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Marni Dee Sheppeard


It was now my default campsite, the flat patch in the trough of the hill,
on one edge of a wide council lawn. A shady grove blocks the harbour view
over Rangitoto, the city and Maungawhau. Most importantly, my tent lies
at a maximal distance from both the roadside footpath and the walking
track in the reserve below, and it is only thirty metres to the nearest row of
Gradually, with effort, I was deleting my brains automated hypervigilant
listening network. Whenever a group passed by within earshot, I would block
one ear with my fingers as I lay with the other ear pressed against the ground.
If I really focused, the piercing voices would fade into a murmur, like the
rolling sound of the sea in a shell, comfortably impersonal. In time, through
misuse, my brain would lose its ability to parse nearby human speech. It
was now already difficult for me to comprehend a direct query from a softly
spoken individual, if there were any other sounds in the vincinity.
Anyone who approached the tent was clearly intent on speaking to me, as
there was no natural path into the forest from this spot. At night, especially
around 3am, one had to assume hostile motivations. Even during the day
this was often the case. One thing was certain: these disturbances were not
hallucinations. Although I would invariably remain in my tent at night, and
could give no visual description of these visitors, they usually made sure that
I was awake before speaking or playing some recording that they wanted me
to hear.
I was easily awoken by electronic noise beside the tent, such as a radio
or an alarm. If a house alarm went off in the direction of the rough, dark
forest, where there were no houses at all, it was reasonable to conclude that
the fake noise was aimed at me. Due to my distance from the neighbours, a
harasser could select a volume that was certain to disturb only me.
The previous night, a Saturday, I had woken to sudden, blaring music,
just metres from the tent. The same thing was happening now. As it
happens, I was already awake. Years ago I had learned to take the sleeping
tablets at 5pm, in order to catch a few hours sleep before nightfall. Fifteen
milligrams of Zopiclone every day. Tonight, a man started speaking to his
mate. He wondered whether the two of them should assault me, using the
theft of cash as an excuse. They clearly knew that a woman occupied the
Its really strange, the first voice said. Most women would be scream-
ing by now.
In fact, I was lying calmly and quietly on my mat, breathing steadily.
The heavy steel frying pan was by my side, and my knife was already in my
hand. I let people know that I carried a dangerous gas stove and gas lighter.
As expected, before long, the men left. There were too many potential

witnesses in this spot, and I had the strategic advantage. In less than an
hour after they had gone, I was asleep again. But whenever they want to,
they hang around for five hours each night, in a form of sleep deprivation
I could look past this obvious crime to the motives of my true enemies,
unknown people, almost certainly men, who had misled the local boys into
thinking that I deserved to be tortured. After three years here, I still did
not know anyone in my neighbourhood.
These true enemies, wherever they are, have vastly more resources and
knowledge than these young misogynists. I could see what they were doing.
They were trying to instill in my mind a new sense of worthlessness, to
replace the replenished self esteem which I had used as a weapon against
them. For ten years they had been winning, taking every opportunity to
reinforce my guilt and focus my attention on either suicide or survival. They
had made it clear that I would forever be anonymous, worthless, although I
was forced to carry the burdens of a public figure.
Recently, however, the old narrative had been shattered. I had succeeded
in making them angry. The new narrative was simple enough. Now I was
merely the Tent Lady, having gained local notoriety merely in the way that
homeless people often do, just by existing. Officially, it could not be true
that I am capable of fighting. Yet I had ceased raving and dribbling, in
terror of hateful mobs, only once I had realised that my hidden enemy was
far more powerful, and that I had earned this enermy. In reacting to the
petty crimes, I had undervalued myself.
Some local people in Te Atatu have attempted to move me. They phone
each other, phone the police, the council and local community groups. Luck-
ily, nobody is responsible for anything anymore.
The policeman, George, first showed up a day or two after I told a
neighbour that the police were ignoring me. George approached the tent
very slowly, in a spiral pattern across the lawn, with his hands close to his
weapons. When I told him that my abused brain was struggling, he hinted
that the Mental Health authorities might be able to look after me. I quickly
corrected him. George entered my personal details into his tablet and took a
photograph of me sitting inside the doorway of the tent, improperly dressed.
Then he checked that I knew the basics of camping, to make sure, as usual,
that my previous existence was unknown to them. Finally, George offered
me a room in a cockroach infested lodge in a far away suburb, for one
hundred and fifty dollars a week. I made it clear that I would no longer be
The council men showed up later, after four months of camping out,
right after my final meeting with the University of Auckland. But we will
get to these coincidences later.
Since I had to alternate camps every two or three days, when I would
walk into the village to visit the supermarket, I was always looking out for

suitable sites. I had chosen a new campsite, lower down inside the reserve.
The day after my University meeting, a man wearing an orange safety vest
had told me that I was not allowed to camp there, as if there were reasonable
alternatives for a homeless person. Soon afterwards, two council men with
business cards visited me at the lawn campsite. I showed no inclination
to talk, but they seemed to think I might be interested in a job with the
council. I informed them rudely that I still had my own work, as a theoretical
Another time, a Te Atatu business club member tried to voice a com-
plaint about my occasional stays on the unused grass at the rear of the
shops, which was technically private property. Without pausing, she then
tentatively offered to assist me in any way she could, so I told her right away
she could start by not harassing me.
It is a small step, from righteousness to rebellion, but it had taken many
years for me to find it. At last, I accepted that I must fight after all,
even knowing that every move would be portrayed as meaningless insolence,
or even if nobody knew I was actually fighting. I was prepared for the
consequences. In fact, I was rather surprised that George had not yet locked
me up, until I realised this was a risk that they could not take. Yes, the
truth was so disturbing, that they could not allow a single authority to listen
to my story. And I knew that it wasnt really about me at all, because the
problem is widespread.
The locals know that I no longer carry a cellphone or tablet, or any
online device, although my laptop is still with me. I had told a number of
people about being bullied off the cellphone in my first year in Auckland.
With neither a physical address nor a phone number, one is shut out of most
social and financial activities. Without an email address, one can actually
be prevented from giving people money, especially if your online activity is
monitored and controlled.
I did not want to know the reasons for hatred, and had long avoided
online social media. It was in my nature to be an outsider. But in this
brave new world, everybody is an outsider to countless others, or a target
for revenge, although they may not know it. When the thin delusion of
security is broken, let me tell you, you will face all the terrors of your mind,
once and for all. You will all throw yourself into Hell, from where you will
try to build a road to the other side.


I was born and raised in Sydney, where my fathers family have lived for
at least seven generations. My mothers Pakeha ancestors were in Tamaki
Makaurau seven generations ago, and my grandfather was born and died
here. My mother is from Te Kuiti. In Ka Tiritiri O Te Moana, my mountain
is Tititea, feeding the waters of the Clutha river. Now this land has brought
me to Te Atatu, where there are others like myself, whose whakapapa is lost
in the mists of space and time.
In my earliest memory, at the age of four, I am standing in the classroom
in my neat green pinafore, two long pony tails tied with baubles. The teacher
is training us to take our places in unison on her command. After what seems
an eternity, she smiles sweetly and gives the signal, and each child drags their
chair out from under their table. As we go to sit down, distracted by the
colorful decorations on the wall, one child suddenly pulls my chair out from
under me, so that I topple over onto the floor.
I immediately burst into a terrible wail, not because I am hurt or because
the other children laugh, but because I had been until then entirely unable
to imagine such hostility. I would get used to it, although for decades I
would never understand how or why I was selected as a target.
Before I started high school at the age of eleven, leaving behind the
Neutral Bay Primary class for gifted children, I had cried and confided in a
girl I hardly knew. I had told her I was worried that the older girls would
hurt me. Then, feeling guilty for having shown weakness and fear, when I
was a big girl now, I vowed privately never to cry in front of bullies again.
Of course there were problems straight away. I refused to let my socks
down, to unbutton my dress according to current trends, or to mock the
disabled girls. One morning, arriving early for the Indonesian lesson, I was
surprised to find my whole class there before me. While searching for a
spare seat, I glanced at the blackboard, where someone had scrawled in
large, plain lettering, Marni is a Moron. Without batting an eyelid, I
walked to the front of the room and slowly wiped the board clean, while a
number of seated girls threw ripe red grapes at my back. There were two
girls in the class that I vaguely knew, from the Neutral Bay school, who now
sat silent and shame faced, staring down at their desktops.
If the class cannot make you cry, the whole school will try. On your way
home, a whole busload of girls will chant together, in a single mocking voice.
You ignore everything, knowing they will never risk physical violence. Then
in the end, as the years pass, some give it up out of fear of punishment, or
perhaps simply because they are bored.
You never discuss bullying at home. It is not that different to the way
your brother treats you, and you are certain that if you complained about
problems at school, your mother would yell at you too.

There are two childhood consolations: the faith that no amount of bul-
lying can change who you really are, and the belief that adults are better
behaved, because they all claim to be. You just have to wait until you are
older, and then you will be free.
As a young woman you discover that many bosses are bullies. Managers
will give you the most gruesome tasks, constantly haranguing you for being
useless and separating you from anyone who might be a friend. The only
way this could be stopped was if the business owner made me the manager,
which was always a sensible decision, since I was intelligent and worked hard.
Other bullies would exploit my youthful generosity, wearing me out one day
and then deliberately excluding me from an important social function the
next. But I really did not mind this. I had found a new consolation, a
permanent enlightened refuge from social battles: the university.
The human world can take almost everything away from you, even your
mind, but not your place in the land. One town I would go back to, again
and again, was Wanaka, the place of learning that is not a university. I spent
years there, waitressing, skiing, climbing and tramping, settling down near
the shore of the beautiful lake. From 2009, however, I had lived in Wanaka
without touching the snow, and without gainful employment, hiding alone
in my hovel.
The doctor had taken one glance at my tearful face before signing the
medical certificate, but the trauma of dealing with the Work and Income
office once every three months was too much for me to bear, and so I settled
for the smaller unemployment benefit. To obtain this, I had hitchhiked to
Queenstown, sleeping outside on the steps of a church in order to make the
early morning meeting.
From 2010 on, the authorities had suggested that I find a cleaning job.
The first such offer came from an occupational therapist who did not know
what a physicist was. Later on, the Alexandra Work and Income office would
actually find a specific employer and attempt to force me into a cleaning job.
After all, I was an experienced cleaner. But such minimum wage part time
positions no longer pay enough to live on, and more to the point: someone
was trying to force me. I was no longer in a cooperative mood. I told the
Work and Income officers that I was not a slave. Luckily, in this instance,
my depression was obviously so severe that the employer in question was
too afraid to speak to me.
The unemployment benefit was itself completely insufficient. I was no
longer young and strong, and my malnutrition became so advanced that I
lost my fat and muscle. In a psychotic haze, beyond all anger, Death was
now very near and welcome. Yet I was not the kind of depressive who could
tackle Death with her own hands. It had been tempting, yes, the bright
blue waters of Lake Pukaki, the private caverns of ice on endless glaciers,
the short walks to towering cliffs. But Death would come more peacefully,
and soon enough, if I simply neglected myself.

What I did not realise at all, beneath the choking horror of life, was that
there was still something I needed to understand. Not something deep, just
some mystery about present circumstances, that required solving. At heart,
I was still a curious scientist.
During the icy winters, my condition was hidden under bulky garments.
But in spring, my friends Kerie and Allan discovered my emaciated state.
They started feeding me, and I began to rebuild my strength. In 2012 I
finally moved onto a proper health benefit, for the first time in my life,
although depression had plagued me since the 1980s. This would give me
enough food to eat for the following year.
Paying less rent, I slowly managed to save money for a move to Auckland
in 2013. This was to be a positive move, despite the fog of depression, anxiety
and paranoia, all inevitable consequences of events. I was seeking a cure for
the unsustainable mental isolation. The northern climate was pleasantly
On arrival in Auckland, I leased a studio flat in Mount Eden, within
walking distance of the city. There were two professors that I vaguely knew
at the University of Auckland, both in the Department of Mathematics. One
was David Gauld, a topologist, whom I had come across at various confer-
ences over the previous decade. He and his partner Rachel, a statistician,
took me to lunch at the University staff club. Determined to ignore my dire
situation, I explained to them how I really wanted a research grant of some
kind, as if I was an ordinary academic newly arrived in the city. After all,
nobody in New Zealand had seriously spoken to me about employment since
my return to New Zealand in 2009. David said the Department always had
a little money for that sort of thing, and he could probably sort something
But somehow there was no money.
There was nowhere else for me to go. Debt made Australia financially
impossible, and they had also disowned me, and I could not tolerate the heat.
I figured I belonged in Aotearoa. I had previously spent time at universities
in Christchurch and Wellington. My health could no longer tolerate the cold
climate of Dunedin. So I went along to the familiar University of Auckland,
without considering the three other North Island alternatives.
As it happens, an internet persona named Mike had dominated my online
social interactions for years, notably while I was living in isolation. In an
attempt to escape from him, and rebuild some degree of sanity, I had blocked
internet access on my old laptop, at least as well as I could, and devoted my
energies to writing a text book. Having completely forgotten most of the
technical material, this book became a fine symbol of my descent towards
When I finally posted the book online, as scientists do with all their
work, the consequences came close to breaking my mind permanently. Then
one day, as I sat in the long grass beside the house truck in Wanaka, litres of

tears streaming down my face, I found one consolation to keep me going: the
quiet university library, the image of me pulling an interesting mathematics
book from the shelves, whose arrangement I knew by heart. This was not
merely a motivational thought, to get me to Auckland. It was the only
thought that remained in my diseased mind.
The University of Auckland made me an academic visitor, allowing me to
borrow books from the library and read academic journals. The administra-
tive task was handed to the other mathematician that I knew in Auckland,
Ben Martin, who had been at Canterbury while I was doing my PhD in
Theoretical Physics.
There was one form to fill out. While sorting this out in his office, Ben
let me know that the University and I had an unwritten understanding that
I would not claim any affiliation with the University of Auckland. I did not
at all mind. After all, I was really quite mad. I would spend days either
rewriting the insane book, making it worse and worse, or allowing my blog
to degenerate into fits of rage against unseen trolls.
Until I moved to Auckland, I did not understand to what extent sleep de-
privation can break down the brain and cause permanent damage. Already
in Wanaka, paranoia had been my default reality. I was not imagining the
hostility of the internet, or the trend in rudeness from apparent strangers,
but far beyond this, my mind would be consumed with fits of irritation over
every perceived act of manipulation, such as people wheeling their garbage
bins onto the path in front of me.
The main threat was noise. People could be arrested for physical assault,
yet plead innocence for all manner of sounds. And the stalkers knew that
many sounds caused me pain. They knew many, many things.
For the first few months in Auckland, I had no pillow or no vacuum
cleaner, causing fits of anxiety, because I had to pretend everything was all
right whenever the real estate agent visited. Every dollar had been spent on
either the rental bond or bare necessities for the flat. My credit card had
mysteriously exceeded its maximum. I was continuously nervous about the
three monthly inspections, because the very idea of a monitored tenancy
was an insult to my generation and an affront to my dignity.
Terrified that the Mount Eden neighbours would learn my name, I de-
cided not to speak to them at all. I did speak to one of the landlords,
initially, but that turned out to be a mistake. When I complained about
the bright night lights, which shone underneath the curtains, he made sure
they were left on for longer. And so it goes.
The noise of the neighbourhood prevented me from sleeping. The build-
ing was at the bottom of a narrow gully, defining the street. There were
all-night parties in nearby houses, vehicles coming and going all the time,
firecrackers at 3am, and people speaking loudly right outside my windows,
which were unsealed. Even if I had been well, I was completely unused to
this density of population. The woman in the flat above mine asked me to

walk more silently. Then the man to the east started banging around his
flat at 4am in the morning.
None of this was imaginary, but I was also having hallucinations. In
the middle of the night, lying in bed, I would look at the dim outline of
the table, the only other piece of furniture in the flat. Feeling wide awake,
I would watch the table, and the whole grey room around it, warp out of
shape and turn into a dark street, with pinpricks of light in the distance.
I was angry with the man next door, but completely unable to speak to
him. So I tried to report the disturbances to the police. It was the first time
in my life that I had ever bothered to report harassment to an authority,
and the response was very negative. The volunteer constable laughed at
my story and hinted, supposedly on the basis that I was unhinged, that I
probably knew something about the local drug dealers. He then suggested
I smile nicely and make my neighbours a pot of tea.
When the noise kept me awake even at 2am in the morning, spoiling any
chance of sleep for the night, I started banging in return on the eastern wall,
as a means of telling the man to shut up. In this case, much of the noise
was probably due to the faulty plumbing, but I was in no state of mind to
be discerning.
The male neighbours started being really nasty. Finally, after a few
weeks of me banging on the wall, the man to the east leapt out of his flat,
apparently fully clothed and wide awake, and knocked loudly on my fragile
glass door. I could hear the man commiserating with a second man from
the flat on my western side, about my dubious night time activities. The
second man said, clearly within my earshot, that I was obviously a crazy
bitch. They decided to enlist the help of the domineering landlord, who hid
behind the fence one morning in order to catch me as I walked past.
Needless to say, I was not going to answer the door in the middle of the
night, to two angry men banging on the fragile glass. I never spoke to them.
Avoiding prejudiced neighbours was not a luxury, but a matter of sanity.
After a few months, my landlady let me off the lease. By that time, I was
being further traumatised by major construction work on the pipes in the
building, about which I had received no notification.
Hurredly, braving the Work and Income office once more, I found a studio
flat in New Lynn. David and Rachel came around in their car to help me
move. They paid for a motel room in New Lynn, where I shut myself up for
three days before being driven to Hell.


