Afterflood 5 - Guilt and Gish
I felt Heather move against my back, wriggling out of bed. I was hungover, sort of tired but happy tired, sated with sex. I rolled towards her and remembered. This wasn’t Heather.
It was Judith, a newly minted widow. She was naked and her body evinced some severe sex recognition in my near consciousness. Despite my wretched guilt the deed replayed itself like some sort of looped youtube clip of real crime.. I hadn’t even asked, I’d just done. This was really bad shit.
I reached for her, grabbing her right hip. She turned around, lines of sorrow and despair reaching down her face to her mouth where they worked her words,
“What happened, it was , was…”
I interrupted her, needing something, focusing on the wrong and driven by a big kick of guilt,
“Rape . I raped you.” Shouldn’t admit it but there it was. The worst thing aside from murder you could render unto a woman. And she’d just lost her husband. The fact that she’d crawled into my bed added no justification.
“ There was no consent, no asking, I just forced the issue when you were in no condition to stop me.” I kept on but not for long, being completely arse at explaining all of this,
“ Fucking hell! This is totally fucked! “ I shuddered, turned away from her, grabbing the water bottle from the bedside table, thus grabbing a second’s worth of respite from the guilt apocalypse..
She turned fully to face me as I put the bottle back down, reaching over to grab it. Her nakedness was a killing reminder of what I’d done yet I couldn’t look away. She swigged down a couple of gulps then leaned back. She seemed composed. I felt like shit and must have looked it.
“What I was going to say was that what happened was wrong and probably mainly your fault. I did contribute by lying against you and when you had that nightmare I felt compelled, no , needed to try and bring you out of it. I just didn’t expect you to call me Heather and work me into well you know. I just , well , needed something, some sort of comfort. Sort of like you did.“ Past Indiscretions decided to jump up and down in front of my lens, just like kids on the boundary at the SCG when Ponting’s getting interviewed. I had the security apes shunt them away, bursting their balloons. Not now, please.
She looked at me, still with that sorrowful look and said,
“But I don’t reckon it was rape. I didn’t stop you. It was shameful for us both and we shouldn’t have. But we did, it’s done and its over. In any case we need to get moving.”
She then got up and walked out, draping herself in my beach towel. I felt like a right bastard as I watched her do it but immediately processed some sort of justification for what I’d done. It was heaps easier to deal with that way and I was always one for taking a cheap and easy option. I now had an inkling of what went through Warney’s mind each week. I got up, hunted down clean jocks and dressed in the Newtown Jets footy jumper I’d picked up for five bucks at Vinnies, cargo trousers with many pockets, Mac Uni footy socks and my fave steel capped Blunnies. Took five minutes but worth it. Then I realised I should have abluted first. This rape business had me totally out of synch. I declad myself to shorts and Pennant Hills soccer shirt which was getting smaller on me by the hour. It smelt as if I hadn’t washed or worn it for a year and felt a size or two smaller than I remembered. It was correct in its assessment of both my hygiene and girth. Fuck I hate clothes which tell you the truth in terms of incontrovertible scientific method. No matter how often I tried the fucker on, the evidence couldn’t be denied. Fuck science, give me blind faith and I’ll follow Flying Spaghetti Monster as long as he tells me I’m right and inconvenient evidence is evil. Speaking of evidence I encountered Judith in the hall near the kitchen. She still looked calm and now freshly showered.
“There’s still some hot water. You should use it.”
I turned back and watched her walk to the bedroom, my bedroom, wondering when the shit storm of retribution would start. I took the coward’s way out and checked out the hot water taps. My parents had installed a solar hot water system around about when I’d lost my first tooth. It had electric back-up which was flogged remorselessly through the family’s teenage years. I could still remember the first icky unclogging of the shower drain. It had been an element of my dad’s version of hard truth which stood me in good stead in my share house days. What stood us now in good stead was his forethought in getting solar backed up by mains electricity. I was really starting to miss my parents, getting a big hate on for this orphan bullshit. End result was that I climbed up into the roof, checked the solar tank and clambered back down. Then took a shower. A fucking hard beating, wide spraying mother of a shower. Someone with fancy words would have described it in a lot of big phrases about me trying to wash out guilt. Probably would throw in some Shakespeare, maybe even some Dante references but all I felt was that glorious beat down of hot water, pounding on my skin.
