Sleepwalking through this life
Dreaming of a new one.
Sleepwalking through this life
Dreaming of a new one.
There was something strange about the sky, when Dawn scrambled from the ashes. She didn’t remember much, apart from the smell. A mixture of charred wood and soaked skin, preserved like porcelain in atomic winter. The farm lay torn around her, but tornados are rare in Alice Springs.
Michael was sleeping next to her, before the explosion, his body wrapped around hers, comforting and warm. “Mike?”
She had looked for him in the ruins of their home, a mangled semblance of their life together, scattered across the desert, in the creek of Endless Summer.
After finding a photo of Ben, the only thing left of a son two years dead; Dawn sat in the sand perfectly still. Remembering Michael, she managed to claw her way into their fallout bunker, threw on some old clothes her late mother had worn to a science fiction convention in the eighties. Her parents were eccentrics, but fortunately Michael saw past them, to a daughter who had escaped the loony gene.
“Michael?” Dawn screams as she runs back out into the creek. Michael doesn’t answer. She shivers, despite the heat. Unusual colours break the sky, an aurora of lights, some of which are falling to the sand, shooting stars in the morning. “What the heck are they?” she whispers.
Something on the horizon, staggers, as if drunk, but it’s too far away for her to see clearly. It looks like a man, dodging between the falling meteors. “Mike?” Her father’s binoculars were amongst the stash of junk he’d piled into his bunker, before he was taken to the nut house. “Thanks Dad, at least you did something right!” She removes the lens caps; stuck to the ends by a twenty year vacuum, blows off the dust, and holds them up. “Bloody things are old!”
It’s blurry; Her Dad never looked after his junk; but clear enough for her to see a man, limping, half running, arms flailing like he’s fleeing from something. She gasps, as his left hand’s hanging off, as if something’s chewed it. “Michael!” His pyjamas are shredded and bloody. She drops the binoculars and starts sprinting towards him, aware he’s spewing blood over the sand.
He loses his footing, but gets back up, waves and screams, “Dawn, get back, run!” She ignores him, can see his legs weakening, and remembers his arms around her, before they fell asleep, expecting to wake safely. They were planning on having another baby. Not that anything could replace Benny, but his absence is hard to live with.
Adrenalin pumping, she darts towards him, and through the frenzy, something appears over the hills. They’re dots at first, and don’t look real, differently shaped, unbelievably altered things, with parts torn off, and they’re gaining on Michael. “Those aren’t Boomers!” More figures emerge, but they aren’t anything she’s seen in Alice Springs. “Werewolves?” She screams, “Run, Mike!” and ignoring any fear she reaches him.
He has her Dad’s old gun in the hand that still works, but curses as she grabs him. “I’m out of bullets!”
Something isn’t right, his face has drained of colour, his voice is husky, but it’s probably the pain. She takes his arm and helps him run towards the fallout bunker. They scramble down and Dawn throws on the bolts, turns the big wheel inside, locking them in airtight. The whole town laughed at this shelter when she was an Ankle Biter. She mutters, “No one’s laughing now!” but jumps back as something pounds on the outside, “What is that? Was that what I think it is?” she asks.
Michael moans, and she turns on the lights. He staggers over to the weapons rack, clutching his arm, “Stay away from me, Dawn!” and she can see in his eyes, the same look there was when the doctors told him Ben was gone. Mike’s a fighter, doesn’t accept defeat. “Mike, what are you doing?”
He chucks the gun at her. “It bit me!”
“One of those things out there?” she asks.
He doesn’t answer, takes hold of an axe, brown with rust, and with one strike attempts to chop his arm off below the elbow. It doesn’t sever in one blow. He strikes again, chopping furiously. The noise of him screaming, makes the pounding outside vibrate, ricocheting around the bunker, like they’re stuck inside a coffin with demented mourners outside trying to bash their way in. In a frenzy of pain the man Dawn held last night, takes a bottle of her Dad’s old brew from a rack, unscrews it and pours it over the wound. Dawn takes another of her mother’s dressing up outfits from the box, and tears it up, “Give me your arm, Mike!” She tries to wrap it tightly, but he pushes her away.
“Don’t touch it!” His voice is deeper than before, he growls and takes out a cigarette lighter, setting the bleeding stump on fire. She holds him through the screaming, until he collapses. The last time they cried like this, was when they realised Benny wasn’t coming back. Grief kept them together and denial guaranteed it stayed that way.
He points at the severed hand, “Look, that’s why!”
Amongst the blood and bone, the fingers broaden; the nails lengthen and sharpen, as Michael’s severed hand changes into something bestial. Mike takes the gun and passes it to his wife. “Dawn, load it up and get away from me!”
