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Loosening Bones in Sandusky

Greetings to anyone who perhaps has seen a bone in the Sandusky area in the last week. It is an arm bone, the left radius from my own arm. It should be quite slender, around thirty years old, mostly white in appearance with some yellowing towards the ends, and by all means, in very good condition. There should be a name carved into it, precisely carved into it, at the end where the humerus would attach. The name reads “Ullamco”, it’s in cursive so it may be hard to make out for anyone not used to reading cursive or hand-written poetry, but rest assured, if the name is there, then the bone belongs to me. If you have seen this bone, please contact me and we will arrange for its return. I am quite confident I last possessed it at the Wendy’s on Milan Road. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Please handle with care. If returned, I am willing to provide a reward, the details of which can be discussed at that time. Thank you.

~

My bones have been getting looser and it has become strange to type my personal ad with Ullamco missing. Even now, after sending my query out there, I feel my bones twisting and drifting in my meat. So careless. I can hardly believe I lost a forearm bone. The toes, I understood. I never could quite feel my toes, so when the bones loosened and slipped out, well, I suppose that was not entirely my fault. I have managed to collect my toe bones, most of them at least, and press them back into my foot. It seems my sandal wearing days are over, my strolls along the dirty sand of Lake Erie are no more, at least not how I enjoyed them all these years.

How could have I not noticed losing Ullamco? He had been free floating for quite some time, and could see the bulge forming beneath my soft flesh. He was ready to squeeze himself free. I should have never left my home and for what? A small square hamburger with a slice of cheese and some fancy bubbled drink? Hardly worth losing an arm bone for. Why could not I feel him squirt free from my arm? I must be more diligent.

~

Last seen in Lions Park: A set of human first metatarsal, proximal phalanges, and distal phalanges bones loosely connected last seen on Saturday. The bones are a ruddy brown color with the distal being particularly brown. Approximately 30 years old. The three bones are from the left foot, and like I have stated, are loosely connected. A small gauge steel wire should be holding bones in place, in order. This is done for anti-rotational purposes. If found, please do not try to manipulate the wire or in any other way harm the bones. There are small carvings into each bone which you will have to read back to me to confirm they are indeed my lost bones. Some have attempted to deceive me in the past. They are quite valuable to me. I have searched, what I believe to be, the entirety of Lions Park to no avail. Any assistance in the recovery of these missing bones will be rewarded. Please contact me. Thank you.

~

My shoes were on. I could have sworn my shoes were on the whole time and now three of my foot bones are missing. Walking is more of a chore than usual. Why can I feel the bones churning but never leaving? I used to always feel that wretched pressure of a surfacing bone and that inevitable squeeze of excretion as it discharges from my splitting flesh. Why does this body reject my bones so often?

“No, no, no, no, no, no…” I would helplessly mutter to myself as I felt and saw another bone, the femur or twelfth rib or clavicle slowly and unstoppably breach my skin. I used to try to push back, to prevent the rejection, but the bones always squirted free, always exerting far too much of a steady force. When I felt a loose bone coming on, I would sit in my reading chair and let it happen, squirming uncomfortably as nature took its course. It was excruciatingly slow, and for the most part quite painful, but an undeniable satisfaction flooded within me in waves of hot and cold when a bone finally popped out and clattered to the floor. The split skin would be left gaping for a few moments, curiously bloodless. So clearly, I was always able to see into my flesh, through the fat and muscle and into where the bone had rested. It was… Then the skin would mend back together, seal up as good as it was before. The soft void left in my body that the bone once so restless occupied always felt tender to the touch, not unlike a bruise, though there was never any discoloration that I would notice, no, but despite the pain, I could never keep myself from poking and prodding at the boneless spot and inducing that sort of pleasurable hurt.

Now, for reasons I cannot fully understand, my bones are slipping out of my body and I can hardly even feel when it happens. My bones also seem to be loosening more and more often. I find free bones all over my home in the strangest spots. A rib bone on the bookshelf. A fibula in my pillowcase. The ear bone trio of malleus, hammer, and incus floating in a jar of pickles, and some other bones I have yet to locate. Reinserting the bones is just as pleasurably painful as excreting them, though I never truly look forward to having to do it. It’s a nuisance. Pressing the bone back into my flesh is one thing, but knowing exactly what bone it is and where approximately to push it back into is a project in itself. By necessity, I’ve become something of an anatomist, and I have taken to carving names into the bones if they are big enough, or using wiring to keep the little ones together since they in particular seem to be much more mischievous. Yes, they do have their little personalities. I feel how they turn and writhe inside of me after all.

I can plainly see how this escalation of loose bones can become a problem, but I cannot bring myself to show any more doctors my condition. The few I have seen seemed disinterested in this extraordinary circumstance for whatever reason, and simply told me to drink more milk and take some rest and relaxation. As if it were that simple. Some of these medical professionals would even joke about harvesting my bones and leaving me as a sack of amorphous flesh. My bones shudder at the thought of some other person prodding and extracting, separating us for a better understanding. No, I can handle this predicament on my own. Or perhaps, that is the bones talking.

