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The Voyage Ends

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Eventually my own time came, and I crept out of the dust of my urn into a fading sunset reflected off the murky Anio. Saturn had been kind to me across the years; the worries of life fell as easily from my shoulders as my spirit left the remnants of my flesh amongst the pine shards. All down half of my body shone white to show how the wind had fanned my flames, the flaps of muscle on its mirror side a testament to my few friends.

Instead of Mercury waiting to guide me into death there was Cynthia, and I knew her in an instant. The decade we had spent without each other had eaten her away to be nothing but a skeleton, but the jut of her hip held a rebuke I remembered from thousands of its kin.

Never had I forgotten her through all my affairs and marriage and children, the fire of passion never extinguished in me; her ghost followed me through everything. Often had I walked barefoot through the rooms of my home, scattering beans to ward off her wraith, or woken in the night to bang my pots and pans, yet now she was before me again I feared no lemur. She tilted her skull to me, pulling the threads of skin where the char ended through the bones of her fingers. 

'Even with these barren sockets your state is as pitiful as my own, not even your family doting enough to see you fully destroyed. If I had been there I would have given all the contents of my lungs to see you burned to ash.'

Her voice was thinned from the years and the decay of her throat but it was still her own.

She carefully turned the remnants of my arm to see the twist and mottled texture in the white surface from the night I had fallen from her window, and I thought she would break it for marrow but instead she held it to her rattling chest. I carded my fingers into the scraps of golden hair the maggots had left and they came away in my hand to leave her skull smooth and clean beneath my touch.

Cynthia had been beautiful as a goddess in life, but now the last of her ghoul flesh had been shed and left her marble white there was no pretence. Only by the last, inadequate scraps of her stola hid her divinity from me. They scattered as I brushed them aside, letting me thread my fingers through her ribs and trace along the graceful curves. Her fingers pushed at the remnants of my own clothes and we came closer, bone to charred and torn lips in a kiss. Teeth ground against each other with soft scrapes; when our jaws opened there was no tongue to meet my own as it swept along the smooth colonnade. My blue and bruised hand, attempting to hold her neck, slipped to brush the underside of her skull, to fit snug against the top of her spine as the parts of her neck parted to give me access. Her sighs grew quiet as in mockery of her missing lungs, and I shifted my fingers from their comfortable home to hook her chin against me from within. I moaned, a death rattle, and she laid her remnants against me.

'None of your others can reach you ever again, and eternity is ours,' she whispered against my ragged mouth.

She jumped against me, my failing strength still plenty to hold her, light as cork but tight about my waist, and the arms around my neck ruffled at the gaps in my substance. With one hand I pulled her sternum against me by the notch at its base, the other trailing along all the protrusions of her spine to tangle in the remnants of ligament there. My parts were lost to the pyre, and yet a pressure built as she ground her loud bones against mine in a macabre echo of our living movements. Slipping a hand between her legs there were none of the usual landmarks, and I moved within her pelvis to rub against the thinning of her architecture. Her back arched in response, a great rattling that melded with her moan as she moved more roughly against me, dry kisses chipping my orbit. Her slight weight shifted and her skeletal hand squeezed between my ribs and the wasted muscle there to grip my heart with a crushing pressure as she pulled against me, our bones slotting together in hollow music as we both reached the conclusion, the rushing tension in my being dissipating to calm. I let her down to the broken earth, her grip loosening unwillingly to thread her way free of my chest. Her head bowed to quietly contemplate my grave marker.

'I drank too deep of the river, and had almost forgotten.' 

I stooped to my urn and from between the nestled loaves and oil bottles picked my signet ring, a poor and grovelling replacement for the gem she lost. The narrow bones of her knuckles would no longer hold any trinket; I pressed it tremulously to the lowest of her ribs where it stood free but she slapped my hand away and slipped it into her own. She pulled her hyoid free with a click and slid it onto the pearl white bone, replacing it at her throat where it glittered, blood-red in the sunset.

It was impossible not to follow her, even down into death. A single denarius was lodged in my throat as token; when I retched it out I could feel her empty eyes watching, Charon a dark shape along the water. It would do the pair of us no good, and she followed its high arc as I cast it into the pitch black waters of the Styx.

She clattered a laugh, her slim bones clenched in the withering skin of my remaining palm as she led me along the calming shores of Lethe to the mouth of the caves of Hypnos, sinking into their swathes of datura and nightshade to haunt each other until our bones crumble and feed the poppied banks.