Thursday, October 4, 2018

Emily's Bones

a female skeletal ghost with the words "Emily's Bones" written in a bone font

This story is also available for free as an audiobook.

Dedicated to my dear friend Emily McGaffigan, in honor of her birthday in the year 2017. 
The character of Emily, though named in honor of my friend, in no way resembles her.

Emily Jones came from a broken home.  Like all people, Emily kept many secrets.  Such as the time she sabotaged her brother’s science fair project out of jealousy.  Or the time she stole her mother’s favorite necklace and pawned it so she could buy herself new shoes for school.  Emily’s secrets were as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Some dreadful deeds were not even her own, but she carried the guilt of them as if they were.  Like when her father had driven home drunk and plowed through the neighbor’s prize winning roses.  She kept his secret and owned the stigma like it was her last name.  She kept her mother’s shame, when she discovered the affair mother was having with the plumber. 
These things haunted her.  They kept her up at night.  She found it hard to live with them, so she found a way to deal.  She cut the guilt and shame out of her mind and hid them like bones inside her mind’s closet.
In truth, those secrets were much worse than she pretended.  Really, those prize winning roses were the neighbor’s dog, and the poor thing lay there all night with a broken hip before the neighbors found him and took him to the vet.  And that affair her mother had led to two divorces.  Her brother’s science fair project was a quarter of his final grade, and he lost his spot as valedictorian and the scholarship that came with it.  Truthfully, the stolen necklace was a family heirloom, and she didn’t buy herself new shoes for school; she bought whiskey for herself and some friends. 
Emily was not a good person.  Veritably, no one ever is.  No one lives up to the expectations set upon them by society and self.  No one is ever good enough in the mirror’s eyes.  Everyone caries a bit of good and a dash of bad, and the meat on one’s bones lies somewhere in the middle of heavenly and hellish.  It is what makes a human being.  But the bones in Emily’s closet piled up, and soon she had a whole skeleton, and that skeleton got restless.  At night, when she closed her eyes and tried to sleep, she could hear it rattling the door in her mind, and she knew that one day soon it would escape.
The guilt, the shame, all those worthless feelings got the better of her.  One day, she couldn’t take it anymore.  All of those thoughts clattering and groaning inside her, they became too much.  She flung open her closet, threw all her clothes, shoes, and boxes of junk out of her way and onto the bedroom floor.  She fashioned herself a noose from a belt that she’d gotten for her birthday, and Emily let herself dangle.
As Emily slowly suffocated, her soul twitched loose from her body.  It climbed inside that skeleton in her mind’s closet, and it stepped out into the night.  And so was born the specter known as Emily’s Bones.
They laid Emily to rest in The Garden of Eternal Bliss, a huge cemetery in the middle of Kreepersville.  It was a beautiful place, with grandiose statues, ornate fences, and perfect landscaping.  Women dressed in yoga pants and tennis shoes would power walk there.  Teenagers would slip in after dusk and sip booze whilst hanging out amongst the tombstones.  And of course, family members would come to mourn their dead.  It was here that Emily’s Bones resided.  Here, she picked out her victims and followed them home.
Anyone who ever caught a glimpse of Emily’s Bones received a terrible fright.  She appeared as an etheric skeleton, and though she did not glow, she could always be seen if she wanted to be seen, even in the pitch of night.  Emily’s Bones liked pretty things, and she would nick things she fancied from closets and dressers.  Emily’s Bones had been seen wearing different dresses, jewelry, hats, wigs, all recognized by their former owners.  But once Emily put them on, they quickly decayed and turned to dust.  Poor Emily’s Bones could not own things anymore.  No matter how hard she tried to be pretty, her true self ate through the masquerade and left only rot and decay. 
The very essence of Emily’s Bones, ephemeral as she was, left her vulnerable to fading away.  But she had no intention of ever going away.  She found a way to rejuvenate herself.  To continue to exist, each of her bones could be periodically replaced by stealing the essence of the corresponding bone from her victim, thus ensuring her immortality.  For instance, she took the hand bone of a kind, giving woman, and now, this selfish woman will no longer offer a helping hand.  Emily’s Bones took the femur from an activist, and now, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  The girl with the big heart, Emily’s Bones consumed her breastbone, leaving her victim cold and heartless.  Over the decades, Emily’s Bones preyed upon many victims.  Her first was a fireman named Barry. 

