(Dedicated to: Russell T.
The five youths peered down
into the black abyss. A square black hole, which seemed to suck
in all surrounding light, while letting none escape
'The Black Hole of
Calcutta!' thought Tony Braxi, the unofficial leader
of the teen set. Then quickly he emended it to, 'The Black Hole
of Marlborough more like it.'
He held up a large yellow
Dolphin Lantern, but left it off, since Dev and Levi already had
torches on, trying to cut into the seemingly impenetrable
The four boys and one girl
stood at the top of the travellator - a type of moving ramp, a
rubber-floored escalator without the steps. Except that this
ramp was not moving. It had not been moving for more than
thirty years since soon after it had been built.
"Well," asked Levi Bloch,
shining his black, rubber-sided torch into the travellator
without noticeable effect.
"Well, what?" asked Dev Taylor,
without looking up from the gaping blackness. A blackness,
which led down just one storey to the closed mart below. But
which, when you were standing (or kneeling in the case of Gwen
and Levi) at the top of the travellator ramp on an
overcast Melbourne day, seemed to go down into the bowels of the
"Well, are we going down, or
what?" asked Levi. He looked round to the large glass doors
which had guarded the long disused mart, until the set had
jemmied them open.
"Which of you settees has the
paper?" asked Tony, making the others wait.
Dev Taylor raised the bottom of
his burgundy pullover to take out an ancient, yellowy section of
"Give it here," said Tony and
Once more Tony read
the Melbourne Recorder's account of the terror mart
from November 1999.
Not that it had been officially
called the terror mart; that title had been appended by the
Recorder and other local papers after the series of death
and disasters which had plagued the mart. He read:
During the building a
cave-in had cost twenty-one lives and delayed the completion of
the underground super mart by more than two years. Later staff
members started to die inexplicably, causing an increase in
resignation. Then finally staff and customers alike began to
vanish; sighted going into the mart, then never seen
After the disasters had
started Elders of a local Aboriginal tribe claimed the builders
had disturbed a traditional Aboriginal site. An ancient site
occupied by the Devils of the Darkness….
"What do you think of this
Devils of the Darkness jazz?" Tony asked Nathe Mudbra, a
half-breed Aboriginal youth.
"Demons of the Darkness
according to my grandfather," corrected Nathe. "According to
him the main demon is Yirbaik-Baik, a cannibal who can turn
himself into a large brown bird. Then there's the Ningauis, the
dwarves who make night pitch black. Whatever that means. I
think there are a few others too, but I don't recall who or what
"It's all crap," insisted
Nathe, a good Catholic boy, "but my grandfather believes it
"Well, are we gonna stand here
talking over old stuff, or are we going down?" asked
"What's the rush?" asked
"What's the matter, chicken?"
asked Gwen Braxi, the one female member of the teen set, allowed
only by right of being Tony's younger sister.
"No, just careful," said Dev,
glaring at the brunette, whose brutally bobbed hair made her look
like a very pretty boy. Yet even as he spoke, Dev took his
first tentative step onto the rubber-matted
"Come on then," said Nathe.
At eighteen Nathe was the same age as Tony, a year older than Dev
and Levi; and a little over two years older than Gwen, who was
not quite sixteen.
After a couple of tentative
steps, Dev stopped, disconcerted by the bouncy, rubbery feel of
the ramp beneath his feet. Even more than he was by the
seemingly impenetrable darkness below.
"Well?" asked Levi, although he
too found the bouncy feel of the travellator
Without answering, Dev started
down the ramp again, holding his torch at chest height as he
moved toward the murky darkness below them.
An uncomfortable angle - a
little steeper than the five would have liked - the thirty metres
of the rubberised ramp seemed to take twenty minutes to travel.
And, in truth, despite their bravado, none of the teens were keen
to charge down into the unknown darkness. None of them would
have dared enter the terror mart alone.
"What do you think we'll find?"
asked Levi. More for the comfort of hearing his own voice in
the dark, than as a genuine question.
"A big, empty store. What
else?" said Gwen, peering to see into the blackness. Blackness
which, despite the flashlights they carried, seemingly refused to
give way to allow them access to whatever secrets were hidden
She was wrong though, as they
discovered upon reaching the bottom of the ramp.
