Pehlwani Potting Mix

[A weird episode paying homage to the Australian Tall Story – a true form of traditional culture down under.]

Gorgeous bright tomato red orbs floated behind my eyelids. The sun-ripened ones that yield to a knife like butter and give out juicy seed-laden flavour; I dreamed of them with a longing like homesickness. They would be bloody delicious layered on toasted buttered rye bread, a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper,and, in memory of my grandma, a pinch of sugar. I would devour the breakfast of my juvenile summers with passion born in boyhood, if I could only grow that premium ingredient.

With some help from my silver-haired neighbour Theo, the first sunny Saturday of spring saw us building a large L-shaped garden box made of sleepers. It reached almost to waist height on me, and we half-filled it with manure and straw.

“ The best thing to do is get some quality potting mix and mushroom compost to add to that,” said Theo.

I was enjoying the digging, sweating and pungent smells. It would be worth it to have real tomatoes to eat and share. He continued to explain how after the potting mix and compost I should add a layer of topsoil ,and plant the tomato seedlings about sixty centimetres apart.

“ Don’t forget your cages. Are you gonna grow Super Beefsteak? “

“ Yeah, I’m gonna give them a try. Eight of those will give me plenty of tomatoes for my needs.”

“ You’ll get the maximum yield out of this small space.”

I was grateful and sent him home with a six pack of German beer, since a cash payment was refused. He smiled, and a little later I heard the sound of the football semi-final through the fence.

My trip to the nursery was expensive. I selected four ten litre bags of compost, and, thinking of my back, eight five litre bags of topsoil. Finally, the assistant showed me bags of potting mix.

“This a new type we’ve ordered from an Indian supplier. It’s meant to be good.”

The tired looking burlap bags with their faded red print were much cheaper than the last lot of potting mix I had bought to add to the garden when I planted red-flowering Grevilleas in my south-east facing front yard. I nodded yes. After I paid for a heap of bags and some Super Beefsteak seeds to be planted in pots to produce the seedlings for my garden, I knew my dream was costing me. I added eight tomato cages and we loaded up the Ute.

It was half-time when I returned, and Theo helped me stack the bags in a neat line, where I could easily open them with the edge of a shovel and transfer the material into the boxes.I emptied four bags of compost into the boxes and my aching back seemed to say call it a day.

I’ve been too long in a desk job, I thought. I trudged indoors and took a hot shower.

Late Sunday morning I finished the job , and gave it a half-hearted turn with the shovel which had lost its new gleam. I sprinkled the top soil over the top, and gave the lot  a water.

Perhaps Theo will turn it some more for me if I ask him.

I schlepped back inside and prepared two cheese toasties and scoffed them down. While washing them down with cold beer, I imagined how much better they would taste with tomato in them.

Mondayitis was exaggerated by muscular pain, and I left for work in a daze. I did remember to shut the rear security gate that sat almost flush with the concrete driveway in the back yard.

I returned from work around 4pm and decided to leave the car in the street because sweeping the concrete free from spilled soil and potting mix seemed a good use of a fine afternoon. After some water and a few stretches, my entrance into the backyard was almost enthusiastic.

A hissing sound caused me to freeze mid-stride.  Instinct raised the hair on my neck and prickles sprayed across my back. To my left was a four-foot black snake rearing up, its’ hood flared.


I bolted for the rear door of the house. Without looking behind me, I kicked the rear door shut, and striding to the lounge I snatched the cordless phone from the lounge side table. I dialled 1223 and asked the operator to connect me to the Hobson’s Bay Council.

What am I going to do if they don’t answer?

It was now 4.20 pm

Holding the phone to my ear I walked down the hall to the small study that overlooked the yard. Raising the blind, I stared at the black horror that dominated the white gravel space beside my garden box. I was relieved that the garage door was down, and the small garden shed was shut. The clipped lawn under the rotary hoist offered no hiding place.

I shivered.

