by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 19

The Vote and After

A portly gentleman well beyond middle age clambered onto the stage.

'Thanks Penelope, Perses, Bart, Robert, Fidel, Arnold and Hylas for a most amusing insight into the world of medicine. I look forward to seeing you all on stage again. But first, please give us a brief outline of the diversions you might offer us mere mortals.' He moved to the side of the stage while the five newcomers listed the activities they thought might entertain and be useful to the residents, making it clear they would welcome suggestions for changes and other activities.

The portly gentleman then reminded them that their appointment had to be validated by a unanimous vote. Turning to the audience he stated clearly, 'Will those who object to the appointment of these five men as noble savages to work with Hercules, Zadig and Mort, please stand.'

'No one stood.'

The man smiled and shook their hands. 'I'm Harold, current Chairman of the body Corporate. It's my pleasure to welcome you to Oasis. Before we all gather for refreshments, however, I want to invite all residents and savages to a Welcome to Oasis Ball to be held in the Hercules Room tomorrow evening—dress formal.'

The house lights came on and the audience joined the actors and backstage crew—Hercules, Zadig and Mort, for drinks and savouries. Everyone wanted to talk to the eight savages, who were plied with food, questioned and complimented on both performance and appearance all evening.

Arnold cornered Perses. 'How old are you?'


'Where did you learn such sexual proficiency?'

'A teacher at school.'

'Did he…'

'No, I did. Six months ago. I told him how I felt, and after thinking about it he discovered I was irresistible.'

'Do your parents know?'

'Of course. They met him at a school open day, and we've all been to his house for a meal. He's twenty-four and I stay with him if there's something on at school in the evenings. We're going to share a place together when I leave high school.'

Penelope and Aristo, curious at the seriousness of the conversation came to stand protectively beside their son. 'Perses and Reza share similar ideas, values and physical attraction,' Aristo said quietly. 'Penelope and I are in our late forties. We worry about the future. Perses will need a good friend to rely on, and we are convinced Reza is the one. There are very few people one would willingly share one's life with, so when you find someone, grab them and hang on—as I think you have done with Fidel. At fifteen, young men know very well what they want, and if trusted will choose wisely.'

'And we are thrilled he will not be breeding,' Penelope added.

'Wise of you; I wasn't being nosy, only concerned.'

'We understand, and your concern proves how right we are to employ men like you as guardians—because in effect that's what you are—guardians of our sanctuary, our sanity, health and pleasure.' Aristo shook hands, patted Arnold on the shoulder, and they moved on to speak with others, leaving him with a warm glow in his chest.

An hour later they were gathered in Hercules' sitting room, discussing Oasis and its inhabitants.

'The changes I've noticed here in the last two years are troubling.' Mort frowned and looked to Hercules and Zadig for confirmation.

'Mort's right. Since JECHIS reared its ugly head our carefree bunch of insanely rich people have become nervous, irritable and only with difficulty able to appear as relaxed as they have since you arrived.'

Zadig laughed. 'You guys thought you were being judged tonight; whereas they were worried you'd judge them severely and not want to stay. Hercules' initial recommendation was sufficient to have you appointed. Tonight's show was a fun formality, which you executed with élan. It was a great show.'

'Thanks to you guys for doing all the clever stuff backstage.'

'Our pleasure.'

'So,' Bart asked, 'What's the problem?'

'There are one hundred and ninety eight residents comprised of forty-one retirees, of which twenty-eight are female and thirteen male, aged from sixty-two to seventy-nine. Ninety-eight other adults, forty-nine of each sex, aged between thirty-six and forty-eight. They've spawned fifty-nine children of whom thirty-three are females and twenty-six male. The youngest child is a twelve year-old boy, the oldest a seventeen year-old girl. Until JECHIS arrived, all the kids were at school during the day, and the adults at work or amusing themselves in the city, leaving only retirees, few of whom bothered to go to the city. So our work was easy; fitness groups before breakfast, tennis and suchlike for the women who stayed home, and cards and dancing and walks etc for the retirees. Now, only forty men still go to work, and twenty-five boys to school. Women and girls seldom leave the place, and neither do the retirees—too frightened. That means we have one hundred and thirty-three people hanging around Oasis all day every day, one hundred and twenty of whom are female! Most are bored out of their minds and starting to get on each other's nerves, and several marriages are heading for the rocks, unless...'

