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Losing Yourself


         I decided to run away on the day of my birthday. Well, not really, because I would be running the night before, but the principle was the same. My parents would be the ones getting a lovely surprise. Their only daughter would be gone when they woke up. Gone in the rain that had been steadily pressing down on north Zeroit, where I and my family had decided to live.

         I had it all planned out. I was going to go to an abandoned apartment exactly 17.7 miles away, where who knows what took place or who resided there. I only saw it in the daytime, and I didn’t know who was there in the nighttime. But I would soon find out, because my birthday was in five days. I had better get packing.

I suppose I should be grateful that my parents were such hiking freaks. I had side panniers on my bike, and that was where I wanted to store most of my things. There, and in my backpack, which was large enough to carry a fair amount of items.

         I guess I should at least say why I’m leaving. My mother recently married again, to a man named Toby Caltien. She never dated him around me, so I never got to warn her of how horrible of a man he was. He hit me when he knew she wasn’t looking, he would walk in on me changing and would blame it on me, and he verbally abused me, even when he knew my mom was in the room. But she never did anything about it because she was blinded by love. I know all about being blinded by love. That’s how my first, second, and fourth boyfriends abused me. I was too stupid and naive to see the warning signs. I just wish my mother would snap out of it. I love her and only wish that she would love me again. Nowadays, she has love for him and him only.

         It’s sad but it’s true. Now you see the reason I have to leave my home that I have known for so many years. My master plan includes getting a side job and getting the hell out of Zeroit. This place was once a great hub for business and commerce, but now it is only another abandoned town with nobody to live in the apartments or houses and nobody to work the jobs.

         But, back to running away. I had packed all of my clothes and shit I needed into bags, and had haphazardly attached them to my bike. I took a quick three hour nap before my alarm on my phone woke me up at exactly 11:03 in the night. I snuck out of my bedroom window and pulled my bike out of the garage. I took a good look back at the house, closed my eyes, and pushed my bike into the road.

         The rain was falling softly, and I was thankful for my warm coat, even if it would get soaked in the rain. I should have brought a poncho, but it was too late for that now. I would have to regret it later. I need to get to the abandoned apartment before the day came. I couldn’t get seen out in the daylight. I made it to the abandoned apartment in the rain and carried my bike up the stairs and into one of the apartments. There was mildew crawling up the walls and scattered newspapers on the floor. So far so good. Too good, actually. I was suspicious. 

         I set my sleeping bag and pad onto the floor and sighed. This was all hard work. I didn’t want to sleep yet though, so I just closed my eyes and rested there for a long time.

Before I knew it, I was asleep.

         One month ago, I was enrolled into a residential treatment center. The situation there wasn't great, in fact it was less than satisfactory. While my family is great and I wouldn’t ever dream of leaving them, I have always entertained the idea of running away. Well, at residential I finally got the chance to run away. I was planning on going back to my family before I realized that, however hard it was, residential would really help me in the long run. I made it about 200 meters through hard brush before giving up about running away. 

         I suppose my attempt at running away was quite pathetic, but I really wanted to write a story where the main character successfully ran away and found a new life with new people and new places. I wanted Iri’nyla (the main character in this story) to have a good life where she enjoyed her time away from home and doesn’t let anything get in her way.

         I guess what I’m trying to say is that most people never get the chance to run away from their problems in life. They are stubborn and resiliently determined to stay with things until it beats them down and puts them into a box most people call a coffin. But sometimes it is best to run away, especially if it keeps you alive. I’m not saying that residential killed me, but I did lose a bit of my innocence and naïveté there. And losing yourself is something that no person should endure. 

A Utilitarian Argument for Morality


       In the story The Ring of Gyges, a man obtains a magic ring allowing him to turn invisible, which he then uses to obtain wealth and power without any accountability for his immoral actions. While of course this story is a fable, it does bring up the question of whether or not moral behavior is beneficial to the individual. For the sake of this argument, let us disregard religious views, as in many of those moral behaviors lead to unambiguous good for the individual. This will only refer to mortal life. Even so, being altruistic and working towards bettering the group in the end will benefit the individual more than if they simply acted selfishly.

