Skeletons
rating: +2+x

Why hello, fella. Come on in. I said, come in, don't fret, I ain't biting. Like you haven't read them papers or somethin'.

Welcome, boney guy. Well, uh, get doin' whatever it is you're supposed to do. Pardon my manners and all this lyin' about - I used to clean this place myself. But no longer - the leg's just not leggin' it, you see. Sorry, can't help, skin'n'bones. Whatcha laughin' at? You ain't skinny? On the contrary? Eh, you're all the same to me, slim or not. What's yer name, eh, big guy? Wha? Are you a… Aaaah, that's yer nickname. I'll be damned, this Foundation gives nicknames to everything. What about a given one? Eh? A, ha, Berns, could've seen that coming. Well, and I'm skip number three-thousand-thirty, you can just call me uncle Pete.

Why dontcha git on with it and I'll just keep yappin' for a while? It's damn borin' in here. The docs are all busy men, no talking to 'em. Them soulja boys can't talk, service regulations or sumthin'. The psychiatrist lady is the only one to have a chat with around here. But she's a polite gal, an' I, y'know, sometimes whip some quips up over an' under, y'get it? Hhehehe. Okay, okay, no distractions.

So I've been here for two years now, an' you? Ah, not allowed to tell, aight. I get it, don't worry. Got an important job to do. And you know how many of them damned spahs are snooping around? So good job, keep it zipped. We've got some enemies, I've seen… lemme tell ya. The story's long, so don't work yerself out there, or.. is your floor sweepin' time regulated too? Hah, you tell me. Listen up, then. I'm a car fixer by trade, y'know. Ain't too dirty of a job, so-fisty-cated, even. Had a wife, Ksyusha, and a son, Maxie… ah. He's seven by now, I bet. Come, look over here. That's them. Oh, quit shaking, I ain't no Kenter, not even Euclid, see, the paper's green, how do you call it. Green badge.

Yup. So, uh, well. Used to live happily ever after. Not gonna bog you down with details, like Acted likes to say, not like you need it, Bernie… So, once upon a Friday the lads - Serge and yer namesake, Berns - an' I, we bought some drink an' everything, yeah. Drank a bit, like, a shot each, no more, I swear. Had a chat about the world, you know, the politics, the precious gov-t, destiny among the stars and all. Well. I got home, Ksyu chewed my ears off about it, as usual, and we crashed for the night.

Saturday was comin' next, so, of course, I was out till midday or so, then decided that, y'know, after that last good party I maybe should have somethin' to sober up. So I look up at my watch, you know, wrist watch, for some motivation… and fancy this - the watch is there alright, but the wrist… it's all bones. Like out of a spooky movie, alright. So I freaked out, started yelling. Saw Ksyusha running in… eeeeeh, Bernie. I get it now, of course, that that was my dearest, but then - I'd be damned! Imagine a skeller rushing into the room, gown and apron on, telling me so sweet and angry to stop freaking out… Berns, I was out of my gosh-darned mind, I-I leapt over, slammed her into the wall, started runnin'. Least I didn't break anything much. Still, rememberin' that… enough about it.

What next… Well, I charged on out, ran off. Just think about it - I'm running, and there's skellingtons everywhere, like in an old movie or something, yeah? Just walking. One's in a coat and all, one's carrying something, another riding a bike. And I'm just screamin' my lungs out, panicking, thinking, maybe I caught a bad trip or, y'know, went straight to hell… like that Christmas horror movie. Punched one, punched another, didn't hurt anyone, god bless… of course, the uniformed boneheads followed, folded me up and dragged me to the cells. There I started gettin' it - the world didn't just go all bones on me. It was something with my eyes, all visions. Swore off drinking. Then the lab-coats came in. Drugged me up, put me in a straitjacket, you know, like with the sleeves like this… yeah, you get it. And carried me off to an asylum. Which, as our good friend Acted would say, makes perfect sense.

