Fiction: Cities you’ll never see on screen

Molten Melbourne

by Yuki Iwama

It is an ugly sneer in the cracked earth, the black water from the Yarra River streaming in through the jagged teeth. The city used to be in constant motion before the great earthquake, an oiled dance of machines and limbs; but now it writhes at the bottom of the crevasse like a snake in heat.

The smell of molten bricks and smoking steel drives you from the edge as you look down, weeping from the acridity. If it were any other day, you would be weeping for the lost city, but today is your last and you find nothing inside.

There is a rhythmic drumming rising from the depths of the crevasse and briefly you think of the buildings falling to their knees, shaken at the foundations like dizzy drunks.  One by one by one they fell and the glass spewed bodies into the sunlight. You remember seeing the destruction and the purity of the violence took you by the throat and gently squeezed the breath away.

You saw this one hundred times as you lay twisted in your sheets, hardness against your stomach and slick with sweat. As you stand there, staring down, down, down, you realise that this is the reality you sought after for all those years. The smoke intensifies and the drumming becomes frenetic, rising to a feverish pace. When you raise your eyes, you lose sight of the sky.

The city may be dead but it is more alive than ever. There is a cacophony of noise and music rising from the crevasse and though everything is melting you don’t even realise how impossible this is. You can almost see the people dancing in the rubble, fucking each other under the black waterfalls, playing in the molten metal. You see them all, living their lives, and you know you want to join them.

You are a metre from the edge but one step is all it takes.

You live again, in what used to be the great city of Melbourne.

The Walking Ted

by Deborah Kane and John Back

The teddy bear had a red bow tie and black button eyes. She was walking but had forgotten where she’d been. Few memories can be made when one has only been alive for a matter of days. All she had was a single picture in her mind of a blue house on a small hill, and that was where she was headed.

The tiny teddy wandered through cracking cotton fields into a dusty country town. As the bear ambled on, the main street peeled back.

After a great many little steps, the teddy came upon an op shop tucked away behind a chapel.

The door handle crumbled on her padded touch. It seemed the store itself would collapse if she sneezed in the wrong direction.

A granny sat in her rocking chair, charred and still. ‘I’m looking for a blue house on a small hill,’ said the bear. Not a knot of the knitting needles in response. The teddy wondered if all humans were this quiet.

‘Well looky here. I’m suddenly alive!’ came a voice with a whistle and whoop. Out popped a puppet with a green felt hat. ‘Oh hullo there,’ he said to the teddy. ‘I like your tie!’

‘I like your hat.’

And that was that. The puppet insisted on helping the teddy find the blue house on a small hill.

They set off at once.

On the way, a rag doll, a soft bunny and a fuzzy frog joined their travelling group. The teddy found that the toys sprung to life only moments before she met them. They each had a picture of their home in their minds, but they wanted to help the teddy find hers first.

Humans were obviously scared of walking, talking toys. They shrivelled up and stood very still whenever the toys came near.

Before long, the teddy spotted a familiar sight on the edge of town. A small knobby hill and a house like the sky.

Her button eyes shone. The puppet yelped and hollered in joy.

‘Would you like us to escort you up there?’ asked the rag doll.

‘You’ve all been so kind,’ said the bear. ‘Puppet and I will be fine from here. I do hope you can find your homes too.’ The puppet hoisted the teddy into a piggy back position, and with a sweet goodbye they raced up the hill.

But the house was not well. Blue strips of paint were slipping from the weatherboard. A puppy stumbled off the porch, dazed and losing breath. It crumpled past, collapsing into the pebbled drive.

As the two toys turned, the landscape emerged. Down the hill, in the same path the teddy had walked, cracked pavement and smouldering ruins lay in her wake.

And there, from the base of the hill, three new paths of destruction were being forged.

John Back is an emerging novelist for teenagers and fantasy fans. He has made his way into Voiceworks and The Victorian Writer recently. He tweets at @mrjohnaback like a little tweety bird.
Deborah Kane is an emerging editor. She pulls the strings behind most of John’s work and lets him take the credit for it. Right now, she has an impressive single tweet, to be found at @kanedebo.


Tamworth apocalypse

by Erin Handley

The mossy green of the dam wall blanched white, made brittle like snowflakes. The water dwindled low, lapping against sediment cement. It was silently sucked from beneath.

When the water left the stone containers, the fenced in backyard pools, the snaked banks of the Peel, it was evaporated out of grass blades and the magnolia petals curled brown.

Then the moisture was sapped out of skin.

It didn’t feel like thirsting, she thought. Just the slow and persistent pressure, starting at her neck and pinching down vertebrae.

She sent all of her thought to the balls of her feet leaning the forward, tottering on the cusp before a drag of one foot, weighted as if it was waterlogged, forward; carving a dark scar through the chipwood at Anzac Park.

In her throat a dry cry caught, but the bodies around her were already flattened, folded up like paper. A country town afflicted by mass paralysis.

Ants trickled over her skin now – her chin and the crease of the back of her knee.

One slipped a leg into the tiny lines that etched her lower lip. The only movement left was the slight widening of her eyes at the pretended memory of such a sensation. She stared at her wrist limp in front of her, and willed it lift.

The magpies in their gums like thrones saw their chance. They swooped low in blackwhite streaks. When the humans did not fling their hands up to save their heads, the birds became more brazen They looped down, close, clipping at the clefts of pink ears and tangling their claws in hair.

With no need of flight, the magpies tittered forward on their scaled sticky legs. One stood poised by left her arm, in the line of her eye. His feathers so black they seemed wet.

His beak like horn polished grey tilted sideways, clamping the hairs on her arm, pulling them taut. A grotesque, flesh imitation of blue hills.

He took her eyes. She didn’t blink.

Days later, the rain fell so fast and frozen it skittered across the carcasses and pooled into the sockets that once held eyes.

You can hear excerpts from their fictional apocalypses in #1431 Cities You’ll Never See On Screen.