Nope. Just Nope.

Zoe was feeling weirdly invigorated by her impending blind date. Those she told looked at her strangely, like the top of her head had popped off and her brain was exposed, all mouldy, squishy and nakey.

‘Fuck ’em’ she thought.

Zoe hadn’t been on a proper date date in some time. She had only dumped her ex a few months back and was now ready to, as they somewhat garishly say, mingle.

She had met Joseph on the Facebooks. He was pretty funny, he did interesting stuff and she had it on good authority that he wasn’t a dolphin serial killer. He wasn’t too hard on the old peepers either. So she was pretty happy when he dropped her a PM asking her out on a date.

‘What do you have in mind?’ Zoe asked.

‘Let me surprise you, I like to make a great first impression’. Yeah OK, so that was a little wanky but Zoe thought ‘what the heck’, he seemed pretty rad otherwise.

Numbers were exchanged, a meeting place decided upon. They’d both seen each other’s images on Facebook but decided, rather cheesily many thought, to identify each other with a red carnation attached to their persons.

They met at a riverside bar and spent an hour bonding over their love of cats and Japanese beers. He smelt like fresh apples. They were both cycling nerds too; it was all a bit pathetically sweet.

Zoe felt safe and a little floaty. Joseph (‘call me Jo’) said that they would walk to a location where she would then be blindfolded. The safe, floaty feeling dissipated. ‘I know how that sounds, really do. Please trust me, I swear you’ll be safe, everyone knows we’re out together but there is a cool surprise coming up and it won’t be the same if you walk into it eyes open’.

‘Well I’d feel more comfortable if I could just cover my eyes with my hands’.

‘You promise not to peek?’.

‘You’ll just have to trust me on that one’ she replied.

That settled, they headed away from the city centre. ‘Call me Jo’ led her down flights of stairs, through creaky gates and into somewhere cold and damp. All the while he reassured Zoe that she was safe and was going to really love the surprise, which only made her more nervous.

Zoe wasn’t sure whether to feel safer or more scared when she heard other voices. Many were laughing but it was kinda freaky to hear that and not see why.

Finally Jo said ‘We’re here Zoe. Shields down’.

As Zoe lifted her hands from her eyes she realised that her feeling of doom was pertinent. They were in a tunnel. Possibly an abandoned railway one. On the wall was a makeshift screen. Everyone in the room, except Zoe and Jo, were dressed as clowns. The vomit started to rise in Zoe’s throat as she recognised her worst-case scenario.

‘We’re here to see IT, isn’t it a hoot?’ ‘Call me Jo said.

‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ Zoe replied.

‘Why, what’s wrong?’.

Zoe’s voice had risen along with a feeling of being trapped and about to die.


The room fell silent. A clown who had been setting up the projector approached Zoe and Jo.

‘Look, we understand that not all people are OK with our lifestyle’ it said softly, sounding a little hurt. ‘We just want to bring some joy into peoples’ lives’.

Zoe looked at it in the eye. She could feel fear and disgust rising in her throat. She knew she couldn’t hold it back any more. The vomit came rising up through her esophagus, in a ferocious arc out of her mouth. It hit the clown on the face. But she wasn’t done. She turned to Call Me Jo and, aiming at his feet, destroyed the limited edition Converse that he had told her were his pride and joy.

By this time everyone was staring.

Zoe wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and said in a steady voice ‘I’m going home. People know who I’m with so if any of you try anything you’ll regret the shit out of it. Now how do I get out of this shithole?’.

The projector clown, now dripping in bile and carrots pointed to the stairs they had just come down.

Zoe walked, head held high, up each one, as fast as she could go without letting her fear make her look like a coward. Once she was out she got her bearings, ordered an Uber and ran toward St Kilda Road. The driver gave a bit of a sniff as she got in. No five star rating for Zoe tonight.

On the ride back she went on Facebook to delete Jo and was confronted by images of a girl vomiting all over a cowering clown.

‘I guess that’s one way to confront your fears’ she said to herself.


The Zoo

I was going through a tunnel as the news came in. Someone had broken into the Zoo and let out the more dangerous animals: snakes, tigers, bears, oh my. It had been reported that the persons who did it then popped on the 55, yelling ‘Allah is great’ out the windows. They always report that. It’s very rarely true. Humans – not the sharpest.

Upon exiting said tunnel, everyone’s phones were pinging. Mine was the exception. No one cared. But, at least I could check Facebook, and that’s how I saw the news. The zoo is a couple of hundreds of metres from my house, which I was presently headed away from. I love the Zoo. Every few years they’ll come up with a new idea on how to make the animals’ lives more comfortable in a world where they have less and less land to hang out in. Anyways, I digress.

