The Skeleton’s Problematic Granddaughter – A Tale of Southern Horror


“Shut up, children, I got a story to tell,” says WH, drunk as hell and looking only half as frightened as he should.
What is downstairs?
He spills wine so red as to almost be black down his tight clinging shirt, his beard and chest hair a horrible briar patch – who knows what evils lurk within.
“A long time ago, before I was born, there was a girl, a girl . . .” his eyes glaze over, flashing a dangerous shade of void.
He belches softly and continues, voice all gravel and horror.
“A girl, she was called Deardrie Fell.”
“Who was she, WH?” asks a slip of a girl, her flaxen hair almost as fair as her skin.
“My dear, stupid child,” slurs the grizzled sonofabitch, “she was The Skeleton’s Problematic Granddaughter . . .”
The hideous fellow now leaps from his mouldy velure covered seat, spraying the children with the blood like droplets of his chosen beverage. Wheeling across the room, he grabs a poker from beside the fire and storms out of the room.
The children look aghast at me for guidance. Hush, I tell them, hush. Don’t make him get weirder than he already is.
We hear him, stomping down the stairs into the wine cellar.
A long silence.
The children whisper amongst themselves. They want their parents.
Your parents are gone, children. Hush. He may return.
There is a terrible clanging beneath the floorboards. Now screeching. A triumphant bellowing creates an ear jarring harmony. Silence. Not quite.
He is whispering.
The flaxen haired girl begins to sob.
I turn to comfort her.
“Now, children. Gather round. You. Open this.”
He is back on the mouldy, red velure seat, pointing a dusty bottle of wine at me.
The poker is covered in gore, resting across his torn black jeans.
His Chuck Taylors are likewise adorned.
With no other recourse, I uncork the wine and the room is filled with a wicked miasma.
“Milk of the cockroach teat!” He laughs wildly, spraying spittle, tongue green, teeth yellow and black.
“Smell that funk? It’s the swamp. Mangroves covered in ice and islands of glittering bone. You can almost see Old Black Louie in stilettos, walking up something’s behemoth spine when you get this stink in you.”
The children gag.
I have tears in my eyes as I fill his plastic goblet, encrusted with plastic jewels, stained around the rim, where his lips have touched it far too often.
He waves the goblet away when I proffer it to him and snatches the bottle.
He takes a rude swig. I hope that he doesn’t send me below to fetch more wine.
“Now. No more interruptions.” He spits in an ashtray.
“Deadrie Fell, she was a skeleton’s problematic granddaughter . . .”


I blanch some when he looks at me over the top of his grease smeared glasses, fogged up from his constant perspiration in spite of the bitter cold that the fire pitifully tries to fight off.
He smiles, yellow and black and red dribbling into red again.

