Hi. I’m Jen. I’m an everyday person who loves adventure. Check out how you can become adventurous too. It’s not as hard as you think!

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Adventure can be anything you like. It doesn’t have to be a massive feat of physical strength and death defying endurance where you freeze your butt off on mountainsides or get chased down by a gang of rabid koalas looking to make even all the wrongs of their past. I mean, if that’s what floats your boat then by all means go for it, but I’m guessing that for most people (me included) the koalas are out and so is the mountain…for the time being that is. Once I build my skills and my self belief and maybe even my own crew I’ll be able to get Zen with that mountain and perhaps convince the koalas that revenge isn’t the best tactic for a peaceful revolution nor for their image. I used to think they were so damn cute before I wrote this. Now I’m not so sure.

Adventure is for all of us. It’s inclusive and is something you can pursue in your everyday life. All it takes is the first tiny step outside of your comfort zone.

Step onto the path and courage will find you.

 

 

Come Hiking: $27

5 days

4 nights

Approx 100km

Cooloola Great Walk

Image: Cooloola Great Walk (from Queensland.com website)

Leaving from Rainbow Beach end

Date TBA, but from 12th April onwards

Cost is $6.75/night/person ($27 on QPWS booking site), plus any associated transfer costs

You won’t need a lot of experience, but you will definitely need to be fit and committed to completing the entire 100km. I’m not carrying anyone out!

Image: I’m not doing this! (Credit for image: click here)

This is a remote hike that requires self sufficiency and you will need to carry all of your own gear in a pack on your back. This will weigh somehwere in the vicinity of 10 – 20kg. You will be responsible for your own water, your own food and its preparation.

I am more than willing to help anyone who needs a hand with stuff, including advice and any recommendations, I just wanted to make it clear than while I am an experienced hiker with eco tourism qualifications, this is NOT a glamping experience and you will be responsible for your own health, safety and any other requirements.

There are a few companies that charge people for this hike. This company lists it as $1095 per person and all you get is your food and the camping permits. That means that the experience and the food is worth a whopping $1068!! Gees, the food would want to be bloody top shelf for that price. Not sure my indian sachets would cut it:

Image: I love these things! They are so freakin’ yummy. You can get them from supermarkets, but the best ones come from Indian shops (Gits Ready Meals). They are all around $2.50 – $4.00 each.

I have a few hiking items I can lend people, but this is a list of basic requirements:

  • Hiking pack (this needs to have some kind of frame. If you can bend your pack , it has no frame and isn’t any good for hiking long distances).
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Mess kit (you know, stuff you use to eat. Include a stove here if you want to take one)
  • Snake bite kit (At least one good compression bandage)
  • Personal light
  • Toiletries
  • Water and water bottles (inlcude water filtration if you want to filter water. I don’t normally bother if it’s tank water)
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Good shoes/boots

Image: Hiking gear. Trangia stove in foreground. Helinox chair and poles, Wilderness Equipment tent.You don’t need expensive gear like this. I only have it because sponsors gave it to me.

A cheap dome tent (not a pop-up one though) from KMart will work fine, or if you want a cheap entry-level hiking tent, check out Snowys. Wild Earth is another awesome outdoor store in Qld. There’s also heaps of good second hand stuff for sale on Gumtree and ebay.

Some stuff you can share, like water filtration, stoves and tents, so not every person needs their own personal item if you are willing to share these things. Sharing stuff also means you can carry half each to reduce each person’s load.

This kind of thing takes a fair bit of dicking around to organise logistically because you have to work out where to leave your car, how to get to the trailhead from where you did leave it, and then at the end, ummm, how do I get home?? So, what I’m saying here is that if you are interested in coming along, we’d have to sort these details out. I can fit (read: squash) 4 other people in my car.

Image: This is a tidied up version of what dicking around looks like. Of course, this doesn’t capture the ten hours I’ve invested in the whole thing or phone calls and emails I’ve made and sent to ask questions about car storage, transportation, etc, etc. It’s easy to see why a lot of people just pay the thousand bucks for a tour company to do this for them. It would save a lot of hair-pulling.

Contact me on this website or send me and email to let me know if you’re interested:

talulasweetie@gmail.com

Image: Me on the last long distance hike I did (450km).

The Australian Story

What is our real story, and who decides?

