Liberation (Hedione #5 Edit)


There didn't appear to be anything wrong with him when I found him, apart that he was lying motionless on the toilet floor in a shallow pool. He must be paralytic, I thought at first, agonizing at the stain in his Jag shirt and Country Road jeans which would be the consequence. He looked young, 20 at the oldest, fairly tall, slim, with short brown hair: a typical patron of the club. When he hadn't moved after a minute of observation I began concerned. I knelt over him pausing to note his exquisite ethnic necklace, realized he wasn't breathing. The impact was immediate.

Yothu Yindi's Treaty expanded into a few moments of painful cacophony and then retreated. Someone had come in behind me and obviously now regretted it. I couldn't say a word as he paced to the body, paled, theorized about foul play. Like me, he ended up standing mesmerized, mumbling softly: <<Fuck, who is this guy?>>

After a while a crowd began accumulating in the Men's Room as each visitor, no doubt on an innocent journey to the trough, or possibly just looking for a lost friend, became trapped by the spectacle on the floor. At one stage someone said <<Nobody touch his boots!>> and I understood that they were Doc Martins, a bold alternative statement compared with more mainstream Jag shirt and Country Road jeans. More puzzling, the sprawl of his legs revealed a pair of Nike socks, a ghastly white on white.

<<What happened here?>> asked the 30th person into the toilets, curiously a woman. <<This guy's a walking contradiction.>>

<<Either that or he>> someone else chipped in <<dresses in the dark.>> The toilet was your standard early 1990s advertising hell: posters in gaudy colors selling all kinds of wares from ribbed condoms to love scents engineered from the pheromones of endangered species. <<Hey look>> the aforementioned woman said. <<There's a mark on his wrist. It looks too clean to be a tattoo.>>

<<It looks like a logo. A whirlpool of some kind.>>

Strange rippled sphere mark on the wrist of Kristian Holstein

<<Is there a club in town with a stamp like that?>>

As I teetered forward for a final look before making way for the police, I was intrigued by one strange detail. He was wearing Hedione #5 cologne, the latest Glam concoction. Its fruity, transcendent aroma mixed with the earthier stench of cigarette smoke and piss to produce a profoundly discordant comment. FUCK, WHO IS THIS GUY??

Party on the dugout on Dixon Avenue
Haven't been to a jam in quite a while
Figure I'll catch up on the latest styles instead...

IT WAS CURBURRA AVENUE IN fact, but the sentiment was the same: I was looking forward to a decadent blowout. The bungalow was comfortably set in Yabbini, one of the Boulah Ring's shadier suburbs, and was really pumping when I arrived. Two days had passed since my first encounter with the dead body, about eight nightmares or a thousand resolutions to forget it. Pondering the meaning of life was getting me nowhere: it was time to seek the solace of intoxication, hard music and even harder women.

I was talking to an eccentric woman in a flowery sari called Astella when a guy in a really cool, psychedelic Pucci print brushed past me, long hard screw against the wall in hand, stared at me (instead of her) for a few seconds, then said: <<Hey man, how's it doing?>>

Social amnesia is common among regular party goers. In this case, inebriation wasn't the cause!

<<From the toilet?>> I blurted.

<<It was pretty shocking, wasn't it?>> he said. <<Have the cops said anything yet?>>

<<Not that I know of>> I said thinking: Great you fuckhead, I was here to forget!

<<You know>> he continued <<I had a dream about him last night. I was alone in that toilet, doing my business, when I noticed him lying on the floor. I knelt down to get a closer look when I saw this classic horrorshop demon emerge from his pocket, a leather wallet between its canine teeth. I yelled "Hey, what are you doing?" and it stood upright, pointed at the stamp on the guy's wrist, said, "The mark of the bloodsucker!" and vanished in a cloud of aftershave.>>

He gazed at his feet for a while, mumbled <<It was just a stupid dream>> and walked off looking somewhat embarrassed.

<<How bizarre>> Astella said. I stared after him, thinking of his dream, my eight.