* * * * *

The fire at 1919 Elm Street burned with a hellish urgency, as if the world needed one more pile of ashes more than a screaming baby needed milk.  The thick smoke swirled about the hallway, making it impossible to see.  The heat was so intense that it melted candles on a wall shelf despite the distance of the encroaching flames.  Barry’s heart pounded in his chest.  He felt terrified of fire as a child, but he’d overcome his fears to become a fireman many years ago.  None-the-less, every fire he faced threatened to renew his childhood phobia, and only the power of his convictions allowed him to be brave.  If not for this need to push on, he would be weak and purposeless.   
Somewhere inside this inferno, a little girl needed saving.  He could still hear her mother sobbing inside his mind, “Save my little girl, please!”
So he pushed on, deeper into the burning house.  Such an act was beyond mere bravery.  To move forward against a tidal wave of fear, to offer up oneself as a potential sacrifice to God, if it be her will, in order to save another.
He found the little girl’s room.  Smoke poured in from the heating vents and coiled about him.  He shined the light from his headlamp around the chamber and homed in on the little girl lying motionless in her bed.  His heart skipped a beat, and he prayed that he wasn’t too late as he rushed over to her and scooped her up into his arms.
He made his way back to the window where he had entered the house.  As he did so, he saw a blurry fur ball dart past him and back the way he had come from.  He thought,  Oh no!
He handed the girl out the window and into the waiting arms of another fireman, “Come on, Barry,” the man said.
“I can’t,” Barry’s garbled voice sounded alien coming through the amplification device of his self-contained breathing apparatus.  “There’s a dog nearby.”
“Don’t die for a dog, Barry!” the man said as he descended with the child.
Barry knew that no one would judge him for letting the dog die.  The stability of the house grew more precarious by the moment.  It was one thing to risk life and limb for the life of an innocent child, but reckless, foolish even, to go back in for a dog.  But Barry couldn’t let it go.  “I can do it!” he insisted.  He went back towards the little girl’s room. 
The smoke roiled even thicker than before.  Time was running out.  The flames had entered the upstairs hallway now and threatened to cut him off from his escape route.  Every inch of him screamed retreat, but he was no coward.  He straightened his posture and walked forwards with confidence.  He could do this.  His actions mattered.  This was life or death.
He knew the dog would be hiding, but he didn’t know where.  Beneath the bed seemed likely.  He got down on all fours and peered under, shining his head light into the blackness.  He saw the poor creature, trembling with fear.  The dog growled at him.  He reached in anyway and grabbed the dog by the scruff of his neck.  The dog struggled against Barry as he dragged him out from under the bed.  The dog went limp, catatonic with fright.   Barry stood up with the dog in his arms and then he hoisted the dog over his shoulder.  
The flames had completely cut him off from the window now.  He’d have to find another way out.  His luck endured.   He opened the window in the child’s room.   Located above a covered porch, there was a roof one story below.  He jumped down, then jumped again to the ground below, landing with a hard, jarring thud that he could feel run up his spine.  He had done it.  Titillation overwhelmed him.
He ran around front to the rest of the team, where they worked to put out the blaze.  Paramedics loaded the girl into an ambulance.  She was unconscious, but thankfully still alive.  Her mother sobbed in hysterics nearby. 
A teenage boy ran up to Barry, yelling “Spot, oh my God, thank God!  Thank God he is okay!”    The old dog perked up his hears and nearly leapt from the fireman’s shoulder into the arms of his master.
Just then, the roof of the house collapsed with a thunderous crash, devouring the entire upstairs of the home.  Barry went to help his fellow firefighters battle the flames before they could spread to any nearby homes.