~

Found: a set of human coccyx bones, partially fused. Advanced yellowing all around, nearly the color of uncooked corn. They appear to be approximately 50 years old, but are in otherwise excellent working condition. I found these bones during my weekly stroll through Oakland Cemetery near the base of The Pomeroy Anvil. There are no markings on the bones, though I would not share those details here for fear of false claimants. You may have lost these bones without knowing. If it feels unexplainably strange to sit down or walk properly, if pressing where your tailbone should be yields nothing but a soft, bruise-like feeling, then perhaps these bones are yours. Please contact me if you would like them back. If no one claims this set of bones within the week, I shall keep them safe until I can find the owner myself. Thank you.

~

This is not the first time I have happened upon the loose bones of others. Like stated in my personal, I found this coccyx in the Oakland Cemetery during one of my rambles. It is very troubling to try to stay home all day with all your bones restless, shifting and twisting in your meat and muscle no matter how intensely you clench, or how many muscle relaxers you take to ease the spasming and squirming. The only real easement I have found to work is to get up and walk around, to move and appease the need my body was meant for, what it yearns for at all times. Walking, jogging, climbing, swimming, any activity works to calm my wandering bones and anxious flesh. The risk is obvious, however. I cannot seem to feel my bones squeeze loose any longer, even if I am plagued with feeling them float inside me at all times. Why can I not feel their exodus?

Regardless, this is the reason I walk, why I was in Oakland Cemetery. Did you know it takes quite a bit of effort to walk with some semblance of normalcy? Hm? At first, every little motion is a conflict, a fight against inertia, a conscious squeezing around each bone to hold it in its proper place. I am a teacher herding unruly students back into the classroom. I am a plate spinner with 206 plates to keep in the air. Well, not quite 206 these days. I’ve caught glimpses of my awkward gait in the shop windows in the Sandusky Mall. Though I’m doing the best I can to feel at ease, to calm my mysterious ailment, I still feel ashamed and embarrassed waddling through the town like a haunted marionette that must urgently find a bathroom.

Still, I do this to feel better, to get the hot blood pumping around my bones. Once I get a few miles in, my roving bones mellow out. I walk and walk and walk to the best of my ability at most hours of the day, and once exhausted, spend my nights at home repositioning and replacing my loose bones.

Evidently, there are others like me. As I say, this coccyx is not the first, but it is certainly the largest. I have found many small bones such as distals, quite a few teeth, several ribs, wrist bones, a knee cap, but never anything so complete as this tailbone set. Because I carry a backpack with me to corral any of my own loose bones, I have taken to picking up others I find and placing a personal online to see if anyone is looking for missing bones. Perhaps they have even found some of mine, though no one is yet to respond in either case. All of these bones were unmarked, so either these people do not realize their bones have been loosening and emerging from their splitting skin, which seems unlikely given how excruciating my own initial bone loss process began, or, and for some reason I find this even more disturbing, they just do not care that their bones are gone. No one replies to my personals, and no one places any of their own.

I am left to my own devices, I suppose. I will continue to collect any additional bones I find on my daily rambles.

~

Have you been losing bones? Have you been feeling like your bones are loose beneath your skin, that they float or move on their own? Has a bone, or multiple bones, protruded through your skin and then fell out against your will?

You are not alone.

I have been collecting errant bones I have discovered all over Sandusky in the last several months, and this collection has grown quite large. Many are unmarked. All are human in origin. Perhaps your missing bones are in my repository? I, too, suffer from loose and misplaced bones. We can help each other.

Please contact me for my address and we can arrange a visitation, and maybe exchange bones or theories or advice on how to cope with this condition. Serious parties only.

No medical professionals, please. It seems they cannot be trusted.

~

I have become quite proficient with my handheld rotary tool. Before, when losing bones was a strenuous ordeal, I would simply push them back in the best I can. Then, as they pushed out with greater frequency, I began using a rotary tool, a Dremel, with a fine carving burr bit to carve some names into my bones. I am not sure why exactly, but I like my bones to have names. The way they move inside my flesh certainly gives them their own little, unique personalities. Ullamco is a bold one, always pressing against my arm, leading me to explore places I have never been, and now he is gone. Somewhere in Lake Erie, I suppose, that intrepid bone. Lutpatum, my L3 lumbar vertebrae, is a real trickster, a prankster, always sliding out and shortening me at the worst times. I have stumbled quite badly, shifting everything inside me, on more than one occasion because Lutpatum decided to squirt out mid-stride. My right femur, Aliquam, is the jealous sort. When one bone pushes loose, Aliquam is eager to follow and with much greater force and splendor. I have taken to tying a belt around my thigh to contain him, though it does not always work. The loss of Aliquam or his brother Augue is obviously quite devastating to my ability to walk and ramble, to steady my jittering bones. They need to be kept in the right place, they must be labeled, named. The thought of being immobile is frightening.

I have used my rotary tool to carve, to the best of my ability and cooperation of my body, the locations of where I have found the bones I have come across. There are so many now. Buckets and bags line my walls, fill my cabinets. Certainly people will answer my personal ads and come to claim their bones. I do not even expect a reward at this point. I know how frustrating it is for your bones to abandon you. The real question is why? Why has no one come to claim lost bones? By my estimations, there are at least fifty or so people missing at least one bone, and most of them missing quite a few. I try matching the hues, the shapes, the characteristics and little quirks of each bone, and in doing so can more or less build a person.