Then a hyperactive remix of Naughty by Nature's OPP summoned Astella urgently to the dancefloor. Near the speakers a minibar had been set up serving boutique beers and upmarket cocktails. A black guy with an American accent, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and a yellow bandana tied around his head was behind the bar, exchanging a brown paper bag for three Australian 50 dollar notes. It was a routine deal, and I would hardly have noticed had I not caught a whiff of Hedione #5 hanging around the customer and homed in to see a tiny, Greek letter Phi (Ф) etched on to the underside of the bag, rendered into a wavy, whirlpool style design.4

The image of a body sprawled on a wet floor filled my mind, ghostwhite, a vampire crawling out of a pocket.

<<Hey... wait!>> The customer did not hear me, and disappeared down a flight of crowded stairs. I tried to follow, but Astella grabbed me around the wrist, said: <<I want to dance!>>

Three hours later, in a room where a large TV set took the place of a soundsystem, a doubleplay of the KLF's classic The Last Train to Trancentral and What Time is Love? on the university music network was interrupted by a news update. The dancefloor was immediately deserted. Astella pulled me towards a couch, but the enigma of a newsbreak at three in the morning held me still. In a special report, a blonde announcer with a Coca-Cola badge on her lapel said:

"Police have released the name of a student found dead in a Waluralla nightclub this week. He was Kristian Holstein, a 19 year old Arts student from Wadleena. The police have refused to comment yet on the cause of death. Now for the Zeus Jeanswear party report..."

The TV was obscured as the dancefloor quickly refilled. I wandered alone to the back of the room in pursuit of a heavy drink. In a dark corner I stumbled over something warm and musky and looked down in terror at the unconscious customer of the bar deal.

THE BOULAH RING WAS A BAND OF affluent suburbs which orbited the Waluralla CBD in a rough green circle, bound to the north and east by the Arafura Sea and to the south and west by a thick bend of the Waluralla River. Over the river the wide lawns, chic mansions and belts of sanitized savannah disintegrated into a concrete sprawl which swept far beyond the hazy horizons. Real estate prices began a slow dive with every congested mile and bottomed at the outermost extension of the tropical city, the satellite of Wadleena. It was the butt of many Boulah Ring jokes and for this reason I didn't venture there much, but curiosity is a strange force: as I swung on to the Yunupingu Highway I felt willing to risk any humiliation, any inconvenience or harm.

Wadleena sunset, in Arnhem Land, 1991

I had taken a large gamble already in raiding the University of Waluralla's computer network to find Kristian Holstein's address, 792 Bonda Wongee Street, South Wadleena, and suffered the consequences when Astella called me a weirdo. It didn't worry me: I was on to the tracks of something deeper than dance parties, cocktails, even fashion.

The drive to Wadleena was a 40 minute cartoon loop of traffic clogs, soulless industrial estates, used caryards and dull red blocks of flats. A pair of smokestacks marked the entrance into the suburb. I turned off the highway and found what they belonged to, a low steel building which proudly boasted to be the largest in Waluralla. I generally try to ignore ugliness, but I could not help noticing an enormous billboard which ran along the road. I slammed on the brakes when I read what it framed:

Creswell Corporation Australian Headquarters
1055 Houston Street, South Wadleena
The Creswell Corporation's Wadleena plant is not only the largest factory in Waluralla, but is also the leading private employer in the southern suburbs, providing more than 4,000 jobs. In association with its 65 subsidiary companies, the Creswell Corporation manufactures and markets one of the most extensive range of clothing, entertainment and cosmetics in the world.

Bonda Wongee Street was only five blocks away; opposite a smaller Creswell Corporation sign, with arrows pointing to the factory, I stopped at a small, square house built on crude metal stilts in the case of floods or cyclones. I suddenly felt very nervous and out of place. That's it man, you've seen the place, now get out of here. But before I could start up the engine the front door of the house creaked open and a woman in a cliched apron and curlers in her hair stepped out.


