Friday, January 18, 2013

Walter Wallace - Chapter 113

Walter waited in the back corner of the cafe. Although the constant staring and whispering from relative strangers had subsided, it was still simpler for him not to invite more attention by sitting out in the open.

It had been 6 months now since the Towers had crumbled and it was becoming easier to deal with the sadness that period brought him. He felt for those who died for him. And those who died for William Unston. He thought about Lucy a lot. Every day he remembered her in her brightest light. He had forgotten her imperfections, her missteps and ultimately her betrayal. She was the Lucy Blues he always wanted. The one girl he would always remember and she was gone.

The bell attached to the door of the cafe sung out and a man leaning heavily on a walking stick slowly entered. Nothing brought more sadness and guilt to Walter than the sight of Stevie. The man who sacrificed so much just for Walter’s wellbeing was left crippled and broken. Walter had spent the majority of those first three months waiting in the hospital for Stevie to wake up. He paid for all the medical expenses including the physiotherapy and the carers. He even spent a month caring for Stevie out of the hospital but it was agonising work.

The man had lost his hope in the world. He had learnt to walk again not through positive reinforcement and support, instead through embracing his anger to the world. More than once he had blamed Walter for everything that happened; asked him what it was all for. What good has come of it?

He would apologise afterwards, but he was right. What had Walter achieved? Why was he here?

Walter stood and smiled, shaking Stevie’s hand. Stevie looked warm and welcoming as he rested his walking stick beside the table. “Walter, what did I tell you about giving me that look?”

“Sorry,” Walter said, smiling. “How have you been?”

“Holding up. Every day is another day.” Stevie slowly lowered himself down to his seat. Walter made to support him but Stevie waved him away.”Yourself?”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 112

It felt like it was still part of the dream. But eventually all the buzz words caught up and began to lace into reality.

Walter Wallace...Citadel Inc...Officer Steve Coulter...a youth who is affectionately known by his fans as Hippy Flip was the only conscious survivor pulled from the wreckage and his first action was to go back and help the emergency teams search the room. He delivered an expletive-laden rant before being taken to hospital with severe injuries. He has not been available for comment since. The contents of the rant could not...

His mind ventured back into the void. The black space that existed between the Towers and the present. Was everyone OK? Was he OK? He forced himself to wake again but now the television was off and behind the curtains the dark night sky showed no sympathy. He felt a strong urge to get up for the bathroom but found little response from his body and before he knew it he was urinating. He could not fight it. An emptiness swept over him and he fell back to the ever expanding void.

But you probably can’t even hear me. Some of the doctors say my problems won’t go away if I keep telling them to all the patients. I wonder what a psychiatrist would say about this. Is talking to a coma patient the same as talking to yourself? Does this make me crazy?

“Actually I am a psychiatrist,” Stevie croaked.

He could barely see as his eyes adjusted to the light but the grey outline of the nurse jumped with fright. “Oh wow, you sure did scare me!” she laughed. “Umm, let me go get the doctor.”

Stevie stared up at the light at the top of the room, squinting as his eyes adjusted. His mouth was dry and his neck felt like a rusty hinge as he tried to move it.

A doctor came into the room. “Mr Coulter, my name is Dr Tank.”

Stevie’s heart leaped a few beats. “Wh- What?” he managed to mutter looking up at the tall figure in the white jacket.

“Dr Tanner.” The doctor replied, noticing Stevie’s increased heart rate on the monitor. “Don’t worry you are perfectly fine. You have been in a coma, Mr Coulter, and the good news is you’ve woken up.”

Stevie tried to look around, taking in whatever details he could but hospital rooms looked notoriously generic. “How long?”

“Three months just last Thursday – today is Sunday by the way, 11 in the morning.”

The doctor shone a bright light in Stevie’s eyes. He checked other less intrusive indicators as Stevie tried to piece together what had happened. He remembered the Towers, the agents, Walter and his machine. They were fresh in his mind like it happened yesterday but they felt intangible and improbable. It felt like yesterday’s dream. It would be forgotten by midday before he has a chance to retell it.

“Mr Coulter?” the doctor was at Stevie’s feet, looking up expectantly, “can you feel this, Mr Coulter?” He had a sharp pencil-like object and was pushing it into Stevie’s big toe. Stevie could not feel a thing. He tried the other foot and different parts of his leg but still no response. The doctor remained quiet a moment. “The damage to your lung is substantial, compounding on a recent injury but you should return to close to full capacity – no smoking though. As for your legs, we’ll have to get some scans done but it does appear like you have lost function.”

Stevie still felt like this was all a dream. “For good?”

“We can’t say just yet. You will be in a wheelchair for the immediate future if not indefinitely. We will wait for the scans and work out a plan from there.”

Stevie looked up at the ceiling with a comforting sense of helplessness. He imagined letting go, putting a gun to his head just as Mark had done. Who would care? What would be lost?

“It is advised that you perform some sort of activity immediately after waking from a coma. As you cannot walk we will have some food brought in and you can sit up and eat it. I do understand this is a lot to take in Mr Coulter. We can arrange visits with the hospital psychiatrist if you wish.”

“I am a psychiatrist.” Stevie said bluntly, still staring at the ceiling.

The doctor sighed. “I will have the nurse bring in the food and we can let your friends know when you are ready to have visitors.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 111

Phil could not see anything. He could only feel the crushing weight that had pinned his leg. Nobody responded as he called out to his friends. It had been days, or at least he imagined it so. He drifted in and out of sleep. In his waking moments he would call out to Walter and Stevie. He had found a metal pole by his side and used it to bang on the steel door he was pinned to. It echoed his cry of help out to the world. He tried to count how many times he heard the monotonous thud. Hundreds, once more than a thousand before he gave up.

Then he received an answer. A hard thud on the other side reverberated around the room. He woke from a restless sleep and scratched around for his pole. “Stevie!” he yelled as he felt the metal in his fingers, “Stevie they’re here!”

He slammed the pole against the door and waited a moment. Had he dreamt it all? Was this his desert oasis on the horizon?

