7. Uninterrupted Study
'So you're actually not fucking with us?' The guy called Tony or Toby or T-Bone—Han had never quite worked it out—made his face into a pinch of play dough. He had the same savoury smell as well. Something gone crusty in the folds of his hoodie. T-Dough.
'You've never seen the ocean?' This from the tiny girl who Han had sat next to in his first tutorial for a full five minutes before realising she was there. Her name was Koong-Say, but she had wanted him to call her Key.
'Yeah,' said Han. 'I mean, I just never got the chance.'
'You never got the chance?' T-Dough chuckled, that deep bully chuckle that conveyed no humour at all. His bleached fringe moved in a single sheet.
'It just wasn't something I did. No big deal.'
'I think that's cool.' This was Jarrah, who Han had already fallen in love with, and it was only just past lunchtime. She was the sort of girl he had spent his entire first month in Brisbane obsessing over: a smooth, sophisticated figure who looked so much at home in the terrifying expanse of a sprawling city that it was impossible not to reserve her a special place in your brain.
'Thanks,' said Han, trying desperately to plane any timbre of irony from his speech, which resulted, as it often did, in his voice breaking and a resultant pink flush. T-Dough barely stifled a laugh. Han stared up through the tiny slanted window above them, at the sky, which had turned a deep shade of grey, like a wet rock. Something about the sky, about the whole morning, had worried him.
It was two days from their presentation and this was the first time the whole group had met. It didn't help that T-Dough never came to the tutorial, or that a whole week's teaching had been cancelled because of the sandstorms. Key had started a group email that progressed in fits and starts but it wasn't until the due date was nearly upon them that they had agreed to meet. Key had them ensconced in the very top level of the State Library, in a room that looked to Han as if it wasn't supposed to hold study groups trying to unravel The Role of Technology in Storytelling in Modern Media. There were the usual tall shelves, but the books were strange shapes, some tied with string and others stacked haphazardly with the corners of old maps sticking out the side.
Numerous signs, in fact, warned that the area was not for public access without express permission, and banned the very laptops—and water bottles they all had scattered across the table. Han's contribution to the discussion so far—after they spent an hour with earphones in reading articles on the free wireless—had been to nod along when someone suggested something, but the suggestions were very few and far between. The three others had laptops but Han just sat in their reflected glow with his exercise book, which had 'Year 12 Biol' crossed out on the front and 'Intro to Media Studies' scrawled over the top.
Somehow the topic had changed from key themes of Adorno's media theory to who was heading to the beach the next day, following a much-publicised prediction of a rain-and-sand-free weekend. T-Dough waxed lyrical about the trip up the coast he was making in his newly-detailed car, the details of which Han didn't care enough about to remember. Han had started driving at nine, but had little time for cars except as modes of transport and work. Ya just gotta get from A to B, his dad always said. Just need to get where you're going.
It had been after Key said she was going to Southbank for the first time to swim at the fake beach, and after Jarrah's thought that maybe she would head up to a friend's beach house, when Han had offered his observation that he had never seen the ocean.
'It's kind of cool. I mean, I've never seen the bush.' Jarrah made double-quotes with her fingers. 'You grew up in the outback, right, so that's the same thing.'
Han shrugged. 'Don't know if it was the outback, but it was pretty isolated, I suppose.'
'Must've been,' said T-Dough. 'Did you take a sheep to your formal?'
'But how did you not see the ocean? You know what it looks like, though, right?'
'Like a big wheat field but blue? Did I get that right?' Han didn't bother hiding the sarcasm in his voice.
'Maybe we should get back . . . ’ Key gestured to her keyboard.
'Nah,' said T-Dough, 'I want Han here to paint me a word picture of the ocean. Surely they took you on a bus with some retards from the bush? They have that all the time on the news. They're drooling and shit, getting their wheelchairs stuck in the sand.'
'Jesus,' said Jarrah standing up and stretching. 'I want to get out of here in under 24 hours if possible.' A tiny line of skin appeared between her shirt and her jeans.
Han thanked whatever Gods were currently available. There'd been Buddhists outside the library as he'd walked in that morning. They'd do. Buddha bared his belly after all.
Key went on, as she had all morning, staring seriously into the void of her laptop screen. She stated, seriously: 'Storytelling has been with us for as long as we have wanted to shape the world.'
'That's what we started with this morning,' said Jarrah. 'What else do we have?'
'I put in some bullet points underneath it.'
'God. This is going to take forever.'
