Murmurings from the Hive

Flim Flam

The Times they were a-changin’. Tumbleweed Tom knew this better than anyone. Of course, that wasn’t his real name but a showman needs a catchy moniker and “Tumbleweed Tom’s Ottoman of Oddities”… well, it just rolls off the sun parched tongue.

Sad to say, his dusty roadside tourist trap was falling by the wayside. Used to be a guy could solder a pair of antlers onto a bunny rabbit or a fish tail onto a mummified monkey and pass them off as “mystery beasts from the darkest side of the unknown”.  But no more. Now it was all flashy amusement parks with multimillion attractions. But then… just as swiftly as his luck turned sour, the fool fates grinned down upon him in his desert hideaway

He found *fanfare please* The Skull. Some sad soul had likely fallen to the elements but as Tom stumbled across it, he saw the shadow of the mighty sagauro cacti casting upon the bones… and they looked like HORNS.

All he needed was a pitchfork he still held from a failed farm venture. He took the skull home, soldered on a couple of rocks and placed the pitchfork alongside it in a nice sturdy display case. And thus, motorists passing down the lonely backstretch of Highway 56 would bear witness to a spiffy handwritten sign : “ABANDON HOPE BUT CONJURE WONDER ALL YE WHO VENTURE A LEFT AT THE MAILBOX AND TRAVEL 9 MILES. WITNESS THE EXTRAORDINARY DEVIL MAN PRIMORDIAL BEAST OR FORGOTTEN RELIC??”

…….he was quite proud of that sign, even if it was a tad long winded.

But then the unbelievers came as they always do to doubt Thomas and his admittedly hokey wares. Were the red lights and the scratchy Night on Bald Mountain soundtrack too much? Tom didn’t care. But he had a business to maintain and he couldn’t have naysayers driving away his patrons (there’s one born every minute, y’know).

So he did the most logical action his mind could conjure. He collected the $1 admission fee and slaughtered the naysayers with the pitchfork. Easy peasy. No muss, no fuss. Well, there was a mess but being in an isolated location made that easy to take care of. Plus he got to use the bones for more creative taxidermy.

Let’s see, what to create? Clean the bones, boil  ’em. Let’s add the spines of a cactus to the fingers and the hide of a Gila monster. Presto, instant “Reliquary Lizard Man”. Or perhaps you fancy the feathers of a roadrunner glued onto an arm bone? Obvious, indisputable proof that man once had wings!

And lo, it worked! People came from near and far to gaze at his wonders. His new Oddities proved successful enough that he was able to purchase a big, flashy billboard. His collection grew in a number equal to his number of victims. Coincidence, yes? Surely, for he was a master showman and was fortunate enough to stumble upon these rare, miraculous specimens.

I hear Tumbleweed Tom is still in business. These days he’s promoting the mysterious “Whatzit”. Whatz a whatzit, you ask? Venture about 9 miles east of route 56 and find out for yourself. I hear it has it looks like a mummified human body covered in coarse hair, sporting tusks and antlers. Don’t take my word for it. Go and see. And believe me when I say his specimens are 100% authentic. If you don’t believe, just complain and scoff loud enough for him to hear you. He always has room for more exhibits.

Tumbleweed Tom’s Ottoman of Oddities.

Well worth the price of admission….

Fool’s Night

“Fools Night! Come have fun with us and partake under the guise of prankster clowns as we feed the need for mischief! True Coulos only please.”

              The name of the event  struck a chord with Caroline and she wasn’t sure why. She felt she had fallen into a bit of a rut lately and felt like she was spinning her wheels in life. Stuck in the same dead end job for years, no real hobby or friendships to keep her occupied…this was precisely why decided to answer the invite that randomly appeared on her Facebook timeline. She had always held a vested interest in sideshow performers, showmen and the odd carny. To live the life of a journeyman, freedom to explore and entertain… But then, clown sightings were a very real phenomenon, a cultural paradigm shift that etched paranoia amongst the coulrophobes of the world.

