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Thursday, March 2, 2023

Flooded Childhood Streets

The park they were in was enormous, with gently undulating grass that was soft and spongy when they walked on it. Will and Johahn had strolled over to the thin, concrete bike path that snaked through the park, crossed it, and had reached the place where Johahn would film Will’s music video. It was a flatter area of the park where the grass was especially soft. Johahn had chosen this particular place because it would allow Will to fall down on the spongy grass from great heights without hurting himself.

Will walked away from Johahn in preparation for the first shoot. 

"Ready?" Will called to Johahn. 

"Okay go!" Johahn shouted out to Will, while clutching her camera.

Will began running fast across the green grass and took a giant leap into the air. He flew high into the sky and began doing a series of back flips, side flips and front flips before landing neatly on his feet. Will felt a sense of wonder. He had no idea he could jump that high, at least 10 meters high or more. It was super human and he stood there stunned in his landing position for a moment.

With wide eyes Will walked over to Johahn.

“Did you see that? Good lord! I had no idea I could do that"

Johahn shrugged and winked, "Yeah of course you can." 

They both looked at the camera and watched a replay of the scene. Will flying high into the sky and performing a complicated series of twists that made him look like a comic book hero. 

Will and Johahn both agreed that they had captured the scene they wanted and it would make a perfect addition to their music video project.  

“Let's go for a walk and check out Shark Beach. It's a nice day,” Johahn suggested. 

"Okay, but I bet it's crowded today." 

They began their walk across the park and towards the coast.

It wasn't a long walk to the beach but the sun was burning brightly in the sky which caused them both to sweat profusely. 

As they arrived at the beach, they walked along the sand and up towards the rocky cliffs at the far end of the bay. Drawing closer to the cliffs, Will turned his head and glanced out at the nets that ran out to sea in a semi-circle around the beach. The waters here were infested with bull sharks and the council had decided to erect the nets after several dogs were eaten by the bulls. Owners would bring their dogs down to the beach and throw sticks into the sea for the dogs to retrieve, like an oceanic game of fetch. As the dogs paddled out to the floating sticks the sharks would eat them in an explosion of salt water and yelping.

"I told you the beach would be crowded today," Will said, turning to Johahn. 

Johahn was gone.

“I feed on your sadness like a cockroach feeds on dead skin cells.”

Will looked down and his clothes were all gone. He was stark naked on the crowded beach, surrounded by families with small children. 

Will stood stone still as panic welled up inside him. He felt the sun burning his naked body. Surely someone was going to call the police for indecent exposure, but to his surprise no one on the beach appeared to notice. It was as if he wasn’t there at all. 

Taking care not to draw extra attention to himself, Will began to slowly walk up and away from the beach towards the large boat shed that sat in a picnic area, away from the crowds by the shore. As he walked towards the boat shed, the beach dwellers went about their business and appeared to hardly register him. 

“Should I cup my private’s with my hands or should I just walk completely exposed?” Will thought to himself. 

“Perhaps no one is registering my nakedness because I’m not acting like I’m naked. If I just walk normally and don’t try to hide myself, maybe they will continue to be blind to my exposed body?”

Will decided to appear outwardly unfazed and walked at a steady pace towards the sanctuary of the boat shed, away from the public’s potential gaze and alarm. Part of him felt that the herds of people at the beach must be so entranced in their hypnotised minds that a naked man walking amongst them was totally invisible. It reminded Will of his experience with the elevators at his apartment complex. Almost every time he pressed the elevator button at his apartment building, the doors would slide open and a glazed-eyed person would walk out, register they were on the wrong level, apologise and return to the elevator like a zombie. Will would find these frequent encounters with glazed-eyed people disturbing, but for once he was grateful to be surrounded by these blind and hypnotised entities. 

“Oi Will!” 

Will turned his head to see a group of his old work colleagues from a company he had worked at long ago. They were sitting under a tree by the boat shed. 

“Will. Where are your clothes you funny fucker? You’re bloody mental, man!”

Alex approached Will with a huge grin on his face. 

“Come into the boat shed, mate. We have a bag of your clothes in there that you left behind at the office when left the job.”

Will thought this was strange. How is that possible? Will hadn’t worked-with or seen Alex in a long time. Why would Alex have kept a bag of his clothes? It had been at least 10 years since he left the job. Besides, why would they be in the boat shed? 

Nonetheless, Will followed Alex into the boat shed. It appeared to have been converted into dormitory-style rooms on the inside with beds, clothes and squashed cans of beer littering the hallways. The doors of the bedrooms were ajar and Will could see beer bottles and dirty bongs on the floor. 

“Is this where you live Alex?”

“Yeah mate, it’s a party house innit,” Alex said in his London cockney-style accent. 

“Wait here mate!” Alex went into a room and sure enough emerged with a bag of Will’s old clothes. Will thanked Alex and hurriedly changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Alex handed him a pair of old sandals. “Here mate you can keep these. Come out the back and check this out!”

Alex led Will out to the back of the boat shed where a rusty old dinghy was mounted on wooden blocks on the floor. 

“Lovely isn’t she, Will? Have a seat mate. It’s really comfy.”

Will climbed into the dinghy and sat on a little pillow that cushioned the dinghy’s metallic sitting bench. 

As Will sat in the boat he felt the entire boat being lifted from behind and carried towards the back entrance of the boat shed. Will turned his body and saw that Alex had lifted the entire boat off the floor and was running with it. How Alex could possibly be that strong was a mystery. The boat with Will inside it must have weighed over 200 kilograms. 

“Will, we have to get out of here man!” Alex panted.

Will heard the voice of what sounded like an old man coming from somewhere inside the boat shed. 

“Hey! You bring my boat back here right now! You bastards!”

The old man was yelling as Alex carried Will and the boat out of the back entrance’s double doors, and into the forest behind the boat shed.

The forest was cold, with a light dusting of snow on the ground. The sunny day had transformed into a pale, grey sky with fine snow falling in a powder. The forest was alpine and resembled the snowy forest of Narnia when Lucy entered the wardrobe and emerged near the lamppost. 

“How is this possible? It doesn’t snow in Sydney!” Will exclaimed to Alex.

Alex ignored this and instead muttered “We have to find a stream so we can paddle away from that old git.”

Alex carried the boat and Will through the forest and sure enough a little river appeared between the fir trees. Sliding the boat into the water, Alex clambered aboard and they began floating down the river, away from the calls of the old man. 

They sat in the boat in silence and allowed the river to carry them through the forest. Before long, the trees began to thin and large houses began to line either side of the river. These were Victorian-style terrace houses that are common in the city and inner western suburbs of Sydney. 

Will peered into the river water and noticed that the river was actually a flooded asphalt street. The boat had entered a flooded Sydney suburb which Will recognised as Newtown. This was a suburb where he had spent an early portion of his childhood, back in Newtown’s bohemian 1980’s and early 90’s period. 

As the boat began floating down Pearl Street, a street where Will had once lived, the huge Victorian terraces loomed over the flooded road casting long shadows over the water. Will wondered how this once thriving and busy suburb had now become flooded and empty. Will turned to Alex to ask him how this had happened, but Alex had made himself comfortable at the back of the boat and had already drifted off to sleep. Will smiled and looked up at the Pearl Street houses and began to enjoy the solitude and soundlessness of his submerged childhood street. He decided that the flooded emptiness of this place was an improvement and that he hoped it remained this way forever. 

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