You are rarely ready for miracles when they occur. And of all the hundreds of people held in the detention enclosure at Bruce Stadium, Santa was the only one expecting the unexpected and able to move fast enough to take advantage of it.
Firstly the lights flickered and then went off, plunging the stadium into darkness. Then confusion. Dozens of fireworks exploded around the perimeter of the building. Shapes in dark clothes appeared around the lower edges of the stadium and pressed up against the wire fences. The internees were all on their feet calling out. In fear. In alarm. Bumping into each other.
“This way,” said Santa and pulled the other two men over to the fence. Captain Cook could make out a dark-clothed figure cutting at the fence with a large pair of wire cutters. “Go, go, go,” a voice said, reaching in through the hole in the wire to grab him.
The three men were then running out of the stadium, following the dark-clad figure, while screams and shouts were filling the air all around them. Torches were now flashing everywhere as security guards were responding to the assault and were picking out the dark-clad figures, and running here and there to try and stop them and to prevent detainees escaping.
Then the lights suddenly came back on. Everyone stopped where they were, like it had been a giant party game, and covered their eyes. Everyone except Santa, Ned Kelly, Captain Cook and their guide. They kept running towards the bushland to the south.
They stopped at the tree line and turned to look back at the stadium. People were now running everywhere. Security guards were chasing down the dark-clad figures, and the few detainees who had escaped, rounding them up and forcing them back into the stadium.
“Damnation!” said their guide and pulled off her balaclava. She was young. Perhaps 17 or so, with short-cropped dark hair. “We should have gotten dozens out!”
“Who are you?” Captain Cook asked the young woman.
“Not important,” she said. “We have to keep moving. They’ll be doing perimeter scans soon to try and find anybody who got out. Let’s go.”
They walked in silence for about 20 minutes and then stopped to rest. Santa in particular was puffing heavily. By the faint moonlight, their guide took a good look at the detainees she had liberated for the first time. “Who the hell are you three?” she asked.
They introduced themselves in turn. She looked at them incredulously and then said, “That’s not quite what I expected. I thought you’d be refugees from New South Wales.”
“I don’t understand,” said Santa. “I mean, I try not to pay much attention to politics and things, just concentrating on who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but what happened here, in Canberra? I remember it as sort of urban and boring.”
“I suppose you only get out once a year,” said the young woman, “and an awful lot has changed here in the past year.”
“Could you fill me in?” Santa asked. “I have the feeling I’m going to have to do some alterations to my naughty and nice lists.”
“Well,” she said. “Where to begin? I guess it all started with those mega-floods in Queensland and then the economic collapse in Sydney last January. They sent tens of thousands of refugees heading south. Before too long Victoria closed its borders and the ACT responded by erecting the Wall around the Territory. They just had to relocate all the tall fences they’d built around schools to ring the entire Territory. But we weren’t keeping chaos out – we discovered – we were fencing it in! You wouldn’t believe what happened next.”
Craig Cormick is an award-winning Canberra author who has published over twenty book of fiction, non-fiction and short-fiction. His awards include the ACT Book of the Year, a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and a Victorian Community History Award. His most recent book Uncle Adolf won a 2015 ACT Publishing Award. For more information on Craig and his work check out his website at www.craigcormick.com
Part three will be published on the site tomorrow.