When people who live outside Australia think of this country they think of beaches miles long, Steve Irwin and that famous catch phrase "That's not a knife, this is a knife." When I think of the land with golden soil I think of the biggest challenge of my life, and of my generation. I am of Generation Y, the generation which has landed the title of "Worst Generation Ever." However in the events of my 19th year on this planet, Generation Y became the generation to save humanity not only from the greatest threat facing Australia, but the world.
Anzac Day is steeped in almost one hundred years of history stemming from the day Australian and New Zealand military forces landed on the Gallipoli Coast in the Great War, the First World War. From that day on, April 25th has been remembered as the day where citizens in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey remember the thousands of soldiers who perished on that fateful occasion. As the years rolled by and the wars were fought and lost, many more veterans joined the Honourable Dead as time reclaimed the life which was so generously given in survival of war. Despite the wars of the past, civilization continued to send its young men to lands across the sea to fight battles not of their making, and to die in a country their bodies would never return from. Often those left alive would say that the dead had received the better end of the deal. If only death was the easy way to escape from a life of murder. "They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old." Of those who made the greatest sacrifice in the line of duty for their county, the third world war was one to inflate the list of honourable dead to proportions never seen before.
Of those who survived the end, the new beginning was one which was never expected. An uneasy peace settled over the world, the balance between war and peace a power struggle as futile as forcing the sun to rise with the moon. For myself, as much as I have tried to remember the world which was before the bombs hit, I am uncertain of which life is better for me. Now I am a war hero, general, and Prime Minister of Australia. It is quite interesting to note that the first female Prime Minister of Australia was the one to end the war which was said to be the end. Before the bombs, I was a regular teenager working before deciding whether to attend university, take a year off and travel, or give something back to a country which had given me so much and join one of the defence forces. I grew up in a family where many relatives had survived in the forces and had not died in the war. Their valiant efforts led to a belief in giving back to the freedom they had fought to protect. It was one of the days I was working hard at my part time job that the sky began to fall upon us, and fire and hatred reigned the world for years to come.
"Is there anything I can help out with today?" The woman I intended to sell half the store to glanced up at me confused, I see this look often.
"Um, yeah. My husband is getting our son a Nintendo DS for Christmas, and he suggested I get him a few games to play. I have this list, but I have no idea. Did I look like I had no idea?"
"Not at all, you actually looked fairly confident, I just love helping out," I lied to the dark haired woman.
"That's very kind of you."
"It's my job. OK, so how old is your son?"
"He is 11. I saw this Pokémon game and I know that he loves the show so he would like the game then, right?"
"Logic would suggest, and I would say yes he would love the game. What about Transformers is he a fan?"
"Actually, he is."
"Excellent, well here are the new Pokémon and Transformer games, and hey, if he doesn't like them, we have an extended return period till the middle of January which basically means you can bring them back and exchange them for a game he wants." I plucked the two games we had been talking over from the wall and headed to the point of sale counter.
"Those games are both discounted aren't they?" I glanced at the games in my hands.
"The Transformers game is, the Pokémon isn't, is that ok?"
"It's fine, thank you." As I completed the sale, another member of the team clocked in on the other register, that made a sales team of 3, the perfect number, a prime number. You can have one person, mostly the manager off doing his managerial duties like daily counts, while two attend to maintaining sales on the floor.
"Your recept is in the bag, and have a brilliant day." I handed the mother her bag.
"Thank you dear, you too." I smiled brightly as she left the counter leaving her with a warm memory of her experience in the store. I've only been working in this store, "Game Central" for a little over a month, yet I was already a pro at delivering my sales pitch and leaving the customer feeling appreciated at the end of the sale. I guess I get my sales etiquette from my grandfather and my mother. They are both masters at the art, and day by day I am learning subtle tricks to land the sale. That being said, I am always learning from my superiors as they always know more and have more experience in handling sales, and of course, customers. Today was no different.
"What did you do, before you came there were customers everywhere? Did you wear your scary pants today?" I smiled up towards the dark haired girl standing at the other end of the counter.
"Um, Alex, I'm not wearing pants."
