The beforemath, and the duringmath.

And now, the aftermath.

The fires are still burning, believe it or not. A few 30-degree days (or 90-degrees, if you're a Fahrenheiter) have made sure that the fires near Kinglake and Yea are still going. 210 lives have now been lost, with more than 500 injuries and many thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. It is statistically the worst natural disaster, the worst peace-time disaster, and the worst bushfire Victoria - and Australia - has ever seen.

The most disgusting thing about these fires is that one of them was purportedly lit by a roadworker who was bored. I am yet to confirm this, but apparently a man got bored of holding the road sign saying "Stop" on one side and "Slow" on the other, and started flicking live cigarette butts at the dry grass just to see what would happen. Apparently he has been arrested, and could (nay, should) be charged with murder.

Since my last log there have been many reports of looters in and around Kinglake, to the point where a sign has been posted in the town, reading "Looters Will Be Shot". Also, millions and millions of dollars have been donated to the victims of the fires. Smoke is still coming over towns in Victoria, and other neighbouring parts of the world (New Zealand got some a few weeks ago).

The only firefighter to be killed so far is a man from the Australian Capital Territory. He was killed when a burnt-out tree fell onto a tanker that he was in. My sympathies go out to his family, as his death was perhaps even more unfortunate than being killed directly by the fire. I also extend deep sympathies to those people who have lost houses, property, and family members.

We must rebuild...

It happened again last night. I was being Spike again.

She was trapped in a place with a lot of books: maybe a library, more like a high-end bookstore, with a teenaged boy. Instead of calling the cops, she was locked in someone's private office -- it wasn't too bad, considering that this was the private office of a book dealer. There was a bathroom adjoining, and a couple of couches to lie on.

Kid: "I'm gay."
Spike: That's nice.
A long silence
Kid: I mean it. I...we...won't have sex.
Spike: OK by me. Being gay never stopped anyone from having sex if they felt like it. Lot of gay men have sex with women. But...If you don't feel like having sex, by all means let's not have sex.
"I mean, I don't want you to feel insulted."
"Go ahead. Not have sex. Masturbate if you want. I feel like taking down one of those books. "
"You can't. We're under arrest."
"Sure. And we can't be in much more trouble than we are already."
"They could keep my pills from me."
"You're on pills?"
"Half a dozen. Adderall, then something to deal with the side effects, then...I'm a genius. You don't take any pills?"
"No."
Another long silence.
"I like this book...It's The Bumper Book by Watty Piper. I'm going to read it."
"No!"
"No problem. Then they have the Shaving of Shagpat. Haven't seen that outside of Yale Library."
"Really. Don't look at it."
"You're a junkie."
"No. I really need my meds."
"Unless?"
"I really go crazy."
"And then?"
"I go back to the hospital."
"And then?"
"I need to get into a good school. And if I don't.."

I lay back with the Bumper Book. I read it from start to finish. Then...I started in on the Shaving. I had a hankering to open our door, and look at one of the art books just outside, but didn't.

Five o'clock. Then six. People came in to give the Kid his meds, to hold his hand, to talk about the experience. I tried to talk to them, to make them understand that I was trying to take in the experience we just had had, but he was more important...I woke up.

Nolite te bastardes carbondondum

The phrase may be bogo-Latin, but it's been my mantra as I count down the days of this deployment and the short days before the next. This place is oppressive, stultifying. It's an intellectual straitjacket. There's hardly a soul here that I can make any connection with. Everywhere I turn it's yet another restriction, yet another arbitrary rule. I feel like some of my keenness has been blunted. It's isolation without the peace of solitude.

It's true that the sun still shines, but I haven't seen it in over sixty days. I haven't even seen the shine of Rigel and Betelgeuse, or the twinkling of Orion's belt in the chill winter sky. My world is made of iron and steel, interrupted only by the plastic and rubber and cloth of what passes for amenities around here. Even the food is repetitive and artificial. Cold fried potatoes. Cold waffles, no peanut butter. Bacon burned to carbon, or so undercooked I don't dare eat it. The closest thing I get to variation is the motion of the waves, and the vague lassitude caused by the drugs I need to not vomit when the waves strike.

They say you get better accommodations in jail. I'm inclined to believe it, but at least I have the comfort of knowing that I'm not actually a criminal.

I'm going to go catch two hours of fitful sleep and come back to the same old grind. The days run together. I only know it's February 25, because good old E2 has no reason to lie to me. Honestly, I should be excited. We're almost home. But because another six months of this looms not so far away - much sooner than usual - it rather blunts my excitement.

Another day. Nolite te bastardes carbondondum.

The Iron Reader Challenge continues... The challenge was to read every node posted this month. My February has sort of evaporated on me, as Februarys notoriously do (or is it "Februaries"?), but I plan to persevere into March. So far, I've read up to the 13th or so.

If I was picking favorites I'd mention rootbeer277's The Maltese Shipping Order, which was also posted on Feb 1 but I had leap-frogged over it and tagged it "read later" due to its hefty length. Were I not doing this silly self-challenge I probably would not have come back to it, which would've been a big loss on my part because it is bloody brilliant. A robot noir detective story is a cute idea-- "cuteness" being a potentially fatal flaw when writing SF, in my opinion-- but rb took the time and the length he needed to build the basic idea into a logical, believable world. The bit about servomotors vs hydraulics is the sort of attention to detail that separates good SF from bad.

Also: OMG hamster bong is posting nodes again? And people are downvoting them all to hell and breakfast? How is that even possible?

The Custodian's and Bitriot's contributions to BrevQuest this year have also been routinely excellent. hapax's too. Thanks to everyone for getting into the spirit of the quest and posting short w/us this month; it's making things much easier. *grin*

Maybe I'll submit a full report once I make it through the latter half of ENN. Who knows?

I miss your laugh, how did it break?
Why did your eyes begin to look fake?
I miss your warmth, where did it go?
Why did you mind begin to lose control?
I miss your happiness, what happened to it?
Why did you begin to lose all of your hope?
I miss your calls, why did they stop?
Why did your actions begin to flip-flop?

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