"Hey, potato chips!" said Levi,
snatching a bright yellow bag from a metal rack near the entrance
to the store proper.
"They won't be edible after all
this…" began Gwen, shrieking in mid sentence as Levi popped the
"Gotcha," said Levi with a
smirk as Gwen glared at him.
"Very funny!" said Gwen,
sounding anything but amused as the others snickered like school
children - as two of them still were - at her expense. The
youngest of the five, Gwen was usually the most fearless, since
she was too inexperienced to know of the horrors that life can
inflict upon you. However, the bag had burst like a firecracker
in the subterranean store.
"What's wrong with this thing?"
asked Tony, shaking his Dolphin Lantern. The large torch should
have cut through the black like a lance; instead it barely
allowed him to see the nearest metal racks a few metres
"Why is it so dark down here?"
asked Dev. Looking back up the travellator ramp, he saw that
the sun had finally come out in the world above and wondered,
'Why doesn't any of it penetrate down into the mart?" He
flashed his torch about the store, to reveal only the barest
glimpse of the racks of chips, magazines and chewing gum near the
base of the ramp.
"Do you think it's the Ninnies
making this place so black?" asked Gwen, teasing
"Ningauis," he corrected her.
"My grandfather would swear by it. But no, I'd say the store's
just designed badly, so natural light can't
"Just hope we don't run into
old Yirback," teased Dev as they started through the chrome
guards, which would no longer blare a warning against thieves,
since the power had been disconnected thirty years
"Yirbaik-Baik," corrected Nathe
following Dev and Tony through the guard rails, "and no-one
believes that Dream-Time stuff."
"Then how come Marlborough
Council still has this white elephant on its hands?" asked Gwen,
referring to the twin level plaza above, as well as the
"Yeah," said Tony. "How come
with the development boom in Marlborough over the last thirty years, they've never torn
down the plaza to build tenements or office blocks on this
"The land alone must be worth
millions of bucks," pointed out Gwen.
"Don't ask me," admitted Nathe
as they finally entered the main part of the store.
On their right, near the
checkout area were racks of lemonade, magazines, and old
"Look, Purple Beams," said Gwen
shining her torch on them.
"They didn't have Purple Beam
discs thirty years ago," corrected her brother, Tony. "Only
Green Lights, and Blu Rays before that."
Gwen picked up one of the discs
and read, "DVD. What's that?"
"Don't ask me," said Dev.
"Something they had before Green Lights and Blue Rays, I
"But they're round," said Gwen,
holding up the pack, which had popped open at the touch, to
reveal a silvery disc. "Not triangular like a Purple
"So were green lights,"
explained Levi, "don't you remember them? They only phased them
out seven or eight years ago."
"Seven or eight years ago? I
was just a kid then."
"You still are just a kid,"
said Tony, making the others snicker at his sister's
On the left were racks housing
toiletries, from behind which could vaguely be seen a rack of
"Anyone into retro garb?" asked
Levi, who had wandered over to the rack. "Early
Transylvanian…." He started; stopping as the gown fell to shreds
at his touch. "What…?"
"Well, what do you expect after
thirty years in this place?" asked Gwen, pleased as the others
snickered at Levi's expense this time. "It's not…."
She stopped, startled by the
sound of scuttling in the darkness beyond the rack of dressing
"Look out, Gwen, old
Yirbaik-Baik the cannibal would find you a tasty treat," said
Levi; glad the others were snickering at her expense
"Yeah, a fine bit of rump steak
on you, Gwen," said Tony, drawing a glare from his sister, but
snickers from the others.
"Go and drop…." Began Gwen.
She stopped and span around as the scuttling came from another
She flashed her torch in one
direction then another, frustrated when the murky darkness
refused to give up its secrets. Wishing she had a Dolphin
Lantern like her brother, instead of her small torch, Gwen
started to ask Tony to shine his lantern about, then thought
better of it, not wanting to give the others an excuse to laugh
at her again.
