I noticed as I came to, that there was no pillow smell this time. No excess drool, and in fact my mouth was entirely devoid of any spit. In a rush of fear, and after attempts to move my body, I realized I couldn’t feel anything at all. I looked around yet could see nothing. The material underneath me seemed to be grey stone, and it stretched everywhere except one wall that had what must be a door. I tried turning my head and found another shock, as it spun in a full circle with no stress or limitations. I stopped the spin and tried to hyperventilate, but found I no longer needed to breathe. Then, I finally heard something.
“Be right out” Called a voice from beyond the door. I waited and didn’t say anything as, obviously, there was no ability for me to speak. I tried to stay calm, as I finally remembered how I’d ended up here. Just to remind myself I had once been a person, I decided to do a breakdown of what events had led to my current predicament.
I got in a fight with Tommy, finally.
I saved that kid John, who my dad implied had a bright future. Brighter than my own at least….well…especially now.
Some douche hit me with their car, I learned I could fly, then I learned I couldn’t fly and the ground was not a cuddly friend.
A weird feeling of being pulled after a quick fade to black, and here I was.
I heard a toilet flush, before the kind-of-door opened and a figure shrouded in darkness stepped out. They had a funny way of walking, as if their muscles weren’t working right and they weren’t sure how to move one leg followed by another. It looked like a crack addict who recently discovered that life sucks when you’re off drugs.
“Where’s that damn switch. Oh bother who cares,”
“If at first you cannot see, a light will bloom with symmetry.”
A set of lights in boxshapes struck the area I was in. I adjusted to the light immediately and found that the room was entirely made out of seamless grey stone. While that didn’t seem possible with my limited understanding of construction and stonework, I think the fact that lights just mystically appeared was more important. Not too long after the lights turned on, I finally noticed just who had been speaking.
My inability to scream and run away as fast as I could did not fully sync with my mind’s extreme panic. This was impossible. A million thoughts collided from the back of my brain to the front of. My inability to move, the rotation of my head, and this creature in front of me did not and could not fit with how the world worked. None of this made sense with what we’d always been told death would be like. Where were the gates? The river? The people who love us?…Why did I have this thing in front of me?
A strange white pallor to him, and an eternal grin. Plus he wasn’t wearing clothes. He was a skeleton. A fucking skeleton. And he talked. There he was, standing in front of me and tapping a digit on his chin, looking around at a circular room. How did he even move? His…eye holes… turned toward me and he snapped his bone fingers together with a crack.
“Damn! I’ll fix that later. Now, who in all of the river Styx would you be? You’re not what I brought here.”
Rather than walking this time, he floated over to me, defying yet another natural law. I’m sure, if I were able to, I’d be shaking so hard that all of my body would’ve become a puddle by now. I think the worst part of a walking, talking, floating skeleton being in the room with me, was that you couldn’t see any facial expressions. Was he mad? Sad? There was no information to go off of aside from anything he impossibly said.
He pressed a now cracked fingerbone to his chin, “hrmmm…..hrmmm. What would you be, or who for that matter. Yes, you have a soul, but not the kind I’ve encountered here before. Hrmm. You also can’t speak for some reason, which again tells me you’re not from here. Well, I can fix that in a hurry” He took a step back and spoke two poems in succession.
“Those who cannot speak a sound, lighten up and move around.”
Suddenly, I could float around the room a bit.
“From soul to sound you’re bound a mute, so speak freely and give a hoot.”
“Damn! That was a particularly bad one.”
“A hoot?” I asked, now able to propel my voice, although it came out like rainwater bashing against a window. I floated over to him, figuring he could do whatever he wanted to anyways. The biggest question I now had, aside from a talking skeleton and my disembodied experience, was how did he do that?
He shook his head and placed a hand to it with a Click, “I’m truly sorry you had to hear that. My magic only works through rhyme and poetry. It was just absolutely awful luck. As you can tell, I am not the most talented in the arts.” He gave a bony shrug, “But that was just the way things worked. Now, tell me your name.”
I considered my situation again. Here, I have a skeleton who uses whatever he called magic, and he could only do so through rhyme and poetry. Weird enough, but as I recall reading once, names have power, and as I don’t currently have a stomach, I did what came unnaturally to me.
