by ROBERT MAMMONE
icky’s eyes snapped open. His breath felt trapped inside his ribcage and his throat, full of bile, gurgled like an emptying sink. Hands fluttering like butterflies over his chest, he rolled to one side and vomited. It spattered across the floor, leaving a slowly spreading mess in the dust. Blood thundered in his head and black spots danced across his vision. Coughing, Nicky struggled to his feet.
The dingy room crowded close. Overflowing cartons sat against the wall. Swollen newspapers spilled out like black spotted tongues. Reams of abandoned paper had bloated with the damp and burst from their wrappers. Rust coloured water stains ebbed and flowed across the plaster walls, marking an abandoned shore and an empty ocean. A broken office chair stood leaning in one corner, a discarded uniform draped over it like a deflated corpse. Nicky had to look twice before the head resolved itself into a patch of black mould blooming on the wall behind. A distant murmur came to him, like the throbbing coos of a flock of roosting pigeons.
Light filtered thinly through the dirty window overhead. Looking up, Nicky blinked several times at the motes of dust scintillating in the morning sunlight. He sniffed and recoiled at the sour smell of sweat. Idly, he scratched at the crook of his elbow and felt the scab break open. His fingertips grew slippery with blood and still he scratched. The itch drew away from his cracked nails, burrowing deeper and deeper into his flesh until the bones ached. Then it faded to a lingering, familiar throb that he knew he could ignore until the need blossomed in him like bitter fruit. He looked at the blood under his nails for a minute, trying to make sense of the blackness. Giving up with a snort of disgust, he wiped his fingers on his dirty jeans.
The sound of bells rose as suddenly as a shout, the distant ringing bringing with it an approaching roar that increased with each beat of his heart. He staggered towards the window, stepping over the spent syringe lying on the floor. He wondered what time it was, his thoughts as thick and warm as treacle. He stared dumbly at the watch on his wrist, and the hands seemed to crawl counter to each other. The distant, tinny ring of the tannoy advised him of the time and that the next train to the City would be at 7.20.
‘F**k,’ he said, then wondered at his haste. Where did he have to be? He turned around in a circle, looking for his shoes, when movement through the window caught his attention.
A trio of schoolgirls stood in a tight group in the middle of the platform, their heads bent together looking at something one of them held. Nicky watched, suddenly avid in his attention. He saw how they moved, how their feet shuffled, how the breeze ruffled their hair, how they would turn to each other, their faces a pantomime of exaggerated laughter, shock or outrage and then back to laughter in moments. One looked across at an old fellow wearing a suit, shiny at the elbows and knees, and reading a paper, and Nicky saw her laugh, a shrill, mocking squeal.
‘You go, girl,’ he said, grinning hugely at their cheek. Then Nicky heard a burst of music come from the smartphone the tallest girl held. Even this high above the platform, he heard it clearly. He saw others commuters standing near the girls look up, some smiling at the sound. His smile grew wider as the heavy beat began to infect his feet and hands. Then he saw the girls begin to dance.
First one, then the next and finally the third. Hips moved, upper bodies in a circular motion dipping and rising, arms out and hands up, moving and moving and moving to the beat. At first, they laughed, oblivious to those around them, caught in the thrill of the melody, dancing on the spot. Then Nicky noticed a subtle change and felt something ache in his head. And then he saw it.
Their asynchronous movements merged from one beat to the next. Each girl’s left foot hit the ground together. Each waved the same hand, at exactly the same time, with exactly the same gesture, with exactly the same placement of fingers in the air. Everything was the same. Nicky noted with a thrill of unease that there was nothing conscious about it. He could see how their faces had turned blank, their vision inwards. Their individuality had vanished, leaving only the movement, the instinctual united movement.
Then they finished. Their eyes came alive, and their high, brittle laughter rolled across the platform. The same girl who had looked at the old man a minute before looked back at him, and in place of the smugness, Nicky saw something like fright in her face.
Another tinny announcement came over the tannoy as the train pulled into the station. As one, the waiting crowd on that side of the station moved as the doors asthmatically gasped opened. Bells clanged wildly and Nicky stumbled back from the window and held his aching head in his hands.
Jan opened the door to collect the newspaper and saw Nicky huddled on the steps, head down, hands buried in his dirty parka.
‘Nicky?’ She quickly glanced over her shoulder and saw Pete shuffling around the kitchen, and heard the clink of mugs and the television’s inane mumble.
