The Agitated Skull

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Wildering Haven
Behold the skull as it rises, teeth clattering, bathed in weird light. It is laughing. It has found its place in the darkness and it calls to us. It has pointed teeth and antlers that grow daily. It rises.

Submitted: December 16, 2019

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Submitted: December 16, 2019

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Gribble Rising...


 

I spotted her on the city bus. She had been crying. She appeared to be obviously too young for me, but she was hungry and  upset and in need of a friend. It would have been immoral for me to ignore her, I had no choice as a compassionate and civilized human being, I had to talk to her. There was nobody else on the bus so I sat right next to her and said nothing for a few blocks. She was trying not to cry but it was difficult. Then I gave it a try. I spoke directly to her, out loud. I said:

 

“I need your help.”

 

She looked back at me, confused, why would I be speaking to her? “What?” This was it, she was going to jump up and run away. One chance. I'll take it. I must sound slightly more urgent, but not too overwhelming. What would a girl like her expect of me? How can I win her trust? I just want to continue the conversation.

 

“I need your help.” I looked into her eyes and then deliberately shifted my gaze to sweep her chest, and then away, looking out of the window. Now she understands. This oddly enough causes her to relax. She knows I am probably not going to talk to her about “my cleansing Lord” or the blissful security of owning life insurance, or to otherwise tell her how to engage in her life. We got that out of the way first.

 

She has unnaturally black hair that probably has been dyed too many times, big ear rings, she carried a book but I could not see the title, it turned out to be the collected short stories of Vladimir Nabokov. She wore round wire glasses, sort of matching her ear rings, with a little eye makeup and had the look of an impatient teenaged spirit of tireless contradiction. Her hair was parted on the side and she looked at the world through one eye, a cyclops. She smelled like musty old heaven, you know the smell, mysterious, not too clean but not rancid. How could I resist? Why should I resist? I love that smell. It always gets me.

 

Are you my young mother, in a disordered time, have you come back for me now? Am I about to be born?

 

I told her that I hate to eat meals by myself, would she help me out with that if I paid for her meal? She asked me for a cigarette. Yuck. There is only one smell for smokers and it is always bad. My good luck, she was not a dedicated smoker just yet, so she let it go.

 

We had a late lunch at a Thai restaurant. She had never had any of the cuisine of Siam before, but otherwise she said she loved exotic and spicy food, and this was mighty tasty, so that worked out well. We sat and talked for a long time, two lonely strange people from different worlds, very questionable age ranges, probably not father and daughter, not boss and employee, not teacher and student. We were enjoying the disapproval of the passers by. Then she looked away and quietly asked me if I was going to show her my etchings. I said that the actual etchings are in a storage locker miles from here, but I can show her scans of them on my computer, upstairs where I live. That was it. Here we go. My heart is pounding and my knees are shaking. I can smell her sometimes when I lean in close.

 

I walk behind her going up my steep stairs. She knows the game, she stops and I collide directly with her bottom, my face right in her soft derriere. I want to reach around but I don't. Not yet. The neighbors have never seen me with any visitors. This all of the sudden should give them plenty to work with.

 

We got inside and I turned to close the door, she gave herself right to me. What is this going to lead to, I mean, after the first climax, are we going to walk away anonymous or are we going to have dinner (and later a mortgage)? Is she going to rob me blind and then disappear forever? Do I want to give her some money because I want to help her? Is she going to give me a price for her companionship services? Is there going to suddenly be a big mean guy in my near future? Or maybe she will summon the cops, or will they all be accompanying her angry Dad? It was the best sex I have ever had.

 

It was her stepfather, the usual story. Her mother did not believe her, but the guy was persistent and had some kind of power over her mother’s perceptions. Well, that was easy to figure out, mom needed a stable man and her daughter always drives her crazy. Now this guy was into her mother, and was eager to get some secret cookies from the daughter out of the deal too. Mr. NewDad knew exactly how to just play them off of each other, as they are constantly exploding off each other anyway, with natural mother-teen daughter friction all the live long day. He is probably thinking that one day maybe he can do them both together. That might take a lot of alcohol. The daughter is no fool, it was too late because he had already violated her once, but she now locked her bedroom door whenever she could. She was so eager at first, competing with her mother for the male, the rebel child with a secret, but now she loathes him and knows his intentions. She takes precautions and simply does not permit any more of those nasty moments to come about.

 

She had been trying to figure out new ways to not go home as the level of abuse grows more intense and her mother’s job keeps her away from home. Her real father served in Iraq a few years ago, then there was a shocking suicide after being home just a few weeks, so the entire situation was a terrible mess. Now the new stepfather was quite a piece of work.