I was on my way to a TV studio to watch some political satire being filmed. Now I wondered – would they let us in? Would they need some time to rewrite a segment? Basically I wondered what the shit would happen and how I would get home considering everyone in my train carriage was now freaking the shit out even though we were A) on the wrong side of the river and B) on a train. Thankfully my pal Coconut was at the station waiting for me. Anticipating her first question I uttered ‘No it wasn’t me. I’m no vigilante vegetarian. But thank you for thinking I could’. For years I’d been wondering what would happen if the animals broke lose (discounting the whole fact that it would be pretty bad – they would get hurt, the zookeepers would be upset etc.) and staged a revolution. Now it was happening. Kinda.

‘Do you reckon they’ll still let us in?’ Coconut asked.

‘Yeah, I don’t know. Mayyyybe?’ I replied.

‘I guess we can just turn up and see’ she offered.

‘Totes, let’s go’.

Outside of the studio… Well, when I say outside I mainly mean the grass out the front… was covered in people. The station’s gate was closed and a few armed guards stood there. ‘Holy shitballs’ said Coconut. And I concurred. Obviously they weren’t letting anyone in. The proverbial crowd had gathered. Apparently the PM was actually inside and been doing an interview for a current affairs program as the zoo drama unfolded. Now they were shielding him. Not sure whether he was being shielded from us or the tigers and lions now roaming the streets, but it looked an expensive venture. I really wanted to yell out ‘Throw him to the lions’ but being arrested for sedition isn’t really my thing; he wasn’t worth it for a start.

It was now that the ‘Should wes?’ began. Could be fucked if I knew what we should do. The trains might be calm due to the predictable nature of humans freaking out. Or they could be delayed with everyone trying to get south, where we were, at once. I just really wanted to go home myself, crack open a beer and watch was going on in my jammies with the cat. There had to be a live stream surely? It was soon revealed to me that this was the same thinking Coconut had, but replacing beer for wine and cat for partner. Question was – could we get back over the river? We agreed to give it a shot. Traffic would clearly be mental so we decided to stick with good old PT.

The train station was the opposite of how I left it; empty and strangely eerie. I guess that happens when there’s just concrete, bright lights and wind. We were the only ones on the platform. A heavily auto-tuned voice cut the silence; ‘Due to delays on the Sandringham line, the 5.40 train to Sandringham will now arrive at 6.20. We apologise for the delay, thank you for travelling with Metro’. Fine, we weren’t headed to Sandringham. It seemed too easy when, with a roar and a rush, an empty train city-bound pulled up next to us. The state government had recently automated the service, replacing the human drivers with robots. It meant transport could run 24-7 and that human emotions weren’t involved, lest someone walk in front of the vehicle and traumatise the driver. Sure it was efficient, if not a little gross. The first people to take advantage of what the government called ‘trauma free accidents’ was a group of laid off train drivers, who stood en mass in front of a peak hour train in order to prove the inhumanity of it all. They were entirely right – many had lost everything, but now they were dead. They had proved their point though.

As we got on the train my phone started going off. Someone, besides Coconut, did actually care. It was my big sister. She had a big arsed car and was not afraid to traverse whatever madness facing us in the city to come get Coconut and me after which she would deliver us to the relative safety of our homes. Apparently the CBD had shut down buuuut if we got off at Richmond she could meet us there. That she was also carrying a slab of beer in the boot made it a viable option. We didn’t talk on the way in; checking news online and from anyone we knew who might be affected. Everyone seemed fine, although parts of Parkville (the next suburb over from me) had been evacuated to a big, apparently lion secure hall at the uni by the police. I wondered how my nephew Hank was dealing with it all. I hoped, as a small child, he thought it was a big adventure rather than being scared by the Police and emergency service workers (he had a thing about humans in uniforms – they freaked him out). He lived very close to the Zoo.

I wondered if I should feel more scared, myself, rather than excited. What if the cat had got out and taken on one of the larger felines? I wouldn’t put it past her. Seeing my sister calmed me the fuck back down. She’s one of those very competent, determined people where the only thing that really bothers her is other people who are shit. And even then she keeps those feelings under control unless at the pub where we can all bitch freely about the state of all of the things. Either way she was the only member of my family, besides my favourite uncle, who calmed me with her presence.

We got in the car and headed north, checking online to see what was happening. After giving me a beer (best sis ever) my sister chided me for my bad timing; ‘Surely you coulda picked another day to cross the river ya dick?’.

‘I just wanted to spend time with you. And here we are’. She LOLd.

The streets were, like the train stations, bereft of people going north. The lanes headed south looked like a disaster. We knew from the internets that people had been warned against travel north-west. But as a big city even after a couple of hours, our friends from the Zoo would hardly have made it that far. If I’d been in a nice, cosy environment where people fed and watered me and was then unleashed into humanity I’d find somewhere to hide and sleep it out until my friendly zoo keepers found me again. Humans? No thanks.