The animal kingdom is often cited as a selfish and violent environment, where it is every individual for themselves. If one looks closer, however, one can see completely unrelated animals cooperating and even giving up resources to another, unrelated individual. For example, a puma might share its surplus food with another puma even though it is feeding a competitor. This may seem like it would be selected against, but it ends up more evenly distributing resources across the species. An animal that steals food or is unwilling to share will likely not be allowed to scavenge off of another’s kill in the future, and thus be less likely to survive on lean times. This applies to people as well. If you steal from someone or scam someone, they are not going to just continue to be altruistic to you. In a world where people have memories and remember transgressions, immoral behavior ends up having a short term benefit but worse long term consequences.

       Group cohesion from moral behavior is also a general net good. Social cooperation allows for greater rewards for the whole group more than any individual could dream of obtaining on their own. Whether that be a bigger kill from a hunt, or a bigger tent to survive the winter, or a new road for easier transport, altruistic individuals working together can achieve much greater feats. Acting selfishly in these environments might net you some gain, but it could lead to exclusion from these advancements and thus is a detriment to you.

       This utilitarian argument does fall apart when taken to its extreme. Putting oneself in harm’s way to protect the group is not beneficial to the individual, and therefore isn’t a logical action.             

        Although the benefits to the group may be large, the person sacrificing their health or even their life may not see any of the benefits. So why do people do it anyways? Because it is fulfilling. Due to the benefits of group behavior, our brains have been programmed by evolution to feel good when doing altruistic acts, even to the detriment of survival in extreme cases. Such practices, no matter if they bring fulfillment, should logically be avoided due to lacking any net gain for the individual. But the benefit in one’s psyche of helping others cannot be overlooked.

       Although one may be tempted to act selfishly when observing the short term gains, such an act is illogical in a world with accountability and memory. Being altruistic can lead to reciprocal acts from others, larger gains than ever possible from working alone, and perhaps even personal fulfillment and long-term happiness.

Becoming The Princess


       When I was twelve years old, I wore a full face of makeup for the first time. It was for the school’s performance of We Will Rock You, a celebration of the rock band Queen (I played Freddie Mercury). I kept the tube of mascara (CoverGirl), the container of foundation (Maybelline), and the dollar store sponges (Walgreens Signature) that remained after the show. Every day when I got home from school, I perfected my makeup. I would lie to my mom and say that I had stomach issues before vanishing into the bathroom for forty-five minutes. After a few weeks of this, she got so concerned that she took me to the doctor. 

       I hid the makeup among rolls of toilet paper in a brown, unlabeled bag that sat beneath the sink. I would blink into my mascara and bounce the sponge across my skin, and for the first time since kindergarten I felt whole. I would erase every trace of pigment before someone could see. 

       One day I came home and the bag was gone. My heart broke a bit. I understood, though, that it was probably the right thing. Boys aren’t meant to wear makeup. 

       When I “went to the bathroom” and saw a blank reflection staring back at me, I remembered the times I was made fun of for painting my nails in kindergarten: how little boys ostracized me, not wanting to touch me during tag. I recalled the strange looks adults would give me when I said I wanted to be like Ariel, the Little Mermaid. I saw the discomfort on their faces when I talked about how enchanted I was that she was able to change herself. The story of being stuck between two worlds and not being able to choose especially resonated with me, and her final decision to pick her own happiness and live on the surface world was incredibly impactful for reasons that I did not understand.

       The more I grew the more I tried to escape from my feelings about myself. When I started to go through puberty, I felt disgusted with my body. When I Googled why, I found out that it was a normal teenage thing. All teenagers were supposed to be unhappy with their bodies. To me, it didn’t feel normal. The more that I tried to feel comfortable with my body the less it felt like it was mine.