Nicky jolted. His head lurched up, his eyes wide and black in his pale face. Jan looked into them and didn’t see anything of her brother. Only panic and a desire to run. She placed a hand on his shoulder and felt with dismay the jutting bones.
‘Janny,’ he said. He smiled and the panic retreated, though enough remained to make her uneasy.
‘Jan? Who is it? Oh.’
Pete stood looking over her shoulder. His face was neutral but Jan knew what that cost him.
‘Best let him in,’ Pete said, before turning to walk back to the kitchen.
‘Come on Nicky, let’s get you inside.’
Nicky smiled. He pulled the plastic wrapped paper from within his jacket and held it to her.
‘Special delivery,’ he said and stood with a groan. He shuffled inside, waiting while Jan closed the door. She patted him on the shoulder then padded down the corridor to the kitchen with Nicky close behind. She indicated a seat and he sat. He reached for a plate of buttered toast and began to munch on a slice.
‘I’ll get some toast then, shall I?’ Pete said, looking meaningfully at the plate Nicky had slid in front of himself. Turning, he popped two more slices into the toaster and studiously ignored Nicky.
‘Ease up, Pete,’ Jan said quietly at his side. ‘Can’t you see something’s worrying him?’
‘Something is always worrying him, for Christ’s sake,’ Pete said. His eyes were hard but he finally relented. ‘I don’t mind him being here, Jan. Honestly. But I have to get to work and I can’t be babysitting him.’
‘Did I ask you too?’ Jan said. Annoyed, she turned and went to the table where she poured herself and Nicky a glass each of orange juice.
Nicky warily glanced between his sister and Pete. He managed a tight smile when she pushed the glass in front of him. He swallowed a mouthful, grimacing at the tartness, then placed the glass back on the table.
‘I’m going up to get ready for work,’ Pete said, leaving his toast half eaten by the sink. He nodded to Nicky. ‘Nice to see you again, Nicky.’ He turned and stalked from the kitchen. The thud of his feet on the stairs echoed overhead then they heard the shower begin to run.
‘Sorry, Janny,’ Nicky said. He took a bite from his toast then dropped it back on the plate.
‘What’s wrong, Nicky? You usually call.’
‘No money,’ he said. Jan saw him rub at the crook of his elbow and felt a wave of despair wash over her.
‘Do you need money, is that what this is? I can spare a bit.’ Jan went to the counter for her purse.
‘No. I don’t want any money,’ Nicky said. He pushed a crumb around with an index finger. Jan dropped her purse, felt the tension knot the muscles in her shoulders. It hurts, she thought, still surprised at the feeling. It still hurts. She turned and looked at Nicky, waiting for him to unburden himself.
‘Do you remember that Christmas when we went to the lake?’ He crushed the crumb into dust. ‘When was that? 1991? No, wait. 1992. I met a girl there, do you remember?’
‘I remember you sneaking out on Christmas Eve to meet her down on the shore and coming back and bumping into Dad while he was filling our stockings.’ Jan laughed and felt some of the ache inside her loosen.
‘He was furious,’ Nicky said. ‘He said it was for sneaking out, but I think it was because I caught him filling my stocking.’ His forehead creased and then after a moment, he shook his head. ‘He died a few months after that.’
‘He did.’ Jan came over at sat next to Nicky. ‘Why did you ask about that?’
‘Last good memory I can remember,’ Nicky said. His lips quirked in a defeated smile. ‘Sorry about Pete. He’s not too bad. I just – ‘
Nicky broke off. The mumbling of the television, a background drone that Jan put on in the morning to break the silence, caught his attention. He abruptly stood, the chair rattling across the floorboards. Ignoring Jan, he fumbled for the remote sitting beside the orange juice and went around the table.
‘ – and just before we go, here’s footage of a flash mob in Japan. This was recorded overnight by passers-by in the Akasaka district of Tokyo. As you can see, Geoff, it appears a group of students took it upon themselves to celebrate the end of the school year with this mass performance.’
Jan walked and stood beside Nicky. She felt a feverish heat rolling off him and saw the sweat beading on his forehead. He held the remote straight in front of him as if aiming a gun at the television. When she put her arm on his shoulder, she felt his whole body vibrate.
‘Nicky? Nicky? Come on, come and sit down.’
He turned his head towards her, and she took a step back. The tendons on his neck stood out, and his eyes were terrified.
‘Don’t you see?’ he said, his voice a strangled whisper. ‘It’s spreading.’ And then, before Jan could grab him, he dropped the remote and bolted for the door.
