The Pied Piper of Parramatta

On a steamy summer’s night, Parramatta river is alive. The air is heavy with mosquitoes and flies. From bushes no one sees, crickets mock at passers by. And the ever watchful ibis stalks its banks looking for a cigarette butt, a garbage bag, or a stray Big Mac under its bridges. Amidst all this is the main attraction of Parramatta river — humans. Like the air, the river walk is teeming with people. Couples lie on the grassy banks smoking shisha and feeding one another, making out and embracing, arguing and cursing, oblivious to the spectacle they are, in the zoo that is Parramatta river. An elderly man sits by the wharf. His fishing line is as lonely as he is. It lays completely still and vanishes at the surface of the river, swallowed by its murky depths.

A young Asian man walks along the river after dinner. What strikes him as bizarre is what lies submerged in the middle of the river. To everyone else, it is simply the end of the normal day in Parramatta. They walk past without batting an eye. But the man is riveted. For in the middle of the river, perched on by ibises, guarded by paddling pelicans, is a shopping cart, sticking out at all the wrong angles. Is it front to back or back to front or upside down? Shaking his head, he curses and blames the neighborhood drunks. He limps on.

Soon after midnight, the river is still. Traces of shisha and cigarette smoke linger on the park benches. But there are no other memories of its night life under the orange glow of its lamps. Every now and then, the silent darkness is broken by the occasional car overhead, some party goers returning to whence they came. From near the wharf comes a melody that strangely resembles the Woolworths’ theme song… “We are the fresh food people”.

At first there is no response. But slowly silhouettes emerge from the bushes and trees and stairs along the river. Boys of all ages and ethnicities emerge from the dark. Black, brown, red, straw, blond and hazel; their hair stand out like constellations in the night sky. The last boy to step out is playing the song on a flute. He stops only when every boy from Parramatta has come forth to await him. They have been summoned. It is time for Kart club.

Every weeknight, when the moon has fully risen and glowers at the concrete zoo over Parramatta and it’s adults have grown weary of staving off their age and retired for the night, young boys from all over Parramatta and its suburbs gather around the river. They have kissed their parents good night. They have placed enough pillows under their blankets to fool the most astute dad. And they have slipped out through their windowed houses and apartment elevators to escape into the night. Dragging shopping carts they find on the sidewalks and around Westfield and from the home of any lazy adult, they ride it to the river and park it near the bushes. They wait and hope with bated breath to hear that melodious tune once more; “We are the fresh food people…”

The number one rule of Kart club is that you don’t talk about Kart club. And this is how it was formed. Between 2010-2020, Parramatta experienced unprecedented development. It became an urban hub where every developer who had money wanted to build an apartment there and every bank with a name would relocate their employees. Roads and light rail tracks and train lines would criss cross each other in a dizzying array of construction. It was like Thomas the tank engine married Sim City and gave birth to Lego. Parramatta council were too busy with their adult games to notice that they had made Parramatta somewhere with nothing to do. Children were stuck between digital screens and parents telling them to go outside… to what I’m still not sure about. For all the children could see was an ugly concrete zoo awaiting them. It was a drab and gray world outside.

But Kart club is Parramatta’s never land where boys will remain boys. And so every night, they gladly follow the fresh food summons to meet their mysterious leader; a boy who has come from and is going nowhere. They only know him as Piper. But for them, even when they are 80, he will always remain Piper as they know him, a 15 year old phantom playing that haunting tune by Parramatta river.

They find whatever objects they can and load their carts. And then they all go racing around the river walk which extends from Parramatta all the way to Rhodes. But most of the time they remain in the vicinity of Ermington. Like Mario Kart, they throw whatever they can find from their carts in order to slow or take others out. Banana peels, cigarette butts, and half drunk strawberry milkshakes are all fair game. Sometimes a lucky boy will find a creatine bar near the entrance of some gym to give him the energy to last the whole night.

This is how it ended. On a winter’s night the streets were wet with dew. An orange fog hung in the air illuminated by the broken street lamps. The races had been wet and wild. It remained for two boys to cross the finish line under the Church St bridge. Some had already gone home. But no matter. Piper skipped and flourished his flute. Suddenly the tune was changed. It was no longer “the fresh food people” but Die Walkure by Wagner. And then they heard the boys. Coming round the bend near George St, their carts skidded past the wharf. One boy saw his chance. When the carts were close enough to collide, he stretched his leg out and tapped the left wheel of the other boy’s cart.

