The shopping mall sprawled across the desert rendering it foul like the footpath outside an all-night licensed pizza joint very late on a Saturday night. The starry sky was spiked by multi-pitched roofs, and the glare from the innumerable ads, shop windows and security lights triumphed over it. No stars shone in the lives of these people except from the predatory talent and reality tv shows in a lattice of multiple images flashing from a Harvey Norman Mega Barn.
Suzie Cream-Cheese viewed the scene sourly from the shadows of a dumpster in the mouth of a loading bay. She had been skirting the huge complex for days trying to find a way through to the mountains beyond this arid strip of rain shadow. 24/7 under the daytime blazing, blurred sun or night scarring halo’d sodium lights the vast asphalt acreages were kaleidoscoped with four wheel drives, people movers and commuter buses. Streams of people dressed by Kmart tributaried and deltaed eagerly to the glowing entrances. Other streams emerged, capillaries of pushers of wayward rattling trolleys piled high with plastic bags and gaudy packages. The children straw-slurping on polystyrene and the adults catching up from the deprivations of smoke free public spaces. Men gulping surreptitious, paper-bagged cans of bourbon and coke and the women trolley wresting and children wrangling. Under the surface sparkle of pharmacological enchantment all eyes are dull and flat as a goats, bleached by the eternal tedium of choice.
On the edges of the shadowlands where the asphalt met the desert stalked the moving guard towers on legs like water spiders. They blended with or emerged from the perpetual photochemical smog like the bad dreams of a 1950’s B grade movie director. Their guarding ambiguous – to keep the shoppers in: to contain the compulsory compulsive consumption or to keep out and stop the refuseniks, the shadow people, the Suzie Cream-Cheeses from making it to the mountains. The cluster of ariels and stubby barrels that nestled between the observation blisters constantly waving, seeking, emitting brief bursts of coherent light relentlessly reducing the shadows that scurried and crept.
Suzie Cream-Cheese was dirty. She hated being dirty. She snarled to herself as she shifted her weight from the injured foot to the healthy. It seemed like weeks not days since she had abandoned her motor bike somewhere out there in the badlands its fuel spent. She had waited for dark in the meagre shadows of the tumbled boulders. Guided by the sky-glow it had taken her all night to reach the Shadowland and huddle with a few fellow travellers in a gully during daylight as the moving towers stalked about. There on the fringe of The Mall amid the vast hectares of solar collectors, automated yeast farms and food factories the refuseniks existed as parasites. She had been surprised to find so few. So many set out drawn by the dubious promise of the distant mountains to attempt the crossing of the The Mall. Come the night, the dark was sparsely inhabited by their deeper shadows meeting, greeting and probing for a way to cross to something like freedom.
Suzie Cream-Cheese had crept and stumbled for 6 or 7 days along the broken edges of the eternal sprawl. She had watched the cars, streaming in from the freeway. It ran like a spinal cord through the bony excrescences of the infinity of shops. Cars streaming in and streaming out again. Outbound to the ganglia’s of hives where the shoppers stored their purchases, poked at their touch screens googling for bargains and slept between shopping expeditions. She had heard the stories of the Churches where on Sundays shoppers recycled their week’s purchases clearing their apartments in readiness for another week of busy choosing and consuming. Another week of being happy, free and prosperous.
Suzie Cream-Cheese had walked out on all that years ago. Suzie had opted out before it had got to the rabid compulsive hell it now so clearly was, at least to her and her fellow seekers after mountains. She had split the scene, to use an archaism, and had been happy enough with her ecstasy and an endless stream of lead guitarists until the mountains called. Her startling mop of white hair, caught up in a black beret, and dark dry skin told the plain story that she was no longer the cream of her name but very much the cheese. She still hated being dirty.
The dumpster behind which she lurked, even though empty, smelt bad. Suzie smelt bad. Suzie’s ankle was swollen and crusted with blood. Things were not good. However she had a plan. For the past two nights after the dumpster had been emptied into the maw of the giant orange garbage truck, a pimply kid, his skin pale against the tartan of his shirt, had heaved and pushed the dumpster into the dock while swearing inventively in a monotone. The roller had then lowered, shutting out the night and Suzie’s curiosity.
It was a desperate chance, if chance it was, but Suzie meant to take it. She carefully looked around. Her senses alert for the skittering watch towers and the plodding Security who lurching along, always in pairs, always chewing the gum that kept them chemically alert and psychopathically suspicious. Seeing her chance and taking it, she monkeyed up the side of the skip, quick as a rat and was in. She supressed a groan, her ankle protesting violently over the sudden action. Fumbling open one of her zippered pockets she palmed a small blue capsule, pushed it between her lips and bit down. She sighed, going momentarily limp. Pain fled and every speck of dirt, crust of rust and splash of the un-nameable competed for her attention. She felt the skip lurch, realized that Pimples had arrived as she heard his swearing. Suppressing an urge to cry out she hunkered down and waited every sense coruscating like sheet lightning. She was entering Bogheamia as a piece of rubbish but who knew what transformations she may achieve. Suzie Cream-Cheese suddenly grinned feral and waited.