The thud came back and he yelled out in glee, banging the pole on the door with all his might.

“Stevie they’re here to save us! Hold on, Stevie, hold on!”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 110

Walter felt physically sick. It was a feeling he was now familiar with and he could no longer imagine his life without it. He saw no future where happiness could exist, an unattainable mental state. He finally understood the sorrow of all the people he had tried to help. He finally saw how foolish he was to try and reconcile them.

“Walter!” the voices in the room sounded distant and stifled. It took him some time to realise he was being addressed by someone other than Sam Tank. “Walter! I don’t believe we ever actually met!” It was the crippled man who had just entered the room. “Boss Citadel!” he said cheerfully as Walter raised his head. “I would shake your hand but...” he shrugged his shoulders, indicating his hands were full – one with a crutch and the other with a gun. “I will say your magic potion is a thrilling little kick. I’ve been on morphine for weeks now and it does not even come close to what I’m feeling now!”

Ricky Talk, the large man beside Sam, growled with disapproval. He looked at Sam who shook his head before speaking to Boss. “Tell me, Simon, and I concede that you have slipped this one trick by me.”

“It’s a secret, Sammy.” Boss laughed. His speech was slightly drawled and he couldn’t quite pronunciate the words through his tightened jaw, but he was enjoying himself nonetheless. “You know I never have seen you like this. So open and honest, thinking you had it all figured out. You should see your face.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 109

“Hey fuckface.” Phil pointed the gun at the evil robot. “Remember me?” The robot turned with horror, unable to let go of his grip on Whisky’s throat. Phil pulled the trigger and a chink of the robot’s face flew off. He squeezed again and the robot fell away from Whisky, clutching at his neck. “Remember how I fucked you up?” Phil stepped forward and shot again and again. The robot reached out meekly and Phil kicked his hand away and stomped on his face. “Remember how you failed to kill me like sixteen fucking times?” He shot again and again and again. “Remember, you fuckhead? Do you?! Do you fucking remember!?” He spat on the limp body and fired off another shot.

He stared at his victim a moment longer before rushing back to Whisky. “Whiskers, get up dude. It’s over.” The robot didn’t move. “Hey Whiskers, come on man, the dirty fucker’s dead.” He stared down at his friend, sure that there would be a sign of life any moment. “Wake up, man!” His voice broke slightly. “Fuck!”

“I never knew you cared so much for a robot.” The sarcastic voice came from the other side of the room.

Phil had almost forgotten them. He raised his weapon and was half a thought from putting a bullet in Tank’s head. He was breathing erratically and spat as he yelled, “Shut the fuck up, you dirty cunt.”

The man mountain who stood next to Tank stepped forward to protect him, growling viscerally.

“Back the fuck up, Andre!”

“It’s OK Ricky, he’s out of bullets. Go collect the other gun from over in the corner.”

The blood drained from Phil’s face. He squeezed the trigger and it clicked impotently. His adrenaline rush was flushed from his body and he felt like crying. Walter was on his knees not far from Tank. His head hung low and his body looked defeated. The lady doctor was in the corner shaking and sobbing softly. He looked down at Whisky. The man lay peacefully still.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 108

Whisky stood, his hands bound by a zip cord and two guns pointing at his head from opposite sides. The two agents, Zimmers and Becker, were sporting the weapons. Zimmers was close enough to disarm but Becker was out of reach. Chips stood to the left of them with his arms crossed and smiling. It was a trademark of his confidence and one of the reasons he had been beaten twice by the police officer Stevie. The time it would take to uncross his arms would be sufficient to land one blow but again the third agent had Whisky checked.

Three things, however, were set to swing the advantage. Phil, who had been discarded in the corner of the room, still appeared to be unconscious. But Whisky noticed the middle finger of his left hand had been raised slightly. He had not fallen like this. It was most likely a sign and one that Chips had missed.

The second advantage was that Walter had arrived in the room. This was Sam Tank’s plan and it was a shame Stevie could not rescue Walter, but the reckless nature of Dr Blues had shown up all too clearly on the surveillance monitors. Stevie had struggled to his feet the moment Walter and Lucy left the laboratory and he was now rounding the corner of the corridor and heading for the stairs.

The third advantage was beyond Whisky’s scope of knowledge. It seemed less likely by the minute, but he could only hope.

Sam remained confident. “Tell me Walter how do you feel?”

Walter did not respond. He did not look like the Walter Wallace Whisky had come to know; the man who had inspired Whisky to break orders.

“That’s what I thought,” Sam smiled. He looked back at the monitors. “Lucy when I give you a task I prefer you complete it. You could have either brought the officer here or finished him off down there, but to leave him just so that he could suffer one more chance at death is just cruel.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 107

“NO!” Walter yelled, diving down to the ground. “Stevie!” His friend felt limp in his arms. “He turned to Lucy, “What the fuck are you doing?!”

Lucy was pointing the gun at him, her hand shaking. “We can’t leave, Walter. Not yet.” With her free hand she reached in her pocket and removed the capsule she had taken from the machine. She took another sip, larger this time.

“I thought- why are you drinking so much?”

“We need to go, Walter. Upstairs. We need to go upstairs. Leave him.”

Walter’s blood was cold. His whole body felt like it was cramping up. His reality was crumbling before his eyes. “Lucy, why?”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 106

Stevie hobbled up another flight of stairs. The door read 43. He still had two more floors, four more flights, 48 more stairs. Each stair was an agonising struggle. The scars on his chest seared with pain. He touched his hand to his t-shirt again, sure that he would see blood, but amazingly the tissue still held together. He cursed at Whisky for not letting him take the elevator – he would have reached Walter by now – but neither Whisky or the rogue agent had dared to enter. They knew something was about to happen and expected it soon. He needed to hurry.

He spat on the floor and saw blood spatter where it landed, but it was not his blood. The trail led up to the next set of stairs, up to the 50th floor. It must have been Phil’s blood as the agent had dragged him up the staircase. Stevie felt inclined to follow it, to offer help, but he was already at the top of his mountain. He pushed open the door with 45 printed on it and carefully let it shut behind him.