'Unless we can make their lives fun and interesting?' Fidel's face reflected his doubt.

'I think you're guilty of withholding facts that might have had a bearing on our acceptance of your offer, Mort,' Robert said seriously.

'If you'd known the facts,' Zadig asked, 'would you have refused?' '

'Of course not; I was joking.'

'It's going to make it more interesting' Hylas declared with the nodded assent of the others. 'We won't be just baby-sitters, we'll actually have something useful to do.'

'Yeah,' Arnold added. 'I can't wait to get started.'

'Is the Hercules Room anything to do with you, Hercules?'

'It sure is,' Mort laughed. 'As you've noticed, public spaces are all in the style of ancient Greek or Rome, and there are statues of gods in the theatre and elsewhere. Oasis boasts two large spaces, one for informal social activities, and one for formal gatherings. The first is simply called the Assembly Room. Years ago when he was an escort, Hercules won the title of Cairns most desirable gigolo. Archie, my father, remembered that and for a joke commissioned a bronze miniature of him and placed it in a niche above the main entrance. From then on it's been called the Hercules Room. If you look on the base you can see the inscription.'

'Did you really win that title?'

'It was an advertising stunt by the escort agency I sometimes worked for. Archie thought it such a joke he immortalised it.'

'It's a damned good likeness, though,' Zadig said cheerfully. 'Now our Hercules has joined the pantheon of the gods—deservedly.'

'Indeed,' Mort added.

After a night of sleep and sex, and a day in which the new men became acquainted with more of the ins and outs of Oasis and most of the residents, the formal Ball in the superb classical ambience of the Hercules Room did not disappoint. One hundred and ninety-eight residents in their finest apparel gathered in chatty clusters between columns and arches, leaned against elegant balustrades on the vine-draped terrace, and posed self-consciously beside sculptures of naked classical gods and goddesses, including the remarkable likeness to Hercules, which the new men admired.

While females jealously eyed each other's corsage, décolleté, jewels and gown, men in starched fronts, white ties and tails, patent leather shoes and discreet buttonholes, discussed the latest political reports, the strange weather, their cars and bank accounts. The four children younger than fourteen were already eating from a small buffet, while the teenagers, impatient to start dancing, were already groping and giggling.

At eight o'clock precisely, the Master of Ceremonies called everyone to attention, welcomed the five newcomers who looked serene, healthy, alert and more comfortable in their skins than their hosts in their finery, and, as was customary, asked Hercules to take his partner for the first dance. Not customary was Hercules' choice of Hylas as dancing partner, but frowns became smiles of awe when their dance proved to be a tour de force of strength, agility and grace, thanks to a practice that afternoon to a recording of the waltz. So enthralled were the onlookers that the MC allowed them to complete three circuits of the floor before calling on everyone else to join them.

Lifelike papier-mâché sculptures of a five-man orchestral ensemble, sat on a tiny stage while a state of the art sound system played waltzes, tangos, quick-steps, the veleta, rumbas… all dances favoured by the afternoon-tea dancers. The music was cheerful, not loud enough to inhibit conversation, and popular. The savages danced every dance with different partners, both young and old, bringing healthy blushes to every female cheek. The ambience was pleasantly exciting, as far from the heart-stopping beat, crush and insanity of the Brisbane discos as it is possible to conceive.

