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day. Piles of shattered masonry surround a giant paw-shaped depression where the building used to be. There's a security guy standing out front (guarding what?) so I ask him which Big Bcastic did it. He says he doesn't know, and his expression says he doesn't care. I tell him IVe come to fill out a dole form. He says I can't do it here. I say, well obviously, but can he tell me where I'm s'posed to go now? He says he's buggered if he knows. I suggest he uses his walkie-talkie to ask someone who does know. He suggests I piss off. Prick. At least he's being paid to do bugger-all. I'm taking out insurance on the next regular DJ gig I land, instead of assuming my employer's covered for damage by Giant Monsters. Act of Cod, my arse. I walk all the way back to the flat. Shitbox car needs a new engine. Could’ve taken the bus, but that $3.50 might be buying me lunch next week. Should only be an hour-long walk, but when I get to Annandale I find it's in the process of getting stomped, with the Army blocking access and redirecting traffic all the way out to Balmain. Up ahead I can see the "Beastie—something like a T-Rex with tentacles—striding back and forth through the local shopping district. Back and forth, left to right, Beastie chased by helicopters, helicopters chased by "Beastie. Don't recognize it. Might be a new one. I try chatting up the officer manning the roadblock: Any chance i could slip through? 'Bcastic's not likely to notice a lone pedestrian. She says it's against orders. Translation: we don't want your next-of-kin to sue. So I take the two-hour detour, grinding my teeth as the noise of the "Beastie’s rampage slowly fades into the distance. Can someone just tell me where the hell they're coming from? Bastards appear out of nowhere, rampage through an improbably localized area, then vanish. Last month the scientists were talking about wormholes to alternate universes. Before that, it was genetic engineering. Wish they'd just admit they don't have a bloody clue, and concentrate on swatting the bastards. Dad blames the Japanese. For everything. There's another bill shoved under the door when I get back (like they think III ignore it if they put it in the letterbox). Still can't bring myself to call the place 'home': a dark, moldy, six-by-six-meter hole with fleas in the carpet. And now I can't even afford the lousy $ I5 a week it costs me to rent this shithole. Just one thing makes it worth being here: Tina. Only been going out for three weeks---still at the never-stop-shagging stage---and she's already moved in. I could use some stress-relief right now. Talk afterwards, get things off my chest, Great girl. But she's got a shift at the salon today, won't be back 'til after seven. Still, gives me a chance to take stock of my finances, something I shouldn’t done as soon as a I got retrenched. So: I know I've got about $200 in my bank account. $5 in my wallet. Thought I had about $20 in change stashed in my kitchen drawer, but there's nothing there now. Must've frittered it away somehow. Practically broke. So---with no idea when I'm going to be able to put in a dole application---I figure it's time to hit the parents for a loan. Not before looking at every other possible option first, of course. I’ve already hocked most of my valuables. I’d consider working as an escort (I hear the money’s good), but I know what Tina would say. Old-fashioned girl, and I love her for it. ‘Love?
