A note from the author :

So ED Day : Dead Sydney is finally finished. Well, a first draft anyway. I'm finishing a new draft for its e-book publication in late 2011, adding more photos, video and some audio.

Yes, I know there's a few spelling mistakes and one of two gaping plot holes in this version, and no you don't win any prizes for spotting them. You'll never know if I left them in on purpose, just to mess with you.

Below you'll find an excerpt from Chapter One, with links to the full chapter so you can read the the novel all the way through. Or if you look to the right of this page, you'll see a list of chapter links. Each chapter links to the next, so you can't get lost.

I hope you enjoy reading ED Day : Dead Sydney. It was great fun to write, as sad it was to kill off an entire city, and then pick off the survivors, and as grim as it was to imagine Sydney, a city I dearly love, stripped of almost all of its life and noise.

I hope you stay up to dawn reading this novel, because that's what I did most nights I was writing it. The nights are always the worst time for the survivors in ED Day : Dead Sydney, but every dawn reminds them they'd survived what few others had, and the new day, this next day was right there, waiting for them to join it, to join in, to get back amongst the living.

Darryl Mason


GO HERE TO READ CHAPTER ONE OF ED DAY IN FULL


An excerpt from Chapter One :

Thick grey-brown clouds of smoke from the burning suburbs are blowing back across the city. I can smell what’s burning out there : fabric, plastic, carpets, wood, chemicals, people.

There’s nothing like the smell of a burning human body. Even after five or so weeks of hauling black-faced, rotting corpses off the streets, and out of the office blocks of Sydney’s CBD, I still reckon the smell of a burning body is heaps worse than anything else.

That stinging stench of torched hair, that sweet-bacon stink of human flesh and fat on fire, it can still make me gag. A little bit anyway. Not as much as it did when we first started burning the piles of corpses in the Domain that first week after ED Day. Everything I ate for those couple of weeks we were burning the bodies tasted like that sweet-bacon stink.

I can handle the rotting flesh smell now. Don't like it much, but I think I’ve gotten used to the stench of all those bloated flesh bags of slime and juice we drag into the back of trucks for four to six every day. I don’t like the smell, but it doesn’t make me puke.

Then again, all the survivors are probably used to the smell of rotting flesh. It hangs around the city streets like a mist. The city used to stink of pollution from all the traffic. Now it stinks of the dead. It never goes away, not while there’s still tens of thousands of bodies to be disposed of.

We try and cover the stench with disinfectant and perfume and burning steel bins full of eucalyptus leaves. Lots of survivors still plug their nostrils with tea-tree oil soaked cigarette filters, but the smell gets into your clothes, your hair, your bed, the sheets, the pillows, the carpet. Your dinner.

Bookman told me a few days ago that whoever is burning up the suburbs is probably doing us a favour.

“When we get out there,” he said, “there’ll be a lot less bodies to dispose of. All that charcoal and ash will soak down into the earth, it’ll replenish the soil. In a year or two we can run bulldozers through the ruins, scrap off the top couple of inches of concrete and plastic and wire and reo, and ten years from now there’ll be tens of thousands of acres of fields for our crops and cattle.”

Bookman will spend two hours raging against "those bastards" who he reckons unleashed the bird flu pandemic and killed millions of people. Then he'll tell you how great it'll be in the future now all those people are gone.

"It wasn't an accident, Paul," he'll say to me, every few days, "they wanted us to die, those bastards. They wanted to get rid of all of us. Save the planet, kill the humans. Kill everyone except themselves, you see. We weren't supposed to survive, but we have and now we have to own the future. This is our city. Ten years from now, we'll have transformed it into a paradise.".

Go Here To Read Chapter One In Full

Chapter Twenty Three - Six Steps To The End




I fell asleep at the table, writing about Johnny, and when I woke up Bossbloke was there, unpacking my bag, the assault rifle leaning against the wall behind him, he was smoking the joint.

“You don’t just get to leave, Paul. It doesn’t work like that.”

He watched me as he carefully took out each item from my backpack and laid it in a neat row on the dining room table.

“Why do you want to go to the Blue Mountains, Paul?” Bossbloke said, “There’s nothing up there. This is where civilisation is. Right here.”

I was sitting at the table in the kitchen, twenty feet away from Bossbloke, twenty five feet from the assault rifle. I felt cold, defeated, wanting more sleep. A week of sleep.

Behind Bossbloke, through the floor to ceiling balcony doors, the dusk light was touching the tress of the Botanical Gardens. He was a silhouette, dark, outside was the light. I had to get out there.

“Did you hear me?” Bossbloke said, his voice sharp.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not leaving. I’m just going on a holiday.”

Bossbloke studied me, like a cat studying a bird before it snaps its skull to little splinters. His gaze was brutal, his combat eyes were turned on, steady, fixed. And then he laughed.

“Holidays, now that’s fucking funny. Your whole life has been a fucking holiday…”

Bossbloke finished unpacking my bag and then stretched. He picked up the assault rifle and walked up to the balcony doors. I didn’t move so I didn’t make a sound so he didn’t need to turn around.

He looked out across the Botanical Gardens as he spoke. “When you're an old man, you'll be famous. You know that, don’t you? When the history of this new society is written, you’ll be written up like a fucking hero for being one of the survivors who brought Sydney back to life. But you can be much more than that, Paul."

I said nothing. I was waiting for my chance.

"You just don’t get to leave because you want to. You have responsibilities here, now.”

As he kept talking, I thought ‘if I run for the door now, how many bullets will he put in me before I touch the door knob?’