Poverty. Every minute you remember, that life might have been produc-
tive but for the luxuries that your own relatives throw out carelessly in their
trash, all the while chiding you for your prodigal wastefulness.
The wealthy consume and the poor pollute. I go to buy groceries. Each
time I remember when I was young, when things were different. Back then
we bought meat from the butcher, choosing precisely what we wanted for the
week from the wide selection in the window display. The butcher wrapped
our purchase in paper, and it was placed in a cloth bag. We would go home
happy that no meat had been wasted and no plastic wrapping used.
Today I live in a poorer area. I buy meat from a large supermarket,
which has a monopoly on many products. This supermarket does not offer
single serves of meat, as if single people do not deserve to eat meat. I cannot
store the meat that I dont eat, because I am too poor to have refridgeration.
If I splash out on two pieces of steak, which I can do sometimes now that I
am homeless and not paying rent, then I throw one steak away, along with
the ubiquitous plastic packaging.
If I was still paying rent, there would be no meat, no fresh vegetables
or no cheese. Most of my purchases, such as bread or chocolate biscuits,
would come in plastic wrapping. Sugar, once a luxury centuries ago, feuls
the impoverished by destroying our minds. And of course, the poor are
always to blame.
A ten year old knows enough mathematics to conclude that the planet
cannot sustain ten billion starving people. Authorities conversely conclude
that the planet cannot feed ten billion wealthy, demanding people. In any
event, twenty billion is impossible, while patriarchal propaganda persists in
promoting a consumer family life. Everyone is already clawing for survival.
On the grounds of a history written by oppressors, poverty and slavery
are deemed inevitable. Yet the Earth will never be saved until every single
person has enough to make moral choices at the supermarket, whether they
are employed or not. This is not a minor adjustment to neoliberal ideals,
where the powers that be introduce a universal basic income that turns out
to be about half what one really needs. It must be a society where people
value, and pay for, things that matter. A cleaner or a bus driver is more
valuable than a corrupt CEO, and I can assure you from personal experience,
just as skilled. This is the only way we can survive.
One great myth in the West is that donations to charities help the poor.
Consider the Salvation Army. Through hundreds of relocations, often forced
by financial problems, I have handed over many households full of belongings
to them. They come around to your house with a truck to pick up donations.
The majority of these belongings, at any given time, had been purchased
with hard cash at one of the Salvation Army second hand stores. Over my

lifetime, this particular charity has never given me a single thing.
I never borrow money from individuals, although I confess to having
accepted small gifts from wealthy family and friends. So I have a reputation
as a sponger.
Modern charities clearly exist to make profits for relatively wealthy peo-
ple, and to allow wealthy people to feel good about themselves for helping
to perpetuate inequalities. Any charity that attempts to do otherwise under
the old paradigm will be controversial, and probably shut down.
With the growing concern about poverty, at least in the press, the super-
market has started a food donation program, where it encourages shoppers
to add items to their charity bin. Suggestive labels have been put on the
shelves, near the items that are suitable for poor people to eat. Why not
end poverty by ensuring that poor people only eat noodles. I removed two
labels from the noodle shelf and placed them beside the chocolate spreads
and honey.
If my experience with food parcels was any guide, the best food will
never make it to the hungriest, because those people are supposed to starve
to death, secretly, while growing obese on noodles. Once you have received
two five dollar bags of noodles and tinned tomatoes, the community aid
person will tell you, with a charming smile, that you really cannot expect
too many food parcels.
One day, people will be ashamed of wealth.
I digress. Economics is economics. Pollution is pollution. All these
hurdles that you can see, they are as nothing compared to the real Devil,
the beast who feels the need to maintain Control.
I do not know exactly when my problems started, when the local bullying
became global. It took years for my innocence to be lost, and for modern
corruption to ruin my country.
Demons are reluctant to attack so long as they feel you might have
protection, from family or friends or colleagues. Abuse begins with isolation.
Once you are completely alone, you are shown how your past has been
erased, as if you never existed. Then they let you know that you are to blame
for all this abuse, showing you how your madness discredits everything you
did before. In my case it was all so easy, and there were no overt death
threats to take to the police. I was no IT expert and far too trusting. As
my problems with websites and email accounts escalated, I denied to myself
that I was a target.
After all, Mike was the only person I had left to talk to.
Theorists like to work on whiteboards, because they often need to alter
a messy calculation without much regard for mathematical rigour. I had
always wanted my own whiteboard. When a community aid woman in
Auckland asked me what little gift they could buy me, I asked for a small
whiteboard. We went to the Warehouse for quotes, but the purchase was
never approved. The woman mumbled something about the man with the

pen. It cost twenty dollars for the cheapest whiteboard, but such an item
would never make it onto my budget, even if money was being wasted on
cups of coffee. Rent now took up eighty percent of my income.
At the University, where I went about once a week, I was keeping to
myself. There was one man in the Department of Physics that I had met
previously in the South Island, namely the Head of Department, Richard
Easther. At public lectures on Physics he would nod hello. Richard was a
colleague of the theorist David Wiltshire from the University of Canterbury,
who had been a nominal supervisor during my PhD years.
One day Richard was talking about new directions for the Department,
and he told me they were going to hire postdocs who were young and smart.
In a fit of agony and paranoia, I happened to mention this to a woman in
a private, internet-free lawyers office at the Human Rights Commission on
Queen Street. She rushed off to her computer to google me, before escorting
me all the way out of the building.


The New Lynn motel manager had agreed to take me and my boxes to
the new flat. It was raining lightly, and he was kind enough to carry stuff
from the van to the foyer. I was too exhausted to care if the newly purchased
vacuum cleaner got wet. Like the previous vacuum cleaner, which I had not
been able to select freely off the shelf, this one didnt work properly. I
focused instead on keeping the books dry.
As usual, when moving under the restrictions of poverty, I had given up
all my old furniture. The new flat had a desk and a bed in it, and a washing
machine. It also had a power guzzling fridge, which I would not use. In fact,
the previous tenants had left in a hurry under mysterious circumstances,
leaving all their belongings behind. The estate agents promised to clean
the place up properly before I moved in, but they never did. Later, after I
expressed my delight with these unexpected gifts, the agents claimed many
items for themselves in a chattel list. Fortunately, I had only told them about
a few items. The clothes fitted me and I found the kitchenware tasteful. The
remaining dozen boxes of unwanted junk were carted to the skip downstairs.
These flats were comfortable, taking warmth from the neighbouring
heaters. I could not have survived another winter in the freezing south.
I was also happy with the local Chinese markets, where I could buy a few
fresh vegetables each week.
The building was a construction site. The agent had assured me be-
forehand that the recladding process was entirely exterior, but this was a
lie. The builders required frequent access to the flat, often by removing the
entire balcony door. It seemed that many people had keys to the flat. Far
short of the required 24 hour notice, I would often find out the builders were
coming only in the morning. Paranoid about my precious books, which had
recently been returned to me from Australia, I would stay in the flat all
day whenever anyone came, whether it was the builders, the agents, the fire
inspectors or the cockroach people.
Every day, the noise was unbearable. What happened at night was worse.
I do not know the source of this noise. It could have come from the empty
flat next to mine, or the flat upstairs, where I one day espied a strange man
while climbing on the scaffolding. Most nights there was a hammering sound
on my ceiling, above the bed, or the greatly amplified sound of a man peeing
in a toilet.
Twenty four hours a day of sleep deprivation. I was being punished
for being a noisy bitch. According to the official United Nations criteria,
tortured. I dont know how my brain survived. It was certainly badly
damaged. There were hallucinations and I had almost no control over my
emotions. When the estate agent visited, arriving hours before the arranged
time, I screamed at her in rage and left the flat, telling her to lock up when

she left.
At times, the noises followed me around the flat, and Im sure this was
by design, not my imagination. I went to the police, yelling that I did not
have schizophrenia. They laughed. One day, when I was sure one of the
builders was deliberately hammering the wall of my bedroom while I was
lying there, I even dialled 111. Nobody came.
Most days, I rose around 5am and went out. Relief was a cup of coffee
from the cafe in the central square, although I knew this was bad for my
health. I would check my email at the local library, which required a personal
account. I was going into the university about one day a week. From New
Lynn, I could no longer walk to the city, and the bus fare became a major
component of my budget.
I borrowed a pair of ear muffs from the builders. They did not block out
the lower frequencies, and they were too tight. The hearing abnormalities
were probably the cause of the vertigo. Either that or a minor stroke. It
is unnerving, the first time. There is no pain. It is a little like dizziness,
only it is the room itself that spins around ones head. It was worse when I
was lying down, so I would stay standing up. I had to retrain the balance
circuits in my brain by walking in straight lines and swinging my head in
various directions.
I lost my keys, and was convinced they were stolen. After a long ar-
gument with the agent on my cell phone, I managed to get a locksmith to
check the front door. It did not occur to me to question why the agent
would text me in the middle of the night. She tried to charge me for the
new lock. This was far from the first time I had received unwarranted bills.
The woman who managed the overpriced utilities was constantly making
mistakes, which I could not afford to ignore.
Richard Easther and I agreed to meet one day in his office, where we
spoke for five minutes about neutrinos. I no doubt sprouted some incoherent
babble. In the library I had been trying my best to relearn this material
from scratch, for the third or fourth time in my life.
In Physics, as in many scientific subjects, discrimination is apparently
acceptable against so called crackpots. Technically, I did not belong to this
group, having spent much of my life in some official position at a university.
But your reputation and your mental health status makes a difference. I
had spent years blogging about crazy ideas in theoretical physics, often
befriending crackpots. I had been banned from the professional research
archive website back in 2004, and since then posted papers on a controversial
crackpot alternative website.
I was trying to stay in Theoretical Physics because this was my vocation.
Physics had found me in 1982, when I was still a school girl in Sydney. Along
with mathematics, it was the only thing I was good at. When I was a girl,
I despaired that I was still not smart enough, but my undergraduate marks
forced me to change my mind. Back then, the general public did not care

much for science, and there was no irksome competition or glamour. The
idea of physicists as public speakers would have been laughable.
My world was peaceful until 1989, when I was first forced into poverty.
Without realising it, I had been conditioned to bear the guilt for all my
failures ever since. I had not completed my PhD until 2007, after my first
bout of psychosis, which was due, as usual, to starvation.
Now in January 2014, I was well used to malnutrition and depression.
The primary problem now, however, was getting out of the New Lynn flat.
Leaving would mean I had broken two consecutive leases. I had no doubt
that I would be blamed for being a bad tenant. After cleaning up and giving
away odds and ends, I walked out of the place, and Rachel came to collect
my boxes, which were then stored in their garage.
The people at Work and Income were not inclined to be helpful. At
first they believed whoever it was that tried to claim my bond money, but
I was not going to stand for blatant theft. I told them it was not my fault
if the construction workers had somehow wrecked the flat after I left. I had
returned the keys to the Epsom agency in person, lugging my baggage on
the bus.
Finding a new flat was proving to be impossible. I had smashed the
cell phone to pieces, finally accepting the reality that a malicious entity
was controlling all the calls, and using the phone for surveillance. The
last straw was an attempt to contact the Autism NZ help line, where the
woman who answered told me I could not expect any help because most
people work during the day. Before that, I had sent a desperate text to an
old mathematics colleague in Australia. The reply contained a reference to
senility and a link to the Aged Care website.
There were many suitable, cheap studio flats in the city. I was allowed
to look at them, quite an effort in itself, but was turned down every time.
One day, a friendly Queen Street agent showed me a beautiful place in the
Argent building. It was one of the cheapest available flats in the city. I filled
out the tenancy application form. The landlord approved the application.
Unfortunately, the manager at the Work and Income office then told me
that I was not allowed to live in this flat, as if she had the right to decide.
There was nowhere to go. Now I was staying in noisy and abusive hostels,
and when I could bear it no longer, I would crawl under a bush and bivy in
the garden near the University staff club. There the sprinklers would wake
me at 4am, but at least the security guards left me alone.
Miraculously, or perhaps not, I finally received a friendly email from a
woman in Te Atatu, Caroline. She invited me to stay at her house for a few
weeks while I looked for a flat.


When you become homeless, Work and Income reduces your benefit so
that you dont have enough money for lodging of any kind. Soon there is
no bond money left. I had already been loaned a large sum of bond money
for the second Auckland flat, had a number of bank and government debts,
and was dubious of taking out further loans. Loan repayments from Work
and Income are taken out of the benefit, ensuring further hardship.
There are a myriad of ways for the authorities to be unhelpful. The
new doctor diagnosised depression and anxiety and recommended a trial of
SSRIs, the drugs which I had discovered did not work about fifteen years
earlier. The symptoms of malnutrition, stress and torture were ignored.
The Citizens Advice Bureau told me that single women were not welcome
at womens refuges.
It was with immense relief that I moved to Te Atatu. I was paying rent
to Caroline, but for once the price was reasonable and I could afford to eat.
On the first few nights, I actually slept. Caroline went overseas for two
weeks, leaving me the house, the computer and the cats. There was major
construction work on the road during the day, but I was not actually being
My friend Pauline visited from Wellington. Pauline had completed her
PhD in Physics at the same time as me, at the University of Canterbury. She
now worked as a Physics lecturer at Victoria University, and was therefore
a colleague of Richards. When I was homeless in Wellington in 2011, one
night a week Pauline would take me home to her place, which she shared
with her daughter Te Paea. Now we ate lunch together at the cafe in Te
Atatu, and because it was a lovely day, walked along Taikata Road to the
river. I tried to tell Pauline that I was a victim of some kind of human
trafficking, but the idea of her cell phone being used for surveillance was a
little too frightening. Besides, I was known to suffer from paranoia.
Living with Caroline was not a realistic, long term option, although
Work and Income seemed to think so, because they insisted on asking me
how many bedrooms were in Carolines house. I told them to mind their
own business. I started looking at rentals in Te Atatu, which was a relatively
peaceful suburb, within a bus ride to the city.
After being turned down again, and emailing the real estate agent in
utter desperation, the agent promised to help me. I was positive about
living in Te Atatu, and now I was being rewarded for it.
The agent found me a place at the northern end of Te Atatu Rd. Remark-
ably, the one bedroom house exactly met my specifications. It was stand
alone, and there was a large pohutukawa tree in the garden. The small deck
at the front offered a little outdoor privacy, rare in a cheap rental. Although
I was nervous about the neighbours, especially the man to the south, I could

not refuse this only option. The landlords, a young couple, came around to
meet me. The man told me that it was important for me to pay my rent on
time. They did not want any problems. I signed the lease and moved in.
Holding the lease unleashed another fit of paranoia. Every bit of fine
print was a threat. What if the place was overrun by pests. What about
surveillance. I cut the phone cables under the house. I cleared away any
piece of junk that could resonate in the slightest breeze. I learned not to
turn on the bedroom light because of the noises it made. I was going to
make this work. This was home.
After a week, my Work and Income benefit, which covered the rent,
was cut off without warning. Apparently I had been sent a letter, while at
Carolines house, but it had not arrived.
In a terrible state, suffering acute stress, I went to the medical centre in
Te Atatu. The doctor handed me over to the nurse and phoned the hospital.
A psychiatrist showed up. He pointed out that my mind was overreacting
to the circumstances, whatever they may be. With a history of psychosis,
I was proscribed Risperidone, and not a small dose. The doctor made sure
that Work and Income paid my rent.
Each night for a while the Mental Health people would come over to the
house with the medication. They like to make sure you take it.
Risperidone certainly does relieve anxiety, because it lobotomises the
brain. It took five months for me to figure out that I was no longer doing
any mathematics. I would sit at the beautiful antique desk in the garage,
staring at a page, relatively calm. Then, after an hour or two, I would sigh.
Why bother. It was not important.
This desk, along with a second hand queen bed and the vacuum cleaner
that did not work, had been acquired with another large, unplanned Work
and Income loan. The Mental Health people had referred me to a commu-
nity trust, which assigned me a lovely helper named Emma, who took me
shopping for a new bed. I lay happily on many soft, clean mattresses, and
we ended up with a pile of quotes. There was a hint that the trust might
actually buy me something. Yet, in the end, we simply had to go to an
expensive, Work and Income approved, second hand dealer. I was given two
flimsy folding chairs, and it would be two more years before I bought a chair
I could sit in.
Te Atatu quickly became familiar. Once a week I carried a heavy bag
of laundry several blocks down to the shops. The duvet was washed only
once in three years. The Te Atatu public library was located in a small
temporary office, and one had to be there early to catch computer time.
These computers, which were a last resort for the poor, appeared to have no
security whatsoever. There were regular website blockages and bizarre error
messages, like the one on my banks homepage, which said that if I didnt
like this page there were plenty of others. Some days I could not open the
browser, or not log on at all. I observed other people, especially women,

