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Natural Bone

Recap for Chapter Two
(Skip it if you can)

Maybe you are new to the Natural Bone story that we are about to resume here, or it could be that you just forgot what happened in the previous episode, and maybe it doesn’t much matter: because what follows is a simple tale of a literal descent to some kind of Hell: a one way trip to a very physical place below the surface of the earth, and not far from here.

So you can go straight to Hell right away, or you can endure this summary of the story up until now:

Our protagonist Noah Davies was a young divinity student at Harvard during the late seventeen hundreds. Soon after the mysterious drowning of his tutor, for which he had been present, if not also responsible, Noah slipped out of Divinity school and returned to Vermont, where he took over the ancestral family cottage, which had not been occupied by the family for many years.

Very soon after he had first entered the house, a young woman appeared at the door, calling herself July, and as far as Noah could understand from her garbled English, claiming to have been abandoned or traded for a horse, and to therefore now be his possession. The virgin scholar Noah had never yet possessed a woman and for the evening, he let that proposition stand.

The next morning Noah’s horse Lucy who had been loosed to graze in the orchard came barreling back to the cottage in a cloud of angry bees, and hitched to a wagon made from a large cider cask. If Lucy had not already been blind, she would be soon, because she was stung many times, until she stopped in front of the cottage and most of the bees swarmed back into the cask wagon through one of the round windows. To Noah, the honey wagon, seemed for a short time to be something of a Godsend …. until some giant wasps appeared, crawling out the attic window vent of Rose Cottage.

Those wasps as large as weasels might well be why Rose Cottage was otherwise unoccupied for so long, and there was no way now that Noah was going to stay there long himself. Nor did he want to give up the gift of bees and all the honey that was in the wagon.


Noah brought around the buckboard he had come there in and stuck its tongue through the back window of the cask wagon. July, without being told, and without being stung even once, climbed into the wagon through the side door and, with some cordage drawn handily from bustle bag under her apron worn backwards, bound the buckboard tongue to stool cross ways of the window.

Noah put his few belongings into the buckboard. July returned to the house and brought a cradle filled with kitchen implements, which she then put inside the cask wagon.


Noah climbed up onto the driver’s seat atop the cask wagon, shook the reins, Lucy jerked into motion, and they were off.

Aggravated by the jerk into motion many of the bees swarmed out of the wagon windows, a few stinging Noah and the horse, but more of them lifting off in a comma-shaped cloud going West.

Noah meant for them to follow the cloud of bees, but unknown to him, blind Lucy was following, not the bees, but the scent of the black dog which had appeared at the bottom of the Rose cottage well: the dog July had called Loosefur.


Chapter 2
The Head
Underground

 

Onward and downward they chased through a tunnel of night, falling unconscious.

Noah began to regain his senses as the two linked wagons slowed and Lucy turned sharply to come up behind the buckboard, then clambered up into it and lay down there, still in her traces.

From his seat atop the cask wagon Noah could see a series of phosphorescent fish stuck on the points of lumpy stalagmites at the edge of a greenish, flowing fog. Each glowing fish was impaled over a series of others, each less luminous, each more incorporated into the stone. The stalagmites wavered in the flowing green light, as if each was a tower of little yellow-green people struggling to hold the glowing fish aloft.

Noah climbed down into the tight enclosure Lucy had made of the wagons. In the even paler light there he could see his hands, like two pale frogs, but he could not see clear to his feet.

As he stood wondering whether he even HAD feet any more, a drop of water landed on top of his head, which alerted him to the fact that he had lost his hat, and caused him to notice all the many drippings around him and to sense the invisible mass of stone over his head.

The glowing, flowing river-fog smelled like something Noah remembered but could not identify: perhaps blood, catmint, or cedar tea.

It did not seem to Noah that he had been standing there long, but July had already stepped out and here she came returning from her exploration of this dark place.

She was carrying a fish, like the phosphorescent ones but lividly alive: high forehead like a whale, eyes with the vertically slanted irises of cat in dim light, and eye-like spots along its sides. The fish did not struggle as it calmly regarded the two of them.

“Where did you get … that?” Asked Noah.

“From a man in black, fishin inner river,” July said.

“Inner River?”

Noah ducked under the wagon tongue and took a very few steps nearer to the thickly flowing fog which, because of the reddish river beneath it, looked kind of yellow when he closer to it.
Looking up, he could not see through the fog to the other side of the river.
He wondered if there even WAS another side.

“There IS no other side.” said a man sitting in the river not more than ten feet upstream, but whom Noah had not even noticed. This man wore a black coat and a wide-brimmed black hat resembling the one Noah had lost, beneath which his face appeared grey and lumpy.

“I didn’t say anything,” said Noah. Wondering silently who this man might be.