The residents had come to Oasis to be healthy as well as exceptional, and achieved both aims by heeding health warnings. In consensus decisions they had banned humanity's most addictive and pernicious drugs, alcohol and smoking, from the entire estate. Thus social gatherings were always delightful, relaxing, friendly and refreshing and no one woke with a sore head. The revelry ended at midnight and, as was customary, it was declared the best ball ever.

The following morning at ten o'clock, every resident who was not at work or school, was sitting on grassy terraces beneath a large shade tree, waiting for the eight young men sprawled over the grass at their feet to tell them what to do. All looked remarkably fresh and exceedingly well dressed—albeit less formal than the previous evening.

Hercules got to his feet, grateful for the tradition that permitted noble savages to speak their minds, with direct honesty; it always saved a lot of time.

'Many residents of all ages, especially females, have lately become depressed, bitchy and unpleasant,' he stated bluntly. 'Some of you are wondering why you bother staying here and if it might be better to risk living in the outside world. We understand your frustration and feelings and have worked out ways we reckon will improve things. Bart will set the ball rolling.' He sprawled back on the grass, as if it wasn't his problem and he was unconcerned about the outcome of the meeting.

Bart in the sunshine looked younger than inside; radiating trustworthiness and decency—the sort of man who doesn't seek approval; therefore others seek his.

'Life may be getting dull for females here,' he said gravely, 'however I strongly advise women and girls against trying to live outside Oasis. Here you can associate with whomever you wish. Out there, you may not leave the house unless accompanied by a male relative. Here you can run naked if you want. There only your face and hands may be uncovered. You're bored and feeling trapped and useless. What do you think every female outside of Oasis is feeling? These emotions are natural—in fact I'd be concerned if you weren't feeling this way. Fortunately, the solution is simple and can start today if you follow our advice.'

A rustling of interest, amusement, and mutterings of disbelief.

'As soon as you return home after this meeting, give your servants excellent references, at least a month's wages, more if you can afford it, and dismiss them with grateful thanks, telling them you're moving away permanently from Oasis.' He paused. 'Will any of you have a problem doing that?'

A raised hand. Bart nodded.

'I'm having a dinner party tonight, as you know, seeing you and Robert are invited. What am I expected to do?'

Bart shrugged incomprehension. 'Can't you cook?'

'Of course I can, but…'

'But you prefer to let others have the pleasure of creating meals, serving your family and being useful. That's very noble of you, Moira, but isn't it time your generosity was directed towards yourself. Don't you think you also have the right to invent and prepare meals, serve people you like and admire, and be useful to others?'

'Of course… but…'

'I'll bet your servant/cook has not felt useless, bored or unable to sleep while working for you. Well, now it's your turn to have a raison d'être.' He gazed around, eyes challenging. 'Is there anyone here who will not handsomely reward and dismiss their servant after this meeting, so that they can also enjoy the pleasures of an active, useful and inventive life?'

'What about us? We're in our seventies. Some of the housework is getting too much.'

'Close off all the rooms you don't use frequently, and when you have a genuine need for assistance in either house or garden, employ one of the residents. The opportunity for a girl to find paid employment outside Oasis is zero, so you'll be inundated with offers.'

'But we're rich! We can afford servants; it seems stupid not to have them.'

'The problem with riches is they promise what they can't give. We're told that money will bring happiness because we can buy anything, even other humans to work for us. But as you've experienced, that leads to boredom, ennui and irritability, not to mention worry about losing it. As for servants, do you really like having a stranger in your house listening to everything you say, watching your every move? How do you know he's not a JECHIS spy? Wouldn't you prefer to have privacy?

Several people began to speak, stopped, thought, then whispered to their neighbours. Bart allowed the hubbub to continue for a few minutes, then called the meeting to attention.

'In the absence of further discussion, I'll assume you have all decided to take control of your lives and will start doing so the minute you arrive home after this meeting.'

To a mumbled chorus of bemused agreement, Bart bestowed a smile that rewarded their decision and warmed their hearts, then lay back beside Hercules, his place being taken by Mort.

