Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Sunday, October 15, 2023
Saturday, October 7, 2023
Monday, September 25, 2023
Sydney was in the midst of political upheaval. The protesters had begun their campaign with marching and banners scrawled with slogans, but this had quickly descended into glass bottles being thrown and violent street brawls. The streets were littered with broken glass, burning car tires and surging human crowds.
The entire inner Sydney area was engulfed by the violence with the core of the protests centering around Newtown.
I was with Johahn and my two brothers, Sam and Eddy. The four of us happened to be in Newtown when the protests turned violent, with many of the angry crowd donning balaclavas to conceal their identities. We began to urgently seek a place to hide from the hordes of rabid, masked protestors who had commenced throwing petrol bombs at shop fronts. We decided to shelter inside Newtown High School and wait for things to cool down so that we could safely go home. Eddy was a student at the school so he was able to show us a secret doorway into the main building. Entering the school, we made our way down to the gymnasium.
While we sat inside the gymnasium the sounds of the crowds outside the school grew louder and louder. It became apparent that the situation was not going to improve anytime soon and that we may be stuck in the school for a long time.
That is when Eddy turned to me and said in a low voice, “I know a way out of here.”
“What’s your plan Ed?” I said
Eddy stared at me and said “There’s a way into the sewers from the school. We can crawl into the sewers and follow the sewer tunnels out of the school, up the streets and to the top of the hill. We will exit above ground at Newtown cemetery.”
I heard windows break and shatter down the school’s corridors and I knew it was time to leave.
“I dunno Ed. It must be a huge sewer system. We might get lost in the dark. Isn’t it a maze down there?” I asked apprehensively.
“Oh bro. It's a giant maze. You gotta know where you’re going!” Eddy said confidently.
We followed Eddy out of the gymnasium and down a spiraling staircase that looked like it went into the school’s basement.
At the bottom of the stairs Eddy pushed on a green door and, to my astonishment, a giant white-plastered room was behind the door. This room was bigger than the gymnasium. In the center of the room sat a giant rectangular-shaped scaffolding structure that loomed over us.
“We gotta climb that to get to the sewer tunnel entrance”, Eddy said.
Eddy strode over to the scaffolding, followed by Sam and then Johahn. They all began climbing the steel beams quickly.
I followed and began climbing after them, but lost sight of them in the scaffolding above me. I got my shirt caught in a protruding screw in one of the scaffolding beams and had to untangle myself.
“Wait up guys”, I yelled.
I climbed up through the scaffolding, to the top of the structure, but they had vanished. Johahn, Sam and Eddy were nowhere to be seen.
I could see several grated vents above the scaffolding structure and I assumed they must have crawled through one of them. However the vents all looked undisturbed and were all screwed into place. I simply had no idea where they had gone.
Rather than choose the wrong vent and get myself lost, I decided to climb back down the scaffolding structure and assess my options. As I reached the floor I saw a dislodged vent grate and some loose screws lying under the scaffolding. I looked up and I couldn’t see any vent openings in the ceiling, even though I knew they must have climbed through a vent.
I had lost them.
I walked out of the giant room and back to the gymnasium where I sat and decided to wait for the protests to calm down. Although it was very loud outside the school, no one appeared to be trying to break into the building anymore. I was able to relax a bit.
After a few hours I noticed the sounds of the crowds outside had grown considerably quieter. The main bulk of the throng had apparently decided to move on. Gingerly, I made my way to a window and noticed the crowd had thinned a lot and that I could make my escape. I decided I’d head back to my parent’s house and meet my brothers and Johahn there.
The streets outside the school were covered in glass shards, smoldering rubbish heaps and spats of blood. I tentatively tried to avoid impaling my feet on glass as I made my way to my parent’s house.
When I arrived at the house I saw Eddy sitting on a couch in the living room. Johahn and Sam weren’t there.
“Ed! You made it!” I yelled.
“Yeah bro”, Eddy said, his eyes shifting.
“Where’s Johahn and Sam?” I asked him warily.
