Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting Away With It

They fell, unsurrendering, untamed like ribbons of glass down undulating cheeks - tears fall. Not just crying but heaving. She's looking at the photographs, delivered not so anonymously, in a yellow internal memo envelope. She feels nauseous. The immediate thought is to slit his throat, in the shower of course to avoid the mess, swirls of red circling the drain. But she won't.  Her heart's leaden. Her chest tight. Every synapses and sinew in her body taut. She can't believe what she's seeing.

He's sitting at the piano as he often does. She thinks it's him. But this time he's naked and there's another draped across his lap. The dizziness takes effect as sharp dots of light dance before her eyes. She faints. Only the ringing in her ears prevents her from passing out on the cold floor. That and the pain now emanating from her forehead. It's incredulous. Like looking through a broken mirror into an alternate universe, she never suspected a thing.

She rights herself, walks over to the cupboard and grabs a glass, pours water from the tap and stares at the kid across the road mowing the lawn. Everything used to be normal.  The afternoon light is fading and shadows dance against the kitchen wall, once playful, all she sees now are menacing shapes. His shape. Should she say something? She's scared to broach the subject since he's never given her cause to suspect he has a darker side, they're happy in their middle class life. It is . . .was . . perfect.

She stares once more at the baby grand in the picture and the two enamours, tempted to shred the prints. She doesn't. Right now she'd rather grab the Husqvarna hedge trimmer and metaphorically dismember the bastard. She stares at the envelope. There's a number on the back.  Still feeling woosy, the bile rises in her throat as she dashes for the loo, hands on the black seat. She throws up. Wiping the moisture from her lips, she moves into the bathroom, rage making her tremor. Her skin prickles. She makes the decision to toughen up and ring the number.  Fingers stumble as she dials. She catches a glimpse of her face in the mirror, hardened and tired, dark rings around her eyes, face holding back the tears. She hangs up before it rings.

Eyes still burning as if blinded by glare, she attempts another dial. This time, the other party answers.  She's white steel as she introduces herself, "Hello? My name's Rebecca. You sent me some photographs,"

A throat clears on the end of the line, "Ahh . . ."

The voice is feminine, articulate despite the utterance of only one expression and she realises this is a road she doesn't want to travel. She's swimming upstream.

"Who are you?" she asks, visions of their lust in her head, the heady smell of freshly mown lawn and evening Jasmine wafting through the open window.

"A friend," declares the voice.

The hiss of sprinklers, serpent-like the voice on the phone bring renewed resolve, "Are you the other party?"

Hesitation. The silence on the phone makes her wonder if the voice is still there, "Yes . .I have something to tell you. Something you need to know."

She has a feeling that this conversation is going the way of a cheap mystery. The voice on the phone is less than revealing and getting answers becoming like pulling teeth.

"Why did you send them?" Clearly the other party is not interested in argument or discussion about their motive over the phone.

"Meet me." is all they say. She's cautious, still upset, her horoscope hadn't been kind today not that she believes in the thing but it did mention a revelation, a discovery. She agrees.

The voice on the end of the phone coughs, his breathing laboured. They make the appointment. Unbeknown to her the other party is ill, very ill, sallow, skeletal and close to death. In need of a confession. Heaven can't wait. There's a place there with their name on it and purging the soul before entering is mandatory.

Guy Davis is a successful man, in business, in society, in his Church and in his sport. He's elite, famous. All shine and glow. Beautiful home, beautiful wife, awesome job. He's teflon. Almost royalty.  He loves his wife, always has, always will, but secrets and lies being what they are, she wouldn't understand, not in a month of Sundays.  He's a poster boy, clean cut, clean shaven, piano playing clean living but, a poster boy with a secret. And he's about to commit a crime. Something out of the ordinary and strangely exciting but secrets must be kept and he has an appointment with one this afternoon.

He walks along fifth, a shadow of his former self. The rendezvous must be kept.  The other must bear the pain of the cross rather than be discovered. Metaphorical stigmata, sacrificed.  The house of Davis and all who reside in it are about to fall, it's a calamitous event, a career disaster and someone needs to pay the price.  Here, it ends.

This time it's gone too far and the bitch wants him warts and all, wants him to leave his wife, his life or risk being exposed. Blackmail too black. He's dressed to kill and on his way to the hotel as he nonchalantly buttons the jacket to his Armani against the cooling evening breeze. Odd how the temperature drops.  He wants to sate an appetite so demanding but tonight he needs to focus. Tonight he means business. The sky's darkening like an impending omen of doom and he raises his collar against the sudden southerly change. His iPod's playing Linkin Park's "What I've Done".  He wishes he didn't have to do what intends to do. He wishes he hated the person he's about to meet. He wishes it would be easier. He wishes things were different. He wishes he was honest.  But there's no room for blackmail in his life, for a jealous lover. His wife must never know. The truth is harder than the lie, she'd never understand and the other has begun to make demands beyond his ability to comply. Everything's at stake.

He remembers the first time they had sex, when he'd been blindfolded, calmed, while the other seduced with touch and without sight. The experience was amazing.  To anyone watching it might have seemed untoward as he sad on the edge of the bed unable to see but sensitized to the touch of tongue, lips, hands. No sight, just touch.  He'd never thought of the monster within, the alien making love and filming everything. The wardrobe held secrets.  He'd held his clandestine love on high only to be betrayed by a Canon 500D. Silent whirr unnoticed. Their exploits naked and divine, animalistic, erotic. Defying the flashing record light. Too absorbed in the fervor of romance, the intoxication of each other's breath, the danger of the impossible. The high inexorable and inexplicable.