So then a doctor came in. Started asking me questions, like, how did I end up like this. So I told him, how so and so, how I see skeletons everywhere. And you are, I tell him, a skeller. Like, the left tooth there is all iron, and you have one missing down there. And the right pinky there is a bit thick. And he starts lookin' at it, glares in the mirror… has me dismissed, gets all nervous all of a sudden.

They brought me back in an hour. So I look and see - the docter there, and another skeller, wearing jus' his undies, boots, and a tie for some reason. They took a moment to discuss something hush-hush, then the doc just up and left. And the other one starts, see, good evening, I'm Dr. Cragglerabble, tell me about your trauma, you've got a peculiar case. And I respond, like a doctor myself, like, so and so, here's the deal - I see right through ye. You've got some mark on your jaw there, and one on your arm up above there, and the knee, the joint, you see, it's all in white stuff. He starts lookin' in the mirror too, and then I just shocked him when I saw some weird thing stuck in the shoulder - a shrapnel shard, apparently. A bit broken for a fixer, I tell him, almost like you're out of a warzone…

To cut it short, he shook his head, tsk'd about, told me that I'm to be transfered elsewhere, that my case was a bit too unusual. So this staff of ours came about, rode me over here. And, like, there were only two in the car, with me - but there was a whole bus following, masqueradin' as public service. It's all been curtained up, of course, but the curtains were all fleece, so I could see them grunts like it was nothin'… yeah, I see through all kinds of hair, even dyed. That's why that agent looked all naked to me - his coat was all natural, wool and kashmere. Wouldn't see the shard, prosthetics and all, otherwise. T'was a smooth ride, wind in our hair and escort on our six. I got a bit cranky, tell ya, but get it now - wasn't to keep them safe from me but to keep me safe from other folk. There's a lot of folk around… oh, I'll tell ya.

So they got me over to this lil' facility. Of course, it's no asylum - no asylum gets that much security. Locked me up in a cell - you know, all padded, like for lunatics. You know, just in case I get all rowdy… yeah, you get it. So they gave some food, some pills, woke me up in the morning and dragged to them labs. And there's the doc, that big joker, tellin' me - welcome, anomalous object number whatever, my name is Dr. Fred Acted, this is my assistant Dana Expunchy, we'll be, he tells me, testin' you today. So they went.

Started shining me through, you know, the whole doctor's examination. Started blockin' my eyes and showin' pictures, like at the oculist's. Turns out the metal, wood, plastic and all that stuff - it's all solid to me. Synthetics, too, and plant fibers, cloth and all. But the fleece stuff is all transparent to me, and leather, too. Even dyed, by the by. I don't get it either, but, say, the shrink lady - I don't even see her lipstick, or hair dye, like I told ya.

That Acted lad got all excited there - holds something all transparent-invisible in front of me and asks, so and so, what letter does Vika, I mean, Dana, hold up, or is it blocked? I see the letter, and I feel the smell - there's, like, a slab of meat in front of my eyes, all raw, and I see right through… yeah, like that, hah. So we learned along the way - all the pictures, photos, videos, live recordin' stuff I see fine. But in first person I only see skeletons. And in mirrors, too.

Well, I got all hungry from all that meat, we went for dinner. Mashed potato and cutlets, yes, very funny. No way I got the damned things caught on those dinky plastic forks - I couldn't even see a damn thing. But then they ask - so, Mr. Object, do you have it in you, gonna keep it up? So I said alright. This stuff's all interestin', I've never been experimented on.

So they started showin' skelleys in orange pants, I went all diagnostic on 'em. That one has something wrong with the arm, like a broken bone didn't heal right. This one got some stuff on his jaw. And one over there has a hole in his tooth, big enough for a blasted rodent. Started yappin' like Dr. House, hah. Got called the X-Ray Man. Seen a buncha animals, that was a lot of fun. Good luck guessin' whether that's a cat or dog when all you see is bones. I figured it out by the tails - long one on the kitten, shorter one on the dog, wags it about like mad. In the belly of the cat there was a bunch of stuff - figured it was a mouse, or it used to be. Almost guessed it - t'was a sparrow… Wha, no, no-no-no, nobody cut up the damn cat, somebody caught her feastin' in the morning. The doctor's had another brilliant idea - come, he says, you'll visit ma'am Anfeesa. Brought me to a stall, an' I see a big ol' thing, chewing grass, another skelly in the belly. So I ask - is that a pregnant horse, or whatever? And then it goes 'mooooooooo' - screw you, it says, I ain't no horse! Turns out it was a cow. Can't see horns either, curiously enough. They asked me to touch it, that was strange - like there's something soft, warm, breathing all at ya, and you can't see it.