'I want to congratulate every one of you for coping so well with the changes forced on us by JECHIS. Unfortunately, like the changing climate it is a permanent fixture, so we have to make permanent changes to the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world. For most of human existence people have lived in communities no bigger than ours, with fewer conveniences. Are we less than our ancestors? I don't think so. Being responsible for our own shelter and food is essential, as is taking charge of our emotions. My grandmother told me that when she was young, people got rid of negative emotions by uttering primordial screams until their anger, frustration, disappointment or whatever was troubling them, evaporated—or they became hoarse. We have a better solution than that; we have the theatre where we share our ideas without restraint or censure. I'd like to expand this so there's a performance every night of very short plays, monologues, songs, poems, dances…in which the writers/composers explore their personal fantasies, frustrations, and emotions. I'd like each one of you to compose pieces to be performed by others, permitting the audience to learn what other residents are feeling, and the actors to experience other people's emotions. I hope that when the writer sees other people apparently in his or her situation, the different perspective will help them to see solutions to what now seem to be intractable problems.'

'Like my fear that I'll never have a lover or sex because girls outnumber boys here, and some of them are gay.' The teenaged girl's voice broke slightly. 'I might be able to bear not having a baby, but never to be fucked by a lover?' She stopped suddenly, sniffed bravely, then dissolved into tears, unable to be consoled by motherly caresses.

'That sort of thing, yes.'

'That sounds embarrassing; do we have to put our names on them?'

'Let's put it to the meeting.'

After a short discussion it was unanimously decided that the author of each presentation would remain anonymous, to permit total honesty.

'Are there any restrictions on content?'

'There never has been before, so why start now?'

'I just wondered because some of the ideas in my head go well beyond anything presented so far.'

'Yeah, me too.'

'Let's leave it to the actors; which means you. If an actor thinks he or she is unable to play the role, then that's all the censorship required. I'll direct the shows and guarantee the author's anonymity.'

Fidel replaced Mort, smiling shyly, making every woman over the age of thirty want to stroke and take care of him.

'Entropy,' he said with a sad shake of his head. 'Even the best of buildings need repairs and maintenance. We have to stop relying on others to maintain things. We're not dumb animals. Things humans have made can be repaired and maintained by humans, so I reckon it's not only household servants we should dispense with, but also the cleaning and maintenance guys who come every night. Hercules has agreed to terminate all cleaning and maintenance contracts, if all of us are prepared to do the work ourselves. There's a job for everyone and many hands make light work. Repairing a window, or sweeping leaves is good exercise, gives a sense of achievement, and improves our knowledge of our environment. If you all agree I'll make a roster of regular duties, taking into consideration a person's age. I'd also appreciate the names of anyone who'd like to be on call for urgent repairs.' He shook his head as if to dislodge an idea. Frowned, looked up and grinned. 'Can't think of anything else. Any questions?'

'I gather you'll be in charge of maintenance?'

'No, no! I'm in charge of nothing. Oasis belongs to you residents, so all of you are in charge, by keeping an eye out for leaking taps, roofs, broken tiles, jammed doors, wobbly handrails… that sort of thing, then letting me know. I'll just be the coordinator. With a self-deprecatory smile he returned to his seat and Arnold stepped up, causing everyone to unconsciously sit straighter, open their eyes wider and smile slightly to gain the attention of this superbly symmetrical being whose performance on stage had almost every resident in love/lust with his body, flawless skin, dark beard and eyebrows, flashing eyes, tight sphincter, sublime ejaculations and shock of straight, black hair. The sigh from almost every chest was audible. Arnold, unaware of the fluttering hearts and languid lust he inspired from male and female alike, grinned innocently and charmed the more.