 

Never again she says. She would kill him if she could, but her mother loves him.

 

Laughing, she and I decided to move to Seattle immediately. Her surrender inspired my progress. Ladies and gentlemen of the court, it was she who opened the door. That was the choice she made. I was helplessly on fire and she knew it, I clearly had no control of my own, the fire of lust just burns within me and I just follow. I just respond to it. Its there and so am I and so we just, you know...

 

Now it’s my turn. I told her all about my chaotic life, starts and stops, problems of finances and romance, problems of making my life's visions come into reality. I am still waiting for that one big payoff that is going to keep me sustained forever. Her head bobbed up and down while she groaned and hummed and made hungry wet noises. I would pause with my story to breathe and she would break loose and actually say “go on, tell me more.” That's what did it. She really wanted to know. I am so in love. Oh. Ohhh.

 

Its a fragile experiment, an impossible wet bubble we inflate, bright and happy. Huge. We next decided not to make any serious plans; we would just go with the moment. We washed her clothes and I enjoyed how she looked for treasures all through my household debris, how she appeared in my bathrobe and the little peeks it would offer of her treasure below the robe. We had a late dinner that I made, she spent the night and we slept late. Her phone never rang, I checked it out, it works fine. Shouldn't there be someone checking up on her?

 

Its none of my business but she is a precious young nubile. Where are her parents? Her people? I am expecting her parents, her mother at least, to check in. Nothing. She has a flash-drive with her collection of her short stories, which I am amazed at.  She is a good writer. Better than I. She is the one who is actually writing this. Can't you tell?

 

Who her age would read Nabokov? I have given her my heart totally and completely and our 24 hour anniversary has not quite passed yet. I asked her what her name is, telling her that I am “Boris.” It’s close enough to be a nickname, and it is slightly evil sounding. I know she likes slightly evil. It sort of entertains her. Then I asked her, what is her name?

 

She paused and said “Sam. No. Not Sam. No. Lo. My name is Lo.”

 

As in Dolores. Looow Leeee Tahhhh. Did you see that movie? Oh, baby. How long is this going to last? I know better than to ask that question out loud. My nymphet has arrived. Lock her up, keep her hidden, keep her secret.

 

Nobody has any money. I don’t have any money. She doesn't have any money. Her clothes are drying. We have time now, all the time in the world. We nap. We tussle. We do it some more. Time flies. How late is it now? It just goes faster as it goes.

 

Her clothes dried, she decided that she needs to get the rest of her clothes from her mother’s apartment and bring them here. She was ready to accept her liberation from her evil step-father. She would move in starting now. I am not sure I have a secret room to lock her in. What is going to come of this unexpected drama?

 

How to Meet the Parents? I know that its not really going to happen, this girl and I just met and we are fucking like rabbits but we hardly know each other enough to Meet The Parents. Give it a few weeks before walking into that firestorm, hopefully it will never happen. She is a nubile young girl, I am not a young boy. I am a plump bald older man who farts, quite possibly older than her angry biological father would be. This would be a huge legal problem. She trusts me, but conversations with her can be difficult. I know she wants to get away from Daddy 2.0; I guess that makes me Daddy 2.5 no, I am Daddy 5.0

 

We talk about books, she is interested in the crazy stuff that I am interested in, we go to the library but they soon tire of us and the librarians are all glad when we leave. Something is not right, the way they look at us, some horror on their faces, not sure if they should summon the authorities and rescue the young girl from the old leach, but mostly she is the aggressor and I am the timid one, so they are confused even more. Nosy librarians. They are happy to go back to their books when we leave. They lock the door and do whatever librarians do with each other when the people go home at the end of the day. The secret sexual lives of the librarians. Love wearing glasses.

 

She persistently wants to gather all her clothes and stuff and move in, she wants to at least show me where she lives. I am determined to not meet her “parents” today (or hopefully ever), but not as much as she wants to move out, and the sex is so good, so we decide that I will wait right here at the bus stop on North High Street while she pilfers her possessions from the old place. Her mother would be at work and there is no sign of the “Daddy 2.0” raggedy old car. That is the first thing she checks. If that raggedy old car is there, he will certainly be too. But nothing is certain.

 

No Daddy home? No?  I am satisfied to put off any possible encounters for now. It’s only been about one day. Our first day. Will she come back or is she gone now? Should I just get up and go home now, and lock my door? Could I make it home before she knows I am gone? She knows where I live now. I am caught. I will wait, because the sex is so good.

