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Bones In the Closet

Bones in the Closet follows a museum curator who finds herself stuck in a cycle of sexual abuse and follows through with the extremes of her trauma responses.

Word Count: 1014

Esther Haramata relished in the air of finality that came with being the only person in one of the finest museums in the world. In the absence of screaming children and bumbling tourists, the glorified hospice of dying history fulfilled its true purpose as a home of ancient intelligence. The petrified pottery and dwindling artifacts, the items Esther loved and cared for, were less figments meant to sell trinkets than the relics of civilizations long past. However, as Esther came closer and closer to the dinosaur exhibit, her faint smile soured.

It was her assignment for the night. Survey the area and search for anything that Antony might’ve left behind the museum coordinator and Esther’s boss had picked the black gunk out of his nails as he gave her the assignment. And do some cleaning while you’re at it.

There were no condolences, no I’m sorry for your loss, no I know how much he meant to you. The coordinator hadn’t known that Esther had tried to break things off with Antony only days before he went missing, so these statements should have been common courtesy.

In the strangest way, the night their relationship fell apart reminded her of her father’s death, something she had witnessed alone when she was only twelve years old. Antony’s wild screams had been nearly identical to the strangled noises her father had made when he realized he was falling off the edge of the cliff, right before the roar was cut off by the smack of his skull hitting the jagged rocks below. If the milky spit that frothed from the corners of Antony’s cracked lips was a tad bit redder, it could’ve been the blood overflowing from her father’s splattered organs. The erratic flailing of Antony’s arms was eerily similar to her father’s lifeless body resembling something more like the branches of a tree than anything human. Even from the top of the cliff, Esther had seen the dirt caked to her father’s fingers.

But the coordinator didn’t know that. He only knew his dirty nails, not Esther’s silent grief. And though Esther had been the one to break things off, she agreed to go to the part of the museum she hated the most for Antony.

Esther stepped slowly into the dinosaur exhibit, toolbag in hand. Her well worn boots squeaked against the tiles as she tiptoed to the closest set of bones. The massive head of the half constructed triceratop leared down at her, its jaw slick with primordial drool. Out of the corner of her eye, the velociraptor head on the opposite side of the room swiveled only to freeze before Esther could get a good look at it.

And that’s what she hated most about the exhibit. It wasn’t that it took a full shift to work through the room. It wasn’t that the museum spent most of their limited funds on advertising the gargantuas. No, what she truly despised was that the dinosaurs were not as dead as they pretended to be.

“I work with them all day, and they don’t move.” The ghost of Antony whispered in Esther’s ear. “Come on, baby girl. You’re supposed to be the smart one here.”

She tried to work through Antony’s haunting flirtations, but she soon found her calloused fingers running over the invisible rope burns that made up the map of her body. The knot that always seemed to hover in her larynx grew taunt as she remembered Antony’s grip, hot as the fires of a crematorium. She couldn’t quite recall if she’d told Antony if it was okay to touch below her neckline, if she’d given permission before he groped under her shirt, or how many times she’d push his dirty hand away before finally relenting to his advances, but she supposed that didn’t matter anymore.

Esther shook her head hard, as if that would send the thoughts of Antony tumbling out her ear canal. The violent action only changed the shape, and suddenly it was her father whispering in her ear.

“I love you, baby girl.”

He’d whispered that the first time she’d ever gone to a museum. It was a modest thing that had since lost its funding, but it, too, had advertised a chance to see real dinosaur bones. They were strategically placed near the end of a guided tour, but Esther never saw them. When the guides weren’t looking, her father pulled her off to an empty section, and he did what he had come to do. She was crying so hard afterwards that they were escorted out.

The day Esther watched her father die was the following summer. Their father-daughter hiking trips were a regular occurence by then, and nobody suspected a thing. Just as her father didn’t suspect anything when Esther insisted they take a slightly longer route to see the ravine. He’d approached the edge, and she barely nudged his shoulder. Really, it had been a half-hearted attempt at best, but it had done the trick.

“Baby girl, you’ve got to lend me a hand.” He had pleaded as he clung to the cliff’s edge with the tips of his fingers. “I’m sorry, baby girl.”

Antony had cried those exact words as Esther cut off his hands. It was the only fleeting pleasure she’d afforded herself, to see him as helpless as he had made her.

When Antony was reported missing, Esther had pretended that their break up had never happened. She willfully allowed the police to search her office, but they didn’t have the mind to bother investigating the newest collection of artifacts in the museum basement. Nobody batted an eye when she pulled several bones from the dinosaur reconstructions for a routine cleaning. Only somebody with her expertise would know that the bones came back a little smaller, less dense, almost human in nature.

Esther went about her duties for the night with a smile on her face. Maybe Antony was right. Maybe the dinosaurs didn’t come alive in the dark of night. But, for the first time, he’d be there to find out.

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