Saturday, September 16, 2006

Terra Mortuus

They were all dead.


Steven was too shocked to mourn. He wondered when that might end. It had already been a week, since he had taken the boat to shore, its still cargo, just the beginning. He'd fought off the gulls, but they'd been too many, their hungers too fervent. They'd not been interested in him. Just the still flesh of the rest of the crew. He couldn't think about it too much. To do that. Well the pain washed over him, and there was no end to it. Just like the gulls. But this he could fight. If he kept moving, stopped thinking.




There were tourists, of course, and some of them had come to him; eyes wide, seeking something he couldn't provide, comfort that he couldn't even give himself. To be still was murder, mate. Fucking murder.

He had gotten in his car and driven. Away, west, as far as he could, syphoning diesel when he needed it.

As he drove he listened to the radio, picking up in scratchy bursts the fractured transmissions of a confused world. Australia was cordoned off, though no one had an understanding yet of what had happened. From what he had gathered, Australians all over the world had died. Qantas jets had plummeted from the skies. Carey had keeled over in New York. Australian Embassies were charnel houses. Clive James had been found dead in his apartment. He lost track of time, for the first few days the skies were dark with birds flying east. Once or twice planes had flown over, but they had been high and swift, as though nervous of infection.

He'd stopped at last.


But not as he had ever known it. The rock was black. Its surface hummed. It burnt his fingers when he touched it, but he'd been slow in pulling them back. It burnt his fingers, and there was momentary purity in the pain. There were feathers everywhere, black as the stone, sticky with blood, like birds had been birthed here and roughly.

Steven had set up camp in the shadow of the black rock. And waited.

Peter and Colin drove over the horizon the next morning, the first living Australians Steven had seen in a week.

Peter got out of the car. He nodded at Steven then regarded the coal darkness of Uluru.

"Shit. Now that’s…shit."

He walked to the stone, just as Steven had done.

"It's hot mate. You'll burn yourself."

Regardless, that's what he did. Colin didn't, he didn't look like he needed to.

"Tell me I'm dreaming," Steven said.

"No. Sorry…shit … but they're all dead." Peter's voice was raw, like he'd been talking for days, though he had barely said a word around Steven.

Colin couldn't stop shaking his head. "The tourist's have cleared out, just corpses now, and the birds. You wouldn't believe the birds. The moment they died, the birds started coming."

Peter's hands clenched to fists. "Won't be much left soon but bones."

"So what do we do?" Steven asked; he had ideas of his own, but there were three of them now, and Colin looked tired.

Peter shrugged. "What do you reckon?"

"Mate, we drive north. Far as we can. This country's done for, and what's coming, none of us are going to like."

"Why us?" Peter asked. "Why were we spared?"

"I don't know, mate. I don't know, but when they find us, well..."

"I don't think they should find us," Colin said. "Well, I don't want to be found."

"This country's dead."

They turned their back on the boiling rock, got into their cars, and drove.


Tessa said...

Most excellent.

Trent Jamieson said...

Thanks, Tessa.

Steve said...

Awesome ... eerie ...