(INAUDIBLE) -ad, dad, DAD! Wait, hold on a sec, I’m not recording.
Ok now I’m recording.
I thought you were gonna interview me.
I am, I am. I…just…wait until I tell you to go.
Are you recording now?!
Yes, so let’s rewind a couple of sentences.
Just start over, dad!
Oh, ok ok. Well, as I was saying…
Wait, sorry sorry. Can you state your name, dad, just for the record?
I’m not you’re fuckin’ dad.
Right, right. My mistake.
I should say so…well my name is James, uh…James…
James is fine, go on.
Well, as I was saying: I was seven when I saw my own skeleton for the first time. Uh…let’s see.
Did you see him other times after that?
Oh sure, sure. But you want to hear about the first time, right? For the article?
That’s right, for the article.
So as I was saying. I was seven when I saw my own skeleton for the first time. My mom and dad were having a bit of a tiff and I decided to sneak out before either of them decided to, uh…take it out on me, you see. Ma hit the liquor and then she would hit me. Ha! Pa didn’t need any liquor to start hitting me, you see. Heh…So I left. And we lived on the outskirts of Cave City, you know. Off 70 before it turns into 255. Near the actual park. Mammoth Cave National Park, you know. So a kid could run a few hundred yards and get lost in some pretty thick forest, you see. And that’s about what I did, uh…I had done this so much that there was a pretty visible beaten path. But I had to find new places to go after that path went on for a while. Otherwise they would come and find me and they would be even more furious. They’d cut a switch right there and start whippin’ me against the trunk of a tree. Ma was drinking so she probably wouldn’t have left the trailer. So if anyone came lookin’ for me it would be him. At any rate, that night…when was it? I don’t remember the time so much as I remember the weather and quality of light. Numbers and dates don’t do a lot for me but I could write anthologies of poetry about the weather, let me tell you. Was I so inclined, of course, but you know…I never did anything like that.
A lot of people have.
Have what now?
Written poetry about nature. It’s a source of a lot of beauty.
That’s right…it is isn’t it. You know I always felt so peaceful when I would escape the trailer. Like the forest was my friend, you see. I never got lost or scared. I felt safe. But uhh..lessee, we were talking about uhh…
Right, right. I forgot. That’s what I was getting to. So anyway, I ran far that night. Farther than I’ve ever run before. I crossed the goddam Green River, that’s how far I ran. I found the parking lot before that, though. That’s how I knew I was near the river. Of course I could hear it, you see, but I couldn’t see it. It’s a funny thing, that river. Sounds like it’s right in front of you no matter what direction you’re looking. Very confusing, you see. So I crossed the river…well half the river I guess. I made it to Cave Island and that seemed to be a good a place as any to stop. Locked in by all that water, you see. I felt the safest I’ve ever felt…
But it was in the evening, you see. Summer. Probably around the solstice. I knew it was late but the sun had just begun to set. Boy was it humid. Especially in that forest, let me tell you. But it didn’t matter that I had sweat through all my clothes, I dove in that river and made it to that island. It was just me, the trees, the river and the setting sun. Every time I ran away I told myself I would never go back. But I always did. This time it really felt like I wouldn’t go back…did I go back? I must have, but honestly I can’t remember.
So what I would usually do when I ran away was just find a spot to sit and rest. I would always run a considerable distance away from the trailer and I was usually dead tired. That’s what ultimately chose my destination, where I decided to rest. So I find a large tree on the island and touch its bark. It was soft and porous, even a little moist but it felt nice enough to touch. Nice enough to rest my back on, you see. I went around the north end to see if there was any moss. Deeper in the forest, moss was everywhere but out there, where the sun could reach the trees, it only grew on that north side. Like a compass, you see. But I wanted the moss, that would have been perfect. Some spongy moss. Like a goddamn armchair in the middle of the forest, it’s that comfy, you see. So I go around to the mossy side and see the strangest damn thing…this uhh…this uhh…thing. Goddammit! I can’t think of what to call it…
Was there moss?
Yeah, there was moss.
But it wasn’t just the mossy face of the tree? Something else was there?
Yeah, but there’s not really a name for it. It was just this huge lump of moss about yea high. Never seen anything like it in my life…
So not like a rock covered with moss or a tree stump covered with moss?