The receptionist put me through to the environmental fauna department.

“Animal control”, a young voice said.

“ My name is Phil Dwyer, and I have a Cobra loose in my yard at 234A Sykes Avenue, Altona.”

“A Cobra, Mr Dwyer? How do you know  it’s a Cobra.”

“It’s black with a hood.”

“It’s black. Does it have any markings.”

“I didn’t stop to see if there were any markings. I walked out my backdoor and there it was, ready to strike, so I came in here and rang you.”

“Would you mind holding please Mr Dwyer? Don’t approach the snake, please stay on the line.”

Don’t approach the snake. DON’T approach the SNAKE. I mocked in my head, as annoying musack played.

I moved as close to the window pane as I could to see what was happening. The snake was gone and in its’ place was a tall, muscular, dark-skinned man in black spandex.

Where did he come from?

He walked under the rotary hoist, and each wedge of the clothesline separated and dropped to the ground. The center pole of the hoist melted into the ground, and the sections of clothesline arranged themselves into a strange fence on each side of the small lawn. A silver snake erupted from the garden bed. As it grew and shimmered before my eyes,a tall muscular pale man in grey shorts appeared. The dampness of drool soaking through my beard told me my mouth was hanging open.

Grey shorts man stepped across the fence and the two men began to wrestle. They were well matched physically, and a few minutes later sweat had soaked them and was dripping into the ground. Their heavy breathing became audible.

The voice was back on the phone. “Mr Dwyer, two animal control officers will be at your residence in about forty minutes. Don’t approach the snake, but do what you can to stop it  escaping from the yard.”

“Yes,” I croaked. The man asked for the address again and I repeated it.

“ Is there anything else I can help you with today?”


The line went dead. My hands trembled. The wrestling pair had locked arms and their heads seemed to press against each other’s shoulders. The ground was turning to mud under them, chunks of ripped up grass thrown around by their gripping feet. Black spandex man was gaining the advantage now. The panting grew loud enough to hear beyond my yard. Theo’s head appeared over the side fence, and he stared at the wrestling match. I raised my hand to wave, but he couldn’t see me from where he was.

I was grasping my hands together, leaning my forehead on the glass. My breath appeared as a mist on the glass.

Grey shorts man was now doing well, and locked his arm around black spandex man’s neck. Quicker than I could blink black spandex man had his arm locked under grey short man’s left shoulder pulling it forward, while pushing against his right shoulder. Black spandex man twisted his body, throwing grey shorts man off balance with a swiftness that made me gasp. He pinned the man’s head and shoulders against the muddy ground. The lower half of the man’s body writhed in the mud.

Black Spandex man threw back his head and laughed. The kind of laugh I’d heard as a kid when I watched Victorian melodrama on a school trip to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat.  

My heart rate slowed. I would have put my money on grey shorts man for a win, based on first impressions.

The men got up and began to wrestle again. Maybe I was in with a chance, best of three bouts?

I will never know what happened but right at that moment they became snakes again.  The pole rose out of the ground, and the rotary hoist looked as solid as the day it was installed.

There was a thump on my front door. When I opened it Theo was standing there. His hair looked like it had been gelled into a spiky do.

“ Mate, was there a wrestling match in your backyard?”

I nodded yes.

“And now there are two snakes?”

I nodded again.

“Do you have any of that beer left?”

He headed for my kitchen fridge.

The front door was still open when the animal control officers arrived.

Ha hem. I mean environmental fauna officers.

They called out, “Hobson’s Bay Council, Mr Dwyer?”


When I opened the screen door they showed me their identity badges, and followed me through to the back yard.

When the Cobra was in the sack, one of them said, “Do you have a licence to keep a snake, Mr Dwyer?”

“Call me Phil, and no I don’t have a licence. I don’t know how this snake got here. It appeared after I started my gardening project. For that matter after I bought this potting mix from India.”  

I lifted a discarded potting mix bag to show them.

