Christian had not been at work the day the meteor struck. He was glad of that. He worried every time the glass skull picked up a spot of dirt, and the thought of a scratch terrified him beyond belief. The whole Handy Pavilion shaking at the impact… that might have given him a heart attack, straight up.

Now he stood behind the power tools counter, polishing the skull with a soft cloth as Belinda told him about the incident. Buck Dusty had already told him, but since all the laconic cowboy had said was, "Reckon that was a bad'n," Christian was a little short on details.

"So was it an alien, or something?" Christian said once she got up to the part with the monster. He held the skull up to the light. Ostensibly this was to check his polishing, but even after all this time he was hoping he could see his mistress, the Phantasm, in there. As usual, he could not. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 40 – Belinda is Helpful"

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Fiona stood behind the plumbing orders counter, organising receipts. She was increasingly finding herself in de facto charge of the plumbing section. Wellsey was away on errands for Ms Shan so often these days. Fiona covered for him, working out rosters and making orders. The other team members in the plumbing section did not dispute this new hierarchy. Most of them spend their quiet moments searching the job websites anyway. No one wanted a promotion, least of all an unofficial promotion that came without a raise.

The Handy Pavilion was quiet on a Tuesday morning, allowing Fiona to catch up with some of Wellsey's paperwork. She muttered under her breath at her nominal boss' childish handwriting, then chuckled at herself. When she'd started working, she'd been considered a hopeless employee, one of the worst the Pavilion had hired. Now here she was criticising the work of her mentor.

It felt good. In a deeply uncomfortable way. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 39 – Testing Times"

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An important order was late to arrive, so Ms Shan spent her morning the Trade section, assuring a local builder that his framing pine would be arriving soon. When it did turn up, the builder kept complaining about how long he'd been kept waiting, effectively adding another hour to his departure time after the half hour that the late delivery had cost him.

"It's a bloody outrage! I'm on a deadline, you know," he said at last, grabbing his bored apprentice by the shirtsleeve and pulling him away. "Come on, Gavin, let's get some lunch."

Ms Shan rubbed her weary eyes. At least it was normal. At least an idiot complaining was a normal, mundane thing. Nothing weird, nothing spooky. An everyday jackass was almost a treat.

She turned, and her almost-happiness dissolved. There, lounging awkwardly against a pile of cement sacks was Mr Smith from the DIY Barn. "Hello, Ms Shan," he said.

"Mr Smith," she said. She thought of asking what she could do for him, and decided that she didn't even have the energy to pretend to care. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 38 – Between Two Doors"

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Wellsey had always known about Axel's past. Known about his attempt to rob Fort Knox from orbit. Known about his plan to replace major world leaders with realistic marionettes, to teleport Hobart to the Sahara Desert, to turn the people of Melbourne into walking catfish.

Wellsey knew all that, but still he'd never been afraid of the man. Wellsey was an ex-con. To him, a dangerous man was someone with a shank, a grudge and a guard who owed him a favour. Axel was frightening in a way that Wellsey could barely get his head around.

Now, though… now Wellsey was afraid, but he was afraid for his friend, not afraid of him. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 37: Intervention"

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In spite of herself, Laura was getting to like Carlos from the key-cutting desk. Like like. It was weird. In her other life as the superhero Voyager, Laura spent much of her days hanging around with some of the most desired men on the planet. Tall, handsome, toned… Usually they had cool jobs, like international ace reporter or CEO and they somehow managed to keep hold of these positions in spite of only checking into the office when they felt like it.

And yet Laura found that she had not taken to any of them. Perhaps it was the way they were always gritting their teeth and narrowing their eyes at the slightest provocation. But then again, perhaps it was the way their wives and girlfriends were always being kidnapped. It was kind of a red flag. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 36: Where Have All the Pulleys Gone?"

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The toilets were out of commission at the Handy Pavilion. That wasn't the terrible thing in Christian's book. There were a couple of porta-loos out the back, so it wasn't like no one could go. It did mean that the customers would be asking questions about the bathrooms all day, in spite of the dozens of big signs up explaining the situation. So annoying! But still not the problem.

