It was a particularly loud burst of thunder that woke me up. The simultaneous flash of blinding lightning completed the job. I sat up gingerly, feeling stiff all over. “I guess I must have slept for too long in an awkward position.” I thought. But then I realised I was getting drenched in the rain and realised I was out doors.
“Had something happened to me?” I wondered, “did I have an accident?” But besides the stiffness in my joints nothing seemed to hurt and since it was too dark to see clearly, I decided to head home first.
I saw the outline of a gate in the distance and decided to walk towards it. As I walked out, I realised that I was outside the church. Having got my bearings, it was easier to find my way home.
Judging by how empty the street was, I guess it was pretty late. I suppose the heavy rain too had kept people indoors; which is where I should have been instead of in the churchyard. “I must have fallen badly and hit my head.” I thought, “ I can’t seem to remember going to the church at all.”
I realised that I had reached home finally and rang the door bell. My wife, Susanna was sure to be pretty mad; specially if she had no idea where I had been.
The door opened and with a scream, Susanna fell into a dead faint at my feet. Whatever reaction I had expected, it was certainly not this. “Was I really hurt so badly that my face looked hideous?” I wondered.
Shrugging, I carried Susanna and laid her on the bed. She opened her eyes and looked as if she was going to scream again. “Susanna”, I called out, “please don’t faint. I am not hurt. I will look better after a wash.”
The horror on her face turned to incredulousness, “ Joe, “ she whispered my name, “is that you?’
“Of course it’s me!” I replied in exasperation. “Who else could it be?”
“But how? why? …….” her voice trailed off
“Look, I’m sorry I frightened you.” I told her getting really irritated now.”I think I had a fall in the church yard and hit my head. I can’t remember anything after telling you that I was not feeling well this morning.”
“This…this ….morning?” Susanna broke into hysterical laughter.
“Stop it! Susanna pull yourself together!” I told her, holding her by the shoulders and shaking her. “I am okay, or I will be after I have a wash.”
With eyes still wild with hysteria, though she wasn’t laughing anymore, Susanna pointed to the bathroom. “Okay. okay. I’ll have a wash first.” I muttered as I walked into the bathroom. I opened the tap in the sink and splashed water on my face. I glanced into the mirror above the sink to see how damaged my face was if it had scared Susanna so much.
This time it was I who almost fainted. Staring back at me from the mirror was the face of a skeleton. In horror I looked down at my hands and the rest of my body. There were only bones.
Where was my body?
I looked back at Susanna who was standing by the door, holding on to it as if her life depended on it. “What? How?” It was my turn to stammer.
Susanna walked into the bathroom and ran her hands over the bones of my face and then over my shoulders. Resting her head against my chest, she sobbed her heart out. Nothing was making sense and I tried to hold Susanna away from me to figure out what was happening. But she refused to let go and held on for dear life.
Alarmed, I asked, “What is it Susie? What had happened? I don’t understand anything.”
Through her tears she said, “When I prayed for you to come back, I never realised you would come back in this form.”
“Come back from where?” I asked
“Oh Joe!” she wailed, “ It’s been a year to the day since you died. I’ve missed you so much. Everyday I prayed for you to come back to me and now you finally have.”
I sat down heavily on the toilet seat at her answer as reality hit me. I did not have an accident or fall in the churchyard. I had died and been buried there! And for some reason the storm had brought back my skeleton to life.
“Now what do we do?” I asked.
“Nothing” said Susanna matter of factly “ I prayed for you to come back and you have. You are just going to have to stay here.”
It has been six months now that I have been back. It feels good to be back home, watching Susanna going about life, sitting side by side with her head on my shoulder watching old movies on television. Just us in our own special world.
Somehow we have managed to keep my presence a secret from others. But that is not too difficult as we live alone. In fact just the other day, Joanna, my niece dropped in for a visit and Susanna told me to hide.
As I sat in the cupboard amidst the clothes, I could hear them talking and laughing. Feeling a bit cramped, I stretched my arm which got entangled in some hangers bringing them crashing down.
“What was that?” Joanna asked.Susanna laughingly replied, “ Oh nothing! Just a skeleton in the closet I expect.”
Skeleton in the closet