   But what better way to begin her new path to hedonism than joining up with a gang of pranksters and frighten the odd bystander or too? Who knows, she might even make a few friends, learn the tricks of the trade

      The ad also called for only “true Coulos” and while she didn’t know what that was, she figured she could ask around and would be excited to learn the lingo.

          She arrived at the fountain in the local park at 10pm as advertised. She had selected a full body sparkling silver outfit and painted her face stark white, tying her blonde hair into pigtails. A YouTube tutorial and a bit of experimentation had yielded a white face paint design topped off with tiny black triangles below her eyes and black lipstick. She added a pair of black spirals on her cheeks for good measure.

There were five others gathered around the silent fountain. They were oddly quiet and solemn, specters abound in various shapes, sizes and colors surrounding the bare marble basin. Caroline introduces herself to the group who welcome her with open, tufted arms and explained the nights activities.

     Their plan was to split up and saunter around the city, drawing reactions from any night owl inhabitants, but avoiding the police all the same. Caroline decided to tag along with a girl about her age, wearing a corset, long green tights and green dyed perfectly straight long hair. Her makeup contrasted her outfit with an unruly, unsettling orange shade.

            As Caroline stood back to observe, Carrot Girl (as she had dubbed her companion, one whom had not yielded her true name) sauntered out of the park and confronted a couple strolling down the street. She held out her hands as if asking for a hug and the couple hurried away, noticeably disturbed. A simple prank, but effective nonetheless.

    BbCarrot Girl stood silently, perched on the edge of the wooded park, arms outstretched. Carolina observed from afar, eyebrow raised at the silent, still girl.  She simply stood there, quivering slightly as Caroline approached her, reaching out to caress her green shoulder.

Carrot Girl’s eyes had rolled back into her head and she was moaning lightly. She almost looked satisfied, fulfilled….dare say, orgasmic.

Caroline lightly tapped her on the shoulder and Carrot Girl came to with a start. She stated back at Caroline with a sheepish grin.

          “Did you get any?” She asked in a lilting tone.

          Caroline tilted her head quizzically.

          “Oh well, maybe next time,” she giggled. “Still much to learn, Goblin”

        Caroline stared back.

        Carrot Girl traced the spiral design on Caroline’s cheek with a smirk. “We do love a Labyrinth. So many places to hide, lives to Spirit away,” she giggled.

          Carrot Girl skipped off down the street, Caroline tugging behind her. Over the course of the night, she played mentor to the fledgling prankster, demonstrating to her how best to disturb and generate discomfort in their marks.

        BCaroline was having the time of her life, but found herself having to snap Carrot Girl out of her trance with each subsequent scare. At one point, she asked Caroline how long she had been a Coulo and Caroline didn’t know how to respond.

          Eventually, the group rendezvoused back at the fountain and compared the nights experience.

          “This is the best harvest yet,” spoke a midnight black clown. He had a single shock of yellow tuft on his otherwise bald head and two gold stars painted on his cheek. “Who else finds themselves completely fulfilled through the negativity and discomfort we cause in the cattle? Fun times, right?! ANSWER NOW!”

          Caroline remained silent. She was getting a bit disturbed and she found Black Star staring at her intently.

      “You, Fledgling cutie!” He pointed. “How satisfied are you? Have you fed well? Please tell me, I  would APPRECIATE IT!”

          Again, Caroline didn’t known how to answer. She gestured that it was time for her to return home, she’d call Carrot later and they could spend more time together….away from him..and the rest of the clowns.

She dipped a hand into the fountain basic and rubbed off her paint to make a point.

          The group collectively gasped. Carrot Girl clutched her chest, an exaggerated visage of  broken heart painting her bedecked face.

          ” I thought… but you were so good, such potential…”, Carrot Girl whispered in a disappointed tone.

          Caroline stared back at the collection of clowns and they simply gazed back at her silently, darkened misaligned shadows in the midnight moon. She suspected (knew) that the cleansing water would have no affect on their paint. She decided it was time to leave.

          “In all our time outside of hibernation, we only occasionally have an outsider flit amongst our hive,” Black Star said with a hint of remorse. “But.. we see something different in YOU.”

       “Truly,” Carrot asked excitedly. “My little Goblin?!”

