Normally, I’m a super-heavy sleeper. My dad claims I once slept through the biggest and loudest train he’d ever heard, one that had all the neighbors out on their lawns to make sure it hadn’t derailed. We live by the train tracks, so sometimes it gets so loud we have to use our outside voices at the dinner table to have a conversation. Supposedly, the trains are especially loud at night, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never heard them. This is because I’m a super-heavy sleeper. Even the neighborhood dogs all barking simultaneously at the trains don’t wake me up. Dogs always do that, bark at the smallest noise like it’s the end of the world and they can scare it away. Almost always, anyway.
The reason I mention all this is because the night I’m telling you about is the first night I woke up to a noise. And the noise that did it, oddly, was high-pitched but not very loud at all. When I heard it, I sat up in bed, nervous. It sounded like a school bus braking, like they all do outside of my house. Because of the train tracks, the school buses have to come to a complete stop right in front of my house and pause before going forward. At first I thought I’d overslept and was going to be late for school. But it was still really dark out, and my clock said 1:20 AM, so I knew that wasn’t it. Maybe I’d dreamt I missed the bus and imagined the sound. That made sense, but it didn’t feel right. Some people have very vivid, memorable dreams they can recall and tell you all the details about the next day. I don’t. I can remember little things sometimes, like whether or not I was swimming or the color of the ice cream cone, but usually I forget the dream as soon as I wake up. So it wouldn’t make sense for me to dream of a sound that would be so real in my head that it would wake me up from my deep sleep. I decided to get up and look out the window, make sure once and for all I’d imagined the sound. Then I could go back to bed.
As it turned out, there was a schoolbus stopped just outside my house. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, and then I got a clearer look at the bus. Not only was there a bus for certain, but the passengers were all skeletons! The driver was a skeleton, too, though he wore a cap, while the other skeletons were basically naked. This was eerie enough, but added to that was the fact that the neighborhood dogs were all staring at the bus, but weren’t barking at it. Just staring at it, like it was a riveting TV show or something, like barking at it would be impolite or unheard of. Then, after what felt like an eternity, the bus moved onward.
I’m not sure what possessed me to follow it, but I grabbed my coat and slipped into my boots without even thinking about what I was doing. I quietly snuck out the back door, which squeaked a bit at the hinge (my parents aren’t super-heavy sleepers, but they didn’t wake up that night.) I snuck through the backyards in the direction of the bus, and quickly caught up to it as it pulled into the park. I hid behind a bush as the skeletons climbed out of the schoolbus, each with what looked like a paint can in their right hand. Then, each one marched up to a tree, and somehow stretched their legbones until they were up amongst the leaves. They each dipped their left hand into the paint can, and began brushing the leaves with their hand.
So that’s it! I thought. I had always wondered how exactly the leaves changed color from summer to autumn, but I wouldn’t have imagined this was how it was done. And all of a sudden it hit me. Every year, without fail, all the leaves changed from green to orange-yellow-brown before falling from the trees. Though I was too scared to approach a skeleton and ask, I’m pretty sure the leaves fall from the trees because they’ve been touched by them- the skeletons, I mean. Somebody once told me (a classmate or uncle) that anything a skeleton touches will die within a week, and once I remembered that, I high-tailed it out of there. I was sad, though, because it was actually very beautiful to watch. Still, I figured, maybe next year I can be prepared and wear camouflage.
Nowadays, I don’t sleep quite as heavily as I used to, but I remember my dreams. And most of them are full of autumn colors, and occassionally, a skeleton.