The March of the Dead

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19

That very evening, after the horrible incident, we hung out at Cantey’s house.

A plate of Smiths Cheese and Onion sat before us out his backyard, but none of us had touched any. His pool sat undisturbed before us. Turner’s hands were over his face.

On April the 15th, Kehlani and I walked out towards the Osbourne Valley, she and I wearing backpacks.

Soon we had made the lake.

‘So beautiful ... so beautiful ... isn’t it?’ Kel said, staring at the shimmering water.

Around that time, the figure, the one I came to know as the Deajii, returned to my dreams, stalking me down that road. In one particular dream I strolled along the main street again. The fair was set up still, or at least the stalls from the fair sat there in the darkness. But this time, through that murky black night, no people were around.

All the stalls sat in silence, covered in glinting silver tarpaulins, like bodies in a morgue.

From over the other side of the road a voice muttered, ’I see you, Blinky ... you walk like the rest of the clowns, you do, colourful, happy, but ultimately dead ... yess .... Shall I paint your face again, Blinky? I can paint it all white for you, I can.’

Soon after it hissed, ‘With a dash of red, of course, just for fun.’

The voice giggled.

The following day, I headed along the same area with Kehlani. Her school jumper matched the dark tones the others around us wore.

That evening it happened.

I sat in Kehlani’s bedroom, the afternoon light blocked out from those closed curtains. The lights were dim inside the bedroom. Kehlani sat on the bed, one of her legs coming around my side, the other around my other side. I felt those palpitations in my chest and wondered how large my pupils looked to Kehlani at that moment.

The glow from her beside light made the cabinet and her study and even our bodies a warm orange. The air was cool inside her room. I smelt her perfume, and the sweet girly scent of her skin.

A tremor ran up my spine.

A noise from the hallway.

The sounds of our kiss lingered.

Pulling back a touch, Kehlani said in a soft voice, ‘It’s just my dad, babe ... sometimes he gets back from work early.’

Those blue eyes gazed.

‘I want you to touch me, Blinky ... I want you to touch me—’

Another sound came from outside the bedroom in the hallway, the loudest fart I had I have heard in my life.

I looked to the door. Kehlani sighed.

’God. What’s wrong with him.’

She shook her head, taking her left leg off me first, then her right.

I touched her side.

‘I’ll go out and say hi. He doesn’t know me much anyway. You stay here ... get that shirt buttoned up, babe.’

She smiled. It would be the last time she ever really did.

We kissed again.

I buttoned up my school shirt and clipped up my belt again, adjusting my shorts.

Out in the hallway, evening sunlight shone in from the lounge room to my left.

Then I saw the man, looking somewhat green, lounging beside a puddle of green vomit in the hallway.

‘Holy shit. Mr Jones?’ I said.

I stood there a moment.

Didn’t really know what to do.

I went to call Kehlani’s name, but my voice didn’t appear to be making any noises in that moment.

I eventually choked out, ‘Kehlani?’

The thing, yes, for that is all it could possible be described as—some thing— made some moaning noise as it lay sprawled on the floor of the hallway. The man reminded me of Jubba the Hutt from those Star Wars movies.

The hallway reeked of old farts, vomit, and even piss. The rank scent of body odour also wafted up towards me from the man.

Mr Jones lay with shirt off, wearing only a set of beige-coloured underwear. His skin was pudgy and white, in patches even looking murky green. Sweat dripped down a sickly-looking face, rank hair clinging to a damp forehead. Lying there, the man looked like a giant seal, a big fat stomach oozing down over his underwear.

And still more sweat dripped from his chin and neck.

His face was running out of colour as I watched him. He released a small burp, then that slow-moving gaze moved to another part of the hallway.

‘Kehlani ... Kehlani?’ I said, and yet still I did not move.

Standing there before the man I heard Kehlani call back, ‘Yeah?’

But by this stage I felt blood flowing to my brain and through my arms as my heart thumped and thumped. Something appeared to have immobilised me, as if I was stuck in some kind of paralysis.

And the water washed against the beach, and all sanity left me as I stood on the shore ... Beau ... Beau .. where have you gone ... Beau ....

I gazed behind me and, for some reason, smiled.

‘Daddy’s home,’ I said.

I looked back to Mr Jones, who burped again. A pudgy, fat arm pointed towards me as he muttered something.

Kehlani appeared at my side. A strange irrationality flooded through me. I felt like I walked in a dream.

’Oh my god. Dad,’ Kehlani said.

I started giggling at that point.

I don’t know why.

It was her face. Why so serious? the Joker would say. I covered my mouth for a moment, looking back at My Jones.

Kel barged me out of the way as she passed me.

A look of stark horror sat on face, her hair blonde and pretty in that evening glow coming through.

‘Have a bit too much ta drink, did he?’ I said, gazing behind me to see if anyone heard my joke.

