The Skeleton: A Cautionary Tale

It had all been a mistake she knew that now. It seemed so obvious back then. It was her first wart that had made up her mind. She had known it was coming; she could feel it emerge, but it wasn’t until a devil pointed it out that she realised that this was just the first of many. That slowly more and more warts would appear, her chin would start to jut and her nose start to hook.

She had just worked magic with the devil. They lay exhausted from the effort, united in the afterglow of shared secrets, as he ran his hand over her body, across her breasts and down her arm, until he stopped at the small bump in her hand. “A wart!”, he proclaimed. “Your first, no doubt. There will be many more, my little witch. They come thick and fast after the first.” She looked at her hand, where the lump was starting to break the skin and knew that he was right.

She had seen the skeletons, their lily white bones adorned with glittering gifts; watched their smoothness and elegance as they gilded past on raised platforms, perfectly showing off their slim legs and narrow hips. She had also seen the way the devils looked longingly at the skeletons, how they gazed and kept them in view, occasionally reaching out to run a hand down their skinny rumps.

She went to her mentor, the one who had first taught her magic and how to weave spells.

“Make me a skeleton”, she demanded.

The hag sucked her teeth. “That’s the work of the devils” was the response. “Why would you want to become a skeleton?” she asked. “Your magic is your power, you will lose that”.

“I don’t want warts” she replied, “or a hook nose or a protruding chin. I want to be smooth and fine like bone china.”

“Think of your familiar, and your powers of flight – you will lose them too”.

“A worthy sacrifice” she said. “I can’t stand these warts.” She thrust her hand into the crone’s face pointing at the white circle of broken skin. “Look I have one already appearing, then I will get more and more and more.”

“You should be proud of those warts”, replied the hag, gently pushing her hand away. “They show your magic getting stronger and your power growing.”

“Please make me a skeleton.”, she implored.

“I can’t”, replied the hag, “only the devils can do that”.

She went to the devils. “Make me a skeleton” she said. Smiles flickered across their faces. “With pleasure my dear” they said in chorus, their forked tongues darting in and out their mouths as they spoke and their tails stirring in anticipation. They gave her a list of instructions. She was to return the following night with her familiar and broomstick and they would make her a skeleton.

The next night she returned. They laid her down on a cold bed of steel and put her into a dreamlike trance as they sliced at her flesh. Through the hazy fug of consciousness, she watched the layers being removed. With a mixture of curiosity, anticipation and glee she observed her skin disappearing and landing in lumps on the floor. No longer would her flesh impede and betray her, she would be smooth, and graceful, and rattle as she walked – causing heads to turn and admiring glances to follow her. The last piece to disappear was the wart on her wrist. It took the devils a while to detach it. Cutting and hacking and sawing, they eventually dug the wart away from the bone. When it was finally free, with a hiss it spat pus at the devils as it twisted and shrivelled.

When they were done she got up from the table and gazed down at the precision of bones. She tested out her new form, loving the way the bones moved so cleanly. With all the imperfections of the flesh removed, she could now see the perfect structure which lay beneath. She twisted and turned, admiring her smooth nudity.

Her defleshed feet clattered on the tiles as she took her first unsteady steps, looking down at the mass of small delicate bones the devils activities had revealed. As if reading her thoughts a devil held out a pair of shoes. “A present, my dear”, he said. She slipped them on allowing the hard leather to encase her toes The platform of the shoe made her slender frame rise while the angling of the foot made her pelvis jut and the thin white heel perfectly mimicked her fibula, as if a long continuation of the slim leg.

The devils gathered round her, staring with approving eyes. She walked around the room, sashaying her hipbone. The devils smiled and licked their lips. She approached the nearest devil, and put a bony hand on his shoulder, and leaned forward into his shoulder. The devil’s horns grew and his tail flicked as the other devils cheered.

She had had to give up her powers, her magic was gone. No longer could she make body parts stir with a small spell, or conjure fluids from a devils’ soul. Her beloved Tunc, a black cat who had been with her ever since she was first initiated was snatched and her broomstick broken in two. She could no longer fly, nor snuggle up with Tunc when the nights were cold and there were no devils around; feeling the cats warmth radiate as it started to purr in response to her strokes. A brief glimour of regret past through her head. “ A necessary sacrifice”, she consoled herself.