“Sydney will come back to life. It won’t be long before there’s a million people back here. Sydney isn’t dead, it’s sleeping. But it will come back to life, I promise you that. It’ll be cleaner, quieter, and brighter than the old Sydney...."

Bossbloke sighed heavily, his chest shuddered as he breathed out, rattling, like he was sick.

"But it’s big job, mate. You know I need people like you to get this done. I need you on my side.”

Bossbloke looked back at me, there were no LEDs on, or candles burning, so the room had grown dark as the sun disappeared.

“I want you to be a part of this, Paul. With me. I want you to help me bring Sydney back to life. need you on my side. I want to know that I can count on you, when the time comes.”

All I could think about was how empty the city was. Sydney wasn’t sleeping, it died on March 21. It was a corpse. Where there had been so much life, and drama, and laughter, there was now no breathe, no movement, nothing.

Still and dead.

Tens of thousands of utterly lifeless apartments and offices and mansions and weatherboard cottages and supermarkets and coffee shops and bars. The best city in the world was already decaying around us, eight weeks after ED Day. Bossbloke was lying to me.

"This depopulation thing was always going to happen eventually, Paul,” Bossbloke said. “You know that, don't you? The world was already running out of food, water, energy, everything. We had to find 18 million football fields worth of land every year just to keep up with all the hungry mouths being born, while established farmland across the world was turning to fucking desert, or covering over with ice. This had to happen. They would have eaten the whole world.”

“The planet couldn’t sustain so many useless eaters,” I said, I knew what he wanted to hear.

Bossbloke grinned and clapped his hands. Crack, like a rifle shot. “Exactly! Fucking right on there."

"If selective depopulation didn't happen, billions would have starved to death," I said.

Bossbloke nodded. "Exactly. What was the choice? Depopulation by virus, quick deaths, or depopulation by starving people to death? There is no choice. In the end, it really was an act of mercy."

“The black triangles, those planes, they used too much,” I said. “They weren’t supposed to take out everyone…”

I couldn’t see his face in the dim light, so I couldn't see how he was reacting.

"What do you know about it?”

“Probably not as much as you, obviously,” I said. “But it was no secret that it was coming. Why else have all those months of Army drills on urban pacification? They worked those soldiers to the bone preparing, but when the city was sprayed, they died, too. It was too much, too strong, the mix for the spray was wrong.”

I was making it up, remembering some of the conspiracy theories Fireball and Bookman had told me, and that I’d read on the internet back during the first wave of the bird flu pandemic.

“You know more than all those other dumb fucks,” Bossbloke said. He walked over to the corner of the room and faced the wall. He took his dick out with one hand, held onto the assault rifle with the other. He pissed away onto the wall, the carpet.

“I heard there’s only a million people alive in the whole country,” I said, not knowing if it was true or false. I said it to see if Bossbloke would confirm or deny it. He did both.

“Bullshit,” he said. “Your sources are shit. There’s millions of people still alive in Australia. Heaps in West Australia and the Northern Territory. That’s where all the grey nomads headed last year during the first phase. Two million of them left Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane and pissed off for the Territory, and they hardly got the flu at all up there.”

“I heard Melbourne copped it worse than Sydney…”

Bossbloke finished pissing and went back to the closed balcony doors. He set down the rifle, close by, and crossed his arms across his chest. “See? You think you’ve got good sources, but they’re shit. Sydney scored the highest bodycount in Australia, and it was way above the per-person average of anywhere else, including Melbourne.”

I stood up, and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. Now I could see his face more clearly. He was smiling.

“But Melbourne didn’t get the black planes, those triangles,” I said, diving in again, seeing what would stick. “Only Sydney got the black planes on March 18, 19 and 20, that’s why the death rate was so much higher than Melbourne’s. They fucked up the aerial vaccinations”

“Yeah, they fucked it up,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter now. We have to get on with…”

“The aerosolised vaccine had gaps for certain genetic markers,” I said, not knowing if it was true, running through what I remembered of one of Fireball and Bookman's joint conspiracy theories, “it was supposed to keep most of the population safe from bird flu, and make those with certain DNA more vulnerable to catching it..."

I paused, Bossbloke said, "Yeah, continue..."

"A few tens of thousands die and the population is thinned in chosen communities. But it made everyone more likely to catch the virus, that’s why so many died on ED Day, the morning after the third of the aerial vaccination program…”

Bossbloke studied me for a moment. “That’s pretty good, you’re close, but I won’t tell you how close you are.”

”Because you don’t know,” I said. “They only tell you what they want you to know. They don’t give you access to the real intelligence…”

He didn’t like that. For a few seconds I thought he might pick up the rifle and blow me away, but Bossbloke wasn’t psychotic. He just wanted to be in charge.

He went back to looking out over the Gardens, through the gritty, unwashed glass doors.

“You killed my friends,” I said. “If you want me to work with you, why would you do that?”

“I didn’t get to make that decision," he said. "It was necessary. That you don't already know that tells me how little you know. Yeah, you might have got some news from the newly arrived, but you still don't get it, do you? The three removed were useless for what comes next. They expressed enough dissent in the Town Hall meetings alone to wind up incarcerated. They died quick deaths. Better deaths than out there.”

Out there. He was talking about the camps out west, they were operating.

”But why kill her?" I asked, it was the last thing I wanted to know.