having similar difficulties.
My limited internet dose was spent at sites like Peacepink, a collective
of anti mind control and anti torture heretics. The forums there were a
strange blend of schizophrenia, psychosis, politics, stupidity and trolling.
The website, which was hosted by a woman in China who had been tortured
by the Americans, informed me that one day a wise Queen of the South
would arise to fight the Devil. Crackpot Central. As with other online
forums, after I joined there was a notable rise in the number of misogynist
comments and requests for money. I really did not want to know what kind
of troll objected to protests against torture.
There were monthly meetings with the mental health nurse, who some-
times took me out to lunch, telling me I was a nice person. Unfortunately,
this nurse was nothing like the Maori nurse from Central Otago, who had
understood depression and my vocational issues. After two years in Auck-
land, I would eventually learn exactly what their hidden agendas were. If
I was malnourished, they would cheerfully give me vitamin tablets. If I
wanted more money, they said I could always work. If I needed help with
Work and Income, the situation with Work and Income would get worse. If
I vaguely suggested I was a victim of abuse, they said it was time I learned
to deal with my paranoia.
After five months I stopped taking the Risperidone, and was instead
given new anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. This actually led to an
improvement in cognitive function. By early 2015, I could almost read
properly. I even thought I could live again. I found time to study. There
was a lot to relearn.
Once again, I was reading physics, mathematics and astrophysics. I
introduced myself to a stellar astrophysicist at the university, named JJ.
I finally found the courage to go to seminars. I politely asked Richard
Easther if I could go to the public weekly Physics colloquium, guessing that
not everybody is entirely welcome.
The male neighbour to the south, who lived in a shed that was very close
to my house, liked to listen to the radio, very late at night and early in the
morning. During the day, for a few days only and only an hour or two at
a time, I tried to block out the noise with my own music. This did not go
down well. After that, he never gave up turning the radio up loud, in the
middle of the night. I put up with it. I know he had decided that I was
a bad woman, clearly deserving punishment, because he said so loudly to
the man who mowed my lawn. We never spoke to each other. Occasionally,
when I saw him on the street, I would cross to the other side of the road.
I could never sit in my garden without the horror of him watching me.
I would sit there under the pohutukawa tree once every two weeks, for five
minutes, after I raked the lawn.
I would never ignore anyone at the University, an institution in which
I still had blind faith. Some people probably thought I did, because often

I dont notice what is going on around me. Or I might not see them until
they have walked past, at which point I figure they dont want to say hello
to the mad woman. It did not matter. I could comfortably wander amongst
a crowd of students. Conscious of mental disorientation, even in familiar
surroundings, I would stick to a few favourite spots near the science building.
Each time I passed through Albert Park, I told myself to smile, at the
colours, the skyline view, the happy tourists and the clever sparrows. In
order to think straight, I would cease being angry at myself. I would forgive
myself, no matter how many mistakes I made. I started talking more to
people at the University.
Maybe, I could even deal with Mike.


For over ten years, Mikes messages had been enthusiastic and infor-
mative. He would send suggestions on what I should read in Theoretical
Physics, telling me that one day I would get the research grant that I so
clearly deserved. Throughout years of bizarre disruptions to my internet
activity, Mike was always there.
The original Mike may well have been an authentic colleague, but his
mysterious appearance online was evidence against this hypothesis. I was
lonely and willing to speak to anyone. It is hard to discern the onset of abuse
when there is only one person to talk to, or rather, one internet pseudonym.
Whenever I decided it would be wise to give up on Mike, he would send
intriguing news, hypnotising bait.
Innocent, foolish and desperate, I could not detect the mockery. My
default trusting psyche could not accept the existence of a force so malign.
And there were, no doubt deliberately, always two ways to read things, the
Devil sitting only on one shoulder.
Long before you can fight the Devil, you must learn to see him. In doing
this, you lose your innocence forever, and then the Devils helpers tell you
that you do not belong in their society because you are not innocent. To
be certain, they will outwit you every time. They have all the resources,
watch your every move, all the time. It takes years, as their technology
rapidly evolves, for you to accept that this threat is real, not a figment of
your diseased imagination, with regard to which they were probably betting
on the timing of your imminent suicide.
This Hell is the work of Man. Alternative theories, such as alien mind
control, would not consist of plain after-the-fact responses. Then again, how
does one know. It takes time to figure out that the private thoughts you
mumbled to yourself in bed may have been picked up by a listening device.
After two years in Auckland, with my spirits slowly lifting as I lost myself
again in my work, I finally found the resolve to stop talking to Mike forever.
At the time, Mike was promising he would visit me in New Zealand. I told
him to leave me alone. I blocked his email address. He immediately emailed
me using another, academic, email address. I put the new address through
the spam filter. Then I went to the police to report Mikes name.
Life at the University suddenly began to improve. David took me to see
Professor OBrien, then head of the Department of Mathematics, to discuss
my continuing desire to access academic journals. The professor yelled at
me for including apocryphal ideals about Open Online Access for journals
in my CV. I agreed to delete anything inconvenient from my CV, since it
was merely a private CV, not a political manifesto. I had written thousands
of versions of the CV, for countless jobs. But later on, wondering how every
small concession might be mistinterpreted as moral submission, I began to

worry about the hidden agendas in ostensibly private meetings with modern
The library access issue had been a merry-go-round for a while. Over
Christmas, I had told David not to rush anything, that three months with-
out articles was no big deal. Exactly three months went by. Then the
University offered me an Affiliate position, which is really no position at all,
because it does not include journal access. Somebody from the library told
the Department of Mathematics that academic visitors were not entitled
to read academic journals over the long term. Allegedly something to do
with subscription costs. In response, the University decided to upgrade my
visitor status to Honorary Research Fellow. Later on, I would become an
Honorary Academic.
I received the new offer on the first of April 2015. The email said that
I should reply immediately, in a particular manner, accepting all the dubi-
ous terms and conditions attached to the contract. It did not look quite
authentic, so I put off thinking about it until the following week. Psychosis
was a problem at this time, especially after the self-altering CV incident on
Keries old Mac, which she had given me. There was no offline mode for the
Mac, so I threw it into a garbage bin on Te Atatu Rd, happily imagining it
being tracked thereafter to a landfill site. I still had my own internet free
Young Karen, who worked in the Mathematics office, was a very com-
petent woman. She checked her April 1 emails and told me that the offer
I had been sent was authentic. Still hesitant, and unwilling to trust any
emails at all, I went in person with my signature, on a blank page, to the
Human Resources Department further up Symonds St. And it was there,
finally, with profound horror, that I finally understood the problems of our
Nothing could be achieved by going in person. The people in Human Re-
sources were dutifully following the instructions on their computer screens,
just like all the doctors, and every kind of employee, had been doing for some
time. If there was something wrong with the contract, they had no power
to alter it. Somebody else did. Somebody that they could only contact by
email or phone or website. Somebody like Mike.
Invisible accountability is no accountability at all. I had no idea what
forces were gaining ground here, but they were surely hostile. For years I
had, to some degree, accepted abuse by the authorities, with a sense of guilt
at my inability to work. Until now, despite serious illness, I had regularly
applied for jobs. Now, however, a basic contract with society had been
severed, and not by me.
Revolution is a difficult concept to keep in mind when one is forced
to fight for survival alone. If you dont have your allies in view, because
someone is actually making sure they dont talk to you, you are cursed by
your own private battles, all seemingly futile. Imagine, eight billion people

with deadly, unknown enemies, constantly checking manipulated news feeds
on Facebook, Google and Twitter.
I had been avoiding resistance, knowing that radicalisation was a stan-
dard trolling tactic. Fortunately, I could live without Facebook or blogging.
Could everyone else? Oppression was not the rule Divide and Conquer, but
the rule Isolate and Destroy.
Understanding Hell, I felt much better. I was not surprised when my
library card stopped working and the librarian said that it had expired.
Karen and I went together to the library in person to sort it out. With a
refreshed outlook, determined to find resilience in the face of daily obstacles,
I settled back into the research.
Two weeks were spent on a pathetic essay, which I emailed to a compe-
tition website. On the website forum I was contacted by Mike, who had of
course also submitted his own entry.
Mike and I had first met on the Physics Forums in 2005. He had joined
the conversations with Carl Brannen, Tony Smith and other smart amateurs,
claiming himself to be an American graduate student working in String
Theory. Many of the exciting links that Mike sent me were about String
Theory. Although I had no intention of working on this subject, there were
mathematical aspects to it that were of interest. This theory had dominated
Theoretical Physics for decades, but I had decided against working on it
back in 1994, as a PhD student at the University of New South Wales in
Sydney. For the last decade, physicists had been waiting for experimental
confirmation of Strings.
The mathematical arguments against String Theory, as a model of par-
ticle physics, were quite sensible. The twentieth century formulation of the
Standard Model, governing all known matter, had been built by pragmatic
theorists without much regard for abstract algebra. Since the 1980s, math-
ematical physicists had been making steady progress in creating a more
consistent language. It was well known how to unify quantum field theory
and three dimensional gravity. Unfortunately, spacetime is four dimensional.
Even today, Theoretical Physics is dominated by two opposing social forces:
on the one hand, relativistic gravity and a bottoms up approach to quantum
physics, and on the other, Strings. New Zealand had aligned itself mostly
with the former camp. I belonged to neither.
Feeling at home at last, I developed comforting habits. The Mathematics
common room on the fourth floor had a fancy coffee machine, which was
cleaned by the women from the office each morning. I liked to go there
early in the morning, usually choosing a soft chair overlooking Albert Park.
Home. Time to relax and think. The Faculty had mysteriously provided
me with printing funds, so I could read as many journal papers as I wanted.
Deteriorating eyesight prevented me from reading much on a monitor.
Unpaid labour was, naturally, one of the Devils favourite games, espe-
cially since I had told the powers that be that I was not a slave. Modern

universities are particularly skillful at this game, but for the sake of Physics,
this would not deter me. I would keep on reading until I starved to death.
The Department of Physics took up the sixth and seventh floors, right
above Mathematics. Until the middle of 2016, I only went there about
once a year, to talk to Richard for five minutes. The weekly public Physics
colloquium was on the ground floor, so it became a habit to go into the
city on a Wednesday, whether or not an email notice for the colloquium had
arrived in my inbox. It often happened that the theatre was empty half an
hour before the colloquium time slot, and I liked to arrive early, enjoying
the space and the silence.
It sometimes happened that no email arrived, even when there was a
colloquium. This seemed to happen most frequently when the lecture in
question was related to my own interests in Theoretical Physics. In fact,
I was not getting any emails regarding professional Theoretical Physics,
and had not been since late 2009, when I attended my last conference in
One Wednesday, sitting in my favourite seat at the back of the theatre, I
was pleased to find out that the colloquium was about cosmology. I decided
to ask Lucy in the Physics office, who I had never dared speak to before,
about the email notification problem. I only spoke to her once. I became
irritated, once she had admitted to not sending a notice for the cosmology
lecture, although not at her personally, because I now understood perfectly
that all the meddling was somebody elses fault.
The Devil might think he had conditioned me further into silence, into
proper feminine niceness, but my new resolve to manage the anger came
from a genuine improvement in self esteem.
On the other hand, I was growing hopelessly weary of Thought Police
tactics. It had taken years for me to accept its existence, years to com-
prehend the potentials of the technology. I had been observing, without
comprehension. When I had complained to my mother in private about
the uselessness of community aid, the community aid worker had suddenly
stopped visiting. When I had mumbled some random fact to myself near a
cell phone at home, it had appeared an hour later on my radio news. The
Internet of All Things was impossible to avoid.
Paranoia about eavesdropping bugs in my lounge room had become a
relatively trivial problem. The mental health nurse, who rapidly assimilated
the latest popular news, told me that only certain cell phones are suscepti-
ble to hacking. Unfortunately, physics told me otherwise. Two years earlier,
the mere mention of surveillance would have prompted a diagnosis of sick
persecutory beliefs, but the health people seemed to forget all previous mis-
Despite occasional hallucinations, my sleep patterns had improved. These
things were never discussed in detail with the doctor. Visiting the Te Atatu
medical centre was a major financial ordeal.

First, one had to make an appointment, with both the doctor and with
Work and Income. At the Work and Income meeting, which was at the
Henderson office, the administrator would authorise a loan to pay for the
doctors appointment. One would then return to the doctors surgery, at
a different time to the other appointment, to make the payment with the
Work and Income credit card. If the surgery decides to add, say, a late
payment fee, the Work and Income funds will not cover the medical bill.
Work and Income are supposed to be funding medical costs through the
weekly benefit. However, even if you write out your impossible budget for
them fifty times, with additional notes regarding unmet needs, they will tell
you that all you will get is power, food and a roof. Of course, you dont
actually have anywhere near enough power or food, and the roof leaks, but
the people at Work and Income are determined to believe that New Zealand
is a great country just the way it is.


The upward spiralling insomnia was fed by a cocktail of resignation, the

old poverty driven depression, and a growing existential horror at the erasure
of the past. For years, I had allowed the icy moonlight into the house truck
bunk, when a few cotton rags could have curtained the windows. Every few
seconds, all night long, I would twist my angular body about on the thin
matress, groping at the synthetic layers of insulation. Nighttime comfort
was a vision of my truest friend, a skeletal, hooded Death, who would wrap
his arms around me and bid me be still. The idea of sleep was filling me with
fear, because it could only come with those ill nightmares that lie beneath
all other thoughts. In surges of horror, I would scream to block out the pain.
A solitary, malnourished mind will have the same mundane, but neces-
sary, conversations with itself, over and over again. Thus whole lifetimes are
Before Te Atatu, periods of severe malnutrition had lasted weeks or
months, and my youth had carried me through it. This time it would last
for three years. I was not yet aware of the full burden of guilt, which fuels
the self blame and the hopelessness. Yes, I had once eaten well, while others
had not. Yes, I had even eaten well knowing the experience of starvation,
feeling guilty that I was still alive. But no, the Thought Police would never
train me to throw small change at beggars, no matter how often I was
punished. Because that degree of cooperation was across the line, beyond
the acceptable level of submission, in the place where the Devil could claim
your soul forever.
I realised that there must be other people who were concerned about this
demolition of freedom, this encroachment of subversive manipulation. But
in my sphere, they remained silent. Some entity was preventing me from
bumping into like minded comrades, who may have provided some social
support. At least, it was easier to accept that explanation than the alterna-
tive: that everyone had succumbed, albeit unwittingly, to fear. Paranoia is
the more optimistic option.
As both a New Zealander and an Australian, I had won the citizenship
lottery at birth. My fundamental needs - plentiful water, food and space -
could be viewed as greed, even as I lurked perpetually at the bottom of the
Thousands of job applications had been written and posted, or filled out
online. I understood the pointlessness of it. No salaried position, a privilege
of success, would be given to the insane, who are apparently permanently
incompetent. The Thought Police would only reward compromises that
went across the line. I knew this for a fact, because after years of silence or
rejection, I suddenly received interest in my online application for further
postgraduate study, in Education. There were emails and snail mail letters

from the tertiary institution.
Clearly, in my late forties, having spent most of my adult life as a working
postgraduate student, I was still somehow unqualified to work. Clearly, I
was meant to go even further into debt before I was permitted to teach.
Perhaps I could keep borrowing money until I reached retirement age.
I owe no money to individuals. Only the bank and the government. Only
ten thousand dollars in total, a trifle for many people I know, but enough
to kill a beneficiary. Over my lifetime, I had been gifted small amounts of
money here and there, but never anything substantial. If I was not going to
buy a house, which was quite impossible, or to raise a family, supposedly I
did not need money. A proper Kiwi woman my age should be working hard
to support others. I should know my place. I learned when I was younger
what a womans place was.
Unfortunately, I was now something infinitely worse than a person who
did not know their place. I was a poor Kiwi woman who demanded the
highest male privilege, a misfit who insisted on human rights, a nobody
that knew a little too much. My very existence was a constant affront to
that greatest of all myths, that the undeserving poor are uneducated and
Budget advisors, who have not gone hungry one single day in their lives,
will teach you how to purchase groceries with only thirty dollars a week.
Your mental health nurse will encourage you to visit an advisor, and then
laugh when you protest at the likely consequence of a fall in your credit rat-
ing, as if that would be funny. You are given the option of self improvement
through adult education or counselling sessions. A considerable fraction of
the countrys health budget appears to be spent on the kind of occupational
therapy where a master of prejudice will teach you how to calm your faulty
mind and feel gratitude for what you have.
As in Wanaka, in Te Atatu they offered me every alternative. In the
beginning, a local community trust person would pick me up once a week
and drive me into the city, to the University library. Unfortunately, because
it was quite a long drive, they had to sit in the car and wait, and so I
only had an hour to browse journals and books. There was no time to do
anything else.
On a bad day, I would be gripped by the terror of being unable to read.
On a good day, I could manage a paragraph or two, although I would print
hundreds of pages to skim read. It was an impossible way to do science.
But I had to believe I could improve. As I had discovered a thousand times
before, decades ago, this was what I lived for.
Mike had made it clear that I could never expect recognition for my
work. Whenever I perked up a bit, and wrote a little, the results would
dissolve in a puff of opaque hostility. Like countless generations before me,
I had resolved to donate all future work to my worst enemies, without ever
publishing again. If that was the only way I could do science, so be it.