 

I should go with her and help her carry her stuff, but you see, my back, my back. You understand. Okay? I love you. Hurry back, babe. I can't wait here forever.

 

Five minutes later (Kah-BANG she is BACK) she is breathless, frazzled and curiously speechless. She wants me to follow her. “Check this out.” I hurry to barely follow her, curious enough. I am still a rat fink though. My back, you know. I would love to help you carry a box or something but my back, my back. She does not want me to carry anything, she just wants to show me something.

 

There is broken yellow police tape over the door, we step around it, and her key gets us in. The place is all wrong. We use no lights. There is just a little bit of blood on the floor in several places, the bathroom mirror is broken. The kitchen is torn up. There are broken liquor bottles. There is more blood.

 

Take another look at the situation. Whose hands and fingerprints are here? Do not touch anything, anything at all. Are the police finished with their investigation or are they coming back? Its time to melt away. Quickly. Wait. Clues? Are there any? Pointing right to me? Look and look hard now. This matters. Before we were sort of asleep doing this, me dreaming of her sex, now we are awake and desperate to make it out of this potential nightmare, which is just coming into focus. This is life now. Hard life and it could hurt.

 

She does not require all the answers just now, she just wants to get out of there (run run run run run), but she does manage to grab as much of her clothing (and her important stuff) as we can both carry. Yes, I helped carry her stuff after all. Its three in the afternoon, we melt into the noisy street. Back onto the bus. We love the bus, now this appears to be a game we are winning easily. The city melts along. We made it. Stay invisible in the crowd. Remember: do not blink. Do not hesitate. Keep the story going. Keep the flow perfectly intact. We just might get away with this. We have to.

 

We take the easy way, and carry all her stuff over to my apartment. Maybe the neighbors are watching us now. Turns out they were.

 

We waited all the next day for the newspaper. This was back when there were newspapers, actual paper you would buy using coins. There really was a story. A double murder, or was it a murder suicide? The daughter is missing. The police have some questions.

 

Do we run or does she surrender herself to the machinations of justice? Is this what was making her cry on the bus when I met her (had she just killed them both and was riding the bus to get over it)? What is she capable of, young strong body, raging emotions, impulsive youth. That is why I sat down next to her, why I tried to catch a little wiff of her odor. Two animals found each other. The sex is really good so we keep going, but I am watching for clues, she might be dangerous.

 

We decided to run, but the law was faster. Before we got out of my building they had us. They separated us. At first I was the assumed mastermind. Imagine their disappointment! That fit their scenario so perfectly. Man seduces child, man murders mother and innocent step-father (and he was a veteran too), and then they make a run for it, man with stolen goods, man with girl child. We had not quite gotten to that last part, and the first part was their story, not ours. It was the new and barely helpless little couple us versus The Big Police.

 

Then:

 

Their convenient scenario crumbled. They had already deliberately turned her against me, but all of the key evidence did not exist so as to substantiate their story, and the evidence that did exist contradicted their version of what they said was my perfect crime, so I was turned out eventually, and they were bitter. Frustrated and persistent. They are marking me for their own, they already plan for me, sooner or later I will be back in their hospitality. This ink is not dry yet.

 

Thanks to the police, Lo now knows my real name, and I know hers. It does not matter, she is my (m-eye-oh) Lo. Forever and I love her like never before, this is it and she is the one and that is just how it must be. But its time for me to change scenes. They are keeping her this time but I can go. No reservations are necessary, just buy myself a ticket for a Next Destination. What time does that bus leave?

 

I met Gloria on that greyhound bus. She had been crying, there were lots of empty seats but I sat right next to her. I made my play. “I need your help.” She was clearly expecting “where are you headed?” which is how she answered. Red hair, impulsive, endowed, young and alone. Blue green eyes. Perfectly yummy.

 

She did not ask for a cigarette. Hours, sitting and riding together as our conversations persist. I know the secret, act like I don't want it. Let it just happen. We eventually sort of made love that night seated next to each other, under her coat, sitting on the bus, roaring down the highway. It started slowly and then caught on hot and solid. Back there. Alone we were. We gave in to it. Then we slept. Nobody was watching, so we could have done it again, but no.

 

When we got to the next meal stop she said she had to use the bathroom, meaning, she could not do her business on the bus, even if the bus is not moving. She left me watching her green cloth bag and she was gone for a long time and then the bus drove on, I could have said something right then, but I was dozing. Now the bus was full.

