The March of the Dead

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23

That night on the news, I watched the clip of the car swerving down the street, running into bins, people fleeing on the edges of the pathway.

The car veered towards a building, while up Morrison, Thursday, a man stood before three armed police offices. ‘Kill me ... take me from this world!’ he yelled.

The woman at Woolworths, grasping for the retail assistant’s hair. ’I spent twenty-eight dollars. That’s close enough to thirty. Give me the fucking free oshie. Give me my fucking oshie!

In the cinemas, the man standing up front. ‘I am a god .. I am a god ... I am a god ....’ A lady standing to stop him, then being thrown back into her chair, the woman standing and lashing out at the man, while behind on screen, a male and female embraced in a kiss.

At the bowling alley, the boy spun around from the lane, lobbing his bowling ball at the glass skill tester machine behind him, smiling as it shattered.

There I sat with a coffee before me, staring out at Morrison as folks strolled. A man wandering up to a girl, the girl turning, biting for his neck. The man crying out loud, trying to shove her off. The woman drawing her head back, her mouth all bloody. ‘Anyone got any sweet and sour sauce?’ she rasped to a little girl behind her.

At school, Mr Wilson strolling through the playground calling, ’Detention for everyone ... detention for everyone ... come into my office, lady and gents ... oh ... oh ... I have a special gift for you, I do.’

He grabbed at one of the Year Twelve girls. She squealed, trying to get away.

‘Detention. Detention. Detention. Detention.’

Students running and screaming throughout school. Mr Wilson grasping a boy’s long hair. ‘You look like a girl, sweet-cheeks. Back into my classroom, sexy ... I’m gonna serve you a detention you ain’t never gonna forget.’

Wham, he slapped the boy’s arse, the boy falling flat on his face.

A lady strolling with a pram, screaming, ‘Youse ain’t got nothin’ on me I run this world no one wants ta support a young mother anymore. World ain’t what it used to be.’ She glared at some older men in cycling gear sitting around a coffee shop table, and said, ‘What the heck do youse guys think yas are lookin at? Ain’t never seen someone as good lookin as me, have yas?’

She learnt over to one particular shocked gentleman, stared in his face and screamed, ‘What are you looking at me for, sugar-daddy? You wanna feel me? You wanna feel me?’

She grabbed the older man’s shaking hand, cupped it around her breast, and said, ‘That the best ya can do, grandpa? I about as turned on as a washing machine in an abandoned laundromat.’

She threw his hand away, lifted his coffee to her lips, took a sip, and sprayed it all out over the gentleman.

Smiling, coffee running down her face, she turned around as I gazed from the window, calling out, ‘Ain’t anyone make a coffee which don’t make ya feel ya just sucked on a dead cat’s balls any longer?’ That smile expanded. She saw a ten-year-old boy and ran for him.

Back on the street, a car had ploughed into a telegraph pole. A man lay against the horn, an enteral beeping wailing throughout the neighbourhood

*

I sat there seeing out the deputy’s detention in Science.

A poster of the periodic table hung from the wall.

Mr Lapaglia sat at his desk marking when we heard the noise.

He looked to his right.

‘Mrs Stafford. That you in there?’

We heard what sounded like another crash, or something smashing.

Mr Lapaglia sighed, putting down his pen. Around me sat tables, Ajax still drying on them, test tubes set up on some. A human skeleton sat in the corner of the room, diagrams of the solar system on display up on the shelves.

Before me sat an open textbook titled, ‘Year Six Science: Standard.’

The grey-haired teacher looked up at me. ‘Just ignore it, Blinky ... keep doing your work.’

Another crash from the storeroom. Mr Lapaglia stood, stepped towards the open entrance of the storeroom. ‘Mrs Stafford ... Mrs Safford ... everything oka—’

It happened then.

A test tube, thrown out through the doorway.

It shattered into Mr Lapaglia’s face.

He covered it.

Didn’t scream out at first.

Then he removed those hands.

Shards of glass stuck from his skin, blood dribbling down his face.

He went to step through the doorway but bam! another test tube exploded into his face.

Again, he covered it.

This time he did scream, and through those hands his scream sounded muffled, like he covered his face with some carpet.

He bowed down low.

Finally, Mr Lapagila removed his hands, shouting, ‘Mrs Stafford ... if you throw one more test tube at my—’

Shatter!