Pauline and Te Paea came to Te Atatu while on a Physics road trip. I

almost missed them, because it was hard to hear knocking on the door when
rolled up in my blankets on the bed. We all went to a motel in Orewa, where
we ate noodles and walked on the deserted beach. The next day I had steak
for lunch, and we saw a sci fi film.
Pleasant outings like this had been normal for me when I was younger,
but were now very rare.
Somehow Pauline and I never got around to talking about physics, and
I suspected that people in general were keen to avoid the subject. Even my
friends Kerie and Allan, in Wanaka, had mostly stopped talking to me about
science. Other people seemed to think that my lifes work was worthless,
now that the Higgs boson had been discovered.
In fact, the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN was a final confirma-
tion of the Standard Model of particle physics, which was largely developed
in the 1970s, before I began studying science. Of more direct relevance to
modern theories was the non discovery of other particles at CERN. I had
blogged about countless crazy theoretical ideas, most of which turned out
to be wrong, but my actual work had always focused on this non existence
of extra stuff. And now there were followers out there who hated me not for
having been wrong, but for having been right.
I was in continual torment, filled with remorse for all my mistakes. Of
course, the old mountain accidents had been all my fault. Of course, it had
been a mistake to write papers in 2004 and 2009, when I did not know what
I was doing. Now the world was saying, Forget your career. You had your
chance, and my mind tended to agree. Who was I to argue. How could
such a fragmented mind possibly persist with such an analytic endeavour.
In the final year back in Wanaka, a local person would drive me to
Dunstan to see the psychologist. They tried everything. They gave me
meditation lessons. They suggested joining a club, for walking or golf or
bridge. They said I could meet other scientists in Wanaka. They made sure
I ate enough. But I was inconsolable. Physics was my vocation, and I had
already given up everything else for it. People had been pushing me away
from Physics since the 1980s, but I had always come back.
In 2012 I watched the Higgs discovery lecture live, in Kerie and Allans
study, late at night. Kerie had to ask me to turn the volume down. Dur-
ing the day I would walk miles with Tasman the border collie. Used to
being alone, I would mutter constantly to myself, sometimes exclaiming an
interesting fact about physics out loud, for Tasmans benefit.
As you age, you discover your greatest fears. I was not afraid of further
madness or death. I was not afraid of forgetting certain mathematical de-
tails, which could easily be learned again. Yet I was absolutely terrified of

losing the ability to see my work intuitively. I saw, with numbing horror,
the disturbing possibility that my subconscious motivations might change,
against my will. If I was forced to fight for the right to think, science would
become a battlefield rather than a playground.
Rent for the house in Te Atatu took up two thirds of my weekly benefit.
Other essential expenses, that were not at any time accounted for by Work
and Income, included utilities, laundry, debt repayments and lawn mowing.
The luxury that maintained a little sanity was a cup of coffee at the Te
Atatu cafe, where I could sit and do the Herald crossword. I was left with
around twenty dollars a week for groceries. After spending ten dollars on
toilet paper, or toothpaste or sanitary napkins, there would be ten dollars
left for food. On a good week, I would buy one fresh vegetable, but the food
budget mostly went on bread and canned soup. No dairy and no fresh meat.
Bread costs one dollar a loaf. Modern malnutrition is well hidden be-
neath the cloak of obesity, a diet of bread and sugar. Rice is relatively
expensive, and one has to factor in the cost of cooking. There is zero room
for error. If you forget to buy the toilet paper one week, you could easily
become homeless the next.
Although the fear of starvation had left me long ago, there remained
many animal fears lurking in the depths of my mind. It would take three
years in Te Atatu before I began to overcome them. I had been racing to
the supermarket every pay day, loading my shopping bags with the bread
and soup. The finest consolation of those days was the sight of one food
shelf filled with cans. If I had wasted money on sweet biscuits, a sure calorie
winner, the whole packet would be eaten within an hour.
Then one day, when life at the University showed a vague promise, I
saw how afraid I was of the empty cupboard. This emptiness symbolised
precisely its opposite: the bulging kitchens of everyone else I knew. In New
Zealand, people said that no one had an empty cupboard. Even the other
beneficiaries I had met did not have empty cupboards. For a life time, I had
been complicit in this deceit, often pretending that everything was all right.
I started telling the truth, and instead of cowering at the vitriolic re-
sponse, I grew stronger. I would no longer be afraid of my cupboard. I
would no longer be racked by guilt every time I went out for a meal. Yes,
the world was dying, but I did not hold the sole burden of responsibility.
Instead of buying the canned soup, I starting buying a single wholesome
meal from a local Chinese take away. When the vitamin tablets ran out, I
merely shrugged my shoulders. Great for morale, dreadful for my health.
Now I was eating well one day a week, and nothing at all of nutritional value
on the other six.


On the top storey, the soft dark red carpet extended from the central
hall up a few stairs to the loungeroom, where rusty pink leather sofas with
wide arms sat near an expensive stereo system. A large collection of CDs,
mostly classical music, lined the wall. The french doors in the lounge opened
onto a pleasant balcony with harbour views. Also on the top level there was
a dining room, elegantly furnished in a Chinese style, a small library, a
bathroom, and a spacious kitchen with a stunning glass top breakfast table.
The house was very private due to the steep cliffside on which it was built,
and one could climb a set of stone stairs up the cliff from the courtyard.
On the main level, the hallway wound around to a secretive master bed-
room with ensuite bathroom. There were two additional bedrooms, a large
guest bathroom, a laundry, a third shower and a sauna. The garage down-
stairs contained a heavy wooden billiards table, and there was an unused
dumb waiter shaft extending upwards into the pantry.
This is the house I lived in with my partner twenty years ago, in the inner
eastern suburbs of Sydney. Only the two of us in the house, which my part-
ner considered barely adequate. Before moving here from my two bedroom
rental, which I had shared with a university friend, I had often protested
that a large house would be far too much trouble. A small apartment was
all I needed. My partner bought the house he wanted.
I knew exactly what I was up against, since my mother had insisted
on me helping with the housework at home, from a young age. Australian
Pakeha women at the time were so horrified by the elitist concept of hiring
a cleaner that the entire subject was taboo. Most households traditionally
relied on a single income, leaving the wife and daughters with ample time
to cook, clean, sew, polish, do the gardening and tidy up. My sister and I
also took weekly private ballet and music lessons, while my brother played
soccer and followed my father around his workshop.
It was a short walk from the family house in Balgowlah to the harbour-
side beaches. On weekends or holidays we would go away, either with the
caravan or a set of canvas tents, unless we were visiting our holiday house
on the north coast or the ski lodge in Perisher Valley. Our thirty foot tim-
ber launch was moored close to home, and accessed with a dinghy from the
closest beach. My father loved to fish, and the large plastic garbage bin on
the boat was often filled up with snapper and kingfish. There was no such
thing as a quota for anything. On our travels we ate barramundi, prawns,
or freshly shucked Pacific oysters from the saleyards along the coast.
Every day there was meat or fish for dinner, accompanied by three differ-
ent vegetables or a fresh garden salad. In the mornings, our mother would
serve us breakfast in the kitchen, usually an egg and toast with orange juice,
followed by cereal.

Sometimes all three siblings would accompany our mother on her shop-
ping trips, so that we could help lug the purchases back home. As a 1930s
child, my mother hated to create waste, but consumerism carried an un-
avoidable level of decadence. It was a hot climate, and what the guests
did not finish had to be thrown out. Butter, cheese and eggs were always
kept in the fridge, which usually overflowed with sauces, soft drinks, meat
and left over salads. There was a pantry stuffed full of cooking essentials:
flour, sugar, cereals, spices, dried fruit, nuts, dyes, woks, cake tins and kebab
In the summer our father would light up his hand built granite barbeque,
which sat in the front courtyard next to the fern garden. When there were
visitors, we had steak and sausages and kebabs, or garlic prawns. It was
the mans job to fetch ice from the shop, to keep cool a wide array of beers,
wine and soft drinks, when space in the fridges ran out. It was the womens
job to prepare all the food and mind the guests. If the guests remained a
little longer than expected, for a special occasion, my mother would think
nothing of whipping up a few dozen extra hamburgers in the kitchen.
Wary of giving us too much sugar, my mother would permit only one
trip a week to the local dairy for sweets, but most nights there was a dessert
with dinner, which we invariably ate together at the dining table. The oak
sideboard hid all the traditional colonial necessities: the ubiquitous bone
cutlery, a white lace tablecloth, generous linen napkins held in silver rings,
wine and whisky glasses, and a range of ash trays.
After a particularly dirty outing we would come home and shower in the
laundry bathroom downstairs, since my mother was always trying to keep
the centre of the house sparkling, in case someone arrived. On a hot day,
or if there were tents to be cleaned, the garden hose would be turned on,
spewing out arbitrary quantities of clear, clean water.
I loved the infinite variety of greys in the thunder clouds, and the fixed
bright blue of a fine sky. In the bush, we laughed at the screeching cockatoos,
kookaburras and galahs. My mother, who was Pakeha, was careful to warn
us about the spiders, snakes and crocodiles. A large blue tongued lizard
resided in our garden, appreciating the natives that my mother had planted.
In New South Wales, there was an effectively infinite amount of coal
to provide power, which was sold cheaply by a government authority. My
father, like most men, was expected to collect all manner of gadgets. He was
an automotive and marine mechanic. He studied plumbing and welding. He
bought a chainsaw, to chop wood for the open fire in the main loungeroom.
He learned to polish gemstones, which we found on fossicking trips out
west, and to make silver jewelry for my mother. Huge piles of unidentifiable
antique tools were stashed in the empty spaces created by the hill underneath
the sandstone foundations.
Most children played sport on the fields near the schools, but I was so
hopeless at team games that I was not even expected to complete compulsory

exercises. Even in gymnastics, the coach found it very hard to coax me just
once over the parallel bars, and the vault was entirely out of the question.
In general, I was a clumsy nerd.
My ex partner and I also liked to have people to dinner. Since I did not
need to pay for rent or utilities, and my health was excellent, the bulk of
my own income was spent on groceries, often from the extravagant food hall
in David Jones on Pitt St. I would wander for hours around the city stores
looking for arbitrary house warming, birthday and Christmas gifts.
I had everything that anyone could possibly want, except the one thing
that mattered: a job in Physics. All I looked forward to were the skiing
holidays and trips to the bush. Movement feeds the mind. Nature calms
the soul. The land holds your memory.


In early 2015 a fragile stability reigned. My books were neatly aligned

on the kitchen bookshelf, and piles of research papers were strewn over the
lounge room floor. All summer, monarch butterflies swooped about the swan
tree by the entrance. After I told the door knockers to go away, and there
was one visit from Kerie, my only occasional visitor was the mental health
In April there was a mathematics seminar about Theoretical Physics.
Whenever there was an event that had the potential to alleviate my solitude,
I would have fits of anxiety about missing it. Perhaps the buses would stop
running. All right then, I could walk to another suburb and find alternative
transport. Perhaps the seminar room would be altered, and I would have
no way of finding out about it. Perhaps I would accidentally mess up my
impossible budget the day before. Whatever happened, I would arrive hours
in advance, just in case, feeling heroic for not bivying out in the bushes
To my amazement, this particular seminar went ahead. It turned out to
be the craziest seminar I have ever attended at a university, even including
the ones I used to give at the University of Canterbury. With our dedication
to quantum gravity in common, I was very happy to meet the speaker, Rob
Wilson. Over the next few weeks, to my utter astonishment, I would spend
hours at a time talking to him about the Dirac equation, which lies at the
foundation of the Standard Model of particle physics.
One day Rob and I went out to grab a quick lunch. I saw that he
left his office holding only the office key, and it made me sigh. Every day
since 2010, excepting a week or two in Wanaka, I had carried my old laptop
and valuables with me everywhere. Modern laptops may be far lighter, but
could never host a supposedly reliable, internet free operating system. My
version of Windows had obviously been corrupted years ago, most notably
with my loss of administrator control and the CD drive, but working offline
permanently meant that I could ignore all the security warning messages,
and also ignore the less conventional intrusions that were no doubt occuring.
Since flicking that switch, the laptop had never crashed.
Rob Wilson soon left New Zealand, and I happily resumed studying
alone. There were now regular, interesting lectures to attend, often with
free food. I would not permit myself to go along for the food alone, but
when it was available it greatly improved my diet.
This unexpected progress came to an abrupt end in June. On a Saturday
morning I walked down to the Te Atatu shops, where the ATM machine
swallowed my eftpos card. Having no money on me at all, I panicked. I
turned to a man nearby and asked if I could borrow his cellphone. The
bank hotline was unavailable. In tears, I dialled 111, for the third and final

time. As I spoke to the police call centre, on the borrowed phone, there
was in the background an unmistakable sound: Machiavellian laughter at
my fear.
I was convinced now, not only that my bank account had been deliber-
ately targeted, but that someone had digital access to all phone calls that
occured near my location, in real time. In 2015, this idea would still have
been regarded as insanity. By 2016, it was completely normal. They say it
takes twenty or thirty people to carry out full surveillance on a target, but
with this interconnected technology, only a few people are sufficient.
On the Monday morning I walked miles to the banks premises in Hen-
derson on an empty stomach. All weekend I had been gripped by the fear
that Fridays automatic rental payment had not been paid. The lady at the
bank assured me that everything was all right, although somebody really
had attempted to withdraw funds on the previous Thursday, just before the
rent was due.
I would have to get used to this continual hacking of my life. I had
already reported various problems, to pretty much every known agency or
authority in the country, without any response.
The psychologist told me there was a cosmology group in Auckland. I
told her I knew. This prompted me to search for upcoming Auckland events
that might be of interest. In December, the Department of Physics was to
host a conference on Quantum Information, close to my line of research. All
I needed was funds to cover the registration. The days of free entry for all
interested intellectuals were over.
I set up a page on the Kickstarter funding website, claiming correctly,
albeit mischievously, to be one of New Zealands leading scientists working
on the categorical mathematics of quantum information (I might be the
only one). Soon afterwards I received a letter from the Ministry of Social
Development, via Work and Income, requesting a check of my disability
status. They asked me to return the enclosed form.
Nowadays it is very difficult for radical nonentities to fill out forms. You
try hard to ignore the eyes of the Thought Police, but you instinctively
flinch at the upcoming punishment. They especially like forms that include
questions regarding your circumstances in the future. They will scour every
remark you make. Despair about your future cements your fate, because
they will do whatever you say. A negative prediction will come true, and it
is your fault for wishing it. A positive prediction will be called out as a lie,
and you are the liar.
The world was much simpler when I was only talking to Mike.
I walked all the way to the mental health building in Henderson with
the form, which required input from the psychiatrist. They insisted on
taking the form off me, without an immediate response. I have no idea
what happened to it. I suggested to the nurse that it might be a hoax, so
perhaps it became a hoax.

On my Kickstarter page there was room for updates, so I joked that my
conference plans were coming along nicely except for the dangers of corrupt
The nurse came to see me and she said she was very worried about
my depression. The psychiatrist decided once again to put me on anti-
psychotics. I refused. They pointed out that I had only tried Risperidone,
and the Olanzapine might work differently on my brain. I was dubious. They
invoked the Mental Health Act, under which it was compulsory for me to
take Olanzapine as per the doctors instructions. I glimpsed the mandatory
lawyer for a moment, but it turns out they wont help much once you have
taken the first few pills.
In order to enforce the Olanzapine dose over several weeks, I was admit-
ted to hospital. In truth, I was about to die from starvation, not psychosis
or paranoia. I pointed this out to the resident doctor. They fed me well.
When I managed to check the Kickstarter page, the funding target had
miraculously been met. If you have many enemies, some times you also have
many friends.
After I left the hospital, where there is a chronic shortage of beds, I slowly
weaned myself off the Olanzapine without telling the psychiatrist. At the
hospital, I had been introduced to the District Inspector for Mental Health.
Her responsibility, as a lawyer, is to check up on the views of patients under
enforced care. I have not spoken to her since, although later on I would
receive emails from her suggesting that I visit her office in Ponsonby. This
I never did, having learned the hard way that traipsing around the city on
expensive buses, to meetings that would go nowhere, was just one more way
for the Thought Police to amuse themselves.
As anticipated, the drugs had altered my thinking. My brain no longer
cared at all about the mathematics of quantum information, although I was
now committed to a conference paper in two months time. This was yet
another opportunity to discredit my younger self. The depression got worse,
as I carefully watched my brain flail around for its mathematics connections.
I did write the paper, but it was dreadful, like almost everything I had done
for the last ten years.
Just before the conference, over one sleepless night, the mathematics
started coming back. Maybe I could be happy again. But it was getting
harder and harder to believe that recovery was possible.
At the conference dinner I sat next to Cris Calude from the Computer
Science department. Professor Calude works on quantum mechanics, so we
agreed to meet at a later date to discuss the Kochen-Specker theorem. He
has a local collaborator and there was also a visiting professor from Austria.
The four of us, me and three European men, went out to lunch. Determined
to contribute to life at the University, and conscious that I knew none of them
personally, I mostly ignored their negative views on positive discrimination
in science.