 

I never saw her again. We all waited while the irritated bus driver eventually returned and checked the restaurant again and again, but she just disappeared. Her coat and handbag were gone too, but she left the suitcase in the baggage compartment under the bus and of course I now have the claim stub. I wonder if it smells like her? I am hopeful.

 

Now I am thinking I am jinxed. True enough, I made it to Seattle, but I have nothing and I know no one in this famous strange foggy wet  and cold seaport city. My stuff is all waiting for me back home, telling lies about me and suggesting that I will return. I probably will. I should, I logically must in fact, but I might not. No money, no friends, no nothing except her green cloth bag and her suitcase, which I managed to rescue before I headed off down the alley behind the bus terminal. Art supplies. Dark alley blocks. Old men with long greasy hair and beards in wheel chairs sit smoking in the rain in the dark.

 

I found a quiet restaurant with a booth in the back. I ordered some chili and looked in Gloria’s suitcase. It was full of old clothing and some antique jewelry. It looks peculiar. It might be worth something, it might have been her inheritance, or she might have robbed her own granny or the granny next door. And one more thing, wrapped up tight, hard to unravel. It’s a human skull, except that the canine teeth are demon big and pointed. Its not clean, it has got some sticky dried up spots and it smells really bad. I pushed it back into the suitcase and washed my hands immediately, several times. I leave it easy to steal, sitting right there at the table by the door.

 

Unfortunately nobody stole it while I was taking a long time slowly washing my hands, I had a feeling I should look out for Gloria, she might come walking in any minute, looking for her stuff. Angry redhead drama. I would like that, please. Please come back, Gloria. Here is all your stuff, I kept it safe for you. But no Gloria.

 

The smaller green cloth bag she left me holding has her laundry and some tattered paperback books, some mints and some change.

 

I might as well hang on to it all, you know, for her sake, so I can give them back to her. I have no idea of where to sleep tonight. Normally I would go to a bar and find someone to take me home. This is not my city. It’s too cold and wet.

 

At the “Two Bells” I met Linda, a precious thin waif with fake looking blond hair, tiny wire glasses and bright teeth. She looked easy to underestimate. She was friendly without being obvious, and she looked easy to manage. She took me home. This is where my story ends, but the skull’s tale continues. Linda secretly fed me some kind of sedative, then put a plastic bag over my head and I never woke up. That very night she dropped me off under the highway, where I rolled into a storm drain with The Others. I think she’s done this before. She is good at it. I rolled down the wet drain and came to rest along side of nine more bodies with plastic bags over their heads, some were a few weeks old, and most of them were older than that, wet and moldy. And there was me. Then she went home, she was hungry. Soup tonight. What is cheap at the market? Unusual fare, but enough to make tonight's soup for one and maybe a guest.

 

She went through the bags, she gobbled the mints, and she found the laundry and decided it fit her, so she kept it, she tossed it in with her laundry. Then she opened the suitcase and carefully examined it. She took the rest of the old clothing and hung it up, the antique jewelry she thought about mixing in with her own, and she especially liked a jade pendant and a ruby ring. She immediately pocketed the change and one of the paperbacks, and then she threw away the green cloth bag with its debris and kept the suitcase. The demon skull was her biggest prize. She had to show it off, she hung it on the wall. Cigarettes help with that smell.

 

Linda has some kind of mild psychic power, she picked up on my lost attachment to Lo, or Dolores, or really her name was probably Sam, as in Samantha. Which is what she called herself at the beginning of this story. I probably deserved to be killed for just dumping her when she needed help or a friend more than ever, alone in the world, so young. And it was the best sex I ever had. So now Linda assumes that the demon skull and jewelry and antique clothing belonged to someone named Lo.

 

Linda summoned her friend Anastasia, also with “the gift.” Ana took one look at the demon skull and paled. “This was in the bag? Where did you get it? Who is this guy?”

 

“Never mind about where I got it, it’s here and... he isn't. The guy kept going on and on about someone called Lo as in Dolores. I hate that, says he's in love. In “love” (she spits). He’s gone now and I hope I never see him again. He was a creep” she cackles. “His pick-up line was ‘I need your help.’ Well, I guess by now, it worked pretty much most of the time.”

 

A creep! Thanks a lot. I am the one who brought her all this treasure and I am the one who lost my life for it, and now she has a laugh at my expense and never wants to see me again. Time will tell about that.

 

Anastasia says that there is a great danger that whoever the demon skull belongs to will be returning for it, sooner or later, and from the look of those teeth, it wont be a pleasant reunion. Linda thinks maybe she has said too much to Anastasia already, and considers offering her that special drink, but she has no more plastic bags, so not tonight. Maybe tomorrow if she still feels this way. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe.