Their meetings were frequent and carefully timed as business trips or nights with the boys, unsuspicious to her but guilt ridden to him in places he barely remembers. Tonight he won't forget.

He walks through the door, an hour after his 'friend' who's flicking through the Gideons and agitated by his lateness. "You're late . . "

There's something outstandingly erotic about a naked body reading a bible, muscled curves, ripe for the taking. Purity added by donation. The room is gently lit with tea light candles and the shadows dance along the line of legs and the curve of a muscled body. Intoxicating. His suit is soon divested, buttons undone, fly released, the business attire dispelled, shed like a second skin as passion takes over and the Bible's slammed to the floor.  The camera's on, this time stills and the constant click and interruption to the magic of the moment. He doesn't care. At the vinegar stroke, hand's clasp around a girlish throat as agony and ecstasy make it hard to distinguish pleasure from pain.

Strangling a lover is not as easy as he thought and flesh writhes as he strikes a blow and blood streams from his lover's nose. It's almost done. The camera clicks incessantly as bodies squirm but he has the upper hand, thumbs imprinted on jugular. Pain over and gasps done. There's a stillness in death and he almost wishes it was her but he needs her; she's the perfect foil and excuse, he doesn't need the now limp and lifeless soul beneath him. It's over.  He wishes he'd thought it through and made it look more like a suicide. Covering his tracks is hard.  He looks at the face once loved, now contorted in the grimace of death. How to disguise a murder?  He should have planned it better, thought it through, now his fingerprints and DNA are there for evidence. Time to start a fire.

The answer is right in front of his face, a box of matches . . a lover's intent and candles lit before he arrived and so, disables the fire alarm. He builds a pyre of towels.  Love, hate, shit, hard . . .his ability to put a sentence together overwhelmed by a desire to destroy evidence. He fans the flames.

The camera is quickly disassembled and all evidence of his 'bitch' tucked into the overnight bag of his victim. Smoke is enveloping. He's surprised at his ability to be so primal, so conniving, so controlled as he leaves, suited and carrying the filmic evidence in his bag. Easy. Too Easy. He's invincible even with blood on his hands. He's got away with it and despite his reservations he's feeling safe.

She has her face in her hands. Talking to a man she's never met, the man who sent her the photographs. Adam Tremble isn't a well man. She can tell by the palour of his skin and the emergence of odd marks around his mouth. Discolourations on his skin. His eyes sunken, tired. He looks exhausted. She's not aware but he's been HIV positive for years and now, it's taken hold. He needs to confess, get things off his chest before it's too late, he's a dead man walking and time is running out. He reaches into a soft leather satchel and takes two deep swigs of an inhaler, "It's in my lungs," he says. "I'm told I'm dying, which doesn't scare me now. Now that Julien's dead there's little reason to live."

"Julien? Who's Julien," she asks.

"Your...my... one time partner. We were together for years until I got sick. He couldn't deal with it and left me for someone else. We stayed friendly. Kept in touch until last week. Remember that hotel fire?"

She nods in acknowledgment but is failing to comprehend, to join the dots.

"I wondered why Ju was even there," he continues, "Then I remembered that he'd given me this." He pulls a DVD, no label, from the satchel.

"What is it?" she's sitting upright now and paying close attention.

"It's Julien and..." He pauses for another cough, "...your husband. Sort of 'insurance' I guess in the event something went wrong. He had an idea that it might."

Her head's spinning again and the coloured lights flashing before her eyes. She takes a sip of mineral water and hands cover her face once again.

"My husband? Your lover? Together?"

He coughs, the rasp and pain in his chest reflected on his face, "Yes . . they were lovers. Ju left me for your husband. Straight guy with a lovely wife and an enviable life. Can you imagine?"  Adam Tremble effeminate and dying from a broken heart and an incurable disease was once the epitome of gay beauty now deserted in his hours of need for a jock, a body. A man sitting on the sexual fence and enjoying the best of both worlds. Adam begins to cry.

She's tempted to be cruel after all it was this man who sent her the photographs and made her world tumble, fall, decline. But he's pathetic.

"I don't get it . ." a strange calmness affecting her, "He's my husband, we have sex, he's not gay." The very denial in her voice giving rise to doubts she'd never had. Those weekends away, evenings spent alone. Could this be true?

"I found jeans in my bottom drawer," she begins, " I thought they belonged to a woman."  She was going to confront him about them but thought better of it. She's too shocked to cry, too stunned to move but takes the DVD and puts it in her handbag.

"Life stinks, I hope this gives you some closure." was all he said before he rose and said goodbye. "You won't see me again. Do what you want with the film."

The DVD is damning evidence. Not just one encounter but several, each proof of the infidelity with another man. Some taken at home, she recognised the rooms, one in her bed! Most in a hotel room, the same room, the same hotel that burned last week. She casts her mind back. Where was Guy last week. She thinks in Melbourne but can't remember and checks her diary.  Sadness dissipates, hurt invades. He needs to be exposed and careful thought needs to be employed. She has a plan. The photographs still haunt her, the piano, him, them. Does she have the resolve to take revenge on behalf of a jilted and dying lover? Brain cogs turn. She seals another envelop and calls a courier. It's addressed to his coach. Then she calls the police

Detective Bilson is sitting at a shabby desk in an equally shabby suit when he's handed an envelope, unmarked anonymous. Nothing unusual in that until he sees a photograph of one of sporting's  finest. A household name, a man well-respected and much loved. A pillar of the community and an idol to young hopefuls. A man on his hands and knees, ecstasy on his face and another man sharing his body.  It's reminiscent of gay porn and he doesn't like that kind of thing.