It had not escaped my attention that the University of Auckland had
a diversity problem. Following old traditions, New Zealanders prefer to
recognise academic qualifications from far away places, especially from uni-
versities filled with white people from the Northern hemisphere. I was told
that the University loved its Maori staff, but as far as I could tell, there was
only one in Mathematics and one in Physics. There were very few Maori
students in science, and most of them were hidden in the tuakana rooms in
the basement.
The problem was that I could be hated both for being white and for
not being white. This was not an imaginary problem. During my last bout
of homelessness, doing my best to forget the harassment at the hostels, I
had vowed to carry on trusting my fellow human beings. One day a Pakeha
woman promised to give me a place to stay. But first she wanted to talk. She
drove me to a completely unfamiliar part of Auckland, and despite myself
I was suddenly afraid for my life. I nodded dumbly as she complained
about the lack of educational achievement amongst Maori and the problem
of autistic children. The promised accommodation lost its appeal.
At that time I was still in denial about the extent of surveillance. Or
at least, in denial about surveillance as a medium for abuse. As a Pakeha
Australian woman, I was bound to say, unintentionally, some things that are
offensive. On the other hand, I was tangata whenua, and quite capable of
taking personal offense against European sensibilities. Whichever way the
cards fell, there was bound to be a listening device and a camera.
Every remark that you make, even in private, can be taken out of con-
text. That this actually happened, I did not discover from Facebook, but
from observing a disconcerting rise in the number of strangers who ran-
domly stopped me to say how much they hated the Maori or the Chinese
or Australians. It is difficult to fight off despair when such events define the
majority of ones interactions with other human beings.
During the early years of blogging, before all the trolling and baiting, I
had made many friends online. Carl Brannen and I had been collaborating
on a paper about quark and neutrino mixing matrices.
What started out as an interesting piece of work, quickly turned into
a fiasco. There would be no chance of recovery until I could detect the
concrete presence of malign manipulation, until I could see the proliferation
of brainwashing methods, until I could forgive myself for my own stupidity.
Sanity no longer rests on the ordinary delusions of the world, but on an
ongoing effort to rewire the mind around unworkable blanks.
Initially, the easiest evil to see was the coercion towards Silence. Fight-
ing Silence, I carried on blogging long after my mind had wandered from
abstractions into fury. Later on, the mental health nurse would acknowledge
this reign of Silencing, telling me that it was not our problem. I asked her
whose problem it was.
After a few meetings with Cris Calude, in his spacious and comfortable

office at the University, he suggested that I take on a graduate student as
a co-supervisor. Nothing could have made me happier. But the student
never appeared, and so I did my best to forget about Cris Calude and the
Kocken-Specker theorem.
Then one Thursday at the monthly Mathematics morning tea, with its
platters of muffins and fresh fruit, I met Professor John Butcher. A past head
of department, John was old enough to presume that academia was about
free thinking. He was also an expert in the numerical algebraic techniques
used in modern Quantum Field Theory. Although I was unfamiliar with
his work, the algebraic techniques were of great interest to me, and so we
immediately agreed to start a workshop on the subject. This was easily
arranged, since John knew a number of local researchers, academics and


There was approximately one particle physicist at the University of

Auckland, according to my version of the local website. Occasionally I
thought of knocking on his door and introducing myself, having finally over-
come this particular anxiety. Unfortunately, the Physics webpage advertised
its interest in String Theory as the fundamental theory of particle interac-
tions. That is, it did so until late 2016, when one day all reference to String
Theory was suddenly erased.
The new paradigm position was an unsurprising consequence of a long
series of negative experimental results, which had now pretty much disproved
the main predicitons of Strings. For me personally, this still came as a shock,
having squandered my whole career for my dislike of Strings, and having
lived for decades in a world where most successful careers in Theoretical
Physics were in some way based on Strings.
Productive theorists, quite unlike me, were already busy writing papers
on the dark matter and dark energy problems using techniques that did
not rely on Strings, having apparently forgotten all about them. Sometimes
it really is great to see science working so efficiently to dismiss incorrect
hypotheses. Unfortunately, most of the new papers seemed to be based on
old alternative ideas, which I had seen thousands of brilliant people working
on twenty years ago, before they lost their jobs. Whole disciplines had been
swallowed up by the two behemoths of String Theory and Relativity.
Such is progress perhaps. Only physicists will tell you that most of these
published papers are a complete waste of time. If the standard measure of
success is publishing, and today it is, then people will naturally focus on the
production of publishable results rather than on the far more difficult task of
analysing a range of speculative ideas. Once this culture is entrenched, and
today it is, then speculative ideas will no longer be permitted at all, cut out
of discussions directly, by ridicule or by order of some arbitrary authority.
When universities are managed according to old fashioned business prin-
ciples, knowledge becomes the purview of the oldest scourge of civilisation:
the elitist publishing house. In an economy where information carries mon-
etary value, knowledge always has a price. The hey day of the internet,
when free information was uploaded for everyone, had given way to a world
of pay walls and exclusive sites. No business was more lucrative than the
publication of prestigious research journals, to which every university must
subscribe and on which academic job security depends.
This brave new world was alien to me. As a young woman in Australia,
I had freely browsed the physics journals at the university library. In those
days, a large university would order hard bound copies of all the major
journals. Anyone was free to pull a volume down off the shelf, and to obtain
an article for the small cost of photocopying it oneself. The university paid

one fixed fee for each journal, regardless of how many people wanted to read
The global mantra of Science is Only for the Wealthy was a backwards
step of about four hundred years. Scientists had tried to set things straight,
within the limits of their employers expectations. There was the option of
Open Access publication, where writers would pay a fee to be published.
Again, this is about the money and not the science. Article preprints were
posted on a special document archive, which anyone could access, at least
until they were published. But this archive was so tightly controlled by
professional interests that only peer accepted papers were permitted there.
Until recently, there was no double blind publishing in science. Besides,
within a small field, everyone can be identified by their style. So if you dont
want a scientist to get a job, perhaps because she is inconveniently female
or non white, then you can easily follow the modern day diversity protocols
to the letter by insisting that the best candidate have the best publication
In my case, it was not only the ever shifting goal posts that drove me
insane. Mike and his friends were deliberately driving me insane. To prove
that I was not imagining this sabotage of my mind, I would occasionally
get emails from dubious witnesses, asking how it felt to be erased. Most
emails, however, as I have said, were not received at all. This isolation
was governed by a deafening silence, almost certainly because of the actual
deletion of helpful mail.
Actually, there was no excuse for my poor publication record. My brain
just does not work that way. I simply cannot think about science while
worrying about what I should do for my career. The two things are mutually
exclusive. Sadly, I might well have been the kind of scientist who writes a
lot, if I had ever had the real opportunity to do so. But the right peace
of mind requires at least a decent space to work and enough food to eat.
Whenever I had these things, for a brief time, my mind would always wander
back to physics.
They were not satisfied with toying with my online journal access or on-
line documents. In a world where you can only use the internet by accessing
a personal account, anyone who has control of that account can in principle
screen or alter any webpage that you might wish to visit. Increasingly, the
pages that I liked to visit would be blocked, crashed, deleted, too busy, or
in some other way engaged. The error messages were often far too creative
to be plain errors.
For years, for instance, I had been unable to download papers from an
alternative research forum known as Researchgate. This was hacker trolling,
provacative attempts to get my attention and make me fight. Because I could
waste my life fighting. That is the whole idea. If you are too busy fighting,
you dont have time to do the things that they are afraid you might do.
I did not have a spare ten dollars to spend on a bus trip to a handy

internet cafe, where I might remain anonymous for five or ten minutes. For
me, the history of abuse was closely tied to the omnipresence of the internet.
But why stop there. Once I finally figured out what was happening, I realised
that things had always been this way. I had refused to look evil in the face,
attributing every disturbance to a local bullying incident. I had never before
really considered the possibility that others had been manipulated to get at
If this was happening now, it also had before. Out of all those resent-
ments and misunderstandings, between me and my family and others, there
were some that were not accidental, some that came down to a long lost
phone call or altered email. I dared not begin to imagine, the source of my
troubles going back to the 1980s. Problems caused by previous incarnations
of Mike. Problems due to my talent for physics, which I really did have back
then. I would never know the truth, but whatever it was, it was unthinkable.
A whole life deliberately derailed, not once or twice early on, but ceaselessly,
decade after decade.
The biggest problem for abuse victims is the inconvenience of the truth.
Nobody believes my story. They dont want to believe that such crimes are
unpunished, let alone sanctioned by the State.


After three years in Auckland, here I was faced with the unlikely prospect
of giving lectures, for the first time in many years, in the sessions with John
Butcher. The first lecture was terrible. It was not the speaking itself that
evoked anxiety, since I had a good deal of past experience. Rather, I was
battling the thought that I would faint after standing up for ten minutes, or
that I would forget the prepared story, due to memory loss caused by brain
damage. My concerns were probably similar to those of John himself, who
was in his eighties.
The true root of the pain was the bus budget. My mind was well con-
ditioned into perpetual malnutrition, so I purposefully put twenty or thirty
dollars a week onto the bus card, roughly the same as I spent on groceries.
How could I do otherwise. Was this not a catalyst to arrange my thoughts?
With my anxious habit of planning ahead, there was always a whiteboard
marker in my bag and an eraser nearby. I gave seminars the mathematicians
way, using a pen rather than a computer.
We gradually settled on regular Friday meetings. John always knew
someone who would speak, if we were not up to it. After talking, we would
all walk to the yum cha place on Wakefield Street. This was a very sensible
use of ten dollars, if I managed to eat as many vegetables as possible. It was
the only proper meal I ate each week. If the mathematicians asked about
my circumstances, I omitted the details. Many of them think that a Work
and Income benefit is a kind of scholarship. The truth would be impossible
for them to believe.
Unlike in Physics, John Butchers research group was gender and ethni-
cally diverse. Nicolette, a very kind woman, now had a job in the Depart-
ment of Physics, teaching talented undergraduates. I did not tell her that
I had also applied for this job. Alison taught mathematics in the tuakana
rooms. Saghir was finishing up his PhD in numerical analysis at Massey
University, with John as a supervisor. Shixiao was a lecturer in Mathemat-
As the year progressed, I became more ambitious, wanting to talk to
students and attend more and more seminars. The psychologist had assured
me about neuroplasticity, as a truth against the despair of brain trauma.
I had deliberately misconstrued the associated hint that I could find an
alternative line of work, and adopted neuroplasticity as a positive motto.
About once a year I visited Kerie and Allan in Wanaka. It was my duty
to mind the dog Tasman. Tasman lived in a world with swift clean rivers,
lonely lakes, and endless glacial valleys, where he flew over tussocks and
streams after swirling flocks of birds. At home, he could practise running
in the garden or in the nearby Hikuwai reserve. When he was young, he
would chase rabbits across the path in front of me, and I would feel guilty

for not killing them for him. Nowadays he did not bother. We would simply
wander the banks of the Clutha, stopping at the best swimming eddies.
To Tasman, a world without an infinite quantity of fresh water was un-
thinkable. I too had grown up in such a world. When I moved to Auckland,
at the age of forty five, I had never before been expected to monitor my
water usage.
Gripped by paranoia, I had initially approached the University with the
conviction that someone would prevent me from obtaining water altogether.
My heart continually oscillated, from horror to relief, at the appearance of
a bubbler. I expected, needed, and was in principle entitled to, clean wa-
ter. Everywhere, people were demanding these basic rights for themselves,
and much more besides. Vociferously, they denied these rights to others,
including me. The city was splitting its seams in uncontrolled growth, con-
gratulating the achievements of those that would buy a berth on the Ark
with blood soaked gold.
One day the bubbler in Albert Park stopped running, and the shower
in the Te Atatu house never worked properly. This was not paranoia. This
was real. I had not lived in a major city for many years, and now I saw that
socioeconomic inequalities had worsened globally. Our collective behaviour
was a vision of Hell, with willing participants.
I had first experienced this future of darkness on June the sixth, 2006,
rising in panic from my cubicle in the Department of Physics at the Uni-
versity of Canterbury. The Pakeha doctors called it psychosis, because I
thought I was God. Yet there was no darkness at all in my heart or in my
empty stomach. With only love, I wanted to rearrange the world. When the
authorities had picked me up at the airport in Auckland, I was harmlessly
sitting with a scrap of paper jotting down plans for each continent, having
left unattended valuables in the toilets.
Some people assign themselves the task of torturing evil women, for
Gods sake. I might, at times, be able to shake off this ceaseless misogyny,
or the threat of autistic genocide under the charade of A Cure, but the taint
of prophecy would never leave me now.
In my experience, the surest precursor to psychosis is impending death
through starvation. Once I got used to it, a week of psychosis would bring
joy and calm. Knowing hunger does not make one a devil.
I used the student computers in the Kate Edger building at the Uni-
versity. My default email account was a student account. For me, around
ten emails a week was normal. I no longer bothered with blogging or online
chats, preferring to be alone with my journal papers or science news feeds.
The Kate Edger student commons held a mixture of fond and bad mem-
ories. While homeless the first time around, in 2014, I would go into the
building with my luggage, unshowered. One evening, six or seven security
personel bullied me off the computers and out of the building. I tried to
report dubious issues with my account to the IT desk several times, only to

be told that it was not their problem. After I became a member of staff, I
attempted to change my password at the tiny IT desk in the administration
building on Symonds Street, which was very difficult to find, only to be told
that I would have to report the problem online.
All reports were now made online. Instead of visiting the police in per-
son, which was always a complete waste of time, I could file an incident
report online. The replies I received from the police became more and more
inventive. By 2016, I was being told that I should expect some piggybacking,
if I wanted to work on cutting edge research.
The time came for Work and Income to do a review of my case. I was
sent with the forms to a new psychiatrist in Henderson, who promised to
help me. Later the nurse came around to my house with a signed doctors
certificate, but it only covered a period of three months, which as far as Work
and Income are concerned would mean an end to the health benefit. The
nurse also handed me an application for the additional Disability Allowance,
complaining about my excessive budget.
I screamed at her, and tore the certificate to shreds. I told her to leave
the house and never return again. Two days later, I spotted her on the
doorstep, but I refused to answer the door. One day after that, I found
another doctors certificate on my doorstep.
The new certificate assured the authorities that I would be unable to
work for the following two years. It was the usual curse, because I had
been madly hoping for a job all this time, but the two year period was a
required criterion for Work and Income. This time there was a two pronged
diagnosis, something that almost certainly warranted a permanent benefit,
yet this kind of support was eerily elusive. First, the depression was right
enough. The second part, however, was a diagnosis that made George Orwell
look like Mary Poppins, and permitted all kinds of medical authority.
I took the certificate to the Work and Income office in Henderson, after
crossing out the second part of the diagnosis. After all, if the certificate was
a forgery of some kind, one had to wonder who had forged it. The woman
at the reception desk took one look at it before telling me that Work and
Income could not accept an altered medical certificate. Within seconds, we
were having an argument.
I told her they should just phone the doctor to check the form. After
all, on a previous occasion I had seen them phone an unqualified agency
to discuss my private medical details. She complained that I had written
two words in the margin beside the crossed out item. Indeed, I had written
Warning: Newspeak.
Then she looked at the monitor in front of her. Suddenly, she was all
smiles. Dear, please just take a seat while I phone the Ministry about it,
she said sweetly, as if I was five years old. I could wait. I was well used
to sitting on the circle of red chairs at the back of the office, sometimes
for hours, beside a notice board and TV that blared advertisements for job

The woman eventually told me to leave the form with her. On my way
out, following the instructions she had been given, she hinted that if I would
only accept the second part of the diagnosis then I might get more money.
How interesting. So if you only have depression, you deserve to starve to
death, and they dont mind telling you so. I left without responding.
My payments were not increased. In fact, the next week the payments
stopped altogether. Swallowing all emotion for a moment, I went back to
the Work and Income office to demand that the payments be reinstated. I
had to do this twice. I showed no inclination to move out of my house, or
in any other way alter my basic circumstances.
Under the rule of Oppression, the Family expects the State to care for
the vulnerable and the State expects the Family to do it. If the Family
spends a small amount of money on you, occasionally, a Work and Income
officer will angrily demand to know who would dare do such a thing. If you
have a Family who does much more than that, no doubt Work and Income
would stop supporting you all together. And Mike would make sure that
never happened.