The cart of the boy on the right skidded. Then it caught on a leftover banana peel planted by one of the other racers. And then it toppled right into the river. The cart was upended and began to sink slowly into Parramatta’s watery grave. At first the boy was fine if not wet. He didn’t know how to swim. But he knew Piper and some of the boys were nearby. So it was just a matter of time before he was rescued.

Unfortunately, the ibises got excited. They had never had such an opportunity for live entertainment whilst eating. Squawking and flapping their wings, all the ibises around the river gathered around the upended shopping cart. Some looked for actual fish that may have been stirred up around the spot. Others perched on the cart to watch. And still others flapped around the boy, probing him and teasing him out. The collective weight around his head proceeded to slowly but surely push him under. He was being held down by the ibises.

At first he laughed. Then he began to call out for help. But all he saw was the hooded silhouette of Piper who looked at him and continued to play his flute. The boy started to cry. The water was up to his nose and he was scared now. Ripples of water spread out from him. And he began to choke. The water sputtered. Still Piper played on. His notes blending one into the other into a continuous night song. He played furiously, faster and faster, missing notes but making up for them with his own harmony. Eventually his flute drowned out the boy’s cries. And then he was no more. All that remained of the night’s races was an upside down shopping cart and a flock of ibises.

In the morning, a boy in Parramatta was reported missing. His picture was printed in the Parramatta Advertiser by two worn parents who had woken up to discover only blankets and plushies where their son was meant to be. An investigation was opened into his disappearance by police and anxious parents alike. Many of the parents had already harbored concerns at how tired their boys had looked in the morning. And now it all leaked out. A frantic search took place along Parramatta river. They traced the boy’s last known whereabouts to the wharf. But all that they found was an upended shopping cart and a handful of ibises.

The body was never found. The homeless were blamed and rounded up for interrogation. And shopping carts were banned in order to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. A strict curfew of 8 pm was imposed on every boy under the age of sixteen. If the adults had looked closely enough at the ibises by the wharf, they would have been able to see tiny finger or an ear protruding out past an ibis’ beak. As for Piper, nothing seemed to remain of him. The boys of Parramatta would often wonder where he was now. But it is said that every now and then, through the heavy summer night’s air, the playful sound of a flute can be heard to the tune of… “We are the fresh food people.”

Dangerous Bus Rides Along Camperdown: A Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

Or is it madam? I want to assure you that I don’t discriminate when it comes to leaving dangerous items on public transport. And in the case of a thermoflask on a bus, it is a most serious matter. As I overheard this girl named Shirley, who was sitting in the back row say, “when you crinkle a wrapper in a silent study room, you become public nuisance number one.” She’s right. Dear sir or madam, when you left your polished gray metal thermoflask on that busy bus, you became public enemy number one. You may as well have left a bomb behind.

You might be wondering why I’ve targeted you or your innocent thermoflask. Dear sir or madam, I have no qualms about thermoflasks. I am quite content for thermoflasks to take buses or trains or ferries or trams. Sometimes I even cheer them on as they ride past on their Tour De P’arramatta, nestled snugly under their riders’ bikes. Which brings me to my original point. Thermoflasks are free to roam anywhere they choose just as my Woolworths free range chicken does before I eat it.

But thermoflasks like dogs, need to be accompanied at all times by their rightful owner. Else who knows whose poor lawns may be targeted next when your dog decides to redecorate the earth? Who knows whose poor ears will be split and deafened when your thermoflask decides to drop the beat? Those bottles seem to have a life of their own and struggle to stay up more than my dear wife after her stroke.

My dear, I love thermoflasks. But I do not love you. You have been a most negligent owner. And you are moments away from becoming a domestic terrorist in my eyes. So I write in an effort to assuade you from the path you’re on. I too, know what it’s like to be young. I was young once. Young man, or woman, listen to me. Or listen to my dear friend Shirley at the least. She sounded wise. As I sat resting my eyes and enjoying the conversations of young people, I noticed that you had left your thermoflask in the back row. Out of the goodness of my heart, I steadied it and popped it upright to give it the seat it deserved just as I steadied myself with my cane. Then the bus suddenly lurched. Again my cane was my stead. But my ears had no one and nothing.