 

They look at the clothing again; it’s from some older time, and quite fancy. The colors once were rather bright, just look in the folds or in the pockets where the sun never shined. The buttons are hand-carved and the jewelry is obviously quite valuable. There is a locket with an old worn photograph of a grim looking young man, and a snippet of brown hair. It has a peculiar but luckily faint smell, old cinnamon, with a hint of bay leaf and dust. (Oh for Pete's Sake -- its just old must, don't you see?) Anastasia takes the locket. Now the ruby ring and jade pendant get mixed into Linda’s personal jewelry collection. The stinky demon skull is wrapped in one of Linda’s oldest towels and returned to the suitcase, placed in her closet to wait to be shown off again. It might be time to wrap it in plastic really well because it smells so bad.

 

Maybe she will make a wall hanging out of it and sell it for A Bunch, but it will take some cleaning. Easy money. Maybe she will keep her trophy. Its commanding.

 

Anastasia wanders safely home into the cold and wet gray dawn. Linda has another cup of herbal tea and begins reading her newly acquired paperback book from Gloria's green bag. She has to remember to get some more plastic bags soon.

 

That afternoon Linda went to the grocery store for her shopping. The store’s surveillance camera caught her looting a huge wad of extra bags from the recycling bin out in front of Foodway, not illegal but peculiar enough to cause the bored security team to carefully document her raid. She returns home and makes a pot of chicken-leek soup. With potatoes. The way you like it.

 

I am feeling something strange, there is something happening to my corpse. There is a ten year old boy fleeing from a pair of marauding bums, they appear to be ready to rape the lad, obviously he would not have any money for them to plunder, and so on they come, game on. He darts down the storm drain and rolls over the cold human lumps, ignoring what they are at first. He lies still, the two mirthful horny grown ups freeze when they see and smell what lies before them, a collection of corpses with plastic bags on the heads, and they back their way out shuddering and gagging, once hard now shriveled. The hidden child struggles heroically, he resists any urge to vomit or scream, and he waits an appropriate length of time, then he too gets the hell out of that hidden funeral chamber. He goes to the police. He needs some answers. He needs some help. He needs time to heal. He eagerly accepts any help he can get and he trusts the police.

 

The police find several receipts which were left in individual bags that had been placed over some of the corpse’s heads, and they are able to put this together with the grocer's surveillance tapes, plus the bonus from the recycling episode which all fits together perfectly. She always paid with cash but the time stamped on the receipts allows them to watch for her on the video tape. Click! All clues point to our Linda, but they do not know her name. She is JANE 011-0023 to them. Clever, just not clever enough. They know her well already. She did not go home for several nights, visiting friends. They wait. Mass murderer. They wait and watch, she will come home and they will have her.

 

On her way home a few days later, she was walking and Linda instinctively notices the police watching her neighborhood. She is paranoid enough to keep her distance, she decides to abruptly abandon her home just now and make a new plan. Clever enough too.

 

Eventually the police tire of watching JANE 011-0023's apartment and they enter. They find everything including the old clothing, jewelry and her bizarre collection of pharmaceuticals, weapons and souvenirs linking her to the bodies. But first they find the demon skull, which dazzles them. Now the circle grows rapidly. The skull almost glows now. The smell is sharper too. Plastic bag layers, it makes no difference. The demon skull gets its own plastic tote with duct tape to try to contain that horrible smell.

 

This makes the local news. Linda realizes that she must disappear to save herself from answering for her mysteries. In her strange clever world, it looks to her like suicide is the only answer. She prepares herself, and then quickly submerges herself into the darkness of eternity. She goes willingly, even eagerly to her escape, but at the last moment she resurfaces for a moment trying to wake up and she realizes that she has taken the poison. This is when she becomes aware of the spirit of the demon skull. It claims her fully right then. Her face, in her own trademark plastic bag, freezes in a wide eyed wild scream, forever held in the moment of realization that she is somehow damned by the demon skull. She dies while it floats screaming and laughing before her.

 

Linda has done an excellent job covering her suicide, no one ever finds her. If they were to find her mortal remains, her design is to appear to be one of her own victims, and therefore it could be plausible that she is maybe not the killer after all, just another luckless soul caught in a plastic bag and smothered. She thought about this so carefully.

 

Anastasia notices the last ditch efforts of the police in their efforts towards gaining more information pertaining to the mass murderer who dumps bodies in the storm drain. They publish a picture of the unusual demon skull. The story begins to take on an international following, the glowing skull with elongated sharp teeth. It now is sprouting the nubs of antlers.