The officer eyeballed me, tapping his pen against his left fist. The other officer left the yard to put the sack and its’ occupant into the council van.

“Where did you buy the potting mix?”

I told him and he wrote the details in his notebook. When he asked, I showed him my car licence.

They left, and Theo and I had a second beer.

“You can have some of my tomatoes Phil. I decided to plant some too, but I won’t be using any of that potting mix. It’s probably to blame.”

We discussed the wrestling match a bit, but after that night we never mentioned the weirdness again. I was grateful for that but I always wondered where that silver snake went, even after we emptied out those garden boxes.


—The End–



Sophie in Silk

[ When I don’t set them in OZ, I set them in some place from the land of magic realism or New York. Here’s how  Sophie rolls when she finds herself on a supposed-to-be three day location shoot.]

It isn’t any old  Monday  a girl from Herb’s Deli and Diner gets to dress in white silk and lace, ready to be photographed for a Belleview Magazine October Issue. With shiny hair the colour of butterscotch, and eyes the blue of a fair-sailing sky, Sophie looked like a lot of fun. She stood with her hands on her hips and a tilt to her head that proclaimed sassy , as she observed the black satin, and charcoal leather clad Italian model who, no matter what she did , couldn’t please the overthinking stylist.  The Italian, Vincenzia, was flushing a deep rose colour, and her jaw was clenched tight. The  fussing of the stylist, Bree, was causing the photographer, Stuart, to feel the need to rummage in his equipment bag a lot. From where Sophie stood she thought his mouth movements  looked like he was cursing. Yeah. Really colourful too.

Three hours before, Sophie had been released from the makeup chair and she was feeling hollow. She could smell, and imagined she could taste a spicy hot dog with roasted onions and mustard sauce. Her nostrils flared, and her stomach growled, as the nearby food van issued savoury vapours. She changed position and tried to concentrate. The person she felt sorriest for was her cousin Rada, the fashion editor’s assistant for Belleview Magazine. She had appeared half an hour before to find out why the shoot was running three hours behind.

Stuart was complaining to Rada, “ We’re meant to get these particular flower bed shots. By the time we’re ready the light will be all wrong.”

Bree seemed to be dictating a book about about which riding crop Vincenzia should use in the next shot. Should it be the one with the gold handle, or the one with the bronze studded handle? The third model, Brent, a pale lean man with wavy auburn appeared to have given up and sat in a black director’s chair with his eyes and his fingers glued to his phone.

I hope he’s not texting his agent blaming Rada for this debacle, Sophie thought.

Another cloud of delicious savouriness drifted between the trees. Sophie’s stomach groaned like a rusty-hinged door.

Anyone could tell I’m not a real model, Sophie thought, as she studied the fake tan on her shapely calves. They did a good job of that, nice and even. Just the way I’d like my mustard sauce, a nice coating all over the dog. Two hotdogs would be awesome, one with the all important mustard and onions, the second one with chutney.

Saliva pooled under her tongue. She shook her head, doing her best to focus on how great she’d looked when she inspected herself in the mirror after makeup and wardrobe had pronounced her ready.

Rada appeared in front of her, “Sophie, you’ll need to pop back into the trailer and get out of that dress for me. Leave it with Michelle so she can steam press it again. “

Ten minutes later Sophie, clad in a beige uplift teddy and a voluminous black satin robe patterned in cherry blossom, was seated on a bench by a spreading Oak sinking her teeth into a chutney topped hot dog. Vincenzia and Brent stared at her. Rada and Bree were having words behind the trailer. The breeze carried the phrase, stick with what we discussed, despite Sophie trying to tune them out. Stuart was consoling himself with the thought that every passing minute netted him $4. That particular flower bed was now in shadow. Sophie noticed Vincenzia was still watching her, while Brent had turned his back on her. She wondered if it was to show disgust, or was he concerned about shading his fair complexion?

Hopefully they’re both Vegans, she smiled to herself.

