The March of the Dead

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4

4

The world cooled throughout Burarra coming into April.

I was strolling along Morrison by myself towards Sabby’s Sweets after school when I saw the altercation.

A woman—fifty or sixty—ambled around, whipping her blouse, which apparently she’d taken off, around in full circles, crying out, ’Who wanna go on a date with me ... any takers, or what? Who wanna date me?

The woman gazed at a group of teenage boys, grinning, her business pants glinting in the sunlight.

’You boys wanna know what it’s like to fuck someone ya mother’s age, or what?’ She threw her head back, cackling. One of the boys’ faces turned white as he backed away.

The lady held a beer bottle in her other hand, smiling as she whipped that silver blouse around. ’Come on ... step up to the best shag in Burarra, boys ... tell ya girlfriends how a real woman does it, hey?’

She marched along, that beer bottle—beer swishing round inside—catching the afternoon light. ’Anyone wanna bang a banker, or what, ya little shitbags? Come ‘n get me!’

A man stepped forwards, around the same age as the woman. His black leather motorbike jacket clung to his pudgy body, silver ponytail coming down to his arse.

‘Oi ... woman ... you drop that bottle now or I’ll kick ya arse back to the psychiatric hospital. Got it?’

Some of those gathered before me on Morrison took a step back from the two, while others muttered in the afternoon light. Drivers of cars passing by gazed at the altercation.

I felt my heart trying to break a hole in my chest, while from beside me, Walby arched over, hissing, ‘She’s freaking lost it, this woman, Blinky.’ He shook his head.

The man took a step towards the woman, hand outstretched. ‘Just give me the bottle, lady ... give me the bottle then we’ll—’

The lady charged, sunlight flashing off the green bottle.

She swung it at his head. The man pulled his head back, the bottle whizzing by it.

He stepped back, shaking his head, then lunged forwards for the lady. The woman, in a bra and business pants swung an uppercut with the bottle towards his jaw. Shattering erupted as beer and glass sprayed into the man’s face.

Glass tingled to the ground as the man lowered his face, screaming.

That’s when it got real messy.

There the man bowed, holding his face. The lady stepped closer, grasped the back of his jacket and yanked it over his head. She was trying to—or so it appeared—suffocate him in his own Harley Davidson jacket.

The lady was kicking, punching, shoving him back towards his bike.

She soon sat his fat arse down on the bike, twisting the keys in the engine. The motor roared to life. She cranked the cruise control on. The bike—with man trying to grab onto the handlebars to steady himself—jerked to life, bursting off towards the far side of the road. It sped in the direction of the large clock over by Burarra Cheap Goods.

The man screamed from inside his jacket, the motorbike slamming into the gutter on the far side, flinging the man off his bike and throwing him through the window of Bras-N-Things

Cantey and I walked towards Morrison after school next day, but there a car rested against a telegraph pole, no one emerging from it.

Afternoon sunlight glinting on the scene, we stopped and stared. We shifted closer after a few seconds, following some others who neared the smashed car. Having reached the driver’s side door, we saw a man in labourer’s overalls sitting inside. A smile sat on his face as he talked in a little girls voice, asking if someone had taken his Boo Boo doll.

And on Wednesday, Emily Jacobs stood on the rooftop of the History buildings, brandishing a long kitchen knife, rambling in that incoherent language.

Soon the sun rose, high and bright behind the buildings and all watching covered their eyes and she screeched and jumped.

I don’t think I will ever forget how as her body fell, it was merely a black silhouette, or that when she hit there was a horrid slap, like someone had clapped their hands into a microphone.

Soon after, the screams of her friends had sounded.

Worse than all of this, however, was that, arm clearly broken and askew, head cracked, blood leaking down her face and staining her pretty blonde hair, she staggered back up, leg on an angle, hobbling towards the teachers dashing at her and the students watching on.

Pupils actually started fleeing at this point, and Emily cackled

like the lady with the blouse

just like an old witch would.

Emily lumbered forwards, and with that grimy face and blood now dripping onto her shirt she hissed at anyone close by, ‘Anyone wanna play spin the bottle with me ... anyone?’ She shuffled towards Atticus Brooks, who spun around, fleeing. She hissed at him, ‘Don’t you wanna play spin the bottle, kid?’ Her leg dragging behind her, blonde hair turning red.