No no no. This was completely different, but I can’t tell you why. Well, I guess I will tell you why. But anyway, you get the idea. This lump of moss. As tall as I was and three times as wide. Well, maybe about as wide as I am now, you see. Ha! So I touch the thing, you see. It felt brittle or…dammit. Like it wasn’t built very well, whatever was under the moss. Like the thing would collapse if I fell into it, you know? But uhh…the sun was completely gone by that point and wouldn’t you know it, that moss started to glow a bit. Like there was something hot inside. Or like a big light bulb or something. So I start to pick away at the moss to see what’s underneath. I didn’t care much about sitting and resting then, I just wanted to see what the hell this damn thing was! I clawed at the moss and it ripped off in big chunks. I sent it all flying behind me. The light was getting brighter then, you see. I was getting closer to its source. So I kept tearing the moss away until I saw it.
Your skeleton? And it was glowing?
You’re goddamned right! It was sitting there, knees at its chest and arms wrapped around the legs, you see. I saw the skull at first and when I recognized what it was I went crazy with the moss and ripped it all away as fast as I could to get that skeleton out of there. And you know, it started to move as I was freeing it. The rest of it, the back of it you know, it was stuck to the tree. So the damn thing started to move on its own trying to get unstuck, you see. Its arms came out first and then it leaned over to get its head, neck and shoulders free. Its chest came next and then it put its full force into one big heave forward and the lower half of its body came free too. This made the damn thing sort of stumble forward and land face down right at my feet. But he stood up eventually. Slowly, carefully you know. Like a baby deer. He was tall, over six feet the best I could reckon back then. He had clumps of moss here and there still stuck to his bones but he didn’t seem to mind. In the darkness, you know, against his glowing bones, the moss looked like big holes. Like parts of his bones were missin’ you know. I saw him try to pick at the stuff but he got annoyed with how little he could manage to remove. He gave himself one final dustin’ off and then looked straight at me. And he started talking…
Like with his mouth?
No no no, nothing like that. No tongue, you see. No vocal chords and whatnot. No, he was speaking to me…uhh, whatchacallit, uhh…telepathically, you know? His mandibleand maxilla, you see, they were shut. I could hear him in my mind like it was my own voice.
But it was your own voice.
That’s right! The skeleton was me, you see. Someone from the past. A different version of myself. That’s the first thing he told me. That he was me, you see. He said “James. Don’t be frightened. I am you on another plane of reality. I was told to come here to wait for you. My body died, but my soul’s purpose has yet to be fulfilled, and so it remains. This is how I’m speaking to you. Through our souls, as they are one.” He didn’t sound like me, let me tell you. He had this strange…uhh…affectation about him, you know. Like some accent and practiced etiquette or something. He was very polite. Almost apologetic, you see. So I asked him to, uhh…you know. Prove…that he was who he said he was. That is to say, me, on another plane of reality. Like I said, it was dark. Nothing but the sodium vapor lights from the parking lot and some fireflies here and there. Of course the glowing skeleton. The sound of the rushing river and crickets and what not. So anyway he thought for a moment, about how to show me that he was me, without a doubt.
It was humid - moist, you know - and his bones had been under this moss for quite a while from what I could, uhh…surmise. What I mean to say is, his movements didn’t make a sound you would associate with bones, you see. No dry clicking or anything like that. It was like stone gears under water. His joints, that is. Not really a sound, but like a motion that you could feel. So It was funny to see this guy, me, this skeleton, move about, you know, go through normal human gestures. He crossed his arms, looked to starry the sky and searched for some idea in a brain that was no longer there. Or it was, I don’t know. On another plane or something. He would say that a lot. I always thought it meant he had been flying, you know. Ha!
Anyway he finally lowered his head to look at me, uncrossed his arms and started to look all around him like he finally arrived at something. Something to show me. He started to walk off and I waited for him, but he looked back and motioned for me to come along with him. He suddenly became very animated, you see. Like he didn’t need to talk to me anymore, or he couldn’t talk to me anymore. He just wanted to show me something. So I followed him to the edge of the island where he was sitting down, cross-legged, you see, and he pointed toward something. I couldn’t tell what he wanted me to look at. All I saw were the silhouettes of trees and a little bit of the river peeking out through the moonlight, you know. He looked back at me to make sure I was still looking and then he drew a circle in the air with his index finger. The phalange, you know, traced the shape about as big as a dinner plate. And I could see the circle he drew. It was glowing, same as he was really. I was watching over his shoulder the whole time, you know. I think he sat down so what he was doing was in my uhh…line of vision, you see. He was about my height when he sat down. So I take a peek through the circle and uhh…you see uhh…
What did you see?