I dried, paddled out to my bedroom and reclothed myself. Then I went back to the laundry, clambered back into the ceiling and turned off the switches on the hot water tank. Now it was time to take care of business. I went down to the kitchen, filled the kettle, turned on the gas stove and didn’t shove my head in the oven. Just put on a kettle and a frying pan with some water in it. Still had four eggs and they were getting poached. I was amazed these things like gas and power were still working. Fuck the amazement, crack the damn eggs and get breakfast happening. Mr Toaster obliged himself and the UHT milk, tea bags and a couple of apples meant we had a breakfast under way. Fucking genius. The non genius aspect of my behaviour soon appeared in the form of Judith.
“We have to get the fuck out!” was her greeting to a plate of poached eggs and toast accompanied by a mug of English Breakfast. Her outburst didn’t stop us from eating, slurping down the tea and refilling water bottles. We washed up, stowed the plates and cutlery and went around the house turning off every power point. I switched off the power mains and removed the fuses, putting them in the telephone table drawer, leaving a note for Later Times. By fuck I was good at avoiding important personal shit. Keep busy, pretend the small gear is important even if it’s irrelevant. All the time under the urgent coaching of Judith. Then I remembered she hadn’t been back to her house, her marital home which she’d just enjoyed until yesterday with her champion husband Greg. I checked my old wardrobe one more time. Behind my musty graduation suit, an old hammock and a plywood home -made wave rider was my old hand spear. The rubber was still intact, the three accompanying spearheads were in good order, all thanks to my young nephew who’d stolen, used and refurbished the kit before having to hand it back due to his dad’s insistence that he work for and buy his own. Gotta love the Protestant Work Ethic, especially when you’re thinking ‘mmm …weapons’. Grabbed it, stowed it in the boot.
I walked back into the dining room where Judith was unplugging the chargers, phones, laptop and tapping her right foot against the table. Bail time. We reconned the front, me hefting the shottie and jerkily looking around while we moved into Judith and Greg’s house. Didn’t even check the capped zeds out front. Judith went around the house, picking things up, putting them down, moving from room to room. I followed for a minute or so but it wasn’t happening. I knew what she was doing and waited, keeping watch at the back window then moving to the front, trying to look soldierly proficient amidst a shit storm of angst and loss. Eventually she was finished. She had a suitcase, backpack and overnight bag stuffed full. I took them out to the car, stowed them and waited. Judith walked back out carrying two shopping bags of salvaged food. I wondered whether she’d rescued Greg’s stash of his fave tipple, Wild Turkey. It wasn’t my first choice but would do in a tight clinch cut with dry ginger ale, just as it had on a couple of occasions after I’d wandered in to their house, bereft and still numb after mum had died. Yeah, it was all about my fucking sorrow.
“That’s it. It’s all over, all gone. Get me out of here. “ Judith was dealing.
We drove up to the Beecroft Fire Station past three dead zeds, a couple of trashed Volvo sports wagons and a smashed up bicycle. All that was missing was a few crushed trays of espressos and soy lattes.
The fire station dudes had both of our Evac dockets. We were amongst the last of the stragglers. Aside from a score or so of fellow reffos all that were left of officaildom were three cops, five army guys who manned a fuck off monster special forces truck and ten orange vested SES people, mostly middle aged women with chocolate desire and contempt for blokes like me worn on their souls. They barely acknowledged the cops and soldiers as I sauntered through with my shottie, just looked at me with a knowing and condescending “this wanker won’t last” look. I didn’t notice that but Judith did. I was more interested in the army gear. That truck was the most awesomest machine I’d seen in real life context. It was the shiznettest, fitted with all terrain tyres, big machine guns and cannon type things, a snorkel and a ripping fucking decal of an angry koala which hefted a machine gun, wore killer sunnies and had a caption “Killer K.”
One of the orange ladies brought me back down.
