The March of the Dead

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14

I looked at the note.

I felt all the sadness in the world swelling throughout me.

Every single one of them.

Left me.

I had nothing.

No one.

*

Things became a little more pleasant in my life at that point, if only for a few days.

On the last day of April, all us students headed out front of St Paschal’s to the awaiting buses. We were dressed in our bright casuals, the chatter both upbeat and loud.

Mrs Khatri was yelling to us kids, ‘Careful, just one at a time. Get back in your line. James, what are you doing?’ James had run round the side of the bus to throw some lollies at Owen Riley’s window.

‘Get back over here, James. Now. Or we call your mother.’

James did come back around, still giggling.

Now the countryside drifted past our windows as Kehlani and I sat in the back seat.

We held hands.

She looked at me.

She then leant her head against mine.

That afternoon, at Manly in Sydney, waves crashed against the shore of the beach. I shivered as I lay on the sand, goosebumps running all up my chest. Beside me lay Kehlani in a bright orange two-piece bikini.

She drew a soft white finger along my dark brown chest, my muscles twitching. She stared at me with dreamy eyes. A wintry breeze came from the ocean. Again I shivered as I lay there.

‘You got such a good body, babe,’ she said, lying on me. Her cool lips pressed against my own.

Soon we were out in the surf. Craboom! A large wave broke before us. I pushed her under. She arose, as did I, after the heavy barging wave passed.

‘Don’t push me under, ya dick,’ she said, shoving me a couple of times as we waded in water up to our hips. I giggled, trying to push her under again. The heads of the others in my year bobbed above the surface a little further out.

After our swim, we sat on the sand again, cold water drying on our skin as the cool mid-autumn breeze washed over us. The air was too cold for our hair to dry. Soon, however, a beam of light burst through a gap of the low hanging clouds. For a moment that bolt lit up a potion of the ocean before us, and it looked like God had made a special tunnel from heaven all the way to the water.

Kehlani looked me in the eyes. Just for a second, for a flicker of time, I saw the bright green eyes and dark hair of someone I shouldn’t have, before Kehlani’s own blue eyes and freckles came back to my focus.

Her finger touched my lips, her eyes once more dreamy. ‘Tell me you love me, Blinky. Tell me you think about me all the time.’ Her eyes, still dreamy, stared from my lips to my eyes and back again. ‘Tell me I’m the only one in the world for you, that you’ll never love anyone but me, Blinky.’

I stared her in the eyes

and saw Aisha, her eyes closed, her dark hair brushing my shoulders as it fell. I shivered

as I sat there. The cool breeze swept through my hair, prickling the skin on my legs. My arm was round her back as we sat beneath a sky neither sunny nor overcast but some murky mix of both.

I lay back down, Kel lying down on top of me. I stroked that cool damp skin, that bright red bikini clinging to her curves, her skin against mine causing me to tingle. The brightness of her bikini was a stark contrast to the deep greyish blue above, her eyes brighter than all of this as she looked somewhere through me.

Before us on the sand, lifesaver flags danced round with the breeze, a man in bright red pants staring out at the remining students braving the chilly ocean.

Glare glinting off the surface.

Somewhere beyond the sets, a large trawler drifted.

‘I love you, babe; there’s no one else for me.’

We stayed that way for some time. Kel pressed further against me.

Back in the hotel room that night, I was kissing her on the bed. I recalled earlier that evening, when Kel had come round. She had been stepping on tippytoes when I saw her nearing the door. ‘Quickly, quickly,’ I said, Turner and I guiding her in.

Turner had looked at me, nodded.

’And it’s a large Big Mac meal, Blinky. Not medium.’

I slapped his hand.

That night, Kehlani lay on the bed beside me. It was dark, her breaths brushing against my face. A swirling of delight fluttered through me. Her breaths came in slow, even waves, brushing against my face. For a moment it felt as though our bodies had become one. My chest stung. Her body shook. I felt the flow of life rushing throughout me, her hair grazing my shoulders.

There we lay afterwards, her smile brighter than the sand on the beach had been.

*

I still felt happy when we reached Burarra after the long bus drive the following day.

It was about then it fell apart once more.

Happened Monday the 2nd at school.

How Alex had gotten up there, I’ll never know.

He walked along the roof tiles of Admin building.