"Oh I get it Cameron, 'cause you're wearing a skirt, ha-ha. That's hilarious." I rolled eyes, a shared laugh.
"You're an idiot."
"I try my hardest." Another stupid grin.
Staring at the counter dumbly I began rearranging stationery and drink bottles, the store void of even a small child. I had been vacantly organising the sales area when I noticed something odd. It was like that scene in 'Jurassic Park' when the T-Rex is approaching the car and the water ripples in the glass. Well there weren't any glasses of water, but the water in the bottles was beginning to ripple just the same.
"Hey Cam, check this out," I pointed to the bottles, "What do you make of that?" The girl was shorter than I, yet no less savvy. Glaring at the bottles her face reflected the perplexed thoughts running through her mind. As we watched the rippling quickened and became frenzied. Soon a noise accompanied the frantic movements. From outside the store loud bangs could be heard heading in our direction, all far to frequent in succession to be a giant person walking or running towards us; not that it would even be scientifically possible. Somewhere in the back of my mind a thought reared its ugly head and began shouting the possibility. Listening to that innate voice I glanced around the store, game cases falling from shelves, the TVs shaking on their mounts. Suddenly a deafening sound rushed above us and I knew it was time I started paying attention to the voice in my mind.
"Cam, I don't know what is happening but I think-" A building across the road exploded in a shower of burning timber and plaster. The next thing I knew I was protecting Cameron from falling ceiling and pressing her defensively against the counter. Thunderous explosions fell around us, the building collapsing and splitting electrical wiring. Cameron and I stayed in our huddled position for what seemed like hours as the roar of the falling bombs faded into the distance. Barely minutes after the initial bombing the store was in silence excluding the crackling of live wires and cables swinging from the ceiling. Glancing up from our protective position I stared mystified at the rubble which once was our store.
"I don't know." Standing I saw what was left of the back room, a painful thought punching me in the face.
"What just hap-"
"The Skipper!" Leaping around my friend I rushed to the door separating the front of the store from the back. The combination locked door stood firm, the bombs must have missed it ironically. Punching in the code I pegged the door back, at this point I'm sure no one was going to care if something was stolen. After all, the store had virtually been ripped apart by bombs anyway. I started making my way through the ruins, cables hissing at me violently as I searched for my boss.
"Skipper? Mac? Mac can you hear me?" I'd been searching vigilantly for several minutes when I saw a whitened hand under a fallen wall, "Cam!" Rushing to the body I grasped his hand and reverted back to my basic first aid training from school. Assessing the situation I could hear the younger girl picking the safest route through the debris.
"Alex, what's wrong?"
"I need your help lifting this wall." Her hand flew to her mouth as she realised what was under it.
"I can't." She muttered in shock.
"Cam, I can't lift it myself, and you can do it."
"Look Cam, the sooner we lift it, the sooner I can find out if Mac is fine, so please, swing on the other side there near you and lift with your knees." Slowly she moved towards the wall and our injured manager. Grasping the damaged facade with her hands she bent to begin lifting. Nodding to her we both began lifting. Either it was made of lighter materials than I was expecting, or adrenaline was pulsing through us both so intensely that the wall became light. Tossing it aside I knelt beside the prone body of my boss. Pressing my fingers to his throat and leaning over to listen to his breathing I released a sigh of relief when I could find his pulse and hear his breath.
"Is he going to be ok?" I nodded.
"Do we have a first aid kit here somewhere?" This time it was her turn to nod. As she headed off to retrieve the kit I proceeded to inspect Mac's body for serious injury. By the time Cameron had returned I had determined that he had 3 fractured ribs, a broken arm and what looked like a fairly major head injury. Opening the kit I found a pressure bandage and a sling. Also finding a gauge and some pads I asked Cam to help me lever the man into the recovery position. It was easier for me to access the head wound this way and after a few moments I had secured the bandages in place. Folding the triangular sling I placed his injured arm inside and tied the knot around his neck loosely. Due to the head trauma, I was fearful of tying the sling too tight and blocking blood flow.
"Is he going to be ok?"