“While you’ve been doing you’re military porn perv we’ve sussed out your evac spots. You’re okay in the final convoy to the west, HAC has you listed. Your companion isn’t as lucky. She’s listed for Lorne. Great Ocean Road, just past Bleak City.” She handed me two dockets. I turned around to Judith and gave her hers. This was it and my manning the fuckupingness was not in bulk supply. My memories of the previous night and Greg’s selflessness did pop in, just to zoo me out some more. Judith’s plan had been to go with Greg. His plan was to sort out his Illawarra clan and then head to Lorne in a kitted out Hi Lux he’d worked up. On his way back with that Hi Lux he was caught up in the zed storm at Holy Cross College Ryde, selling his life at the barricades. He was a fucking champion and I hated being reminded of my lesserness. Fuck it. I turned to the SES lady and told her,
“If Judith wants to go there, I’ll go with her. If she wants to come with me, I’ll take her. But I need to find Heather. Need that right now.” I gave her Heather’s evac details at Berowra. I looked guiltily at Judith as she checked her mobile. I’d forgotten that sort of shit, the ’cloud’ , tweetersville, FB, blogs, being all worried about my rape of Judith and being an orphan and all the rest of that crap. Your honour I submit that since I’d been evil I’d seen a mighty military truck and been questioned by knowing women. “ Oh yeah,” the judge said, “well fuck off and sort yourself out son or its hella time for you.”
Judith did one of those tap on the opposite shoulder and watch you react to a supposedly invisible prompt thing. I fell for it being all nerv jangly. I loved the smile of her reaction. She then said she wasn’t going to Lorne, nor was she blindly following me. I decided it was time for a chat. During the chat she explained to me that a few times over the past three years she’d wondered about the youngest son of her next door neighbour. Wondered about his sexuality, his relationships and basically all that crap which makes chicks lose sleep. Then that bloke had blundered into her house a couple of times when firstly his dad had died, (expected), then again when his mother had been ill in hospital (unexpected) and when his mum had unexpectedly died (total shock).
I remembered. First time I’d just stumbled in, embraced by both Greg and Judith and sobbed a minute of mortal realisation. The next time I’d been serious, trying not to garner sympathy. I fell into their arms and Greg’s supply of Johnny Walker and Wild Turkey. Apparently Judith had to tuck me into bed in their sunroom, me being untransportable, even for three metres. I was apparently clingy and gropey and she shrugged it off. The third time was the day after mum had died and Greg came in to the house, slung our family to his house and made us sit in their company with whiskey, beer, gin and wine. Before it went silly I went to the bottle shop and stocked up big time. Top shelf whiskey, gin, rum and beer. Ended up with an unofficial wake including mum’s local church minister, some cousins and neighbours. It was brilliant and summed up Greg and Juidth. Top. Fucking. People. After my siblings left that night Judith took care of me. Laughed off the clumsy groping and allotted one sloppy tongue kiss as fair sympathy comfort. Then another and a breast feel before disengaging. That was old news which I had glossed over. Until zed emergency perspective kicked in.
Judith read me. Chicks always either know or have a good fucking line to SportsBet odds on “Bloke Thought’s” chances. She nailed it,
“I love Greg, always will. What you and I did was what we did. I didn’t want it but somehow, I dunno, it seemed to work for me, to lose myself in trthe moment. I have to deal with that guilt. I think I can and I reckon Greg understands what went on. Those times we pashed and you groped, he laughed off after I told him. He knew there was no threat and it was sympathy comfort. I dunno, I reckon that’s what happened last night but on a grander scale. I don’t think it was rape.”
I looked up from the sausage sanger the orange vested woman had given me and uttered,
“Yeah, look, I have that whole guilt thing to deal with but I’m glad you’re not aiming to have me shot. It does matter to me, a lot. So what are you going to do now. You coming to HAC?”
She looked at me, looked at the women wearing the orange vests, the cops, army guys and the big fuck off army truck then said,
“You go find that girl, Heather. You called her name too much last night not to find out. Lorne’s a non starter for me now. As you are.” She then sniffed, trying to hold back, then fell into me. Well, it was me more falling into her. I shuffled danced her past the crew and sleazed us back into the station garage. Then I kissed her long, hard and thoroughly and she did the same back. I even got me some final groping. So did she. But that was it. No more. No, not again, was not going to happen. But it did. By jingies I’m an arsehole.
Finally we eased ourselves apart. I had only one thing to say and that was,
“Thank you. Thank you from the depths of my rotten heart,”
Judith dialled up the smile by a few giggawatts, saying,
“Now that was totally in order. Also the last time. A nice memory for both of us, of better times ços we’re about to enter the bad times. And I have an idea of how I’m jumping into those.” She then nodded to the orange vesters.