The moment that thermoflask dropped, thunder broke, my eardrums were rent and you became public enemy number one. There is nothing irredeemable in that. With time and a good conscience, I am sure you will take wonderful care of your many thermoflasks in the future and spare many from the curse of lifelong deafness. But as I prepare to see my audiologist tomorrow, I want you to know that you don’t want to be private enemy number one. I am just as good at kicking whipper snappers off the bus as I am keeping them off my lawn. The next time you think of leaving your thermoflask on the bus think again. Sydney is a small place. And you never know where one man and his cane may be hiding.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

I Didn’t Choose The Block Life, The Block Life Chose Me

Bang. Bang. Bang! The clock strikes six and three pairs of hands hit three hammers as the day begins. In reply the crows scatter cawing like dying children. The musty air is caked with dust and cement. I roll onto my side. And then the other. I would have rolled out of my bed if it wasn’t on the floor. Rolling on the cat is the next best thing. I breathe and snort and the air is rented from my inflamed nostrils.

Bang. Bang. Bang! The air is rent with cars and construction. Helmets bearing down hammers hoping to sell the next block to as many Chinese moms as they can get. As I step out onto the pavement the magpies follow my wife as she runs. They are attracted to the smell of sweat and fear. To ward them off I toss a crumb of bread onto the path which is trampled on by a couple drinking milk tea, disregarding the use other footpath sign.

Fortunately for me, class is next door. But good luck to my wife. Her feet patter and the drills clatter. She takes off with her entourage of magpies. And I turn to head into Christ College. Bang. Bang. Bang!

Incredible Chicken

On an evening stroll along the streets of Strathfield, I saw a now abandoned construction site. A shed was in the middle. It had no door. Its dark unlit cavern emitted the sound of scrapes and clinks. A Korean man with a black receding hairline and a white tank top was pumping his arms on top of a mound of dirt. He worked with a vigor and speed that was more appropriate for 7 am than 7 pm. I couldn’t stand to watch. The orange glow of the sky turned purple, its tone telling me that I had to return home to fix something edible for my wife. It was getting dark.

“Baek Sang Min, are you still going?” The voice rang out and cascaded over the shed. All but 1 other man had left. Sang Min had been like this the whole day. The only response was an affirmative grunt. The other worker sighed, took his bucket helmet off and before long was a fading neon speck approaching the Boulevard. It was happy hour.

There was a stillness that lay heavy on the air broken only by the chirp of magpies. Sang Min looked around and realized he was alone at last. This was the 1st time he had stopped working all day. “Sang Min.” A voice croaked from behind the mound, not from weakness but an ancient power. Behind the mound was a gaping black hole. Its bottom was invisible. From below came faint chirps and one could just make out a giant yellow eye as it glinted out at Sang Min.

“It’s time.” Sang Min moved closer to the hole. Trembling, he bent over, hands over his knees and retched. All he had eaten that day was regurgitated into the darkness and was devoured in a harmony of gulps and tweets. He fell onto all fours from the effort. The feathers under his neon vests ruffled. A claw the size of his body came out of the pit and lay gently on top of him. Its talons surrounded him both caressing and caging him in. “Thank you”, the voice crooned. “Don’t forget next time. You know what happened to your siblings. I think you would taste especially great in snow cheese.” “Yes your Incredible highness.” Sang Min staggered out of the shed and before long, the site was cloaked in darkness except for that yellow unblinking eye.

Babies R Us

Someone must have made a mistake because Chris woke up amongst a sea of adults and children. Bright lights. Voices. ‘Welcome to Babies R Us.’ A gentle murmur, barely noticeable but present throughout, like a radio on a long drive. ‘Oh my goodness, she’s beautiful’. ‘Mom I really don’t want a sister.’ ‘What’s the prognosis for her lifespan?’ ‘Excellent mam, time of death is projected in 80-100 years, so about 2129.’ These voices seemed closer. Chris turned his head to the right and saw a mom and her son talking with the store clerk. She held his hand, the muscle tone on her arm giving away the strain of preventing his escape. Every now and then, the child would looking around, fixing his gaze on whatever drew his attention the most. Next to them stood a tub shaped container with a clear hard plastic cover, its sheen reflecting the store light. It was small, probably with the capacity to hold no more than 5kg. A chart was propped up on a stand next to the box, which the mom was now eyeing. Chris tried to cry but it was as though someone had placed him on mute. Every sound echoed back in his box. To an outsider, it simply looked like he was making funny gestures with his mouth.

