The March of the Dead

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10

I ran, and yet always I heard their growls from behind.

There I was in my underwear, scratches all over my back.

‘I’ll kill you ... I’ll murdered you!’ I called to the darkness, but before me a figure stood. I smelt the death emanating from it.

*

The next night I sat at the computer, Googling stuff on seeing visions and hearing voices.

I read a lot, a lot about people who hear voices and see the after life and other really weird things.

As I read I shook my head. It didn’t represent what had happened to me the other night on the way home from the theatre, nor explain those recurring dreams. I read throughout the night, then shook my head before lowering it, feeling my eyes blink.

And the dreams returned.

There I was with Beau, the boy both taller and better looking than me with his darker skin and wider frame. Before me he waded through the dying wheat in a field, before turning, placing a finger over his soft lips. ‘Be quiet ... be quiet and you might hear him.’

‘Who?’ I said. Beau had turned forwards again, but next time he glanced back at me there in that paddock his face was all green, a worm crawling down his rotten jaw to an orifice in his leathery neck. I smelt the pungent aroma of death. I stopped, covering my mouth,

Now we waded through the wheat again, Beau once more looking normal. The sky was thick and black, the mountains a dark outline of curved lines in the distance. That golden wheat was lit by a silver three-quarter moon, the smell of old cow dung and horses and sheep wafting throughout.

‘Where are we going, Beau?’ I said, my arms thin, thin like all other fourteen-year-olds. My brother, taller, stronger, didn’t turn back.

We continued through the wheat, and wading along behind Beau, I saw his cheeks creasing ... as though he smiled.

His hand come up, a gesture for me to stop. I complied. Beau looked back round, an eerie glint in his eyes. ‘It’s just up ahead,’ and, still wearing that long, ever-so-long grin, he turned back towards the silver wheat. Now the wind was calm, soft, but the air so cool I thought I was dying, shrinking, shrivelling into nothingness.

Blazing white moonlight gleamed.

‘Who? Who’s up fro—’

But Beau cut me off. He turned back, face once more rotted and murky, large, bulging eyes where nice brown once had once been.

‘Your death, Blinky. Just up ahead ... just up ahead ... just up ahead.’ His voice went from being Beau’s to someone’s much older, then to a crazed lunatic’s.

Shivers of fear swept through me.

I dropped the stick I had been using to wade through the wheat with, turning, sprinting, but the thing’s laugher followed me.

Later, I panted as I wandered through the wheat, the stalks tall. In the darkness I glared behind me. A darkened shape waded towards me through the stalks, whispering into the breeze, Blinky ... I come for you ... stop running ... there’s no where I won’t find you, Blinky ... I come from inside ... and it is there I make you mine ... I have arrived ....

Now I ran through the wheat, staring behind me.

Soon I awoke in the bed.

From that moment, the deaths started.

*

I sat in Science.

I noticed how that dark hair waved down her back.

During PDHPE, third period, someone lobbed me the football. I caught it, dropped it, then got put to the floor by Larry Williams, who ribbed me a couple of times afterwards just for good measure. A few of the others on his side laughed, slapping me in the back as I lay there.

In Computers, I couldn’t concentrate on the work we needed to do on the Excel spreadsheet. Twice, Mrs Chlebek came over to get me working faster.

At recess that Wednesday, Luke Beattie went running through the school, naked, his wang flipping this way and that. He was calling out, ‘I’m free ... I’m free ... I’m a little birdy,’ dashing along the pathway after Sienna Costello, who screamed as she ran away, covering her face.

After school, a fight broke out in the front row of Burarra Cinemas. One man had stood, yelling at another to cease with the crunching noises, the man, who had been chewing on popcorn, tilting the full box over the aggressor’s face.

The first man grabbed the choc-top from Popcorn Man’s other hand, jamming it at one of his eyes.

Outside the cinema, a lady with a trolley knocked and knocked and knocked it into a Subway Restaurant window, yelling, ‘Open up ... I’m hungry ... open up and let me have a fucking cookie!’

Dad, sitting in the lounge room, stared out at the scenery the following day, a horrid grin on his face. I had asked him what was happening three times, but that beer remained in his hand, untouched. Soon his eyes shifted over towards me. ‘Through the bush ... through the bush ... here they come ... through the bush,’ he said.