 

Gloria notices it too. She was the original owner. Technically I also stole the demon skull, but all I did was quietly take custody of it, no drama. What was in the bag? I had no idea, I would have taken custody of it anyway, for Gloria. Now it owns me, but I surrender willingly, I do not struggle against it. We all think that we are alone, in service to the skull. We serve the skull and will do its bidding in our own way, as we understand it to be required from us. Obey.

 

Anastasia now fully covets it, she begins her search for it. Linda murdered me for it, so she has bigger problems for all of eternity now, if that is how it works. And now Anastasia has to figure out what to do about the situation. She needs the money of course, but she also has a terrible story and relationship to the demon skull. Her work is far from over. She had a plan, a new life, but it’s all distorted and possibly lost. Maybe she can fix that and salvage something for herself. The skull already owns her, which she understands. She will serve it willingly, too.

 

Now my Lo learns of my situation, my demise, my picture in the paper with The Others, and she is fascinated by the picture of the demon skull. She imagines that she has some claims to make on it too. She has a dream and it beckons to her. Soon she will follow my path west.

 

The skull itself is bagged and boxed and locked in the evidence room. Since the pictures are so plentiful the actual artifact is actually ignored. Things happen to it in the darkness of the basement of the South Seattle headquarters of the King County Police.

 

The skull has its ways and influences. So many actors seeking direction from it. Pick me, coach! Impossible to not think about, calling to everyone alone, everyone, Every One. Every Other.

 

The Columbus police decide that Samantha aka Dolores did not murder her parents, from the evidence (overheard by the mother's other neighbors) it appears that the step-father was confronted by the mother, he spontaneously killed her and took her body, and then his life ended as he tried to conceal her remains. It was discovered by a man walking his dog early one morning a few hours away from Columbus, in Pittsburgh, a car at the bottom of a ravine, stinking, with a dead man at the wheel and a dead woman wrapped in plastic on the backseat. Instead of dumping the corpse maybe he just drove right off the road and ended his problems. Or was he seeing the skull at the time he died? He has the look.

 

So now Dolores takes the bus to Seattle.

 

The bewitching red haired Gloria has been working at the shelter in Phoenix since her grand escape from the Greyhound bus station. She was at that moment back then afraid I would take control of her life, like so many have done to her, so she skipped out of the gruesome little roadside restaurant where the bus had stopped for a meal break, and surrendered herself to a truck driver who took her to Phoenix and to her new life, which fills lots of troubling pages in that truck driver's autobiography. Now she was planning her reunion with the demon skull, without pausing to ask herself why. She just knew she had to follow. She has newspaper clippings and the picture of the skull, and she has looked up the address for the King County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Dolores and Gloria meet on that same bus, randomly seated together, and they make small talk, which leads them to discover how much they have in common and to compare notes. In a whirlwind more and more things match. They are on the way to Seattle, each of them for first time, nobody is going to meet them or give them a place to stay, they are both seeking information about an older guy who called himself Boris, who they only met briefly, he took something from them and unfortunately (for purposes of their revenge) was involved as a victim of the recent serial murders that were just in the newspapers, and Boris was quite dead now. Same guy. The clincher is the picture of the skull, they both have the same newspaper picture.

 

The mood changes from a timeless ride across a huge expanse of infinite landscape to a rapid series of coincidences that add up to an uncomfortable small singularity, stuck on a small bus next to the one person that has the same story. They both have the same picture of Boris and Gloria's mysterious stolen skull that was lost the only other time she tried to go to Seattle.

 

The twin boys got on the bus in Las Vegas. They both were the same person, dressed in exactly the same blue jeans and black leather jackets, Doc Martin boots, large colorful dragon tattoos on their dirty hands, viper rings, shaved heads, strong and young and mischievous, dangerous; easy and sassy laughter. They were spectacular standing next to each other. When seated in different locations they were frightening because you would look from one to the other and back again while your brain tried to work out the impossible details. More than one of them? Actually there is a third one, they are triplets. He is a lawyer in San Francisco and refuses to have anything to do with his naughty bald skull siblings, which adds to their laughter. By this time the girls had sought separate seats on a now crowded bus, they naturally needed to digest what they had just learned, so they were seated in different places, each girl, Gloria and Dolores (Samantha is her real name), had a new companion twin, each twin sat next to one of them. Small talk drifted into the evening, and before long they were two couples, amusing themselves with pretend acts of romance to while away the endless bus hours to Seattle. The boys had a trick they practiced, at some point they would switch seats just to see if the girls would notice (they seemingly never did), this worked best after the small talk phase was over and the long soul smooching had begun. The twins switched places several times during the evening and night.