He checked the corridor for any signs of life. It was empty. At the corner a sign read “Laboratory” and an arrow pointed left. He leant against the wall a moment in an attempt to gain some strength and composure. He recited Whisky’s instructions once more and set off down the corridor. At the corner he edged his way closer so he could barely be seen. At the far end was another agent standing outside a door just as Whisky had said. Stevie stepped back and took careful aim. Shoot to kill. Don’t miss.

His hands were steady as he used his left palm for support. Textbook style straight out of the shooting range. The agent’s tiny head lay just above the tip of the gun. Stevie squeezed the trigger.


A quake-like explosion drowned out his shot. The building seemed to shudder on its foundations. Down the corridor the agent shot up off the floor. Stevie had only flanked him. Stevie fired another shot but missed and two shots ricocheted off the wall next to his ear. He fell back around the corner for cover his back against the wall. Footsteps echoed down the hallway. The agent was coming. No time to think. The tip of Stevie’s left shoe flew off and he reeled his leg in. The rapid steps were closing in. Without second guessing himself Stevie pulled off his shoe and struggled to his feet. He took one final breath and tossed the shoe out and took one step out and fired.

The agent fell limp and slid another 5 yards, coming to rest just at Stevie’s feet. Stevie looked over at his shoe. It was in tatters. The agent had put two bullets through it and another just over Stevie’s shoulder before Stevie had landed his own bullet in the agent’s head. He put another bullet in his head for good measure – these guys had a habit of coming back to life – he stepped over the corpse and headed for the lab.

Stevie tried to shake the ringing from his head but he realised it was in fact the fire alarm. Sprinklers had started from overhead. Stevie was quickly soaked, and the cool water stung as it reached his recent battle wounds. He trudged down the hallway at no real pace. He had lost the motivation of survival, the motivation to save Walter – now all he could muster was the strength to continue. One step at a time lest he remember that he needed to kill another agent, find Walter and escort him down 45 flights of stairs.

He neared the door and he remembered Whisky’s words. The desk at 10 o’clock. 3 steps and shoot. He saw no reason to sway from this information. He could not afford to account for a variable. He was completely open to the influence of fate; the idea that the burden of choice and righteousness no longer counted was relieving. It was everything appealing about suicide without the act itself.

He spied through the window and saw the desk as promised. Elsewhere the room was lined with beds that appeared to be occupied by people who were either unconscious or dead. He opened the door cautiously. His boot clicked on the hard floor. One. His heart began to race – his body suddenly caught wind that his mind was quitting. Two.He aimed his gun a foot above the desk. Three.

Like a wooden duck at a carnival shooting range the agent had popped up and Stevie was already firing. His first shot hit the agent’s weapon and sent it sailing away, the second landed in the agent’s shoulder, the third hit his abdomen and the fourth hit his chest. The agent was pinned against the wall as Stevie advanced but his gun clicked idly as he continued to fire.

The agent managed to heave himself off the wall and lunged for Stevie, ripping the collar of his shirt before falling over the table. Stevie was pulled down by the force and the agent grabbed at his neck with a vice like grip. Stevie cursed and spat, smashing the pistol against the agent’s head as he struggled to free himself. The agent weakened and Stevie scrambled away. He crawled along the ground looking for the other pistol.

The agent had slid off the desk and was managing to stand up. Stevie was still sliding along the floor as he checked under the beds that lined the lab. He pulled himself to his feet at the other end of the room and the agent did likewise. The two stood, battered and long lost to the world, facing each other for one last round. Stevie pointed the pistol at the agent.

“I know the firearm didn’t travel that far.” He stepped towards Stevie ominously, lurking towards Stevie. “You don’t have it. You don’t know where it is.”

“Hey fuckface,” croaked a foreign voice. A man was sitting up in the adjacent bed, “I know where it is.” He pointed the gun at the agent who was already reaching out in desperation and fired. The agent fell to the bed, finally defeated.

Stevie limped over to his saviour cautiously. The man turned and Stevie felt a flash of recognition but it still took a moment to recognise him. “Manny Holdsworth?”

“I know what you’re thinking: the make-up artists do miracles to get me on screen.” He smiled like a true TV presenter but a severe cough shook the glint from his eye. “What’s your name, friend?”


“You here to rescue me, Stevie?”

“Walter, actually.”

“Figures. I thought they might have sent a bigger army though – or are you the last man standing?” Manny began to work his way off the bed.

“There were three of us. Are you OK to walk?”

Manny groaned heavily as he lowered his legs to the ground.Stevie moved around the bed to support him. “I think I’m OK. Take this,” He handed Stevie the pistol, “you know how to use it better than me.”

Stevie stepped back, his hands on his head as the adrenaline settled. He finally had a chance to take in the room’s surroundings. The beds lining the walls had shapes of bodies under the sheets but the majority were covered head to toe. There was hospital equipment and monitors attached to each, though most displayed as little signs of life as the occupants. “What is this place? Are these people...are they dead?”

“Most of us are. These are the test subjects for the Machine. Average lifespan on this thing is 2 days – at least that’s what I was told by Darren – but he’s dead now. Walter holds the record at 2 weeks and his output is extroadinary.”

“Output of what?”

“Happy Juice. The shit that they plan on selling. This is what I was trying to uncover last night with my father but I never knew it was a torture machine. They took us in after the show and I haven’t seen dad since.”

“He was out in the rally today. They had him selling the stuff.” Stevie remembered the punch he delivered to the jolly old man and felt a hint of guilt. Manny didn’t respond, he looked vacant. “Where is Walter? I’m supposed to get a key off the agent – the guy you killed.” He walked over to the limp body and tried to turn it over, but it overbalanced under the shift of weight and fell to the floor with a thud.

“Walter’s hooked up right now. He’s always on that thing, hours at a time. He told me he stays on longer because it means the others get more time to rest. Who knows what the lifespan must have been before he came in.”

