I know human beings and fish can co-exist peacefully. George W. Bush
When the doors flew open, Wallace Stevens fell forward onto his face. He’d been standing with his ear pressed to the wood. The poets rushed around and over him. “There they are!” Rodney Hall shouted.
When he’d seen the great doors fly open, Shelby had pressed a secret panel on the wall. It had opened with a loud hydraulic hiss, and he’d grabbed Seidel and stepped into the dark. The panel hissed shut behind them.
Wallace Stevens was on his feet. He dusted himself off and ran into the citadel, where Blodgett intercepted him, got him in a bear-hug and said “I love your work, Mr Stevens. You mean more to me than mukluks, Moose lager, Neil Young, huskies, ice-fishing, goldfish shot-glasses, the Iroquois Nation and George Bowering.” Wallace stepped away from Blodgett’s embrace. “We do not speak of such things here”, he said. “Look to the net.” Blodgett turned and saw that a number of Waggaists had cut themselves free and were escaping through a small side window. As he sprinted after them, Wallace lifted a sawn-off scattergun from his bag and walked around the net, firing and reloading cartridges of zest until the remaining Waggaists were silent and still.
The poets were searching the grounds of the citadel, but Shelby and Seidel were nowhere to be seen. Amanda Joy had gone off with Alan Wearne to set fibre snares, but only after Wearne had promised not to recite a word of his Waggafish ballad.
Bukowski and Dorn had finally made it down from inside the tower. They’d had to lower Bill Burroughs in a sling they’d improvised from their backpacks and a piece of the mullet net. Bill was comatose. The Beluga withdrawals had taken their toll.
As the main group of poets were scouting the beachside wall of the citadel, they heard a series of muffled explosions and ran towards the beach. Blodgett was standing on the side of the hill, a red switch in his hand. All along the moat there were small eruptions of flame and flying dirt. Blodgett had timed it perfectly. As the fleeing Waggaists reached the moat, he had triggered the charges. Twenty five red-coated men and women had fallen into the water. He’d been hoping for carnage on a much greater scale. He’d wanted to see the entire red regiment stumble head-first into Waggadom. He’d wanted to watch as they were decimated by their own out-of-control invention. Still, the sight of these giant fish having their way with their breeders and tormentors gave him great satisfaction. As the poets watched, red surges of water bloomed and fell around the moat, followed by articles of clothing, slingshots and bits of metal from the monstered wheatgrass guns - all this to a soundtrack of Wagga-calls and horrific screams.
Jennifer Maiden looked on as a massive concave tail came clear of the water and then slammed down, cracking the surface. She stood under the cold red rain the tail had made, remembering the time she’d been whale-watching off Hervey Bay with Rudi Krausman. A humpback and her calf had breached and were cruising calmly near Rudi’s yacht. Rudi steered towards them. “I think that’s close enough,” Jennifer had said. “These creatures want us to be intimate. They travel here to commune with us. They want to learn,” said Rudi as he tacked over to where the whales had surfaced. The mother looked at him. Her huge, upturned eye was a dark globe filled with Go Away You Are Not Welcome Here My Child is Being Threatened Back Off Now Or You Will Die. Rudi saw Thankyou for Coming, We Love You. They managed to reach Fraser Island by clinging to one of the yacht’s shattered timber beams. Jennifer looked on as the last of the Waggaists were shredded and eaten. She walked down to the wharf and hopped onto Faye Zwicky’s jet-ski. She wasn’t just leaving The Island. She was turning away from the sickness of poetry forever.
In the citadel’s Main Hall, Bukowski and Dorn were running their hands over the wall behind the lectern. They’d seen Shelby and Seidel enter the secret passageway. “Try to find any inconsistency in the stonework,” Chuck said. Bill was slumped in his makeshift sling. He was awake, though still traumatised. He’d woken suddenly, the sharp scent of zest attacking his senses. Dorn looked over at the Waggaists. They were in a deep, zest-induced sleep. He wanted to whack a few of them with his plank, and was about to walk over and start swinging when Bill Burroughs tripped while trying to stand. He fell sideways into the wall, which made an unzipping sound as a panel slid back, revealing a dark cavity. “Good work,” Chuck said. “Put your head lanterns on and stay close.”
Amanda Joy and Wearne had set snares around the entrance to the Red Bunker and part of the citadel wall. When they returned to check them they found a couple of seagulls rising and falling loudly, a wharf rat running in circles, pinned by its tail, and Peter Skrzynecki, trying to cut through the fibres with the spine of a hardcover copy of The Immigrant Chronicles.
Bukowski and Dorn were following the yellow beams of their head lanterns down a dark passage. They had come to dead ends, retraced their way back from false-trails, and were stumbling and cursing as they went. Bill was behind them, waving his Colt .45 and firing at shadows. When they came to a wide, lit section of the passage, they stopped and listened. “I’ll go ahead and make sure it’s safe,” Dorn said. Chuck and Bill watched him go, his can of zest-spray held out before him. When he reached the end of the passage, he turned around. “You’d better come take a look at this, Bill.” Bill holstered his Colt and staggered down the passage. He stepped into a room whose light was muted and blue. He dropped to his knees and wept. Before him was Shelby’s Beluga caviar vault. The entire space was stacked from floor to ceiling with hundreds of thousands of jars of caviar. A wall-to-wall montage of sturgeon eggs and obsession. Bill was shaking. He approached the stacks as if he were flanking a convention of Language Poets, his hands opening and closing. He reached out, took hold of a jar, and lifted it away. The entire stack came crashing down around him. He sat down among them and screwed off the lid. He lifted the jar and tipped the contents into his mouth. He chewed, swallowed, and reached for another. His feeding frenzy became faster and more out of control. Caviar was flying around the room. Empty jars were being hurled in all directions. The air was a detail from an ocean-reeking pointillist painting. Chuck wiped caviar from his face and turned to Dorn, who had become catatonic from watching Bill eat. “Let’s leave him to it and go find those red bastards,” he said.
K. Slessor, the Front