Many students had run out of class to look, including those in my class. Mrs Tan, my teacher, now gazed up at him.

‘Hey. Alex. Get down here. Now.’

He continued strolling backwards and forwards on those brown tiles, muttering these phrases which sent chills up my spine. His arms dangled, eyes wild and crazed. His hair stuck up in messy heaps, face as white and stark as the clouds puncturing an otherwise blue-sky day.

A fresh autumn breeze through the buttons of my school shirt.

A plump lady stomping out of the Admin before us.

Alex’s voice rising, rising in key, in volume, in hysteria until it was loud, distant, yes, but clear and authoritative too.

Alex had only been in Year Seven, God rest his soul.

He grasped some stupid electronic device, the boy’s Pokemon watch glinting in that morning light. Wearing the uniform black shoes, jumper and grey trousers he continued backwards and forwards.

Mrs Tan was trying to instruct Fynn Robinson to head up the windows Alex had gone up, but Fynn just gazed at those window skills, shaking his head, eyes wide.

Two students with their mouths open wide, Jace Richards screaming for Alex to come down.

Alex’s friends stood near the base of the brick building, some with Mario caps on or other goofy stuff, yelling at Alex to come down.

Music coming from the boy’s console as he paced back and forth.

Then he did it.

Alex stepped to near the edge. Students and some teachers screamed for him to come down. He grinned. Sunlight, morning sunlight gleamed into his eyes as he rambled out, ‘The Deajii has me the Deajii has me.’ He then jumped.

Down, down dropped that body, Alex clutching that games console the entire time. As his body slapped the pavement, and the games consoles shattered beside his arms, I’ll never forget how Charlotte Gracey turned around, hands on her cheeks, screaming, ‘Oh my God he’s still smiling!’

On Wednesday, Violet stood on the path near the History rooms, lashing out at those who’d stepped too close with a pair of large scissors. While some students giggled and remained close, others were keeping their distance altogether. Two teachers called for her to lower the scissors.

Violet’s voice was maddened.

’Don’t you know, don’t you know who watches us from beneath? He’s in our heads, and bit by bit will emerge, emerge through you ... don’t you know?’ She leapt forwards, slashing out at a grinning Curt Samson, while up on Morrison after school, a businessman stood in the street with a large bottle of wine, feigning to stomp towards us onlookers.

Kel and I stood behind the majority of the crowd who hung well back, but we could see through the onlooker’s heads.

In the distance police sirens swirled in the afternoon light.

Soon the cops emerged.

‘Sir, put down the bottle. Put down your—’

One of the offices fired.

The wine bottle burst in the man’s grasp, glass and wine bursting into the man’s face.

The businessman shielded his eyes, blood seeping through his fingers, while before school Thursday morning a thunderous crash sounded as the Mazda slammed into the back of a sedan. Two men soon emerged from their cars, one grasping onto a steering wheel lock with shaking hands, the other with fists poised.

‘You serious, you serious, ya freakin idiot? I’m gonna beat you back to your own country, ya ignorant clown. I’ll send ya all the the way back to England, I will.’

The brown skinned man stomped towards the white skinned one, who had the lock poised before he swung. The brown-skinned man ducked, cracked the taller man’s jaw with an uppercut, while at night I walked past the homeless guy. Leaning up against that glass, he said, ‘I know what you are, kid ... the one from beneath ... who will be all evil upon Earth ... yes, the devil stares at me through the eyes of a human.’

And as I walked along that footpath with Kehlani, I gripped her hand and pulled her past the man, and on a sprightly Friday morning there was a poooshh! as a car rammed into a telegraph pole. Us students, walking along Phariss towards the shops for our excursion, cried out. Mrs Farson ran over towards the stopped car. When the door opened, a man sat inside, his giggles drifting out.

I stepped nearer for a glace with some others, seeing the priest’s pale face and enlarged pupils. I saw how he gripped that steering wheel, as through he were trying to grip on to this world, as though he were losing touch with reality and by holding that plastic wheel as he did he was, however momentarily, able to remain here.

And in those dreams the shadowed figure stalked me from behind, his grin long, the old leaves on the autumn trees shaking about.

While at school, Tiffany Long gazed at me from behind the Art room window, drawing a koala on it. Red paint ran down the side of the Koala’s neck, and smiling with insane glee, Tiffany mouthed, ‘You ... you ... you ....’

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