The problem was that the plumbers would be digging up part of the toilet floor, and in doing so they'd find the passage to the Phantasm's lair. They'd have to. Wouldn't they? And then what would happen? ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 35: Toilet Humour"

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2

As with so many Australian big-box hardware stores, the charity sausage sizzle was a weekend tradition at the Pavilion. Service clubs, school groups, social clubs… all of them would take a turn cooking sausage sandwiches for the Pavilion customers. The organisations would provide the ingredients, their members would provide the volunteer labour and the Pavilion would provide them with a stall and a barbeque, gratis.

The Handy Pavilion's weekly sizzle had been going downhill with the Pavilion's customer base. Already the biggest charity groups had decamped to the DIY Barn. The Rotary Club, the Lions Club, Apex, Local High School and the South Hertling Ute Spotters Society… all gone. The last couple of weeks, the sausage sizzle had been run by the Pinecone Awareness League, the Friends of Lithgow, and an obscure church group that alienated its customers by refusing to put two sausages in the same bread. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 34: From Bad to Wurst"

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It wasn't about the newsletter. Not anymore, not since the forces of censorship had made sure that nothing important or true could be found there any longer. No, as Karl Wintergreen sat in his old Citroen in the car park seeking the truth, he knew he'd never be able to tell anyone what he'd learned. Oh, he could put it on the Internet, probably. One more conspiracy theory amongst thousands, for all the good it would do.

No, Karl Wintergreen was not there as a reporter. He was there as a witness. Because someone needed to be.

The clues had been scattered, but he'd taken them all in. Not long ago, Carol from the coffee shop had arrived at work with a bruise on her face, which she'd ineptly attempted to cover up with makeup. Karl might have suspected her lunkhead boyfriend, Zorbar Ofthechimps, but he'd turned up for work at the Place O' Pets with his eyebrows singed off, suggesting that something had happened to both of them.

The same day was the first day he saw the concrete truck parked in front of the Handy Pavilion. There was no concreting work going on nearby, but tradies often went to the Pavilion for tools, so there was no reason a concrete truck shouldn't have been there. But it was there the next day and the next day after that--always in a slightly different parking spot, but always a good spot. Too good a spot for the Pavilion management to let some random vehicle park there indefinitely. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 32: Transformations"

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Fiona sat in the Handy Pavilion break room, using her powers to make whirlpools in her orange juice. Whirlpools were easy and she soon tired of them. Water spouts were a little more fun, but only a little. She sighed deeply let the juice fall back into the cup. She concentrated for a minute, and then the tiny figure of a man rose out of the cup, a sculpture in orange.

She concentrated a little longer, and the details of the figure became more focused, more precise. From a rough outline of a human form it transformed into the figure of a man. Wellsey, with his bald head and apron. Fiona made the figure as perfect as she could, willing the molecules of water into polymer chains, willing the chains into solid forms. The shape of Wellsey gave way to a figure of Norman. Then Ms Shan, Norman, Zorbar, Nalda, Donna, dear old Adam, Sadie and Angela.

The last one broke her concentration. She hadn't meant her figure to be either of the MacGregor twins specifically, but somehow she found her little water sculpture breaking into two. Annoyed, she stopped and let the juice resume to the shape of the cup.

She needed more sleep. That much was certain. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 31: Crossed Words"

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Buck Dusty was ringing up a sale in the power tool section when his trigger finger started to itch. He looked up at the time. The hour hand on the clock behind the key cutting counter pointed straight up. The minute hand was off by maybe twenty degrees. Three minutes to High Noon. He knew what was coming.

He wanted to hitch up his belt, spit on the floor and moseyed out to the stand in front of Mailboxes and Doormats, but the last time he'd done that he'd been given an official warning. Instead, he fought down the squirming in his gut and finished the transaction he was processing.

"Afraid we don't take AmEx, suh," he said to the man in the expensive shirt who was buying an overpriced biscuit joiner.

"No one takes AmEx!" the customer whinged, and produced another credit card.

His duty done, Buck gestured to Christian to take the counter. Then he hitched up his belt, but refrained from spitting at the floor. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 30: Showdown at Loading Bay Gulch"

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