When it was finally over, back at the firehouse, Barry stripped himself of his turnout gear.  His twelve hour shift ended an hour ago, so he stored his gear by his bunk and went to take a shower.  He didn’t want to go home to his wife and daughter smelling of smoke.
He felt keyed up after such a harrowing night, so he decided to leave his truck at the station and walk home, thinking that the fresh night air would allow him a chance to calm down and collect his thoughts. 
He had no way of knowing that his strength and bravery would shine like a beacon to Emily’s Bones, and as he passed the cemetery gates, she noticed him and followed him home.
He turned the key and walked in through his front door.
“Barry!” his wife said.  She smiled as she tried to hide the look of relief that washed over her face.  She kissed him.  “How was your shift?”
“Long.  Hard,” he admitted.
“What I look for in a man,” his wife said with a giggle.
“Daddy!” his daughter screamed, running out of her bedroom, dressed in pajamas and wearing a toy tiara.  She threw her arms around him, and he lifted her up and gave her a kiss.
“Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?” he asked.
“Yes,” she confessed, “but I heard you talking to mommy and woke up.”
“And now it’s time for you to go back to bed, Jane,” Barry said.  “Come on.”  He carried her to her room and laid her down.  “And I don’t think you should be sleeping in this,” he said.  He took the tiara off her head and put it on the nightstand beside her.
“But I’m a princess,” she decreed.
“Indeed you are,” he acceded.  He pulled the covers up to her chin and kissed her forehead.
Jane looked up at her father with love in her eyes.  She felt proud of him.  He was more than just a hero; he was her hero; he was her dad.   “Goodnight, Daddy,” she said.
“Goodnight, Jane,” he replied.  He turned off the lamp and returned to the den.
“What about you?  Are you coming to bed or are you too wound up?” his wife asked.
Barry said, “I think I’ll read a while.”
“Well, goodnight then.  I’ve got an early shift, you know.”  She kissed him once more and then went to bed, wishing he would join her, but knowing he’d just toss and turn, keeping her awake.
Barry dozed off in the recliner an hour later, with a copy of Stephen King’s Insomnia laying ironically upon his heaving chest.
His dreams soured into nightmares, but even in his dreams, Barry proved brave, facing down the monsters with his mighty fists.  Midway through a battle with a six eyed beast, Barry jerked awake.  The room felt cold; the shadows felt dangerous.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.   He sensed a presence in the room.  He tried to get up out of the chair and investigate, fearing a burglar, but he found himself unable to move.  He couldn’t even turn his head to look about.  A chill ran up his spine, as if someone danced upon his grave.
At that moment, Emily’s Bones floated from the wall and hovered over him.
Her horrific visage sent waves of fear through Barry, fear far worse than any fire had ever evoked within him, and he knew that he had to break this spell and defend himself and his family from her wretchedness.  He prayed to God, begging for strength of will to get up and fight this unholy ghast, but God did not answer.
He found himself a victim of Emily’s Bones.  She reached into him, through him, past his innards and to his spine.  She consumed the essence of his vertebrae, taking away all of his strength and bravery and leaving him a trembling coward. 
And as she stole his bravery, his urge to fight her left him, and an uncontrollable urge to run engulfed him.  As soon as she released him, he screamed in terror and ran out the front door and into the night, howling with fear at the moon and the stars as he ran and ran and ran.
Emily’s Bones slowly drifted through the house.  She had what she needed, but she loved pretty things.  She drifted into Jane’s room, and she stole the toy tiara from the girl’s nightstand.  She placed it upon her alabaster head.  “Now I’m a princess,” she crooned.  She admired herself in the mirror for a moment before exiting through the wall.