A few minutes later, Pete came down the stairs, knotting his tie. He walked into the kitchen and saw Jan sitting at the table, looking into the backyard.
‘Nicky’s gone, then?’ he asked, not trying to hide the relief in his voice.
Jan stared out through the window, chewing her lip.
‘And now, the weather,’ chirped the television.
Nicky crouched beside a crumbling brick wall. On his right stood a crooked fence, then a screen of trees hiding the park. In the weeds lay a discarded syringe. Disconnected from himself, he hovered like a balloon, held by a tether that threatened to dissipate without warning. A tiny part of him craved that, a craving as deep as the need to shove a needle into his arm. But like all the other times, he held on against the need to plunge into darkness.
Across the road, Nicky stared dumbly at the rearing wall of a local football ground. Scrawls of graffiti looped and jagged, and the tattered remains of posters flapped in the light breeze. On one of them, a face, leprous from rain and wind, peered slyly at him, as if it understood the bitterest secrets of his heart. He shied from that knowing look, and instead focussed on the dull roar of a crowd inside the ground, the sound rising and falling like waves on a beach, the sound soothing him into the dark.
His eyes opened, and he winced at the brightness of the light. His arm felt numb from elbow to fingertips, the skin cold. He slapped his arm and felt the skin around the scab flare in pain. Biting his lip, he balled his senseless hand into a fist until pins and needles crept through flesh like burrowing centipedes. He winced, fought the pain, and felt a coldness steal over him as the last dregs of the high faded.
Nicky stood and heard his knees crack. He felt a hollowness and recognised with a dull, tired resentment what he needed to fill it. Looking around, he shivered at the oppressive silence. It dawned on him that the crowd in the stadium had gone quiet. He found himself listening for the shouts, the cheers, and the jeering. Nothing.
Pulling his parka tight, Nicky glanced up at a sudden noise and saw a flock of birds veer sharply as one to his left, before turning in a lazy circle that hardened into a compact wheel. Then, with a snap of their wings, they dropped out of sight, towards the gardens on the other side of the alley.
That was when he heard the screaming. Men and women and children engulfed by panic and fear, screaming and screaming and screaming. The thunder of feet, the thud of bodies falling and crashing into each other. Nicky felt the panic begin to infect him, made worse by the trees hiding what had happened inside the park.
Then he saw the birds explode into the sky, veer to the right, wheel, then plummet once again. The screaming, which had dissipated into blurred shouts, rose again, but less this time, hoarse and ragged and broken. At last, he saw people passing the mouth of the alley, their faces and clothes bloody and shredded. Not a few glanced up, terror in their eyes.
A vast shout from the football stadium rolled back and forth made his bones sing. A steady chant emerged from the echoes, accompanied by the tread of thousands of feet pounding as one against the concrete. Bricks rattled in the wall, crashing through the turnstiles before hitting the pavement in a shattering rain. Scared now, Nicky hugged the wall and inched towards the street.
A tight knot of people ran past, casting frequent glances over their shoulders. One, a woman, her wide panicked eyes framed in a face awash with blood, looked at him as she stumbled past. She held a teddy bear in one hand, the soft yellow fabric stained black with blood. Nicky took one look at her and bolted down the street.
It was all over the news that night.
‘Those poor people,’ Jan said, eyes wide between the fingers of one hand gripping her face. Footage of bodies under sheets lining a street, while a serious man in a serious suit looked down the barrel of the camera and mouthed platitudes. Nicky squirmed in his chair, avidly watching the report.
‘Bloody stadium management,’ Pete said, watching the screen. ‘Packing in too many people, especially in those old suburban grounds. Death traps. Should tear the lot down.’
‘It wasn’t that,’ Nicky said and then realised his sister and Pete were looking at him.
‘What was that, Nicky?’ Jan asked. Her eyes were red and haunted.
‘Nothing,’ he mumbled, trying to burrow deeper into the seat.
‘Were you there, Nicky?’ Pete asked. His eyes narrowed.
Nicky felt the pressure of Pete’s gaze.
‘I was around.’
‘Pete,’ Jan said. ‘Leave him.’
‘Leave him? I bloody wish we could.’ His face suffused with blood, Pete rounded on Nicky.
‘What were you doing there?’
‘I didn’t do anything,’ Nicky said, angry now.
‘You don’t do anything, do you?’
‘Pete. That’s enough.’
‘Go on, Jan. Coddle him. He was on the gear again, weren’t you, Nicky? Out in the world, on the smack.’
