The man was sitting in a room without walls or floors. The darkness swirling around him seemed sentient as he struggled to foil its endless attempts to ensnare him. He could not remember how long he had been sitting, in fact he had forgotten his own name. One memory alone remained 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 had explained grimly. The man had smiled, “everything is impossible until somebody does it. Death, I shall sit here until you change your mind!”
“Have it your way. I will visit in a few decades. If you wish to end all you must do is stand,” declared Death before vanishing into oblivion.
He’d been sitting ever since.
For better or worse, the pain accumulated from years of terrible posture was about to end. Today was the day of reckoning.
The darkness around him began to 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 admitted 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 followed, and Death finally tilted 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 creeped onto his face as the skeleton answered, “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 is once again graced by a presence larger than life, or death. He could feel the earth beneath his feet but for some reason he found himself unable to breath.
Looking down at his hands and is shocked by a complete lack of skin. He poked 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 had desiccated, only light and bone remained. Death 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 weeped tearlessly as decades of stifled emotions began shaking his fragile core, until the sound of nearby footsteps made him pause and glance up.
A little boy had been hiding behind a nearby tree. Scared by his demeanor the child had no doubt rediscovered bravery 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 grinned and swiveled his foot around as he fumbled for the right words, “I’m foolish all the time, bean’ serious is boring.”
The skeleton’s face lit up, the star in his chest blazing, “you are absolutely right young man. We should never let life bring us down to our knees! Nevertheless, may I ask you which way I should go to find the serious humans?”
The boy pointed to his right, where the sky was 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, its easy to get lost and I’m not allowed to play.”
The skeleton leaned 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 giggled and started running home, but halted suddenly and turned to wave, “I hope I see you again soon Mr. Skeleton!”.
His faith in humanity renewed, the skeleton began his arduous walk towards the city, praying that his misfortunes were at an end and that in these future days mankind had grown wise enough to judge him by the contents 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 the absence of nostrils, noticed the skeleton and stopped to stare at him before promptly going into the various stages of terror; yelling, running, and more yelling.
“Wait!” he shouted, “I am here to help!”
Despite his attempts to quell their fears, the manly high-pitched screams inevitably had the undesirable effect of waking the entire neighbourhood. Pursuing his course, the skeleton noticed that the streets were significantly different from his lifetime memories, and the buildings immensely taller.
The skeleton noticed that a few men and women were walking towards him with more confidence than the previous groups. “Where are your leaders? I must speak with them!” he asked, to no avail.
He eventually walked into a crowded Square with countless screens and suddenly felt a longing for his sunglasses. The thought startled him, spurring a new wave of nostalgia.
“This city is too bright for my eyeholes,” he grumbled, picking a pair of glasses from one of the myriad 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 blinded 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 was willing to assume that the skull he was staring was his. The sight of his fleshless face wearing ridiculous sunglasses was unequivocally hilarious, and the skeleton started laughing despite himself, cackling and wheezing whilst slapping his hand on a bony thigh. The humans shuffled around with renewed haste upon hearing the deathly racket.
Men began aiming what he could instantly deem guess were modern weapons at him, one of them grabbed hold of a weird object and began speaking with extraordinary volume. Humans were always intent on building items that made them louder.
“Hands in the air! You’re under arrest, fail to comply and we start shootin’!” The man with the toy yelled, spitting into the device.
“May I ask what I am under arrest for?” He 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 dumbly, even the small boy had taken more time to consider his words.
Sighing audibly he proceeded to giving an answer he knew would not be understood. Taking a step forward to close the gap between the strangers and himself he began, “I appreciate that my appearance is frightening, however I beg you to consider that I come in peace.”
The spittle flying into the mechanism crackled as the man shrieked, “stay where you are! Another word, another step, and you’ll be swimming in your own blood you freak!”
“Am I not innocent until proven guilty?” he asks candidly.
“Those laws don’t say anything about fucking Halloween decorations!” The man replied, clearly impressed by his own rhetoric as his sidekicks chuckled and patted him on the shoulder.
Shaking his head the skeleton persisted, “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 fired a couple shots to his chest without warning, two of the bullets whizzed through him harmlessly, but the last round crashed into his ribcage. Even more astonishing, is the feeling of pain that followed 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 shouted desperately, bringing his hands up and submitting to the better judgement of fools.
“There’s no point shooting the damn thing, don’t look dangerous. Just handcuff it, what d’ya think?” one of the attackers proposed.
“And then what? Where do we take it?” Another faceless voice asked, an unwitting accomplice in the manipulation of this poor skeleton’s fate.
“Not our business, let’s just put it behind bars for the time being.” The man in charge declared, gesturing one of his men forward. The burly man walked toward the skeleton, grabbing the butt of his rifle and swiftly striking him to the back of the head.
After years of uninterrupted resistance, the darkness finally took him.
To be continued in Chapter II: A Parting Toothpaste