“Like I said, I didn’t get to make that decision…”

I cried then, for Kat, for Johnny, for Preacher, for Bookman, for the guys I used to work with before ED Day, for the neighbours I never spoke to who lost their partners and children, for every corpse that was once alive, a life in this city, that we burned or dumped into a hole. I cried for the whole terrible fucking tragedy of what happened.

Something gutteral filled the room, an anguished roar, and that horrible noise was coming from me.

“Shit, mate,” Bossbloke said, sounding shocked, “she was just one chick. There are plenty of fertile women here you can breed with…”

I ran at him. I didn’t know if he was still holding the gun, if he was aiming it at me, I just ran.

Six steps.

Every time my foot came down energy stormed up through me, and I ran the next step twice as fast as the last.

Time slows and you feel, see, hear the detail of every miniscule moment of a second. But I'm not moving in slow motion, only Bossbloke is as his face contorts into a grimace and he tries to raise his hands to protect himself. The last step explodes through me and I'm in the air, bracing my shoulder, flying at him. He tries to step back, it's too late.

I hit Bossbloke in the face with my shoulder.

I felt his nose crush against the bone and muscle of my shoulder. He spluttered half a “fuck”.

I could feel the awesome momentum that carried me across the room empty into him.

He flew backwards three or four feet and hit the glass balcony door. I was falling, slamming my weight to the floor. The door exploded behind Bossbloke into a rain of tiny glass cubes. I slid rolled into the emptying door frame as Bossbloke reeled back into the sodden boxes of whatever Johnny had left out there on the balcony, in the sun and rain.

I’m sure Bossbloke glimpsed the smile on my face before he fell back against the railing. I’m sure I heard his spin snap, or his back break, as he went over. I listened for the impact sound of his body smashing into the street nine stories below. It seemed to take ages, then it echoed up to me. Phwomp, and a sickening, satisfying echo of the impact.

I looked over the balcony. His body had burst on impact. Even in the last dull brown light from the smoke-coated sky I could see the thick sprawl of bright yellow, orange and purple organs that had never been outside his body before. They'd been ejected as his torso split on impact. His guts lay a few feet from the rest of his body, but were still connected through one clump of muscle and intestines.

His head had disappeared into a halo of brown and red slush, and the white shards of skull bone were easy to spot, even from nine floors up.

I picked up the assault rifle, checked to make sure Bossbloke hadn’t emptied it, and slung it over my throbbing shoulder. It was an intense pain that felt good.

I re-packed my bags and then opened a can of tomato soup and drank it down cold. The sudden hunger was overwhelming. I ate half a packet of cracked pepper and lime crackers while I checked over Johnny's stockpiles to see if there was anything important I missed. There was. A box of Robert Timms coffee bags, 40 bags, nearly two weeks worth of coffee, if I can get hot water, but good coffee still, even with cold water.

I grabbed the back packs and left. When I came out of the building, Bossbloke was there, just another corpse that needed to be cleared away. A messy one.

But it won’t be me scrapping him off the footpath. I’m in the Jeep, in the underground carpark, the glow from my pen is fading and this notebook is almost full.

It’s after midnight. The city is silent. Killing Bossbloke didn't bring in the Army or a troop of security forces, nothing changed. Sydney is still a dead city.

I’ve delayed my bull run out of the city for too many hours already.

Chrissie is waiting for me in the Blue Mountains, and in another lifetime I promised her I would go there and find her.

I have to keep that promise.

It’s time to go.





The End

Chapter Twenty Two - Bring The Terror

“Come and see,” his voice boomed through Dead Sydney. “I caught the sniper! I made your streets safe again. Come and see!”

And on and on it went, and we all followed the voice, just like we were supposed to.

The calls drew survivors out of their apartments and hotel rooms to the Town Hall. Within minutes a crowd bigger than any I’d seen since way before ED Day had gathered.

Three hundred people, at least. People I hadn’t seen in weeks, a month or more. I saw survivors who had come to the funerals for Kat, Bookman and Preacher in the Gardens, but there were many faces I don't know, because I’m sure I haven’t seen them before.

"Come and see!"

There were speakers on the balcony of the Town Hall, tilted down to the front steps where the crowd began, and then spread back across and up and down George Street.

Bossbloke’s voice kept coming, like a recording, mixing with the echoes from the other speakers blasting his voice around the city. “Come and see….I caught the sniper…safe, you are safe, safe, you are safe…”

There was something else coming out of the speakers other than Bossbloke's voice. A low throbbing noise, like the heartbeat of something huge buried deep underground. The crowd was quiet, they were waiting for the show.

“Come and see the evil that lives amongst us….Come and see the one that must be punished for his crimes…Come and see justice, delivered, instantly….”

I took in the faces around me. A good two or three dozen I'd never met before were within a dozen metres of me. They were spread out, but still clustered together, within reach of each other. Young and old, but they had fresh haircuts, they were clean shaven, their clothes were crisp. They didn’t belong amongst the survivors. I wasn’t the only one looking at them with curiosity. The Professor was a few dozen people away from me, he saw me and nodded, and then nodded over to the group of outsiders. I shrugged. I didn't know who they were either.

The speakers went silent, the throbbing continued. I moved through the crowd to the low sandstone wall along the front of the Town Hall. I had to find out what was going on.

”Are there people here from outside the city?” I called out into the gathering. “Are there people here who came to Sydney after the flu killed everyone?”

People stared back at me, some shrugged, looked at each other, others ignored me completely. But some look around and way far too dramatically. They, there, were infiltrators. Visitors. Mostly calm, expressionless faces, some looked bored.