“You need that Heather girl. Go and find her. Go and find your life. “
We hugged and kissed then turned from each other.
I went out and checked my car for fluids and tyre pressure. Topped the tank from a jerry can, topped water, all the time keeping an eye out for Judith. She reappeared in orange vest, sporting a data pad, a machine gun and the look I’d seen just after she’d capped her first zed. The last ten evac cars were occupied by drivers and passengers waiting for a go signal. The senior orange vest gave it as one cop car led off and another waited to be tail end Charlie. The last I saw of Judith was a brief wave, a flick of hair and a smile. I mouthed another ‘thank you’ and drove off.
On the way to Berowra the convoy split. We stopped at the last local petrol station at Hornsby to restock fuel then I turned off to Heather’s place, just out of Hornsby Heights. I was now on my own unless I took the very final convoy option from Mt Kuring-gai tomorrow, heading west. All around similarly outskirted Sydney suburbs the same thing was happening. The city, its suburbs, its dark conflicted soul were going to be cleansed. I headed towards the Berowra Waters turn off and then saw a bunch of zeds. Must have been thirty or fourty of the evil fuckers. I was behind their stumbling march and they hadn’t heard me yet. I checked my ammo, still had a few hundred shells. I figured the zeds were heading down to Berowra Waters. A lot of old people heading that way until you hit the Hawkesbury. I watched them. They went down the main road, not down Heather’s. Three minutes later I pulled up outside her parent’s place. The first thing I noticed was a dozen or so zeds piled up against the neighbours’ fence. Go girl!
Out of the car, shottie in hand I stood a few metres away from her house. And yelled,
“Heather! You’re fucking gorgeous!”
A couple of flickers from front curtains, a slowly opened front door and there she was. She also had a shottie aimed right at me. Fuck, she must have somehow found about my doings with mum’s neighbour. She yelled out ‘Duck!’. I dropped, turning around at the same time, doing an impression of one of those straws which barkeeps falsely believe chicks like to see in crap cocktails.
I ate dirt
I spat out the dirt.
Then I twisted a look behind me. Two zeds. Once again I wondered where the fuck they’d come from. I needed to get a zed Tom-Tom. That was not my next thought as Heather rushed up, stinking of that smoke which shotties give off (oh yeah, acrid stench of cordite anyone? Bueller ?).
I launched into her, our shotties clashing in some sort of mating dance while I just hugged the living bejaysus out of her until she almost died. Oh yeah. That clingy stuff needed to be tempered. Then she launched into me. Took a minute, a long minute for us to disentangle. The shotties needed a bit more time to break away from their blind date passion.
After the mental cold showers we needed to check out old dead zed. I covered while she reloaded. How often do you get to say that sort of shit? Too fucking often as it turned out.
I looked at the zeds. I recognised both faces despite their zed-fucked visages. Alan fucking Jones and Tony fucking Abbott. Ultra right wing shock jock and fear mongering contender for Prime Ministership. In all of the crap we were facing apparently there were some bonuses. Then I noticed a pile of other capped zeds further down the road. All wearing remnants of expensive suits and all adorned with those lanyards worn by VIP’s. Confused was me thinking that cunts like this were gonna be tucked up nicely in secret lairs guarded by hundreds of special forces minions. That’s what was meant to happen wasn’t it? Gladly not.
Maybe not so gladly given that their resources were far greater than mine and they’d ended up being capped by a bikini babe who had a predeliction for getting the frighteners put on by jelly fish. Time for moving, time for action, it’s time for something anyway. Heather looked at me, one of those looks which wants to know the truth but hopes you’ll give a plausible explanation of past events. Well, that’s according to simplistic immature bloke thinking anyway. Basically all she wanted to know was,
“We still on for Hawkesbury?”
I grabbed and hugged her again. Sure it was needy but she was looking really fucking gorgeous.
“You are fucking gorgeous.” I had to remind her and explain my grabbiness. Probably really didn’t need to but did anyway.
“And yes, we’re getting the fuck out of here. Let’s pack it up.”
