BOOK TITLE: The Australia Times - Fiction magazine. Volume 3, issue 7

Vol. 3 No. 7
July 2015
e team
The team behind the TAT Fiction
Whats on
Upcoming festivals and events in the writing world.
The clock hung on the wall of the café, mocking time,
suspending it forever between one hour and the next...’
e Intervening Act
‘Glamour and desire instantly fill the heart of
Camberwell, where at every turn you could be
walking into the TV industry or seeking fame...’
e Pen of Plenty
(or A Portrait of an Artist as the Entire Universe)
‘From this pen will spring forth an inexhaustible flow
of Magic...
The pain woke her. She bit down a whimper but
couldnt stop her body contracting...’
on page
on page
on page
on page
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
he beauty of fiction is its ability to open unexplored
doors for its readers. We are given the ability to slip
into other skins, inhabit different worlds, and gain in-
sight into things we have never before experienced. With the
turn of each page, we are faced with obstacles we hope we
never have to face in reality, but also the kinds of moments
and places that we can only dream of.
Through fiction, we become limitless.
Enjoy, and happy reading!
The Editor,
Meg Hellyer
We are always on the lookout for new writers and stories.
Please send your submissions by the 1st of July for inclusion in
the magazine.
Stories can be sent directly to the Editor at
For a look back at our past issues, click here.
e Australia Times Fiction Magazines
are now also on Facebook.
You can follow us
Vol. 3 No. 7
July 2015
We offer both veteran and undiscovered writers the opportunity to get published.
Have something to communicate, or an opinion to state, we are your voice!
Want to join a like minded community in a great project
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Hello readers, and
welcome to the
July edition of
TAT Fiction.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
here really is nothing better
during the winter than curling
up with a good read – and this
month, we denitely have plenty in store
for you.
Boris Glikman explores the divine act
of creation that is writing, and Danielle
Shelley Carr brings to life the magic of the
theatre. Derek Mortimer muses on
the passing of time, while Jonathan Robb
will have your skin crawling by the end
with a spine-tingling tale of inner strength
against the odds.
Sit back and relax. We hope you enjoy this
As ever, happy reading!
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Meg Hellyer is a freelance writer and editor
living in Melbourne. She has sub-edited for a
range of publications that include ArtsHub,
Ferntree Gully News, and e Pun, and is also
the author of several short stories.
Growing up surrounded by books, Meg has
always had a love of literature. When she is
not editing for e Australia Times, she often
nds herself writing about the people she
sees on trains.
You can nd out more about Meg at her
website, www.meghellyer.com.
Tristyn Harrison is a freelance writer and
amateur blogger with an interest in all things
out of the ordinary. She writes for herself
rst, shaping the raw mass of creation and
inspiration into stories that reach in and pluck
the heart-strings. She shares her ideas and her
work with her writing groups, both online at
e Writer’s Café, and at the NSW Writers
Centre in Sydney, and alternates between
working on her rst novel, perfecting her
craft, and revisiting the work of professional
authors who have shaped her lifes journey.
The team behind
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Alexia Derbas studied Writing and Cultural
Studies at the University of Technology,
Sydney. She writes all sorts of things and
doesnt do much else, though a great deal of
her time is spent bush walking. is occurs
under the guise of scouting out perfect
writing locations. Her work has appeared
in various publications including Seizure,
Voiceworks and the Spineless Wonders
Writing to the Edge anthology. She tweets
with regret @lexderbas.
James Noonan is a Melbourne-based writer
and editor who has held a number of
publishing roles locally as well as in New York.
He was the recipient of the Victorian Young
Writers’ Award in 2014, and his ction has
also appeared in Grith Universitys creative
writing anthology, Talent Implied. James
is currently working on his rst novel, and
at this rate will have it nished by the year
2030. By then he also hopes to have gotten a
match on Tinder.
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and events in
the writing
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Inspiring MindsIndependent Media
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Inspiring MindsIndependent Media
Derek Mortimer is currently
concentrating on short story
writing. His works include
young adult ction, childrens
stories, a novel, screenplays,
a TV miniseries, and radio
Derek loves to travel and recently
visited Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In
2013 he travelled in the remote
Kimberley, West Australia.
He feels passionate about
refugees and the mass movement
of people throughout the
world, driven by conict and
oppression, and the tumultuous
changes taking place across
He loves writing about emerging
generations and their role in the
contemporary world.
Derek lives in Sydney, Australia.
He has a BA in Eng Lit from
Macquarie University.
You can nd out more about
Derek at
derek mortimer
 :
Alexander Boden via Flickr Commons
“The clock hung on the wall of the café,
mocking time, suspending it forever
between one hour and the next...”
lthough she knew it was a joke, it still disturbed Dorothy, this clock with
only a minute hand. It hung on the wall of the café, mocking time,
suspending it forever between one hour and the next. e single hand
clicked round and round, pointing to the twelve sets of Roman numerals
on the grey, time-faded clock face in a ludicrous journey to nowhere.
It had been hanging on the same wall when Dorothy and Howard had come here
as they ed what they couldnt ee thirty-years ago. Howard had been dead ten
months now. Or was it eleven? Hard to keep track these days.
Maybe the clock had been donated as a joke from the railway museum across the
road – a comment on the unreliability of the states railways. For some reason it
reminded her of the street game “Whats the time, Mr Wolf?”
eir two children, Susan and Mark, had played the game outside the front of
the house with their friends when they were little. Innocent fun, a game in which
one of them would be Mr Wolf with their back to the others, who kept up a
chant of “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” as they crept closer and closer until nally
Mr Wolf spun round, chased, caught and “ate” one of them, the one who got too
close, the one who was the most daring. A symbolic game of life and death.
Both the clock and the game were linked forever in her mind to that horrendous
time three decades ago, ten-thousand-nine-hundred-and-fty days.
e café, an old station masters cottage, aptly-named the Whistlestop, was empty
so early in the morning, and it was a little chilly. Since her last visit with Howard,
sliding glass doors had been added to one section. is provided easier access to
the garden and tables set under the trees. It all looked very pleasant in the early
morning autumn sun.
e proprietor, a thin, smiling, blonde woman in her forties, a tree-changer
probably, brought her pot of tea and scones. e woman said shed found the
one-hand clock a bit weird when shed bought the place ten years ago, but kept
it because it gave customers something to remember the place by, and hopefully
to come again.
“Your rst time here?” the woman asked.
Dorothy smiled up at her, “Yes.
“You should go to the railway museum. It’s the best in Australia. ey run steam
trains on the weekend and over holidays. Just a few kilometres down the track
and back. People love it. Particularly kids — and older people. You should give it
a go. Bring back memories of the old days.