Here’s a heavy set woman with a contradictory healthy diet. Here’s a man at least six and half feet tall, but with poor posture. Here’s a child who loves to climb and sing. Incomplete of course. I only have clues to pull from, but certainly the bones tell me much. I should seek these people out for myself. No, I should stalk the places I have found them and try to observe a bone coming loose in action. I cannot find anyone else experiencing this online or otherwise, but I know it is happening all over Sandusky. I am curious to see what it looks like as a third party. Yes, I will stalk the locations and fellow people with loose bones.

~

Your bones are missing, Sandusky, and I have found them. Please, check your body, feel beneath your skin for pockets and voids and mush. You are missing bones, perhaps quite a few, perhaps all of them. Contact me. We can solve this. We can put your bones back where they belong. Join me. Please, I am becoming increasingly desperate to talk with others about this condition. We need a club, a committee, a coalition to figure this out. You are missing your bones! Something is happening in this city that I cannot figure out nor stop. Contact me. Let me give you your bones back. For those of you sick of soft limbs and mushy flesh, meet me in the parking lot of the Jackson Street Pier this Saturday.

~

I wait in the parking lot of the pier, the trunk of my car wide open with boxes of neatly organized bones. This was no easy task. Shamefully, I am missing many of my own bones, and despite my constant scouring, which is what my daily walks have become, I have not found any of mine.

There are hardly any other cars here. Hardly anyone around these days. Despite my best efforts to find people with my condition, I have had trouble finding many people at all.

My borrowed bones itch and writhe inside of me, so I pace. I walk awkward circles around my car just trying to feel a modicum of comfort. The foreign bones want to jump from my body, but what choice do I have? Carved broom handles, whittled chunks of plastic, rocks ground to shape, none of those worked. Using other people’s found bones was horrendously uncomfortable, but at least was not unbearably painful like the fake bones.

I continue my incessant ambling, baking the heat of the summer ruminating in that distinctive Lake Erie waft, until at last I see a man approaching with purpose, the first person I have seen all day. That must be him.

~

RE: Hello! Are these genuine human bones?

OP: Yes, these are genuine human bones. I have inspected them myself. Have you lost any?

RE: Yeah sure, lots. I’ll swing by to take a look at em. Where do ya live?

OP: I prefer we meet in a public setting in case others want to show up and claim their bones as well. What bones are you missing? None that I have found are marked in any way.

RE: I’ll know em when I see em. I’m a bone expert. Don’t worry about it.

OP: I have many, many displaced bones in my possession. I would hate to give you the wrong ones by mistake and leave another person forever without theirs. You can understand that, surely. You will have to prove the bones are indeed yours.

RE: Sure, pal. Where ya wanna meet?

OP: Like the personal states. Jackson Street Pier.

~

He walks well for a man missing bones, but it is more than just a walk. He seems to be almost dancing over my direction in a confident sort of strut. Perhaps he is listening to some sort of lively music? His long brown hair flops playfully with every step. His white suit with no tie is totally out of place in this part of town and this time of the year, though I must look quite odd myself with my black compression shirt and pants with zip ties running the length of my limbs in an effort to contain the rebellion beneath. He points right at me some fifty yards away and then starts bobbing his shoulders back and forth.

“You must be the bone man!” He says, smiling with a mouth full of teeth.

“I suppose you can say that.” I respond, caught off guard by how upbeat he is given the circumstances we are meeting. “As you can see, I have organized things. What bones are you missing exactly?”

Produced from his suit coat pocket, this man takes a long swig from a bone colored flask and then grunts with satisfaction. Then he begins just shuffling through the boxes, haphazardly mixing them up.

“Oh, me? I’m missing a whole bunch. Uhh, few ribs, a metatarsal – Oh! Yep, here’s a good one!”

He picks up a fibula, one clearly from a teenage woman. Before I can shake my aghast reaction and tell him that the bone he is holding cannot possibly be his, he lifts up his pant leg and presses it into his calf, taking it in. He taps and twists his foot around as if he’s trying on a new shoe.

“Yeah, that’s the stuff…” he mutters to himself and then exhales with satisfaction.

“Excuse me, but the bone is not yours. I’m certain of that. The size is all wrong for your legs, and you are so clearly walking without a missing fibula!”

He scoffs and turns his attention back to the boxes of bones, digging through them. I hobble closer to him and put a hand on his shoulder, a shoulder pulsating with excess bones. All he does is look at me with smug disbelief.

I tell him, “You need to put that bone back and leave. I am trying to help people and you are just stealing bones.”

Even through his suit coat jacket, I feel his bones twist and pinch my hand. He faces me fully.

“Stealing bones? No. I’m just using the ones no one wants anymore, or at least the ones that don’t want the body they used to be part of. Isn’t that what you’re doing, huh?” He forcefully shoves me in the chest, popping loose a couple of precariously pinned rib bones. “You’re telling me you ain’t using some of these spare bones? That each one of these in here are yours?” He grabs my arm squeezing shut a flesh void. A deep bruising feeling washes over me, almost making me nauseous. His grip is strong. His grip is crawling with bones. “What’s with all the cable ties, then huh? You’re one to judge.”

He throws me to the ground and the impact leaves me stunned. My skeleton was very delicately being held together, and now I feel all the pins and connections popped loose. Staring into the sun from below him, I can make out his silhouetted form as it plucks several boxes from my trunk.