* * * * *

The next victim of Emily’s Bones was a woman named Jorie.  Jorie was a good mother.  She had one young son, still in diapers but old enough to walk right in to trouble, and a stepson who’d just reached puberty.  She worked part time at a dress shop to help pay the bills, but mostly she was a homemaker.  She was good at it, and she’d found that it brought her much happiness.  She made time for herself.  She worked on her hobbies, like composing music, and she still went out to the club to go drinking and dancing whenever she could.
Before she’d become a mother, she’d been miserable.  She’d suffered a great deal from depression, and she didn’t like who she was.  But then she had reunited with Lucy, her high school sweetheart.  Their ardor had rekindled, and Lucy promised unconditional love.  Lucy had helped Jorie through the hardest decision of her life, realizing and accepting that she was meant to be a woman and transitioning from her life as a man.
Before she transitioned, Jorie, as Jonathan, was somewhat a misogynist.  As a man, he was a womanizer, a real player.  He had girlfriend after girlfriend, and he cheated on them and broke their hearts.  Jonathan couldn’t commit for the long-term.  Things would get too personal, and he’d break it off.  He did this because he coveted feminine vulnerability, so he tilled it up from the bosoms of his lovers and devoured it vicariously as he broke their hearts.  This was also because Jonathan didn’t love himself, so he wouldn’t let anyone else love him. 
But now, Jorie loved who she was, and this allowed her to love Lucy.
Jorie’s life with Lucy was in no way perfect.  They argued and squabbled over the everyday tommyrot: bills and housework and what to watch on the television, but they reconciled with forgiveness and love.  Jorie knew that finding a supportive partner was a gift and that having two loving parents was precious to a baby, so she determined to make her marriage work.
Jorie faced much opposition as she changed sexes.   Her path was narrow and full of thistles, and she had to learn to walk it in high heels.  Some of her friends turned on her.  Christy, one of her best friends from high school, told Jorie that she was being selfish for denying her child a father.  Those friends who did stick by her, even they were awkward around her at first, as if they didn’t yet know who she was, as if they hadn’t known her for years already, as if they’d just met.   She wanted her relationships with her friends to be exactly as they were before she transitioned, but that just wasn’t possible.   She had to learn that the dynamic between two women was not the same as the dynamic between two men.  And the dynamic between her as a woman with her male friends was suddenly sexual.   What used to be a friendly hug between brothers could now be construed as a come on, even if she didn’t mean it that way.
Legal action was taken against people like her, telling them where they were allowed to pee.  Her father wouldn’t look her in the eye anymore.    She dealt with cat calling men and customers who refused to call her ma’am despite her demeanor and dress.  Everywhere she went, she was misunderstood. 
In an attempt to protect herself, she decided that anyone who didn’t support her decision to be transgender did not deserve to be in her life.  Then she extended this to the concept that anyone who did not agree with her political opinions did not support her and did not deserve to be her friend.  She pushed everyone away, and she ended up lonely.  But eventually she realized that those are two different things.  Not agreeing with one’s personal beliefs is a far cry from not supporting one’s decision to transition.  She eventually reconciled with those friends.
Jorie endured all that strife like the strong, Southern woman she was meant to be, with feminine charm, grace, and perfect makeup.  However, Jorie was not prepared to face Emily’s Bones. 
She didn’t believe in ghosts.  Not before that night.
 Jorie had taken the dog out for a walk, as she always did at the edge of dark.  It was just her and Scooter, out for a stroll.   The sidewalk bustled with people that night, so she decided to cut through the graveyard for some peace and quiet. 
She glimpsed Emily’s Bones out of the corner of her eye.  She thought the ghost was just a person, but when she turned to look, she saw nothing.  The hair rose up on the back of her neck, none-the-less and the dog started barking in that direction.
“Come on, Scooter,” she said, and she tugged at his leash, dragging him back towards home.
 Emily’s Bones followed.  Jorie felt eyes behind her as she walked.  She kept looking over her shoulder, but she never saw anyone there.  She felt relieved as she arrived back home.
“How was your walk?” Lucy asked, with their son wiggling in her arms.
“Fine.  Creepy,” Jorie said as she unleashed Scooter.
“How so?”
“It’s nothing.  I just got a weird vibe from the graveyard,” Jorie said, dismissing her perturbation.
The family went to bed a few hours later, and at that time, Emily’s Bones made her move.  In the still of the night, as Jorie lay supine and vulnerable in her sleeping state, Emily’s Bones hovered over her.  She turned her head side to side, regarding the sleeping woman.  Her alabaster bones were so pale, they seemed to glow against the darkness.  Emily’s Bones reached in to Jorie’s torso just beneath the breast, passing through the meat of her, until her fingertips were just inside Jorie’s ribs.  Jorie gasped with pain, waking up as she inhaled sharply.    Panic filled Jorie’s mind as she tried to make sense of what hovered above her.  Her heart pounded violently.  She wanted to scream, but no voice came.  Mere minutes passed, but it seemed to last forever.  Emily’s Bones sucked the essence of ribs from Jorie, leaving her ribcage but a ghost of itself, and the entirety of femininity was drained from Jorie, as if Adam had taken back his rib from Eve.
When Emily’s Bones finished consuming the essence of rib, she floated off of Jorie and put her feet upon the floor.  She turned to walk away.  She stopped at the dresser, picked up Jorie’s favorite wig, and placed it upon her own head.  She looked back over her shoulder at Jorie, who lie frozen with fear, and she walked away, passing right through the door.
Finally, the scream came.  “Raahhhhh!”  Jorie’s voice sounded deep and gravely, just as it did before she had transitioned. 
Lucy awoke, frightened.  “What’s happening?  What’s wrong?” she asked.  “Did you have a nightmare?”  She reached out to comfort Jorie.
“Leave me alone, woman.  I don’t need you coddling me,” Jonathan said, pushing her hand away.  Emily’s Bones had stolen the essence of Eve from her victim.  He was doomed to become overly male, losing all of his feminine side and qualities.  Jorie was gone.  Depression seeped in as Jonathan felt the old mindset return.  He didn’t want to live like this.  He thought about buying a gun.
Poor Jorie, one more tragic victim of Emily’s Bones!  If only someone had banished her!  But alas, her reign of terror continued on.  Her next victim was a man named Zack.

