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David Dunwoody
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bones.jpg
Art by Kevin Duncan

He Likes Them Old Bones
 
David Dunwoody

Upton Rabeck sat in his beat-up ’79 Pinto and watched twilight claim the last of the day, watched the darkness slip its thick tendrils through the leaves of the trees and crawl in long, greedy shadows across the soil. The night with its cloying humidity and almost-tangible blackness was uncomfortable to some, but to Upton it was a welcome thing, shielding him from the light that exposed his pale, fat face to the world and its thousand disapproving eyes.

It was under cover of night that he always came to the cemetery, parking the Pinto in the rear so that the hanging trees hid it from view before the sun had set. Police didn’t tend to patrol this area very often, what with the cemetery being smack-dab in the oldest and poorest part of town. Even if the crime rate was higher out here, the cops just didn’t seem to have any interest in protecting the denizens of the rotted-out frame houses and narrow back alleys, the homeless who slept in vacant lots, or the outsiders, like Upton, who came to peruse the old graveyard with its forty-block spread of eroding headstones and forgotten names.

It was a calm, peaceful place, even more so in the dark, and Upton liked the spongy feel of the overgrown grass beneath his feet as he walked down the rows of graves. Here was a place where he felt no eyes glaring at him, where he wasn’t thrown into a sweaty panic by the masses around him; although he was still surrounded by people in a sense, wasn’t he? But they were still and blind inside the earth, each and every one.

Upton got out of the car and walked into the graves. He knew most areas of the cemetery by heart, but today he had come to a new place, a place set far back against the trees in a corner of the cemetery that had been almost completely reclaimed by the elements. The names had been worn off the headstones, replaced by layers of moss. Upton scraped a thin sheet of lichen from the top of a stone and sat down. The stone was cool and comfortable against his buttocks. He looked down at his feet and wondered how long the grave’s occupant had been interred there, wondered if there were even bones left in the soil.

That’s when he heard the voice.

Isn’t it funny . . .

At first he thought it was his own inner voice, an idle thought at the back of his mind. Then he heard it again, carried gently on the night wind to his ears from somewhere in the cemetery:

Isn’t it funny . . . no bones . . .

Upton’s heart was seized in an icy vise, and he peered into the shadows in search of the intruder. Which direction had the voice come from? Was it in front of him? Behind him? He spun around, nearly falling off the stone, and squinted into the trees.

He heard something coming, knocking branches aside, half a second before he was struck by it. Upton toppled over the stone with a cry, feeling the object’s weight pressing down on him, hearing the cracking of wood and feeling a shower of dirt that went down the back of his shirt and into the waist of the jeans.

It was a coffin. A coffin had struck him!

He screamed beneath the thing, struggling to free himself as more and more dirt fell from the ruptured wood. It fell into his eyes and mouth and he thought he was going to pass out. But just before he did, the coffin was suddenly lifted away. He sucked air into his lungs and peered upward to see . . .

Him.

Holding the coffin in one enormous fat hand was a giant. A giant, there was no other word for it—for him—but giant. A ten-foot-tall giant with pointed ears and a great big forehead and an awful, wide grin that stretched across its bone-white face beneath marble-like black eyes.

As his vision adjusted, Upton saw the thing was wearing several ratty old sweaters over its massive frame, each a different color.  Through the holes in the fabric, new colors were revealed like layers in some sort of rainbow.

The giant overturned the coffin, and its lid fell open with a creak, followed by an outpouring of soil. And the giant said, in its horrible booming voice, “Funny there be no bones in this bone-box.

It smiled down at Upton, as if expecting a response. If he were able to make a sound, he would’ve screamed at the nightmarish creature, and would have gotten up and run for his car if he could summon any strength to his legs. But he couldn’t do anything but lie there and stare at the giant. It tossed the coffin aside, and Upton heard it crash down somewhere in the shadows.

“Funny,” the giant said, tapping a clawed finger against its chin. “I been pulling up all sorts of bone-boxes here and there, and never seen one with no bones. No bones for gnawin’ and suckin’ on—I likes them old bones especially. But never seen a box with no bones.”

Almost against his will, Upton spoke. In a small, shaky voice, he said, “This is an old graveyard. These graves are very old.”

The giant considered the words, still tapping its chin. “Too old.” He glanced down at Upton, and that awful smile stretched again from ear to pointed ear. “Not many bones here I guess, not for me.”

The giant was thinking, gears turning in that huge head, and it was coming to some sort of conclusion. Upton prayed with all his might that the conclusion wasn’t I think I’ll have me some of your bones, fresh ones they are but them’s still bones, bones for me . . . Upton bit through his bottom lip as he lay trembling.

Then the giant spoke, one fat finger tugging at a hole in its dark blue top sweater. “Guess I ought to look somewheres else for my bones. I sure likes them old bones . . . good for suckin’. Real good.”

Upton nodded, feeling blood trickling down his chin. “Old ones,” he said in earnest agreement.

The giant reached down, and Upton nearly passed out; he felt his bladder emptying in his jeans. This is it, I’m going to die, all they’ll find will be my piss-soaked pants.

The giant gently patted him on the head. As if he were a stray animal.

“I’m-a go find me some bones,” it said, and turned to trudge off in the darkness.

Upton waited until he could no longer hear its heavy footfalls in the brush. Then he got up and ran for his car.

Falling into the driver’s seat, he fumbled through his urine-soaked pockets for his keys. “C’mon, c’mon . . .” There they were! He stabbed them into his ignition with shaking hands and started the car.

The headlights illuminated the giant on the path before him, crouching over to peer through the windshield, that awful stupid grin on its face.

“What kinda box is this?” It asked. Upton shook his head rapidly, trying to find the gearshift with his quaking hands. The giant stepped closer and poked at the hood with a claw. Then it slipped the claw beneath the hood and pried it open, studying the engine inside with curious black eyes.

Oh God, Upton thought. Oh God.

Don’t let it look in the trunk . . .

The creature shuffled around the side of the car, glancing at Upton, and prodded the trunk lid. Upton’s hand found the gearshift. Put it into drive. Put it into drive and go, go, go, GO!

But before he could, he heard the groaning of the trunk lid, and the lock broke and the lid flew up to reveal its contents to the giant.

There was a low gasp. Upton sagged against the steering wheel as horror overcame him.

“Here’s bones,” the giant said. “Lots of bones!”

And there were. Many, many bones, the bones of those people whose accusing stares and disapproving glances had pushed Upton over the edge, years’ worth of old bones piled up that Upton had been far too fond of to throw away.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, his mind said. Should have buried them with the rest. Stupid boy.

“Why was you taking my bones?” asked the giant. The voice’s edge of confusion was gone, replaced by something else. Anger.

The giant’s claws scraped along the side of the Pinto, and Upton heard the door being pried open at his side. He didn’t bother looking up at the eyes of the giant, for he knew what he would see in them, and he knew this time there was no escaping their judgment.

 

 

 

    David Dunwoody is the author of Empire (empirenovel.com ), a zombie serial coming in print from Permuted Press. His work has also appeared in Permuted's The Undead trilogy and Read by Dawn 2 from Bloody Books. Upcoming anthology appearances include History is Dead and The Undead: Headshot Quartet. Dave lives in Utah with his wife and the requisite two cats.

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