“Besides.” He says, “I’m a doctor. You can trust me with these. If you want any real help with this bone thing like the others, then give me a call, or you can keep doing whatever…” He shakes the boxes and rattles the categorized bones, “This is and bumble around on bones that don’t want ya. See ya.”

He struts away with an enthusiasm and rhythm in his step, and listening carefully, I am able to hear the glut of bones clatter and rattle beneath his skin. It is the walk of a thieving snake, a rattlesnake. If he is, indeed, a doctor as he so nonchalantly claimed, then I would loathe to be his patient.

Patients… He is no doctor. It just does not seem possible.

I sit in the parking lot for a few hours concentrating on keeping my bones in. It is much like trying not to vomit. Cold sweat. Eyes clenched. Eventually, I am comfortable enough to stand up and drive home feeling defeated. What do I do from here?

~

Looking for able-bodied people to assist me in recovering the Sandusky bones. I know you must be out there. If you are reading this, then I assume you are well enough to aid me. I am also trying my best to help the boneless I come across. We need to support each other.

Not all the bones are taken yet.

~

As painful as my daily life has become, as stuffed with improvised bones as I am, I must persevere. Driving has become impossible, as any sedentary trip lasting longer than fifteen or so minutes causes spasms. My bones nearly literally leap from my body or my body rejects the imposter and substitute bones. In short, I am trapped in Sandusky.

I walk this city because I have to, and I do so more and more alone. Just months ago, I would see men, women, and children walking, running, and playing, breathing in that strange Lake Erie smell, soaking in the reflected sun rays of that murky water. Now, The only people I see are boneless blobs sizzling in the summer sun. They undulate slowly, moaning and bloated, covered in lakeside filth. Luckily, many of them are in their homes or under some sort of roof. I feel sorry for them, but I cannot be with them long enough to help them or my bones may jump from me as well. Their slitted skin gasps like wanting lips, wanting bones, wanting new or different bones, and these skin openings seem to especially pucker and suckle when I amble past. Their bodies want new bones, what few real ones I have left. The people groan and gurgle, mumbling clumsily with what little agency they have over their soft mouth holes. The tongues have enough muscle to flap and flick with some manner of purpose, though I cannot say what that purpose is. If I can spare it, I pour water into their mouths. It is the least I can do for them.

Along my prowl to the end of a row of houses, I see a corpulent man in the face down in the rocky sand. He reminds me of a beached jellyfish. The unrelenting sun has cooked his skin into a blistered, bright red. I am extremely sweaty, bordering on overheating, with my attire of zip ties and compression clothes. I cannot imagine how hot he must feel. His blobby body bubbles there like mozzarella cheese melting on a wood fire pizza, and his agonizing bellows ring out much more clearly than all the others I have come across. Gulls circle above him, adding their cacophonous cawing to his retched moaning. Some bide their time in the sky, while others prod with their beaks at his open skin. That amount of pain and misery was too much for me to ignore, and so I jog in place thinking of what to do. Some one-hundred yards away is a covered pavilion, and perhaps I would be able to at least drag him to the shade. It would not be easy and, if I am being quite honest, not do much for his situation, but it would at least provide some relief. I cannot just ignore him.

Up close, he is in even worse condition. I see now that the bubbling of his fat back skin is from the multitude of bone slits gasping for breath, opening and closing desperately. I shoo away the vulturous gulls and am met with a delighted howl from the beached man. It rings clearly enough for me to believe he must still have most of his skull and mandible, perhaps even a few cervical vertebrae.

I grab hold of his arm and begin dragging him to the best of my ability. At first, he does not budge, but eventually, with enough effort, I am able to dig in and make some progress. Before I could get to the covered pavilion, to that cool shade this man needs, he flings up his other arm and latches on to me like an octopus tentacle. The openings in his searing hot skin suction on to my own, weaving between the cable ties and through my compression sleeve and feel them suck and pull at my bones, my own skin yielding to his own. I try to shake loose, but our flesh is melding together and I fall down in the effort. His head jerks upward, covered in dark sand and bits of beach glass. He does have most, if not all, of his head intact.

“New bones! He said he’d give me new bones! He said you’d find me here!”

Like slippery lips extending into another set of lips, his flesh prods and pulls at my bones, engulfing and slurping them up like a snake would an egg. I scream in pain. The horrible feeling of when my bones first loosened and pushed themselves free from my flesh returns during this extraction. In response, he howls in an rolling, quivering way, matching the strange vibrating of his rotund body.

There is no course of action left but to kick this bone leach in the head. With each drive of my heel into his skull, his howling is interrupted by yelp of pain, but he does not relent his grip. Cold sand from beneath the surface kicks up into the air, the grit of which helps my boot dig into his face with every hit. As I feel my arm go limp, the bones travelling from my arm to his, so too, I see the bones of his face loosen, the fatty flesh tear apart. The frontal bone of the skull pops open slightly like the lid of a Tupperware container. I reach forward and dig my finger underneath it. That putty-like face skin sloughs away, leaving only dull tan bone, and so I rip forward, towards me, with all my might. His entire face peels away, the nasal and maxilla bones coming with it. What remains are two fully exposed eyes, a gaping nasal cavity vibrating and whistling, a flopping tongue on a writhing mandible, and most importantly, the brain. The howling does not cease however and neither does his taking of my arm bones. There is no choice now. With fingers extended forward like a pitchfork’s tines, my hand pierces into his pulsing brain. I scramble it, tear at it, try to scoop it out, and I am successful. His shredded brain slops into the sand and all life drains from his body.