Vincenza’s eyes widened as she looked over Sophie’s head.

Right, Sophie thought, strawberry Ice cream after this.

On camera she was meant to be the angel to complement Vincenzia’s demon, and Brent’s vampire for the Halloween-themed shoot.

Too bad.

Sophie felt the presence of someone standing behind the bench. She turned and saw Stuart who nodded to her, and bit into a large bratwurst.  

Rada was now making her way towards Sophie and Stuart. Bree was walking away in the opposite direction towards Central Park West.  Vincenzia threw up her hands and stomped towards the food van.

Sophie watched as she gestured, seeming to take ages to order from the vendor. Her Italian accent was audible, but Sophie couldn’t quite understand the words. Soon after she stopped gesturing, she received a pale looking salad of tomato, lettuce and onion, with a spicy sausage and cheese on top. Sophie thought, not a vegan then.

Rada sat down beside Sophie, “Stop eating, you’ll have a food baby when we have to get you into that snug ethereal blue number that’s next up.”  

She grabbed what was left of Sophie’s hotdog and lobbed it into a nearby bin.

Sophie muttered, “That was rough, cuz.”

But she had to acknowledge the underwire was starting to dig in a little.  

Rada ignored Sophie and turned to Stuart, “We’ll do the dusk shots by the fountain, and I’ll talk to you about tomorrow’s shoot afterwards.”

Stuart nodded, still chewing he turned and headed toward the fountain. Rada headed in the direction of Brent who was still slunk down in the black director’s chair.  Vincenzia threw her plastic container, without the salad, but still containing half a sausage into the bin. She headed towards the van where the wardrobe lady was gesturing to them. Sophie sighed. Standing up and gathering the satin robe around her she followed along.

The assignment blew out to four days, while Sophie dutifully ate salad, and spoke with careful politeness to Vincenzia and Brent. She avoided eye contact except where required for the sexy shots. Sophie heard Rada talking her boss, Melany, down several times during the next three days. Rada was amazing as she spoke with graciousness to her boss while beads of sweat formed on her forehead. After all she had a mortgage on her apartment, and part-time care of a foster child. Rada reminded Melany of her recent success with a variety of magazine spreads and that all her other projects were on schedule. Yes, yes, this spread was for the October 1st issue, but it was going to be worth it  — the photographer was fantastic!

Yada, yada, yada, Sophie thought

On Thursday evening the shoot was finished. Rada entered the wardrobe van and threw herself on a chair, “Oh Sophie, being a logistics officer for Medecins San Frontieres would be easier than doing this job with Melany for a boss.”

Sophie squared her shoulders, “The shots are fantastic though. All those great setups will burn those designer’s names into your readers minds.” She made a sizzling sound, “images are soo hot!”

Rada slumped down in the chair, “Thank God and Stuart and Y’all.” She passed her hand across her forehead.

Sophie passed a bottle of water to Rada who opened it and chugged down half.

Sophie said, “Even Vincenzia turned out  to be not so bad.”

Rada sipped the other half of her water while Sophie collected her things.  Two guys who worked for the leasing company turned up to take the trailer away, and Michelle needed help placing all the bagged garments in the plastic lined boot of her early model Mercedes.

As the sun was setting, Rada and Sophie sat side by side on the stone wall facing the Natural History Museum.

Natural History Museum NY 2 Blog

Rada said, “ I haven’t seen my little darling, Russ for two days so I am looking forward to a day off.”

“You deserve more than one day.” Sophie patted her arm.

“I have to tell you something before I go. She turned her earnest gaze on Sophie.  “This business will eat you alive.”

Sophie pressed her lips together and gazed up into a nearby leafy canopy.

“I’ve had the thought I might not be perfect for it.”

“Good hold that thought,” she glanced at her phone, “gotta go.”

She headed off in a northeasterly direction towards Columbus Circle.