Stevie lifted the card from around the agent’s neck. He had flashes of those movies where the dead came back to life at the worst moments. He hurried to put some reasonable distance between himself and the monster. “If it’s after Happy Juice shouldn’t it try to inspire happiness?”

“They say it extracts the happiness – like donating blood. You can only give so much.”

The image that Stevie had in his head was chilling. He knew that Citadel Inc was capable of evil but he never considered this. He stood up and turned to the far end of the room. “Through there?” Manny nodded. Stevie felt a sense of hope in having another person with him, someone strong enough to carry himself and possibly help with Walter. He had bottomed out and he was lucky to survive. Now there was a hope again.

“Listen, Stevie, I know Walt’s been awful strong for so many people in here but don’t think that the machine hasn’t worn him down.” Manny said as they headed for the door.

“Actually, I’ve been expecting to carry him out of here anyway.” The door was heavily reinforced, and there was a slight hum coming from inside.

“I don’t mean physically. I mean...” Manny trailed a little. Stevie swiped the passkey “It’s how he held on; he is set on that...that woman and...” Stevie pulled the heavy door with considerable force. It took all his might but it began to slowly open and the hum died down like an engine recently killed. “I didn’t have the heart to tell him but he can’t-”

Manny’s head exploded with a deafening bang. Stevie was frozen in a moment of time that seemed to last an age. A gun slowly revealed itself from behind the door and he let go of the door. The design of the door forced it to slam itself closed again under its own weight effectively pinning the leading forearm and hand that wielded the weapon. Time sped up in a vacuum of consciousness and Stevie pulled his piece and shot a hole in the wrist. The gun fell to the floor but the door shot open forcefully as if there were ten men pushing from the other side. Stevie was knocked to the floor.

He scrambled to back and turned to face the door. An agent came out menacingly but Stevie fired again, the bullet going straight through the agent’s neck. He staggered like a prize fighter who was tagged on the chin for the first time, unable to find his legs again. Blood spurted from the hole in his neck in excessive fashion and he could not focus his eyes on Stevie. It would have been cartoonish if not for the sickening gurgling sound.

The agent took to more wayward steps and fell to the ground beside Stevie. The back of his neck had a corresponding exit wound, it looked as though one of the vertebrae n his neck had been nicked.

Stevie fell back in exhaustion. He couldn’t go on. How many more were there? How much time did he have before reinforcements came in?

Almost as if it was a best efforts answer to his question a second explosion shook the building. They’re going to bring it down. Stevie lifted himself up in what felt like his fifth wind. He stood up and tried to remind himself that his exhaustion was not an excuse. He was able so he had no choice but to be willing.

He tried not to look at Manny’s dead body as he walked back to the door but he stole a glance despite himself. The once familiar TV identity was now nothing more than a lifeless replica with a hole in his left eye. Stevie swallowed a lump in his throat that wouldn’t pass. He swiped his passkey again and heaved open the door.

The room was small, the majority of the space taken up by the machine. It was a grand looking device with monitors and tubes attached that fed out through to the back of the room. Walter was sitting strapped to the machine, unable to budge. He had needles in both arms and a large metal device hovering over his head. The beep of the cardiac monitor and Walter’s soft, laboured breathing repelled the unnatural silence of the room.

Stevie hurried over and held up Walter’s head, “Walter! Walter!” Walter could only manage a groan in reply but his eyes rolled back around and he focussed on Stevie’s face. Stevie unstrapped Walter at the arms and legs, “We’re getting out of here, Walter, I’m here to rescue you.”

“Stevie.” Walter croaked. He cleared his throat with some effort. “Don’t let them put you on. I can stay here. I can do one more session.”

“Nobody’s doing anymore sessions.” Stevie unstrapped Walter’s head and lifted the metal dome. Walter let in a huge gasp of air as he was freed from the machine. He fell to his hands and knees coughing and spitting. He crawled over to the door and rest himself up against it. Stevie gave him some time to relax.

Walter had looked dead when he was on the machine but he seemed to come back to life as he sat there. “Stevie? What are you doing here?” he asked, almost managing a smile.

“Don’t worry. We’re leaving now.”


Stevie shrugged. “Through that door would be a start.”

Walter struggled to his feet. Stevie helped him push open the door and it slammed shut behind them.

Walter looked down and saw Manny. “Manny?” he said weakly. “But why...”

“Walter!” a shrill scream came from the far side of the room. Stevie instinctively raised his weapon and found himself pointing it at Lucy Blues. She ran over to Walter and gave him a hug, wrapping her arms around his neck like a schoolgirl. “It’s so good to see you! You look good!”

Walter smiled as she released him. “Well you do usually see me on the machine doing a session.”

“You’re right. You’re so brave you know. You don’t know how many people you are helping.” Lucy looked as though she was about to cry all of the sudden. “There’s so many sad people who need your help.” She gave Walter another hug. Stevie did not like what he was seeing. Lucy was in business attire, a charcoal suit with a skirt, but she looked frazzled. Her hair was not tied down and her eyes were slightly bloodshot. She caught Stevie’s gaze, “Hello.” She said, sniffling unattractively as she tried to regain her composure.

“Uh, Lucy this is Stevie. He is a police officer here to help me.”

“To help you what?”


“-Escape, Dr Blues.” Stevie said, shortly, “And I should add that we haven’t got much time.”

“Escape?” Lucy was confused. “From who? You’re not leaving are you, Walt?”

“The building is ready to collapse. There are agents out trying to kill us and the if you haven’t noticed Walter is being tortured to death.”

“Trying to kill you, maybe,” Lucy retorted. “And Walter is here on his own free will, aren’t you?”

Walter did not respond immediately and Stevie was getting extremely frustrated. “Free will? Are you insane? Look around you. People are dying here. People are dead.” He gestured at the disfigured head of Manny Holdsworth for clarification.

“These people are volunteers. Don’t you see what Walter is achiev-”

“He was shot trying to escape! How is that volunteering? Walter?!”

“We are on the brink of evolution here. The human race is about to reach a new pinnacle. Walter help me open this door.” She stepped past Stevie and swiped her pass key to enter the machine room. Walter obliged, avoiding Stevie’s bewildered look.