<<Uh... does Kristian Holstein live here?>> I asked, then instantly regretted my lack of tact. She looked down for a moment, said wiping her eyes: <<I'm sorry. He passed on last week. Were you a friend of his?>>

<<Well... I sort of knew him.>>

She gestured me inside, led me with slow steps on creaky floorboards to a kitchen lined with fading calendars. <<Would you like a drink?>>

<<No thanks. Listen, I don't want to intrude.>>

<<Not at all>> she said. <<Kristian never had many visitors anyway; any friend of his is welcome now, now that...>>

She broke down again but hid her pain by pouring me a drink anyway. She seemed to snarl at me: <<What happened to my son? Why won't they say anything?>>

Uncomfortable with these emotional expressions I turned looking for escape, then smelt something oddly familiar. I followed the musky odor down a dark corridor and into a sudden explosion of color which could only have been Kristian's bedroom. An unmade bed with a Mexican bedspread was nestled beneath a few lamps shaped like astrological motifs which spread a multitude of luminous rings on the carpet. But my attention was directed towards a bedside table where among a row of deodorant and hairspray containers sat a half empty bottle of Hedione #5. Its exuberant fragrance was perfectly suited to this room. I picked it up to study its gaudy labelling, see who made it. In microscopic lettering were the words: Glam Cosmetics, a Subsidiary of Creswell Corporation. And below: Ф.

A mad desire made me rip open the cupboard, and drag out its contents. A pair of jeans I had seen on my last trip to the gay quarter, made by Zeus Jeanswear, with a tiny Ф carved into the back pocket. A hectic Balinese shirt commissioned by the same subsidiary. I was relieved when I found a pair of raving shoes without a single Creswell or subsidiary on them, but turning them over I saw an inconspicuous barred vortex buried in each sole. On the bookshelf facing the bed, a book about Aboriginal art stood open exposing a work in the Central Australian school. It looked like a maze.

Central Australian art, featuring a U-shaped motif

Fuck, who was this guy?

THE OBSESSION HAD to stop. It was ruining my life, following my every step, intruding even into my dreams and tearing them apart. There was only one way to beat this preoccupation: return to the scene of the crime, denounce what had begun there.

The toilets were unnervingly quiet so early in the day. I walked over to the shallow pool which still remained, one week on, imagining underneath the painted outline of a body. Feeling more helpless than ever before, I lashed wildly at the condom ad, my fists making solid dents in the wooden wall.

I must be sick, like Astella said, I thought. Hanging around a fucking shithouse! I spun around as the door opened, pretended to wash my hands. A guy in Docs, torn jeans and a Free East Timor shirt walked in and, checking I wasn't watching in, stood shaking over the puddle. <<Sorry man>> he said softly, his voice quavering <<it wasn't your fault. You weren't even expected to know.>>

The emotions of the past week suddenly caught up with me, and I let a groan - a quiet, desperate sigh. This caught the Free East Timor guy by surprise. He glared at me, and for a moment I thought he was going to hit me. <<You knew Kris?>>

<<I used to run with him... back in our Wadleena days>> I blurted hurriedly. <<His mum said it was an overdose.>>

<<It's murder, that's what it was!>> the guy in the torn jeans said. <We had been partying all night, drinking hard when he asked for something heavier. The barman recommended Hedione. It's a stimulant, keeps you dancing until the break of dawn.>>

<<Hedione?>> I asked, incredulous. <<The aftershave?>>

<<It weren't no aftershave, dude. Haven't you seen it before?>> He dug from out of his pockets a crumbled paper bag with the Ф symbol adorned in black ink. It bore the unmistakable scent of musk.

<<So do you sniff it, or something?>>

<No, you don't sniff it, man... it works by absorption, through the skin," he explained, somewhat exasperated. <You're supposed to dab it into your wrist, right like this." He rolled up the sleeve on his left arm, revealing a tattoo just like Kristian's, except that his sphere was not swirling or barred but fully realized, naked in its pristine glory.

The unbarred, unrippled sphere... the Imaginary Phallus untamed!

<It was murder, man," he said, shaking. "How were we even expected to know?"

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Literary Me, at the Halfway House Squared