They streamed from the mist.
One of them, a cowboy with a large gun holstered turned to Seamus and said, “My name is Kim and I like to push my pants down in a dry leafy rustle and rub Vaseline on my asshole.” Seamus, astonished, stood opening and closing his mouth like a marooned fish.
“Say, Carsons. You’re looking for the dead roads?” Chester said with his hands on hips, affecting a cowboy swagger. He flung out gun fingers: “Pa-pow!” The apparition flinched, his gun and stance on the ready. “What do you know?” demanded Kim. Chester grinned his bony grin and pointed vaguely to the west. Raising his hat in thanks, Kim disappeared in the mist.
Seamus stood there, still working his jaw. “You know, I’m not going to say anything,” he said, stalking away. “You’re just not well read,” Chester retorted.
The ghostly procession never stopped during their time in the marsh. A bluish man stumbled about chasing a woman crooked in two places on her body, as if run over by rails, crying, “Anna. Anna, where are you? Anna?” A child hobbled through the sticky grounds, once in a while dislodging his badly made crutches from the mud, murmuring, “God bless you, even you.” He turned to smoke, and his crutches sank into the stinking waters with a slow, oily splash.
“My, what a queer little man,” said Vogina. Her heavy arm lifted in the gloom, pointed. He had a strange gait, a distinctive toothbrush mustache, and clothes that were too small. He stalked the grounds with a kind of impoverished dignity, an eminent tramp in his element, swinging his bamboo cane here and there.
A bowler hat hung crooked on his skull. Laughing with delight, Chester rushed his bony legs through the thick soil and capered around the little man, plucking at his hat, his cane. Perturbed at the distraction, the tramp chased Chester around, fell tumbling onto his arse, and unwittingly caught his hat with his head, looking around with confusion. The cane snaked out and tripped Chester. Vogina giggled gleefully, for the first time in a long while.
The tramp leaped to his feet, kicked at the zombie where the minority of his stomach was located then skittered away to a safe distance where he stuck his fist in the upraised crook of his other arm. With a satisfied grunt and a clap of heels, he trotted into the mist. Chester miserably pulled himself from the mud with a glare that warned everybody not to say anything. Seamus sniggered.
The group crept crept slowly with frightened airs, their hands clutching the shoulders of others, their heads turning here and there once in a while with startlement. Only Chester, having regained his composure, seemed unperturbed, going as far as to gleefully lead the party, making unnerving splashes as he chased after the ghosts, inquiring of them. The apparitions tolerated him, engaged in conversations of which Chester’s companions only caught snippets:
“—ow’s Buck Mulligan these days, anyways?”
“Called my mother beastly dead, that enemy of mine.”
“I’d say the usual, huh, Steve-o.”
“Look, I keep telling you, I don’t know who John Galt is!”
They finally exited the swamp wood, shortly after passing a snoring gentleman who had draped his body along the ground, his head resting against a log. His nails were curved in a length that measured several inches long, and a fine down of beard spread in a fantail shape across his body. He seemed to have been there for quite a long time. Chester stood over the body for a long moment. He said, “Rest in peace.” Then he whistled, merrily marching them out of the fog like a demented drum major.