"Don't be dumb, it's just
rats," she said at last. Although she wished her torch could
Without waiting for the
snickering to stop, Gwen started down the centre aisle, stopping
as she almost collided with a small table of "Latest Release
Paperbacks"; none of which had sold for thirty years.
Skirting the table, she shone
her torch toward the metal racks to the left. At first all she
saw were dolls and other toys, then Scrabble and other board
games, most of which she had never heard of. 'What the hell are
tri-ominos?' she wondered.
A little further alone she came
to electrical goods: kettles, toasters, and old-fashioned
"These things are measured in
minutes?" she said, reading the cooking list of one microwave.
"Did it really take four minutes to cook a meat pie in those
Finally she stopped as she
found something more useful. "Torches," she said, as she
started down the aisle, checking out various models until coming
to the lanterns. Some even larger than the Dolphin Lantern her
"Now this is more like it," she
said, picking one up. 'But will it still work?' she wondered.
She looked round till finding the largest lantern, which still
seemed solid enough. However, on looking toward the next rack
she realised the problem.
"All the batteries have leaked.
Of course, after thirty years," she said, dropping the lantern
and turning back to where she expected the four males to be
"Tony! Dev! Nathe! Levi!"
she called into the blackness, startled to find herself
"Tony! Dev! Nathe! Levi!"
she called again, surprised at how quiet her voice sounded,
although she had shouted.
'Almost as though sound can't
penetrate this awful darkness any more than light can!' she
thought, sighing in frustration, as the light from her torch
seemed to dim even further.
Resisting the urge to scream,
she turned and started to retrace her footsteps, hoping she could
find the others again in the miry darkness. 'If not I'll just
have to make my way back to the ramp and wait for them there!'
Then looking about herself, she
wondered, 'But which way is back to the travellator?'
Slowly she turned, looking
around in the hope of detecting a small square of light,
indicating where the travellator led up to ground level. But
the awful darkness refused to give up its secrets to the teen
"Why in hell didn't I…?" she
said aloud. Then hearing movement behind her, she sighed in
relief and turned round.
"Why didn't you answer when…?"
she began, stopping as she found herself face-to-face with a
large brown bird.
A bird that seemed to just
hover in the air, although there was no wind in the basement
At first she thought the bird's
wings were flapping too fast for her to see the movement, like
the wings of a honeyeater. But the absence of flapping sounds
told her they were still.
"What are you? How can you…?"
began Gwen, stopping as the gull-sized bird opened its beak to
Instead came a throaty "Haw!
Haw! Haw!" More like an old man laughing, than a bird
"How can you just hover…?" said
She stopped again as the brown
bird began to change. Began to slowly metamorphose into at
first a larger bird. Then into something almost
Until finally a tall, naked man
stood before her.
An Aboriginal man; but one who
seemed as black as the impenetrable night that swamped the store.
Unlike Nathe Mudbra, who was hardly any darker than
"What…what do you want?" asked
Gwen. Almost against her will, her line of sight lowered to the
man's crotch, assuming he intended to rape her. But his phallus
was flaccid, lifeless, with no sign of arousal.
"What do you want…?" Gwen
repeated, backing away slowly as the naked Aborigine started
As the man reached out to grab
her, Gwen thought he planned to rape her after all. She began
to struggle furiously as the man pulled her hard against his
"Don't struggle, it'll soon be
over," said the man in almost too perfect English, like a
professor of English from Eton.
Gwen kneed the black man's
crotch. But to her surprise he did not even flinch.
Grinning as though he had not
felt her knee against his testicles, the Aborigine pulled Gwen so
hard against himself, that she feared he would pull her limb from
"Haw! Haw! Haw!" laughed
the man again, revealing great rows of needle-like
"Oh, God, no!" shouted Gwen as
she realised her true fate.
A fate worse than death
A fate worse than mere rape, as
Yirbaik-Baik lowered his needle-like teeth toward his chosen
* * *
"Gwen!" called Tony in anger,
not fear, wondering where his younger sister was. "Why did she
As Gwen started down the aisle
twenty minutes ago, Tony, Nathe, and Dev had turned left,
following Levi into the clothing section.