"Jesus!" he calls to a colleague, "Take a look at this. This is who I think it is right?" The colleague smiles and nods.

"Defo . ." says the other man staring at Guy Davis in an overly compromising position - with another man. "That's gold mate, pure gold." The colleague takes a closer look and glances upward to the whiteboard, now covered with notes and photographs of a young dead man named Julian Orica.  His body found burned and disfigured beyond recognition apart from one side of his face. He'd been identified by his dental records. "Hang on a minute, does that other guy look familiar to you?"  He places a hand over the disfigured side of the photograph of Julien. The phone rings and a female's voice begins to pour venom over the line.

He arrives home from Training, showered and smelling sweet.  It's been a weird evening. His coach harder on him this training session and smirks from normally congenial team mates.  He'd opened his locker and found an envelope. An envelope whose contents made his heart jump into his throat as he slammed the door shut and scurrying into a shower too hot to wash off the guilt of his invisible stain.

He throws the soft sports bag into the corner and passes her a cursory greeting kiss. She doesn't respond. She waits, bides her time, makes him coffee. The words tumble effortlessly and expressionlessly as he takes his first sip of the hot liquor.

"Who's Julien Orica?"

His eyes widen and he stares into his coffee and clears his throat. A flush of heat waves from his neck to his brow and his hands begin to shake, he grips the mug tightly to steady them.  "Julien? I have no idea"

Again she steels herself, this time not teflon but concrete. She's reinforced, strong after her conversation with Julien's  former lover.

"I had lunch yesterday" she begins, as she retrieves the yellow envelope from a spotless kitchen bench. "I met with a friend of Julien's, a former lover actually."

Guy raises his head wondering where this is going, the smugness he felt a week before now dissipating as his heart races and tiny beads of sweat form on his brow, blood drains from his face.  His team knows, his coach knows and now . . his bloody wife is being weird, does she also know? If so, how much?

"Oh yeah?"  His voice breaks.

"Guy, I have the photographs. I have a DVD," she's calm and unaccusatory, it makes him more than uncomfortable. She's normally neurotic, a screamer, a crier but not today. Today she's cruel and cool.

"I know what you did Guy. I know who he is. Where were you last Friday night? At the Clarion by any chance? Did you do something you shouldn't?" 

He stands on liquid legs, his heart racing, "It's not what you think . . ." he begins but has no alibi, no excuse, no reason and contemplates grabbing her when two men, one in a crumpled suit, emerge from the family room.

"Mr Davis . . . we'd like to ask you a few questions about the disappearance of a Mr Julien Orica,"

Her resolve shows little more than a slightly bleeding heart as the man she loved, he loved is cuffed.  "It's over . .we're over - you're over, finished."  She fights back tears as he sinks to his knees. A career dissolved, a lover gone, a crime discovered . . once a hero, lauded and famed . . betrayed by a dead man, the dying lover and now, his wife.

Posted reluctantly for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Deathbed Revenge"

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Thinkz I wrote a Poem (BLAH)

Interruptions pervade but not intended
He's irritated, she's not compliant when she drinks
She's argumentative with loosened lips but ships don't sink.
A pillow soft after a conversation forced
One psyche deluded the other clear in sobriety

"He loves me" she's knows, she hopes
"You are loved but . . ."
"Forget it" he said
 Ships don't sink
Another glass of wine, another taste divine
Euphoria to oblivion, Friday- it works
He's gone, history and she surfs
You tube . . big mistake.
Sad songs. Long songs. Mad songs. Bad songs.

Ah soporific chardonnay, her saviour, her salve
Cold gold, sates appetite and obviates solid sustenance
Except perhaps toast.
Come sail your ships around me
Take me to solid ground
"What have I become"
She doesn't know, he doesn't care
Safe harbours, closed ports
But it's all smooth sailing
"People aren't mysteries"

She wants to be.

For John . . Wherever you are.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can a Kiss Change Everything?

They didn't mean it. The opportunity just happened. Good friends, close friends, not lovers, just a meeting with hot coffee and a momentary explosion of idiocy.  Two souls in a city less angelic than they had perceived. Disappointment in their hearts.

They order coffee and cherry pie whilst accumulating small change, their last. Rock bottom. The pits. The plump waitress smiles at what she perceives as new romance and retreats remembering what it was like. New love, first love. Warms her heart as quickly as the microwave warms the pie.

"I have a gun."

"What? Here? Now?"


He opens the flap of his jacket. Not only a gun but holstered on a shoulder strap. This is LA after all, but she's still shocked. It's not his style.

"Why the Hell are you wearing that?" her lean towards him mistaken by the waitress as intimacy, quiet whispers about love unrequited or perhaps engaged.

He's leaning into her and the waitress draws a wry smile and spills the coffee she's pouring. There's something lovely about lovers moving close to talk. She notices he's well dressed but she's oblivious to the fact that he's just been rejected from his umpteenth interview, broke, feeling small. The girl's petite and fragile. Again, the waitress unaware that her 23rd audition has seen her walk through the wrong door. The girl's eyebrows raised, concern on her face. The waitress hopes they're not breaking up. Breaking up in a public place is so sad. The knife slices a little too hard into a piece of fresh baked pie.

"It'll be easy. Just scare the shit out of everyone, you grab the money, and the keys. I'll keep everyone down. We grab what we can, lock the door from the outside and we go . . ."

"Jay! Go where?"

