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. They were on their way to carry out a jailbreak – 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 Donna's Subaru hatchback. It shouldn't be enough to organise a jailbreak for over a hundred people, but Donna was quietly praying that it would.
"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"
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.
"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"
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," he said at last, grabbing his bored apprentice by the shirtsleeve and pulling him away. "I'm on a deadline, you know. 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. Just 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"
The trouble with being dead, Bruce thought, was that is was really bloody boring.
The problem of 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 when a tire had blown 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"
"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 still and idle. 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 mean, are you sure this will work?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 18: From Across the Veil"
(Note for non-Australians: a 'ute' (pronounced 'yoot') is a type of light truck with the tray integrated into the body.)
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"