"That's what she's like," said
Levi, stating what they all knew. "She never does what she's
Tony started to say she had not
been told that they were turning left; then stopped, feeling
guilty, realising that at not quite sixteen, she was his
"I shouldn't have let her come
with us," said Tony.
"Relax," said Levi, "she'll be
"Yeah," said Nathe, hoping it
were true, "what danger can come to her down here?"
Tony started to answer, then
thought better of it. He did not want to say aloud what dangers
she may have come to for fear of making them come
"Don't worry, we just have to
find her," said Dev. Looking at his watch he said, "Let's all
set out in different directions. If we don't find her in an
hour we'll head back to the travellator."
They started to separate when
Tony stopped. Shining his torch to the left, he asked, "Who's
"What's the matter?" asked
"I thought I saw someone in the
"It's just your reflexion in
the metal racks," said Nathe.
"No, this face was twisted,
distorted, incredibly ugly."
"Then it must've been Levi's
reflexion," said Nathe, drawing braying laughter from Dev and a
half smile from Tony.
"Very funny," said Levi as they
set out in different directions to look for Gwen.
* * *
In the dark the four men groped
about the subterranean store for almost an hour.
'It'd be only chance if we do
find her,' thought Nathe. 'We're better off going back to the
front of the store….' He stopped, turning round slowly,
wondering which way led back to the base of the travellator
He shone his torch about,
though it refused to cut through the almost gelid dark. "Stupid
thing!" he cursed, slapping the torch in the hope of forcing up
the feeble yellow glow. He had put new batteries in before
starting out that morning. "I know not to buy that brand
After a few seconds the light
seemed to increase slightly, just enough to save him from
colliding with a wooden table housing old CDs and
Shining his torch around, Nathe
could just make out the start of half-a-dozen aisles of DVDs and
realized that he was at the movie section. 'Near the back of
the store?' he thought, hoping they laid out marts in the late
1990s the way they did in 2028.
He started to pass by the DVD
store, when the feeble yellow light mysteriously started to grow
stronger. Not strong enough to display the basement store
clearly, just enough to dimly show the white and red objects on
the mouldy carpet at the rear of the store.
'Oh, no!' thought Nathe as he
staggered down the aisle toward the objects. Although unable to
see clearly, he had already guessed what they were.
* * *
Levi was peering at the feeble
dial of his wristwatch, trying to determine if the agreed hour
'It's almost as though the dark
is some kind of light vampire, which leeches the power out of
torches and fluorescent dials alike,' he thought.
He was still squinting to see
the fluorescent display, when he heard a scream, followed by
someone calling his name.
* * *
"Levi! Dev! Tony!" shrieked
Nathe over and over, staring in terror at the skeletal remains of
* * *
"Nathe!" shouted Levi,
realising who was shouting. But his cries barely penetrated the
mire of the basement mart. Almost as though the leech-like
blackness had parted just long enough to allow Nathe's cries to
be heard, before closing in around them again, dampening his
attempted shout to mere bleating.
"Levi! Dev! Tony!" came the
cry again. This time Levi did not try to answer, but set off
toward where he hoped the cries had come from.
* * *
Dev was the first to arrive at
the movie store, cursing as he collided with a small table of
DVDs and CDs, which scattered across the carpet with a sound like
"Jesus Christ!" Dev blasphemed,
half hobbling half falling down the aisle to where he could see
Nathe Mudbra kneeling over something, strangely lit, like an
angel - despite the darkness' refusal to give up any light until
"Jesus, this had better be
worth it," said Dev to Nathe, in anger. Anger muted by the
sight of the blood-spattered bones.
"Nothing but bones already,"
said Nathe dreamily. Both men had visions of Yirbaik-Baik, the
Dream-Time cannibal racing back into their heads.
"Nothing but bones…" agreed
Dev, stopping in mid sentence as he realised that was not quite
true. Amid the scattered bones was one complete foot, still
draped in remnants of the white Bobby Sox that Gwen Braxi had
been wearing when they had entered the mart.
* * *
"Levi! Tony!" a voice called
out through the inky store again.