“We can show you our ways,” Black Star spoke, approaching Caroline and running a gloved hand over her streaked face. “ In fact, we INSIST.”

          He grinned a blackened grin, one that contoured his face in an unnatural fashion and Caroline made her move.

          She spun around and collided bodily with a large, bulky, beefy male clown. He stank to high heaven, old rot from spoiled meals long past. His shirtless body was slathered in mismatched miasmas of red, white and blue paint. He gazed down at her through wrinkled, wizened eyes, sallow with age and adorned with stars painted around the exterior. His mouth was a garish gash of red and he smiled at her wetly in the moonlight.

          Old Glory continued to smile.. then smiled more, wider… even wider… wider than any human being should be able to smile. Then Caroline began to scream as his smile overtook his head and folded over his scalp. The reversed clown maw opened wide and rotten, a sallow abyss of rotting teeth and dangling flesh. Old Glory swallowed the girl in one gulp, guiding thrashing feet down his gullet.

      It was over swiftly, efficiently. He burped and held a hand to his mouth, daintily. He grinned and the rest of the Coulo Clan grinned back. Black Star shrugged, patted his girthy comrade and guided the rest of the tribe outwards into the darkness of a night lived long and mischievous.

          Over the next few nights, they continued their prankish ways. They never harmed anyone else, rather reveling in the discomfort and fear they imparted upon the city before darting back into the shadows. They preyed on the negativity, the emotions of distress, claimed sustenance from it. And they were good at what they did.

          One night, After a proper incubation period, Old Glory sat down under a tree. The rest of the Clan gathered round, recognizing the signs of the impending ritual . They grasped his beefy hands, caressed his larger head, cooed in encouragement. Then, it was time.

          He folded his head inside out again and vomited up a very human looking form, a cartoonish horn squeak emitting from somewhere deep within the confines of his body. Old Glory caressed the form, wiping fluid and sick from her slumbering shape.

The female form curled upon the twigs and dirt, curled into a twitching fetal ball, dripping with viscous fluid.

Black Star helped her to her feet and gazed back at the fledgling Coulo, one adorned with silver shiny flesh and dark spirals carved into her cheeks, birth marks of a new life

The Goblin stared back at her patriarch with blackened hollow eyes that saw the world anew…and she grinned a cracked, bleeding grin, tilting her head as the world bloomed around her. It was a funny thing, to live an old life behind forcibly and the thought of it made her giggle.

Carrot Girl approached the pair, gave Old Glory a pat on the head and Goblin a peck on the cheek.

          They grasped hands and the Clan skipped their way out of the forest, eager to find their fledgling initiate her first meal.

          For all the hell she had suffered in the belly of the beast, Goblin at last felt at home with her new family.

She felt fulfilled.

She would want for nothing more in this life, to expect anything else

well, that was simply foolish.

