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Thursday, October 31, 2019

An Epitaph Written in Bones and Skin

WARNINGThe following is a gruesome Halloween story with elements that may disturb some readers. 

Stretching forward and back and up, down, and sidewise through eternity is the infinitude of final moments, each one a surprise in the terminal instant.

Ben Nguyen's final moment came while he was returning a box of Corn Flakes to the pantry. When box met shelf, Ben lost control of his hands, which came up to his face and dug into his forehead with terrible strength, ripping the skin open to reveal the white skull beneath.

Ben staggered, blood pouring down his face, into his bulging eyes. His traitor hands forced themselves into the tiny space between skull and skin, pulling, tearing. The pressure increased, and the skin of Ben's head split down the middle, until the halves were resting gruesomely on Ben's shoulders. His naked skull wailed, bloodstained eyes rolling in exposed sockets, his tongue lolling through his awful skeletal grin.

And still his hands persisted, tearing now at the skin of his chest until glistening ribs were born, kissing air for the first time, organs spilling free like garbage pouring from a torn trash bag, splattering on the linoleum floor.

Ben's skeleton pushed down the skin over his hips as though taking off a pair of trousers, stepping free of the legs, kicking the floppy remains aside. It pulled the skin of his arms and shoulders free and hung it over a kitchen chair, then walked to the sink, leaned over it, and rejected eyes, tongue, brain, expelling them into the garburator through its eye sockets.

Ben's skeleton walked to the master bedroom, trailing bloody, bony footprints. It slid into the ensuite shower and cranked the tap all the way to its hottest setting, luxuriating in the steam, blood washing away, leaving only pristine white death.

Ben's skeleton walked downstairs and out the front door. It paused on the veranda, watching a trio of trick-or-treaters stroll by through the night, plastic buckets in hand: a devil, a princess, a skeleton. Ben's skeleton clacked its teeth together once and followed, dark chaperone. It reached out a bony hand for the devil's shoulder, and then--

--Ben's skin leapt from behind, ragged blanket of ruined flesh, tangling in the spaces between the bones, insinuating itself, flexing. Ben's skeleton danced uncontrollably, teeth clacking as Ben's skin wormed its way through the gaps, bones bending and snapping, flying through the chill night air like projectiles. The children turned and wailed as one, retreating into the safety of the darkness beyond, while skin and skeleton grappled.

In the end, Ben's skeleton shattered at the same moment Ben's skin was rent to uselessness, their terminal instants arriving with elegant simultaneity. The remains sprawled across the sidewalk, the lawn, and the lane, an epitaph written in bones and skin until the street sweeper, arriving placidly with the dawn, gathered up the remains, leaving only dark dreams behind. 

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