“Lie” he said with a pallid grin. Of course, when you’re a skeleton I guess everything looks like a grin.
“How could you know that” I said with a curious tone. Aside from the floating magical world I found myself in, knowing when someone lies is pretty cool.
“Ohhh, that’s a trick you either learn or you don’t. It’s all tied up in choices and acquisitions. Now while I don’t mind your current state of unbodied, I have a feeling you’ll be much more at ease if you were back in what you know, eh? But first, I need to know who I’m dealing with here, as you were not meant to be my chosen one.” He reached a hand toward me and said his magic.
“Taste for touch, and mind for much. Give me their memories in exchange for my treasuries”.
I felt a part of me, something I didn’t even know was mine, slough off and fly toward him. It looked like grey dust just floating in the air, then it was all sucked into the holes where his eyes and nose should be.
“hrmm….hrmm…So you prefer Fern eh? Give me a moment to take all this in.” He placed his arms down to his sides and just stood there unnaturally. I say unnaturally because everyone moves, all the time. You breathe, you look around, you twitch, and don’t even realize it. Not this guy, he just stood there and freaked me out with his nonchalance. What would a magical skeleton have to fear anyways? The Solstice?
Time passed and I wandered around my grey prison. I thought about Misty and my parents, whether I’d see them again. My hopes for John and his strange choice of accounting in the future. I wondered a lot about Tommy and whether any of this would fall upon him. I hoped so…I really did. Him and the douche with the nice car. “Fern”. I guess a football scholarship is out of the window, “Hey, Fern”. You know, aside from not being able to feel anything, I was in a fairly good mood for just dying.
“ICARUS FERNANDO JONES”
“WHAT?” I yelled back, looking down at the skeleton speaking my name. I took a breath to calm down…..I..took..a..breath. “Huh” I said stupidly.
“Yahhhhh, I remade your body while you walked down whatever remembrances you had. Sorry kiddo, past is the past and all. I looked through your life. Honestly, you may be much better off over here.” He put a light, bony hand on my shoulder, a strange echo of my coach in my head. “Tell you what pal, there’s a mirror on that wall over there” He said, pointing over near the door he’d entered from. “Take a look at yourself, make sure everything is where it should be and how you like it, and we’ll go from there.” I nodded, but in the back of my head I couldn’t recall a mirror anywhere in the room before.
I asked him about the mirror as I walked over.
“Oh right. This is my realm, you can think of it as my special place.”
I got to the mirror and kept listening as I looked at myself. Same brown hair, same eyes as my dad, and nothing else looked changed. I was wearing a set of pants tied with a small thin rope, a blue shirt that’s a little too tight, and some shoes that while they looked new, still had the feeling that they’d seen better days. I tuned back into what my host was saying.
“…and I own this tower and can do what I want with it within a certain amount of reason. I actually own this planet, but that’s a whole other story. I wanted a mirror to be there, and thus we have a mirror, just…like…that.” Crack “Well, that’ll take longer to fix”.
“How does one own a planet?”
“Ahhh, that’s a mistake all young people make. It’s not the how, or the what, or even the who that inevitably matters. But the why! Why you? Why this place? Why a talking bit of bones? It’s the why that makes life interesting!”
Interesting way to get away from the question I thought, but said instead, “Ok, so then, why?”
“Because I fucked up!” He yelled, throwing his bony arms in the air. “You were never meant to come here! See, where we are now is the other side of your planet Earth.” He took off one of his hands and juggled it in the air. “It’s the flip, the twist, Tosland to most. You died, on Earth, at a similar time and place to my chosen. Because of how this world works with yours, my net grabbed the wrong soul. It’s all a mistake! You should be moving on already, but instead here we are. Isn’t life exciting!” He said the last line while gyrating his body with a sound of bones clinking together.
“Firstly, are you sure you’re alive? Secondly, I’m not really meant to be here then?”
“Anndd your chosen whatever is where”
“uh, I don’t know. I’m guessing his soul was put on Earth, which will, I’m sure, cause them issues. But this is quite the rarity. We don’t get many Earthers here. I think the last one was about a hundred years ago, maybe a bit more, and he was only here for a short time. Some Clemens guy who kept talking about his books. Anyways, as you are my, in fact, un-chosen one, you’ll have to make do.”