Panting, exhausted, I do my best to calm down. I just killed a man in self-defense, and this type of horror is not so easily moved on from. Though the fat man is lifeless, my arm is still very much intertwined with his with several of my bones half way between.

An impressed whistle shoots directly in my ear.

“Wow, you killed him, huh? You’re pretty crazy, pal.”

Just over my shoulder is the man I met in the parking lot weeks earlier, the self-proclaimed doctor. He jiggles one of my cable ties on my melded arm. I swipe at him with my viscera covered hand, but my lunge is anchored by the beached bone leach.

“Whoa! Haha, easy there, bucko! No need to ruin a perfectly good suit with some fat guy’s brain goo. He really got ya good, huh? You just can’t keep yourself from trying to help these slobs. It’s endearing, but kinda sad. Actually, looking at you now. It’s just sad.”

He spasms slightly but holds his composure.

“What do you want?” I say and realize immediately he is unlikely to ever provide a satisfactory answer, and besides, I know full well what he wants.

“Oh, just those bones of yours. You’ve got some real good ones.”

I swipe at him again, but this time he catches my wrist and clamps down on my arm with so many hidden distals like a centipede wrapping around its prey. He caresses my fused arm, massaging and prodding.

“Aha! Oh yeah, here’s a good one!” He exclaims as he plunges his fingers into the combined flesh and slowly begins to pull out a metacarpal.

A nauseating pain makes my teeth clatter together.

“Why won’t this… Hold on a second, buddy.”

He spasms uncomfortably again, and takes that same bone colored flask out of his suit coat pocket that I saw him drink from when we first met. He tilts his head all the way back and then groans in disappointment.

“Is this thing empty already?”

He mumbles to himself while keeping me firmly pinned. The bones beneath his hand feel unruly and wriggly, though. Dropping my hand and putting the flask back in his pocket in one motion, he abruptly gets up to leave, but not before viciously yanking out that metacarpal he had his eye on. His body shuddered again.

“I’ll be back for the rest later. Just stay put, won’t ya, bucko?”

He scurries away a little off balance back to the road and disappears behind some houses, leaving me with my fleshy albatross. I have to escape before he comes back and leaves me boneless on this beach to die. I pull and pull and pull, but my arm will not rip free. I stop and think, but how much time do I have? Then that dull tan catches my eye: the frontal skull bone. The jagged edge where it was once conjoined to the parietal is like the teeth of a saw blade. I gulp and steady myself for what must come next.

It is a surprisingly quick ordeal, sawing my flesh away from the fat man’s, but just as excruciatingly painful as one can imagine. Finally, I have cut away enough meat to pull my arm away. Long strings of melded tendons and great chunks of fat man’s flesh pull away with it. The bones, my bones slide out of sockets in his arm like the roots of a pulled tooth from gums. As I pull fully free, the sticky strings of flesh pull with them plenty of rocky sand and beach debris, but it takes one more good tug before I can get on my feet. Curiously, the flesh has fused to what appears to be a glass bottle of milk with the cap still on, almost half full. I cannot lift my arm, but that is okay. My priority is to run as far from here as I can, so I stumble towards the homes and see if I cannot hide in one for a bit to recover. It only takes a few homes before I find an open sliding back glass door.

The sliding is nearly silent, and for that I am thankful. A strange dimness hangs in the air that I cannot quite pinpoint. The house does not feel abandoned, but it also does not appear to be occupied. It is as if someone left this home to go on vacation several days ago. I convulse in small, controlled tremors as my adrenaline dissipates and I try to calm myself down and deal with the fat man’s melded flesh surrounding my jutting bones.

I take my backpack off momentarily to grab my water bottle only to find it missing. It is probably back on that wretched beach at the spot of the tussle, but I will not be returning there any time soon. The cupboards are full of glasses neatly turned upside down and put in a row, so I take one to fill it with water from the faucet. The water spurts out in a ruddy brown color. A smell accompanies the color, one causing the other. I will not be drinking that, despite my extreme thirst.

The bottle of beach milk clinks against the cabinet doors below the sink, ensnared in the remnants of sinew. It actually looks clean. It looks, for reasons I cannot explain, more appealing to drink than rusted, fetid water. I maneuver my dead arm onto the sink so that I may pluck the bottle from the flesh and get a better look at it. The tendrils of meat almost willingly relinquishes it. Lukewarm to the touch, not a deal breaker. The cap comes off easily. No odorous smell. I trust it. I am thirsty. The first sip tastes a little different than normal milk, but not unpleasant, a bit sweet really. I finish the contents without another thought.

Returning to the living room, I let my backpack fall quietly onto a sofa, and with my one good arm, dig through the contents. Beneath the loose bones and scrap wood is my rotary tool kit. It should be fully charged. A bizarre shock of pleasurable pain shoots up my arm, and I look down at my dangling arm to see the half inserted bones slowly undulating in and out. It is unpleasant, make no mistake, but also strangely addictive. I must disregard this feeling and open my rotary tool kit. As I pull it out, some bones spill to the carpeted floor, but that is hardly a concern right now. It is not easy with only one functioning hand, but I am able to switch out the carving burr with a cut off wheel. There is nothing left to do but to do what needs to be done. The high pitched whir of the tool sings loudly in the empty home. I lower it to my flesh.