Emily giggled, tipped over and fell face first into the ground, where she stayed.

The entire time, Mrs Draper was screaming, struggling backwards through the crowd of onlooking students to get away.

The worst incident, however, was surely on the highway as I rode the bus to school one day, the farmlands zooming by my window.

There we sat as we journeyed. Soon, an old man stood and walked up to the bus driver, the old man stagging from the bumps now and then. He said a few words to the driver, then smiled, or appeared to, but so worn were his features it more looked like some groan of displeasure to me.

Ol,d grey skin gleamed in the dull light of the overcast morning.

I listened to BTS on my phone, only half aware of all this happening.

At this moment, Callum Rosinski from school stood, wrapping the cord of his headphones around the old man’s neck, yanking.

The old man’s arms flailed about as he tried slapping the kid off him.

I stood, running towards Callum, three of us managing to put him on the floor of the bus.

He lashed for my eyes, but I pulled back, gazing into those eyes. They were red and deep, resembling nothing at all of the boy I use to know. Even his skin had a transparent gleam unseen before. Looking into those eyes, and at that sickly skin, it felt like I looked into the eyes of someone not there any longer, or who had been overcome by something not of this world.

There were other incidents, too, like in Computers when Roman Egan toppled his computer to the floor, then stood and started stomping on it, saying, ‘It’s all a lie, it’s all a lie. I hate them all, it’s all false, false media all a lie everything is a lie!’

Samuel and Aaron had tried to control him, both ending up on their arses.

In the end, the groundsman had come in after we’d all been asked to leave the room, wrapping Roman in his arms.

It got ugly at that point. Peering through the high-up windows outside in the foyer, I saw Roman thump the groundsman in the eye with his fist, before kneeing him in the balls. Roman soon hauled up the fallen computer, swinging it around at the groundsman’s face.

Mr Tian from next door’s class ran in by that point, grasping Roman, yet still the boy’s feet skimmed over the carpet as he tread-milled on the spot, trying to flee. In this struggle his shorts slipped off, the half-naked Roman now bolting for the door.

A guard telling a man to go away up on Morrison, the man throwing his fists at the guard.

The security guard’s hands held up, shielding his face.

On the pathway towards school, two elderly ladies thumping trollies against each other’s, one reaching for the other lady, hauling her out onto the road before an approaching car.

Or the crash as I walked to school.

Two cars rammed into each other’s sides, one car lying on its doors, people running over. A little further up, the other car on its roof. Flashing ambulance lights approached in the distance.

Or the internet video of a man staggering about, holding a large pole down at the jetty, and whack, he brought it across the side of someone’s face. I groaned, arching back from the laptop screen.

And in Woodwork, blood dripping from the wound on Jeffry Cousins’ hand, the bandsaw still churning and churning, and of course Arlo Grieve, standing on top of the picnic chair in the school playground. ‘There’s a new god in town, there’s a new god in town,’ he called, grinning a wild grin. He stepped down, holding that blade, walking with such confidence I wondered if he’d consumed some kind of drug.

The man breaking through the ice in Russia as I watched on YouTube, those around him skiing in to help. A boy reaching down. The man emerging, emerging from the chilly water, grasping the young boy, yanking him down through the ice.

Or on the bridge in San Francisco, those two bodies falling, falling like ants.

And Kehlani’s face going slack as we sat in her room, and how she said nothing, that horrid shade coming into her eyes. For the first time in my life I noticed they didn’t shine as they always did, but looked infected, and I wondered what was happening to the people around the world, and wondered if something sinister was spreading.

I touched her hand, but she didn’t blink, didn’t respond at all. So I grasped harder, and she soon after she looked over at me as though nothing had happened, but said in a cold and awful voice, ‘I was the dead one and he is not nice he arrives so it is death and nothing can defeat it, it will infect until it gives us all the virus, I saw the dead one it is in us nothing can help us would you like to go get some dinner now, babe?’

I stayed in her room, and the girl blanked out again.

I repeated her name over and over.

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