Dorothy smiled and nodded. She wanted to tell her to go away. But she didnt.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
If Howard had been here, he would be explaining to the woman that they had been
before, and why. en hed have launched into the full story, chapter and verse.
at had been the dierence between her and him. Howard unburdened himself
onto anyone, strangers waiting for a train or a tram, anyone in the diocese who
would listen. She didnt like sharing family grief. Howard drove her nearly mad at
times with his constant re-telling of the story to a horried audience. At times she
hated him for it, but she held her peace. Everyone has dierent ways of coping. She
locked her feelings in a little box inside her, hidden from family and strangers alike.
“Hope you enjoy your food,” the woman said, and nally left her in peace.
It was ridiculous, driving almost to Sydney, just to sit eating scones and thinking.
Nearly a thousand kilometres along the same escape route she had taken with
Howard such a long time ago. Increasing the distance from the place it happened
solved nothing. If that was all that was needed she could have own to Europe or
America, stretched out the pain until it was so thin it was no longer perceptible.
She hadnt told either Mark or his wife Linda what she was doing, instead leaving
a message on their voicemail saying she was going to stay with a friend for a few
days. Dorothy knew she was causing them concern and she felt bad about that.
ey had dropped more than one hint over recent years that a woman in her late
seventies should not be driving, particularly long distances. But Dorothy stood
her ground. e car was her independence and she was hanging on to it.
She would text Mark when she got back to the motel. Linda was more than a
little on the aloof side, but Dorothy knew her daughter-in-law felt a responsibility
towards her, aection even.
* * * *
As a child, Susan had always been cautious. Dorothy liked to think it was mostly a
Howard trait. Susan was vivacious, even as a little girl and, right from the beginning, a
people-person, but cautious. She didnt climb a tree without rst testing the branches.
So it had come as something of a surprise when she married David, until Dorothy
thought about it. David was as reckless as Susan was cautious. He was always pushing
boundaries, living on the edge, the child in the street game who got the closest to Mr
Wolf, and was the eetest of foot when Mr Woolf spun around and gave chase. is
was probably the reason he was a commercial pilot. Up there in the sky with no rm
ground beneath. Susan was attracted to him because he was so dierent to anyone in
the family, or her close circle of friends around church. e yin and the yang.
With their usual abundance of youthful enthusiasm, Susan and David had urged
Dorothy and Howard to go to New Zealand, where Mark was doing a physiology
PhD. at the University of Auckland. Howard needed to take a break from parish
responsibility, they argued. When Dorothy wondered whether a visit would
interfere with Marks studies he had pooh-poohed the idea.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
“New Zealand is awesome. Mountains, forest, ords, glaziers. Go while you can,
Susan had coaxed, as though she and Howard knew nothing about the place.
Howard, as usual, was reluctant to hand over the church to anyone else, even so
he could have a much-deserved holiday, but some of his parishioners urged him
on. We’ll survive without you, they joked. So Dorothy and Howard went. And
Susan was right, New Zealand was ‘awesome’. e land was green and wet and
lush, particularly after a scorching Melbourne summer and a drought which had
extended beyond summer into autumn.
Mark was happy to show his parents around Auckland before their planned tour
of the South Island.
Susan rang them every day, or they rang her, juggling the time dierence, asking
the ritual questions, “Whats the weather like? Is everything okay?”
“Dont forget to water the garden. If you dont keep it alive you’ll be in big trouble
when I get back,” Dorothy had joked to Susan.
Howard even stopped worrying about the church for a while.
* * * *
A family came into the café – mum, dad, and a small boy. ey were laughing
and joking together. Dorothy smiled at them and the parents nodded in response.
Dorothy thought, as she often did, how she would probably have been a grandmother
to not only Mark and Lindas family, but to Susan and David’s, too. Maybe even a
great grandmother. It was something she and Howard never discussed.
e father pointed out the one-handed clock to the small boy. “Whats the time?”
he asked.
Dorothy wondered what sort of life the boy had had before him. Long and trouble
free, as far as that was possible? Or beset by trouble? Would it be short? Or long?
e boy went up close and peered up at the clock trying to see if there was
another hand behind the single one.
“It’s weird,” he said, and his parents laughed.
Weird. Yes, time is weird, Dorothy thought, particularly when you try to cheat it.
Time goes in one direction only. ere is the moment, and there is the memory
of the moment.
* * * *
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Mark had booked Dorothy and Howard into a pleasant little B&B close to his
little two-room at near the uni. He would collect them at 9:30 Sunday morning
to take them to church.
But shortly after midnight there was a frantic knocking on their door. Dorothy
clambered out of bed, half asleep. It was Mark. He stumbled into the room
without speaking and grabbed her. He held her so tight she could hardly breathe.
His body convulsed with shudders.
Howard’s bulky form appeared by their side. He put his arms around Marks
shoulders. “What is it? Mark!” His calm and deliberate voice masked the growing
unease in the pit of his stomach.
Mark still could not speak. e three stood, locked together between the open
door and a rumpled bed, Marks anguish passing through them like the tremors
of an earthquake.
Howard steered his son to the edge of the bed and propped him up. “Mark?
“Mark. Mark! Tell us,” Dorothy pleaded as she knelt by his side.
Mark shook his head backwards and forwards so violently that his tears splashed
Dorothys face. His silence turned into sobs.
Between the sobs, Mark told them. e police had just rung him from Melbourne.
Susan and David were dead.
David had been driving his Triumph TR7, the car that was the pride of his life.
He was on his way to Lilydale Airport with Susan. It was raining heavily, the rst
time for months. Travelling at high speed, David had lost control on the wet road
and skidded head-on into a tree. He died instantly. Susan died by the side of the
road shortly after the ambulance arrived.
Howard crushed Mark to him. Dorothy watched her husband’s face contort into
a crumpled ugly mask of grief, like some grotesque gargoyle. He bit so hard on
his lips to quell his sobs that blood stained his teeth. Dorothy remained kneeling
on the oor, her hands clamped around Marks legs.
“No! No!” she moaned and buried her head. ey clung together in grief, mother,
father and son.
Eventually Dorothys sobs subsided. She pulled herself upright and sat on the bed,
where she silently twisted the sleeve of her dressing gown around and around, her
face like a wet, crumpled bag. Howard and Mark still clung together, muing
their sobs in each others body.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Suddenly Dorothy straightened, as though an electric shock had passed through her.
“Howard! Mark! Listen to me. Listen! Auckland’s in a dierent time meridian to
Melbourne, were ahead of them. Its Sunday morning here, in Melbourne its still
Saturday night. I can stop the accident happening. If I ring Susan I can tell her
not to get in the car. Tell her to stop David driving. Lock the doors. She can hide
the key. en it cant happen can it? We can stop it.
Dorothy picked up the phone. “Whats the overseas code for Australia?