Well, if it feels right... So it’s the parents. And honest-to-god, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than make this call, but I’m desperate. I haven’t used the phone in a week, and I’m surprised to find it still working. Then I remember it’s the power that’s on Final Demand. The phone’s on Reminder, and the gas isn’t due for two weeks. Haven’t lived in a place fitted with gas before, and I don’t like it. It’s bad enough the service gets shut down every time the pipeline gets stomped, but the next time some fire-breathing ’Beastie strolls past, the whole place could go up. The building superintendent—old guy living downstairs—reckons the agent’s been promising to switch to electricity any day now. Sure. And then the rent’ll skyrocket to cover the cost. The call to Melbourne takes bloody ages to get through. A recorded voice waffles on about how they’re experiencing delays due to circumstances beyond their control; code-speak for some friggin’ huge mutant reptile just burned our exchange to the ground. But eventually the phone rings. Dad answers. Mum I can get around without too much of a lecture, but dad’s a tough nut. Lately he seems to expect me to stuff up, as if I ceased to be an adult the moment I left his field of supervision. So I just get straight to the point and ask for a loan, promising to pay him back ASAP. “Well,” he says, “it’s not as if we have that sort of money just lying around. And you never paid back the removalist’s fee to Sydney.” Ouch. We both know he’s never getting that money back. “Listen,” I say, “I am looking for work. There’s just nothing available at the moment.” All the local clubs have resident DJs booked already. But Sydney’s a party town. Something’ll come up. “Local papers are full of ads for wait staff. I imagine it’s the same in Sydney.” Boom. The room shakes slightly. Sirens begin to wail in the distance. “Look, if I’ve gotta wait tables to pay the rent, that’s fine,” I lie. “But until I find a waiting job, I still need a loan.” Boom. A sigh. “How much did you say you needed?” I tell him again. “Just about enough to pay off your debts and get back home, eh?” Where we can keep an eye on you. BOOM! Car alarms are going off nearby. It’s like talking to a brick wall. He’s always been like this: it doesn’t matter what I say, nothing’s going to change his view. So we argue ’round in circles, going over the same ground again and again, until I blow my top. But I need that loan, so I try to keep my cool. “Dad, I can’t just move back to Melbourne. I live in Sydney now.” Lame. “Something’s bound to come along soon.” BOOM! Plaster dust trickles from the ceiling.
So what now? Maybe the famous if only you'd worked harder at school speech? Or if only you'd put away some savings before moving out? But instead, dad asks what all the noise is at my end. I tell him. He goes quiet for a moment, then tells me I’m always welcome back home, and hell transfer the funds right away. Thanks, dad, gotta go, can’t afford these STD calls right now. I hang up, angry and ashamed. BOOM! The floor rolls under my feet. An ear-splitting screech rattles cracked panes. Against my better judgment I step to the window, and catch a glimpse of the ’Beastie as it strides past the flat. Not the Annandale-smasher, but about the same size, big as an office block. Massive legs pound holes in the road. Upper limbs wave spastically, like some nightmare Thunderbirds puppet. Rage-reddened eyeballs roll above a slavering, snaggle-toothed maw. Noxious secretions bubble between immense scales. Dogsized parasitic insects skitter across heaving flanks. The smell is overpowering; sickly-sweet and cloying, like the reptile house at the zoo. Fighter jets roar overhead. The ’Beastie’ screams again. A long spiked tail lashes out, and I jump back. Crunch. The building shakes, powdered masonry fogging the air. And then it’s gone. Boom. Quieter now. The stench fades, but there’s another smell—heady and choking, like methylated spirits. Shit! I throw open the window, then check the stove, but I can’t tell whether it’s leaking or not. The smell slowly dissipates, but I’m still rattled. Do I need to call someone? Tina would know what to do. Maybe one of the neighbors...? I open the front door. Most of the other tenants are out on the stairwell already. The super’s just coming back inside to tell everyone the ’Beastie’s moving away towards Liverpool Road. Everybody nods, retreating back into their hovels without comment. The old guy catches my eye. “Close one, eh? Tarrakis—he’s a nasty one.” He smiles self-consciously. “Grandkids collect the trading cards.” “I think I’ve got a gas leak.” “Want me to give the gas company a call?” “Cheers.” I nod and start to close the door. “Shame about the building, isn’t it?” “Yeah. Still, could’ve brought the whole place down, eh?” “No, I mean... Oh.” He squirms. “Didn’t you get the letter from council?” I shake my head. I probably did, but I always bin council correspondence. It’s usually campaign crap. “Why, what’s up?” “They’re going to knock the building down. Cracks in the foundations, from all the monsters stomping around. Not safe anymore.”