Chris’ mom sat propped up reading on the couch as his dad strolled in. ‘Good morning hunny.’ He slid his arms around her back, imparting a quick kiss before sitting down himself. ‘Good morning’. She put the book down and eyed him. ‘What?’ he said. ‘I was just thinking about the idea of us. And kids.’ ‘Oh,’ he replied. She smiled. ‘Not now, silly,’. ‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘It’s much too soon.’ She nodded. ‘Too soon. We’re only 28 after all. Still plenty of time.’ Chris’ dad grabbed the remote and flicked to the news, grinning as he did so. ‘It doesn’t stop us from trying though.’

‘I understand you have a child between you two.’ The judge spoke stiffly. The courtroom was quiet beneath the glare of the LED lighting. The only sound that could be heard was the click clack of the court stenographer’s typing. Somewhere in the back, a guard sniffled. ‘Yes, your honor,’ said Chris’ dad. ‘But we had him put in cryo 10 years ago and he’s remained there since.’ He stared into the floor, avoiding the gaze of anyone who might be looking at him. ‘And have you considered parental rights or whom would receive custody of him?’ Chris’ mom chimed in, ‘we originally planned to have children later on. We were so busy with our careers at that point. It doesn’t matter now. We were considering keeping him an embryo and giving him up for surrogacy. Unless one of our future partners may want to conceive him.’ ‘So busy,’ echoed Chris’ dad softly. ‘Very well, I believe it’ll be best to review the case when that time comes then. In the mean time he will remain frozen by court order and you both will enjoy joint custody of the embryo. Once you’ve decided what you want to do with him, we will re-open this case to discuss your parental rights and anything you may be applying for.’ The judge tapped his gavel. ‘Session adjourned.’

‘Thanks mam, we’ll have her ready for you by the end of the week.’ The lady and her son were now walking out of Babies R Us. Behind her the entrance of the store glowed green and purple with a sign that said ‘Babies R Us.’ Underneath in smaller letters was ‘Every child deserves a great life.’ The mom clutched the clipboard close to her chest, smiling with the contented look of a well fed baby. The store remained busy and people continued to mill about. By the end of the day, most every container had been visited and inquired about. As the store closed a few stragglers remained, those whom either had limited resources to obtain a baby yet or hadn’t found the right one. Near the back of the store, an older man with a mustache continued to inspect the containers. He wore a hat, reminiscent of times past and an overcoat, long enough to just pass his knees. Something caught his attention and he glided up to Chris’ chart. Devoid of attention the whole day, Chris’ eyes widened when he saw the man. His mouth opened. ’Well, well, well. What’s the story behind this one?’ he called out. ‘Down’s syndrome sir,’ replied the clerk from across the floor. ‘Prior to the new legislation of course. Otherwise it’d be illegal to have him here. Tonight’s actually his last night though.’ ‘Why’s that?’ ‘Well Chris has been here forever – some 20 odd years before he was conceived by one of our staff. She wasn’t able to keep him of course, what with the rising health care costs and the quality of life he would have had. But silly girl, she couldn’t go through with the extraction. Even with the procedure pain free and subsidized nowadays.’ The old man chuckled. ‘She must’ve been young.’ ‘She was. Everybody in the store knows him by name. But with the new family healthcare policy, no one’s going to want him.’ The clerk was now standing beside the man. ‘That’s a shame,’ said the old man. ‘I don’t suppose that you would consider taking him home…sir?’ The old man paused. He gazed calmly at Chris then smiled and looked back at the clerk. Chris gurgled. ‘Can’t say I would. I wouldn’t be able to provide him the life he’d deserve.’ The clerk nodded. ‘That’s too bad.’ ‘What’s going to happen to him?’ ‘Oh don’t you worry about him! It’ll be the usual, nothing too much. He won’t know or feel a thing.’ ‘Good. I wouldn’t want him to suffer too much.’ The old man strolled back towards the entrance of the store. ‘Well have a good night. Maybe I’ll find the lucky one next time.’ ‘Thanks for your time sir, have a good night!’ yelled the clerk from where Chris was. The old man exited. The clerk proceeded to clean up the store, picking up bits and pieces of kids’ who knows what.