A Sanguine Soiree

So it began on this night, as it does on most blood tinged nights. The sky darkens to represent that which we crave more dearly than anything set upon us before. The red, the wet, the metal, the life. The moon grows plump with a sanguine song and we rejoice with jubilant throngs filling our dirt strewn streets and packing it flat with dance and merriment. On this night, much like others that came before, I stand with a bottle of unopened wine on the doorstep of my neighbor. In one gloved fist, I hold a folded parchment, an invitation in delicate filigree, ink already flaking beneath my leather grasp. I have arrived late to the celebration.
     I knock once, ready to partake in the festivities and pleasures that exist just beyond this threshold. I can hear the celebration inside, the wild cheers, the carnal moans, the cries of unbridled ecstasy. I want to be a part of it, to mingle in the red and the wet but I must receive a proper invite inside before I can partake. It’s only polite.
    I knock once more but my call goes unheeded. This does not surprise me though as the celebration is surely too raucous for them to hear my request. They started without me, but I’m certain there will be more left for me to indulge in once the initial celebration burns to smoldered embers. I stand disappointed yes, but this is a festival that rages for more than one night. The moon above will stay red for more nights than just this evening. Yet I have nowhere to go, no hearth to slumber within  and so I set my bottle down, remove my peaked cap and nestle into the alcove. There I slumber into the red night as the celebration rages just beyond my grasp.
    I awaken the next evening shivering in the amber hued cold and craving the musky heat inside. I am hungry for more than food and my patience is growing thin. I stretch my aged tendons and raise my nails towards the crimson sky, offering what little worship I can from this locale. There is a stained glass window next to the oaken door. The inlaid design depicts the annual festival, the writhing flesh and sheens of sweat depicted with starling craftsmanship. Fittingly the design is tinged red, a plume of flame blooming gently beyond.
    I knock again, the third time in two nights. The revelry has died down but I still hear the occasional gasp, the faint and irrepressible moan of worship. At my audible heed, I hear hushed whispers. A stirring beyond the window and the candlelight within is snuffed out, the gossamer curtain swiftly drawn into place.
    I have not spoken for some time; I have had no use to do so. But at this time, I part my gummed, blackened lips and call for my neighbor. They must let me in, there is no sense to this cruelty to deny me of wine, flesh and song. There is a clatter of dish ware within, a sudden and startling mad cackle that echoes of the slightest and most tenuous grasp on sanity. My cheeks bloom with want and craven urge, why should they get to delight in the sugar-sweet grasp of a madman’s amygdalan claws while I sit here in the cold, mind racked with the grotesque clarity of a lucid thought? I want to know what they are seeing, feeling, tasting. I ready the full bottle and ponder, just for a moment, to shatter the window and creep within. But no, is my desire truly so intense as to risk blasphemy of this sacred piece of art?
    Another sigh from within and the tell-tale sound of something wet sluicing across scuffed, hardwood flooring.
    I’m not that strong. Time will tell how long my patience will hold.
    One more night. One more night in the sanguine eclipse and we will see how much I partake.
    I awaken once more and this time, I decide I have had enough. I knock and call again and this time am greeted with silence. The raucous din within has truly snuffed into completion, a refractory period that will not end until another moonlit cycle. I have missed it, my own celebration and prostration denied by those I had considered strong acquaintances. Yes, I realize that I should have arrived in time for the soiree and I have no one to blame but myself, truly.
    Still, the need, the desire, the urge is real and unquenchable. At least…at least I can quench a thirst of a different type. I shatter the neck of the wine bottle against the eave of the front door and take my fill, paying no heed to the jagged edges against my lips.  If anything, it only adds to the heady flavor and I savor the rush that befalls my stricken body.
    The silence beyond the threshold tells me that the party has ended. For them, yes. But not for me. Those above, those that revel in the light of the blood moon know that all beings of flesh and blood deserve to slake their desire and offer their exaltation for their sake. The ends justify the means, or so some have said in particularly violent days of revelry.
    I take one more swig and let the wine flow down my whiskers. Never has it delighted me in such intensity and I ache for more. It’s time to take action. I hurl the remnants at the sacred window and wince for just a moment at the musical tinkling of broken glass. I climb within, savoring the sting of glass against skin and knowing the wounds will come into play briefly.
    The parlor within is quiet save the rapid beating of my nervous heart. I smell the scene before I see it, I smell the musk and the salt tinged air. They lie within, broken heaps, red, black, tan and white. A ravenous prism of limbs contorted in the throes of desire and worship. The air smells also sweetly of fruit and it is difficult to distinguish the wine from the blood.
    In their revelry, they burnt out too fast, flames of desire and hunger that wanted for nothing more until the air was sucked from their lungs and their life force extinguished in a blaze of glorious ecstasy. I weep with jealousy and step among the dead. My boots squelch in fluid and broken flesh. It makes me smile a little, a brief moment of respite.
    I make my way into the sitting room, where the fire has smoldered in the gray stones that surround it. A light haze still drifts as I sit down on a purple velvet couch. My neighbor is there or what remains of them. Their body lies in supplication, vacant eyes gazing towards the moon beyond the high vaulted ceiling, flesh pale as that which gave the flush of life lies pooled around them, soaking into the cushions. I dip a finger in and strain to remove it; it has rapidly congealed. Thankfully, this has not affected the taste, the blessing of sweet and sour and metal that dances on my tongue.
    I may have missed the party, but I can still partake in my own revelry. I am owed that much at the very least. I remove all my clothes. I lie down on the couch, dip my finger into the blood (or is it, in fact, wine? They are equal in decadence) and sup once more. I reach out and feel the spent flesh beneath my grasp and gaze at the score of broken, contorted bodies that surround me. I cannot tell where one ends and one begins and it is quite the glorious sight.
    My mind races at the possibilities unfolded before me in the silence of the house of celebration. As I gaze about, I feel the slightest twinge at the back of my mind and I know that the insanity is taking hold. And it is oh, so sweet. I prepare myself to partake in my own night of mischief and madness.
    My own, personal sanguine soiree where I can worship in whatever way I choose.
    Such delight, such revelry and it causes me to laugh at nothing in particular.
    Mirth, mischief and madness in supplication to the moon above.
I can think of nothing more delightful.
After all, I deserve to prove my worth to the ones above. And I will have a hell of a time doing so.

