We are pleased to bring you “Ole Skin-‘n’- Bones” from Dan Clore’s new “The Unspeakable and Others“, this story and many others are available for purchase on Amazon and other fine retailers.
Not everyone has had the good fortune to see through an- other’s eyes. But before you’ve misunderstood me, and taken for a cliché what in the author’s mind had been conceived with a true originality, await attentively that part of the story in which the opening line finds its immaculate consummation, and above all patiently, for it seems to me certain as a matter of fact, that in fact—not everyone has had the good fortune to see through another’s eyes
In the meantime, don’t overestimate the importance of this preliminary foreshadowing, but place the matter in its appropriate light once you’ve seen its true relationship to the other sections of the tale, and know its proper function. When I first achieved existence in this wretched world— wretched, because it didn’t accept the abortion to which it had given birth, with an appropriate welcome—I underwent the dejection of rejection and fled screaming from the human hives. No need to retrace the tracks of so painful a course of quotidian torments now. So watch me as, yet in the primordial æra of my youth, I enter into the grandest phase of my career, when, crouched within the caverns of my thought, instead of betraying the mindless Minotaur of my perverted drives and attempting to appease the disgust of others, I found that their pain might give me as great a consolation as my repulsiveness gave them an offence!—And I resolved to offer up the whole human tribe in expiatory holocausts on the altar of my insane invidiousness!—
In the darkness of the night I stalked the featherless, bipedal prey that served me as game animals. A remarkable thing!—an unexpected occurrence!—with each victim taken, my framework of bones saw an unprecedented decrease in the amount of flesh concealing it! The cowering peoples, telling stories (audacious lies!) around their fireplaces, their voices scarcely audible above the winds whipping in vortices inside and outside their chimneys, and the whimpering of guard-dogs outside, disliking the lurking nightfear even more than the sleet and cold, would say that the flabberghastly phantom—who would descend from his crumbling, spiraling tower, in the dead of night, to take his choice of victims among the mob sleeping to evade its own horror and find a sort of deceptive peace in that way—that this phantom, appeared as little more than a skeleton which had been soaked in acid to remove the least vestments of its carnal and charnel essence!
The result: the stultified mobs masked me beneath that unbecoming nickname, Ole Skin-’n’-Bones. If I hadn’t had any reason to act as I had until that time, then surely that gave me sufficient cause—But I couldn’t dispute the verisimilitude of their nickname for me.
Whenever I would palpate my face with the hand with which the patricide had slaughtered his mother, it sunk into the two empty sockets wherein you would expect to find eyeballs—in less perfect beings. My next piece of prey, then, a beautiful sixteen-year-old boy, yielded up his eyeballs to me on his deathbed (metaphor: actually, while buried neck-deep in living cockroaches). I twisted those orbs around in my fingers: then—stuck them right into my evacuated orbits. I had them in backwards at first, but wheeled them around quickly enough. Those spheres worked!—I could see with the boy’s eyes!—For some while I added this novel torment/appropriation to each one of my long string of victorious vengeances. I became a connoisseur of visions, of sights— each one unique, unmatched by any other.
(Mothers, lying to make their children behave, would tell their bas- tard brats that I would come and fetch out their eyes if they didn’t go to sleep like good little kids and keep their eyes closed all night.—As if it would bother me to wake a victim up before indulging in its sorrows!— I even like to suavely caress their c***s in their dreams, so that the contrast between that pleasurable illusion and the reality will make them feel it all the more!—)
To feed my hunger for that unheard-of hobby, I constructed an ingenious device. The sullen mobs didn’t fail to notice the three years I spent locked away in my laboratories, when they could venture out of doors in some slight safety (I still took off weekends and holidays for my recreational predation, of course). This creation (creature, if you understand the word properly) resembled nothing so much as a black, bat-winged octopus. It would fly through the air in the clouds and mist, then swoop down onto some unsuspecting person—often having, intermediately, hidden, on top of a roof, waiting for the numskull to open the shutters of his casement and then stick his ungainly head out for a breath of fresh air in the stuffy night, and find himself inextricably intertwined within the ropy tentacles of the magnificent Eyeball- Extractor!—
I soon accumulated an enormous array of eyes, which I carefully arranged on a set of shelves lining the dizzy stairwell up to the top of my zigzag tower. But I realized that eyeballs alone do not make an entirely satisfying collection. No, the entire fleshly envelope should become my clothing; I should assume their obscene identities more fully. One night, I lay beneath the canopy over my satin bed, with a beautiful, blue-eyed blonde’s flesh wrapped tight around me!—It didn’t give me quite as much voluptuous pleasure as you might not have had any right to expect!—
Anon, I excavated vast, vaulted caverns wherein to hold the entire reserves of the flesh of everyone soever.—The eyeballs I still kept in my tower, which opened (at the bottom, through a trapdoor) onto that dædal network of labyrinthine storage. (When I would ride about in those tatters of humanity, the foolish would mutter that my victims had come back to haunt the living, and that therefore I didn’t have as much power as people had formerly supposed.—The idiots!)
A few decades in the laboratories and a creature made for each organ, each muscle, of the body, and the peoples, who hadn’t dealt with their unexpected blindness with as much composure as souls as cold-blooded and indifferent as myself would prefer, not liking overt displays of emotion overmuch—save only laughter and orgasmic revelry at another’s pain. They found themselves as bereft of corpulence as bereft of sight, and concluded, in their inexorable logic, that they must have died. Armies of skeletons marched in serried legions to graveyards and cemeteries, screaming in their madness as they digged into the dirt and swam down to the presumed resting-place. A few even took the precaution of hammering together coffins and carving tombstones for themselves before sinking into voluntary nullity— if you want to know the epoch in which this dénouement occurs, just read the most recent of the final dates in any cemetery soever.—I don’t think any have gone without one of these fools, at the very least. Quite a few acted as the executors of their own wills, which didn’t always hold up under probate—Many gave themselves memorial services—
Now, I serially clothe myself in these novel vestments, traversing the former citadels of men, playing an unwinnable game of hide-’n’- seek with the army of oddities who track me and rob me of my organs and everything. I cackle with glee when I go into some outhouse to take a piss (it’s hard to hold water once the new-and-improved Blad- der-Bandit has done its job) and the fabulous Penis-Pilferer suddenly pops out of the shapeless hole to rob me of the last shred of flesh I wear on my wearied bones; thrilled and shuddered with anticipation, I make my way straight back to the armory of human clothing and again begin my obscure manœuvers within the next suit of secondhand flesh.
—Lord Weÿrdgliffe, the Waughters.