Life was transformed. An ordinary stroll down an ordinary street would see devils gather to watch her glide along, their eyes following her as she moved. When she passed them they would sneak close to her, hoping to feel the silky smoothness of her created form, and sneak a quick grab at her femur. She revelled in the attention – as a witch the devils would keep their distance, fearful of a sharp spell headed in their direction; as a skeleton she was approachable and available. The gossamer garments she now wore that floated over her delicate form made a contrast from the volumous rough cotton she would adorn as a witch, its folds stuffed with the spoils from her spell gatherings.

The zombies would approach her, offering trinkets that they had seized on their raids, stolen from the chewed corpses of their victims. She accepted the gifts graciously, a skeleton needs their trinkets after all, but the zombies themselves repulsed her. The way they fed from the flesh of others, the stench of their feasting permeating them and polluting the atmosphere around them.

Zombies went out into the city daily to feed from the poor souls that crossed their paths. Lumbering after them, slow but insistent, then lunging at them when their exits were blocked and there was no escape. Occasionally one would take refuge in the security of the court building appealing to the authorities within to protect them from the zombies, sometimes in extremes locking themselves in the cells to escape the greedy parasites. Mostly they run to protect their trinkets. It’s the trinkets that attract the zombies, the sun glinting from them urging the zombies to chase, hoping to win a skeleton with a particularly sparkly one, before they devour their prey. The sensible give up their trinkets when the zombies come. Knowing what is important, they cast them off, abandoning them in the hope of slowing down the marauder. Sometimes such a strategy can be successful, but when the packs come there is no escape.

For all the attention she was lonely. Although the devils would stare at her in the streets and reach out to touch her alabaster bones, they never made magic with her any more, disappearing back to their own kind when the witching hour approached. How can they go to those witches, she thought, with their warts and their chins and their noses, when they could gaze at me? She longed for the old days when the devils would come to visit her late and stay until sunrise, their flaming pitchforks casting shadows on the walls as the devil and the witch would lose themselves in the dark arts of the night. Staring deep into their eyes she would cast her spells, seize their souls and suck their juices.

It wasn’t just the magic making she missed. After such a session, once they were both rested, she would light the fire under her cauldron, the flickering heat adding to the glow in the room. Then taking two bowls, she would fill them to the brim, and they would sup together. Their bodies entwined taking sustenance from the dark stew.

She missed Tunc too. For many years the cat had been her companion, keeping the loneliness at bay when no devils were around. She would climb into bed and Tunc would appear – warm and inviting. She would stroke until she heard the familiar purr, then dart her fingers under the soft fur, rubbing insistently until with a contented stretch and miaow, Tunc would yawn and pull away from her fingers, and nestled together they would fall into a deep sleep.

She had tried to stroke witches familiars when she met them in the street, but their fur irritated her sensitive bones. Another skeleton, observing this, took pity on her one day. “Have you heard of the hairless ones?”, she asked. “No”, she replied. “They breed them in Brazil, especially for us. They have no fur, so they are perfect for we skeletons”. She led her down a sidestreet to a brightly lit shop where naked kittens mewed in cages. “I’d like a hairless cat” she said to the shopkeeper, who plucked one from the mass behind the counter. “Perfect”, she said, as the man handed it over “Some company at last. I shall call you Ana”.

Ana however was no Tunc. She was company of sorts but her fleshy presence didn’t respond to the skeleton’s strokes in the same way. The quiet confidence that Tunc radiated contrasted with the fearful looks and shivers of Ana. She would shy away whenever the skeleton approached, rather than delighting in company whenever it was presented.

A few days later, going home one evening, she spotted a particularly handsome young devil waiting on a street corner just ahead of her. He gazed at her as she approached, and she angled her pelvis and nodded her skull slightly. The devil was transfixed. As she passed him, he called out to her. She nodded her head silently, jutted her pelvis a little more, wiggling it as she walked. The devil came to walk beside her.

“Do you have a hairless cat?” he asked.

“I do”, she said, coyly.

