In response to my second Human Brochure discovery event, here’s my take on a special visit to the Royal Australian Mint:
A Ghost + Forgery + Killer Robots
Kevin walked into the Royal Australian Mint with much trepidation. He had been invited for an exclusive after hours visit, complete with free commemorative coin. He could even bring his children, Belinda and Josephine. But there was a catch.
As one of the 101 local humans involved in the Canberra human brochure campaign, the expectation was that he was to promote the event on social media afterwards; most particularly on his website.
The problem was, his blog featured short works of fiction. He wasn’t sure how he was going to create a fictitious story set in the Mint.
He scanned the room for inspiration, as his two daughters pulled him five different directions; no mean feat with only four hands between them.
In the centre of the room was a scaled interactive model of the Mint building. Could he do something with that perhaps? Have his children shrunk by some malfunctioning device and forced to take shelter in the model.
No, too macabre. Lately he had been getting feedback that his stories could be a little off-putting, and besides no one had really pulled off miniature children since ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids’ – and even that was a questionable example.
He looked around the rest of the room, and spotted a special coin creating machine, where you could, at the push of a button create your own coin commemorating Flinders circumnavigation of Australia. A Moby Dick inspired yarn perhaps, set on the high seas. But he had already harpooned that concept, and Flinders had literally written the book on the subject of ships and Australia.
He was getting desperate. They were going to kick him out of this thing unless he started delivering some content profiling these wonderful experiences; and he surely couldn’t rely on his photography or food blogging skills.
Kevin was brought back to reality as one of the guides brought the group to attention. She was going through housekeeping for the evening and explaining what the experiences would be. Kevin tuned in and out of her presentation, but was suddenly drawn into what she was saying.
‘Tonight we will be dividing you into three groups, with each group moving around the Mint to hear stories of the amazing history of this place.’
Three stories, thought Kevin. That’s fantastic. Surely there would be material for a yarn somewhere amongst that.
‘We will be leaving in five minutes,’ the guide continued. ‘So if you need to go to the bathroom, I suggest you take the opportunity.’
Bathroom – yes, actually he was busting.
‘Girls, do you need to go to the bathroom? I’m going to go now,’ he asked his daughters.
Both shook their heads absent-mindedly, and continued playing with the model.
‘I’ll watch them, if you like,’ came a voice behind him. It was his sister-in-law, Chloe.
‘Hello, great to see you,’ Kevin replied. ‘Look girls, it’s your Aunty Chloe.’
Both girls ran up and hugged their Aunty, at last interested in something other than the model.
‘You go Kev, I’ll start the tour with them and you can catch up.’
Kevin thanked her and made his way down a corridor away from the main foyer that he hoped led to the toilets. After a number of twists and turns, he came to a flight of stairs downwards. He peered into the dark stairwell below. It appeared totally unlit. Kevin looked behind him and could see no other exits from the room. There were no toilets that way.
Nothing for it, he thought to himself and started walked slowly down the stairs.
When he reached the bottom of the two flights of stairs he found the passage below was indeed completely unlit, and felt decidedly colder than the floor above. He was about to make his way back up, when he saw a figure in the distance.
Kevin began to walk towards the person. It was difficult to make the figure out in the darkness, but as his eyes adjusted, Kevin realised there was some emergency lighting along the ceiling. As he got closer, he could see the figure appeared to be an older male worker, dressed in overalls.
‘Hi there,’ Kevin began. ‘I’m just looking for the public toilets?’
The figure continued to come towards him without breaking stride. It was as though the figure hadn’t even seen him.
‘Hello?’ Kevin called.
Abruptly the figure turned around and began walking in the opposite direction.
‘Hang on a sec!’ Kevin called, quickening his stride.
And then the figure disappeared.
Kevin stopped dead in his tracks. He was sure that there had been a person there a moment ago. And now they were gone.
‘Hello?’ he called again.
There was no answer.
Kevin rubbed his eyes and searched the surrounding areas to see if the figure may have slipped into a nearby doorway. The closest exit point was another passageway to his right, but he was fairly certain the figure hadn’t gone in that direction. This passage was similarly dark, but Kevin suddenly felt uneasy about following the mysterious figure down the main corridor. He decided to turn right and head in a new direction.
Had there even been a person there at all? He was now doubting his eyes or his mind; or both.
He fumbled his way down the passageway, which ended in a fire door. He pushed on it and was surprised to find it open.
The room beyond was even darker than the corridor, but as far as he could make out was some sort of large factory floor. He could see some lights moving in the far end of the room, and started to make his way in that direction. Anything was better than going back to that corridor.
Suddenly he felt a gust of air rush by his left ear, and he was shocked to find a bright light passing just next to his eye line. Momentarily blinded by the light, it took a moment for his eyes to readjust. When they did, he realised some sort of machine on wheels had moved passed him.
A robot perhaps?
Disorientated, he stumbled on, only to feel another rush of air in front of him. He turned just in time to find a huge robot arm hurtling towards him. He jumped out of the way as the arm flew upwards. This had the source of light he had seen from the far end of the room. A massive orange robot rose up before him, complete with two huge arms and forklift legs. The robot appeared to be doing some sort of calisthenics, waiving its arms widely about and moving forwards and backwards at random intervals. Abruptly it started rolling towards him on its huge wheels.