"I have a place . . "

The thought is ridiculous, stupid, reckless. But they're at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. He hasn't worked in months, their checks are bouncing, her feet are hurting. She thinks back to the Colombian bitch that slept with one of the judges and knows that's why she wasn't selected. She thinks back to the guy on the door cutting armbands. He was cute, Eurasian with soft black hair and a melt-in-your-mouth smile. She flirted with him for a while but it was harmless. She's been friends with Jay forever. As long as she can remember.  He's her 'girlfriend' her confidant, the one who understands when she's jilted, rejected, lost. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She was supposed to be a dancer, a flight of fancy, the envy of many, fulfilling a passion she's held since the first time she put on a pair of satin blochs, rolled on her hose, sprayed  her hair, glossed her lips. LA is a big town with big talent. Hungry hopefuls and lost souls. The competition is vicious.

He missed out on college, a working class man with a working class ethic and a family to support back home, but hungry to make it in a town where people fail more than succeed. If only he'd known, done his research. He fell for the dream, the hype. He had a job. Bouncer at "Little Cave" but an altercation with an aggressive and inebriated celebrity turned nasty and a law suit threatened. Management were pissed, he was let go for being over aggressive although it was Brazillian Jiu Jitsu and a life-lust against the threat of a knife that caused the damage, not the way of the gun. Guns are for thugs. Gangsters. He's a gentle man in a violent city. Angels be damned, it's vipers and demons dwelling here.

"What place?" She leans back into the booth chair as the waitress brings them coffee and pie.

"You kids enjoy now," the waitress beams, memories of young love gnawing at her heart and ignorant of the faux smiles and pre-conditioned 'thank you's.' She smiles, "You darlin's have a nice day. Be good to each other. "

She's barely turned her pink clad back...

"What place?"

"I have a cabin. My grandfather built it years ago and nobody's been up there since he died. Perfect hide-out in the short term. We can do this. Rip this joint off. Shit, rip a few joints off. Head up there. Leave everything until it blows over and head back in the winter and pick it up. Of course we have to lay low for a couple of months . . separate.  Can you do that?"

She's unsure. He's her rock. Her man of the hour. The man who's lap she falls asleep in after she cries. Her chick flick partner. The man who picks her up when the sex goes wrong. The man who understands her poor choice of lovers, her foibles, her idiosyncrasies. The thought of not seeing him, calling him, playing with his hair, thumping his shoulder when she's mad and him being a dick. . .could she? Could she separate for months?
Cogs turn, he can see the mechanics of thought whirring behind brown eyes as she plays with, but doesn't eat, the pie. He's agitated and burns the roof of his mouth on the coffee he doesn't want.

"We . . . can . . . .do . . . this . . ." his words convincing, slow and deliberate.

"Ok . ." her voice so low,  he lip reads.

His hand reaches for the gun and he leaps onto the booth table. "Shut the fuck up, hands where I can see them. You in the kitchen . . get out front."

She's amazed at his bravado and calm despite the aggression in his voice and the diner scene from Pulp Fiction comes to mind. But his face convinces her, he's no 'hunny bunny'. She races to the cash register and has a terrified 15 year old hand over the money. She's unprepared, no bag, no pockets.

"In here . . ." she screams as she proffers the rip-off Gucci it's opening like a basking shark exposing the minutia of her life. "Gimme the door keys . . " the girl acquiesces, lifts the change tray and hands over a bunch of four keys on one ring; nervously jangling due to hands afflicted with uncontrollable tremors.

"Which one! . . Which fucking one?" Panic in her voice testament to inexperience of the heist.  She belts the kid with her bag and a nose begins to stream red.

"That one . . the one that says front door . . " The kid holds her hands to her ears as violent and uncontrollable sobs take hold and urine streams effortlessly down young thighs into a yellow staining pool on a polished floor.

Patrons drop like naughty school children. Arms crossed, heads down. Food-stained kitchen hands file through. Hands on their heads they line up like wooden soldiers mirroring the soda glasses stacked neatly on transparent shelves behind them.

"Don't move. Nobody move!" The power of the gun arousing something within him that he's never felt before. Control. Total and exhilarating.

"Hey!" she yells, "We're done . . . "

She walks forwards, he walks backwards. . . exit, lock, retreat.


The cabin's musty, airless. Hasn't been used in years. Air-tight and warm, he opens windows, moves and lights a fire. She stands statuesque and shaking in the centre of the room. Wood piled for a decade is dry and easily inflamed. Within minutes their rustic lair warms into a cosy sunset lit hearth. Her eyes are wide and fearful - he holds her but not like before. "It's OK, it'll all be OK. Not like we're criminals, we just did this 'cos we had to."

She looks into his beautiful eyes, she'd never noticed his eyes before. He folds around her and kisses her. That kiss. The longest, profoundest, most meaningful, 'never want to break away' kiss that surprises, comforts and confronts. She's disarmed, charmed, surprised.   But that's all. The loot is hidden, the night late and they curl together in front of the fire.

He dreams about how he'll spend the money. She dreams about the kiss.

Either way . . tomorrow's a new day . . .time to disappear.

May be continued . . . maybe not . . .and you know I hate that.

NB: An attempt at the Jeffscape theory that playing repetitive music can muse, and more than once.  This time a more literal interpretation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just a Song

She's plugged in listening to the soundtrack of her life. Songs of secrets and love, light and sadness. A secret is a lie by omission, but what if she forgets? Memory fades, what did she do last week? She can't remember. What did she do last month is vague at best. What did she do with him?  Their guilty secret is as clear as their promise not to tell -  they swore after that, they'd quit. His image tattooed inside her head, their voices struck dumb by collusion. A secret trapped and screaming for release. Two souls pushing all under the carpet.

She made him promise - made a promise, so hard to keep. It was the best part, now the worst part. Once touched now aching. She thought she'd be fine and walk away with a hardened heart but it's pulp. Conflagration of joy and remembrance gives way to the gnawing of sadness, loss and woeful regret. At least she has a soundtrack to that moment. Music to remember him by.