The pain is exquisite and thankfully almost numbingly terrible. With my small cutting tool, I trim away the excess flesh, the fat man’s flesh, from around the bones protruding luridly from my arm. Blood splatters wildly all over the living room, but I must grit my teeth and continue. Carefully around the bones, delicately slicing his flesh and not mine, steadying my quivering arms as best as I can muster, the ordeal takes long enough for the sun to cast long, orange rays of dying light through the glass door I entered. At long last, the last bits of excess flesh fall wetly to the blood soaked carpet.

I turn off the overheated rotary tool and take a moment to just breathe and focus on staying conscious. I let my ruined arm dangle at my side. It is then when I am hit with that same lewd discomfort from earlier. All those arm bones that were sticking out are reinserting themselves. I do not need to push them, to force them into their proper spots like I have been for the past few months or so. They just… But, this feeling extends beyond just the bones in my arm. At my hand, the spilled bones from my backpack are gathered at the fingertips and squeezing their way into my finger flesh. I want to stop what is happening, but again, the feeling is strangely satisfying, sensual. I let the bones travel the length of my arm, squirm through my flesh like stiff worms, until finally they settle in my arm arranged almost randomly. My arm, despite the skin being a tattered mess of ribboned fat, muscle, and sinew, feels fantastic.

I am thinking of what my next course of action can possibly be, when I spot the Doctor outside walking in the middle of the street. He is swinging something in his hands with little regard for accidentally dropping it. The evening sun casts difficult shadows, but it appears he is swinging around a human skull and some spine.

The man from the beach.

The Doctor had returned and found him dead, no doubt. Is he still after me? I had not gone very far from the attack, he would be able to find me easily, I suspect. He seems unconcerned as he strolls down the street with that same out of place upbeat swagger. Ducking low behind the window sill, I watch as he approaches another home only four or so down from the one I am hiding in, lifts a false rock up off the porch revealing a key, and opens the door. Is that where he lives? Is it possible he has been stalking me on my weekly routine around this area? How many times has he secretly watched me as I rounded this little beach? That would explain the trap he seemingly set for me. At this point, it is likely he knows where I like to walk, and it is likely my escape earlier today will lead to a greater effort to catch me or take me or just take my bones or whatever his plan may be.

I flex my hand with newfound strength. The additional bones I accidentally, but quite seamlessly, assimilated give my arm a heft I am not used to, but this heft is not unwieldy at all. If anything, my arm feels stronger than it ever has, and after wrapping it in gauze, it even looks good, too. I have no clue what could possibly have caused this feeling, but I feel energized and strong. If I were to ever confront that so-called Doctor, now may be my best chance. My bones are relatively jitter free. I am feeling somehow refreshed. He is also the only other person I have seen the past few months besides me walking around. In fact he is one of the few people I have seen at all who has bones. He must know something about what is happening, he must. The risk might be worth the answers. I cannot sit and think about it any longer. I must act while I am feeling bold.

Stealthily, with a skeletal steadiness I have not felt in quite some time, I half-crouch jog across the street and over a few houses, doing my best to remain hidden behind shrubbery and front lawn features. When I get to his house, I crawl right up against the side so as to totally obscure myself if he were to look out the window. I stop just short of the door and wait. From within, I hear music playing, some sort of pulsing bass. That works in my favor. I lift the rock and take the key as quickly as I can as if his watchful eye is always looking through the peephole. No sign of where he might be in his house. The music dominates my hearing, and I do not dare to venture a peek through the window for fear of him staring out of it with his smug face full of bones. I am getting nervous and sweaty, the metal key slick between my trembling fingers. No, use that nervous energy. Focus it. I may need it to tackle him or run away or who knows what else I may encounter there.

Reaching up, I slot the key in the key hole slowly. What am I doing?

Twisting the knob, I open the door and push it open just a crack. I have come this far, I suppose.

Nothing much to be gleaned from peering through the slight opening, so I go for it. I walk, still crouched, through the door.

Inside, the halls and rooms are tight with end-to-end bookshelves of various sizes. The mismatching tells me he must have taken these bookshelves from the surrounding homes or procured them through even more unscrupulous means. The shelves themselves are stocked with bones, and so uncouthly organized, I might add. Bowls, boxes, bags, bins of every shape and size. There is no rhyme or reason to the categorization, or lack thereof. There is no order or reason. Just bones of every type in a variety of hues. If only the Doctor was gone. I could reorganize these bones and give them back to the people to whom they belong.

I creep further into the home towards the thudding music. The deep bass resonates in the shelves of bones, rattling them. I find myself kind of fond of the sound. The hamstring and quad muscles cling tightly to my twin thigh bones of Aliquam and Augue, the most they have cooperated with me in far too long. There’s a focus and poise to my sneaking, a heightened sense of self and control, and I cannot help but feel a sort of uncharacteristic giddiness creep up from my belly as I approach the door that is the source of the thumping tunes.