'Health,' he said seriously. 'Body and mind. Mens sana in corpore sano. Whoever walks, or runs around the boundary every day will soon become so fit it will seem easy. It's the same with your decision to look after your own comfort and survival instead of employing others. At first it'll seem a strain, then suddenly it'll be like breathing. A healthy body makes for a healthy mind that sloughs off useless thoughts. The best part of Oasis is the nature, and I'm going to assist Zadig with the increasing burden of forest maintenance, replanting, and weed control, as well as the formal plantings. I hope some of you will also give us a hand and also be creative with the design and maintenance of the ornamental gardens that help to make Oasis such a paradise. There's also a need for people to work in a nursery to raise new plants. Like Fidel, I'm not in charge of anything, but if you tell me your ideas, I'll help organise their execution.' With a self-conscious smile he strolled back to lie on the grass with the others.

Robert replaced him. 'I'd like everyone to take up dancing and vegetable gardening, he said with an infectious grin that set everyone laughing. Yeah, it sounds an odd combination, but gardening requires stooping, bending and lifting, so tends to tighten up some muscle groups, while dancing loosens them and puts aching joints back into place.'

'What sort of dancing?'

'Folk, ballroom, creative. I reckon we should have an Afternoon Tea Dance every evening before dinner in the Hercules Room. The Savages will all endeavour to be there to assist the remaining men to partner the ladies, but of course there's a long tradition of women dancing with each other, which is good. As for gardening, we should be able to become self-sufficient in most vegetables and fruits. I want to divide unused cleared areas into allotments to be shared, or worked individually—whatever suits. No competition, just useful exercise and edible fun to be shared. I'd also like to complement Mort's self defence lessons with discussions about other ways of keeping yourself safe from unwanted attention, and strengthening the entire body through wrestling.'

'Girls too.'

'Certainly! Girls benefit greatly from an activity that uses virtually every muscle in the body.'

'Will you be wrestling with us?'

'Of course, just like I dance with you. Wrestling's sort of hard dancing.' Robert's roguish, sexy grin made every woman decide to take up wrestling. 'I'll set these activities up and keep you all posted.'

Slender, youthful Hylas; twenty but looking sixteen. He frowned nervously and every girl decided then and there she would kiss him one day. 'I finished year twelve,' he said diffidently, 'and then things happened. But I discovered at the gym that I like to teach, so I'd like to help with teaching girls who no longer go to school. And I also learned to cook when I was a kid, and to clean our house, so if anyone wants a few tips on easy cleaning after the servants go, and some easy recipes, then ask me. And if any older person would like to go for a walk but needs a companion, ask me. I'm skinny but strong. And Fidel's an excellent drawer, and I love it too, so if anyone's interested we'd like to start art classes.' He stopped, embarrassed and was joined by Bart who draped an arm affectionately across his shoulders.

'Hylas is a very useful young man. He cooked up the best rat stew I've ever eaten a while ago…' Everyone laughed. 'Please bear in mind that we five newcomers are only putting out ideas, not laying down rules. You are the chiefs, we're the Indians. Please don't mistake our keenness for bossiness. We're not pushy pricks trying to take over the place. We accepted Mort's offer because at first sight we loved Oasis and our social position. Believe me, that's one thing I really do not want to change! I honestly love being a savage. Ideally, I wouldn't change anything—but change is forced upon us. Perhaps one day we might have philosophy discussions, a reading group, musical listening and a bridge group. Meanwhile, I'll be general dogsbody assisting all the others if needed, available to you if needed.' He smiled and returned with Hylas to the grass.

'Well, that's plenty to think about for now,' Hercules said briskly. 'I'll put the suggestions on the board for you to think about and discuss with your husbands and sons when they return. As always, if you're interested in anything, put your name on the list in my office.'

'Is there a minimum number of people required for an activity?'

Hercules shrugged. 'Can't see why. We're all individuals, so one person is just as important as twenty. If someone's available and one person is interested then it goes ahead.'

'Meanwhile,' Mort added, coming to stand beside Hercules, 'be strong. Get rid of everything in your life that doesn't contribute directly to your peace, health and happiness… and stand on your own two feet by saying goodbye to your servants.

