The waxy faces of the lifeless stare up at me as I pass the rows of coffins. No one closes their eyes. No one cleans them. It’s someone’s job, but that person only moves the bodies now. Loved ones don’t visit. Not anymore.

It happened slowly, like everything of great importance. We celebrated the person’s life. Happy music played at funerals. Then people wore bright colors. People smiled. We filled the hole that person left with other things. We threw out their pictures. We threw parties. Then we avoided their bodies to make it easier to move on. Now the bodies rot below the funeral homes. It’s too time consuming to bury them. No one wants to smell them burn.

I’m their only visitor. I pray over them, newly deceased and the decayed. My nose hates me for it. I stare only at the name plates on the sides of the coffins. The eyes of the dead are cursed. If you look into them, death is all you’ll see.

I spend three hours weaving through the crypt. In the dim light, the names blur together. As I approach a short coffin, a rattling breath breaks the quiet. There’s movement. I force myself to look. The child is a whiter shade of pale, but she blinks. Her head lolls to the side. Her blue lips form words.

“Help! Help!” I look behind me for the funeral home director. He can’t hear me.

The girl’s hand grabs my wrist. “Jane,”

“She’s not dead. Call the doctor!”

“No. Please.” The girl tries to sit, but blood trickles from her mouth.

I wipe it away and scoop her up. Her skin is icy. Holding her close, I run for the funeral director. Prayers pour out of me. The funeral director backs away as I near. “Stay away.”

“She’s dying. She needs help.”

“Stay back!”

“How did she get down here? She’s still alive.”

The funeral director holds his battery-powered lantern closer. In the light, the girl is limp. Her chest is still. I feel no pulse. “I don’t understand.”

“Did you look?”

“But she was breathing.”

The funeral director starts to close the door.

“Wait!”

“The dead can’t pass.”

“I’m alive!”

“You’re lost.”

The door shuts and locks. They will never reopen it. They will store the dead elsewhere.

I sit beside the girl’s body and cradle her. She’s already stiff. My hands stroke her hair. Her eyes are empty. I close them. Eventually I’ll also sleep.

And it’s comforting to face mortality and to know the ending of your story. Everyone dies.

Fiction

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