Origin Story

Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup and a slice of bread / 1934

But the reporters, they were the worst. They always wanted to open the doors he’d locked tight. They’d crowd around, What’s in this room Steve? Nothing, he’d say, or just an old closet, nothing to look at in there. But they’d tap their pencils and push up their glasses and try to peek through the keyhole or under the door and he’d say cut that out will yah, I wanna talk about the picture. Our readers just want to know the real Steve they’d say, lips stretched thin over bloodthirsty fangs.

In his dreams there was a curtain at the back of a stage and it opened onto another stage, and another, and another, and each one held shapes in the dark more hideous than the last. Black-suited men moved great silhouettes around as the ice-white spotlight caught him in the eyes and blinded him. Our readers are your fans, Steve, they just want to know the real Steve came a booming voice from the balcony. He tried to clutch the curtains closed but they kept springing open and the dream wouldn’t end until one of the silhouettes crashed into him and he awoke in a pool of sweat with the room cool from the Santa Ana winds, and he reached again for the bottle on the nightstand.

Part one in a series. Part two: The Street. Image used with the permission of the State Library of New South Wales.