He played her songs she'd never heard before, lyrics that make her cry and fly. Each one for her, shrouded in meaning that she can't interpret. Is he trying to tell her something?  He says he doesn't connect the dots, a song's a song. He likes the rhythm, the cow bell, the lyric. He likes the tune, the humour, the timbre. She takes it all to heart. The sad songs are for her, the love songs sung by him for her.

"This is our song" she claims.

He doesn't think so. It's just a song, fuel for words on a page; background noise, a muse for plans unhatched or the expression of a fleeting emotion brought on by wine and insomnia.

"It's just a song, it doesn't mean anything."

She thinks too much. Each one an allusion to something they've done, somewhere they've been, secrets they've kept, promises they've made. Mad love, shadow love, bad love and now abandoned love.  Each a treasure she keeps, buries, rediscovers and buries once again.

"So why this one?"

"It's just a song it doesn't 'mean' anything."

How she wishes that were true, but they're constantly playing on repeat, painful and beautiful fuel for her bleeding heart. Perhaps they'll meet again when the temperature's warmer, the kiss will linger and maybe then he'll mean it - but for now, it's time to bury it,  let it disappear.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where's Simon Pegg When You Need Him

It means different things to different people. Rats in the shed, cockroaches under the sink, the creepy crawlies plagueing those with delirium tremors, the hallucinations of the addict but for her, it's something quite different.

For her it's love, invasive, invading, obsessive, overwhelming and distracting. He's beautiful. Young, gorgeous skin, luscious hair and an infectious smile. She doesn't know why he loves her but he does, he has a faith in her that no other has displayed and gives her confidence and buoys her self-esteem. Unlike her former employer.

Alice Makin is walking towards the revolving door, a box of personal bits and pieces in her arms. She's been let go once again, a feeling all too familiar and excuses all too lame, there's nothing she hasn't heard before but it still leaves a hole in the pit of her stomach, that sick feeling you get when someone breaks up with you or hammers you for an innocent mistake, she's felt it hundreds of times before and it's familiarity is breeding contempt.

"We're sorry," he started, "But the project's running over budget and we really can't afford you any more," his look sincere until he shakes her hand and moves in with an unexpected peck on the cheek. She reviles as the bile rises in her throat. "Fucktard" she thinks, this is all because I have an opinion, wouldn't suck your dick at the company Christmas party and made a mistake on a frigging spreadsheet but she smiles and departs graciously. She's a contractor, not paid salary, so open to use and abuse. They can let you go any time without warning, with out excuse.

She departs the reception area waving and smiling at Amber the perfectly presented receptionist with the zombie grin. "See you later" Amber chimes as she does whenever anyone crosses her foyer.  Alice walks through the door with a shadow sliding sluggishly behind her, joined at the hip and desiring release.

"Fuck you Amber and all who came before you" she hurls over her shoulder. It's a workplace where nobody knows anyone, anonymity with a smile as you pass on stairs. Amber looks slightly hurt then almost amused as another employee clatters across the Terazzo tiles,

"G'night Amber" . . .

"See ya!" she retorts . . it's like a looping tape from Stepford Wives.

Alice walks down the immaculately paved path along a tiered carpark, tears careening down her face. It's like some disease she doesn't recognise. Three times this has happened and she doesn't know why but this time it's different. She did nothing wrong, wasn't contentious as she draws her sunglasses from her bag and begins to sob and rationalise what's happened.

"Your attention to detail is a little lacking" he'd said, and any attempts to explain that her skillset was in other areas were met with a blank stare, "But I've achieved so much, you focus on the minutia," she'd pleaded to no end.  Perhaps it was jealousy, a manager resenting her intellect, pointing out his flaws but no. She'd been a good minion despite working in a role beneath her capability.

The glasses aren't hiding the feelings within but there's nobody to see as she descends the stairs. She can't remember where she parked her car and lays out a few expletives before the battered bomb comes into view, "Wish I had a decent car" she thinks to herself, the moment providing a little humour to an otherwise dire situation.

She sits in the car not realising how time had flown. Six cigarettes and waiting for the contraption to start. It has this thing where it refuses to turn over due to dodgy transmission so she's been hatching plans waiting for the cantankerous vehicle to make its mind up that its ready to go home; keys turn and finally the ignition kicks in.

She has conversations with the invisible as often she does. She imagines leaving a crime scene, flashing lights in her rear view mirror, yellow tape cordoning off the area where she used to work. Getting away with it. She sees them all in her mind's eye, as she rounds the roundabout almost in the path of an oncoming pantechnicon. Former workmates all stiff and contorted over their workstations. Blood spattered and pools of red leaching oh-so-slowly into the carpet.

He'll help. He knows things, secret things. Her very own mad scientist who works for the Government might share his secrets help her reek revenge because this time she's not walking away, and he's the only one she can trust. Even the best of friends haven't really understood her plight. Perhaps because she doesn't articulate it, perhaps because they're blind to her suffering...he's the only one.

Thoughts of him begin to take her over as she speeds down the motorway, oblivious to the "Police Targeting Speeding" signs. He's under her skin, in her head, on her body.  "Its all so fucking hilarious" he'd say, she's thinking "Hold on boys . . It's going to be a bumpy night"

She's stopped at the lights and presses the lighter in as she pulls a B&H Classic and lights it.  It's a nervous response, there's always a reason to reach for a smoke when a crisis looms and it helps her think about why they let her go. She'd been the perfect PA even to the point of dropping off her boss to pick up the rental because his company car wasn't available. They'd chatted, talked about a permanent contract it had all seemed so sweet, so secure, so . . .of course the primary reason for wanting to be in the same car with her was to flirt and test the waters.