Oh, I cant remember. Howard, what is it? Hurry. Hurry!”
Dorothy rummaged around in her bag. She tipped the contents onto the phone
table. Keys, coins, purse, tissues, tickets, pens, cough sweets all cascaded to the
oor. She scrambled through the pile until she found her contacts book.
“Found it! Found it! I’ve got it Howard! Mark!”
Dorothy began to dial.
Howard stood. He wiped the smear of blood from his chin with the palm of his hand.
“Dont! Dorothy. Dont. For God’s sake. eyre dead.
He tried to take the phone from Dorothy. She pushed him away violently.
He tried again. “Please. Dont,” he begged.
Dorothy turned her back to him, blocking his clutching hands. She hunched
over the phone and kept dialling.
“No. Please no,” Howard implored as he attempted to smother her in his arms.
* * * *
A phone rang in a house in grey, wet Melbourne. A voice answered. “is is Susan
and David. Were not home right now, leave a message and we’ll get back to you.
Dorothy replied breathlessly, “Susan, Mum here. is is really urgent.
Understand? Really, really urgent. e most important thing ever. Dont go out in
the car. Under no circumstances.” She repeated the message, her voice breaking.
“Ring me as soon as you get this. I’ll explain. We love you.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Dorothy put the phone down. She turned and buried her face into Howard’s
neck. “Please, please God, make her check her voice mail.
* * * *
e couple with their little boy had eaten and gone. Dorothys tea was cold in the
cup. e scones were uneaten. A skin had formed on the cream. e proprietor
of the café popped her head around the door to see if Dorothy was still there.
Dorothy had asked herself many times – why Susan? Why us? Why me? en she
was ashamed for even thinking such things. Why not Susan? Why not me? Why
not us? Life was random. People were put on the earth by God, but he wasnt a
puppet master. He didnt control someone driving a car, or whether it rained or not.
But the question would not go away. Why? Why anything?
e Whistlestop Café was lling with people looking forward to a ride on the
train, a journey to “bring back memories,” the cafe owner had said.
What if everything we do is laid down in memory, but we are only able to
remember only a tiny fraction of it? Some neuroscientists believe that everything
we experience, everything we do and think is there in the brain. Maybe one day
people will be able to re-wind memories like a DVD, selecting the best ones,
including the ones that have long been buried. Dorothy smiled to herself at the
thought. People would have to live another lifetime to re-view the rst life, then
another, to review the second and what they thought while doing it. And so on
forever. Would that be innity?
A tear escaped and Dorothy stopped it with her serviette.
It was time to go. She looked at the one-handed clock on the wall. How long has
she been sitting here? An hour? Two hours? All day? irty years?
She got up and walked out the door.
“Have a good day. Drive carefully,” the proprietor called after her.
Dorothy saw the woman watching as she walked down the path and climbed into
her car, parked in the shade of a large camphor laurel tree.
* * * *
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Danielle Shelley Carr holds
a Bachelor of Arts in Media
Studies, and won a First Prize
in poetry in a national writing
competition at age 14,
judged by Phillip Adams.
Her rst published book is
Blood For St Valentine, a Gothic
thriller set in Melbourne,?
followed by selected poetry,
Ellipse, and short ction, in
Raiders of the Headland and
other stories, including the
e Lady of Tangiers.
Her other poetry includes
song lyrics, e Red Room -
Jane Eyre, in Windmills ?
(Deakin) and is Swirling
Saron Mystery, in Southerly
(University of Sydney).
In 2014 Danielle Shelley Carr
completed a Master of Arts in
Writing and Literature; her
thesis, Psychological Reections
on Post-Modernist Gothic
Literature, is published with
Deakin University.
danielle shelley carr
 :
Wikimedia Commons
‘Glamour and desire instantly
fill the heart of Camberwell,
where at every turn you could be
walking into the TV industry
or seeking fame...’
 :
Andrew Kruspe
part one
venue of the
lamour and desire instantly ll the heart of Camberwell,
where at every turn you could be walking into the TV
industry or seeking fame within the pages of a poetry book.
eres a touch of class, if you come into Camberwell and step into
that main thoroughfare, where every bystander looks like an actress.
It’s here at the Rivoli where you dreamt in the scenes of those feature
lms, in between those adolescent years of striving and yearning,
and then looked for the book from which the lm was made.
Closed within darkness, walls of sound, those trembling orchestra
strings play out emotion descending, in interweaving texture, into
the street, where warmth from the pizza restaurant spreads into the
night. Your mind, mired with the character, dwells on the subjects
and feelings from the lm, still stirring.
Allira walks past the window, the elegant oval-shaped mirrors that
are like little moons pulling her deep within time itself, into a
bygone era, the 1930s. e ivory angora coat envelops her from
Melbourne’s sharp autumn chill. e glow of tiany lamps amidst
the setting sun is reected in the window. e shape of the oval
mirror was pleasing in that just enough of the Canterbury street was
included, and also framed Allira, from her head to her shoulders,
the pedestrians rushed by, in an angle of the street. Around the
outer edges of the watch she wore was a worn, yet seductive gold
plating, and the white fur gloves just surfaced in the tipped bottom
corner. She envisioned exiting the cinema, in these gloves, into
the warmth of the smoke-lled air, and feeling like real theatre
people should feel. e fur and the diamonds, encrusted in the
watch band, sparkled together. Edwardian characteresque buildings
pulled her into a smallish but cosy room, where she saw herself by
an iron mantled replace lled with glowing timbers, sitting still
and silently, reading a poetry volume from a Canterbury book shop.
She walked inside the store, and asked the assistant, ‘Are they pure
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Yes they are,’ said the woman. Her greyish wisps of hair were pulled
back with a tiger clip embossed in gold and violet. e assistant
walked to the front window, as she asked, ‘Would you like to try
them on?’ She reached in between the gloves, and the watch, and
gently passed them to Allira, who pulled each one separately over
her hands. e assistant strolled back to the counter, and continued
to check her sales receipts. Allira turned the mirror around so
that now it framed the space remaining of the store interior. She
delighted in its shimmering dresses, and nooks, and stairs winding
up to another level.
Well, what do you think?’ asked the assistant, passing her, as she
moved to the front to hang up a woolen red cardigan.
‘Delightful,’ Allira chose her words eloquently. e assistant smiled
and returned to struggling with the cardigan onto the hanger.
Allira turned to the mirror to fully absorb her reection. A formally
attired man passed in the street, looked to her, tipped his hat, and
walked on. e mirrors throughout the store relayed the street in her
mirror. She walked out amidst the fragile beauty of the Canterbury
boulevard. He was nowhere to be captured, but she had felt like he
didnt really belong there; he was from another era.