Kevin ran as quickly as he could away from it, knocking over unknown heavy items as he did so. He moved towards the wall, and started feeling his way along it searching for a way out. Finally his arm settled on a door knob and he turned it and fled inside.
In front of him was another staircase, although this one was thankfully brightly lit. His eyes stinging from the suddenly bright light, he began to make his way up, hoping that there wouldn’t be another fright awaiting at the top of the stairs.
Disoriented and shaken, he gently opened the door at the top of the stairs and slowly made his way out. He appeared to have returned to the public area of the Mint, as display cabinets were lit around the darkened, carpeted room he found himself in. Even in the more familiar surrounds he could still hear his heart thumping loudly in his ears, and felt beads of sweat trickling down his face.
The room at first appeared empty, and it took him a moment to realise a figure in a purple hooded robe stood in the far corner.
Surely not another ghost?
What should he do? He slowly walked into the room, attempting to edge away from the shadowy figure. Abruptly the man threw back his hood revealing a bearded face. He must have stood nearly seven feet tall.
‘Ahh, you are a lost traveller. Allow me to tell you a story.’
‘Umm, no thank you,’ Kevin muttered.
‘You must. It is part of your experience.’
My experience? thought Kevin. What does that mean?
‘Come now, you must hear my story,’ the bearded man urged.
Kevin nervously made his way up to the man. When he was a metre away from him, he leant forward and poked him. He was pleased to find solid flesh.
‘Ow!’ said the man. ‘Why did you do that?’
‘You’re not a ghost!’ Kevin exclaimed.
‘No, I’m certainly not. But I must tell you the story of one.’
‘The story of William Henshall the forger. An English criminal sentenced to seven years in the penal colony of Australia. Faced with life away from his wife and seven children,’ the hooded man paused for a moment.
‘What was his name?’ he said, staring suddenly intently into Kevin’s eyes.
Kevin paused for a moment and searched his memory. He was only just getting his breath and wits back, and the sudden shock had again disoriented him.
‘Umm William H-something.’
‘William Henshall,’ the bearded man said loudly, leaning towards him as he did so. He stared at Kevin for a moment before continuing.
‘So he turned informant. Gave up his associates, on the basis his family could join him,’ the man continued. ‘But the British Government double crossed the double crosser, and only allowed him to take his wife and four children. Unable to bear the separation of his family, Henshall came out alone.
‘However, after he finished his sentence, this man, whose name was…’
The hooded figure again paused and stared at Kevin.
‘William Henshall,’ he replied.
The man nodded and continued.
‘Henshall was in the right place at the right time. New South Wales needed money, as it could no longer do transactions using rum; and who better to do it than a man adept at forgery? In 1813, he was given 40,000 Spanish silver coins, which he duly turned into 80,000 holey dollars and accompanying dumps – the round circle in the middle.’
The main pointed to a nearby cabinet, which displayed a coin with a hole in it and next to it, the round small coin that had been punched out.
‘He did this by hand, and thereby gave the colony its first currency. However, once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel, and Henshall married here again, before supposedly boarding a ship for home. He was never heard of again.’
The man again leant towards Kevin.
‘However, some speculate he perhaps never really left. And instead remained behind. Perhaps he is still here today, in buildings like this one, where his legacy lives on.’
The bearded man met Kevin eyes and stared at him, without saying a word for several minutes. Kevin felt the sudden urge to speak.
‘William Henshall?’ Kevin offered timidly.
‘Ahh, here are the rest of the group,’ the man exclaimed.
Kevin turn to find Belinda and Josephine running towards him.
‘Daddy! Daddy! We found you,’ they both squealed.
‘You missed the stories,’ Chloe said, walking up behind them.
‘I just heard this one,’ Kevin replied, indicating behind him to where the hooded man had been.
‘We heard that one, but my favourite was the ghost story,’ said Josephine.
‘Ghost story?’ Kevin asked.
‘Yeah, about the man who used to work here and died, but never wants to leave. Apparently he still walks the corridors of the basement. You see him for a moment, and then he turns and disappears.’ Belinda continued.
‘Oh, other people have seen it,’ said Kevin. ‘That’s sort of a relief.’
‘Sorry?’ said Chloe.
‘And we saw these robots, Daddy,’ Josephine continued, picking up the conversation from her sister. ‘That look like killed robots, but they’re not. They help the human workers make coins,’ Belinda continued.
‘That’s reassuring,’ said Kevin.
‘Except at night when the lights go off and they cross this special line. Then they become killer robots. They can hurt humans then.’
‘Oh,’ said Kevin.
‘But one of them dances at night, when no one can see,’ Belinda chimed in.
‘Don’t we all,’ muttered Kevin. ‘Still, that explains some of it.’
‘Pardon?’ Chloe asked again.
‘Nothing,’ Kevin replied. ‘Did you have a good time?’
‘It was great. I’m just taking the girls downstairs where they get to mint their own special coin. It’s a shame you missed the stories. Do you have enough for your next blog post?’ Chloe asked.
Kevin took a deep breath and looked around him. He was strangely reassured that the hooded man was still there, although he had returned to his previous position, with his head bowed and face obscured by his hood.
‘You know what, I’m not sure I can do them justice,’ Kevin replied. ‘Certainly not in the same yarn. I think I’ll just recommend people visit the next open night at the Mint and experience these stories for themselves.’