“I don’t think I should do another session.” He said softly, pulling the door open again. The two of them entered and Stevie stood at the opening struggling to keep the door ajar.


Lucy walked to the back of the machine and ejected a large capsule with a pale blue liquid inside. “Is this today’s?” She asked. Walter nodded. “It’s not as much as the last few days. I thought we were reaching a new standard.”

“Well Stevie shut it down early.”

“Shut it down early? Are you kidding me? You were almost dead!”

Lucy took a sip from the flask and her face flushed with an unnatural joy. She squealed with delight, “It’s still so good!” She turned and gave Walter a kiss on the cheek.

“Why are you here, Dr Blues? You’re not here to save Walter at all. You’re just here for the juice.”

“I’m here for Walter.” She replied with a smile. She looked like she was losing control. Her eyes darted to Stevie’s right hand and back. Stevie tightened the grip around his weapon.

“Lets’go, Walter. We need to get out of here. Dr Blues can come if she likes.”

“You can’t leave yet.” Lucy was struggling to maintain control. Stevie could sense she was about to act recklessly, a policeman’s sixth sense. He only hoped Walter would trust him.

“Don’t even think about it, lady!” Stevie boomed, raising his pistol. Lucy froze still. “Walter we need to get the fuck out of here!”

“Stevie! Wh- what are you doing?”

“We can’t trust her Walter. She isn’t here to help. She is one of them.”

“She’s not.” Walter stepped closer. “She’s the only one who helped me through this. Without her I would have given up. I would have been one of these bodies lying here.”

“She didn’t do it for you, Walter,” Stevie said, still staring at Lucy, waiting for her to give him an excuse. “It’s her machine, her technology, her profit. She’s fucking hooked on this stuff and she needs you to keep pumping it out. She won’t let us leave and it’s only a matter of time before more fucking agents come in.”

“Stevie you don’t understand. These people need my help. I wanted to do this. It’s my right and my duty.”

Stevie could not believe what he was hearing. “You’re fucking kidding me! Who fed you this shit. You don’t owe shit to anyone. And if you think you’re helping just look at this woman. She is high as a kite. That’s not happiness, Walter.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 105

Tony Holdsworth felt great. No, he felt amazing. His fears, anxieties, worries all totalled to the weight of a feather. He felt like he could lift off and fly at any moment but was satisfied just to smile.

“So who will be next to receive the gift of happiness?!” he beamed. The crowd had all but forgotten the fracas with the protesters and Tony had all but forgotten the throbbing pain in his cheekbone. A quick top up of Walter Wallace Happiness had helped with that. “How about you there, miss?”

Tony approached a woman in her late thirties, attractive but poorly dressed. She seemed to shrink inside herself as he neared, shaking her head timidly. “No, it’s OK.”

“Please, miss, I’m not here to hurt you, but you must be here for a reason.”

“No. I don’t- I just-”

Tony had just managed to put the microphone to her when his pocket vibrated. His heart fluttered, and he worked to get the phone to his ear as quickly as possible. “Excuse me a moment, folks, I think our special guest is ready!” he broadcasted before dropping his tone to conversational. “Yes.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 104

Angela was frozen stiff. She felt like a small animal caught up in the grip of a python. She could barely breathe; every time she exhaled the squeeze was tightened. But it no longer hurt. She was paralysed by the venom and could no longer feel her skeleton crumble under the crushing weight. She shut her eyes and enjoyed the numbness. She wanted to savour this death – but she couldn’t. As she slowly opened them again she saw the elevator doors closing once more.

She swiped the card once again and entered the penthouse suite. It was a massive place, covering the entire top floor of Citadel Towers. She stepped out from the elevator and slowly walked to the centre of the room where a man lay on a raised hospital gurney. His breathing was supported by the large machine on his opposite side. The elevator door beeped as it shut and the man groaned, turning with effort to see who had come to greet him.

He met her eyes, his own looking weary and bloodshot. She put the bag down beside his resting place and looked around the room. The camera was positioned high to the left so it could capture both Angela and Boss Citadel in one shot. She put the bag at the bottom of the gurney between the man’s legs. She took out her headset and hooked up the microphone. A dial tone gave way to a ringing and Bill answered.

“Are you ready?”

“I- I just have to read the letter and push the button?” Angela’s voice shook as she spoke.

“That’s it. Now just look up to the camera and when it flashes red make sure you’re smiling.” Bill said, his calm voice relaxing her a little. “I’m so proud of you, Angela.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Walter Wallace - Chapter 103

Whisky sprawled along the marble, springing to his feet in time to see the elevator doors lock closed. He checked above the doors. The elevator was express to the second quarter of the building, floors 25 to 49, stopping at every odd number. Access to the top half of the building was not available from the lobby except via Boss’s personal elevator - that was in use. He sprinted to the stairs, clearing two steps at each leap. The elevator would reach the 25th floor within 30 seconds; he would only be at the 10th. They had rebuilt Chips. Why was he disobeying? But they also rebuilt Whisky and he still disobeyed. The answer was paramount to knowing what his action should be but he had little time to focus on it.

He darted out at the tenth floor and watched the old fashioned dial above the elevator ticking over the numbers. 33. 35. 37. It stopped. He shot back to the stairs and began racing up again. Sam was on the 50th floor. Walter was on the 45th. Carrying two men it would be impossible for Chips to back track to Walter before Whisky would reach him. He must have been going to Sam. It was not safe to remain in the elevators for much longer but it would be worth risking it for Chips – and Chips was prone to risky behaviour.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 102

Stevie walked to the right and slightly behind Phil. The kid was into his stride, doing what he was born to – create a ruckus. It is a strange phenomenon when a friend or partner is down there is an urge to be strong and carry the weight – stanger still that when they are up the urge is to follow. Stevie wondered if he was alone in this sentiment - was this the reason why he found it so hard to bond with other people? The flash of self-reflection was pushed aside by his present mind.

