A/N: This is just a short one-shot, based upon Cubone's pokédex entry. It’s based on pure speculation, so it's not official by any means. It’s rated PG-13, just because, and it probably fits under the genre of a horror/drama – though not the hack and slash macabre horror that you might think of. :/ It’s also written in a different point of view --*gasp* It's not second person! -- because I wanted to try out the style. I use both present and past tense. There we go.
All comments, critique, criticism, etc. are greatly appreciated and welcomed. Typos will be killed upon sight. :3
Dividing the Bones
By: Saffire Persian
I can finally breathe again.
I inhale deeply, relief coursing through my body, all the way down to the very marrow of my bones – hers and mine.
It’s as if a great weight has been lifted off me. Finally, the burden I have been carrying for these three long, painful years is gone. Gone, gone at last; but in place of that great weight, comes a deep, harrowing sorrow. It’s the kind of sadness that leaves scars for you to remember it by. I don’t understand how the others can speak so lightly of it. For years, amongst my fellow brethren and sisters, we often joked of it as a game.
A game where if you win, you live; you lose, you die.
The roar of the waterfall behind me is soothing, clattering on the many rocks, with its groans reverberating around the slick walls of the cave. It’s a peaceful place, and hardly anyone bothers to come here anymore. It’s my place, my secret place -- mine and hers.
I feel that I should be crying. My eyes are red and raw, and I haven’t slept. But, I tell myself, what right have I to cry? I gave up that right a long time ago, as soon as I was born and learned of my fate – we all did.
“Al’xious?” a voice echoes off the cave’s walls, almost drowned out from the waterfall. I turn my head, my eyes catching a brown shadow as it flits up the damp stone steps towards me. The Cubone stops feet away from me, a solid bone club clutched protectively in his right paw. I recognize him. “Ah, I thought you’d be here.”
He looks around for someone, but the person he is looking for is no longer among the living. She has gone to join the spirits of our proud ancestors.
I think he realizes it, too. But still, he asks. “Where’s Zareen? She’s always with you.”
He was right, Zareen was always with me, an overprotective mother that wanted nothing more than to watch her son grow up in the little time she had. But that time had come and gone. She used to be with me, but not anymore.
Without hesitation, I point to a still, prone form on my immediate right. Jin cranes his head to look around me, his coal-black eyes widening in surprise as he wanders over to Zareen's body, allowing his paw to rest against cold, brown flesh. Slowly, he regains his composure, looking up at me from his place beside the body. “It’s guess it's finally over, huh? When did she die?”
“During the night.”
“Aa.” He nods his masked head. “Well, it’s about time.”
I flinch visibly, paws tightening into fists. Jin doesn’t act like he notices my discomfort whirling his bone around like one of the younger Cubone. I can tell he notices though, it is not his nature not to notice. He just likes to hide it over a strange façade – a child-like one, almost. It has no doubt saved him much pain over the years.
Round and round his bone continues to twirl, and in a display of his dexterity he throws the bone up in the air, catching it and twirling it expertly seconds later. “I mean,” he continues, “what has it been? Three years? Most get it over with in two.”
“Not everyone’s like you, Jin,” I say a bit coldly.
“Naa,” he retorts. “It’s more like not everyone’s like you. And here I thought you’d end up becoming a No-Face."
I reel around to face him, my whole body tensing up in anger. “I’d rather die than become a No-Face,” I hiss softly.
I’ve seen them before, the No-Faces. They are pitiful creatures, shades of the Cubone they once were. They hide in the shadows, always lurking near the Boneyard, hoping to be lucky enough to seize a chance at a second life. The No-Faces are considered lower than the bones that surround them, milling about like annoying cockroaches who refuse to die, and all because they choose a different path in life – the Coward’s way. The No-Faces are they who refused to complete the task that was expected of them.
Choosing to be a No-Face is something I once, a very long time ago, considered doing. But once I actually laid eyes on one, I vowed never to think such foolish thoughts again.
I’ll never forget that day when I first saw a No-Face. I’ll never stop remembering that wretched creature whose eyes were sunken in with ribs that pushed up against its pale skin as it crawled on all fours like a worm along the ground before me, a tragic monster worthy of pity.
I did not kill the No-Face when I saw it, like I was supposed to. Instead, I let it go. It was not out of kindness, nor was it out of mercy: it was out of understanding. I knew why it chose such a terrible path, even if I would never follow its example. However, the Bone-Keepers were not quite so accepting as I that day. They killed it as it as it fled across the sea of bones. Its screeching wails and cries for forgiveness as its mask-less face and body was savagely battered and broken fell on deaf ears. The Bone-Keepers would not allow a tainted being such as itself to desecrate the Boneyard. To do so meant death.
Blood ran freely on the stone altar when night came, and the No-Face was made an example of. Its skin and flesh were hung up on the Boneyard’s north wall for all to see. Its own bloody bones were what held up its body, tied together with ligaments that had been torn out of its cold, debilitated corpse.
The No-Face was supposed to be an example to all of us, to show us what our fate would be if we choose that life – a life that was far worse than death. I knew, then, that the Coward's life would never be mine.
I snap back to the present, glaring at Jin one more, gritting my teeth and trying to forget his little joke at my expense. He takes my fading irritation in stride, kneeling down besides Zareen's still body that was curled up in a ball like cat.