Han tapped his pen against his pad. 'Have we even decided what order we're talking in?'
'Uh . . . ’ Key raised her eyes from her computer. 'I don't think so.'
Jarrah yawned. 'This is what happens when you don't actually meet until the last minute.'
'We're all busy modern people,' said T-Dough. 'It's not the end of the world if this doesn't get written, anyway.'
'It's forty percent of our mark,' said Key.
'Okay,' said Jarrah. 'It's, what, nearly two o'clock now? Let's just go hardcore for two hours and knock this over. I mean, it's just a talk. We just string a few good sentences together and we pass. Yes?'
Han leant back in his chair and was about to agree when his eye snagged on the window. The sky was almost black. 'What . . . ’ A roil of grey cloud streaked past, like the contrail of a jet. 'The sky's gone insane out there.'
'Focus!' Jarrah snapped her fingers in front of Han's face. She drew up two fingers to her face and back to him: the silent hand movements of an army sniper. Her hair was the sort of thin blonde curtain he had never seen on anyone in his home town. Hair was hat-tucked or windblown where he was from, its only purpose to get into your eyes or stick to your neck in summer. Certainly there had been no girls who looked like Jarrah. The girls he had gone to school with were first and foremost not interested in the book-obsessed son of a failed cotton farmer, and secondly, almost comically unattractive or smokers or going out with a middle-aged drug dealer, and usually all three. Jarrah's eyes were the exact shade of blue that made Han forget about the colour of the sky, or for that matter any other colour.
'Narrative,' she said. 'Media. Storytelling. Maybe we should make a mind map.'
'Maybe we should actually write something,' said T-Dough. 'I have to be out of here by three-thirty at the latest.'
'Why?' said Jarrah. 'Unless you've got major surgery booked, this is where we'll be.'
'Brightman and The Ferret have this sweet competition going, but you've got to be down there before five.'
'Down where?' said Key.
'At Four Double B. At the studio.'
'You don't listen to that crap, do you?' said Jarrah. 'Secret Stink? That Indian cab driver character? It's so puerile.'
'No, they're classic. I've got to be down outside the studio for the final clue.'
'The final clue?' Han knew about Brightman and The Ferret from the billboards pasted around town. Two guys with the ubiquitous misshapen faces of radio veterans, squeezed into slim-fit T-shirts designed for men 20 years younger and 40 kilograms lighter, flanked by the incoherent buzzwords of the week. As far as he could work out, their radio show survived on a diet of prank calls and the beration of a revolving cycle of female newsreaders.
'I wouldn't expect any of you to understand. This schtick they do is . . . it's unravelling the commercial radio narrative. They're bringing the genre down from the inside.'
'They're douchebags. That segment where they made people tweet their wives making them sandwiches? That was abhorrent.'
'But that's just it! They're flipping the lid.'
'You're fucking brainwashed.'
'What's that about the clue, though?'
Key coughed loudly, but when she spoke, her tone was apologetic. 'We need to focus. I need to pass this.'
T-Dough ignored them all. 'It's this competition where they fake a kid's disappearance.'
Jarrah put both her palms to her forehead. 'What?'
'It's this whole campaign. They've been promoting it for weeks. It's like, you've got to find what's happened to this girl based on the clues they give you. It's insane.'
'That's awful,' said Han. 'There's been all those people going missing just, what, in the last few weeks.'
'That's why it works. There's so much interest in it.'
'How on earth did they get permission to do it?'
'I read about it,' said Key resignedly. 'They say it's a community service. Like having a reward for witnesses.'
'Exactly,' said T-Dough. 'It's the same, but so many more people are getting involved. Fifty grand prize for the winner.'
'Well I think it's disgusting.' Jarrah opened her laptop with severe force.
'You don't need the money,' said T-Dough, 'so why would you care?'
'It's profiting from these people who have already gone missing.'
'It's smart. We're closing in. That final clue is going to crack it. I want to be the one to crack it.'
'You're so deluded. I mean, I don't even understand what you're supposed to be.'
'What I'm supposed to be?'
'The emo hair, the skate shoes, the Star Trek T-shirt. You need to pick a subculture and stick to it.'
T-Dough laughed. 'Yeah,' he said. 'We all need a little box to live in. Can't have anyone sticking out.'
Jarrah shot her chair back with an exasperated sigh, stood up and stormed towards a shelf of thick philosophy books that shielded them from the door.
