Photo by Andrew M
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.
Beyond the lush farmland of Sandy Point and towering above Shallow Inlet, the Prom presents itself as a greener pasture despite its seeming isolation from the mainland. I can’t believe it has been 20 years since I watched the Prom dissipate the mist that grips with vapour like hands.
I would say the happiest times of my childhood were spent here on the farm with my seven sisters and mum while dad was away at war. The combined muscle of my not quite teenage slim frame and eight females was never enough to keep 600 acres of farmland in check. Fortunately for us, Uncle Jack helped mum with the heavy farm work despite having to maintain his own farm 3 miles away in the Fish Creek direction. Every time I offered to help Jack fix the plough or hunt the foxes that picked off our lambs, he patted me on the head and told me to go and look after my mother – suited me.
I would walk down to Shallow Inlet with my fishing rod and a pocket full of live worms. I’d catch the best flathead when the perfectly curled waves from Bass Straight broke and made their way to me on the inward tide. My mum was always more than grateful for the tucker. Once, I proudly brought back a flathead that was as long as a newborn lamb and she said,
‘Robert, we’ll be eating, nothing but fish for a week. You’ve saved us a chook again.’
While I fished there was plenty of waiting time between catches. I would stare endlessly at the Prom, transfixed by the magical rainbows that glittered through the surrounding mist. In the evenings I would paint the Prom’s fading colours and in the mornings, its fading darkness.
photo by Elizabeth Williams
My name is William Burns but most people either call me Will or Burnsy. As part of my so called healing process I have been asked to write about my experience with regards to, one could say, the hidden side effects of cigarette smoking. Once I have shown sincere remorse, I will be allowed back to school but with the strict conditions that I must donate one day a month of my own time to explain to other teenagers the perils of smoking and help build the new toilet block on Saturday mornings. Apparently the pictures of gangrenous teeth and tar laden lungs have minimal impact on my generation. Something in actual flesh seemed more realistic and I have agreed to exhibit the skin grafted side of my but cheeks. There’s no way I’m going to show my singed pubic hair. I had to draw the line somewhere. Anyway, a month after my so called incident, the skin grafts on my backside have heeled adequately for me to sit down and write without discomfort.
Photo by matildashelia
Unseasonal summer rain had allowed the grass to stay longer and greener than usual. Only a keen eye could spot the orange house brick near the back fence of 4 Safety Court, Mornington – an unimaginable home for most but not for Red Back spiders. Bella and her father could not contemplate living anywhere else, in what appeared on the surface a safe and secure home. Inside though, Bella was lost without a bedtime story. Every night she hoped for her mother to return with the last chapter about the animals who ran their own farm, instead she fell asleep aimlessly, imagining her mother’s voice. Despite several Daddy-long leg eyewitnesses, Bella refused to believe that her mother had been deliberately squashed as she neared the last page of the fantasy story.
One night, awakening after a webless dream, Bella crawled to her father and woke him with a question,
‘Are you sure Mum wasn’t squashed by accident?’
‘Yes, Bella,’ her father said glumly. ‘For thousands of years humans have wanted us extinct. They especially enjoy squashing females and it’s not just squashing – poisons, suffocation in glass jars.’ His jaw drooped. ‘I won’t go on but you must be very careful every time your red back leaves our brick.’
Bella could not accept her mother’s death was in cold blood but didn’t argue with her father. She simply asked, ‘surely nobody could be so cruel?’ She waited for an answer but her father’s weary face bore none and he turned away.
Photo by Pete Savin
Not that long ago, on an earth similar to ours, stood Windburne; a city where the wind never stopped. The city was founded near an ocean in which the waves permanently curved. Houses and buildings were built on slants with the house of bosses being the most crooked building of all. Trees naturally warped sideways and all the people of the town stood permanently bent over; occasionally scraping a big nose along the ground as they walked. The only things that appeared flat in Windburne were the ground and what lay directly upon it. Windburnians knew of the illusion though, as their history told them – the earth had always been round. For Winburnians life was normal and they knew no other way but to sit in their curved chairs and sleep in their crescent beds.
Timothy Bent was a typical Windburnian; that was until he reached the age of nine. At Timothy’s ninth birthday party, heavy raindrops shaped like mini flying saucers prevented any outdoor game or activity. Timothy was happy enough to read a borrowed copy of Bender while his elder brothers, Apollo and Eric, became restless. They started jumping on Timothy’s bed as if it were a trampoline.
Timy, Timy is a girly bee,
Doesn’t play football,
Can’t climb trees,
All he does is read fantasy,’ they teased.
‘Stop, stop, you pit-bulls,’ Timothy pleaded, holding back tears but his brothers bounced higher and higher with their heads almost touching the ceiling. Apollo put in one huge bounce in an effort to reach the ceiling but he and Eric came down with a thump. Timothy’s bed was broken. It was Timothy’s worst birthday ever. With no spare bed, Timothy was forced to sleep on the floor.
‘When can I get a new bed?’ Timothy asked his dad.
‘I’ll think about it if your behaviour improves,’ his dad barked back knowing next week’s wages were already earmarked for last month’s rent.
‘But what have I done?’ Timothy whimpered. ‘It wasn’t me.’
At first, Timothy was uncomfortable laying almost straight but as the days turned into weeks and then months, his back gradually straightened out until he was the first person in Windburnian history to walk with a straight back.