I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to start posting my own short stories on here. Below is the first short story. These are all going to take place in a town called Morbid and be linked. Eventually, they're going to be put together in one book and self-published. Because of that, they aren't copyrighted, so this is me asking everyone to not be a jerk and steal my work in any way shape or form.
Chapter 1: Those Who Wander
On a dreary night in a town called Morbid walked a lonely soul named George. The village he wandered was far from average and was hidden from the human world deep in a valley near the human town of Salem, Massachusetts. It seemed fitting that the city was not ordinary, as George felt utterly unnatural himself. George, you see was a Skeleton. His flesh had started to rot in 1603, His spirit, however, made its way to Morbid approximately three days later, attached to a set of bones he wasn’t entirely sure was his own.
In the several centuries since he came to Morbid George had met a variety of people, but very few of them he could call friends. Most of the citizens of Morbid stuck to their kind. Witches stuck with witches, and ghosts stayed near other spirits, fairies flew with fairies, and so on and so forth. George, however only knew one other reanimated skeleton. The second skeleton was named Jack, who was named as such because he wore a giant Jack-O-Lantern as a head. Jack couldn’t speak but seemed to be a cheery skeleton, who would always wave to fellow Morbidians as he passed. George frequently wondered why he and Jack were the only two skeletons in Morbid. It was a massive town, but in his centuries of being there he had looked in every district to find others like him and had only met Jack.
As he often did, George contemplated his afterlife on his way home from work. That was one thing he hadn’t expected: still having to work once he was dead. Alas, just like in life, things were not free in the afterlife. He had bounced around doing odd jobs trying to find his place in Morbid the first few centuries. When he was alive his trade was working with horses; however, there was no significant call for that in Morbid. There were very few horses, and what ones existed were utterly terrified of George. The past fifty years or so, George had worked in a small general store where he stocked shelves and rang customers up. The general store was quaint, and sold convenience items you’d find at a human general stores as well as a dash of low end magical items. The store’s best sellers were spelled brooms and mops that worked on their own. Sometimes George delivered to customers who couldn’t get out. It was easy work, and he appreciated that because it meant he didn’t have to pick his pieces up off of the floor occasionally. Still, he wondered if there was supposed to be more to the afterlife.
George wondered if it’d do him a bit of good to seek out something new and exciting in Morbid. Maybe a new job or a new hobby would do the trick. The dead weren’t strictly bound to Morbid. There were other paranormal towns spread throughout the world. It was a bit costly to travel, as most paranormal methods of transportation took a lot of magic to be hidden from unsuspecting human eyes. Because of the expense, few Morbidians traveled outside of their quaint little town. Those that did usually had professions interacting with the human world, like the Boogie Monsters for example.
The lonely skeleton kicked at some pebbles as he continued his walk. It felt as though he had been walking for a long time. His walk home from work usually didn’t take nearly this long. He stopped abruptly and took in his surroundings. George wasn’t sure where he was, but he knew one thing. He was not anywhere near his apartment. The eclectic buildings and shops were long gone and replaced with a dense forest blanketed in fog.
He looked around perplexed. How had he gotten himself so lost? There was nothing nearby that seemed familiar, which was odd as he thought that after centuries he had gotten a good grasp on the geography of Morbid. It was then that he noticed a small dirt path leading into the forest. George knew that he should turn around and head back home, but hadn’t he just been contemplating needing some excitement in his afterlife? He stood for another moment looking at the way he had come and then at the new path that had emerged. Without another moment’s hesitation, he strolled towards the dirt path cutting through the woods.
The path he now wandered was a bit eerie even to a undead skeleton. The forest was dense, and the trees bowed together as though they were looking down judgmentally on those who passed by. Their leaves so close it was as though they were whispering secrets about unsuspecting travelers. George wondered what gossip the supercilious trees would spread about him.
The further George walked, the thicker the fog became, and it got so thick at times that he could barely see beyond a few feet ahead. He was sure that if he could still feel he would have been chilled to the bone. He let out a slight chuckle and wondered if he should turn back around before he got completely lost. George pivoted, ready to go back, only to find that the path he had traveled in on was completely gone. He was mystified, but the only thing to do was to go forward.
