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.