So it goes. Kept measuring and checking stuff. Showed me bugs. Them flies and roaches I see alright, wish I didn't. Only a floating shell in place of a snail. Showed somethin' else invisible, maybe a worm, I dunno. Brought me to the morgue, showed me all the dead people, they were all skeletons, too. I used to get a bit creeped up near cadavers, but now that everyone turned into one, it was alright. No big difference, see, some have their ribcages moving, some don't. I started gettin' all smartass, saw a bullet floatin' in one, counted all the fractures in another. Their surgeon got all jealous - asked me to help him out on operations, now that I am an ex-ray machine, see. To help deal with all the compound fractures or non-convectional bullets that don't show up on x-rays.

So, they had their fill of experiments, decided that, since I'm all docile, they could spare a cell. I wouldn't even call it a cell - it's better than my home. All the furniture and a big TV. Gave me a remote, bunch of DVDs, told me I'm now Essiepee Three Thousand Thirty, Safe class. Food's thrice a day, call them up if I need anything. And they left. I felt a bit broody at first, sat around watching TV all day. I mean, they don't got any real TV, no news to see. But if you want movies or sports - suit yourself. Nothin' really new, of course, but… whatever.

Is it breakfast time yet? Food's a funny matter, by the way. I don't see meat at all, told ya, or milk, or butter, eggs and such. Vegan vision, basically. Wasn't easy to work with at all. But, since there should be meat on the tray, they fancy up pies and dumplings for me. Nothin' to sneeze at there.

So I sat around for a week or more, got a lil' homesick. Asked - will I ever get a family visit, mister boss? A care package or a note? I really wanted to tell my wife I was sorry for smacking her into the wall. So they say, the wife's not mad at you - nuffin' but good of the dead. So I ask - what do you mean, about the dead? I'm alive, even if I see my bones shaking. And they say, that folks like me are in demand elsewhere, not just in this foundation. And if those other foundations caught wind of you, they wouldn't spare nobody. It's better if you stay here - dead men tell no tales. You won't ever see 'em, but they'll be safe… and, y'know, Bernie, I saw what the people in those other clubs are like, god bless you never meet one in an alley. Maybe it is better to stay this way indeed.

Of course, I got all mopey an' they gave me an appointment to a psychiatrist. She's a good doctor, not like that chum in the crazyhouse. Cute an' all… whatcha laughin' at, think I don't see her looks? I got an eye for them skulls now, everyone's bones are different, after all… and she has a photo of 'erself in her cabinet, all framed and all, so I see she's smart, even if a redhead. Smart an' clever, by the way. Spilled my whole life to her. I don' recall what she's told me in return now, but I kinda made peace with all this. Got prescripted some pinkie pills. Livin' it, I guess. I'd've drunk myself to death elsewhere by now, but they don't ladle that stuff out around here, had to get distracted somehow. Started watchin' movies, reading books. Even got my workouts on, not to get all fickle with no movement, see… Of course I miss 'em, whatcha think. That's how my life goes, Bernie…