It is open, just ever so slightly, and so I push, low to the ground, just ever so slightly, and there he is. The Doctor’s back is turned. His head and shoulders bob up and down to the beat of the numbingly loud music. There is someone else with him. A woman is lying on her back on a small bed, naked and boneless. Her atrophied legs are limp with apparent disuse. From the hips down, she looks like a discarded rag of flesh, twisted haphazardly in a neglectful heap. I am not sure she would walk again even if she were given new bones, or her original bones. A thought strikes me. Why exactly is she boneless? Would the Doctor not want her to walk, to have bones?

Behind her is a medical apparatus that I cannot identify. Two small diameter hoses extend from her body, though I cannot see from where and are attached to some sort of pump or tank. This machine does not appear to be operating at the moment.

Obstructed as she is by the Doctor tending to her, I see that the rest of her is amorphous and limp. Her sunken face stares vacuously at the ceiling, that is, until the Doctor snaps something in his hands, and then slides a skull bone into her flabby head. Her eyes widen and she gurgles with some sort of morbid happiness. He is giving her the skull bones from the man on the beach, or perhaps giving her own skull bones back. I watch as each part of the skull is crudely pressed in with the Doctor, ungloved, lifting and pushing eyes, brain, tongue, and muscle out of the way. I am mesmerized by the surgery, until at long last, the mandible is inserted.

The Doctor lowers the music. It feels like coming up from underwater.

“There! Back in! How’s it feeling?” He says with a clap of his hands then a slap on her jelly stomach.

She wiggles her jaw back and forth, testing it out, then snaps her head to the side, towards me. Our eyes lock for a brief second and she lets out a screech. It is a primordial, guttural noise, bird-like in its alerting tone. The Doctor turns around. I stand up. Now I see what the hoses are attached to, but I still do not understand what is happening, what he is doing to her.

In contrast to the rest of her shapeless body, two perky breasts stand tall like twin hills on a prairie landscape. Suction cups are attached to the nipples with the hoses attached to those.

She is being milked?

“Whoa, pal… What’s up? I was actually just looking for you.” He says rather calmly, putting his hands up in a pacifying way. Slowly he walks towards the pump at the other side of the bed.

“What are you doing here? Who is she? Why are you stealing her breast milk? What is all this?” I rattle off rapid-fire.

“Hey! Easy, bud. That’s a lotta questions.” He flips a toggle on the pump and starts up. The woman moans and the off-white fluid travels up the tubes to a small tank. An empty glass bottle, the very same kind I drank from earlier, is positioned beneath a spout. “What does it look like I’m doing here? I’m taking care of this lady and relieving her of a little excess milk is all. What’s wrong with that exactly?”

I enter the room fully and upright. My skin is bristling like an animal’s.

“What? That does not quite answer my questions.” I glance over to the woman briefly, at her seemingly blissfully lobotomized expression, and in that brief moment, the Doctor throws a tray tongs and forceps at me. I raise my strengthened arm and block it without harm, but he uses the opportunity to sprint out of the room, knocking over some shelves.

Before I give chase, I put my hand on the woman’s shoulder and ask her if she is okay. All she does is smile widely and moan. Is that gratitude?

The volume of the music returns to its oppressive thudding.

In the hall, the trail of bones make it obvious where he has run off to, but I do not let my guard down. I am by no means a violent man, nor an experienced fighter, but I am poised and ready for what must be done.

In the mess, a bone catches my eye: a forearm bone, a radius, mine, Ullamco! You have been here all this time, my good friend? I pick him up and he inserts smoothly between the two substitute forearm bones that had been so uncomfortable for so long.

The Doctor, the mad man, more accurately, is surely somewhere in this house, I am certain. I very much doubt he would flee and let me discover what is happening here. I round every corner with an excited caution.

When I get to the kitchen, I am ready. From the blindside of the doorway, he lunges at me with a kitchen knife, but I am able to catch it with my arm filled with bones. Still, we both fall to the floor. The blade singes as it slices through my flesh, but the dense mass of bones catches the blade, quite literally. The Doctor tries to yank it out, but loses his grip. The knife is firmly wedged in my arm. I use this shift of balance to roll over on top of him.

The same latent savagery that took over me at the beach takes over me now as I pummel the Doctor’s face. He tries to defend, but I am able to pull back one of his arms, and using the lodged knife from my arm, pin his appendage to the linoleum floor. With only one arm left to guard, my punches rain down virtually unabated, though they land with dense thuds. Even his orbital bones feel like striking a football helmet.

I do not relent, however, and the successive concussive shocks seem to be taking their toll. That is, until I feel piercing stabs into my legs. I look down to see the Doctor’s ribs having inverted, protruded through the skin, and sunk into me like meat hooks. Now I feel trapped and before I can bring my first down upon his face again, he plunges his own fist into my side, his fingers penetrating through my shirt and into my flesh. I grunt through gritted teeth as his many boned digits begin twisting and pulling at my ribs.

He coughs blood through the ruined mouth of his dented head.

“Boy, you’re extra feisty! You’ve got some great ribs on ya, pal!” He tries to smile, but he is in obvious pain.

His pinned arm remains put. His legs flip upward, bending unnaturally, and a few of those bones latch on to my back. It is as if he plans to consume me right here, take all of my bones out from underneath me. He is less of a man, and more of a horrid, living, bone stealing, trap, and I am the ensnared game.

