It was late afternoon and I had been running home beside the river. I hate running. I hate the way my body shakes with every heavy hard step on the pavement. I choke on the fresh air and my bones hurt. But my bones always hurt.
I thought I saw you on the bus today, sitting two seats in front of me. I quickly exited on the next stop because the thought of running into you after such a long time terrified me. I’m also terrified that I’ll never be able to forget you. That’s why I was running. I was trying to sweat you out of my system. You’ve crawled into my bone marrow, and I can’t get you out. My bones used to be stronger than this.
I had been running for only five minutes when my vision blurred and I tripped over my own feet. I luckily didn’t fall into the river. I fell into a ditch instead. I didn’t get back up; the ditch was surprisingly cool and I was still choking. And I don’t know if it was some form of chronic fatigue or my blatant disregard for regular exercise, but I couldn’t get back up. I was on my back so I stared upwards and became distracted by the sky.
The orange hue of the sunset spread across the blue and faded into to the clouds. It almost looked like a mountain had erupted above me. And for a moment, I believed it did. Because the sky began to fall and the sun exploded. The Earth crumbled around me and I was buried under rubble and falling comets. I was stuck in the ditch, my grave, while my skin became rock, and dirt filled my eyes every time I blinked.
I could hear the explosions and impacts of comets. I felt the vibrations of the world on me, crushing my lungs. For a long time I could only hear destruction and the last cries of those left above, until I was buried so deep there was only silence. And my bones were all that were left of me.
The dirt around me hardened to stone. I lost track of days, weeks, years. I spent most of my time trying not to think of you. But you were buried with me, and even though I was probably dead, my bones still hurt. I was stuck here with you. I guess I shouldn’t blame you, I did this to myself. My small skeleton was wounded way before I met you.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt fresh air on my bony feet and I wiggled my toes. I had probably been buried for about a thousand years, but I was finally free. When the dirt was brushed out of the holes that were my eyes, I could see the sky. It was still blue.
The things that dug me up weren’t human. I had been buried for longer than I thought. Their faces were strange and crinkled, their bodies small and weak. Their bones would never last this long under the ground and I guess that’s why they were so amazed at mine. And they carefully took me apart, piece by piece. And I was carefully put back together, piece by piece, in a museum that was grander than any we ever had in our time.
They had a thousand other bones from a thousand other times. I was the only human in a room full of animals – some I couldn’t recognise. No sign of humans and better yet, no sign of your skeleton. But it felt strange that I would be the only human here from our world of seven billion. And I thought about that number for a while. Seven Billion. And while I may have loved you once, it didn’t make sense to keep you in my bones. If I was to be in this museum for another few centuries, I couldn’t keep you here with me any longer.
So I fell asleep and thought I would be in this place forever. But I woke up in the ditch instead. My body had not disintegrated just yet. The orange sunset had disappeared and there were no explosions, no comets. I got up carefully and brushed the dirt off myself.
My bones felt lighter as I walked home.