Skeletal Supervision

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man tries to build a time machine while conversing with actual skeletons.

Submitted: September 08, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 08, 2012



I remember that night well. The night that I first thought about doing what I ended up doing, what I’m going to tell to you now. I remember that I had a headache, and was in that state of being where you aren’t quite tired, but you’re almost apathetic to doing anything. I suppose lethargic would be the word best fit, but I’m not sure that encompasses the feeling in its entirety.

I did feel the need to do something, but I just couldn’t figure out what. And that unknown weighed so heavily over me that it made me feel lethargic, although I wasn’t lethargic. I find that contradiction funny; that you can feel something but not be it. I guess emotions don’t really take over your being, so I shouldn’t be so amused by it.

But that night I found myself alone, feeling tired for no reason besides the parasitic emotion I’ve established as lethargy being attached to my spine. I sat there for I don’t know how long before that nothingness forced my hand; when you get so fed up with doing nothing that you get angry and decide to force yourself out of that funk.

So I stood up and immediately regretted doing so, lightheadedness attacking me from all sides. With that feeling I tried to remember how long I had been sitting, but honestly could not remember. In fact, the in between talking to Claire and sitting down is all-blank to me. I remember her walking away from me angry and feeling defeated. And I remember feeling equally defeated, which pissed me off.

So when my balance restored itself, I walked down to the basement, past the manila hallways and hanging pictures that chronicled all of my life stories, and all of the people I had met in the past. I walked across the cold kitchen floor, passing in front of Claire, who was sitting head and hand, her hair bounding around the empathetic hands. I hesitated, but continued on my way to the basement, not knowing really what for.

The stairs were wooden and creaked, which would become a familiar sound in the forthcoming weeks. The floor was cold and concrete, which is almost redundant to say, as if a concrete basement was ever warm, but I suppose it helps set the tone better. And as I try to remember the surroundings of that basement, what furnished it, what made it stand out, my mind stumbles because currently I am sitting in said basement, but not the same one. Things have changed, mostly because of the mess I ended up making. So for the purpose of giving you a setting I ask that you recall any basement you have ever seen and add furniture, tools and pool table in that order. Maybe some shelves, it doesn’t really matter, all basements are the same.

As I typed that last line, I immediately realized the error in it. This basement was different because it had a closet, which I found peculiar even when Claire and I bought the house. The closet contained old boxes and anything else that needed to be just shoved away in order to keep that basement somewhat cleanly, if not organized.

Claire and I did host the occasionally party, and when the number of people grew in size, it was only plausible to head into the basement to avoid an uncomfortable congestion. Also, pool table. But enough about good times, because this isn’t a story of good times. This is a story about the fight against your past and the need in us all to feel the need to fix the past, right or wrong.

In that basement, that cold, cold basement, I stood looking around as if something was going to jump out at me and tell me what I was doing down there. Obviously that wasn’t happening because things like that don’t happen, inanimate objects suddenly becoming animate. No, what was actually happening was that my mind and subconscious were working its ass off to put two and two together. And in the meantime, my conscious mind was having a brain fart.

Finally, the connection hit and my mind sparked and I began moving around in haste, which was different from me forcing myself up off of the couch, defeating lethargy. This time I was acting with a purpose, but only a vague one. And it was so insane that I couldn’t believe what I was doing.

I scavenged the basement, looking for nothing more than a variety of odds and ends, for an assortment of things that I could forge together for a means to my ends. After an hour of digging through my basement, completely obliterating its organization, I had all of the things that caught my eye as useful. There were four watches, two lamps, a power cord, the main glass piece from a coffee table, four old remotes without batteries, a keyboard from the very first computer I owned, two rolls of duct tape, tools, a vacuum hose, a few wine bottles that I was sure Claire would be pissed if I used, a skateboard, and a shriveled hedge apple, amongst a bunch of other pieces.

I looked down at it all, spread out across the cold floor that was obviously concrete, and almost cracked at the sight. But instead I laughed, which I guess the latter is a first sign of the former. The laughter itself stemmed from my sudden and irksome realization of having no clue where to go from there. Gathering materials that seemed liked they could be used was one thing, putting them in to practical use was another. Theory and practicality, that great divide personified in this smorgasbord of forgotten materials that had been stowed away in my basement.

So in lieu of actual knowledge of the task that lie before me, I instead relied on determination and crazy ingenuity. And there was something about that basement that helped the latter of those two qualities. And so, I began to work, piecing together things that logically seemed to go together; lamps and the power cords, the vacuum hose and the wine bottles, the watches and the remotes, and so on.

About a fifth of the way through my building of this monstrosity, I heard some movement coming from the closet. I figured that it was only the boxes toppling over from their shoddily replaced perch inside the closet. But it was not boxes full of compartmentalized mementos that were useful only in nostalgia. Instead, out stepped two skeletons.