“We need to know what was happened outside Sydney,” I called out from the wall. “Does anyone have any information?”

Bossbloke’s broadcast began again and interrupted me. “Come and see how my new society deals with the killers and the rapists. Come and see how I will do what none of you have the heart or the guts to do. Come and see why I will…”

The rant was interrupted by what sounded like a scuffle. Somewhere back inside the Town Hall, the microphone was knocked over, then somebody seized it and shouted in a feedback pop and shriek that made everyone gathered there jump :

“Run! It’s a trap! This whole fucking city is a prison! Get out while you can! You are prisoners! Run!”

It was Johnny. He’d found out things that none of us knew. Then came a stream of terrible sounds. Johnny being beaten with a heavy dull object. His muffled, tortured cries, a gag must have been crammed into his mouth.

Then another sound, an electrical discharge, zzzzet, a taser being used.

We all stood rapt, hypnotised by the empty balcony above us, and the sounds of chaos and pain that were broadcast, echoing back across the city, banging down at us from the speakers on the first floor balcony in front of us.

Two figures came into view on that wide, low balcony, the figures came struggling, wrestling their way out of the shadows, a desperate fight, two men, but one in control. Johnny and Bossbloke.

There was a black hood over Johnny's head. His arms were tied behind his back, but he still tried to fight his way free. He couldn’t escape. There was a rope noose around his neck. Holding the rope was Bossbloke, who kicked Johnny in the back as he wrenched the noose tight around, then propelled him into the morning sunlight. Bossbloke threw Johnny against the hard sandstone wall of the balcony. Johnny doubled over like he’d been winded by the impact. He went quiet, or quieter, for a few moments. That was all the time Bossbloke needed to finish what he’d started.

“This is the sniper! This is the murderer!” yelled Bossbloke. “This is the evil that stalked our streets and filled our nightmares! But he won’t be terrorising us any more!”

I should have yelled something, anything, I should have rushed the balcony to rescue my friend.

I should have charged in through the front doors of the Town Hall and bolted up the stairs and then caved in Bossbloke’s head with the first heavy thing I could get my hands on.

I should have saved my mate.

I should have done all these things, but in the end, I did nothing. I was as hypnotised as the rest of the crowd. We all did nothing.

“There is no room for this evil in my new society,” Bossbloke yelled as he looped the slack end of the noose rope around one of the sandstone columns of the balcony. Johnny was still doubled over, trying to scream through his gagged mouth. Bossbloke tied off the rope.

“There is no room here for the haters and dissenters and the rapists and the killers. Those who use violence as a political weapon will not be tolerated. That dark and twisted society is now gone from this world. There will be no more rapists and child molesters and serial killers and murderers, because we will deal with them before they become a problem."

Bossbloke paused, a dramatic pause. "Today we're here to deal justice to this killer, this murderer of a good woman and two good men.”

And then it came. The first call.

“Hang the bastard!”

One voice. I turned and saw it was a man of 40 or so, one of the group of obvious outsiders, so still before, he was suddenly animated and shouting,

“Hang the bastard!”

His fellow outsiders joined in.

Bossbloke grabbed the shuddering body of Johnny and simply flipped him over the low balcony. Johnny tumbled forward only a few feet and then the noose pulled tight, the rope snapped like a whipcrack, a rifle shot. Or maybe it was his neck.

Johnny's feet were only a metre above the steps. If I'd run forward, pushed through the crowd and grabbed Johnny's legs and lifted him, so the rope went slack, but I didn't.

I did nothing. I watched. Like everyone else there.

Nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody cried out in horror. We all just watched.

It took a long time for Johnny to die, but it was probably only seconds.

His legs didn’t kick, they thrummed, vibrated with a rage as though every limb, every muscle and organ, every cell and sliver of DNA was fighting back.

The silence was so heavy you could hear your ears hissing.

Up there on the balcony, Bossbloke, looking stunned, but growing more fascinated by the deadened reaction of the survivors. His new society.

When I looked around I didn’t see the faces of anybody I knew. My friends were dead. I was surrounded by strangers. I shoved my way through the crowd to get out of there. The people I bashed into made noises, told me to watch myself, to be more polite.

Then applause broke out, slowly, a few then more. Bossbloke, looking out over the survivors, a faint smile, directly above where Johnny was hanging. Bossbloke was nodding at the applause. He had taken the life of a young man who committed no crime, and they praised him for it.

Hadn’t I seen this before? Didn't I believe it was coming? There will be no paradise here. Bookman kept telling me, this is what it will be like, get ready, prepare.

Bossbloke could rule His New Society with a blood-soaked fist and there would be enough survivors, infected with trauma, so disconnected from life by the loss of everyone and everything they loved, so many people, they would welcome some tyranny if it kept routines, stability, normality, and if they believed it would keep them safe.

As I reached the edge of the crowd, some of the strangers grabbed at me as I pushed past them. I felt their hands clawing at my arm, fingers scrabbling for hold, pinching at my flesh, a sharp handful of hair, torn free, fingers trying to get a good of me, to so stop me. Another hand grabbed a fistful of my hair and squeezed tight, then twisted. I swung around and punched, it wandered through empty air. I kicked out at the person closest to me, I caught them in the stomach. A good shot. They let go of my hair and went down. Some of the others backed off.

“Get the fuck away from me!” I said, and it was so silent and so still, I could hear the loudest of my words, “fuck away…fuck away….” echo down the canyon walls of this dead city.

This dead fucking city.