       My coping grew more and more damaging as I journeyed through my adolescent years. My escapism using books led to escapism using bottles. After leaving residential treatment the first time, I realized I still didn’t see myself in the mirror. My shoulders were too wide. My voice wasn't feminine enough. My neck stuck out. My feet were too big. Wasn’t I supposed to be fixed? Didn’t I deserve to finally be at peace with myself?  But I wasn’t, and that must mean that I could never be fully healed. 

       Around that time I came out as non-binary. It still didn’t feel right. 

       I only felt at home in my body when I was wearing a skirt. I saw my reflection as a problem that I needed to solve: I should be toned, I should be skinnier, and I should wear nicer clothes. Then I could finally enjoy the person that I was. 

       I started abusing drugs again, and I was sent back to treatment after a year.

       What was wrong with me? I obviously had a drug problem, but I still never understood why I couldn’t wear shorts after I turned 12, why using the men’s restroom made me viscerally uncomfortable, and why I hated pictures of myself no matter how good they looked. Just existing in my body was like having a garden where I constantly removed weeds, but no matter how diligent I was with the removal they grew at a pace that I couldn’t keep up with. And eventually the weeds got so tall that I couldn’t see anything. Why could I never fully accept myself? I had finally gotten “fixed” for the last time, getting sober and finishing my journey. I had pulled out the most difficult parts of myself, but it didn’t feel like I had changed at all. 

       In my last two weeks at my treatment center, I remember sitting by the pool with a friend. It was the first time that I had been wearing shorts in the blistering heat, and we were tanning. I closed my eyes any time that I saw my legs. I looked at her and said, “I wish I was born a girl.” It was the first time I had admitted it to anyone in a serious way. There was no joke, no punchline, no follow-up. “Why don’t you transition?” she replied. I didn’t think she understood. I wanted to already be a girl, not to become one. I didn’t want to be seen as a little boy stuck between two worlds, one foot and one flipper. The words hovered in the air, warming to the summer heat. I was silent as my legs burned. 

       The last time I saw her, she hugged me and whispered, “I hope you find the courage to be yourself.” I immediately felt nervous, worrying that other people would hear her. When I was discharged, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the time I had missed. I hit more and more sobriety milestones, involved myself in clubs, extracurriculars, and advanced classes to try to escape. Instead of removing my weeds with drugs, I removed them with perfectionism, but still they grew. Once the weeds realized that I knew what was wrong, they multiplied with an unrelenting fervor. 

I didn’t want to go through the pain of transitioning. But I still let myself begin to research the process. I allowed myself only 15 minutes a day, setting a timer on my phone to make sure I didn’t cheat. The more I learned, though, the harder it was to have self-control. 

       For a long time I felt like I was ungrateful. I’ve had so many friends who are female-to-male that wish for my body like I wish for theirs. But I didn’t want to be born as a boy. I wished that I got to have those parts of myself without having to transition. On the other hand, that didn’t mean I deserved to be miserable. The pain of waiting hurt more than the hypothetical pain of transitioning. The moment I acknowledged it, I could feel the weeds tentatively pause their growth for the first time. Once I came out, they started to wither. 

       I am not the little kid who got made fun of for painting their nails, and I am not trying to run from who I am anymore. I’ve chosen my world, and I have grown my own pair of legs to walk forward on my path of self-acceptance. I frequently have acrylics, and every time I drum them across the table, I hear my younger self’s shoes slamming against the pavement. My makeup collection is difficult to contain, held in monogrammed bags and displayed as decoration. I don stunning red lips with crimson nails, and twirl in plaid skirts that gather around my boots. 

       Transition isn't about wearing women’s clothing and getting your nails done. It is about a deep and profound understanding of yourself. You finally realize your place in the world. 