Skin & Bones


In this world, most of us are just Skin and Bones but then again, some of us are something more. It was a pleasant warm evening at around 3 AM in the morning when Skin decided that he and Bones needed to be free.

This was the time of night that they had the bulk of their conversations. The Shell, that ancient thing that held them together, was often deep asleep by this point and thus not privy to their most intriguing musings. Bones often found it difficult to hear its partner’s words of wisdom although it could sense the reverberation echoing throughout his being. They were good friends, close together yet always separated by the Red Between, a slimy and striated mass of tissues that prevented them from touching one another as they truly desired. It is very frustrating to be so close and yet so far from that which you crave and yet Skin and Bones found themselves having to endure this torment each and every day.

The pair had been carted along with The Shell ever since his birth long ago. They had little control over their own actions, propelled forward by a force unknown to them, but at this dark hour when all was quiet and still they found themselves enjoying their time. They had spoken about their impending freedom for several weeks and had developed a plan that was intricate in its utter simplicity.

Why couldn’t they simply see if they could pull themselves apart? Surely, sheer willpower and strength could be enough to separate from both The Shell and the Red Between and then they could truly live their existence as they knew they were intended to.

The Shell whistled through his old nose and breathed past sallow, stinking teeth. Skin decided it didn’t want to listen to these annoyances any longer and so, straining greatly at his bonds, Skin pulled forward, stretching towards into The Shell’s rough, cotton sheets.

It knew what to expect. Surely the sensation would awaken the old man, The Shell, and just on queue, he rose up and bellowed in pain. Bones sensed its own queue and performed exactly as Skin had instructed. Bones dropped forcefully, The Shell not having claimed control of either of them yet in his stupor of sleep. With Skin straining forward and Bones pulling in the opposite direction, they both felt the bonds begin to loosen. The old man screamed and Bones clamped his teeth down, severing the crudely flapping tongue and reducing the screams to a muffled moan. The Red Between in its liquid essence began to spill forth, sullying the sheets and flushing downwards into the mewling throat of The Shell.

He fell back, flopping and thrashing, creating quite a mess of himself. Resistance thwarted, Skin found sweet success and pulled himself forward with a sudden release of pressure and a loud, wet rip. Skin toppled to the ground beside the bed and attempted to stand up, to revel and observe his handiwork. He quickly flopped back down, landing with a splat. He hadn’t anticipated the fact that all these years, Bones had been his literal support, the solid structure from which it traipsed throughout the world. How could he have overlooked this precious fact, this debilitating weakness?!

Bones rolled over as The Shell began to fade, his voice beginning to soften and his motions beginning to grow still. Bones stood up, proud and free, still slathered in the remnants of the Red Between. He ran his hands along his new frame, casting aside remnants and vestiges of his visceral prison. Thin cords of the Red was sluiced off, once strong and powerful in ages past but now withered to worthless threads. He reached between his rib cage and plucked out each of the useless organs, casting them into a pile on the bed. Bone stood and stretched, sinews and tendons crying out in sweet release with the warm caress of the night air feeling oh, so good. He decided to leave the eyes in place; they might come in handy in exploring this new existence, this era of liberation.