Ullamco moves in my arm, pushes through my skin and into my fist. I drive him into the shoulder of the now chuckling Doctor like a wooden stake into a vampire. I wrench the bone stake back and forth, prying loose the man’s arm from his torso. The fabric of his white coat tears, soaked in gushing blood. He digs further into me, and so I return the favor and vigorously continue my separation. Ribbons of skin are stretched to the point of snapping like rubber bands, muscle yields and splits, the tendons pop loose. His arm is ripped off and he screams. That gripping in my ribs fades into nothing, his lamprey-like arm hanging limp from my torso now.

I use all my strength to push, to stand up, to break his hold. The damage I have done must have been substantial, for as I right myself, his ribs and legs pull away with me. I am encumbered by his clinging flesh and bones now no longer in his control. I take a few steps back and most of his sloughs off me and plops lifelessly to the ground in a hot, wet pile of meat. So too, his phone falls out of some pocket, open to the music playing app. I turn it off, leaving my ears ringing.

He is a mess. Ravaged, but still living. He regards me with tired, contemptuous eyes.

“What are you doing, really? Why are you holding that woman captive?” I ask as calmly as I can, but I cannot quite steady my jittering.

“Milk. It’s that simple. It’s really that simple. Milk keeps the bones in check.” He laughs, spurting droplets of blood. “Milk is good for the bones.”

“Milk?” I am incredulous.

“Yeah, but human milk for human bones. Other milk don’t work. Human breast milk does the trick, but you know that already don’t you? You feel it. I can tell.”

Yes. The bottle from the beached man. I was strangely drawn to it.

“You drank that fat guy’s bottle of breast milk that I gave him, didn’t ya? He was supposed to pin you down so I can take your primo bones. You’re the only guy left in town with so many, afterall. And hell, you seemed to be taking advantage of the situation yourself with all your bone collecting and posting about it online.”

He winces with pain and his eyes roll back in head for a momentary loss of consciousness.

I hold his face towards mine and ask him, “What’s causing this to happen, then? How do we stop it or fix it or…?”

“Why?” His eyes roll back towards mine. “Who knows. Would you feel better if this was a curse? Or a witch did it? Something in the water, maybe? Lake Erie, eerie. Who cares? You can’t change anything. Just embrace it like me, like I thought you were.”

I look down at his open cavity of a chest and watch his lungs inflate and deflate in irregular breaths, his other organs splayed out in the floor pulsing with the last pumps of blood, his heart struggling to continue on. I pull the knife from his pinned hand.

“Thanks,” he says, “Real nice of ya to let me have my hand back, pal. It ain’t too late for me, ya know. Scoot my lower half back over here and get me a bottle of milk from the fridge.” He points weakly over behind him.

I stay crouched over him.

“Well c’mon, buddy! Get me some milk! You can have a couple sips, too if ya need it.”

My bones feel squirmy at the mention of that.

He tries to pull himself with his one arm towards the fridge, but makes zero progress.

“Help me! Okay, okay…” He wheezes and coughs wetly. “I’ll let you know of the other milk houses I got around here. I have like a dozen places like this all over town and those ladies need tending to!”

“You mean your slaves?”

“Hey! They got better lives than the rest of the blobs around here. I’m keeping them alive, keeping them going, getting them through this thing! In return, all I ask is for a little milk!”

He struggles to pull himself towards the fridge again, this time dragging himself a half a foot or so. I step over him and open the fridge. He cranes his neck and his eyes light up momentarily. The fridge has a few bottles in it, but they are empty.

“Shit…” He gives up and stares at the ceiling.

“I am not certain I would have given you any disgustingly farmed milk anyway.” I say to him, positive that I would not have given him the milk. My body is feeling uneasy in the face of this whole situation.

His ragged breathing steadies into something more contemplative. He seems to have accepted a certain fate, and so I crouch over his strewn organs again, over his exposed heart, and press the blade of the knife into it until it is cleaved in two, vivisected almost beautifully. Without much more struggling, his breathing stops and his eyes glaze over.

For a moment, I stand over him and consider everything he had said. No one knows why this is happening or how to fix it. You can only stave off this mysterious ailment, abominably, with human breast milk, and he has been milking these poor women not just here, but elsewhere in the city.

Then, I hear a moan from the other room. The woman. I hobble over there on loosening, shifting bones. The excess arm bones squirt free and join the spilled bones in the hallway. By the time I get to her, there are none left in that arm.

The pump had turned off on its own, it seems. The tank of milk is full. She is nodding to me, nodding to the TV up against the wall, nodding to the empty bottle waiting to be filled.

I do not know what to do, but I shuffle over to the TV and turn it on. She smiles, only able to articulate her head and neck.

An uncomfortable shift of bones undulates through my body. She continues to smile at me, moaning with some manner of appreciation, then turns her attention to the TV.

The empty bottle waits below the spout.

~

Hello. I am seeking strong boned individuals to aid me in clean up work in the city of Sandusky, Ohio. This is simple work, but quite laborious. It involves travelling to all reaches of the city specimens of interest. I will be your guide, with you the entire time as we clean up certain aspects of this city. Compensation is negotiable. Please contact me for further details. I look forward to hearing from you.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Horror

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