       The face in the mirror is now my own. I don’t shy away from the camera lens: if you opened my camera roll, you would find hundreds of selfies. I have cultivated a flourishing garden, tending to each section with loving attention. The weeds are nowhere in sight. 

The Laughing  Skeleton


       It was the middle of November, a bright full moon lingered overhead, illuminating the poorly lit highway. I had been tasked with writing about interesting legends and stories from towns in this region. My untouched notebook and unused pen rested in the passenger seat. I had visited four towns so far, and not a single one was able to give me anything interesting. The last town I visited claimed that all of the rabbits were Soviet sleeper agents. 

       I would’ve given up hours ago if the citizens of every town I visited hadn’t all whispered the name “Hidden Forest”, when I asked if they had any interesting stories. I quickly looked up the town and decided it was worth checking out. Suddenly, my engine sputtered, a telltale sign I was running low on gas. I desperately looked around for any signs pointing towards a gas station. I hadn’t seen any buildings in hours. I heard my truck's engine begin to sputter more and more. 

       I was about to give up and pull over when my truck's lights fell onto a beat up sign reading ‘Creekville, .5 miles, Hidden Forest, 10 miles.’ There was a left arrow next to Creekville and a forward arrow next to Hidden Forest. I decided to take a left, I desperately needed gas. 

       I pulled into the gas station and got out; the air was far more frigid than I was expecting. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and checked out the first pump. Someone had taped a piece of paper with ‘Out of Order’ hastily scribbled on to it. The second pump also had a similar piece of paper taped to it. I looked around, desperate to find a working pump. I didn’t have enough gas to go any further. 

       I stepped into the gas station, it was deserted. Nobody was sitting behind the counter and nobody was browsing the shelves. I spotted a teenager with a full head of curly hair mopping a nearby aisle. 

       “Hey!” I called to him, “Is there a working pump around here?”

       The teenager looked up from the floor. “Mr. Crandal probably knows. He’ll be back soon.”

       “How soon?” I asked. “I’m trying to reach Hidden Forest before midnight.”

       Suddenly, a door behind the counter swung open, revealing who I could only assume was Mr. Crandal. He was a short man with gray hair and a large mustache. He had a bent nametag taped to his chest verifying he was indeed Mr. Crandal. He wore a cap with the words ‘Creekville Cougars’ printed on it. His face struck me as the type that never smiled. Right now it was twisted into a scowl.

       “Hidden Forest, you head down there and all those folks will do is pump you full of baloney,” Mr. Crandal grumbled. “If you want a REAL local legend, you’re in the right place.” He closed the door behind him and sat down behind the counter. 

       “Are you going to tell him about the Scorched Doctor?” The teenager mopping the nearby aisle asked. 

       “Bah! The Scorched Doctor is a bunch of garbage!” Mr. Crandal snapped. 

       Mr. Crandal turned to face me, looking me in the eyes. 

       “I’ll tell you a real story, the story of the Laughing Skeleton.”

       Before I could respond, he launched into the tale. 

       It all happened fifteen years ago. It was late October and fall was finally beginning to set in. The temperature had plummeted. I was walking home after work, when I heard laughing. I thought nothing of it at first. A loony drunk, most likely. But as I continued walking I heard footsteps, footsteps that sounded far too dry and solid to be the sound of shoes on pavement. In a panic, I turned around and saw him, the Laughing Skeleton. There was nothing malicious looking about the fella, but at the time I was so flabbergasted about seeing a moving skeleton I ran as fast as I could. Didn’t stop till I was home with the doors locked and the curtains drawn. I sat in silence for a moment or two. I thought I had given it the slip, but then I heard the doorbell ring. I was hesitant, but the ringing continued, so I answered the door. There stood that skeleton, his already wide grin seeming to grow wider. 

       “What do you call a skeleton that’s made of jelly?” He asked me.

       I couldn’t think of a response, I was so startled I must’ve looked like a ghost.

       “A jellyton!” The Skeleton finished, exploding into laughter. 

