Author: Jason Kocemba
Greg has finally breathed his last. He was a good boy, faithful.
He deserves to be buried and not left to be carrion, but I’m tired.
In the beginning, when the dead were fresh, I buried them: single, double, mass graves, it didn’t matter. When I couldn’t dig I built bonfires. When the carrion eaters had turned most of the dead to well-dressed skeletons I made cairns from the bones, and pyramids from the skulls.
With Greg gone, I feel the loneliness closing in, as I knew it would.
In the early years, when I realised, after a lot of searching, that there was no one else, only me, I used to get drunk for months at a time. The only way I could tell how long I’d been on a bender was by the length of my hair, beard and fingernails.
Why didn’t I just end it? What if, for the sake of argument, I lay down on a bed of bones and just stopped? Why didn’t I let the hungry have their fresh meat, let the worms and flies, bacteria and fungus do what they do? What made me stand up and keep searching?
I buried everyone in my home town. Everyone I knew, drank with, worked with, grew up with. Everyone I dated, kissed and slept with. My brother and sister, my mum and dad, my three remaining grandparents. Friends, friends of friends. Strangers. I buried everyone. By the time I had interred the town I was done with death, done with the town, done with the memories. I could think of nothing to say on their graves.
I set myself adrift and became a nomad. I walked, drove and cycled across the land. I found only death. Scavenging became harder as things spoiled and I had to hunt. Soon the travelling began to pall.
I found a farm and taught myself how to raise animals and grow grains and vegetables and fruit. I had everything I needed. It was easy when you only have one mouth to feed.
I put any time I had left into learning new things. I learned how to play musical instruments, how to make films, how to paint and draw, how to write. I would go on expeditions to find clothes and furniture and any little knick-knack I needed. It wasn’t until later that I realised it was just an excuse to find booze.
And then one day, after nineteen years away, I found myself in my old home town. The memories were fresh in my mind and with my new skills, I made portraits, created sculptures, shot documentaries and wrote poems and stories. I left my works in each of their homes, I told their life stories through art, documented their existence. I found my voice.
I stopped boozing after that. I renewed the search for another survivor. As I travelled I made art for the dead as I went.
I am honoured to have been able to tell their stories and commemorate the lives of the people whose houses I used for shelter and whose clothes I wore and whose beds I slept in.
I’m the last and I’ve done my best. What more can anyone say?
The loneliness is going to catch me. Let it. I’m not going anywhere. I’m old and I’ve been busy.
I’ve got one more dead friend to bury. And then I’m done.