Sophie hugging her bag in front of her headed towards Subway station 81. She took a train uptown and walked the last five minutes of her journey to Herb’s Deli and Diner on West 129th Street.

Time to drop in on the Friday night faithfuls, she thought.

When she arrived the place was full up for Herb’s Friday night special : Steak or Fish with fries and two kinds of vegetables , followed by a slice of pie.  The choice was lemon meringue or pecan. Sophie rolled her eyes.

She thought, Herb wont even change the special dessert to  Pumpkin pie for November. But wait there’s more —

She smirked to herself. All the coffee you could drink. Everything was fresh and not too greasy, and you could get if for  $14.

Herb’s customers were in a good mood, ordering extra beer, and planning to tip  the three-day-a -week waitress , Nette, with a generous hand.

Sophie sashayed up to the counter. “Coffee, please,” she called to the counter server Libby. Libby began to laugh without even looking around.

“I know that’s you, Soph.”

Herb looked out from the kitchen, “So how was the modelling?”

Sophie shrugged, “I think I’ll try acting next. The photographer liked me – says the camera loves me.” She grimaced. “I might need a gig as a waitress while I’m making it.”

“No way,” Herb’s mouth said, while his head nodded yes.

The front table of regulars cheered and thumped the table.

Sophie took a bow.

The End

Image used with permission :  Copyright 2013 Lance O’Donnell

Party Goers

It was last week, as far as I can ascertain, that I got angry at my silver-bodied, sapphire-eyed robotic friend. With his wide set eyes, and triangular large hooked beak above a square chest, he bore some resemblance to an eagle. I had thought he was my lifelong buddy Jack: lean and curly haired, with stooped shoulders, tanned hands and a manic manner.  How could I have confused my friend with a six-foot avian monster?

It began one October night when the moon resembled a large golden bowling ball from the local alley. We had dropped in at six pm to play a game with Jack’s younger twin brothers.  Initially, I refused  the eight pound ball thinking that’s two bloody pounds too heavy.  The attendant offered me no choice. The lanes were crowded,the balls picked over, and that ball was “it”. The fluorescent strips reflected off the metallic ball with its glittery surface. It had hardly been scratched. As if the ball were trying to impress me, I bowled  three strikes in a row. After that it was 8s and 9s with the occasional strike, but I had enough of a score to win the game.

Jack suggested we drop in  to Lorene Bailey’s after we dropped off his brothers at the local cinema. “She’s having a bunch of people over for some coldies and pizza, and then a bunch  of us are heading to the clubs.” I had been nursing my wounds after my most recent girlfriend had dumped me, and after three Saturday nights in a row at home, I was keen to be out. Leaving Lorene’s at 9pm with half a dozen friends, we headed to a new place in town The SF Bar. On entry I was expecting pictorials of San Francisco, a city I had visited briefly once, when I was greeted by large murals of robots, CPUs spaceships and staff dressed like Trekkies or Star wars fans. The DJ wore a storm trooper mask, and the loud music made me want to dance. First we did a few shots,  and then two tall blonde girls, who we thought were tourists, agreed to dance with Jack and I. I had never felt so graceful and rhythmic on the floor. I felt like  I was in a Zayn Video. Perhaps I could compete on Dancing with the Stars; my Mum loved it so much. The overhead strip lights melded into two long ribbons of turquoise and scarlet. I had never felt so high. Jack hugged me, and I hugged him back. We were gleeful huggers.I called out, “ I love you, bro”,  without a care for who might hear. I felt a brief stinging sensation in the back of my arm, but I thought nothing of it. I was in love with the world at that moment, including  with the Barbie-like hottie I was dancing with.  

