Yarran wandered through rows of shelves full of comics and toys. Most of it was cheap trash designed to waste fan’s money. It didn’t bother him that they liked it, the cynical companies that overcharged for the cheap plastic made in sweatshops were what bothered him. His phone buzzed again, ten missed calls. This place was his sanctuary, a large underground geek store. He could spend hours wandering and browsing, all his problems faded here. He put his phone back in his pocket, that was a later problem.
He found his current favourite comic. The new issue was out. A dystopian political thriller set in a future of megacorporations and robotics. He was a sucker for dystopian fiction. He checked his bank balance, he had just enough. He’d think about it and check out a few more before he decided.
He noticed someone from the corner of his eye. The security guard stood nearby not even pretending to not be watching him. He had been a loyal customer here for years and this s*** still happened. How long had he been shadowing Yarran, probably since he came in. He looked directly at the guard hoping to make him feel uncomfortable, a skinny white guy with a thick and bushy moustache hugging his upper lip. Lip-rug turned his head to watch another group but didn’t move on. Yarran decided to stay longer out of spite, he wasn’t going to leave before he felt like it. Lip-rug pretended not to watch him but Yarran wasn’t fooled. Australia’s not so subtle way of reminding him of his place in his country.
Yarran checked his phone, it was getting late and he had looked at all the comics he liked at least twice. He went up to the counter and bought the comic. He handed over the little numbered card and the clerk returned his bag.
Lip-rug was by the entrance. He stood there, arms crossed, eyes locked on Yarran. Yarran wasn’t going to let this little man intimidate him, eyes straight ahead he headed for the exit.
“Need to search your bag,” Lip-rug said.
“It was at the counter the whole time,” Yarran said.
“It’s company policy to search all bags,” Lip-rug said with a hint of a smirk.
He forced himself to hold the man’s eyes. Yarran wanted to look away, but he didn’t want to give the guard the satisfaction. If he made a problem Yarran would come out worse. And Lip-rug knew it. “Fine.” Yarran unzipped his bag.
Yarren left the store shaking. His mind racing with all the things he should have said. He let that bastard get away with it.
He crossed the park on his way to the train station. He liked the park at night. Old trees loomed overhead and sometimes there would be possums to watch. It was well-lit and he couldn’t stand the packed trams, so many people jammed like sardines in a tin. The park was empty, he almost had the place to himself. A woman stumbled about off the path that cut through the centre, her untamed hair and dishevelled clothing gave her the look of homelessness. She moaned, a painful guttural sound, she was probably drunk. The only other person he could see was a man a distance ahead of Yarran, lit by the bright screen of his phone.
His phone buzzed again. Life had got hard since mum had come back. She’d been in and out of rehab most of his life, he knew it wasn’t her fault, but as much as he rationalised it to himself he still blamed her. His grandparents were too nice, no matter what she did they let her come back every time she got clean. She would promise everything would be better and Yarran had believed her every time, and every time she had let him down. Things would go missing and she would disappear again.
He was catching up to the man, a business man in a suit and glasses. Glasses turned and saw Yarran. His posture stiffened and he sped up. He had made it awkward, Yarran could walk past the guy but he would freak out. Yarran didn’t want to deal with that. He thought of crossing the grass but why should he have to leave the path and there was a low fence that lined the path. It felt wrong to ignore the fence, it was probably there for a reason. He slowed to put a bit more space between him and Glasses.
Glasses’ phone rang, breaking the dead silence of the empty park. The woman stopped still and stared at glasses. She ran at Glasses. Her arms slapped about as she stumbled about. Yarran started to laugh, her sudden stupid run cut through his bad mood, it was absurd. She closed on glasses, he hadn’t noticed her approach. She lunged at him, tackling the man and slamming him to the ground, Glasses let out a high-pitched scream in shock.
“Hey lady, get off him,” Yarran yelled.
They wrestled on the ground. Glasses tried to fend her off, his arms slapping wildly. Her teeth bared like an animal, she snapped at his arms. She found purchase and latched onto his forearm, blood welling around her teeth. Yarran jogged towards them. There was a sickening wet noise as she ripped a strip of flesh from his arm. Glasses howled in pain and thrashed wildly. Snapping jaws got closer and closer to his neck. Her hands dug trying to find spots to tear.
Yarran grabbed the woman by her coat and pulled at her. She was stronger than she looked, she ignored his efforts. He kicked her, she didn’t respond at all. He kicked her hard. She tried to bite Glasses’ neck. Yarran panicked, she was trying to kill the man. He grabbed a short metal fence pole. It came loose with little resistance. He hit the woman in the head. It made a dull thud as it jarred his arm but she didn’t stop. Her gnashing jaws closed on Glasses’ throat. His bloody hand’s slipped and her teeth sunk into his neck. Yarran swung, there was a loud crack as her skull fractured. She ripped a chunk of flesh from Glasses’ neck, blood squirted everywhere. She wouldn’t stop. Yarran hit her again, he lost count of how many times. Blood splattered with every hit. She slumped, her head a bloody pulp. Glasses lay beneath bleeding out. Why did she attack him? She must be on something.
Yarran wanted to go. It was a bad situation. A dead woman. Her skull caved in, her eyes dull and lifeless. He had done that. He pushed the image out of his mind, if this man died it would have been for nothing. He dialled 000, their questions were a blur. He applied pressure to Glasses’ neck wound with his ripped shirt.
The woman’s lifeless eyes gazed up at him. He’d really f***** up. He’d played it safe his entire life, he thought he was better than that but it turned out he wasn’t.
Cop cars pulled up, lights flashing and sirens blared. His body went cold all over and he felt faint.
The headlights blinded him. “Stand up with your arms behind your back.”
“I can’t, he’s bleeding out.” Yarran said.
“What in the f*** happened here?”
Someone grabbed him roughly, his face forced into the dirt. The cold metal of cuffs clamped down on his wrists.