Allira looked at her watch. It was getting late. She was on usher
duty that evening at the Hellenium eatre in Russell Street. She
quickly sheltered inside the store, and said to the woman who had
been watching her skeptically, ‘I’ll buy them.’ ey were worth it,
despite their exclusive price, because they would provide her with a
path of escape to that other world she longed for.
e woman wrapped them up neatly in brown paper, and handed
them back to her.
And what are your plans for this evening?’
‘I work nights at the Hellenium, the historical theatre on Russell
A job more glamorous than most jobs, so that the assistant was
left speechless. Allira left, waving the shop assistant goodbye. ere
would be more people to meet at the Hellenium, and many of them
bedecked in vibrant costumes.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
part two
eliberations in C Minor
Allira had always loved the atmosphere of the theatre, the curtains
and lights that intermitted between dierent shades of emotion
and thought; but the job itself broadened her mind in ways not
Instead, she was made to stand and guard the doors through most
of the second act, with no specic task or duty to perform. Just
after the curtains opened, Allira waited to guide late patrons to their
destination, but after a couple of emotionless passersby, she was
left by herself on the stairs, hoping to see the cast of actors tiptoe
secretly through, halfway caught between stages of performance.
Left alone on the stairs to think, Allira would meditate deeply into
the soul and heart of the theatre, itself, as she knew its mystery. It
had been renovated in parts, in keeping with theatrical innovations.
However, its modern air ended where the barrier to the world of the
supernatural began.
To the Dress Circle; past an array of mirrors, she bumped into
Arthur, the experienced usher. ‘Youre across the other side of the
theatre,’ he whispered. rough the doors, he was pointing straight
to a curved wall, with curtains partitioning it, hiding an alcove
where spare cushions and a seat for the usher were kept.
Your job is to look at the seating specied on the ticket, and lead
patrons down to the correct aisle. e seating descends from L to
A. C row is the best seating in the house. Do you know the story of
the missing actor of the theatre? He is said to show up in the Dress
Circle on opening night.
Allira shook her head, stunned.
An actor vanished following a performance,’ Arthur told his
story above the greenish glow of his torch. ‘He delivered the nal
monologue, during a performance of Frankenstein, adapted by the
world acclaimed director of the 1880s, Lawrence Berringer, before
completely vanishing. ere is a photo of the man who disappeared
here, downstairs.’
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
When the bell rang signifying intermission, Arthur showed her the
photograph. Just next to the olde kiosk, he presented a black and
white portrait of a distinguished man in an evening suit, within a
frosted oval frame. Allira studied him closely. He had striking bone
structure, unlike anyone you would see in town today.
e inscription read: Charles Hampton. Actor appearing in; Dracula,
1880, Prometheus Unbound, 1881, e Triumph of Life, 1882
and, Frankenstein 1883. Born 1846 - disappeared 1883 during a
performance, presumed dead.
‘It’s time to go back on duty,’ said Arthur. ‘Gwendolyn Harworth
who is the lead actress will be singing “Kind of Woman” in the
Second Act, that’s a highlight of the show.’
When entering the Grand Circle, the top tier of the theatre with
its steep descent, echoed with a century of theatre attendance.
Many older patrons were seated in the Grand Circle, in the babble
of excitement, amidst the melliuous sound of strings of a live
orchestra warming up.
e tier of the theatre where Allira now stood seemed to spin in
front of her, tumbling down straight into the heart of the stage. e
steps themselves were far too tiny and close together for her to step
upon. She felt like she was falling.
‘Not many sta last up here,’ said the usherette Elvina, ‘for one of
the usherettes who worked here, it was as though they could literally
feel that a man had struggled against death, they could sense his
heart failing. It was as though there was a scent of death in the air.’
Allira looked at her fellow worker; her chest seemed to heave sweatily
as she acted the theatre patrons symptoms out again. Her words were
punctuated with rapid breath, her eyes dilated emphatically as she
told of his condition. Allira felt a sense of panic well up inside of her.
‘I cant breathe, either,’ Allira said, ‘I can really sense it. I feel dizzy,
I think I should go downstairs.
‘I can ring the front of house manager, Mrs Clair for you if you
arent feeling well.’ Elvina pointed to a red phone attached to the
Yes, ring her,’ said Allira. ‘I hope I can do my shift in the stalls.’
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Elvina waited for a few moments, and kept pressing the button, to
no avail. ‘I cant get her.’ As she hung up, she looked at the receiver,
puzzled, and then bewildered at Allira, ‘Shes a very busy lady…
Already the audience was swelling into the Grand Circle, and
Elvina was forced to the top of the Grand Circle stairs to check their
tickets and guide them to Allira. Allira ran across to the opposite
side, where she received the tickets of three old ladies, together, and
assisted them down the stairs.
‘I cant step down,’ said the old lady with purple tinged hair, she
held out her arm weakly to Allira, and Allira, untrained, had to
improvise how she would help her. She reluctantly took her arm
and helped her down the steep steps, one by one. Her eyes tipped
over the balcony and she spied the set dressing; the revolving set of
Pippin, ready for the opening number. A lone actress sat, unmoving
on stage, completely oblivious of the audience, her face hidden by
a golden Medieval mask.
e woman gripped Alliras arm so tightly that Allira felt like she
was assisting someone to a lifeboat from a sinking ship, rather than
ushering someone through the theatre.
‘Can I just sit on the end, here?’ asked the woman, even though her
ticket suggested she was more in the middle of the row. ‘I have a
weak heart.’
Allira remembered Elvinas story about the man with heart disease,
so she surrendered this kindness to the patron.
‘I feel faint,’ she then said, gripping her face with her hands.
‘Is it too far up for you?’ asked Allira.
Allira was confounded by the fact that others shared her feelings
about this part of the theatre; it wasnt just her imagination.
‘I feel the presence of the man who disappeared in 1883. I know
hes here, tonight!’
* * * *
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They create hope for the future, strength to battle life-threatening illness and
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Make-A-Wish Advertisement FA.pdf 1 4/09/14 12:41 PM
To seriously ill children
around Australia, wishes
are powerful.
They create hope for the future, strength to battle life-threatening illness and
joy from their unique once in a lifetime wish experience. Help us unleash the
incredible power of wishes by donating today!
makeawish.org.au | 1800 032 260
Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and
philosopher. e biggest inuences
on his writing are dreams, Kafka,
Borges and Dali. His stories,
poems and non-ction articles have
been published in various e-zines
and print publications. Boris has
appeared a number of times on the
radio, including Australian national
radio, performing his poems and
stories and discussing the meaning
of his work.
He says: “Writing for me is a
spiritual activity of the highest
degree. Writing gives me the
conduit to a world that is
unreachable by any other means, a
world that is populated by Eternal
Truths, Ineable Questions and
Innite Beauty. It is my hope that
these stories of mine will allow the
reader to also catch a glimpse of
this universe.