* * * * *

Zack was a handsome freak with a cyan mohawk and the chiseled face of a mischievous angel.  He frequented the gym and his smooth, pale chest was well defined beneath his fishnet shirt.  His kissable lips were quick to flash a playful smile, and his eyes sparkled with the daydreams of a beaten child. 
He should’ve been a rock star by now, but he wasn’t.  He was sort of famous, as the front man for a goth band called Grim Moppets.  They’d put out a dozen albums over the past twenty years on an underground record label.  They’d toured the entire country several times, played festivals, had fans.  He couldn’t count the number of gigs he’d played over the years. 
In many ways he would be considered successful.  He made a living making music, doing what he loved.  Yet still he struggled to survive on his musician’s income.  On tour, he still had to stay in cheap motels, or in the promoter’s guest room, or occasionally in the van.  He had to hock enough merchandise at each venue or skip a meal here and there.  And the meals he could afford consisted of the cheapest thing on the all night diner menu or the value section of a fast food joint.  The tour van was getting older by the minute and so was he.  Now he was middle aged.  Grim Moppets was winding down.  The other band members had all maturated, got married, had babies.  Touring wasn’t their priority anymore, nor was recording for that matter.  The album release dates got further and further apart, and Zack wasn’t making enough money just sitting around waiting for them to get a break from the kids.
Zack had figured one thing out, for certain.  Life was never ideal and it seldom came close.  When one aspect resolved, conflict anew arose like some monster from the watery depths.  The mind struggled to make sense of it all, and the more one did so, the more entangled in poppycock one became.   The great cosmic joke was that there was no sense to it.  It was all nonsense. There existed beauty and pain, suffering and delight and the mind compared these things and saw patterns there like figures in the clouds, but once the wind blew, everything changed, and there was nothing left in the sky but puffballs like cotton candy, ever so delicious to children, but far too sweet and pointless for the adult mind, dissolving too quickly on the tongue of disillusionment, tainted by the realization it was nothing but sugar puffed with air, leaving sticky, empty fingers.  The childlike wonder, which delighted as it melted on the tongue, it was all an illusion, existing only in one’s mind, a swirl of artificial flavors and colors, leaving nothing but hollow bellies.
Life was short and Zack was determined, so he started a side project called Vague Destiny.  It was a different kind of band, with a sound somewhere between new wave and witch house.  The advantage to such a style was that the band only required one other member, so scheduling conflicts were no longer an issue.  They could tour as much as they wanted.  However, Vague Destiny didn’t have a reputation yet, other than a byline on the flyer that read “featuring Zack, vocalist for Grim Moppets”.  This kept them from being the opening act, but they weren’t the headliners either.  Having to start over at middle age frustrated Zack.
Zack thought he would be more successful by now, at least have enough coming in from royalties to pay his living expenses.  He’d worked so damned hard at it.  He’d poured his heart into it.  He’d given music every ounce of his soul.  He thought about quitting, about accepting the fact that he was never going to make it big, that he’d peaked with Grim Moppets a few years back.  But he was far too headstrong to give up.  He couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else.  Not working in an office or as a chef.  Not running a business or selling life insurance over the phone.    Nothing.   Maybe he wasn’t rolling in cash, but hey, at least he was doing what he loved.  Besides, he understood that art demands suffering, for the muse feeds on misery.