Back in the real world of cities and large towns, where brainwashed nonentities lived in a constructed reality, the tyrannical triumvirate was going the way of all such attempts to share power peacefully—jousting for influence and wealth. At first the troubles were a poorly kept secret behind the walls of official buildings, army barracks and Protector training schools. But when a JE official was poisoned at a banquet, an IS official was drowned in his bath, and two CH officials were discovered without heads and genitals, a toxic state of affairs became outright war, spreading onto the streets where collateral damage was severe. Thousands died. Not from their wounds so much as from lack of even minimal first aid and antibiotics. When bullets and knives didn't kill, bacteria did. On the up side, unemployment, which had been rising, was now falling with vacancies in numerous key and not so key positions.

At the nightly Oasis updates, Steven Snupe continued to hold his audience in thrall with tales from the world of politics. Of interest, but not especially worrying, was that having disposed of the JEs and ISs, the CH group renamed Queensland "The Christian Kingdom", and appointed a Lord Cardinal as head of state, supported by Cardinal-Dukes and Bishop-Barons, each with their Ministers. Eschewing the colourful gowns, capes and cloth of gold, mitres and jewelled rings and sandals of their medieval predecessors, the new lords of the realm dressed in plain black suits embellished with a simple gold cross on the lapel. Thus they proclaimed their adoption of the simple life preached by their tripartite God.

What was worrying, was that the deposed JE party's interstate and international financial manipulators put an embargo on all Christian Kingdom banks and lending institutions. As the Christian Kingdom had already taken over all Queensland banks and financial institutions, they responded by launching the Christian Kingdom Angel, or CKA (usually referred to as sikka), which was pegged at parity to the old dollar. It was a digital currency with one hundred Souls to the Angel, and only tradeable in the Christian Kingdom so its value would be stable. Depositor accounts had been automatically converted to CKAs, to be used in the same way as the old currency.

'Will there be any physical money?' A voice from the floor.

'Not at this stage. Everyone will have a debit card that can be topped up on-line, and in the banks.'

What about poor people?'

'They'll be paid with debit cards.'

'And big brother will know the spending habits of every citizen.'

'They've known that since electronic banking was introduced. The only difference is there's no escaping the net now.'

Steven consulted his notes. 'As you know, a great deal of infrastructure has been damaged by unseasonable storms, and without sufficient heavy machinery to rebuild, and no international currency to buy stuff with, universal forced labour has been reintroduced.'

'What do you mean, reintroduced?'

'Until the nineteen seventies, much of Queensland's infrastructure was built using indigenous and Pacific Islander forced or slave labour—paying them only enough to feed and clothe themselves. It made it impossible for them to accumulate enough assets to join in the affluence enjoyed by whites, but you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs, as they say.'

Four weeks after the dismissal of their servants, complaints from women and girls about having to do all the cleaning, cooking and just about everything else while their menfolk sat on their fat arses and did nothing, suddenly stopped because of tests conducted by Penelope and Hercules, which proved they were leaner, fitter, had clearer skin, glossier hair and felt more energetic than they could remember. All said they slept like logs and no one had had felt depressed for weeks.

'So why are you all complaining?' Hercules asked.

'Everyone else was so we thought…'

'You didn't think about the effect it was having on your sons and husbands who are working just as hard as you, or on the noble savages who are also working their butts off trying to make you happy.'


'Are you missing having servants?'


All felt relieved at having the house to themselves and not having to be careful about speaking in front of servants. All had learned to get the chores done quickly and then get out in the garden, or to other activities. At meetings they swapped recipes, cleaning tips, and ways to work more efficiently. Three of the retrenched men took over their household, leaving their wives to become gardeners, playwrights, wrestlers, joiners and maintenance workers under the guidance of Fidel, Robert and others. Fidel and Zadig ploughed up a large grassed area that was seldom used, divided it into allotments, spread tons of mulch and compost that had been piling up in the forest, and with unlimited water from deep wells, and shade cloths to ward off the sun, they were soon self sufficient in vegetables and fruits of every variety. The volcanic soil was rich and several metres deep, and produced up to three crops per year.