The test tube crashed into his skull. Mr Lapaglia treadmilled backwards towards a desk, and at home, as I sat on the lounge, someone screeched from next door. Mum and Dad, sitting and reading from iPods in the lounge room gazed in the direction of the scream.

And in my dreams, those tearing noises sounded, another foot, a wet, murky sounding one pressing down against the rough cave floor. My pulse thumped between my ears, and staring at Mr Lapaglia as he stood by the doorway in the classroom, my mouth was dry. Mr Lapaglia screamed out to the lady in the storeroom, and in whom was lost to my vision, ‘Stop throwing things at me ... stop throwing things—’

Crash! Another test tube burst into his eye.

*

There I sat in Mrs Russell’s office, the school counsellor.

She looked over at me, a dark-skinned lady with dreadlocks. Mrs Russell smiled, one of those warm smiles only mothers can give.

‘What you’ve seen in the last two months is more than what some people see in their whole lives,’ she said.

A felt a tear form in my eye. I wiped it away.

Mr Sens was with me at lunch. He pat my back. Mrs Ryan and Mr Houghton stood beside me as well, Mrs Ryan saying comforting things.

*

Sunday, a bright sunny day, my friends and I travelled down to the dam in Turner’s Mum’s car.

‘Blinky, Blinky, Blinky,’ Canty called out on the oval once we’d unpacked. He kicked the footy my way.

I went running and running, catching it.

That day I stepped in and out of my mates.

Back at school, I tried to go over and see Kehlani, but she didn’t look in my direction when I called her name.

I tried texting her when I was at home, but she didn’t reply.

In the kitchen, Mum brushed the fish with her special sauce, pasta bubbling away in the pot. The smell of garlic wafted throughout the kitchen. Seeing her gentle movements of the brush, I recalled Christmas dinner as Mum had wandered out to the dining room with the turkey.

Beau sat smiling at the table.

Little Olivia and Amelia sat at the table as well, playing with doles or little cars. Uncle David held his frothing beer, his brown stubble glinting from the sun coming in the window. Auntie Jessica cackled out loud, shaking her head, tilting her wine glass to her lips, and now I walked past those stalls on the main street, each covered in those silver tarpaulins, the world dark and silent.

Once more that eerie voice sounded from beneath or behind one, floating to me on the breeze.

Blinky ... we have arrived ... the Deajii is here, Blinky... now comes your death .... The new god has arrived, Blinky, and what once was will now be gone ... a new God has arrived ....

I turned, trying to see who talked to me, and I puffed as I hurried past trunks in the woods, the sounds of giggling girls echoing throughout, while there I walked through a hallway at night, passing cards stuck to a wall, thanking nurses for looking after them. And to my right in that gloomy dimness stood a door, a large sign hanging from it reading: DO NOT ENTER DO NOT ENTER DO NOT—

I continued past the door, but from behind it heard a woman cackling, and at that oval, in the light, I caught the ball, and as I juggled it in my hands, trying to control it, the boys cracked up laughing.

Soon Walby tackled me.

I slumped to the gleaming green grass, spilling the ball, my friends’ laughs sounding around me.

Now Turner sprinted down the line with the ball, and I after him, arms out.

Later, the boys and I stood round the barbeque, chuckling at stories. Burnt sausages wafting in the fresh autumn breeze, and now a light gleamed through the scraggily walls of the old hallway, that DO NOT ENTER sign stark and crooked.

Darkness loomed. I placed a hand on the door handle, while inside a tomb I stepped down the cement steps. A coffin lay in a room at the base of the stairs, and I neared and neared it, and in the hallway, I turned the handle, the door opening. In the gloom beyond the door, in that awful red light, I saw a doctor.

He wore a white gown, instruments hanging from his neck. On his gown ran a horrid bloodstain, illuminated by this gory red light. He smiled a lunatic smile as he glared at me. ’You found the special ward,’ he said in a thin, toneless voice. ’You found the special ward, Blinky. Come in, come in, come in, come in.’

The blood stain shone, his long, lanky arm gesturing me closer, and I sprinted down the sports field at school, but felt the hands touch me from behind. I fell.

There Aisha stood above me, hand outstretched.

I puffed as I reached for it.

