“Where are you taking us?” asked Angie.
“We’re going into the Acton Tunnel,” he said. “There’s an underground entrance we built.”
“What about the asbestos?” asked Angie.
“That’s just a story we spread to keep people away,” Harold Holt said.
“Away from what exactly?” Ned Kelly asked.
“Better to show you than tell you,” Harold Holt said. Then he busied himself with more steering and turning of knobs until they felt a gentle bump. “We’re here!” he said, and squeezed past them to throw open the submarine’s hatch.
The four of them followed him out into a tunnel that he led them along into a large cavernous space. It was the remains of the archive that had once been built into the land above the Acton Tunnel. It was clear people had been working in here for quite some time to repurpose it. And those people were standing all around, looking at them. Like Santa’s elves in their toy factory. Like a memorial of the forgotten. Ned Kelly and Captain Cook looked at all the familiar faces of their lost friends and comrades. Caroline Chisholm. Neville Bonner. Mary Gilmore. John Monash. Nugget Coombs. Douglas Mawson. John Curtin. The faces went on and on and on.
“Who are all these people?” Angie asked.
“They are your country,” Harold Holt said. “Your city. The streets and suburbs were named after them.”
“What are they doing here?”
“We have been hiding here since being chased out of the old Museum site. Waiting for the most obstinate and determined to finally join us.” He indicated Ned Kelly and Captain Cook.
“I think that was a compliment,” said Captain Cook.
“I’ve been called plenty worse,” said Ned Kelly.
“But to join you for what?” Angie asked.
“Ah,” said Harold Holt. “To reclaim our city. To reclaim our past. Have a look around you. Gathered here are not just the figures from our past, but we have books and journals and files, works of history. Everything you need to better understand your past and chart a course for your future. One that isn’t dictated by silly political opportunism or blind ideology. A future that is based on the learnings of the past – those things we did well and those things we stuffed up.”
“I still don’t get it,” said Angie. “How is all this information going to change things? The security forces would never let the people of Canberra change things.”
“The people let things be changed around them already to get to this state,” said Harold Holt. “The people need to take control of their futures again.”
“Well,” said Harold Holt, “That’s where you come in.” And he pointed at Santa Claus. “We are going to help you deliver your Christmas presents this night and we will ensure that every house gets a book on history or documents from the archives that when pieced together will give them the belief they can act.”
“I don’t mean to sound a pessimist,” said Angie, “But do you really think that getting one book or pamphlet or old newspaper or something would do that?”
“No. Not alone. But you are the catalyst that will trigger the flame to light the beacon to illuminate this new way. You only need to tell one person about the book you have read and ask them to tell you about theirs. And then each of you will find another person each to talk to, and so on. Slowly filling the city with a belief that there can be a new way. And belief creates reality.”
Angie nodded her head. “Yeah. I could do that,” she said. “I know plenty of people I could have such a conversation with.”
“Excellent!” he said.
“But which book should I start with?” she asked.
“Ah,” he said. “I’ve got one that should be perfect.” And he passed a wrapped book across to Santa. “I believe you should do the honours,” he told him.
And Santa’s face beamed into a great big smile that had a touch of the miraculous about it. A smile that made her feel tingly and excited inside as he held out the gift-wrapped book to her. A smile that filled her with belief in a better world.
“Merry Christmas!” he said.
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
A new story by Kaaron Warron will be published tomorrow.