He's there when she gets home. "Hey!" he looks up from his computer as she walks into the living room.

"Fuck off...I lost my job!" The bravado sinks into another litany of sobs. He holds her as he does and she pushes a tear stained face into his chest.

"No point crying over spilled milk" he says, as he strokes her hair and fills her with his warmth and understanding.

He releases her and draws the curtains obliterating the last shards of fading sunlight. She stands limp in the centre of the lounge room and he pulls her close and the infection of love or lust takes over. She needs the release. It's like a bullet from a Glock; quick, sharp, short but her orgasm has the desired effect and calms her a little .

"It ain't over till the fat lady sings" he says,

"Fat man!" she retorts as they collect and pick up the discarded clothes from the floor.

She knows he can help. He has a creative brain and a military background. He's been an 'operative' whatever that means, and now works in some secret laboratory with biological weapons. She needs him to help her reek havoc. As she grinds coffee the questions begin.

"You're joking right?" he's leaning against the kitchen counter looking lovely but her face has a fierce resolve.

"No. I'm not. I want them to pay and I want you to help me do it."

Their conversation becomes less jovial as he realises she's serious and intent on some sort of retribution, and as her coffee making becomes mechanical he knows he's about to divulge information he's never been game to expose.

"You're serious . . you really want to do something about this? Something er, not quite above board"

"As sure as that's a pistol in your  pocket. I'm sick of this."

If I help you, it has to be on my terms. The seriousness in his voice an alien sound to her ears. "If I help you . . you have to follow my instructions. This isn't a video game and nobody must know your source."

Her head slumps over the coffee maker. It all seemed so simple in the car with invisible conversations. Now we're getting down dirty. Time to take a deep breath. She gives him a glance he's never seen. Slightly scary, eyes bright, enthused, dangerous, it gives him a hard on. It's been a while since he's experienced the thrill of covert operations.
"You're changing lanes Alice," he says. 

"Changing lanes? As in doing something different, avoiding the safe? Shit yeah. I've never been more ready."

For the first time in their relationship they're travelling along the same lines instead of cross purposes.  He in need of the thrill, she in need of revenge. Two souls travelling in the same direction, different motives but  a parallel plan,  "Let's do it." he says.

"Ryan's missing", Peter Trangmar's voice is laconic and hides his concern but his fellow engineer was supposed to have been in the meeting. He's not answering his iPhone, some would refer to it as his fifth appendage. His briefcase is still by his desk and there's a nasty little stain on his chair.  Other workmates gather round and examine the area coming to the conclusion that he's had some sudden stomach upset and made a dash for the men's room.

"Ugh disgusting," says Breene and puts two fingers to her nose.

It's not like Ryan to disappear without saying something or at least texting, he'd done that from the loo before but this was unexpected. Giggles are suppressed and theories are hatched and Trangmar, ever the cool pro takes the lead, "Oh fuckit, I'll go and see what the smarmy bastard's up to." 

The men's room is deserted save for one stall with a closed door, "Ryan? You in here?" There's no answer but the trickle of brown emanating from beneath the door is imparting a wicked stench. Trangmar moves in closer and pushes the unlocked door. It's unusual to hear a man scream but the sight that greets him is enough to curdle the blood.  Ryan's half naked body slumped back like a man-whore waiting for a blow job, his head lolled against the cistern, his pants around his ankles, legs soiled. Blood streaming from his eyes, nose and ears.

Trangmar's caught off guard, there's nothing in the office management manual to deal with this kind of OH&S issue. He races back into the office, white as a sheet and trying desperately not to gag and vomit at what he's just witnessed. Not since he'd found his dead cat, clearly days after the event, infested with maggots and wearing a grisly smile had his stomach turned this way.

"Ryan's dead," he exclaims before sitting and putting his head between his knees to control the dizziness. He's feeling seasick and reaches for the waste paper bin before emptying the contents of his stomach.

"What!!" the chorus is unanimous and simultaneous as Breene races into the men's room only to return with the same palor.

"What happened? Who'd do this? We're engineers, this sort of thing doesn't happen in offices, they're safe places," her babbling halted as Flitch begins to dial 000.

"Well that's ruined the potential for a perfectly good meeting and a free lunch," his sarcasm is unappreciated.

Jake Fitton is just about to take his morning constitutional when the call comes in, "Got a stinker over at Fisher's Engineering," He's tempted to complete at least one lap just to sate his thirst for exercise but hesitates and heads back to the locker room, suits up, puts the magnetic light on the roof of the Commodore and speeds to investigate.

He's only on site for 15 minutes and beginning to interview Breene.

 "You're bleeding Jess .. " he makes a hesitant gesture towards her face as he notices the trickle of blood extending from her right nostril. She disbelievingly wipes her top lip with her hand. Within seconds, she begins to convulse, a writhing mess on the floor being restrained by four men. She's foaming at the mouth and growling like a dog, her back contorted before she relaxes with the loosening of a bowel movement and takes her last gasp.

"What the fuck is going on here?"  Fitton's really beginning to wish he hadn't risen from the comfort of his satin sheets.  He glances round the small crowd now gathered as the Tactical Response Unit infest the building, paramedics rush up the stairs and he can see beads of sweat forming on two others of the team.

"You OK?"  He asks the two now sweating profusely and looking a little wobbly. This is becoming a nightmare, two bodies in as many hours and the rest of them are beginning to ail. He instinctively puts the back of his hand to the forehead of Ewen Cooper, "Man you're burning up!  Medic!...over here!"

