Clickety clack goes the bone jacket.
Isabel squeezes underneath the rock ledge, tucking her breath in a tiny box next to her thundering heart. She drapes dark, cold strands of seaweed across her trembling knees to hide.
Clickety clack, clickety clack.
She can feel the heavy footsteps. The tiny femurs and ulnas rattle as she shrinks smaller, wishing the whites of her nail beds werenâ€™t glowing with the hum of her terror.
She has known about him all her life. The Bone Man is made from the elements: the whipping air of a frenzied twister, the molten fire of an active volcano, the deepest waters of the darkest ocean, and a jacket of human bones giving him the surety of earth. He came ashore only on nights like this, looking only for girls like her. Her mother has warned her all these years, Isabel, donâ€™t go to the beach at night. Stay away from those boys or else the Bone Man will get you.
Isabel does stay away from the boys who gather in groups, sticks in their hands. Who laugh loud and chuck crabs into the churning sea. Some girls do sneak out to meet them, tugging at their shorts, touching down their hair. But not Isabel. She walks the beaches alone, collecting shells, telling the stars her secrets and letting the tide wash them away.
The mist lies thick under the no-moon sky, but she knows he is close. Clickety clack. Clickety clack. The silence stretches forever until the weight of it becomes unbearable.
She jumps out and stares straight into the whites of the Bone Manâ€™s eyes.
He takes a step back, as if she startled him, too. His gray hair runs in stringy rivers over his shoulders. His skin is a boiled, hardened red.
â€œIt is me,â€? she says, boldly. â€œIsabel.â€? She turns her nose to the dark sky to come off as brave, although her legs tremble.
The Bone Man watches her for a moment and reaches up to his chest. He pulls free the tiniest bone and she lets it drop into her open palm. She stares at that white magic for a long, long time and when she finally looks back up, the Bone Man is gone.
Christine MeadeÂ is aÂ writer and teacher in the Boston area. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts and a BA in English/Journalism from Northeastern University. More of her work can be found atÂ www.christinemmeade.com.