Han could feel the heat rising in the room. He wondered if they'd get special dispensation if two group members actually killed each other. A rumbling came up through the floor: someone rolling a trolley of heavy books somewhere. Maybe that would be a better life, Han thought. Just shelving books all day for a wage. It would certainly hold more purpose than wherever it was an Arts degree was supposed to get him. At least he'd be able to tell his dad exactly what he did in any given day. Books going from point A to point B.
'We can use this,' said Key, looking at Han.
'This radio stunt. This is narrative. Taken from real life, turned . . . inside out.'
T-Dough sat back with a pleased Jabba the Hutt smile. 'Like I say, like I say.'
Jarrah shook her head. 'That's a long bow.' But even as she said it, she nodded. 'But I guess we haven't got much else.'
'It's exactly the right fit,' said Key. 'A constructed narrative both influenced by and influencing reality.'
'Write that shit down!' called T-Dough. 'The first clue was a vase. A blue vase!' His hands flailed: the most movement he'd made all day. 'Then there's a samurai sword. Mad. There's this poem about a willow tree and a temple. Pretty gay, put I reckon I'm close to cracking it.'
'Okay,' said Jarrah, walking back to the table. 'This could be good.' She took off her cardigan. 'Anyone else getting hot, though?'
'It's a little warm,' said T-Dough, flipping back his fringe. Little globes of sweat had begun to spring up on his forehead.
'Let's not get distracted,' said Key. 'This is what we use, and we can all—'
A loud deep wail cracked into the air.
T-Dough sprang up in his chair. 'The fuck was that?'
'Maybe those Buddhists,' said Han. 'They were playing those long mountaineer trumpets when I came in.'
'Dungchen,' said Key. 'Tibetan horns.'
'Han has never seen a mountain,' said T-Dough. 'That's why he doesn't know about Dungbongs.'
'No way that was a horn,' said Jarrah. She wiped her brow. 'What's going on out there?'
It was then that Han put his finger on something that had been bothering him for the past hour. There was no other sound. When they'd arrived, there'd been the inevitable throat-clearing and quiet conversation coming from all over the library, especially just after ten when the doors had opened and students had flooded in. Now, after the punctuation of the horn, or whatever it was, the silence was intensely obvious. 'Where's all the—'
The sound curved back at them but this time came with a piercing undertone, a shearing-metal shriek. Han clamped his hands over his ears and caught another contrail crossing the window. The same rumble under his feet. This wasn't right. Han got up and climbed onto the table. Key pulled her laptop out of the way just in time as he stepped past to peer up and out the window.
Han had long considered himself someone open to the world's possibilities, but even he almost refused to process what he saw through the slender pane of glass. Swung up against the river bank opposite was a ship, a luxury cruiser, tipped over on its side, a series of chaotic gashes ripped down its side. The river had turned coffee brown and churned over itself in a manic roil. The tears in the ship's hull, resembling some near-realised foreign alphabet, seemed like gills on a fish, taking in and sending out the water. Bright white antennae and a satellite dish hung off the ship's roof, swinging by a single cable.
The strange thing was that Han could still see cars whizzing past on the motorway, and a bus making its way across the bridge to the city. It was as if Han was the only person who could see the ship, its component parts flailing vaguely like a creature running slowly out of breath. Before he could tell the others, a black shape came flying through the air directly at the window, curling in with a weird velocity. It hit the window with a ferocious thud and Han's view filled with a mushy jewelled glint that he only realised too late was a pair of jet-black eyes and the squashed remains of a fruit bat.
He swung his head back from the window and felt the table shaking under him. His body tipped back, his stomach lurched, and he tensed for the sharp impact of a bookshelf or chairback but something strong held him up and supported him, 45 degrees to the ground.
'You need to lay off the surf and turf,' said T-Dough, arms straining as he helped Han lower himself to the ground. 'Lose some weight. Although you wouldn't know about the surf, though. Just turf.' He chuckled at his own joke.
Jarrah rose half out of her chair in some important pose of a minor martial art. 'What the hell is that on the window?'
'A . . . a bat.'
'But it's the middle of the day.' Key had her arms wrapped protectively around her laptop.
'The sky's just . . . fucked,' said Han, who couldn't think of a better way to put it. 'And there's this ship that's just been torn open.'
'What?' T-Dough climbed onto the table and pressed his face to the window. 'Can't see shit past this bat.'
'It's so hot,' said Key.
The lights dimmed down and then flickered off.
'This is crazy,' said Jarrah. 'We need to know what's going on.'
'Too right,' said Han, gathering up his things and stuffing them in his backpack.