 

These girls never noticed the boy's game until the meal break, when Dolores spotted a tiny scratch on the hand of one of the boys, who was first seated with her, then the mark was gone and it was on the hand of the boy with Gloria. She kept this to herself. The novelty was too much fun to think about. The boys got off in Portland, the City of Roses. Roses have thorns, the small cut must be from a rose thorn.

 

Sleepy in the city morning, they arrived in Seattle at 10:44 AM, no idea of where to go and happy to get off of that bus. They could not help but to team up, it made sense, as they had discovered they were sort of long lost spirit sisters. They went walking together and discovered the Pike Place Market to find coffee and breakfast and to make a plan.

 

The skull had been placed in plastic and was stolen by one of the clerical custodians. It was easy, just transfer the skull into a waiting gym bag and take it home, leaving no plastic trail. There were enough detailed photographs to keep everyone busy enough not to require disturbing the actual smelly artifact. It was a major prize! And the first winner was Lucious Skin, the troubled tattooed boy from the internship program, by day a young overworked clerk-in-training in the King County Court and by night a resident of the Golden Phoenix Halfway House. Within thirty-six hours the skull had been stolen from him and was traded five times for a successively larger value, from $300 in heroin to $1500 in services rendered and another murder for hire. Then two. Then twelve murders. Many people thought they owned the skull but it was making its own way, and was headed to Victoria, British Columbia now. From there to where?

 

Gloria decided to head back down to Portland, she was intrigued by the idea of hooking up with the boys and she had the name of a bar they frequent. Dolores headed to Forks (Washington, home of the once popular Twilight series) to see if there really were vampires and werewolves there. Of course there were not, except for the tourist business, but the summer was fantastic, not too hot and frequently shrouded by coastal fog. Deep cool forests for miles and miles. Dolores found work at a café and served endless slices of blackberry pie to Japanese tourists also seeking proof of vampires and werewolves in Forks, Washington. Sasquatch too. Never forget your Sasquatch. Tourist business is booming.

 

The skull sort of got busted at the border checkpoint at the ferry station, but the guard was in business for herself and quickly adjusted the situation so that the bowling-ball sized package simply disappeared from the back of the van where it was riding and quietly took up a new position in the luggage mount of the now ex-guard’s new motor cycle. This avoided much paperwork and needless trouble and confusion, the van just easily went through with no idea that anything had changed, empty untested identical box, and the motor cycle headed inland, to the northern plains of Alberta, where it was soon on an airplane owned by a gang of rich smugglers. They found the wrecked motor cycle and one bloody glove, but nothing else.

 

Gloria told her tale to the “twin” boys, and eventually they all headed north again, drawn again by the story of the skull. They were in Seattle and decided to get their fortunes told. Who did they go to? It turned out to be Anastasia. There are thousands of fortune tellers in the world and hundreds in Seattle, and it turns out to be Anastasia, our Anastasia who nearly was poisoned by her odd friend Linda, recently deceased by her own hand. The rarity of the moment was recognized and the fortune teller managed to talk the trio into an extended session at her private lair. This went on for hours. At some point, the twins wandered off. The newspaper article with the skull was passed around one more time and Anastasia heard Gloria’s tale.

 

Nobody knows where the skull came from, but it came to Gloria one afternoon.

 

Her story telling of how that happened fills the rest of the day and into the night. Anastasia records every word. The story, meaning the collection of words used, has a life of its own too, but its not quite time to reveal it. Just know its there, it will be ready to fill the right moment.

 

Dolores continues to dream of where the skull is. She travels to Canada, hitch-hiking and walking, mostly lots of walking. She has not made any preparations, she has few resources, she has a mission, she is another who is called to the skull.

 

Now she is just outside of Edmonton, Alberta, and is walking on a road that goes up and down endless rounded hills, the entire landscape is an infinite sea of huge rolling hills. She is at the top of one hill. The road goes down and then flattens out, then rises again up  the adjacent hill. It is probably two miles from her hilltop to the next hill top. There is a pleasant breeze and the sun makes its way across the bright blue endless sky. Here she comes now.

 

She sees a small dot next to the road, and after a while it appears to be another person walking. Which way? It turns out to be this way.  There is a lot of time before she gets close enough to make out anything about this person. Its another woman, walking. They walk and they walk and they walk. The time goes slowly by, step by step, and the road goes by just so slowly. The two women meet near the bottom of the two hills.