The swan tree by the front door had died, taking with it the Monarch
butterflies. Perhaps the tree had simply been weakened by an overabun-
dunce of caterpillars the previous year. Or perhaps someone had listened
when I told the nurse I thought the tree was going to die.
At this loss of precious outdoor privacy, I overheard one of the neighbours
The increasing shortage of sunlight and food was turning me into a ghoul,
with sunken eyes and numerous sores. I was resigned to mistrustful isolation,
determined not to rage over each interference with my letterbox, whether
tampered mail, nasty notes from neighbours, or the delivery of unwanted
One week in April 2016, I went to a Wednesday colloquium on the ground
floor of the science building. There was usually minimal chatter in the
theatre before the speaker arrived. This week, however, I overheard a man
query Richard about an upcoming visit by a well known cosmologist, Janna
Levin. Professor Levins name was familiar. She was one of very few famous
female theorists, and also a best selling author. While on a visit to Wanaka,
I googled Levins name and discovered that she was due to give a talk at the
Writers Festival, at the Aotea Centre in May. I purchased a twenty dollar
The day of Levins talk was a very special day. Nobody had told me
about it, but I was there all the same. In the morning I put on my tidy
black dress, and caught the bus into the city. I arrived hours before the talk,
but since the festival was in full swing, I could loiter around the book stalls
reading Levins latest work. When the upstairs staff grew irritated at my
lingering, without the intention of buying anything, I simply moved to the
downstairs stall. In this way, I finished the book in three hours.
I had come to the talk with no idea what it was about, thinking it would
have little relevance to Physics. To my immense delight, I was mistaken.
The book covered the history of the LIGO experiment, which had recently
detected gravitational waves for the first time, a century after they were
predicted by Einsteins theory of General Relativity. The LIGO results had
of course been in the news, and they are undoubtedly one of the highlights
of my nerd life. Even better, Levins talk avoided the sociology and focused
on the physics of black holes.
While waiting in the queue before the talk, I overheard the man behind
me tell a friend about personal acquaintances in Physics at the University
of Auckland. Naturally, I introduced myself, and he introduced himself as
Michael, a mature age graduate student in the Department of Physics. The
three of us sat together chatting about physics for fifteen minutes. Belonging
to this world was happiness.

Michael happened to mention a regular Monday morning meeting of
astrophysicists at the University. He told me what room it was in, namely a
familiar, medium sized seminar room in the Computer Science department,
adjacent to Mathematics, and a few doors down from Criss office.
The following Monday I went along. I did not discuss it with anyone. I
simply showed up, and sat in an unassuming position in the audience, away
from the round table of astrophysicists. Nobody told me to leave. After
almost ten painful years of exclusion from the Physics community, and a
complete sense of hopelessness, it seemed I might find a way back.
I expected various kinds of resistance. At first, as expected, this took a
form not directly related to me. For some unknown reason, the location of
the meeting was changed to a small room on the sixth floor of the Physics
Department. I discovered this only on the second Monday, when one of the
graduate students, Chang the cosmologist, accidentally arrived at the old
location, where I was sitting alone. A year before, I would not have found
the courage to follow Chang into the Department of Physics, but that day
I did. So I sat through a second meeting, without speaking, sitting quietly
on a window sill.
Eventually I asked JJ, the local astrophysicist that I knew from oc-
casional chats, to add me to the mailing list for the meeting, which was in
principle open to anyone with a professional interest in astrophysics research.
The new meeting room, Wahi Hui, was unusual. It contained a single,
long wooden table, around which there sat soft high stools. On the centre of
the table there was a fresh vase of Gondwanan flowers. The windows were
covered with encouraging quotes, in various bright colours. One could look
out across Albert Park to see the time on a clock tower in the CBD. To com-
plete the homely feel, there was a small bookshelf next to the whiteboard,
and a cupboard containing tea and snacks. One week, I helped myself to a
block of chocolate.
To me, walking out of Hell, this room was a place where I could finally
belong. A small place in the land.
Wahi Hui was managed by Sarah Hikuroa, whose office was right across
the narrow corridor. One day, in a fit of audaciousness, I decided to book the
room for myself, for one hour a week, seeing on the printed roster that the
room was often empty. Sarahs email said that this was no problem, pointing
out that Wahi Hui was used for purposes other than physics. Indeed, it was
situated within a new multidisciplinary reseearch group.
And so on Monday mornings at 9am, before the astrophysics meeting,
I would sit quietly at the table in Wahi Hui. My impossible dream was a
research group of my own, where I could sit and chat with Chang and others
about quantum gravity. For now, I would enjoy the space alone, whatever
happened. And I did. If all I could do with the hour was scrawl one confused
line of symbols on a blank page, I was happy. This was more than I had
done for years.

On my first solo venture into this territory, I arrived early and found
that the door to Wahi Hui was locked. A pretty middle aged woman with
dark hair was walking past. She asked me whether I was lost. After I told
her I wasnt, she told me her name was Kate, and that the keys to Wahi
Hui were kept in her pigeon hole near the Physics office. This was the only
time I would ever speak to Kate.
I made a demure attempt to tell the students about my meetings by
leaving a handwritten note on the noticeboards in both the Mathematics
and Physics common rooms. Eventually, the Mathematics notice remained
and the Physics notice disappeared.
Realising in surprise, listening to people talk, that I still remembered
a lot about physics, I started contributing to the astrophysics meetings,
preparing short descriptions of new papers about neutrinos. It was a strug-
gle, due to the severity of my short term memory problems.
Whether this was due to early dementia or brain damage, I did not really
care, but there was no use denying it any longer. I was struggling to figure
out what day of the week it was. I would spend half an hour making a
trivial decision about my budget, only to forget completely what I had been
thinking about.
Yet, without knowing it, I had been learning to adapt. Whenever I made
a decision, I would write myself a note. I would look around me all the time,
to make sure I had not left things. My anxieties were now rooted more in
these problems than in the fear and paranoia. I was a truly old woman.
Nobody seemed to notice my difficulties, and I could only assume they
put it down to innate incompetence. I would keep forging ahead, since this
was the only way to mend my mind. Without fail then, I went in on a
Monday. This tightrope would survive until August.
A man from Hastings, a place I have never visited, emailed me to say he
wanted to speak to me about quantum physics, having seen my confident
blurb on the Kickstarter website. I gladly emailed a reply, suggesting he
come to my personal Monday meeting in Wahi Hui. He agreed, two weeks
in a row, but did not actually show up. Having suspected mockery from the
start, I was not surprised, especially given his second email, which contained
a glaring factual error. Such nonsense physics was to become a new trend
amongst people that spoke to me, as if this had been the level of my discus-
sions all along. But I persisted in being polite, in spite of the consequences,
lest I become as insensitive as an egotistical professional.
Next, an email from Sarah told me that their research group had received
a request to use Wahi Hui for a proper meeting, and that my Monday
morning slot was the only suitable time. In utter despair, I hurredly replied
to Sarah, whom I liked and trusted. I told her that any attempt to remove
me from Wahi Hui, at a time when there was pretty much nobody around,
was probably harassment, although I certainly did not know whether or not
anyone at the University was responsible.

At this time, I harboured no ill feelings whatsoever towards anyone on
campus. For four years, whenever there had been any chance of confronta-
tion, I had simply absented myself from the situation. This had been the
foolish habit of a lifetime.


While the other keen young students had knocked on doors to get tech-
nical or professional advice, I had taught myself pretty much everything,
very slowly and painfully. After each forced break from Physics, usually
two or three years at a stretch, I would have to relearn many subjects from
scratch. There was always a great deal that my older mind could no longer
cope with.
That all my professors and colleagues were male, every single one, did
not overly bother me, because I really had no idea at the time what they
were thinking and I was entirely focused on the work.
What they were collectively thinking was this. It was quaint that a
boisterous and voluptuous young blonde woman such as myself would waste
her energies trying to succeed at a mans job. I was a freak. They let
me carry on without interference, because young women in the 1980s were
permitted an education. No doubt it would all end there. Eventually I
would find a man and start a family, happily giving up all ambitions of a
real science job. They felt no need, in those days, to behave as overt bullies,
because the idea of someone like me having a Physics career was so utterly
ludicrous, even if I was at the top of the class.
I had always told people that I was serious about my vocation. Since
the age of fifteen, I had participated in science schools and work experience
projects. I had forgone holidays and other luxuries in order to be in the
right place at the right time. I had tutored any student that came to me
for help, and by my third year as an undergraduate I was already teaching
and publishing. It did not occur to me that this was at all unusual for a
teenager. To me, this was just what scientists did.
Later on, this early experience would skew my perspective in very strange
ways. For instance, I could never convince myself that the mathematics was
difficult, no matter how much trouble I was having getting my head around
it. Some saw this as evidence of my masculine tendency to overestimate
my own abilities, but I had never been thinking about myself at all while
working. By the age of twenty six, I thought I was hopelessly over the hill.
Each time I came back, the work did become more difficult, mostly
because my mind had deteriorated due to poverty and abuse. But this was
what I did. I had stopped listening to alternative career suggestions some
time in the early 1990s.
By the time the Mental Health authorities in Auckland tried to coax me
away from my obsession, the idea was completely unthinkable. Mike knew
this. There were armies of trolls that knew this. But somehow, nobody I
met in Auckland was in the least bit concerned about my situation.
There were several female students, and one female postdoc, at the Uni-
versity of Auckland astrophysics meetings. Everyone else was male. In as-

tronomy, women and other minorities are in general fairly well represented,
but this changes quickly the closer one gets to The Turf.
To the outside world, professional Physics is a modern marvel of diversity
initiatives and community oriented goals. But if you look carefully, you
can easily see The Turf. This is the sacred ground upon which unsuitable
people shalt not tread. Turn on a video from the Perimeter Institute about
a highly theoretical topic, and the ratio of men to women in the audience is
still often fifty to one, unchanged since the 1970s. The ratio of white to non
white people is even worse. Along with Religion and Philosophy, Theoretical
Physics today demands reverence. I am sure the percentage of women doing
it is actually falling.
Back in the 1980s, the general public could not have cared less about
Physics. It was a subject for idiots who wanted to build nuclear weapons.
It had been an immense relief to me, as a teenager, to find out that I would
never be expected to deal with the public. Today, on the other hand, a talk
on theoretical astrophysics can fill a stadium. No best selling novel could fail
to mention the Higgs boson, neutrinos or dark matter, things I had spent a
lifetime trying to understand.
This mindboggling change of affairs had crept up on me quite unawares.
Living in complete isolation, being continuously bullied off the internet, I
really had no idea to what extent the Physics audience had grown, right up
until 2015. In 2007, when Physics blogging was just beginning, I had been
happy with ten or twenty regular readers. As a postgraduate student, I had
given hundreds of different seminars, and was happy if one person in the
audience learned something. But by 2015, there were people who seemed to
hate me for wanting to be a rock star.
When I was young, all kinds of people liked to talk to me about Physics.
I was filled with enthusiasm. Nowadays nobody talks to me about it, even
though everyone is interested. Somehow people know they should avoid the
subject, lest my insanity and my stupidity lead them astray. Any popular
writer or psychologist is obviously a better authority on Theoretical Physics
than I am. After all, they are allowed to speak to leaders in the field about
the latest ideas, while I am not.
The academics, or at least the people who control their online interac-
tions, had not said anything to me about all my crazy work. They had in
fact gone to great lengths not to do so, always finding some other excuse to
exclude me. The Deans email, from the University of Victoria in Welling-
ton, had hinted that my homelessness was the critical embarrassment that
had necessitated my expulsion.
For years I had been flustered and indignant, never realising to what
extent the dark forces of the world might have control over my correspon-
dence. I had fought for years to recover my self esteem, to dismiss all that
guilt I was carrying for crimes that I had never committed. Reluctantly, I
finally accepted the burden of being a public figure of sorts, even though I

understood there would be no support or recognition. The truth is, I had
been clinging desperately to my anonymity, absolutely terrified of atten-
tion. I had started blogging purely out of loneliness, and a desperate need
to talk about technical things. My mind had been filled with science and
mathematics, even when life was tough.
There is no going back.


The conversation between my email account and Sarahs email account,

regarding Wahi Hui, immediately grew antagonistic. I was sitting meekly
amongst the students in the computer room in the Kate Edger building,
comforted by the familiar sights and smells, grateful that the students would
leave me alone.
Then, strangely calm from a new height in malnutrition, I espied a totally
novel opportunity, a new choice. I could do the unthinkable. I could turn
and face this Devil head on, on the attack, even knowing that the inevitable
consequences would be dire.
These latest emails were almost certainly not from Sarah herself, so I
went up to her office to find her. She was away. Her office mate said she was
at a board meeting. My emails told me she was on holiday. Three times, I
tried to book Wahi Hui at an alternative time, but was told that Wahi Hui
was not for personal use.
The next Monday, and only that one time, I went in very early and took
the key to Wahi Hui from Kates pigeon hole. I sat in the room for an hour,
until around 9.15 am, when a local man, whose office was only metres away,
arrived to claim the room. He guessed my name, although I am quite sure
we have never met. He was rude, and then I was angry about being evicted
from the room, but I went anyway. I was not a trouble maker.
Shortly thereafter, I got my first serious response to a job application in
almost a decade, from a theorist in the Physics research group that manages
Wahi Hui. So I went to the sixth floor for coffee with Professor Hendy, whom
I had not previously spoken to. I told him that something was not quite
right about my room booking experiences. He told me that their research
group was not looking for paid employees, but for volunteers, for people
who could study things of importance to New Zealand, like the risk factors
involved in welfare dependence.
Slow witted as I am, I was finally developing a realisation that universi-
ties had changed since my time. The money was about money. Even if all
my personal business with the Department was somehow due to my para-
noia, something here was terribly, apocalyptically wrong. I had shrugged
at the broadening of scientific agendas, to include more industrial and ed-
ucational goals. I had not minded when I witnessed individuals switching
from pure science to engineering. But nothing had prepared me for the total
obliteration of my way of thinking.
As a lonely, paranoid crackpot, I had never dared ask the University
for money, despite the endless, albeit imaginary, hope of diversity initia-
tives. Now I saw that it was entirely out the question, even if I had been
a spectacular success. Gravitational waves and the Higgs boson had been
observed, and all speculative endeavours were being assigned to the dustbin

of history.
So be it. I had chosen my line of research in 1994, and there are far better
reasons for sticking to it today. The String theorists had predicted a hoarde
of new particles at the LHC collider, and in dark matter experiments, but no
such things were ever detected. As Feynman famously said, if your theory
does not agree with experiment, it is wrong, no matter how perfect it might
seem. Besides, theorists from all camps were now interested in Quantum
Information as a basis for both gravity and quantum physics. And String
Theory itself was hinting at new ideas, which were turning out to be rather
similar to what the opponents had been saying. We did not know much
about it yet, but some unified theory had to exist.
By now I was well aware that Mike, or perhaps the Devil himself, would
like to turn people like Richard Easther against me, because I was simply
not being allowed to do theoretical physics. In consideration of my crackpot
status, for years I had generously avoided him.
As usual, that week I went to the Wednesday colloquium, although I
had no idea what was scheduled for that day. I sat in my usual spot at
the back. When the first man to arrive turned out to be an astrophysicist,
Nicolettes husband, I wondered hopefully if was to be a cosmology talk.
Slowly, the lecture hall filled with local physicists, many of whom rarely
attended lectures. When the slides were uploaded, I saw that it was in fact
a talk about gender equity in Physics. Well, I was also very interested in
Just before the speaker began, Richard Easther climbed the steps to
the back of the hall to address me personally. With the whole Department
listening, not to mention an unknown number of electronic devices, he in-
formed me rudely that it was a private meeting and I would have to leave,
as if I had knowingly shown up to cause trouble.
Several thoughts pushed their way into my mind immediately. One,
Richard Easther and a few others were no longer entirely innocent. Two,
only someone like Mike could have devised such sublime humiliation, a nega-
tion not only of my entire professional life but also of my experience as a
woman, in a field that was still almost exclusively male. And finally, that I
had won my first real battle against the dark forces of the internet. There
was no way now that an objective observer could attribute these events to
my paranoia. The enemys cover was blown.
After only a moments protest I left the lecture hall, without shedding
a tear until I was outside the building. In confirmation of the hidden state
of rage, I received an email from Richard complaining about the length of
time it had taken me to leave the hall, about one whole minute.
I emailed Professor Krausskopf, the new head of Mathematics, to re-
quest a meeting regarding bullying. And for almost the last time, I went
to my meeting with John Butchers group, complete with a friendly visiting
graduate student, although I could not listen to a thing.

