breathing bones // return to fiction

Wow, writing this piece was definitely more of a struggle than any of the others I’ve written recently, but it does mark my return to fiction writing or fiction style writing for the first time in a while. Figuring out transitions and how this piece was going to flow from beginning to end were probably two of the hardest things I had to overcome while writing this one, which sort of threw me for a loop.

 

At any rate, this piece is based off a passage from Ezekiel 37, and I thought that adapting and reimagining something already in existence would be a good exercise to stretch out my stiff fiction writing muscles. Hopefully this will spur on some more fiction writing and energy in the next few days, but for the moment, I’m just glad I was able to get through this piece.

 

breathing bones

Warm streams of wind spiraled around me as the mist cleared from my eyes. The churning air beneath my feet ceased its whistle and began to settle as the familiar edges of gravel and stone greeted me underfoot. Safely on the ground again, I turned and surveyed the land from where I stood at the southern mouth of a brown, deadened and dry vale, craggy walls jutting upward at steep angles on either side. All along its entire length dirt-stained boulders and rocks were strewn, of many strange shapes and sizes, some elongated, some round and smooth. Only when I started into the gradually widening corridor formed by the stone walls to my right and to my left did I realize they were not stones at all. I raised a hand to my mouth in shock as my eyes widened. Littered throughout the valley bed was an endless pit of bones reaching as far as I could see, a mass grave completely dehydrated from a years’ long bath in the sun’s rays. Skulls lay with their faces turned toward the heavens, and a thousand hands poked through the skeletal debris, futilely grasping for the sky.

 

As I traversed the desert basin where a river surely must have once flowed, brittle calcium fragments cracking and snapping below my feet, a golden light shone down from the cloudless expanse above, taking the form of a ball of light flanked by soft, hazy halos of the same color. Startled, I recoiled from the light, but a warm voice emanated from within its brilliance.

 

“Child of this earth, tell me, can these bones once more return to life and breathe in the air I’ve created to fill their empty lungs?”

 

“Father of Lights,” my voice began, shaking but gaining stability, “you alone know the answer to this question you pose.”

 

“You have spoken wisely, my son,” the voice replied. “Now, lift your arms to me and turn your face heavenward as these souls have done. Prophesy to these people of dust with the words I shall give you, and you shall see for yourself the answer.”

 

Turning from the light to face the valley of withered bones, I lifted my arms to the sun above and began to speak. At the same time, the earth below trembled and a slab of rock heaved itself away from the surrounding dirt, forming a platform for myself and the ball of light above the rest of the ravine so that I could see all of the lifeless bodies I addressed.

 

“Dry bones and thirsty souls, hear the words of the Father! Look now, for he will restore the breath to your lungs and cause you to live once again. He will rebuild your bodies with flesh and muscle and wrap your sinewy frames in skin, and then he shall breathe his breath into your sleeping souls again to call you back to life. By this resurrection, you will know who he is.”

 

Once the words had left my lips, the entire valley began to rattle and shake, all the bones knocking against each other, moved by a force I had never before seen. All at once, the bones were drawn to each other like magnetism and began to assemble themselves into complete bodies, erecting a ghastly skeletal legion before my eyes. Stepping back in awe, I watched as ribbons of red and yellow light then whirled around these incomplete frames, drawing tendons and muscles onto the bone as they glided between the ranks, and when they were finished, they flew over in a second pass, dressing their humanoid features with flesh. As the lights spun around themselves into the sky, dispersing over the barrenness of the canyon, an assembly of fully formed bodies was left standing before me, heads bowed in submission. Yet, they were still. Though restored in body, lungs still lacked breath.

 

The sphere of light pulsated at my side, drawing my attention, and then spoke again. “Now, prophesy to the winds, child of earth. Tell these children how they will be restored and it shall be done.”

 

Stepping to the front of my little platform once more, I held my arms out at my sides and called to the multitude before me. “As the Father of Lights has spoken, let life and breath flow in from the four winds. Come and breathe into these dead bodies so that they may life again and the light be returned to their sleeping souls!”

 

Before the words were even off my tongue a thunderous current rushed through the valley, roaring between the earthen walls on either side of me. Steeling myself against the force of the air, I looked to the light beside me as dust and stone cut through the air, carried by the hands of the wind. The gusts threatened to throw us from the stone pillar we stood on, but the light only pulsated, as if to nod towards the valley below.

 

Throughout the deadened basin a white mist had rolled in, led by the gale. Weaving between the undead bodies, streams of mist twisted about each of the figures, adorning them in battle clothes and forming swords, shields, and bows and arrows in their hands before funneling themselves into the mouths of the soldiers, filling their lungs and beckoning them back to the realm of the living. At once, the soldiers’ eyes opened with a piercing gleam in each one, and they once again turned their faces to the sky. Inhaling and gasping for breath like a swimmer saved from drowning, the whole crowd began to cough and heave and breathe all along the length of the valley where their bones had once been scattered. Now rather than a sea of bones, they comprised a great army as they regained their breath and stood in formation before the risen pillar on which I stood.

 

The light then lilted to my side and pulsed again, as if to put a hand on my shoulder, before saying, “Child of earth, these bones represent my chosen people, a people that was once dead and a people that I am now restoring to life. While they were still asleep, they called out to me, saying that they had become nothing but old, dry bones, all their hope evaporating into the desert air like the moisture from their deceased flesh. They believed their nation was extinct, like creatures of old, but I have a new message for them, so prophesy to my people once more to tell them what I have to say.”

 

With the light beside me, I once again stood before the army gathered in the valley below, looking over the now endless crowd of living and breathing bodies, with light once again shining in their eyes and the air they breathed in once again nourishing their newly revived spirits. Closing my eyes, I felt the words well up inside of me, allowing them to flow out of me as I looked over this crowd.

 

“Listen to what the Father of Lights says, you dry bones who have been restored. He says that he will exhume your graves of exile and desolation and cause you to rise again. He will bring you back to the land you one inhabited, and when this comes to pass, you will know who he is. He will return his spirit to your bodies and you will live again in your homeland. Then, you will know that he has spoken and done what he promised he would do, for this is what he has spoken.”

 

At these words, a tremendous cry swelled from the ranks, quickly filling the valley until the sound burst up from the fractured earth. All the soldiers lifted their faces to the heavens and jabbed their arms in the air as the ball of light cast golden beams across the valley, dispelling any shadows from the walls and shining on every face. And as the cheers died down, each one in the army mirrored the next in turn, bringing one fist to his or her chest and then kneeling in the dirt and dust before the light that illuminated the valley that was once filled with corpses but was now filled with rejuvenated souls.

 

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