Finally, the time came. Before the store closed he had to dispose of all expired babies. He whistled as he walked up to Chris’ box. Chris watched from afar with wide eyes, following him closely. ‘Well old friend it looks like this is it.’ The clerk gently lifted the box unto two hands, supporting it with his shoulders. He strode towards the back of the store where two pristine automatic steel doors, reminiscent of sterilized hospitals stood. It opened its doors wide, barring its secrets to the outside world now. Darkness enveloped Chris and the store clerk, with only the green lights from the neon exit sign and the walk way showing him where to go. The hallway was long with multiple doors on either side. Their appearance was the same except for silver plaques that hung in the middle, each with a different title, like the ones you see in doctors offices. Passing the doors with nary a glance, the clerk arrived at the end of the corridor where a chute stood on the right hand side. The chute was open and square shaped, roughly the same as the box. It had a metallic surface and instead of facing down like a garage disposal, this one faced up. On the right hand side laid a control panel with various buttons. A yellow biohazard sign hung above the chute. As the clerk placed Chris into the chute he tapped quickly on the control panel. It was a procedure he’d done many times before. The faster you did it the better. Too much thinking would just delay things. Thankfully there weren’t too many stains left over from last time. After keying in the right sequences, he stepped back from the chute and watched. Nothing happened. Then slowly a methodical humming commenced. Chris looked up from his box into the darkness of the chute. He didn’t know what he saw at first. His mouth opened. At first, it looked like he was going to smile but at the last second, his eyes betrayed him. Just as it was about to develop into a whimper he was gone. That was the last thing anyone saw of Chris, as a seal slid down over the box and the humming stopped. Suddenly there was sh-sh-sh sound, like someone was sucking a gigantic straw in the chute, and you just knew that Chris was no longer lying there on the floor. The sounds slowly shifted and now it was the crushing and grinding of a blender making a smoothie with too much ice. Slow and methodical, the tone did not change throughout the process. After a few minutes, there was a wet thud, and the whirring of the chute ground to a halt and all was still. The clerk nodded then strode back through the dark hallway into the main foyer, his hands now empty, his day over and his work completed. It was time to go home.

It was 5.30 AM and it the morning after Chris’ last day. A truck was backing up against the side of Babies R Us. The garbage collectors had arrived like clockwork at the back of the building. Like most dumpsters there was a metal chute that ended above the giant disposal, funneling all trash into its catcher’s mitt. Unlike most dumpsters this one was highly sterilized and insulated to maintain temperatures below 0 degrees for hours at a time even without electricity. The dumpster was painted yellow, and in the middle was a bright black biohazard logo. In the early morning sun, it looked like a giant spider had climbed onto the dumpster. ‘Medical waste’ it said underneath. Once the two collectors decided the truck was in the right location, a button was pressed and the fork attached to the truck slid down and lifted the dumpster up. It hung in mid air and then slowly flipped to empty its contents. Being the last piece of trash disposed, the bag containing Chris’ remains slid out first into the back of the truck, and then he was no more, covered up by the landslide of the other bags of babies, each one piling onto the other with a thud.

The two men drove steadily with a purpose. They made their rounds from a couple more Babies R Us centers and then it was time to go home. ‘Wasn’t the first facility we went to today the place where you got your first child from?’ One of them asked the other. ‘Yeah, yeah I think it was. How time flies though it seems like it was just yesterday.’ As the two reminisced, the one who asked the question interrupted the silence again. ‘How’s she doing?’ ‘Oh she’s doing great, I think Babies R Us did a great job with her, no allergies, no medical conditions so far, perfect health.’ ‘I’m glad to hear that, it’s sad that even with technology these days there are still all these glitches.’ ‘Hey, it keeps us in business.’ They both nodded. As one of the men lived on the way back to the company, he was dropped off first. He smiled and waved his colleague off before heading back into the house. The truck drove off, gliding through the neighborhood street with scarcely a sound. Standing from one’s porch you could just make out the emblazoned slogan on the back of the truck before it vanished past the horizon, the light of dawn breaking into the full rays of the sun. ‘Every child deserves a great life.’

Be Careful What You Pick

Old habits die hard. Unless of course, they kill you first. S, was a logistics machine. She worked 3 jobs while studying at the tender age of 25. At any day of the week her roles ranged from entrepreneur to manager and consultant. She woke up on the 1st of March like any other day, full of life and hope. Her phone flashed 7:30 AM. Perfect. Boring. Boring was good. It was just like any other morning. And she needed that routine. After all, what were humans if not creatures of routine, secured amidst the storms of life?

