Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


I was born After.

“After what?” was the single most asked question in my class as I advanced through my education. We all asked it. It’s kind of hard not to. All the people from Before just expect us to accept that there even is a Before and After and just about all of them can’t, or won’t, explain what it was that happened.

It has something to do with the skeletons. I’m so young that they’ve always been just skeletons. My parents claim to remember when they were corpses. With rotting flesh and bits of something else. Again, the something else is never explained. But all that is gone. Leaving just the bones.

One of them, maybe the smallest? I don't know. One of them is just outside our town. It’s a tourist spot now. You can’t get too close, obviously, but there’s a platform you can climb up to. You can look out over the skeleton of one of the Behemoths. Another word I don't understand.

“Just means big,” Dad says, shaking his head.

I go to the platform regularly enough that they all know me there. They say when I'm old enough, I can come and work with them. I know a lot about these skeletons, they say. I don't really. I only know what’s available for me to read. Which isn't a lot. They're what remains of Behemoths, which died long before I was born. That's it. Maybe if I make it to 20, I’ll get some more information? Who knows. That’s still years away though.

There’s a big skeleton – not the biggest; that’s in China – a few hundred miles from home. I’ve begged Mom and Dad to take me there ever since I learned about it. They always say no. We can’t afford it. They can’t take the time off work. It’s not a tourist spot like our one. You won’t see anything. I don’t believe any of their excuses. I don’t know why they’re like this. Don’t they have the same curiosity?

I’m old enough, surely, to make the trip on my own. I have a bit of money saved up. I do odd jobs for the oldies down in the lower levels. They're nice. They don't answer my questions either, but I think it’s because they just don’t remember. My grandparents were like that too. Acting as if the skeletons had always been there. Like nothing happened. My dad’s father, he was really old. He claimed to remember what it was like while the Behemoths were alive, but Nana always said he was lying.

He told me stories though. Great big flying creatures. They came from somewhere else. They came to save us, he would say. He never finished those stories. Nana stopped him. They lived near the big one, but moved closer to us before they died. I remember visiting them out there when I was a kid. Seeing the fence that lined the highway. The signs that said No Trespassers. Dad saying the corpse was behind there, with Mum reminding him it was a skeleton now.

My first memories of knowing that my parents didn't know everything.

The highway is the same as I remember. Dead straight for hundreds of miles. The fence is gone, though. You can see where it used to be, but its been mostly torn down. I don't know exactly where this skeleton is. Just outside the city, I think. Like ours.

The bus is old and falling apart, but it was all I could afford. My parents don't know I've gone. They'll scream at me later. I have to know though. I have to know what’s out here.

The city is, I don't know. Different. Boring. I thought cities were meant to be full of life and activity. People everywhere, going about their business in a giant rush. There are definitely more people here than home. There are taller buildings that don't look like they're about to fall down. There's no obvious access to their lower levels either. There are still oldies, but they don't look friendly. There are rats just everywhere and almost no cats and dogs to chase them. The few dogs I did see looked like they wanted to chase me instead.

There's also nothing about the skeleton. I've been to several information points but none of them have a listing for it. No one wants to talk to me either. People on the street just ignore me. The shop attendants scoff at me and tell me to leave once I've paid for what I bought. I don't want to explore on my own. That seems a step too far, but maybe I’ll have to?

I don't have to! Someone stopped me while I was looking at a bus schedule. I thought for a moment there might be a bus that runs out there. But there isn't. Anyway, this woman approached me. Said shes been following me for a while. Knows that I've been asking dumb questions and wanted to make sure I didn't ask the wrong people. She’s like me, she said. She wants to know more about the skeletons too. She believes that the one that was here has been moved. Taken away. Reduced to powder for study. We’re going out to where she thinks it used to be tomorrow.

She was wrong. My god, was she wrong.

It’s still here. But there's nothing else. You can see where the buildings used to be. Like the fence on the highway, they’ve just been torn down.

Beyond those foundations is the skeleton and it is massive. So much bigger than the one back home. There's more of it too. Our one doesn't have a tail or a skull. This one has both. The teeth are long and sharp and the tail tapers to such thinness that the woman I’m with thinks it was used to whip things. The concept just fills my head with images.

But that's not even the biggest surprise. There's a person down there. It’s hard to tell from how far back we are, but they’re in a bright yellow coat. It’s flapping in the breeze. It looks like a cape. The hood of the coat is pulled all the way over their head. They’re standing on the spine of the skeleton, inside the rib cage.

In front of them is something that I never expected. I have no idea what it is and neither does this woman. It’s a twenty foot tall bright orange monolith. That’s the word she used. It just looks like a large rectangular stone. Carved out of something orange. As we watch, as the person down inside the skeleton watches, the monolith pulses and I feel a ringing in my ears before everything goes black.