Nothing happens next, says the skeleton, says me, except to get undressed. My skin speckles and my limbs go rigid. Rain falls on the flaps of tent and sounds like an army of impatient old men in expensive ties rapping fingers. I can't decay fast enough for them.
My skin blanches and becomes like wax. If you want to try a staring contest, says the skeleton, now's your last chance for a long time. Soon I'm the only one left and to stare into sockets is to glance the universe's uncertainty mixed with bone. Blink and you miss my eyes saying a quick goodbye and fade away in a puff, a bad rainbow of maggots and rot.
Things would go faster outside of this tent, but it frames the picture too perfectly to complain for more than half a sentence, or a wistful moment under a sleeping bag as foam drips from my mouth at some point in the not-too-distant past.
Time is a consideration. Then it's a windup into a sinking Hideo Nomo split-finger fastball, darting out of reach just when you thought you had it figured. Strike three. Stand in the batters box. Look indignant at being fooled so badly. Turn your head to the umpire. Grouse. Walk back to the dugout. Slap on the butt. Good try. Get him next time.
I meet a man, a skeleton like me. His glasses sag down on his nose and his jaw is clenched shut. He fears failure and my success exacerbates his worry. The 5,000 yen suit that cloaks his true form is thin and stained, candy apple where he cut himself on a branch and brown sugar, hands in the dirt. He pushes the glasses up his nose and apologize for the intrusion.
Thoughts become thin, bourbon with too much water. I reach for my head but the skeleton laughs. The air in here is piped-in from last summer's family picnic in Mitaka Park, a cooler left in the sun and then the storage space, sealed better than an astronaut's suit. I lament for wind and leaves and crawling critters in the mulch.
The tent blurs. If I focus I can see it again. Flaps and zippers ripple and flow in wind. My sleeping bag is yellow.
There are people occasionally. Not like the other skeleton; these are ghosts, men and women. I hear their voices. There's familiarity. I know these people but cannot see their faces or remember their names. I used to have a name. I try to form a single word, but nothing moves and no air passes my lips.
The skeleton cackles; it's all I hear.
My skin feels funny.