the sound goes. Cali’s gate closes and I sense a being pace to and fro behind me. I hope the being is of a prison officer, here to protect me and not one of the prisoners in search of revenge. I glance back to see nothing. Surely, it’s just the gate’s beating shadow. I keep banging the door; my knuckles scream. By the time Cali appears, my blood has dried and become just like the other numbers scraped into the impenetrable door.
Photo by Brian Valentine
I’ve thrown away countless faulty plug-in headsets for my PC. This new wireless headset is sure to be my saviour, ensuring another set of expletives are kept to themselves. I’ve no explanation for my technology rage at times. Perhaps, I should simply be more patient. I do try but when the repeated greeting – hello – hello – hello – tonelessly sounds, signalling the end of another headset; I just lose it. No more, I hope. Time to test these bitches – yes, I can hear.
‘Meet me now. I’ve got the bad gear; pure as,’ a male teenage voice says.
‘What will I tell my dad?’ a female teenage voice replies.
‘Just tell him, you’re going to the shops.’
‘Alright, give me five.’
Hang on a minute, that’s Julie’s voice. ‘Testing,’ I say into my new microphone.
‘What? Who’s that?’ The male voice says.
I quickly disconnect.
Before I can think about what Julie’s up to, she’s walked past and told me she’s going down the shop.
‘Hang on,’ I say and raise my voice a notch. ‘What for?’
‘Do you have to know everything?’ She says. ‘Dad, just chill. I won’t be long.’
She’s out the door in a flash. Not a moment to contemplate. By the time I’m outside, she’s ridden off up the street towards the shops. What am I supposed to do now? He has the bad gear which I’m sure is nothing to do with top notch sporting gear. Surely it’s got to be drugs, hasn’t it? Pure as, he did say. I’m definitely not going alone. Well, I’m insinuating a drug deal here. I grab Wagger’s lead and rattle it; a call she’ll do anything for.
Life’s meaning is its meaningless
Andrew Mansell, October 2012.
At first, this realisation depressed me. Once I accepted it though, my focus centred on what’s important, what makes me happy.
The day started like any other on summer holiday. Sleep in, late breakfast (brunch for cafe goers), clad in boxer shorts that double as board shorts, followed by a barefoot walk down to the beach. I could see the storm clouds rolling in across the inlet. My eyes fixated on them, my mind telling me to make the most of the brewing surf before heading back to work. It’s exactly then, my day changed. At first, I thought a Bull ant bit me; the sting immeasurable. On closer inspection though, I had stepped on a syringe.
It had to be the syringe. Nothing else revealed itself from the grey sand that had swayed like soft hay just a minute before. I wanted to see a trail of Bull ants, but they were gone, knowing the storm was coming. Inspecting my heel, I noticed a blob of blood form. I’m unsure why, but I ran to the enraged swell and soaked my foot; the salty water stinging for a moment until my foot became comfortably numb. Reality quickly came back and I sort of hopped back to my tent, ripping it down and literally throwing it and everything else into the back of my van. It’s weird, I don’t remember putting my surfboard in, but I did.
Photo by Andrew Mansell
When you’re in the midst of things, in my case the worst of things imaginable, surely the last inclination should be to write. The worst of things happened to me a month ago when Jane disappeared into the ocean. We’d not even been engaged twenty-four hours, still dizzy in the wonder of love. A sense of mystery lingers in the mist enveloping Port Nepean, today. Perhaps the mystery was here last time but I was too much in love with Jane to notice. I approach an information tablet, the last thing Jane ever read. I’m reminded of the Bunurong people. For thousands of years, they inhabited this land. Jane didn’t last an hour, yet it’s her face I see, not the people inscribed on the tablet.
Cheviot Beach may keep its secrets but I’m resigned to search. The diving gear in my rucksack slows me a little as I scale the cyclone fence that seems symbolic, ornamental, a bit like speed bumps that only go half way across a road. I make it over, unscathed on the surface, all limbs intact. Underneath though, lost emotions from a month ago waste no time flooding back. Happiness radiated as Jane and I floated effortlessly over the fence. The champagne from lunchtime persuading us danger was easy. We even walked past the Parks Victoria sign warning of unexploded bombs as if it were just another dare. For Jane it was something we could talk about later on, something to revel in knowing the experience would bond us closer together. Today, it’s just me and my anxiousness but I’m determined to trace the exact route we took to the beach that day.
I move on, in between shrubs, stepping on a twig that cracks but doesn’t break. I imagine it to be the first click in the process of detonating a bomb. I should halt but instead walk faster, crunching more twigs that seem to mimic my pounding heart that has increased to a beat faster than hardcore techno. Something has to give – fortunately not my heart. The twigs dissipate as the rocky decline begins. I gasp and stop to see an image of myself in pieces, splayed everywhere, never to be put back together. I look toward the blue heavens with not one cloud blocking the way. Please, if it’s my fate for a bomb to take me, let it be on the way back.