The OH&S orientation went on even longer than expected, as Thag had somehow found six additional points to cover. Because of this, June missed her meeting with Captain Pete and with it her chance of seeing a trilobite. Disappointed, she decamped to the nearest café for lunch. This turned out to be surprisingly hip little place at the South Hertling Super Centre, just across the road. There she drowned her disappointment in a latte and a chicken Caesar wrap, which both seemed too good for a little coffee shop wedged in between two carpet shops and across the way from three more carpet shops.

"Hey, hi," said a greasy looking young woman from the next table. "Are you working at the new place? The Park, I mean?"

"Yes?" June said, suspicious.

"Dude! I thought I saw you there! I was getting my orientation too. I'm the new manager of the Trilobite Park café, and I am like, whoa!"

June looked the stranger up and down. She was a skinny young woman of perhaps eighteen, pale, and acne ridden. She wore a t-shirt advertising a band that either had a very difficult to pronounce German name or else a lot of random umlauts.

"You're the manager?" June said. "You seem a little young. And inexperienced. And greasy. And kind of stupid."

"Oh, that," the greasy girl grinned. "I lied about my age. And experience, qualifications, intelligence, general cleanliness levels, punctuality, spelling..." ...continue reading "Trilobite Park — Chapter 2: The Kids are All Right"

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"Donna, I have to hand it to you and your Grampy," Carol said. "That massive prison break went like clockwork."

"Of course it went like clockwork!" Grampy Erik said.

"No offense meant," Carol said. "It's just that you see prison breaks on TV, you read about them in the paper, and it seems like there's usually some exciting incident during the escape that raises the tension and drama."

"Not with me in charge!" Erik said, squaring his skinny shoulders beneath his brown cardigan.

Donna nodded in satisfaction as she looked around the assembled Pavilionites. They were all there – mostly the ones whose names she couldn't remember, but also a very uncertain looking Laura Cho, and Axel Platzoff who was still strapped into his Hannibal Lechter gurney, in spite of being catatonic.

"Zorbar still have doubts about Zorbar's role in whole affair," Zorbar said, adjusting his silk ballgown.

"If your plan A is good, you don't really need a plan B," Erik said. "And yet, a sensible man still has a plan B ready to go. You were plan B. If the guards had found that gun made of soap that I baked into the cake, or noticed any of those bedsheets I made out of rope, you would have had to make the warden fall in love with you, then drug him and steal the keys."

"But there several actual attractive women in our group, so why Zorbar dressed…"

"So did we get everyone?" Donna said. It was good getting the whole Pavilion together, but on the other hand she knew it would surely lead to a vast uptick in the number of rambling conversations that didn't really drive events.

Carol and Zorbar began counting everyone. It looked like it was going to take a while, because Zorbar's counting skills were a little rudimentary. But it gave Donna time to think. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 28: Accompli"

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Later, Donna realised that things could have gone very differently. She could have left the South Hertling Super Centre by the Wellington Road exit, seen the plume of smoke and intervened in the conflict between Fanaka and Karl Wintergreen before it was too late. But in trying to avoid after school traffic by Local High School, she took her out the back way through Bideford Lane, past the Cal Meechum Memorial. Donna drove. In the passenger seat sat Belinda. On the rear seat were Belinda, Carol and Zorbar.

A killer cyborg from the future, an irritating woman who was into cosplay, hipster barista, a woman of deep (albeit eccentric) Christian beliefs and an ape-man who had to bow his head and shoulders just to fit in the back of a Subaru hatchback. It shouldn't be enough to organise a jailbreak for over a hundred people, Donna knew. But maybe if she prayed really hard...

"Here we are," Donna said, pulling up about outside of a nursing home, half a kilometre away.

"This isn't Long Bay," Carol complained.

"No, this is where we're getting the guy who can help us break everybody out," Dona said. "Our secret weapon. I've been keeping him in reserve in case we needed him: my great-grandfather." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 24: Grampy"

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Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.

His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.

"Marlon here."

"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"

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Norman was late to arrive at the party in Garden Furniture. Adam had spread drop-sheets over all of his beloved display tables and chairs and though he seemed happy, there was a sub-strata of worry every time someone put a drink down.

Only a month earlier, Norman thought, Ms Shan would have balked at the idea of using the Handy Pavilion as the base for Zorbar's buck's night. Now, she not only gave her blessing, but invited herself. Wellsey – who, like many old rebels was a traditionalist at heart – objected to a woman attending a buck's night. But Fiona and Belinda also ended up on the invitation list, and then Zorbar's fiancee Carol announced she was coming. With that, any chance that the evening would involve strippers vanished in a puff of smoke, so Wellsey had had to grin and bear it. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 44 — The Party"

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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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The trouble with being dead, Bruce thought, was that is was really bloody boring.

Boredom didn't seem to bother the other ghosts. Not that there were many ghosts around. He was the only one in the Handy Pavilion, and there were just a few others in the Super Centre. Yet these others all seemed to have a purpose.

Take young Vinnie. Sixteen year old petrol-head. Died after a tire blew out while he was doing burnouts in the carpark late one night, sending his stolen Mazda crashing into an open stormwater drain. His spectral vehicle could still be seen from time to time, doing doughnuts in the moonlight. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 26: Ghost in the Machine"

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"Are you sure about this?" Wellsey asked.

"Could you be any more clichéd?" Belinda said. "'Are you sure about this?'" she added in a high-pitched mockery of Wellsey's voice. "Gahd."

The Handy Pavilion was spooky in the dark. No, Wellsey thought, not spooky. Terrifying. The huge shelves towered up into the darkness, dark and ghostly pale in the dim moonlight. The air hung still and hot, undisturbed by the vast ceiling fans that hung idle beneath the ghostly ceiling. The building seemed at the same time too large and too small, dwarfing Wellsey and yet leaving him all too aware of the many places some terrible thing might hide. Wellsey stood in the middle of aisle eight, his growing dread focused on the folding table, covered with black candles and surrounded by director chairs.

"Fuck you," he said. "I don't mean, 'are you sure we should be doing this?', I mean, 'are you sure this will work?'" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 18: From Across the Veil"

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(Note for non-Australians: a 'ute' (pronounced 'yoot') is a type of light truck with the tray integrated into the body.)

"Zorbar?"

In a second, Zorbar of the Chimps went from sleeping lightly to wide awake. He had his knife pressed against the flesh of the intruder's throat before… Oh, wait, it was only Norman. Zorbar sheathed his blade.

"Jesus, Zorbar," Norman said, rubbing his neck.

"Zorbar sorry, Norman."

"You nearly cut me head off, Zorb. I think you need a little more than a sorry."

"Please not call Zorbar 'Zorb.'"

"I mean, I was just doing you a favour, waking you up before Adam gets in. You know how pissed off he was last time he caught you sleeping in the treehouse."

"Adam jerk," Zorbar said, pulling on a pair of pants in the tiny space. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 14: Zorbar and the Ute"

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