'What if it's a terrorist attack?' said T-Dough.
'Terrorists can't throw bats through the air,' said Key. 'Internet's gone,' she added, rapping her fingers against the silver back of her laptop.
'They could be filled with chemical weapons.'
Han shook his head. 'I'm going to see what's going on.' He'd felt cooped up all day, and the idea of getting outside, even among suicide-bombing bats and crashing ships was immensely appealing. He slung his backpack over his shoulder for protection, even though it held nothing more than his notebook, a copy of Moby Dick three weeks overdue from the uni library and a long-forgotten muesli bar that had enjoyed the zenith of its freshness about the time of the Sydney Olympics.
'I'll come too,' said Jarrah. 'It's probably just a storm. A tropical storm.' The tone of her voice was too even, as though she was trying to convince herself along with the others.
T-Dough was still at the window. 'A storm that tears open a ship?'
'Doesn't sound right,' agreed Key.
'I'm sure it's not torn open,' said Jarrah. 'It probably just unmoored. It happened in the floods last year.'
'It looked pretty torn up to me,' said Han. He'd still be at home when the floods hit Brisbane the year before. He'd followed it on the news, like everyone else, signed up to be a volunteer through the Rural Fire Service, but they never figured out how to transport everyone all the way there, especially when the water came inland and cut the town off completely. It never reached the houses, just hung around outside the town's edge like a pack of dogs. And he certainly hadn't seen bats flung through the air. He started walking back towards the exit. He didn't see any point hanging around with the old maps. If the apocalypse really was coming, maybe they'd all get a partial credit.
'We'll stay here,' called out T-Dough, 'see if I can get any news on my phone.' He pulled a large flat handset from his pocket.
'Net's down,' said Key. 'I tried my phone, too, already.'
T-Dough looked imperiously at Key's boxy Nokia. 'Of course your phone's down. I'll be able to get something going though. I've made a few modifications to this bad boy. I'll be able to get something up.'
'Suit yourselves,' said Han. 'We'll be back in a sec, once we know what's going on.' He felt a hand slip into his and looked back to see Jarrah matching him stride for stride. Although it was the last thing he should have been thinking of, he realised straight away that Jarrah's hand was the first physical contact he'd had with someone in nearly two months. The last—God, was it the last?—was a rough handshake from his dad just before Han folded himself into his car for the long trip west. The creases in his dad's forehead relaxing for an instant, the white skin between the furrows showing for one tiny moment that betrayed his emotions. It was this Han thought about as he drew his mouth into a grim line and nodded like men do, only breaking into tears once he had driven down the long drive and out of sight, pulling the car to the side of the road so he could lean properly on the wheel, bracing himself, watching his tears making dark starbursts against the faded denim of his one good pair of jeans.
He'd stopped only once on the eight hour drive, pulling up in Marburg to refuel and wolf down a series of awful service station pies. Then it was straight on to the sharehouse he'd already paid a deposit on sight unseen, the first in a series of moments in his new hometown that were severe and intense disappointments. He would have used the phrase crack den after seeing his sharehouse for the first time if the word den didn't suggest the actual ability to withstand light winds and rain. This place was a collection of walls and a ceiling with only the barest resemblance to an actual human dwelling. The photographer who had put together the shots for the real estate website was a true master of forced perspective and selective shadow, and despite it all, Han had to respect his work.
At first, it all seemed a personal affront. Han had never been a popular person at any time in his life—the given name of Hansel Minton had seen to that—but at least he had found people to be, at their base public level, polite. Brisbane, at least the parts he had experienced, was affronted by any sort of genuine attempt warmth. Even the simplest hello seemed to put everyone he'd met at uni on edge, as if you weren't allowed to greet anyone without an ulterior motive. The best he got when he sat next to someone in a lecture was a curt nod. The worst was outright hostility: physically leaning away from him or moving chairs completely. Han knew that when rivers rose and bats flew into windows and ships careened into bridges, people weren't at their most genuine, but he appreciated Jarrah's touch nonetheless.
Han shook himself from his own thoughts. They stood outside the collections room on the landing. The silence remained, broken only by gusts of wind finding their way up from some open area below. Han leaned over the balcony, but the lower levels were obscured by some sort of fog. He could see vague shadows, but they were swathed in the white haze.
Jarrah leaned over next to him. 'What the hell?'
Han shrugged. 'Told you something was up.' Han went over to the lift and pressed the button. No response. 'I guess we take the stairs,' he said, pushing open the emergency exit with his shoulder, bracing for the warning alarm that never came. The stairwell was almost pitch black.
