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There didn't appear to be anything wrong with him when I found him, apart that he was lying face down on the toilet floor in a shallow pool. He must be paralytic, I thought at first, agonising at the stain in his ZigMan shirt and SteinStadt 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, realised he wasn't breahting. The impact was immediate.

Fuck, who is this guy?

Tashca Ngurra's distorted flakebeat 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 walked over to the body, paled, theorised about foul play. Like me, he ended up standing mesmerised, mumbling softly: <<Fuck, who is this guy?>>

After a while a crowd began accumulating in the Mens 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 realised they were hippo skin clogs, a bold biological statement compared with more industriallooking Zigman shirt and SteinStadts. More puzzling, the sprawl of his arms revealed a pair of postcorporate Nike mitts, 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 <<either that or he dresses in the dark.>> The toilet was your standard early 21st century advertising hell: flashing lights and holograms selling all kinds of wares: condoms grafted from real pornstar skin and love scents from all the dead silver screen sirens (not to mention the African jungles). <<Hey look>> the aforementioned woman said. <<There's a mark on his wrist. There, above his bracelet.>>

<<It looks like an animated gif. A dancing cat.>>

<<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 realised an intriguing detail. He was wearing Uranus #5 aftershave, the latest NASA offering. Its pungent aroma mixed with the more earthly stench of urine and smoke to make a truly discordant comment. FUCK, WHO IS THIS GUY??

Party on the dogout 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 a bizarre 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 said <<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 stared 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 the 1991 remix of The Eve of the War began dragging Astella towards it. A little closer to the speakers a minibar had been set up serving upmarket cocktails and boutique beers. A black guy with a Californian accent, wearing Californian sunglasses and a yellow, California-style bandana around his head was behind the bar, exchanging a brown paper bag for three $50 notes. It was a routine deal and I would hardly have noticed had I not caught a whiff of Notoriety hanging around the customer and homed in to see a small, dancing cat animtat scratched into the bottom of the bag.

The image of a body sprawled on a wet floor filled my mind, ghost-white, 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 news break 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 looking for 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 FASHIONABLE SUBURBS which orbited the Waluralla CBD in a rough green circle, bound to the north and west by the Timor Sea and to the south and east by a thick bend of the Waluralla River. Over the river the wide lawns, chic mansions and tropical belts of scrub 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 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 Southern Highway I felt willing to risk any humiliation, any inconvenience or harm. 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, windowless factories, second hand car yards 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 metal factory which proudly boasted to be the largest in Waluralla. I generally try to ignore ugliness but I could not help noticing a 10 metre long sign which ran along the road. I slammed on the brakes when I read what it framed:

Creswell Corporation Asian Headquarters
1055 Houston Street, South Wadleena
The Creswell Corporation's Wadleena plant is not only the largest factory in Waluralla, but is also the largest private employer in the southern suburbs, providing more than 6,000 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 Asia-Pacific.

Bonda Wongee Street was only five blocks away; opposite a smaller Creswell Corporation sign, with arrows pointing to the factory, I stopped at a little green fibro house with a direct view of the twin smokestacks. 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 fibro creaked open and a woman in a grey tracksuit 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, and hid it 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 scenes I turned looking for escape, then smelt something oddly familiar. I followed the musky odour down a dark corridor and into a sudden explosion of colour 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 potions and oils sat a half empty bottle of Uranus #5. Its scent hung dark in such a colourful room. I picked it up to study its gaudy labelling, see who made it. In microscopic lettering were the words: Nirvana Cosmetics, a Subsidiary of Creswell Corporation. And below: c c. A mad desire made me rip a cupboard open, 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 cat gif dancing on the back pocket. A flowery, Balinese shirt commissioned by the same subsidiary, and complete with a prancing feline label. 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 pair of cats in each soul. On the bookshelf opposite the bed, a bookcover looped an endless series of retro Catwoman images. It looked like a diary.


THE OBSESSION HAD TO STOP. IT WAS RUINING MY life, following my every step, intruding 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 hologram, my fists scattering ithe light into grossly perverted new waveforms.

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 pool. <<Sorry man>> he said softly, his voice quavering <<it wasn't your fault. You weren't even expected to know.>>

LIBERATION (c)opyright Robert Sullivan 1991-2000. All tracks (c)opyright Liberation Records. Contact the author for all your criticisms and feedbacks.