A third consecutive day of extreme temperatures wrapped around Melbourne. The mercury reached 45.1 degrees, the first time since records began in 1855.
There was not much wind around to cool down the heat. It was trapped close to the ground.
The heat steadily and readily penetrated the houses.
More than 40 suburbs experienced power cuts. The power to 95,000 homes was turned off for short periods of time.
Schools closed, youngsters gathered in the shopping centre to avoid the heat trapped in their homes.
Noise, laughs and fights. The shopping centre was turned into an amusement park. Some shopkeepers kept their eyes open, watching out for those youngsters who treated shoplifting as a smart act.
“Caught any boys stealing today?” A short and skinny old man asked the bakery staff. He came to the shopping centre almost every single day, whether it was a bright sunny day or showering with rain. He would sit on the bench in the shopping centre, watching shoppers pass by, like it was a job he had to do.
The heatwave bought in lots of people, all the benches were occupied. The old man stood close to a group of teenage girls, with a reusable bag in his hand.
“Sorry,” a bright-eyed young girl apologised for bumping into him.
“That’s quite all right.” He smiled at her. “What do you do when school is closed?”
“We have plenty stuff to do.”
“Like what for instance?”
“Lots to do, like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, parties, loud music, junk food, sleeping in, taking photos with our friends.”
“As long as they’re not with your parents!”
“My parents are cool. I go to concerts with my mum, footy with my dad….”
Two of the girls grabbed the bright-eyed girl’s hands and dragged her away from the old man.
“Don’t talk to him, he’s crazy.”
“He’s a dirty old man.”
“Is he the one who tries to touch girls?”
“My aunty said he keeps photos of naked women in his wallet. She saw them when she was serving him in Kmart.”
“What a sicko!”
“Yuck! He’s gross!”
After the young girls rushed away, the old man found a narrow gap on the bench nearby between two ladies. He sat down comfortably, feeling good from the contact with their bodies.
The heatwave bought out skimpy clothing, females exposing their limbs and midriffs. The old man rather enjoyed the presence of half naked females, more than watching untouchable naked women on television.
“Power cut in your place too?” a lady asked.
“My area is ok.”
“Lots of my neighbours are here. We have nowhere else to go to cool down.”
“It’s not going to cool down for a while yet.”
“Kinglake’s death rate keeps going up.”
“The exceptional heatwave is caused by a slow moving high pressure system that settled over the Tasman Sea. A combination of an intense tropical low located off the North West Australian coast and a monsoon trough over Northern Australia has produced ideal conditions for hot tropical air to be directed down over South-eastern Australia.”
While the old man was still talking, the lady got up and moved away. He kept talking and turned around to face the other lady. She gave him a dirty look with no interest in talking to him.
A teenage couple walked past them hand in hand.
“Lucky bugger! I could do that for him.”
“She’s just a child.”
“I bet she’s had more experience than you.”
“You could be her grandfather!”
“But I am not! I remember how those young bodies made me feel. I may get older but my taste never changes.”
The woman got up and walked away with a disgusted expression on her face.
“It’s the heat that’s made the old man go crazy”, she thought. “No man that age would fancy teenage girls, it’s nauseating. Unless he’s a pervert. Yuck, a pervert’s arm touched mine.” She walked straight to the toilet to wash her arm.
A big smile from ear to ear appeared on the old man’s face when he spotted a lady with long blonde hair. She was a slim and tall lady in her 20s, wearing a strapless dress, concentrating on the ice cream she was licking.
Isn’t it an astonishing sight? The old man thought. He started to mimic her actions unconsciously.
she lifted up her hand and tried to lick the ice cream on her wrist, part of the ice cream on the cone dropped on her chest.
The old man poked his tongue out and thought, I’ll lick it for you baby.
A tall and muscular man blocked his view. The old man looked up and saw a hostile face looking down on him. The expression on his face was one of the most familiar ones he saw on people’s faces when he was present.
The old man blocked his face with his hands but a second later he realised the young man hadn’t hit him. He looked around to find that no one was sitting on the bench but him. He moved slowly away from the unfriendly young man. Then he fled as fast as his legs could carry him.
That was close, he thought. The fright made him weak in the knees. He thought it was time to go home.
Home was not that far away. A 15 minute walk at his speed.
Stepping out of the shopping centre, the heat grabbed him. Like a machine in the chocolate factory ready to pour hot chocolate all over him, the thick and dense air suffocated him. The strong sun was roasting his old bones.
No one was on the streets, not even a dog or cat. All the houses had their blinds down. All the doors and windows were tightly shut. Air-conditioning and electric fans were turned on full blast.
The streets were deserted until a BMW X6, a sports coupe in metallic red, pulled over, 6 feet in front of him.
A young lady with hardly anything on got out of the car, holding a cardboard box. Her high heeled shoes caught on something, she stumbled.
The old man rushed to her side, trying to hold the box for her.
“Let me give you a hand.”
“I’m ok. Let go of the box.”
“I’ll carry it for you. You lead the way.”
“Let go of the box.”
The old man was fascinated with the presence of the young lady. All he could think of was how to be close to her. He was totally and utterly unaware of what was going on.
The box fell on the ground during their struggle.
A plastic bag split open. Some white powder sprayed onto the grass.
A middle aged man, with both arms covered in tattoos, got out of the driver’s seat. His 180 centimetre tall body towered over the tiny old man. He grabbed the old man’s neck and threw him on the ground.
The old man could feel hits to his chest, groin and head. The last thing he felt was his ear touch the warm concrete curb.
The searing heat kept the paramedics busy. Many patients needed ambulances after suffering the effects of heat exposure. Hundreds were treated for heat related illnesses with some fatalities, suspected to be caused by the heat. There was a 70% increase in emergency calls during that week.
The Victorian state coroner announced a tripling of dead bodies being placed in the state mortuary during the heatwave, filling the morgue to capacity.
The old man’s death was treated as heat stroke. No one missed a repulsive dirty old man.
Years later, Melbournians still talked about Kinglake’s destructive bush fire and the historical heatwave they suffered.
In Western Australia, the old man’s nephew, a man in his 40’s, finally got his hands on his uncle’s estate. The relative had been unwanted when he was alive and after spending his inheritance in a short time, his nephew never thought of him again.
A life lived once with no trace of humanity, dying the same way as many cockroaches. One could not help asking, are humans really superior to other animals?