Once the Wahi Hui booking had been cancelled, I had received a very
unlikely invitation from young Sean, a Kiwi cosmology postdoc. Sean won-
dered whether anyone on the astrophysics mailing list would be interested in
a weekly online lecture lunch meeting in the Department of Physics. Each
week we would view a professional cosmology lecture from the Perimeter
Institute in Canada, which like a number of other Theoretical Physics estab-
lishments, uploaded videos of most of their talks. I had worked at Perimeter
myself for six months in 2003, and visited a second time in 2009.
As my computer problems waxed and waned in the Kate Edger building,
I had largely given up trying to watch such lectures on my own. But the
bigger issue at the moment was the bus budget. Recently, I had mentioned
to John Butcher that Friday meetings did not work well for me, and decided
to give them up. This was because a Monday meeting, a Wednesday collo-
quium, and a Friday event added up to three days travel each week. Thirty
dollars a week for the bus was the equivalent of thirty loaves of bread.
The treasured yum cha, and the companionship of the mathematicians,
was a fading dream, in the light of growing physical weakness. But now,
with the promise of a cosmology meeting, a Friday trip was reestablished. I
was going to go if it killed me, and someone knew it.
Each Friday, Sean would display a list of seven or eight lectures from
Perimeter for us to vote on. This effectively meant that I had no say in what
we viewed, but this was infinitely better than ten years of total isolation. To
my surprise, I was still familiar enough with the jargon to follow everything.
As you get old you understand how slowly science really moves.
Naturally, Richard Easther was there, along with Chang, other students
and postdocs. One week, Richard complained about crackpots, and at other
times he would casually mention Oxford or Canterbury, places I had previ-
ously been. For the first time in four years, I started to run into Richard in
the ground floor corridors. In another odd coincidence, I was also running
into cosmologists accidentally in Mathematics.
My version of the University website had indicated that reports of bul-
lying or harassment should be directed to the head of my department. So
when a meeting about bullying was scheduled in November, by email, I went
to Krausskopfs office to speak to him for the first time.
I would attempt to explain my existential problems, even though it was
all bound to go dreadfully wrong. As far as I could see, this necessitated a
short summary of my life story, which took about an hour. Krausskopf, and
the female mathematician who was there, were wondering what all this had
to do with the Department, where I was presently an Honorary Academic.
Very little, I admitted, assuring them that all the mathematicians had been
very nice to me over the years. We ended up agreeing that it was not their
job to hold my hand in my business with the Department of Physics.
It did not occur to me that the mathematicians were unaware of the real
reason for the meeting. Only later I saw there had been no direct discussion

of bullying. Their emails had probably informed them that the meeting
concerned my status as an Honorary Academic in the Department, which
was due to expire the following month. I had also failed to mention my
mornings task: to submit the last grant proposal that I will ever write, to
a University of Auckland funding body. This insanely bold proposal, worth
several hundred thousand dollars, was to establish my own neutrino theory
group at the University. My email inbox informed me that I was ineligible
to apply, although it would not have been physically possible to submit the
application without staff access.
My emails quickly distanced themselves further and further from reality.
There was a new email from Mike, using yet another email address, promis-
ing a visit to New Zealand. Two emails allegedly came from a student in
New Jersey, wondering about some important ideas that I had mentioned
on my blog around eight years earlier.
If their cover was blown, they had nothing to lose.
Out of administrative necessity, I had been maintaining a second email
account on a public website. This account had little activity, and I had not
bothered to change the password in a long time. Now I suddenly received
an email from Rob Wilson, whom I had met a year and a half earlier. Rob
was one of very few people that had been given this email address, and now
he was asking me about some crackpot ideas that we had been discussing in
his office when he was visiting Auckland.
The remarkable thing about this final email is not that I should receive
it, or not that I should be stupid enough to reply, after deleting the rest of
my inbox, but that this final email absolutely proved that some unknown
entity had been managing my emails for years. What this email highlighted
was the glaring absence of countless others.
Paranoia was no longer a candidate explanation of events. It was mid
November 2016, and I had no choice but to abandon all internet activity, at
least for a while. Now they could do what they liked with my email accounts,
but they could never attribute any of it to me. Thus enraging the darkness,
I did not send a single email from then on. I waited until December 21 to
visit the University again, only to return my last library book.


With a deteriorating level of psychological comfort, I had persisted in

relaxing with a cup of coffee in the staff common room of the Department
of Mathematics. There was an increased frequency of people banging doors
accidentally nearby. Every time, it made me jump.
I had very few remaining snail mail correspondents. Three, to be precise.
Once I gave up writing job applications, having spent a good fraction of my
life doing this, I suddenly received a few interesting offers through my snail
mail friends. My old host father in Denmark, who had once been a great
letter writer, had been in contact with the Chancellor of his local university,
an old colleague of his, and he said this university was willing to put me on
a trial period in one of the Engineering departments. I received a similar
letter from my sole aunt in Australia, who had been talking to a retired
Professor of Physics at her local university, and told me that I could stay
with her, in a city entirely unfamiliar to me, while I sought a little part time
teaching work at this university.
I had even fewer trusted email contacts. None, to be precise. Cheerful
updates from friends in Christchurch had petered out after an email that
said I could stay with them while I sought employment. I shuddered at my
last memories of Christchurch, when I had been forced to wash dishes in
a hotel and sell beer to drunkards. My employer then had told me I was
just fantastic, and I could always come back. Pauline had mentioned the
possibility of a short visit to Wellington, which sounded quite pleasant, but
the detailed offer never arrived.
The war had many fronts. Back in August, in the week after my job
interview with Shaun in Physics, during which I had declared Work and In-
come my enemy, I had received a letter from Work and Income. Once again,
they were demanding a renewal of the perfectly valid medical certificate, on
the grounds that I had again requested the additional Disability Allowance.
With renewed dignity, I vowed never to deal with them again. From that
time, I ignored all their letters, even the regular form for the Temporary
Additional Allowance, which covered my grocery and bus money. The only
possible outcome was homelessness. In November, after wasting twenty
dollars on chocolate, I found that my benefit had been reduced. That week,
the rent was not paid.
My landlord and landlady tried to be kind. They let me off paying the
rent for one week. They brought me a little food. They suggested I visit
an organisation in Henderson, the Auckland Against Poverty action group.
But they did not know my enemies. Surely thinking that I would never risk
the torture of homelessness again, my enemies were trying to manoeuver me
like a sick sheep into yet one more disappointment, running to the Work
and Income office like a headless chicken for one extra dollar.

Yet, if I could win one battle, I could win another. Besides, my physical
health was now so poor that I was certain I would soon die, which I had
made the terrible mistake of telling Krasskopf. I had eaten almost nothing
for two weeks. It was an effort to stand. My hands and feet were often
numb, and the vertigo had reappeared.
Homelessness was a lesser problem than death, and I was not going to
die in a mould infested prison. I allowed the bond money to disappear again.
The day I left the house, after handing my belongings once again to David
Gauld, my mind was in such disarray that I forgot to pack many essentials,
even though they were lying on the kitchen bench as I packed. I was too
weak to trundle the suitcase as far as the shops, so I picked a campsite at
the end of the closest cul de sac.
In my last days lying alone on the old queen bed, I had relaxed. I was
not afraid to die. I was at peace with the erasure of my life. I was going at
last to my resting place, without having to end my life myself.
At the first campsite, I was flooded with an unexpected feeling of relief.
Here there was only the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees. In
shock at the normality of my surroundings, I momentarily put dying out of
my mind. But for the next two weeks, it was a struggle to walk more than
a few feet at a time. My body was generating fluids in bizarre places, and I
would fall over almost every time I got up out of the tent.
Five days after leaving the house, my stomach was empty and I was
thirsty. I wondered whether Work and Income would pay me that week,
because I knew for certain that if they didnt, I would die.
My minimal benefit payments continued. I became stronger with a single
week of healthy food, after three full years of neglect. I was astonished by
the physiological changes: the clear skin, improved eyesight, proper bowel
movements. On the other hand, food is hard on a neglected mind, which
has forgotten how to organise its thoughts.
In early January, I went to the University for the third last time, hiding
my belongings in a dreadful hotel room nearby.
There was a second and final meeting with Professor Krausskopf, with
Amanda from the Mathematics office. I had queried Amanda about my
inability to log on to my computer account in the Kate Edger building.
Apparently, I had lost my email account, my only reliable computer access,
and my personal files. All of it was gone, apperently as punishment for the
crime of not reading my emails for a few weeks.
Krausskopf informed me that the Department had no intention of re-
newing my position. After all, honorary positions were for special people,
not just anyone. Moreover, I was entirely to blame, for having wasted his
time with my ridiculous story. And we had communicated by email, had we
No, we did not communicate by email, I protested, caring not a tot
for further ridicule. Apparently, I had been informed of the situation on the

afternoon of December 21, in an email from Amanda. This was the day I
had returned my last library book. As it happens, the University had closed
for Christmas on December 23, and I would never have received this email
even if I had been inclined to read it.
No, I am not to blame for this, I said boldly. Someone else is to
blame. Not me. Krausskopf looked shocked, because it just wasnt his
job to worry about idiots like me. I did not bother to explain that the
previous meeting had in fact been about bullying and harrassment, because
it was obviously a waste of energy. Besides, I was clearly an idiot for having
vaguely trusted my version of the University website.
Krasskopf also told me that David Gauld was no longer interested in
supporting me. Of course, I had not spoken to either David or Rachel
recently, but was acutely aware that all my personal belongings were then
being stored in their garage at some unknown address. I was overcome by
a wave of nausea, thinking of these last precious possessions, mostly books
and papers, but did not bat an eyelid.
Thinking now only of the precious library access, forgetting completely
the dream of having students of my own, I had to request support from
another department. I immediately walked up the stairs to see JJ, the
astrophysicist, in the Department of Physics. Only once or twice over the
last four years had I come to stand quietly alone by the central window here
on the seventh floor, with a cup of black tea.
JJ listened kindly to my problem, and promised to talk to Richard about
it. We agreed to meet in person again once he returned from a trip overseas,
in late February. In the meantime, I told him not to bother with emails,
because I would never receive them.
Eventually, I managed to phone David Gauld from the last operational
pay phone near the Te Atatu shops. At first he appeared not to recognise my
voice, but I choked back the immediate anxiety and persisted in telling him
that I could now pick up my belongings. So, once again, David came around
to Te Atatu in his little car, and together we drove my boxes to a cheap
storage facility near Henderson. We did not speak about my circumstances.
Fear could be overcome, but anxiety was life. I was so concerned about
banking errors, that I would sometimes make the laborious trip to my storage
unit just to check in person that they had received the money. At least now
I had the money to do this.


Seven months of homelessness has now passed. People express concern

about the cold weather, but the forest camp is much better in winter than
in summer. There are no mosquitoes, the sunlight filters through the trees
to my tent, there are fewer walkers on the track, and I can sit in the tent
without overheating.
When cutoff from reliable sources of news, or plain gossip, it quickly
becomes difficult to guess the true cause of events in ones surroundings.
Had eugenics and fascism really become so popular again? If I extrapolated
back from the number of proud, self proclaimed Nazis who stopped to talk
to me in the street, then roughly half of the worlds population would be
plotting to murder all the evil indigenous and Jewish people.
On second thoughts, perhaps the sample of strangers who stop to talk
to me is not entirely random.
In fact, after all these years in Auckland, it seems clear that the only
people who are permitted to befriend me are pale skinned men who profess
to be alarmed at birth rates amongst brown skinned people, as if this is
an enlightened academic perspective. When I was living in the house on
Te Atatu Rd, there was the friendly young builder at the bus stop. On
our second or third meeting, he made it clear that Aboriginal Australians
were stupid. After I started camping in the reserve, I accidentally ran into
him again, but luckily he escaped to Whakatane. Then there was the blue
eyed old man on the bus from the city, who sat down next to me with his
elaborately carved walking cane. As I glanced at his not entirely Caucasian
features, he loudly bemoaned the curse of mixed race lazy sods, completely
ignoring the cellphones of nearby passengers. Then there was a beggar boy
in Te Atatu who bought me a muffin, which later made me ill. He seemed
quite keen on murdering rich people using Hitlers methods.
The quality of my conversations with men started going downhill, if this
is possible, as the months of homelessness dragged on. One winters morning
I was sitting at my usual outdoor table when a blue eyed American, who
I had never seen around before, stopped to admire the neat packing of my
camping equipment, which I was now in the habit of wedging behind a chair
beside me so that the people from the charity shop did not mistake it for a
The man was full of flattery for me. He gave me an easy puzzle, and
gushed at my ability to solve it. He admired my wit and my smile. He
was pleased when I did not scoff at his flat earth theory. After a half an
hour chat, he suggested that he take me out for dinner and a movie, in a
strictly platonic way. He mentioned Westgate, which I had a very vague
idea was somewhere near Henderson. Since no one from Auckland had ever
before invited me out for the evening, and one had to wonder who would be

permitted to do so, I agreed.
It was obviously another trap. So, despite the enormous effort involved
in waiting around the library on a cold evening after closing time, when I
should have been in my sleeping bag, I twiddled my thumbs until the man
returned to pick me up.
He claimed to be a builder, and was slightly older than me. He told me
he was once a US marine and CIA agent, that he had studied psychiatry, and
that he used to teach cold weather survival tactics, but when I asked exactly
what subject matter he had included in his courses he could not recall any
details. We ate in the food hall at the Westgate mall, which happened to
be a few more kilometres north on the motorway than I had anticipated.
My camping baggage was temporarily locked up in a scenic storage unit for
construction materials, on a back street near the river, from where I could
recover it on our return to Te Atatu in the middle of the night.
The American noticed the difficulty I was having putting my trust in
him. He assured me that I was in good hands, and he was there to protect
me like a good man. We decided to see a Hollywood action movie, which
predictably failed the basic diversity tests. The two female characters never
said a word to each other, a large number of demure female relatives were
slaughtered, and the dark men only spoke a few lines.
Laughing that he was too smart to be racist or sexist, my new friend
nonetheless loudly cursed the passing brown skinned drivers, stupid people,
the Maori, the Indians, the Japanese, and many others. He joked that he
was simply an equal opportunity racist, and constantly pressed me for an
alien female perspective, which I could not provide while focusing on keeping
my distance. Later on he told jokes about rape, which is to say jokes about
me being raped.
Having verified my solitary situation, he promised to be my dear friend,
offering me a small berth next to his own on his unfinished yacht, where he
might possibly heat up a can of soup for me if I was sick. He assured me
that he was not an abusive man, as if I might well have expected it, but
then rapidly developed a habit of ignoring what I said. I explained that I
was fighting the government, and refusing to be an employee of any kind,
so he suggested I spend the next day with him on the building site, passing
him tools. He spoke loudly during the movie.
At last we agreed on one thing. The world was overpopulated. Many
people were being deliberately starved to death. He joked that some people
deserved to be murdered, and told me how many men he had killed with his
bare hands.
After a slow drive home on a back road, which we had to take because
the motorway was closed, I was finally reunited with my baggage, without
shedding a tear, although I cringed at somehow being responsible for the
noisy truck, which no doubt woke up the neighbours. On the other hand, the
people in this street were probably not being kept awake twenty four hours

a day. Finally, without explaining to him that he could never be my friend,
I allowed him to drive me to one of my fine weather campsites. Fortunately,
the closest street lamps were bright enough for me to pitch my tent.
His cellphone had no doubt recorded the entire evenings activities. The
Thought Police had just spent years training me to be nicer to people, or so
they thought, but if I was no longer governed by fear, now they could throw
all effort into enraging me. Radicalisation version two.
Yet there was no longer fear nor anger. This man was such a fine repre-
sentative for bigots everywhere, that his performance was probably entirely
an act. Strategically, however, let us work with the hypothesis that he was
genuine, whether or not he had been falsely misled by persons unknown as
to my own inclinations. Tonight, and probably only then, I could engage
him as a Trump voting rival who is nonetheless due respect. One must not
give up hope that bigots everywhere might be turned to the other side, if
only they could understand that our survival depends upon it.
I bought a plastic chess set in plastic wrapping with a board that would
not lie flat, played myself, and eliminated all pieces but the two Kings and
a few pawns.
Perhaps I would simply follow the usual methodology of women in tricky
situations, once more cutting all communication with the person concerned.
Conveniently, I now had neither a cellphone number nor an email address.
But it could be tricky if they knew where you were, or if they were convinced
that only they could help you, because other people didnt understand you.
I might resort to a blunt, You are not my friend, but this could hardly be
news to someone who had no such illusions in the first place.
At least one thing was clear. Some people still felt free to say and do
exactly as they pleased, without any expectation of punishment or displea-
sure. I have completely forgotten how that feels. By now there is probably
a Facebook group entirely devoted to videos of me hanging out with certain
kinds of people. Why be wracked by guilt for relatively trivial sins, when
you can be tortured forever for crimes that you can barely imagine.
I wondered if the beasts of eugenics and misogyny usually arose in this
way, with people doing the unthinkable not because they believed in it them-
selves, but because the powers that be wanted to check out what other people
thought, and thus put large resources into increasingly elaborate psycholog-
ical tests, the outcomes of which were later mistaken for reality.
I had told the American little about my personal experience with the
Thought Police, which I did not totally equate with the CIA or NSA, al-
though the trolls were clearly happy for me to think that white men were
the enemy. Whatever enemy you want shall be yours. I was reassured, how-
ever, on this evening out, that if anyone threatened me in any way, then he
would soon deal with them like a man. In reply, I could only betray the true
depths of my alleged paranoia, expertly shrugging off the capabilities of any
physical army.

