The Guest

by RK Musgrave

skeleton bonesUpon reflection, everyone would have the same innate response – do not drag a found coffin into your living room.

But this consideration was found running through my head only after the fact.

Loneliness leads to impulsive whims.

The crowbar had already been sought before I stood looking down at the worn mahogany veneer. It could use a polish.

Digging roughly ten feet from my back porch and about three feet down, my shovel had twanged against the coffin that now lay before me in the living room.

After methodically wedging the crowbar into six different areas, the wood finally began to pry apart. The pungent stench — a horrific blend of sulphur, musk, and rotten flesh — caused me to extract some dry heaves.

After toiling for a solid ninety minutes, the coffin had finally been worked enough to enable the lid to rip open.

“This better be good.”

My hand recoiled like a loaded spring, dropping the lid; the muffled sounds emanating from the coffin were akin to witnessing a domestic dispute aurally through walls of government housing.

I was awestruck as the lid flung open and the skeleton sat up, gazing directly at me.

My awe morphed into anticipation.

The skeleton got out of the coffin, wandered over to the couch, sat down, and packed itself a pipe of my finest tobacco.

My mind raced with inherent yet seemingly impossible possibilities.

Casting the struck match aside, the skeleton took a long and heavy draw; the tobacco sizzled, cracked, and popped under the flame; the smoke billowed from the ribs like a porous chimney stack, which I found mesmerizing.

“I didn’t mean to – well, I didn’t know you … how are you?” I mumbled and fumbled like a simpleton afflicted with dystrophy.

“Well, now you’re in some serious shit,” the skeleton said.

“Um…”

“Cause I’m out here and no one’s in there.” Its bony finger pointed at the open coffin.

“Okay…”

My legs carried me shakily to the coffin and I looked in — for the same reason I decided to drag a coffin into my living room. It looked snug.

“Can’t you just get back in?”

The skeleton’s laugh was filled with as much melody as it was mockery.

“There’s no way I am getting back in there, not now.”

My desire for clarification went unfulfilled. It seemed an activity my guest was unwilling to pursue.

“So, what does that mean?”

That I was confused is a grand understatement.

“For me? Nothing. You, on the other hand, may have some serious problems.”

I laughed, “Absurd.”

The skull nodded in agreement, “I can either live here with you, or –”

“Live with me?”

The notion tantalized. I pictured us laughing at the table over wine and biscuits.

“Or, you can go in the box.”

There’s something sobering in finding that you know nothing of impossibilities until they sit before you.

After another long and deep draw from the pipe, the skeleton’s methodical and mechanized movement unnerved and delighted me.

With the pipe back in its holder, the sleek specimen rose to its bony feet and stepped toward me. I held out my arms in anticipation, years of isolation seemingly over.

Instead, a bony finger poked me in the chest, “Get in the box.”

I knocked the hand away and it flew off, shattering into pieces on an old rug and sprawling across the floor like roaches scurrying under luminous light.

“That wasn’t very nice.” It poked harder, with the index finger from its remaining hand.

I threw my hands in the air and said, “It was an accident.”

“Out of the two of us, you’re the only one here with something to lose,” the skeleton said, kneeling on the floor and hunting for its missing bones. “Well, maybe we could be roomies. I mean, I’m clean and I don’t eat much.” A melodic laughter followed the idea.

The laughter stopped. Laughing alone never seems to appeal.

“Geez, maybe I’m better off in the box, after all.”

I took a tentative step forward. “No!” And I reach tenderly toward the skeletal bones.

The skeleton queried me with suspicion then held out its hand. In the hand were a few fragments of broken bone of various sizes. “That’s all I can find.”

Shrugging defensively, I said, “Don’t know what to tell you. It was an accident.”

Trying to please, I leaned in and planted my lips on the broken, chipped, and soil-encrusted teeth. The rough, cold pressure on my top lip made my insides detonate with warmth. I opened my mouth a little and licked the chin. The skeleton pushed me away.

“I must have got the wrong idea,” I said.

“I’m getting back in the box.”

“No, stay, please.”

I lunged forward, wrapping my arms around the bones.

The skeleton threw me and drew the sharpened bone back over its skull, ripping it down towards the side of my neck.

I jumped back and stumbled over the coffin, toppling in.

The bones lunged after me, trying to shut the lid as I awkwardly tried to pull the skeleton into the box with me.

Our first fight, I couldn’t help but smile – my very own lover’s tiff.

What’re you smiling at?” The skeleton asked, breaking free of my grip. It slung me violently and I landed on my elbow, my funny bone smacking flush on the side of the cold hard steel of the crowbar.

With a hold of the cold metal once more, I jumped to my feet and took a swing.

The skeleton ducked behind the coffin lid and popped up as the crowbar flew passed. It took a quick jab while I swung the crowbar down again, connecting with the skull just as the bone from the skeleton’s hand pierced my skin.

I stumbled backwards. The skull flew across the room into the wall and dropped to the floor. At the same time, I fell.

My incision was nothing more than a meagre flesh wound.

The headless body moved in circles like a pooch savagely hunting its own tail.

“Over here!” The skull yelled, “Here, under the painting!”

Walking toward the disoriented skeleton, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I guided it back into the chair.

“What’re you doing? Don’t sit back there!” The skull pleaded.

The lost and bewildered frame welcomed my help and was easily guided into the chair; the table cloth from my dining table allowed me to strap the skeleton down.

Once secured, I sauntered over to the skull.

“Stay away from me!” it yelled.

I ignored its pleas, and as I got closer the pleading turned to begging.

I leaned down and picked the skeleton up as it continued to beg for a return to the security of the coffin. It bordered on pathetic so I mingled its mouth with mine.

It bit my tongue, hard.

After unhinging its jaw bone to retrieve my tongue, I placed the skull onto the body and whispered, “Now, now. You’re going to have to learn some manners if you’re going to live here with me.”

Previously published by Griffith Press, “Talent Implied” Anthology.

RK Musgrave is an Australian creative, when he’s not writing; he pursues vital life skills such as sword swallowing, grave digging and tick farming. Look up some more of his subversive creations at rkmusgrave.blogspot.com.

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