Chapter 51: Fiction – No Puppet on a StrinG


Advant Guard – to advance forward; origins – military. In art terms, to push limits, in an unorthodox, risky, experimental, provocative.

A zombie story

Baby Bumble squelched some pumpkin in her hand. It spurted high above her chubby face like a circus worm, landing in a theatrical splatter across the vinyl planks below.

“Bloody hell,” Molly muttered as she got down on one knee and sprayed her fifteenth lot of shlop for the day. The heavy scent of vinegar and lavender filled the room, pairing pleasantly with Bumble’s sweet gurgles.

“At least it wasn’t poo again, Mum,” said Carver, shunting his hip hard against the cedar door.

“A silver lining!” Ray called out from his office.

“No. I’ll be mopping up crap in about twenty. Can’t wait.”

“Swear jar,” Carver and Ray yelled. Molly ignored them both and dropped the gritty pumpkin into the dog bowl.

“At least Pryncess scored.” Molly smiled at her bulldog who lapped the orange chunk with one impressive lick. Pryncess began making her way to the base of the highchair, instead she launched suddenly at the television, barking loudly.

“Turn that shit off!” Molly yelled at an advert that seemed to override the commotion in the room.

Marino! Claudette and Marino! The greatest the great – Marino!” It blared in a peculiar language no one could quite put their finger on. Odd images flickered furiously across the screen causing the dog to canter on the spot.

“Why? It’s cool,” said Carver, increasing the volume.

“It puts me on edge. It feels like we’re under attack from this thing.” Molly replied. The relentless campaign had been smeared across every advertising medium for what seemed like half the year.
THE GREAT MARINO AND HIS COSMIC DOLPHIN CLAUDETTE. A spectacular like no other from far off lands!
A supposed once in a life time opportunity. Molly was skeptical.

“It’s a once in a life time opportunity, Mum!” her young son wailed in front of the big screen.

“Don’t you start! You sound like the ads!”

“Everyone’s going and as per usual we’ll be the only ones on the planet missing out on another big thing.”

“Well, that’s not llama at all.”


“Drama. Get with it.”

“Stop trying to be cool, Mum. Seriously.”

“I don’t need to try and I certainly do not need to sheep it up either.”

“Why do you always talk in code? It’s mental! And why can’t we go? It’s free!”

“As I said – because we’re not sheep and ask yourself, why is it free?”

“Ur, I dunno… because they want people to see something awesome that they can tell their grandkids.”

“The propaganda is certainly working on you. Trust me, all you’ll be telling your grandkids is how massive mobs of humans behave when something is for free.”

“Way to go Debbie Downer,” Molly’s husband chimed in.

“No, Ray – more a Kerrykeep-it-realer. I’m happy to sugar coat our kids world, but on my terms, not someone else’s.”

“I’m out.”

“You were never in seeings as you’ve opted out of coming.”

“I told you – conference.”

“Righto, wuss.”

“So, can we go, Mum?”

“Why are you so desperate to see this thing? It’s weird. Some great big puppet magician and his great big weirdo dolphin clomping all over the city with fifty thousand people following them? No thanks.”

“Says here it’s transformational artistrty.”

“And what in the pompous fck is that supposed to mean?”


“You owe the swear jar a lot for that one.”

“I’ll IOU.”

“Mum, you owe that thing about a million dollars.”

“Whatever. What the… heck does transformational artistry even mean?”

“You know, that mysterious arty, distant lands type of stuff. Why are you getting so worked up? It’ll be a real fun family outing,” Ray smirked.

“Again you, no go – no commento.”

“That’s why it will be fun… for me.”

“Transformational wankery, that’s what it will be.”

“Be careful who you say that in front of, Mum. People are getting crazy about this thing. You should hear them on Fakebrook.”

“Careful? Of not being subliminally mind-warped that this is the greatest thing I’ll ever see? They can go get f…”


“I’m just saying, something’s not right about it. Don’t you feel like there’s a brain washy element to it all?”

The advertising campaign for THE GREAT MARINO AND HIS COSMIC DOLPHIN CLAUDETTE seemed to subliminally filtrate on an endless loop into their homes for months. What initially started harmlessly as short sharp ads soon morphed into a flooding stream of inescapable promo that saturated every platform, across every medium, until it had embedded itself into the subconscious of the state.
Carver was right. Everyone was talking about it and those who weren’t were eyed suspiciously particularly online where anyone seen as being anything other than elated about the coming spectacular – was uncouth, dull and trolled accordingly.
Ray barely commented on the bizareness of it all, but Molly found it severely disturbing.

“If you really want to go that much, I suppose I’ll take you.”

“Yes!” Carver fist pumped the couch as the Marino ad finished. Pryncess turned from the tv, climbed up onto the cushion and plonked herself into his indent.

“But, something about all this is not sitting right with me. If I sense a whiff of dodgy, we’re leaving – no moaning from you. Yes?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, Mum. You’re the best.”

