It was raining in Gilead.
Pulling his hood a little tighter around his head, the traveler ducked under an awning. He left his hand under the water running off the rooftops, feeling how it pounded into his flesh. The rainwater stuttered against his hand, scattering droplets all across his faded brown cloak.
Jonas had come home.
Hearing movement from across the street, he immediately ducked behind a nearby barrel. Peeking out from behind it, Jonas saw what he expected. A skeleton, green pinpricks of light in its eye sockets. It still wore the rags of its former life, a faded blue tunic and a leather apron. Its bony feet clacked against the cobblestones. The traveler’s eyes widened — It’s old Haccomb, the butcher, I’m sure of it!
Tears came to his eyes, and Jonas sank down behind the barrel again. His nose began to run, and he wiped it away on his sleeve.
A puddle caught his reflection — blue eyes in a young face, a poor excuse for a beard downing his chin. A squire lost from his knight.
Breathing shallowly, Jonas unsheathed his sword. It was good steel, plain except for an odd notch near the hilt. Saying a prayer for Haccomb’s soul, he rose and turned to face the skeleton.
Four skeletons. A fifth rounding the corner. Their rags give Jonas quiet clues, naming other old friends.
Sucking in air too fast, Jonas chokes — then swallows a scream. Dropping his sword into a ready position, he moves toward Haccomb.
The blade swings. It crunches into the rib cage of the first skeleton, but thin arms still reach. Dancing backwards, Jonas slashes downward, scattering flecks of bone. The Haccomb skeleton stutters forward again and is met with a flash of steel, severing rib cage from pelvis. The squire, if that is what he is, kicks the legs apart as they continue forward.
The other four are upon him. Jonas wipes the rainwater quickly from his face. His lips part, and he cries.