"For now, look at me," a cut down her right cheek smiled at me deviously, "Hold still." I poured anti-bacterial fluid on a cotton pad and dabbed it gently over her cut. Finding a square bandaid, I placed it over the wound and returned to inspecting Mac.
"Thanks." Cam probed her bandaid cautiously, wincing as pain threaded its way through the nerves of her cheek.
"It's nothing, you were injured, and I provided medical aid. Are you sore anywhere else?" She shook her head, "Cam, this is serious, even if it is just a small niggle of pain, I need to know because it could turn into something much worse. Now I don't know if Mac has any internal injuries which could kill him, I don't want you to collapse on me in a few moments because you have a dull ache in the back of your head and you didn't tell me. Now I need-"
"Ok, fine. I am a little sore on my back, but that could have something to do with you slamming me against the POS counter to protect me from the blasts. But I'm not sure, what does your keen doctor sense tell you about that?"
"That, I don't know my own strength. I'm sorry, I was just concerned." I turned my attention back to Mac, in our argument I hadn't noticed that he had stopped breathing.
"It's ok, I'm sure I would have done the same thing." She slapped my lightly on the right shoulder, a flood of pain coursing through my body. Forcing myself to ignore it, and stop any indication of pain I leant over Mac's body searching for a pulse.
"I can't find a pulse," I leapt over his body to kneel on the other side, gesturing for Cam to move to where I was before, "I need you to help me."
"I don't know CPR."
"I do. I need you to make sure you can feel a pulse by pressing your fingers into his neck here." I showed her were to place her fingers.
"I don't feel a pulse."
"I know, hang on." Using my index fingers and thumbs to measure the centre of my boss's ribcage, I began compressions.
"I feel one now. Are you doing that?"
"No." I ceased compressions and felt for a pulse. Finding one I wondered how I could miss it. He still wasn't breathing so I helped him. After a few moments he coughed and spluttered as he regained consciousness. I heard Cam inhale sharply as I looked up.
"Your face." She pointed shakily. Wiping across it in response I looked at a red hand. I knew I had a few cuts but where I had swiped I didn't. Glancing down at Mac's face I could see a small amount of red fluid on his lips.
"Oh crap, we have to get him to a doctor."
"You can't deal with that?"
"Nope, he has internal bleeding in his lungs and that is deadly. Grab one side, I'll get the other."
Struggling against his weight as the adrenaline ran out, we fumbled our way to the front of the store. We had just reached the counter when the pain in my shoulder became too much and I collapsed. We gently placed Mac's body down on the floor, rolling him carefully to the recovery position. Falling awkwardly against the counter I grimaced and this time I was unable to hide my pain from Cameron.
"You're hurt," I looked at her dumbly, "Where?"
"My shoulder." I held my right arm tenderly and she crawled over to me.
"So I have to tell you no matter what if I have an injury but you have a busted shoulder and you don't think it important to mention?" The way she said it, it really was more of a statement than a question, but I took it as rhetorical.
"We are going to need money."
"Money, need it, get it. Now!" I slammed my left fist into the counter.
"All of it."
"Want the money in the safe as well?" I groaned at the question and she made a panicked noise in response. It was a legitimate question but I was in too much pain to be cooperative.
"Yes." I said finally after a wave of pain tumbled through my body. I watched as the teen rushed to the backroom to open the safe. Pushing myself to my feet, my right arm dangling painfully by my side I headed to the cash registers. Somehow they still had power and I was able to open both. I had the tills open for at least a minute when all power finally went out and with the blackout came a dreadful silence broken by the screams of pain and car alarms. Gingerly pulling several rubber bands from one of the draws I managed to group the 50 dollar notes together before Cameron returned from the safe.
"Let me do this, you are clearly in too much pain to even handle something as simple as grouping together notes. Plus I can just chuck them all in this bag with the rest of the money." She took the 50 dollar notes from me as I winced trying to place the rubber band around them.
"So we didn't make a safe drop today?"
"Not yet. Mac said he was just about to do it before, before."
"Before the bombs." Just saying it seemed weird. They have bombs in Israel, Palestine and in Iraq not in a country town in Australia. It was all too surreal and as I stood watching the dark haired girl collect the money from both registers I forgot about Mac only to be reminded of his presence by a deathly gurgling noise.
