He was anxious—actually, he was flat out terrified—but also obsessively prepared. It was all he’d been thinking about for the past few days. What better way to move on and prosper in life than to face the past head on and deal with it?
But could he deal with it?
He stared at the dusty, gray sliding closet door, wondering how long it had been since anyone had opened it, let alone even been in the room. There were many other mementos in the room—things he hadn’t seen or even thought about in years—but now his only concern was trying to muster the courage necessary to finally open the closet door and bring his many past indiscretions to light.
His mother had always told him that when ripping off a Band-Aid it was easier and less painful to pull it off in one quick motion, so he took her lesson to heart and pulled on the closet door handle harshly and quickly with one smooth motion.
As he’d expected he was bombarded by an avalanche of the contents of the closet and quickly stepped back to avoid having his legs and feet crushed. A big cloud of dust shot up from the debris and Johnny rushed to cover his nose and mouth.
He looked down at the bones and fragments, unable to recognize any of them at first, but memories soon faded in.
The first bone he recognized was a femur, which was cracked and looked like it would’ve disintegrated from even the lightest tap. The fragile bone brought back a particular shameful memory from his youth in which he’d scooped up a large pile of dog shit and nonchalantly placed it in front of a smaller boy swinging on a swing set at the community park. Johnny proceeded to walk behind the boy, waiting for the perfect moment, and gave him a good hard push, sending him flying off the swing hands-first into the shit pile.
At the time Johnny thought it was a genius prank and began looking for other ways to make his menacing mark on society.
Next to the cracked femur was a partial broken rib cage, which symbolized an incidence in which he’d snatched a woman’s purse as she was walking down the street at night in a fairly secluded area. Once he found a fairly safe getaway spot he went through the purse only to find cigarettes and food stamps. He felt guilty after discovering the revelation, but not enough to own up to his misdeed and return the purse to the poor woman.
Next to the ribcage was a humerus, which was also cracked and ancient-looking, like a tiny club that had been used for countless beatings and near the end of its use. One memory in particular struck him like a wrecking ball, nearly knocking him over. Once, during his run as a petty hustler and drug dealer, he’d sold a dime bag of weed laced with formaldehyde to a clueless teenage boy; he died almost immediately after smoking it.
When Johnny found out the kid had died, on the news, he was initially just relieved that the purchase hadn’t been traced back to him. Now, his guilt tortured him from the inside out.
Most of the bones were just small fragments that he didn’t recognize, yet knew were comprised of his past sins. He’d known it would be bad, but this bad? Many of his terrible choices had been made when he was extremely intoxicated, nearly enough to kill him, and he wasn’t even able to remember them. But the guilt was still there, deep within his soul, progressing like a rapidly-growing tumor.
Why am I still alive? Do I have some kind of purpose?
He figured at this point that even if God had some special plan or purpose for him it was too late to even begin fulfilling it. How could he ever really come to terms with the seemingly never-ending list of transgressions that have pushed him deeper and deeper into the pit of evil which he now dwelt?
He decided to dig through the enormous pile of bones to find some more substantial ones, as it would be extremely painstaking and time-consuming to try and go through each of them.
After scooping for what seemed like hours—through small broken bits of mandibles, humeruses, ulnas, carpels, clavicles and bits that didn’t look like human bones at all—he finally discovered two skeletons that were fully intact, both propped up into sitting positions at the far end of the closet on small chairs that Johnny had used as a small child whenever a friend would come over to play.
He dug as many bones out of the way as he could, as his small room became littered, and was finally able to get an unobstructed view of the full skeletons. Both stared at him—though neither had eyes—with penetrating gazes that tore right through him, yet he couldn’t look away. It was a devastating train wreck which represented his entire useless life, and he stared, shaking with shame and fear, unable to move forward or away; just stuck.
He felt like he was being possessed by the stares of the assemblages of old, dusty bones; the lifeless presence was more profound than if the two skeletons had been actual living people. They stared up at him like demonic children, waiting patiently, tactfully, for the perfect moment to snatch him up and drag him down to hell.
He shook involuntarily as if he were having a seizure; the violent thrashing made him feel like he was tumbling down a mountain at full speed.
The atonement, if it could even be addressed as such, lasted long enough to where he wondered if it would end at all.
Finally, he reached a point where he could think clearly; though he was still shaking so violently it appeared as multiple skeletons were staring at him when there were actually just two. His head throbbed, but his thoughts were now organized for the time being.
The two skeletons, though they represented many things—many terrible, atrocious things—were the culmination of factors and triggers brought on by Johnny himself, which eventually led to the deaths of his poor, vulnerable parents.
When he was finally able to close his eyes and give himself a split second of relief, all he could see were their corpses. They stared at him, covered with maggots, open-mouthed, wide-eyed, and with accusatory glares. He knew he would never be able to make it right.
He’d broken their hearts too many times to count, but what they’d succumbed to in the end was the surprise and terror of three fellow thugs, who were former friends of Johnny’s, breaking into their house while they were asleep. Johnny knew that it hadn’t been Josh, Andy and Freddy who’d killed his parents, so he didn’t even bother trying to blame them.
Soon, voices came from both of the skeletons, forcing Johnny’s eyes back open. They both spoke in sync through chattering mandibles, as if they’d rehearsed the one line every day for the past ten years. His father’s monotone yet thunderous voice combined with the shrill, haunting voice of his mother into a harmony of madness.
YOU RUINED OUR LIVES!
The echoes of the chant surrounded Johnny, slamming against him from all sides.
He was hurled back, as the force of his past indiscretions—shaking him as if he were a giant salt shaker with tiny grains representing segments of his wasted life slowly sifting out—finally let go. His head slammed against his old bed frame as his body landed on top of the bones he’d dished out of the closet. He lost consciousness, but not before thinking to himself,
I’m not waking back up…
About the Author
Troy Massie has been writing fiction for the past twelve years and has been a member of a writing group for the past three. He’s had short stories published online and a novel self-published back in 2012 called An Infestation in Spanner, which is available at Amazon and other online stores. He is a musician and works for the United States Postal Service.