Dawn is good at ignoring anything she doesn’t want to face, and begins to wrap his wound up tightly, giving him a kiss, as if they’ve woken up in bed. “Babes, you got it in time! Look what ever it is, whatever those things are, you’re going to be fine!” she pleads.
He shakes his head; sweat pouring down his flesh and blood in his eyes. “Those things weren’t dingoes, Dawn! I can’t just get a rabies shot and a wooden arm!”
The severed hand looks gnarled and muscular, and course hair begins sprouting out of the back, making Michael pour the rest of the wine over it and light it up. They watch it burn, the barbecued hand, making them choke and move to the back of the bunker. The sound of clawed feet on steel, above their heads, shifts, following their sound.
Michael slumps against the wall, looking paler, a distance in his eyes that Dawn doesn’t like. She lights a cigarette and places it in his mouth. “Smoke, love, relax, we got to get you to a doctor.”
Michael starts laughing, making the scurrying above turn to scratching, as if whatever’s there is hungry, digging through the metal of the bunker to get at them. “Doc’s dead, the whole bleeding town’s gone. It’s just us, and those things out there.”
He sounds as if he’s got a cold, rubs his face, eyes yellowing, although Dawn hopes it’s from loss of blood and nothing more sinister. He coughs up more of it onto his lap and it spatters over her hands. Through the sticky bits she can see his skin beginning to turn a bluish colour. “I’m not right love,” he whispers, his voice sounding stranger with each breath.
He grabs the gun, placing it in his mouth, “Get away from me!” he screams. The survivor in her staggers back as his face contorts, but she turns and dives towards him, grabbing the weapon as the shot fires, ripping a hole through the roof instead of Mike’s skull.
She pushes him, screaming. “Don’t you leave me on my own, Michael, like everyone else in my stinking life!” and then throws the gun to the floor next to a pile of her Dad’s contraptions. The hole in the roof lets in sunlight from outside and Dawn can see shadows breaking the streams as the beasts prowl around above. Specks of black blood drip down from the hole and an eye peers through, making Dawn shiver. “It’s not human!” It begins scratching, poking a clawed finger through and prying the metal, attempting to bend it enough to widen it.
“Don’t look up, babe, look at me.” Mike whispers, severing Dawn’s delusions of survival.
She refocuses and says. “I’ve got to get help, distract those things somehow.”
“There’s nothing you can do! You should kill me and wait here for help.” He growls, deeper than before, but isn’t quick enough to counter Dawn’s hunger to save him. She has an ottoman her Dad left, in his madness, full of tranquilisers and morphine and loads of apocalyptic paraphernalia that got the old man locked up. “Maybe Dad wasn’t so crook in the head?”
She takes a tranquiliser and, finding a vein, injects it into Mike’s good arm. Kissing him, she says, “We’ll stay here till they leave and then I’ll get help. You promise not to leave me?”
He nods, “My body’s not going anywhere!” and glances at the chains she’s using to tie his legs to the wall. “You don’t believe I’ll make it either,” slipping into semi consciousness his last words are. “Kill me when I change.”
The scurrying outside gets louder and the hole in the roof is bigger as she glances up, allowing two clawed fingers room to maneuver, scratching and bending the steel. The claws retract and an eye peers through. She shivers, as the pupil dilates, watching her, like a dingo, a quiet predator, seeing her fear, unblinking. It knows in time the hole will widen.
She grabs her father’s gun and shoots point blank at the eye. There’s a splatter and yelp and black pulpy goo spills down her arm as the thing recoils. There’s a thud and the body blocks out the sunlight, closing the hole with the weight of its corpse. “I got it.” She whispers, almost too frightened to breathe in case the others drag it off and begin digging their way in again.
The light on the ceiling swings back and forth, making the shadows in the bunker sway uncontrollably, turning Mike into a gruesome prerequisite, a blueprint for a beast that may not emerge. Dawn imagines her once loving husband, replaced by something monstrous, changed forever. Unlike with death, she’d have to endure the hope of his recovery, until the eventual realisation that he’s not coming back. Like her old Dad used to say. “Everything ends.”
The light stops swinging and the shadows ease, but Mike hasn’t returned back to how he was before. His breathing is raspy and his skin covered with beads of sweat and a thin layer of hair, rapidly sprouting. His body contorts and he breaks from unconsciousness, letting out a snarl as his bones and muscles crunch, shedding his clothing with the bulk of his new form. When he opens his eyes they’re the same yellow as the eye she shot through the hole in the ceiling. The man she told her secrets to and entrusted with her dreams, is vanishing and being replaced by something vile and dangerous, something her brain wants to kill. She remembers his last words “Kill me when I change.” But her hands can’t pull the trigger, despite leveling the gun at him. The chain’s are strong and around both legs. She curses herself and switches the gun for another tranquiliser, loads and shoots. What he’s becoming lashes out at her, trying to rip the chains from its legs. The chains tighten and the beast flies back against the wall with the force of his own aggression.
