Exxopolis & Street Reads
Monday 8th September
Pizza because of Japan
I caught the bus to work, then the bus home again.
After catching the bus home, I drove back into town and to Bronwen’s parents’ place—who were leaving for Japan early in the morning—and stayed the night. We had fancy pizza for dinner, from Kookaburra Café.
Tuesday 9th September
Sleepy because of Japan
I got up, very early, and drove to the airport with Bronwen’s parents’. I tried having a snooze when I got back to their place, but didn’t really manage to sleep.
I caught the bus into work—which is only ten minutes quicker than my usual bus, despite being much closer—and got an iced coffee to recover from my tiredness.
I caught the bus back to Bronwen’s parents’ place—who were now on their way to Japan—and Bronwen and I had pizza for dinner again—un-fancy Dominos pizza this time—before driving home and going to bed, quite tired.
Wednesday 10th September
I caught the bus to work, and the bus home again. Nothing worth mentioning happened.
Thursday 11th September
Today was a normal day. I caught the bus to work. I caught the bus home again. I went to bed.
Friday 12th September
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I drove Bronwen, her bike, and myself to the Chinatown car park, arriving not long before nine. I’d taken my camera, as I thought I might want it tonight—but in doing so, I’d forgot to take my laptop. As I use my laptop for work, there wasn’t any point going to work without it, so I had to drive home and get it. Unfortunately early bird parking ends at half past nine, so I had to drive home, get my laptop, and get back to Chinatown car park, in half an hour. I didn’t think it was actually possible—but I managed to get back into the car park at 9:26—and that was even with an accident on the expressway blocking it up. Luckily I didn’t meet any police on the way.
I went to “Knock Off – Free Comedy at the Powerhouse” all by myself, because Bronwen was busy at the pub saying goodbye to workmates who were leaving. After I drove to South Bank, miraculously finding a car park right outside Cineplex Cinemas, and bought two tickets to “3D Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Then, because Bronwen was still busy, I wandered around South Bank, eventually buying some hot chips, smothering them in tomato sauce and vinegar, and eating them for dinner.
The movie was not good—as expected, though a few people had recommended it to me, so I was wondering if perhaps it would be good after all. However, it was not—but it was still enjoyable—lots of 3D action and what not.
Saturday 13th September
The Exxopolis Luminarium
I slept in, then drove to South Bank. It was nearly three o’clock by the time I got there. Bronwen and I paid $16 each to go in the Exxopolis Luminarium at 4:30 (that being the first free time). People who book online get a special priority queue (and save $2) but, I think because I had a professional looking camera, the entrance-ticket-man let Bronwen and I go in first, so we got to have a few minutes wandering around before everyone else turned up. We were doubtful about whether it would be worth the cost ($16 seems like a lot to pay for a twenty minute walk through a tent…) but it turned out to be quite unique. As their website says, “This monumental and interactive walk-in inflatable sculpture, which comes to nearly 1000m², has astounded audiences around the world.
Exxopolis offers a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where Islamic architecture, natural geometry and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument. It pays homage to the beauty of light and colour, where visitors can happily lose themselves.
The installation awakens all the senses, creating a sense of wonder and enchantment that is suitable for all ages.
Prepare to be transported and immersed into an amazing world of light and subtle saturated hues, for a unique sensory experience you will never forget.”
Rise of the Roaches
After Exxopolis we walked to the city, and did a real-life “choose your own adventure”.
Brisbane is about to be over-run with mutant brain-eating cockroaches, and you’re at Ground Zero. Can you rally the defence of the city? Can you derail the nefarious plans of the shadowy consortium behind the invasion?
Reddacliff Place is always bustling. Buses rumble behind you, Victoria Bridge nearby leads to South Bank, Queen St Mall is just across George St, and the Council Building and City Library rise up all primary colours before you. There are so many cafes around you that you wish you had time for a coffee, or a cake. Someone’s playing tin drums. And the wind hurls snatches of conversation your way. It smells, ever so slightly of spice, Spring, and excitement. People are everywhere, so many people!