"Mac?" Glancing at him I could see he was struggling to breathe. I was about to roll him onto his side when I saw something that only happens on 'House M.D' or 'E.R.'
"What's going on?" Cameron was panicked as she heard the horrible noise.
"I think his right lung has collapsed."
"How can you tell?"
"His throat, the windpipe is being pulled to the left."
"Is there anything you can do?" Any pain I once had in my shoulder was gone as a new course of adrenaline pulsed through my veins.
"There is, I just hope this will work."
"What do you mean?"
"Well," I grabbed a pen and one of the box knives, "It's just a theory." I smiled to her nervously. Pulling the ink from the pen and engaging the knife I knelt beside Mac's ruined body hoping that my idea would help reinflate his lung. I unbuttoned his shirt and exposed the bruising skin of his torso. Taking a deep breath I held the knife in my right hand the pen in my left. I had no idea which two ribs I had to get the pen through but I presumed it would be one of the topmost. Without hesitation I pushed the blade through his skin and muscle to provide an adequate opening for the pen. Swapping the knife for the pen I pushed down on the hollow writing implement breaking through to the chest cavity. The next thing I knew I could hear a slight whistling noise coming from the end of the pen and I knew that my theory had worked, somehow.
"Is he going to be ok?" Cameron had finished with the money and was crouched beside me, her hand on my shoulders.
"For the moment, we really need to get him to a doctor." I stood and picked up the sticky tape. His body was holding the pen in place fairly well but I didn't want it coming out on the way to a doctor.
"One of the hospitals?" Another horribly ugly thought attacked my conscious.
"If they bombed the CBD they will have definitely bombed one or both of the major hospitals here. We have to go to one of the smaller practices. There is one around the corner." I finished applying the tape to the pen and my boss.
"So we go there? What if it has been bombed as well?"
"Then, I guess we are screwed. You got the money?" She nodded, "Alright, let's go." Together we managed to once again lift our manager and place his arms around our shoulders. We stumbled towards the store front and peering out what we saw looked like the scene of an old war movie or an alien invasion. There were hundreds of totalled vehicles but all I needed was one to be working for my plan to succeed.
"What are we going to do Alex?"
"Wait here, I'll go find a car. Hide the money and maybe get a mobile or something. Actually can you get our bags, I need my licence." She nodded and together we put Mac down carefully next to the broken body of the lady I had served only moments before the bombs hit. A pang of something undetectable exploded in my chest and I fought for a sense of calm in a world thrown upside-down. I had a mission to do and I couldn't let emotions get the better of me now. Most of the cars near the store were either completely destroyed or on fire. I managed to find a Commodore still running and with the keys in the ignition. It was the find of the century and I couldn't pass it up. Glancing inside the vehicle I could see a splattering of blood on the dashboard and driver's side door. Someone must have been seriously injured. Looking around I saw a man with a major head wound a few feet from the car. Rushing to his side I felt for a pulse and found nothing. Judging by the pool of blood around his body there was no chance of revival.
"Thanks for the car." Without wasting another moment I stepped into the car. Looking down I saw a clutch and then the gear stick. Having to drive a manual was the last thing I wanted to do when I was in a hurry to get my boss to a doctor. "Crap, why didn't I ask Dad to take me for more driving lessons when he had the manual car?" I chided myself and pushed in the clutch. There was nothing I could do other than to try and drive the vehicle. I had some idea of what to do, I mean it wasn't like I was a complete car idiot, I grew up around car fanatics. Putting the car into first I managed to get the car moving without stalling, which is always a good sign. Crawling the car forward Cameron was back out the front with Mac and cradling his head in her arms.
"Ok I have the car, let's get out of here, it's starting to freak me out," I called to Cameron as I stepped out of the car. She passed me the bags and I tossed them in the front of the car quickly before rushing to help her load our prone boss into the back of the car. I suggested that Cameron hop in the back and help support his head for the ride to the doctor and she agreed. After both were secured in the back of the car I hopped in the driver's seat one again and hoped that I wouldn't stall the car. For the second time the car surged on and I was shocked that I hadn't stalled it either time. All I had to do was do a u-turn and head in the other direction to the doctor's surgery. Luckily there is a roundabout ahead and I wouldn't have to muck around with reversing and stalling the car.