“There he is! That one!” Bossbloke yelled from his balcony. “He is one who can get things done!”

He wasn’t calling for his hordes to lynch me, to string me up.

“He is a man of action! He is a hero of ED Day! He is someone you will learn from, and respect."

Then there were more hands coming at me, but they were kinder, no grabbing and pulling, instead soft pats on my shoulders and back. More hands, and I could feel them trying to lift me into the air or onto their shoulders.

Fuck this, I thought. I lashed out, threw more punches, and enough of them backed off so I could get out of there.

"Don't leave....you can't leave!"

I didn’t look up at Bossbloke. I couldn’t look back at him without seeing Johnny.

"There is room for you up here,” Bossbloke yelled, “right here next to me...”

The crowd around me thinned as I kept moving, they didn’t try and stop me.

“Paul! It was the right thing to do!”

I walked away, faster, and by the time I passed the statue of Queen Victoria, now brightly repainted red, blue and yellow, I was running.

I ran straight to the underground carpark where I’d moved the Army jeep a few days back.

I stopped into a travel agency four doors down from the carpark entrance and retrieved an emergency back pack - torch, food, thermal blanket, water – I'd stashed there a month ago. There are ten more packs like that, with enough supplies to last four or five days, stashed around the Zone, I only needed one for this trip.

I'd fueled up the Army jeep by emptying the dregs from a dozen abanadone vehicles. As I finished filling it up, I discovered it had an electric engine as well. I found four small RFID chips under the dashboard. I’m praying to a God I don't believe in that the RFIDs will keep me and the vehicle immune from the microwave heat blasts that have made so many others who tried to leave turn back. Those RFIDs will probably make the jeep show up to anyone tracking Army vehicles by GPS, so I can’t drive it too far. Fourteen kilometres or so, across the ANZAC Bridge, down Victoria Road, through Drummoyne, into Lane Cove where I can hit the national park on foot. I'm walking most of the way to the Blue Mountains.

I was ready to leave, but it was still daylight, and I had to come back here to Johnny’s ninth floor apartment on Macquarie Street to pick up this journal and the gifts Johnny had left for me in his stockpile.

I didn't see anyone when I came up out of the carpark. But Bossbloke’s voice boomed from every working speaker as I walked back to Johnny's apartment, all those speakers with their little solar panels so they never turn off, dozens of them around the city. Bossbloke was explaining how the survivors would now organise into groups, with each group assigned a specific duty to keep the community alive, and how he wanted to have an ideas summit every week instead of the old Town Hall meetings, and he called for volunteers to act as a security force, to watch the streets, to protect the survivors. Keep them safe. Then he called for the formation of a welcoming committee, for when "more outsiders arrive here, so we can make them feel at home."

Then it was time for music. Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side (Of Life). Was Bossbloke joking? Probably not. Maybe he'd be given a playlist, some funny songs, some sad songs, some energetic songs, but all inspiring. And behind the music, that something else. The almost inaudible throbbing. It made me feel like I needed to hurry, to get important things done.

I crossed George Street, a block down from the Town Hall. and I could see the crowd still gathered in front of the Town Hall. They were breaking off into groups, walking together, talking, waving their hands around. They were people with missions, things to do, lists to draw up and projects to be completed. They were distracted from their reality, they were busy now.

I don’t know if they cut Johnny down or left him there. I’ll go and see when I leave.

I’m waiting here now for night, it’s getting close to sunset. I’m waiting for Bossbloke. I know he’ll come here. He won’t let me leave without trying to stop me.

Johnny kept his stockpiles in the laundry room of his apartment. I found what he’d left for me. The assault rifle, a folder of street and survey maps, along with Google Earth pages torn from a book, onto which Johnny had plotted a route for me from the Lane Cove National Park, all the way into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. I could get there staying amongst the trees and bush and only have to cross two main roads and duck through the fringes of a few housing estates.

There was a plastic ziplock bag in amongst the maps, with a perfectly rolled four inch long joint sealed up inside. Nobody who was looking, like Johnny and me, had found any carefully concealed pot stashes in office drawers for weeks. He’d made this, and then kept it for me. It was better than a note.

To walk from Lane Cove to the Blue Mountains is about eighty kilometres. It will take me three days, going hard.

I filled out the rest of my backpack with stuff from Johnny’s stockpile : solar rechargeable batteries, a small roll of solar sheeting, energy bars and dried fruit and nuts and another two litres of water, a first aid kit and a heat pack. I left the maps on the table, I wanted to look at them properly before I leave here.

I don’t know why Johnny didn’t take the assault rifle with him when he went to kill Bossbloke. He could have shot him on sight, and then walked up when Bossbloke was down and put another couple in his head to make sure. Poor Johnny.



Go Here To Read Chapter Twenty Three - Six Steps To The End

Chapter Twenty One - "Come And See"

May 19

I went out at dawn, and took a walk around the Zone.

Smoke coiled lazily around the buildings in the still morning air.

The Mitchell Library burned down last night. I smelt it before I saw it. There wasn’t much left of the library, a few stone walls.

I looked at the charred empty windows of the State Library next door and didn’t even recognize it. It looked like it had been bombed. Not much left there either. Both buildings were still smouldering, puffing grey smoke.

The wind began to blow down Macquarie Street as I stood there outside the libraries. A fountain of black ash, and slivers of book pages, swirled and funneled into the sky.

I ran all the way to Bookman’s apartment. I wasn't surprised, or shocked, to see his building was on fire, had been burning for what looked like an hour or two.