He stood, stepping towards me, smile vanishing. ‘The dead have arrived the dead have arrived the ....’ At this point he stopped, staring back out the window. Soon he gazed down at his beer, frowning. ‘What was that, Blinky?’

The next evening, I stood in the kitchen with Mum. She marinated kebabs in the oven tray, while I chopped carrots and lettuce. Mum wore a distant, melancholy look, but her smile was pleasant. She brushed that sauce on the meat, her movements slow and gentle. In a soft voice, more to herself than me, she said, ‘These were his favourite, Blinky ... couldn’t get enough of them.’

That thin dark hand continued brushing.

I lowered the knife and stepped towards Mum.

From the lounge room came dad’s giggling as he watched a show on TV.

‘He’ll be watching over us, Mum. He’d miss us every single day; I have no doubt about it.’

Something glinted in her eye. She sniffled. The glow of a sunset fading outside the window, her face contorted. She dropped the brush, the marinade seeping and seeping onto the bench.

I placed my arm round her back. It felt warm, thin. She buried her head between my shoulder and arm, while outside Dad burst into a fit of hysterics.

*

It was bright and fresh the next morning.

Kehlani was beaming when I saw her at school. ‘Going to be so fun. So fun,’ she said. Come Saturday, the day of the party, coloured balloons hung off cabinets and tables inside Ada’s house. People jived and danced out on the carpet, the large speakers on the cabinet playing the newest pop music. Lights flashed throughout the lounge room.

Students wore bright clothes and trendy fashions. There stood Ally with an excess of gel, makeup applied to the point of plasticity. Lights flickered, seeming as though they laughed at us for having put in so much effort in our appearances. Kehlani’s hand found mine as she pulled me out on the dance floor.

That’s where we stayed most the night, our kisses long, and much was forgotten in that moment.

We stayed close as the songs played, saying things lovers say. Soon, her friends pulled her away.

‘We’re going to Esme’s now,’ one of her friends said, placing her hand on my arm, right on the bicep. She gazed down at it. ‘You better not cheat on her, either,’ she said, squeezing the muscle there before turning away.

Kehlani turned back to me, swaying a little. The way she had walked towards the door with her friends, I presumed she had just about forgotten about me. Sure enough though, there she stood by the front door now, gazing at me, swaying, blowing me a kiss. ‘Love you,’ she mouthed. I went to mouth the same thing back, but her friends ushered her through the doorway and she was gone.

I turned around. Seeing none of my friends in the vicinity, I danced with Maitland and his friends a while.

As the colours flashed, I saw her.

I was dancing as I held a drink. I soon looked away, but now all the party lights blinked green. Standing there holding that drink in the thick of the blazing lights and thumping music, I imagined Aisha and I lying in bed, and as she lay beside me she would take long, gentle breaths, her eyes sweet as she lay with them closed.

I’d draw my fingers further and further across her skin, and now I turned away from the dance floor, walking towards the hallway. I saw Cantey and Turner, but those lights continued blinking and once more those eyes were above me as soft breaths washed against my face. Her lips were full and rich, features catching what little glow shone from the bedside lamp.

Wearing a thin top and blue jeans, she eased her soft body against mine. An ocean of warmth spread throughout me as her lips parted.

Flash, flash, those lights flickered on and off, and for a moment they all appeared to bean onto Aisha there on the dancefloor, her eyes lighting like a cat’s. A pain sored throughout my stomach, those cat-eyes flashing directly at me as our gazes locked. I couldn’t look away. I imagined her soft cheek pressed again mine as in the vision she she kissed the fine skin on my neck. Now I managed to look away, but blink blink blink these lights always and forever flashed green.

Standing there, some weird, pleasant, but painful rush spread through me, those lights continued blinking in excitement, and I felt her breathing against my face as her soft fingers found the gaps between mine.

‘So long,’ she whispered, her breaths warming and tickling my ear. ‘Blinky ... I’ve waited so long for this.’ Those soft full lips, cold as ice, pressed against mine.

That night, after the party, I walked up to Morrison from Ava’s alone, while above the stars shone like eyes.

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