“Can I see her? I’ve never seen a hairless cat, but I hear that they import them for the skeletons”.

“They do indeed“ she said. “Would to meet Ana? My house is just down this way”.

“I’d love to” he said and walked with her down the road.

When they arrived at her house, she unlocked the door and showed him in. “Ana”, she called, “I’ve got someone here who would like to meet you”.

She could hear her scratching faintly up in the bedroom and she took the devils hand in hers and together they climbed the stairs. Ana was lying on the bed as they entered the room, with a squawk, the cat leaped of the bed, and cowered in a corner, quivering and mewing.

“Ana!”, she said “that’s not very friendly. This devil here just wants to meet you”

She took a step towards the cat, but before she could get any further she felt herself fly through the air and land heavily on the bed.
The devil stood in the doorway, his horns pulsating.

“You are a pretty skeleton, my dear. So many trinkets but those fine coverings conceal the rest of your beauty. Perhaps we should see it all”.

She felt her ankles be pulled to the bottom corners of the bed, while her wrists were dragged to the top ones. The devil aimed his pitchfork at her throat, and pulled it down her body, burning the thin fabric which covered her, watching approvingly as it fell in a sheer puddle around her. The devils had seen her naked on the day she was transformed, but this was very different.

He walked around her, his engorged horns getting larger by the second. “Very, very, pretty”, he said. “Very pale, very thin, very sleek, very …vulnerable”. He jabbed at her with his pitchfork and she let out a squeal as the burning metal hit her ribs. The devil laughed. “I think we will have fun this evening”.

She grew frightened, and tried to raise herself from the bed, but her hands and feet would not move as if bound in that position. She looked at Ana, her eyes begging the cat to jump on the devil, to sink her teeth into his horns as Tunc had done years before, when her magic was weak and a powerful devil had come to visit, but Ana just cowered in the corner, faint mewlings emanating from her quivering body.

He climbed onto the bed beside her as she tried to inch away. “Don’t be frightened”, he said, “We’re just going to have some fun. You like having fun with devils don’t you? I’ve seen your kind before, the way you wiggle your hips around the devils; how you drink in their gaze; how you twist your limbs to entice and seduce. You think that we won’t follow you, don’t you. You think that you are above us now, that you can tease and flirt and show off your slender legs without consequence. You think we will fear your beauty, and not approach.” The skeleton was too frightened to respond.

He put his hand on her hipbone, and then slowly moved it down. She chilled and started to rattle as he raised himself above her, his tail swaying. With his hands on her hips he thrust his tail towards her, lashing at her unprotected bones. She wished for her broomstick to come at her call, and give him a swift thump before gathering her up and taking her to fly away beneath the moon which was just appearing in the dimming sky, but her broomstick – like her magic was gone. Without magic she was powerless before the devil, as she felt his tail pound her and enter through her gaps and damage the soul below. The room grew dark as his tail thumped at her; the glow of his horns provided no warmth to stop her chattering, but only emphasised the evil in the room.

The devil grabbed her head, pushing his forked tongue deep inside it. She twisted away trying to escape it, but the long tongue sought her out and entered, licking and flicking at the inside. With a hand on each side, he held her and drew his fiery tail, swollen from excitement, up level. Raising himself up he removed his tongue and his tail entered deep inside. The throbbing heat in her skull made it difficult to breathe as she tried to twist away from his probing tail, but he held her firmly in position as he thrust it inside.

The devil was disturbed by the chiming of the clock on the wall. It was midnight.

“Goodnight, my dear. Its been fun, but I have witches to see and magic to make. I wouldn’t bother telling the witches about our little rendezvous, by the way. The one I’m off to see now is positively covered in warts. She would be most upset to hear her favourite devil has been fooling around with you. She would transform your milk white smoothness into ugly green sponge and when you try to talk only a croak will come out, as you hippity hoppety back to your pond”. And with a puff of smoke the devil disappeared.

She felt the invisible bonds holding her wrists and ankles loosen as the devil vanished, and slowly she curled up her sore body and started to sob. Ana slowly emerged from the corner of the room and approached her slowly and shakily.

