Tweet Cate watched a creased paperback jiggle in Daniel's back pocket as she followed him up the stairs. The glare of a Saturday afternoon lay at the top of the stairwell, and she blinked as they left the gloom of the tube station. She hadn't lived in London long enough to know this part of the city, and she trailed behind Daniel through the throng of tourists. She glanced at the back of his neck and wondered yet again if online dating was the best way to meet new people.
"Come on, it's just down here." Daniel turned
around, as if finally remembering she was there. He turned off the main street
and down a narrower road. Fewer people crowded the pavement, and Cate drew
level with Daniel.
"What is it you're taking me to see?"
"Just an exhibition I've wanted to see for a while.
Couldn't find anyone to go with me."
So you thought I'd do. Cate pasted a smile on her face but
Daniel didn't even look at her.
He stopped outside a narrow building, all pale stone and
Classical columns. A banner hung above the front door, obscuring the ornate
pediment. A faux-medieval font advertised their latest exhibition.
"You want to go and look at skeletons?" A shiver
ran across Cate's skin and she looked at Daniel. He looked back at her as though
she were stupid.
"I see." Cate looked back at the banner. Fourteen skeletons, each uncovered in various sites around London, all of them purporting to tell
"secret tales" of the capital's history. She didn’t really want to
spend her afternoon around bones.
“Oh you’re not one of those girls who freaks out about stuff
like this, are you?” Daniel fought to keep the sneer from his face, but it
still infected his tone.
“No, it’s just…seemed like an odd thing to do on a first
“It’ll be interesting.”
Daniel almost skipped up the three small steps to the door,
and disappeared into the cool darkness of the entrance hall beyond. Cate looked
back along the street.
Would it be really bad to just leave him here? After all, I don’t want him to know about me and what I can do. Not yet, anyway.
“Come on, Cathy!” Daniel’s voice echoed inside the hall.
Cate gritted her teeth.
“It’s Cate,” she replied as she climbed the stairs.
Daniel led her down a maze of narrow corridors towards a large hall. Cate couldn’t have guessed the museum would be so large. Only a handful of people milled around inside the exhibition space, scattered between the glass display cases holding the skeletons. Panels hung from the nearby walls, emblazoned with photographs and maps. Dense text ran alongside to tell the story of each skeleton.
Not that I need the text, thought Cate.
Why am I here? The voice came from behind Cate. She turned
and looked at Daniel.
“I didn’t say anything. I was trying to read the board.” Daniel pointed to the text and looked away, mild irritation in his voice. Cate scowled and turned away.
Why are any of us here?
Cate stepped closer to the nearest case. In it lay the bones
of a young woman, discovered during an extension to an office building in
Clapham. The text said she was just over a century old.
Are you aware of each other then? Cate directed her thought
question to the Clapham skeleton.
Yes, we’ve been together a month now. You’re the first person to talk to us.
But I have met one of your kind before. Your grandmother, many many years ago. The skeleton to Cate’s right, a man from Wapping, chipped in to the conversation.
You met my grandmother?
I did. She was a wonderful woman. A talented Bone Talker.
Cate smiled despite herself. Daniel spoke to her but Cate ignored him, his words drowned out by the ponderous musings of the skeletons. The three nearest to her told her their stories, stories which completely contradicted the conclusions drawn by the scientists who tested their bones.
So all of this stuff about you being a child prostitute in
Bishopsgate is nonsense? thought Cate. A deep resounding chuckle boomed in her
Not at all. I sold meat in Leadenhall Market, died of
overwork. We think the men in white coats make things up. They certainly don’t
listen to us.
Not like you, dearie, added the Clapham skeleton.
Something shook Cate’s arm. She snapped from her reverie and looked up into the face of a security guard.
“You alright, miss?”
“You sure? Only it’s almost closing time. I hate to ask you
to leave, but…” The security guard turned the act of looking at the clock into
a pantomime gesture.
“That’s ok. I must have lost track of time. They’re
fascinating specimens,” said Cate.
“Really? I think the whole thing’s creepy.”
The security guard wandered off and began switching off the
lights in the display cases. Cate looked around to find Daniel.
The bastard’s gone and left me here, she thought.
If it’s any consolation, you’re better off without ‘im. He
was sayin’ some awful things while you was talkin’ to us, replied the Clapham
Yes. Real rotter, that one.
Oh…well I have to go now. It’s been wonderful to speak to you.
You too. Come back, won’t you?
Cate left the room and trudged down the darkened corridor
towards the entrance. Drizzle coated the pavement outside, and she walked back
towards the busy London street. People hurried to and fro, heads bent to avoid
the rain – or maybe just eye contact. Cate cast a longing look back at the
museum before plunging into the crowd. They carried her towards the warmth and
stale air of the tube station. A single thought occupied her mind as she reached
Are any of these people Bone Talkers? Will I ever meet anyone like me?
She heard a single 'yes'.