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Dateline: Canberra, Christmas 2035 (Part 05)

Guest Contributor 8 January 2016


Continuing on from part four, this is Dateline by Craig Cormick

Ned Kelly stepped out onto the path of the light rail and held up his hands like he had guns in them. The driver stared at him in amazement, almost forgetting to apply the brakes until the last moment.

“Bail up,” Ned called, the words echoing around inside his helmet.

The light rail driver stuck his head out the window and called, “Oi. Get off the track.”

“Bail up,” Ned called again.

The driver waved his hand at Ned. “Do you know you’ve got a garbage bin on your head?”

Ned called a third time, “Bail up!”

“And that’s not the proper way to hail the light rail,” the driver said. “You should hold your hand out like this!” He put one hand up. “But the stop is up ahead some way.”

Ned stopped talking and stepped up the driver’s cabin, wrenched the door open and threw the man out on the ground. “Get in!” he called to the others.

“What did he say?” Santa asked.

“I’ve no idea,” said Cook. “It’s all too muffled inside that helmet of his.”

They climbed onto the first carriage of the light rail and found a small band of retro Emo teenagers staring at them. Angie had put her balaclava back on. Cook found his purple overalls rode up his bum when he sat down, and Santa, who looked like an overweight scout leader, took over the driver’s seat. “Can’t be too much more different from driving a sleigh,” he muttered and put the engine into reverse.

He stopped the rail with a jerk, then found the right gear and set off down Northbourne Avenue once more. “On Donner and Blitzen!” he cried.

Ned looked out the windows at the many apartment buildings with boarded up windows. They still had people living in them, but the suburban competition between those on the east and west of Northbourne Avenue was such that they’d long ago started sniping at each other. First with just insults, but more recently with rotten fruit and stones.

One of the Emo youths finally asked, “You’re a band, right? Going to a gig in Civic, yeah?”

“That’s right,” said Angie. “Have you ever heard of – uh – the Seekers?”

They all shook their heads.

“Well, that’s us,” she said.

“No way,” one of them said.

Ned reached up and drummed out a rhythm on his garbage bin helmet.

“Way cool,” said the Emo.

Suddenly the light rail slammed to a halt. Cook fell onto the floor with two of the Emos on him. He pushed them off and climbed to his feet. “What is it?” demanded Ned Kelly. “Is it the authorities?”

“No,” said Angie. It was a window washer, standing there in their path with a dirty squeegee and a bucket of water.

“Get out of the way,” Santa called to him. “We haven’t time for this.”

“Just pay what you can, man,” the man said, hobbling around and streaking dirty water across the light rail’s windows.

“We’re close enough to walk,” said Angie, and led the others out of the carriage. “Best to get off before the last stop anyway. They often have security guards there.”

“Don’t wait up expecting a present,” Santa called to the window washer as they moved off into the badlands of Braddon.

“Better take your helmet off now,” Angie said to Ned Kelly. “And tie your hair into a topknot. If anybody sees you they’ll just think you’re a hipster.”

“No one would dare mistake me for a hipster!” said Ned Kelly.

“So says the drummer from the Seekers,” said Angie. “Now stay close together, the nearer we get to Civic the more crazy things are going to get.”

They made their way down the coffee-shop littered streets of Braddon, skirting along Cooyong Street until they were in sight of the Allawah Folly – a once-luxury development that had been built on the site of the Allawah Flats. It effectively replaced a low-cost, high-drug risk area with a high-cost, high-drug risk area, where the millionaires got stoned out of their brains and wondered around begging cigarettes or small change from passers-by. Nowadays they were empty and popular belief had it that they were haunted.

Angie didn’t know about that, but she did know she wasn’t going too close to them.

They crossed the cracked and broken road, where the traces of multiple old and faded bike lanes could still be seen, and moved into the darkness of Civic. It was like entering another world. “We’re going to try and avoid Garema Place,” Angie said. “It’s not somewhere you want to end up after dark.” She led them down a dim alley and suddenly halted. “Look out!” she hissed. But it was too late. They had been seen.

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


Part six will be published on the site tomorrow.

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