‘So what if I was? What business is it of yours?’
‘I’m paying your benefits while you bludge with a needle up your arm. Of course it’s my bloody business.’
Pete and Nicky stared at each other, while Jan looked between them both, anger and despair on her face.
‘Nicky, go up to the spare room, okay? Go on.’
The leather creaked as Nicky stood. He looked at the television, where an overhead view of the stadium dominated the screen. Ambulances with blinking lights lined both sides of the street.
‘It wasn’t what you think killed them,’ he said, looking miserable. ‘Something else is going on.’
Before Pete or Jan could reply, he left the living room. Upstairs in the spare bedroom, he laid down. After a while, when the arguing downstairs turned into a shouting match, he rolled over, folded the pillow over his head, and waited for the darkness to claim him.
Pausing in the doorway, Nicky listened to the wailing sirens. They were now a constant counterpoint to the confusion and fear that dominated the news bulletins. Sombre faces staring uneasily at their audience, while their guests argued and pointed and failed to supply an answer. Things had started to crumble, too. Schools and hospitals had closed. Some shops stayed open, but their customers stayed at home, bunkered behind walls that felt as thick as paper. The world held its breath.
Nicky, on the other hand, had squalled like a hungry newborn.
He shuffled through the rubbish clustered inside the doorway; leaves and paper that crunched under his feet. Inside, a smashed light bulb hung from a swaying, frayed cord. The plaster had been stripped from the walls, revealing the studs beneath. The remnants of carpet felt soft and fungal. Glancing in each doorway along the corridor, he saw broken furniture, shattered in a fury. Others rooms were bare chambers that swallowed sound.
He came to a set of stairs at the end of the corridor. He ascended, keeping to the wall, wary of the canted balustrade and the groaning risers. At a landing, the stairs switched back, rose to the next landing and then switched once more. A cracked door, thick with graffiti stood at the top. He touched it, felt the oiliness of fresh paint, then pushed.
A long gallery stood on the other side. Grey webs hung in dirty streamers. Several of the roof tiles had shifted, allowing in sharp beams of light to criss-cross the empty space. In the rafters, pigeons fluttered from one beam to another.
A man slumped in the corner, a black strap hanging loosely from his bicep. Another lolled on the floor beside his feet, a woman with black eyes who slowly blinked as Nicky trod the floorboards. Finally, another woman, her face white, glanced idly up at Nicky as she inserted a needle into the crook of her elbow. Her eyes emptied as he watched. Her head rolled to one side as the needle hung from her flesh like a leech.
‘Nicky.’ Nicky turned at the sound of the soft voice. A man, his skin black, plump, and glossy, sat in the remains of a chair. A bat rested across his lap. When he saw Nicky looking at it, he smiled, revealing a row of crooked, broken teeth.
‘Can’t be too careful,’ he said. ‘The clientele. You know.’
The words came out with such a knowing lilt that Nicky wanted to leave in disgust. He actually took a step, but his eyes locked onto the small plastic bag filled with white that the man held up. Nicky’s disgust drained away, and a yearning hunger replaced it.
‘Been outside, Nicky? Seen what it’s like? Not good. Not good at all. Something better in here, isn’t there?’ He shook the bag. ‘A chance to get away.’
‘Sure,’ Nicky said. The mockery in the dealer’s voice didn’t bother him. What bothered him right then was his need.
‘What’s the price of forgetting?’ The dealer smiled broadly and with a complete lack of warmth. He named a price, five times higher than normal. Nicky nodded and handed the cash without saying a word. He pocketed the bag and turned to leave when he heard movement.
The users in the room all stood in a tight circle, foreheads almost touching. Nicky took a step back, then another. He watched the dealer stand and go over to them.
‘Stop it,’ the man said, moving from one to the other, shaking each by the shoulder. He waved his bat at them. Eyes locked together, they ignored him. Ice crept through Nicky’s veins. As quietly as he could, Nicky moved to stand in the doorway.
‘Goddam it all of you. Stop!’ Nicky heard fear in the dealer’s voice.
They won’t stop, Nicky thought dully. No way, not now, not ever.
In a single motion, each turned and broke into a run and headed for a different window. As one, the leaped, punching through the windows, glass shattering in a sparkling blaze.
An interminable amount of time passed, time in which Nicky stood there watching the dealer stagger over to a window. Then he heard the thuds and the dealer flinched, the bat falling from his hand and rolling away until it disappeared into the shadows.
