Skull-Man

Story time! I wrote this a year ago for a project I made called Forest of the Mind.

The Skull

At dawn Skull-Man rises, shaking off sleep as the sky does the stars until a deep reddish purple fills the spaces in between treetops. He brushes the leaves and grass from his dark, hollow eyes and antlers, standing up to full height to see his distorted shadow stretch across the ground. He sees a long figure with tendrils extending from its head, like a tree’s silhouette.

Skull-Man walks, one foot silently moving in front of the other, shaded skin blending with the crumpled, decaying leaves and the gray bark of the forest. He listens as he travels, to the birds whispering sweetly to one another and the shush of trees moving in the breeze. The morning is peaceful. Skull-Man keeps walking.

He rests on a rock, fingertips brushing the smooth, hard sides of his face where flesh has fled like water in a dry riverbed. He tries not to think about why he exists like this, but perhaps it is the possibility, the unknown that keeps him going. He fingers the ridges along the sides of his skull, deep, like scars.

Skull-Man walks on. He sees wide rivers, some swift, others barely trickling, canyons, where he finds more skulls, skulls that almost match his own, mountains, pine forests, cliffs, lakes. He sees everything without knowing exactly what he is looking for yet. All he knows is that he has lost part of himself, and he must find it.

In autumn he is amazed and frightened to see his left foot turn into a bony hoof. Skull-Man keeps walking, through the trees that are changing as he is. He still cannot find what he is looking for, and the dawn of every new day looks like the sunset of his last. Spiny vertebrae appear on his back, going all the way up and down, hard like bark. He cannot do anything but keep traveling, every day, as soon as a sliver of sun shows on the horizon and as late as the silver moon allows.

The days grow longer and then shorter once again. Leaves fall and grow after the snow. Then the rain comes, as it always does, leaving Skull-Man huddled beneath a mossy overhang in the mist, thinking about when it will all end, arms wrapped around his knees.

Yet Skull-Man keeps walking. He grows fur, starting to cover the white bone, his hands become hooves, he walks on four legs, and yet he never stops traveling, looking for remnants of his past self- memories maybe.

One summer night it finally happens. The air buzzes with electricity in the coming of a storm. Warm air blows the trees and the field of grass around Skull-Man, circling him. He lifts his head one last time as a man, searching the horizon for the intangible. Something flashes across his eyes as he smells the storm in his muzzle, something like the flight of a blackbird and a hundred more behind it. Skull-Man searches no more, for he knows who he is, for he takes the earth inside of him and turns every branch, every leaf, every drop of water into a memory.

© 2014 by me

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