After starting to read my umpteenth Australian memoir (Beauty by Bri Lee) I got to wondering what our real story is, and also wondering who are the keepers of that story, of that very important story, that story that not only tells of what happened, but also writes the path of the future. With this in mind, which stories are the ones that matter? Are they they stories told by Bri Lee in Beauty, Matthew Evans in On Eating Meat, Anthony Sharwood in From Snow to Ash? Are they stories told by Tim Winton in Boy Behind the Curtain, by Susan Duncan in Salvation Creek, by Kirsty Everett in Honey Blood? Are these stories the most important, are these the ones that matter the most? Who can tell, I certainly don’t know, but I do wonder…

If you care to delve into the Australian story we’re being told in books like these, you will see that these stories have been chosen, not only for their message, but because there is something particular about the writer that matters to the publisher, and this has nothing to do with the importance of the story. The writer is “connected” in some way to something or someone deemed largely important by Australian society, and definintley by the publishing industry: The Olympics, journalism, glossy magazines, literary fiction. But what is this telling us about the rest of the stories, the ones we don’t get to hear?

This is telling us that our stories aren’t important and don’t matter unless we are “somebody”. I wonder how many memoirs are rejected by publishers not because the writer is bad at the craft of writing or because the story is boring, but because they are simply an everyday person. This is telling us that only people who are important have important stories to tell and everyday people should be quiet and make way for those already in the spotlight. This is saying that suicide, cancer, loss, rape, abuse, disability, addiction, death, destruction, resurrection and success are only meaningful when that path is navigated by a journalist, an Olympic hopeful, someone “important”.

All of our lives matter. All of our stories matter and all of this makes up the collective Australian story and all of this, not just a privileged selection, should write on the wall of our futures. So, I urge you to consider the stories that aren’t being told the next time you pick up an Australian memoir. If your nextdoor neighbour had a great life story to tell, would it be their book you’d be holding in your hand at the library or bookstore? Not likely.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It shouldn’t be this way.

But, I don’t know what to do about it. Do you? (aside from self publishing, which is an expensive and often unworkable and non-viable option).

Bri Lee has an upcoming book called Who Gets to Be Smart. I wonder if there is any transferable wisdom for consideration when we ask, who gets to be published?

Short Story Excerpts

I have a heap of short stories that I’ve written over the years. Here are some excerpts of those.

The Piano and the Glacier

Caring went out into the world. He got up against evil and apathy and decided to take back his place, his future and the dreams that belong to everyone. He rode a platform into the ocean and played his music across the ice. He furrowed, frowned and cast a shadow across all of them, all of us, but still it did nothing to stop the swathe.

Caring was never enough. Playing pianos to buy gifts of inspiration and the ignition of guilt was never going to end deceit. Deceit was a tough monkey because he’d grown faster than Caring. He had to because his brothers were so tough on him. He learnt to stand his ground right from the start and he was never interested in looking back nor did he know how to look forward.

What is it of pianos? A cruel juxtapose? An irony? What? Caring couldn’t tell. It was about feeding egos and showing how one man is smarter than the next because he understands how a pianist’s mind works. Why does that matter? What do ice and pianos have in common? Neither of them have humanity.

Caring can’t win. He can’t because he’s alone. We all have our own Caring, but it’s applied the wrong way and to wrong things. We Care about this, about that, about what they think, but we don’t, nay can’t, Care about what happens next. Ten years is too far and twenty years further. None of it, none of it can mean anything to us now.

Pianos and ice, and the sound of cracking ice. What can Caring do with that? What? There seems such a pointless movement if you watch what Caring does so closely. No shadows, not night, only day. He waits because he knows not what else to do. He’s alone. He’s alone. He’s always been alone because that’s the way all living things die.

RFID

It took around 6 months for total uptake of the human chip. People were enamoured by the convenience. I don’t need to carry my wallet anymore, all my medical records kept in one place, no more car keys, my Facebook status gets automatically updated, I love it. We were astounded by our brilliance and experts forecast a future where the chip could offer even greater conveniences than the ones we currently enjoyed because carrying a wallet had been such a burdensome affair and availing us of the need to do so left us with so much more spare time to live a meaningful life.

I had to stop shopping at the big supermarkets. They would no longer accept cash. They became RFID only, so did service stations. A year in and there was pretty much nowhere to go if you were anti-chip. There was no way to pay bills and there was no way to even get a job. I was fired when I refused to become “integrated” as it was called.