The dirt road was winding and narrow. It went up hills and wove in and out of the trees. Eventually, it came to a stop at a small cabin. The cabin was made of stone and had an old thatch roof. Green strands of ivy had made themselves comfortable on the sides of the house, nearly covering the small windows and rotted door frame. If George still had his heart, it would have been beating incredibly fast. The house looked as though it was as old as he was, and was what he had dreamed of being able to own when he was alive.
George’s life had not been glamorous by any means. He was born when land and titles were everything, and he’d had neither. He came from a poor farming family that worked the land for a wealthy Duke. George’s family were lucky, their landlord was kind and allowed them a nice cottage and paid well for their work. However, they were indebted to the Duke and therefore could not leave. At times it was hard living, but having a roof over your head and coins in your pockets were more than most peasants could hope for in those days. George had often dreamed of having a cottage in the woods, a modest place to live where he only answered to himself. He didn’t need or want titles, just somewhere he could call his own.
He looked around the cabin slowly. There was no light coming from underneath the boarded up windows, and no smoke from the small crooked chimney poking out from the thatch. The fog had cleared from around the house, and the curious skeleton could see no signs that anyone had lived there at all. He looked around hesitantly to make sure no one was watching him and walked up to the door.
The door was thick and made of wood, worn from years of harsh weather. George knocked on the door and waited. When there was no answer, he knocked again. Finally, when he was sure no one was home, he let curiosity get the best of him and tried the old iron handle. He found the door unlocked and tried to open it. The hinges had rusted and made an awful creak, but with a little bit of force they opened.
One look at the antiquated hut and it was clear no one had called it home for a very long time except for generations of spiders. Cobwebs and dust had taken over as the decor, covering every square inch of the interior. George took a step in and gingerly closed the door behind him. It’s a shame, he thought to himself, that this house had been left abandoned with nobody to care for it. It was then that he got the idea to care for it himself. With that he stepped back out and closed the door tightly, vowing silently to the house to come back.
Chapter 2: Jack
George found his way home easily enough. The path that disappeared had suddenly reappeared. George was quite accustomed to magic, so this did not seem all that alarming to him. Besides what was the worst that could happen? He was already dead. He walked home with a delighted skip in his step, and this time he didn’t even care about the gossip the judgemental forest trees were likely telling.
The next day George awoke early and made his way to the general store. It was his day off, but he wanted to pick up some cleaning supplies and visit the shack he had found. He had promised it he’d be back and he meant it. While at the shop he bought a reusable canvas bag that was enhanced with magic. They were a big seller at the store as the magic allowed the totes to hold much more than one would think.
George started to spend all of his free time at the secret little cabin. It was becoming something to be proud of. Not only did he clean it from top to bottom, but he replaced the shutters and rotted door frame. He fixed the furniture and reupholstered the cushions. Weeks went by, and eventually he started bringing what few possessions he had into the cabin. It felt more like his home than his apartment ever did. When he truly thought it was home, he canceled his apartment lease and called the rustic cottage his own. If anyone noticed that he had moved out, they didn’t say anything to him. It was not uncommon for someone to move from time to time in Morbid.
For a while, George was happy in his new home, but eventually the initial glee wore off. He still loved the house, but the sense of purpose that came with fixing it up had subsided. His days continued as they had for years. He got up, walked to work, walked home. The skeleton had little need for sleep and would often just lay in bed or read. The process repeated every day, and George secretly wished that another dark and mysterious path would beckon him to a looming forest.
On a day that George was feeling particularly down, he ran into Jack. He had not seen Jack in some time and thought it’d be nice to have some company. When asked if he wanted to accompany George and see his new house Jack jumped up and down nodding vigorously, nearly knocking his oversized pumpkin head off his bony shoulders. And so, the two skeletons walked side by side to George’s secret hideaway.
While at George’s home, he ended up spilling all of his thoughts to Jack. He felt guilty for taking up all of the conversation, but Jack didn’t seem to mind. George suspected Jack wouldn’t have had much to say anyways. When he was done telling Jack how he wanted more out of life the pumpkin-headed skeleton wandered around George’s living room like he was on a mission. After a while, Jack stopped at the bookshelf and skimmed the titles. He carefully selected a book and walked it back to George. He carefully looked at the title and didn’t understand what Jack was trying to tell him.
