Please meet Skull, Skull and I have just met ourselves but it’s been fascinating to get to know him and I think you should know him as well. I say he, as a guess, for really Skull is just a skull, and skulls don’t have name tags or gender identification, but Skull seems bigger than most in the pile, so I am calling him he.
I met Skull today here in the Killing Fields, outside of Phnom Pehn; Skull has lived here for years I gather, but to be honest, he doesn’t really do all that much.
Skull looks out on the field and just sits with his friends. I think it’s far to call them your friends don’t you think Skull? Your mates? You’ve sat next to them for years, you must have made some friends I think. Do you talk about us when we are gone? Do you wonder where we come from? Why we stare? How much they charge us to come in and stare at you?
Skull came here thirty years ago, attached back then to a neck and spine, to arms and legs and feet and toes. Skull was complete back then. Skull was positively human. Living, breathing, flesh, with dreams, and hopes and love and lust, all those crazy things that make us human.
Did you see the blow that killed you Skull? Did you see it coming? Did you duck, cry out seeing how you had lips back then? Where were you exactly? Do you recall? Was it morning or night when the blow came?
I can understand if you don’t want to talk about it.
I read that the Khmer Rouge used to beat people to death because they didn’t want to waste the bullets, well, those people were serious about their killing weren’t they Skull? You have to plan on some serious death to be worried about wasting a bullet on a person.
It almost makes me laugh Skull to think about it. Can’t you see them standing around as they ran out of bullets but still had so many to kill?
They sit and wonder and then one says, ‘let’s use clubs and pipes and just beat them to death’
Heck he probably got promoted for that Skull!
It’s hot out here, and the sun is high, mad dogs and Englishmen Skull, mad dogs and Englishmen, so well, time for me to go Skull, it sure has been interesting to me to meet you and spend some time with you here. It’s a beautiful place and if you have to be stuck on a shelf well this seems like as good a place as any.
They say you have 8,000 friends with you here on these shelves and thousands of more in the fields, it’s a Skull Parade, a convention of Skulls, a flock of Skulls? No that doesn’t sound right. A symphony of Skulls? That’s better, a symphony.
Any of your family out here Skull? Did you come out here with your wife, your kids? Are they here?
Before I go Skull, I have one question.
It’s so peaceful here during the day, but at night, what’s it like here when everyone leaves, is it quiet? Can you hear the birds? The wind?
Or when the night comes, and the dark settles in, is that when it happens Skull?
Is that when you can hear the screams?
Is that when the sound of metal poles hitting flesh echoes across the fields? Can you hear the bones cracking still Skull? What about the laughter of the soldiers? The cries of a child? Or the gurgle of blood filling someone’s throat?
Can you still hear it all Skull? At night when no one is here, can you? I wonder. I think you might.
Take care of yourself Skull, it was nice to meet you, it’s one of the joys of traveling, meeting new Skulls. Like yourself.
Let me know if you are ever in America, we’ll do lunch.
I visited the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, estimates are the Khmer Rouge killed 25% of the population. Imagine if our government got rid of 80 million Americans. We’d have lots of skulls on shelves too, more information here. Each skull was a person, it’s hard to remember with so many of them stacked on top of each other, but each skull was a person.
It is a deeply disturbing place and when it rains, bones, skulls and teeth float up to the surface through the mud. If you see a leg bone, or an arm, part of a skull or a jaw, they just ask that you pick it up and add it to the pile on your way out.
You can’t quite believe they are serious but it rained yesterday and as I walked the paths, I looked down.