For weeks he had doubted that they could pull off any sort of resistance, even that morning he had been filled with dread at the idea that nobody would show for the march. Now he had the people and they had their leader he could focus on their next move. A rush of new doubts began rolling in like distant ripples off the shore growing into crashing waves. How would they get in? How would they find Walter? What would they do once they found him?

Walter Wallace - Chapter 101

Phil felt that horrible sickness in his stomach; the one that made him want to shit even though he hadn’t eaten breakfast. It was uncommon on the day of a rally or a protest. Usually he would be oozing with excitement at the chance to spit at some cops and swear at some journalists, but today he was planning on avoiding the cameras at all costs and an alert police force was likely to be his only chance for survival.

Forest came out of the burger shop with two burgers and a cup of chips. “Not much vegan on the menu, man. I just got some chips.”

“What oil did they use to cook it?”

“I don’t know, dude,” Forest had been pleading for Phil to cut him some slack ever since the fuck up with the BullCit article.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m not hungry.”

“Eat it.” Stevie said, looking down the street at the park where they were due to gather, “Don’t know what our next meal will be.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 100

Stevie was nervous. He was browsing over the comments section of the latest article in BullCit. It was no accident that these were now open for the public. Whoever had set up the blog in its new “message stick” format had purposefully taken down comments to avoid the scourge of internet advertising, and mob mentality. Each post since that day, including the three pioneered by Phil, himself and Forrest, had been allowed to exist without being held out for anonymous annihilation. But that changed with the latest post. The comments were rolling in by the thousands – loaded with hate and anger. Stevie scrolled back up the page to re-read the article. He needed to understand his enemy; tomorrow he might meet him.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is William Unston. You may know my name from the movement “The Band of Bill Unston” but I should clarify that I am not the leader, frontman if you will. The movement is simply a wildfire caught from a spark lit many months ago. Its members are proof that the way in which we have been living no longer serves our interests and the stalled nature of our evolution must be jump started or sold for spare parts. Tomorrow will be the day we give it the necessary kick.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 99

The compromise was fitting. It was dramatic. It was everything that made Channel 8 the sadistic media machine that it was – presenting the public with a shameless string of publicity stunts that borrowed from the most melodramatic novella and the most blatant current affairs program. Manny Holdsworth wondered how the people believed it, but time after time the ratings proved that this horseshit was exactly what they wanted.

After a relentless debate with his father, Manny had finally convinced Tony to let him perform his stunt on live television – but only if Tony was the host who interviewed him. It was the easiest sell in TV history: the disgraced son of the reformed TV presenter gives his apology interview to the man who ratted him out for cheating – his father. It was too perfect; too absurd. How could anyone buy it? And yet here they were in the familiar setting of the Channel 8 dressing rooms preparing to take another shot at ratings immortality.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 98

Ricky Talk couldn’t speak. He was a blubbering mess of tears and mucus which he sucked in on every breath, causing him to sob harder. Boss was lying on a bed just specially for him. They were in the middle of Boss’ home in the Towers.

Boss was connected to machines and they beeped and buzzed like little bugs were stuck inside. But Boss could hardly make a sound. His eyes were closed and his mouth was covered by a weird shaped cup. If not for the soft breaths Ricky would have thought Boss was dead. And he cried because he thought each breath was the last one.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 97

Phil was wiping the sleep dust out of his eyes with one hand and shaking out the last few drops of piss with his other when he saw something that made his stomach churn with fear. Stevie was cowered against a tree at the edge of the football field with a tall figure bearing down on him. Phil was not one for white collar fashion but he could pick that line of slim fit suit from a mile away – right now it was only a quarter mile.

His swooped his loose pants over his dick, probably staining the inside of his fly with a swansong spurt. He looked around the shrubs where he had just pissed and found a thick looking stick, but it was still very damp. Another lay next to it, not quite as large but a suitable replacement. He set out to save Stevie in a wide, arching run to sneak up on the robot and Stevie.

As he closed in on the pair he slowed. He was aware of the enemy’s capabilities. He was within ten paces when he heard the faintest crunch underneath his left foot. A small but sharp twig dug into the soft skin in the arch of his foot. Phil froze, desperately wanting to remove the stick but afraid to give away his only advantage. The robot didn’t seem to react. Stevie hadn’t sighted Phil yet, but it was likely due to the glare of the rising Sun behind him. Phil kept closing in. He was like a lioness as he inched forward ever so slightly before raising his weapon and charging.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 96

Tony Holdsworth was sipping on a beer. It was the first taste of alcohol he had had since binging his way into a coma. It was a bittersweet sensation both figuratively and – thanks to the squeeze of lemon – literally. In between sips he nursed the cold bottle against his cheekbone.

A bag of frozen peas fell onto the table in front of him. “Here, use that instead,” Manny said before slouching into a chair of his own and holding a frozen bottle of water to his eye. “Why do you freeze water in a bottle?”

Tony shrugged. “Probably been there for an age,” he said, “would have thought it would be a quick way to get some cold water.”

“You’ve got at least seven in there.”

“Well once it’s frozen it’s no good; you got to start again.”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 95

The Movement

There were some light folk tunes playing in Stevie’s head as he drew from his cigarette, blowing the smoke over the screen on his laptop. He was sitting down resting his back against a tree in a suburban sportsground. The pitch was clear; it was mid-morning on a school day and enough Autumn chill to keep away all but a few occasional stay-at-home mums pushing their prams and pulling their dog leads.

The sky was clear and the Sun was full but a light due still coated the tips of the grass. Stevie felt it slowly absorb into his pants but he thought tolerating the cold – along with the uneven surface of the tree – would be just enough to keep him in the present.

It had been a while since Stevie had written anything in good faith – Police reports had the tendency to stifle any creative affiliation with the written word. This was basically another duty, documenting the moment, the movement that might just change the world. The only problem here was that his ability to engage the audience was more important than any court reports he had generated.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 94

Boss knew what he had to do. This meeting would be make or break and it required precision. But he had found precision was coming to him more naturally lately when he didn’t overthink.

The door opened and Whisker came in.