She stayed in the house for several days afterwards, fearful of emerging onto the streets – the admiring glances that she once sought and relished in now haunted her dreams. Ana was no more affectionate towards the skeleton, but stayed close to her, the cat’s innate fearfulness finding comfort in being beside her. She became a conspicuous presence, ever there, seeping into the skeleton’s consciousness – her low level miaows drawing on the skeleton’s protective instincts. She watched out for Ana now in a way that she had never done before, or never felt she needed to with the self-assured and independent Tunc.

Eventually she decided to seek out the witches, to ask them to reverse the transformation, and take her back as one of their own. As day broke one morning, she ventured from the house, carefully checking for the presence of devils as she made her way to her mentor’s house. She knocked loudly and after a few moments the bleary eyed crone slowly opened the door creakily.

“I want to be a witch again” she said “please turn me back”

“I cant” said the hag “– you were transformed by the Devils. Our magic is protective, but it cannot undo harm.”

“I want my powers back, I’ve had enough of being a skeleton. I want my magic and my familiar, and my broomstick. I even want my wart back”.

“I can’t” said the hag “You are one of the skeletons now”, and closed the door firmly.

She went to the devils. “I want to be a witch again”, she said.

The devils laughed in chorus. “I’m sure you do. But you are one of the skeleton now. You brought us your familiar and broomstick and let us slice off your flesh, you cannot go back.”

“But you turned me into a skeleton, surely you must be able to turn me back”.

“Perhaps” said a devil, “But why would we want to? You are so pretty to gaze at in the street, so pale and imprintable; so thin and transparent ; so sleek and strokable; so…so…vulnerable. His forked tongue darted out at these words.

She stared around the room, as the devils were starting to close in on her in a circle.

“I need to be a witch again” she said.

“No.” said the devil firmly, “You are a skeleton now.”

The devils were closing in further, and she could see the horns staring to make a glowing circle in the air above her , their tails swaying faster as they approached. Pushing past them, she ran, hearing the devils laughter ringing in her ears as she fled.

She went home ever watchful for devils. Reaching her front door she closed it heavily behind her as Ana came to wrap herself around her ankles. Every time she left her house, she looked carefully for devils before emerging, she would jump and start if she saw one and flee back to the sanctuary of her home. Even there she didn’t feel safe. She could still feel the devil’s presence in her bedroom and she would wake up in the middle of the night imagining that she could see a tail faintly glowing in the gloom.

The zombies were still kind. With no flesh to feed from she had nothing to fear from them, they would approach her with prettier and prettier trinkets – sparkly wristbands, precious jewels that sat round her neck and clattered against her collar bone, thin bands of shiny metal that would just fit on her slim finger. She felt safe in the zombies heavily lumbering presence. Although she was still disgusted by the stench of rotten flesh and graveyard aura that they radiated, she found them comforting and solid. Their slow movements, stupidity and single track mindedness made her feel as if they could not outwit her, or trick her like a devil would. With no flesh to bite, the skeletons were the natural companions for the zombies.

One zombie in particular gave her lots of shinies. He would wait round the corner from where she lived with the day’s haul and offer to them to her. She would smile coyly as he fitted the treasures, patiently waiting as his thick fingers fumbled with the delicate clasps. As he fitted a particularly large clear rock encased in a shiny metal band on her finger one evening, on impulse she asked him to come home with her. She would be safe with a zombie there, no devils would dare to risk being chewed. He nodded his acceptance and followed her home.

He never really left after that. Each day he would go out on his travels and return to her in the early evening. Sometimes, in a particularly hungry moment he would forget that she was just bone and try to bite, but most of the time he just slobbered over her, trying to taste the remnants of the flesh she had left behind long ago. She missed the old days, the magic making and the stew supping. The skeletons had no stomach for food and the zombies ate out.

He still brought her trinkets sometimes, but after a few years the trinkets dried up. He would offer them to prettier, paler skeletons that he met on the streets. She never really minded, the trinkets were nice, but what she needed most was a lumbering presence to keep her and Ana safe.

She could smell him coming in now, she had never got used to the putrid smell of corpses. She heard the front door close – he was back from his day’s travails. She slid down the sheets, nursing her hairless pussy as the zombie climbed the stairs.

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