'I left my phone back in the room with my bag,' said Jarrah. 'You got yours?'
'Ah, yeah.' Han pulled his phone reluctantly from his pocket, wishing already that he'd remembered to charge it that morning. He'd kept it out of sight before, as it was even older and daggier than Key's. His dad had given it to him after one of the seasonal workers left it behind. Probably deliberately. It was the sort of hopelessly inefficient device you would gladly abandon in a far-flung town in Western Queensland like a witness to a crime you couldn't quite bring yourself to kill. It lit the way in front of them in a weak blue. Their footsteps echoed in a horror-movie way, and Han thought he could hear water dripping.
'We'll go back in a second, right?' said Jarrah.
'If you want to go back up, I can try and find someone and come back and get you.'
Jarrah's grip tightened around his hand. 'I'm staying with you until we work out what's going on.'
They edged down the steps together until they came to the outline of a door. Han's phone made out the outline of an exit sign. 'Here we go.' He shouldered the door and pressed against it. He could tell it was open, but it was held back somehow. He pressed again, harder, and heard the sound of something tearing, a strangely delicate and multifaceted noise. The door eventually gave way, diffuse light flooding in. Han stepped forward and suddenly something stuck to him, thousands of strands of a material at once familiar and horrifying. The silky thick material found its way into his mouth and eyes as he flailed around chaotically like every human who has ever walked through a spiderweb. Han had walked into his fair share in his time, but nothing like this. His mind raced instantly to fangs and hairy legs scuttling towards him: the primal insane arachnid fear of any sane person. But somehow no legs crawled across him, no poison was injected into his veins. Instead, he felt Jarrah's hands tearing the webs off him.
When he was free of the worst of it, Han got a chance to take in the view. They were one level down: more bookshelves in long columns behind glass, a boardroom away to their left. Tiny alcoves for study were cut away from the wall. At first Han thought that he still had webs stuck around his eyes, but then he realised the webs were just everywhere. The walls were covered in them, fractal shapes that played out and along the open air as his eyes followed their lines. What he'd thought was mist was in fact long strands of webs strung across the balconies. It seemed the same all the way down to the ground. As his eyes adjusted, he saw other shapes, darker shapes that moved. Thousands of spiders, each twitching and revolving with every trembling wind that shook the strands of their webs.
'Fuck,' Han and Jarrah said, almost simultaneously.
Han made for the exit, but Jarrah grabbed his wrist and pointed back down the hall. An orange light, bobbing like a lifebuoy through the spider's mist, was growing slowly closer. Han stepped in front of Jarrah and backed her towards the wall, flicking his eyes back to check for spiders. There was the sound of dripping water again. Footsteps now, the sticky sound of wet shoes.
The figure emerged and Han almost laughed at the ridiculousness of it. A woman—or it seemed to be a woman—in bright yellow dungarees and black gumboots, with a small child in a blue coat riding on her shoulders. The woman had a slim black torch in one hand, and a large Macquarie Thesaurus in the other. Water dripped from the lower half of her body. 'Are you okay?' she called to them.
'I guess so,' Han called back. 'What the hell's going on?'
The woman came closer, and Han could see she was young, only mid-twenties at best, wearing aviator goggles, the sort they wore in WWII. Her face with speckled with mud and something else that Han hoped wasn't blood. Even more strange was the little girl, whose coat was a couple of sizes too big, pockets distended. Her face didn't betray an ounce of fear, rather an avid interest in everything going on around her. The woman leaned over and the girl hopped off her shoulders. 'Something's happened,' said the woman.
'No shit,' said Jarrah. 'You know what tipped me off? The fucking spiders everywhere.'
The woman nodded. 'I'm Sammi,' she said. 'I'm the head librarian. I know this is a little strange, but it's new to me as well.'
'You're the head librarian?' Jarrah assessed her outfit with a critical eye. 'Aren't head librarians supposed to have buns and wear colourful scarves, that sort of thing?'
'Maybe,' said Sammi. Her tone was unhurried, but she suddenly swooped down to her left, twisting her body and bringing down the thesaurus with a whomp against the floor. Something sticky came off when she lifted it up. She wiped the book against her leg, a few spider legs left behind in a brown smear. 'But I've recently had a rapid ascendency up the corporate ladder.'
'What's . . . what's happening?' said Han, who felt like he'd asked the same questions twenty times.