I moved to the hills where I built a little shanty from scavenged timber and iron. I’d always been good with a slingshot, so I was able to shoot down  birds and rabbits and I had a little garden with sweet potatoes and herbs.  I only went to the edge of town to keep an eye on things. To watch what was happening , to see if there was any changes, any reversion to the old way of doing things. Two years in and it was just as it was when I left it.

It was on one of these trips that I met Jonas. He only had one arm.

“What happened?” I asked him.

“Oh, you know, I was de-chipped,” he said with a wry smile. “Sometimes they’ll gouge your chip, but if they’re in a hurry, they’ll just cut off your arm or your hand. Thieves that is. The ones who don’t have RFID scanners. They want your money and your ID, so they want your chip and if they don’t have their own scanner, then that means cutting off an arm or hand. Guess I’m lucky the government decided not to embed chips in peoples’ foreheads like was originally planned. I suppose the outcome wouldn’t have been quite so positive for me if things had gone that way. I can still get by without my arm, but life without a head is a little difficult,” he said.

“Jesus, fuck!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah. Jesus, fuck,” he said back. “What are you doing on the periphery anyway? Shit! You’re not an agent are you?”

“What? No, an agent, no, what’s that?”

“You know, one of them. Making sure everyone is integrated. I’m not anymore see, didn’t want to go back to that. They’ve got these roving agents now, walking around with scanners, making sure everyone is integrated. Nearly everywhere now is within range of a high gain antenna, making it easy to track all the integrated and single out anyone who isn’t. The high gain is being built out there on Hammock Hill. Probably won’t be finished for another 6 months, but still, I had to get out before then. Word is, something’s up.”

“Something’s up? What do you mean?”

“Word is that some researchers in America have found a way to access everyone’s DNA through the chips.”

“What would be the point of that?”

“Genocide. Ethnic cleansing. White power. Call it what you like. No one wants to believe it though. It’s too hard to go back to carrying a wallet, keys, having to turn your car on with a set of keys. No one wants that, so they just pretend like everything is OK, even though they’ve just been scanned by five different agents at four different check-points on their way home from the office.”

The Extortionists

A bird flew down from the top of the neighbouring building. I watched it alight on the grubby awning. It’s wings drew around it’s body and it gave a shudder as it settled into the smut. The city was unbecoming and ugly. This was nothing new of course. I’d always found it thus. It couldn’t move me the way trees, grass and mountain sides could. I was never at home here.

Oip! Tim’s sharp cry alerted the bird and it took flight. I watched as an errant feather glided down from the space above me. I wondered if it would miss its home too. I didn’t have time to dwell on that because Tim was at my side, shoving me sideways and poking me hard in the ribs. He didn’t mean it, well, at least I don’t think he did. He smiled at me in his oily fashion and I smiled back, not entirely pleased to have my observation of the bird interrupted.

“What now eh? He asked.

“Dunno”, I said. I really hoped he didn’t press me. I felt my shoulders bunch and I tried to prevent my jaw from doing the same. Sometimes I can be too obvious and it gets me in the shit.

“Aw, come on Sel, let’s have it then. You wanna see what the beach is like today don’ cha?” Tim said.

I really didn’t, but I nodded passively and started walking in the direction of my unit.

“Yeah, I knew you’d be in it!” He said, punching me on the arm. It was meant to be friendly punch, but it didn’t feel that way. My mood wouldn’t let it. I had to refrain from punching him back because I knew if I did he wouldn’t get one on the arm.  I didn’t like to think what would follow.

I’d been hanging around Tim now for six months. It had been the worst six months of my life. It started when my uncle died. I never knew the guy, but for some reason, he’d left me all of his money. There was a lot of it and that’s where the problems started.

Tim was part of a crew of new wave extortionists. His breed scouring death and probate notices, taking notice of who was who in society circles and worming their way into a target’s circle of confidence.  I had been his target because my uncle had been a famous and ridiculously wealthy man. I never realised it before my uncle died, but there are some things that money just can’t buy

I guess that’s not entirely correct. Tim was too stupid on his own to extort anything from anyone. He was what his crew would call The Main Player. He was the guy on the street, the guy in the bar, the guy offering up a parking space. He was the guy always there. He was there so much that in the end, I never even noticed him, taking him for part of the furniture. 

