Afflicted 15: Chapter 14

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Jack didn’t know it, but he was right on the money when he told Rick that Bevan was shit-stir crazy.

When Bevan got home, he stashed his fishing gear in the back shed, underneath an old mattress that had been getting steadily worm-eaten underneath all the other shit that his mum and dad had been meaning to throw out since before they got married. He didn’t normally stash it away—there was never any point given how often he went out, and it wasn’t like it was a forbidden activity, or like anybody would nick it. He just had the feeling that he wanted it away from himself. Stashed here there was a good chance that his fishing gear would stay undiscovered until his parents were dead and burired. But right now, all he could care about was the fact that the stuff was out of sight. Hopefully he could completely forget it was there.

Agitated and anxious, Bevan picked his way through to the back wall of the shed, where he’d been stashing a few smokes out of every packet he’d ever bought, ever since he started smoking, just in case he should ever need them. Even when he was almost desperate for a smoke in the past, he’d not touched them. Now, shaking and frowning, and completely out of cigarettes, he couldn’t stop himself.

The smell had come back again.The moment Bevan had stepped down next to that river red gum, he’d started to smell the sickly sweet scent of death again. Although they helped to mask its existence, even his smokes had failed to do the trick this time. His present anxiety was coming from the fact that he couldn’t think of anything but the stench, the fact that he needed to smoke to distract himself, even momentarily, and the fact that he had to go in and play the family-boy role when there was nothing in the world he wanted to do less.

As he sat there in the shed, he steeled himself for the time that would shortly be upon him, when he would need to head inside. The very idea of it made him feel sick. His mum would expect him to eat, too. Bevan made his way inside, cleaned his fish, showered and did all those things that were normally a part of his coming-home-from-fishing routine. Except this time he used his mother’s soap ‘by mistake’, because of its enormous perfume content, and stepped aside to light some incense in the doorway.

But nothing worked for him, nothing shifted the smell, nothing lifted the weight from his belly. He did manage to eat enough to satisfy his mother, though, and just played the ‘stressed about school’ thing. It was a lame excuse, given how well he was doing, but his parents inwardly glowed with the self-indulgent thought that their first child and only boy was so intelligent and perfectionistic that of course he’d be stressed. Anyway, wasn’t that a good thing?

Throughout the evening, Bevan sat in his room, on the floor, gradually getting more and more panicked. He needed to ration his smokes until he could get more in two days. He could not even breathe normally without smelling that rotting mess down at the river. As the night wore on, Bevan found himself unable to think straight, and it wasn’t until he was on the verge of tears that he consciously thought about trying to immerse himself in school work, like he’d done the last time he’d been so badly off. The smell had afflicted him so badly that he couldn’t even get his shit together enough to get his pencil and randomly draw shit, like he normally did. The panic rose in his throat as he realised he’d already done all of his school work, and in desperation cast his eyes wildly around the room. As his eyes alighted on the visual art portfolio in the corner, a tide of relief washed into his limbs. Groping blindly around in a broken cardboard box, he found a charcoal pencil and started hungrily devouring the white paper in sketches. Bevan worked so focusedly at what he was doing, that he didn’t notice his dad open his bedroom door slightly and leave him a small pot of tea.

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