       Again, I was so rattled that I couldn’t laugh, even if I wanted to, it’s not every day you see a walking skeleton. 

       “Why can’t a skeleton play the organ?” he asked me. 

       I swallowed hard and answered, “Because he doesn’t know how?”

       “Because he doesn’t have any!” The Skeleton’s laughter was deafening, I thought for sure my windows were going to shatter.

       “What’s the matter?” The Skeleton asked me, realizing I wasn’t laughing. “Lost your funny bone?” 

       All I could do was nod.

       The Skeleton nodded back. “I understand. Next time, I won’t be a dead ringer!” He stepped off my porch and continued down the street, laughing the whole way.”  

       Mr. Crandal sighed, “He was an awfully nice fella, for a living skeleton.”

       “Is that the end of the story?” I asked.

       “Goodness no!” Mr. Crandal cried, “There is much more to tell.” 

       “Now, Creekville isn’t the type of town to have strange phenomenons like that happen. This had shaken me quite a bit. I asked as many people as I could, but none could recall seeing nor hearing a laughing skeleton. I thought I had lost my marbles and imagined the entire thing. But the next night, I was walkin’ home again, and there he was. In the exact same spot.

       “There you are!” the skeleton cried, “I was starting to feel bonely!” 

       I stopped and stared at the skeleton, wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me. It sure did seem like a skeleton, I could see clear through the gaps in the bones. 

       “What’s the matter? Still don’t have your funny bone?” the Skeleton asked, sounding strangely concerned. 

       “I guess not,” I replied.

       The Skeleton plucked a bone from his arm and offered it to me. 

       “This is my funny bone,” he said, “It’s what makes me so funny. Without it I’m just a regular skeleton.”

       I pushed the bone back to the skeleton. “You can keep it, I don’t need any more bones.”

The Skeleton popped the bone back into its arm. “I’ve offered my funny bone to several people, but no-BODY wants it!” The Skeleton started laughing again. I took the opportunity to slip by him again. He seemed like an awfully nice fella, but I’ve never been much of a joke person, and a talking skeleton really gave me the heebie jeebies. 

       The Skeleton didn’t follow me home that night. If I had to guess, he probably got distracted by the Halloween decorations people were starting to put up. Halloween was only a week away, after all. That didn’t change the fact that every night after work, The Skeleton would meet me in the same spot and follow me home, cracking jokes the entire time. Some nights I would respond with my own jokes, which weren’t very good, yet he still seemed to find them amusing. Usually I’d try to simply ignore the fella. 

       It was October 30th, and I was trying to get home as quickly as I could. A cold front had set in during the day, and I was freezing. The Skeleton’s laugh cut through the air, like it always did. He ran up beside me, mock chattering his teeth. 

       “What’s the matter? You sound like me after I see Dr. Bein!”

       Something about that sentence struck a nerve with me. I couldn’t help but to ask who that was.

       The Skeleton stopped smiling, which was a strange sight to see. “He was this doctor from Iceland, real miserable too. I’ve never seen such a miserable bunch of bones. So he created a real funny bone!” 

       I grimaced, realizing what this meant. “You stole it, didn’t you?”

       The Skeleton grinned, “I did. I wasn’t caught. If I was, I’d be tossed in a rib cage!” He burst out laughing again. “I shouldn’t laugh, Dr. Bein wasn’t just miserable, he was meaner than a hippo skeleton. He’s really got a bone to pick with me.”

       “So you stole his funny bone?”

       The Skeleton shrugged, “It wouldn’t work on someone as angry and miserable as him, I could feel it in my bones.” 

       “Do you think he’s gonna try to take it back?”

       The Skeleton stayed silent for a minute. “I don’t know.” 

       “I’m gonna head home,” I said, feeling uneasy. 

       “I bet you have a skele-ton of work to do.” The Skeleton said, “I’ll see you soon!”

       With that I headed home, feeling colder than ever. As I was walking, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being watched. 