‘Why?’ he heard the dealer ask. ‘Why did you have to go and do that?’ The man turned around, his face wild, his eyes staring in horror at nothing. Then he twitched, and his eyes fell on Nicky. At the sight of that crazed emptiness, Nick turned and ran. The stairs groaned, and he almost went over the balustrade in his haste. Eventually, he made it to the bottom. He stopped, straining to hear any signs of pursuit. All he heard were the echoes of his passage.
Outside the air was still and hushed. Glass lay in a glittering spray on the weed-choked footpath. He couldn’t quite keep his eyes off the huddled, broken figures lying in the road, their limbs splayed every which way. His hand closed around the plastic bag in his pocket, and he thought about what the dealer had said about forgetting. He set off, the howling of the distant sirens like wolves at his heels.
‘Pete, we have to leave. Don’t you see? Pete?’
Pete stood in the front room, staring through the curtain into the street. Jan saw him shake his head. The skin of his neck had turned red, and blood had crept up into his ears and the edges of his scalp. She thought she heard him mumbling.
The television was off. Pete refused to have it on. When Nicky had tried to turn it on, Pete had pushed him aside and grabbed the cord. He had been on the verge of tearing it from the back of the set until Jan had shouted at him. She remembered the hurt, confused look in his eyes, then he had shuffled over to the window. He’d been standing there for almost half an hour.
Jan almost jumped when she felt a hand grip her arm. Nicky let go. His face was pale, eyes red but clear.
‘We can’t stay, Janny,’ he said. ‘There’s too many people.’
Something unspoken passed between them. Before Pete had demanded the television stay off, they had all seen the footage on the news. A tired, scared looking anchor in a disheveled suit and off-centre tie had introduced it, his eyes constantly darting to the side of the camera as if searching for an answer.
The footage had come from CCV cameras stationed at either end of the Victoria Street station. The platform curved slightly, the far end lost in gentle static. The timestamp at the bottom read 8.28am, that morning. The voiceover from an exhausted reporter advised that the coming train, which appeared in the top right corner, was the city bound express.
Janny had wept as several hundred people suddenly straightened and marched towards and off the edge of the platform, bodies piling up like spilled matches in the grainy black and white footage. The train, going at over 100 kilometres per hour, ploughed into the human wreckage carpeting the track, and before Pete turned the television off, they had all seen bodies and limbs cartwheeling through the air.
‘Not going.’ Pete turned his head. Sweat ran in rivulets down his pasty face. ‘I’m not going.’
Jan opened her mouth to reply, but Nicky spoke first.
‘We have to go, Pete. Come on. Things will be…they’ll be better down at the lake house.’
‘The lake house? What’s down at the lake house that we can’t have here?’ Pete’s strained voice cracked like a piece of rotten board. He lurched around to stare at Nicky and Jan. His hands balled, then loosed, balled, then loosed.
‘He’s right, Pete,’ Jan said. Things aren’t right. We’ll all be safer down-‘
‘At the lake house. You both keep fucking saying that. You’d bloody love to get me down there, away from my house. My house.’ He punctuated the last words by slamming his open palm into his chest. The hollow sound felt like a slap.
‘Whatever you do, Pete, Jan’s not staying,’ Nicky said, surprising his sister. ‘She can’t stay here.’
‘The junkie’s grown a spine, has he? Back chatting me in my own house, you little turd.’ Pete lurched forward, one hand clenched into a fist. Nicky straightened, but refused to step back.
‘Enough.’ Whether it was the rising tension, or her tiredness and sorrow, but Jan rounded on them.
‘We’ll pack some things and get in the car and all three of us will take a drive down to the lake house. Maybe all this will blow over and we can put it behind us but I will not spend another night here.’ Jan didn’t realise she was weeping until Nicky put an arm around her shoulder and held her hand.
Pete’s shoulders slumped. Something seemed to flow out of him and he stood there, diminished.
Jan nodded her thanks to Nicky then went over to Pete. She took his hand and then rubbed his cheek.
‘Come on, then. Just a few clothes for a couple of nights.’ He nodded, like a tired boy, and then she led him up the stairs. Before she moved out of sight, she looked down at Nicky, who had taken up Pete’s spot in front of the window, gnawing on a thumbnail and considering the street.
The car rolled to a stop at the intersection. The traffic light cycled through twice.
‘Where is everyone?’ Pete asked in a little boy’s voice. Jan looked sharply at him from the passenger seat.