The dancing went on and on, with different settings appearing all around me. I was dancing on Bondi beach,  on the curve of a rainbow and in the middle of the Milky Way.  Barbie and Jack were everywhere with me.I became really tired and felt like I was sinking into a pile of feathers. When I woke Jack was smiling at me, and asked me if I’d like some breakfast. We walked into a room with long tables in it, featuring a mural from Tatooine with Luke Skywalker framed against the rising moon. On the tables were platters of sausage, egg and bacon, toast with butter and pots of jam, assorted pastries and fruit.   The Barbie girls served us. They winked and even I marvelled how long and black their eyelashes were.  We ate until we could hardly move. “Wow”, I felt like my voice was coming from far away, “they’re very generous for the $15 cover charge. I thought that was steep last night.” Jack nodded, but didn’t speak, and for a moment I thought I was looking at a birdlike robot.

Now, I wonder how often I replayed that scene or whether I was drugged so long it took all this time. I went to the bowling alley with Jack and his brothers on the 9th of October. When I woke up in the black pit full of rocks spouting mini waterfalls and swags of moss, the back of the bird robot was in front of me. Out of him still issued Jack’s voice, “Come on Paul, have another shot. Its awesome, come on .” I blinked and closed my eyes several times. I held my bony hands up to my face. My gut growled angrily, my mouth so dry I wanted to lick the damp moss. There was not a rainbow or a Barbie in sight. No Jack either. I couldn’t feel my legs, and when I moved my arm I felt something coarse and irritating.

What had caused this change? The last time I saw a little red dot in front of my eyes, instead of clutching at it I had batted it away. During my dream, the red dots had appeared with monotonous regularity, and I had grabbed at them, until the most recent ones. I shuddered with fear and cold.

I hunched over in a crawling position and began to move towards the only gap in the stone wall which showed light, light that looked like daylight. It hurt my eyes. My knees ached, and my legs stung and burned. I made slow progress. When I looked back the robot bird was still hunched over a narrow black table. He didn’t seem to notice that I had moved so I crawled on. When I finally reached the gap I looked back. There was a body on the table, a human body. My heart raced. Was it a body? I had thought I was in a nightclub with the Barbies and Jack. Everything had been a delusion.  Or was everything I was experiencing now an hallucination. Should I be scared of the robot?  

I struggled over a large boulder that sat in the gap that I had crawled to. I fell forward scraping my cheek on the rough surface. I cried out, and when  I landed and touched my cheek, I felt warm and sticky ooze. I remembered having the same experience sometime before I ever went to The SF Bar. I was in reality. That’s what I decided;  I would take a risk to avoid worse confusion. There was a bruise on my knee, but I could now feel my legs enough to stand. I looked back and saw the robot bird had moved away from the table, and was reaching into a cabinet bolted to the stone about three feet from the ground. I could now see the body clearly and it looked like Jack.

Jack. I had to do something for him. This was real. Freaking far out but real. Was the bird a robot, or a madman in a suit? If he was a robot, who had made him? I felt  a strong pulse in my neck. I had to have a plan. The robot moved away, and a sliding door appeared at the back of the cave room. He lurched through it and thunked away. The door slid shut behind him. I crept from my position to the table with the body on it. I touched it. It felt like latex, not human at all. The lean figure and black corkscrew curls were close to real life but in this light, I could see that this was android Jack, not my friend. Was there an android of me somewhere too, and was the real Jack with it?

I looked around, and picked up a sturdy piece of steel tubing.  My mind was clearing and I realised that robot bird probably knew what I was doing. There were computer screens, and glass bowls full of tiny parts. This was a laboratory, and most likely equipped  with surveillance. It seemed surreal, but someone was making androids that looked like real people. I had to find Jack. I gave myself a really good pinch, and a slap on the cheek ; I made sure I wasn’t dreaming . I marched toward the sliding door.

It slid open, and I was in a long tunnel. There were lights on the wall about every three metres, and I could see lighted doorways to my right and left.  I had to guess which way robot bird had gone. I went right and into the first lighted room. Seated in chairs along the wall to my left was what looked like my entire soccer team in still life. I touched Buddy West on the cheek. His skin was plasticky and dry,like Jack’s android. Perhaps I was an android? I slowed my breathing and realised the heart beating in my chest had to be flesh. It felt the same as I remembered. I thought back to my first day at school. It felt real, the touch of my mother’s hand. Mrs Reinhardt’s long legs, and loud voice. Running up to Jack on the playground: Do you want to be play poison ball? An android wouldn’t have memories, I assured myself. I pinched my arm again.