The weather continued it's erratic behaviour, dumping either too much rain or too little. Heatwaves and hurricanes. Seldom a middle ground. Relentlessly rising seas were forcing people further inland, and temporary camps and trailer parks were moving closer to Oasis. This triggered the dismissal of the gate-keeper with very generous severance pay, and the dumping of several truck loads of gravel and huge rocks directly outside the ostentatious gateway, which was removed and replaced with a tangled barbed wire fence preventing access to all traffic—foot and wheeled.

Official signs were attached to the barrier, and smaller ones appeared around the eight-kilometre boundary fence, informing curious eyes that the Toxic Waste Dump was now closed, but poison residues including low-level radiation remained. So Keep Out.

The only access to Oasis now was through the overgrown garden of a vaguely commercial-type property of no interest, with a long back yard that reached the estate border; it was one of several properties bought by the body Corporate years before as an address for Internet financial transactions and taxation. Vehicles could drive through the garage and then through a gap in the boundary fence. But it was a fuss, so the fifteen men who went to the city daily, parked their cars behind the building and rode bicycles through the forest to their residences. Oasis schoolboys had been riding their bikes that way for years as it was shorter than using the main gate.

As residents learned to enjoy taking care of their own needs, some attempted to bridge the social gap between them and the savages. These attempts were always sternly rebuffed by Hercules and his men who, having experienced the euphoric freedom of living outside all the usual social restrictions, weren't about to shackle themselves again.

Perses' decision after his performance on stage to swim and do sport naked, because he loved the feel of air flowing around his balls and the sensation of total freedom, was eventually taken up by several other youths and men—but not females unless there were no males present. They realised intuitively that a gash could not compete with a spear, and their attraction lay in the mystery granted by concealing it. Several women became angry and dismissive of their nudist husbands and sons, sneering at their less than perfect bodies—calling them perverted exhibitionists. This undermined the happiness of these perfectly healthy men and led to marital and social disharmony.

And then it rained. And rained. And rained.

The soil on the north slope of the crater, on which all the residents' houses had been so perfectly designed, built and landscaped, began to slide over the granite beneath. Not because of faulty construction—the drainage had been meticulously planned, but because of tree clearance in the suburbs near the rim, to accommodate the ever expanding cancer of cheap housing where builders, in the interests of profit, had simply directed all storm water towards the 'uninhabited' forest of Oasis instead of constructing proper drains.

None of the resident's mansions crumbled, they were too well built. They simply slid slowly down hill until they reached the bottom, then gently piled up, leaning, twisting, reclining against each other like amorous behemoths—amusing if it wasn't your house. Cautiously, so as not to precipitate a catastrophe, furniture and valuables were removed and stored in large marquees. As many personal effects as possible were taken to the public rooms—females to the Assembly Room because it was larger and had a pleasant aspect onto parklands, and men to the Hercules room, which accommodated them easily and was but a hop, step and jump from the swimming pool.

No one grumbled, complained or made problems. Both dormitories had small kitchens where they could make themselves snacks and drinks whenever they liked, and the large covered barbeque area beside the main swimming pool, only fifty metres from both the Hercules and Assembly rooms, was perfect for making and consuming all main meals. Hylas drew up a roster and discreetly supervised the cooks, so meal preparation became a time of gossip and companionship, and eating a communal pleasure; better than the city restaurants they were used to because they could call across to friends, make a noise, laugh and sing and enjoy the eating as well as the food—some for the first time in their lives.

By the end of the week it was acknowledged, if not spoken aloud, that this was a much more pleasant arrangement than rattling around with a spouse and one or two children in a vast house; having to go out for everything—even to find someone to talk to. In the evenings after the theatre, cards, dancing or whatever they'd been doing, women and girls could sit around, or lie in their beds and enjoy a gossip about what they'd been doing, their hair, clothes, perfume, and what book they were reading.