“We were supposed to start a new life, Mike.” She screams, hoping something remains of her husband as he attempts to rip shreds out of her again. “Werewolves aren’t real!” she tries to reason with herself. “It’s daytime out there, there’s no moon.” She feels ridiculous, but shoots another dart into his neck, which does nothing to weaken him. “Mike!” she screams. “Listen to me!” It causes the chains to buckle, but not enough for it to break loose.
She can’t reason with it. Can’t feel safe locked up in her war bunker, a pretentious womb like structure meant to pacify the insane paranoia of her parents. It’s just prolonging her torment. She begins to laugh at the absurdity, remembers the trails of misfortune nagging at her throughout her life, now encapsulated in this tomb. She points the gun at herself, contemplating suicide seriously for a few seconds. It would be quick.
Mike breaks loose and launches at her, but she aims at his head, shooting him down. There’s a thud and a whimper and the werewolf’s body lays motionless as she reloads, fear taking over from any residual love. And then she feels a great sense of remorse, as he remains on the floor, his body changes back to her husband. “Mike?”
She checks his pulse. There’s nothing. He’s gone, just like Ben and her Mum and Dad, her whole life cluttered with death, parading behind her, taunting her with cruel laughter. Death likes chasing Dawn. Ever since she was a small girl. It’s played hide and seek, taking everyone she loves out one by one, denying her a family and now she’s hiding from it in a bunker. For all she knows, she’s the only woman left in The Creek of Endless Summer. Only it’s not summer down in this dark stinking pit, and with no food or water and werewolves scratching around outside, Dawn sits down. She opens a bottle of her Dad’s home brew and taking a large swig, contemplates the remainder of her life.
“I could stay here and get drunk.” She whispers to Mike’s corpse. He looks peaceful now, and she covers him with a blanket. Hoping he’ll forgive her for not saving him. She wonders if his ghost can see her, if it’s trapped down in the bunker. “Mike?”
She kisses him. His hair is dripping with sweat, and his face is icy cold. “I’m so sorry.” She whispers. “I tried to save you but.”
There’s a scratching sound from above and light breaks through the hole she shot earlier. Clawed feet scratch around on the steel roof. The body of the fallen werewolf is dragged away. She can hear them munching on it. Another yellow eye peers through, studies her. “Oh crap!” She fires at it, missing feebly, through grief, making a new hole in the roof, where another set of eyes peer through. “Shit!” she screeches. “Get away from me!” she panics, and drags Mike’s body away into the shadows, in an attempt to hide. It’s too late, as the beasts push their claws through the holes attempting to dig their way inside. “It’s never going to end.” She whispers to Mike, stroking his hair, out of comfort, the last traces of hope still clinging to her like the dregs in an emptying bottle.
“That’s it then.” She decides. Taking another swig. Her Dad died ten years ago, although this stuff has been left to fester for a good twenty. “It’s strong stuff.” She says, still talking to Mike as if he’s alive. “You’re right. I’m good at blocking things out.” She blocked out Mike’s affairs, and her mother’s suicide, her Dad’s manic depression and Ben’s disappearance. She blocked out the fact Mike looked at her differently after Ben died. As if it was somehow her fault.
She takes another few swigs, and imagines how she’d feel if she heard a helicopter up above. The sounds of gunfire, werewolves obliterated and turned into corpses, just like with Mike. She chuckles as her mind constructs a scenario; where soldiers stamp on the roof of her bunker and shout. “Is anyone alive down there?”
She’d answer. “I’m here! Please get me out of here!” and then she’d open the doors and be greeted by people in biohazard suits, who would march her past the bodies of dead ex werewolves, into the helicopter and she’d be flown out of the Creek of Endless Summer, to start a new life, somewhere else, somewhere far away from the memories.
No one’s going to save her. Instead, Dawn sits in her mother’s science fiction costume, drinking her Dad’s beer, holding her dead husband and the photograph of Ben, as the hole in the roof gets bigger. The claws of werewolves scrape away the metal, and any hope she had of survival. Some people aren’t meant to live happy lives. Death trailed her for a reason. She puts the gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger.
Scraping my life away with your clumsy scalpel
You shaped my reality into something unrecognisable.
I could have been safe without you.
Shredded by your promises and my own failings
A life apart was inevitable, but
I’m still waiting for you to put the knife down
To let me go, so I can remember how to smile.