We met on a flight to Sydney. Straight off I felt like I knew him from somewhere, but I just couldn’t place it. I told him so and he nodded at me, smiling. We shared a cab to the city and after that he was just there. There all the time.

At first I didn’t mind. I’d never really had a lot of mates, so having someone who was so damn interested in every little thing I did or said was kind of nice. Made me feel important. Made it feel like I mattered.

That was why I didn’t balk when Tim asked me for a loan. Sure I’d said, how much.? He only wanted a thousand. Something wrong with his car he claimed. Funny, I thought ,I’d never seen him drive nor had I even stopped to think about how he got around.  I pushed it aside and withdrew the money from my account. He was grateful and I was happy that I was able to help him out. After all, he was my mate.

Things got weird after that. Tim started showing up with another guy. He said it was his cousin, but I didn’t believe him. Right from the start I could tell there was something amiss about the new guy. He had a moustache and it set me on edge.  The angle of it was wrong, tilted like I felt the situation was becoming. The cousin, Ram, started hanging out with us all the time. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was watching me, evaluating everything I did.  It was more than just the moustache.

Still all the World

Henry watched the sun float through the kitchen window. It sat in his daughter’s hair and seemed a moment to merge with her, making her like itself; intangible and free. She looked up at him from her blocks and smiled a grin filled with little-person teeth. He smiled back and felt his heart nestle down into his chest as though all of the good things in the world had come to live inside him. He loved the world in that moment and never believed another bad thing could happen.

Sarah was born in May. It was cold then. Too cold for May. Early frosts had already eaten the front garden and Henry was aware of the path slippery with melted ice as he carried Sarah towards the house for the first time. “Careful.” Henry said to Sarah’s mother, Nella as she navigated her way through the ruined flowers.  “Yes, Henry. You worry too much,” Nella responded.

As it turned out, Henry didn’t worry too much, because as he mounted the steps and went about inserting the key in the door, Nella slipped on a patch of ice yet untouched by the sun.  A small noise escaped her lips as she died on the ground.  

An autopsy revealed an aneurysm; burst when Nella’s head struck the concrete path or perhaps moments earlier,  causing her to lose her footing on the ice. The doctors couldn’t say for certain, but it made no difference to Henry; he knew better. I t was his impatience that had killed Nella.

Why didn’t I hold her arm? Why didn’t we put Sarah in the pram? Why didn’t I wait until the afternoon to pick them up?  I shouldn’t have been in such a rush. I should have known. I should have known! If I could just get her back, I’d make everything different. He wanted to bargain with God, but God wasn’t listening and thoughts like these chased Henry through the years. He hated himself for what had happened to Nella, but he hated God too. The image of Nella at the bottom of the stairs hung in his mind’s eye like a tarpaulin covering his world. But if he forced his mind to focus on Sarah he could feel the tarpaulin lifting and he was able to glimpse the edge of happiness once more. 

Sarah, blocks and the sun were what mattered now. Henry watched her and his spirit continued to lift until it felt as though he was the ceiling looking down on all things below. He could feel himself rise even further , above the roof and tree tops until he hung over the neighbourhood with the entire street in his view.  Sarah below was carved out in beautiful relief and as he hung on the wind he continued to watch her play with the blocks. As always she favoured the blue ones over the rest.  She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he wanted to touch her face and smell her hair, so he reached out and found himself at once back in the kitchen surrounded by his everyday things.

As Sarah grew Henry found that he could watch her from above, even when he was not physically near her. He could see her working on her sums at her desk in school. He could see her eating her lunch and he one day he watched her push Jayjay Keely over in the mud. He laughed then, but when he saw how upset Jayjay was at the state of his pants, he wished he could take this laughter back.

“No, Sarah, you stupid! Not my school pants, not my school pants!” Jayjay yelled, wiping at his backside in big panicky motions. Fat tears rolled down his cheeks and in that moment Henry glimpsed a wavy, refracted image of a kitchen he didn’t recognise. Angry faces leered forward and he saw Jayjay pressed into a tiny space between cabinets. His hands covered his face. Henry could almost taste Jayjay’s fear.  No! Henry wanted to shout, but he found he could say nothing.

Henry couldn’t bring himself to watch Sarah the next day. He was too afraid of what he’d seen in the refracted kitchen. What did it mean?  He thought, but he put it aside because he had things to deal with. There were clients coming to the house later and Henry had to tidy his office to make way for their presence. Greif counselling seemed to tether him to reality in the same way that watching Sarah from above was able to.

