Valerie and Thag at Cafeteria
The doors were opened and the crowds slowly entered Trilobite Park. How they ooh-ed and aaah-ed with vague disbelief at the weird looking bug things in their tanks. For about five minutes. And then they sighed and settled in to look at more tanks of bugs, and realised that they kind of had to keep looking.
Phones were consulted. Watches were checked.
Valerie pushed her way through the crowd, looking for Thag. She found him by the cafeteria, chewing on a vanilla slice like it was a piece of rubber, manly tears in his heavy-lidded eyes. After Valerie greeted him, with obvious relief he threw the slice at the nearest bin. It bounced off at a weird angle, hitting him in the elbow and causing him to bite his lip.
“I did what you said – I looked into the history of this site,” Valerie said, once Thag had stopped whimpering. “As you know, Trilobite Park was built on a land which was recently occupied by an anomalous pyramid that appeared out of nowhere, then vanished as mysteriously as it arrived. Before that, the land was occupied by the North Bannerman Mega Centre – at the centre of which was the local DIY Barn.”
“Yes, this much I know,” Thag said. “The Barn was destroyed in a war with the Handy Pavilion in the South Hertling Super Centre, just before the Pyramid went up.”
“Exactly,” Valerie said. “But what you might not know is that the DIY Barn was built on a Native American burial ground.”
Thag screwed up his heavy face. “In Australia?”
“It was imported from the US.”
“That is literally the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”
“Oh, it gets dumber,” Valerie said. “It turns out that this whole area used to be North Hertling, until that half of the suburb fell into a dimensional void. The New South Wales government needed to fill it in, so they used earth that some American ships had been using for ballast. The earth turned out to have been taken from a Native burial ground outside San Diego. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this place is cursed.”
“Do you know better?” Thag asked.
“No, I mostly said that for effect,” Valerie said. “This place is totally cursed. And I don’t just mean everyday cursed, I mean cursed cursed, you know? Like… accursed.”
“I was afraid of this,” Thag said. “Well, not this specifically, because it was unpredictable by virtue of being completely stupid. But I was afraid of something, and this was probably it.”
“I feel kind of bad about being responsible for selling this place,” Valerie nodded. “But I also feel a little drowsy, so I might get myself a cappuccino…”
As if on cue, a nun came out of the cafeteria, take-away cup in hand. She took one sip, stopped suddenly and blinked. Taking a deep breath, she gathered up her crucifix and rosaries and left them on a shelf of Park maps.
“I embrace nihilism, now,” she said. “Meaning is a lie. There is nothing but the void.”
Valerie watched the former nun walk off. “Or maybe just a Diet Coke,” she said.
June with Students. Her Face, Palmed.
In a corridor lined with trilobite tanks, June Kim was doing her best to enjoy herself as she showed around a group of three interested school students, a somewhat larger bunch of completely uninterested students and a veteran teacher who smelled like someone had just spend three days fighting fires in a burning tobacco field.
“The evidence we have right now suggests that the proetida and the harpedita orders split during the late Cambrian,” she said to one of the interested students, a girl called Daisy. Daisy clearly knew her trilobites, but for some reason insisted on calling June ‘Toots’.
Another hand shot up, this time from a morose looking girl with long black hair. “I hoped… that William… would be here… but he never… seems to come out… on sunny days…”
“For the last time, Brittney,” the teacher, Mrs Vallerez, said, “William isn’t a vampire. He’s an albino.”
“Oh, man, I wish I hadn’t bullied him,” a burly boy said. “He probably has lightning powers and shit.”
Mrs Vallerez shot June a look, one longtime educator to a teacher who was on her first day. As they shared a sigh that was deeper than words, a group of about half a dozen men in some sort of traditional Asian costume walked past.
“Ninjas?” Mrs Vallerez asked.
“How can you tell?” June said.
“They’re carrying a bunch of bells and instruments, but they’re moving completely silently.”
“Ah, well spotted. You see kids? Observation and inference. That’s what science is all about.”
The three members of the palaeontology club nodded vigourously, while the remaining students made angsty faces and/or made out.
“But they’re not real ninjas.” June said. “I’m pretty sure. They’re comedy ninjas. You know, obviously ninjas but pretending not to be. Honestly, it’s been done. It’s kind of nineties, and more than a little racist.”
“Wait, are you sure it’s racist?” Blake, the head of the palaeontology club asked.
“White boys never think anything is racist—” June began.
“Wasn’t that racist?”
“—Unless it’s racist against white people,” June concluded. “Then suddenly they can’t miss it.”
Blake had the decency to go bright red, while his friends sniggered in that helpful way high school friends do.
“Well, don’t be too sure,” Mrs Vallerez said. “About the ninjas. Could be a double bluff, and they’re badass ninjas after all. Or could be that the funny ninjas are just drawing attention from the real ninjas.”
“Hey,” Blake said. “The Prime Minister said something about being on a ninja deathlist.”
June stood up straight and gasped. “The Prime Minister of Australia, who is at the opening of Trilobite Park is on a ninja deathlist? And there are ninjas around?”
“That does sound pretty dramatic when you say it like that, Dr Kim,” Blake said. “When the Prime Minister said it, it sounded boring and insincere.”
“We’d better tell the head of security,” June said. “Did I meet a head of security at some point? Let’s see… guy in charge, HR guy, engineer, caferteria manager, head of PR… Nope, I don’t think I’ve spoken to the head of security. I wonder who it is?”
“That would be me,” said a voice.
“Wow, you’re head of security?” Daisy said. “Maybe we ain’t so done for, after all.”
June wondered what Daisy had meant. She turned to see the newcomer.
“Oh,” she smiled. “I get it. Yes, someone like you is probably quite a good head of security, for reasons I will state shortly.”