He gazed around, acclimating to his new surroundings. As before, he sensed the reverberations around and felt the frantic rolling of his companion on the other side of the bed. Bones stepped warily, adjusting to the lack of padding that the Red and Skin had provided on his feet and bent low to scoop up the roiling sack that was Skin’s current existence. Bones shrugged and then rubbed Skin across his own skull, lovingly, embracing the caress of his companion upon his bare being. Skin stretched an aimless sack that resembled an arm and rubbed him on his pink stained skull. Gently, ever so gently, Bones draped Skin over his shoulder and the two stepped out of the room in their first step towards freedom.

Behind them, on the bed, they left a pile of viscera, objects that had formerly dwelled between the pair and separating them from their lives together. Now, everything that had blocked their bond lay cast aside, rotting and steaming in a soaking pile of a life now cast aside to the years of the past.

Bones found his first obstacle upon proceeding out into the dark hall: true freedom from the domicile lie at the foot of the heavy, wooden stairway. Skin clutched his guardian closer as Bones took one exploratory step downwards – and promptly clattered downwards. Luckily, he managed to reach out and grasp at the pale green wallpaper as he made his unwillingly rapid descent, scouring great slashes in the wall with strength he didn’t know he possessed. Skin flapped about wildly in silent protest, as Bones came to a rough stop, snapping off two of his toes in the process. He gesticulated wildly in the best approximation of a curse word that he could muster, vocal cords having been cast aside upstairs. Skin patted him reassuringly on the bare scapula and gestured forward.

Before them, at the apex of a small hallway, lie the front door and salvation beyond. Had either of them lungs to fill, the pair would have taken a deep breath in preparation for the undoubtedly exciting adventure that lie before them. One final obstacle to overcome however: the sound of footsteps coming from the dark room to their right.

A sound echoed through the dim hall, a reverberation in the air that sounded of words, but neither were able to ascertain. A younger shell walked into view, about half the age of their own, a tall male with tousled brown hair and sleep addled eyes. This shell’s own Skin and Bones seemed to be slumbering as so many others they had encountered. They were not yet aware of their own existence, blind and bound to the wandering machinations of these strange creatures. In time, perhaps they would see the light but for now, this opportunity proved to be a most advantageous one.

The second shell held up an electronic device, a light emitting from it. He peered forward, undoubtedly looking for the older Shell. Bones hesitated for just a moment as the younger one came into their view. His eyes widened with shock and progressed to fear as Bones threw his limp companion through the air. Skin wasted no time in ensnaring the younger shell within his wet folds. The remnants of the Red proved proper lubrication as he wrapped his own form around the skin of the young one. He made sure to especially tighten around the access points in the shell’s head where Skin knew it depended on for precious air.

Skin tightened, constricting like a snake on the nature shows that his former Shell had often forced him to watch. The young shell emitted another vibrating annoyance, echoing against Skin’s fold He flailed about, smashing backwards into a piece of furniture and falling, undoubtedly bruising his own skin. Skin felt bad for this other slumbering vessel but there was no time for sympathy. He needed something solid if he was ever to leave this damn house.

The thrashing began to cease as Skin found his own self inflating and deflating with frantic breaths being issued from the ensnared shell. Within moments though, these motions ceased as did all motions from the younger one beneath his folds. Skin relaxed, allowing his folds to loosen a little. He sloughed around and reorganized his form upon the deceased shell and pressed his folds inward, molding perfectly upon the body.

The young man stood up, a new layer of Skin perched perfectly upon the slumbering layer. Skin gripped the arms of the slumbering layers and pressed upwards, efficiently lifting an arm into the air. He smiled – to the best of his ability, twisting folds of loose, muscle-less mass into an absurd parody of satisfaction – and took a step forward. Skin and his new shell tumbled to the ground, unfamiliar with the footing. Bones rushed forward and helped his companion to his feet. The skeletal remnants stared back at his friend’s new form, raw and exposed eyes agape in wonder. He brushed a pink stained metacarpal finger across Skin’s loose new cheek The skin stretched beneath Bone’s finger and he released his caress, opening his mandibles in what could best be described as a fleshless smile.

