It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more
The only real surprise was that I was surprised. In a place built to remember those who lived before, I should have expected to see others like me. Especially here, where Dr. Brennan put so much effort into caring for the dead. Of course there would be others.
But none of that occurred to me until I saw them.
At the end of the first day away from my hill, the sunlight faded into twilight and her people left and then she left, walking out with her arm tucked in Booth's. Even though it was late, it wasn't completely dark and the space wasn't completely empty. Guards with badges and guns walked through the rooms. They nodded at the people who were still working and then said goodbye as those people finished their tasks and began to leave. The guards rattled locked doors and tested secured cabinets and then ambled off to do the same thing somewhere else. I had almost decided to follow one of them, just to see if I could, when something made me look back.
A man stood several feet away. He had skin the color of burnt charcoal and dark hair streaked with silver that was twisted into uneven braids and curls. He wore a grey cloak and old fashioned light brown robes and below the hem, his feet were bare.
And he was looking at me. Not just in my direction and not through me or around me or above me. He was looking at me.
He could see me.
"You are one of hers."
I wasn't sure if his voice existed only in my head or if that deep timbre was as loud in the silent room as it sounded. But I nodded, because I knew instinctively what he meant. There was only one person he could be talking about.
"Are you one of hers, too?"
I'm not sure why I whispered but it felt appropriate to speak to this man in whispers.
"No, child. I am one of the lost."
He turned his back on me and began to walk away. After a few steps, he looked over his shoulder.
I hurried to catch up.
"Who are you? What's your name?"
"My name has long been forgotten." It was a strange answer but he added a smile so I knew he wasn't upset that I asked such a rude question.
He led me to a long hallway lined with white boxes filled with more bones and standing in front of those boxes, watching us as we passed by, they waited. The others.
When the narrow corridor opened into a square room layered to the ceiling with even more boxes and even more bones, they moved in, too, until they surrounded us. I turned slowly in a circle, looking at the boxes and at the people looking back at me.
"Is there someone for every box?"
My guide shook his head. "No."
An old woman in a long pale gown stared at me. "Are you hers?"
I knew she meant Dr. Brennan.
Whispers moved through the room like wind blowing in the leaves of a tree.
"I'm hers, too," said a small boy in old-fashioned cuffed denim jeans.
A young woman standing next to him sighed and twirled a long curl that lay over one shoulder.
"I am one of the lost." She wore a floor length white gown, belted loosely at her waist with a strip of braided cord. It left her arms bare and fluttered around her sandal-shod feet.
I didn't understand. I looked at my guide again.
"What's the difference? What does it mean, to be one of the lost?"
"To be lost means only the Great Spirit remembers your name."
The rumbling voice came from behind me and I turned to see a tall, russet-skinned man staring down at me. He had two streaks of red paint on one cheek and across his bare chest and the long, rectangular piece of leather tied around his waist left his legs bare from his hips to the tops of the moccasins that laced up his calves.
A soldier in a low-brimmed hat and a dusty uniform with cavalry insignia on the shoulder stepped forward.
"I remember my name, Chief. It's . . ." He paused and glanced at my guide, too. "Josiah?"
When my guide nodded, the soldier nodded firmly.
"Josiah. See, I knew it was Josiah."
The Indian lifted one black eyebrow but before he could answer, my guide interrupted.
"To be lost is to be claimed by no one," he explained to me. "We are the old ones. Our names were lost long before our bones were discovered."
"Do you have to stay here?" I couldn't help looking at all of those boxes filled with bones.
"We are the most fortunate of the lost," my guide said. "Even without our names, our bones have many stories to tell. We stay here until those stories are told. Then we are buried with honor and we are lost no more."
"But why are some of you hers?" I still had questions. "What makes some of you different?"
"Some are hers because she has made them so. She has claimed them, to seek justice for them or to give their families the comfort of knowing what befell them. She returns peace to their rest and then sends them home."
Home? Where was home? What if you didn't have a home?
"Can I . . . can I stay here?"
When my guide looked at me, his eyes were sad.
"Why?" I liked it here with Dr. Brennan. It was safe.
"She will give you justice and then you will move on."
I stared at my feet, embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to know what had happened to me.
"How do you know I need justice?"
His old, lined face was gentle.
"Your story is here, child."
His hand hovered over my chest, and for just a minute, in the place where my heart had been, I thought I felt it beat again. Then he withdrew his hand and the feeling passed.
I didn't want to think about leaving when I'd just arrived.
"What if she never finds answers for me? Then can I stay?"
"She always finds the answers. You will go on. Home is waiting for you."
"But I don't know where that is!" My voice was loud in the quiet room. The others shifted closer as if they wanted to comfort me.
"You will know." The guide smiled. "When the time is right, you will know."
I wanted to be angry, with him and with all of them. It wasn't fair. They got to stay. I wanted to stay, too.
I remembered the moment in Dr. Brennan's office when she heard my laughter.
"Does she know that you're here? That we're here?"
"She believes she sees only our bones." There was a glint in his eye that said more than his words. "We allow her that belief and let our bones tell our stories."
I had another thought.
"Can I leave here? Is that allowed?"
My guide looked at me with steady eyes for a long time. I held his gaze, afraid that if I didn't, he wouldn't give me the answer I wanted.
"You may leave," he said finally. "But beware the danger. If you go too far afield, away from your bones or away from those who hold your bones, you risk losing your way back. You risk becoming one of the saddest of the lost, the ones without purpose or hope. The ones who wander forever."
I realized something else. "She holds my bones."
"So . . . I can go with her?"
I wanted to laugh again. I had left my hill and now, as long as I stayed with her, I could leave this place, too. It was almost like being alive again.
The guide out his hand.
"Come, child. We have been waiting this long day to meet you."
Warmth flooded through me as I laid my hand above his and allowed him to lead me into the midst of the others. They crowded around me, speaking their names and telling me their stories.