Part Seven: Land Down Under22 September 2017
You know that feeling when you wake up after a really hectic night? Like when you and your best mate go to a twenty-first as the drag queens from Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and after the fourth round of shots you lip-sync ABBA and grab some kebabs on the way home and you feel amazing, like the Gods of Glam, but then you wake up the next morning and that feeling hits you right in the gut, that feeling that you’ve absolutely been swallowed up by the void, that you’ve discovered the meaning of life but the meaning of life is fucked, because the world is fucked, and you can’t even remember the meaning of life anyway because your head is screeching and your throat is on fire.
It’s kind of the same feeling you get regaining consciousness after passing out from smoke inhalation. Kind of. Jazz music playing. That was the first thing I was aware of. The second was that the room was dark and most likely underground. The third was George, leaning over me. He poked me in the face.
“Ow, dude –”
“You’re alive!” he shrieked, hugging me enthusiastically.
I struggled underneath his weight. “Where are we? What happened? Oh my God, I need to find Mum.” I sprung forward, but George held me back.
The jazz was still playing, though as my senses adjusted I realised that it was only a saxophone and bass guitar, apparently covering a tune that I could only just pick as ‘Down Under’ by Men at Work. This didn’t make any sense to me and I figured I must have been in a coma, but George kept on talking and hugging me and it all felt too damn real.
“All you need to know, my dearest Ro, is that I’m pretty sure the chick with the flower crown pissed herself when they all ran away screaming.”
I frowned, struggling to remember what had happened. Slowly, images of a burning train came back to me, as well as the flickering shadows of the YOMG kids.
“Why were they screaming?”
“Oh, you should have seen it. After you collapsed, I tried dragging you back to the ute and then Hazel just came out of nowhere, brandishing a lit branch and chasing after them. It was magical.” He smiled, enraptured.
“Hazel? Where is she? Did she go back to that sanctuary place?”
The music stopped and a chorus of hissing echoed off the walls. I whipped my head around and noticed two other people in the small room, illuminated by a small lamp. They looked a few years older than George and me and wore ugly sweaters they probably found in an old Salvo’s. One wore cracked Ray Bans and the other a tin-foil hat.
“They’re watching us!” the guy with the hat spat out.
“Not cool,” added the other. “Seriously bad vibes.”
I turned to George questioningly. He smirked. “Hazel brought us here. This is her bunker and they’re members of her jazz band.”
“Uh…huh.” Things were beginning to make a little more sense. A little, but not much. Well, no, not much at all.
“Why are they hissing?” I whispered.
“They don’t like mentioning the Sanctuary –”
“BAD VIBES dude, do you have no chill?”
“– because they think the government is watching us. Tin Man over there is a major conspiracy junky. I mean, I know you think my aliens-caused-the-end-of-the-world theory is crazy, but this is next level.”
We sat quietly and watched them for a moment. Finally, they went back to playing their instruments, but the music sounded a little off, and their hands kept shaking.
Tin Man screamed and dropped his saxophone as a knock sounded above us. Ray Bans shushed him and patted his shoulder reassuringly. “Relax, Axel. It’ll just be salespeople.”
The knock came again, but this time more rhythmic, like a code. The guys brightened and Ray Bans rushed to the other side of the bunker, climbing a ladder to open a small hatch. There was a minute of hushed whispers before he came back down, followed by a girl with familiarly vibrant hair. Hazel beamed and threw her arms around my neck.
“Ro! I knew those Yo-Yo kids wouldn’t get the better of you.”
My body was too busy feeling an intricate array of feelings to correct her.
I pulled away and cupped her face in my hands.
“Where have you been? Were you looking for Tony? Did you take him to…” (I glanced at Axel) “…that place?”
“What? Oh, no.” She shook her head and went back to the ladder. “No, screw that. I found somebody else for you.”
Hazel gestured for somebody outside the bunker to climb in. I gazed up at the entry, a pool of light pouring in to brighten the otherwise miserable shelter. Slowly, someone made their way down the ladder, and as I caught sight of her face I fell back into George.
I must have been dreaming, I must have been in a coma because this was just too good, and the world was too shit to even allow good things to happen anymore. But she was there, she was right there, and I knew the world could end again for all I cared so long as I was never separated from her again.