Silvery coins of moonlight shone through the Spanish moss like tinsel from the Cyprus trees.  The gurgling of the fetid swamp could have easily been attributable to natural fermentation of natural gases.  This, however, was not the case.

His makeshift craft fell apart like so many unrealized dreams.  Charlie Barker had underestimated the load and overestimated the capacity of his raft.  All had been lost.

The reanimated skeleton had then focused on trudging through the sludge to find a shoreline.  Being devoid of flesh and fat, his buoyancy was nil.  His advantage, of course, was not needing to refill lung sacks incessantly.

The gurgling increased, heralding the arrival of the skeleton as he broke through the muddy surface.  A raven cawed angrily as it was disturbed from its roost.  The sludge held thick on the bones of his fingers as it blindly searched for something to grasp.

Then, something grabbed it.  Something leathery and nearly as bony as he.  A withered old hand yanked him up and onto the banks.

“Be ye dead or live, make no matter.  My land yer on,” said an old woman.

Charlie cleaned out his eye sockets to get a better look.  A Creole Sòsyè stood before him, hunched over from age.  She wore a potato sack dress, spindly legs sticking out resembling those of a chicken.

“Obviously, you’re a woman of taste,” Char said, admiring the surroundings.

“Trespasser! Silver-tongued devil,” the old witch admonished.

“I meant no transgression, ma’am.  Or, rather, how shall I address you?”

“I be Adélaïde Rieux.  I am no afraid of anything come out of this swamp,” she cursed.

Charlie bowed respectfully.  “I can see that, Madame Rieux.  Perhaps we could arrange some kind of payment.  A passage through your swamp.  Maybe even a little time by a warm fire?”

The sòsyè eyed him over.  “T’ain’t got no pockets.  What can ye offer?”

“I have collected many stories through my travels,” Charlie tempted.

“Got enough of them.”

“What then?”

The old witch smiled a toothless grin.  “I could use a bone for a spell I be workin’ on.”

Charlie nodded.  He had over a couple hundred.  He should be able to spare one little bone.




The ghoul had been satiated, having stopped off at a local graveyard for a bite.  The glossy black 1963 Ford Galaxie 500XL was gassed up.  The car was made for the open road.

Thornton Sharpe had snatched it up for a steal at an estate sale for a dearly departed human.  He had picked up the car and then later had dug up its owner for a reunion of sorts.  Actually, it was more like a snack for the road for Thornton. Both car and former driver were delicious.

Since then, the ghoul had covered thousands of miles.  Along the way, he had amassed quite a few stories, as well.  Thornton hadn’t planned on stopping along the way.  At least, not until he got hungry again.  Fate had other plans.

With thumb outstretched, a skeletal hitch-hiker stood beside the road.  Thornton had never seen a living skeleton before.  Maybe he could do with some company for a few hundred miles.  And this passenger wouldn’t tempt his appetite as there was no flesh on the bones.

Thornton pulled the midnight black convertible over.  Without exchanging a word, the skeleton opened the door and climbed in shotgun.  Thornton smiled his finely pointed teeth at the thing.

“Where you headed, mac?” Thornton asked.

“Where the road leads,” the skeleton replied.

Thornton shook his head and took his foot off the brake.  He punched the gas pedal and the car skidded slightly until the tires caught enough traction.  “My name is Thornton Sharpe.”

“Barker,” commented the skeleton, “Charlie Barker.”

“Ahh, Mr. Barker, I hope you aren’t averse to riding with a ghoul,” Thornton stated.

The skeleton replied, “Please.  Charlie will do fine.  No, Mr. Sharpe.  I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”

“Thornton, as long as we are on a first name basis.  That’s good to hear.  I may need to stop in a few miles for a snack.  I wouldn’t want to inadvertently offend you with my dietary needs.”

“Not at all, not at all, my good fellow,” Charlie noted.

“So, what does a skeleton do, exactly?”

“I collect things.”

Thornton said, “As do I.  Like what?”

“Tell me: do you like scary stories?” Charlie asked.




Charlie Barker was lost.  He supposed that all ghosts cursed to roam the earth were lost, but this was more of a literal sense than a metaphorical definition.  He wandered the forest in search of a way out.

He had only trekked to the remote woodland as part of his penance.  He had to amass more glimpses into the infinite beyond.  Doomed to forever relate terrors.  To never find a way back.

He wondered if other ghosts had so much internal turmoil and angst.  Best not to ponder such things, he thought.  Besides, he had all of eternity to mull over the consequences his mortal coil had bequeathed him.

The sun had set, or so he thought.  It was setting, but the premature darkness was due to the impending storm as announced by a peal of thunder.  No sooner had Char realized this than it began to rain.

Most ghosts were incorporeal, he knew.  But not Charlie.  Charlie was still held firmly within his reanimated skeleton.  Also, part of the curse.  To be an undead and not reap from the benefits of the disembodied was tortuous.

The rain turned to a deluge.  Char knew that his poor old bones couldn’t take the onslaught.  He had to find shelter.

Fate presented him with a viable option.  Through a microsecond flash of lightning, he saw it.  A modest little cabin in the woods.

Char made his way through the overgrown path to the shack.  The rickety old door opened outwards with a groan of splintery wood and rusted hinges.  He went in.

It was an old trapper’s cabin, as indicated by various pelts and traps hanging from the wall.  There was an old coffee pot and can with a single enamel cup on a mantle above the fireplace.  There was fresh wood in the fire, which Charlie put to good use.  He had to dry his bones.

How does one go about haunting a cabin? Charlie wondered to himself.  He supposed that merely being there as a skeleton would go far.  His stories from the mirror of infinity would help, too.

The storm had drawn others to the place.  The door creaked open.  “Welcome,” he said grimly.



The desert winds moaned softly like a child in the throes of a nightmare. A full moon spoiled an otherwise perfectly dark night.  The glow of the city and the setting sun were too far away from this place to be noticed.  It was isolated and remote.  Desolate.

Then, something stirred.

The sandy soil crumbled, its surface breaking apart like the sound of crackling bacon.  A skeletal hand clawed its way out, the bones bleached from a fire.  Another hand followed.  Soon enough of the two morbid appendages sprouted enough to find purchase sufficient to pull itself up from the gravelly depths.

The skeleton pulled itself out of the hole it had been buried. It shook off the earth like a dog from a bath.  The curse had begun.

From atop a large stone, the skeleton grabbed a white straw hat with a red, white, and blue band.  Nearby, a wooden cane hung from the limb of a Palo Verde tree from the crook of its hook.  Spindly bones grasped that item, as well.

The moaning winds changed pitch and tempo emerged.  The echoed music of a calliope followed.  The skeleton placed the hat on its skull.

“Ladies and gentleman,” announced the fleshless thing, “what if I were to tell you that there is no such thing as imagination. Suppose for a moment that everything people think of as a glimmer of inspiration is, in fact, a glimpse into another existence.”

The creature walked over the gravelly surface of the desert and swung out the cane for emphasis.  “That is the bitter pill, my friends.  The truth of the matter.  There is no imagination.  No creativity.  Only an uncanny extra-sensory perception into other realms.  Infinite realities which we think we dream up, but are only bled through radio stations to the receivers of our brains.”

“Everything that is written down as fiction is just another version.  With that in mind, allow me to take you through just some of those alternate realities.  Reflections of events, seen through the lens of other worlds.  Every one of the following is absolutely true.”

The skeleton held its arms wide.  It bowed.  Then, it began to tell three tales.