The March of the Dead

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17

There I lay with Aisha.

She brushed her hand along my back, her soft, caramel skin glinting in the darkness of the bedroom.

I could sense those eyes watching from the driveway, the gleaming red eyes of the dead, waiting ... waiting for us to emerge ...

*

The car arrived at my place about seven-thirty that night.

The boys—yes, including Cantey, who hadn’t spoken to me since the fight—were already in Mrs Turner’s back and front seats.

I walked up to the car, having heard the honk from my bedroom. None of the boys even looked out the window at me as I neared. When I reached the back door, I saw Canty on the other side of the backseat, staring out the window.

He gazed my way, before frowning and looking back out.

I opened the door. Cantey looked over towards me, still frowning, and shuffled closer to his door. ‘Someone else can sit next to the freaking psychopath.’

On the way to Scarlett Jones’ party, music rattled the speakers of Mrs Turner’s car. Mrs Turner bobbed her head as she drove, streetlights shinning on the upholstery of the Toyota through the windows. Turner sat in the front, gazing at the paddocks laced in darkness.

Walby, who sat in between Cantey and I, leant forwards, yelling into Turner’s ear over the loud music, ’I fricken love this song, man. Turn it up.’

Soon we emerged from the car out front of the Burarra Town Hall, heading for the large double doors. Inside, I saw the green monster from Monster’s Inc with a large penis drawn on his body, while on the dance floor stood Warwick Scoble as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh humped a furry-looking Simba. There stood Caleb Walker dressed as Jack Sparrow, whacking everyone’s arses with his sword.

I noticed Aisha then, dancing with her friend, her pendant shining against her gleaming pink Rapunzel dress. That fluttering sensation swept through me, my pupils dilating as I stood there at the edge of the dancefloor, holding a drink.

I looked away.

There stood Clara Pollard, her breasts barely contained in Cinderella dress, and here went Cantey in his princess outfit, lifting his dress to show everyone that yes, indeed, he was a man.

‘Blinky!’

Kehlani was walking—or, for want of a better word—swaying towards me. Two black horns rose from that pretty blonde hair. Fairy lights flickered all over her black dress.

‘Maleficent,’ I called, grinning.

There we stood out front of the hall twenty minutes later, Kehlani still swaying.

She burped.

I looked down at my brown vest and plastic sword attached to my belt.

Through the windows of the hall behind us, coloured lights danced and flickered.

The front courtyard was quiet: the odd car swishing by, that thumping music bassy and muffled behind the doors.

Kel’s dress was dark and glossy, skin gleaming white. Her eyes came in and out of focus. She swayed. I held her steady as I examined her.

Lily budge me out of the way, opening one of Kehlani’s eyes with her fingers. ‘How the fuck much did you let her drink, Casanvoa?’ said Lily, her blue Elsa dress glinting and silky.

A blurry eyed Kehlani stared back at her, grin groggy and wide. ‘He just tryna take advantage of me,’ Kel said to Lily, and burped.

A cool breeze swept through. I placed my arm around the now shivering and blinking girl. Headlights soon shone on the quiet street. A car pulled up out front seconds later.

Lily opened the back door, holding it there as Kel staggered towards the open door. Looking fragile and small, Kehlani, dressed in the black dress and now askew devil’s horns, gazed up at me. ‘Give me a kiss?’ she said, learning forwards as I neared, before burping and throwing up all over my Aladdin outfit.

In the bathroom, I looked in the mirror, and shaking my head said, ‘I’m not gonna let them look after her again.’ At this point Harry Felix dressed as Baymax came into the bathroom and started humping and humping me against the basin. John Struminsky, inside there also, cracked up, grabbed my sword, and whacked my arse so hard the mirror above the basin shook.

I went back outside.

Kel now sat in the back of the car. Lily stared out from the front passenger side seat, window lowered. ‘You cheat on her, Blinky,’ Lily said. ‘I’ll use that sword to chop off your cock. Got it?’

As the car drove off, Lily made a slashing motion out the window.

A few more of Kel’s friends emerged from the hall, soon jumping into a waiting car outside.

Having texted Kehlani, telling her to stop drinking so much, I now headed for those double doors again. Inside, I remained near the dancefloor. Soon I saw the cupcake table, headed over, and took a seat. Aisha came over a few minutes later, taking a cupcake, biting into it.

The dance music seemed to become more distant. A stinging pierced through my chest.

Some pull, some force drew me towards Aisha, and despite my best efforts to look away from her, or think of something—anything—else, despite gazing over at Henry Keane and Lewis Thompson who were checking out Mia Jennings, just to get my mind off things, I still felt that connection to Aisha, as though I was one with her, as though the atoms, and molecules, and particles we have been made from were trying to draw us together, as though they’d been separated long ago and needed to come together again.

