Nothing in my young days hinted at the genius I was to become, but from the start I was alert to signs of duplicity. I was born in Townsville, Queensland on the 3 July 1971. My first memory was of a man in a green uniform holding me upside-down and saying, "Congratulations, Christine, it's a bloke."
He was wearing a mask. "What's your game, mate?" I said. "I demand to see what you look like under there." He didn't feel any need to co-operate. It was a nice introduction to the human race. As soon as I got the right way up, I shat on his fingers.
My parents ran a touring theatrical company, in which people dressed up every night in clothes that weren't their own, and pretended to be other people in order to fool the people sitting in front of them, who'd paid money to be deceived. It was a disgraceful scam, but nobody seemed willing to blow the whistle. So some nights, when I could still only crawl, I'd writhe onstage from the wings, point at the leading lady and hiss to the audience, "It's not really Queen Gertrude – I think you have a right to know it's Mrs Marjorie Nobbs from Owl Creek Avenue!"
At the Ned Kelly Memorial School, I excelled in Sums, Needlework, Writing and Copying. At five, I sat beside Eric Ponting, who was much better at Sums than I was, in order to look over his shoulder and copy his answers. Mrs Ponds told me my behaviour was wrong and that I must work out the answer myself. "But Ponting always has the true answer," I replied. "And the truth should be available to all, especially me. Or are you saying we should spend our lives being satisfied with half-truths?" She gave me a clip round the ear and called me a mouthy little drongo, but I could tell my classmates were impressed.
Possibly as a result, I began to interest the fair sex. Even at five, I found many girls to be helpful and generous, in giving me Refreshers and letting me kiss them behind the Junior Surfers Shack. It was just innocent fun, until the day Mandy Green looked into my face and said, "Joolsy Woolsy, I'll show you mine, if you show me yours."
I was puzzled. "Why should I do that?" I asked.
"Because it's only fair," she said.
"I insist you show me yours," I countered. "I have a right to the full disclosure of yours, whatever it, or they, may be. But this does not mean you have an ipso facto nunquam delictus right to view anything of mine, because it is personal."
"Julian," she said. "Why are you so weird?"
I was not weird. My resemblance to a spiteful albino rat could be startling to strangers, but my mother assured me I would grow into a handsome hunk like my stepfather. Unfortunately, she dumped him to marry someone else when I was eight. Next day at school, I discovered Jarvis, the stupidest kid in my class, writing a note. When he went to the thunderbox at breaktime, I stole it from his desk. It was a soppy love note to Mandy Green. That afternoon, we were asked for examples of a simile. I read out the bit of the note where he says Mandy's skin is like a peach and he'd like to lick it. Mandy screamed. Jarvis went really red. Everyone pointed at him and laughed and jeered until he wet himself. Jilly Blaise called me a revolting little sneak, but I knew justice had been done. Nobody calls me weird.
A week later, we were given a spelling test. I demanded to know the answers there and then. The teacher, Mr Whitlam, told me not to be silly.
"You are concealing information from children in a flagrant dereliction of educational principles," I said. "You are encouraging us to rely on guesswork, for which we will later be penalised."
"No, Assange," said Mr Whitlam, "I just want to know whether you can spell 'kookaburra' and 'wallaby.'"
"Can you spell 'transparency'?" I asked him, with my biggest sneer. "Since you clearly don't know what it means."
I was sent before the Headmaster to be caned.
"You're a strange customer, Julian," said the Head. "Smart, clever, sharp as a whip, but with no understanding of any privacy except your own. Also you're paranoid and insecure, possibly because your mother had a tough time with men and you're always moving house. Ah well. Touch your toes."
"I understand you must punish me to uphold the corrupt regime of which you are the local gauleiter," I said, bending over. "But I think you should know there's a blue ring platypus loose in the car park..."
He rushed outside. I had just enough time to rifle through the pile of magazines I'd spotted in a toppling pile beside his sofa. Halfway down, I found a copy of Sheilas in Their Scanties. His name and address were on a sticker, so I knew he got it every month.
When he returned, I was on the telephone. "What the bloody hell...?" he shouted.
"I'm just ringing Sheilas in Their Scanties to confirm that you're a subscriber," I said mildly. "Then I'm ringing the Queensland Age to tell them our headmaster gets porn magazines sent to the school every month. And then you can cane me."
"Assange..." The wind had departed the headmaster's sails all right. "Perhaps we could come to some... arrangement."
And at that moment, the glimmer of a thought occurred to me, about the direction of my future career...
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