I asked to be put to work in the garages or somethin', to clear the boredom. Nope, not allowed, they say. But that surgeon got me to join his practice after all. Had to fill a hundred forms and camp on twice as many doorsteps, but managed it. Showed me all the dead bodies, then the live ones, told me what's where and how it all fits together. Gave me a bunch of books to read, see. Now I know what to call these bones - there's the typhoid, the semilunar, the triquetral bone and the pissyform bone. And there are the trapezoidal, the decapitate and the hamate bone. Well, ye don't see 'em, but trust me, they're there. So I'm now almost a doctor. I remember my English classes in school - we were learning professions, so I said I wanted to be a doctor. Cause that's easy to remember, see! I wanted to be a hellycopter pilot in reality, but t'was such a mouthful I never got it right. And now I'm actually studying doctor's trade, at least, the basics. The surgeon said that I'd need it - guess he was right…

Lemme tell ya. A week ago a whole delegation lines up in front of me, and Acted is the only friendly face. And he says - this is not really along the rules, but there's a situation, we need yer help. The Ethics Comittee gave their go, so put your pants on and come along.

So they brought me to a wide open field. There's a road all across it, a fence nearby, and a house with a buncha antennas on top of it, lotsa cars around and people crowding the place. And near the fence there lies a guy, and there are two tough guys in those, you know, suits and a bunch of apparaters. So one of the men near me, maybe a general, tells me - so and so, go put on a suit and take a gander, and tell us what's up with him on the radio. Got me a suit like theirs, heavy as hell, and so I waddle over there like a cosmonaut on Jupiter. I mean, Jupiter's got higher gravity, maybe you heard about it… yeah, alright.

So, I get over to this fallen guy, see. He's got an IV, some other junk, and those guys, I dunno, ER electricians, keep buzzing around. Ask to look if I see anythin' weird. So I look. They cut his clothes so I could see inside. He's patched up, but breathing. Dressed like a soldier, but what's inside - holey mother of Joseph! He was no man at all, Bernie, think about this - there's metal bits everywhere, plastic around here, and something like circuitboard over there. All glowin'. So I tell 'em, boy, do I see sumthin'. He's like a Christmas tree, where the heck did you dig him out of? Told 'em everythin' I could, basically.

So the general goes, so, okay, thirty-thirty, cut to the chase. Do you, he asks, see anythin' like a bomb inside there? I almost spoiled my somethin' right then. Tell 'em, are you mad, general sir, do I look like a minesweep to ya? Give him an x-ray, I say, an' bring me home. Eh, no, he responds, x-rays don' work here, we tried. Too much background radiation, you see. There I definitely almost jumped it - well, shit, I say, he's got rads. Does he have an atomic bomb in there or somethin'? So they tell me, briefly, that that terminator is not a robot, but a man, like, some kind of super-terrerist that come a-knockin'. They got all kinds of body modifications, and somewhere within that body - a bomb. He dies, they say, it goes boom. Or if he wakes, he can set it off, but don't you fret, they say, we won't let him, and you got a bombsuit anyway. You just find that damn bomb, cause we really wanna know what those exploders are like.

So I squint, look in, see something like a bar of used soap with wires in it, somewhere in the guts. Then I show 'em. A few more ran over, I dunno, bomb disposal surgeons or whatever, and cut it out of 'im while I was tellin' where the wires go. It didn't blow, so they put it aside and exploded it elsewhere. The general tells me, good job, thirty-thirty, we'll be bringin' you home now. I only turned to ask whether I'd be gettin' paid for this - and then bam! That wicked robocop wakes up! An' grabs me by the shin! Strong one, that guy. Crunched straight through the trousers, broke me bones, and passed for good, may he rest in heck. Kicked the bucket alright but couldn't be bothered to let me go. Somebody else, trauma welder or whatever, went on to cut me out of his claw then.

So now I'm here, restin' up. Waitin' for the cast to go - cause I wanna see what I've ended up with, you know, can't see in there, and tired of having to use the pan… heh. Bit of an embarrassment in front of the orderlies. But I got compensated good. Say, get away from the TV… there, see? The one in the blue dress - that's my Ksyusha. Gorgeous, won't you say? And that little guy over there, see, the one carrying roses? That's Max, my son. Entering first class now. Asked an agent to record all this. Won't see them in person, but at least I've got the tapes… and at least I can see the faces, y'know, tired of all them bones.

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