They were skinny even for being only bones, but they moved as if there were joints and ligaments still attached; there was nothing awkward or deliberate about their movement. The first skeleton had a smaller skull with wide eyes and a few missing teeth. The second must have stepped out of a classroom; he was such a perfect representation of what a skeleton was taught to look like.

I stood still, feeling lightheaded again, and so amazingly confused by what was happening. I picked up one of the wine bottles, ready to wield it to knock the head off of the first, hopefully giving me enough time to run away faster than I had ever ran before. But something held my hand, whether it was curiosity, dumbfoundment, or just plain stupidity, I can’t say. But the skeletons that had every opportunity to dismember me and drag me to hell did not do so. Instead they sat down and looked up at me, waiting for my shock to slip away.

That shock did not subside for quite awhile. It wouldn’t for most, is what I told myself, but they sat there still patient. Finally, because I figured this had to be a dream or the ending of my life and that I had nothing to lose, I spoke up.

“Wh—what—what is this?” I sputtered out. In hindsight I probably should have first decided on either who or what and not both, and then clarified my first question.

They laughed and took their hands from their knees to wipe away imaginary tears. The laughter died down and they looked to each other, figuring out which of the two nightmarish embodiments of death would reach out to this scared mortal. Finally one did and his answer only raised more questions.

“We’re only skeletons Monte, only skeletons,” the one with the smaller skull answered.

“Are you real?” I asked. But instead of answering, he stomped his foot on the concrete floor and waved his hands. “I’m here, sitting in front of you. Do you trust your own eyes?” He offered Socratically.

“I’ve never had a reason to mistrust them before, but then I’ve never encountered two skeletons, who seemingly appeared out of the closet in my basement.” I looked at them, trying to find a flaw in their appearance. I mean no way they could be real. But unless I had been exposed to a gas leak and was fully hallucinating, they were there in front of me. Their bones were even dirty, as if they had climbed out of the grave and stepped into a portal leading them to my basement. But how could they be real?

“How? I mean, if you are real, and if that is more than just hypothetical, then how did you get here?” I paused for breath. ”Who are you, I mean really, are you some ghost with no name or are you somebody’s skeleton? And why are you here?” I had settled down now and had begun to try and unravel the unimaginable situation I was then facing.

Again the two skeletons looked at each other, deliberating how they were going to answer, no doubt in some form of a riddle, denying me the truth.

“Firstly, I assure you that we are real. Secondly, I could try to inform you of the way we came about here, but it would be quite out of your realm of understanding. Thirdly, I’ve told you that we are only skeletons, skeletons from your closet, which should, I think, answer your last question.”

“Only skeletons? With no representation of anyone? You’re not my dead grandfather, you’re not some scientist who’s died, come to tell me not to try what…what I’ve begun?”

“Is there anyone specific you want us to be? Do you want us to be a loved one? Someone whose visage you can project onto our skulls in order to hide the truth? Or do you just want a name?”

“A name is a good place to start,” I answered. If these two were not going to be straight with me, then why would I answer straight back?

“Call me Scott,” the one with the smaller skull said, motioning his hand towards his sternum, producing a clack of bones. He then swiveled his head towards his silent friend and said, “And you can all him Kurt.”

I nodded my head approvingly. As odd as it seems, I honestly had nothing further to ask, their elusiveness put a damper on the adrenaline and zeal for knowing the truth. I didn’t care at the point, I wanted to return to my work, resolute goal or not.

So I began putting things together, still trying to conceptualize how to do something that in itself I had not conceptualized. All it took was one moments pause before the skeletons, or should I say Scott, to interject and began rambling.

“You have no clue what you’re doing, do you?” He asked with an air of pretentiousness. He knew that I was utterly clueless, but instead of offering some form of advice, he wanted to toy with me.

“No, I imagine I don’t. But eventually, I will.” I answered him without turning towards him.

“Time travel is a tricky thing.”

“Wasn’t currently aware that time travel was what I was intending to do with this.” I answered, inflated by the idea of time travel, but deflated all the same when I realized that was what I was intending to do.

“Oh yes, it is what you’re doing, you are trying to build a time machine to change something in your past. An interaction with a loved one.” He said and it immediately sent fire coursing through my veins.

“Why are you here? You’re not here to question what I’m doing, you’re not here because I’m going to kill myself, so why sit there and pretend you don’t already know everything? Huh? Why go through the motions and making it seem like I can surprise you?”

“We do have an objective here, Monte.” Scott said, but refusing to elaborate once more. In anger I threw whatever was in my hands down and went storming up the wooden stairs, secretly hoping I was stepping with enough force to break a stair. I opened the basement door into the kitchen, stepped out and slammed the door behind me, locking the skeletons in my basement alone with the beginnings of a time travel machine.