At first Levi thought it was
Nathe again. But as he was caught up in a mass of decaying
curtains, he recognised the new voice.
"Levi! Tony!" called Dev
again as Levi struggled for a moment with the curtains, sneezing
as the mildewy smell brought on his hay fever.
He was still sneezing, as he
pulled free of the ancient fabrics, which offered little
resistance, almost falling to dust at the touch.
'Like wrestling with ghosts!'
thought Levi. He almost smiled at the thought, then as the
voice called, "Levi! Tony!" again, he realised it could only
mean that they had found Gwen. And since Gwen's voice had not
joined the others he realised that she had to be
'At the least!' he thought,
stopping to wait for the voice again, in the hope of getting his
Instead he heard a hideous
shriek, which made him step back hurriedly, almost colliding with
another curtain rack.
"Over there," said Levi,
steadying himself as he saw a burst of light flare up fifty
metres or so away.
'I wonder how they managed to
penetrate the blackness?' thought Levi, carefully sidestepping
another rack of fabrics, as he headed toward the light. Where
he expected to find the three boys and Gwen Braxi.
Instead, he realised as he
neared the circle of light, that it was a dozen young men or boys
sitting around a blazing fire in the middle of the sports section
of the underground store.
'They're holding some kind of
Jamboree in the middle of the mart?' thought Levi.
He was almost in the circle of
light, when he stopped in horror, as he realized that it was no
Boy Scout Jamboree.
* * *
"Nooooooooo!" shrieked Tony
Braxi kneeling on the floor near the scattered bones in the movie
area. "It can't be Gwen! It can't be Gwen! Nothing could
have reduced her to that it so little time!"
Though none of them really knew
how long they had been in the underground store. It seemed like
two or three hours, but probably was much less.
"It has to be her," said Dev
tactlessly. He pointed to the Bobby Sox-clad foot before Nathe
could stop him.
"Nooooooooo!" shrieked Tony
again, falling upon the remains of his younger sister, scattering
them further as he leapt to pick up the severed foot.
An act that had Dev and Nathe
backing away in as much horror as the sight of the remains of
"For God's sake, don't!"
started Dev, stopping and almost falling onto the bones himself
as a long drawn-out scream echoed through the
"Gwen!" cried Tony, hoping that
somehow despite the evidence before him, his sister was still
alive somewhere in the basement store.
"Levi!" said Nathe, as all
three young men realised that Levi was not with them.
"Levi!" shouted Dev, and before
the others could stop him, Dev raced out into the blinding
darkness, toward where the sound of screaming still rang
"Come on!" shouted Nathe
started after Dev.
"I can't leave Gwen! I can't
leave Gwen!" shrieked Tony staying amid the remains of his
"Come on, damn it, we have to
help him!" said Nathe. When Tony stayed where he was, Nathe
raced back to grab him and try to drag the leader of their set
"I can't leave Gwen! I can't
leave Gwen!" shrieked Tony fighting against Nathe.
"We have to help Levi!" shouted
Nathe, trying to break through Tony's hysteria.
"I can't leave Gwen! I can't
leave Gwen!" shrieked Tony again, lashing out against
"Jesus!" cried Nathe as Tony's
fist connected with his side. Cursing he reluctantly abandoned
Tony and started off into the darkness after Dev, who was now
long gone from sight, guided only by Levi's hysterical screams
which still rang out through the mart until suddenly cutting
"God, I'll never find
him again…" began Nathe, stopping, startled, stumbling backwards
as a large brown bird whooshed past, almost colliding into his
"What the hell… a bloody big
raven, how did that get down here?" said Nathe. Looking about
he sighed; "We'll I've lost them both now."
* * *
Dev raced through the black
store, stopping with a cry as he almost ran headfirst into metal
racks of hardware goods.
'Jesus, I'll never find him
now,' thought Dev. Then the sound of Levi's screaming rang out
Turning, trying to determine
which direction the screaming emanated from, Dev stared in
surprise at the sight of a cook fire in the middle of the store.
Perhaps twenty metres from where he stood.
* * *
Hearing the screaming, Nathe
set out also, and managed to catch sight of Dev just as he
entered the circle of squatting figures.