“Whisky!” Boss greeted him with boisterous joy. He stood up and clenched the man’s shoulder with his left hand as he shook his right. Whisker was rigid as ever. “How have you been?”

“Good, sir,” he replied robotically

“Good! Good to hear.” Boss made to sit, pausing, “Please,” he gestured to the seat opposite his desk. Whisker obliged. “So do we have anything on Walter?”

Walter Wallace - Chapter 93

Lucy Blues was happy.

She smiled. She was back home in the only place where it seemed like she could feel this way. She walked through the woods that surrounded her father’s cabin and enjoyed the sharp chill of the winter morning’s breeze as it filled her nostrils. She was walking her favourite trail and had been doing so each morning since she and Walter had arrived. It had always been her plan to develop a daily ritual; it always sounded like one of those things she would read in the self help books that were scattered among her bookshelf in her city apartment. Four days in and she could definitely see the benefit.

She had left Walter to sleep in this morning. He had been eager to explore the cabin and its surrounds but Lucy could tell he was tired from the last few months. The exhaustion of the tour and the weight of billions of people’s , it was all taking its toll on the world’s happiest man. But to see Walter at the cabin had helped Lucy reconcile with her decision to expose him in the first place. Throughout the tour he would smile but it always seemed for the benefit of others, but here he would smile differently. He genuinely looked happy. And when she saw his face resting on a pillow this morning, drooling lightly, he genuinely looked at peace.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 92

Angela sat on a park bench across the street from Channel 8 studios. She was in a sort of daze which was due in no small part to the lingering effects of her morning bong. But weed had always been merely a symptom of her abandonment issues. It was a promise of escape; an exaggeration of the time between waves of depression. She was flatlining on that numbness now but could feel a growing sense of dread at the impending jolt of life. She was completely unprepared and every drawn out moment solidified her belief that she was not able. All she could hope for was a good enough excuse to turn off her phone and hit the bong again.

Only a week or two  earlier she had experienced the rush of the complete reverse of that emotion. She was given her first shot at producing a live national telecast of Walter Wallace. Every physical and mental impulse was reflected but with an outlook of potential and success. But she had fallen short in the test and then the Walter Wallace juggernaut stalled and stuttered and eventually imploded, dragging down everything tied up to it. Angela had gone down with the rest of them and in her last moment of redemption she had let Walter escape with Lucy Blues.

Smithwaite, the one to give her a shot at the big time and the one who saw her hard work at controlling Walter, was gone; Walter and Lucy were gone; Manny was gone; Hippy Flip was a fugitive; the whole gang, the crew that was creating history on the road with Walter had abandoned her. Then the network forced her to take leave, said they would be reviewing her position in a few weeks. She had nothing. She was nothing. Her mother was right: She would fail and disappoint before long.

“That doesn’t look like the face of a Channel 8 producer.” A voice said. Angela looked up but the Sun was reflecting sharply off the giant golden 8 on the opposing building directly in her eyes. “Here let me help you there.” In absence of visual cues Angela was trying to place the man’s voice when he stepped left and shielded the glare. Her eyes adjusted and she saw the kind face of Sam Tank looking down at her with backlight giving him an almost holy aura.

“Mr Tank?” she said with a sense of awe, “sorry, Dr Tank?”

“Call me Sam,” he smiled. “C’mon let’s take a walk, exercise is the first tool against depression.”

“I’m not...” Angela trailed off; it was almost pointless trying to disguise her state.

“I am a doctor Angela, I can read into people’s emotion pretty well. In fact I would guess with confidence that you were thinking of your mother.”

Angela was stunned, “How did...” she trailed again.

“Don’t worry I’m not reading your thoughts. That’s actually just a psychologist magic trick. Most people think of their mother’s when they are sad; they either want them or they blame them. Which one are you?”

“Actually I think I just want to blame her.” Angela said bluntly.

Sam laughed, “Humour! That’s the second tool to happiness! You’ll be smiling again in no time.”

Angela did smile, and she found the walk around the park warming up her limbs. “I don’t know why they put Walter Wallace on TV, they should just put you on.”

Sam laughed again, “I would if it was that easy, but I don’t think one man can make more than just one person happy at a time. But he could make countless people unhappy and miserable.”

Angela didn’t fully understand, and her expression was enough to encourage Sam to continue.

“How could I have this conversation with you and 10 million other people and still make it worth something. We dilute each other’s happiness. Fame does not really exist, just infamy; an inspiration of jealousy and longing. An emptiness, and yet we all aspire to it for some strange reason. We worship it.”

“So why did you make Walter Wallace famous?” Angela asked.

“It was not me, Angela. I wish I could take back what I did. Yes I did point Dr Lucy Blues in the right direction but she carried out her grand plan thinking that the happiest man would be the people’s inspiration. She didn’t realise he was on a road to martyrdom.”

“But you called him out. You are the one who vilified him.” Angela said, remembering Sam’s telecast with Tony Holdsworth.

“He is still just one man. He was poisoning so many minds with the plague of hope. What good is this hope and trust in someone else’s happiness? It cannot be shared, only idolised. Walter would make someone happy just by talking to them, just like you and I are brightening each other’s day, but he had no capacity to expand upon this intimate connection.

“I may have brought the Walter myth back to reality and possibly scarred him for it but they would have done worse. You would have done worse, Angela, you would have crucified him before the end.”

Angela could see Sam’s point, but she felt a pang of frustration. “But it’s not fair,” she said.

“Walter will be fine. He is the happiest man after all.”

“No, not Walter. I,” Angela said, embarrassed but honest. “It’s not fair that this happened to me.”

Sam sighed. “There is no end to life. There is death but it is no good to wait for it. In the meantime we will have only the endless challenges of day to day life to inspire us. No rhyme or reason or force of nature will hold luck or chance to trial. You can only keep working your way forward.”

The pair came to the same point of the park that Angela had been sitting. The setting Sun no longer glanced off the Channel 8 logo and with the fading light came a light chill. Angela suddenly felt a strong urge to hug Sam. She wanted him to hold her and keep her warm. “But what can I do?” she asked.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. I felt so much purpose when I was helping with Walter Wallace, but that all turned to shit.”