We stared into each others’ eyes, hers brighter than the sea of grass around me. I held my gaze, my heart knocking my ribs. I pondered how intricate they were, with those brown dashes, and at how her sweat glimmered on her face, and the way her shirt clung to her arms.

There her hand reached, and all I had to do was lift my own, to touched it, to be pulled up by her, to feel the touch of her skin and presence of her soul ...

I stepped by Turner, throwing the ball to Cantey, but the doctor reached that arm to me, white sleeve drooping below his wrist, and as I hobbled away from him through the hallway I was screaming.

The lanky doctor with the long smile lumbered after me, saying, ’Let me check your temperature, boy ... maybe I have something which might ... help you.’ He now spoke in some infectious, child-friendly voice, his whooping and giggling echoing throughout the hallways. On those old rotten walls clung gratitude cards, but now they read, ‘Leave me, leave me, leave me,’ in red bloody drips ....

The taste of sour bleakness in my mouth.

I stared through an open doorway to my right, seeing a young kid, just a kid, sitting on a small bed. He wore a bandage on his arm, his shirt off. The lady doctor held a blade glinting in the dull light.

’This won’t hurt a little biiiiit,’ she said in a creepy, dry voice, arching forwards as red light shone against the scalpel, and stepping through those large trunks, the sounds of little girls’ giggles sung throughout the woods. I turned to see that same lady doctor from the hospital, now behind me, amongst the trees. She held a stethoscope at me, repeating, ‘Let me stick this up your cunt, boy ... I hear you are sick ... let me stick it up your cunt!’

She growled amongst the pines as she followed. ‘If you weren’t sick before you saw me, boy, you certainly will be after I stick this down your throat. LET ME NEAR YOU!’

And in the Science room, Aisha gazed behind her shoulder at me. I looked away, but that fluttering in my stomach didn’t stop.

Later, reading the textbook in class, I imagined her beside me, gazing over. Her skin would shine like porcelain, and in that old rotting hallway the lady doctor stepped towards me, holding out that glinting stethoscope,

‘Show me your eyes, boy ... I need to examine them to see how sick you are.’ Her own eyes were wide and lunatic, a red light flashing throughout the abandoned hallway. Gratitude cards now slipped from the walls, looking like bloody footprints left all over the floor.

‘Show me your eyes. You’re sick. You’re sick. You’re sick!’

And I jogged through the old stone hallway of that tomb, turning through an arch, coming out into another room with old stone coffins.

There they sat, in the darkest of light that allows any vision at all. Heart aching, I heard a noise behind me, turning.

Down that long, long hallway a dark figure strolled ... closer ... closer .... and the doctor reached that arm for me as I hurried by trees, those bodies reaching for me from the walls.

But in the supermarket, darkness glinted, children giggling from the aisles. I peered here and there. BAM! The lights blasted on, and sitting upon the shelves lay old rotten fruit and mouldy meat.

Fruit lay squashed on the floor, flies buzzing around the meat behind sneeze shield, and a clown guffawed from behind an eternal array of hidden stalls up on Morrison, while through those dusty tunnels I panted. And there stood Dad near the kitchen bench at night, the spoon against his teacup clinking. He turned, turned, and I saw the maggots eating through his eye, and trees flashing by me as I ran, I looked behind, the lady, nearing ... nearing ....

I waited behind a tree, crunching noises sounding as she neared, while in the ward I sat in the bed, a figure walking into the room, scalpel shining. From behind the door came a thin light, and this lessoned and lessoned as the door squeaked closed.

I screamed for that door to stop closing, and treading over the rotting fruit reached the freezer aisles. There, beside the glass, those flies buzzed and maggots crawled and cockroaches scurried, and an arm reached for me amongst the pines.

But there, in that soulless light, I stared at the cement coffin. It read, in old dusty imprint, “Jarli ‘Blinky’ Eastern”, beside which sat my date of death ... only weeks ... only weeks away.

My heart raced there in the room. I turned, running right into the stinking form of some figure waiting behind me. A white glinting smiled came over its face, while in the aisle of the supermarket someone stalked towards me from the dimness down the other end.

And in the forest I ran, and behind those branches above me, a terrible white moon beamed down, and I covered my eyes from the woman and awoke.

That morning, my head stung as I got the bus into school.

‘When is all this stuff going to end ...,’ I muttered to myself.

Then, like that, it did.

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