 In the years since Nella’s death Henry had attempted to make peace with himself through the study of grief. He strove for personal forgiveness in his pursuit of understanding. He needed to know how grief came to rest in him like a physical weight that he could not shift, all the while crushing him, driving the spirit from his body more each minute, hour, day year. He had to know how a non-physical condition could become so physical in its effects on the body.

 Through four years of harrowing university study Henry began to shift the weight of grief, piece by piece. Afterwards, he almost felt free again, as though every breath he took was laced with a promise of tomorrow.  He got nearly all the way to forgiveness, only of himself, but not of God. None of his clients knew this of course. This he kept only to himself.

As Henry watched the last client walk down the path he was struck by a wavering image of Nella. He recognised it as the day he’d brought Nella and Sarah home from hospital. “Nella!” he yelled. But, Nella didn’t notice him in the present, only in the past and she said, “Yes Henry. You worry too much.”

“Nella!” he yelled again.

“Dad?” Sarah asked in a small voice. She was at the gate, school bag slung over one shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

“Sarah! Oh, love, it’s you.” He exclaimed as he rushed down the step to meet her. He picked her up and hugged her and the school bag tightly. He could smell old vegemite sandwiches in her squashed bag and a few strands of her hair brushed against his cheek.

“Dad, put me down. It’s embarrassing when you do this. I’m in grade five now you know. Other kids in my class think I’m weird when you pick me up and hug me like this.”

“Sorry, my sweet. It’s just so good to see you,” he said and he meant it.

“What were you doing anyway?” she asked

“Oh, nothing. Just waiting for you to come home.”

“The cops came to school today, Dad.” Sarah said

“Oh really, what for?”

“They came to our class. Asked us about Jayjay.”

“What about him?”

“He’s gone. Didn’t come to school last week and now no one knows where he is, even his mum and dad.”

The Ballot

Dean Wallace, the Prime Minister of Australia ratified The Ballot. It was difficult to tell from his countenance at the time how he felt about it. He was a master of sham. Chelsea was the only one who could see the truth in him. She watched her father, like she’d done for the 35 years of her life and knew that he was secretly pleased. The heavy scent of his cologne cloyed up her nose as if the very air was made of particles of him.

“What now then Dad?” she asked him with an edge to her voice. “Going to rub out all the um… what did you call them? Ah yes, that’s right, the filth? Going to send them off to where they belong then are you?” Her father didn’t respond, so she paused a moment, the index finger of her right hand tapping a point on her face just below her mouth. “Did you ever wonder who is going to shine your fucking shoes?” she said.

“Chelsea,” The PM sighed. “You know I don’t like it when you swear like that. Besides, I shine my own shoes, you know that.”

“God, Dad! I didn’t mean that literally, you stupid man. I mean who is going to do the everyday things like grow the food, drive the trucks, build the roads and serve your coffee? These are people you’re talking about.”

Wallace waved a hand about dismissively. “The ballot won’t be selective, well, not really. People like you and I will be spared, but everyone else, will be entered. Not everyone who does the things you’re so concerned about will be removed. We’ll retain a large portion of different sections of the global community just by applying the system’s capacity for random selection,” The PM said.

Chelsea’s mouth fell open at his statement. “Gah!” she said. It was a visceral response. Her father was about to kill sixty-five percent of the people on the face of the earth.

The earth was overpopulated, everyone knew that. Policies had come and gone to address the issue, but nothing really worked. No one was prepared to make the changes necessary to secure the future. It was always seen as ‘someone else’s problem’.

“Goodbye Dad. I can’t be around you,” Chelsea said, the heel of her shoe catching in the carpet as she pivoted. She could feel it embedded deep in the pile.

“Oh, come on love, don’t be like that.” Wallace tried to reason with her as she struggled with her shoe.

“I always hated these bloody shoes!” she screamed as she yanked it and several cords of carpet free. She let the shoe fly at her father, but the throw was wild and the fine leather shoe hit the book case off to his left. She reached the door and holding the remaining shoe she looked back and said, “I don’t even know who you are.”

The ballot system was developed by epidemiologist Belinda Haesp as a tool for global diagnostics. Originally called FreePan It was meant to track and monitor disease outbreaks on a global scale so health care could be provided when and where it was most needed. Fundamentally it was about preventing pandemics, about providing treatment, cures and relief from illness. It was about stopping diseases like HIV and COVID in their tracks. It was about making the world a better place, not about marking people for destruction.