“Your uncle and your father,” said the man (in answer to the question Noah had not really asked). “But we are all brothers and sisters here.” He stood up and walked out of the water toward Noah.

“What is the meaning of this?” Noah said, raising his hands palm out as if to hold off a powerful force.

The man in black halted and, dripping; he sighed.

“We are changed utterly in death.”

“I am NOT dead!” insisted Noah.

“It little matters what you think,” said the man. “The true knowledge of your condition will come with your stay here, as surely as I love your mother.”

“NO!” said Noah.

The man was silent, eyes rolled up into his head.

“I’m not staying!” Noah shouted, “And you are not my father!”

“You will begin to see that here we are our own fathers”, responded the man.

“I’m not staying here!” Noah repeated, then turned away and went back under the buckboard tongue.

July had pulled together a loose ring of rocks and was sparking a fire using tinder from the bustle pack on her behind and driftwood splinters from the floor of the cave.

The high-browed fish lay there by the growing fire like a patient dog, watching.
As soon as the wood was at full burn, July added the driest of some manure chips of which there were plenty everywhere.

With the fire burning high, she snatched up and skewered the hundred-eyed fish on a stick, running through it from vent to mouth. The fish did not resist this treatment, but with eyes blinking and flashing, seemed to positively enjoy the process, even as July held it over the fire.

But then … in as little time as it takes to tell … the fish evaporated, disembodied, transubstantiated, or just plain disappeared, leaving a sweet fragrance - something like a combination of pork fat, garlic, and roses; but the scent too was soon gone.

Frustrated, hungering, frightened, confused, indignant, and at his wit’s end, Noah went back under the wagon tongue and again to the billowing river’s edge.

But there was no sign of the man or his hat.

Without plan or hope, but spluttering, swearing, cursing, and blaspheming, Noah walked up along the flow past more fish-lamp stalagmites, past occasional bones large and as long as his whole leg, and past manure piles in which bulbus, green-white mushrooms grew.

His angry hunger having overcome any caution, he picked and ate one of the cow-pie mushrooms. It had little taste and was not particularly filling, but at least it did not disappear into the air, so he ate another and continued on along the flow.

An iridescent halo began to appear around the edges of his vision.
As he continued up the stream, the ceiling of the cave sloped down so that he could actually see the dripping stalactites.

Walking a little further, he found himself in a stony chamber into which a column of water fell with a stream of yellow light from the world above.
But one cannot climb a column of light or a column of water.


Noah had stared at the falling water for he didn’t know how long, when his eyes began to wander around the yellowish chamber floor and he saw a helmet lying there: a battered metal helmet with stubby horns. And then, only a few yards from the helmet, he saw a bodiless head in a nest of its own hair among the rocks. It’s eyes were wide open, and the grisly thing spoke to him, although in an understandably weak and sighing sort of voice.

“Don’t be afraid!” said the Head “I’m just a head.”

This was not at all reassuring to Noah. His mouth dropped open and he took two steps backward.
“What!” he exclaimed; not that he hadn’t heard what the Head said.

“Just put me in my helmet,” the Head said, and softly sighed.

“ But … what happened to your … body?”

“It lost me,” said the Head, softly. “I don’t know anymore which of those bones were mine.”
“If I had a body,” it continued, “I would get out of here.”

Noah reached into his pocket, where he felt nothing but the burnt cork he had secreted there before he left the world.
“Do you know how to get out of here?” he asked.

“Well,” said the Head, “I think you will have to put me in my helmet and set me up before I can go on with this talking..” The Head halted for a bit of quiet sighing, then continued. “ Talking is very tiring for just a head, you know, but there is some utility yet in the helmet and I have adapted to my condition”, he sighed and paused. Then continued: “I simply need a little help from you my friend.”

For another interval outside of time and space, Noah stared at the awful … not-a-friend…thing.
“Pick me up and put me in the helmet … horns down,” the Head softly suggested.

With nothing to lose, and avoiding closer contact, Noah picked up the Head by its long hair and plunked it upright into the helmet.
Eyes closed for a moment, the Head teetered on the blunt points of the horns, more or less gaining a balance.

July then emerged from the wagon camp. “O me gourd!” she exclaimed, seeing the Head up on the horns of the inverted helmet.

“I’m just a Head,” said the Head.”

“Jester Head!” said July, delightedly approaching it.

“Don’t touch the thing!” Noah demanded.

“Now“ he said to the Head, “Tell us how we are to get out of here?

“Well, well, ” said the Head, “I will tell you, but you must promise to take me with you when you go”

“Once you get me out of here, I will promise to take you with me when I go.”

To that dubious assurance the Head replied,“You must catch and cook one of the fish that swim in this place.”

“I am not your fool,” said Noah. “We have cooked your fish before, and they ghosted away!”

