Them Bones

At the age of 15, I was conferred an honour when they asked me to conduct my grandpa’s rebirth ceremony. Dad was already out, working as a bell-ringer, and my mother didn’t have a particularly good relationship with her father-in-law.

I said yes. I was told that grandpa had already been boiled and flayed and buried. All I really needed to do was give him company.

So at dusk, I trudged to the interyard, where the priests waited. We sat around the freshly dug grave and the priests chanted their gibberish, all the while sprinkling water and throwing flowers onto the grave. The son of one of the priests, currently an apprentice, sat next to me and explained what they were doing. They called to the blue-throated god and beseeched him to release his servant. Then they brought out a baby mouse from a bag, cut its throat and let it run around on the grave, trailing blood till it collapsed.

The priests left, the apprentice shuffled off after them, giving me an encouraging look. I waited.

At midnight, the mud on the grave started shifting and heaving. A bone poked through. I touched it to let grandpa know that someone was here. The rest of him came out soon after. I was tempted to help him, but it is forbidden. The skeleton sat on its grave and gazed at me, through me. There was some mud encrusted on its eyesocket. I wiped it off.

Grandpa looked up at the sky, and tried to tell me something. I had been told that the skeletons find it frightening that they can’t see, hear or speak. I took grandpa’s hand, stroked his armbone, and helped him up.

Grandpa would be working in the field, which was a two hours’ walk away. Grandpa’s heelbones tapped on the cobblestones in a regular rhythm. I started whistling to the beat.