* * *
'It can't be!' thought Dev as
he stumbled into the gathering. 'Surely boy scouts wouldn't
meet here, in this awful place?'
For a moment he stared round
the gathering as the 'boys' stood round the campfire slowly
roasting a large carcase upon a spit.
'What is it?" wondered Dev,
gagging at the smell, like burning pork.
"Stop!" Nathe called after Dev,
trying to stop him from entering the circle of light.
"They're cooking a…!" began
Dev. He stopped staring in terror at the circle of chittering
Not boy scouts as he had first
"Midgets!" said Dev, starring
at the small, hunched figures.
"No, Ningauis," said Nathe
coming up behind Dev. One look at the hideous, cracked-leather
skin of the creatures, and their cretinous, drooling, sagging
features, told him that the creatures could not be
"Ningauis?" repeated Dev,
"According to my grandfather,
hideous Dream-Time creatures which make the night pitch black …
that would explain the impenetrable blackness in the store…" He
stopped, refusing to believe the legends of his black forebears.
Like most half-breed Aboriginal youths in the twenty-first
century, Nathe had no desire to return to the old ways, no faith
in the legends of the Dream-Time.
"What is it they're…?" asked
Dev, staring at the blackened carcase. He dropped to his knees,
gagging as the smell like burning pork hit him.
"What is it…?" agreed Nathe.
He also dropped to his knees and started vomiting as the awful
realisation struck him.
"It almost looks like…!"
started Dev, then, "Levi!" as the truth finally broke through the
veils of disbelief.
"Levi!" shouted Dev again,
still on his knees. Stumbling, faltering, he staggered back to
his rickety legs; almost falling again as the roast-pork-like
stench of Levi's roasting carcase overpowered him.
"For God's sake, let's get out
of here!" shouted Nathe. Grabbing his friend by the shoulders,
he tried to drag Dev away from the circle of hideous, drooling
dwarves, who had began to chitter in an almost birdlike chirping,
perhaps talking amongst themselves; or perhaps calling to someone
or something else.
"Okay," agreed Dev. He
started back into the darkness, they way they had come a few
"Where are you going?" asked
"Back to get Tony. We can't
leave him down here."
"All right," agreed Nathe, only
hoping as he started after Dev, that they would not both get lost
again in the murky store and end up like Levi Bloch … or Gwen
* * *
"Come on!" said Dev grabbing
Tony who still sat on the mildewy carpet in the long disused
movie store, clutching his sister's left foot, surrounded by her
"No!" shouted Tony, struggling
against his two friends. "I can't leave Gwen's remains down
"But she's dead damn it!"
shouted Dev, trying to drag his friend to his feet.
"Come on, we've gotta get out
of here!" shouted Nathe, dragging Dev way, until he lost his grip
"We can't leave him!" protested
"We've gotta get out of here!"
repeated Nathe, half dragging, half carrying Dev against his will
into the darkness again.
Ignoring the protests of Dev
that still rang out sporadically, Nathe dragged his friend
through the darkness, narrowly avoiding collisions with the metal
racks and occasional wooden tables in the centre of the
"Jesus!" cried Nathe as he
tried, too late, to side-step and he and Dev collisioned into a
wooden table scattering books and magazines across the basement
floor. Along with Nathe and Dev who were also thrown with
bone-jarring ruthlessness onto the mildewy carpeted
"Oh God," cried Dev, still
wanting to somehow get back to rescue Tony.
"Come on, damn it," said Nathe,
dragging Dev to his feet again. "We must be getting close to
the travellator again. There were tables of books and magazines
near the entrance when we entered the store."
Staring into the blackness
ahead of them, Dev remembered that Nathe was right.
* * *
"Gwen!" shrieked Tony, still
lying amid the skeletal remains of his sister in the movie store,
where DVDs and CDs also lay scattered about the floor.
"Gwen! Oh Gwen!" he shrieked,
as though hoping that by calling her name he could somehow bring
the fifteen-year-old back to life.
"Gwen!" he sobbed, then
stopped, startled by the loud sound of wing beats that suddenly
echoed through the black store.