Now Kehlani knelt on the tiles of the hallway, her thin legs folded beneath her. She grasped her dad’s shoulders. ‘Dad ... speak to me,’ she said. ’Dad ... what’s happened?’

I gazed behind me again. ‘Probably got tanked,’ I said to my invisible audience, while my mind sang with lunatic madness, and all hope of grasping the severity of the situation left me.

Stark, wide eyes stared back at me.

’Go to my room. Call the ambulance. Now.’

I frowned at Kehlani.

‘Settle down, boss ....’ I shook my head, muttering, ’Telling me what to do.’ As I turned, I felt like I was swaying, like I was in some other world.

I imagined that figure swimming across the surface of the river, and shivered.

‘Hurry, hurry!’ Kehlani called.

I scraped my hand across the wall in the hallway.

‘Yeah, yeah, grumpy-bum,’ I muttered, shaking my head.

I turned into the bedroom.

It was at this moment I snapped out of it.

A voice in my mind called, He’s dying. The man’s dying.

My face ran slack.

‘Come on ... come on,’ I muttered, walking further into the dim bedroom.

‘Dad. Dad. Dad!’ came her voice.

Shouting his bloody name ain’t gonna being him back, is it, doofus, I thought, then shook my head, disappointed I even thought that.

I stared around the room.

‘Phone. Phone.’

I saw it there on the bedside table. I walked over, grasped it. The thing slipped right through my fingers, my palms now a little damp. I shook my head, giggling. ‘Slippery little sucker.’

I bent down, grasped it. ‘Come here, ya slimy little snail, you.’

I lifted it back up and dialled ‘008’ instead if ‘000’.

Jesus Christ,’ I muttered, shaking my head.

Slip!

The phone slid between those fingers again.

‘You been spraying WD-40 on my phone, babe?’ I said, gazing behind me and smiling again. I shook my head. ‘Nailed it.’

I tried triple zero again. This time is started ringing. Gawed ... what’s gonna happen here?

A woman’s voice on the other end.

‘State and postcode, please?’

‘Have I called the fucking post office or something?’ I asked in the kindest voice I could.

State and postcode, please sir,’ she repeated. I told her I was in Burarra, home of the most popular paedophile in Australia, then walked back towards the hallway.

‘What’s the emergency, sir?’ Came another woman’s voice after I’d been put through to a different line.

‘Me girlfriend’s Dad got plastered and I think he’s dying.’ I was grinning when I said it, popping my head around the bend of the hallway where the other two were. In the receiver, as I stood behind Kehlani, I said, ‘Christ, maybe he already dead.’

Kehlani gazed back at me.

Mr Jones vomited on her nice legs.

I dropped the phone, throwing my head back, cackling in the air and pointing at her. ‘He vomited all over your legs, babe. He vomited all over—’

She stood, stormed over to me.

She swore so much that I shall not repeat it here, then slapped me twice in the head. I ducked, putting my hands up.

In all the hysteria, I’d managed to hang up on the emergency operator.

Kehlani went to grab the phone, but I snatched it away, and it slipped out again.

‘Your fault from spaying WD-40 all over it,’ I said, smiling.

She punched me in the balls, then reached down.

The phone was ringing.

She picked up. ‘Hi ... I need—’

The man let out the largest fart I have heard in my life.

‘Not polite, babe,’ I said to Kehlani, and arched over in hysterics.

This went on for some time.

I was back on the phone a little after.

My Jones was turning more and more green on the floor, that pudgy arm trying to point up at me.

Vomit stuck to Kel’s dress and legs. Kehlani kneeled before her father, stroking his head while he slumped there struggling to breathe.

‘I’m dying .... I’m dying,’ Mr Jones said, taking small, sharp gasps.

I turned around from them, the phone held to my ear.

‘Can you guys hurry the hell up? He’s about to vomit all over her again.’ I burst into giggles once more. ‘Got you a good one, hey love?’ I said, turning back around to them.

The operator was asking me questions still. Honestly, half the shit I said I was just making up. My mind was in another reality.

Soon two men in blue uniforms burst through the front door of Kel’s house.

Heeeeeres Jonnny!’ I said as they entered.

One of then walked towards me. ‘Is he on drugs?’ the paramedic said, staring right at me. His gaze soon fell to the floor. ‘Code one ... patient experiencing CC20 .... Still conscious.’

’What language you speaking, biatch?’ I said, gazing behind my shoulder. ‘I’m on fire today,’ I muttered.

Soon they had Mr Jones out in a yellow stretcher in the front yard, the sun trying to sink beneath the horizon.

Standing next to Kehlani, I said to the paramedics, ‘You think he’s going to die?’

None of the bastards even looked up at me. I saw the van parked on the grass out front.

‘You done some doughnuts in that, brothers?’ I said, holding out my hand for them to slap.

Then they were all gone.

I stood there for some time afterwards in the front yard, looking around, then picked up my phone.

‘You still there, love?’ I said, but no one was.

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