“You think I should read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?” George questioned.
Jack shook his head and walked back to the bookshelf. He pulled another book and returned it to George.
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? Jack, I’m not in the mood to read right now.”
Again, Jack shook his head and went back to George’s impressive library. He grabbed another book. This time when he returned with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
“Jack, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.”
If Jack could sigh, George was pretty sure he would have at this point. Jack looked exasperated. Instead, he just went to George’s desk and rummaged through until he found a pen and stack of paper. He took two sheets from the pile. On one he wrote something quite rapidly before folding it. On the second he turned into an envelope, slipping the folded note inside. On the desk was a lit candle, which Jack took and dripped a bit of wax onto the jacket, creating a seal. He turned the envelope over and wrote “Do not open until you’re ready” on it.
George sat confused as ever in his favorite chair. Jack showed him the envelope and placed it in the back of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Before leaving, Jack placed all three books back on the shelf. George watched the other skeleton from the window, but instead of heading back to Morbid, Jack went deeper into the forest. George tried to call to Jack, warning him he was going the wrong way. It was no use though, and Jack was long gone.
Chapter 3: The Letter
Days passed and turned into weeks. George hadn’t seen Jack since that day at the cottage, but he tried not to worry. Hefrequently disappeared for various lengths of time. He’d show up, George was sure of it. That day was never too far from George’s mind, however. He tried to focus on his work, but he couldn’t. The brooding skeleton found little satisfaction in working at the shop these days and was restless at home. Jack was trying to tell him something, and it seemed like it was important. For the umpteen millionth time, George wished that Jack could speak.
On a dreary night, much like the night that George had discovered the cabin, he decided to read. He went to his beloved library and without thinking picked up a book. He was surprised to realize that he had picked up Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was a classic sure, but it struck a chord with George that the book he picked arbitrarily was the first book Jack had handed him. Still, he climbed into his favorite chair, curled up with a blanket (more out of habit than necessity), and began to read.
Several nights later after he had finished reading the book, he got the urge to read again. He picked another book at random, flabbergasted to learn this time he chose The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. As he had before, he sat down and read the second book that Jack had picked out. After reading the first two books, George was no closer to figuring out what Jack was trying to tell him.
Months went on, and George still had not seen Jack since that night. He was genuinely becoming worried. He tried to search all over Morbid for his lost friend. No one else seemed concerned at all. Those who knew Jack reminded George that he frequently went missing and will turn up just as happy as he was when he left. George was not so sure and continued his search.
By looking for Jack, George found himself in unusual situations and started to write them down in a journal. There was the time that he was nearly turned into a toad by a rogue coven of witches insistent on harming intruders. There was the time one of joints got caught on a demon horse’s reins, and he almost met his second untimely demise while being drug off. George’s personal favorite was when accidentally wandered too far and found himself in the human world. Luckily, it was Halloween, so he was just mistaken for a festive lawn ornament.
Eventually, George gave up looking for Jack. He hated to do so, but it was clear that Jack had moved on and wasn’t coming back. George found himself looking over the stories he had written about trying to find Jack and smiled. At least he’d always have those adventures. He briefly thought about turning them into a book and getting it published. George set his journal back down. He didn’t want to reminisce about Jack anymore. It was too painful. Instead, he went to his trusty bookshelf and picked something at random to indulge in.
Things have a way of happening, and at this moment in George’s life, this was undoubtedly true. The book that George had sat down to read was the third book Jack tried to show him the night he disappeared. And so, George settled in to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He finished the book rather quickly and was surprised to find a letter had fallen out of the back of the book when he was done. In all the time that George had been looking for Jack, he had forgotten about the note. He remembered the books, but he had been so focused on finding Jack he forgot about the letter he had left behind. George put the book down and ran his finger across the envelope, tracing Jack’s penmanship. He flipped the wrapping over and gently broke the wax seal. George read the letter several times, but the shock of it lingered. It turns out Jack had left for a reason, and in big swirling letters, the note read:
Create your own adventures.