As she stumbled to the bathroom, she was greeted by a pristine white glow. This was a rare occurrence. Just 2 years ago she had married one of those rare creatures capable of withstanding any living conditions either out of necessity or a blatant lack of self awareness. She thought it was probably the latter. But the glow this morning made up for it all including the hour she spent cleaning the toilet bowl, attacking it with every household tool imaginable, just to erase the brown skids from her memory. She shuddered just remembering it now. No, she had to put it out of her mind. Quickly brushing her teeth, if you could call it brushing (it had more similarities to nail filing), she downed an ironed polo shirt, jumped into her pressed tracksuit pants, grabbed a boiled egg (done just right at 80 degrees from the steamer) and in one fluid motion just like she rehearsed it countless times, she was out the door. Pure efficiency. S was a logistics machine.

At the nursing home, S caught up with her colleagues, ate lunch, organized assessments for the residents and caught up with some much needed paper work. It was a day just like any other. But she was itching to get home. The desire had been bothering her all day long and she needed some relief. She just couldn’t do it in front of all her colleagues. S after all, was a cold, rational, logistics machine, an example of no-nonsense leadership.

It was late when S got home. She threw her handbag onto the couch and proceeded to make dinner on the kitchen bench top. It was a marble top, with a silver sink next to it. Everything had a smooth sheen on it like the type of kitchens you only see in the movies. As she cut the cucumbers on the rustic chopping board, she would reach her finger towards her face. Dig, dig, dig. The finger penetrated the nostril, plowing through a thicket of nose hairs and then latching onto a soft, round ball of mucus. She picked it and then flicked it into the kitchen sink. Relief at last. This was the highlight of her day. She smiled to herself. If only her husband and colleagues could see her now. It would be her dirty little secret and no one would ever know. She continued to chop the cucumbers, each chop accompanied by picking and then a flick. By the end of the night, S had accumulated a warm, soft mound of mucus laying dormant and still in the middle of the kitchen sink. An unknowing bystander might mistake it to be a baseball as they had all melded into one. She ate a cucumber salad with grilled chicken, placed side by side on the plate and perfectly garnished. Finishing her meal, she proceeded to wash up but when she approached the sink, she discovered the mound of mucus had disappeared. Shrugging, she washed the dishes and thought no more about it. Things had a habit of cleaning up after themselves in her life. Except her husband. After he returned home, she greeted him and they both prepared for bed.

It was around 1 am when S felt a gentle nudging of her foot. It stopped and then started again a moment later. ’Not now,’ she whispered, thinking it was her husband’s attempt to either play a prank or be affectionate. But she wasn’t sure. Couldn’t he see that she was too tired to do anything? She rolled over. Her husband was fast asleep on his side, with his back facing her, amidst the occasional snore. Her foot was nudged again and she felt a sensation of warmth envelop her leg like shower water streaming down one’s leg. This time it felt soft yet there was something firm about it like play-dough. Unnerved, she shrugged her blankets off to see what was causing her foot to behave in such a strange way. A pale yellow and white mass lay at the foot of her bed, half of it on her ankle and the other half on the bed sheet. It pulsed with a steady rhythm and climbing steadily, snaked its way up her shin. S’s eyes widened and her pulse quickened. But she couldn’t speak. Perhaps she didn’t want to because it would mean what was happening really was happening. She knew she had to do something but she was frozen, in time and in fear.

The coagulated mass of white and yellow continued climb up her legs, leaving a dried sticky trail behind it. It was now on her hips. Now more than ever, was the time to act. She struggled to kick it off but her legs caught on the blankets, entangling them even further. She moaned in frustration. As she attempted to get up she realized the stickiness of the mucus around her legs had pinned her to the bed. She had one last resort. ‘Hel-‘. It was too late because at that point the pulsing mass, now resembling a melted baseball, had reached her face. Its tendrils enveloped her, muffling the last desperate gasp of a woman full of life. And then – silence.

The bedside clock read 1.00 AM. S laid at the head of her bed, her face blue. Her eyes were vacant. Her expression remained caught in the midst of surprise and fear. One of her legs stuck out of her blankets as it lay half draped over the bed and the floor. Her apartment lay as it did 30 minutes ago, before the last vestiges of life drained from her face, a silent observer to the life it had once housed. Silence filled the corridors. Beneath the blankets, her husband snored away and the white, yellow pulsating mass was nowhere to be found. It was just as it had always been. Perfect.