Sunshine sparkles through the whispering leaves, and a fat crow lands close by. It blinks at me, ruffling its oily feathers, and swoops towards my dark liver. I shriek, kicking and punching, and it pecks at my ulna and clavicle. Then it claps its black wings and flies away. Just as the boy strolls through the tall, painted gates. He steps onto the path, so fleshy, so beautiful, like someone moulded him from pale, pinkish clay. His freckled arms and legs poke out from his red football shirt and shorts, and, as he walks, the leaf shadows dance on his glowing skin.
Heart pumping fast, I slip behind the thick, mottled trunk. I hold my breath and prepare to pounce. To whack the back of his head. To drag him away.
Will I like wearing him? Will I like being a boy?
He stops by the twin graves, drops his rucksack and scratches his scabbed elbow. I try to move, but lead fills my bones and an angry humming thickens the air. I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to hurt anyone. I can walk away. Go back to the mausoleum. Forget about the boy who talks to skulls. I hesitate. But how will I ever get living flesh? If I don’t finish the necromantic rite, my organs will shrivel and rot. I’ll be trapped here forever. Alone.
Clutching the rock, I inch forwards.
“I know you're there,” the boy says. “You’d better show yourself."
My breath whooshes out as a hiss. I stop. I hide my trembling hands behind my back. Then I walk towards him. I wait for his eyes to widen, for him to leap up, screaming, and run. But he just stares.
“I’m Adam,” he says.
He kneels and unzips his rucksack. So I step closer, close enough to slam down the rock on his temple. Close enough to breathe in his warm, soapy scent.
“Aren’t you scared of me?” I say.
“Dunno.” He grins, not a fixed grimace, like me, but full lips curving and a flash of white teeth. “Guess you’re not that scary.”
He brings out a bunch of football stickers, half a salami sausage, a bar of white chocolate and the smooth, brainless skull.
“Who is that?” I ask.
“My Uncle Henry.” Adam breaks off a chocolate cube and puts it on the ground in front of Uncle Henry’s broken teeth. He glances at me. “Want some?”
I swallow. No one’s ever offered me anything before.
I point at the skull. “If he’s dead, how can he eat stuff?”
"I might have an empty head," Uncle Henry says. "Doesn't mean I have to be one."
My mandible drops open. “He can talk?”
Adam laughs and hands me a crumbly chocolate cube, so I kneel and drop the rock in the grass. Then I take the cube and nibble on the creamy sweetness. I study Adam’s bitten fingernails, eyelids, lashes, sea green irises, and his wide mouth with lips and gums. Then I imagine slicing and ripping with the sharp dagger, and my guts twist like snakes.
I stand and walk towards the empty mausoleum.
Only then I notice the thin layer of pink that has spun itself, fragile as a spider’s web, around my metacarpals. I freeze.
"You need to eat a cube a day," Adam shouts. "That's what I do."