A man is sitting in a room without walls or floors. The darkness swirling around him seems sentient as he struggled to foil its endless attempts to ensnare him. He cannot remember how long he has been sitting, in fact he has forgotten his own name. One memory alone remains impervious to the sands of time, the look on Death’s face when they had met for the first time.
“No one goes back, surely you of all people know this.” Death explained with finality. The man had smiled, “everything is impossible until somebody does it. Death, my struggle is not over, I shall sit here until you change your mind!”
“Have it your way. I will visit in a few decades. If you wish to find an ending all you must do is stand and ask,” declared Death before vanishing into oblivion.
The man had been sitting ever since. He hadn’t expected to meet Death, in fact he hadn’t believed in Death, but then again maybe he’d expected too much.
For better or worse, today the pain accumulated from years of terrible posture was about to end. Today was the day of reckoning. The darkness around him began to swivel and change, he could taste it in the air and feel it on his skin. When he finally opened his eyes Death was standing in front of him, disbelief plainly visible on his face despite his ghastly features.
“Impressive,” the god admits reluctantly.
“Thank you, I have become rather quite good at sitting,” the man replied calmly, exercising lifetimes of restraint to hide the turmoil raging inside him.
A tense silence follows, and Death finally tilts his head forward, “very well, do you still wish to return? Have you considered that the world may not readily accept your appearance?”
Despite his best efforts a smile creeps onto his face as the man answers, “I was never famous for my looks.”
“So be it. Until we meet again,” the god whispered with finality.
A bony hand thrust through the earth, the fist clenched in triumph. Fleshless head and body followed shortly after and in moments the world was once again graced by a presence larger than life, or death. He can feel the earth beneath his feet but for some reason he finds himself unable to breath.
Looking down at his hands he is shocked to discover a complete lack of skin. He pokes a finger through his rib cage — where his heart should lie beating — only to find a pulsating star in its stead. Mired in dirt for centuries his body has desiccated, only light and bone remain. Time had robbed him of everything but his spirit.
“Well. That certainly is unfortunate,” whispered the skeleton as his shoulders slump down. Raising his hands to his skull he weeps tearlessly as decades of stifled emotions begin shaking his fragile core. The spasms continue until the sound of nearby footsteps make him pause and glance up. A little boy had been hiding behind a nearby tree. Scared by his demeanour the child had no doubt rediscovered his courage upon seeing the bony figure pour its heart out.
“Why are you crying?” the boy asked tentatively.
“I was a fool, and I am paying the price of my foolishness,” answered the skeleton.
The boy grins and swivels his foot around as he fumbles for the right words, “I’m foolish all the time, being serious is boring.”
The skeleton’s face lights up, the star in his chest blazing, “you are right young man. We should never let life – or Death – bring us down to our knees! Nevertheless, may I ask you which way I should go to find the serious humans?”
The boy points to his right, where the sky is illuminated by the many lights of what could only be a large city. “There are tons of people in the city! I don’t like it, it’s easy to get lost and I’m not allowed to play.”
The skeleton leans forward, putting a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “thank you little man. Now go home, it isn’t nice to make your parents worry!”
The boy giggles and starts running home, but suddenly stops and turns to wave, “I hope I see you again soon Mr. Skeleton!”.
His faith in humanity restored, the skeleton begins his arduous walk towards the city, praying that his misfortunes are at an end and that in these future days mankind had grown wise enough to judge him by the depth of his mind mind rather than his shallow appearance.
Evidently he’d been wrong. Very, very wrong. A group of men walking down the street, the stench of their inebriation reaching him despite his absence of nostrils, notice the skeleton and stop to stare at him before falling into the various stages of terror; yelling, running, and more yelling.
“Wait!” he shouts, “I am here to help!”
Despite his attempts to quell their fears, the manly high-pitched screams inevitably have the undesirable effect of waking the entire neighbourhood. Resolute the skeleton pursues his course, and notices that the streets were significantly different from his lifetime memories, and the buildings immensely taller.
The skeleton glimpses a few men and women walking towards him with more confidence than the previous cluster. “Where are your leaders? I wish to speak with them!” he asks, to no avail. They continue following him from afar, seemingly speaking to nobody in particular.
He eventually walks into a crowded square with countless screens illuminating the area. “This city is too bright for my eyeholes,” he grumbles, randomly picking up a pair of glasses from one of many many stands selling the same goods, a clear symptom of horrid overpopulation.
He was in the midst of deciding which street to stroll down next, when an intrusive spotlight blinds him. Looking up, he finds a flying vehicle chopping the air above him. The screens — which had previously been filled with red and white colours — are all without exception showing a skeleton. He hadn’t seen his reflection in a long time, however he is willing to assume that the skull everyone is staring at is his. The sight of his fleshless face wearing ridiculous sunglasses is unequivocally hilarious, and the skeleton begins laughing despite himself, cackling and wheezing whilst slapping his hand on a bony thigh and a musical rib cage. The humans shuffle around with renewed haste upon hearing the deathly racket.
Men begin aiming what he can instantly assess as modern versions of rifles at him, one of them grabs hold of a weird object and begins speaking with extraordinary volume. Humans always were intent on building items that made them louder.
“Hands in the air! You’re under arrest, fail to comply and we start shooting!” The man with the toy yelled, spitting into the device.
“May I ask what I am under arrest for?” the skeleton replied, slowly raising his arms to prove his good intentions.
“It can fucking speak? You’re under arrest for disturbing the peace you freakin’… What the fuck are you?” The man asks. Even the small boy had taken more time to consider his words.
Sighing audibly he immediately abandons giving an answer he knows cannot be understood. Taking a step forward to close the gap between the strangers and himself he says, “I appreciate that my appearance is frightening, however I beg you to consider that I come in peace.”
The spittle flying into the mechanism crackles as the man shrieks, “stay where you are! Do NOT move!”
“Am I not innocent until proven guilty?” the skeleton asks candidly.
“Those laws don’t say anything about Halloween decorations!” The man replies, clearly impressed by his own rhetoric.
Shaking his head the skeleton persists, “Yes I am a skeleton. However I am also an innocent skeleton, perhaps you will consider giving me a chance to explain myself?”
Much to the skeleton’s surprise, one of the officers on his right fires a couple shots without warning, two of the bullets whizz through him harmlessly, but the last round crashes into his ribcage. Even more astonishing, is the feeling of pain that follows the rupture. Looking down to examine the damage he noticed that his star has dimmed.
“Officers I wish you no harm! I beg you not to judge me by my lack of skin, arrest me if you must,” he shouts desperately, bringing his hands up and submitting to the better judgement of fools.
“There’s no point shooting the damn thing. This is above my pay grade, just handcuff it,” orders the man with the volume enhancer.
“And then what? Where do we take it?” Another faceless voice asks, an unwitting accomplice in the subtle manipulation of the skeleton’s fate.
“Not our business, let’s just put it behind bars for the time being.” The man in charge declares, gesturing one of his men forward. The burly man walks toward the skeleton, grabbing the butt of his rifle and swiftly striking him in the back of the head.
After years of unbroken resistance, the darkness finally envelops the skeleton.
To be continued in Chapter II: A Parting Toothpaste