The teetering, horn-footed Head swallowed several times, although it clearly had nothing to swallow and no place to swallow it to.

“Consuming the fish is a trick I will teach you” said the tinny-voiced Head. “Many more hell- fish will soon come up-river, pushed by the ghost herd. Do you hear their bawling and moaning?”

Noah heard nothing of the sort.
July got down on her knees and put her ear to the floor of the cave. “Clob clob clob” she said, looking up.”I ears em.”

The Head rocked on its leg-horns and moaned.

Perhaps now Noah COULD hear the bawling of cattle … or maybe it was the suffering noises of the Head or the sighing of the river, or his own breath.
But in fact, the water surface below the fog had developed a chop, which he could imagine was due to fish moving just below the surface.

“Quick, get in there and kick one out onto the bank,” urged the head.

Noah was never particularly quick, but July hitched up her several layers of skirts, waded in, and before the end of this sentence, she had kicked a fish out onto the bank where it lay, unstruggling, all its eye spots aglow.

“Hurry,” said the Head, “Pack it in poop and put it on the fire! Roast it, toast it! ”

Noah scowled and flattened his nose skeptically.

But July, as if she were quite familiar with this type of battering and cooking, scooped manure from one of the greener piles nearby, and bent to patting it an inch thick around the fish, all off which attention the fish itself seemed to enjoy … as if it were being wrapped in a blanket and tucked in to sleep.
July put the manured fish mummy onto the burning coals where it stiffened and baked only briefly before the Head directed them to take it out and break it open.”

July used a broken stalagmite to poke the thing out of the fire, and to then shatter the hard-baked shell.

It broke into dozens of pieces, releasing a faint flash of light and that short-lived fragrance somewhere between that of caramelizing garlic and roses.

“You damned monster head … no fish again!” Noah shouted.

“Eat the shell’” the Head urged.

Noah was perhaps not that hungry or even that desperate to escape from this place, or ready to take any more advice from the Head, but July was quick to bite into a baked chip as if it were nothing stranger than a rye cracker.
“Not too bad an bedder ’n nothin,” said July.

“Feed me,” cried the Head. July gave it a chip.

“You eat shit!” cried Noah

“Eat shit, raise Hell and follow the devil,” shouted the Head, teeter-dancing on its horns.

July ate some more, but Noah still held back.

“Feed me!” shouted the Head. “Eat shit, give me your tit, raise Hell, and follow the devil.”

“Enough of your god damned shit,” said Noah approaching the Head.
He grabbed the Head by its hair, snatched it out of the helmet and flung it in a screaming arc over the buckboard, toward the river.

Just then, the black dog Loosefur, who was never far away, now appeared sitting in the driver’s seat atop the bee wagon, his long ears extended like bat wings.

Raised by the ruckus, or alerted by the scent of Loosefur, the blind horse Lucy stood up and clattered out of the buckboard.

Loosefur leapt to the ground in front Lucy, farted loudly, and shook himself from tail end to head so his leather-wing ears flapped.

Lucy sniffed Loosefur’s butt, and Loosefur took off.

July climbed into the cask-wagon.

Noah picked up the helmet, chucked it into the back of the bee wagon, and climbed up into the driver’s seat, as Lucy lurched after Loosefur.

Read Chapter one of Natural Bone, The Peckerwood Manichee




 


IN THIS ISSUE–––

• OREN PIERCE, GuestEditor
Welcome to the Weird Issue
• DAVEY WEATHERCOCK
My Heart KnewWhat the
Wild Geese Knew

• DAVID S. WARREN
Natural Bone Chapter 2
TheHeadUnderground
• FRANKLIN CRAWFORD
21 Things You May or May Not
Consider Weird
• RHIAN ELLIS
fever cat
• GABRIEL ORGREASE
Perry City Dinks
• ANNIE CAMPBELL
The Deserted House
•STEVE KATZ
DEW
• SUE-RYN BURNS
Black Beauty
•GEORGIA WARREN
Weird Happens
• GEORGIA WARREN
The Soldiers' Story

POETRY
• SUE-RYN BURNS Wild Turkeys
• MARY GILLILAND Kitchen Theater
• PETER FORTUNATO
Cocks of the Walk (Key West)
• COVER
Copernicus under cover
________________________

Welcome
to the Weird Issue

by Oren Pierce, Guest Editor
(short excerpt here, read it all
on the home page)

Weathercock (I feel) has presented us not with just an honest meditation on the uncanny nature of everyday life that an unsensational treatment of the theme requires, nor is it either fact or fiction, but just plain fake news.
Not wanting to be too negative, I won’t get any further into that. Read and judge for yourself.