It was the middle of winter.  That night, he was playing a show in Kreepersville, a medium sized city with dreams of being Atlanta.  The Moonlight Club, an old house gutted and turned into a two room venue with a small stage and cash only bar with piss water on tap, had been around for decades, and it had showcased some of the best in underground and punk since Nixon was president.  It was a dive for sure, all stickers, graffiti and cigarette burns on the wooden floor.  The sparse furniture was all salvage, including the bar.  The only real investment had been in the sound equipment.  Zack didn’t expect a big turnout, but a few of his Grim Moppet fans were likely to show.
The fans began to trickle in an hour and a half before show time, hanging out at the bar, getting tipsy on overpriced liquor or just killing time with bottles of water and talk about the weather.  Just like Zack, they were getting older, and rather than dance before the main event, most of them just sat around complaining about how the chairs were hurting their backs, or how they dreaded having to get up early to go in to work the next morning.  Some of them still dressed up in gothic clothes, squeezing their middle aged asses into spandex hot pants and squishing their beer bellies into crinchers.  They still teased and dyed their hair to match their once upon a time rebel attitudes.     And of course, they still caked on the white face paint, blackened their lips, and gooped on the eyeliner and black eyeshadow.  However, most no longer pulled off the tragic ghost look and had instead entered ghoul or zombie territory.  There were those who wore band t-shirts and black jeans, the same style they’d sported for the last two decades, but now they needed belts and suspenders to hold up their pants.  Some didn’t even try anymore, feeling far too foolish wearing the play clothes of their youth to bother.  They’d given up all together and resigned themselves to wearing the very same button down dress shirt they’d worn to work that day or a brown and green flannel lumberjack shirt fresh from the goodwill in an attempt to be ironic.
Yet still their faces smiled.  Still they had fun as nostalgia pervaded them, and for just a moment, they felt young again.
Zack liked to mingle with his fans before the show.  He wasn’t one of those hide until it’s over kind of guys.  He always managed to be upbeat and engaging when talking to his fans, stirring up their energy and getting them excited.  Plus, a hug and smile never hurt merchandise sales.  He made his rounds, greeted everyone he recognized from his Grim Moppet shows.   
Shortly, the show began.  The opening act struggled through their set with little stage presence and in need of a few more band rehearsals.  Then, Zack was on.  A few of the females were real fan girls, and they pushed their way to the front of the stage to ooh and ahh at Zack with lust filled eyes as he strutted his stuff and bellowed to his heart’s content.  But he had learned long ago not to trust in the adoration of doting fans, for they were fickle.   Their love was fleeting and more often than not, they stole his albums from torrents and left with their boyfriends or husbands without buying a thing.  Not to mention that they made terrible girlfriends.  He could never live up to the fantasy they’d created of him, and before long, they were thinking of some other rock star while making love to him.  He’d had his heart crushed way too many times, and even right before this tour, his latest lover broke it off.
Halfway through the second song, the smoke machine let loose a billowy cloud and the strobe lights were firing like lightning in a summer storm, and the crowd looked bigger than it was as they swayed with the music, and he felt happy and content with life.
After his set, while he waited for the headliners to finish up, a pretty lady bought him a drink.  But the more he looked at her, the more he became convinced that she wasn’t what she seemed.  He wondered what was under her make-up.  He feared that beneath that gothic fa├žade, all he would find was a tragedy mask of wrinkles and moles, a mirror mask that he cared not to see.  So when the headliners finished, he thanked her for the drink and left her to go pack up his gear.
The hour was late by the time he and his bandmate got back to the motel room.  He went into the bathroom and washed away his gothic face.  He traded his leather pants and fishnet shirt for some baggy shorts and a t-shirt.  He felt tense, and they had an early morning departure time, so he popped one of his prescription sleeping pills, one of those with a reputation for making people do things whilst they slept, but he’d never experienced anything like that.