That didn’t sound right. What the hell did he have planned for me?
“Ummm, what’s the deal here? I get that I owe you or something, but you haven’t said what your chosen guy was gonna do.”
“Chosen one” he corrected me with a harsh tone.
“Well, lets look around the tower and see what’s going on.”
“If and when we see again, show the events that fate portends. Change will come and change will go, give the un-chosen one quite the show.”
“Really wish you’d stop calling me an un-chosen” I muttered in the dark as a series of screens appeared around the room.
“Shh it’s starting”He said as he pulled out an empty bowl with the words popcorn written on it, pantomiming eating.
A dozen screens appeared around the room, each holding different events and different locations. On one screen, a tiny girl with diaphanous wings flew through a forest. She had cuts all over her body and a fierce set to her face. On another screen, an amorphous blob roamed an endless desert. It didn’t seem too large at first, but then it came upon a group of people traveling the land, and it’s size seemed incomprehensible. On another, a young boy licked blood off of a black knife as a group of terrified men and women cowered in a corner. Each screen showed horrors, mystery, even joy, as it changed from one scene and scenario to the next.
My benefactor spread his hands wide to encompass all of the screens, “This is the other side, or Tosland. These are some events that may be minor now, but can end up changing the fate of the world.” He put his arms down with a sigh, “Here’s the problem. I am unable to fix anything myself. You haven’t asked, which is pretty rude, but I’m called The Watcher. My indentured work is to make sure that balance is kept in the world through any means possible. I’ve been forced to watch, and sometimes do, terrible things to make sure this world doesn’t fall apart. I’ve caused the destruction of utopias, and supported the growth of devils. All in support of the balance.”
He materialized a chair out of the ground and sat his bones on it. Putting a palm under his chin and staring at the floor. “This isn’t what I’ve always done, but now it’s all that matters to me anymore. You’d be shocked to know I was like you in my youth. But events that must happen, did happen, and I’m left with my choices and memories of what could’ve been.”
I didn’t say anything, understanding that he’d been through a lot. Wait, how did I know it was a he? Their voice wasn’t super masculine and that could be a…girl skeleton.
He stood up suddenly, “Alright, enough moping around. So we talked about the why, and here’s what I have to say to you. I need you to go out and fix some things to keep the balance, or a whole lot of terrible things are going to happen, including to your world.”
“My world?” I asked, not sure where he was going with this.
“Indeed.Should the balance of this place ever fully breakdown, I’m afraid your world and this one” He took both hands and slowly interlocked his fingers “will merge back to how things were at the beginning. Gods will roam New York City. Your city San Antonio will become a swamp filled with all sorts of monsters, not unlike your Washington D.C., and who knows what will happen from there. This world isn’t a cage, or a prison. Think of it as a free roaming zoo of all kinds of different peoples and creatures. Treat it with respect and you’ll be fine. But always be aware that anything can happen, and danger can be found in the calmest, happiest places. Now, what choices have you made?”
“What do you mean by choices?” I asked. “Like, different sports or…?”
“Oh shit, you’re a newbie to this world. Literally just took your memories and I already forgot. You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Well I did promise I’d share some gifts with you for those memories. Alright, let’s see if this works.”
He put his hands on both sides of my head and said a quick chant, “Unchosen one, grant to thee, change of sight, so you see, a truer world, with godlike glee.”
Right away I saw a difference. First, a screen appeared in my vision, perfectly bordering my entire sight. Then, text began appearing quickly in English.
Hello Icarus Fernando Jones and welcome to your Modified True Sight tutorial. Thus far you have unlocked no primary classes, one secondary class, and no professions. You have no mounts, nor keycards. You have three abilities, one gifted and two from a secondary class.
If you’d like to continue the tutorial, please state YES, if you’d like to stop the tutorial, please state NO.
“What in the hell is this.”
The Watcher jumped up and down in excitement, “Yes! It worked! So I saw how much you loved video games and how you were saving up for a computer, so rather than give you my standard True Sight ability, I modified it to fit what you know. What do you think?”