Weirdly it was now coming out that those who did unleash the animals were an animal rights group. I was suspicious of this – being a friend to our furry (and non etc.) creatures I would never put an animal in the face of danger. And for most animals that danger came from humans. Although I did know some pretty militant activist type people and, having gone to a meeting or two, had decided such (or any really) groups were really not for me. They seemed cultish and weird. So maybe it wasn’t such a strange idea. At least it was more original than someone blaming our much set upon Muslim community.

We were travelling pretty steadily but surely through back streets to avoid any police barricades. Were they out there? Facebook totes said so. I really wanted to be home, to be with my feline loved one and get an early night, hoping the other animals didn’t break through my apartment’s flimsy glass (well not flimsy so much as not up to zoo standard) and eat my cat as I slept. They probs wouldn’t eat me since I mostly consist of vegetable matter. OBVIOUSLY.

It took us about two hours to get to Coconut’s. Her partner had been monitoring our progress via text and let us know things their way were pretty quiet. She got out and ran up the stairs, probs most relieved to see her loo again. I totally had to pee too but was pushing it back up so we could get to mine soon as. Thankfully it only took us another half hour, by which time I was fit to burst. I let my sister use the facilities and went in the mop bucket myself. Needs must dude.

My feline overlord was pleased to see me because I represented food. And probs ‘cause she really really loves me deep down inside yeah? Anyways.

It kinda hit me how warm it was. The sun wouldn’t be going down for a while so I was hoping that maybe if one of the lions tigers, or dear gawd my favourite, the snow leopard made it into the court yard I could observe them in their unnatural habitat. Sure, like I said, probably should’ve been more scared. But I wasn’t. I was curious and a little excited. Or, as my sister so lovingly put it ‘a dickhead’. Well this dickhead was going to put her jammies on. Having lent some to my sister we decided to pour some of the beer into a jug and pretend we were down at my local. But with the telly and fans on you understand.

We were well into our second jug when there was a foghorn-like sound. I was thinking I must be kinda drunk as most days you can hear the train horns so that’s probs what it was. But no. Next came a human voice. ‘People of the North as you know, there has been an incident in your vicinity. We ask that you not panic but please remain indoors, with windows shut. We suggest not cooking at this time, until your area has been secured. Water and food will be delivered should the crisis extend beyond this evening’. Tops. Like if I wasn’t feeling like I’d been living in Orwell’s 1984 (thanks federal government), I certainly did now.

My sister and I rolled our eyes at one another. We had food and water. So long as the electricery held out we were pretty damned comfortable… which made me think of the people who wouldn’t be. ‘They’ll look after them, it’ll be fine’ my sister offered, sounding more like she was trying to convince herself than anyone else.

As happens during an ‘incident’ all the TV stations were taken over by news crews offering ‘live’ coverage. We all knew what that meant – repetition and repetition and repetition for hours with no new content. I wished that they’d just go back to their regularly scheduled programs and just use the rolling banners to update us. My sister had dropped off to sleep and was drooling when new news finally came through. They were on their way to herding the animals back to the zoo. Many were traumatised (see: humans) but the powers that be were leaving it up to vets to decide their fate after a nice sedative to the butt area. They had also identified a suspect. A former member of the Conservative Conservatives party, Lowden Puckmore had lost his seat after a scandal in which he had been using racist terms to refer to certain members of the public. In a strange turn of events his electorate, who had voted him in on the promise of some scarily nationalistic platforms, were not down with this. A few, being interviewed on the telly, referred to Mr Puckmore as ‘Un-Australian’ and things of that nature. Puckmore in turn had some kind of mental break and decided he would be able to destroy all those ‘Melbourne leftie, chai latte sipping, single malt drinking, Guardian Reading, Green voting wankers’ by releasing dangerous animals into our city’s (see: my) federal electorate. Obviously his reasoning was totally piss weak and his plan was shithouse. We can say that and laugh as it seemed no one was eaten or even maimed. Seriously; what a tool. But, he had managed to stop the city by rendering it vulnerable. Which is a pretty shit thing to do. Anyways, all this was still in the ‘allegedly’ stage. We were told not to speculate as it might prejudice peoples’ rights to a fair trial and due process, ya know, that stuff which protects us all. I just went along hoping it was him ’cause he sucked.

That done, and with the day’s events finally hitting us we decided to watch some soothing SpongeBob, referring back to the internets for any updates.

When dawn came, the animals were miraculously safely back in their cages whilst Puckmore had been placed in his. We would see what the investigation revealed in due course. In the mean time it had already been a heady week and it was only Tuesday. As they say, things could only be up from there. Or something.