He's never seen anything like it. A conservative environment, mild-mannered suits minding their own business and now all Hell's broken loose as two more begin to convulse. The paramedics are beside themselves and ill equipped. One has the wherewithal to clear the floor.

"Folks we don't know what we're dealing with here but it's rapid and could be contagious. You need to get out of here and fast" as he reaches for his own mask and Hazmat suit. If he was a gambling man, he'd bet his last 50 bucks that this is a virulent contagion beyond anything he's seen before and he ain't taking any chances.

Three bodies down and two others looking perilously ill, time's clearly running out for them and nobody has a clue what's going on but all are genuinely concerned about the spread and whether they too are being impregnated by whatever is killing this small team.  Concerned that it might be airborne, the office goes into shutdown.

"Kill the aircon, shut the doors, seal the windows . . . " yells a uniform wielding a gun. "Get your Hazmat suits on and cordon off the area."  The response is rapid and immediate.

"It's not contagious." Jill Schuman's a forensic paramedic and while the melee's been unfolding, she's been scouring the area for a cause. She holds a small plastic bag between two gloved fingers.  It's contents mostly used except for a faint residue of green slime. Her partner of four years, Joe Kane gives her that glance, the one he used to use when she was a rookie. The "What the fuck do you know" look. She raises her eyebrows.

"Looks like some sort of biohazard..." she postulates.   They'd been an item once until she found out he'd been buying the affections of another and the whole relationship had ended badly. High price to pay for a comfortable fuck.  His presence is as welcome as a fart in a bottle. Hers a reminder of sweeter scented times. There's still a sexual tension between them but she's focused on her discovery.  She ignores his smart-ass comments, this isn't the time nor the place.

"What is it?" Asks Fitton,"I'm not sure but it's not the sort of thing you find lying around an engineering office. I'm guessing Cantharidin, anthrax, some sort of fast acting poison?"

"Get it to the lab, . . " Fitton instructs one of the officers leaning against the partition as bagged corpses secreted away for further examination.  Why them? Why this small pod of engineers in a company of hundreds. All within minutes, all sharing the same symptoms, the same rapid demise.

"Right people" Fitton yells, "We're done here. We're not here for a social gathering, fumigate and pack it up." His voice is commanding and the plethora of police and EMT's are keen to leave the place. Jill on the other hand has found a kindred spirit in Fitton, an empath, and not a bad looking dude. She stands by his side, a little too close for his liking but she looks good in an orange hazmat suit even with a mask on and for the first time he notices her eyes.  In that moment, brief and in the middle of disaster, she notices his checking her out, and both exchange a mutually understood moment . . yes he's interested, that's clear. 

The entire floor is blanketed in sterile cloths until the fumigators can ensure no spores survive. A geometric landscape of green cotton, rather lovely in it's bizarreness.  Fitton ushers out the last of the stragglers as he and Schuman take the lift down to the foyer. She removes her mask and a cascade of auburn waves fall onto her shoulders and he's surprised at what he sees. She's easy on the eye, very easy on the eye.

"I couldn't help but notice the tension between you and Kane, you seeing each other? Just broken up?"

"We had a moment," she says and turns to press the button to the ground floor.

"So you're no longer together?" 

She's a little embarrassed that he's privy to their bickering, "No, we're no longer together."  The doors open to a plethora of press and a shitstorm brewing in the foyer.

The bodies are taken to the city morgue, sealed neatly in their refrigerated drawers and rumours of an epidemic quashed before they begin.

Fitton and Schuman are having coffee and postulating theories while the coroner tries to ascertain the cause of death. It's been 72 hours and still nothing until Fitton's phone rings.

"They're gone!" is all he hears. 

"Gone? What's gone? Who's gone?"

The coroner replies, "All of them, all five bodies, vanished."

Pissed off that his newly burgeoning relationship with the attractive Schuman had been interrupted he apologises, "Have to go," he says and leaves $50 on the table, "Something's up with the contagion guys."

She's not prepared to cut their liaison short and curious about his haste, "What? What happened?"

He's already walking away from her and hurls across his shoulder, "They've gone . . .disappeared. All of 'em. "

She's left sitting alone without a clue, fifty bucks staring her in the face - a face reflected in a black cup of coffee. She used to be the life of the party, now she's been dumped for fifty bucks and 5 missing cadavers.

"You gotta be kidding?" Fitton's staring at four empty body bags, unlocked refrigerated lockers and a coroner with a quizzical look on his face. "Who'd fucking steal four bodies covered in shit and blood and possibly carrying a fatal virus?"

"They weren't stolen," the coroner responds, as he points to the footprints on the floor, "they walked out . . "

"What? They walked out? Rescued by a fairy godmother? You have to be kidding. You've been staying up too late bucko. Watching too many horror flicks, the walking dead. Jesus save me!"

"There's something else..." the coroner continues, "...the contents of the ziplock? Genetically altered and irradiated human material. Not sure what, but the DNA code is odd and the cellular structure shows two extra chromasomes.  Never seen anything quite like it before. Oh one more thing...it's reproducing. There's 10oz of it now, I had to freeze it to stop it replicating."

This is the stuff of fantasy, Fitton thinks.

Henry Walker's been a resident in Hyde Park for years, hallucinating at every opportunity, bludgeing money and cigarettes, scaring small children from his favourite park bench, but as four blood and shit covered men still wearing suits surround him, he forgets the infestation of lice in his hair and begins to worry about the separation of his head from his body.  This bloodied band of brothers with their death grimaces still on their faces, tear at the homeless man until there's little that's recognisable left but his shoes. 

