Monday, 4 May 2009 - 7:47 pm

Dead man walking

Sax. Our friend, our father-figure. The man who taught us to sing and said prayers for us. He’s gone, and I don’t think we’ll ever get him back.

Yesterday, we packed up without any hope of seeing him again. We strapped our gear onto the scooters and wheeled them outside onto the orange space between the long morning shadows. It was Nugget who spotted him down the street; she stopped and stared, her eyes wide. It wasn’t until Jones hissed at him that the rest of us noticed.

He was moving towards us, slowly, dragging his feet, slump-shouldered and drooping. He came out of the sun, casting his shadow down the road at us. None of us moved, barely dared to breathe, as we watched him approach.

It didn’t look like him. If it wasn’t for that familiar checked shirt, I wouldn’t have believed it was really Sax. His dark skin was grey underneath, and it was flaking off him as if he had been scorched. He didn’t seem to have noticed. He stumbled and wavered, but he kept moving steadily towards us, his head lifting as if he was a dog scenting food.

He didn’t look at us – his eyes moved around but never seemed to fix or focus on anyone. A couple of us said his name, partly out of shock, partly hoping that he might hear us and stop, smile and say he was kidding. He didn’t hear us, he didn’t stop. His slack expression never faltered. He just kept coming, as determined as the tide clawing up the beach.

When he got close to us, he lifted his hands and reached for the first body he came to. That was when I noticed his hands – he had at least a couple of broken fingers, the skin torn and stained with dried blood, just like the man we saw at the window a couple of nights before. As if he has been tearing his way through the world one fingernail at a tme. Matt skittered out of reach, and so did Thorpe and Sally. Sax didn’t seem to mind, turning to go after whoever was closest to him.

None of us knew what to do. We moved out of reach and watched with terrible fascination as he simply turned and kept coming. Mine weren’t the only eyes blinking back tears. We called him by name, begged him to see us, begged him to let us know that he was still in there. He wasn’t; he was empty. Our friend was gone.

“Masterson, what’s wrong with him?” I asked.

He was staring along with the rest of us. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Sax was homing in on Sally again and she pleaded with him. She didn’t move out of his way that time and his hands closed around her arms. She sobbed and struggled, and then screamed when he opened his mouth. His teeth were stained rusty with old blood and he let out a low moan. He leaned in and stretched his mouth open as if he wanted to take a bite out of her.

That was when the others moved in. They tried to pry his hands off her, but he gripped deeply enough to leave bruises. It took three of them to pull one hand free. Someone hit his other arm with a metal pipe and there was an awful crunch. He didn’t let go, though, and he almost tore Sally’s other arm off before they could get her out of his grasp. Once she was freed, there was a mad scrabble to let go of Sax without getting caught by him. Somewhere in the mess of it, he sank his teeth into Ben’s shoulder.

We skittered out of his way, and he was hit more than once to stop him from latching onto anyone else. He didn’t seem to notice. A cut was opened across the back of his hand but it barely bled. He didn’t even flinch; he just kept coming. He didn’t show pain, or anger, or frustration, or sorrow. He didn’t show anything at all, just kept reaching for us with a hungry, hollow moan and Ben’s blood trickling down his face.

Something broke. We shouted at him and each other. We grabbed our gear and the scooters, pulling ourselves on and starting them up. Thorpe grabbed Nugget and I pulled Ben onto the seat behind me. Dillon got to drive his own scooter for once. We tore out of there, hearts thumping in our throats, and we didn’t look back. We kept going until the cafe was blocks behind us and the sky was thickening with rain.


Holed up for the night, no-one wanted to talk about it. We patched each other up and huddled in the dark, trying not to think of our friend’s empty eyes and bloodied face.

We left him behind in our panic. I don’t know what else we could have done. Masterson doesn’t know what’s wrong with him or if he can be fixed. I feel bad for not sticking with him, but I never want to see him like that again. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I’m suffocating.

We couldn’t speak about it yesterday; none of us wanted to face it. Today, we haven’t moved on – there’s been too much arguing. Anger has crept in to cover our fear and is venting itself in any direction it can find. I’m afraid of what’s going to happen next. I’m afraid of what I might see next.