We made fun of it the first time we saw it, just another silly piece of graffiti scrawled in sharpie on the side of the train shelter on the dirty old paint.
“Skeleton Man ‘exsists’? Skeleton Man can’t even spell!” said Brady Reynolds, snorting as he hiked his backpack onto his back. We all laughed along, happy to be sharing a new inside joke with him. Everyone at school looked up to Brady Reynolds. He drew people in like magnets; when a decision needed to be made on where to go for lunch or which girl in class was the hottest, everyone looked at Brady for approval.
The drawing was still on my mind later that day during Creative Writing in sixth period. “Hey Brady!” I whispered, leaning across the aisle to get his attention. “I think I’m gonna do my fiction assignment about the Skeleton Man. After all, he exists.”
Brady held out his fist for a quick bump. “Totally, dude. Hilarious idea.”
Ideas began to flow out of me faster than I could type. Before I knew it, the bell rang, signaling the end of the period. I saved the document, but the story continued to unfold in my head. When I got home from school, I immediately picked up where I had left off in class, writing and writing until I felt satisfied with the ending. I had never experienced a burst of creative inspiration like that before, and it felt exhilarating.
In my story, the Skeleton Man was awakened in his crypt on the eve of Halloween by the light of the full moon. One year earlier, he had been murdered in his sleep by his wife’s lover, a bullish man who wanted to steal away his woman and house. His wife went on to marry the murderer but later learned of her new husband’s deceit one night when he got too drunk and spilled his secret. The wife, distraught by this revelation, visited an eccentric local woman rumored to be a witch. The witch cast a magic spell of revenge that reawakened the bones of her murdered first husband, and the Skeleton Man was born. After emerging from his grave, he walked through the streets in the middle of the night, his bones glowing in the moonlight, until he found his old home. The Skeleton Man used the tips of his finger bones to pick the lock on the front door, then crept into their bedroom. He looked at his wife sleeping peacefully next to his murderer, then crept to the man’s side of the bed and wrapped his bony hands around his neck. The man awoke but could not scream or cry as the Skeleton Man’s fingers crushed his windpipe. In the morning, the woman awoke to find her second husband dead with bruises in the shape of finger around his neck. She touched the deep blue bruises and they were ice cold.
The next morning at the stop, I told Brady about my writing assignment as we waited for our train to arrive. He nodded, his face reflecting interest as I laid out the details of the story. Encouraged by his attentive reaction, I included all of the details, talking so fast to get it all out that I realized I was probably babbling. But he remained kind, telling me after I finished that the story was “pretty dope.”
The rest of the school day passed uneventfully, and I went home and spent most of the evening doing homework and playing video games. As it grew late, I crawled into bed, double-checked my alarm clock, and turned off the light.
It was late in the night when I heard a strange sound at my bedroom window. I looked up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. It sounded like some sort of animal was clawing at my window. I sat up and turned on the light, but couldn’t see anything out in the darkness outside so I got back into bed. A few minutes later, the sound returned, but now it was more distinct, like a rattling of bones. I felt as though a bucket of ice water had been dumped over my head, sending chills down my limbs to the tips of my fingers and toes. I had been thinking about my story so much that I started to freak myself out. I burrowed deep in the covers, trying to shut out the noise. The scraping sound grew louder, and I could’ve sworn I heard a thin, wispy voice moaning my name, “Dooouggggg.” I put my hands over my ears, telling myself I was hearing things. After another minute, the sound suddenly stopped. I tossed and turned, barely getting any sleep for the rest of the night, but the sound never returned.
In the morning, I woke up to see a surreal blue light flickering in a pattern across my bedroom walls, competing with the early morning sun. In my groggy, sleep-deprived mind, it took me a while to realize that it was the flash of a siren from atop a police car. And at that moment as the realization set in, my mom appeared in my bedroom doorway, her face looking drained and sad.
“Doug, I have to tell you something,” she said, taking a seat on my bed and reaching to hold my hand. The strange surreal feeling continued to grow, making it feel like my bedroom walls were pulsating around us. She told me that our next-door neighbor had woken up early to walk his dog and saw something strange next to our house. It looked like a dark, crumpled pile of clothing, so he went to investigate. As he got closer, he found the body of Brady Reynolds, dressed in dark jeans and a black hoodie with a rubber skeleton mask covering his face. The body laid cold and stiff, just below my bedroom window. On his neck, in the few inches of skin visible between the rubber mask and the collar of his hoodie, were distinct indigo bruises in the shape of a skeleton hand.