Author's Note: I've had this story idea in mind for ages, but I've never really gotten around to writing it. It's a modern-day fic, but that doesn't mean the past won't rear its head at some point. Indeed, you could say that the past plays a vital part in this story. Updates will not be regular, but I'll do the absolute best that I can! Enjoy!


They found the skeleton when I was ten.

I remember reading about it in the paper, grudgingly admitting to myself that I harbored a macabre sort of interest in the story, particularly because it had been unearthed so close to where we were living at the time. My father and I read the article together in the big burgundy loveseat that sat by the fireplace. He had likened the finding to a discovery of an Egyptian tomb: just as grand, just as awe-inspiring, just as historically significant.

It was intriguing, certainly, but the corpse had not been that of a majestic pharaoh who had reigned in a universe entirely separate from our own. There were no cartouches to identify the body, no hieroglyphics singing its praises. No gilded sarcophagus. No identification whatsoever. Whoever it was had been found how he had died, according to the article: tossed aside unceremoniously, unburied, unassuming, and utterly unnoticed for over one hundred years.

The newspaper had not provided a photograph of the skeleton. It had, however, provided a description. He—forensic examiners had ascertained that the skeleton belonged to a man—had been tall, exceptionally tall for someone of that era. The paper wrote that he was clothed in surprising finery for someone who'd breathed his last in a cellar: a velvet waistcoat, tailored trousers, and a linen shirt that had "doubtless once been white but was now, like the rest of his accoutrements, hopelessly browned and threadbare beneath the weight of time" (in the words of the journalist). No shoes, however. At least, none had been found at the site. Nothing else had been found at the site, in fact. Just the skeleton, its clothes, and a ring.

A jeweler specializing in late Victorian baubles had been called in to examine the ring, but ultimately, its former proprietor was never identified. It was thought that surely the piece of jewelry would have been the key to unlock the entire mystery. After all, it had been engraved, but, unfortunately, the writing was cryptic. Etched inside the gold band was an elegant capital "C." Nothing more. Stranger still, the jeweler stated that the ring had been crafted in a style that was popular amongst women of the era, despite being removed from the male skeleton's finger.

Dad couldn't resist jesting after reading that part of the article.

"A 'C,' huh?" he'd said, his eyebrows raised, "I bet you the 'C' stands for Christine."

I'd balked at the thought.

"Daddy!" I laughed, "No it doesn't!"

"What are you thinking, giving your ring to old dead guys?" He shook his head in mock accusation. "Exactly where do you go after school?"

"Oh, I didn't tell you?" I'd quipped, joining in on the fun, "He's my new boyfriend. I have his ring, too."

"He must smell pretty bad. Be careful when you kiss him: you'll have eternal bad breath."

We'd collapsed into giggles at the thought and only skimmed over the rest of the article, deeming it largely uninteresting from then on. Over the next few weeks, news reports regarding the discovery had grown less and less frequent. Public interest in the case dwindled, and though historians searched tirelessly for some sort of explanation, none was ever found. Opera sales spiked briefly, but returned to normal when it became clear that the body in the cellars was unremarkable. Likely a drunk patron or stagehand who'd met his demise after wandering too far underground. The gold engraved band was kept and put on display in the opera's museum and has remained an object of dull curiosity ever since.

Several lobbied to buy a plot for the unknown man in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, arguing that he played "an important role, however small, in the history of the city and produced enough mystique to deem him worthy to rest amongst the greats." Their efforts, however, went largely ignored. Unable to secure a respectable place in the massively crowded cemetery, they were forced to accept the charity of an anonymous donor who allowed the corpse to be buried in an obscure family plot.

The nightmares started soon after.

They were not frightening in the literal sense. There were no ghoulish monsters or deadly pandemics. They were simply anxiety-ridden, laden with echoing, heart-wrenching sobs, screams, and indistinct whispers. Dad attributed them to lack of sleep, an overactive imagination, too many sweets before bed. I knew differently. What scared me were not the strange whispers. Most of the time, they were not frightening. In fact, more often than not, they were soothing.

The visions and sounds in the dreams were not the source of my terror.

Because I knew they were not nightmares.

They were memories.

Reason told me they couldn't have been: I'd never been to any of the places in the dreams before. I'd never heard the voices in the dreams before. The clothes were not my own, the bits and baubles were not my own. But I knew that somehow, these were my memories, manifesting themselves after a long slumber.

I knew some of the screams were my own. Some belonged to another.

I knew some of the sobs were my own. And some belonged to that other voice, the one that whispered. The one that sang.

And I knew with an unsettling, godlike certainty that all the people in the dreams, the memories, were dead. That they had existed in a bygone, sepia-toned era and they'd breathed their last long before even my grandparents were born. Their hands were dust. The same hands that, in the nightmares, ran so gently over my own (yet they couldn't have been my own!) did not belong, could not belong, in this world. The pulse that beat beneath my hazy palm had frozen forever. They were gone, all of them. In graves like the man in the cellar, silent beneath monuments that would whither like the names they bespoke. Names of the past. Dead.

And I was one of them.