[EXT./INT. – LUKE’S CAR – PINK SUNRISE OVER A HORIZON]
See the boy’s white knuckles wrapped around the steering wheel. It is made of red hot and blistering rubber. Hear the air-conditioning working overtime to cool the rusting red box.
See through the windows of the vehicle, the endless flat stage of red dust and sunburnt scrub. It halts, five kilometres away, at a wall of pale blue. The car is silent apart from the complaints of the air-conditioning, the low rumbling of the small engine and a scratchy pop-tune playing over a radio. The car has no antenna.
See the boy’s eyes fixed on the road in front of him, wide and straight as an arrow. At the speed he is travelling one wrong move, one wheel in the dust, one kangaroo bouncing wildly, would be a disaster. Suspense for the sake of suspense!
[ENTER FROM SOMEWHERE – THE DESERT]
Sitting across from the boy, in the passenger seat, is a mass dressed head to toe in black robes. Its hands are covered with tight leather gloves and its head is protected by a broad-brimmed black hat. The mass’ clothing shimmers and sparks occasionally as if electricity is flowing through it. See the air-conditioning begin to chug out the first mists of a steel fog.
“Remember why you’re here.” Says the black mass.
“I’m trying to.” The boy replies, failing to take his eyes off of the road but also failing to see it.
“It is time to reform yourself. It is time to take the reins on your life, to paint a new, more beautiful picture.”
“You’re not limited to this. You have the tools. You could become something so much more in the eyes of all those who look at you.”
“Who looks at me?” The boy asks, though he already knows the answer.
“Everyone you know.”
See the cloud from the air-conditioning grow. There are eyes and thumbs and numbers and ghostly images among the cloud. It is a bizarre special effect that seems more supernatural than real.
“Then I’ll show ‘em.” Says the boy. “They’re gonna LOVE this.”
See the car continue it’s journey through the dry landscape. The stage is set.
[INT. – THE BRACKEN HOUSE, PROSPECT – MORNING]
“Good morning. How are you?”
“G’morn” Perrie replied. Her dad (that’s Mr. Bracken to almost everyone) was sitting with his feet up on the coffee table. He had his sneakers on already. Ratty old things. Why doesn’t he just get rid of them. Perrie though to herself.
“You don’t sound too bright yet, darlin.’”
“Nah, not really.”
Perrie slinked past the open plan lounge area, feeling, through the soles of her feet, first cold tile, then low-pile carpet, then cold tile again. She stuffed a capsule into the coffee maker, swore that she’d stop destroying the planet with those disposable plastic caps one day, and then flicked the switch.
“Where you out late last night?” Perrie’s dad asked. “I heard someone come in.”
“I reckon that was Luke.” Perrie yawned.
“What time was that?”
“Shit, Dad, I dunno. Maybe eleven?”
“Don’t swear at me, little missy.”
“Sorry. But let me wake up first, geez.” Perrie sat down with her coffee on the opposite arm chair to her father. She hated small talk of a morning but there weren’t many other good options.
“I could have sworn I heard the door open later than that.” Mr. Bracken said.
“Nah, there’s no way. I didn’t go out. I was asleep by midnight.”
The room was silent for a long while. Somewhere in the backyard, a magpie warbled its morning warble.
“Luke in his room?”
“I dunno, dad. Why wouldn’t he be?”
“I’m a bit worried about him lately.” Dad slipped a bookmark into the thick paperback he was reading and chucked it onto the table. There was a sudden tension.
“Isn’t everyone?” Perrie couldn’t help laughing for some reason. Her brother had always been so bright and bubbly, a good partner in crime. But lately, things had taken a sharp turn. She could see it in his eyes, the way his shoulders curled over his keyboard and phone.
“You reckon you could shout to him?”
“Why can’t you?” Perrie asked.
“Don’t wanna wake up the grumpy bum” Dad gave Perrie a cheeky look.
“Alright, alright.” Perrie said before shouting, “LUKE!”
No reply. Silence. Invisible mist.
“Luke! C’mon, it’s late.”
“I’m going to go check on him.” Mr. Bracken rose slowly and wandered down the whole, sneakers squeaking. Perrie followed in his footsteps, steaming coffee in hand.
“Lukey-boy.” Dad delicately rapped his fist against Luke’s bedroom door. “Time to get up, buddy… C’mon, pal… Alright. I’m coming in.”
The door opened slowly and carefully. Perrie was surprised it didn’t make a horror-movie creak. Instead, it slid soundlessly over grey carpet.
Everything seemed in order. On the walls, posters…
On the shelves, Luke’s records and books…
On the floor, the usual pile of laundry…
In the bed… No one.
“Perrie. Run outside and see if my car’s still there, would ya?” Dad said, calmly.
Perrie’s heart began thumping. And it wasn’t just the caffeine. She’d known the day was coming for a while now. Perhaps even from the break-up that seemed to shatter her brother so badly. She could feel it. Luke was restless and vibrating on a different wavelength most of the time. She’d seen all the signs, but chosen to ignore them.
Perrie pushed open the fly-screen door urgently, padded across the cool cement in bare feet and rounded the corner into the driveway. She could feel small bristles and twigs stabbing at her skin, but she didn’t care.
The car-port was empty apart from the eternal oil-stain and a few scattered gum leaves. The Bracken family’s trusty Laser (that’s Ol’ Red to most people) was gone.
Perrie pulled her phone from her back pocket and, pacing nervously, loaded up Facebook. She scanned quickly through her feed, thumbs moving at the speed of light, before discovering the thing she was most worried about.
Operation Electric Forever, was created during the SA Writers Centre Digital Writer in Residence program during 2016.