An Excerpt: The Third Moment

Chapter 4

Screams. Blood. Death that came in oozes through cracks; black claws that dragged viscera in a trail over the floor. Something reached for her; electrified hairs lifted in a crackly, sparkly line from her wrists to her shoulders. The neck hairs followed, lifted and sizzled with the new energy.

Something was about to happen. Something was coming. For her? To rescue or to finish? Evinna didn’t know, but any change was better than this. She wriggled her wrists in the plastic cuffs, tested for even a small measure of space, lifted it to her mouth to chew. No movement. Nothing. Too tight. The plastic bit so deep her hands were swollen and hard and dark. Something would have to happen soon, or this would be her end. The end.

No.

Evinna threw her body up, eyes wide open, mind wide-awake, heart pounding; body sweaty and tense and jittery. A dream. It was a dream. Ragged breaths panted from her mouth to the cold damp air, wobbled and vibrated in smoky wisps of fog.

Wintery light oozed a green hue through the dirty glass window, outlined the shape of feet hanging off the bunk ends.

Early. Her hands shook. She rubbed her wrists – no ties, but the skin was red and swollen and hot. Her ears still heard the screams from the nightmare.

Should she get up? A breath blew out like a rainmaker, took some of the freeze from her limbs, loosened her mind.

No noise came from the other bunks. Well, except gentle snores, growls, soft farts. Sleep sounds. Hands dangled to the floor from under plumpy doonas. Five other bunks with doonas and lumps. The people who came for the Eartch course.

She wished the accommodation was decent, not this draughty and cold, run-down and mouldy, old and decrepit scout-hall tin-shed thing in the middle of a dank half-hearted attempt at a lake. Last night would have been so much . . . more.

The bunk opposite hers – that lumpy bit was Billy.

Her breath deepened and sped up to match the increased pulse rate. Her mind drifted to the things that happened last night. His hands, his lips, his eyes. Soft brown skin that sent senses a-scatter in every direction all at once, to return with a crash of cymbals right in the middle of her heart. She still felt it. A slight touch here, there, a whisper as skin slid on skin, as hearts beat in unison.

The magic of their night drifted over her like an aura, enfolded and warmed her, brought a flush to her cheeks. Evinna sighed; deep contentment flowed through her veins. She felt alive, so fully aware of life.

A half-heard memory tried to rattle her thoughts. The dream, the screech of a whistle that pierced through the fading darkness. She pushed the nightmare back into insignificance, away. Not now.

Her tongue licked her lips, rubbed at her teeth. Yeccht. First, coffee. She shoved the doona off and slid across the floor in her socks, pulled the wrapper around her shoulders as she slid into a glissade (in her mind, anyway), soared into the dawn, slithered to the door.

A discordant squeal as she opened the door with once-yellow paint that peeled and slivered in its own dance of shape and colour to land the floor with many of its friends.

The floorboards squeaked when she stepped into the middle of the hall. Crap. She’d forgotten that. Did anyone hear? She smiled, in her mind swirled a pirouette across the room to him, a triple-axel spin and leap over his body. Breathed in his scent, his laughter, his deep growl when . . . Breathed out. Checked for movement from the other bunks.

No change; no sounds, no grumbles.

Time for coffee. Evinna put her hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh or squeal or giggle, tiptoed close to the far wall to avoid any more noises, made her way to the kitchen-diner common area.

The long table was clean, plates and cups and cutlery set out on the white cotton table-cloth ready for the next meal. The urn – quiet. She tapped the side. Thonk. Full. Flicked on the switch at the wall, waited for the crackle and hum of start-up, dragged the cupboard doors open; another tooth-tearing squeak – must have been a long time since this place was used; found the coffee, tea bags, chocolate powder – all new, unopened. Coffee mocha. The best drink for . . . after. She swung her body in adagio, a circle, arms soared and spun, body twirled as her legs dipped and dived, flipped and flung up and curled in to counter-balance the sensuous spin. Her eyes skidded, became motionless as she saw it on the large wall behind the wonky trestle table covered in glaring white cotton.

The dance stopped, mid leap. Eyes widened.

A tanned skin hung there. Was it there last night?

Maybe, maybe not. Evinna remembered Billy. The moment he touched her hand, the moment their eyes met. Nothing else existed. She could have missed an elephant.

She would have missed a wall hanging.

The urn crackled. She touched it – still cold; she turned and walked to the skin.

Not well tanned. Lumpy bits. What animal did this skin come from? Small head, long body and limbs. The shape . . .?

Frowned, scowled as something bit at her memory; her eyes skimmed down the hide, rapido. Stopped. Widened. A scar. The backward seven. Her fingers remembered it. She raised her hand – no, not . . . Remembered sliding over the ridges. Her lips remembered the shape of it, the taste of it, traced by her tongue.

Air tarnished to orange and black stripes, solid, couldn’t get past her lips. Her hands lunged . . . The wall slid sideways. The skin tilted – horizontal? Blackness shadowed in from the sides, left only a diminished tunnel of half-light. A focus for . . .

A sonic horn shrilled. Sirens cut the air and screamed and screamed and screamed, the pitch higher and higher, ear-splitting. Evinna heard the thump as her head bounced on the timber floorboards. The hands, her hands, played out a twitchy dance on the mouldy-coloured timber. Muggy air from the swamp lifted in stringy wafts through the cracks in the floor; danced in the vortex her hands created as they flapped and slapped in a manic patter. Two nails cracked and tore.

Flakes fell from the crinkly, dried-up skin, flowed in the damp air, rolled with it, became . . .

Her eyes wouldn’t close, things were both clearly outlined and blurred and distorted and rippled with tension within the point of focus. Oily rags under the bottom of the cupboards, covered in webs and dust. A mist slid out through the slits of splitting timber. Her head bounced again, rolled; flashes of bright colours fractured across her vision. Teeth clacked and cracked in a xylophonic off-key dinkle. Everything rolled in swells that rocked and rollicked her head, bashed her senses.

A warm hand settled on her shoulder; words slinked, rebellious, through the cacophony of sirens and screams and hammer of sound waves.

“Evinna,” a woman’s voice whispered in colours of honey and wax and summer warmth. “Evinna, come back from there.” The voice belonged to Gnangarai. “Leave that place, and come back.” It wasn’t words. It was music. Gnangarai sang; her hand tapped Evinna’s shoulder in the same rhythm as the voice. No.

The hand didn’t move. She did. Convulsions. A fit.

Not again. She closed her eyes. Let go, slid into the other-where place.


copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2016

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