Boris welcomes feedback and
can be contacted by email at
You can nd more of
his writings in his blog:
boris glikman
(or A Portrait of an
Artist as the Entire Universe)
 :
Wikimedia Commons
part i
Take this Boris, may it serve you well!”, a booming voice
commanded, as a hand, holding a shining writing implement,
extended towards me.
I was all of thirteen years old when the Hand from Above
bestowed the Pen of Plenty upon me.
“You shall be my voice! I shall speak through you with this pen.
You shall be a conduit to that Other Reality, the one inhabited
by Eternal Truths, Innite Beauty and Ineable Questions.
From this pen will spring forth an inexhaustible ow of Magic,
you will not be able to help begetting works of perfection, each
one more perfect than the one before it.
ere is a price to pay. You will not be able to feel, smile, laugh,
love, pursue ordinary human activities. You will only be able to
write, writing alone shall be your existence.
You shall move solely in the Innite, Eternal, Universal sphere.
You will capture and portray through your writings every
permutation, manifestation and aspect of life, yet you shall
remain cut o from mankind.
is pen shall be the bathyscaphe with which you will descend
to the lowest abysses, and it shall be the alpenstock with
which you will ascend to the highest heights not yet scaled
by mankind. e world will ostracise, scorn, misunderstand,
persecute, laugh at you and it will cherish, adore, worship,
celebrate you. But you will stay numb, unmoved by both love
and loathing.
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You will not know how to be young, yet you will not grow old
and will stay a man-child, for, by not partaking in the outer
world, you shall be free of its deleterious eects.
You will give life to an innity of uniquely bizarre, wondrous
realities, yet you yourself will be a mere metaphor, an empty
shell of a shadow, never being able to feel real, concrete. e
worlds you engender will be suused with sensation and
meaning, while your own outer reality will be bare, senseless
and pedestrian by comparison.
is pen shall be the ame that will illuminate truths as
yet invisible, you will help others nd their identity, will
bring clarity and enlightenment to humanity, will reveal the
underlying, inner structure of existence, yet you will be forever
lost, confused, at odds with yourself and the world, drifting
aimlessly through existence, a jellysh in the ocean of life.
is pen shall speak with a thousand voices, inducing hysterical
laughter, uncontrollable tears, twisting minds into Moebius
strips, creating transcendental beauty that will stop others dead
in their tracks, dumbfounded with awe, even if they have had
just a eeting contact with it, but you will be blind and deaf
to its powers and will stay frozen inside. You will feel no pride
or pleasure in your creations, for you will know that you are
merely a conduit.
But even though this is a Pen of Creative Cornucopia, one day
it shall run out and will write no more. Consequently, writing
will be the hardest and most terrifying task of your existence,
for you will be forever insecure, not knowing when you no
longer will be able to create any more. Yet, before that time
comes, you shall be ooded with a ceaseless deluge that will
demand every instant of your life and your very sanity.
Once you take this pen, it can never be un-taken, you can never
disown it or rid yourself of it.
e voice stopped. I waited a while for it to resume, but it
remained silent. en, with childish, reckless eagerness, I
extended my hand upwards, to meet the hand reaching down
from above, caring not at all about the consequences.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
part ii
e Writer sits in his room, writing at his desk. He has access
to the deepest secrets and mysteries of the Universe, but the
question that the whole world, from the tiniest and simplest
organism upwards, seems to know the answer to, he can not
solve: “Why live?”
e Writer is torn apart by two contradictory thoughts that
occupy his mind simultaneously and seem equally valid. He
is certain that he is blind to a fundamental truth that the rest
of the world is in possession of, for how else can one explain
the whole world choosing life over death and existing with a
purpose, something that he is not capable of. Yet he also knows
that he is in possession of a fundamental truth that the rest of
the world is blind to, for if it was privy to this truth, it would
not be able to live in certainty.
e Writer is triply trapped by his room, his mind and his pen.
Occasionally, overcome by curiosity and longing, he steals a
brief, wistful glimpse, through the window, of the world outside
that is teeming and pulsating with life in all of its innite
variations, life that he can never be a part of and whose simple
pleasures he could never enjoy or grasp the meaning of. Other
times he catches sight of a sliver of the sky that is visible to
him from his sitting position. But he immediately feels guilty
for neglecting his sacred task and hurriedly resumes scribbling,
letter after letter, word after word, sentence after sentence, in
his notebooks of madness.
Life passes him by, and then death passes him by too. He has
no time for life and he has no time for death either. Neither
life nor death can arouse his interest or get their hands on
him, and just as he has forgotten all about time, so time has
forgotten all about him. In any case, the Writer can not die,
for the pen is still working and so he must keep on writing, for
his commitment to his pen is greater than his commitment to
life and death.
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Years, centuries, millennia, billions of years elapse. e Sun
expands into a red giant and then collapses into a white dwarf.
e stars are torn apart by the forces of the Universes expansion,
and the protons themselves rot into pieces. Cosmos begins to
wind down, all of its energy having dissipated and turned into
useless forms. en the fabric of space-time dissolves.
Still, the Writer remains writing at his desk, which is now
oating in vacuum, separate from time and space. Now and
then he sneaks looks at the outside world, even though nothing
remains there but pure nothingness.
And then, for the very rst time, something leads the Writer to
take a close look at the pen he was gifted with. He examines it
carefully and notices the faded blue letters forming the words
MADE IN CHINA etched on its side. Distant memories come
ooding back to him, memories of his mother buying pens
at the local supermarket, for the start of the new school year;
memories of the bare walls of the bathroom that distorted the
acoustics, and how he liked to speak to himself there and listen
to his boy voice transforming into the stentorian voice of a
man. He remembers standing in the bathroom and hearing a
million voices calling out his name, then turning around and
seeing all of humanity in the mirror looking back at him, as his
left hand passed the pen to his right hand.
e Writer now realises that he is the Creator. Having had
encompassed the Universe with his mind, the Writer expands
to encompass the Universe with his body, so that the Universe
and the Writer become one and the same, identical entities,
coinciding precisely with one another.
With quiet satisfaction the Writer slowly puts the pen down
and that is how the Universe (and this story) ends, not with a
bang or a whimper, but with a .
* * * *
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Fuelled by a love of writing,
Jonathan nished high-school
and completed a writing course.
en, fuelled by a love of
obtaining a liveable income, he
obtained a Bachelor of Nursing.
ese days, Jonathan works as a
district nurse in the North-West
suburbs of Melbourne, and
writes ction and non-ction in
his spare time.
You can read more of his words
jonathan robb
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Graphic story. May leave skin crawling.
