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The Kindness of Bones

Leslie J. Anderson's writing has appeared in Asimov's, Strange Horizons. Apex, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and more. She was raised by two art teachers and was taught linear perspective at age five with her crayons. She never really forgave them for it. She now writes speculative fiction and poetry, as well as painting and drawing comics. Her books include An Inheritance of Stone, a poetry collection, and 100 Prompts for Science Fiction Writers. Her poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart and Rhysling Award.

Her blog and gallery can be viewed at lesliejanderson.com.

My parents adopted the skeleton when I was ten. It was normal to have a skeleton by then, resurrected from an animal, or a combo, that were dead for at least fifteen years. Don't even try to resurrect something that still had skin. That's why the guy who invented the process was dead. At least that's what my teacher said. So now they just resurrect bones, and the little bit of feeling and memories or whatever inside them that was left. They were honestly kind of dopey, she said. Sometimes you got the feeling that they wanted to say something, but that was just projection. They don't, she said.
Anyway, they got me one when I got sick. Actually they got me one when I was sick enough to have to stay in bed. I guess I'd been sick for a while. It was about the size of a bear, and was probably mostly a bear, though its head was big and it had a tail. They brought it to my bed like I should be excited, but I wasn't. It's not cool to have the newest pet if you don't go outside to show it off. It was just creepy. It didn't even play fetch or shake or roll over. It just sat by my bed. Its hinges and wires glittered and it made weird creaking and knocking noises when it walked around. It wandered around my room like a huge, tired dog.
"Do you like it, sweetheart?" My mom asked, and I knew I should be nice and say yes, but I didn't feel like being nice. I shook my head. She frowned at me and I felt bad so I let the thing stay in my room. At night the floorboards creaked, but when I looked it was always in the same place, black against the nightlight, just watching me.
"Are you going to wire my skeleton together when I'm dead?" I asked. I wanted to make my parents hurt this time. I wasn't sure why.
"Jack, don't say things like that," my dad said.
I threw my spoon at the skeleton. It bounced off its skull and it turned to look at me lazily. After that I threw things at it whenever I could--books, toy cars, plates. My parents didn't say anything. I could get away with whatever. So when I heard the creak at night I picked my lamp up off the bedstand and threw it against its skull. The lamp shattered and the skeleton looked at me.
"I hate you!" I yelled and grabbed my Gameboy to throw that, too. The skeleton didn't move. "You just remind me of death."
The skeleton suddenly flattened itself to the floor with a clatter, like a dog you tried to hit. I froze with the Gameboy over my head.
"What?" I said, "You scared of death?"
I could hear its tail wagging against the floor. I could almost see it in the light of the nightlight, hugging the ground.
"I'm sorry," I said, "I didn't mean it. Do you remember being dead?"
Slowly the skeleton rose. It shook a little, and it was awkward when it moved. It had to move like a puppet, each part straightening to support another. It looked at me for a long moment, then nodded, creaking.
I leaned forward, "Is it scary?"
The skeleton paused again, and I remembered the times I thought about being nice to my mom. Then it shook its head. I reached out a hand and it shambled over, resting its skull in my palm. I wondered if it was just being nice to me.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
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