Just about everything else in this issue is fine with me and I recommend the writings to you without further doo doo. ______________________


by Rhian Ellis

The letters came, and the letters came, and then they stopped. The last came in the autumn, with the falling leaves and the clotting sky, but through the long grayness of winter there was nothing.
Ruth continued to write even though it felt as though she was dropping her pages into a bottomless well. She asked questions that were never answered and told stories that seemed unheard. She wrote faster and more frantically as the snow blew into the city and hid the dirt and the trash and the broken things. She imagined her sister in her little house, out there in the wilderness, burning logs and nursing babies and what else? What did she do? Life was so different out there, so hard to imagine...

And then a letter came, on the same rough paper, written with the same too-sharp pen that scratched. But the hand was unfamiliar. And inside, the letter was hard to read and cramped and was almost like the writing of a child. Perhaps it was the writing of a child.

Sister Ruth-- I hayte that I am the barer of the world’s moust dreaded newes but the truth is that our dearr Jane is dead and so are the chyldren tifuss came to our small house and we coud not stop it. First the older chyld then Jane then the baby went to the arms of Jesuss. Wheeler is the only chyld left and I am left too tho to what purpose I

(go to story)
______________________

Natural Bone Chapter 2 with recap
by David Warren

Noah had stared at the falling water for he didn’t know how long, when his eyes began to wander around the yellowish chamber floor and he saw a helmet lying there: a battered metal helmet with stubby horns. And then, only a few yards from the helmet, he saw a bodiless head in a nest of its own hair among the rocks. It’s eyes were wide open, and the grisly thing spoke to him, although in an understandably weak and sighing sort of voice.

“Don’t be afraid!” said the Head “I’m just a head.” click here for the recap of chapter 1 and all of Chapter 2
______________________



The DesertedHouse

by Annie Campbell

One time, the kids and I stopped to explore a large deserted house on Townline road near Trumansburg. It still had its roof and didn’t look too bad, so we squeezed through a door coming off its hinges. Plaster and lath which had fallen from the ceilings in the three spacious rooms we could see - littered the floor. Carefully, the three of us made our way to a big room that still had a few glass panes in the windows. A wide staircase beckoned, and I made the kids wait while I went up. It seemed safe enough so I waited for them to catch up to me.

(go to story)
_____________________


Weldon packs a yellow umbrell athough he doesn’t expect to use it. “If I carry a yellow parapluie jaune,” he tells Mathilde, “it might fake out the rain sprights. Energize them. Maybe drought will start to end. Vive la pluie.” He finds his French words exhilarating, as he does his French girl friend.
(go to story)
___________________________

Perry City Dinks
by Gabreal Orgrease

“Fire so hot and quick that when they opened the trailer door they found my father sitting smack in front of the tube with his reading glasses melted around his nose still holding an instant coffee on his lap only the skin of his fingers was stuck to the melted thermal mug.” (go to story)

Weird Happens

1 I was at a crosswalk and the oncoming motorist stopped to let me pass.

2 Rocks along the train tracks are of consistent size and shape, composed mostly of basalt. They are excellent throwing rocks, as if quarried and broken for that purpose. I hit a RR sign with one on a quiet creosote-rich afternoon and it made a startling racket. Some deer broke out of the sedge. I felt lonely all of a sudden.

3 Toenail fungus is a form of life that is hard to evict from the body. It has generated a whole line of quackadoodle remedies. The only surefire way to get rid of it is to have all infected toes removed.

4 When I checked my pants pockets this morning, I found 77 cents in quarters, nickels, dimes and two pennies. I don’t normally keep pennies. Pennies are not worthless, but we don’t use them for cadavers any more so why save them? There is nothing significant about 77, except it was in the title of an old TV show called "77 Sunset Strip."
For numbers 5 to 21 click here


by Georgia Warren

I was taught hand reading in the 1960s by a doctor from India who was getting certified to practice medicine in the US. It took me two years to learn the intricacies of the India-style of hand reading. When Dr. Singh said I was ready to go out on my own.I got a seat working steadily in a coffee house in Akron Ohio.

One night a couple of soldiers back from Vietnam stopped by. Their hands were in their coat pockets.. They said they wanted me to read their hands. They were laughing, and I was sure they’d probably had a “couple” of beers. I didn’t have the attitude that I gained years later to say, “I don’t do readings for people who have been drinking.” The two of them sat down, still smirking. They took their hands out of their pockets, they were prosthetiucs. Neither of them had any hands for me to read. (go to story)

___________________

POETRY

MARY GILLILAND
Kitchen Theatre (go to)

SUE-RYN BURNS
Wild Turkeys (go to)

PETER FORTUNATO
Cocks of the Walk
(Key West) (go to)

___________________


 

© 2019 The Metaphysical Times Publishing Company - PO Box 44 Aurora, NY 13026 • All rights reserved. For any article re-publication, contact authors directly.

 

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