Words || Lhillip Peason
This year has seen me do some strange and awful things for the sake of click-bait journalism, but for the final Grapeshot challenge of 2016, the team decided that it was time for everybody to suffer with me. It was another challenge first for the year: felony (it was just light trespass, don’t worry). There’s an abandoned island mental asylum within driving distance from Sydney, with a shady history and some urban legends. The group challenge was to spend a night there. For the sake of avoiding prosecution, the names of the participants have been changed: I was joined by Hangela Eathcote, Dangus Alton, Haden Punter, Slicia Acott, Ahuda Yeharon, and Ed Jebert.
Everybody is dressed in black, head-to-toe, when we meet up at the station. We look like a hopelessly inept Ocean’s Eleven meets the Scooby-Doo gang, with a seven-seater mum-wagon for our ‘Mystery Machine’. It’s my mum’s Toyota Avensis, and the seven of us cram in for a preparatory shopping trip. Everybody is a little nervous, but pretty game – I, for one, have done the BuzzFeed quiz on who I’d be in a horror movie, and know that I’m a survivor. That’s until Hangela mentions that there will likely be spiders there – fuckloads of them.
That’s when the real fear sets in. We buy a cobweb brush for safety, along with a bunch of torches and some games. For some reason we opt for non-perishable food, as though we expect to be staying there for some weeks, but we do splurge on a kilogram tub of hummus and a bag of carrots. Lastly, some bevvies, and after a few drinks we hit the road to the soundtrack of my mum’s CDs. Putting any seven people into one car appears to immediately instigate a reversion to childhood.
‘God dammit, why didn’t you pee before we left? Oh no, don’t you dare tell me that you ‘didn’t need to go then’.’
After required bathroom breaks we arrive at around 11pm, pulling off the highway, and down a suburban street. The RSL we planned to start from has closed, so we pick a nice looking spot on the street to park, and pile out of the car. We start loading up our bags and squabbling over who will carry what. Everyone, bar me as driver, is a few drinks in, so we’re not as quiet as we’d planned, and all the while Dangus is edgy. ‘Um, guys,’ he whispers, as Hangela and I argue over how to logistically fit a crowbar into a backpack, and whether it should go down somebody’s pants instead. ‘Guys!’
We collectively turn to face a lanky man, evidently the owner of the house we’re parked in front of, standing a few metres from us. His arms are folded, and he’s in nothing but his underwear. We freeze, and Ed emerges from behind a tree in the guy’s yard, having just relieved himself there. ‘Back in the car…’ Hangela whispers through gritted teeth.
I’m certain he’s going to call the cops as soon as we finish our clumsy three-point turn getaway, and the towering underpants-man walks down his driveway, arms still folded, like a disapproving Slenderman on his night off. With the crowbar we look like the world’s shittest burglars. This is a major hitch. Everybody’s spooked, and I’m certain he has taken note of my number plates. We move do a different street and sit in silence.
‘God dammit! Who’s eating chips? Now is not the time! What? No, of course I want some, but Jesus, read the mood.’
We decide nothing can stand in t he way of ‘journalism’, so we silently make tracks, leaving the crowbar behind. We’re tottering under the overpass to the asylum when headlights appear. Everybody collectively dives into an inset area of lantana, but the car’s moving steadily, and I don’t have the time catch up with them, nor the luxury of any cover. Instead I drop to the foetal position, and roll like a little egg-man as far into the spiky scrub as I can. Nailed it.
Sneaking past the floodlit security house is a challenge, especially given there are so many of us. Ed makes it clear he’s the wildcard with an ill-advised attempt to transmit a message to the group by blinking his torch through the darkness, right at the house. It does not go down well, but our entry goes unnoticed, and we’re soon skipping across the bridge to our impending doom on the island.
Well, not really so doomy actually, it’s mostly fascinating. The place is fucking terrifying, don’t get me wrong, but with such a large group it’s harder to be spooked when you find something like a human target, or box full of earth and animal bones inside an otherwise empty room. Although, I admit nobody has the guts to suggest splitting up. Instead we clump together to pore over Eighties patient records, ride the giant swing, shoot off expired fire extinguishers, and take knick knacks – the place is going to be demolished, after all.
After some hours of room-busting by torchlight, unbeknownst to the rest of the sobered up group, Ed has gotten incredibly drunk. He’s incoherent, one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of drunk. He slurs something to the effect of, ‘I’m just going to go back to the car and sleep’.
He’s evidently oblivious to how big of a task the walk will be, or the fact we found an recently used mattress in the rafters of the last one room, so there’s likely somebody else on the island who’ll harvest his skin when he ventures off alone. So, on finding possibly the only unopened building on the island, we claw our way through the boards on the door to set up camp. Ed promptly passes out in a corner of the empty room. We break out the Jenga tower, our kilogram of hummus and some fresh drinks, crank Fleetwood Mac, and bond. With the combination of adrenaline, alcohol and sleep deprivation, truth or dares and ‘never have I evers’ get nostalgic, and the reality sets in – this is one of our last nights together as a team. After some 10 months of working together, fighting together, drinking together, and slaving to cobble up 50 pages of print each month, we’ll be disbanding in a few weeks’ time. Our time is at an end, and we’ll be parting ways to try and shamble together careers in (not so) dead print media.
‘God dammit! Wipe that hummus moustache off your face, it’s 5am – we need to go.’
Before we know it, the grey sky is starting to light up. We never did find our way to the silo tower, but that will have to wait for our next visit. We bundle our shit together and head back across the bridge, with permanent marker scrawl on our faces, and an enormous 2007 ‘Work Choices’ sign in tow. We sneak back past the security house, safely to the car (Breakfast Club-esque fist pumps may or may not have ensued). Upon arriving back at Hangela’s house, everybody piles into her double bed, and we crash hard, ‘Little One Said Roll Over’ style. Whatever happens from here on out for the 2016 Grapey team, we shared something together on this adventure – a spoon train. No asylum hex or cursed treasures will take that from us.
THANK YOU to all our readers and contributors throughout 2016! Our online stream will still be active over the break, so please send any submissions for online articles or reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll catch you ~in the flesh~ in 2017! <3