We arrived at the doctor's surgery just as Mac was slipping back in consciousness and I was thankful the building hadn't been destroyed. There was one thing I knew for certain and that was that the building wouldn't have power and from what I can tell it is probably because the power grid was bombed as a strategic target, like the CBD and probably the hospitals. As quickly and carefully as possible the two of us manoeuvred Mac's limp body from the car and carried him the short distance to the waiting room of the surgery. Looking around I found a nurse buzzing around hurriedly. It would be no point calling out to her as she seemed otherwise preoccupied.
"I'll be right back."
"Alex!" I didn't listen to her cries and I hurried after the nurse. I found her in a room attending to a child with a cracked skull.
"Excuse me, I have a man in the waiting room with broken ribs, a fractured arm, cracked skull and internal injuries."
"You'll have to wait, as you can see I'm a little busy." She waved a hand to the rest of the room and I noticed for the first time the multitude of wounded huddled together in fear.
"I understand, however, how many of them are bleeding into their lungs, one of which collapsed about ten minutes ago and had to be reinflated?" My detailed analysis of Mac's condition impressed the nurse I could tell by her shocked exhale.
"I'll be with him in a moment, if you could, please bring him into this room, I'll clear a bed." I nodded and returned to Cameron and Mac. Telling her of the arrangement with the nurse we struggled once again under the dead weight of Mac, the adrenaline was running out again and pain was returning to my shoulder. Once in the makeshift ward the three of us placed Mac on the bed and the nurse went about her duties determining the extent of his injuries. I had been correct in most of my assessment; however I missed the fact that the head wound was more than just a serious bump on the scone. Upon closer inspection the nurse had found a piece of metal in his skull and immediately I knew his condition was fatal.
"If he doesn't get to a proper operating theatre with neurologists and the correct surgical staff in the next hour he is dead." The fair haired woman confirmed exactly what I had been thinking. There was no point in waiting around and I was fed up with not knowing if the hospitals were intact or not.
"Can you monitor him for a few minutes? I am going to see if the hospitals have been destroyed of if it was just the centre of town." The nurse nodded, a lock of her hair falling in front of her eyes.
"Do you need my help?" Cameron glanced away from Mac for the first time since he was placed on the medical bed. I didn't need her help because I was just going to be driving around town but I knew she didn't want to be here waiting for the inevitable to happen.
"Yeah, come on."
The car was icy when we returned to it. We both felt helpless to save Mac and the only thing we could do was drive around and hope for some off chance that none of the hospitals had been destroyed.
"What are the chances of the hospitals still being in one piece?" I was slowly getting the hang of changing gears and using the clutch and for a few moments I ignored answering her question. I was wishing that the hospitals were still standing but my gut was telling me otherwise. Rounding the corner I saw that the base hospital was still upright and a fluttering of hope scampered over my chest. A snake of wounded people slithered its way towards the hospital and while I knew taking a car into the midst of it was a bad idea, there was nothing I could do, I was on a deadline. As we neared the building both our fears came true. After a deafening rumble we watched in horror as the hospital crashed to the ground. Slamming on the breaks I watched in disbelief regardless of the fact that I knew it was going to happen eventually. Straining in the seat I looked in the direction of the other hospital in town. A pillar of smoke crawled into the stratosphere from its location and I knew there was no hope left for Mac lying almost dead in a strange bed with a group of wounded imbeciles gawking at him. I smashed my hand against the wheel and called out in anger startling Cameron.
"What are we going to do?" Her question echoed loudly in my ears as I slammed the car into reverse. Flicking the car around I managed to perform a stunt move. Gunning it into first I sped towards the doctor's surgery where Mac was. We were back by his side before I realised, a gaping hole on the back of his head seeping red. His breathing was laboured and I knew that the nurse's estimation was off by a lot.