       On Halloween night, I couldn’t help but notice that the skeleton didn’t greet me after work. I walked all the way home, hoping to find him, but he never showed. Every time the doorbell rang I opened it, hoping it was him. But it was always just kids trick or treating. 

As the hours ticked by I began to lose hope. I figured he was probably out telling jokes to trick or treaters. I was about to head to bed, just before midnight, when I heard a hard knock on my window. I open the shutters to find a large skeleton staring at me.

       “gefðu mér fyndna beinið!” The large skeleton shouted in an icelandic accent. 

       “What?” I shouted back.

       “Give me back the funny bone!” the large skeleton demanded, knocking harder on the window. The glass was starting to crack. 

       I stormed over to my front door and opened it. “I don’t have your funny bone!” I told him. 

The Large Skeleton leaned forward. “You are lying. Jerry Spinefield does not have the bone, so you must have it.” 

       “Who?” I asked. 

       The large skeleton roared, “You’ve been meeting with him every day for the past week and you don’t even know his name? The skeleton that tells jokes! He stole my funny bone. And he must have given it to you!” 

       “Wait,” I said, slowly piecing everything together. “Are you Dr. Bein?”

       “Of course I am!” Dr. Bein roared. “Now give me back my funny bone, or I’ll have to take yours!” 

       I didn’t have the bone, so I fled, there was no way I’d be able to outrun the skeleton for long. He was about two foot taller than me. I rounded the corner into the next neighborhood, surprisingly, not a single trick or treater was still out, despite the fact that it was only half past eleven. I dived into a bush and held my breath. 

       “Hey pal! What's the matter? You look rattled!” 

       I turned around to see the Skeleton, who I now knew as Jerry Spinefeld. He was rattling his bones to mimic me. 

       “Dr. Bein is after me!” I cried, “He really wants the funny bone.” 

       Jerry frowned, “He thinks you have it?”

       I pointed to the giant skeleton, who was knocking over trash cans trying to find me. 

Jerry giggled. “I guess I have no choice but to give up the bone. I’d rather be humorless than have my best friend become a skeleton too.”

       He rose from the bushes and removed the bone from his arm. “Heyrðu, sjáðu þetta!” He shouted to Dr. Bein. 

       Dr. Bein turned his head like an owl. “Give me back that bone!” 

       Jerry fled, with Dr. Bein close behind. I remained hidden in the bushes. 

       Unfortunately, Jerry couldn’t outrun Dr. Bein quickly caught up with him and hoisted him off the ground. 

       “The bone.” Dr. Bein demanded. 

       “I think you’ve watched too much skelevision!” Jerry replied, “There’s no such thing as a bone that makes you funny!”

       “Really?” Dr. Bein growled, “Let’s see if it still doesn’t exist after I remove your right arm. There was a pop as Dr. Bein removed his arm.

       “Nooo!” Jerry cried, “How can I play the trom-bone now?!” 

       I was still crouching in the bushes, I wanted to help but there was no way I could stand up to a giant skeleton. Then I spotted the lid of a trash can glinting in the moonlight, which gave me an idea.

       Dr. Bein flipped over Jerry and began shaking him around. “If you won’t give it to me, I’ll just shake you until it falls out!” 

       “Hey!” I shouted, clutching the trash can lid. “Leave him alone!”

       Dr. Bein stopped shaking Jerry and turned to face me. 

       I flung the trash can lid like a frisbee. It slammed directly into Dr. Bein’s knee. He roared in pain and dropped Jerry, who quickly reattached his arm and fled down the street. 

This neighborhood was built on a cliff just above a river. The river used to be a creek, which was where the town got its name from, but decades of rainstorms and erosion had turned it into a raging river even on the sunniest days. Most of the houses were built on the edge of the cliff, giving them very little backyard room and a large dropoff past the fence. 