All those books, maps, manuals he and we collected from so many private libraries and galleries and bookshops, all gone. All that rare, original Australian history, our history, hand-drawn maps centuries old and journals and actual letters from convicts and early governors and 200 year old paintings of Sydney when it was still being born. Is it all gone now? The ruins were still too hot to go searching for what might be left.

There’s nobody to put out fires that big, and we don’t have the water to spare even if we had a volunteer firemen’s unit to activate.

Bookman had warned of all this. The destruction of our written history and culture, who we are, the story of how we got here, how we became a nation.

Bookman told me last week that 12 bookshops he knew of had been torched or burned, including antique shops loaded with rare books and letters. He made me promise him that if anything ever happened to him that I'd guard the Mitchell and State libraries with my life. I failed him. It's all gone.

Who are we without our history? Our culture has gone up in flames.

I saw it all then, what is happening here. We have a dangerous and destructive enemy, and this enemy is at war against us, the survivors of ED Day. They want to strip us of our history, and break us down, make us feel lost and helpless and cut off from our culture, who we are, where we came from.

They're winning.


I didn't see anybody for the first hour.

I heard no-one, not a dog barking, or a cat screeching, no music, no chatter from a fourth floor balcony, no survivors out jogging, The city has never felt so dead to me before.

I had to stop myself from screaming out “Is there anybody else here?”

I was outside the Town Hall when Trader walked up out of the station. He was carrying a huge torch, the beam as powerful as a World War 2 era searchlight. Even in the growing dawn, the light was blinding.

I hadn’t seen Trader in a week or more. He said he was exploring the train tunnels under the city. He wanted to see if he could walk from Town Hall to Rushcutter’s Bay, a few kilometres, where the Eastern Suburbs underground line comes up out of the earth. See if he could get on the other side of the microwave weapons we know are trained down Oxford Street and William Street, the two main roads leading to the Eastern Suburbs.

Trader wanted to get to Bondi Beach. It would be better there, he said. Safer.

“I can live there and swim and fish. I don’t need electricity or anything. I live on next to nothing now. I just want to learn to surf….”

But Trader couldn't get through. There were trains stuck in the tunnel, filled with the dead, the thick rotten water was shin deep. "Fucking rats everywhere, huge cockroaches."

I asked Trader if he’d seen Johnny, or Bossbloke around, but Trader had been underground longer than I’d been asleep. He said he'd seen the Professor, to ask him about walking the tunnels to the Eastern Suburbs, and he'd warned Trader to be careful, that there was people here who were trying to kill us. I hadn't seen the Professor since the funerals, and then he'd look terrified, like he thought he was next. Maybe he is.

“I really wanna go to the beach, Paul,” Trader said. He looked like a lost man. “That's all I want now. I know I can live without all the shit of my old life, but I need to get to the beach and feel those waves hitting me. The shit of this place is inside my skin. I need that surf to get it all out. I can't stop thinking about being on that beach. It's so fucking close, and I can't get there."

I remembered then the last time I hit the beach, with Chrissie. It was months before all those dead birds started showing up. We'd gone to Cronulla to see some of her friends, and we baked ourselves on the sand for hours. We knew we were getting sunburnt, but after weeks of icy weather, we didn't care, it felt too good to leave.

A movie played in my mind then of Chrissie, lying there beside me, sleeping in the sun, humming some PJ Harvey song she had become obsessed with while she dozed. I'll see her soon, I told myself, in a week or so.

"I'm sorry about what happened," Trader said. "I didn't know Kat all that well, but I know you two were pretty close. I really miss Bookman....he was a...a bastard sometimes, but he helped me get through all that shit after ED Day. Did you know he used to sit down with me for two or three hours at a time and just talk? Man, I really miss those talks..."

I didn't know that Bookman and Trader had shared that kind of time together, I just remembered how they'd clash on the Corpse Crew sometimes.

I fogged out, felt like I was falling, my mind filling up with memories of Bookman, of Kat, of Chrissie, of Corpse Crew days. I hadn't gone out with a crew for more than a week, I didn't even know if that work was still going on. But the streets I'd walked in my hour of wandering were clean of corpses, and I noticed that someone had been busy scrubbing away the blood and bile stains from the footpaths. A few more rains and you'd never know that thousands of bodies had decayed on those streets.

Trader and I talked for a few minutes more, he started yelling about finding the sniper and killing him. He didn't know a robot sniper had been responsible, or that someone had been controlling it, carefully choosing who would die and who would live. I didn't tell him I was leaving the city.

Are you going in there? Trader asked me, pointing to the Town Hall. Don't bother, he said, the Town Hall stockpiles had been moved "somewhere safer".

He told me to come to Hyde Park, he said Fireball would be in there at the bread oven we'd built, cooking up something, and I should come and hang out and eat with them.

I told him to yell at the top of his voice if he saw Johnny around. He promised he would.

He wandered away in search of breakfast.

I came back here, to Johnny’s apartment, to see if he'd returned from his mission. It’s 7am-ish, he’s not around. I can't keep my eyes open.




“Come and see!”

It’s 9am.

"Come and see!"

I can hear Bossbloke's voice bellowing from those emergency event speakers attached to poles throughout the city.

“I caught the killer! Come and see!”

He keeps shouting it over and over. A chant.

It’s Johnny, I know he’s got Johnny.

I have to go and see.



Go Here To Read Chapter Twenty Two - Bring The Terror
Kat,

I hope the world you've gone to is a happier place than this one. I hope you found all those people you loved and lost.