As you turn to take in the spectacle of the Treasury Casino, you think you hear something odd, something a little out of tune with this bustling, bubbling place. You stop, listen. Then you catch something out of the corner of your eye.
A) See the clean lines of Reddacliff Place start to pixelate and glitch? You are being uploaded into the Nexus Brisbane City Simulation. Walk over to the bin closest to orange block of the Brisbane Square Library, turn to face the four coloured Library cubes, and prepare for digital avatar calibration. (TD1)
B) Hear the spine-chilling sound of fluttering insect wings? You’re about to be thrust into a city infested and under siege. Follow the sound to the golden sphere sculpture at the top of the Queen Street Mall. (GK1)
C) See a treasure map fluttering in the wind? Then you’re a pirate captain, ready to race across the notorious, Brisbane, to acquire a crew and outfit a ship before you set sail for gold and glory. Turn your prow towards the oversized cannonball and bin nearest to the yellow library block and ready yourself for adventure. (JM1)
Brisbane is teeming with people, enjoying the sights. Tourists and locals alike window shop or enjoy a bite to eat. The sound of steel drums carries over the hubbub of friends chatting.
From the golden sculpture you hear a scuttling sound, like paper on paper. You edge closer and see what you think are two thin strands of brown grass, about a metre long. But why would grass be growing in a sculpture, and why are they waving back and forth?
You edge closer and see two gleaming eyes, staring back at you. What the? The brown things aren’t grass, they’re antennae. You jump back and look around. People are waiting to cross the road, staring at their phones. You blink. What you saw was insanity.
The pedestrian crossing starts blipping but your attention is brought back to the thing. It’s emerging. It’s big – about the size of a dog. Brown. You know what it is, you see them scuttling across the kitchen floor all through summer, but your mind refuses to believe.
The giant cockroach launches itself from the sculpture, latching onto a shabbily dressed man, running up his legs and onto his back. He yells and finally people see it. Some scream. Others just stare in disbelief. The smart ones run.
You’re about to step forward to help the man when a hand drops onto your shoulder. You turn and see a woman, mid-30s, dressed in smart business attire.
“He’s as good as dead,” she says. “But you can save millions, if you help me. Come with me to City Hall.”
The man is jerking around, wrestling the bug. He runs away from the golden sculpture, and ducks down Burnett Lane.
One: Agree to help her? Walk along George Street towards City Hall, then right onto Adelaide Street, looking for the bins at the back of City Hall. (GK2)
Two: Shake her off to save the man with the roach on his back? Follow him to Burnett Lane and stop in front of the artwork and the image of the tree. (GK3)
You’re gasping for breath by the time you stop at the back of City Hall.
The woman turns to you and offers her hand. “I’m Penny Walter, freelance investigative reporter.”
You shake it. Around you, most people seem unaware of what has just happened. Some are staring at their phones, but that’s nothing new. In the distance you hear screams, sirens and, far off, the beat of helicopter blades.
“I’ve been chasing this story up the coast,” she says. “Melbourne, Sydney, now Brisbane. There’s been sightings in each city.”
“Sightings of what?” you say, not wanting to believe what you just witnessed.
“They look like cockroaches. But they’re hybrids. Cooked up in a lab somewhere, probably. Part roach, part fly, part chameleon, with an extra serving of bad attitude.”
The reporter shrugs. “Not sure if it’s deliberate or if they’ve just spread. You know what cockroaches are like – let them get a foothold and, pfft, game over. Look, I need your help. I dropped my phone and now the damned thing isn’t working .