“I dunno”, Eddy said and gave me a hurt look.
“Eddy! What happened?” I started towards him.
At that moment my mother entered the room.
“Will, come and talk to me out here.”
I walked over to her.
“Where are Johahn and Sam?” I asked her, as a horrible feeling that something was very wrong began to dawn on me.
My mother and I walked into the kitchen.
“Eddy took Sam and Johahn into the sewers under Newtown. We were trying to escape the protests.” I told her.
Eddy walked into the kitchen.
“Eddy, are they still down there? Did they get lost in the sewers?” I said
Eddy was silent and my mother looked grave.
“Unfortunately your brother decided to take them over the Havoc Chasm”, my mother said.
“What the hell is the Havoc Chasm?” I asked, bewildered.
“It’s a 400 foot pit under Newtown, between the sewer system tunnels”, my mother said.
“The chasm is in the middle of the sewers. You have to cross it on a thin rail to get to the other side. It was really scary and didn’t feel right.” Eddy said. “I wanted to turn back.”
“Johahn and Sam fell down the chasm?” I whispered.
Eddy didn’t respond and hung his head down.
“I’m sorry son.” My mother said.
I felt a huge lump in my throat and tears well up in my eyes. I walked out of the house and went to sit in the park.
As tears streamed down my face I felt a presence beside me in the grass. I turned my head and saw Sam sitting next to me as an apparition in black and white, like an old television image. Sam’s mouth was moving but no words were coming out. He was pointing towards my pocket.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out Sam’s old iPhone. I’d completely forgotten that he gave it to me back at the school. Sam had shallow pockets in his shorts and I had deep pockets in my jeans. Sam had given me his phone just before he started climbing the scaffolding so that he wouldn’t lose it.
I held up Sam’s phone and the black and white apparition smiled and motioned for me to hold the phone up to my ear.
A crackling and otherworldly voice spoke through Sam’s phone.
“….Hey bro” the voice said
“Sam? I miss you man. What the hell happened?” I could scarcely believe what I was seeing and hearing in that moment.
“….the railing across the chasm was too thin. I lost my balance and fell…It was so dark there. Pitch black. We couldn’t see anything. Johahn fell first.”
I couldn’t imagine how horrifying it must have been for Johahn and Sam, trapped deep unground and plunging into a dark void.
“Sam, I lost you guys back at the school. I couldn’t see where you went. I wish you waited for me.”
“It’s okay bro. You have my phone now. Anytime you want to talk then you can use the phone and I’ll be here.”
Sam’s black and white apparition began to fade. I clutched the phone tightly to my ear.
A low hum of crackling static emitted from the phone, and then it went quiet.
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Friday, July 14, 2023
Saturday, June 24, 2023
Tuesday, June 20, 2023
Sunday, June 4, 2023
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
We had our routine. When I finished my work for the day I would catch the train to Kings Cross station, walk past the police station, down Amos Lane and buzz the intercom at the Roslyn Apartment complex. The apartments were perched on the sandstone cliffs that wound down to Rushcutter’s Bay.
I would usually call Johahn on my phone as I walked down Amos Lane towards the intercom and let her know that I was approaching. I would stay on the phone with her as I punched the numbers 3 and 4 into the intercom and, through the phone, I would hear the loud “tring” of the intercom bell in Johahn’s room as she would leap out of bed and buzz me through the locked gate. The gate would click open and I’d walk across the footbridge that led to the apartment building. I would then catch the elevator to level 5 where Johahn’s apartment was - apartment number 34. Entering Johahn’s apartment, I would always see her curled up in her bed, greeting me with a wide smile.
“Don’t forget to latch the door behind you” Johahn would say.
This routine would continue for months. Finish work, catch the train to Kings Cross, call Johahn as I walked towards Roslyn apartments, punch the numbers into the intercom and listen to the “tring” through the phone, watch the gate click open, catch the elevator to apartment 34 and be greeted with a wide smile.