‘Doesn’t matter, okay? Just drive.’
Then they heard it. The engine’s soft rumble was swamped by the sound of thousands of marching feet. The car seemed to vibrate, as if rocking from side to side on its springs as the rumbling drew closer. First one, then another and soon dozens of lines of people appeared, marching down one of the streets towards them. Arms swung as one, feet pounding the bitumen as one, a ten thousand strong human centipede that moved so perfectly it seemed to Nicky to be as delusional as one of his nightmares.
‘Pete? For God’s sake. We have to go.’
Pete, who had been staring out the window with rapt fascination, turned to Jan. She flinched at the look on his face and Nicky was suddenly afraid.
‘Sense. That’s what they need. They need someone to talk some bloody sense into them. Get them to understand this all has to stop. To stop.’ Before Jan could restrain him, Pete cracked open the door and stepped outside. He closed it with a soft click.
Jan tried to follow, but Nicky dragged her back before she could open her door. She struggled against his arm, but when she saw the look in his eyes reflected in the visor mirror, she relaxed, then started to sob.
Like a flock of crows sitting on a power line, the crowd stood still, watching. It seemed that they breathed in time, a great, many brained creature that responded as one. They didn’t twitch, or scratch, or shuffle from side to side. They stood, heads slightly cocked as if listening for a command they knew would surely come.
Pete staggered towards them like a broken puppet, the complete opposite of their perfection. He stumbled and almost fell, but dragged himself upright.
In the car, Jan and Nicky heard him shout and then begin to laugh. Despair and hysteria crowded the laughter, making him sound like he was in agony. When he reached the front of the line, Nicky held his breath. But Pete marched along the front, pointing at people’s faces, shouting at them until spittle flew from his mouth. Nothing. Even from where they sat, Nicky could see the same inward-looking gaze, a gaze that didn’t allow for any individuality. The same look he had seen on the train platform what seemed a decade ago.
‘Oh God,’ Jan breathed, her hand rising to her mouth. Pete had stopped shouting, and simply stood still, breathing heavily. Then his head cocked to one side, and Nicky swore he could see the corner of his mouth curl up in a smile. The line parted before him, and Pete disappeared through it, swallowed as neatly and cleanly as if he were a mouse and the crowd a cat.
‘Pete?’ Janny said, wonderingly. ‘Pete!’ She screamed, her voice rising and rising until it broke.
‘Drive,’ Nicky said, his voice barely above a papery whisper. Jan glanced frantically at him, then turned and saw what he saw. Frightened, she dragged herself over to the driver’s side and gunned the engine. It rose from a roar to a shuddering whine, then she dropped it into gear.
Wheels screamed and smoked and an acrid stink rose to fill the cabin as the car slewed to one side, the back end gliding past the front rank of the crowd. In the back seat, Nicky watched them through the rear window and felt that many-eyed gaze staring emptily at him. He watched until they dwindled out of sight, and then he slumped to one side, staring blankly while Janny drove and wept.
A storm crackled over the hills at the far end of the lake. Standing in the dark on the balcony, Nicky watched lightning arc across the sky, illuminating the roiling clouds from within. A rising wind ruffled his hair. Underneath everything, he felt an itch deep within the crook of his elbow begin to take hold.
‘It’s cold, Nicky,’ Jan said. She held out a jacket for him. He took it. It was Pete’s. He put it on without comment, then turned back to the lake.
‘Can’t get any reception up here,’ she said, joining him at the railing. The skin under her eyes was black and there were lines newly etched into her face.
‘Probably for the best,’ Nicky said. He looked at her, feeling awkward. She shook her head.
‘It’s all right,’ Jan said. ‘Kind of. At least…at least Pete is…’
‘Get some rest,’ Nicky said. ‘We’ll see the lay of the land tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow?’ Jan shook her head again and managed a dry laugh. She gave him a quick hug, then went back through the door.
Waves lapped at the shore beneath Nicky in a silver line of foam on a white shingle beach that ran either side of the house before disappearing beneath the trees hugging the shore.
‘Tomorrow,’ he said, and shivered.
Robert Mammone lives in Melbourne, Australia. He's been published in Doctor Who Magazine, Midnight Echo, Pseudopod.org, Tales of the Zombie War, Darker Minds, Darkest Minds, Under the Bed, FictionMagazine, Encounters Magazine, Workshop of Filthy Creations, The Big Book of Best Short Horror, the BFS 2010 Winter Journal and Ill at Ease 2.
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