He Disappeared into a Bottle, Alyssa Byrnes

Artwork by Taylor Amy

He Disappeared into a Bottle was awarded 2nd place in The Quarry – Future Leaders Creative Writing Prize 2020

Some used to talk,
obligation building in the throat;
‘How’s John?’
asked for the sake of asking.
Though they knew,
rather, didn’t know.
Lips pursed in the silence,
discomfort clear in shifting eyes,
hopeful for swift response.

Nieces and nephews knowing they
have an uncle, never really known,
never really knowing who he is.
Vague memories slip, of who
they might have recognised,
at Christmas time, around
an old table,
calloused hands around
a bottle
of something or other, unimportant
/quite important/
comfortable in a rough palm,
a cigarette pinched in the other hand,
and ten years later,
the burnt acid scent reminds us of
a lost uncle,
lost man.

But how lost is lost?
There is an overwhelming
but we know where to look,
most days of the week.
But does he? (Feel lost?)
While we search, at a loss
following empty footprints
round and round.

Drowning deep beneath,
a bottle cap, in
government home,
shaky legs and mess
of teeth and muted TV,
flyblown fruit skins
left on almost bare
to rot.

Or not, not
intentionally at least.
So, he forgot,
where they go
where he goes.
Where does he go?
Does he know,
as he wanders,
further from home.

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Wanderer, Isabella Ison

My boyfriend likes to wander when he’s drunk. Like wander. Far. I remember once, on his 21st birthday, we had to put him in a cab at 8:30 because he was so shit-faced. The amount of
time my friends and I have spent wandering Melbourne’s cobbled streets searching for him, I can’t
even tell you. He’s become somewhat infamous for being found in strange, but wonderful, locations. Finding him is like a strange, adult, urban-scavenger-hunt that more often that not ends up in either running away, or partying harder. There was this one night that especially sticks in my mind. We crashed a house party in Abbotsford. Just off that main street there, the one with all the restaurants. We stopped in at this bottle-o that was far too fancy for the area. One of those Barrel Something’s that stock wine no one can afford and have a serif typeface on the, round, monochrome sign. “What do you mean there aren’t any cold cartons of Melbourne Bitter tinnies?” The house, when we finally got there, with beer we clearly couldn’t afford, made derelict look lavish. The rusting fence was overgrown with vines. The front door was locked, so we tentatively walked up the wide concrete drive on the side. Pallets and old couches, the kind you find on hard-rubbish day, abounded. Hipsters who hadn’t had hair cuts in months, and were wearing just the frames of glasses, no lenses, sat around discussing politics and their latest, free-entry, exhibitions. Not really our scene. But still, we knew these types of parties could get interesting later.

As drinks flowed, these people, who normally put their facade together so carefully, began to
show their real selves. Just uni-kids like us. They stopped faking it; there was no one with enough sense around to fake it for anymore, anyway. I was chatting to an acquaintance, you know, one of those friends-of-a-friend, who are your best friend when you’re the only familiar face. And then it happened. He was gone. Just like that. I hadn’t really realised he was at wandering point yet. Two others were also missing. So he hadn’t gone on his latest escapade alone. He had gone barefoot, though; I found his shoes shoved in the gaping recess of the milk crate I’d last seen him sitting on. Three hours later, after almost calling the cops, I found him staggering along the street with a warm carton of Carlton Draught and blood dripping down his legs. He’d broken into the Carlton factory with two mates, snuck past two guards, cut his foot open on a roof tile and pulled a fresh carton straight off the back of an incoming truck before his bloody escape. Yes, I’m serious. We drank that beer, hot, as I cleaned out his wound with pure Dettol. Hoping each swipe would hurt a little bit more, for making me worry so much. True story… would I lie to you?

Advice from Grass, Trees, and Clouds, Daniel Hayek

At 20, I attended my first music festival with two friends. Before the sun set on our first night I was a drunken, slurring, glittered mess. As we stumbled to the festival from the campsite, a young guy jumped at us.

‘Can I borrow your phone torch, man?’

‘For what?’ I slurred, still maintaining standards.

‘To find my stash.’

‘Of course,’ I said, handing my phone to the stranger.

He ducked into the tent, rummaging around his underwear.


A young woman emerged from the darkness, wearing very little besides face jewels. In a matter of seconds I had her face in my arms.

‘So my uncle died last week. Then my granddad. Then my dad,’ she sobbed.