Claire was still at the table drinking coffee. She looked up at me, then towards the clock on the microwave, then stood up and left for bed. I had been in the basement six hours, leading halfway into the night, thrashing around, talking what must have seemed to be to myself, all the while keeping my dear Claire up. I was angry at myself for the lack of respect, for the invention of ghosts, and mostly for the stupid idea of trying to invent a time travel machine. What did I know about time travel?

I slept on the couch, which was surprisingly unpleasant. The whole time while watching TV on it, I imagined it to be a suitable replacement for my bed if the time ever came when I would be forced to the couch. I woke up from my very first night sleeping on it, and my first thought was that my back doth protest to my previous postulation.

Work was the usual, which you’ll come to find out, though not in this story, was unusual. There was a morbidness to everyone I scantly talked to, which hindered any productivity I was capable of that day, which if we’re being honest, and I hope you believe that I’m being honest, wasn’t very much.

I trudged home, the weight of the office carried onto my shoulders. I unlocked the door, which told Claire, who was sitting just inside, to head upstairs. I hated that she was ignoring me. But I suppose the fight we had gave her enough reason to do so. Normally I would do anything to get back in her good graces, but this time I couldn’t do so without being fallacious, I did not want to recant my stance that caused our argument, for reasons you’ll come to know. But for now, it should be sufficient to tell you that her shunning of me renewed my vigor for that terrible idea that hid in my basement.

So I ambled through the kitchen, down the stairs, and into the chilly basement to find the mess of a contraption that I had begun in a daze the night before. Again pushing the pieces together without any real knowledge of what I was doing, I became lost in the fixation and idea of time travel.

I can’t explain the feeling of feeling so close to something that you really weren’t. It’s like that feeling you get when you absolutely believe that you have the winning Powerball tickets and are anxious for the numbers to come out so you can collect. It’s an anxiety that’s based off of the belief that you’ve already accomplished it, the wait is all that’s left. But it’s not just that, below that feeling resides the feeling of pre-determined failure, and those two feelings don’t mix well.

So I worked, and worked, and worked. I was almost unconscious with the building of something, which was probably a good thing. I figure that if I had tried to logically make a time travel machine, that wouldn’t end well for me. So I let my subconscious take over, as if it knew what it was doing.

A noise came from the closet, muffled and immediately recognizable. I straightened up from my work, back tight and sweat running from my forehead, to find the skeletons stepping out of the closet. They did not acknowledge me, but instead began to inspect the contraption that lie before them, climbing from the cold basement floor.

“Well you’re certainly on your way, I suppose.” Scott said half approvingly. “Still any idea of how you are actually going to get this to send you back in time?”

My initial belief of their omniscience was vastly generous, because if these creatures of bones and dust did know everything, they wouldn’t have been surprised by my answer. “Yes, I do have an idea.”

The weight of my words pushed their heads back in a stunning attack. They were flabbergasted. They were dumbstruck. They were rendered unresponsive, dead to thought.

That made me smile so incredibly big that it had to be insulting to them. It was one of those smiles that feel like it’s going to break your face. It was one of those smiles that lasts longer because it was the first real joy you’ve experienced in a while. It was one of those smiles that left skeletons shocked. That smile stayed painted on me for the rest of the night, and those skinny ghouls remained silent. It was a good night.

The next night I found myself in the basement unable to recall the daytime activities of which I normally stress over at night. I couldn’t remember if I skipped them or slept walked through them. At the time it didn’t matter, I was gaining speed towards moonwalking through time.

The skeletons made their call when I was connecting the electric saw to the disco light, trying to find a way to regulate the timing mechanism of my shuttle. I happened to look up past the glow of the dots to notice that the way they were walking was different from than the nights before. To me they looked confident and happy and armed.

I dropped the Phillips screwdriver and unknowingly opened my arms to the personal attack. “If you think that going back in time will to alter the past will change any of the pain you feel, you are so incredibly mistaken. The errors of your past are engraved in stone and this silly endeavor is but merely an eraser.”

I had no come back because I knew that what I was doing couldn’t lift the ink from the pages, let alone alter the course of events that had shaped me. And even if it did, could I accept the changes I made?

“Time travel is tricky thing,” Scott said to me.

“Yeah, you’ve told me that before. But you mean something different here, don’t you?” I asked, proud that I could decipher the difference.

“Your past is so full of mistakes.”

“And whose isn’t? Did you live a perfect live?” I asked defiantly.

“Did I even live?” He responded, equally as defiant.

“Enough of your false meanings, and pseudo paranormal presence!” I shouted, really wanting to kick over what the object that was my only positive staple from the time. “You’ve offered me nothing since you escaped from that closet, nothing but snideness and disapproval. You think that I’m going back to save myself from some indignity?”

“Aren’t you?” Scott interrupted. He wasn’t wrong. Indeed I was, but I felt like it was more valiant than that.