Sammi removed her goggles. 'We're not quite sure,' she said. 'We think it's tied into the sandstorms somehow. And the rain. The river just came up. Downstairs is completely under. Lucky I was in the museum when the alarm went up. Artifacts of Arctic Explorers and Heroes of Aviation. Go together pretty well I reckon.' She gestured to her outfit like a gameshow host.
'I'm Emily,' said the little girl to Han. 'What's your name?'
'I'm Han. This is Jarrah.'
'Hananjarra,' said Charlie. 'Hananjarrahananjarra.'
Han was too confused to try and work out where the little girl fitted into all this. 'We were studying upstairs,' he said. 'We didn't even notice.'
'Upstairs? Where upstairs?'
'The room with all the . . . messy books, whatever it is.'
'I guess so.'
'Well you really can't go up there to study.'
'Tell me about it. The world can go to shit and we don't even realise.'
'We had staff evacuate people, but it came up so fast. The alarm doesn't even register up there, I don't think. It's pretty much storage. Are there any more of you?'
'Two more,' said Han.
'Alright,' said Sammi. 'We'll head up. We can get onto the roof from there and wait for help.'
'Wait,' said Jarrah. 'We can't get out?'
'Not downstairs we can't. It's all underwater. The army's coming in when they can. We're going to have to get helicoptered off the roof.'
'Wait,' said Han. 'I'm confused. I saw out the window. There were cars going around, buses on the bridge.'
'They've told people to get out of the city if they can,' said Sammi. 'They say they can't predict where or why the water's rising. If you saw anyone, it's people getting out.'
'But why did I see a bus going into the city, then?'
Sammi shook her head. 'I haven't got a clue.'
'I'm a clue!' shouted Emily.
'What's that?' said Sammi.
'I'm a clue! My mum told me. And the lady from the radio! I get to stay in the library all morning and get as many milkshakes as I like!'
'The radio?' Jarrah's features drew inward.
'Look!' Emily reached into her pockets and pulled out from one a slim paperback with the State Library logo emblazoned across it and the other a bag of coffee beans. 'The book means the library and the coffee means the coffee shop!'
'Brightman and The Ferret,' said Han.
'What now?' said Sammi.
'Brightman and The Ferret!' sang Emily, expertly aping the awful opening sting to the radio show.
'You're the missing kid,' said Han. 'T-Dough will be so happy.'
'T-Dough?' Jarrah laughed. 'What an excellent name. And he won't get the prize if we call into the station first.'
'Fifty grand could come in handy.' Han saw a proper place to live, maybe a business card with his name on it. Book Trolley Operator.
'The competition might have an environmental disaster escape clause, though,' said Jarrah.
'Either way. As long as we beat T-Dough.'
The rain had cleared, but the sky was still veined with contrails. They came out near the overhang of an exhaust fan, a collection of carpet samples they'd found in a storage cupboard laid out flat to signal any potential rescuers. Despite his confidence about his phone, T-Dough hadn't managed to get any signal. Sammi filled them all in on what she knew, which was scarce. Sand dunes were moving out west, floodwaters rising with no rhyme or reason all over the city and maybe the state. Something had happened to set it in motion. The ground around them was littered with bats and birds and other creatures, sent off-course by some malfunction to their internal guidance systems or whatever it was that kept them from careening straight into the ground.
T-Dough continued to fiddle with his phone, unaware that the key to his precious genre-busting radio promotion was only a few feet away from him, playing a complex version of hopscotch with Key, her blue coat flapping out in the breeze. Sammi stood at the edge of the roof, her eyes on the horizon to the south, waiting for the helicopter she was sure was coming from the airforce base at Amberley to save them. Han and Jarrah sat on the opposite edge, side by side, watching the city.
'I sat next to you a bunch of times in the lecture,' Jarrah said. 'I'm not sure you noticed.'
'I guess I didn't. I'm very devoted to my study, as you know. The whole world can end and I won't even notice.'
Jarrah grinned. 'Anyway, if you want to sit beside me any time and be devoted to your study, that'd be fine.'
'I'll see what I can manage.'
The sun broke through a scar in the cloud and lit up the river below them, and the sleek corpse of the overturned boat. The water reached up nearly to the city bypass now, turning as it did with its strange cyclical roll. Instead of its usual lazy drifting current, it came towards the library, in waves, the tips turning to a golden froth as they crested and crashed against the side of the building. An ocean of sorts.
The wind through the ship's hull made a strange music as it travelled across the water and under the bridge. It came to rest at the tips of submerged street lights, a crooked fence to end its song.