Until tonight. 
Around 4 am, Zack got out of bed.  Still sleeping, he grabbed his jacket, opened up the motel door and wondered out into the night.
The freezing air chilled him to the bone and he shivered, but he did not go back inside.  In his dream addled mind, he had somewhere to be, so he went for a stroll.  Snow fell down around him, big heavy flakes, and it had already started to stick.  Zack didn’t know where he was going, or even that he was going for that matter, but he walked on none-the-less, all the while singing his favorite Grim Moppets songs. 
In time, he came upon The Garden of Eternal Bliss.  “Ooh a graveyard!” he cried out with excitement.  He walked past the gate, leaving footprints in his wake as he traipsed through the snow.  The world seemed like magic. The entire graveyard had a nimbus about it.  The sodium-vapor lamplight danced off the snowy tree limbs as they bobbed lightly in the breeze.   As Zack strolled amongst the lichen covered granite memorials, he started to sing again. 
One headstone caught his eye, and he wondered over to it.   There was nothing particularly special about it.  It was a standard style headstone with some flowers etched in the granite.  Upon it, someone had placed a candy ring.  He stared at the tombstone for some time.  The name on it read “Emily Jones”.  Beneath that, “May 12, 1972 – July 16, 1988”.  The epitaph read, “Here lies Emily’s bones, a lovelier lass, we’ve never known”. 
The sleeping pills turned on him, and he grew heavy and weary.  He curled up in a fetal position right there and went to sleep upon the grave.  Slowly, like the forming of a stray cloud, a skeletal form rose up from the grave.  She lay there beside him, facing him, as if two lovers were gazing into each other’s eyes after making love. 
Zack’s eyes shot wide open.  Horror filled him as he found himself staring into the vacant void of those skeletal eyes.  His heart pounded heavily in his chest.  He didn’t understand where he was or why he couldn’t run or even scream.  This was too much to bear, even for a paranormal fan such as Zack.
“Mine,” Emily’s Bones said as she touched him on the forehead with one long, boney finger.  Her finger felt ice cold as it pierced through the flesh to the skull beneath.  She absorbed the essence of his skull, and slowly, that headstrong will to push on despite the odds left him. She osmosed all of it. All of his stubbornness, his drive, his refusal to accept defeat, she consumed every last ounce.  Then, she reached into his jacket pocket.   He felt her skeletal hand dig around in there.  He couldn’t help it.  He felt warm wet urine soaking into his sleep shorts.  She pulled her hand out of his pocket, holding on tightly to a tube of black lipstick.  Then, she leaned up on one elbow and lined her teeth in black where her lips should have been.
She leaned in and gave Zack a kiss, leaving Rorschach inkblots around his lips.  Then she sank back into the earth below.   She left him there, shivering in the snow with a new perspective on life.   Zack found his voice once again, and he let out a scream.  He curled up tighter and wept, wanting to run, too scared to move, but ever so certain of one thing.  It was time to retire.

* * * * *

The story of Emily’s Bones doesn’t end there. 
It was late summer, the kind of day that that portended fall.   The grey sky, heavy with clouds, felt low and oppressive.  Cicadas hummed in steady rhythm.  Crows cawed in the distance.  Thunder rumbled.  The grass needed mowing, but it looked pretty like that, slightly wild and rebellious like a teenage boy’s hair.  Freshly mowed grass always seemed sad, as if reeling from a violent assault. 
The rain began to trickle down from the heavens, a gentle pitter patter upon the gravestone above.  Emily lay still in her coffin, her dark, lonely home.  It was daylight now, and she should have been sleeping, but she felt restless.  A sense of urgency kept her rolling about, for her feet were feeling brittle these days, and soon needed mending.  Where would she find her next victim?    Are you, dear reader, footloose and fancy free? 
A warning for all those wonder the night, should the graveyard beckon, stay out of sight, for Emily’s Bones will give you a fright, and take from you what you gives you your might.

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