"What…?" he muttered, looking
up as the wing beats increased to near deafening
Tony stared open-mouthed as a
single brown bird; the size of a large gull appeared and perched
upon a metal rack, staring down at him.
"A bird … just a single, stupid
bird!" said Tony, having expected a flock of birds from the sound
of the wing beats.
"A single, stupid…" he
repeated, stopping as the bird reared up to its full height.
Half a metre or more. Far too large for any bird he had ever
seen in Melbourne's west.
"How big can it be?" he
wondered aloud as the bird seemed to stretch and grow until it
towered over him, a full metre in height. Then slowly it
stretched and grew, and morphed until it was a metre and a half,
then two metres in height.
"A two-metre tall bird?" he
wondered, knowing no flighted bird could reach that size, even
Then as the bird continued to
stretch, shift, contort it slowly changed shape and hue. Until
instead of a giant brown bird rearing above him, there stood a
two-metre Aboriginal warrior, a jet black Aborigine. Unlike
Nathe and his parents who were barely darker than Tony, or
"Who are you? What are you?"
asked Tony. He began crawling slowly away, until the clinking
of Gwen's bones stopped him.
He looked down in horror to see
that he was sitting on some on her gleaming bones.
"Gwen…!" he started; then
hearing creaking from the metal rack, Tony looked up as the naked
Aborigine raised a stone axe and leapt off the rack toward him,
bring with him a cascade of blank CDs and
* * *
Dev and Nathe were racing
through the darkened store, desperately hoping to find their way
back to the travellator ramp.
"This way … I think," said Dev,
pointing to where he thought he could see a small square of
Looking back, they could still
see the light of the spit and hear the inhuman chittering of the
A monstrous scream rang out
from the direction they had left Tony Braxi, stopping both
"Tony!" cried Dev, trying to
run back to save their friend from whatever unseen terror had
caused his hellish shriek.
"No! He's finished!" shouted
Nathe grabbed Dev's left arm
again and began trying to drag him through the darkened metal
racks, to where a distant yellow rectangle of light had suddenly
appeared revealing the base of the travellator ramp less than a
hundred metres away.
"No! Tony!" cried Dev,
struggling furiously against Nathe. Yet now the store was
silent, other than the sounds of Nathe and Dev struggling with
each other. Tony's long, drawn-out scream had tapered to
nothing, replaced only by distant wing beats in the
'Bats!' thought Nathe,
shivering in disgust, as he struggled with Dev, trying to compel
his remaining companion toward the rectangle of light.
"Come on," pleaded Nathe, as
Dev continued to fight to be released. "We've got to get to…."
He started to say, "To get to the travellator before the light
goes out," but stopped afraid to articulate the words, in case
saying it somehow made it so.
"A bird!" said Dev
As he stopped fighting against
his friend, Nathe stumbled, almost falling. Just managing to
stay on his feet, Nathe looked back and saw dimly the outline of
a large, dark bird soaring toward them.
"A raven?" he thought. But
seeing the bird lit up in some inexplicable form of lighting, he
knew that ravens did not bring their own light with
Still holding onto Dev, Nathe
stood still, watching, bewitched as the large bird approached so
slowly it almost seemed to be flying in slo-mo.
'Not a raven,' he realised as
the bird, the size of a large gull neared until he could see it
was a murky dark brown.
For fifteen seconds or so the
large bird hovered a few metres away, then slowly began to
transform. Began to stretch and grow into a menacing brown Big
Bird (from a twisted, alternative Sesame Street).
Then, as it continued to grow
the bird began to change shape, until it had metamorphosed into a
naked Aboriginal warrior, holding a long-handled
"Yirbaik-Baik!" said Nathe
Mudbra, almost in awe.
For the first time since he had
heard Tony's scream, Dev turned to face Nathe. "Yirbaik-Baik?"
he asked, for a moment not understanding; stunned by the sight of
the naked man where a brown bird had been only seconds
"Come on, damn it!" cried Nathe
as the naked warrior raise his tomahawk menacingly.
This time Dev did not protest
as Nathe half dragged, half carried him toward the rectangle of
light at the base of the travellator ramp.