 :
Image courtesy of karaian via Flickr Commons
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e pain woke her. She bit down a whimper but couldnt stop her body
contracting in a ball as her throbbing muscles spasmed. Teagan opened her
eyes, already exhausted, and saw it was still dark. Her arm stretched out and
found an empty expanse of mattress. e taste of copper coated her tongue
and she wanted to spit, but her mouth was too dry. She threw back her
sheets, shivering at the exposure. Her skin was feather-touch sensitive and
the spread of goose-bumps was like a wave of cinders prickling her esh.
She stood and clutched a cluttered dresser until her head stopped spinning
then staggered into her ensuite. Her eyes watered as she icked on the light
and she blinked, focusing on her reection in the mirror. She found three
black-headed boils on her right arm, two on her left, and one nestled in the
fold of her right eye. ey looked like the burnt heads of matches buried
in her skin, each surrounded by a halo of wet red esh. She realised she
was hunched and she straightened, her teeth grinding against the sensation
of over-stretched ligaments. Her ngers fumbled with her singlet as she
pulled it over her head, a cry jumping from her throat, harsh and brittle in
the quiet. She wriggled out of her underwear and stood naked on the tiles,
a gleam of sweat now covering her body despite the pre-sunrise cold. She
would have found her reection satisfying if not for the ten black boils
standing out like bullet-holes on her breasts and abdomen.
She pushed the frosted glass of her shower door to the side and stepped
into the sterile box. A ledge was built into one of the walls, designed
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to hold shampoo bottles and soap, and she lifted a scalpel from it with
ngers that trembled. She squeezed the metal handle, and the shaking
e touch of the blade-tip to a boil on her left arm was like a cherry hot
poker driven hard into her tender tissue. Her neck locked as she repressed
the screaming of her nervous system, and she eased the metal edge through
the inamed skin and under the black core. She couldnt stop her chest
from heaving, her breaths ragged, shallow things, but her movements
were slow and deliberate as she twisted the blade. She thought briey of
coring an apple. Her knuckles were white around the scalpel as she lifted
it, keeping it level, a small black ball balanced on its at in a pool of
blood. She chewed her lip as she moved, and the musical sound of metal
on ceramic rang as she tapped the blade down on the shower ledge. e
parasite tumbled onto the shelfs tiles and she nally let herself register the
thunderhead of pain bottled within her arm, her body buckling around
it. She counted to thirty before wiping away tears and focusing on the
microscopic crustacean.
It glistened with her blood, its dark exoskeleton painted red. She leaned in
and picked out the tiny pins of its legs and the almost imperceptible stalks
protruding from its head. She stabbed down, the pinpoint tip of the scalpel
braking the parasite with the sound of a seed popping between ngernails.
She felt a grim satisfaction that guttered as she looked to the next boil.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
She worked through those she could see rst and did the rest by touch.
Shed found using the mirror disorientating, her reection moving opposite
to how she anticipated. Extracting the crustacean from beside her eye felt
like ramming the scalpel down to its handle into her skull, and it was ve
minutes before she could control herself enough to skewer the squirming
pest. Droplets of blood patterned the shower oor like some giant inkblot
test, but she felt too lonely and weak to want to know what shed see in it.
She turned the tap and watched the water turn pink and disappear down
the drain, carrying with it a handful of dissected black corpses. She was
clean again for another day.
* * *
A bell hanging on the back of the door rang as Teagan pushed it open, and
she stepped into the air-conditioned cool of the small grocery store. Long
halogen globes lit the cramped aisles of shelving and she noticed some
sections were bare of the usual crowd of foodstu. She plucked a plastic
basket from the pile by her feet and shued into the aisles.
She found the tinned soups and began transferring a few to her basket.
e meagre weight of the cans caused her new wounds to split and she
paused, nostrils aring, while she suocated the pain. She felt a trickle run
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
down her arm and thought to get more band-aids while she was there. e
tin in her hand was dressed with a label depicting a sumptuous bowl of
chicken and vegetable soup, and her stomach revolted at the thought of
food, lurching within her until she tasted bile. She lowered the can into her
basket nevertheless.
She wandered through the store, past the empty milk fridges and abandoned
bakery section, trying to stimulate the smallest hint of appetite. After ten
minutes her body ached and she was so tired it felt as if weights had been
strapped to her limbs. She made her way to the register with only her ve
cans of soup and a box of band-aids lling her basket.
A thin-faced man with silver hair and a round gut stood behind the register,
his eyes looking through a pair of glasses at a newspaper. He glanced up and
a look of pity sagged his features. She found it within her to smile, but it
was a dry thing.
He returned her greeting with a soft smile of his own, but his eyes remained
drawn. ‘Darl, you are looking pale. Are you doing all right?’
‘Good morning, Martin. I’m okay, thanks.’ She dropped the basket on the
oor and began lifting cans to the bench, repressing a frustrated sigh as her
arm shook.
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You could have fooled me. Pardon my saying so, but you look like death.
You given any more thought to the treatment?’
‘I’m not that bad.’ She bit her tongue as the baskets edge found a wound on
her leg. ‘You getting much business?’
He pued out his cheeks and let his breath go in a burst. ‘No, not really.
But I’ll stay open.’
‘ank God you are.’ She smiled, stretching the hollows of her face. ‘I’d
probably be eating the old tins of dog food from the pantry by now if it
wasnt for you.
He raised a brow and grunted, and began tapping at the keys of his till.
‘Least I could do. I took a swim that day along with everybody else. Why
those things stayed away from me, I dont know. But they say I’m immune,
so, if I can stay here, I may as well do some good.
Youre keeping us going, Martin.
His eyes ickered over her face, regarding her through his spectacles.
‘Idont think I am, darl. Why dont you get the treatment, eh? It’s killing
me watching you waste away like this. I know the side-eect seems bad, but
surely its better than dying? Weve had ve deaths already, you know?’
And twenty whove recovered. I’ll take those odds.’ She handed out a bill
and he exchanged it for her bag of groceries.
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‘ink about what you have to live for.’
‘I am.’ She smiled against the pain as she lifted the bag from the bench.
‘anks, Martin.’
He shook his head and waved a farewell as she strolled away between the
shelving. An elderly woman tottered from around the head of the aisle and
Teagan stepped to the side to let her pass. e woman looked up, her eyes
darting to the fresh wound on Teagans face.
‘Oh dear.’ Her skin was like warm weathered silk as she laid her hand on
Teagans arm. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, love. How are you holding up?’
Teagan felt tears pushing behind her eyes and blinked to hold them back.
‘I’m okay.’
You hang in there, all right?’
‘I will. ank you.
e old woman patted her hand, her face creasing as she smiled, and then
she continued down the length of the store. Teagan took a shuddering
breath, allowing just for a minute the ever-present ache in her muscles to
wash through her. She drooped, then straightened, and headed out of the
shop into the heat of the day, the bell ringing as she left.