Cancer claimed Haesp just after the launch of her invention and the program was cancelled. Haesp’s boss, Chad Smith, himself an investor, not a scientist took control of FreePan, seeing it as a mechanism for global control. Through underworld connections and collaboration with Dean Wallace, the Ballot System was born. The collaborators knew little about the medical technology behind the system, caring only that they could hijack its original purpose for their own: to socially reconstruct the global community through a randomised cull.

FreePan consisted of 24 satellites that were launched into orbit from a location in the Australian desert. Half of the satellites were trackers and half were inoculators. The trackers went into high orbit and the inoculators fell back to earth not long after separation from the rest of the mechanism.  During the fall they spread a formulation based on human DNA into the atmosphere, where it mutated and became bio-active, homing in on its earth-based targets: every single human on earth. The bioactive components migrated down to earth and bonded with human DNA, altering certain atomic orbits within the human DNA structure. It provided real time tracking signals to the tracking satellites. For the first time in the earth’s history, every single human was accounted for and it only took around 24 hours.

Haesp had envisaged that FreePan would deliver cures from a central location by remotely altering the structure of endogenous retroviruses, present in all human DNA, liberating active anti-viral agents, capable of eliminating all disease causing viral agents on earth. Smallpox had been eradicated, why not HIV?  Haesp was truly visionary and she embedded within FreePan the capability for randomly selecting DNA, a provision for medical research. It was an effective way to recruit geographically and genetically isolated participants in trials and studies. It was this capability that the collaborators wished to exploit.

Chelsea knew there was nothing she could do about the inoculation. That had already occurred, but as she stomped down the hallway a plan began forming in her mind.  If she couldn’t stop her father from pulling the plug on humanity, she had to find out who was on the Safe List and feed their details back into The Ballot. “Bite me,” Chelsea said to herself as she pushed open the door to the data room. The faint smell of ozone rushed out to meet her and determination gripped her bones as she locked the door and set about accessing The Ballot’s databases.

Back in his office, the PM contacted Smith. “Time to proceed my friend,” he said.

“Are you sure the Safe List is secure?” Smith asked.

“It’s water tight,” Wallace responded. “I’m looking forward to… what was it they called that book? Ah yes, I’m looking forward to A Brave New World,” he said and hung up the phone.

Chelsea punched away at the keyboard. She had no trouble gaining access to the main database, but it took some deciphering to locate the genetic information for each country. Strings of meaningless looking code ran down page after page and she didn’t know how much time she had to find what she was looking for. Sweat was starting to stand out on her forehead. “Come on! She shouted. It had to be there somewhere. Tears of frustration stung her eyes, until the code became a smear of green. It was then she saw it.  A few lines of code contained a red letter instead of being entirely green. She didn’t know what program they had used to identify individuals, but one of these lines represented her own existence. She worked quickly to change all the red letters in each country’s database back to green, and then prepared a reboot to apply the changes.

Just as the system had started to close down the PM hit the enter key on his own computer to execute The Ballot. Everything scrambled and the screen he was watching became a blur of green. “What happened?” he asked the empty room. He pushed back from the desk he was sitting at and marched out into the hall. As he strode towards the dataroom he saw Chelsea’s discarded shoe sitting at the door. “Chelsea!” he yelled and began to run. In his haste he failed to notice the silence that weighted the air.

The door was locked of course, but he shoved against it wildly until the lock sprang free. It was gloomy in the dataroom, but he could see a screen illuminated in the far corner. It too was a jumble of green. “Chelsea, are you in here?’ he asked, taking a few small steps towards the green glow. He could smell her perfume: L’air Du Temps.

He arrived at the desk and saw his daughter. She had tumbled off the chair in a pose that made her look wooden. He bent to shake her, but as his hand touched the skin of her upper arm he jerked it back in shock. She was smooth and solid, like plastic, like steel. Even though dead for less than a minute her body had turned hard. She had become a sculpture of the very recent past.

He jumped up shaking his head. “No, no, no, no!” he repeated as he ran from the room, down the stairs and out onto the street. The still air enveloped him and solid bodies were everywhere. “Anyone!” He yelled it over and over again until something tore in the back of his throat and he tasted his own blood.

He was the only one left.