“We need to catalogue any place these bugs are hiding, or likely to be hiding. I’m not talking about bins or dirty, scummy city corners – these aren’t ordinary cockroaches. They’re a different breed that don’t like dirty. These super-roaches like interesting hidey-holes and alleyways, with textures and patterns that accentuate their ability to cloak themselves like a chameleon
“If you see possible roach hiding places, or see anything that could be a super-bug in camouflage mode, take a photo and upload it to social media using the tags #streetreads14 and #mutantroach. I’ve got a colleague monitoring the feed, collating the data so we can make sure no-one covers this up. I’m expecting the authorities to shut down the phone network any moment, so don’t wait, upload as soon as you take each photo.”
She hands you her backpack. “Hang onto this for me.”
“Where are you going?”
“My contact said she’d meet me in the basement of City Hall. I won’t be long.”
Penny scoots down the alleyway behind City Hall and disappears. You think of running. But you don’t want to leave her bag unattended, that would be rude. You frantically scour the sides of the building, looking for any signs of the roaches. It feels as though storm clouds are gathering, ready to unleash hell on the city.
A few minutes later Penny emerges, brandishing a sheaf of papers. “My source bugged out. Pun intended. But she left these.”
She shows you the papers, covered in words, diagrams, and photos of giant roaches in a laboratory. You flick through the pages. Each page is stamped with a logo: a big black bird on a white background.
“This evidence is mad! A military contractor called Blackwing bred these things in a secret lab in South Australia – at Woomera. A rogue scientist smuggled eggs out of the lab. He wanted to see how they would perform in a real-world environment. He planted them in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. My contact is another scientist – she wanted to stop him, but she was too late.”
From the direction of Reddacliff Place you hear more screams, and gunfire.
“The mission has changed. We still need to catalogue evidence of the super-roaches, but we also need to get these documents out of the city and into the right hands.”
You flip the page. There’s a photo of a strange, amorphous blob attached to a ceiling. Bio-suited scientists gather underneath it. “Whoa,” you say. “I’ve seen one of these.”
Penny leans over your shoulder. “It’s a hatcher. It incubates the roach eggs and spits out nymphs – baby bugs.”
The reporter takes the documents off you and stuffs them into her bag.
A swarm of bugs appears around the side of the buildings on George Street. They hover in the air. Some people run, some stand transfixed. A driver in a BMW rear-ends a council bus.
“We’ll have to leave it. The most important thing right now is collecting evidence and getting these documents out of the city,” she says.
“But it’s practically on our way – it’s under the Turbot Street overpass.”
The reporter shrugs. “I suppose… Give me options.”
You don’t want to run under the swarm of cockroaches so you say, “If you want to get out of the city right now, we should head for Kurilpa Bridge. But if we want to get some photos of the bug-hatcher, we can go to the Turbot Street overpass.”
“It’s your call,” Penny says.
One: Decide to go for Kurilpa Bridge? Go past the café towards the post office, then along George Street to Tank Street and the bin just before you reach the Santos Building. (GK4)
Two: Try to get photos of the bug-hatcher? Head down Adelaide Street, across King George Square and up Roma Street to the Turbot Street overpass. (GK7)
You pause for breath in the shade of the overpass. Overhead you hear the angry beeps of cars choking the road out of the city. You look up at the strange sculpture hanging above your heads.
“There it is,” you say, pointing to the sculpture.
“Sheesh,” Penny says. “It really is. Quick – take photos, post them with the tag #streetreads14 and #mutantroach. My colleagues need to know someone is intentionally breeding these monsters.”
She puts down her bag and pulls out the documents, comparing the sculpture to the photo. Hundreds of people are streaming past, heading out of the city centre any way they can. Further down the road, a military Bushmaster four-wheel-drive is trying to bully its way through the traffic. The heavy machine gunner on the roof swivels in his turret, letting loose some rounds at a flying bug. He misses.
You get closer to the sculpture, taking photos from various angles. Above the din, you hear a metallic rattling noise. At first you think it’s coming from the road above your head. You turn. Penny is on her knees, scanning the text under the photo.