Uhh…it was the damndest thing, you know. It was like it was daytime through that circle. Like he was showing me that very spot but at a different time in the day when the sun was out and I could make out all the details of the forest and river, you see. But outside the circle it was still nighttime. He looked at me as if to see if I understood what he was doing. I gave him a nod and he started at the circle again with his fingers doing God-knows-what. Drawing more symbols, waving his hands around, tapping certain areas in the air. I was looking through that uhh…well it was like a…I dunno what it is. Those windows on ships, you know…porthole, I think.
A portal, maybe?
Yeah, that’s probably a better word for it. Portal. It was still daytime through the portal, but he quickly made it look like it was dusk. He spread his hands wider in the air and the portal got bigger, you see. He moved it this way and that way as if making it more accurate and then he just waited. So I waited too. Then I saw myself running through the forest, jump into the Green River and swim up to the shore of Cave Island, just like I did about an hour earlier. It was the goddamndest thing.
You were looking into the past.
Apparently! So without giving me enough time to figure things out, he grabbed hold of the portal, stood up, turned around and walked it deeper into the island. The portal was about as tall as he was now. Six foot diameter circle, you see. Then I saw myself again through the portal, going up to the tree where he had been, uhh…entombed in moss. I think he figured I got the picture, you know. I understood what he was doing. So he shifted the image with the portal in the same place. I disappeared from view and the land started to look strange, like it was shifting this way and that way. Bulging in some places and sinking in others. The skeleton, he was making more gestures and the image changed quickly. Like you would change a channel on TV, you know. I saw the scene in front of me change into a barren landscape. He started to move his palm clockwise in a small circle in front of the image and the landscape started to change. Water began to trickle onto the land and I saw the Green River form in seconds. Then all the trees sprouted up all about, growing tall and green in another few seconds. And then I saw a figure in the distance, a child. My skeleton, he stopped rotating his palm and stood back to watch. The child advanced toward us and I could see it was me. He was about the same height and age and…I’ll be goddamned if it wasn’t me! His clothes were a little different and he had this satchel slung around him, but you know. It was me. So he kept coming towards us, further out from the forest. He approached the river, the opposite side I came in, you see. And then he ran into the river and made his way up to the island. My skeleton started to back up and took the portal with him. I backed up too and saw him point the portal back at the tree where I found him…
What happened then?
Well…you know, it’s hard to even talk about it now, I just get so choked up, I…I don’t even know why. There wasn’t anything sad about it I guess, it was just so…powerful. Drained me of everything I had to see myself through that portal come up to that tree and sit in that same spot where I found my skeleton. He sat there, took off his bag and then it looked like he was talking to somebody. Somebody I couldn’t see, you know. He was looking up to the sky. My skeleton, he looked down at me and gave me a nod. He put his palm back up to the portal and started moving it clockwise again. I saw myself age. Quickly. Everything else too, you know, the changes in weather and seasons and daytime and nighttime. With all of that I aged, still sitting against the tree. It was going so fast, I couldn’t tell much of what I was doing besides sitting there and aging. I thought I could see him in the rain catching water in a leaf and drinking it or reaching into the pack to find something to eat. But other than that he just got older and older and older and…and then he died. He just stayed there and rotted. Not much else he could do, being dead, you know. And little insects and animals came up to pick his bones clean. He was a skeleton in no time and then the moss began to creep up and cover his bones. More and more until it was just this huge lump of moss. The same lump that I found not too long ago, you see.
So my skeleton, he stopped the image. Turned it off you know, just like a TV. And he closed the uhh…portal. He looked at me, glowing more brightly it seemed, and talked to me again. “I’ve been waiting here for you for a long time to fulfill my soul’s purpose. So tell me, James. What do we do now?”
Did you know?
I didn’t fuckin’ know. I didn’t know a goddamn thing about any of this. No one told me all this was ever going to happen and then suddenly I’m supposed to know what to do?
Did you tell him that?
Yeah. I told him. Or I thought it, you know. Telling him through my thoughts that I didn’t know what to do. I started yelling it in my head, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!” He put his palms up to tell me to stop and opened another one of those goddamn portals. But he was showing me a completely different place. It was night, dark, you see, but I could tell I was looking at the entrance to one of the caves around there. In the moonlight, you know, I could see the mouth of the cave drop into total darkness. And then there we were. In the portal. Myself and my skeleton. Walking straight into the cave and uhh…I looked away from to portal for a second. Looked up to my skeleton. He looked down at me and pointed in front of him. We were in the cave. There was no portal and we were in the cave. So uhh…I led him into the caves. As if just then I knew what I was doing. I led him into the caves knowing every blind detail around us. And we just went further and further. And then he asks me. My skeleton. He asks me “What do you see?” And I look and I see nothing but…
What did you see?
I saw so many wonderful things…
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!] Shit…