The Skull

Gardening, no matter what people say, is neither therapeutic nor relaxing. My life would be less traumatic had I not made a gruesome discovery while clearing that patch of ground.

No expert in anatomy, I first thought the rib bones belonged to a large animal, a sheep or pig. Until the shape of a skull left no doubt they were of human origin. The house and grounds have been in my possession for nineteen years, and this section of the garden was an overgrown wilderness from my purchase of the property. I could only surmise the bones had lain buried for considerable time.

Several minutes passed as I contemplated my best course of action. I should contact the police. If this wereEngland, the resulting investigation would provide me with a troupe of labourers courtesy of the Crown Prosecution Service at no charge to clear an entire field. But this beingFrance…

Then the media would swarm around, reporters and T.V. crews expecting me to supply them with coffee and trampling over the small patch of garden that does look respectable. If the corpse were a murder victim, I would be inundated with weeping relatives wishing to pay their last respects.

To discreetly re-inter the bones would have been the best option. Yet I was intrigued. The thought of having a real human skull, in a glass display cabinet bathed in an eerie green light, was too attractive. With little more thought than plucking a mushroom, I scooped it out of the loose ground and bore my prize back to the house. Set off on a piece of black velvet on the coffee table, it was a conversation piece at the very least. With this thought, I retired for the night.

* * *

I was wakened abruptly around one thirty by a terrified cat. I share my home with three, although Pushkin is the only one who likes to spend the night in the warm comfort of a bed. He stood in the moonlight grey-tabby fur raised along his arched back and tail, almost doubling his apparent size. He stared at the open door, his ears laid back, and a deep, threatening growl rumbling in his chest. With cats coming and going through an open window in the lounge, we regularly had four-legged interlopers trying to steal food. Usually, they fled as soon as they saw me.

Barefooted, I crept across the carpet to the open door and through into the lounge. The curtains remained undrawn washing the room in a milky glow. On the table, reflecting the wan light stood the skull, and bent over it, a shadowy entity that looked vaguely human. The figure shimmered as if fading in and out of focus making its true form indistinct. I was certain it was an apparition, a phantom.

Although living alone, I have no fear of ghosts. I was once married to a spiritualist medium to whom seeing and speaking with the “deceased” was as normal as communicating with the living. We regularly sat in séances, witnessing many macabre, paranormal events. No ghost can physically harm a person, other than through self-inflicted injury induced by that person’s terror.

I felt no such terror at that moment.

“Hello.” I tried to speak in a gentle, welcoming voice. I swear the ghost jumped.

“Sorry,” I added. “Did I scare you?”

The temperature in the room plummeted. She turned toward me, her features becoming more distinct and proving she was female. Still translucent, her skin turned a deathly shade of green. Rotting globules of decomposing flesh hung from her nose and cheeks. The stench of decay was nauseous.

Her eyes, white and sightless held me transfixed. She raised her hands, bony, twisted and ending in yellow curved talons as if she intended raking them across my face. Long rat-tails of lank, dark hair took on the appearance of hissing, spitting venomous snakes. She reminded me of a gorgon.

I shuddered as her mouth opened displaying jagged, blackened teeth. As the jaw gaped wider, wicked curved fangs protruded vampire like, and a wailing scream tortured my eardrums.

I leapt backwards, stumbling, and fell heavily against the doorframe. The scream turned into diabolical cackling laughter as I raised my forearms one over the other in the form of a protective cross.

The laughter died away and her form went back to the shadowy insubstantial smudge. That’s how you scare someone. The words were silent, unspoken, telepathic, filling my mind. I’ve never communicated with a live person, at least, not since I died. You surprised me.

Embarrassed, I tried to stand, my knees still weak, trembling. “Were you the owner of that skull?”

I suppose you could put it that way. I could feel her amusement.

“How did you die?”

Her answer was like a video playing in my mind. I saw her in the back of a van with two men. From her state of undress, sex had recently taken place between her and one of the two. Although I looked on from a third person view, I could feel her terror as she was slowly strangled with one of her own stockings. I was confused as to which of the two men had taken part in the sexual assignation, whether it was the same one applying the tourniquet. Or perhaps it was both. The other made no attempt to save her. I stepped back from the scene as I realized he held her arms in a grip to prevent her breaking free.

Bruises on her face and bulging eyes did little to enhance her looks from the horrifying visage she showed me earlier. “When did this occur?” I asked.

Her last memories were from spring of 1969. The knowledge came to me again without words, accompanied by intense sadness. I felt a compassionate desire to hug her, to make things right for her.

“Are you trapped here until your killers are brought to justice?”

The moment I voiced the question I knew they were dead, had been for many years.

“Then why are you unable to move on from this life?”

She was confused.

“Did you not see a bright light as you died. I believe you should go to the light.”

There was no light, only this cold, gray half-light like a misty pre-dawn.

“Then perhaps you need be given a proper funeral before you can rest?”

I have no desire to leave. Again, soundless words filled my mind. You are a writer. This was a statement rather than a question.

“I am.”

I’ve watched you write, read some of your words.

That confirmed the feelings I get, of not being alone as I sit at the computer.

She continued, I would like you to write my story.

Her thoughts surprised me, but I felt intrigued by the idea. “What is, or was your name?”


* * *

The events I describe took place a week ago. I now sit at my computer, waiting for the apparition of Monique to appear. We arranged that this night would be the first in which she will act as my undead muse. Above my computer on a black velvet cloth and bathed in an eerie green light rests a human skull, its blank eye sockets staring at me. No one visits me, but if they did, I believe this would make a great conversation piece.

© 2011 Robert A. Read


4 thoughts on “The Skull

  1. Sonia Lal says:

    putting a human skull in a glass as a conversation piece is just creepy.

  2. Blaze McRob says:

    Great story, Rob! One question I have is if Monique and you will share a bottle of good French wine, obviously red, as you embark on writing your tales?

    Just wondering.

    For the record: my muse is no longer alive either. Mine likes beer.


  3. Linda Lovecraft says:

    Ohhh, love so much.

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