This story first appeared in Issue Four of Tincture Journal.
What is today? Wednesday? Fran wondered where everyone was. No one on Google Hangout. The block of flats seemed empty. She felt like a kidnapped kid sitting in a shipping container in an industrial somewhere nowhere or half way out to sea. The sun beat down outside. She closed her laptop and re-opened it. She wrote:
When simultaneously all people over the age of 80 and all canines with an average hair length over 4 cm died. This specific effect of the Sydney heatwave, that visibly vibrated plasticised objects at its height at 4.33 pm EST (that the EST continued to be used along all east coast newscasting on AM radio, except Tasmania where it is inferred that long wave signals blow in with the winds of Bass Strait, through empty space and out the other ear of Tasmanian folk, did in fact cause major distress to the octogenarians, whose watches confirmed current time at 3.33 pm, in which case they could well be dead—as they very soon were—causing the perpetual motion function to cease, and only their soul remained in this chair or this bed, which could also explain general haziness of either heat or ‘ghostliness’) was not unexpected. Old people and pets all typically suffer to further extremes. What was remarkable was the synchronicity with which they expired, and the coincidental symptoms. All showed signs of a fast-developed yeast infection in the inner ear that reared violently to resemble what Rugby Union players know as ‘cauliflower ear’ and, for the elderly, the spidery varicose veins retreated rather than rose and these superficial veins, already vying for space in a decimated corpse, entangled and quite quickly strangled the deeper veins. In the dogs, the arterial phenomenon was shockingly preempted by an entire loss of fur. The animals felt embarrassment about being bald and licked their owner’s hands for favour, before finding a dark place to lie.
Fran looked at the thermometer outside on the wall of their building. It said 46 degrees. She wondered what exactly it was that the thermometer confirmed that she was feeling. Last night a map had been shown on the television screen at the pub and the middle of Australia was purple and this was a really bad colour for the heat map to be because it meant that things had flipped over the red part of the scale and the meteorologists had to start calculating again from the cool colours. She had been drunk and thought the TV screen mapped the condition of woozy really well.
The heatwave lapped itself. Like a dog’s tongue continually hitting the bottom of a dry bowl and scraping away the dirt that had accumulated there.
When the new ‘Froyo’ fad caused the machines to overheat due to increased patronage in the early surge of the heatwave. One by one the levers used to dispense frozen yoghurt became too hot to shut off, and, with all the levers depressed with each concurrent attempt to serve just one more customer, became each a metallic, burning rod that singed flesh. Soon all the joints were leaking the dairy product. Some said, in retrospect, that Froyo dispensary owners were over the idea and were willing to use the heatwave to liquidate their business in positive anticipation to start afresh and revolutionise Deb Instant Mash Potatoes. Atop the whitewash of yoghurt were random crests of toppings, and some streets became knee deep in the stuff. This was quite a lot of fun for children to young adults and thirty-somethings, until it too began to boil.
When ‘heat-wave’ became a salute between survivors, post-Sydney-heat-wave. It entailed pulling your skin ‘til it hurt from your forearm and then letting it snap back, at which point you would hit the arm at the coinciding ‘pulling point’ of the other person. If done correctly, for a few moments ‘sun rays’ would show up in soft red. At the same time, both parties sighed audibly and then smiled at each other by compressing their lips. To end the salute with a toothy grin was considered an affront—a gloating reminder to those whose possessions (or relatives) had ‘melted’ (syn. expired, died, stopped working, caught fire).
Fran thought of a piece of cord that has been sucked on and splayed absent-mindedly, and the sucked and splayed repeatedly. She looked at a tree outside. The pavement looked warped. She speculated about a rug that has been put on top of a really dirty floor and now all of the grime has seeped into the rug and it has become so thick underneath so that when you step on it it seems a little like quicksand and you think maybe you just gained some weight. She felt the couch was making her feel fat. Sweating, she wiped her nose. It made her feel fat. She looked at the ceiling and thought “this ceiling is more important in the rising temperatures”.
She wrote, wondering if the letters might float away from the keys in all the humidity. Would she remember which key was which letter?
When the hastening of the birthing of jellyfish eggs into planula larvae in the heated surface water temperatures meant that adult jellyfish were now inured with the task of protecting a handicapped new brood. The adults devised a magpie-like mechanism to source rubbish and seaweed to create barriers to pen the larvae, so that they might survive and continue to develop, a plan far more advanced than expected from globular creatures. Unfortunately, confused by tropical temperatures, Queensland’s Box jellyfish migrated south and destroyed the containers, killing all of the babies, a mordant ironic twist that irked the jellyfish’s consciousness. Though they could not make recognisably sad facial expressions, they swam en masse for the ocean depths and suicided. Collectively their last thought was “an empty bucket of salty tears”.
Fran checked the clouds outside for any dark grey. They didn’t look any different, the few that hung out, so scarce as awkward hangers-on, sad people at the end of a club night when the floodlights go on. The clouds looked sad but not in a tumultuous way. More like roadkill. There was no rain there or relief or any kind of wind.
When teenagers of the present generation, characterised by a tendency to shrug their shoulders at hectic climatic shifts and an egotistical pique at learning to swim so that beach lifesavers no longer bothered to save them but left out rubber rings on the sand with a laminated note attached that said “good luck idiots, die gargling your own yellow teeth” and garlanded with shells, stopped getting pimples as oil production decreased via and conversant with increased sweating, and instead developed heavy wrinkles. By 7 am the next morning, the coagulated sweat had dried into a thick crust, and was topped up with Maybelline foundation or cheaper versions of the like, to create a new Sydney heatwave trend. These stylings were later attributed to the ‘post-h3a+wav’ movement.
Fran drinks water and stares out the window for, who knows, about thirty to forty-five minutes. It’s now about dinner time and she’s thirsty also.
When people stop eating food for good.
When people pee out their eyeballs and everyone develops male genitals and cries out of penises.
When when when when when when what?
Fran walks along the footpath and there are nine or so red-top garbage bins on the outside of the footpath, and the way through stinks really badly. It’s hot and she’s dripping with sweat, it sucks. She feels alone. Looks down and back up at the bins. Nothing has changed, except during the head movement she trips a little and sweat drips from her chin down between her breasts and she thinks ‘so hot’ and feels like dropping and sleeping here, on the gravel, her and a neighbourhood cat, and that moment might be nice and then the sun will go down, they will bump paws. Tomorrow is Thursday. Remember?