SHE’S DROPPED ANOTHER rock in the pipe, but I have a feeling if I smoke anymore I might spontaneously combust. But it’s the only way to keep sweet with the Fam. We pass it around and I’m back on point, equilibrium reached with the glass to my lips. Champing at the bit and not worried anymore. They all start talking straight pigeon. I catch a word here and there. Are they talking about me? Their eyes move so fast it’s hard to tell where they’re looking. I want to take a piss and Mama Lad tells me to use the bucket behind the tent. I crawl out of the tent and piss in the half full bucket. It hurts cos I’m so dehydrated. I go over and look at the rushing water in the hole.

I dive into the hole and my mind flows away with the swell of the brown water. I’m swimming like a frog. I swim and swim and bang into a shopping trolley with tins of spinach and tins of tomatoes and spaghetti in plastic bags. Hunger pains spasm in my gut. I’m able to breathe in a self-made bubble that wobbles along with me as I swim in the shit-brown river water. Fish gone belly-up bump against my protective bubble, but my bubble is strong and they can’t burst it. I float over a decaying Mercedes Benz with the boot popped. Inside are three ticket inspectors still wearing their uniforms, their hands tied with rope. black coat tails flapping gently in the current. I wobble on down to them and take out my Myki travel card and validate it by putting it into their open mouths. Their black eyes come up red with an inadequate balance. I remove my card and close the boot and swim back up to the surface.

I look back at the tent behind me and the shadows that dance within are jagged. I don’t want to go back in there. But my shoes are inside. I will get my shoes and get the fuck out. They can keep the pipe. I’ll get another one. I check my watch. It’s stopped. My phone is out of battery. It must be nearly daylight. I suck in a breath and go back into the tent.

Their voices stop when I enter, but the whispers linger. They all smile at me. I smile back, but it hurts a little. I can’t register anything real. I don’t really understand their language. I’m down in the depths of their world. Their faces drift in and out of my mind, melting then re-forming, scraping together details of pinned skull armies. Mama Lad offers me the pipe and I take it, not wanting to say no.

I say I have to leave, but they insist I stay. The circle tightens. The teenagers tell me about a rort they’ve been scoping out and that they were gonna ask me to come with them. I thank them for the offer but I must decline their hospitality. The tent shakes suddenly and the noise is deafening as a train roars past. The beginning of a new day outside. We all bounce around on our arses. I tell them they can keep the pipe but I have to go.

Lad Fam says if I gotta go then that’s fine and I breathe a little easier. The teenage sons escort me, one in front, and one behind and like I’m some kind of dignitary. They sniff at me and tell me that I smell like sewerage. But I reassure them I’m not a good swimmer and it’s just my new cologne. We open the cardboard door that protects them from the city loop trains and the world beyond. We wait for the right moment. Then we run across the tracks to a ladder. They direct me upwards telling me that the hatch will open onto the Treasury Gardens in the middle of some bushes and that nobody will see me. I climb the ladder. From the top rung I look down and thank the boys as they scurry away. The hatch is heavy. I fling it open and early morning light floods the tunnel. I emerge into the surrounding bushes like an earwig out of an ear.