The March of the Dead

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24

There I lay, feeling myself fading ... fading ...

The sadness was thick throughout me.

Congratulations ... I said to it, that eternal presence in my mind ... everywhere.

You killed me ... you killed me ...

I closed my eyes.

The Deajii had won.

*

It started with Kehlani.

She disappeared.

Just didn’t come to school.

I asked around, but either no one would tell me the truth or no one knew.

I went up to Lily in math.

‘Please ... what’s happen—’

Lily interrupted me, turning around, holding her calculator.

‘He’s dead, okay? Her father. Died a few days ago.’ She gazed at me, her eyes tried.

One of her friends called her over.

She sighed, reaching out to touch my hand after a moment.

‘She said some good things about you, Blinky .... You must be a good boy.’ Lily kept her gaze on me a while more.

I was out Kehlani’s front door that very evening.

I looked up at the house. The lights appeared to be off on both floors. I didn’t knock.

Kehlani didn’t turn up the following day.

A sadness lingered within me. I spent evenings with my parents. Dad slid the pawns across the squares of the Snakes and Ladders game, and when he hit the snake he groaned. Mum chuckled, grasping the strong labourer’s arm. Night shone through the dining room glass walls. ‘You die,’ she said, giggling, leaning forward to kiss him.

Kehlani opened the door when I went over to hers later that night. I’d ridden the night bus in.

Having finally knocked, I now stood there.

She stared at me, then burst into tears, remaining where she was, shoulders hunched.

I didn’t know what to do. Was I allowed to hold Kehlani, my ... ex-girlfriend, again? I stepped forwards. She didn’t withdraw. So I hugged her. We stayed there beneath the single bulb of her front porch and hugged. The following Tuesday, we had the funeral, and oh my, didn’t she look amazing up the front there in that silky black dress.

They started the service with Oh How Great Thou Are. It sent shivers down my spine. I thought of Beau, and stood at his grave as the man in the robes hummed prayers, and further down went that white coffin.

Now Kehlani was up front.

Her back shook as she cried. Mrs Jones stood in the pew beside her, wiping her own eyes with a tissue.

Other mourners stood before me, perhaps fifty or sixty in total. Afterwards, I saw Kehlani out front. In the daylight her skin was translucent, like she had died herself. I wanted to tell her the black had been a bad choice, that it contrasted too much with her skin.

At the wake she sat in the corner and didn’t talk to anyone. There was a sombre mood about. Hot food sat on a table against the wall. People went over to her mother, giving condolences. I sat with my girlfriend—or whatever she officially was now—placing a hand on her knee, but she was numb to it, still, or slack, and did not react.

Later on that night, I sat in her bedroom, asking her questions which received no response. She sat on the bed in tears, shaking her head. When she spoke, her sobbing was so thick I hardly heard what she said. Kehlani leant against me there on the bed. ‘I feel so bad,’ she said.

I tried talking to her at school. Tried to find out off others what had actually happened to Mr Jones, but I never did fully find out.

Then Kehlani came for me.

I was at hers, on her bed one evening. She had her book open at her study, and stood, walking to me. A vacant look sat in her eyes. It was like someone else peered out of her. ‘Take me ... take me now ... make me feel something ... Blinky ... feel me here ... make me feel something.’

She grasped my hand, placing it upon her chest. I did feel her, and she sat on my legs, her own falling to my sides, her white top shining beneath the single light.

‘Take me, Blinky ... take me here.’ She kissed me, and her kisses hurt. Her leg wrapped around my side. I smelt the mint in her breath and her fragrant perfume. I nudged her frame back, gazing at her.

‘Kehlani ... Kehlani .... You’re not .... Babe, you’re not well.’

Tears now streamed down those eyes. Her face wrinkled into a kind of contorted look of pain, forehead creasing, lips expanding. She burst into tears there on the bed. I hugged her.

On the lounge the following day, at hers, I hugged her as she shook and wept and cursed God, blaming him for everything, for all the problems in her life.

In the cafe she was unresponsive.

Then, when a good-looking boy passed, she gazed out at him.

‘He’s so fucking hot,’ she said, her face deadpan as she stared.

More tears came the following day. She was shaking her head. In Latin, Kel didn’t hand in her homework and when Mr Fredrick asked where it was she said, ‘It’s up your arse. If you look for it, you’ll find it there.’

She received detention for that, which soon turned into counselling after the principal got involved.

It was around that point she became permanently unresponsive.

I’d go around her place. She’d sit at her computer, looking up websites for heavy-metal music, playing songs about death.

A Monster drink sat on her table. Later that evening I’d find cigarettes in her drawer when I went to get her pencil case.

‘What the heck, Kel? What are you doing?’ I’d said, staring at the black packet.

I’d gone to throw them out, and she banged and banged my back.

She continued to ignore me on a whole.

I tried talking to her at school, but she was hanging with Conner Nord and Mila Rylstone. Kel turned her back to me after I called her name.

Mila looked at me as I neared, then down at my stomach.

‘Can I fuck your ex-boyfriend, Jones? He’s super sexy.’ She stepped forwards, feeling my chest. I moved back and would never admit to a tingling sensation rushing through from her touch.

Later, I stood out back with Mum as she dug and dug. I handed her the plant as the sunlight splayed against her floral dress.

A kangaroo bounded through the gums out the back fence.

Dad stood on our balcony, and yelled, ‘Ra!’ to the kangaroo, feigning to run at it with a beer in his hand. The sunset glinted against his white overalls, making it look like he stood in hell.

On the weekend, Dad and I wandered up to the shops in Alvey, while that night Mum met us up at Robert’s Steakhouse for dinner.

Dad’s voice choked.

‘To Beau, eh?,’ he said, holding up his beer.

I nodded. ‘To Beau,’ and I rode and rode behind my brother up that hill, and he didn’t turn back once. Darkness gleamed all around us while in the distance came two blaring white lights.

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