“You going to take her to the Bone-Keepers tonight, then?” he asks.
I nod. He continues to stare. “Jin?”
He looks up at me. “Eh?”
“Was it hard for you?”
“Naa,” he says lightly, cheerfully, as I watch him pass the bone back and forth through his hands as he stands up. “Not in the least. When the time came, it was a cinch. Mother always told me I was always stronger than Father – so there was no contest whatsoever.”
“That’s not what I was talking about.”
“I don’t get what you’re trying to say, Al.”
“Yes you do.”
Jin sighs. His gaze suddenly becomes serious, and he looks at me with stone-cold eyes, his voice flowing like slow-moving water. “Not at all.”
He doesn’t fool me. I hiss as I take in another deep breath. “Liar.”
He smiles like a Persian and shrugs, eyes sparkling with some secret truth. “So I lie. What of it? We’re all liars, anyway. It’s best that you learn how to do it properly, Al, ‘cause when you finally get up the courage to go and face the outside world, they’ll look, they’ll see, and they’ll ask. Count on it. And you will lie – you’ll have to in order to protect yourself from those who cannot understand the truth.”
Deep down, I know that he is right.
That night, I watched through distant eyes as my mother burned.
I took her up to the Boneyard myself, my smaller frame carrying her fully-evolved body up through the cave, using all the strength I had gained over the years to do so. Her body had long since gone cold with the chill of death, stiffened with rigor mortis. Her face was peaceful, though; there was no grimace or look of horror upon her face as her soulless eyes gazed up at me.
She had died in her sleep, so even though her last breath was cut short as her neck was snapped in two, she felt no pain. For that, I was grateful.
The Bone-Keepers took her from me as soon as I reached the Boneyard. They carried her toward the alter, laying her body gently down upon it, and I watched as the Marowak Bone-Master took her place at its head. Inward she breathed, her exhale sending a rush of flames flowing onto the altar. The fire surrounding her body, greedily licking at her skin. Lesser Pokémon would have been been reduced to ash within minutes, but not my mother -- she was strong in life, and she was still strong in death. It would take some time for her body to finally give in to the strong blaze.
Around me, the light of the large bonfire reflected through the many crystals that grew along the cave's walls and ceiling. From them came a multitude of colors, illuminating the boneyard with its rainbow hues. The sea of bones seemed to glow then, pulsing with a life of its own.
Our ancestors were finally welcoming her home.
The ritual continued until all skin, flesh, and muscle melted away, leaving nothing but her skeleton as proof of her existence, for our kind’s bones could never burn. The Bone-Keepers then took her bones and divided them carefully from the ash, laying them out in a circle around the altar, with her shielded skull in the middle. All six of the masked figures then stood back from the altar, surrounding it like a ring of immovable statues.
It was all up to me to fulfill the last rites, now.
No words were spoken as I stepped up to the altar, choosing a bone from the many that lay before me. It was her femur bone of which I chose – it was by far the longest and toughest bone in her body, and I would need that strength in times to come.
Then, as I had been taught, I moved to the last piece of her I would take with me: her head. It would become my shield, my mask, and the proof of her sacrifice to sustain my existence. With her bone that now was my weapon, I struck the thin bone that protected the skull inside: Zareen’s mask. I could not take her mask and make it into my own, for it was not mine to take, so I had to break it apart.
It yielded, cracked, and finally gave way to the real prize within, like the outer shell of a cracked nut would its own treasure, once the outer casing has been penetrated. I took it out of its shattering covering, and like the master bone-craftsmen of my kind, began to fashion it into a creation of my own making.
Slowly but surely, I tore the jaw from the rest of the skull, carefully pounding away at what was to become my new face. Larger holes were made in the eye sockets, smooth edges were made jagged; every bit was reconstructed and disfigured until the skull could no longer be called my mother’s. It was mine, now.
I couldn’t help but think then, as I slowly draped the finished skull over my head, about all the times my mother had helped me throughout my life.
When I was young and naďve, she would play with me and put up with my annoying wails for hours at a time.
When I was sick, she would care for me, making sure that I’d gain back my strength and recover.
When I was hungry, she would make sure I only got the best of berries and meat to eat, and sometimes she would bring me that rare berry that I really liked – the kind that was hard to get to, and only grew in the deep, dark crevices of the our home.
When I grew older, she taught me how to fight, to use my strength to overwhelm opponents, and use the earth power that was mine to complete my tasks. She taught me to respect the bones, and to use them skillfully, for they, she had said, were our greatest weapons.
She also taught me what I must do to become an adult, and told me, as best she could, the terrible, but sacred ritual of my people. If I could not accomplish it, I would die, or worse, become a No-Face and live in filth and disgrace (having erased my own existence) until the Bone-Keepers took me, and hung me like game on a hunter’s gibbet.
I realized then, that not once during those three long years, did I thank her for any of it. Never once did I stop and tell her I loved her, that I appreciated everything she did for me, and that I would be saddened at her inevitable passing.
It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it was because I couldn’t. How could I, as her only son, look her in the eyes and tell her all those things, when I knew that one day – whether days, months, or years from that time – I would have to kill her?
But now I have finally completed my task and she is gone.
I walked away from the from the ash covered alter, looking back for the last time. Thank you, I said silently. I love you…
..and I miss you…
The ritual's finally over, and I now I’m alone – from now, until forever.