I decided to retrace my steps and go left past the sliding door to the other room. As  I left the soccer team behind, I became aware of how quiet it was. I could hear my breath. All my hallucinations had been noisy, so much had happened, and it still seemed more real than the memories of  my life. I had to find Jack and get back to the surface. As I approached my destination, I heard a familiar voice : don’t do this, please, let me go home. It was Jack and I figured he was talking to the robot bird. I slunk to the wall, and came right up next to the door, peering in. The robot bird was lying flat on his back in a pool of thick  oil, and Jack’s voice was coming out of it. Jack stood to the side of the robot with his hand still on the bottom of a 15 litre drum.  Jack himself said, “Where are you from? Where is home?”

‘The robot replied in a dull mechanical voice,” The other side of Jupiter, on a small planet called Janus.”

“Why did you come?”

“I was sent here to take our robot research to the next level. How would robots go interacting with humans and making androids? This was the question the Janus council wanted answered. We used every means possible to make you think we were human, and then we created androids from real humans we befriended. The plan was to fill this city with a population of androids, and then invite the council to inspect our work.”

I was so angry I bounded out from my hiding place. “What would you have done with us?”

The robot bird’s eyes glowed, and his beak creaked open. “You would have been kept on hallucinatory drugs until after the council’s inspection. When the experiment finished, you would have starved underground while the effect of the drugs wore off. A mostly painless death.”

I walked over, and stomped around the robot bird. His sled like runners were off the ground now, and there was no way he could gain any traction. A very simple trick had been his undoing.

My first words on being reunited with Jack were “How did you work out you could stop him this way?”

“I woke up about two weeks ago”, said Jack. “ I saw how awkwardly he got around, and I found these drums of refuse oil right down the end of the passage. Slowly I moved them up, and then when I had the chance I created this trap. It was the only thing I could think of.” I slapped him on the back, and waved the length of steel tube at him.  “ Hey, do you think Lorene Bailey’s an android?”

“ I doubt it”,  said Jack, “but the Barbies probably are. A pity.” We laughed. Then the robot spoke again.

“This black liquid is not a substance we have on my planet”, said Robot bird.

“ Too bad. I reckon some of those drugs you gave us aren’t substances we’ll ever want on our planet again.”

As Jack and I left the room, we headed  to the end of the passage to locate the soccer team, and anybody else who’d been unfortunate enough to think the waiters  in The SF Bar were  human.  After walking about another kilometre we reached a sliding door that opened to reveal rows of cells. All the soccer team were there and most of the other people  looked familiar.I wondered if I should tell the team we had most likely forfeited the last game of the season. I reckoned  we’d been missing around fifty days.

I spotted an older Mrs Reinhardt. I was puzzled as to why she would have been at the SF club. “I dropped in to my niece’s 21st for about an hour. This was the result.” She was the soberest of the lot, most of them were still high, and we had to act like we were heading to the party of the year to get them to follow us. We couldn’t move the three suits we found in the end cells. They danced manically to some tune  we could not hear. Jack found some spare bottles of water, and left them nearby. They would have to find their way out when the drugs wore off.

I led everyone back out through the main room where I’d woken up. I must have been there to start the process for my android, because no-one looked like me. I felt good about that. An android would not cut it in my opinion.

We arrived back at the surface, and looked around. The whole complex was inside an old army bunker about an hour from town.  Bloody kneed, and half-starving we would have to walk home.  I had the feeling some of us had missed our Year 12 exams, and that there were missing person reports out on us.  

I began to rehearse the most plausible story to tell the ‘rents.

The End