Fiction

Random words: Grand Reign Aisle Zero

Grand

It’s easy to turn your back on the train station – 19th-century architecture, wrought iron, stone, old-fashioned ornate – since they stopped the trains and chained the doors shut to keep the homeless out. Try to forget. Inside, where few living have ever been, there is, legend has it, a long abandoned ballroom, where once suits and dresses whirled and turned, the last dance there a century ago at least. We have turned our back on the memory of that place, dusty, cracked and cobwebbed, the tracks slowly giving way to rust, the tin roof held together by paint and pigeon shit.

It’s heritage listed and my ancient homeland is not. They cannot destroy this place, but they can bomb our eternity-old sites.

Now that grand edifice is the home of rats and pigeons, to people even more desperate for a roof over their head than I am. They break open the doors, then security chains them shut… and repeat. Other people walk up and down the tracks from the doldrum suburbs looking for shelter, for dark, damp and roaches, breaking out again to look for food and fresh clean water.

I remember homes, I remember safety, before our government fell, before I went on the run, before the magnate, before they started hunting those of us who resisted.

I barely remember how the fall began, how it all ended. All I remember was posters and propaganda, fake news and overt lies, alternative truth and money. Too much money.

 

Reign

Red, blue and white flags flutter above a marching throng of men in thongs, shorts and Aussie flag tank tops. For hours the sun has been baking them lobster red. It might explain their anger, though some of them, perhaps, wake already angry at “woke” and at “pronouns”, when they don’t know what pronouns are.

All hail the mining man, the millionaire who bought this land, the money man who rules this place, who discovered exactly how much a government costs. I see his name on billboards, I see the faces of his stooges and bought-men on walls, on my phone and on the televisions in every shop window and flashing off every rooftop.

I wonder if we could have stopped him, how we could have possibly stopped him, as I see his mug on a banner unfurling upon the ornate face of the station.

My phone yells and it’s him, sending another of those messages I have tried to block for years.

Money can’t buy you everything, I know, but it can buy a country, a continent, it can buy near absolute power.

We could have stopped him, she should have stopped him. We didn’t pay attention to Plato, who warned us that without care democracies fall to fear and strong men.

Stuck in the colony, a colony overwhelmed by the lie of “FREEDOM”, freedumb (which was not what he wanted, despite how often he repeated it), and of a strong man who had built his empire on lies and money. He showed us what too wealthy looks like.

 

Aisle

Between somewhere and somewhere else, between something and something else, between hard rock and a hard place, inside walls.

I will stand my ground. Between war and a hard life, between Ukraine and Russia, between the colony and my ancient forever culture. I might lose my life, but I will not lose myself; I refuse to lose and if I lose myself, I will. I will fight the eternal war.

For this island continent, where my people have fought for hundreds of years, where mining companies have made the nation international pariahs. This place where our democracy had a price. We just didn’t know it until it was too late.

I’ll stand, for this isle; island continent. The marchers have seen me, I can see it in the cast of their shoulders when they look at me, they know who I am. I am not anonymous enough, I regret that. I walk away, they walk towards me, I run.

I am stuck between, between the living and the dead, between hope and despair.

I run, knowing that men in high-vis and mining man T-shirts are coming for me, looking for me, want to stop me, want the glory of finding me. Like many before, they think I can do something. If I could have, why haven’t I?

 

Zero

I am a ghost though I am not yet dead, no matter how hard they have tried, it’s time to go dark, I need to be nothing, I need to stay free. I need to stay unseen, unfound, unmolested.

There’s no public transport, no fuel, my car is long abandoned, I am on foot. I don’t know how far I can ghost before sunset. No safe house is in range, nobody has a couch I can get to before night has fallen. I have a backpack, my laptop, a blanket, I have cash, but I dare not register in a hotel. Too conspicuous.

I’ve been through worse.

It is time again to consider leaving the country, although every time I refuse to do so, refuse to run to the relative safety of our neighbours, it gets harder and harder to leave. We are girt by sea, no land borders to run to, no port unwatched. But that is not why I haven’t run, I have not run because... I don’t know why, perhaps I care too much for Country.

My ancestors would not have run. I can feel them holding the soles of my feet. I will die as they have done, as so many have done, our stories on my lips.

But until then, I am nobody.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 12, 2022 as "Random words: Grand Reign Aisle Zero".

For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.

All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.

There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

Use your Google account to create your subscription