"Nike's" one growls in a perfect American accent as the others giggle and wipe the remnants of entrail from their pustuled lips.

"Good taste," says another, "Tasted good . . "  says another.  The fourth snatches the shoes and replaces his own Julius Marlows with the trainers. They're not fast movers but the sound of impending sirens has them shuffling faster than they should as they disappear into the shadows seeking refuge among the shelter of a brick walkway adjacent to the men's toilets. They might be dead, they might be slow, but they ain't that stupid and they're aware that they're a shadow of their former selves. Keeping a low profile might be wise for a while. Odd that embedded in the undead, the pedantism and minutia so characteristic of the engineer, still remains.

As the sun rises, they're exposed. How to move without arousing suspicion is a problem since the workday has begun and the suits are bustling into the city, traffic jamming as it does. Oddly, no-one bats an eyelid. Quirky street theatre is commonplace and these players arouse no suspicion.

Fitton's flummoxed. He knows these guys were dead. He saw the bodies, smelled the stench watched the death throes of two of them. His drive to solve the mystery momentarily easing the guilt of leaving Schuman in the cafe. He likes her, wonders if she'll ever go out with him again after leaving money on the table and deserting her like a mark leaving a prostitute the morning after.  He shrugs off the momentary feeling of guilt and assumes the professionalism of the investigator that he is. For now, he'll retain the facade and try to find the bodies.

The building's quarantined for a week. Fumigated and completely shut down. Fear of infection is the last thing a controversial mining company needs to accelerate their already bad press on environmental sloppiness. Workers take leave, some are laid off until the risk of infection is cleared.  While the sun shines outside and the autumn winds clear the air, it's insecticide and anti-bacterial fog within. They'd attracted unwanted attention in the past with their psychometric profiling of staff and reckless abandon of OH&S issues, the last thing they need is the press getting hold of this.

"Hey you," Fitton taps Schuman on the shoulder, "I'm sorry I left you so suddenly the other evening," She's not ready to forgive but those eyes. He has lovely eyes and her disappointment soon melts.

"What happened?"
"You're not gonna believe this sunshine. The four bodies we took from that office in Prospect? Gone. All of them. Footprints on the floor, body bags unzipped from the inside, even one on the slab, gone. They weren't dead."

She's incredulous, "Not dead? I checked them all. No breathing, no heartbeat. Trust me Fitton they were dead."

He rolls his eyes. "Yeh, they were dead. Now they're not. Go figure."

"I'll kick your ass if you're making this shit up," she's serious. She's in no mood to be fucked with. This whole scenario is ridiculous. Who does he think she is. She's been in this game for years not like some of the bum-fluffed embryo's that keep her company at night. She knows her shit and dead people do not rise. Well, not until now.

"Alice?" the voice is familiar. It's the HR bitch from the company. "There's been an incident at Prospect, we've had to close the office but the project is continuing. We need someone to recruit a new team, are you interested?"

"Frankly I don't give a flying fuck. I was sacked remember?"

"We're sorry but we need your expertise, we've set up a temporary office. Please, you know the ropes, you know the drill, we value your input, really."

"Well it's about time, I gave my soul to that friggin' company." She needs the work, she wants the job, she knows the team that laid her off are no longer there. This is her opportunity to pick and choose empathic colleagues. Fine, I'll do it"

She sees herself in the gleam of stainless steel, naked as the day she was born. With a messy scar from sternum to pelvis. Disappointing. Man she looks like shit and does her best to spruce up and practice the simplest of phrases. Words that once came so easily are now convoluted and require great effort

"Good mooning Moster Futten." She has no inflexion in her voice and can't enunciate the words but it will have to do. She pushes the fire exit door and is momentarily blinded by the sunlight as Fitton and the Coroner's voices enter the room. There's a waiting station wagon with 'Coroner' written on the side, "Ahem" she growls in a voice that barely resembles hers, turns over the engine and hits the accelerator. She's free. A quick glance in the rear view mirror convinces her that she looks just like everyone else, except for that, and that, and perhaps this . . .still, she's not as bad as she thought.

No time for regret - what happened happened and instead of pushing up daisies she's mobile, hungry and needs to find the others.  She sees a young woman on the sidewalk. Scantily clad in denim shorts and a loose tank top. She needs clothes. Within seconds she's strolling back to the car, flicking greased locks across her shoulder and wiping the remnants of a young streetwalker from her lips with a discount petrol voucher she finds in the girl's shorts pocket. She burps. "Excsqueeeeeze me . . ." as she restarts the car. Now fed, 'watered' with the blood of another and newly dressed she cuts a fine jib despite the scum rapidly collecting on what used to be perfect skin. "Boaty is in the ire of the behulder" she grumbles as she attempts to paint decaying lips, the same lips she'd once enhanced with Botox, now smeared across her face but she doesn't care. Not any more. Besides, she's too busy admiring her new watch.

Fitton's lost. He hasn't a clue, bodies missing, a girl he can't get his head around and four empty body bags. It's tempting to just go back between those sheets. Dive deep beneath the surface of the pool and to lose himself. He doesn't really care what happened. They're corpses, how much damage can five loose bodies do?

Henry walker wakes up without his shoes. He's missing a hand and a few other essential accoutrements but he feels good, strong, alive. There's little difference between his look before and the look he has now other than the pain of hunger and no desire to drink.  It doesn't hurt when he walks and his vision's clear . . he can smell others in the vicinity; company, people like him, things like him. Now there are six, seven if you include the mightily confused naked prostitute who's still bitchin' about someone else wearing her denim skirt and tank top . . . and her watch. Not quite a zombie infestation but it has the makings.

Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Infest, Infect, Inflect"