Lazy Luddite Log

8.12.09

Trespass

It has been several months since I put my last short story here and some concepts have finally come together into another one. This story has the same setting as others - it is preceded by this and followed by this but can be taken as stand-alone.

Kelli Ratison was contemplating crime. The current on-line discussion among her friends was on the topic of “have you ever committed a crime” and Kelli was deciding whether to enter into the fray. Many of the comments made were hopelessly “me-too-ist” in nature. Several bragged of under-aged entry into adult bars and clubs. Some were “software pirates”. One friend (well more an acquaintance) even cited his chronic j-walking. Kelli wondered how much any of this counted as truly criminal.

A number of her closer friends introduced substance abuse into the discussion. This forced Kelli to bite her metaphorical tongue. Despite her student activist background and her feral cultural identity, Kelli was very critical of dabbling in illicit drugs. For her those who profited from the distribution and sale of such products were “unadulterated capitalists” who grew rich on the suffering of the addicted. She had once, at a dinner party, made the mistake of suggesting that narcotics should be subject to a consumer boycott as much or moreso than Nestle or Nike. The cold silence she got for her comment made her wary in future of dissenting, even within a dissenting scene.

No, rather than start a rant that would end in “unfriendings” on-line, Kelli decided to introduce her own kind of crime, one that would put others to shame. Her preferred crime, exiting, irreverent, but victimless, was trespass. She cranked up the volume on Mouthpiece, her favourite hardcore band, and got to composing her contribution to the one-up-person-ship.

Kelli had been introduced to the joys of trespassing by Kim, her ex. There was something indescribably tantalizing about creeping into forbidden places. Kim had moved on the periphery of a group called The Sewer Savages who were dedicated (originally) to the exploring of underground urban waterways. The members Kim hung with were more into above-ground expeditions, however, which was just as well, as Kelli was a tad claustrophobic.

The first adventure they went on together, as part of a small group, was inside the newly constructed Wingnut Overpass, which would improve access between the eastern and western suburbs. To the casual observer, the overpass was a solid expanse of concrete, but it was in fact hollow, like a necklace made of macaroni on a string. The most challenging part of their nocturnal undertaking had been getting through a small hole cut into some cyclone fencing, followed by a quick dash across scrubby ground. They had then clambered onto a concrete shelf and shimmied on tummy between huge cement components into the darkness beyond.

Kelli had been somewhat dubious of the whole exercise, but that all changed once they were inside and the torches were lit. Inside, stretching away into the distance, was a wide corridor of seeming-stone, which they carefully walked along. At regular intervals the taller members of the group would have to duck under beams at the junctures of bridge segments, but both Kelli & Kim were free of such frustrations. They were particularly impressed by those parts of the structure over the support pylons, which dipped lower and therefore were considerably larger inside, with gently sloping floors, like those of a cinema theatrette. In these spaces Kelli imagined a top-secret government military installation, while, who knows, Kim was probably entertaining notions of pagan tombs. And all this was under what would soon be a tarmac traversed by cars and trucks.

On some occasions Kim would take Kelli along to Sewer Savage group activities, but on others they would go together, alone, to some forbidden locale. On one lazy Sunday afternoon they went walking, to get away from the restrictive scrutiny of Kim’s parents, and came across an abandoned aged care facility that was slated for demolition. With a bit of effort they jumped over the front fence, and from there access was a cinch. Local teenagers had already been there, as evidenced by assorted graffiti inside and outside. All the doors and many of the windows on the lower floor had been smashed open. They entered the kitchen and stepped over the crushed glass and ripped lino. It was dark inside but luckily it was a sunny day so they could see well. They were surprised to find that there were still lots of hospital-standard beds in the rooms, and Kelli found this terribly wasteful. Kim, annoyingly, muttered that the place could be haunted.

The nursing home was a bit creepy, as Kelli discovered when they eventually found the staircase to the top floor behind what had looked like a cupboard door. In the stairwell it was totally dark and, using mobile phones as lights, they ascended, only to be scared by the sudden sound of a slamming door from above. Creeping, ever more tentatively, they checked all the rooms above, relieved that the grumpy squatter they had just imagined must have been the wind whipping through the smashed windows. After that the excitement had passed for Kelli, and she convinced Kim that it was time to go.

Some weeks later they discovered that the site was intended for the future use of a childcare centre. Kelli found this ironic, given the ageing population. Kim found it inspiring and sat down to pen a story about a childcare centre infested by the youth-envying ghosts of neglected and forgotten grandparents. Kelli commented that the world was sufficiently horrifying without having to invent fictitious horrors. Kim responded that Kelli should take a chill-pill every now-and-then. The differences between them were becoming more apparent as time passed. Kelli was getting more involved in activism and finding the emo friends of Kim more petty and insular. Kim was finding Kelli more opinionated and media-obsessed. Eventually Kelli made the innocent mistake of complimenting Kim as “exotic” and somehow it was all over after that.

Kelli reflected that one always takes something away from a relationship. In the case of Kim, she had taken from that chapter of her life an abiding love of trespass, which she would continue, alone if necessary. Just a few weeks ago she had moved into a share household in an inner suburb, and on a familiarizing walk had come across a condemned brickworks. Kelli decided she needed to explore it before it was converted into apartments, and so one night she slipped into her drabbest clothes and packed some wire-cutters and a torch into her backpack. The gate was padlocked, but the chain was sufficiently long to allow the compact vegetarian to squeeze in. There she was rewarded with courtyards filled with broken bricks and three looming old brick structures filled with shadows and the dust of decades. Kelli wandered low-ceilinged passages into vaulting chambers. She climbed rusting iron ladders onto rotting wooden walkways. She was startled by – what – maybe some bats and almost fell over a loose railing.

Okay, Kelli reflected on writing about the brickworks, that maybe there are potential victims of trespass, if you consider self-harm to be a problem, which increasingly Kelli decided was the case. And then she started to consider the consequences of her actions. A stray word had precipitated the end of her last relationship. What, she wondered, would her long admission of criminal activity on the Internet do to herself or others involved? She toyed with the age-old subversive device of changing the names of persons and places in her true escapades, but then she suddenly felt very tired of the whole story. The album had stopped playing, and with it Kelli stopped writing. She sat there for a moment contemplating the shadows of her past. And then Kelli deleted what she had written. Some things, she decided, were best left as just the memory of those who experienced them.

That was fun putting together once I decided to sit down and do it. One thing I find interesting is that contemporary realist settings seem to be replacing futuristic science-fiction settings for my short fiction writing. I cannot say exactly why I have made that change but it is satisfying for now.

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