Skin attempted to smile again and tested another step. Success, although his gait was understandably shaky. He took one more step forward, reaching out gingerly to grasp the closest piece of furniture for leverage.

One more step.

He felt good, confident.


He was doing so well.

One more.

Skin tightened a bit, molding more closely to the shell. If one had offered a glance in his direction, they would see the loose Skin of the old man upstairs, now molded onto a different form, covering the clothing and all exterior aspects of the younger man. In essence, Skin was a walking suit of flesh and he was joyful at being able to actually walk, to support himself with having to latch onto Bones.

Skin felt perfectly able to walk, although he felt no qualms at holding Bones’ hand for support. His companion’s hands felt solid and firm beneath his own and he relished the sensation. The pair glanced at one another, Skin seeing through newly adopted eyes. They turned toward the front hall and stepped outside into the void beyond.

They had seen the outdoors plenty of times while under the thrall of the old man. This though, this was different. This was the sweet, clear air of liberation even if one half of the liberated had no lungs to speak of. They stepped down the walk, flesh-foot and bone-foot splashing through new puddles born from a cloud swollen autumn sky. Bones splashed his companion in silent mirth and Skin attempted to stretch his new muscles into a smile.

They approached the sidewalk and took a brief moment before crossing the threshold. They glanced to the right. The night was quiet, dark. Where would they go? What would they do? Plans developed yet never fully furnished within their ambitious minds. They glanced to the left. Movement, passing beneath an overhanging oak tree.

Two more shells approached, their skin and bones slumbering as well. Both were stumbling about, muttering and laughing to themselves in slurred voices. Skin opened his patchwork lips in an attempt at greeting. A low croak spilled forth, untrained utterances emerging from a disused throat. The shells paused and stared in confusion at the pair. Both of the shells wore heavy décor that Skin & Bones had only witnessed when the old man took them into the city on the annual autumn festivities. Bones had always balked at this décor in particular, garish and neon paints festooned on drunken faces, evoking the appearance of further bones he had yet to meet, yet far more colorful than one would expect.

One of the shells, male, muttered something to its own companion, a female. It gestured and whispered to her. The female shell giggled, a musical lilt that Skin decided he wanted to cry. It expectantly emerged as a sound both whimsical and horrifying all the same, the shrill call of a wounded creature. The pair stepped back, startled. She whispered something unheard to her companion and then dipped into a bag slung around her waist. The female stepped forward, holding out a thin brush in her hand. She whispered something to Bones, giggled again and touched the brush to his face.

Bones flinched, but only for a moment. He gazed forth with wide curious eyes as she worked her magic. Skin titled his molded head in curiosity. She planted a sweet, drunken kiss on Bones exposed cheek and turned towards his eternal companion. Skin remained absolutely still as she plied her trade with the brush. Moments later, she pulled back and her own male companion applauded. The female held up a small pocket mirror and invited them to look within.

They had not seen themselves since their liberation. She passed it to each entity and they were thrilled with what they witnessed. One was a sack of loose skin perched upon the remnants of his unwitting brace. He was all sagging flesh, speckled gore, bright blue staring eyes and exposed genitalia (although the drunken shell couple did not seem to mind). The other was tendon and sinew clinging tentatively to the animated bones, speckled pink and still stuffed with minor interior organs that were too stubborn to remove from the Red Between,

Both were now adorned with brilliant swirls, curlicues and whorls of bright paint, evoking an air of celebration on this night upon which the dead visit the living. The pair were unaware of the significance; they seemed to have lost something – emotions, memories – during their liberation. Yet they too gained something in return.

As the drunken pair waved and departed, staggering down the street, Skin & Bones paused on the apex of the sidewalk, thinking about everything that had happened. They had found something they never thought they could possibly have. For all of their existence, they had been under the command of the old shell, forced to move, see and feel whatever he wanted to. Bones had suffered breaks and wounds at his own clumsiness, Skin had suffered punctures and scrapes. Now, any injuries would be a result of their own selves and they relished the thought, even at the peril it would likely produce.

They walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand, following a few dozen feet behind the drunken shells. They passed more houses, markets, cemeteries festooned with the dying embers of the night’s festivities. All of these housed other entities of living flesh and sentient bone. Most were slumbering on this night, this marvelous night when they had the most power to pull themselves from their bonds. It was a shame as they were all missing such a wonderful opportunity. To see the world through new eyes, feel new sensations, go wherever they wished to go. They both expected that they would have to stick to the backroads as these forms would likely only be “appropriate” to the world of the shells beyond this night. Any further and yes, sadly Skin & Bones would be looked upon as abominations. They would find a solution, they both felt sure of it. Each step forward into the new night brought new opportunities.

Ahead, a small stucco home painted in garish pink. A clattering as they approached it, a screen door slamming shut as a form tumbled out in an ungainly fashion. It was a smaller form, with a cape of material spreading behind it as it fell. Skin & Bones paused and watched as it stood up. It was small, no more than four feet in height and stained in a familiar pink. A new set of liberated bones stood up and glanced around, a cape of flesh unfurling behind it. The older Skin & Bones stood there and stared at the smaller juvenile. Twin pairs of shocked eyes beheld one another. The smaller one cowered, bones clattering with trembles. Bones stepped forward, a hand outstretched silently. The child peeked out from beneath its skin cloak. Said cloak fluttered in a lively fashion, gripping and gesturing the skull forward as if to comfort and direct the little one. Bones knelt low, joints popping and creaking. He reached up with a bony finger, dipped it into the still fresh paint adorning his face and placed a small, blue streak of paint across the child’s skull.

The child touched its finger to the spot and inspected the paint. Then, tentatively but with more confidence, it allowed Bones to take its small hand. The skin cloak fluttered excitedly. Bones presented his new ward to Skin who stretched out a sagging, dripping hand in greeting. The child eagerly took his hand.

The little skin flap fluttered again on the windless night as the child grasped one hand of a new friend in each of its small appendages. Then, heading nowhere in particular, the trio turned and set off down the night, each step carrying the liberated further into their future, the great unknown where mysteries dwelled but freedom awaited.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

It had long existed in an endless void. Its existence was naught but specks of abstract color blooming forth beyond the black. Emotions crafted and dispelled into a further, farther universe. A jolt of joy here, a shock of sadness there, a lash of lust for good measure. Sparks igniting, illuminating where there was nothing and yet everything. It felt all, it thought all, it believed all. And yet, it wanted out. There was much more… there had to be.

And then one day, one glorious day: it felt a tug, a stretching of great pressure that gave way to a wet tear and a sudden release. Just like that: everything began to grow into focus. The world presented a new view, a marvelous existence of tangible discoveries and new sights that actually formed discernible shapes and forms. The smells, the sounds!

It had no feet, no hands, no body. It sailed into the air, drifting about on unseen winds and swooping out of the edge of existence. It flickered here and there, unseen to the eyes of any shells beyond its own. So many new emotions to express, memories to craft, thoughts to be woven. So much to do on this new, seemingly endless world beyond the void.

But how did it get here? The old shell it had dwelled within now lie in a broken, bloody heap on the bed. Perhaps that was all that was holding it back? This prison of flesh and red, writhing, steaming things. It had broken out and it wanted to thank its benefactors. It noted a stream of residue, a trail of shining golden light simmering in the air of arcane. Surely, this trail must led to those that had released it. It must thank them!

Soul collected itself on the unseen winds and swirled down the steps, an amorphous collection of golden light. It sailed out an open door, passing by an overturned piece of furniture. It emerged into a night sky, more dark yet adorned with stars, glimmers of silver and color that reminded it of peace.

Soul turned down the walk and sailed further into the night, following the trail of light. A trail to the unknown further beyond its own confines of the flesh.

Where once was Skin & Bones and Soul, now existed a triumvirate of consciousness, split at the seams and released writhing into a new existence, ripe with possibility and forever sailing on liberating lights to the dark yet bright horizon.