Sam thought for a moment. “You know Lucy just wanted to help as well. She thought Walter would change the world for the better. But in her error of revealing Walter to the world she accidentally created a counter culture that may just achieve what she set out to do.”

“You mean like the new hippies?” Angela asked, unconvinced.

“No, not quite.” Sam smiled. “Here.” He passed her a card and looked straight into her eyes. “You have more power than you think, Angela. We all have a place and a purpose and only so many chances to synchronise them.” He leant in and kissed her on the cheek; her heart danced between the confines of her chest. Sam stepped back, turned and walked away. Angela watched him disappear into the building she first met him in. She looked down at the card in her hand. It was blank all over except for a small website printed in the top right hand corner.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 91

The King Is Back

Yes folks it is true. The words of Hippy Flip will once again grace these pages. It feels like years since I vacated my throne. I fled amidst the politics and power struggles, fearing the knife piercing my back – or the bullet stirring my brain as it ricochets around my skull. I left my people without their voice but merely weeks after they had found it again. But I am here to tell you that I am back, I am safe and the dream lives on. Freedom will be ours.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 90

Sarah looked up and kissed Manny on the lips, resting her head back down against his chest.

Manny and his wife were sitting, lovingly, in front of the TV. They were watching a movie that Sarah had picked up from the video shop. Emily and Kara were in the living room as well. Emily was on the adjacent couch, glued to her handheld device – probably decoding the parental lock and messaging her friends under the guise of interactive learning. Kara sat on the floor by Manny’s feet, resting her head against his knees in the perfect imitation of her mother. The Holdsworths were finally a family again.

The tragic romantic comedy on screen was drawing to a close (it was Lady’s choice on Saturdays) – the arrogant male lead had seduced his beautiful co-star, proceeded to betray her with a long held secret, fallen into a well of self pity and character building reflection before performing his last gasp grand gesture to win her back again. Despite the hollow premise and tactless humour, Manny couldn’t help but appreciate the parallels between his own life – except, he noted, that in film the spikes and falls are what we wait for, whereas all he craved in his life was the dull monotony of “Happily Ever After”.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 89

Boss Citadel sat at the front row of the church pews, Ms Citadel at his side. The priest spoke but his voice was muted, as though he was an insignificant detail in a vivid dream. Behind the preacher was a great monument to his God, risen high to draw one’s gaze in implied reverence. The high ceilings housed the many who had filed in so dutifully and found their place in the lowly slums, cautious not to stray too far from their own. They stared past each other’s backs towards the holy man in diminished hope as he completed his daily rounds.

It was this sight, the droning organ, and the dour smell that immediately struck Boss when he had entered. He loathed this place.

As a child, Myrtle, his wretched mother, had brought him here to worship. She would tell him to repent through rituals of guilt and incomprehensible assumption. She would hiss at him if he dared mumble a word of the ancient recitals of bias and contradiction. And at the end she would curse him for reasons that only her twisted God could explain.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 88

Tony Holdsworth sat in state of mild meditative freedom. His mind was like a post apocalyptic city; the streets bereft of human activity, scattered with the wasteful remains of its previous occupants. Tony strode down in a single line of consciousness, observing the wreckage, the decay, and accepting it as the past. It was impermanent.

A man approached in the distance, clothed in a tattered suit, untucked and ripped on one sleave. “Don’t you think this is a bit cliché?” he called out, a condescending tone underscoring his remark.

Tony turned away from the man but was confronted by another person, much closer this time. “If you’re thinking of this image then you’re thinking,” the man said matter-of-factly.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 87

Stevie could hear his breath as he drew it in. Felt the degree of warmth as he let it back out. He had never meditated while high. He had been taught many years ago that meditation was a spiritual cleansing; a practice in realigning your thought process and only letting them exist in the moment that they belong. Drugs alter that alignment, they contradict the pure foundation, deceiving the natural order that meditation strives to attain. More importantly meditation required intense focus, while Stevie always found his mind racing to irrelevant conclusions when he smoked. He analysed the past and recreated his future and any moment spent in the present was completely accidental.

He decided to heed the warning of his meditation teacher.

The door to the van opened and Phil entered. “Man I looked everywhere for a place to piss. Still a lot of people around. Eventually I just did it on the car parked next to us.”

Stevie had forgotten about outside. He remembered the danger they were in. Would the Citadel agents be after them? Who might have seen Phil pissing? He was recognisable now, someone might just want to see him and say hello and draw attention to the van.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 86

Phil was home again. In the last hour he had managed to start an uprising, infiltrate mainstream news and command an attack on the Citadel Robots. And now to celebrate his triumph he was sitting in the back of a hollowed out van licking his lips as he watched Forest roll a fat joint.

“I have to say that today was indeed a victory.” He proclaimed.

“Aye,” Forest agreed, raising the half rolled joint as though it were pint of lager.

Stevie sat next to Phil without saying too much. Phil wasn’t sure if this situation would make him uncomfortable or not – the guy was a cop, but he also had a penchant for conspiracies, and weed was one of the best friends of any conspiracy theorist.

“Will you be joining us in our salute to the Man, Steven?” Phil asked jovially. He preferred to tackle uncertainty head on, in the field of battle – see where its allegiance lay. There also seemed to be a medieval tone to his dialect which he was enjoying immensely.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 85

Walter looked idly out the window at the green stretches of hills and crooked wire fences that bound the grassy paddocks. There were scattered livestock who seemed fairly idle themselves as they grazed the day away. Walter wondered what it might be like to be a cow. Would they feel at peace with the world; free from the odd societal pressures that seemed relentless as they bore down on the average human? Or would they find a problem intertwined in their fears and desires and escalate this to the highest priority of anxiety? He was beginning to sound like Phil, the outspoken writer who had tagged along for the latter portion of the tour. Phil would invariably offer Walter marijuana whenever they had some time together. Walter would refuse but he didn’t mind chatting with the slightly skewed mindset that Phil would develop after a joint.