I heard him, but the damn thing was still filling up all of my vision. “I still can’t see anything” I complained, “I can’t see much past the visual”.
“Oh, well, do the tutorial”
I shrugged and said, “Yep”.
“Hey, this thing isn’t working”
“You have to say yes for its function to work. It’s mostly binary with yes and no answers only.”
Alrighty. “Yes” I stated as clearly as I could.
Tutorial accepted…..starting tutorial.
This is Modified True Sight. Normally, only champions, higher-level creatures and humanoids, or gods have true sight. This allows you to see the world and classes of others.
“Classes?” I whispered to myself.
Please select your ability list in the bottom right. You can select items and lists by looking in the direction of your choice and stating, “open”.
I looked at the bottom right, and sure enough there was a box around the word abilities with a three highlighted in the background. I looked right at it and said, “open”.
Modified True Sight: Granted by The Watcher
Wow! The Watcher has given you a unique modification! True sight allows a person to see the world as the gods may do. You have been granted a unique form of True Sight which allows you to see the world through the eyes of a god, but with an applied lens that will help you adjust to Tosland. Better get those level-ups!
“Level-ups?” I whispered to myself as I looked at the next two.
Private Holding: Granted by secondary class Earther
What? Where’d that go? You’ve gained an alternate dimension! As the holder of your alternate dimension, you can pack away tons of stuff…kind of. Your holding will currently allow for a moderate amount of items. This ability can only be leveled up through its original sponsor.
Rosetta Stone: Granted by secondary class Earther
Oh jeez la weez. Where did that word come from? That’s your job! The Watcher has granted you the ability to break down language into its parts, and build your own knowledge of them. The longer you hear a language spoken, the more it will be broken into pieces for your understanding. This ability can only be leveled up through its original sponsor. Does not affect writing.
“Hollly crap. Alternate dimension? Learning new languages quickly? Fucking awesome.”
“Rigghhtt” He said from right next to my face, making me jump back in surprise. “Sorry, I’m not called The Watcher for nothing”. He gave a skeletal grin, I think, and a thumbs up minus a finger. “So, how do you like it? Does it work?”.
“The tutorials not done yet”
“Pfwahhh, who needs it. I’m just gonna turn it off for you. You’ve got the basics anyways. I made sure you got the Earther secondary….class, to help you get started. I’m afraid we’re on a bit of a time limit. You see,it takes time to get down to Tosland from here..”
“Wait, I thought we were on Tosland?”.
“Nope” He said, and with a flourish a window appeared nearby. I looked out on a red and barren landscape. You could see a large blue and green planet in an orange sky. “Pretty cool right. I built this here as I have a few unique abilities. I don’t think anyone else can complete a long-range teleport quite this far.” He tapped a broken finger against his chin in thought, “Nope, should just be me. Figured I’d build my tower on the moon and keep an eye on everyone. Plus I’m not a big fan of unwelcome visitors.”
He changed the window back into a wall and patted me on the shoulder, again reminding me of my coach. “So Fern, I’m afraid we won’t see each other for a bit of time. Make sure to use your abilities, and pick a solid primary class. Wizard or Warrior or one of the W’s that isn’t Warlock. Most people just absorb their choices and find that their abilities sync up with what they want to do in life, you get to actually pick. Preeetttyy cool.” He looked off again, “Not like I ever got that choice” I heard him mumble.
“Anyways, it’s off to the world for you! I’ll put you down in a relatively safe place outside of a human-friendly village. Take care! I’ll make sure you get my instructions over time.”
With that, he put his hand on my chest and said,
“Off we go, into the wild green yonder, a safer throw, for a growing wanderer”
“Just terrible” I heard him mutter before I had that strange pulling sensation again, then I sat up.
Across the world, a series of events were set into motion. A boy discovered his calling. A god felt the arrival of a potential chosen. A dragon went on the hunt for the first time in hundreds of years. Fern landed in a forest, and something was running straight at him.
I'm a high school English teacher in Texas. I also hold degrees in radiography and radio and television broadcasting. Though I obtained certain knowledge and skills from my prior degrees, I do not currently use them.