I miss you so much. This dead city seems so much emptier without you here. I never meant to cause you confusion or pain. You reached out to me and I turned you down. If I could take back that night and do it over again, I would have stayed with you, I would have gladly become your lover.

I would have given my life for you if I had run faster. I would have taken the bullets aimed at you so you could live. You had so much more to live for than I do.

I will miss your laugh, I will miss your friendship, I will miss seeing the way the babies reacted when you walked into view, and I will miss hearing you talk to them, and read to them. They knew, like I know, how special you were. How special the memory of you still is.

And I will miss your optimism, the way you refused to hate the world, or God, for taking away your family.

I want to believe in a better world, I want to believe that God is real and he has done the right thing and reunited you with your husband and your daughter.

I can’t believe in a God that would kill so many people and would bring so much grief and misery to the handful left alive for no reason, or for his own amusement.

What did you and Bookman and Preacher do to deserve death now?

Once, before ED Day, Preacher would have consoled the grief-stricken and told them that that those they loved had died because of God’s Plan, or God’s Will, but even Preacher in the end stopped believing this. The loss he had to deal with amongst the survivors was catastrophic. The old lines stopped working for Preacher after ED Day.

He lost his faith.

“What God could do this to something he created?” Preacher asked me once. “What has happened here is beyond evil. It brings me no pleasure at all to tell you, Paul, that if there is a God in our world then he is demented.”

The demented God.

Maybe God died, too, on ED Day.

Goodbye Kat, goodbye my friend.

Chapter Twenty - We Are Not Alone

May 18

When I woke up, Johnny was standing on the balcony of his apartment, the floor to ceiling glass doors wide open. A breeze blew through the rooms, the skies were bland, gray.

Johnny has five apartments now, he rarely sleeps in any of them, but he has some of his stuff in each place, each with its own concealed stockpile. Johnny had been busy on missions I knew nothing about. The view from this ninth story apartment revealed the Botanic Gardens, where Johnny still slept a few nights a week when the nights were hot and sticky.

“I found the sniper,” Johnny said. “It was a sentry, It only had a few rounds left. Its targets were carefully picked.”

I sat up on the bed he’d dragged into the middle of the living room. I still had flecks of dried blood from Kat's fatal wounds on my hands, and dirt under my fingernails from the holes me and Johnny and Fireball dug for our dead friends.

We buried Kat, Bookman and Preacher in the Gardens yesterday, six week old fruit trees are their headstones. When I come back, I will remember which grave is hers. She will help feed the survivors for years to come.

Johnny told me what was going to happen next.

First, he said he is going to kill Bossbloke. But that will be the easy part of his plan, Johnny said. With Bossbloke out of the way, and the likelihood of outsiders arriving in the city soon, it will be up to him and the Professor to organise and prepare the survivors. To deal with intruders. To leave the city if they have to. Or to fight.

Johnny had decided all this in the last hour while I slept in a half-coma.

His version of Our New Society was based on what he knew of his ancestors' way of running their small societies tens of thousands of years ago. There had been no elected leaders in his ancestors' tribe, no government, no bureaucracy. Knowledge and experience was the lifeblood of the elders, and they were respected and revered because their knowledge kept their nations and people alive. Those with the knowledge of the cycles of the seasons, of the lives of plants and insects and marsupials, of where to fish and when, where to go to collect fruit that was ripe, how to control their environment, evolve it through tens of thousands of years of burning.. .

“We have to have living information,” Johnny said, “passed from one generation to the next, everything they need to know to survive.”

He was more upset at the death of Bookman, than of Kat or Preacher. To Johnny, Bookman was the kind of leader he wanted to be. Give people the information they need to survive and thrive, and let them get on with it.

Johnny turned away from the balcony. He faced me, and for a moment he seemed massive, a huge man silhouetted against that darkening grey sky. He filled the doorway.

"We have to be ready," he said, as he sat down in a chair facing me. "He's going to bring the hammer down now everybody is scared fucking shitless about the snipers. That was his whole plan from the start. Build up our confidence, get us organised, then at the first sign of anyone trying to undermine his authority, or question his plans, or formulating plans of their own...Whack. He brings on the Terror.”

Johnny was right. I could see the pattern that had unfolded in our time since ED Day, a pattern of incidents guided by Bossbloke.

“Well, fuck that....Fuck him." Johnny seethed for a moment. He turned back to watch the developing storm, drawn out to the balcony again. He jumped slightly as an explosion of thunder boomed. Lightning flashed through the invading storm clouds, then it sheeted down across the Gardens.

This is how storms come to us now. From out of nowhere, sudden, instant, heavy storms.

Within seconds of the lighting blast, rain spattered the windows and balcony. Rain thrummed into the buckets and tubs he’d set out on the balcony. Rain collected in buckets is where we get most of our fresh water now.

“That sentry bot didn’t find its own way into that building,” Johnny said, “and it wasn’t there before. Bossbloke had it parked somewhere, in any one of the dozens of parking garages around here. We never checked the lower stories of most of the car parks. "

“He’s getting help,” I said, “from outside. He would have needed a dozen blokes and a couple of days to clear out that Queen Victoria Building stockpile. And they had to move it somewhere else…It was a big operation.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said. “Big. There could be hundreds of soldiers, or militia from the old government, in the city with us. Just hiding away, not going where we go. Bossbloke might only be the non-threatening agent sent to calm us down, keep us busy, round us up, get us organised building up those stockpiles...."

“For them,” I said. “Not us.”

