“The Skeleton Man”
by Chloe Robbins
The split-faced woman can’t believe her luck at finding a skeleton sitting so pretty in the light of a woodland campfire. Luck, or perhaps fate. Her name is Crystal and she isn’t from around here. She’s never heard of The Skeleton Man, though he’s famous. It’s said to be the most ghoulishly delicious sight, watching him invite his own bones outside himself for a dance. No blood or crassness, just a skeleton waltzing with its flesh. Lonely together.
But Crystal doesn’t know any of this. All she knows is that he’s left his bones sitting out for the night, his skin folded like laundry before the fire. His skull ripe as a berry for the picking. For the stealing.
She never could keep her hands to herself. It’s what got her into this mess. She should’ve known better, stealing a rose from a witch’s garden. And now she’s paying the price: a human skull for the return of her beauty.
She’s grateful, at least, for the curse’s lack of gore. The witch had halved her face cleanly, like a living Dutch door, rendering Crystal unable to see certain things and unable to ignore so many others.
But this skull, she’s sure, no one could ignore—shining, as if it were a comet that’d crested down to land neat as a kiss before her. What she doesn’t see: his eyes planted in his folded skin, watching her.
The moment her fingertips brush the intimate bone, his skeleton whirls into motion, throwing the warmed skin about himself. Like the hood of a cloak, he draws up his grinning face.
Crystal stands with her arms outstretched, frozen by the sight of him. The most exquisite creature she’s ever beheld.
A dark mess of hair frames eyes the color of river rocks. His body is somewhat askew, as if his bones hadn’t settled in quite right, but there’s something alluring about this unevenness. Like the way a tree trunk is never completely cylindrical. Crystal can’t see his intentions, but by the swinging of her split face, she sees the ache in him. The sudden desire. For her?
“You would steal a man’s skull?” he asks.
Dazed, she hears herself say, “I steal lots of things.”
“Like my attention,” he says, stepping closer. “And I was wondering where my breath had gone.”
No one’s ever felt breathless over me. And no one ever would. Not when her broken face moved in every tonguing breeze like a pair of loose teeth. Hideous.
But the thrall of this man— It must be another spell, another way for the witch to torment her. Still, she says, “I’m Crystal.”
“Ivy,” he replies.
Ivy. What would it feel like to be wrapped in him? Ivy climbing all over her, warm and wild and everywhere.
He reaches for her slowly, silently asking her permission, before touching her cheek. She can’t catch her breath. The tender way his fingers trace the horizontal seam across her face, dipping them so gently inside her, exploring her without fear or disgust…
“Crystal.” He sounds relieved, as if he’d been searching for her.
The forest draws in closer. Bats ghost about the firelight, snatching hypnotized moths. The piney scents, the green shadows, the peppery tingle of smoke. Crystal can’t break his gaze. She doesn’t want to.
“Why do you want my skull?” His fingers comb through her long hair as his lips brush her temple. It’s all she can do not to press her hips against him.
He’s ensnaring me. Another bat, another unsuspecting moth. Yet she doesn’t pull away. “I stole a rose from a witch,” she admits dreamily, outside herself. Like Ivy’s magic bones, she feels outside of everything now. “She cursed me for it. But if I give her a skull, she’ll fix me. My face.”
“Your face? You mean you would seal up these soft petals forever?”
“Petals?” She’d never thought of it that way.
“Lovelier than any rose,” he murmurs, holding her closer. “Crystal, may I keep touching you?”
The idea alone makes her wet, even if it’s madness. Even if she doesn’t know him. He feels right.
“Only if you let me touch you, too.”
Smiling, gripping her waist, he slides his tongue along her seam, swallowing her groan as he takes her mouth, nibbling her lips and edges. He guides her to the ground, massaging her swollen breasts as he slowly grinds his hardness against her. “Look at you, the beautiful thief come to steal me away.”
“No one’s come yet,” she says, and begins pulling off his clothes as he laughs.
Naked, she stretches out atop him, her face blooming open as she gazes down on him. And all at once she sees it, feels it like the fire’s heat: Ivy is hers. He’s always been hers.
“Yes, Crystal,” he whispers, as if hearing her thoughts, “I knew you in an instant.” His hand trembles as he pumps two fingers inside her, thumbing her clit. He doesn’t stop even after she’s drenched him, whimpering and rocking against his palm for more.
But she can’t wait any longer. Moaning his name, she grasps his cock and guides him in.
“Crystal!” he gasps, bucking mindlessly.
This man. As if she’d ever share any piece of him with anyone, skull or otherwise.
Riding him, feeling him throb inside her, his bones seeming to vibrate, she’s helpless not to scream when he grips her ass and fingers her clit for more. “Ivy! I’m coming!” Head lolling, she sees his eyes roll back as his body shudders and bows beneath her.
Drifting slowly back to earth, she tries cuddling into him, but he stops her.
“It’s a cold night,” he says, standing, and steps out of his skin once more. The fire licks shadows over his skeleton as he wraps her tightly, first in his skin, and then in his bones. “And I want my rose to keep warm.”
Sighing into his embrace, she wonders, Perhaps fate is just another word for witch.
Chloe Robbins lives in Baltimore across the street from a public park filled with bats, ravens, and lovers. Her fiction appears in different places, sometimes also in the park. Her most recent erotic short story, “The Lady of the House,” is forthcoming in Circlet Press’s Dressed in Black anthology. For more information, visit gothicarobbins.com and follow her @gothicrobbins