Skeleton Dance | Jacqueline Trott 


Skeleton Dance

Jacqueline Trott

2018 Major Contest: Hate and Coat Award


These are the soft hours where she treads a-quiet. She notices the way that the others jangle and jaunt their bony frames into the sunset, like marionettes pulled by strings. Full of gaudy clamour and colour, they poke their fingers into twilight’s husk. She stays still, watching them fade into the distance, and she waits.

She continues to sing quietly to herself, feeling the roar of sun being quenched by her tunes of indigo. She has always loved this time, when the thrum and drum of the bees yield to the laments of the dusk lark, hollow-calling from the trees. The plink-plink-twang of banjo frogs rhythm the rising moon alongside her and cults of hidden crickets start their chanting of voodoo love spells in the dark.

When it is time, she magnets the mountains to shadowfall, and draws their outlines across the valley-cracked crust. She is the only one who can open the roof’s coat above our heads to reveal the black skylake, leaking constellations silver thick. The patterns in the sky tell the dreaming, so that centuries-old memories of our elders can never be forgotten. The clouds sleepwalk, and we watch them as moonlit giants in an airborn shuffle-hush. They carefully tuck in the stars with their fleece moving from one side to the other, then snuffing out their lanterns they disappear, murmuring stories of the great ancestor beings from afar.

She approaches our sleep-wrapped bodies, carrying an opium of moonflower and nightlily. Exhaling it into our noses, it heavies our limbs as she begins to stain us with the ink of her skin. Her fingertips wax each eye to eyelid, then moving to our mouths, she traces the secrets of our lips. Once she has tattooed us with the dark, she reclines to knit the hours where our mouths open-sleep, spilling those truths that have no words. With her black wool, she spider-tangles young minds into their dreams, cradling heads into the lullaby of the evening birds.

She glances towards the opposite horizon where the sunset had skeleton-danced only hours before, sensing a warmth in the morning air. Moving quickly to weave all the time that she has been given, the colours of morning arrive early in horizon’s bright needles. As light pierces our faces, Night throws the last of her unfinished coat to cover us, howling her protective cry.  But it is too late. She flaps and flies up into the dark vapour trails, before dawn scatters her body to the sky.