Bag of Bones

by Tha Wrecka

Feedback is appreciated. Written for Slodwick's Stephen King title challenge.

There's a bag of bones at the bottom of Lana's closet. It's covered by one of Lana's dresses and a sweater, thrown carelessly on top. To an outsider it would look like a gym bag, a dirty white towel spilling over the side. Lana hopes no one ever looks too closely.

She sometimes nudges the bag accidentally when she has to get her shoes. The bones rattle and clack together, and it sounds like gnashing teeth. She tries to be extra careful not to disturb the bag because the noise freaks her out.

Lana walks downstairs to the kitchen quietly. She's neat and clean, ready for school. She has to look like nothing is wrong, like everything is normal. She tries to smile and it feels like a grimace.

"Good morning, Lana. I hope you slept well," the Nell says.

"Good morning, Nell," Lana replies.

"I made you breakfast," the Nell says, gesturing at the table.

On the table are a plate of toast and a glass of orange juice. Lana sits down and eats and drinks in a hurry. The food tastes bland. The juice tastes fake. The Nell hovers in the corner.

"Thank you, Nell. That was very nice," Lana says.

The Nell smiles brightly, producing a brown paper bag.

"I made you lunch, honey. Have fun at school today," it says.

Taking the bag, Lana walks from the house as fast as she can.

She's still not quite sure how it happened. She remembers yelling something at Nell and then nearly a minute of blur. After the blur she remembers the body, twisted and wrong looking on the grass. There was blood, bones protruding through the skin and Nell's eyes had looked cold and dead. Just thinking of it is enough to make Lana feel sick.

She remembers screaming at Nell to wake up, though she knew it was wasteful. When she calmed a little Lana ran inside and tried to find Nell's address book. She rifled through Nell's handbag; the little book lost under lipsticks and hairpins. Eventually, in frustration, she tipped the contents of the bag on to the couch.

It took her a few minutes to wipe away the tears streaming down her face and to stop herself from sniffling. She flipped through the address book, mascara getting in her eyes, and tried to find someone she could call, someone she could trust. Frantically she dialled the number, placing an order despite her hysteria. She was very specific; made sure to jot down the address to send the pictures to. She cried, "thank you" as she hung up.

Running back outside, she checked that no one was around, then slowly dragged the heavy body inside. It was a strain, lumpy and awkward. The head thudded against the stairs as she dragged it up over the porch.

Lana slumped as soon as the body was far enough inside the house. She locked the door and threw a sheet over the body in desperation.

Lana set out early the next morning. She was clean and calm, wearing her pink sweater with her hair tied back. She wore her usual mask of determined sadness as she went about her business.

The first stop was the post office. Her smile was tight as she slipped the letter into the box, but she kept her face under control.

Next stop was the public library. Carefully, she looked up the required subject, locating the aisle. She browsed the books slowly, trying to make sure she found the right one. The shiny black cover jumped out at her, and she pulled the book off the shelf with nimble fingers.

She moved on to the fiction section, grabbing a romance novel as cover.

At the desk the librarian was overly chatty. Lana said the book was for a school project, starting to worry when she saw Clark enter the library.

"There you go. I hope you do well on your project," the librarian said, finally handing the books over.

"Thank you," Lana said, grabbing the books.

As she walked out Clark tried to call out to her, but she pretended not to hear him.

It was awkward trying to fit the body into the gym bag. She had to force the limbs in, the right arm fitting in only with a resounding crack. She winced when she heard it, and held her hand over her mouth. When the body was in and the bag was zipped she ran into the kitchen, vomiting all over the sink.

The bag was terribly heavy and the walk was long but Lana kept at it, reminding herself of what she had to do. With a strong sense of focus, she arranged the wood and added the fuel. Standing far enough back, she lit the match, and threw it at the wood. It went up with a resounding, "whoosh!"

The body was just as awkward to remove from the bag as it had been to put in. She eventually got it out, throwing the heavy lump onto the flames. Watching the golden flickers, Lana sat, crying.

When she awoke, early the next morning, the flames had died and the bones were clean. She picked them up, careful not to touch the dying spots of fire, and cleaned them with a towel, before fitting them back into the bag.

Martha Kent called, just as Lana was putting the bag away.

"Lana, is everything all right? Clark tried to call last night but there was no answer," Martha said, her voice warm and worried.

"Nell's just a bit sick. I took the phone off the hook so I could take care of her," Lana answered, her voice close to breaking.

"Do you need any help with her? My chicken soup does wonders," Martha offered.

"No, thank you, Mrs Kent," Lana replied. "Nell should be okay in a few days."

As she hung up, Lana hoped her package would arrive soon.

As it happened it was delivered the next day. Lana opened the box, searching for the instruction booklet. The parts were relatively simple to put together, and soon she had assembled the robot. It looked so like her aunt but something was missing.

Lana found Nell's handbag where she had left it on the couch. She picked up a tube of lipstick and some face powder and carried them over to the robot. The creamy brown lipstick went onto the lips a little thick and the face powder made the skin look a little pale, but at least it smelt like Nell now.

Lana searched, through the instruction booklet again. It explained that the robot would be activated by her voice, and that it would need to be shut down once every thirty days.

Cautiously, Lana spoke, "Hello."

The thing opened its eyes -- too much like Nell's and hollow inside like death.

"Hello, Lana," it spoke. "How are you?"

At least it would convince other people.

The thirty days are nearly up and the Nell is almost due for a shut down.

Lana sighs and settles into class.

Lana has a meteor rock around her neck and a bag of bones in her closet. It's how she remembers them.

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