“Mmm,” Molly grunted, brushing her hand across her belly. Gut flips were never a good sign. Ray rested his chin on her shoulder.

“Overthinking again? It’s just a trip to the city to see some art. Nothing more.”

“Then let’s hope my instincts are wrong… this time.”

Ray kissed her cheek and returned to his office, leaving Molly to clutch at her stomach.

Molly loathed public transport. Studying at a college in one of the worst suburbs two hours from her parents home was not the greatest initiation into a car-less adulthood. But it taught her street smarts that would remain long after she had need for them.

She had learned three basic tips of survival when travelling on PT.

  1. Leave hair out over face, dress down, avoid eye contact
  2. Carry a walkman (cheap one to avoid being robbed) or a book to avoid talking
  3. Never smoke at a station. Attracts bums, perverts and thieves.

Her best lesson was to behave crazier than the crazies themselves and though public transport was the greatest suckfest of her youth – it was also her greatest teacher.
This train ride with her children, though overcrowded and enroute to an event she did not remotely want to attend – was pleasant, even a tiny bit enjoyable. It was a brand new train, on a brand new rail, ploughing across a brand new bridge, past the brand new sports stadium. Everything was clean, shiny and untainted.

“Isn’t this nice, Mum?”

“So far so good,” Molly reluctantly responded. She had already begun scanning the passengers. Carver noticed.

“No need to look for problems then, right?” he said, a forewarning grin across his face.

“You know my rule.”

“Of course the one out of five thing will work! There’s going to be a million people at this thing.”

“We’ll see,” Molly responded, studying nearby passengers and smiling at any who caught her odd gaze.

“You’re doing it now? Seriously, Mum. Your paranoia is relentless.”

Another Mollyism – a sure fire gauge on how an outing would fair was to test fellow attendees by the simplest of challenges. Smile. If at least one returned her gesture – all would be well in the outing world. But if out of five people not one returned even the tiniest mouth crease, the event would be doomed. For Molly it was a foolproof method. For most normal humans – insane nonsense.


“Can you just… like, take a break from doing – you? Please? Just for one day. No complications, no freaky deaky stuff. Please, Mum,” Carver pleaded and placed his hand gently on Molly’s arm. She stroked his plump fingers, the last of the puppy fat before puberty. He had her skin. Olive and soft. There was a warmth to it. To him.

As she lost herself in his memories, something caught her eye. A passenger stretched his leg into the aisle. It flicked rigidly, then jolted sporadically, as if the man were fitting. Molly looked at his face. He sat calmly staring out the window. The afternoon sun streamed across his cheek and the perfectly healthy skin turned a decaying greenish-grey. Molly froze. She gripped Carver’s hand and pulled the pram close.

“Mum, you’re hurting me!”

“Get up. We’re getting off.”

“Yes – this is our stop. What’s wrong with you now?”

Molly pointed to the strange man up, but he was gone. The train stopped abruptly and the passengers filed off. Molly put her arm across Carver.

“Wait,” she ordered, frantically searching the platform.

“What, Mum? Tell me what’s going on.”

“There. That man. Something’s not…” Molly paused, a film of sweat beading above her lip. “It’s like he’s telling someone to follow him… but who?”

“Seriously, Mum. I’m not…”

“There’s more of them. Holy shit… there’s more. Watch the sun on their skin.”


“Just look!”

Carver stood up on his toes. A cloud slowly drifted and a stream of sunlight cast its ray across the station. Carvers mouth drooped. A man, or something resembling a man – lured a group towards him. Their clothes just as ripped and grimy as his and their skin a sinister colour. Carver gasped.

“Fucking zombies. What are the odds,” Molly hissed.


“I can’t be stuffed dealing with these fricken dumb arses. I knew we shouldn’t have come. I told you something was up.”


“We can’t get off this train.”

“All passengers must disembark. All passengers must disembark. Please make your way to the platform. This is the final stop. All passengers must disembark. All passengers…”

“Fuck it,” Molly abused the speaker then turned to her son. “Carvey, love. I need you to listen carefully. We need to get to the other side of the station. Do what I say. Here.” Molly took a ribbon from Bumblebee’s hair and attached it to the button hole of his coat. She wrapped it around her wrist knotting it tightly against her skin.

“I’m scared, Mum.”

“I know, we’ll be alright, just stay close to me. Okay. Don’t let go.” Molly reached for his hand and kissed it. She tightened her backpack and checked for the multi-tool. If it could cut through her rock hard cookies, it would hopefully take down a monster or two. “Bollocky fucking zombies. I swear I’m jinxed,” she murmured, thrusting the pram through a group of teens who yelled their disdain. Molly stuck her finger in the air hoping to provoke them. “Out of the way fuckers,” Molly yelled back in the hopes to provoke them. The more flesh between her babies and the undead – the better.

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