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‘Helloooo? Olivia?’

He picks up his box of tools and walks into the car park, disturbing a family of bush turkeys. Clawed feet go scratch, scratch, scratch in the dirt as the birds run into the nearby scrub. His car sits surrounded by puddles of ochre-hued water, diamond drops of humidity on the roof.

A wall of rainforest looms on the other side of the road. Wisps of mist hang over the tree tops. To the right, the road snakes down into the rainforest. To the left, the asphalt is cracked and overgrown with weeds. The Exclusion Zone boundary is just a few k’s from here.

Signs on the shamble of buildings behind him proclaim the Paluma General Store--that’s where the photocopier is--Paluma Real Estate, Rainforest Inn. The latter has been boarded-up for months.

Where the fuck is everyone? ‘Hellooo?’

He goes back inside, clutching his worksheet book. Past the checkout into the door that leads to Olivia’s house. The light is on in the kitchen. A copy of the local newsletter is on the table, a photocopied rag on two pages. Rob notices how crisp the ink is. Not bad for such a rickety machine, eh?


As he walks around the table, his foot connects with something soft, like he’s accidentally kicked the cat, only bigger, and more inert.

Like somebody’s meaty arm.

Attached to a body.

Shit. ‘Olivia!’

She's wearing her usual striped apron; her face is relaxed and bears no signs of a fight.

Rob drops to his knees and runs his fingers over the cold flesh of her neck. First place to check with these freaks around. There are no bite marks.

On the floor of the store room is another body, a man in shorts and work shirt with a courier logo. The checkout girl lies half over him, a couple of newsletters spread over her prone form. Both are cold, too. No bite marks.

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