“A long while back, before even I was born, there was a city made of glass,” he is whispering and the children gather close, they can probably smell his guts rotting within his ramshackle body.
“There was also a city where worms lived and a city where everything was already over. These cities were surrounded by the darkest of woods. The deepest of all dark woods. You don’t get dark or woods like that anymore.”
“Why not?” whispers a fat little boy of eight or nine.
WH glares at him and then softens, blows a long whistling sigh, spittle and wine.
“Night forgot what she was for, son.”
The fat boy seems happy enough with a response, though if he knew what WH really meant, I think that he’d leave the room crying, he wouldn’t sleep again, either.
“In the city of Ends, there was a woman, a very beautiful woman, by the measure of any time.
Men came calling on her, to paint her portrait, to make busts of her wonderful face. To ask her hand.
She sent them away.
She called them boring and to her, in the city where everything has already happened, this could only be expected.
She wanted the wild.”
WH creaks up from his chair, the children lean back; in terror or merely as a reaction to his overwhelming odour.
He drips perspiration about him as he performs a slow dance, gathering an old moth eaten black sheet from a pile of soiled linen on the floor.
“And the boy! He had wings!”
He swoops about the room, cackling and quorking the nightmares of rats.
“Who?” the children ask in unison, squeaky voices trembling.
“The Flautist ,little ones! The Flautist of course!”
WH leans by the hearth, pulling long from his bottle. Oh Morning Star, please don’t let him finish that before dawn.
I cannot bear to go below the floorboards, not tonight.
Not any night.
What is down there?
The drunkard is back in his chair now, left leg crossed over the right and a jar of whiskey in hand. Something is floating in it. I don’t want to get closer.
He shows the children and they giggle.
“My dear, look at this . . .”
I sidle over and peer into the jar.
There I am, afloat in an amber sea, waving up, mouth opening and closing, but voice too small to be heard.
He drinks me down and I swoon.
“Here, sit on my knee,” he says and I am powerless to do anything but obey.
I can smell him. He smells of what the night was about, even though that was before he was born.
“I’m far older by way of the innards, dear,” he laughs so hard into my ear that I want to be sick.
Can he truly read my thoughts.
“The Flautist was wild,” he says, stroking my hair with the back of his hand.
“He was born in a city made of worms. But rarely. Rarely was he there.
In the city of Ends, the young woman lived on an austere estate that her father had owned before her, before he left for the woods. He knew about the dark and the night and why stars can’t be trusted and what is was to visit with rats.
He built ships and played the fiddle where the nymphs danced, covered in white bugs that glowed like morning and cast no shadows in that light.
In a city of Ends, no one looks twice at a skeleton gentleman, as long as he comports himself in a manner befitting once of his social standing and, oh my, he was nothing if not conscientious . . . and dead.”
The children are as close as they dare get to WH and his voice is a low, dark rumble. I can feel it rattling through his body as he speaks. I don’t think that I could stand up if I wanted to.
“His daughter was a great musician, much as he was. But in place of the wandering fiddle, she took to the ponderous heavings of the cello. So many nights, legs splayed upon the stool until one day, she broke a string!”
I spill to the floor, atop the screaming children as WH heaves to his feet and hurls his half finished jar into the fire place.
The room goes pitch and the heat rises, even as the rain begs to be let in, clawing at the tin roof, chattering on the windows.
He is glowing, or rather, the darkness is not touching him.
“She went into the woods . . .”


Under the floor, something moans, impossibly loud and low.
WH is not in the room.
The children weep and clutch at my skirts.
I gather them to me and sing.

Entendez-vous dans la plaine
Ce bruit venant jusqu’à nous?
On dirait un bruit de chaîne
Se traînant sur les cailloux.
C’est le grand Lustukru qui passe,
Qui repasse et s’en ira
Emportant dans sa besace
Tous les petits gâs
Qui ne dorment pas!
Lon lon la,
Lon lon la, lon lon la, lire la, lon la!
La, lon la!
Quelle est cette voix démente
Qui traverse nos volets?
Non, ce n’est pas la tourmente
Qui joue avec les galets:
C’est le grand Lustukru qui gronde
Qui gronde … et bientôt rira
En ramassant à la ronde
Tous les petits gâs
Qui ne dorment pas!
Lon lon la,
Lon lon la, lon lon la, lire la, lon la!
La, lon la!
Qui donc gémit de la sorte,
Dans l’enclos, tout près d’ici?
Faudra-t-il donc que je sorte
Pour voir qui soupire ainsi?
C’est le grand Lustukru qui pleure:
Il a faim et mangera
Crus-tout-vifs, sans pain ni beurre,
Tous les petits gâs
Qui ne dorment pas!
Lon lon la,
Lon lon la, lon lon la, lire la, lon la!
La, lon la!
Qui voulez-vous que je mette
Dans le sac au vilain Vieux?
Mon Doric et ma Jeannette
Viennent de fermer les yeux:
Allez vous-en, méchant homme,
Quérir ailleurs vos repas!
Puisqu’ils font leur petit somme,
Non, vous n’aurez pas
Mes deux petits gâs!

The room is lit. I have no idea how or for how long.
He is in his chair, clapping, slowly.
Sardonic, discoloured smile.
“Very good, dear one. Very good.
Now, let us continue . . .”


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