Bones: Part Five.

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

The young man stood at the entrance, took the tickets and indicated the seat to each attendee.

Just before midnight on Thursday April first 1897, the streets of Paris were quiet. All that could be heard were the distant clatter of hooves and rattle of wheels on cobbles.

Then they appeared, from every direction. The great and good of Paris, the elite, the crème de la crème. The rustling of skirts, the whispering, the scraping of segs and the clipping of heels, replaced the sound of their transport. One by one, they filed into the building on the Place Denfert-Rochereau.

Meanwhile, twenty metres or one hundred and thirty one steps below the street, an orchestra was tuning. The acoustics were incredible, even the random notes being played sounded pleasant to the ear. There was something about the way the stacks of bones absorbed the sound then emitted it back as a kind of echo.

The young man stood at the entrance, took the tickets and indicated the seat to each attendee. He was smartly dressed in black tails and trousers, white shirt and black tie. His hair was cut short but not too short and shone in the light of the thousands of candles.

When everyone was settled and the murmering subsided, the conductor tapped his baton on the rostrum. In unison, each member of the orchestra took up the starting position – then there was a moments stilless. As the conductor brought his baton down, the orchestra struck up the most incredible rendition of La Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saëns.

The audience were gripped by the music, the quality of the sound. The skill of the players was like nothing they’d experienced before. The Marquis turned to the young woman to his right and opened his mouth to speak. However, no words came out. He’d been struck dumb. It was then he noticed that fellow members of the audience seemed to look as surprised as he and we’re attempting to converse.

As the music reached a climax something strange started to happen. The musicians, who were moving about in perfect synchronicity began to change. Beginning with their clothing. It seemed to vapourise around their moving bodies, rising to the low ceiling of the cave. The cloud then moved and descended, like a black mist, upon the audience.

There was something about the way the stacks of bones absorbed the sound then emitted it back as a kind of echo.

Within a few minutes a transformation took place where, briefly, the players were naked. As the vapour surrounded the audience, the skin and flesh fell from the players as they concluded the piece. When the final few notes were struck, they were played so by an orchestra – of skeletons.

When the vapour settled to the feet of the watchers, the scene was revealed to them. Looks of horror, to a man and woman were etched on their faces.

The tall skeleton who now led the orchestra tapped the rostrum for a second time. With a clatter, each skeleton assumed the position. On his command, the slow sedate tones of Frédéric Chopin’s Marche Funèbre rose from the instruments of the ossific musicians. Simultaneously, the dark vapour rose slowly up the paralysed bodies of the onlookers. The dark gas stripped the clothing from the rigid bodies, followed by the skin, muscle sinue and finally, organs. What was left were rows of skeletal spectators. The only person remaining whole was the young man, Gaston, who stood at the door in the same stupified state of the former attendees.

The black cloud then ascended again, moving towards the orchestra. It engulfed the players and the music faded. When the vapour dissipated, it was as if the groups had exchanged places.

Every member of the audience now took up a place on the other side of the cave. Meanwhile, opposite, what had been the eminent onlookers was an indistinct pile of bones and chairs.

The conductor, who had now resumed his original guise, gestured to the crowd. In an orderly fashion, each person crossed the room and began picking up bones. They neatly stacked them on top of the existing arrangement so that one couldn’t tell the difference.

As they quietly filed out past the young man they each gave him a smile and a gold ten Franc piece, a hundred in total. When the last one approached, Gaston steeled himself. It was the Marquis. The older man put out his hand and took the boy’s, shaking in warmly.

“Thank you, my boy. Come and visit me anytime. 13 Rue Thibaud.” With that, he too placed the gold coin in the boy’s palm and left.

All that remained were the stacks of bones and the tall man in black with the black beard and pale, expressionless face. He approached Gaston and placed a white, bony hand on his shoulder.

“You’re free to go, Gaston. Use your freedom wisely and invest those pieces of gold equally so.” His voice had softened and, for the first time, he smiled at the boy. He turned and, head stooped below the low ceiling, strolled off in the opposite direction to the others, until he was swallowed up in the darkness of the Catacombs of Paris.


  1. Kenneth Childs

    Have you been on the mushrooms Brian.

    • brian



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