By Tim Collis
You salute to the portrait on the wall of the classroom. A stern face gazes down, surveying the pupils who are eager to leave. It is 5:00pm. The portrait’s eyes follow you as you leave. No one speaks ill of her, but everyone thinks it.
You walk outside, the blistering sun beats down on your skin. It’s Spring, the 100-year drought continues. The heat radiating from the pavement burns you, the glare unbearable. Your sunglasses don’t help, so you squint.
You try to cross the street, but a Light Rail Vehicle™glides in front of you, as silent as night. It’s 500m meters long, completely empty. DO NOT ENTER: TESTING. Testing has entered its 25th month. Enjoy a safe, luxurious trip on your newest, state-of-the-art Light Rail line. Opening soon.A single bell tolls, and it’s gone.
You’re at the bus stop, waiting for the bus, it still hasn’t come. There is no shelter, no trees, no shade…7 buses drive by, none of them in service. You look at Tripview, the sun reflects off the screen, shining directly into your eyes. No real time data available. Your 5G switches to 4G, your 4G switches to 3G, and 3G to nothing. Your Airpods™ fall silent. Another Telstra outage, the third today.
A bus comes, standing room only. The air-conditioning is broken, and it has no windows. Your eyes lock with a High School acquaintance and it’s too late; he smiles. It’s an express service, and there’s traffic. You start sweating. Next stop: The City™.
You get off the bus. You’ll never get that 45 minutes back. You wipe sweat from your forehead, you welcome the dry sun beating down onto you, at least you’ll dry quickly.
The platforms at the station are closed. URGENT TRACKWORK. All services in the City suspended. A transport officer has a megaphone. Walk, she says, walk. At least you’ll dry out.
Your skin scorches. The smell of hot car fumes overpowers you. Truck, after car, after NOT IN SERVICE bus slowly pass you. Then you pass them, you’re walking faster than them. You start coughing.
Your street is lined with construction. Your neighbour’s house, TRANQUILITY, by Meriton, coming soon. Luxury Apartments. Your other neighbour’s house, ELEGANCE, by Meriton, coming soon. Luxury Apartments. The park that used to be across the road, GREEN QUARTER, by Meriton, coming soon. Luxury Apartments.
You get to your car parked on the street. You hop in, but there is no reprieve. The seatbelt brands your leg, you can only touch the steering wheel with your fingertips. The Coles Little Shop Minis 7™ on your dashboard has melted. Car fumes linger.
You’re running late for work. You hate your job at Coles, but anything is better than this heat. You start up your car, the air-conditioning comes on. It’s blowing hot.
You follow this sign to the tunnel, you end up on the bridge. You follow the signs for the bridge and end up in another tunnel. You enter WESTCONNEX™. You’re fearful; you know the labyrinth has no end. You see signs—stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage…7? Only a lucky few escape, but you take your chances. At least there’s shade in the tunnel.
You realise, you don’t have an e-tag, you see a black van following you. You speed up, so does the van. You change lanes, so does the van. At the last moment, you veer off to an off-ramp, the van doesn’t. You escaped, for now.
You surface from the tunnel’s quiet to the sun directly above you. The sun visor doesn’t block it out. You feel a headache coming on.
You glance at the billboard by the side of the highway. She is looking down at you, still stern, still surveying, her eyes still following you, always following. Herr Gladys.