 

The other woman is smiling. She appears to be weary, but friendly. There is a suitable  rock not far from the side of the road, where they pause to visit. There is no traffic, no cars, no other travelers. Just two women walking in opposing directions, now pausing to see what happens next.

 

Casual conversation, they are sharing some water from her canteen and some warm tea from the other water bottle, they are sharing what one of them brought, some crackers and stale sliced carrots, bits of cheese, that is about it.

 

Dolores notices a name embroidered on the rucksack of her new friend. Its says Dolores. She points this out. They have a laugh comparing ID cards. Lo, meet Lo.

 

Now they have even more to talk about. The new Dolores is very loquacious. The topic of dreams is on both of their minds. They both have pictures of the skull. They both know the story from the newspapers. Our Lo has met Boris (that would be me, of course) the other Lo has only read about him.

 

Our Dolores tells of her most recent dream, walking in a dark cemetery, a very old cemetery. She is not sure of why she is there, she is looking for a way out, but the cemetery goes on forever. Then she finds a pit, an open hole, much larger than a newly dug grave, it’s a pit and full of darkness. Even at night in the dark, the pit is much more black than anywhere else in the cemetery. There is a noise coming from the pit. She is frightened but she cannot figure out which way to run and for some reason she cannot move. So she just has to see what happens next. She would move if only she knew how to. Hide in the graveyard.

 

Something is rising from the darkness of the pit, it’s the skull, its NOT glowing, its in the dark, jaw clattering, pointed teeth, now it has animal horns on the upper temples, simple thick horns like some kinds of cattle have, no, maybe more like deer antlers. The teeth are clattering and there is a hoarse sound like laughter, the skull is doing its best to speak in some foreign language, there is one word that Dolores can make out, it sounds like the skull is saying “grabble gribble grabble gribble.....” There are some other words too, but I don't remember them now, like a spell uttered by an old spirit. “Gribble grabble...with a raspy laugh from the heart.”

 

She must escape, but she is also trying to understand what the skull is saying. This dream is repeated frequently. There are other dreams that lead her on her path, she knows she is being called to the skull. She produces her newspaper clippings and the worn and faded photograph of the skull, without the horns.

 

The other Dolores, the loquacious one, suddenly has nothing to say. She sits and puzzles. Time goes by. The sun goes down. They decide to make a camp there, where they are. In the night they huddle for warmth. By dawn there is only one Dolores. There is no dead body, there is just now only one Dolores and she knows all that either Dolores knew before, alone.

 

The skull is heading towards the North Pole. What will happen when it gets there? Are you my young mother, in a disordered time, have you come for me now? Is it time again? Where are you taking me?

 

The Dolores decided to visit each other's origins, first to Canada and then to Columbus. After sorting out their combined materials, a portion was discarded. One bag. Now there is only one set of footprints. It is Dolores. Lo. She has dark hair, parted to the side and looks at the world with one eye like a cyclops, the other eye is hidden behind her hair. She is wearing denim and tall boots. She carries two bags. She has a constant silent dialog with her companion, Dolores. She thinks that nobody else can hear them mumbling to each other. She is just mildly crazy. Colorful Lo. Everyone's friend.

 

They spend much time in Canada riding the railroad, at last they arrive, they travel from the train station, to the district and then to the street that Dolores lived on before she went traveling. For some reason, nobody recognizes Dolores now, she looks completely different from the woman they knew, but she knows all of them in great detail. She knows where they keep their treasures, she knows when they are at home and when they are out.

 

The skull has reached the north pole. The newspapers that carried the original story about the robbery and mass murder were all inundated with calls from readers who had powerful obsessions about the skull. They could not stop thinking about it. The idea was haunting their sleep and the questions would not stop. There were stories about each of the victims and the suspects, security tapes of Linda going through the recycled plastic bags at the grocery store, photographs of the skull in the police lab and in the apartment where it was first discovered, and interviews with all of Linda's neighbors.

 

The little cult got really big too quickly. How do you merchandise it quickly enough to meet the demand?

 

Readers could not get enough of the story of the skull, and there was much speculation about its location and purpose. A crop of video clips on YouTube and Vimeo, inspired novels appeared and became popular, the story of the skull has taken a strong hold on the folk culture, related entertainment became highly lucrative.

 

Behold the skull as it rises, teeth clattering, bathed in weird light, it is laughing, it has found its place in the darkness and it calls to us. It has pointed teeth and antlers that grow daily. It rises.


© Copyright 2020 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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