"Alex, what do we do?" I shook my head in dismay. If the CBD was destroyed and so were the hospitals I could only imagine that eventually other key infrastructure points would soon be reduced to nothing more than a pile of smouldering rubble. Meanwhile, I sat in an uncomfortable chair hoping that the massive hole in the side of my boss' head was nothing more than a slight puncture. I had been lost in my thoughts when a high pitched wail pierced through my consciousness shattering any revival attempt of my thoughts. Twisting in my seat I saw a mother clutching a reddened body to her chest. Launching to my feet I virtually flew across the floor to the woman in emotional agony.
"Let me help." I held out my hands to the fiery haired lady, her face wet with tears.
"My son," she whimpered hesitantly passing the lame body of her son to me. With the oversized body in my arms I took double length strides back to the bed with Mac on it, Cameron's face alive with fear and concern. The pain in my shoulder was pushing me to breaking point, and carrying a 30 kilo 5 year old was not part of my plan to stop it from aching. Mac was bleeding out of his brain and this fat child was close to dead simply because someone wasn't smart enough to talk through their problems diplomatically in a civil situation. The middle aged woman was wailing horrendously in my ears and I was beginning to lose focus. Inspecting the obese child for signs of trauma the blood covering his body made it difficult to discover any hint of injury.
"Look, shut up! I can't focus on your fat, dying child unless you shut up." My sudden vehemence scared not only the woman, but Cameron and the other inhabitants of the small medical room. With silence I continued inspecting the child for the source of the blood.
"Where is the blood coming from?" Cameron's golden eyes pleaded for something to do to help the child. Bless her heart, I don't think she could even leave a turtle stranded on the side of the road.
"OK, I need you to get that towel over there so I can wipe away the blood." Following my instructions virtually to the letter I spent the good part of five minutes cleaning the child's body. For the next five minutes I inspected the pale body for any indication of injury. There wasn't even as much as a paper cut on the boy's body and feeling for a pulse I soon found the it was beating strong.
"What is it, what is wrong with my son?"
"Nothing. Where did you find him? Was he surrounded by a lot of bodies or by himself?"
"I, I don't know, I don't remember," She stammered, "Why is this relevant?"
"Because your son doesn't have so much as a mosquito bite." I glared at the woman and shoved her son back into her arms.
"But he, he was covered from head to toe in blood."
"Not his blood, and put your son on a diet, a five year old shouldn't be 30 kilos." I turned back to Cameron her face awash with disappointment. I shrugged an 'I'm Sorry' and sat back in the hard waiting room chair. I reached out and held Mac's hand closest to me, it was cold to the touch but I thought nothing of it as the room temperature was surprisingly lower than the rest of the building. After the woman left the room there was silence in the surgery. I couldn't even hear Mac's laboured breathing anymore.
"Are you ok?" I glanced at the girl standing over me and wiped my chin of the clear liquid which had begun to accumulate there.
"How long was I asleep for?"
"Barely even a minute. I thought you had passed out or something so I woke you."
"What made you think I had passed out?"
"You are bleeding out of your ear, is that bad?" I reached up to my ear and saw blood on my fingers after I held my hand in front of me. For the first time I felt the markings of a migraine worse than any I had experienced before.
"I must have been hit on the head with some falling debris during the bombing. I will be ok in a little while." I shrugged off any seriousness that may have been associated with my ear bleeding and looked over to Mac. His face was as pale as alabaster and it appeared as though his head wound was no longer seeping.
"Do you think he will make it?"
"Well his head wound has stopped bleeding so only time will tell I guess."
"It doesn't even look like he is breathing." Her silky voice was crackled with concern for our boss, and upon further inspection, I had to agree with her about him.
"Mac," I held his hand tighter, "Mac if you can hear me squeeze my hand for me." Touching my fingertips to his neck I felt for any indication of a pulse.
"Can you feel anything?" I shook my head and she inhaled heavily. There was only one thing that I could think of that might help see if he was alive. Finding a blood pressure machine I attached it to his arm and began pumping. Regardless of how many times I completed the blood pressure test the result was always the same, there was no blood pressure. Mac was dead.