No amount of fighting can save you from this Devil. When there are so
many spies, even the most privileged torturer will be spied upon. Nobody
had complete control over these surroundings, least of all a traditional king.
I was relieved to be alone once more. Give us people power. If we refuse
slavery, then slavery will end forever, no matter how many previous empires
may have relied upon it. The chessboard of the dying Earth has been tossed
into the air, and kings might fall more sharply to the ground than pawns.


I had not forgotten the diagnosis on my last medical certificate. It was

now more convenient than ever, for the authorities, especially allowing for
daily alterations to the diagnostic criteria in the online manual. Not that I
bothered to read it. Luckily, with a rapid surge in mental health problems,
they would have no time to consider my case. I was perfectly capable of
conducting myself reasonably in public, and arguably, in theory, no danger
to myself or others.
Neither the gas cooker nor the knife had yet been used in my defence.
Of course, harrassers regularly approached my tent, especially in the middle
of the night, but they were all far too afraid to do anything. However, the
point is, I was always awake. My enemies would obtain more enjoyment
from torturing my brain to death than from killing me quickly.
As the forum for psychotics had predicted, there were also those who
believed that torture would make me a better person. But I was merely
stronger, not more good. Strong enough to fight. Now I could see how the
Devil creates his own angels.
I looked fondly back to the previous winter. I had been walking an
impossible tight rope, waiting for the inevitable breakdown, but life was
better then than it had been for a long time.
Some academics were starting to look at me suspiciously whenever I
attended a professional seminar where free food was provided. Yet I never
went for the food, even if a plateful of fresh fruit was the only nutritious
thing I ate all week. With ten dollar bus fares, it wasnt worth the trip for
the food alone. At the public colloquia, however, there was a wider range of
healthy nibbles, and I took to unashamedly standing beside the table, eating
as much as I could. Sometimes a hungry student like Chang would join me,
and we would dutifully discuss a little mathematics between mouthfuls of
prawn skewers and spring rolls.
Most of the time I was ignored. I usually attributed this to a general
disgust of either poverty or insanity, because any more politically acceptable
reasons that might exist for this behaviour had never been mentioned to me.
Bigots continued to attach themselves to me. After my last mathematics
colloquium, a friendly Syrian lady who I had been talking to for half an hour
started telling me how dreadful Muslims were. Sighing, I daintily lifted a
large piece of salmon and spinach roll to my mouth, halting my reply in
order to chew.
As we settled into the Friday cosmology video meeting, which was usually
held in Wahi Hui despite technical difficulties, the postdoc Sean created a
wiki page to help us select lectures. He suggested that all members of our
group should be allowed to add links to the page, but Richard told him
sternly that only people who worked in the cosmology group should be

allowed to decide.
Despite overwhelming anxiety, I treasured the brief moments when I
could talk to Chang. He had studied computer science, and seemed quite
interested in the version of quantum gravity that I had worked on for many
years. I despaired that I had forgotten almost everything, and yet those
memories were more rigid than those from my past real life, which was like
a dream.
Theoretical Physics functions best in teams of two or three. For ten
years, I had been desperately clinging to the hope of future professional
collaborations, not for the sake of socialisation, but desiring productivity.
Mike had understood this. Only Mike.
Richards team had recently been awarded money by an international
fund for Theoretical Physics, to study the role of quantum mechanics in
the early universe. At the Monday meetings, he would often mention the
availability of new funding, pointing out that it was perhaps appropriate for
some people in the room. He was not looking at me.
A great source of irritation was the disappearing payphones. Not that
it really mattered anymore, because the Thought Police would know if you
tried to use one. By the end of 2016, I finally had enough money to buy
a phone card. And then I found that the last remaining Te Atatu phone
would develop strange errors whenever I approached. This could, I suppose,
just be the way things are, except that my public library computer account
displayed similar tendencies.
On the first homeless night in Te Atatu, my chosen campsite looked like
public land, because there was no fence separating the nearby house from
the estuary. In the late afternoon, a man and woman came over to my new
tent from the house. They said I would have to move, because this was their
private property. They suggested I move around the corner to a beach, but
the beaches on the tip of the peninsula are tidal, as they must have known.
In the morning, a woman from the house opposite yelled rudely at me
from her veranda as I crawled my way back up the street. When I reached
the town centre, a man offered to give me a lift somewhere else and a woman
came out of her house to ask me if I was lost. Also popular is the advice on
which charities to approch for help. One evening a lovely woman volunteered
to cook me dinner, coincidentally just after I had told someone to give food
to beggars, and that night I devoured a plate of her sons homemade chicken
and mushroom pasta, after which I got food poisoning.
I did meet one thoughtful neighbour, a few days before Christmas, on
the park seat beside my forest camp. On Christmas day she came around
to the camp with lunch and a bag of desserts and chocolate.
One day an older neighbour politely interrupted my solitude. He de-
manded my lifes story, and told me that he used to work for the police, as
if this ought to encourage respect and trust. Then he started visiting my
forest camp every morning, uninvited at least by me, invading my privacy

in a very uncomfortable way. After he crept up behind me in the street,
while I was struggling with the empty shopping trolley, I hinted rudely that
I could deal with things alone.
Since then, only uniformed police officers have disturbed the sanctuary of
my tents interior, unless one counts the physical assault, that coincidentally
happened the night after my last day at the University.
Yet I would have to remain in Te Atatu. I had grown quite fond of the
place. From the reserve overlooking the harbour I could view Maungawhau,
Mount Eden, one of my own mountains. Now I was a safe distance away.
From the summer solstice, I have watched the sunrise move north from
Maungawhau, across the city and Rangitoto, towards its winter home.
Years of camping and mountaineering experience counted for little now.
My cognitive and short term memory problems were so severe that I could
barely tie the fly onto the tent poles. A knot that would once have taken
seconds would take minutes to get right. I fumbled at every stage. The
cheap pegs would bend and the poles would split. I would trip over almost
every time I stood up. If I didnt continuously scan the space around me, I
would forget what I was doing or leave something behind. And I could not
possibly ask anyone for help.
The birds came to know me. The pukeko discovered that the Tent Lady
was a likely source of bread and fruit, and came knocking on my door.
The sparrows and blackbirds shrieked nearby. And my favourite little pi-
wakawaka would occasionally rest momentarily on a branch by my face,
smiling at me.
To many Te Atatu walkers, this is glorious nature. Not to me. The city
forest, although maybe a thousand times more lush than its counterparts
elsewhere, is not a living forest. This is not the Earth you need to save.
Seagulls and pets scavenge on toxic human waste. The forest floor is a
carpet of plastic, loved only by the ants. On these hills, no grand kea would
ever command the sky.


JJ the astrophysicist had assured me that the Monday meetings would

continue, so one Monday in late January I went back to the University for
the second last time. As was my habit, I arrived early and stood outside
Wahi Hui. This time I was accompanied by the baggage, figuring I could get
away with it just this once, perhaps tucking it behind the door once Sarah
opened up the room.
A young physicist came out of the office across the narrow corridor. He
asked me if I was there for the astrophysics meeting. I nodded, and he
told me that an email had been sent around the previous week, to cancel
the meeting. I thanked him for being helpful, smiling sweetly as I stood
underneath the sign which demanded Zero Tolerance for Discrimination.
Then he repeated what he had just said, as if I must have somehow misheard,
because I was not immediately rushing away towards the lifts. I thanked
him again, still smiling. It was now five minutes to the hour, and I might
as well stand there and wait to see if anyone showed up.
Clearly nobody had emailed Sarah about the cancelled meeting, because
she came out of her office to open the door to Wahi Hui just before 9am.
Once again, I found myself sitting alone at the table for half an hour, being
at peace in the space, as if it was still mine. The schedule posted on the
door had returned to its original sparse state, looking just like it had six
months earlier. When my time was up, I dragged the luggage as quietly as
possible out the door without speaking to anyone, and went home.
Keeping my appointment with JJ, I returned to the University one final
Monday in late February. I sat through the astrophysics meeting, surprised
that my mind was able to focus on the subject matter. When the meeting
ended, I summoned all my strength to approach JJ and remind him about
my situation. Richard Easther was sitting next to him. It was agreed that
the three of us should talk in Richards office nearby, and so there we went.
No doubt the University follows numerous mysterious protocols in its
private meetings. If the computer was offline, I presumed this indicated
some attempt at privacy, but being well accustomed now to the general lack
of secure electronic devices, it was a safe bet that every conversation on
campus had eavesdroppers. Which was an interesting situation. Because
it was slowly becoming clear that the University might be quite keen on
keeping the lid on its operations. Only there was no way it could.
Although I now took it for granted that the Thought Police were ever
present, I did not speak to the computer rather than the people in the room,
as I might have done before. Now I could be myself again. Forgetting all
dreams, I could now focus on the single task of recovering my library access.
JJ sat down beside me for moral support, but I was well aware that
Richard made the decisions. Richard told me there could be no academic

position for me, and that I was entirely to blame for this, because I had
been rude to Lucy and Kate, on the one sad occasion that I had spoken
to them. People like me were not entitled to library access. I was then
told that perhaps an Associate status was possible, but previous experience
had shown this would prevent journal access, which covered the bulk of
my reading interests. In fact, without academic support, I could not even
participate actively in the astrophysics meetings, let alone continue with
research. Richard insisted that library access was not a fundamental right.
Although I had been expecting all this, since my last meeting with
Krausskopf, I was stunned into silence. There was no more denying the
presence of Boko Haram. Modern universities, perhaps merely in their zeal
to cooperate with business, but perhaps also for more murky reasons, were
pouring centuries of enlightenment egalitarianism down the drain. For some-
one of my background, library access was far more important than food and
shelter, which I had often forgone for its sake. And if I was not allowed to
read physics journals, my experiences in the public library gave me a good
idea of what information other people were not being allowed to access. And
that is the heart of slavery.
The press bemoaned the sorry state of adult literacy in New Zealand.
The government regularly put forward proposals for community funding to
tackle the problem. It was eeriely reminiscent of the community budgeting
counsellor schemes, which operated on the assumption that poor people were
too stupid to figure out a household budget, and clearly required assistance
in being evicted from their homes.
Relenting a little, in a gesture of generosity in the face of my despair,
Richard said he would see what the Department could do, and he said I
was welcome to attend the astrophysics meetings. There was no mention of
cosmology or theoretical physics.
Now it is all my fault if I walk away. And walk away I did, quickly but
calmly, ignoring JJs futile apologies. Time to get off this merry-go-round,
once and for all.


The brain is hard wired to pay attention to certain disturbances, includ-

ing any noise that sounds like a threat. Once you are isolated, you can easily
be conditioned to react to a given trigger sound. After you hear this sound
at night for several weeks, as you move from campsite to campsite, there is
no longer a shread of doubt that it is threatening. Then they play the sound
all night long.
When I vacated the Te Atatu house, my biggest concern was enforced
sleep deprivation. As I had learned in New Lynn, nothing will destroy the
mind as quickly.
The night sounds have carried on almost every night for the last four
months, until a few days ago. I am guessing that by now many neighbours
must have noticed the problem, since people use the walking track at all
hours. I think I have been hearing nighttime confrontations between these
abusers and the police, but this may well be hallucinations, and I have
spoken to no one about it.
Although I try hard to ignore the conversations of adults near my tent, I
do miss children. Three boys stopped on the track near the tent and yelled
to see if anyone was inside. I raced to open the back door and say hello.
Two of the boys immediately ran screaming up the hill, but the third one
smiled and called them back. They asked a few questions, about where I
got food and my tent, and went away satisfied.
A few months ago, the Te Atatu policeman George came around to the
garden campsite with a colleague. George reminded me that supermarket
trolleys should not be used outside the supermarket carpark boundary. His
colleague remarked that an attack on my campsite was only a matter of
time. I told him I would do my best to defend myself, with the knife and
the cooking utensils, which I figured they could not easily take from me.
I was at the garden campsite again this week. It is the best spot in
winter, with shelter from the wind in every direction. The grass here is flat,
and there is the security of the upper windows of the houses along the street,
beyond the hedge.
Unfortunately, as the council man once told me, some homeowners object
to homeless people blocking their garden views. A new policeman came over
to the tent to tell me to move, and he threatened me with fines or an arrest.
I told him to fuck off, that this was my new home. You see, in a peoples
revolution, an arbitrary arrest of a victim would in principle work for our
cause, and I dont think the police will risk it. Sure enough, I stayed in the
garden for a couple of days and the policeman did not return.
It seems the police have taken over the Universitys job of keeping me in
line, or dead. Only Im not falling for the same old tricks any more. When
the Church man came, he offered me some sanitary napkins, which I did

not need, having just purchased some from the supermarket. He mentioned
the availability of breakfasts and showers in Henderson, but the Te Atatu
situation is clearly preferable.
I know they will carry on like this, trying to put me in my place. Some
of them actually believe they are helping. Maybe I will start charging for
my time, at the going rate of five hundred dollars an hour. In November
I told Facebook, one last time, outrageously, that I needed two thousand
dollars a week to live and study, which is completely true because I must
factor in security and office costs. You help me get that, or you watch me
die. You get no other options.
The nasty old neighbour started haunting my favourite spots in the com-
munity centre, while I was there. Im pretty certain he never went there
before. This kind of activity is also part of the genocide plan, because it
pretends an innocence that other forms of bullying cannot, and it deliber-
ately targets something of value to solitary people, our peaceful spaces. The
University dramas have a similar characteristic, traumatising me in very
precise locations that have been a comfort to me, forcing me to move on.
Two or three times a week I go for breakfast at the local cafe. I prop my
suitcase against the wall of the neighbouring shop, close to my outdoor table.
Before my french toast, I like to have a fresh pot of Earl Grey tea, which
comes as I sit doing the crossword and sudoku puzzles. After breakfast, I
often go across the road to the community centre, to sit on a sofa and either
write or read. My short term memory has improved a lot since I started
eating again, but without practise, my communication skills will continue
to wane.
I did not lose touch with people. The few friends I have are important
to me. But it gets harder and harder to visit Kerie and Allan. I dont laugh
at Keries humour any more, and my cooking ability is not what it was. We
all grow old.
By the time I left the house in Te Atatu, the only mail that remained
were my mothers letters. I phoned my mother late in 2016, and told her to
start sending her letters to the Department of Mathematics instead. I have
no idea whether or not she sends them any more.
I have lost the desire and the fear of killing myself, legitimately to end
the pain. I lost my fear of starvation long, long ago. But I will probably not
survive long without books. It is now seven months since I have accessed
journals at the University library and, after an initial spurt in camp, I have
given up trying to read in the tent.
My mind is deteriorating due to the lack of movement and mental stim-
ulation. I realise that by giving up what few contacts I was permitted, my
circumstances have been pushed even further into a manipulated isolation.
I have to keep my eyes on my belongings at all times, not for fear of theft,
but because I might well forget what I am doing. I dont talk to the doc-
tor about my memory and cognitive problems, because I dont want to be

dragged away and locked up. Probably that will happen in the end anyway,
when I lose control. I am weaning myself off the psychiatric medication,
even though the insomnia itself is killing me.
One day I accidentally knocked a supermarket trolley that was standing
on the footpath, without having seen it at all, and watched hopelessly as
it rolled towards a parked car. I carried on walking with my heavy load,
no longer young enough to drop everything in order to dive and stop the
trolley. A man, a complete stranger, happened to be in the car. He chased
me down the road, and when I turned to look at him, he screamed that I
had deliberately dented his bonnet. He was going to call the police. I told
him to fuck off too.
The daily newspaper regularly contains reports from happy experts,
about abuse, homelessness, high suicide rates and corruption. Very occa-
sionally, the editor permits a few comments from someone who has concrete
experience with such things, so long as they dont say anything that might
threaten peoples faith in the status quo.
Aotearoa, a wonderful country. We are supposed to be grateful for five
dollar parcels of junk we do not need. We are told to turn our lives around,
as if we are to blame for other peoples corruption. We are expected to look
in awe upon neoliberal riches and play our ambitious part, pretending we
cannot see the dying land.
Farewell to all that. The blind woman is coming, and she will show the
people what the Devil has done.