A post globalisation story about Australia in 2110.
Post apocalyptic films and novels are entertaining and disturbing. They present scenarios of global destruction in ways that makes us realise they could be our future.
But what if we save the environment and avert world war? What kind of future will evolve from present social economic and political trends?
YELLOW PERIL is a post globalisation tale that presents possibilities for Australia that are just as disturbing as the desolate world of 'The Road' or 'Mad Max'. it is about the destruction of culture rather than landscape, the dying of the soul of a nation rather than the destruction of a country.
The story of the ill fated Burke and Wills expedition of 1860 is a tale of bitter of irony, futility and tragedy. “BLXV, DIG 3FT NW, DEC 6 60-APR 21 6.” The great Australian spirit came to nothing here. Perhaps this story symbolises the way this nation was built on failure. From its beginnings as a convict settlement whose purpose was simply to accommodate petty criminals from Mother England, Australia was a country of doubtful heritage. Even during its proud years as a middle power western nation, it never shook off its guilt and shame. Shame for its criminal past, guilt for its destruction of the native civilisation that preceded it.
Edgar Lawson closed the old ledger and slipped the pen back into his pocket. It was the end of his tea break. He went to the front desk where Ellen Ah Sui was waiting to take hers.
There are some late returns there that need processing, she said in her high, nasal tone. It was a voice that seemed to propel you into the distance like a necessary evil. It wasn’t that she didn’t like him so much as didn’t care whether he was likeable or not. As Chief Assistant Librarian, she wore her superior status like a regal gown. Edgar bore no resentment. That was a luxury he couldn’t afford.
He dragged the offending books across the desk and counted them, four. He opened a filing cabinet and drew out the same number of form letters, each with the State Library crest and postal address, announcing a fine for seven dollars late return. He wanded the bar codes to identify the recalcitrant borrowers, typed the address labels for the long, buff envelopes and initialled each letter for MK Wong, Librarian.
When Ellen Ah Sui returned from her long tea break, she glanced into the mail tray but said nothing. Edgar didn’t expect a thank you or a compliment on his efficiency. Sometimes the Librarian, MK Wong would tell him he was a good worker, much the way people with pet dogs tell them they are good boys. In all his twelve years at the Library where he began at the age of twenty, he had never been abused or treated unfairly. Overlooked perhaps, but understandably.
Ellen Ah Sui was ten years his junior. She had come to the position of Chief Assistant a little over a year ago. She came direct from a University degree in Commerce, which did not technically qualify her for Library work, other than that she was MK Wong’s niece. She was a very self-assured young woman. Whenever her inexperience demanded she defer to him, she did it with a demeanour, which somehow suggested she was doing him a favour rather than accepting one.
Edgar didn’t consider Ellen Ah Sui beautiful, though MK Wong had virtually made that an official opinion in the Library. There was a hardness in her face that belied attractiveness. She certainly did not have the grace and beauty of Stephanie Ling, the girl he had met recently in unlikely circumstances.
The water rustled around his legs as he adjusted his mask and snorkle. He had mended the perished rubber in several places and layers of industrial glue ringed the scratched glass. He had to handle the equipment delicately if he wanted it to last.
His body rocked slightly, threatening his balance on the edge of the reef. He stepped sideways, clumsily in his flippers. The sea was like a playful dog tugging at his legs, urging him to romp and play. With his mask in place, he fell backwards and twisted his body to curve out over the reef edge and sidle down into the cool deep water. A school of tiny yellow fish sprayed out in front of him and flicked their tails as one as they turned out of his reach.
The silent wonderland exhilarated him. He stared about, searching for marine life. A lone blue fish duck behind some weed. He went toward it, his lungs now warning him he would have to surface soon. When he tweaked the weed with one hand, the blue fish turned an instant one eighty degrees and propelled itself across the bare sand to other shelter. He smiled a mushroom of bubbles and reached for the surface, breaking, air bursting from his mouth as he spouted the snorkle empty and sucked fresh breath.
Still staring down, he kneaded the water with his hands, his flippers treading in wide slow arcs. He wanted to see something big today. Big and silver or dark and lumbering like a turtle or a ray. It was always like a personal miracle when he did. A gift to him from the deep. He would stay in the water until he was shivering and cramping, hoping to the last moment to see something special. Something special every time. Today he was sure the sea would not disappoint him.
He flippered out away from the reef to where had often seen rays gliding over the sandy deep. He loved to watch their majestic trawling, the effortless fanning of their wing-like fins. He worked his way in circles losing his sense of the reef’s proximity in his search. He had been warned by fishermen that these waters were not as friendly as they appeared but in all the years he had been coming here, he had never seen a shark.
Something caught the light at the edge of a dense patch of weed. He filled his lungs and went down for a closer look. It was half a dozen body lengths deep here and his lungs were protesting by the time he established that the object was just a piece of broken clam with a pearl shell surface. He kicked for the surface, air escaping from his mouth, desperate to burst into the air. Something struck his face mask, dislodging it before he broke the surface. He sucked wildly at the air as he tried to sweep the water from his eyes to see what he had hit.
Oh. It was a voice. A female voice. I’m so sorry. He shook his head and stabilised himself to turn toward the voice. Finally he saw a masked face, staring at him.
It’s okay. I wasn't looking, he grumped
A slender hand removed the mask. The beauty of her face stunned him into total forgiveness. She was gorgeous. Chinese, maybe twenty years old. Absolutely gorgeous.
Treading water, they conversed innocuously about how often they came here, he for ten years, she just a couple. She apologised several times and asked him if he was okay. He thought his old mask may be damaged but he said nothing. She said he must be feeling cold, comfortable in her sleek, blue wetsuit. He confessed he was ready to get out of the water. She said she would swim back with him.
They exchanged names on the beach and guessed they would meet again some time. He packed his gear into his satchel and strapped it to his scooter as she walked, looking back smiling once, to a blue convertible. He waved to her like someone from another world and drove out of the car park.