Bet that title grabbed your attention, didn’t it? That’s why you’re here - astonished, disgusted, sympathetic and or just plain hungry for a bit of gossip. Well, now that I’ve got your attention, here’s the story with every sordid detail.
I was six in a boarding school tucked away amongst the woods on a blue mountain. It was Halloween. For the seniors of the school, this was an exciting time. They got to arrange a spooky party, dress up (mostly as witches for some reason) and scare the living daylights out of their juniors who were forced to attend it. Although they went easier on the junior-most kids, most of whom were terrified and in tears the moment they stepped into the eerily decorated hall, they would make a beeline for the braver and feisty ones. It was good-natured bullying. And I, being somewhat sassy and precocious, was already a marked child.
We’d heard the tales. Anything could happen during these parties. Things could get pretty wild. People had been locked in trunks. Almost every year, someone accidentally set their hair on fire. And one year, the police showed up because some smart arse decided to ring the school chapel bell at midnight. Hearing the bell tolling at midnight alarmed the gentle and caring townsfolk down the hill. Thinking there was trouble at the school and someone was ringing the bell for help, they summoned the police. Halloween parties were banned thereafter.
As I stepped into the dimly lit smoky hall with the windows all blacked out, I took in the painstaking decorations – the hall had been transformed into a spooky woods of sorts. There were trees, rocks, candles, ‘burning embers’, creepers, artificial bats, cobwebs – the whole shebang really; you get my drift. And right in the midst of it all, was the pièce de résistance – a dingy little cave with a rickety chair placed in the middle. I knew it had my name on it.
A coven of witches descended upon me, cackling away, dangling rubber spiders and snakes in my face and demanding to know if I was scared already. I sniggered. A mistake. I was quickly dragged off to the dingy cave and unceremoniously pushed into the chair.
“We’re not going to let you go!” they shrieked. I was a bit perturbed. Not out of fear but the dank and slightly musty smell – some of their costumes were out of the school’s drama costume cupboard which was rarely aired out. These witches, they smelt of mothballs and neglect.
“We will not let you go until you kiss HIM!” they reiterated and pointed behind me. Surprised, for I thought I was alone in the cave, I spun around in my chair and noticed HIM for the first time.
Sitting there quietly, his bony arms resting on an emaciated lap with a cigarette between his knobbly fingers, his spindly legs crossed, all his yellowing teeth displayed in a grimace and hollows of madness where his eyes should have been. There, in all his osseous glory, sat the skeleton from the Biology lab.
Now I was perturbed. This was not how I’d imagined my first kiss. This man – or what was left of him – was far too old for me or for anyone living, really. And yet, kissing him was my only way out of this cave with the shrieking teenagers blocking the exit.
“Kiss him! Kiss him!” The witches were now chanting. I kept shaking my head, refusing with a growing sense of revulsion for my skeletal companion. Seeing as how we’d reached an impasse on the negotiations, one of the witches decided to end the stalemate.
Reaching over, she plucked something from the languid skeleton. And then I had a bone shoved in my face. It could have been an ulna. Or a radius. I was in no mood for the finer details. The incessant shrieking and the rank odours abounding had assaulted my senses enough.
I did it. Holding my breath, I kissed the bone. Triumphant screeching laughter rang out as I dashed out of the cave, not once looking back at the gaunt recipient of my affections who was, no doubt, having his bone reattached.
And that, folks, is how I, as a young innocent child, was forced to kiss a fossil of a man. Or woman. I never checked.
For the next 10 years, I’d look into the glass cupboard in the Biology lab and know that we had a history – just me and that grinning skeleton. A secret from beyond the grave.