By Rhianna Malas
Image by Gemma Saunders
I kept looking up at the glowing orb attached to the pole, the wires, they must be embedded inside the post, the lens must be inside the glass, no! The lens is the light itself! It must be in there, the camera, I swear I could see it if I just stared hard enough, it had to be there.
You must think I’m crazy, but if you knew about Mensfield then you’d be suspicious too, but you likely don’t, so I’ll tell you.
Mensfield is a suburban town somewhere in the very Eastern part of Australia, just under the O in Victoria where the most excitement you’ll get is the the only thing we could call a landmark, our sculpture of A.B Paterson. The townsfolk said that this is where he wrote Waltzing Matilda. But I think it’s because he stayed here for a cup of tea, and that somehow counts as a famous person visiting.
The key feature of the town that was voted ‘The 4th best retirement location in Victoria’ in the 2001 edition of ‘Destination Weekly’, is that every person in town knows each other well, intimately well, a level of intimacy that made me squirm uncomfortably whenever it was brought to my attention.
A good starting place would be the celebration of Mr Paterson’s birthday. Now, does our town celebrate this day every year? Do I know the entirety of “The Man from Snowy River” off by heart?
My cul-de-sac always celebrated holidays together, all of them went the same way, I never minded this until I tore my eyes away from my sister beating everyone at something on the Playstation 2, leaned my head back, and listened to the mothers’ gossip with intrigue. They all sat around the dining room, glasses of wine in painted fingers as they spoke non-stop.
“They fight about…”
“I saw him in bed with…”
“She had an…”
All the rumours were in one way or another proved true, and damaging to all reputations involved. And the mother’s club knew them all in deep and uncomfortable detail, even I know this was information that wasn’t given out freely, it had to be taken.
I started looking at street lights, cracks in the wall, searching for a lens, a microphone, a flashing red light to prove my theory: For reasons of gossip, Mensfield is under heavy camera surveillance.
“Stop staring at that light post, Ellie, it’s bad for your eyes,” my sister instructed, trying to pull me away. “Come on, we have a disco to go to, and do you have to wear that beanie?”
The yearly school disco fell on the night of Banjo Paterson Day, tickets cost five dollars each, and despite the pitifully low price, it still wasn’t worth the price of admission. The smoke machine, Black Eyed Peas blaring, footsteps, talking, noise, noise, noise. I needed to get out of there.
I vacated the school gymnasium, passing drunk teachers in the hallways to find a quiet space. I found an unlocked door, opened it quietly, and stopped.
It was a room I’d never seen before, monitors, rows of them, one on top of the other in a room which, other than a desk and an office chair, is completely empty. I was so filled with shock I couldn’t make out what was on those screens, we can’t afford a security system here, not here or anywhere else in Mensfeild. I slammed the door, ran away and didn’t look back.
Something inside of me was electric, tingling in my fingertips. It was time to get to the bottom of Mensfield, the surveillance suburbia.