“Yeah, that’s right. For them.”

The lightning arced again, the violent blue flash burned into my eyeballs. I blinked and looked away, into the darkness of the living room. No candles, no lamps. I could see the jagged lines of the lighting hovering in front of my eyes. I woke up. I had been half-dreaming, half-asleep since the Martin Place killings, but with the electric storm and Johnny's words, I felt alert, wired, ready.

"Everything’s still there,” Johnny said, “the way they used to watch us before ED Day. The cameras are on, the pole mics are recording to see what we say…everything bugged, they could have videod us every second we’re outside. Or inside. Bird flu doesn’t kill satellites. They’re still going over, capturing images of everything down here. I think about what happened in Melbourne and Brisbane, and I don’t think…I don’t know…but I don’t think what happened here, happened there. There are people outside of this place, Paul, all over the country, they made it. We're not alone. We think everyone would want to come to Sydney, but why would they? If you were in Wollongong and you heard millions died in Sydney, would you rush up here? Fuck no. They didn’t have to lock us in…most of us never tried to escape.”

I didn’t understand where Johnny was going. “We have to leave the city, Johnny,” I said. “You know that. All of us have to get out of here.”

He looked back at me, briefly, but his eyes never really left the storm. “You’re going to Katoomba,” he said. “I know you won’t stay, even if I ask you to. But you have to come back. We have to get the babies out.”

“The babies, and everyone who wants to leave,” I said. “Maybe when he’s dead, nobody will want to stay….”

Johnny watched the water buckets filling up on the balcony. The rain came down so hard it was flowing off the balcony in small waves.

"He wants us all back in those camps," Johnny said, but not so much to me as to himself. He was psyching himself for what he was about to go and do.

"When the agents and mercenaries that are already here…” he said, “They're here, Paul. They're already here. Some of them, I think, have been with us from ED Day onwards. Not everyone in our clan is just a survivor. They’d have to infiltrate a group like us. He probably doesn’t even know who they are…why would they tell him? It’s probably better if they didn’t. They might be spying on us…but they’d have to be spying on him, as well.”

“How are you going to kill him?” I asked.

Johnny shook his head, “You don’t need to know that.”

A long silence fell between us then.

“When they show themselves, Paul, the soldiers who are already here...undercover...,” Johnny said. “When you start seeing soldiers in uniform, or private armies, in these streets, it will be too late. That’s when they’ll start rounding us up and bussing us out to those camps out west…”

“Again,” I said. It’s only a few months since I first met Johnny in the quarantine camp at Homebush Bay. It feels like years ago.

“They didn’t build all those camps not to use them,” Johnny said. “You want to live in a fucking cage, Paul? I won’t go back there again. I won’t become a slave.”

The rain eased a little then and the lighting and thunder fell out of sync. The storm was moving on. The sun would be out again in a few minutes, the sky as bright and as blue as it had been yesterday, as though the storm had never existed.

"I'll fucking die before I go back in a cage," Johnny said. "I don't have all the plans we need….but we’ve got enough start again, without that bastard in charge of us. That fuck don’t deserve to live…”

Johnny didn’t pace, he just stood there, in that doorway, filling it up, talking in a calm voice, as though he was set for whatever fate was about to dish up to him.

“There’s beers,” he said. “But they’re a bit warm.”

“I think I like my beer warm, now,” I said, and it was true.

Johnny grabbed a couple of bottles of VB from a half-empty case on the floor. He tossed me one.

"Cheers to you," I said. "Yeah, good luck on your journey, brother."

“Good luck with…what you have to do.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes and drank our warm beers. The sun was returning, a huge heat lamp slowly being turned up. The blast of sun on my skin made me want to go back to sleep.

"Why do you think we made it?" Johnny asked me. "Why us? Millions probably died here. Why did we get to live?'

It's the question all survivors ask themselves, but once you cut God out of the answer nobody ever came up with a good reason.

"When I was a kid," Johnny said, "about 14, I wanted to kill myself. I couldn't think about nothing else for months. Now I just want to live....for another hundred years. I want to know how this turns out, for all of us."

"I'm coming back, mate," I said. "I'll be a gone a week, ten days at the most. I'm not doing a runner on you, or the others. I just have to find Chrissie first."

“I know," Johnny said. "We'll be ready when you get back. But before you leave, I left something for you in the stockpile, here. You’ll know it’s yours when you see it…”

“Thanks…" I said, "for everything.”

“Don’t go the motorways to reach the Blue Mountains,” Johnny said, “you’ve got to stay out of sight, until you know what’s out there. Look at the maps. You can get into national park at Lane Cove, about ten or twelve kilometres from here, down Victoria Road. Do the run through the bush on foot, it’ll take a day or so longer, but you’ll be safer. You’ll be harder to find.”

I told him how I was planning to get through the ‘heat corridor’, where what we believe are microwave weapons blast you when pass in front of them, making your flesh feel like it’s about to burst into flames. It’s killer when you’re walking, it’s like having boiling water thrown all over you when you’re running through it. Driving through it will mean I can’t turn back, not if I throw a brick on the accelerator.

Johnny drained off the rest of his beer. His faint smile faded.

“Never let them make you a slave, Paul,” he said.

I finished my beer and laid down on the bed. I was out again in a few breaths. When I woke up, more than an hour ago, Johnny was gone.


Go Here To Read Chapter Twenty One

Some photos of the Carrington Hotel in the Blue Mountains, where Paul and Chrissie promised to meet each other :

Carrington Hotel, March 22, 2008