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because each cut was a mirror, or a portal, and she did not care if it hurt. She deserved the pain, because thai mirror or portal was her. I am a ball, she would think, dense as a black hole, lacking a miracle singularity within—only nothing, endless horrible nothing. And she craved that nothing as much as she feared it. II Harold Holt boiled out of the water at Portsea, forty-four years dead and four hundred metres tall. Revenant Prime Minister transformed, mutated, his bathers had rotted away to a mere whisp of fabric. His penis hung limp and barnacled like some massive pendulum of the ocean, a great white shark caught in the folds of his foreskin, two tonnes of muscle thrashing uselessly. He crashed and raved all up the coast, striking Melbourne, swatting down the few fighter jets mobilised to lake him on. His arrival was by no means the first. The secret was to put on a show of defence, but not to commit too greatly militarily. They had made that mistake with Monroe—troops and nukes and stealth bombers —and she had sucked it all in; destroyed LA more thoroughly than the 2006 Earthquake. Princess Diana had blitzed Paris. Lincoln and the Kennedy Boys were left to sort it out amongst themselves in the Arizona desert. You buzzed and made noises and you tried to get the people out, before you engaged the big guns. Bell the Second III There was a building in the city. Reasonably tall, though not tall enough that anyone paid it much notice. Its outer surface was constructed of sheets of mirrored glass, so that at night, when the lights were on, it gave up its secrets. Except, at night, if you were to watch from outside—perhaps peering in from a nearby block of units with a telescope—all you ere likely to see was a man, or a woman—though mostly it was a man—in overalls, trundling a vacuum cleaner backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, in one room then the next and so on. The lights blinking on with each entrance and blinking off with each exit. Not a secret at all, that ceaseless industry; and by week's end. with the rooms done, it was time to begin again. But deeper still, secrets pulsed and crackled. Sometimes she would find the night and that it denied her rest, because all she could think about was that any seventeen-year -old could come in and do her job any time they decided to make a few cuts, because, let's face it, staff wages are an easy thing to cut back on and seventeen-year-olds earned twothirds of her income, so there was five thousand dollars a year, straight up. So every time a slim young thing, all smiles and obvious go-getting qualities come out of the manager's office she knew she would find the night and it would deny her rest. Precarious.
That was how she described her existence. At least when she ran the razor over her leg she was in control. At least she was constructing metaphors. Externalising internal chaos. Bell the Third (I) The phone rang, but nobody answered it. "We don't answer our phones around here," his new boss said. "We make the calls, remember that." Slessor nodded. There were lots of phones around here. Another phone started ringing and Slessor ignored it. "You're learning, keddo," his boss said. (II) "The Japanese are years ahead of us," he said. "Conventional weapons don't work, but even the most ridiculous shit is effective if you assign it to a team consisting of bubble-gum chewing girls, angstridden handsome young men and an old professor with a pituitary condition. You gotta give it a kooky name, too. or it doesn't work. We lost the first three because we didn't lake it seriously enough. "This whole shit is as ritualised as a Noh Play. Super Rampage Contrawise Hero Force is our best weapon yet. "But the truth is, the rules change every time. I dread the day when nothing makes sense." Bell the Fourth (I) It felt like a movie. Disjointed, overly significant. As though her existence had become a sequence of pyrotechnic events, none of which actually related to any of the other scenes, but by the tenuous thread of her own presence—and the swift dance of the blade against her skin—were forced into something called Bernadette's life. (II) Holt had never known such power, and it was ringing in his ears, and it was a madding pulse, like a booming heartbeat, like a blinding slashing fire. He had been a tit man. Well, admittedly not as lit as he'd like to believe. Thought of himself as a bit of a James Bond. Though he'd never wielded his Prime Ministership as well as he'd liked. Damn Americans. All the way with LBJ. He'd crush the Utile fucker now. He baited al the stinging bursts from the planes. He remembered the cold, and the blinding pain in his skull. Then the scolding tone of Menzies. Time for a little more of the old 'Holt's Jolt'. Time to get the big feet walking. "Not on my watch," Glory G Hatori shrieked. "Go Super Rampage Contrawise Hero Forced
Their podules launched into the sky, described wide loops and collided with a burst of Capricious Melancholy Energy, transforming into the multi-limbed battle beast Hope Engages Fire 4. Hope Engages Fire 4 let out a shrill cry then hurtled towards the Holi monster. "Time for a dismissal, Mr Prime Minister," Jackie Achcbonc hissed, launching a scattering of powerbursts at the monster. "His mouth is opening." "I don't like the look of this," said the Kid, whose name no one could ever remember. (IV) She slid the razor over her knee. Swift and reverential. The skin puckered and wept. The ground shook. (V) Hope Engages Fire 4 disintegrated. And Holt let fly with another burst of sonic destruction. High rises toppled. Slessor watched it on the direct video link-up, vomit bubbling in his throat. The phone rang, his hand hovered over the handpiece. "Don't you answer that fucking phone," his boss snarled. "It's her," he said, reaching for another phone. "We have to ring her, now." I'm calling it, she thought. I'm calling it. Every swipe of the razor, every downward strike. It's drawn to the siren-song of my misery. She felt its rumbling approach. Closer. Each mighty step shook her house, until it seemed he whole building was going lo go down. Books tumbled from their shelves, the microwave crashed from the top of the fridge. Windows imploded. I am the author and the architect of my destruction. She scurried to the shattered window and watched as the giant foot swept overhead—overhead and kept on going. The beast did not even pause and soon was gone, less than a shiver to mark its distant passage. A glass —should she have had a single unbroken one—filled with water would not so much as ripple. A vast pupil would not dilate, then shrink to junkie pinprick, outside the window. All along the street car alarms sang their dreadful song. The universe didn't give a shit about her at all.
She dropped the razor and wept, her tears mingling insipidly with the blood on her knee. The phone rang, its machine-tolls urgent; she stumbled towards it. Five rings before she reached it. “Hello." There was no answer. Slessor put down the phone. "We won't need to call that number again," he said. "Wrong number." His boss nodded, brushed at the flakes of dandruff on his crumpled suit shoulders and crossed her name out of the phone book. "We make the calls, Joe. We ring the bell and we find the answers." "What if there is no answer?" "Then we laugh into The darkness until it laughs back." Holl reached Canberra, the city long ago evacuated, devoid of populace as much as policy. He tore open old Parliament house and found it empty. With a dreadful roar, the beast went into permanent recess. The razor went in the bin. Razors, scissor blades, pen knives, sharpened plastic lids: objects that cut were easy to find. She picked up the phone and obtained the number that had called her, which was odd because she had expected it to be a pay phone or a silent number. Then she called the number, until it rang out. Then she called it again and it rang out once more. Then she called it again. Slessor looked at all those ringing phones. Through that door, the next, and the next were rooms crammed with them: phones and their tintinnabulations. "How many lines do we have here?" he asked. “How many unhappy people are there in the world, Joe?" his boss said. "Now you stop thinking aboul those damn phones."
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