* * *
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
She let her bag drop to the oorboards and collapsed into the closest dining-
set chair. Her head fell into her folded arms on the table and she closed her
eyes, blocking out the sunlight splashing through her house, wanting only
darkness for a moment.
Martins words were an echo she couldnt help but hear. ‘…I know the
side-eect seems bad, but surely its better than dying?’
She sat up, but kept her eyes shut, laying her hands at on the tabletop. She
tried to orientate herself spatially, envisioning the open plan of the kitchen
behind her and the lounge room to her right, then stood. She rocked on the
balls of her feet and clutched the tables edge to regain her balance. Once she
was sure of herself, she set out.
With her eyes closed, she found her sense of distance warped, hands ailing
as she anticipated nding a wall but hitting only empty air. She stubbed
her toe into the leg of the coee table, pain corkscrewing through the digit,
but she smirked at the sensation. It seemed a shallow thing compared to
what she endured each morning. Her knuckles smacked into the frame of a
bookshelf and she patted at the aligned spines, pulling out a book. It opened
it her hands and the pads of her ngers traced a dry page. It was smooth to
her touch and blank in her mind’s eye. She let the pages itter, each uniform
and empty in the darkness, until the cover closed.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
She fumbled the book back into its slot and let her hands guide her
along the wall. She struck a photo frame, sending it leaping from its
hook, and she slapped her palm against it to stop it from falling. She
knew the photo well and loved the memory it captured of her family,
but as she turned it between her hands it was only cold glass and rough
wood. Tears leaked between the gaps of her eyelashes, and she sunk
to her knees and sobbed, photo clutched tight to her chest and eyes
squeezed shut.
* * *
e lapping of the water lulled her already sleep-deprived body and she
was tempted to let her knees buckle and collapse into the warm soft sand.
Instead, she kept her tired body moving, strolling further along the curve
of beach.
Harsh orange plastic netting had been strung between sand and ocean,
keeping away anyone whod had their heads buried for the past two weeks
and still thought it a good idea to go for a swim. e barrier cut across the
marine landscape like a line of grati but the beauty of the scene still stirred
her. She supposed she should feel resentful towards the calm blue bay, the
source of her infestation, but the smell of salt water and the cry of gulls
soaked into her frail bones, soothing her.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
She wandered, her feet leaving a wavering line of prints in the sand behind
her, content to keep her throbbing limbs marching and her mind blank. She
hurt and was exhausted, but knew she would feel the same at home and was
sick to her stomach of her empty bed. She followed her feet and they led
her, inexorably, to the surf club.
e grey brick building squatted on the margin of sand and grassy scrub,
a newly erected white medic tent perched outside its entrance. A bored
looking young man sat at a fold-out table under the shade of the canvas, a
pen twirling in one hand, his ngers of the other icking at the screen of
his phone.
Teagan stopped, but found the act of standing a trial, her knees shaking
as she fought to remain upright, so she lowered herself crossed-legged into
the warm dry sand before her legs gave out. Grains sifted under her skin,
abrasive like a cats lick, and she hoped when the time came shed have the
energy to stand again.
Movement caught her attention and she looked to see a middle-aged woman
being escorted from the surf clubs double doors, through the white tent.
Even with the distance, she could see the pearly circular scars on the womans
arms where budding crustaceans had been dug away, and she absently traced
her own scars. An ebony skinned man in blue scrubs guided the woman,
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one large hand resting on the centre of her back. Teagan reasoned he must
be one of the immune, now volunteering his time. She could see his lips
moving as he fed a stream of words to the woman who nodded and clutched
tight to his other arm. e womans head swivelled, her mass of auburn
curls bobbing on her head, and Teagan saw her eyes. A fog of cataract dulled
the irises and pupils. It looked as if she’d stared at the sun too long and the
colour had been bleached from her orbs.
e treatment had expelled the hibernating crustaceans from her body, and
had taken her vision as payment.
A cry splintered the air and suddenly the womans arms were windmilling, her
upper body careening forward while her feet tap-danced on the pavement,
trying for purchase. e volunteer hooked an arm around her waist and
pulled her upright while speaking in the hushed tones usually reserved for
frightened animals. e woman broke into heaving sobs and she refused to
move, just hanging her head and crying. e man held her hand and kept
at his consoling, and after a minute she took a small shaky step. e breeze
changed and Teagan caught the mans words.
‘...you can go meet your family and hear their voices. You must have missed
them. Wont it be good to be with them all again? To hold their hands?
ey’ll just be happy youre okay...’
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
e woman was nodding again, desperate to take in the oered comfort.
e two followed the footpath to the parking lot behind the surf club and
the man helped the woman into a blue sedan, explaining each step of what
he was doing. e purr of an engine sounded then winded down as the car
pulled away.
She watched the empty car park for a moment then skipped her gaze to the
bored young man still at the table, waiting for the next patient to present.
She wondered what questions they would ask and what information theyd
give her.
She pulled her eyes away and twisted her body so she was facing the expanse
of ocean. White tips painted each breaking curl of surf and the water
glistened in the sun like a breathing sea of mercury. She savoured the view
until the heat of the day began to bake her skin, then she balled her sts and
rose. It felt as if each bone in her body creaked and fractured but she bore it
and straightened, and headed home.
* * *
She counted them in the mirror – thirty-eight of the angry black boils dotted
her naked body. Each one pulsed with its own small agony, a sample of what
was to come. She hated them, and hated that her own wasted body was
supporting them. She had eaten a single tin of soup yesterday, and had only
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managed it by forcing each quivering spoonful past her lips and clamping
down until it drained into her gut. It had taken three hours, but the bowl
was empty when she was done. Her stomach had bucked and bridled at the
imposition of food, but she refused to vomit, telling herself shed start again
with a new tin if she did.
Despite her efforts, she was still losing weight. Her usual plump healthy
curves and been whittled back, revealing the stark frame of her skeleton
under a drapery of pale skin. Her head looked smaller and older, and
she turned it, trying a catch a glimpse of her old self lurking in the
She knew she was wasting time but couldnt bring herself to step into the
shower. She stared at her reection, all energy diverted into the act of
tolerating. After ten minutes she let her head roll to the left and her eyes
fastened on the photo. Shed moved it from the lounge room and propped it
on top of the cistern where it could do more good. e three faces looked so
healthy and youthful, and she swallowed a dry sob that was part consuming
love and part caustic resentment. She ground her teeth until her chin stopped
shuddering then pressed two ngers to her cracked lips and touched them
to the glass.