“You don’t want to get too close to that thing,” she says.
Movement catches your eye. You look up at the sculpture. There’s another rattling noise, and this time there’s no mistake about where it’s coming from.
“B-b-bb,” you stutter, “BUGS!”
The reporter looks up as bugs stream out of the sculpture. These are smaller than the ones you saw earlier, but no less aggressive. They swarm Penny, who tries to get the documents back in her pack. Bugs cover her back, their proboscises searching for flesh, making the fabric of her jacket smoulder wherever they touch.
You try to swat them off. She drops and rolls. You hear a sickening crunch and when she gets back on her feet dozens of dead bugs drop to the ground. More stagger away, and you crunch them under your shoe.
The Bushmaster has seen the commotion, and drives onto the footpath, sending terrified citizens scattering. A machine gun opens fire, rounds droning above your head. Soldiers pour out of the vehicle, using other cars for cover.
The baby roaches, seemingly drawn by the noise, converge on the soldiers. The troops retaliate but while their aim is good, the rounds seem to do little. Then the bugs disappear, turning from a cloud of brown into a virtually invisible shimmering in the air.
Penny screams and collapses. Blood pulses between the fingers she holds to her leg. You look around frantically for a bug, then realise she’s been shot.
You rummage in her bag, find an old cardigan, and use it to bandage the wound. But before you’re done it’s soaked red. And while you can’t see anymore roaches, you can still hear them buzzing through the air, hunting for victims. You try to make as little noise as possible, hoping they’ll be attracted by the whine of the guns and cry of the soldiers.
“Leave me,” she says. “Get the info out of the city.”
You look up and down Roma Street. The sky above the CBD is thick with flying roaches. And those are just the ones you can see.
“I’m not getting out of the city with that swarm,” you whisper. “Look, there’s a Dental Hospital on Turbot Street. It doesn’t look too bad, they might be able to fix you up.”
Penny closes her eyes. “Right, you can’t get out of the city now. So you need somewhere to lie low instead.”
“It’s been nagging me since I got here. Something I read years ago. There’s some golden statues somewhere in Brisbane, right?”
“Yeah. 348 Edward Street.”
“One of them isn’t a statue. It’s an access point.”
“Access to what?”
“During World War Two there was a bunker under there. They decommissioned it after the war, but the theory was, the Queensland Government would use it in the event of nuclear war.”
“Which statue is it?”
“I don’t know. But you’ll probably find one has a handle or a lock or something.”
You stare down at Penny who is sitting in a rapidly growing pool of blood, then around you. “I’ll have to go past the Dental Hospital anyway. We can both go.”
She shakes her head. “I’ll slow you down. Take the documents. Get into that bunker and wait until the cavalry arrives.”
One: Stand firm and insist on saving Penny? Cross the road, go up the flight of stairs onto Turbot Street and continue until you reach the bin near the City Dental Hospital. (GK9)
Two: Decide Penny is right, and you’ve got more chance of success by yourself? Then cross the road, go up the flight of stairs onto Turbot Street, and continue until you see the golden statues on the right, at 348 Edward St. (GK10)
You assess the dental hospital from the outside. Around you, the streets are filled with the sounds of a city dying. The sound of machine gun fire, screams, car alarms, and police sirens wash over you. It’s an old building, but it looks solid. Things don’t get to be old unless they’re solid. Its architecture speaks of simpler times, when mad scientists weren’t able to unleash giant cockroaches on the world. One thing‘s for certain it will be safer inside than out.
Penny’s pale face is covered with sweat following the walk up Turbot Street; her leg slick with blood. You help her hobble up the front steps, head swivelling back and forth, looking for flying roaches. There are plenty in the sky and on the sides of the buildings around you, none near you.
You push through the front doors, then lock them behind you.
After the cacophony outside, this place is deathly silent. Just your rasping breath, and the plop, plop, plop of blood dripping onto the lino floor.