As we walked past Jones and Abbott I just had to do it. I rammed the butt of my shottie into their ugly zed skulls, making that ugly zed skull gishing sound which was becoming increasingly familiar.
Oh yeah, a lot of that zed skull splacking going on these days.
I followed Heather into her house and we went through each room, making it safe. Turned off the power, the mains, took out fuses and Heather grabbed the last of her cold food from the fridge. She’d already stacked the rest of her food into three cartons. Heather had also stacked a backpack and overnight bag near the front door. She put them in her Barina.
“Not coming in mine?” I asked.
“Two cars is better. Means we have a spare.” I helped her finish packing the car. Then she led me back into the house and gave me a last tour. We checked out the back yard, me taking in her childhood playground for the first time, she looking at it for what could be the last time. She had that wistful, sentimental look which people get when they’re about to leave a holiday house after a fortnight of escape and beachside fun. I got to her just as a couple of tears started leaking out. We clung to each other for a minute or so then checked the Cloud. Everything was as it should be in terms of family and friends. We logged our own updates then locked the house. I hoisted her last bag and took it to her car. It was loaded up. On the back seat I noticed one of those machine gun things which soldiers use, pointed to it and glanced a question at her.
“One of Dad’s. He had a few of them and didn’t hand them in during the gun buy back and amnesty gigs. It’s Chinese, An hour after using it you feel like using it again.”She then laughed at her own joke.
“Remind me to avoid feeding time. Right to go? “ She nodded. I went to my car, stepping around Abbott’s gished zed skull and noticed that Jonesy was still recognisable. I gished him again and got in my car. After reversing back and fronting the way out I waited for Heather’s Barina to line up in my rear vision. She drove straight over Jones. His skull popped as she backed and filled, a gishy zed skull. She gished him again as she followed me up the street. She sure hated shock jocks. The Hornsby Evac centre was at the high school. It had a score of cop cars, another monster army truck, a smaller army battle truck, two army transport trucks and at least fifty army people, thirty-odd cops and a few dozen of the orange vest volunteers. Several machine gun emplacements were up, each manned by a couple of soldiers. Council trucks were lined up in front of ten Hills buses. I noticed more soldiers walking the perimeter in groups of four.
Both of our cars were directed to the oval where we parked in line with dozens of others. Heather and I were then directed to the main building where the set was once again reminiscent of elections. It didn’t take us long to get processed into a small convoy heading to Hawkesbury. It consisted of our two cars, a bus, eight other cars, three cop cars and four trucks. The trucks were filled with tinned, dry and bottled supplies. The organisation of it all was way beyond me. We had ten minutes before our convoy left. I went up to one of the orange vested women and asked if she had contact with Beecroft. I gave her Judith’s name. She pulled out her data slate and tapped a few keys. A minute later she looked up and said,
“She;s still there. She’s volunteered to be amongst the last ones to clear out. They expect that to be in an hour or so. That’s the best we can do. Hawkesbury may be able to get in contact.” She scribbled some notes on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.
“Give that to the HAC team. They’ll do what they can. Now fuck off, we’re busy. Oh, and good luck.”
While this was happening I noticed Heather talking to a young bloke who was wearing bushfiure fighter gear. I walked over and she introduced me.
“This is Scotty, Scotty this is Terry.”
We shook hands. Apparently Scotty was an old family friend and was one of those blokes who had eager beaver written all over him. He also had a couple of fresh bruises and was carrying an automatic rifle, slung over a shoulder. That sort of eager beaverness would come in handy in his role of providing fire expertise. His job was to burn zeds and to that end he was part of a crew in charge of one truck full of flame throwers and another regular fire tender. He wasn’t full of gung ho, just an almost elderly sense of having been dealt a dirty hand and making the best of a shitpile of disaster and madness. His crew ere going with the main convoy to Penrith. Apparently the Penrith panthers complex was now a fortified bastion. Hawkesbury Agricultural College was going to be its food bowl. We said our goodbyes and took our place in the HAC convoy. The lead cop drove off, the second cop was in the middle and the third was at the end of the convoy. The buses were all half full and sported four soldiers and two cops each as security. All of them were armed and one of the trucks had been fitted with an evil looking machine gun. Thus was the convoy tooled up with weapons, zed, for the capping thereof. Oh yeah, a lot of that zed capping going on these days.