It was the end of May now and unusually warm for this time of year. After finishing a trivia night at the Woollahra Hotel, I began to make my way towards Edgecliff train station to catch the train to Kings Cross and meet Johahn. I had spoken to Johahn on the phone 30 minutes earlier to let her know that trivia was nearly done and I would be heading over soon.
I walked out of the hotel and down the autumn-leaf covered streets towards the train station at Edgecliff. As I strolled I kicked big piles of dried leaves and watched them scatter and swirl before me.
I arrived at the station's ticket barrier, descended the escalator to the platform and boarded the train bound for Kings Cross. The train ride was a short 3 minute journey before I reached my destination. Exiting the station, I began my walk down Darlinghurst Road towards the police station. At this stage I thought I should call Johahn and let her know that I was getting close to the intercom. I pulled out my phone and called her. It rang for longer than usual. Johahn usually answered her phone within one or two rings, but today it seemed to ring at least ten times. When Johahn finally answered the phone she sounded a bit groggy and I guessed she had been sleeping.
“Hello” Johahn said in a slurred voice.
“I’m nearly there” I said.
“Okay” Johahn said, and then she went quiet.
I stayed on the call as I approached the intercom and punched in 3 and 4. Weirdly, I didn’t hear the intercom “tring” in Johahn’s room, through the phone, as I usually did.
“Are you home?” I asked Johahn, feeling confused.
The gate clicked open.
“Yes, I’m home. See you soon” Johahn said, and then she hung up the call.
It was very odd that I didn’t hear the sound of the intercom through the phone, but I brushed it off and assumed that maybe Johahn had set her intercom to silent mode somehow, even though she had mentioned many times that there was no way to turn down the volume of the loud alert of the intercom.
I entered the apartment building and caught the elevator to level 5. Johahn always kept her apartment unlocked for me so when I reached apartment number 34, I turned the doorknob and entered the room.
The apartment was dark, only illuminated by a shard of moonlight streaming through the window. Johahn’s bed was empty and the apartment was eerily quiet.
Apartment 34 was a small, one room studio and it was completely empty. Johahn was nowhere to be seen.
Was she playing a trick on me? Was she hiding?
My phone rang and I saw it was Johahn’s number. I hurriedly answered the call.
“Where are you?” Johahn said.
Her voice sounded different, as if it was a decibel lower than usual.
“I’m in your apartment. Where are you?” I urgently spoke, feeling very unsettled.
Johahn didn’t respond. The call was silent.
Suddenly a creaking groan emitted from the phone. It sounded like old wooden floorboards. The creaking increased in pitch and then the call went dead.
As I stared at the phone in my hand the temperature in the room dropped dramatically and I could see the vapour of my heavy breathing coming out of my mouth in a fog. The room became shrouded in mist and I was disoriented and bewildered. I tried to feel my way towards the apartment door but my hands touched cold, smooth wall. I kept feeling my hands across towards the door but was only met with endless cold walls.
The door was gone.
I turned back towards Johahn’s empty bed and my shallow breathing caused me to feel light headed. My mouth was dry and felt like sand.
A thick, dark cloud moved over the moon and the dimly moonlit apartment was plunged into blackness. The apartment was now a cold, black void and the swirling dark curled its fingers around my neck as my skin began to turn to ice.
I was frozen in the dark.
As I stood there, paralysed in a grim trance, the silence in the apartment was suddenly broken by the sound of groaning, creaking wood.
The moans and groans of the old wood came from beneath Johahn’s bed. Covering the mattress were crumpled white bedsheets, barely visible through the gloom. In the inky shadows the white sheets took the form of a dark, jagged glacier that was slowly carving its way, an inch per century, down a mountain.
Flattening my back against the icy, smooth wall behind me I watched the crevices in the bedsheet glacier begin to pulsate and widen, beckoning me towards it. I felt pulled towards the deep trenches of the bedsheets and I knew that Johahn was trapped down in there somewhere.
I had to find her.
Inhaling a long breath and holding it in, I took a step towards the bed.