He shrieked again, louder this time, then bolted, sidestepping to shove Todd, the handsome sign language interpreter, to the ground. The huddle of aides and advisors and yes-men (that was their official title) behind the partition at the side of the room parted and watched in shock as Stan raced through their midst, wide-eyed and flailing his arms above his head. “Stan!” cried Belinda. “Don’t forget to wear your mask!”
With the tightening claws of panic crushing his chest and squeezing every peripheral thought from his mind, Stan raced down the corridor. He sprinted as snarling Alsatians snapped at his feet; he dropped to the floor and covered his head as a great blast shook the building—surely a bomb meant for him; he lashed out with his fists as the walls became giant, hissing tentacles trying to tear him to pieces. From the end of the corridor behind him, his aides and advisors and yes-men watched in silent curiosity as Stan reacted to a dozen imagined threats. Finally, shaking and muttering to himself, he made it to the end of the corridor and crashed through the door to the lobby.
Through the almost deserted lobby he raced, pointing and screaming. “They’re trying to kill me!” he cried to an old couple. “Call the police!” he commanded one of the cleaning staff. “Out of my way!” he squealed at a potted fern. “I’m the best premier in Australia!”
He fled through the building’s open front doors, and stood panting at the edge of the extravagant driveway. Between the stone columns, he spotted his government car, a 1955 sky blue Chrysler convertible, waiting to take him to his next appointment. His driver, Simon, stood nearby, beside a water fountain with a ridiculously large Pegasus statue. Stan ran to the car. Simon dropped the cigarette he was smoking and extinguished it beneath his shoe with a quick twist. “Is everything okay, sir?” he asked, with a stream of smoke from his lips.
“They’re trying to kill me. Save yourself!” cried Stan, and with that, he shoved Simon backward into the fountain.
Stan jumped into the driver’s seat and turned the key. The car roared to life. He slammed the accelerator to the floor and screeched out of the driveway, managing to knock the side mirror off a taxi, the only other vehicle in front of the building. In his mad haste, Stan did not notice that the government Covid safety mascot, Dickhead the Koala, was lying limp in the back seat. (The young woman who played Dickhead had quit in a huff and left the koala suit there.)
In his beast of an automobile, Stan hurtled through the city streets, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, and veering from lane to lane. Thanks to his own strict lockdown rules though, there was no other traffic on the roads, and he was safe to drive as he pleased. Past quiet buildings, closed businesses and abandoned shops he sped, until he turned onto Main Street. The sun shone kindly, and a sweet breeze swept over his face. To his left, the state botanic gardens, with a hundred splendid shades of green, caught Stan’s eye. As he drove on at increasing speed, he turned and looked at the gardens. How delightful they were. So many different flowers in bloom. So many colours. Stan smiled in admiration. “Just think,” he said to himself, “if I hadn’t kept all public recreation spaces closed for the last year, those gardens would probably have died from Covid by now.”
“Look out!” came the cry.
Stan returned his gaze to the road and saw, a hundred metres ahead, a crowd of protesters marching toward him down Main Street. They waved and shouted and signalled for him to stop. “They’re coming to get me!” gasped Stan. A fresh wave of panic swept him up. He grit his teeth, pressed his foot down on the accelerator, and gripped the steering wheel as hard as he could. The crowd, mostly comprised of circus acrobats (the group to whom Stan had last week given the ultimatum to get Covid vaccinated), hollered and waved at him. Still, he sped on. Closer and closer he got, until he could see the terror in the face of one young protestor. In that moment, a jolt of glee surged through Stan and returned him to some basic command of his senses. He realised he was two seconds away from ploughing into a crowd. His foot remained petrified on the accelerator pedal, so he looked about. To his right, concrete buildings and certain death; to his left, the botanic gardens and the twenty-metre-tall statue of himself made entirely of recycled plastic. It was either drive straight into a crowd of peaceful protestors in nearly two metric tonnes of speeding Chrysler, or swerve into the gardens and likely destroy the statue that bore his likeness. He drove for the protestors.
Screams rang out as Stan’s car charged into the mob. Protestors dived and leapt out of the way—summersaults, backflips, cartwheels—despite the car’s width and Stan’s erratic steering, not an acrobat was hurt. A few protestors, however, were not acrobats. One particularly round and unathletic fellow named Keith was marching right in the middle of the crowd. Keith was ringmaster at a circus and was marching in support of his colleagues. With the big blue car coming straight for him, Keith followed his fellow-protestors’ lead and tried to backflip out of the way. It was the first backflip Keith had ever attempted. His feet lifted no more than two inches, and he appeared to be just throwing himself backward onto the ground. Still, he got most of his bulky frame out of the vehicle’s path, and rather than killing him, as seemed certain, the car merely broke his leg and hip, spun him around and left him writhing in agony on the hot asphalt.
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