‘Oh, honey,’ I said, pulling the stranger into a warm hug, my friends standing to the side watching with confusion and impatience.


Before long a head popped out of the tent.

‘Mike!’ The girl screamed.

‘Hey,’ he said, bug-eyed.

‘Mike, you have to give my friend some,’ Amanda said, wrapped in my arms.

In a matter of seconds, a key was dipped into a pouch then presented to my nostril. I inhaled the scarily large amount of powder before thinking.

‘Oh, thanks,’ I said. ‘I’ve never done coke before.’

‘It’s not coke, have fun,’ Mike said, leaving me at the entryway of a door I didn’t want to open. My head began to thump to the beat of the distant festival.

‘What did you do?’ my two friends asked.

‘Just snorted something. Let’s go.’


As my friends danced to music, I swayed and sweated. Suddenly, I felt a need to find three specific people I knew at the festival because the grass told me they were in danger.

“Ok, bye,” I said to my two friends, sprinting off into the festival.

I headed straight to the mosh pit, elbowing my way through the jumping crowd. I stopped, turned, and sprinted into the other direction, crashing into a woman. She was startled, then looked at me.

“Oh my god!” three voices screamed.

I found them in the middle of the giant crowd. It was this point that I realised I was psychic and the gods had me sent on a path. I hyena-screamed in their arms, thankful I found them.


I danced with them, until the swaying trees told me I had to find the two friends I’d left. “Okay, bye,” I said, sprinting towards the campsite and directly into a security guard. He asked me what I was running for. “Schnitzel,” I told him.

He lead me to a nearby food truck and sat with me while I ate. I hugged him goodbye and ran into the dark.


By the time I found our tents I knew (because a cloud told me) my friends were in danger. I lay, staring at the stars cursing past me. I later learned that as I lay between our tents, my two friends were following strangers to a van. Turns out the cloud was correct.

Don’t Forget to Drink to Forget Drinking, Hannah Baker

Long ago there was a girl. Woman, sorry. She had only ever gotten so drunk that she vomited once. But what a night it had been.

One of her oldest friends, a vegetarian with incredible eyelashes, had taken her to an… Indian? No, Nepalese restaurant, where our protagonist had managed to make a fool of herself by asking for milk and sugar with her pot of chai despite the waiter’s hesitant protestations that it was not the traditional serving method.

After a mild beef curry (can you tell she’s white yet?) they had wandered onwards to a 90s themed party. Maybe it was someone’s birthday, maybe not. The beautiful vegetarian looked stunning in torn jeans, a crop top and a flannelette shirt. Our gormless protagonist wore excessive eyeliner, too-dark lipstick, and a vest covered in various badges. Were “pieces of flair” a 90s thing or an American thing or both? I don’t know and I don’t care enough to Google it. She didn’t either, but just committed to A Look.

First there were the ciders, three each of the cheapest brand they could find. Remember Three Kings, in the black bottles? Probably those. Then came some equally cheap rosé, and lastly several sticky cupfuls of extremely questionable punch ladled out of a huge plastic tub. There was dancing, and shouted conversations with strangers dressed as Spice Girls (boys, mainly, hilariously) and Pokémon, and a game that involved drinking whenever Sting sang the word “Roxanne” and spinning every time he mentioned a “red light.”

They didn’t stay the night. The vegetarian’s share house was a short walk from the party and the cool air and quiet were undoubtedly pleasant as they stumbled and giggled toward it.

They fell back onto the bed, fully clothed, staring blankly up at the world map blu-tacked to the wall. Let’s say it was one of those ones (from a popular quirky stationery retailer which will remain nameless) where you scratch the brown top layer off the countries you’ve visited, revealing a colourful under layer. The beautiful vegetarian had travelled a lot since high school and a fair few countries had been scratched out, leaving green and orange and purple smudges all over the poster. Our omnivorous protagonist felt vaguely envious.

Then she rolled onto her side and calmly regurgitated beef and rosé onto the pillow.

In the stumble to the ensuite she managed to get vomit on her white t-shirt as well, and remember previous parties where the beautiful vegetarian’s ex-boyfriend had also been this drunk and how kind she had been; to hold his sun-bleached hair out of the way as he slumped over the toilet bowl, and generally to look after such a dropkick for so long.

She came back to her friend remaking the bed, and probably making them both tea.

The moral (sort of): Become a vegetarian? Count your drinks. Apologise, but not as profusely as you may want to. Third person can be the plausible deniability you need in a confession.