I hazily remember the rest of that night; somehow we begun to discuss my past. How I was willing to open up with them is still really an unknown to me. Perhaps they tricked me with skeleton powers, I don’t know.

I spent the next week discussing past events that had shaped who I was, a philosophical adventure in finding out why I was Monte. We talked of conversations between my family and I, especially the ones that ended poorly. We talked about failed relationships, especially the ones concerning women. We talked about regrets and losses and pain and goals and dreams. We spent night after night discussing what I wanted in life, and why I wanted it. I was seeing skeletal psychiatrists and it was an amazing journey of self-discovery. Still, they could not get out of me the real reason I was risking my life to journey back.

And all the while I kept working on the time machine, much to the chagrin of Scott and Kurt. They still disapproved of me trying to go back in time, but they figured that I wasn’t such a bad guy, and that they could convince me otherwise of altering the past.

I remember one night we were discussing how I planned on jumping back into time, really getting into the specifics, which was more crazy than specific since, I wasn’t a genius or anything.

“Well there’s a theory that says that as you approach the speed of light, time begins to slow…”

“So you’re going to travel out into space at the speed of light than return to Earth?” Scott asked, referencing the most common way of time traveling.

“No, not quite, I couldn’t come back to the now that way. And frankly I’m not building a space ship. If I travel at the speed of light, time slows. If I go past the speed of light…then in theory you could eventually force time to reverse itself.” I said wiping the sweat from my forehead, before taking a drink from my glass, vodka and cranberry juice.

“But what in all heavens could allow you to go past the speed of light? It’s the fastest anything can travel.” Scott said, he too taking a drink from something.

“Well science says that there are things that travel past the speed of light, none of which I fully understand. But since I’ve begun building this thing, I haven’t fully understood what the hell I’m doing.”

Scott nodded his head in understanding, and I went back to connecting the mop to the toy box, which was going to be the general frame, seating and steering wheel/stick.

One more week passed, which meant that I had taken two weeks of paid vacation time to assemble a time traveling machine that was bound to fail. The final night I came down into the basement to find it standing there, only needing one more part, a part that was to be the fuel for the ride: a Rockstar.

The skeletons emerged from the closet one more time, dancing their way out. They had dropped the pessimism and anger towards me and instead had become my friends. Sitting with smiles in the place they had always sat, they looked up to find the amalgamation of house supplies, tools, toys, and trash. It sat boxed, almost like an ungodly armchair resting on stilts. It was blinking from twelve different places and had cords hanging from the back and the front, the only way I knew which was which.

My heart was racing, ready to go back and time, when Claire came walking slowly down the stairs. I stared in horror at the skeletons; afraid of what Claire was going to say, or how she was going to react. I stared at the time traveling machine and became protective over it, thinking she might tear it down.

Instead, she came down; looked at me with all the love she could muster and said, “Sorry.”

I looked from her to the skeletons to my machine and everything that sat malignant on my shoulders was dusted off with the one word.

“Claire, honey, you have no reason to say sorry.” I said. In my quest for the changing of past, I had completely ignored how my wife may have felt.

“I was mad because I couldn’t get through to you logically. But I realized that what we fought over wasn’t logical. It was love and friendship and...I’m sorry.” She wasn’t sad so much as she was solemn.

“You still don’t have to say sorry.” I said and it was then that she noticed the time machine behind me, how ridiculous that must have looked.

“Monte, what’s that behind you?” she said not taking her eyes from it.

Not taking my eyes from her I answered, “It’s a time traveling device. It’s what I spent the last two weeks down here doing, inadvertently ignoring you, not trying to reconcile our fight.”

“Why do you need a time travel machine?” Her body’s release in tension let me know that she answered her own question, that she understood why. She nodded, smiled with a hint of real humor and put her arms around me. “You can’t erase your demons that way Monte, even if you aren't trying to erase your demons, but those of a friend.”

I nodded my head. She knew me, not better than myself like some bad poets would claim, but she knew me well. We molded well with each other. The fight that had begun my quest was reconciled right before its anti-climactic end.

We walked back upstairs, her leading the way with her hand trailing, connected to mine. The skeletons watched with smiles carved on their face. The time machine beeped and beeped, climbing from that cold basement floor. Scott and Kurt, my dear unnatural friends, stood with a pop of their bones and entered back into their home, the closet of my basement.

Those two weeks were really a funny time, funny here means strange and all around insane. I guess it was my way of coping with losing a friend the way I did. It still remains the longest Claire and I have ever had a fight, but I guess we hadn’t been as separated during that time as I remember. She says that we still talked, and were at least passingly nice to each other, but I don’t remember. I don’t remember much from those two weeks, except the fight, the decision, the appearance, the building, and the talks. And the forgiveness.

© Copyright 2020 Tommy McMahon. All rights reserved.

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