She stepped into the shower and picked the scalpel up from where it waited
on the ledge. She kept the frosted doors open, looking through the gap to
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the photo frame opposite. e blade dipped into the swollen esh around
a boil and she screamed — the outlet had become a necessity. Her cry
echoed o the tiles until it sounded as if a dozen women were screaming,
and through the scraping of her nerves she thought that was appropriate,
that there was enough pain for twelve.
* * *
e shower oor was cold under her buttocks, the tiles were an icy lick
against her shoulder, but she knew if she tried to stand shed simply end
up where she started. Already blood decorated the base of the shower like
fallen rose petals and she was only a third of the way through. Fifty-six of the
parasites had risen to the surface of her skin during the night and shed woken
twitching from the electrical storm of pain crashing through herbody.
She didnt remember the trip from her bed to the bathroom. She knew
shed passed out at some point because the clock beside her bed had jumped
forward twenty minutes. She let her head loll onto the tiled wall, heavy
with a fog of doubt. With every excruciating hour, she wondered if she was
making the right choice.
She spotted movement from the corner of her eye. A small black speck
scuttled across the shower oor, pin-like legs rippling either side of a
microscopic segmented body, scurrying for a pool of her blood. Unrolled,
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she could see it resembled a cross between a crab and a lobster, all about the
size of a peppercorn. She berated herself for her lack of concentration —
she couldnt recall cutting it from her skin, and felt sick at the thought of it
getting into the drainage system alive.
e scalpel was clutched between her ngers and she lowered it, ever so
carefully, onto the creature. It squirmed as she pushed down, its hard
exoskeleton pushing back. She laid her other hand over the one holding
the blade and leant away from the wall, letting her weight fall through her
arms. A splintering sound came from under the knifes blade and she sagged
back onto the tiles. Her eyes drifted closed and she felt a looming wall of
exhaustion teetering within her, ready to tumble down and bury her. She
snapped her eyes open and located the next boil.
* * *
e next day she woke to nd eighteen of the weeping black-tipped welts
on her body. She made herself stand while she excised them, her legs bowing
elastic kept taut through strength of will. She ate a bowl of soup, and forced
two dry biscuits down into her shrunken stomach. Later, she retched it all
up, but felt satised that her gut had absorbed some of the nutrients. She ate
another two biscuits just to prove she could.
* * *
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ree boils. She counted them again, twisting her body to scan her back
in the mirror. She ran her ngers over her legs and sunken buttocks, and
prodded her scalp under her layers of hair.
Only three.
She picked up the scalpel with something close to a smile.
* * *
A single black welt squatted between her breasts, burrowed in the skin
stretched across her sternum. e pain was no less as she twisted the scalpel,
but she took satisfaction in having to do it just once.
* * *
e absence of pain woke her, and she mued her laughter with a pillow.
* * *
ree days after her recovery, the ocials declared the quarantine lifted.
Teagan stood on the pebbly asphalt of the main road with half the small
towns population around her. e air was festive as people exclaimed at
nding each other, some crying and others laughing as they compared scars
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and hugged. In small tight pockets, people wailed upon hearing of those
who didnt survive.
A wrinkled hand squeezed her forearm and Teagan started, following it to
nd the old woman from Martins store grinning at her with wet eyes. She
wrapped her arms around Teagan and pulled her close, and Teagan found
herself surrendering to the embrace, collapsing into the womans soft curves
and spicy scent like a newborn foal against its mother’s hide. ey parted
after a minute and Teagan snied as she smiled back at the elderly woman.
Well done,’ she said, holding each of Teagans hands. ‘You did it.’
Teagan struggled to speak around a clot in her throat, but managed a soggy,
‘ank you.
e woman kissed one of Teagans sts, patted the knuckles where her lips had
touched, and then disappeared amongst the crowd. e shouted calls of the
townsfolk became muted whispers and then silence as wooden barricades were
carried away and loaded onto a nearby truck. e two police cars that had been
parked to the block the road rumbled to life and moved in slow curls o the
pavement, leaving the way clear. Someone shouted near the front of the crowd,
and then others joined in as far-o dots of buses appeared on the horizon.
ey grew in size, slowly, ambling closer in fractions of degrees. She felt
nervousness utter like a caged bird in her stomach and put a hand to her
mouth to stop her lips from trembling. Soon the sound of the convoys engines
drifted in and people began to shue their feet in rhythm to the rumble. After
ten minutes the rst bus closed the distance, pulling to a stop in a cloud of
dust to the side of the road. Doors banged open and the previously evacuated
townspeople stumbled out like sh escaping a net. Names were called, people
pushed in amongst the crowd, and shouts layered over the noises until everything
was a cacophony of excitement and sweet sadness. Teagan spotted the newly
blind being escorted down the buses steps, still clumsy with their unaccustomed
disability, to rejoin those theyd left after receiving their treatment.
She bounced on the balls of her feet, eyes scanning the interlocking
weave of arrivals and greeters, trying to pick the faces. Other buses were
disgorging their patrons, the crowd swelling as the two halves of the town
en she saw him, a hand-span taller than most, head darting like a birds
as his wide eyes searched for her. She barked out a cry and he turned, his
face collapsing in relief when he recognised her. He disappeared as he bent,
then reappeared with a small boy balanced on his hip. She could see her son
talking into his fathers ear, a gabble of happy words. e man picked his
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way through the crowd in short bursts that seemed to take too long, and
then in a blink she was holding her family and crying.
His forearm was a bar of strength along her back and a short chubby arm
encircled her neck, and she could hear her son saying, ‘We found you,
Mum.’ It was ve minutes before they broke. He put the boy down then
turned to her and she found his lips with hers, and their kiss was desperate.
He stroked her deated cheek with a large hand and muttered her name and
she nodded to show she heard him.
She squatted and held her sons face between her hands, tears splashing her
cheekbones and dripping from her chin. Her jaw ached from her smile as
she savoured her boys features, eyes dancing from brows to lips to nose and
lashes. After a minute he squirmed.
‘Mum, stop looking at me like that.’
‘No.’ She grinned.
She kissed his cheeks and he giggled, then she picked him up and looked
into her husband’s face and saw the anguish in his eyes. She knew he was
absorbing her wasted visage, her ageing scars, the brown stains under her
blood-shot eyes.
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‘I’m not much to look at,’ she said, ‘but I swear I’m better.’
He shook his head. ‘Youre beautiful. You sure youre okay? I watched all the
interviews of those who got the treatment.’ He swallowed. ‘I dont know
how you did it. How was it? Honestly?’
She took his hand and pulled him through the milling mass towards their
car. She kissed her boy again and squeezed her husbands hand, looking at
him and loving the familiar alignment of his features.
Worth it,’ she replied.
* * *
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Mitochondrial disease (mito) can
affect any organ in anyone of any age.
It is often terminal; there is no cure and
few effective treatments exist.
One Australian
child born each
week will develop
a severe or life-
threatening form
of mito.”