In their enclave, the men deliberated about the state of the world, the weather, the crops, the condition of their vehicles and other mechanical equipment, and planned improvements to everything, while their sons in their area did homework, talked about sex, girls, cars, sport and everything else that interested them.

The Hercules room now resembled the lounge of a gentleman's club; an elegant, classical space dotted with armchairs, statues, and other less conventional furniture. Each occupant had a small carpet, his favourite armchair, a wardrobe and desk or table, as well as their own bed or chaise longue as some now called it. Privacy, to everyone's surprise, wasn't an issue. It was a relief to know other men were nearby in case of… in case of anything. Men, they discovered, were happier together; sharing the 'male burden', even if it was imaginary.

Personal cleanliness was ensured when Fidel and Zadig constructed superb shower facilities for both the Assembly and Hercules rooms.

As for sex, wives were usually not averse to a wander in the forest as long as their hair wasn't disturbed, but for the men, wanking in their own bed was less of a fuss because it didn't involve cajoling, flattering, and wondering if they'd provided enough foreplay and other stimulation. Nor did they worry they wouldn't get an erection, ejaculate too soon, or have bad breath or sweaty armpits or a multitude of other sins. If their cock wilted before orgasm, they didn't have to apologise and feel inadequate. And as every man on earth masturbates, there was no shame in that. So they did.

Then, with the example of the savages as a guide, some began to experiment, and discover the calm pleasure of sexual activity with someone who, because they had the same equipment, understood the sort of things that arouse and can bring on exquisite orgasms.

Mort's father's house had gone the way of all the other residences, so as the two cottages belonging to Zadig and Hercules were intact, being situated behind the unaffected public buildings, Robert and Bart moved in with Hercules and Hylas, while Fidel and Arnold shared Mort and Zadig's cottage. Instead of Oasis being a collection of isolated individuals, it became, in Hercules' words, a termite nest of like-minded people with plenty of forest to lose themselves in when the urge to be alone replaced the desire for company.

Relationships between the sexes improved to such an extent that men and women actually became friends, sharing ideas, experiences and laughs with each other as equals. No one in Oasis wanted a baby, in fact they didn't want a baby with such force that the very idea of sexual activity that might lead to that, was enough to shrink the boldest penis… at least among those over forty.

To accommodate the desire of young singles to experiment with sex, Fidel and Zadig made the two least damaged houses safe, setting one up as a clubhouse for the youngsters, and the other as a place for married couples to copulate in private, away from the creepy crawlies in the forest.

Contrary to popular wisdom, spending very little time alone with their husband or wife and enjoying casual bonking with same-sex lovers, had the effect of cementing the marriage bond. Dressing for a date with their spouse, then collecting her from the Assembly Room to go to the theatre, or a dance or whatever activity was on, became almost as exciting as when they were young.

In case curious walkers crossed the standard chain link fence of the legal boundary of Oasis, a high-tensile steel-mesh barrier, had been constructed ten metres inside it. Electrified and laced with security sensors, it threaded its way between dense, tangled old forest and scrub that on its own would deter all but the most determined walker. An added security measure when it was first installed was to plant the dreaded gympie-gympie bushes every few metres against the outside of the wire. The slightest touch caused extremely painful rashes that lasted for days—sometimes weeks. Only someone deliberately wanting to enter Oasis would find the security barrier, but as the entire estate had been digitally removed from all Lands Department electronic plans, it was unlikely anyone would be looking for it. Furthermore, being situated in a shallow crater, the trees were scarcely noticeable from outside. Looking towards Oasis from the city the eye passed over the rise and saw only the distant hills of the escarpment. And as the rainforest canopy covered most of the area, Google maps showed only patches of apparently unremarkable buildings dotted here and there among trees. Nothing to excite interest.

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