You cross the waiting room. Magazines lie strewn across the floor. Someone left their handbag behind during the evacuation and, while you’re standing there, the phone inside it starts ringing.
You ease Penny down into a chair
“Hello?” you say.
The phone is still ringing. You riffle through the bag and answer it. “Hello?”
“No. I’m sorry. She left her bag behind.”
“Is she there, at the Dental Hospital?”
“No. Just her phone.”
“Oh, thank God. Thank God.”
The voice falls silent, breath wheezing. “I can see it on the TV. I’m sorry…”
You’re about to ask why she should be feeling sorry for you – you’re safe, after all – when you hear a thump against the front door. You look out the windows. A second roach joins the first, and then a third, and then they’re hitting the door and windows so fast you can’t even count them anymore. Within seconds, the doors and windows are covered in bugs, so thick it blocks out the light.
Penny’s eyes widen. “Quick! Before it’s too late! Upload your photos to social media. Don’t forget the #streetreads14 and #mutantroach tags.”
You frantically upload your photos.
“Please,” you silently beg, “Let someone figure this mess out and get us out of here.”
But that’s all you have time to do before the windows cave in and roaches surge into the room.
You arrive at the golden statues outside 348 Edward St, still cursing yourself for leaving Penny behind. She was putting on a brave face, back pressed against a concrete pylon, steel bar in her hands. There was still a tide of people washing out of the city, but none would stop to help you.
Behind the statues there’s an old concrete platform. Behind that, is a park and massive red staircase. You don’t look at it long, the blood red reminds you of Penny.
You hear gunshots, followed by a massive explosion that you feel as much as hear. Whatever’s going on, there’s nothing you can do. You turn your attention to the statues investigating each. One of them has a secret entrance.
From the park you hear screams, someone calling for help. You look up to see survivors running across the park. At first you can’t tell what they’re running from. Then one of the roaches clips a tree and momentarily loses its camouflage. They’re heading your way.
You scour the statues for something that looks like a door handle. The people reach the stairway, then barrel past.
“There’s a bunker under here, help me get in,” you scream.
Most of them ignore you and continue towards the city. But a man stops. He dressed in jeans and a tatty ‘They Might Be Giants’ t-shirt and clutching a steel post.
“Look for a handle, or a lock,” you say.
The bugs are on you. You can hear them, swooping, even though you can’t see them. The guy grabs tries to swipe them away. You get on your hands and knees and see a padlock, down low on the cube-shaped statue.
“I need your bar!”
“Kind of busy.” But he hands it to you. He rocks back, face shimmering. He looks like he’s doing really bad mime. Then the roach hisses and drops its cloak. He’s got it by the throat. He spins around and lobs it towards the road. He picks up a branch dropped by his fleeing companions and backs towards you, swinging it back and forth.
You slam the steel bar against the padlock. It bounces off. You try again, and again. Sparks fly. You jam the bar down into the padlock’s hasp and twist, and the padlock pops open. Yanking it off and you press your fingers into the gap and pull.
The door squeals open. “In here!”
The guy turns and follows you into darkness. The bugs dive for the doorway and as the guy swings the door shut, it closes on one of the bugs. It hisses at him, trying to scramble through the gap. You add your weight and pull, cutting the bug in two.
You both slump against the door, panting. Through the door you can hear the roaches still scratching, trying to find a way in.
You take out your phone and use its light to examine the door.
There’s a handle. You twist it up and down. Nothing happens. Shining your phone in the other direction, you illuminate a spiral staircase descending into the darkness.
You are safe. But trapped.
Thinking of Penny, you upload your photos to social media, tagging them #streetreads14 and #mutantroach. Maybe this colleague of hers will be able to find you, once the heat dies down. Maybe you’ll win a prize for blowing the lid off the story of the century.
After that, we drove to West End, had a wander around, and I ate cheap (and not very good, I must say) curry while Bronwen had a felafel roll.