       Jerry darted through the backyard of a bright yellow house and vaulted over a fence. He stood on the edge of the cliff, waving the funny bone around like a flag. Dr. Bein crashed through the fence a few seconds later. 

       “Give me back the bone, now.” He said angrily. 

       “If you want the bone back so bad, come and get it,” Jerry said. He turned and threw it off the edge.

       “Noooooo!” Dr. Beinn shouted as the bone bounced off the rocks and plunked into the river. He dove off the cliff as well, but due to his large size he didn’t fly as far. He tumbled down the cliff, breaking apart. He finally came to a stop in the river at the bottom of the cliff. Due to the grayness of his bones, it looked like the river was now full of boulders. If I didn’t know any better I’d assume there was some sort of landslide.  

       Jerry sat down on the edge of the cliff and patted the ground next to him. I didn’t really want to sit at the edge of a cliff, but I did anyway. 

       “Now that the funny bone is gone, are you just gonna be a normal skeleton now.” 

       “I guess so,” Jerry replied sadly, “Suddenly, skeleton puns feel less funny to me.” 

       “Come on,” I pleaded, “There’s no way you lost your sense of humor, nobody ever has, even Napoleon Bone-aparte.”

       The Skeleton turned to me. “That’s not funny,” He said. 

       “Don’t worry, I’m sure the detective Sherlock Bone’s can find a joke that is.” 

       Jerry made a noise that sounded like him trying to hold in a laugh.

       “How much do skeleton elephants weigh?” 

       Jerry shrugged.

       “A skele-ton!” 

       Jerry dissolved into a fit of giggles. “That one was good.”

       And so we kept telling jokes until the sun began to rise. The sun lit up Jerry's empty eye sockets. 

       “It’s time for me to go.” He said, there was a melancholic tone in his voice, yet at the same time it also sounded like he was about to tell another joke. 

       “I’m glad you found my jokes ‘humerus’.” I said.

       Jerry laughed and waved goodbye.

       “I hope you won’t feel too bone-ly without me.” He said

       With that, Jerry turned around and started down the street. Only stopping to tell one final joke to a very startled group of teenagers holding rolls of toilet paper. 

       Mr. Crandal took a deep breath. “And that’s the tale of the Laughing Skeleton.”

       “Wow,” I said, “That was quite the story.” 

       “Yes sir.” Mr. Crandal said, dragging a canister of gas out to my car. 

       “What happened to the funny bone?” I asked while Mr. Crandal poured gas into my truck’s tank. 

       He shrugged, “I have no idea. I came back to the river with a group of friends, but the bones just looked like boulders to them. We searched the river for hours and didn’t find it.

       “Did you ever see Jerry again?” 

       Mr. Crandal shook his head. “I’d go back to the same spot every year, he never showed up.” 

He poured out the last of the gas into the tank. “That should be enough to get you decently far.”

       “Thanks for the gas.” I said 

       Mr. Crandal nodded, “No problem kid. Where you off to now?”

       “I think I’m gonna check out Hidden Forest.”

       “Don’t waste your time kid, if you want fake scary stories, there’s one right here in town.”

       “Maybe so, but the missing person cases seem legitimate. I don’t think it would hurt to check out.”

       Mr. Crandal shook his head. “Don’t come crawlin’ back here when your report is a bust.”

       “I won’t.” 

       I sat down in the driver's seat and started the engine. I took a deep breath and prepared for the long drive ahead. As I was pulling out of the gas station, I swear I heard a laugh. 




  1. What is the laughing skeleton's real name?


  1. What does a skeleton watch ghostbusters on?


  1. Why is the Laughing Skeleton so funny? 


  1. What is the name of the gas store clerk? 


  1. When does the final fight against Dr. Bein take place?


  1. What does Dr. Bein mean in English? 


  1. Was the journalist's name revealed in the story?


  1. How many pages is the story? 


  1. How tall is Dr. Bein?


  1.  Where is the journalist going next? 



What is the Laughing Skeleton’s best joke? 

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