I stood, putting down my drink, heading for the doors. Outside, the cool air bit into my bare chest. There I sat on the gutter of the road, staring to the blackness. I had tried calling Kel twice, but it had rung out.

Soon the doors opened behind me. Still holding my phone, I heard the chatter of girls behind me. I pressed ‘call’ again. No one picked up. A car pulled in, lights blazing. Two girls jumped inside. Aisha, pink dress bright in the darkness, stepped beside me, waving goodbye to them.

The doors closed, and as the car drove off, it was just her and I. Aisha looked from the parting car down to where I sat. ‘Blinky. Here all by yourself?’ I noticed the way her pink dress clung to her soft shoulders, and how it petered down around her legs, those smooth pale legs. Her blonde wig gave her a certain exotic look, as though this was some ... parallel version of Aisha, one in which was more available to me.

From inside the hall, some silly love song played. I nodded, telling her about Kel. Soon after, as Aisha and I said goodbye, she stopped, looking back to me. ‘Oh. Blinky. I meant to ask you, what are you making for the Design and Tech project?’

That love song continued seeping through the gaps of the doors. Aisha stepped towards me, before sitting on the gutter beside me. A hand landed on my leg, soft, pale brown, gentle. ’Oh my God, you would absolutely love the idea I though of ....’

There we sat as I listened, Rapunzel dressed in glinting pink, and Aladdin with soapy water drying on his vest. The starts glimmered above, as they did in her eyes. Her voice was sweet music to my ears. From inside, that romantic song oozed out the closed doors.

As I sat on the gutter, I felt my armpits heating up. My legs shook as I had them resting on the road. I nodded, and when she was finished, said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing yet ... hopefully I’ll think of something.’

The girl gazed up at those twinkling stars. They were everywhere, everywhere. Once more, her soft hand touched my thigh. ‘Blinky ... do you ever think about the future ... what we’ll all be doing ... who we’re going to be?’

I gazed up at the sky also. My heart thudded away in my chest. I was afraid to even feel my palms to see how sweaty they were. Still gazing at those stars, I said, ‘I would love to be an accountant one day, Aisha ... just like my Mum ... she’s the best woman in the world. What about you?’

I gazed over at her. Those twinkling lights still shone in her eyes and my heart stung once more. She sighed, looking up to an endless black space above. ‘We have so much opportunity, don’t we, Blinky ... so many things we can do.’ She looked over. In that moment my heart froze, or at least, it felt like it did. ‘Sometimes I think about ... about who I’ll end up with ... will he be a nice enough man ...’ She gazed at me. ‘Will he find me pretty.’

Her lips were glowing, as were the silver glitter through her dress and her warm brown skin. Fuzziness swept through my stomach, my legs now like butter. Her soft, pale hand once more pressed against my thigh. ‘I wonder if I’ll ever be happy ... or if I’ll fall for someone I shouldn’t ... someone who ... someone who is already with another girl ... Blinky ...’ She gazed back up to the stars, staring.

‘Why has God made things so complicated for us down here on earth?’

She peered a few more moments. Something shone in her eyes. Soon she looked down. When she looked over at me again our eyes met.

I had to look away, needed to, but when I did, I could tell Aisha still held her gaze. I peered back at her.

That sensation of being somehow connected returned, those atoms and molecules drawing us back together again. On my phone, Kehlani’s image suddenly popped up as my ringtone beeped and beeped. I dropped the mobile. Tirsa’s hand came down to pick it up. I had gone to grab it as well, our hands grasping at each other’s as I accidently pressed ‘answer’.

Suddenly Kel, having used video call, stared up at Aisha and I holding hands, a small box on the screen showing Aisha’ legs as we apparently held hands. I dropped my side of the phone again, and as it slapped the concrete Aisha leant over, her now blonde hair brushing my arm. A wave of desire sweeping through me.

The phone had clicked off. Once more, our hands were linked as Aisha gazed at the screen. She released her hand, looking up, saying, ‘That wouldn’t have looked good at all. Better call her back, Blinky.’

As she said it, her eyes beamed like heaven. I lost it then, lost all my cares and concerns and thoughts of others and defensive strategies. In that moment, beneath the twinkling distant stars, I was someone else’s, and a happiness, a true and profound freedom swept through me, and I wished to place my arm around her side, to touch that pale brown skin and kiss those full lips, and I wondered what it might feel like to fall against her, to trace my finger along her lips.

Soon Aisha had stood. She looked down at me a moment.

‘Sometimes I wonder ... that’s all,’ she said, gazing from me to the stars, before turning and heading back inside.

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