The situation suddenly feels unreal, like I’m having a bad dream. “But—what happens to us?" He shrugs. “I've lived here twenty-five years, you know...” “Yeah, well,” I say, and begin to shut the door again. “Oh, by the way,” he says quickly, “there were some gentlemen here earlier, asked me to tell you—” Debt-collectors. Great. I shut the door. Shit. Shit. The phone rings. Christ! Now what? It’s the cops. “Do you know a girl named Tina Ashton?” The back of my neck begins to prickle. “She’s my girlfriend—is she okay?” “Ah, listen mate, we’ve arrested her in connection with a series of thefts and frauds." Boom. My lip curls involuntarily. “Nah, listen, there must be some kind of mistake—” “Yeah, you’re about the fifth bloke I’ve heard that from. We’ve been after her for ages. Moves in with a bloke, gives him some tall story about her circumstances, then pisses off with his cash.” Boom. “Had any money go missing? Cheques?” “I...don’t know.” “Could you take a look for me?” I put the phone down and pull my chequebook out of the (suspiciously) change-free kitchen drawer. The book looks intact. I smirk with relief. Then I notice a sliver-thin gap at the back of the tightly bound stack of cheques. My throat constricts. I flick to the back of the book. A single tell-tale fleck of paper peeks out from the spine, where several cheques have been torn out, stub and all. Boom. I pause, feeling nauseated. My head seems to spin. Then I pick up the phone again. “Ah...” “Thought so,” says the cop. “Probably drawn against your account with a forged signature. Better check with your bank. I bet she's cleared you out..." His voice drones on, but my ears are full of white noise.
Boom. “…need you to come in and make a statement." Tears are streaming down my cheeks. “You there, mate?" I draw a shuddering breath. “I...I mean, are you sure? I was going to meet her folks next week—" The cop laughs explosively. “-Aw, sorry mate, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that we’ve been after this girl for a long time, and some of the bullshit stories she’s been telling... Her folks are dead, mate. Died when Wollongong got stomped.” BOOM. “So when’d you reckon you could come in and make a statement?” With the car out of commission, I beg a lift. “Sure, mate. Well get someone over tomorrow.” A pause. “By the way—I know this is a personal question, but...you have been sleeping with her, I s’pose?” “Yes?” “Okay. Look, ah, you should get an AIDS test.” I can’t think of anything to say. BOOM. The room trembles as I hang up the phone. My heart pounds, breath coming in short, sharp gasps. Numbness grips me, adrenalin icing my veins. I feel light-headed and weak. The room seems to fade, patchy contrasts of light and shade pressing in, muffling the outside world. BOOM! A dull shriek pierces the fog. The window darkens. Helicopters buzz angrily overhead. The smell of alien flesh and petroleum combines to nauseating effect. I loved her. Only three weeks, but... And now— It hits without warning, like a tsunami. Rage. White heat burns my face. I stagger, trying to scream, choking as my mouth fills with spittle. I want to tear the room apart. I want to crush, destroy, kill. Until everything lies in ruin. Until the pain goes away. But the rage is too great; I writhe impotently under its
weight, unable to move, unable to breathe— BOOM! The impact releases me. Shrieking my hatred, I run to the door, slam it open, pound down the stairs to the street and out into the middle of the road. I stand there, shaking uncontrollably, mucus bubbling from my eyes, nose and mouth: the Hulk in trendy clubwear, roaring defiance at this shitheap of a world, fists clenched, ready to lay waste to all before me. “Come on, you bastards! Come on! Come on, I'll kill you, you bastards! Arryhhhhhh!" The Beastie looms over me, unconcerned, perhaps not even aware, as if I were a bug underfoot. The thought enrages me beyond all reason. I scream again, ready to sink my nails into reptilian flesh— This, I suddenly realize, is the ’Beasties’ secret. Rage. Raw emotion, providing power enough to move monsters through time and space, to fuel rampages through brick and mortar and steel, to shield against the arsenals of humankind, the agonies of everyday life— I grin savagely, glaring upwards, arms thrown wide in open challenge. “Have a go, you bastard! Come on, have a go! I’ll rip your bloody head off! Come on—do your fucking worst!” A mighty foot descends, blotting out the world.
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